Dulli amplifies the intensity on new Twilight Singers

The Nashville City Paper

By Ron Wynn

Always known as one of the more impassioned, forceful vocalists in alternative rock, Greg Dulli’s newest venture with his current band The Twilight Singers is unquestionably the most lyrically striking, musically intense of his long career.

Powder Burns (One Little Indian), which was officially released last week, addresses issues of addiction and alienation in direct and honest fashion, with Dulli’s stark, earnest vocals dominant on each number. Dulli, who plays Mercy Lounge Sunday night heading the Twilight Singers along with Afterhours and Jeff Klein, says a decision to change some recording strategies had a major impact on the disc’s sound and energy.

“On a lot of the previous Twilight Singers’ sessions we did a lot of things after the fact,” Dulli said. “I’d bring people in and we’d be recording to a click track. This time we did almost everything live in the studio. I also wanted more electric guitar on the disc, and wanted it more prominent within the arrangements. My goal was for this CD to have a more visceral sound and impact than any Twilight Singers project before.”

With a varied, distinguished rotating group of performers that at various times includes Ani DiFranco, Joseph Arthur and former Afghan Whigs comrade John Curley, Dulli and company move through stirring numbers like “Towards the Waves,” which punctuates the crackling vocal with a synthesizer-driven backdrop, and “Forty Dollars,” a song whose use of rippling piano lines adds an unusual component, as well as the booming fuzz bass and slicing guitar that anchor “I’m Ready.”

But the two standout numbers are the highly personal cuts “Bonnie Brae,” which is a painful and poignant piece on drug addiction and the celebratory “I Wish I Was” that highlights Dulli’s adopted hometown of New Orleans.

“I watched a friend of mine struggling with what I’ve been battling with and I had to make a personal decision to get clean,” Dulli said. “I watched him almost die. That’s what ‘Bonnie Brae’ is all about. I spend about half the year in New Orleans, and I have no plans to abandon it, no matter what happens.”

In fact Dulli insisted on completing Powder Burns in New Orleans despite the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Generators were utilized for instruments during the sessions, which were also affected by curfews and martial law.

“Hey, what we went through in recording here compared to the real hardships that many people felt were nothing,” Dulli insisted. “I’d feel like some sort of pansy complaining about what we experienced compared to people throughout this region.”

Though he’s found widespread acceptance and critical acclaim heading the Twilight Singers, Dulli realizes that many fans still look back fondly at his years with the Afghan Whigs, a band that enjoyed immediate and sustained appreciation and impact from their 1988 debut Big Top Halloween until their demise in 2001.

“Those guys are my best friends, my brothers, and I’ll always look back on that time fondly,” Dulli recalled. “I just played a few dates with a couple of them last week and we’re talking about getting back together in terms of completing some things that we didn’t finish. But in terms of us ever going back out on the road, or ever reforming a touring edition of the Afghan Whigs, that’s probably never going to happen.”

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