When the Levee Breaks
BY HANNAH LEVIN
Despite the fact that he hasn’t lived here for years, former Afghan Whigs frontman and current Twilight Singers leader Greg Dulli is still considered one of our own by many Seattle music fans, so the Twilight Singers’ show at Neumo’s on Saturday, June 17, will undoubtedly have that family-reunion vibe going—especially with Dulli’s longtime friend and collaborator Mark Lanegan joining him onstage. Also on the bill will be Afterhours, the Italian rock band that Dulli produced and became a member of last year, a move that the celebrated scoundrel credits for the hard-rock resurgence coloring the Twilight Singers’ recent release, Powder Burns.
“I have to give them all the credit for making me want to plug in my guitar and turn it way up,” Dulli recently told me via phone from a tour stop in Denver. “I became a hard-rock guitarist again.” Indeed he did: Powder Burns seethes with the tightly coiled sexual energy that is Dulli’s calling card, and the blue-eyed soul touches are still very much present, but it’s the formidable guitars and purposeful tone (exemplified most dramatically with a track aptly titled “I’m Ready”) that help make this the best record the band has delivered to date. Acclaimed singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur also makes some lovely contributions on a handful of tracks. “He’s one of my favorite singers ever,” enthuses Dulli. “A really, really talented person.”
Considering (or perhaps because of) the turmoil going on while the album was being made, it’s especially heartening that the Twilight Singers managed to turn in something this strong. New Orleans has long served as Dulli’s part-time residence and a recording location for much of the Twilight Singers’ catalog. “I was pretty much halfway done with [the record] before [Hurricane Katrina] hit,” he explains, “and I was like, ‘Fuck, my tapes!'” Unfortunately, he was over in Italy at that time, so it was up to producer Mike Napolitano and Powder Burns contributor Ani DiFranco to get past police barricades and into the studio to save the tapes (the latter half of the record was wrapped up in sessions in Brooklyn and Italy). In addition to getting his record out on time, Dulli managed to curtail some of his legendary hedonistic ways. “I’m definitely cleaned up and calmed down, but I’m still me, so I’m not sure how calmed down I’ll ever be. I definitely got control of an out-of-control car, that’s for sure.”