Greg Dulli dons the grace, doffs the pressure

Seattlepi.com
By TIZZY ASHER

As frontman for the Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli wrote some of the most virulent relationship songs in the modern musical canon. It was as if anger and betrayal resided inside his pillow in place of feathers, leeching into his head while he slept.

When the Whigs dissolved in 2001, Dulli carried that perspective forward to his new band, The Twilight Singers. He just changed the sound in which it was wrapped.

Where the Whigs were gritty and aggressive, The Twilight Singers coat their songs in sweeping grace. Records like 2004’s covers collection “She Loves You” and 2003’s “Blackberry Belle” counterbalanced Dulli’s ragged vocal with banks of strings and doleful pianos.

The latest, “Powder Burns,” (One Little Indian), offers a balance between the sweeping epics and more straightforward rock. Tracks such as “I’m Ready” and “Dead to Rights” kick off the strings and rely on expansive guitar hooks. But the explosive title track hinges on a violin line that could have been plucked from a show tune. Dulli’s voice still sounds torn apart by wild horses, but backing vocal help from Joseph Arthur and Ani DiFranco soothes him. “The Conversation” finds him practically crooning.

Dulli is no longer the aggressive dynamo onstage — he hasn’t made the news with a post-show brawl in years — but he still has the ability to throw himself totally into his songs.

The Twilight Singers play Neumo’s on Saturday (8 p.m.; $11 at TicketsWest, or $13 at the door). Opener Mark Lanegan has been recording with Dulli under the moniker The Gutter Twins, and with any luck, they’ll play a few tracks.

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