Blackberry Belle – Creative Loafing ATL

BY JONATHAN GARRETT

Not to discount the contribution of the other members of the Afghan Whigs, but there’s no denying that frontman Greg Dulli was the Whigs’ black, burning heart. It was his sinister growl and tales of lovers scorned that drove the band’s cerebral, corrosive brand of alt-rock. But, when Dulli released his solo project’s self-titled debut, The Twilight Singers, it was a tad disappointing to hear the Whigs’ most singular talent embrace muted melancholy. Gone were the muscular musical backdrops that matched his spiteful sexual encounters. Maturity replaced immediacy; mannered inhibition substituted for fiery passion.

Those who were prepared to write Dulli off will be pleasantly surprised by the about-face on Blackberry Belle. The singer/songwriter emerges with his strongest, most emphatically defiant record since the Whigs’ nearly flawless Black Love. He scavenges the rotting corpses of doomed relationships and the lingering regrets of one-night stands, cloaking all in his trademark callous cool. Dulli resurrects some of the shadowy soul (sans the tedium) of Twilight as well, adding a touch of sophistication that some charged was lacking on the Afghan’s albums.

“St. Gregory” slowly yet insistently creeps to its conclusion, doused in strings and Dulli’s undulating croon, while “The Killer” tempers familiar, Whigs-ish crescendos with ivory-kissed, jazzy interludes. Throughout, Dulli strikes a compelling balance, perched between the tightly wound fury of the Whigs and a yearning blues of his own design.

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