Night Life

Delicate Cutters: NOT Like Civil Wars

We received the new Delicate Cutters 2011 album Some Creatures on the same day that we received the new Dead Fingers album from one of our favorite labels, Big Legal Mess, the offshoot successor to Fat Possum. Too bad for Dead Fingers.

The oeuvre of both bands is a mix of folksy indie rock from much the same musical realm as local favorites Literary Greats. But where Dead Fingers sounds contrived, over-thought and lyrically trite (and their vocals made us want to buy stock in companies that manufacture ear plugs), Some Creatures is quite listenable and interesting.

The Cutters, from Birmingham, Alabama, are lead by singer and writer Janet Elizabeth Simpson. Simpson is blessed with a fascinating, captivating voice, and for a twenty-something she writes lyrics with depth and believable emotion. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if she majored in English.

What really makes the Cutters fly is the complex arrangements by Simpson, who plays guitar and piano, and her other cohorts, Brian Moon (bass, accordion), Kevin Nicholson (fiddle), and Chance Shirley (percussion). The instrumental mix allows the band to color their tunes with swatches of sound not exactly common to the average indie rock ensemble. In particular, Nicholson's fiddle can take the music in country or classical directions that work well with Simpson's rhymes.

When we were first contacted by the Cutters' management, who forwarded various blurbs about the band, we were horrified to see comparisons with that other Alabama folk outfit, Civil Wars, who mostly make us want to take a razor and open a vein.

However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Cutters have only the narrowest sonic connection with Civil Wars and that the reviewer who compared the two bands was either lazy or deaf. This quote from Paste, while written in the usual over-the-top neon purple fanboy superlatives that the magazine seems to specialize in, comes closer to actually describing what's going on with the Cutters: "Delicate Cutters frontwoman Janet Simpson shares with Kristin Hersh a penchant for detailed, lived-in lyrics and a steely charisma." (The Throwing Muses track "Delicate Cutters" makes the Hersh comparison a no-brainer.)

Whatever has been written about the Cutters, suffice to say that Some Creatures was honored with a Muddy, Alabama's equivalent of the Grammys, as best album of 2011.

Tuesday is a tough night for a national touring outfit to try to pull a crowd in H-Town, where we're early to bed, early to rise during the work week. The Cutters will play first and hopefully enough of us will tough it out to welcome this smart young band on its first visit to our part of the world.

Mike Stinson, fresh from decimating Ginny's Little Longhorn in Austin Sunday, follows.

9:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 23, Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh, 713-521-0521

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William Michael Smith