By Chicken Legs Weaver
Royal Park Cellars' favourite Sheffield band Chicken Legs Weaver are unfeasibly good. Doing research on the band I have turned up virtually nothing. But conversations with family in Sheffield make it clear that Andy Weaver (voice and slide guitar), Norton Lees (double bass) and Mik Glaisher (ex-Comsat Angels, drums) have been around for years and are so well known in the city that everyone has forgotten how brilliant they are.
Their "Nowhere" album from last year was recorded in New York and produced by Johnny Dowd. It's one of those perfectly seamless collections of songs that defy improvement. It's like Tom Waits brought up in Priestley Street listening to Captain Beefheart and Jimmy Reed.
But now, with some renewed managerial activity, a demo EP comes my way, containing three new songs from the current live set. These were recorded in Sheffield, with a rawness and clarity that shocks like a blast of shredded ice in the wind.
"Street Cleaner" has the band's distinctive slide guitar, double bass and masterful drums, with a delicious helping of Hammond. It tears up the tarmac with a mutant riff from Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning", and mangles the highway blues with a Philip K. Dick landscape of Robocop alienation. Andy Weaver's voice is one of those natural hazards that can turn ordinary lines into threats of imminent destruction. "Gravel-voiced" isn't in it. A "yeh" on the end of a line is like a low-loader missing a gear on a hill. It's a song about the end of the world, observed by a bloke cleaning the street in Sheffield, and it sounds pretty convincing to me.
"Whiskey Soaked Blues" has a mournful Teed Hawkins appeal. It's the town drunk: aware, but out of control, of his need for love and his incapacity to keep it. It's an apology for being sick on the carpet and damaging the door. It has a beautiful tune as well, and you know in your heart it's written from bitter experience.
"Jarvis Lum" shows da kids how to do fuzzed up guitar rock blues. It's a simple hypnotic guitar riff with loads of noise, rock solid foundations in the bass and drums, and a crystal spotlight on the vocal track when it comes in (fade down the instruments a touch - it ain't rocket science). Make the words mean more than you can comfortably handle right now, and then splatter the brains on a verse of exultantly impossible guitar screaming. End. Easy peasy. Fantastic stuff.