|Photo and CD cover art by Mike Buck|
Blogger of crazy taxi cab rides (see an excerpt of his forthcoming non-fiction novel below), archivist of the American Long Hair, random-yet-focused Posthaste interviewer for The IND, conspiracy theorist to the max, Dege Legg doesn’t live in the world of what is expected. So when he releases what he calls a summer mixtape, it’s not likely to contain Beach Boys-inspired campfire songs. Instead, it is a showcase of his pre- and post-apocalypse mind-melting “psyouthern” (his term, not ours) Delta blues Dobro.
Yes, Legg’s summer mix tape — titled Scorched Earth Policy — is a blues album. On its 19 tracks, Legg lays out what he sees as a soundtrack for summer. Believe it or not, it works. As strange as it sounds, there’s something about Legg tearing through the ether — it’s only available as a download — that conjures up heat waves simmering off a blacktop back road that ends at a tin-walled hootenanny shack. Though the title sounds ominous, it’s not.
“It’s like the scorched earth policy is the one-track mind set of just grinding through the heat of summer, and doing adventurous things,” says Legg. “[It] is a little more summery, rocking and fun. I think. Sort of. I’ve gotten a bit pigeon-holed as this blues dude in the past few years. I love the delta blues, but I’m not a purist about it. I like to rock sh*t. I’m about the future.”
As for his past, Legg’s molded himself into an über unique musician. Former front man for Lafayette’s Soundgarden-meets-Southern death rock band Santeria, Legg ventured into his own quite fruitfully. For a while, he fronted Black Bayou Construkt but eventually scaled his music down to just his Dobro, a resonator guitar with a striking sound used in blues music.
Unlike what is expected of blues men, Legg has a lot to be happy about these days. A rarity of the local rock scene, he’s managed to make music work as a full-time gig. True, it involves a lot of touring and hustling road gigs, but along the way he’s put a few feathers in his long hair. First, there he was as a street musician playing his Dobro and singing “Hard Road to Hoe” on New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street to open After the Catch, a spin-off of the rugged reality show The Deadliest Catch. Then, his “Too Old to Die Young” landed on Quentin Taratino’s Django Unchained soundtrack, which would later be nominated for a Grammy.
Still, Legg is not resting on local and outside expectations of him. The record is a searing exploration of his Delta blues, according to Legg. While in stride with his style, it represents a wide range of his skills and pulls from diverse places in his playlist. Culled from unreleased material of several different breeds, Scorched Earth Policy is a mix of new songs, demos, covers and what he calls slidescapes (instrumental trippy slide Dobro pieces) all recorded in a cross section of Legg’s world: a shed, an old trailer park, an open field and the un-air-conditioned warehouse where he recorded his How to Kill a Horse.
“I love the mixtape culture of hip-hop and how they put out all kinds of crazy content,” says Legg. “It’s liberating and less uptight. The Scorched Earth mix tape has a little of everything I do. It was a fun way to clean house and put it out there. … It’s all over the place, which is how I like it. There are no rules.”
Scorched Earth kicks off with “Set it Off,” a haunting yet rocking number that does just that: With a nicely kept pace, it jump-starts the album with a summer groove anchored by his solid Dobro playing. Legg goes old school several times, resurrecting his old demos (the political “Jones for War” and the Dobro acid flashback of “Speaking Tongues”) and covering his influences (Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” and Hüsker Dü’s “Powerline”). The mix runs from barebones stomping blues to a heavier rock drums approach in “Tower of Babel.” All the while, Legg’s voice mixes his just-right touch of Southern style with his very left-of-center, prophetic mind set and delivery. Scorched Earth ends with a few recordings captured by a pond in Mamou. If the record were a summer day, these last three heady tracks are an afternoon spent cloud watching following an exhausting day filled with hopping swimming holes.
“It sounds like summer ... and metal,” says Legg. “I love the hot weather; it’s fun. Summer is about going on adventures and exploring. Also, modern society is so competitive and stressful, sometimes you just want to burn everything you own, run away into the unknown and have fun.”