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PRESS

Q&A: Van Campbell of Black Diamond Heavies – Matt Wake / Metromix Greenville
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Again this fantastically charismatic duo have produced a big bucket load of punk ass blues. Myers is an awesome talent who taunts his Rhodes to produce a severely overdriven, low end grunt (you can imagine Gerry Lee’s piano sounding just the same after he’d set fire to it). Throw in Campbell’s solid, explosive drumming and this gives you a perfect example of a band doing what they do best.
A Touch of Someone Else’s Class is a brutal blow of Black Diamond Heavies’ howling, raucous flare kicked home by the heart and soul. Is this one for the record collection?… Every damn time! – Will Bray / Blues In London
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It’s hard to tell whether Black Diamond Heavies keyboardist and singer John Wesley Myers was born with a greasy spoon stuck in his throat or if his gruff vocals are just the result of many years spent trying to sing along to Tom Waits records. Either way the result is impressive. With just Myers’ own pounding on a Rhodes piano and that of his partner Van Campbell on a drum kit, the Black Diamond Heavies have taken Waits’ tipsy blues cadence and injected it with the kind of r-n-r vitriol the old guy doesn’t muster much.

For their second album, A Touch of Someone Else’s Class, the East Nashville duo travelled to Ohio to record with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Akron Analog Studio. If anyone knows something about making a two-piece sound bigger than it is, it would be Auerbach, but the choice of engineer was fortuitous in other ways as well. Joining the Heavies for one cut, "Bidin’ My Time," was Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney’s uncle Ralph, longtime horn player for Waits, and his contribution gives the song a touch of late-night noir that can’t be gotten from just anyone. Still Auerbach’s work is one of the keys (no pun intended) to the record’s success. Cuts like the leadoff "Nutbush City Limits" and "Loose Yourself" are imbued with a floor-shaking sound, just enough low-end rumble and in-the-red saturation to make the record come alive. Myers studies of the Waits catalog, Booker T and Muscle Shoals soul, and no doubt Nina Simone (the Heavies do a very worthy cover of her seminal "Sinnerman") has paid off in spades. Touch is a gritty triumph, the kind of record that can’t be made without more than a little blood and sweat. – Stephen Slaybaugh / The Agit Reader
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Nashville’s Black Diamond Heavies spent a lot of time on the road after the release of their first album, 2007′s Every Damn Time, and you can hear the lessons of dozens of sweatbox gigs on their second full-length set, 2008′s A Touch of Someone Else’s Class. While James Leg (aka John Wesley Myers) on vocals and keys and Van Campbell on drums sounded tight and fiery the first time around, on their sophomore LP they sound tougher, harder, and practically incendiary; the duo’s blues gestures are just as solid as before, but there’s an emotional weight and an almost telepathic synergy between Leg and Campbell that makes their fine first record seem like a rough demo by comparison, and the songs rock harder and crazier than ever before. Leg often sounded like he was trying to channel Tom Waits on the BDH’s debut, and not in a good way, but while the raspy growl of his voice still bears more than a passing resemblance to Waits, this time he sounds more like an inheritor of the great vocal tradition of Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart, and it’s a welcome improvement. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys produced and recorded these sessions, and while his approach feels pretty hands-off, the results suggest having a more sympathetic hand behind the board was a real help for the band. And when a band’s originals sound as good as covers of stuff by Tina Turner, Nina Simone, and T-Model Ford, there’s no question it must be doing something right. In short, if you want to hear some blues-shot rock that’ll kick your butt and make you love it, A Touch of Someone Else’s Class is one album you need to hear. – Mark Deming / All Music Guide
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Black Diamond Heavies, though generally pictured as just two guys, seem to be a trio on their new album as well – in this case, supposedly from "the Southern States of America," though they sure do play live in Ohio a lot. James Leg is credited with "vocals, bass keys, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, tack piano, knife"; Van Campbell with "drum, vocal, do things"; U.S. Justice with "background mouth, maracas, life." Helper-outers include Dan Auerbach from Black Keys (lending production assistance) and Ralph Carney from Tin Huey; cover versions include Nina Simone’s "Oh Sinnerman" (cabaret hell-blues salvaging its ludicrous Waits/Cave schtick with gothic proto-psych swirl ˆ la the Doors or Animals), T-Model Ford’s "Take a Ride" (likewise kinda Doorsy due to trashy organ); and some pachyderm plotz all over Tina Turner’s "Nutbush City Limits" (which Bob Seger did funkier).

Notable originals are plentiful: (1) "Everything Is Everything," a big stomp from the swamp, grumbled in the manner of Jim Dandy or Dr. John or Dan McCafferty from Nazareth atop huge drums hip-hopping in the manner of Run-D.M.C.’s version of "Walk This Way"; (2) "Bidin’ My Time," a jazz-leaning apparent chitlin’ circuit ballad tribute to our new Vice President-Elect, moaned slow and low a la Satchmo via Waits again; (3) speed-swinging Australian-style bogan-rock gutpunch "Make Some Time"; (4) lo-fidelity Count Bishops/Dr. Feelgood pub-punk murderer "Numbers 22 (Balaam’s Wild Ass)"; (5) likewise pub-homicidal closing boogie "Happy Hour," which concerns visiting either the "pawn shop" or "porn shop"; (6) "Loose Yourself," one of the hardest-rocking songs I heard in all 2008; (7) and "Solid Gold," which comes closer to "Train Kept a Rollin’" than anything on the (nonetheless quite good) Mudsharks’ album. Not necessarily in that order. – Chuck Eddy / Rhapsody
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Black Diamond Heavies photo by Patrick Boissel

As they proved on their ’07 debut, Every Damn Time, Black Diamond Heavies are unique within the field of two-piece white blues rockers not only because the foundation of their sound is John Wesley Myers’ keyboards instead of guitars but also because they have a firm grasp on old fashioned, greasy Southern soul. That advantage is on full display right off the top of A Touch Of Someone Else’s Class, with a bristly take on Ike and Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” directly followed by the storming “Everything Is Everything.” The fine, horn-infused ballad “Bidin’ My Time” shows some unexpected range, and while on this song in particular it’s easy to make Tom Waits comparisons, it’s just as fair to say that the Heavies’ approach to blues and soul is far less pretentious. There are plenty of booty-shakin’ moments elsewhere and in the end, that should really be all that matters. A Touch Of Someone Else’s Class is a pure adrenaline shot for any jaded rock’n’roll fan in need of one – Jason Schneider / Exclaim
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This is the bollocks, rough ’n’ ready and as raw as f*ck yet richly coded in a vintage hue. Featuring the combined talents of John Wesley Myers (sometime member of the Immortal Lee Country Killers) a man blessed with a vocal that sits somewhere between The Black Halos’ Billy Hopeless, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Tom Waits and who swaggers and mooches like a brimstone burning sermoniser (check out the blistered blues boogie ‘smooth it out’ for further evidence) and his right hand mojo hobo Van Campbell formerly of the Invisibles and currently to be found moonlighting with the Rum Circus, these dudes it seems have a direct line to then devil’s own soul brew, across these 11 cuts they re-inject garage blues with a deeply resonant purging soulful edge that’s both undeniably sassy and trip wired with a bare arsed primitive grit that nods aplenty to the greats that graced the hallowed imprints of the likes of Chess, Sun and Stax. – Mark Barton / Losing Today
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Black Diamond Heavies sound like whiskey sliding down the pulsating human hatch, and hitting an empty stomach with a discomforting thud. A shot of Detroit river water slipping down your throat and soaking into a slowly digesting meal – the type of meal that prepares you for a long night of slamming empty glasses on a waxed countertop – is a bit more kindly, but the blues don’t really give a fuck about that. The blues – especially after doing several lines of cocaine off of rock ‘n’ roll’s cock in a dingy and dimly lit bar bathroom – taste a lot like the type of puke-bucket magic that Black Diamond Heavies conjure up with nothing more than your basic set of skins and some smoothly played organ. And, if Black Diamond Heavies were the jukebox that rests in the corner of our barstool scenery, the 45s within that vintage machine would crackle and pop as they turned out Southern anthems of energy and sorrow played night after night through a distorted speaker that the barkeep never bothers to fix because it just sounds so damn good. – Ryan Patrick Hooper / Reax Magazine
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I have listened to this album countless times and am truly blown away by his playing. As for Myers, he still delivers his vocals ala Tom Waits. In fact Ralph Carney, a horn player for Waits and Patrick Carney’s uncle is introduced on one track, “Bidin’ My Time” that oozes soul. Much like “All To Hell” from the first album, it gives off an Otis Redding vibe that makes me want to slow dance with my lady. Myers is equally adept when the boys turn it up a notch as well. “Nutbush City Limit,” “Make Some Time” and my favorite, “Smooth It Out” are all dirty, scuzzy blues rockers. Myers works the organ into a lather and delivers the vocals like he’s part demon. Much like BBQ joints, there are some people that like their ribs in a quaint, well-lit atmosphere with shiny sliverware. And then there are those of us who like their ribs slapped on some white bread in a joint where you can barely see the silverware. Black Diamond Heavies are that hole-in-wall BBQ place. – HearYa
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Best paired with sticky summer heat, the sounds of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Black Diamond Heavies turn listeners into believers in dirty, destructive, sinful Southern blues. Made up of Fender Rhodes-bangin’ monster John Wesley Myers and drummer Van Campbell, this two-piece makes its Alive Records labelmates the Black Keys look like shoegazers as the Heavies writhe and shake their way across their latest release, A Touch of Someone Else’s Class. These dudes tour constantly, and their live show is a near-religious experience. Add Old Crow, devil horns and cutoff Daisy Dukes for full effect. – The Pitch
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French review on the Gonzai site | Rock Times interview (France) with the Heavies
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They got soul, they got moody bits, they got stompin bits and they got gospel and they got it nailed from the start with a touch of someone else’s class in the shape of the filthiest dirtiest stompinest version of Nutbush City Limits you ever did hear. And as for that start of Loose Yourself! Are you sure they didn’t make this album in 1974? Bidin My Time has to be an old jazz soul classic from the 60’s, something off Stax or something, old lost early Otis Reading thing maybe? Can’t be a new song they just wrote? There is a Nina Simone song here and most of it is just nailed down filthy organ driven blues, the kind of thing that makes upstart bands like The Black Keys look like wet behind the ears indie kids in comparison. As cool as f! – Organ
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Moving leftfield apace The Black Diamond Heavies’ "A Touch of Someone Else’s Class" (Alive) offers a defiantly different take on the blues, but also impresses. The notion of a keyboard and drums duo instinctively conjures images of Raw Sex, the inappropriately labelled lounge band of French and Saunders 80′s shows; but James Leg and Van Campbell put on one of the dirtiest, loudest, most feral live shows around, and here nail their sonic tour de force for home consumption. If Tom Waits, Howling Wolf and Animal from the Muppets serenading a jet engine in a tunnel makes your perfect Sunday morning (and why shouldn’t it, pop pickers?) then wade in here. - Leicester Bangs
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Gravel-throated singer James Leg harbors a demi-doom perhaps due to having to hold together everything but the drums. He may be the only current broken blues carnival barker who heard John Lee Hooker long before Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, or Man Man for that matter, and has yet to use a beard as evidence of purity-what with purity being something gutter boozers should rarely be concerned with. The razor-stabbed organ-fueled gutter-gospel, "Oh, Sinnerman," actually exudes some of the tempo meander of a rambling church sermon, but the sparse sound of a graveyard Bassholes kin.
Yes, smoky Hammond organ ballads like "Bidin’ My Time" are trotted out, loose "baby"s are pleaded upon continuously, and a humid tone over heated tunes is preferred. In general, such blues hammering is best served to a greener crowd not completely sick of this style from exposure to a decade of ’80s beer commercials. But mucho credit is given to these Heavies for retaining that storming, redlining fuzz to the point of something like a new kick. Especially on "Solid Gold" where the organ playing starts to whoosh in unexpected corners of the song, cymbals crash like garbage can tops, and for a few moments you forget you’ve heard this all before. Or maybe you haven’t.- Eric Davidson / CMJ
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The Black Diamond Heavies are a favorite around here at MUD. They make the BLACK KEYS sounds like ABBA on a milk hangover. "A Touch of Someone Else’s Class" is their new drop. Raw, greasy, and full of gasoline. Play loud over a highball of whiskey. Now if they would only play Toronto, life would be really fuzzy. BTW – The Black Keys are actually involved in this recording. – Electric Mud
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The 11-track album, the band’s second, features drunken blues-gospel inflected tunes with singer Leg’s Tom Waits-ian growl, which on songs such as Numbers 22 (Balaam’s Wild Ass) and the ballad Bidin’ My Time sounds eerily like an impersonation of Waits’ Small Change era. ‘It’s not a put-on. That’s how that (guy) talks,” Auerbach said, laughing. ”It’s not some bull where he puts on the voice, and I’ve heard a lot of people do that. He actually talks like that and when he laughs like that, that’s what it sounds like.”

Auerbach, who won’t be in town for the show because the Black Keys will be on their way to Australia for another series of sold-out shows, said he’s not particularly interested in becoming a hot hit-making producer. ”I just like to make records and work with bands, and that’s why I just want do it as much as I can.”

Highlights of the album include midtempo stomper Loose Yourself; Solid Gold, an amped-up shuffle that could easily be a single; and an organ-only cover of Nina Simone’s take on the old spiritual Oh, Sinnerman, which Auerbach said came from one of those spontaneous moments in the studio. ”They weren’t even planning on recording that song. [Leg] just came in one morning, sat down and started playing it and singing, and I started recording. I’m really glad that it made it on the record.” – Ohio.com
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To say John Wesley Myers has a rough, weathered voice is an understatement. It’s not your average gravelly, growl. Dude sings like he’s survived his adult life on a diet of unfiltered cigarettes, moonshine, gasoline, and shards of broken glass. While those pipes may be enough to distinguish the Black Diamond Heavies from the rest of the garage rock crowd, there’s also the matter of their unique set up. It’s just Myers on keys and Van Campbell on drums, responsible that raging and soulful, Southern holler. – I Rock Cleveland
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The twosome’s sparkplug is drummer Van Campbell, a descendant of bourbon distillers who bashes away on his instrument with feral force but never loses the groove. Frontman/ keyboardist John Wesley Myers is equally untamed, and when this fire-breathing son of a Baptist preacher grunts out the handful of lyrics to "Nutbush" or the stomping blues drone "Fever in My Blood," he sounds more like a beast of the forest than a fork ‘n’ knife-using city dweller- these Tennessee-based madmen really get it on when the chord changes are nearly nonexistent and the smell of fermented sour mash is hanging heavy in the air. When they’re rockin’ the floorboards in this mode, Campbell and Myers could send an army of punky blues revelers straight down to the devil’s fiery pit. And be thanked for it. – Isthmus/The Daily Page
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The Black Diamond Heavies play some of the dirtiest blues around. Just an organ and drums, they have some of the most soulful songs I’ve heard in a long time. The lead singer sounds a hell of a lot like Tom Waits and some of the songs even have longtime Waits collaborator Ralph Carney contributing some horn work. The album includes a Tina Turner cover and a Nina Simone one too. Overall it’s a great work, the only question that I can’t answer for myself is if this album is better than their first. As of right now, I feel both are equal but I haven’t had the time to listen to this one as much. This one is funkier and has some better jams but that doesn’t mean it’s overall better. Thanks to Alive for putting out some seriously amazing records. – Just As The Day Was Dawning
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One of the freshest records I’ve heard in a long time, which might seem a strange thing to say since it is also one of the most derivative I’ve heard in awhile. And that is a good thing. Part of the fun is picking out and identifying the many influences you hear. The most obvious is Myers’ voice, which is part Tom Waits and part Iggy Pop with a little Joe Cocker in there, too.
You also hear some Rolling Stones’ blues-rock phrasing, and every now and then Myers’ keyboards offer a hint of Ray Manzarek’s whirling-winding-constantly-building, trippy sound with the Doors Nothing is copied here, mind you, but whether intentionally or not, Myers and Campbell have managed to take some of the very best parts of tent-revival passion, demonic rock ’n’ roll, ’60s psychedelia and punk sensibility and made something all their own.
The beauty is how well it all works together. – Chattanooga Time Free Press
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