HELL OR HIGHWATER
REVIEW of ALBUM & THE CONCERTS
Walt Frasier @waltfrasier
I wanted to write this article because I spoke with a number of David Duchovny fans at the concert Saturday that did not even realize there was an album. Most other “REVIEWS” from the last concert at the Cutting Room focused on THE KISS with a few side notes about the star, and virtually nothing about the music or the amazing band.
HELL OR HIGHWATER was released this past May. At the same time there were two concerts – Boston and New York- as well as numerous TV appearances. Two of our DUCHOVNIAC friends have now been to all four live concerts as well as the Today show on May 12 (Morning of the Cutting Room show in NYC). This site was created two days after that experience.
I personally have been to three live concerts – May 12 Cutting Room, NYC, August 1 Joe’s on Weed St and August 2 Bub City, Chicago – and have listened to the album numerous times. In addition to being a David Duchovny (and X-Files) fan, I am also a former music major turned professional actor and Improv comic. I’ve done professional opera, numerous musicals (off-broadway/national touring/regional) as well as play piano and sing as a solo act and in a few bands. So I bring a few perspectives to the table.
First of all I LOVE this album and the live events. I like to rock out to Unsaid Undone and Positively Madison Avenue. At home I chill to Stars and The Rain Song.
While on the surface Hell Or Highwater may seem like a star-driven vanity project, the music and live events feel more like a totally indie band experience. Especially when the entire band and record label are working the merchandising table. More about the band later but there isn’t a nicer group of musicians in the world. Berklee School of Music trained – THEY ROCK on and off stage!!!
David has said in numerous interviews “I am not a singer.” This is more than self depreciating bantor. He’s not a singer. He is a bonafide songwriter that can carry a tune with stories to tell in the great folk tradition. Compared to the rest of the auto-tuned pop field out there, David is doing just fine.
Before turning to acting, Mr. Duchovny was an English Lit. major at Princeton and Yale, with Master’s Degree. In the past year, David also released his clever novel, HOLY COW, but we will save that for another post. Point being, David is a writer. He has some things to say, and sometimes you need a band and a melody to support the words.
As a singer, David at times comes off a little green and has tonality issues. There, I said it. Most untrained ears would agree with the technical analysis. I love that the record label does not fix this with autotune and other sound engineering tricks that make about 90% of today’s “SINGERS” palatable to 12 year olds. Like perfume to cover up stinky smoker clothes, I see past the gimmicks. Most probably would not. David and his team let us hear HIS voice and lyrics. While not a source of crooning beauty, David Duchovny has a pleasant voice.
David is backed by WEATHER, a band of Berklee School of Music grads. For those that don’t know that is probably the coolest of Music Conservatories. I almost headed that way in my wannabe jazz trumpet years.
Pat’s showmanship matches his musicianship on lead guitar. Whether bringing home the concert with the extended solo on Positively Madison Avenue or doing a simple country riff on the ballads, Pat seems at home in any style.
Colin seems to be the musical backbone. On keyboards and singing back up all night, he also has helped David turn ideas into songs. Colin is listed on the album as producer.
Davis and his locks subdividing that beat on the drums brings it on every number. I also recognize his artistry when less is more. Davis just slips in subtle shaker and cymbals on the ballads with just the right touch. Davis is truly the PERCUSSIONIST, not the drummer (civilian FYI – percussionists are musicians, drummers just hang with said musicians) I would love to hear him jam on some Coltrane.
Nate provides the tonal center of the group with a rich acoustic guitar. Seemingly the quiet giant in the group, you feel his anchoring presence.
Mitch funks it up just right on the bass for the cover of Thank You and smoothly slows it down for David’s folk ballads. I had the opportunity to talk to Mitch at the meet & greet at Joe’s as Mitch handed out the CD and T-shirts.
And then in front of this musical genius we have David Duchovny. I have seen every TV show, most of the movies and even his Off-Broadway play. For someone that is NEW to the ROCK STAR thing (4 live concerts, 1 studio album and a few appearances) he’s pretty damn good whether practicing his ‘moves like Jagger’ or grabbing the mic and singing his heartfelt lyrics.
David warms up the crowd with Let it Rain. “If you knew me you would stay. If you knew me you would walk away.” David’s “SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?” Stay? Go? Whatever! Right away the band and David have a great rapport. It’s great music by great musicians having a great time. Then he really hears the roar of the crowd and settles into his groove. He is clearly having fun which gets the crowd going even more.
On Friday’s concert at Joe’s – a Knitting Factory style venue – we were in one big mosh pit. I tried to start a slam dance on Let it Rain to no avail. I’m pretty sure the ladies in the front row would not have successfully caught a stage diving David, but they sure would have liked to try!
Unsaid Undone – aka “The Angry Song” – was extra angry on Friday. Not sure if it was intentional or Davis was having too much fun, I felt it right from the count off. 1-2-3-4 go the clicks of the drum sticks and BAM we were cooking, they were rocking, then we jumped, then David danced – literally with Mick Jagger moves. He is growing his dance step repertoire.
Not on the album, was the original Stay on the Train. I hope this is a sign of a Sophomore album in the works. Great tune written for his daughter. Hopefully THINK SAY RECORDS posts a live version of this song on YOUTUBE or elsewhere for all to enjoy.
The main set concluded with the title track Hell Or Highwater. I think about 200-300 ladies in the crowd thought they were the personal recipient of “I said I love you forever…”
For the encores, we get the now famous covers of Neil Young’s Helpless and Sly and the Family Stone’s Thank You. I do apologize for ruining everyone’s personal videos of THANK YOU at the Cutting Room for my terrible jazzy singalong riffs. They were equally as annoying here at Joe’s. Sorry.
By the time David sings the chorus, I just can’t help myself.
Honestly not all will be in love with the music endeavors. Some fans are there just to see David in person. He could yodel and clog and they would be dripping in tears. Underwater basketweaving with Duchovny would probably sell out a 200 seat venue. VIP seats would include meet and greet with free scuba classes.
To those that say “HERE IS ANOTHER ACTOR WANTING TO BE A ROCK STAR” I say thanks for stating the obvious yet missing the entire point. We ALL want to be a rock star. Stars just need a bigger venue than most at their first few gigs. I say, HAVE FUN.
And to quote David, “FUCK YEAH!”