Django Mack – 100 Page Tattoo
The rough hewn poetry and passion powering Django Mack’s latest release, a six song EP entitled 100 Page Tattoo. The same combination of hard-hitting yet musical gravitas with engaging poetic overtones defining Mack’s earlier releases is every bit as present with this one, but there’s an added potency that further development and refinement has brought to the band’s creative vision. It makes 100 Page Tattoo the band’s best effort yet and, despite its EP length, every bit as satisfying as any full length release. There’s an indefinable excellence surrounding these songs that sticks in the memory and never comes off forced or over rehearsed. Django Mack displays a total mastery of their chosen idiom, but there’s an equal amount of imagination and individuality behind these songs as well. It makes for an invigorating listen.
The title song opens the EP with a blast of creativity. It serves notice for newcomers that Django Mack, as a band, isn’t content with reworking tired formulas for diminishing returns and brings a sharp modern edge to time-tested styles like funk and R&B. Butrick’s voice sounds completely at home navigating and weaving its way around a delicious bass line, Tim Vaughan’s muscular and groove centered drumming, alongside some excellent brass contributions. Django Mack moves into much more familiar territory with the EP’s second cut “Lookout!” and this mid-tempo guitar workout gains much from restrained brass additions and a deep swing courtesy of Tim Vaughan’s drumming. Butrick, on song after song, demonstrates an astonishing ability to vary his admittedly limited range in dramatic ways and this song is one of his better vocal performances. It makes, additionally, for a nice contrast with the third track “Knock Me Down”. This number has an acoustic basis and has the spontaneity of a demo without any of the rough texture or incompleteness often associated with demo tracks. It’s another fine vocal performance from Butrick as well.
“Knife Fight” is, arguably, the centerpiece number on 100 Page Tattoo and showcases some of the band’s instrumental prowess in a way other tracks do not. Much of this can be ascribed to the slightly longer running time and the opportunity it affords the band to stretch their musical muscles. “Roadrunner”, however, is a much less serious tune both lyrically and musically, though one can never claim that Django Mack takes a facile turn at any point during this release. Even if this is basically just a song about how the narrator loves his car, the specific details invoked by the lyric and Butrick’s delivery makes it seem like much more than it might otherwise. The final song “Rooster in the Henhouse” delves back into the band’s bluesy roots for a rousing finale complete with a hard hitting chorus. Tim Vaughan’s drumming is particularly authoritative with this number. It puts a bold exclamation point on the end of the collection and underscores the substance that Django Mack is capable of bringing to bear. 100 Page Tattoo is a release you won’t soon forget once you’ve heard it.