We’ve always liked stirring the pot in the Dustbowl Revival — bringing a lot of genres into our own out-of-left-field soul-roots sound. With our unconventional eight-piece instrumentation (a string section with a brass section) and two lead singers (and a lot of cooks in the kitchen), deciding what songs would make it when we were going into the studio in January was quite a challenge.
Luckily, we reached out to Ted Hutt, a lovely British producer now living in our hometown of L.A. and he jumped in to steer the ship. As one of the founders of Flogging Molly and a Grammy-winner for producing bands we love — like Old Crow Medicine Show and the Dropkick Murphys — Ted was like having a really pleasant pirate calling us on our bullshit and bringing forth the bluesiest, funkiest, and most emotional tunes we’ve ever laid down. While there is a soul flavor to a lot of these songs, we think it was more about finding the raw root of each story and getting after it. Here are some tunes that I was inspired by when I wrote much of the album. — Zach Lupetin
Old Crow Medicine Show — “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer”
This song is kind of how we found Ted to produce the record. He did several of Old Crow’s albums, and I love the fatness to the sound on this — the bass is just thumping so sweetly and the mean groove contrasts with the winking humor in the lyric. We pretty much asked him, “Can get some of THAT on our record, too?”
Al Green — “Love and Happiness”
It’s a tune I can never get enough of, honestly. As the soul theme started to permeate the songs we were linking together on the record, I kept thinking I wanted something like this Al Green classic. “The Story” definitely comes from this.
Shovels & Rope — Tiny Desk Concert
Liz and I aren’t married like these guys, but I always try and match the deep connection that can happen between male and female vocals totally in sync. Every time I see them, I get goosebumps.
The Meters — “Fire on the Bayou”
Josh, our drummer, always encourages us to listen to these classics, and I always love the repeating groove here. “Call My Name” which opens our album was a straight 12-bar blues until we twisted it around and funkafied it. Ted loved the “row your boat” repeating refrain as a call to arms … and we rolled with it.
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Born on the Bayou”
Also one of my all-time favorite tunes, it’s hypnotic and mean and catchy as hell. CCR seemed to always merge spooky folk and blues elements into their own sweet stew, and our tunes like “Leaving Time” and “Don’t Wait Up” definitely spring from this. If I could have one voice, it would be Fogerty’s.
Wilco — “How to Fight Loneliness”
Being from Chicago, I was lucky to have Wilco as one of my favorite groups from like age 16 on. Jeff Tweedy’s imperfect voice always sounds equally sly and vulnerable to me — and this tune always hits me hard. The way Wilco incorporates electronic and ethereal elements into folk songs always inspired me.
Amy Winehouse — “You Know I’m No Good”
As I started writing tunes for Liz to wail on, I kept thinking how awesome and complex the compositions were for Winehouse, mixing vintage soul with her own vulnerable approach. The way the horns sneak in and out on this track is so cool.
Mary J. Blige — “Family Affair”
I probably had this song in my head for like five straight years. When we were brainstorming on a groove for “If You Could See Me Now,” we went out of the box a bit and thought of this groove. So nasty good.
The Cavaliers — “Oh Where Can My Baby Be”
There is definitely a morbid fascination in old country and rock songs with young people dying or losing each other. I’ve always wanted to write a mournful type of song like this, but one that questions the tragedy … like how could something so sweet like being young and in love go so wrong so fast?
The Dustbowl Revival — “Debtors’ Prison”
This is how it all comes together.