Blabber’n’Smoke had first caught sight of this grizzled bunch a week or so ago when they played a few songs at the Southside Sessions, battling a noisy crowd and a wonky PA system. Even so their weird take on Beefheartian delta Dadaism was somewhat intriguing so the promise of their own gig some days later was a no brainer, we had to investigate.
The Rulers of the Root are a four man band who don’t have any product to push, no discs, no mp3s, no tee-shirts or even fridge magnets (so far), just four guys who have got together to play some music and fortunately they seem keen to do this in front of other folk. While Beefheart may be an influence there are shades of Tom Waits, The Meters, Alex Harvey, The Blockheads and David Lynch to be heard while their absurdist sense of humour recalls the pop Dadaism of the Bonzo Dog Band along with a whiff of the late and lamented Chou Pahrot. Opening with the word salad lyrics of Cat Fur, a junkyard blues maelstrom that was the most Van Vliet influenced song of the night it was clear that they are a diamond in the rough with the raucous vocals battling with some ferocious guitar. Rose Of Jericho was a sea shanty as sung by sailors on mescaline while The Doctor tangoed like a mutant Tom Waits with some salacious wordplay. Millport Cowboy was a gnarly ode to the pseudo gunslingers who invade that Isle for their Tombstone festival while White on Rice invoked a reverb soaked trip into David Lynch country and western territory. It should be noted here that singer Patrick Gillies had a bag of props which the band temporarily tolerated before tossing aside leaving him to populate the songs with an array of headgear to fit the moment. Pirates, cowboys and gladiators ruled the roost depending on the song being played.
With the rhythm section ( Mick Murphy, bass and Chris Quinn, percussion) as tight as the proverbial duck and Gillies in full “method” mode this was already a sight to see and hear but the cream on the top was the guitar playing from John Palmer, a veteran of the Glasgow music scene. Able to crank out the chunky Feelgoods’ I Can Tell (their one cover of the night) and then come across all Marc Ribot on the more Waitsian numbers he was outstanding throughout the night. And while their distorted Magic Band angularisms might be their calling card The Rulers visited Ry Cooder territory on Sinaloa before adopting a Clash attack on Murdoch Browns, a song that attacked the hypocrisy of that media magnate. Ian Dury’s music hall mirth was invoked on Spartacus with Gillies totally in character with his Roman helmet and sword a swinging while the Tour de France got a good trouncing on the final song Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey) with the audience thrown suitable headgear to get in the moment. With Dury and the Blockheads again channelled it was funky as hell and topped the show without any performance enhancing drugs in sight.
You can catch the band on their Facebook page and see them in action below. Blabber’n’Smoke hopes to talk to them soon in order to inquire into this weird mutant sound in the South Side.