Locals: Righteous Buck and the Skull Scorchers

By Columbus Alive
From the July 18, 2013 edition

You need a few decades on you in order to properly inhabit a sound Righteous Buck and the Skull Scorchers describe as “stinky, unbathed swamp sounds straight from the Olentangy Delta.” It took band founders Craig Davidson and Kelly Coyle about 20 years to get there, and all that seasoning certainly paid off.

The duo played in assorted Columbus stoner-rock bands in the 1990s, but when they reconvened at Davidson’s house four years ago to jam, they found their tastes had shifted toward outlaw country, delta blues and other forms of underbelly Americana.

“It took me a long time to figure out that heavy doesn’t mean a wall of amps and a big, fat, distorted guitar,” Davidson said. “Heavy can be heavy on its own. It can be twangy.”

It didn’t hurt that Coyle had switched from bass to pedal steel. Their plan was just to jam, but the new musical ingredient set off a wave of creativity that laid the foundations of a boozy, bluesy new project.

“A typical Friday night consisted of a fifth of Old Granddad and probably 12 to 18 High Lifes, recording ’til like 4, 5, 6 in the morning, sometimes 8 in the morning, which made Saturdays a complete wash,” Davidson said.

Rather than the stagnated Blueshammer blather that often emerges from such endeavors, this guttural swagger was the most vibrant music these guys had ever come up with.

“It’s bluesy not as a category, but as a feeling,” Coyle explained.

Fast forward to the present and find a seasoned Skull Scorchers — including Craig Dunson, Geoff Ortlip and Matt Monta — prepping to release a self-titled debut album, to be celebrated Saturday with a show at the Tree Bar.

Lyrically, Righteous Buck and the Skull Scorchers is a bleak affair. Most songs are about people dying. “Last Wish” is the happiest number, but only because it’s instrumental. The huffing, puffing ballad “Don’t Throw Stones” is characteristic: “Never throw stones at your mother/ You’ll be sorry when she’s dead/ You should never throw stones at your mother/ Throw bricks at your father instead.”

Despite the morbidity, though, Righteous Buck’s record is livelier than most. A sound so righteously raunchy is worth the quarter-century gestation period.

Photo by Jodi Miller