by Mike Corrigan

It couldn't have been more perfect if we'd planned it. As you have probably discovered by now, you are holding in your hands the "guilty pleasures" edition of The Inlander, a celebration of trash culture, cuisine and entertainment. Well, let me tell ya, there's a band out there currently tearing up the nation's blacktop that represents everything that's trashy and wrong (or right, depending on your sensibilities) with American culture up to and including rock 'n' roll. And they are, at this very moment, closing the gap between wherever they played last night and Spokane. Yep, NASHVILLE PUSSY is heading this way for a Tuesday stop at Fat Tuesday's. And such pleasures don't come any guiltier.

"Whether you're obvious about your love for Nashville Pussy or whether it's a closet thing, this is definitely a guilty pleasure," agrees lead guitarist Ruyter Suys. "It is for us."

Firmly entrenched as the sovereigns of American raunch rock, Nashville Pussy -- Suys and hubby Blaine Cartwright (lead vocals/guitar), Jeremy Thompson (drums) and Katie Lynn Campbell (bass) -- routinely get away with murder, spewing forth rock that rolls around in the viscera of primal lust and domestic violence. Yet taken from both male and female perspectives and presented with a commanding female presence onstage -- Suys and Campbell are capable, aggressive and play the sex card -- songs like "You're Goin' Down," "Piece of Ass," "Beat Me Senseless" and "Shoot First and Run Like Hell" take on a tone that's more humorous than offensive.

Formed in 1996 by Cartwright, Suys, Thompson and original bassist Corey Parks, Nashville Pussy is a shotgun union of Lynyrd Skynyrd-style southern boogie and AC/DC's high-voltage crunch. The band made its recorded debut the following year with the Amphetamine/Reptile release, Let Them Eat Pussy (infamous for its lewd cover featuring Suys and Parks). More sleazy good times followed in 2000 with Higher Than Hell (TVT), which featured such goofy redneck paeans as "Struttin' Cock," "Wrong Side of a Gun" and "B--job From a Rattlesnake."

Parks, whose antics on and off the stage were becoming a problem for the rest of the band, left soon after the album's release.

"She quit in a chemical-induced frenzy," explains Suys. "And at that point, everyone was ready. She said, 'I quit.' We said okay, you are quit. Thank you. I think she was actually a little surprised that we all agreed. But it was a welcome relief. We had been babysitting her for awhile, and it was getting to be no fun."

Suys says the band is happy as hell with Campbell, who joined last year for the recording of (and yes, the tour supporting) the band's latest, Say Something Nasty (Artemis).

"She kicks ass. I don't know how she was created, but she is f--ing perfect for us."

Despite Cartwright's public assertion that the new album is "our best one yet," Suys laughs at the suggestion that Say Something Nasty represents a progression of any sort.

"I don't think it's an evolution or anything," she says. "It's just that we've been on the road so much that we've kind of learned how to play. I think we did kind of graduate a little bit from punk rock status. We're slowly working our way toward being a rock band one day."

That Nashville Pussy has been able to parlay their somewhat limited skills as players and songwriters into a career that has kept them on the road and producing albums for the last six years is a testament to the amateur spirit of rock 'n' roll -- not to mention the seemingly bottomless market for good, dumb fun. Despite efforts to make it sophisticated and respectable, rock endures and continues to be best enjoyed in its pure form -- honest, emotional and rough. That's where you'll run into Nashville Pussy, spreading the hedonist gospel with the fervor of an evangelist unrepentantly high on sex, dope and Jim Beam.

"It's all about feeling good at the moment," says Suys. "The best thing about being in this band is I get to be me. I get to be the most me I ever am. It's total ego. I revert to the infantile stage of self-pleasuring. Despite what's going on in the audience, I swear, we are up there for us. There's very little pretense. And it's not contrived. We just go and see what happens."

What happens, what really happens at a Nashville Pussy concert is always subject to conjecture and hearsay. As her cell phone cut in and out, I asked Suys if there were any misconceptions about the band she'd like to clear up -- or exploit.

"Nah," she says. "I think it's more fun just to let the rumors go. We played this gig in L.A. last night where we got to meet up with a bunch of old friends and hear a whole bunch of stories about us that we'd never heard before. I spent the whole night clearing up misconceptions."

She pauses for a moment and then adds, "Okay, here's one I'll clear up. We've never, ever lit each other's genitals on fire. That was a new one. Like maybe once a year you could pull that shit off but, goddamn, every night?"

Down from the Mountain -- There's nothing terribly guilty about the pleasures of the DRY BRANCH FIRE SQUAD -- or about the group's appearance at Mother Goose Coffeehouse (located at Auntie's Bookstore) on Tuesday. In fact, Mother Goose's smoke-free, alcohol-free atmosphere and Dry Branch's inspired and authentic traditional bluegrass music is the kind of body- and soul-nurturing experience you could discuss openly and in detail with your parents -- and not even blush.

Mandolinist Ron Thomason is a native of southern Appalachia as well as a student of the culture and the antecedent mountain music from which bluegrass emerged. The musical course he charts for the Dry Branch Fire Squad originates here and never ventures too far from home, at least not in a thematic sense. The group's "aggressively traditional bluegrass" is undiluted, uncompromising and inflamed by the spirit of genre masters such as Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs. And they take it all over the country and beyond (they've been touring internationally since 1976).

The Dry Branch Fire Squad consists of Thomason on mandolin, Danny Russell on banjo, Charlie Leet on bass and Adam McIntosh and Mary Jo Leet on acoustic guitar. The group's performances are a mixture of music (bluegrass, gospel, folk and cowboy songs) from Dry Branch's long career including faithful renditions of traditional favorites as well as numbers arranged by Thomason and several a cappella songs spotlighting the sublime vocal harmonies found within the group. The musical pieces are interspersed randomly with Thomason's colorful tales of life in Appalachia, off-kilter observations and politically charged diatribes blunted slightly by the group leader's irreverent humor and easy-going charm.

Spokane Rock City -- The whole tribute band phenomenon has always struck me as a little weird, a little obsessive. A little, you know, "get a life, people." That goes for the musicians involved as well as for the fans who will pay good money to see, not the genuine article, but a facsimile of their favorite act.

HOTTER THAN HELL (performing at Fat Tuesday's on Wednesday) is recognized by the real KISS as the only "official" KISS tribute band, a claim validated by Gene Simmons' selection of the band to double for KISS in the 1999 film comedy, Detroit Rock City. Originally formed in 1994, the band's current lineup represents a collaboration between the founders of two nationally renowned KISS tribute acts -- Scott McClusky ("Ace Frehley") of Hotter Than Hell and Benny Doro ("Paul Stanley") of Black Diamond.

But isn't the real KISS currently engaging in a fair amount of KISS tribute these days? I mean, when the original is still alive and providing fans with an authentic nostalgia trip, what's the appeal of a group of imposters?

You can get virtually the same fix on the cheap. You can have the band respond to your requests. You can stand close enough to the stage to get your eyebrows singed and your T-shirt spattered.

With spirited and faithful renditions of your KISS favorites, and plenty of pyrotechnics, blood, greasepaint and spandex to hide behind, Hotter Than Hell provides superb entertainment value. It's all the fun and spectacle of an authentic KISS concert for a fraction of the cost.

Publication date: 02/20/03

Festival of Fair Trade @ Community Building

Sun., Nov. 27, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
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