Exotic Dancer Blues

Southern Gentlemen

Leviathan Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


David Chastain has been waiting a long time to be the next big thing in the world of guitar gods. He's tried more musical paths than you'd expect, all trying to break through as a guitarist whose name would be a household word.

Now, he tries again with a three-piece rock outfit, Southern Gentleman. Their debut disc Exotic Dancer Blues shows that this group could be something special... but they ain't there yet.

Let's start with the positive aspects of this disc. For one thing, there is no mistaking the fact that these three musicians - Chastain, bassist Kevin Kekes and drummer Dennis Lesh - are astounding at their instruments. The trio does work hard at laying down a solid musical foundation, and they often do succeed at this.

But one major mistake is made, and it is made often - namely, letting Chastain sing. Simply put, he doesn't have the pipes for this material. I've always been skeptical when guitar gurus I've grown up with have decided to step up in front of the microphone and let it rip vocally. Joe Satriani didn't initially succeed; Dave Uhrich did a surprisingly good job. Chastain just isn't a singer, and Southern Gentlemen would be well advised to search out a full-time lead vocalist for their next effort.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Besides, without that distraction, Chastain could easily concentrate on what he does best, and that's play guitar. On tracks like "I Feel So Blue," "Back Door Woman" and "Ease The Pain," Chastain whips out impressive guitar licks but shows a great deal of restraint. We know that he could have easily sent out a guitar line which would have blistered the paint in your living room. Instead, Chastain went for the vibe of the song, not how many knots he could tie in the fretboard... and that's something to admire.

Exotic Dancer Blues also shows further holes in Southern Gentlemen's sound. Again, no knock on the musicians' performances... but the overall sound is a bit sparse. Even with the addition of a simple keyboard, it could have fleshed things out more in the short moments when Chastain didn't play, leaving only bass and drums to fill the void. Keyboards - or even, dare I say, a rhythm guitarist - on cuts like "Down To New Orleans" and "Give Me Your Lust" would have turned these into barnburners.

Finally... as much as I appreciate the nymphette on the cover, it may be wise to drop the "hornier-than-thou" approach in the music. Putting out a call for exotic dancers to send in their photos for future album covers sounds a bit... well, desperate. (If they so wish, these same dancers can send me their photos... I'm just too cheap to renew my subscription to Hustler.)

With a few more coats of paint here and there, Southern Gentlemen could well be a band to reckon with down the road, and it could finally bring Chastain to the point where he would be as recognizable as, say, Steve Vai. I'd rather look at Exotic Dancer Blues as a launching pad for the band to get where they should be. Let's hope these guys don't stay static; otherwise, they'll soon sound as watered down as the liquor at your favorite nudie bar.

Rating: C

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Leviathan Records, and is used for informational purposes only.