Django Mack – 100 Page Tattoo
100 Page Tattoo finds Americana band Django Mack returning with the same mix of rough and tumble blues coupled with flashes of real poetry that has distinguished their previous releases. It also shows their songwriting becoming increasingly refined; they achieve the same impact with shorter, more focused songs that might have been longer and more diffuse on prior recordings. The continued sharpening of their presentation sets them apart from similar acts and never sounds ill fitting – Django Mack’s members sound like they have internalized the sound and mood of their songs rather than using nothing but technique to approximate some novice or poseur’s idea of what this musical style should sound like. They are obviously keyed into a particular design for how they should sound – this is further reflected by the production credits shared between lead singer and primary songwriter Brandon Butrick, bassist Tom Donald, and drummer Tim Vaughan.
They are a band without any obvious egos coming into play as well. The presence of backing vocals enriches Butrick’s singing on 100 Page Tattoo and the opening cut, “100 Page Tattoo”, illustrates how the production achieves a balance between various instruments in order to produce a seamless and unified whole. Donald and Vaughan’s rhythm section chemistry is palpable with this performance. It’s equally impactful with the second song “Lookout!”, even if they are working in a blues rock vein rather than exploring the R&B and funk heard in the title cut. Vaughan’s drumming comes at you with a much different sound here, much more direct and unadorned by post production effects, than we hear with the opener and it sets a tone for the whole performance. His capacity to lay back and play a more supporting role emerges with the acoustic driven track “Knock Me Down” and it is a song that, as well, dispels any notions that Butrick is a one or two trick pony as a singer. His vocal turn on this number is, easily, the most sensitively addressed on 100 Page Tattoo.
He really hits the mark, however, with the track “Knife Fight”. Listeners expecting a chaotic, raucous blues or rock tune with this number will be disappointed as Django Mack refrains from going for the obvious touch. Instead, “Knife Fight” relies more on weaving a mood than any other number you’ll hear on 100 Page Tattoo. The second to last song on the EP, “Roadrunner”, is an excellent “car as a girl as a car” song that comes across earnest and lacking any hint of parody. It makes for a good fit with the climatic number “Rooster in the Henhouse” and the grab the moment by the balls brawling spirit at the heart of this tune makes for one of 100 Page Tattoo’s best moments. This is a thoroughly enjoyable release from the first that lacks even a dash of pretentiousness and stands as the band’s most invigorating studio recording yet.