"You throw a little bit of everything into the Scrapomatic and out comes whatever it is we are," laughs Mike Mattison of his band’s moniker. It’s a fitting description of the philosophy behind Scrapomatic, which the vocalist co-founded ten years ago with his old friend Paul Olsen in Minneapolis. Like everything in the Scrapo-universe, his explanation comes with a hefty dose of sardonic humor. On their forthcoming new album, Sidewalk Caesars, due June 28th on Landslide Records, Mattison and Olsen deliver 13 songs that poke and prod at life’s troubles with the wicked sting of black comedy. The message is all the more compelling when delivered by means of the fiercest blues, gospel and old school R&B music anybody’s likely to hear this year.
Joining Mike Mattison and Paul Olsen in Scrapomatic is guitarist David Yoke, bassist Ted Pecchio and drummer Tyler Greenwell. Special guests include enigmatic Atlanta percussionist Count M’butu and revered guitarist Derek Trucks with whose band Mattison also serves as lead singer. Along with co-producer Jeff Bakos, Scrapomatic recorded Sidewalk Caesars in Atlanta over three sessions, the efficiency of which is reflected in the album’s visceral energy. The combination of Mattison and Olsen’s soul-drenched vocals, however, are what truly sets the effort apart. An intuitive dynamic in their singing unfolds from one track to the next. On "Hook, Line And Sinker," they trade lines to stunning effect. On songs like "Long Gone" and "Remember This Day" they blend harmonies that would feel right at home on the best Stax recordings. On the pair of tracks, "He Called My Name" and "I Want The Truth," Derek Trucks adds a third voice to the mix—that of his distinct bottleneck slide.
Sidewalk Caesars is also notable for a quartet of quintessential drinking songs. "Drink House," a come-on in the blues’ vernacular, is fueled by whiskey-inspired confidence, while at the opposite end of the spectrum "Killing Yourself On Purpose" finds the narrator drunk in a hospital bed with his wife leaving him for good. "Drunken Spree" is an acoustic romp through a lost gem by the legendary bluesman Skip James. "The Old Whiskey Show" reworks the gospel traditional "Paul and Silas" with striking lyrical imagery: "In the rain, in the rain, there’s a wounded guitar, nights filled with creatures and blood thirsty yawns, we must look, we must look, what shall we do to be saved, the barstools are taken, there’s no one to blame."
"There’s so much sadness expressed through dark humor by the blues artists we love like Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, it’s an element that we both relate to and find comfort in," explains Olsen. "But it’s sincere too. The longing and pleading for answer, that search for spiritual transcendence, it’s all mixed up in there in these songs."
Scrapomatic will hit the road in June for a U.S. tour, including appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and All Good Festival. They’ll also play a number of shows with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi’s Soul Stew Revival. Dates will be announced shortly.