January 02, 2005
BY JASON SONGE
I didn't expect to find talented and experienced musicians playing at Checkpoint Charlie's at 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. It was a testament to the city's bottomless quarry of musicianship that Rock band American Cheese was kickin' out the Folk jams at such an odd hour.
Now, the threesome wasn't Dylan or Young, but their simple, strolling strummers had enough emotional veracity and humor to get me listening. The lead singer/acoustic guitarist sang about love in the same breath that he prompted laughs by slyly changing the pronunciation of a word to fit the rhyme scheme.
I knew American Cheese was gonna be a fun band when I saw lead guitarist David James onstage. James is also the guitarist for Dirty Mouth, New Orleans' kings of unpretentious and outright rude behavior. American Cheese wasn't rude, but their lyrics and between song banter could have come from any regular city Joes during a Saints conversation. That made them easier to relate to. The lyrics were simple-minded(love and drinking), but they were poignant. Cliches are cliches for a reason. I guess it's the reason Blues music has survived--it has elemental qualities everyone can latch onto.
Talk about simple--the drummer only had two sticks, a tambourine head between his legs and a crash cymbal. But, wouldn't ya know it, he didn't need a kick drum. He got his beat and attitude across just fine, anyway.
The band played good Roots music that was helped by a harmonica and James' sweet melodic solos. James was the X factor.
About fifteen people watched the band. It was pulling teeth to get them to applaud. I guess some people at the bar weren't really listening.