Fire Fest: Black Pistol Fire

In and amongst the bands announced for this weekend’s Fire Fest is Black Pistol Fire. I’ll admit this band wasn’t on my radar at all last year when their debut full-length was released; instead, I first heard about them when they finished fourth in the Austin Music Awards for Best New Band. Clearly I was a bit late to this particular bandwagon, but when I finally heard their self-titled debut it was easy to understand their appeal. This is gritty blues from a guitar/drums duo that rocks harder than most bands twice their size. They clearly made the right call migrating from their native Toronto to the heart of Texas where their music sounds right at home.

Their second release came out recently – a mere eight or nine months after their debut. This five song EP is entitled Shut Up!, and is comprised entirely of Little Richard covers. Wait. What? That’s right. This duo that looks like the Bright Light Social Hour, sounds like a more badass version of the Black Keys and hails from the Great White North. And they are covering songs by one of the most flamboyant showmen of all time – a legend from the Deep South whose heyday was more than fifty years ago and hasn’t exactly seen a resurgence in Cool of late. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And that’s precisely why I love the concept. Clearly this isn’t some shrewd marketing move; instead, it seems to stem from BPF’s clear passion for Little Richard and his music.

Black Pistol Fire - 'Long Tall Sally'

The finished product is a different story, however. BPF tear through these songs in their signature style, but something like “Long Tall Sally” – the single they’re trying to push – comes across kind of disjointed and hollow. The radical tempo shifts sound like BPF are just trying to do something that will mark their version as different, rather than actually imbuing the song with new personality. It rocks, of course, but there has to be more to it than that. Instead I prefer their renditions of “Ready Teddy” and “Lucille.”

“Ready Teddy” uses a spare banjo and guitar arrangement to completely reimagine the song. The energy is still there, but it sounds like an Appalachian front porch pickin’ session more than anything. On “Lucille” the duo stretches the song out into a slow blues that drives the emotion through the roof. My own personal critique with Little Richard is that his songs sound quite same-y, and BPF are able to avoid that pitfall with these two tracks. In doing so, they’re able to show everyone the depth of Little Richard’s songwriting as well as the breadth of their own musical abilities.

It’s an interesting EP to tide us over until the next full-length. And you can catch Black Pistol Fire at Fire Fest this weekend alongside a lineup chock full of other Austin talent. Enter to win free tickets below! Contest ends tomorrow at 11pm.

– Carter