Q&A: The Dirt Daubers

The Dirt Daubers: Wake Up, Sinners!The Dirt Daubers: Wake Up, Sinners! (Colonial Knowledge / Thirty Tigers, 9/13/11)

The Dirt Daubers: “Wake Up, Sinners!”

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The Dirt Daubers is a slight change of pace for JD Wilkes, the wild front man for the raucous, rockabilly-inspired blues-punk band The Legendary Shack Shakers. Joined by his wife, Jessica Wilkes, and Shack Shakers bassist Mark Robertson, Wilkes has slowed down a bit to help craft ragtime-inspired country blues. The trio’s sophomore album, Wake Up, Sinners!, finds JD’s gritty and rumbling vocals balanced by Jessica’s rich tones and harmonies, floating over finger-picked banjo, bellowing blues harp, and thumpin’ bull fiddle.

The Southern gothic lyrics spin tales of traveling outsiders, a strong-willed woman, and the true tale of a misunderstood boogey man from the deep woods of Kentucky. The trio’s toe-tappin’ rhythms and earnest sincerity are apt ingredients for a slice of Americana. ALARM caught up with JD to ask about the roots of The Dirt Daubers and what’s up next.

What compelled you to start The Dirt Daubers?

I made a documentary called Seven Signs, a movie about Southern culture and music, that was selected by the Raindance Film Festival in London, England. The festival coordinators told me they would pay for my flight over if I came and played some music. My wife and I had been practicing banjo music, somewhat in secret, so I talked her into going. We got flown over, got wined and dined, played the gig, and had a blast. It was my first time playing banjo in public and her first time playing in front of people ever. Why, Les Claypool, of all people, was in attendance and told us it was great. So we decided to press onward and upward…eventually becoming the Dirt Daubers!

Is there a necessary balance between The Legendary Shack Shakers and The Dirt Daubers? What purpose does each band serve for you?

The Shack Shakers is the wholesale flaunting of my unfettered id. The Dirt Daubers puts a completely different demand on my skill set as a musician. In this band, if I stop playing banjo, there’s a huge hole in the song. So, yes, I like this new challenge of being responsible for the bulk of the band’s sonics.