Built to last

The Silks throw it down on 'Last American Band'
By CHRIS CONTI  |  November 26, 2013

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THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY Donnelly, Kelly, and Parmalee. [Photo by John Pitocco Photography]

Homegrown trio the Silks serve a hot dose of grimy blues, funked-up Delta swamp stomping, and unabashed ’70s rock on their stellar debut album, Last American Band. Frontman Tyler-James Kelly was built for this — halfway through the disc, it’s abundantly clear that he and his bandmates are locked in and ready to be next in line for a stratospheric career jump. Get onboard now. Plus, the album was produced by Paul fucking Westerberg. It’s available at thesilksmusic.com ($10), and will be on sale at the upcoming release shows at Fête on Friday and Saturday (by popular demand, the second show was added) with excellent local support from Smith & Weeden and badass duo Detroit Rebellion. The Fête Lounge will be rocking off the rails this weekend.

Lead vocalist/guitarist (and harmonica man) Tyler-James Kelly, bassist Jonas Parmalee, and drummer Matthew Donnelly may have been born and raised here, but it sure sounds like they hitched a ride northbound from the Delta swamp (via Grand Funk Railroad), circa 1973. And it’s surely no coincidence that the logo on the sharp gatefold cover resembles the Allman Brothers Band’s lettering. Kelly channels Joe Cocker and Leon Russell while meshing with Parmalee’s strutting bass lines and Donnelly’s steady pounding. Last American Band is a sour, dusty-shelf mash of the Black Keys and Deer Tick, the Marshall Tucker Band and Bad Company.

The usual “creative differences” eventually fractured Kelly’s original lineup a few years back (“it was smooth and anything but a rough split,” he said); he played out steadily as a solo artist (and still teams up with talented vocalist Jess Powers at Local 121 the first Sunday of each month), but anyone who has witnessed the Silks in the past year can see and hear just how ideal this lineup is for Kelly.

“It was understood pretty fast within the first few shows that we had the right chemistry together, and there is no better feeling,” he told me earlier this week. “We still continue to grow and learn together.”

Another twist of fate involves mutual management with the Silks and Westerberg (who also worked with Deer Tick). Earlier this year the trio shipped out to Minneapolis to Westerberg’s Flower Studios and banged out the album in three days (plus a marathon fourth day of mixing).

“Working with Paul was great and we hit it off quickly,” said Kelly. “On every level of the process, Paul really made sure we felt as comfortable as possible.”

So comfortable, in fact, that he wasn’t frozen in awe while staring through the studio glass at legendary singer and songwriter of the Replacements.

“No, not really, I’m not much of a starstruck type of guy — nothing a few pulls on the bottle can’t handle,” Kelly cracked.

Westerberg was itching to cover the Rolling Stones’ “One More Try” and enlisted the Silks to back him. The song was released as a seven-inch single with the Silks’ “Down At the Heel” (the limited-edition 45 is fetching upwards of $40 on eBay).

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