The passion and grit informing Django Mack’s latest EP release, 100 Page Tattoo, sets them apart from the typical Americana style act working on the scene today. While the extended musical collective featured on this album immerses themselves in a specific musical style, it has a combustible effect thanks to Butrick’s poetic presence as a lyricist. Avowed influences like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits makes it abundantly clear Mack has little to zero interest in canned genre lyrics that aspire to little more than placeholder status while invoking an assortment of standard tropes. The six songs on 100 Page Tattoo build on the band’s past accomplishments while showing an added lyrical depth longtime and experienced listeners should expect from a writer, performer, and band that are clearly in it for the long haul and grow deeper with each new effort. 100 Page Tattoo is ragged but right and hits a nerve for anyone searching for an authentic and deeply felt musical experience.
Their inventiveness is buzzing to full effect from the start. The album’s title song begins things with some daring as Django Mack opts for confounding expectations. Their soul and funk mix on display here comes with a fluid, restless bass line, Tim Vaughan’s outstanding work on the kit, and brass contributions that punctuate everything with color. Brandon Butrick’s voice is as suggestive as ever and discerning listeners will be impressed by the clear control he exerts over it here and over the next five songs. His voice definitely occupies the lower end of the register, but he discovers countless shades in that particular spectrum. The ambling mid-tempo blues rock of “Lookout!” has some contributions from horns, as well, but they are used in a more diffuse way while the guitar takes on a much more prominent role than we heard in the opener. “Knock Me Down” changes the sonic mood of the EP, but not in a jarring way, as this acoustic folk rocker makes for a nice shift in the pace while still keep the energy level high with sweeping verses and a nicely climatic chorus.
“Knife Fight” returns the band to the more evocative terrain of the first track, but they show their continually evolving artistry by giving this track just the right amount of pressure than rendering it in an overwrought manner. There’s a threatening mood conjured with this tune that’s difficult to forget. They take a slightly unexpected but welcome turn with the penultimate number “Roadrunner”, one of the more memorable paeans to an automobile you’ll ever hear. The musical arrangement features a good balance of brass and guitar with a hard hitting drumming performance from Tim Vaughan. Vaughan’s drumming is equally effective on the ending track “Rooster in the Henhouse” and it’s one of the more inventive riffs on lyrical blues traditions the band has yet produced. Django Mack’s 100 Page Tattoo is the band’s best release yet and develops the band’s sound impressively despite being only EP length.