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Exene Cervenka and the Original Sinners
Exene Cervenka: Vocals
Jason Edge: Guitars
Dan Sabella: Guitar
Chris Powers: Bass
Kevin OíConner: Drums
Back in those heady years of the 1970ís punk rock incubated in the three key cities of London, New York, and Los Angeles. And, each of those cities gave birth to one punk goddess who shall forever reign; London gave us Chrissie Hynde, in New York it was Patti Smith, and Exene Cervenka won the crown in Los Angeles. A founding member of X and co-writer of their vast catalogue of astonishing songs, Exene was, and continues to be, a hugely influential figure. From her signature approach to fashion ñ polka-dot thrift store dresses, white ankle socks and tattoos ñ to her wildly unfettered stage manner and deliciously black sense of humor, Exene is a bona fide original. An intensely sexual performer too complex to be written off as a sex object, sheís released 15 sterling albums and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, sheís picking up speed and branching out.
In 2005 the Santa Monica Museum of Art presented the first exhibition of Exeneís visual art in a mini-retrospective that traveled in an expanded version to the DCKT Gallery in New York in 2006. Accompanied by a catalogue published by Smart Art Press, the show opened to rave reviews. Exene continues to gig regularly with X, is an accomplished spoken word artist whoís published five volumes of poetry, and is a founding member of country music quintet the Knitters. Last year they released The Modern Sounds of the Knitters, the follow-up to their 1985 debut album, a wonderful record that was worth the 20 year wait. Obviously, Exene is a busy woman ñ but wait, thereís more!
The reason weíve called you here today is to discuss her fantastic new record, SEV7EN, the second release by Exene Cervenka & The Original Sinners. Recorded in the summer of 2005, this follow-up to the Sinners self-titled debut of 2002 heralds significant changes in terms of personnel. Guitarist Jason Edge, a key contributor to the Sinnersí debut, is still on board -- he co-wrote four tunes on the new album with Exene, and continues to provide backing vocals. Other than Jason, however, the band on SEV7EN is entirely new, and features Chris Powers on bass, guitarist Dan Sabella, and Kevin OíConner on drums. The trio are moonlighting from their longtime day job as The 7 Shot Screamers (hence, the title of this record), a roaring outfit based in St. Louis, Missouri. The Screamers are a phenomenally tight band and theyíre perfect traveling partners for Exene in terms of the direction sheís taking her music.
ìIím kind of in my Chuck Berry phase in that I could pick up four musicians anywhere to back me up, but thereís nothing like having a real band,î she observes.
ìThese guys can play everything from rockabilly to glam, and the fact that theyíre so flexible and skilled has allowed me to work in a more free-form way -- the vocals on the song called ìSky Blue Pinkî are a good example of what I mean by this. Thatís the direction weíre moving in, and I think the next recordís going to be completely out there.î
Of the songs on the new album, Exene says ìIíll always write sad love songs because those are the songs that move me the most, but my life is really great now so I donít feel like writing them at the moment. But thereís plenty of bad stuff in my past I can draw on if I ever need to come up with one of those songs.î
Several songs on SEV7EN are indicative of the peace thatís crept into Exeneís life ñ ìLast Dance,î ìTavern,î and ìGood at Being Badî certainly do ñ but thereís a generous helping of anger and grief on the album, too. ìLong Distanceî is a mournful reflection on the loss of beloved friends, while ìDown Where Itís Downî and ìLonesome Warî have the fury and sadness of vintage X. The cherry on the sundae is a cover of ìGhost on the Highway,î one of many brilliant compositions by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, of the late, great L.A. band, the Gun Club. Exeneís a girl who never forgets her roots, friends, or influences.
Itís no exaggeration to mention Exene in the same breath as Chuck Berry; both are self-taught innovators who made crucial contributions to the great American art form of rockíníroll. And, as is the case with Chuck, Exene did it entirely on her own terms. Born in Chicago in 1956, she had a difficult childhood and precious little encouragement to develop the creativity that was a part of her personality from an early age. She developed her gifts entirely on her own, and it became apparent just how gifted she was when she moved to Los Angeles in 1976 and became a central figure in the first generation of American punk. That community of artists and musicians shared an intelligence, humor, passion and fearlessness that was unique, and Exene embodies all that was great about them. If you live in Los Angeles ñ or the United States -- Exene is a crucial part of your history, and you should hear what she has to say to you. The Original Sinners hit the road in March, and you really shouldnít miss them if they come to your town.