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Fans two-step right along with the Blacks


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001

TAMPA -- "Insurgent country" is the term used to describe raucous roots acts that specialize in guitar twang and the detailed stories you can only tell with a down-home drawl. It's the term slapped on the Blacks, a Chicago husband and wife team that sing woe-begotten tunes about bad love and what sinister havoc that ol' bottle and the devil can make.

Tuesday at the Orpheum in Ybor City, Danny and Gina Black -- the surname is fake on Danny's part -- performed to a crowd of 110 aficionadoes of irreverent music like rockabilly, punk and alt-country.

The Blacks played without their drummer, who split during the tour, Danny explained, to be with his girlfriend when she delivers their baby.

Fans didn't mind the more intimate approach of Danny, who comes across like a snake oil peddler in the old West, on acoustic guitar, and on upright bass, his statuesque wife, clad in a slinky black dress and red stiletto heels. The visual effect is anachronistic and distinct: These two are swindlers!

But, what's so insurgent, one wondered, about hootenanny-style tunes, peppery enough to inspire several couples in the audience to two-step? Maybe it's the band's unruly behavior. Danny's banter is filled with rascally remarks and tales. His singing, too, is colored by a gruff voice, banshee wails, and the occasional "yee haw!"

Gina harmonizes with him splendidly, even when the two venture into yodeling. Yodeling in harmony can't be easy, but Danny's gritty croon was given balm by his wife's tartness. Don't think Mrs. Black is all sweetness and light; she too, here and there, wailed like a witchy woman. Hers were the kind of accusatory, untethered yelps that make the hairs stand straight on a burly man's neck. Gina also plays percussively, heartily plucking and slapping her bass.

The duo may not be subtle, but it knows the power of simple instrumentation mixed with conviction. The Blacks made more noise and impact using just their guitars and voices than could most bands three times its size.

- To contact Gina Vivinetto, e-mail gina@sptimes.

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