It all started at the legendary Northern Virginia roadhouse JV's. D.C. born guitarists Anthony Pirog and Joel Harrison, musical soul mates, and now doing their first gig together, tore into a set of jazz-amped honkytonk songs before a stunned crowd. But two Telecasters wasn't enough. The bassist for the show, John Previti, who backed up guitar legend Danny Gatton for twenty years, had invited acclaimed local guitar slinger, Dave Chappell, to sit in. Soon three Telecasters were blazing away, exploring shared history and new frontiers. The Spellcasters were born.
The Spellcasters specialize in music made by and for that unique and marvelous American invention, the Fender Telecaster. Two "Telly" masters who have particularly inspired the band are D.C. legends Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan. As much as they celebrate these mentors, though, The Spellcasters have sought their own identity, which is a crossroads of styles that straddles the Mason-Dixon Line, where jazz, rockabilly, R&B, country, and rock ’n’ roll are one.
This is not so much a band of soloists as it is a guitar orchestra. It could be argued that The Anacostia Delta, comprising D.C., Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia, has its own regional sound. If so, this group is devoted to exploring every corner.
Anthony Pirog is the youngest member of the tribe, an avowed experimentalist, and yet an old soul with deep knowledge of tradition. He's part of the renowned duo Janel and Anthony as well as The Messthetics. It's hard to think about the great experimental scene in DC, without immediately thinking of him!
Dave Chappell has played with countless D.C. musicians, and leads his own "take-no-prisoners" group that rocks, wails, and twangs all over town. He took lessons with Gatton in the early 80's and performed with him.
Joel Harrison is a fearless adventurer based in Brooklyn, NY with 20 CDs of original music and genre-bashing covers under his name. For him the Spellcasters is a road back to his roots. Harrison grew up in D.C. following Gatton around like a stray dog.
Bassist John Previti and drummer Barry Hart have intersected with a broad swath of D.C's finest since the 1970's. Previti was Gatton's bassist for 20 years and together they've backed up Gatton, Evan Johns, Rick Whitehead, and members of The Nighthawks, and toured together in Danny's group Fun House in the late 1980's. Their chops have been honed by thousands of gigs from the White House to The Crab Shack.
The Spellcasters is very much a live band, and they built their chemistry over two years of gigs in the D.C. area. In that spirit, six out of the eleven songs on the CD were recorded in concert. It's got a fun, loose vibe, but is also full of well-considered arrangements such as Harrison's close-voiced slant on Monk's Bright Mississippi, the lovely give and take on Bill Frisell's That Was Then, or the swinging chimes of Chappell's Jax Boogie.
Music from the Anacostia Delta is a love letter to The Telecaster, and its greatest exponents: Jimmy Bryant, Roy Nichols, Jerry Donahue, Buchanan and Gatton, Jeff Beck, Frisell, and beyond.
released May 10, 2019
Joel Harrison, Anthony Pirog, Dave Chappell: guitars
John Previte: electric and acoustic bass
Barry Hart: drums
(Chappell is panned left, Harrison center, Pirog right.)
2, 4, 5, 11 recorded at Bias Studios, Springfield, VA, June 2018.
Engineer: Bob Dawson.
1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10 recorded live at Rhizome, Washington, DC, June 2018.
Engineer: Brendan Canty.
9 recorded at Asparagus Studios, Takoma Park, MD, November 2018.
Engineer: Steve Steckler.
Mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington, Bass Hit Recording, NYC.
Cover photo by Janel Leppin.
Headstock photo by Lesley McBurney.
Band photo by Scott Friedlander.
Design by Chester Hawkins.