FeminINDIE: The Dusty Pearls
As someone who grew up smack in the middle of ’80s pop culture, which is to say that I grew up in a schizophrenic culture whereby all entertainment was supposed to be seen as A Business yet simultaneously beholden to the bullshit virtue narrative that the generation before had created, the above quote transcends a breath of fresh air. It is so honest that I want to hug it.
The word “ego” is such a trigger for people to engage in morality plays that the end result is a giant, wholesale remove from reality. Entertainment thrives off of ego and yet the audience demands that ego be destroyed in favor of a purity that never existed in the first place. (You really think Elvis and Lennon didn’t have egos?) It is, I think, a uniquely American demand, the idea that we want to hear honesty from entertainers in interviews but we also demand a press corp that will smack wrists with rulers like nuns at Sisters of the Fluff Pieces if they are too honest.
The Dusty Pearls are a Broken Arrow, Oklahoma-based duo consisting of Mark Bennett and Shelly McAuliff, both of whom grew up in the state. They have a 4-track demo available online with an album release in the works. The first 2 songs has Shelly on lead vocals, the last two has Mark on lead. The description they use for their music is “Americana/Country” and this seems like a smart use of labeling because even though they skew heavier toward the latter in terms of sound they also seem like they know their way around Roy Acuff’s or Merle Travis’ catalog too.
Bennett’s musical career involves academia and a degree from Hendrix College. McAuliff’s is more of an Everyperson’s story involving auditioning and singing at a church. These two things, along with their individual range of influences, provide a good balance with everything (both are drawn to ’70s and ’80s classics, but with Mark being influenced by Miles Davis and Shelly by Patsy Cline). All of these things make sense when you hear the demo: Mark with his schooling being paired up with Shelly and her natural presence. It works remarkably well, especially on “Another Night,” the demo’s first track.
The track that they chose for the FeminINDIE entry is “Scarlet,” a song that Mark says: “is a great example of our collaboration. Those are Shelly’s vivid lyrics, and her female perspective. I was able to set it to music.” “Lyrically,” Shelly says of the song, “it’s from a woman’s perspective and it just seems to work. I currently am most proud of this song because it represents the direction in which I think Mark and I are headed musically.” It is hard to argue with this song being picked as the entry. “Scarlet” is the kind of song you build an album around; it’s a tonal and emotional pivot.
I look forward to hearing their album when it comes out hearing what directions they take beyond that. If they make it big, I look forward to Shelly saying quotes like the one above in interviews. Doubtless they will be compared to The Civil Wars if their following continues to grow but unlike other male-female duos The Dusty Pearls deserve that compliment.
Okay so I had previously written that “Scarlet” is the kind of song you build an album around. I 100% stand by that statement. If we were all still buying records or cassettes, “Scarlet” is the no-brainer to open side two. Its minimalism and lyrics punches you in the face. It’s a great song.
The review I have to write here is for the demo and “Scarlet” just doesn’t fit in between “Another Night” and “Songbird.” I fully realize that this sounds nitpick-y and, yes, it may only be a demo, but it is a disruption of overall flow and I needed to point that out if for no other reason than to say that I hope this song is treated with care with regards to its placement on the upcoming album. “Scarlet” is an outstanding standalone song but it’s also one of those songs that can become more affecting based on what it follows on an album too. (“Disarm” by the Smashing Pumpkins is the best example that comes to mind.)
“Another Night” opens the demo and “Step 13″ closes the demo and both are lively, catchy-as-hell stompers that are tailor made for intimate live shows. I think I’ve listened to “Another Night” twenty five times. It’s a damn good song. “Songbird” is a very good mellow song, the kind perfectly at home in your car with the windows rolled down.
The Dusty Pearls’ demo is a terrific fragment of music that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: create an anticipation for the release of a full album. I look forward to hearing what else they have in store. And if I’m ever in Oklahoma hopefully it will coincide with one of their shows–they play Fleetwood Mac, Civil Wars, and Steve Earle covers. Sign me up.
Artist Name: The Dusty Pearls
Location: Broken Arrow, OK
Genre: Country, Americana
Members: Shelly McAuliff, Mark Bennett