Dramatic entrance music. Hush and mystique as the lights dim, the only illumination provided by sinisterly flickering cigarettes. The crack of a rocking chair on a porch as dusky tumbleweed ominously passes through. No, sorry, hang on. We’re in Camden. But hey, y’all, this is Dan Sartain.
His dark, winding tales of intrigue weave a shroud of wisdom beyond his years, yet gawky grins and sparkling eyes paint in colours of childhood innocence and fresh-faced excitement. Eccentric doesn’t cut it: even next to his superbly beaded bassist, clearly transported to the venue by the skin of his country teeth from his last 60s acid trip, Dan Sartain still reigns supreme as king of all bizarre. His trademark 1950s army jacket envelops his scrawny flame; halfway through his wide-eyed and sleepy drawls of Bir-ming-ham car problems, “space blankets” and two hours sleep (“ya kinda want more”), it really would be seamless to suddenly throw in a line on peas an carrits. But behind dumb Alabama grins, Sartain is clearly not so stoopid.
Crashing into his onslaught of toe-tapping deranged rockabilly with ‘Gun vs Knife’, the sweaty black interior of the Barfly is suddenly transformed into a sweltering, cactus surrounded deep-South showcase for his stunning new album. ‘Join Dan Sartain’ is instantly bought to life with its whisky-fuelled, shadowy tales of loves, losses, murders and Mexicans: even the deeply hungover mature Camden dwellers can’t resist embracing their own little hoe-down. Standouts like ‘Replacement Man’ are effortlessly timeless, yet Sartain maintains an aura of being distilled an era he wasn’t even alive in. Calypso lilts of ‘The Flight of the Finch’ samba with raw, dusty, punk nostalgia and hillbilly country blues. The manic swaggers of ‘Walk Among the Cobra’ and ‘Metropolis’ remind you how great his previous serpentine creation was: he plays as if his life depends on it, and perhaps it does. Sweet naïve romances, but thoroughly grown up, gorgeous music for first-time 1960s beardies or garage-freak youths: Sartain is a legend in the making.