Country Time: The Dough Rollers
Published April 2, 2010
“We want people to listen to old music,” says Malcolm Ford, 23-year-old member of The Dough Rollers. “It’s good and we want to expose it.” Indeed, The Dough Rollers owe a great deal to the past: Ford is the son of actor, Harrison; 20-year-old Jack Byrne, the offspring of Ellen Barkin and Gabriel Byrne. Together with frequent collaborator fiddler Julia Tepper, the string band channels blues, Motown, and the stuff of yesteryear, and infuses it with a caliber of soul that belies their youth.
To go to a Dough Rollers show (which, to date, have primarily been in New York and Los Angeles) is to witness a spectacle. The audience might wait patiently for a venerable jazz man to reveal himself as the Wizard of Oz behind the band’s impassioned, revivalist performances notes. But these guys are anything but impostors. Onstage, Ford is a man possessed, contorting his face to squeeze out notes that would make his idol, “Father of the Delta Blues” Charley Patton, proud. Ford and Byrne both look as if they strolled out of His Girl Friday: hair combed back, shirts tucked in. “I don’t know if [how we dress] can be called an aesthetic,” Byrne explains. “There’s a lot of guys sagging their pants… We just don’t want to look like assholes, we want to look like respectable human beings.”
They revel in playing covers, of course, but the duo also writes a lot of original songs, incorporating an arsenal of instruments. Byrne, solid on vocals, is the master of guitar and Hawaiian guitar and coaxes the most astonishing sounds from his instruments. Ford expertly manipulates the mandolin, the kazoo, and washboards. “We each play a ton of instruments,” Byrne explains. “There’s lots of swapping going on.” Though their eponymous first album won’t come out until this summer, the band has a strong fan base online. “It’s rare that someone hears [our music] and hates it,” says Byrne, which sounds like tepid enthusiasm, but is actually acknowledgement of the band’s specific look and sound. Attire aside, The Dough Rollers are, in short, an anomaly. “Our goal is to make a good song,” he sums. “Something people can understand without it being stuffed down their throats. Something they won’t forget ten minutes later.” We won’t forget.
THE DOUGH ROLLERS WILL PLAY THE BELL HOUSE IN NEW YORK ON APRIL 24.