X and Jayhawk's Stars Guest on New Dead Rock West Album
The group—led by vocalist Cindy Wasserman (Grant Lee Phillips) and guitarist Frank Lee Drennen (Loam)—recruited a number of guest performers for the new album including John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X and The Jayhawks' Mark Olson. The record is produced by acclaimed artist Peter Case.
Wasserman and Drennen conceived of Bright Morning Stars as a "total California spirituals record," according to Drennen, "made by California musicians." For the album the pair covered old time spirituals by Blind Willie Johnson, contemporary gospel tracks by the Staple Singers, and even the Jesus & Mary Chain's "God Help Me" in addition to six original songs. "This record isn't just for people with a certain religious bent—it's a calling out, a reaching out," says Drennen. "These songs urge you to look up, whatever that means to you."
Formed in 2002, Dead Rock West's members make up a who's who of the Southern California rock and roots scene, with individual members playing with Grant Lee Phillips, Tracy Chapman, Lucinda Williams, Social Distortion and Loam. The band's first album, Honey and Salt, was released in 2007 and called "a head-clearing helping of roots rock that alternately aches with every bump in the road and looks with resolve to the next curve" by the Los Angeles Times while earning comparisons to the Flying Burrito Brothers and X. After two years of nonstop work in the wake of Honey and Salt, the group sought to recharge their sound when they found these faith-based songs. "It got me excited about music all over again," explains Wasserman. Drennen adds, "We dug, found these pieces and are using them again."