In 1993, singer/guitarist Danny Black found a Hank Williams record left behind in the apartment he had just rented and everything started to make sense. He met bassist/singer Gina Black at a G. Love and the Special Sauce show at Lounge Ax in Chicago. She promptly abandoned her classical bass training and they formed a rock band.
Danny, with his white suit and Southside Irish good looks, and Gina, the 6 foot (and that's without the stilettos!) siren thumping, slapping or bowing her custom stand up bass, made quite the first impression. Drummer James Emmenegger, culled from an Eagles cover band (we wish we were kidding about that), was known about town for his wide lapels, a drumming style that looks like he's having a seizure (thinking Animal from the Muppets would not be off base), and rambunctious head banging at all Devil in a Woodpile shows. Rounding out the line up (for the first record and last EP) on rhythm guitar, sweet harmony vocals, and the occasional French maid outfit, was Nora O'Connor (Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Jakob Dylan, New Pornographers).
The Blacks' fusion of punk and glam with roots made for some exciting, theatrical, and sonically charged shows. They'd blow the room apart with their rock n roll dynamism and then imbue some Sunday-go-to-meeting gospel with a breathy, slightly sinister urgency.
The Blacks burned bright for two albums (1998's Dolly Horrorshow and 2000's Just Like Home), then flamed out under their own volatility. In 2010, after a 10 year hiatus, the band reunited and returned with a digital-only EP, In Sickness and Health. Then they broke up again during the encore of the release show.
So goes rock and roll....
In 10 or 20 years, your kids or your curious nephews will ask "Hey, why weren't the Blacks famous back then? What was wrong with you people that you made the Strokes and Vampire Weekend famous? This band kicks all their asses."
How you gonna answer?
- The Great Crusades cover The Blacks' "Fake Out Jesus" on While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records
- "Horrorshow" and "Theresa Leaves Lonesome Town" live on No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot's 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout Block Party
- "Chic-A-Go-Go! Salutes Bloodshot Records" short film featuring the Blacks on the DVD Bloodied But Unbowed
- "The New World" on Poor Little Knitter on the Road
- "Why Drunky?" on Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records