Rant ‘N’ Roll: The Slim Kings

The Slim Kings roam the rock ‘n’ roll topography with a soul-satisfying pastiche of Americana, classic rock and blues rock and when you see ‘em live, you gotta add a jam band aesthetic as well because lead guitarist Henry Geller is a monster…and they do jam. Bigtime. Their two self-released indie statements, Dirty Socks and Fresh Socks, with a combined 17 tracks, is an adventurous eclectic electric meandering through different styles that coalesces into a singular whole.

Singer Michael Sackler-Berner is a vocalist who can really sing, which seems, at least to these old hairy ears, to be something of a rarity in a new rock band these days. Depending upon the track, he’s all attitude, spit ‘n’ polish, rude, reserved, pissed-off or in love. The rhythm section is key in these Slim Kings as bassist Andy Attanasio and drummer Liberty DeVitto are one. Hey, isn’t that the Billy Joel guy who also drums for the New York City Hit Squad? You’re damn right it is. DeVitto, 63, might be an odd fit with these 20-somethings but upon closer inspection, he’s perfect, driving the bus, so to speak, with an authoritative pow that rockets the action forward. DeVitto, who reportedly co-wrote many of Joel’s songs with no credit (settling out-of-court), is kick-ass. Completely.

In explaining how The Slim Kings achieved Liberty, Geller says, “Six years ago, our singer contacted Liberty through Myspace—remember that?—and asked him if he’d be interested in drumming in the studio for his solo project. Liberty was the first drummer Michael had ever seen in-concert when he was a kid. He was really just reaching out to say, `Hey, you’ve made a huge impact on me. I’ll never forget seeing you at Nassau Coliseum and loving every minute of it. Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s my budget.’”

Liberty said yes.

“Michael and I were New York elementary school friends who got back in touch after many years and decided to make a record together two years ago. He played some of my guitar parts for Liberty and asked him if he’d be interested in doing this. We wrote and recorded the first album in two weeks in 2012, afterwards it was Liberty who said, `Hey, we should make this a band.’

“Now, we’re thinking of taking songs off each album for our official debut,” continues the guitarist, “and, hell yeah, we definitely extend a lot of these songs into jams when we’re on stage.”

Could I call ‘em “Hard Americana?” How ‘bout “Classic Jam?”

“It’s all blues-based,” laughs Geller at my constant categorizations, “but we all have our own input which makes the sound happen. It’s great that it works together as it does. And we all write.”

When I mention that Liberty’s already in a band with my friend Ricky Byrd, Geller says, “Ricky’s a really nice guy and he’s come to a few of our shows. Singer Christine Ohlman, who sings in the Hit Squad, also sings on a Dirty Socks track, “Inside A Tear.”

Geller’s a guy who grew up with music all around him. His father, Gregg Geller, in fact, is the guy who signed Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Edmunds and Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats. The elder Geller also made Elvis Presley vital again via creative reissues appealing to the ‘80s Stray Cats generation. He’s also done wonders with Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson.

But enough about the father. The son remembers meeting John Fogerty when he was nine. His first band was Rough Waters out of San Francisco (Volume #1 is their only album.) “I just moved back to New York eight months ago to be with The Slim Kings and focus all my energy on this band.” The Slim Kings recently opened for ZZ Top at The Paramount Theater in New York and Geller got to jam with Billy Gibbons. “It was a dream come true,” he says.

As far as 2014 is concerned, “We’re going to just keep playing and writing as much as we can,” Geller says. “There’s so many different aspects of what to do next, the goal is to just keep moving forward.”

Hey dad, sign this band!

(Pictured l-r) Bassist Andy Attanasio, guitarist Henry Geller, vocalist Michael Sackler-Berner and drummer Liberty DeVitto. Photo by Jake Gorst.