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HOUSE OF DIABLO  •  House of Diablo

Not to worry, House of Diablo is no satanic heavy-metal band. Their website actually describes them best: "Imagine if Booker T. and the MG's crashed into Dr. John's backyard in 1968 with King Tubby at the grill, then they woke up in the year 2013 with DJ Shadow's cousin in the band and subtonic transmissions from Saturn."

House of Diablo's keyboard and accordion wizard is Brian Mitchell, whose ivory ticklings have graced recordings and live shows with Bob Dylan, Rosanne Cash, Al Green, Shawn Colvin, Lyle Lovett, Loudon Wainwright III, The Lounge Lizards, and Salif Keita, as well as lesser musical lights like actor Christopher Walken and ex-president Bill Clinton. If drummer Shawn Pelton's name rings a bell it may mean that you have read the credits at the end of Saturday Night Live any time in the last ten years, or perused the musician lists on CDs by Sheryl Crow, Eddie Brickell, Buddy Guy, Joan Osborne, Michelle Branch, Hall & Oates, Marc Cohn, Shawn Colvin, Rosanne Cash, or any one of dozens of other artists. The third member of the trio, Edward Potokar, will be less familiar but shares an equally-impressive resume. A composer, percussionist, DJ, furniture designer, builder, and inventor of bizarre electronic instruments (or as the HofD site proclaims: "homemade analog tone generators and jewel encrusted gizmotrons"), Potokar launched Music For Television in 1988 and was soon asked to write the theme for MTV's "Unplugged." Since then, the list of credits and clients includes Reese's, Ruffles, Blockbuster Video, Crest, Bravo, VH1, Oxygen, and more.

Now you might be thinking, "just another aimlessly eclectic outing by a bunch of bored, faceless, studio musicians." Wrong. These three have managed to carve out careers in the cutthroat world of sessioneering while maintaining indelibly distinctive musical personalities. Mitchell and Pelton first brought their love of combining American roots music with modern electronic sounds to a group called Mojo Mancini that included Rosanne Cash's producer/guitarist/husband John Leventhal. There they honed that sound with creative covers (included here) of tunes like James Brown's "I Feel Good"--slowed to a sleepy shuffle--and Muddy Waters' "Mojo."

In House of Diablo, they push the electronic envelope a little further without ever losing the greasy groove factor. In fact House of Diablo provides a veritable groove grab-bag with "Diablo's Hideaway" recalling the Cuban rhythms of the Buena Vista Social Club, "Mo Hot Sauce" the L.A.-ghetto soul of War, and "Reefer Madness" the laid-back "chill' of down-tempo electronica--all the while maintaining the group's distinctive identity. And for anyone who finds electronic music cold, House of Diablo proves once and for all that it can be as warm as the fires of you know where.

The only down side is that you are unlikely to experience them live if you don't live in New York City, where watching Pelton juggle drums, percussion, laptop and samplers, Mitchell manhandle his squeezebox, and Potokar manipulate things that look like broken transistor radios, becomes part of the fun (not to mention guest appearances by Scofield rhythm-guitarist Avi Botnick and master of the funky trombone Clark Gayton). So check their website and make your Manhattan visit coincide with a show, or just order the very live-sounding and very human House of Diablo CD.
• Michael Ross

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