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Too Slim And The Taildraggers Finds Its Own Niche In The Blues

Local blues hound Too Slim and the Taildraggers happens to be this town’s most ambitious and accomplished band.

Yet the trio, outside of its rollicking fat sound, is also the quietest.

The band - guitarist/vocalist Tim “Too Slim” Langford, Tom “The Stomp” Brimm and John “Midnight” Cage - doesn’t brag about its 18 awards and nominations accrued over the last five years.

Nor is it boastful about the 10 years it’s been in existence, the 250-plus nights spent on U.S. highways, the four internationally distributed albums and the waves of good press.

Too Slim and crew just do what they do, delivering top-notch and diverse blues. Everything else is secondary.

This year, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, which plays tonight and Saturday at the Fort Spokane Brewery, reached new heights with its fourth album “Swamp Opera,” released in November on growing Portland independent label Burnside Records.

Perhaps most noticeable on this record is that the trio has fully carved out its own unique blues niche, balancing the genre with flavors of steamy R&B;, swampy rockabilly, hooky Cajun music and reverberating surf rock.

“I like the songwriting,” said Langford of the album. “I think the songwriting is more mature.”

“Everything’s mature,” countered Cage.

“I think I sing better,” Langford joked. “I actually got a couple of compliments in a couple of reviews.”

For some strange reason, Langford is often criticized for his gravelly snarls and twangs. And according to him, Alligator Records refused to sign the band based on his vocals. (The same geniuses at Alligator also turned away Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughn and a host of other greats.)

In Langford’s defense, his vocal display shows that he’s human, which is one of the most compelling of qualities. Further, what makes blues endearing - most rock ‘n’ roll, too, for that matter - is presentation, not perfection.

Earlier this year, Too Slim and the Taildraggers played a blues festival in Belgium. The trip, unfortunately, was the epitome of a whirlwind tour. The Spokane unit was only in Belgium for 14 hours.

“It wasn’t even a whole day,” said Cage. “I think somebody just stuck us in one of those plane simulators and made us sit there for 12 hours and opened the doors and said ‘you’re here.’ Then they shoved us in the van, drove us to some big warehouse, let us out, pushed us in this trailer, pushed us on stage. … Next thing you know, we’re back home.”

So when’s the band heading back to Europe?

“Right now, we’re concentrating on the United States,” said Cage.

Although, one of these days the band might head to Russia. A Russian vodka bootlegger the band met in Portland last year wants to use the band for his advertising campaign. “He’s thinking that (the combination of) American cowboys and Russian vodka would be really cool,” said Langford.

The cover for tonight’s and Saturday’s shows is $5. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. Bring ID and get there early.

On Wednesdays through January, Too Slim and the Taildraggers will be playing instrumental surf rock. Seem like a radical departure from the band’s overwhelmingly blues sound? Well, “Drinkin’ Rye” and “Snakehead Soup” from “Swamp Opera” are both surf tunes. In its sets, the band will highlight material from Link Wray, Dick Dale and the Ventures. Music starts at 9:30 p.m.

Elsewhere in the night

Pullman’s Circle of Knots will join Spokane’s High Lonesome and Bed Heads at Outback Jack’s tonight. Music starts at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, Outback Jack’s has Swelter, Rugburn and Indica on stage. Showtime’s also 9:30 p.m. Bring your ID. Outback Jack’s will be open Christmas night.

Spokane alternative rockers Mike’s Pleasure and Retrofit rock the Happy Hour in Coeur d’ Alene tonight and Saturday. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. The cover’s $3.

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