When self-described Gypsy brass circus rock act Dirty Bourbon River Show shared the bill with funk and soul legend Dr. John, a fellow Crescent City musician, that didn’t happen in New Orleans — it happened in Asheville.
Since its inception, Dirty Bourbon River Show has toured in 39 states. But North Carolina was one of its early tour stops (including shows at The Grey Eagle, Jack of the Wood and LEAF) because the band’s first manager was based in Greensboro. And the Asheville area still ranks as a favorite destination. “Asheville is such a progressive town with the whole feeling of oneness there, lots of fantastic art projects, lots of support for the arts and guys out busking,” says vocalist and ringleader Charles “Big Charlie” Skinner.
On the heels of releasing a studio album, Accordion Anthology, Dirty Bourbon River Show returns to Western North Carolina, playing Pisgah Brewing on Friday, March 14. That show promises to be one magical night of New Orleans-inspired debauchery.
New Orleans is where the band members originally discovered each other, and that city still informs the band’s sound. Dixieland jazz inspires the forceful brass arrangements, and there are hints of both second-line and Mardi Gras marching bands. “New Orleans is like cracking the best book you ever read; it takes you away,” Skinner says.
The band thrives on touring, not only to capture new fan bases, but for the experience itself. “Go stand next to a mountain in Colorado. It’s good for any artist to feel small every once and a while,” Skinner admits. “Travel will humble your ass.”
So, apparently, will navigating the variety of sonic inspirations driving a quintet. All members (including singer/multi-instrumentalist Noah Adams; Matt Thomas on vocals, saxophones and clarinet; Jimmy Williams on bass and sousaphone; and Dane “Bootsy” Schindler on drums) are encouraged to write their own stuff, so coming together as a band can prove trying. “You have to forgo what you want for the greater good,” Skinner says. “Get five grown-ass men together and try to get them to agree on anything. You have to notch down your ego. You’re not a solo musician creating your own sound.”
Despite that challenge, the band set a lofty goal to release eight albums in four years. Accordion Anthology is No. 8 — a success that Skinner considers to be just part of the job description. “We have the ability, we love what we do, none of us have wives or children, and this is our full-time job,” he says. “Two albums worth of stuff — that’s 20 songs in a year’s time. I feel like we should be doing that much.”
Fortunately for the band, Adams is a prolific writer. “It helps that we have a clear and concise leader,” Skinner says. “A majority of the creative process starts with him.” Typically, Adams will have a creative spark or an idea, which could be a song or a chorus. He’ll bring it to Skinner, and they’ll hash it out before taking it to the rest of the band for embellishment.
Speaking of elaboration, Accordion Anthology includes a couple of tracks with distinctive rap themes born out of those collaborations. “We all in some way, shape or form have hip-hop influences,” Skinner says. “I’m a fan of Wu-Tang Clan.” Adams and Schindler are influenced by West Coast rap. But the band, according to Skinner, listens to everything, and that amalgamation of influence sometimes manifests as a comedic element in songs like “Jewish Girls,” with its brassy falsetto refrain or the Beat poet-styled “Jibberish Junction.”
With eight albums in the can, the Dirty Bourbon River Show’s next goal is to tour overseas and tap into an international audience. “You go somewhere new, and it’s like an alien planet,” Skinner says. “The rocks and the dirt and trees are different. You can follow that all the way up to the people, the women and the whiskey they make there.”
But, in a way, the band also carries the spirit of home when on the road. “You go to New Orleans and you throw care to the wind,” Skinner says. “Maybe you do things you shouldn’t do, but it’s the best time of your life.”
He adds, “We want to give people three hours of that.”
who: The Dirty Bourbon River Show
where: Pisgah Brewery, pisgahbrewing.com
when: Friday, March 14, at 9 p.m. $7 advance/$10 at the door