Cincinnati has always been known for tipping it’s cap to the sounds of great garage rock, but what happens when you take that sound and infuse pure unadulterated soul and funk into it? No, it’s not Bootsy Collins fronting Thee Shams (although we’d like to hear that too by the way). What you get is Pearlene, one of the best, but most overlooked Cincinnati bands of the decade.
The album that stands out to me from Pearlene is easily their 2006-2007 release For Western Violence & Brief Sensuality. The record was released here in the city back in 2006, and it marked the third full length album from Pearlene. This album was not only a melting pot of sounds you might hear in your “cool uncles” collection, but it was fronted by the truly special voice of Rueben Glaser. The follow up to their 2003 album, which also had a dirty bluesy vibe to it, Glaser and Pearlene employed big, thick syrupy words over top of the mix of sounds that included soulful backing singers, percussion and bass you can set your watch to, and on a few songs, some incredibly addictive piano playing from newest Pearlene member Andrew Higley.
Upon its national release in 2007, after the tri-state had already feasted on this album, Harp Magazine (may it RIP) had this to say about the record.
Pearlene’s Reuben Glaser has one of those delicious, maple-coated voices that recalls the golden age of classic rock n roll and all that was good about it, with none of the bad.
How true that simple sentence was and is, with tunes like “Hosannah”, “Watch The Way” and “We All Get Off” this was a landmark record for Cincinnati in the 2000′s. To me, it felt like the coming out party for a band deserving of some big attention, and that it was only a matter of time before they followed in the footsteps of The Greenhornes and Heartless Bastards toward a bigger national appeal. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, or at least hasn’t yet. Glaser is still a fixture on the local scene, playing on nearly every important Cincinnati album in the past 3 years. Higley is now a part of another Cincinnati band we love, The Chocolate Horse and Jessie Ebaugh has moved on to the spotlight with the Heartless Bastards.
Whether or not Pearlene release another record, I don’t know, but we will always have great records like this just in case they don’t.