The Dodge Brothers have always made it a point to tap tradition within their musical motif. The UK-based band started out as a skiffle group, playing music that was the actual English equivalent of early rock and roll, before they opted to veer towards a more vintage direction, one that encompasses sounds that take their cue from bluegrass, folk, and country.
The band — which currently consists of Alex Hammond playing percussion, washboard, drums, pocket change “and other things that make noise,” Mike Hammond on guitar, dobro, banjo, and vocals, Aly Hirji on guitars, mandolin, and vocals, and Mark Kermode playing double bass, harmonica, accordion, and vocals — was first founded in 1996 when Hammond and Jermode were introduced by their wives. “We originally came together through a love of pre-war country blues and gospel, and the rich primordial stew that spawned bluegrass, country, rock n roll and rhythm and blues,” Hirji recalls. “It currently takes the form of country blues with a dash of rockabilly.”
Although the band made their mark early on by providing skiffle covers of film soundtracks, Hirji says their music is primarily culled from such influences as Charley Patton, Dock Boggs, Geechie Wiley, Elvie Thomas, Bukka White, Little Jr. Parker, Elvis Presley, Ralph Stanley, and The Beatles. The sound has served them well. In addition to their three albums — Louisa and The Devil, The Sun Set (recorded at Sun studios in Memphis), and Drive Train — they’ve performed at all the major venues in Britain, including The Royal Albert Hall, The Roundhouse in Camden, The Barbican, The 100 Cub, and The Borderline, as well as in Edinburgh, Scotland, Manchester, England, the Isle of Man, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Along the way, they’ve also played several major festivals — among them, Glastonbury, Cropredy, Larmer Tree, and the various film festivals which have found them providing the musical accompaniment for classic silent movies.
Along with performing throughout their native UK, and sharing the bill with the likes of Jools Holland and his Big Band, CW Stoneking, Wanda Jackson, The Subways, Imelda May, Fairport Convention, and The Wilders, among the many, they’ve also had the opportunity to tour Norway and the Finnish Lapland.
Not surprisingly, they’ve won any number of kudos from fans and critics alike. “We regularly sell out venues and have had rave reviews for our live performances and our albums,” Hirji notes.
The BBC also did a documentary about the band’s visit to Memphis. A shortened version can be seen below.
While Hirji says the band mostly perform original songs “in the old tradition,” they also do the occasional cover, such as Charley Patton and Betha Lee’s Oh Death and False Hearted Lover by Dock Boggs. Nevertheless, it’s clear that they’ve found great success in creating their own niche and making music that’s original and intriguing, even as they tap tradition.
So too, it’s little wonder why the Dodge Brothers maintain such reverence for the roots, especially when it applies to mining the basics of bluegrass.
“Bluegrass scratches that itch that no other music can,” Hirji insists. “It’s out for blood!”
Of course it is. After all, it’s the flow of that blood that nourishes it all.