Monday, June 25, 2012

Dolly Rocker Ragdoll

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Dominic Caruso.  Dom is a graphic designer and the person who helped make Akron Empire's blog masthead.  Dom first saw Dolly Rocker Ragdoll perform at Weirdfest, the all-day festival of art and music at Devilstrip Dolly's last Memorial Day weekend.
This Band Could Be Your Life: Dolly Rocker Ragdoll
by Dominic Caruso
 
Go down into some of the hidden pockets of unrepentant wildness in our
sprawling, gleefully weird Rubber City, and in the shadows of the
post-industrial overgrowth, in the old buildings and the factory
houses that have been simultaneously reclaimed and set free, in the
heat of the summer nights, you may be lucky enough to witness the
otherworldly thump, howl, and apocalyptic blues of Dolly Rocker
Ragdoll.



While he often performs alone or with his girlfriend Ibsy, I recently
caught a particularly incendiary Dolly Rocker Ragdoll performance as a
3-piece group at Weirdfest in Akron. For this show, Ragdoll's wild
stompbox, fervidly primitive blues guitar, and tent revival-style
shouts, hoots, and yelps, were accompanied by the ethereal
counterpoint of Ibsy's occasionally operatic background vocals, and
the levitational dynamism of the theremin, played by Ragdoll’s friend
Chris from the band Passing Time.
On stage with Isby

In keeping with the fiery, foreboding themes of his work, Ragdoll’s
one-line bio on his webpage at ReverbNation declares that he’s from
Canton, Ohio by way of Death Valley. I contacted Ragdoll to ask him
about his music, which ranges from languid, fever-dream folk
hallucinations to punk-blues freak-outs populated with visions of
biblical terrors like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

What I found out is that he is something of a local visionary. He
taught himself to play guitar at the age of fifteen and has been at it
for nine years, in the belief that he was born to accomplish nothing
less than the salvation of rock and roll. “Radgoll is sort of an urban
spirit name,” he told me. How he obtained the name is almost biblical
in its telling. Long ago, in the midst of a spiritual odyssey, he
found himself lingering on the edge of a forest. Something told him to
remove his shoes and wander, and by nightfall he was lost among the
swaying trees. There he experienced revelations. By morning, he had
found the edge of the woods, and he returned to civilization with the
new name which he continues to use to this day.

Ragdoll draws imagery for his songs from the bible. However, he is
attracted to street preachers rather than organized religion. Ask him
what his favorite bible passage is and he’ll direct you to Matthew
10:34, which begins: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the
earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” In fact, the fire
and brimstone urgency of the street preacher finds its way into many
of his songs, with titles like “Call O’ Ye Bones,” “Rapture Rag,” and
“The Four Horsemen.” Other songs prominently feature horrific images
of death and decay. And yet, if you’re lucky enough to catch Ragdoll
live, it’s somehow a foot-stomping, hand-clapping great time. It
wouldn’t work at all if he didn’t have the right combination of
bravado, 40-days-in-the-desert stripped blues, and a (sometimes)
tongue-in-cheek sense of the macabre.





And then there’s Ragdoll’s striking visual style, which features an
altogether appropriate mane of atomic fireball colored hair, and a
candy-colored striped sock on the shoeless foot he uses to drive the
beat on his impressively retro stompbox. His recently released CD is
covered in spattered psychedelic primary colors and comes in a
hand-sewn sleeve made of red and blue felt, like the pocket on a
ragdoll. It’s equal parts innocence and macabre, a revival of old
styles and themes combined with a sensibility that is of the modern
do-it-yourself era.




I don’t know if Ragdoll Dolly Rocker can save rock and roll, or even
if it needs saving. I do know that he’s doing something
different—something you won’t see anyone else doing, and he’s doing it
well enough to convert anyone who listens into devotees, one raw,
hypnotic, blistering note at a time.



ReverbNation Page for D.R.R.:
See Dolly Rocker Ragdoll in NE Ohio at these locations, on these dates:

The Eerie Street Sideshow (Thirteenth Floor Art Gallery)
Thirteenth Floor 46 Erie St N Massillon, Ohio 44646
Date and Time: Friday, July 13th at 8:00PM

The Summer Fling
800 McKinley Monument Drive NW Canton, OHIO 44708
Date and Time: Friday, July 20th at 5:00PM

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