Girl with a Job
VD King - guitar/vocals Don Kenny - guitar Tim Cassidy - harmonica Mike Kenny - drums Arthur Zo - upright bass Girl With A Job, Better Off Dead's second and most recent album is 17 glistening globs of greasy goodness, guaranteed to get your good foot going. Neither blues purists nor swing/rockabilly revivalists, Better Off Dead make clear from the first spin that this is not your father's bluesmobile. From the stompin', swampin' swagger of the title track, to the hoppin' hoedown hoodoo of 'Voodoo Doll,' to the sweat-soaked swingin' of 'Diggin' My Own Grave,' Better Off Dead are more tempting than a keg party at the Betty Ford Center. A Little History Besides holding claim to having a luxury condominium complex built upon a toxic waste dump, Jersey City, NJ is also the car theft capital of the world, has some of the nation's highest property taxes, has virtually no school system, and has been called everything from an 'armpit' to the 'anti-zeitgeist.' The members of Better Off Dead just call it home. The origins of the band go back to when VD King first ran into guitarist Don Kenny rolling a guitar amp down a Jersey City street. 'I figured he was stealing it, in a band, or both,' explains VD. The two subsequently struck up a long-lasting musical friendship that has led to Better Off Dead. Joining VD and Don are Professor Tim Cassidy on harmonica and the chain smokin' rhythm section of Mike Kenny on drums and Arthur Zo on bass. All five had previously put in time in a variety of other groups, playing everything from pop and punk to rockabilly and swing. 'We started in 1995, but for a while we didn't consider ourselves a band, more like a social gathering,' offers guitarist Kenny. Lifting their name from a Bill Withers 45 that VD found in the trash (no, they aren't named after the John Cusack movie), the newly christened Better Off Dead headed for the clubs. The band got a break when a live tape landed in the hands of a Canadian concert promoter. This led to the band playing three nights at the 1996 Montreal Blues Festival. Meanwhile, back in the states, Better Off Dead rocked long and hard over the next year, performing dozens of shows in Delaware, New York, and New Jersey, while mixing a wild sonic concoction from virtually every era of American music and, in the process, creating a musical margarita all their own. In Summer 1997, the band locked themselves up in VD's tiny bedroom to record a couple of songs. The result was Better Off Dead, an album that delivered on all the raw exuberance of the band live. Well received by both fans and the press, including LIVING BLUES, BLUES REVUE, and BLUES ACCESS magazines, the debut CD garnered airplay as far away as Greece and Belgium, and landed the band slots at the NXNE festival in Toronto in 1998 and 1999 and New York's Blues 2000 festival. Returning once again to the bedroom, Better Off Dead cut the tracks that would become their second recording -- Girl With A Job. Featuring 14 tunes penned by VD King, Better Off Dead also rips through the Treniers' 'Rockin Is Our Business,' turns in a shakin' and stirring version of the mighty Rex Garvin's 'Sock It To 'em JB,' and gives Bo Diddley's 'Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut' a healthy punch. Like an old sponge on the counter of a musical greasy spoon, Better Off Dead manage to sop up almost every musical influence around them until the whole thing smells down and dirty. Yet when you wring it out, you can't help but exclaim, 'Mmm, that sure is some tasty soup!' OK, maybe that's the wrong metaphor, or is it a simile? Ah forget it, these guys are just plain cookin'!