The Portland Playlist: The Sorry Devils

Vortex Music Magazine

Listen to this Portland Playlist to prepare for a night of post-Thanksgiving, shit-kicking country and sweet soul music when The Sorry Devils celebrate their debut record release at Dante's on November 28. Then download a track—or two!—from The Devils for your personal playlist.

Although The Sorry Devils offer a little less candidly abrasive categorization of their sound below, we prefer the no-bullshit, full-of-passion designation they give themselves on Facebook: "Shit-Kicking Country, Sweet Soul Music."

That's exactly the rip-roaring, catchy, hootin' 'n' hollerin' alt-country sound that the quintet of Devils deliver with their debut full-length album, which they'll celebrate by shaking off the coma of a post-Turkey Day hangover at Dante's on Friday, November 28. So, where'd all this "shit-kicking forest boogie" and "soulful railroad rock and roll" begin?

Devils' rhythm guitarist, bassist and vocalist David Gluck tells us how it went down:

"In early 2012, David was in a downtown Portland bar when 'It Makes No Difference' by The Band came on the jukebox. He drunkenly demanded to know who had picked it. Robert [Erwin—rhythm guitar, bass, vocals] walked up all surly and said he had, and David invited him to start a band. Bryan [Brooksby—lead guitar, vocals] and Eli [Kress—organ, piano, synths, lead guitar, vocals] joined quickly, and after a series of Spinal Tap-like drummer misadventures, they found Rob [Crisler—drums, accordion, vocals]." 

Peace in the Valley drops the day after Thanksgiving with a record release party at Dante's—album art by Matt BelkPeace in the Valley drops the day after Thanksgiving with a record release party at Dante's—album art by Matt Belk

Since, "we've played a bazillion shows and released an EP as well as the upcoming album Peace in the Valley," also due out the day after Thanksgiving. Recorded with Victor Nash at Destination: Universe! in between sessions of drinking Icelandic Brennivín, all five bandmates collaboratively worked on the songs (about peace, valleys, trouble, women, troubled women, women trouble, Datsuns, brunches and Canadian whiskey) and all five sing (although "Amanda Spring and Cristina Cano from Sallie Ford hopped in for some harmonies too," Gluck credits).

Between the five individuals, there's love for BMWs and Texan women, volunteering with PDX Pop Now! and KBOO, memories made to Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Jay-Z's The Blueprint, and an affinity for beer, cowboy boots and Portland-made music. But, The Sorry Devils "gives us a chance to work hard on something that’s totally our own," Gluck explains. "It’s also about other people—when we see people enjoying the music from stage, or hear from them afterwards, we get erections of the heart. And we’re in it for the money." 


"The musical equivalent of that magazine your older brother hid in a shoebox marked 'grown-up stuff.' Or: Dad rock. Or: Forest boogie."


"Bryan gave an exchange student a seizure with a guitar solo at a show downtown last year. We paused for the EMT team, and then the promoter had us play another few songs, which was really a test of our commitment to the whole thing. They actually filmed that one, and the promoter had the video up for a while (including one of us running offstage to help stabilize the kid). Luckily, it's down now.

"We’ve also started fights at Slabtown, had our music mastered by Prince (Strickland—he’s a guy we know), toured the Northwest, played at The Next Waltz with Lewi Longmire's band, dominated the Salem market, and gotten a lot of winks from older ladies."


Bryan: "Clay Pigeons" by Blaze Foley

Robert: "He Called Me Baby" by Candi Staton, a cover of "She Called Me Baby" made famous by Waylon Jennings (and others)

David: Merry Clayton covering Neil Young's "Southern Man"

Eli: "New Madrid" by Uncle Tupelo


Middle Brother's "Blue Eyes": "Rick carried it in his head all summer. The ramshackle vocals are perfect and the melody just infects you. We’d sing it to one another during smoke breaks at practice."


David: "Dave’s dad bought his mom a tape Walkman when he was about 3 years old. Dad made mom a mixtape, and she showed Dave how it worked with the song "Nowhere To Run" by Martha and the Vandellas. It became the first song he loved, and it’s at the very bottom of his mind ever since."

Bryan: "Bryan’s mom put Bob Seger on repeat during a road trip to Montana when he was 6. Bryan says: 'Something about the Montana landscape and his vocals hit me pretty hard. And Seger is always singing about driving for a long time.'"


"The Last Waltz. The whole thing. 'Caravan,' 'It Makes No Difference,' 'The Shape I'm In.' Also all the others."


"Music is probably the only thing we don’t feel guilty about. (Bryan starts singing a Suzanne Vega song in the background while we discuss this answer.)"


Denver: "They're killer live. And they play with Lewi Longmire!"

"Tango Alpha Tango, in general. 'Boom Boom' is a great single."

"Sallie Ford's new record Slap Back is really good."

"Red Fang, just in general."

"Ural Thomas gives amazing hugs."

"Orquestra Pacifico Tropical: Papi rules."

Rasheed Jamal: "Here's his new one, 'Urban Decay.'"

"Joy Pearson has an amazing voice, is a really talented flirt, and writes beautiful songs. Here's one by her called 'Winners.'"

"I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House are a riot. 'Mayberry' rules and Mike D is an angel disguised as an Arkansan gorilla."

DOWNLOAD THE SORRY DEVILS: "Flip Your Lid" and "Valley Hymn"

"'Flip Your Lid' is the most fun we’ve ever had playing a song. It’s our go-to closer, and we always try to invite someone up to play along with it—horns or harmonica or whatever. When it’s time to dance, one of us just starts playing it and the rest join in. The title came from a misunderstanding, and doesn’t appear in the song, so that's about the level of seriousness we're at."

BONUS: "Valley Hymn" is "a short, weird interlude that's become our favorite song on the record. We wrote 'Valley Hymn' in a bitterly cold garage, during a drummerless winter. We sang together till we had it and the words became the heart and title of the album."

You can score both tracks on The Sorry Devils' Bandcamp page—download for free or pay what you want!

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