When she comes

Stumbled into Old Ironsides recently during a Devil Makes Three show and was pleased as punch to discover that skiffle has a certain chick-magnet quality. In fact, it would appear that a number of attractive local women go wild for that folk-music fireball sound, writhing like diabolical goddesses to an imaginary drumbeat. Who would have imagined?

Hoping that some kind of weirdo lightning might strike twice, I showed up at The Distillery on Thursday for a bill that looked like it might lean skiffle. I wasn’t disappointed. Upon walking in, a string band called the Spillit Quikkers was either finishing a sound check or was fixing to start. The foursome had the kind of “Orville McWhorter & His Hot Buttermilk Bindlestiffs” retro vibe you can find in band ads in the back of No Depression magazine; the band’s name seems to be a play on Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, an outfit that scored in 1927 with the decidedly un-PC 78-rpm smash “Run Nigger Run.” Once the four musicians started playing, they cranked up the Louisiana Hayride hokum pretty hard, but their winning musicianship overcame the somewhat forced hickoid pretensions one sometimes finds in these urban folk-revival combos. The focal point was guitarist Jenny Turner. Her unvarnished alto may not have been Maker’s Mark smooth, but it had a certain white-lightning charm on such chestnuts as “Hesitation Blues,” when backed by various combinations of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and string bass. But why was the bar filling up with so many hot-looking daughters of Bettie Page, some sporting elaborate tattoos?

Next came the Regulars, which on a handbill would appear quite No Depression-esque but in reality was a two-guitars-bass-and-drums recasting of Forever Goldrush, basically Josh Lacey and Mason DeMusey minus Damon Wyckoff and plus Brian “Don’t Call Me Brian” Guido from Grub Dog’s Amazing Sweethearts. At first, Guido’s low-fi Neil Young vocals didn’t match the intensity of the band’s humbuckered Skynyrd-meets-Tom Petty firepower, but by the time the band finished with a superb blast of big rock with 666-hail-Satan lyric overtones, it was firing on all cylinders.

Six White Horses followed, which explained the tattooed ladies. Singer Nicole “Coco” Kennedy is also a member of the Sac City Rollers, a troupe of skate warriors here in Sacramento that seems to be fusing Joanie Weston and Ann Calvello’s roller-derby legacy with the Suicide Girls’ aesthetic. Their presence made for a real cool audience experience.

Kennedy began quietly with Townes Van Zandt’s song “Nothin’,” with Noah Nelson (formerly of Las Pesadillas) on lap steel and Josh Chesney (Brother and Orisha) on acoustic guitar. Then the band, which seemed unrehearsed but was capable of feeling its way through the changes, stepped up. Particularly spellbinding was guitarist John Sharkey, whose smoky, blues-inflected Telecaster riffs provided occasional fire, especially on a rushed but incendiary closing tune—which was unfortunate because the band seemed like it was just getting started. Rounding out the Horses (great name, as in “she’ll be riding … when she comes”) were Alex Macphail on sax and Ray Hansen on drums.