It’s hard not to pay attention to a band that professes to “play songs you’ve probably heard in ways you never imagined.” But that’s just one of myriad mysteries surrounding the enigmatic Greyhounds Touched by X-Ray, a promising new band on the St. Louis music scene.
There’s also the question of where the band got its zany name. And how these ersatz musicians from all over the map managed to come together in the first place. Also, who is picking the songs for a Father’s Day set list that can be described as eclectic at best?
Greyhounds Touched by X-Ray is a super group of sorts, if drawing from seminal St. Louis County high school bands counts toward that designation. The members are veterans of bands such as People, Titus’ Mother, and The Tones, a little-known folk duo, perhaps the most deservedly unheralded of the group.
Already with two live albums under their belt—their debut “At the Zoo” and the quick follow-up release, “Party at Mary’s,” both recorded on rudimentary equipment—the Hounds are making only their third area appearance on Sunday, at JP’s Corner Sports Bar. A big crowd is expected because there’s no cover charge.
The band has already created some rumblings among a small but exceedingly loyal fan base—consisting mostly of about 150 people they went to high school with—by busting out of their self-imposed 1970s straight jacket. The first two albums consisted mostly of covers of tired songs from the lost decade of their youth, covered in such a way as to entice sedentary school mates from the dinner table and onto the dance floor.
Judging by a recent rehearsal session, the band seems to have reinvented itself as a whacky alt-country band, with new roots digging back into the 50s. The choice of material, which ranges from covers of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Miss the Mississippi” to “Hearts of Stone” by the Jewels, is eclectic to say the least.
The band is saved by a solid rhythm section anchored by John Peil on drums, Joe McGrath on bass, and Boyce Thompson on keyboards. The band’s three vocalists, Sophie Carpenter, Mary Vassar, and McGrath, create a Phil Spector-like wall of country sound that enables them to cover with confidence choice chestnuts such as “Crystal Blue Persuasion, which some members refer to as “Crystal Meth Persuasion”, and “Baby Don’t Go”, an obscure yet heartwarming Sonny and Cher ditty that the band turns into cool jazz. Mike Waldo’s lonesome harmonica adds fresh dimension to these tunes.
But it’s the soloing of violinist and lead guitarist Chris Voelker who really makes this band swing. Voelker, who plays professionally all over town in symphonies, hot jazz trios, and rock bands, really does the rest of the Greyhounds a favor by associating himself with them.
What this critic wants to know, of course, is where on earth the name for the band came from. It turns out that most of the band members don’t know either. Greyhounds, of course, is a reference to Clayton High School’s beloved mascot. X-rays, it turns out, is a reference to a little-known fact that the x-ray was developed in St. Louis.
What brought these elements together, however, was a trippy connection to the forgettable Roy Clark song, “Thank God and Greyhound,” about a guy who can’t wait for his girl to leave on the bus. The band rarely performs the song, though it’s listed in their repertoire.
The ridiculousness of their name aside, the band intends to record their performance this Sunday and release a third live album at a later date. To listen to their earlier work, visit their site at Soundcloud.