Personnel: Rick Miller (vocals, guitar); Mary Huff (vocals, keyboards, percussion); Dave Hartman (vocals, drums, percussion).
Recording information: The Kudzu Ranch (01/2013).
Arranger: Southern Culture on the Skids.
Almost 20 years after Southern Culture on the Skids released their third album, Ditch Diggin', the band decided to take another look at the material, and 2013's Dig This could more accurately have been called Ditch Diggin' 2.0. For Dig This, the band re-recorded the 13 original tunes that appeared on Ditch Diggin' (not bothering to revisit the Link Wray and Louvin Brothers covers that appeared on the 1994 album), and while Dig This doesn't sound exactly like the earlier album (they juggled the sequence, making the listening experience noticeably different), for the most part the arrangements and performances follow the template of the older recordings, though the pedal steel on "My House Has Wheels" is a new and nice touch, and guitarist Rick Miller now calls up the spirit of "Eight Miles High"-era Roger McGuinn in his solos on "Lordy, Lordy." Beyond generating new royalties from old tunes, it's a little hard to guess what prompted SCOTS to make this album, but the new recordings do make it clear this band is playing with as much strength and fire as ever. Rick Miller remains one of America's greatest living trash rock guitarists, conjuring a wealth of vintage country, surf, and rock sounds with the flick of a pick, and bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman remain a flavorful, full-bodied rhythm section. The sessions were recorded at Miller's Kudzu Ranch studio, and from a production standpoint, these versions often surpass the originals for sonic firepower. And Dig This, like Ditch Diggin', features a few of SCOTS's best tunes, including "The Fly That Rode from Buffalo," "My House Has Wheels," and the feral instrumental workouts "Rumors of Surf" and "Tuna Fish Everyday." If you're a longtime Southern Culture on the Skids fan who still has a decent copy of Ditch Diggin', Dig This isn't an essential purchase, but if you haven't been able to track down the 1994 release, this variant will serve its purpose well. If nothing else, a side-by-side comparison shows these folks haven't slowed down a bit since they last took these songs into a studio. ~ Mark Deming