THE FIRST TIME I heard Deer Tick, I was wasted drunk in the backseat of a friend's car. The lights in NE were all yellow streaks and messy red blurs, and the song was "Dirty Dishes," an R&B groove direct from the heart of Van Morrison's TB Sheets, a slow and shuffling bluesy thing that tore my heart out and made me happy at the same time. Deer Tick's John McCauley was slumped over in the seat next to me, staring out the window, not quite passed out yet, but out of it enough that he didn't seem to mind us playing his record while we drove around.
I didn't know John then and I don't really know him now, but my respect for the man grows daily. From what I've seen, John McCauley is one of the best young songwriters (I don't think he's 21 yet) in the country. His is a timeless sense of songcraft, the kind of the thing you hear in old crooners and great soul session players; his voice, a high, controlled rasp.
Beyond that I know nothing about Deer Tick or John McCauley. I know a lot of people who know him as a friend, or who've played with him, but I've yet to get even a dim flicker of recognition from anybody when I tell 'em I'm "really fucking into this Rhode Island band Deer Tick right now." What I know is the few songs I've heard from Complete Recordings, the few songs I own, and that his music hits me perfect and dead on and comes packing the weight of old traditionals, doo wop, CCR, Ritchie Valens' balladry, Johnny Thunders' howl, and production that's beyond classic. Deer Tick is world-class. Please go see this show.