Payday Daddy – CD Review

Payday Daddy is one of the hardest working bands in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. They have been voted the best band in West Puget Sound for 4 years in a row. This quartet often plays 3-night weekends at any of the local casinos, playing extra long sets and drawing top dollar. They play classic rock and roll (here’s a partial list: Collective Soul, Pretenders, Van Halen, 3 Doors Down, Lenny Kravitz, Steppenwolf, Green Day, Golden Earring, Santana, Eagles, Z.Z.Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Stones, Smashmouth, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Incubus – talk about diversity!) as well as a varied list of originals.

And given that half the band are grandparents, and they all have serious day jobs, they definitely qualify as one of our Working Bands.

The majority of the songwriting and singing is done by guitarist Kent McCabe and bassist Lesa McCabe (who have anchored the band for over 10 years), although drummer Michael Craig and lead guitarist Richard Arriola both sing and write as well. It is worth noting that Payday Daddy gives different credits to the lyrics and melodies, directly acknowledging the band’s contribution to each song.

As I surfed through their website, I had to conclude that this band is FUN! The audience is dancing and laughing and wearing odd clothing. And the band is smiling.

In listening to the CD Gumby Got Drunk, I was startled by Payday Daddy’s willingness to play a wide variety of styles and genres. The Don’t Walk On By is a Stray Cats style rockabilly, Cyberspace is more 80’s pop-rock with a seriously distorted lead guitar and layered vocals, and Scotty’s Song is a mellow ballad, followed by a lively reggae number Coconut Bra (complete with pseudo-Jamaican accents) with very clever lyrics. Lyrically, their songs tell stories well, some in the typical style, and others, such as Hell’s on Fire with subtle twists. Cyberspace tells of on-line love, and the importance of being able to type with one hand. The lyrics are not always locked in by the typical rhyming constraints, and their “rap with melody” song is very well done.

On the title track, Lesa sounds just like Grace Slick, with lots of power. The band pushes out a 80s power ballad, complete with overdriven lead riffs laced throughout.

Why do they play all these songs in wildly different styles? Because they can! I listened to Arriola on lead, and he emulated the styles of Led Zeppelin, BTO, the Moody Blues, Stray Cats, Skynyrd, as well as two different punkish styles and the reggae tune. I rarely heard the same tone and style twice on the entire album (although sometimes the only difference is whether the overdrive is set to 9 or 10 or 11). The McCabes are also comfortable with these different styles; the rhythm guitar is appropriate – even clever – at all times, and the bass is solid and melodic. On drums, Craig is more straight-ahead than the others; he is solid if not flashy, and he does get to bang away on the punk tune Sweet Ride.

Vocally, Lesa and Kent are both expressive and accurate, making sure we clearly hear the ironic bits and get “the message”. The harmonies are also true and complex, which I like, especially when just one more voice is added to accent a phrase. On a couple of songs, all four voices can be heard, and they mesh well harmonically, although the result gets a bit muddy sometimes.

Note: I also listened to Payday Daddy’s earlier CD Convergence Zone, which is similar in that there are lots of different styles, but the production is less polished. There are fewer harmonies (although Lesa’s under-produced vocals actually sound better on a couple of tracks, eg Pay Day Daddy Blues) and some of the solos don’t mesh as well as on “Gumby”. But it’s worth it just to hear the polka(!), which has some very clever lyrics, and clearly points to the potential available for the later album.

Payday Daddy is my kind of band. They put on one hell of a show, and the best place to dance is between the wedge monitors, trading smiles with the guitarists. On the CD, they show that they are accomplished musicians and songwriters, and their production values get better with each album. One good reason to own their CDs is so you can sing along when you see them live. Check them out!