Austin has a secret. The secret is a strong, thoughtful songstress and multi-instrumentalist that goes by the name of DD Dagger. Originally from Houston, Dagger now calls Austin her home and has used the capital city as a staging ground for her art. It is appropriate to call her performances “art,” as can be attested to by anyone who has seen any of her shows.
DD Dagger’s first album “Femmie Auteur” couldn’t have been titled more appropriately. Dagger wrote, produced and played every instrument on every song; an ambitious effort to say the least. The result was an album of dirty guitars and hypnotic loops borne of a two-week stay in Brooklyn. The two-week stay was originally intended to give the artist a change of pace and perspective, but what came from it was a sharp and critical musing on the Williamsburg scene. Of the album’s opening track, “Brooklyn Girls,” Dagger says, “On the one hand, that song is an ode to the girls there… but it is true that it is a little scary.” The statement can be applied to most of “Femmie Auteur”– observations on an alien culture that seem frightening. However, while Femmie Auteur is an examination of the external, her latest effort, “Radixxx,” delves more towards the internal.
“Radixxx” is a far departure from the first album’s garage rock, Kinks-esque, format. Opting for more of a 60’s jazz and pop feel, Dagger croons on her own musings about love, loss, temptation, and regret with a voice that stays on the edge breaking under the weight of it all. “My friend, Mike McCarthy [Patty Griffin, Spoon, The Monarchs, Heartless Bastards]… said, [about Femmie Auteur] “I really dig that record. It’s a really original sound. I’d like to hear more horn.” “Yeah, more horn,” DD continues, “That’s where my heart is.” This was a task that DD Dagger could accomplish given her background in jazz saxophone. Dagger, who routinely switches between guitar and sax per her set list, plays with the confidence of a seasoned veteran both on “Radixxx” and at her live performances. Tracks like “Finger off the Trigger” deal with the need to be cautious in a world beset with regrets over past mistakes, while “Playing with Fire” centers on making bad decisions, time and time again. Dagger’s voice smolders at the forefront of “Snake Charmer”, while an authentic voodoo beat pulses in the background.
While “Radixxx” stands on its own as an album, Dagger’s live performance is where her music really shines. Complete with dancers, horn section, and Dagger’s own sultry vocals, a viewer is treated to a real show. Not in the way most bands stay on a stage and play at crowd; Dagger opts to leave the stage and join in choreographed routines IN the audience. The effect is personal, engrossing, and makes her shows a participatory event that borders on performance art.
Featuring the La Pistolle Dancers, a DD Dagger show takes on a new dimension. With a soundtrack that is both sensual and dangerous, the La Pistolle Dancers take the music to a completely new level as they virtually embody the music and lyrics. In fact, the dancers were part of Dagger’s adoption of a more jazz like sound. “The focus was dance,” Says Dagger, calling it a “combination of art forms.” The decision to include the La Pistolle Dancers provides an atmosphere of a Vegas style floor show, albeit a slightly more avant garde and dangerous one. Previous incarnations of the troupe involved props and lighting that silhouetted the dancers. For ”Radixxx,” however, almost all props were done away with for performances, instead relying on raw visuals for expression. The dancers are on the floor with you, looking you in the eye, and conveying as much to you visually as the band does audibly.
DD Dagger is an artist and is one to see to be believed. She has an obsession, maybe even an obligation, to creativity. “I’m very instinctual. There’s very little theory going on when I’m writing a song.” If “Radixxx” and her live shows are any indication, DD Dagger has VERY good instincts.
Written by Clayton Hodges
Live Performance images by Clayton Hodges
Studio images by John Paul Wilson
MUA for JPW images: Shaun Fitzgerald