Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Town and Country - Shorter Artist Feature from Issue #18 Nov-Dec 1998

Cigar Store Indians

Step right up, but not upright


Sometimes traditions were meant to be broken. The Cigar Store Indians found this out by way of a happy accident that ended up having a lot to do with what they became.

Formed seven years ago by singer/guitarist Ben Friedman, the band also currently includes Jim Lavender on guitar and vocals, Pup Roberts on drums and Keith Perissi on bass and vocals. “I had intended for it to be more of an authentic rockabilly band, upright bass and all,” Friedman says, “but we couldn’t find anyone who played one then.”

At that point, to enable the band to start playing gigs, Friedman recalls, “We decided to forgo the upright and use Keith, a decision that kept us from limiting the sound to just traditional rockabilly.”

If there’s any one word that describes Cigar Store Indians, “limited” isn’t it. “This band has really opened me up creatively, to where my songwriting can go into lots of different areas I’m interested in — a little honky-tonk, Latin, Spanish, and rockabilly,” Friedman says.

The band’s flexibility has enabled them to take advantage of revivals in old-time musical forms. “We’ve been getting booked into these swing nights at clubs,” Friedman says. “I don’t understand it, but we seem to be crossing over pretty well with that crowd. I’m not going to question it if it gets us more gigs; I’d play for a boatload of cows if they asked us to.”

That positive attitude toward live performance has gained Cigar Store Indians, who hail from the tiny Georgia burg of Crabapple (about 40 miles north of Atlanta), their most avid fans. An Indians show is never less than a good time, and often much more than that. Taking the best qualities of the Blasters, the Stray Cats and Elvis, with Friedman all over whatever stage they’re on, they make it nearly impossible to watch them and sit still.

Friedman believes the key to their success as a live band is their total commitment to the show. “When you get onstage, everything else needs to be left behind,” he says. “The playing part is the best part of being in a band for me, the only thing that makes it worthwhile. And if you want to do music for a living, you have to cover all the bases. The live thing is first base.”

If you follow the baseball analogy and assume that the recording studio is second base, then the new album El Baile De La Cobra finds the Indians hitting a solid double. Admirably following up their self-titled 1995 debut on Landslide Records, the Indians turn in memorable toe-tappers such as “Forget” and “Tossin’ N Turnin’”, as well as more mature material such as “Heaven” and “Eagles Need A Push”.

According to Friedman, those last two songs probably signal the direction the band is headed. “Those are where my heart is at right now,” he says. “If we do another record, we may go down that path.”

A couple hidden bonus tracks offer stripped-down acoustic versions of those same two songs, recorded on a portable tape deck around the kitchen table in Friedman’s farmhouse. For such a publicly flamboyant band, the recordings provide an intimate ending to an excellent album, and a promise of more interesting music to come.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #18 Nov-Dec 1998

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • Willie Sugarcapps and The Mulligan Brothers Together for the First Time at Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm
    April 20, 2014 was the last Sunday Social in the third season at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, Alabama. If the season had to end, Cathe Steele closed it out the right way with The Mulligan Brothers and Willie Sugarcapps playing together for the first time.  It was a… […]
  • Neil Young Surprises Fans and Sends A Letter Home
    "It's better to burn out than to fade away," Neil Young so memorably sang in his "Hey Hey, My, My (Into the Black)," the song that famously provides the counterpart to his "My, My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" on his Rust Never Sleeps album (1979). Well, Young himself will neither burn out nor fade away nor rust nor sleep. Th […]
  • John Nemeth - Memphis Grease (Album Review)
    You could have just as well called John Nemeth's latest release Soul from Spudsville. No matter what the location, everything the Boise, Idaho native touches turns to soul. This one he calls Memphis Grease because it was recorded there in his new adopted homebase, slathered with boilin' Memphis guitar and punched up with Stax style fatback horns, b […]
  • Dan Amor - Rainhill Trials (Album Review)
    Subtle and Sweet folk music from Wales              Most people reading this review will probably be of an age where they have pretty defined music tastes and don’t have the time or inclination to readily discover anything too radically new. I too am a bit like that; but as a music reviewer I can still discover new genres that can spin my preconceptions 359 […]
  • Jimbo Mathus on Americana Music Show #188
    On episode 188 of the Americana Music Show, Jimbo Mathus plays tracks from Dark Night Of The Soul, talks about going from "sepia tones to ultrachrome" and the "crazy Mississippi white boy chain."  Also in this episode, indie rock from Bobby Bare Jr., heartland rock from Jonny Two Bags, country rock from Rodney Crowell, road tripo music fr […]
  • The War on Drugs: From Dylan to Dire Straits, By Way of Attrition
    Whether on the basketball court or onstage, when two supreme talents join forces, it tends to make things better. Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen, LeBron James needs Dwyane Wade, McCartney clearly needed Lennon, and Salt would be a run-of-the mill condiment without Pepa. But there are exceptions to such… […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter