Spotlight 

Death & Taxes

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Sounds like: The members of Death & Taxes hail from the beat-down trad country land — meaning they know how to tune their guitars to give broken hearts and downtrodden dreams a mighty nice ring. The band's signposts include the usual suspects: George, Loretta, Merle, Dolly, Willie, Waylon … with a Carter Sisters twist. Fronted by a trio of female vocalists, Death & Taxes' lilting harmonies hearken back to Helen, Anita and June — radio regulars in Richmond during the late '40s. Lest you begin to envision pearls and pin curls, however, be forewarned that the ladies of Death & Taxes are more likely to curse than curtsy between songs. This ain't church music, people.

The band's musical terrain covers stomping rabble-rousers, sweet and lowdown ballads and whiskey-soaked anthems. And although the stories are about being used, bruised and abused, there's plenty of redemption to be had. "Sad songs aren't depressing," says Alysse Cullinan, who sings and plays banjar (a banjo tuned like a guitar). "They make you feel better."

Kathy Poindexter, who sings lead on most of the group's songs, agrees: "Writing and singing these songs has been therapy for all of us."

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Have Mohawks: Plenty of musicians have preceded their entree into country music with stints as punk rockers: The Reverend Horton Heat, Ryan Adams — even local country act Corntooth's members come from punk rock giants Avail, Kepone and RPG. Death & Taxes has a similar story. Both Poindexter and singer/guitarist Nikki Price have had long tenures in successful punk bands (Picasso Trigger, Wifey and Hot Little Number.) It's not that big of a leap when you think about it, Poindexter says: "Musically, they're the same. Punk is fast country.

"Everyone in this room can say, 'I grew up listening to country,'" she continues. "I was identifying with country songs in the fifth and sixth grade, when the guy I was going with dumped me at the roller rink. Punk was the antithesis to that. It was a way to shed your country roots."

It wasn't until Poindexter relocated from North Carolina to Richmond to attend law school that she refocused on those roots. "I want something I can grow old with," she says. The genesis of Death & Taxes began with Poindexter and Price getting together to play some tunes. By May 2005 they'd recruited Cullinan, guitarist Wes Edwards, who, until the recent addition of bassist Steve Lowery, was the group's lone Y chromosome.

Makin' Rekkids: With about 10 shows under their belt, the members of Death & Taxes are done woodsheddin'. They're working on an eight-song EP with engineer Ian Whalen, to be released later this fall. The record, to be titled "Last Resort," is being recorded at Price's house in the East End, home to the band's imprint, Masonic Rekkids. With chickens in the back yard and Ed Trask from Avail living right across the street, it seems like a fitting place for seasoned punk savants to tap into their heritage and brew up some awesome country therapy. S



Death & Taxes plays Empire, 727 W. Broad St., with Mammy Sunday, Sept. 10, at 10 p.m. Admission is $2, plus $2 burgers and $2 PBR. Call 344-3323 for info.

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