Song of the Day: “He Saved My Soul” by the Carpenter Ants

Jan 21, 2012 by

SongoftheDay

There are a plethora of things to do tonight in Charleston (which also gives us the momentary pleasure of using the word ‘plethora‘). Among them is the Carpenter Ants CD release show at The Empty Glass for their fifth recording, “Ants & Uncles.” I profiled the band and CD in a Thursday Charleston Gazette story and trooped out to band founder Michael Lipton’s house in Charleston’s East End to interview the Ants and record some video as they rehearsed.

Long-time, hometown bands often suffer a sort of overexposure ennui among locals. But the Ants are a great and fun band to hear, and the gospel-soul music they often channel is different from the usual fare one encounters in band set-lists. Plus, they are collectors and purveyors of lesser-known wonderful songs. The excerpt heard in the video above is the song “He Saved My Soul,” by Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones, a song Lipton came upon, learning later that the band was from West Virginia. Cool find. Cool band. For more samples of the CD, visit the Carpenter Ants website.

The Carpenter Ants in their element.

Here is an excerpt from my Gazette profile:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — You can tell Carpenter Ants guitarist and vocalist Michael Lipton wants to get past the question quickly.

But it’s such a usual question to ask a band that you have to ask just to get it out of the way. Why the name?

“We were in Idaho with ‘Mountain Stage,'” he says, seated in the kitchen of his East End home as the smaller of his two dogs, Miga, hops up and down off his lap.

“I saw an advertisement — ‘Carpenter Ants’ with a slash through it. I’d never heard of a carpenter ant and said ‘That’d be a funny band name.'”

And so, inspired by a pest control ad, one of West Virginia’s longest running bands — and perhaps one of its only gospel-channeling, secular R&B and country funk ensembles — was born. The Carpenter Ants mark 25 years together this year and showcase an ambitiously produced fifth album, “Ants & Uncles,” in a CD release show at The Empty Glass at 10 p.m. Saturday.

“That’s it. Dumb story. Move on,” says Lipton.

Moving on, as the rest of the quartet filters into the house for a Wednesday rehearsal, there is the matter of labels and genres.

“We’ve gone through different phases,” Lipton says, as frontman Charlie Tee drops onto a kitchen chair. Drummer and vocalist Jupie Little and harmonizing bass player Ted Harrison pull up the rear.

“We were doing kind of R&B and country blues kind of stuff. Then we started getting into gospel, so we pretty much got immersed in it …” | READ ON

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