The Witches
A Haunted Person’s Guide to...

Detroit musician Troy Gregory has had a long and varied career. His first gig of note was with ’80s hardcore act Wasted Youth before moving on to play with metal acts Flotsam and Jetsam and Prong. He also did stints with Swans and Killing Joke before eventually settling in with the Dirtbombs for much of the ’00s. In the intervening years, however, he led his own band, the Witches, which included a revolving cast of Detroit’s brightest and which was largely overlooked in its lifetime.

While the Witches would at times include members of Outrageous Cherry, the Sights, and the Go, the band was primarily a partnership between Gregory and guitarist John Nash (also of the Electric Six), along with Jim Diamond producing and/or playing 12-string guitar. Between 1996 and 2006, the band released four albums that showed the talented crew creating music earmarked with the Motor City’s particular blends of garage, pop and R&B. Released on labels like Fall of Rome and Music for Cats Records, those albums never made it too far beyond the city limits, and neither did the Witches.

With the release of the compendium, A Haunted Person’s Guide to the Witches, that may change. Here, Gregory shows his talent for melodies styled in a retro-fitted tradition and a penchant for macabre-tinged lyrical content. On “Down on Ugly Street” (from the band’s 2006 swan song, Thriller!) a song full of vintage T. Rex bang-a-gonging, he sings, “Won’t you abduct me?” sounding at once a little demented and sad. The T. Rex motif reappears on the bass-heavy “Attack Ov Thee Misfit Toyz,” which has a creepy bent as well. With “Who Wants 2 Sleep with the Birthday Grrl?” (from 2002’s On Parade), he puts a sleazy spin on Spector-esque pining, while in nearly the same breath, he asks “People What’s Wrong with U?” on a stomper (from 2001’s Universal Mall) laced with organ and guitar swirls. “Creeping Through Your Galaxy,” one of two previously unreleased songs included for the small number of fans already in possession of the Witches’ records, is cut from the same snaky cloth, full of vigor and shimmy.

Detroit’s had many rock & roll heroes throughout the ages, and here Gregory has channelled a good number of them. Both Alice Cooper and Mitch Ryder can be heard in equal measure, while I’m sure he’s filtered in plenty of lesser-knowns to which we’re not privy. The Witches made an enticing sound of their lineage while, as this collections makes evident, carving out their own small place within it.
Stephen Slaybaugh