01 March 2016

HUSKY BURNETTE - Ain't Nothin' But A Revival!


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In a perfect world, Husky Burnette's new album Ain't Nothin' But A Revival would be played all over radio. People would be using Husky's name and the word Skynyrd in the same sentence, or say something about Howlin' Wolf playing Petty songs or something nice like that when they're talking about him.

I'm not saying he's yet the equal of the aforementioned, but he's at least, kissin' cousins. Husky Burnette comes from a long line of southern guitar rock and roll hellions, personally, historically, and traditionally, and he's keeping it alive and real with his own five-finger shot of hot-rodded, dirty, dirty, country-ass metalbilly blues.

This is Husky's second album (his third album) for North Carolina's Rusty Knuckles Records . The label is run by an ex-Epitaph Records dealer known as Ralph Miller, who's obviously no stranger to the rock action, and he gets Husky right on this new album. The production is big, hot, and wet, like Husky's been dipped in late '80s metal, but it's so cool to hear this kind of tough, rootsy blues sound like this. Again. I've been waiting for it. You have too, whether you know it or not.

The music and the performances on Ain't Nothin' But A Revival are Burnette's (and band's) best yet, he's stretching out sonically, lyrically, and stylistically while retaining what we love about him in the first place, his savagely agile slide, his smokey raw voice, and his hardcore full-on ready to kick on stage if he has to delivery. That, and Husky Burnette and his band know how to boogie, baby.

Previously a solo and duo artist working with a variety of drummers (full disclosure- I jammed pick-up drums for him for two of the best gigs of my life) but he's expanded his sound over the last couple albums to a band-sized outfit, blowing up what he does naturally to the large economy size.

Burnette is assisted this time out by The Legendary Shack Shakers JD Wilkes on harp for four tracks, Hank III's lap-steel man Andy Gibson recorded the album and also plays steel on one track, lead on another. Gibson brings out Burnette's inner '70's southern superrawk vibe on this album, bringing out his R.L. Burnside covering Robin Trower, his VanHowlin' Wolf. I'm guessing it's recorded to be played loud, because it sure sounds good that way!

It's the sound you want to hear comin' loud from some big home speakers laying sideways across the hood of a rebuilt flat-black in the GTO in your own flashback grown-ass hot tub time machine weekend long kegger in the woods. It's hotter 'n a she-wolf in a ghost pepper patch, and theres an iced down truck bed set with a variety of whiskeys n' such, and your partner's just scored whatever y'all like to smoke.

The moon is a drip on dark hood...

Somebody puts on the new Husky Burnette album, Ain't Nothin' But A Party, presses play, and gets it bumpin' in the big spreakers...

Best I Can
 clicks in, then a hum and the sound of Burnette's amp crawls in your head, the bass and drums drop in and boom! You're off to the party!

Kicks Rocks
is up next, and it's a rockin' freight train boogie. The harp by J.D. Wilkes couples up in Husky's yard and blows your face out, baby.

36 Degrees - This is where the addition of a bass player pays off. Especially a thoughtful one like O'Neal Dover. It opens up the palette. This track is Burnette's power ballad...without any of the ickyness. Just a jazz-tinged slide on a rainy, cold blues.

Track four is Paid By The Hour. Y'all can probably guess what that's about. It's a rolling stroll with an open-throated JD Wilkes again on the harmonica, while Husky gets in trouble with a lady at the bar. Again.

Chicken Grease is lucky number five. It's acapella, but for the church bell-like haunting clang of iron bars. It's Burnette playing a Waitsian southern beatnik conman field holler.

Southbound High Head is Husky's 'Halen playing ZZ Top song, and it rocks proudly. As it should.

Dog Me Down. Hot damn! I've been waiting to hear Husky do a duet with  Bethany Kidd, out of Chattanooga, North Carolina. She's a local gal that Husky knew. She sings with a band called River City Hustlers. Burnette tells me that they wrote this a half-dozen years ago and even recorded it once, but it didn't make the cut. It made the cut this time. And how.
Yes, the dude actually has a belt buckle.
Dog Me Down rolls out with some slanky bass line, then to some harp, set to a controlled howl.

Then Husky and Bethany begin their lovers quarrel.

It's a finger-snappin' blues stomper and yeller that'll make you want to do some kind of dirty, high-steppin' dance to. Again, Wilkes' harp-playing acts as a secret weapon. I'll be the first to admit that when I see harmonica listed on an album I wince a little, because...come on...harp players. Wilkes knows his place so well that the whole song is enhanced by his blowing. Husky plays a tight rhythm throughout, no lead, giving Wilkes the space to wail and stretch, and while he takes advantage, it's done so thoughtfully, and brilliantly.
The band just choogles on this one in a way that's simple, and rock solid. Burnette and Kidd's vocals are sax-like, with Burnette blowing hard and lowdown, and Kidd swinging around his lead. It's a fair fight, and we all win.

Busted Flat features JD Wilkes again though here he's busier. It's an easy-going classic blues study on being broke both ways. Oddly, another song with no Burnette guitar solo.

See, I Moan The Blues is Burnette's progish blues rock showcase. It's weirdly Hendrixian, yet southern, and British. It's also crunchy and precise and it features some of Burnette's best vocals yet. The guitar solo is striking, sounding like it's over-driven then extruded thru an AM radio speaker that's been toasted by the sun of fifty summers. The drums wallop solid, the bass rocks on its heels, and Burnette grooves like the boss he is.

When My Train Comes is bluesy, soulful southern rock with a gospel walk, and a hard blues barbequed slide solo. It swaggers like a trucker dead-heading home.

Dirty Gettin' Down is the soundtrack to that last whiskey and coke, that next-to-last joint, that home-recorded cassette tape you found in the trunk of your Uncle's Camaro, the sound of that steamin' dank Georgia Friday night party lit up by heat lightning, and it's the sound of you... walking out the door of the bar at closing time.

Husky Burnette and his band tell the troubled tales of bad women, and badder men, played with loud guitars, neck-cutting slide, with kickin' bass and drums. If there's such a thing as twenty-four-hour pentecostal metal party blues...this is it. A solid blue-hot revival of hard, dirty old blues done Husky Burnette-style! Say Amen, somebody!

Husky'll be hitting the road soon so pay attention. Meanwhile, pick up Ain't Nothin' But A Revival.






17 January 2016

CHARLiE PATTON'S WAR -

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Tonight's a good night for some moonshine music. Some smart, late-night funky, backyard boogie on the patio music. Tonight that music is played by a band called Charlie Patton's War.

I don't imagine y'all would think of poking around the dark, dank, instrument-strewn basements of Bloomington, Indiana's college party houses searching for clues to what the future of blues-based music sounds like. But maybe you should. 
Now, I'm not talking thee 
future...as in, AllHailTheBeAllEndAlliHaveSeenTheFuture. I'm talking about this post-Black Keys/postWhite Stripes/T-Model Ford/R.L. Burnside Vs. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion world of punk-soiled, blues-begrimed, soul-sodden Now.That's where Charlie Patton's War comes from. This is their modern blues.

Recorded old-school style, live to eight-track, on first listen the album has a tight, raw immediacy, and that sound deepens with each listen. The band recorded the album as a project for the University of Indiana's Recording Arts Program (which happens to be where they met) and as a result of the skills they acquired there the album easily achieves a natural balance between crisp studio sound and dirty ol' blues swang, a good soulfully rocked-out-blues-infected-primitivism. 

Like most young bands, Charlie Patton's War started out playing the college basement party circuit. We've all been there. A trip down creepy blind wooden stairs to a dank and stank room lit by a couple desk lamps and a blue or red overhead bulb, sour beered carpets, and maybe some blinking Xmas tree lights for some real sexy ambiance. Everybody's there. That one drunk guy (or three drunk women) that always want to yell into the mic. The guy that falls on the drums, and over in a corner a girl sits crying in a soiled La-Z-Boy. Later, fists'll fly over something stupid, and the po-po will show up. It's a riot. Eventually, the band moves on to tours of bars and tavs filled to SRO with raging college kids and a few professors. But it's the woodshedding through those foul basement years that the band learns to successfully hone a couple tight sets into these eleven stompin' bluesey-eyed Indiana soul songs

The album starts with Get Gone, a red-line distorted country blues boogie riff that drops down into a chiming, chunky, slinky groove about creepy people. 

Fatties is a B-3 fueled rumpus, and a minimalist exercise in terse, deep pocketed funkiness that goes places you might not expect. 

Say Ya Mine, a tough, swingin' blues boogie founded on a surprising Fender Rhodes piano riff that leg wrestles with a gnarlyass slide guitar. You win.

Highway Blues is a nimble top-down rock-a-billy-train-ridin' number. It's map-snappin' road music, both city and highway miles. It'll getcha' there.

Fancy Things is a lovely live track that I could hear a young (or comeback) Rod Stewart, or a country-souled-out Jerry Lee Lewis cover. Justin Hubler's Charlie Rich-ified piano does the legends proud and the 'Stones/Skynrd-like classic back-up vocals by Ariel Simpson and Sydera Theobald make this one timeless.

You know, not many bands can name a song Barry Sanders and get away with it. This short, tightly-swinging, fuzzed-out rocker acts as a sort of a dividing line for the album. Then things change. 


Black Bell is a heavy, breathy, tension-filled groove, cut hard by Kyle Houpt's fire-starting guitar solo and Aaron Frazier's haunted, soulful vocals ( he sings lead on about three-fourths of the songs.) Frazier's drumming kicks throughout the album but it's here that he stomps hard enough to break the levee. Charlie Patton's War moves through Black Bell like a dark blue monster, lumbering and gliding through the Brown County forest at midnight as Blake Rhein's guitar solo rouses a dusty orange mid-west moon through a green tornado sky. The band's modest use of strings, arranged by keyboardist Justin Hubler, really pays off brilliantly on this song as a fresh, surprising texture to carry the song out. A spot-on piece of work, best played loud.

Track eight, Vincennes, is a Black Key's-ish organ-laden cold burning soul blues that grooves like a slow train hugging the curves of the Wabash river, leaving home for good.  

Call Me Baby is a rocking hybrid of Eddie Cochran's Something Else that starts out like The Jam circa Private Hell or In The City then de/e/volves in to some kind of Jon Spencer hanging with Elvis at Sun blues boogie thrill ride. The Jim Jones Revue would dig this one. 


The second to the last track is Frisco Ride. If Creedence covered a re-mixed R.L. Burnside jam...


The set ends on track 11, with a wonderfully weird and orchestrated country song that sounds like a brilliant home recording. It starts out sounding like a gentle cover of the 'Stones Far Away Eyes complete with steel guitar, then shifts forty-degrees with the addition of a small clutch of harmonizing singers that sound like a sad-hearted family sing along accompanied by Charlie Rich with a touch of countrypolitan strings for texture. It's a surprising and lovely end to a fine collection of songs from a great new band. 

Charlie Patton's War is band that will keep the blues alive by taking it out of its precious antique bell jar and letting it breath, letting it live free. I look forward to hearing more.





15 January 2016

The Soul Blues of Boston's JULiE RHODES

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On Julie Rhodes YouTube channel
she sings a great set of classic-sounding soul blues of her own, plus a couple of covers, backed by her crackerjack band, or sometimes with just a guitarist, but all featuring her pawn shop cornet vocals, sometimes at full-whisper, sometimes at reveille, always with just the right fine grade of grit to grind or polish the song, as need be.

Always sure, always strong and soulful, Rhodes is a stylist who, along with her band, Jonah Tolchin - Guitar, Danny Roaman - Guitar, Matthew Murphy - Bass, Michael Bosco - Drums, and Sonny Jim Clifford on the harmonica, knows how to get down on a song, work it, and make it their/her own.

The story goes that Julie Rhodes had really only been singing for a couple of years when she was heard by singer/songwriter Jonah Tolchin (YepRoc) singing along to a song at a show that he was doing. He was so impressed that he ended up playing on, and co-producing her new album (in Muscle Shoals,) called Bound To Meet The Devil.

You're going to see her name in the future so you might as well get in on the ground floor on this. Here's her first single. I think it's terrific first effort and I look forward to seeing where she goes. Julie Rhodes debut album come out February 26th, 2016. Get it.











18 December 2015

Texas' OLD GRAY MULE :: Live @ Perth Blues Club ::


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CR Humphrey, guitarist, singer, and good ol' mastermind from Texas' Old Gray Mule hooked me up with four free live tracks for you to download from the last night of their recent Australia tour. It's stunning to me that CR goes out as a two-piece team to kill all over Australia a couple times a year, everybody wants to jam with 'em because they're legit...but
hardly none of y'all know who Old Gray Mule is. And they're from Texas! Let's change that. Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention drummer C.W Ayon, a talented singer/songwriter/guitarist/one-man band from New Mexico is on the drums here. His funkiness and commitment is contagious, and he and CR really get down as a result.

Download these four pro-recorded live songs, hell...just download their take on Son House's Don't You Mind to get your head bobbin' hardcore. A lot of people cover this, but you ain't heard it like they're puttin' it down, Jack! It's pretty astounding that this two-piece pulls it off live. But they do indeed
Then you're gonna need the next track, Goin' Down South, which is pure Burnside'ed Texassissippi boogie-rock, and while you're at it you might just as well grab Old Gray Mule's take on Skip James' Rather Be The Devil which gets a super-funky turn, at times grooving about as close to P-funk as a two-piece blues-based outfit can.

The last song in this set is called Zagreb, a tightly funky rockin' north Mississippi-based boogie instro that just straight smokes. Humphrey says about the song, "It's a tune I wrote back in '09 that became the first song on Sound Like Somethin Fell Off The House which was the first OGM album. It's one of my favorite tunes but I hadn't been able to play it live since 2011, so it was great to dust it off and play it on this last tour. I wrote it after discovering a Croation guy on youtube called Bebe Na Vole and being all excited that there were other folks playing the kind of music I wanted to play."

CR tells me about this set, "The tunes were recorded by the sound guy, live at Perth Blues Club on Nov 17, 2015, which was a Tuesday for Christ's sake. Place was packed though, and they were dancing from the first song. We finished up after midnight, went to the hostel to pick up our bags, then scrambled for the airport because we had to be at the airport at 3am to catch our flights home. CW Ayon on drums and vocals, me on guitar and vocals. And oddly enough I think this was the only show of that whole tour where we didn't have anybody sitting in with us, and this was our first ever show in Perth and our first ever trip to Western Australia."

It's a dynamic live set that really show just how killer this band is. Download 'em. They're free.


Don't You Mind download

Goin' Down South download

Rather Be The Devil download

Zagreb download


11 December 2015

ROLLiE TUSSiNG & THE MiDWEST TERRiTORY BAND :: The Great Big Ol' Interview


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Further down this page is my interview with singer / guitarist / family man/ songwriter/national slide guitar champ/ calligrapher/etcetc Rollie Tussing (ain't that a name?)

In the interview Tussing talks about how, among other things, he's always listening for that original fix, that beautiful lightning...that very......well...you know what he's talking about... that.... punctum...that thing that pokes your heart and makes you slump a little, and hold your breath for a second, eyes beginning to well, the song letting you believe for a brief moment that someone out there is like you...and though yes, I digress, I think that that moment is all any musician desires, for you the listener to take a sharp breath, and crane your ear.  Rollie Tussing & the Midwest Territory Band will roll away the years, and swing you into just that condition.

There is a timelessness in Tussing & band's music, and yet the sound is date stamped...just how that stamp reads is hard to say exactly, the old strong slanted cursive on the ancient paper envelope a little smeared, dusty at the edges, but light blue with the foreign words Par Avion in red, crisp, with a dark blue stripe and a tight, cool, still snap at the center. Foxed at the cut, it's opened by somebody trying to dig out the contents, the glue holding to the corners, the ornate border of a well-worn cart-de-visite of musicianers seen within.

Tussing's taut outfit blends a unique balance of country musics- early swing, old-timey and/or/ blues, whatever, and they filter that sound through (early) rock know-how without being rockish, or needlessly punkish. They rock without rocking. They play their own brand of genre-blending semi-early American music, primitive yet dextrous, combining old-timey stylings and forms with mid-century/modern sonics, never at any time sounding retro, delicate, or precious...or particularly modern for that matter. It just fits. They play their music natural, like it's going out of style.

Tussing's gravel and honey timbre is suited to whatever time and place he and the band put him in, from downtown side street to wheat field hoedown bonfire, spirit-ditch or hovel house, to whitehouse and art house. Sometimes at the same time. The drums, thoughtful and correct, bass the same, solid, listening, and joining with Tussing sonically, going anywhere from film soundtrack end roll song to bar brawl tussle boogie, down to saturday night church acoustic early rock action down a gravel road somewheres deep in the gloaming between southern Michigan, and northern South Carolina...it's old-timey music for today. The  music of Rollie Tussing & The Midwest Terrirtory Band music is honest, but it lies about its age. It's old-timey & modern without the historical yoke of either.
But enough jibber-jabber from me. Let's hear what this sounds like!






Below is my interview with 2001 slide guitar champ and all-around good dude, Rollie Tussing. 

RS (Rick Saunders):: What do you think it is about these old-timey melodies that attracted you, and hooked you so hard?
What's your early history with this stuff...was there one song that just clicked for you, that made you put away the rock and the roll or whatever, or has the older sounds always been it for you?

RT (Rollie Tussing):: I grew up in a very non-musical household. The only time the record player was ever used was around Christmas time. My mom would sit next to the Christmas tree drinking wine and listening to holiday music.
 No other time of the year was there ever any music except what one would hear on TV.

None of the 80s music I heard in popular culture appealed to me when I was young. I was intrigued by some of the music of the 50s and a bit of the big band stuff that my grandfather would talk about.

One day when I was about 14 years old I stumbled upon a Chuck Berry cassette. When I heard those first few notes of Johnny B. Goode it was like someone had flipped a switch. Suddenly a light was turned on in a place that had been stagnant and dark. It was liberating and I had knowledge of something that none of my peers had. Real honest to God Rock & Roll! Nothing I was exposed to up to that point turned me on as much as the music of Chuck Berry because nothing was close to being as good or even good enough. With my new found identity I devoured all of the music I could find quickly discarding the meaningless for the "good stock."

From Chuck Berry, I discovered Memphis Soul, 70s rock of Zeppelin and Bowie... Shortly after graduating high school I found a VHS tape of a Les Blank film called "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins" and all bets were off. I had never heard such music. Never in my wildest dreams could something so honest and genuine exist.                                                                      
There was a  period of time in the late 80s where if you were to be a
 good guitar player you had to play a lot of notes, very fast over a lot of different chord changes. A ton of teenage male guitar players were trying to be Yngwie or some such thing. That style of playing never appealed to me. Late one night I was listening to Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys. I was playing "Machine Gun" over and over just amazed by the nuance and character of his phrasing and the way he could effortlessly convey an idea musically when I realized that the song consisted of one chord! "E" just "E" 12 minutes and 33 seconds of "E"! He never repeated himself, the music never became tedious or fatiguing. That realization for me was the antidote to the garbage being forced upon musicians, artists and human beings in western culture. Hearing Lightning Hopkins for the first time was like tasting that antidote in its purest form, distilled to pure truth and beauty.

 To this day I am still looking for that original fix; the first time I heard Chuck Berry, had an epiphany with Hendrix or that 99.9% pure dose of Lightning. It's just right, it's beautiful, honest and makes my heart sing.

RS:: Tell me about the history of this current band, The Midwest Territory Band. The drummer is wicked, you've got a pretty wide palette musically with these guys...geez...is that an accordion?  Is that a banjo? ...tell me about this outfit. They're terrific.

RT:: The core of the band is Jim Carey on percussion and Serge Van Der Voo on bass. We have a couple of guests that perform with us live sometimes (Mary Seelhorst -fiddle and Michael Billmire- organ and accordion).

A few years ago I left my home on the west coast for the mid-west. The culture shock and sadness of that move overtook me to the point of a near nervous breakdown (or whatever they call it now). I didn't think I would ever find like minded musicians of a caliber I was used to or even a venue to play in.

I knew of a band in Michigan called "Orpheum Bell". They had the aesthetic and sound that was right up my alley. At the time, Serge was the bass player. I had communicated with him a couple of times via the internet but had never met him. Anyway, one night Serge and I got together to play some tunes and it clicked instantly. He understood the tunes I was throwing at him in an instinctual way, add to that the fact that he is a phenomenal musician with years of experience, I knew I had met someone special.

 We played a local house concert together as a duo and decided to find a percussionist. I knew a few drummers in town, some were very good at what they did, but I didn't think I would be able to find anyone with the right rhythmic sensibilities. Most of the cats here are rock or pop drummers.

 I had known Jim for almost 20 years. We had previously never played
music together. Through the urging of a couple of friends, I invited him over one night to play some tunes.
I have been collecting vintage/antique percussion for a few years. I have some really wonderful artifacts. I've noticed little to no interest in these items from drummers over the years (1910 Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum, Low-boy, various trap "noise makers", sisal cymbals etc.) . Many drummers that I would show this stuff to would not care or just not know how to use it properly. When Jim came over and saw the trap-set I had he flipped! He went to the car and brought out all this prewar trap stuff like temple blocks and cowbells. We spent the evening playing tunes and talking antique drums... I knew I was with the right guys at that point.

Michael Billmire - Serge had worked with Michael in Orpheum Bell.
When I wanted to add some ambient organ sound to a couple of tunes on the record Serge recommended Michael. On the day of recording, Michael brought in an accordion and a suitcase pump organ.
This portable pump organ was used in children hospitals and orphanages around Detroit. It was abused for years and left for dead. Some of the reeds were badly out of pitch. We tried it on "Elder Green" but it was just too much out of tune. Michael ended up playing accordion on that song. The organ part he worked out was so beautiful that we asked him to record it as a solo. That recording ended up as "Elder Green Reprise" and is my favorite song on the whole record.
He was able to play the pump organ on "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" it was just out of tune enough to add a very deep textured harmony.

 My first week after moving back to Michigan I was at a house party and Mary Seelhorst happened to be there too. I have known Mary for years and have always respected her playing. We decided to play some music together that night. We went into the 100-year-old barn and started to play. The sound of her fiddle was intoxicating. I wrote "Sisters Waltz" and "Michigan Stomp" later that week strictly with Mary in mind. Mary is definitely the 4th member of the band. I hope to record with her more in the future.

RS:: You mentioned your vintage drums, which I would have gone nuts for btw, what else you got, and when people ask what kind of music you play, what do you tell them?

RT:: Serge plays an early '60s German upright bass and my main guitar banjo, uke, and various other instruments.
is a 1952 Gibson ES-125. We are starting to stretch our palette with some different instrumentation. The next recording will have

The question of what kind of music we play has been a tough one. It's something we talk about at length and cannot come to any consensus. I was calling it "jug band jazz" but the guys in the band hated that. They hated "ragged folk" too (I liked that one.) In the midwest when you say anything is folk it means that you strum a Taylor guitar and sing songs out of a journal that you keep.
We have been described as bluegrass and rockabilly but those two things are the furthest from what I think we do. I have been telling folks that I collect 78s and all the music we play is heavily influenced by my record collection. Anything from turn of the century parlor music, pop tunes of the 20s, blues, Albanian sacred music, polish fiddle tunes, hot-jazz, and rural country, right on up to early rock & roll.
We have not come up with a brief "elevator talk" description yet.
When we get in the studio again the music that we will record will hopefully be even harder to categorize/label.

RS:: Well played. As it should be. There's a real fine jazz DJ in Jacksonville who calls jazz "the music of surprise." And for me that's what all music I love is about. I may have an idea of what's going to happen in a song I'm listening to, but if done well I hear something new each time I listen. That's something I get from your stuff, a good element of surprise yet a good sense of familiarity. I think that kind of balance comes from immersion in music. If I came over to your house and I asked you to play me five songs that turned your head, that influenced you, what would we listen to? Also, who of the moderns do you like? 16 Horsepower/ Wovenhand? Gun Club?

RT:: You are too kind.  I may steal the "music of surprise" for future use.

5 songs?
 I have 3 different top 5 lists running in my head at all times (of course). One is, the stepping stone stuff. Artists and songs that have sent me in a different direction/on a different path like Chuck Berry, Lightning Hopkins, John Fahey, Dexter Gordon, Benny Moten, RL Burnside, etc. The tunes I would select from those artists might be kind of boring, passe or too well known to be interesting.

The second list is the 5 songs that I am thankful  they were recorded and that  "we" get to hear the greatness that was captured again and again.

The third is stuff I have found in my own collection of 78s/LPs. This is esoteric stuff that for the most  is not available anywhere else except my basement, or if it is available on CD/LP it is pretty unknown. This is the stuff that makes me cry and writhe (in an uncomfortable with the beauty I am experiencing way) on the floor when I hear it.

List #1: "The Mundane" (In no particular order).
1. Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
2. The Entertainer - Scott Joplin (from the movie "The Sting" as played by Marvin Hamlisch.)
3. Machine Gun _ Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys
4. In Christ There Is no East or West - John Fahey
5. Alan Lomax -Any of his field recordings. It is better than food.

List #2: "The Great Recordings" (In no particular order.)
1. Insane Asylum - Willie Dixon & Koko Taylor
2. Diga Diga Doo - Oscar Aleman
3. No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley & The Wailers (Live)
4. Rumba Negro - Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra
5. Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman (Live at Carnegie Hall)
(5.5 Good Morning Blues - Lightnin' Hopkins)
(5.5 & 1/2. Playin' With The Strings - Lonnie Johnson & Eddie Lang)

List #3 "The Game Changers/Esoteric Weird shit" (in no particular order)
1. There are several Kabuki recordings in my 78 collection. I have no idea of the artist, or anything else. They hurt every time I hear them.
2. Pearly Dew - Lena Hughes
3. Moses Williams - Which Way Did My Baby Go (He's from Florida!)
4. Harry Partch  - And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma
5. Nick Lucas - Side By Side

I could go on and on...

As far as moderns?
Man, I am kind of embarrassed. I had a 16 horsepower CD a long time ago. I have no idea about Wovenhand (I will be youtubing shortly), and a boss of mine was really into Gun Club.

I blame my ignorance on the fact that I do not get out much, and when I do it is to play a gig or to convince my wife that I need to go see a show. I pretty much keep up with the bands that I know are playing a lot and the bands they play with. Living on the West coast was so much fun. I got to meet so many bands and musicians that I still follow today. My favorite was the Dickel Brothers.( I have no idea what happened to them but they were fantastic.) McDougal, Sassparilla and Hillstomp are the bands I keep up on. Here in the midwest there are a few folks that I follow religiously,  Todd Albright, Dooley Wilson, John Roundcity, The Potions ... I've been playing some shows with Lac La Belle and the Detroit Pleasure Society. Love those guys! Great Stuff! Not sure any of them would show up in a Google search.

RS:: I'm not sure where you live in the great mid-west but I'm wondering
what your local music scene is like. Is it growing? Stagnant? Do you have many places to play?

RT:: I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is about an hour outside of Detroit. I can't compare the scene to that of Portland because they are so different and the SE Michigan scene would be non-existent in a comparison. There are some great venues and musicians in this part of the country, though, and for the most part, they are ferociously loyal to each other. Detroit has some wonderful things happening.

The main thing that I look forward to is the happenings at Lo & Behold Records in Hamtramck (Polish ghetto inside of Detroit) This kid named Richie owns this joint and he hosts some of the most amazing events at his store. It's not Greenwich Village of the '60s but it is a place that like-minded people are drawn to. Richie really attracts some great artists and musicians from all over the area. His monthly "Folk and Blues Night" has become legendary.

The town that I live in (Ann Arbor) is a small college town that used to be cool and filled with hippies before I was born. Now, it's filled with luxury condos and chain restaurants. There are only a couple of venues and one does not get to play them very often. If I am not gigging I busk as much as possible and it's a great town for that.

Then there is the winter... nothing, the gigs just dry up for 2-3 months. Feb and March are so very tough gig wise.
In spite of that, I do believe the scene is slowly growing. For 20+ years people have been leaving this area. I have seen that in the past couple of years people moving here or deciding to stay because there is a lot of potential. Outside of Ann Arbor property is cheap. I notice more and more folks buying houses or land here because it is cheap, centrally located and has some of the infrastructure needed to live a creative life.

RS:: I'm interested in your design sense. It's striking...your calligraphic skills, and the like. Who does your art, is it all you?

RT:: I do 90% of the art/design. The last record was under the art direction of a Detroit guy named Geog Innis. He took a photograph that I took, had a line drawing made, then he did a lino cut and had my friend Tony Berci print out all of the album art on these 90 year old printing presses. It was a pretty satisfying process to witness.

As far as the penmanship? That grew out of a desire to teach my children how to write in cursive. I had always admired the hand writing of my older relatives. Even before I could read I would stare at letters, lists and notes that they had written. It was beautiful and foreign. It wasn't until I had children and heard that the school system was getting rid of the penmanship curriculum that I taught myself penmanship. My own handwriting was horrible but I wanted to teach my kids to write. I went to the library and checked out as many books on penmanship as I could. Every chance I had I would write and study various letters and what drew me to them.
It was very important to me from the beginning of the endeavor to  not seek out any "calligraphy" resources. I wanted to learn functional penmanship from that was taught in public schools from about 1880 to 1950. Folk art!
... I just wrote a couple of paragraphs concerning my "aesthetic" and deleted them in favor of a quote. A while back (a year, 2?) you posted a link to my time-line of a film called "When the Song Dies" and it was a pretty damn profound movie for me. There was a couple of quotes buried in there by the folks in the film that I have written out and posted on the wall of my "parlor":

"What draws me back is intonations of mortality. I get comfort from these old, old things, because they (for a short while at least) they removed me from the futility of existence - if you like...It's not all lament. I hope to think there is fight in there. I think there is optimism in there"

Wow!!!
Earlier today, while my 9-year old daughter had her swim lesson. I Started to re-read "Shane". They made us read it in 8th grade or something but I don't remember liking it. Anyway, within the first couple of pages is a quote that mildly echoes the previous:

"All trace of newness was long since gone from these things. The dust of distance was beaten into them. They were worn and stained and several neat patches showed on the shirt. Yet a kind of magnificence remained and with it a hint of men and manners alien to my limited boy"s experience." 

RS:: So what's coming up in the next year or two? More recording? Touring? Any big gigs? What do we need to know about?

RT:: I am in the process of writing /collecting songs for a couple of new
recordings. I hope to do a solo parlor guitar record. I have been wanting to do that for a long time. The band is actively looking for a 4th member,  a horn player would be ideal. A clarinet or trumpet to take us in another direction.  Regardless we are going to record another record late this winter. Most of the songs have been written.  Our goal in the next two years is to have a body of recorded works. Branch out to the south and east coast for a couple of short tours and get to Europe.  Europe is definitely on our band bucket list.

RS:: Thanks so much for your time, Rollie. It's been a pleasure to get to know you! Last question:: You could jam with and do a show with any three people living or dead- who do you choose, and why?

RT:: Thanks a lot Rick. This has been a lot of fun and I really do appreciate you taking the time and energy. Thanks for wading through my self-indulging answers too.

This is the hardest question yet. It's hard to only pick 3!

The first dude that I would love to jam with would be Charlie Patton! I have a hard time creating a mental image of this cat in action. There is a lot of talk about what he looked like (a couple of pics) but I can't really get a picture of him performing. There seems to be  alot of mystery and discussion about the way he actually played certain songs (guitar on his lap, bottle neck or pocket knife), how he held the guitar, what some of the lyrics actually are etc. I know a few folks that have spent a lot of time trying to learn his guitar parts. Out of those few the ones that sound the closest to me are the ones that admit that they are not sure. The ones that are positive they know... they just don't sound right. I woulds love to sit down with Patton and soak it all in.

Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers:
Mainly I would want to see these guys perform in their time and place. The legendary broken furniture, fires, drinking and fights must have been a magical thing to witness. My fantasy would be to take the place of guitarist Norman Woodlief just for one gig early in the Ramblers career.
Harry Partch: I hope there is enough time in this life where I can say what I want to say musically. Blues, jazz, country, rock, jigs, reels, foxtrots, ethnic folk musics and more are all languages I want to explore and use as a tool to express myself. One could spend a lifetime exploring and immersing themselves into a sub-genre of a genre and still not fully master it.

Going off the rails here...
Rollie Tussing's calligraphic skills. 
I guess what I am trying to say is that I wish/hope that at some point in
my life I can take all of my influences (musicians I have met and played with, My record collection, artists, authors, nature, my family...) and combine them into something beautiful. Some way of musically expressing the joy and melancholy that I experience from all of these things.

The free nature of expression and the relief of suffering is the ultimate goal.  I believe Harry Partch was able to do this in his life.
I like to create in a medium that has constraints and certain rules need to be followed or intentionally broken (like blues or haiku). So, whatever my ultimate expression could be would probably be very different from Mr. Partch.
To have Harry Partch compose a piece of music with me in mind and conduct the performance while I played the piece. That would be an unbelievable experience.
Unfortunately, he died a long time ago. I am thankful and in awe that such an artist existed and had some level of notoriety and respect.
Thank you again, Rick!

RS:: There you have it. I coulda asked a dozen more questions, easy.
Go buy the album. Just do it. Best twenty bucks you'll spend on vinyl all year. Cheers!







14 October 2015

The indomitable Soul of iRONiNG BOARD SAM's Super Spirit!

fb // big legal mess records //
// music maker relief fund //


But first a commercial break ::




I have evidently lived a sheltered life. I've heard the name Ironing Board Sam here and there, but somehow I'd never actually heard him. Bruce Watson's Big Legal Mess Records is changing all that with a new release called Super Spirit, produced by Bruce Watson and the Rev. Sir Dr. Jimbo Mathus.

Do you remember how much you liked those old Fat Possum releases by Super Chikan, Asie Payton, Charles Caldwell, or that kind of weird for Fat Possum Solomon Burke album? Ironing Board Sam's Super Spirit is like those. It's just a treat to listen to.

There's so much going on in each song, from the proto-African underpinnings of Baby You Got It, to the pleading, slow-burn soul of I Still Love You (which reminds me of something off that Solomon Burke album,) the Velvets/Stones-as-soul-rock of I Can't Take It, the garage gospel raver I Want To Be There, or the slow Chicago blues heartache of I'm Looking For A Woman, it's really a classic album in the good ol' Fat Possum Records vein.

It's well-worn and silk shirted southern soul without a whiff of the stink of retro, it's super rock without losing its groove, it's funky and adventurous in silk socks and muddy alligator shoes. But best of all it's the blues, baby. Sweet Bobby Bland/ZZ Hill-grooved blues...of today!
All y'all need this. Get you some Super Spirit!

Here's a brand new track from an album on where else but Big Legal Mess ::



Here's a short documentary on the man, the myth, etc...

Ironing Board Sam's Return (short documentary) from Tom Ciaburri on Vimeo.