The Lonely One is available now

Mondo Monday: The Volcanics

On a recent trip to my P.O. box, I found four surf CDs from the good folks at Double Crown Records. (If you’re a fan of surf music at all, Double Crown is a label you should get to know.)

One of the CDs I found is The Lonely One by The Volcanics. Now, a lot of surf music can be kind of mellow. If you’re expecting mellow at the beginning of this CD, prepare to be surprised. This album begins with an explosion of sound called “Kanack Attack.” The rumbling rhythm at the beginning of the song is a bit like a punch to the gut. Then comes the guitar, which is just amazing. This is the kind of thing that makes guys wish they could play surf guitar.

You know in those old beach movies where a surf band sets the tone for a beach party? Well, The Volcanics provide music for a different kind of party. If you were hosting a kegger and you wanted it to have a surf theme, “Keg Party” would be the song. To put it another way, just imagine if the guys of Delta Tau Chi hired a surf band instead of Otis Day and the Knights.

This album is filled with songs that will get your head moving (try “Del Rey” for instance), whether you’re sitting in your cubicle or driving to the beach to catch some waves. If you’re a fan of instrumental surf, this will be a welcome addition to your collection.

Outlaws Still at Large is a great read. Get your copy.

Outlaw country can run parallel with Nashville: an interview with Neil Hamilton

Neil Hamilton is the author of Outlaws Still at Large, a book that explores the roots of outlaw country as well as the modern incarnation of it. By phone, he discussed the process of writing the book, the common thread of the subjects of the book, and where the outlaw movement goes from here.

What compelled you to write the book?

I guess kind of the meeting of two developments. One was my love for the music. The other was the passing of my mom and the personal crisis I went through there. And really the desire to find some meaning for going on for another day. I started the pursuit of this music that I like. That’s it in general terms.
When I was searching for something to get me through another day, I started listening to outlaw country music. I had already been a fan of that music during the Waylon Jennings-Willie Nelson period. Then it kind of died away and I had not really been aware of the resurgence. I started listening to a couple different artists – especially Jackson Taylor. I said to my wife, “I like this guy’s music. I’d like to go hear him play.” He was playing in Houston, which is about a six- or seven-hour drive west of here. My wife’s sister lives there so we decided to drive out there and see his show. At the end of the show, I approached Jackson Taylor and asked him for a photograph to be taken by my wife of me and Jackson. My wife mentioned that I’m a history teacher at a college and write history books. He said, “I love history!” That led us to going to the back of the bar and just talking and exchaning phone numbers. The next day on my drive home, I received a call from him. He suggested that I write a history of outlaw country because nobdy had done it before. That led more directly to the book. Although it wasn’t going to be a complete history. It was going to be about my interactions with a number of artists.

How long did it take you to do the interviews and compile everything?

The whole thing from start to finish was about two years. That’s the traveling, the interviews, the transcribing, doing some research for the historical sections, and drinking whiskey.

What was the common thread among all the artists you interviewed?

The commitment to play the music they want to play regardless of whether it’s an audience of 50 or 50,000. I don’t think it made to much difference to them. I’m not trying to say that they didn’t want to make some money. They were more often likely to make the craft than to change it to widen the audience. That sincerity held them together whether they’re more rock-influenced our Hank Williams-influenced.

For lack of a better term, they’re all misfits. They didn’t want to be stuck in some Nashville writing gig.

They’re all critical with what’s happening on the Music Row scene – some more critical than others. You’re right. They did not want to be in that situation. They did not want to be creating pop music. I think another thing that bound them together whether they’re influenced more by Hank Williams or rock, they were all deeply schooled in traditional country. And they want to protect that and continue that influence.

The whole thing with Music Row is not new. How is Nashville different now than when the initial outlaw movement occurred?

I agree with you. Nashville wants to sell a lot of records. They’re not concerned with deviating from the roots of country if it makes them money. I think what’s a bit different is that the outlaw movement in the 70s gained enough of a foothold and a following that Nashville thought, “Maybe something is going on there where we can make some money.” People like Willie and Waylon were able to get onto the major record labels like RCA. The outlaw movement today is vibrant, but also very splintered. I think it’s just the nature of the times. We have so many sources. I think it’s hard for a couple alternative artists to gain the foothold that Willie and Waylon did back in the 70s. There’s so much more out there as far as musicians and outlets.

When I spoke to Billie Joe Shaver, I asked if he thought he would make it if he were starting in Nashville today. He said he didn’t think he would.

Again, I’m not trying to say they’re trying to live lives of poverty, but they’re not really hungry to make it in Nashville.

Who did you learn the most from when you were writing the book?

Musically, I learned the most from Jackson Taylor. He has so many different influences: Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, punk rockers, and it was early in the project when I spoke to him. He kind of showed me the ropes. I don’t know if he hrealized he was doing so, but he showed me the ropes. In terms of personality, I was drawn to Wayne Mills. He was a different guy in his compassion for others. He would do things for others before he’d do them for himself. He loved being in this book, and was concerned for its success, but not for Wayne Mills. He wanted it so it would help everyone.
Elizabeth Cook because of the experiences she had in losing her mom. It was a similar experience to what I had. I learned a lot from Dallas Moore about perseverance. He is constantly on the road and constantly working, and upbeat. I very seldom see him down. He’s always enthusiastic. His perseverance, energy, dedication, and optimism really impressed me.

Where does the outlaw movement go from here?

I was just thinking about that the other day. There are so many cross-currents at work. There are so many talented musicians out there that don’t want to be a part of the Nashville scene. I think there is a really good niche for outlaw that can be vibrant for many years to come. The problem is demographics. Outlaw plays largely to a white male audience. We have a population in this country that’s becoming more and more diverse. Outlaw is going to have to face that. That is an obstacle to widen the base. With all the outlets out there, it’s pretty vibrant. I don’t think it will ever supplant Nashville, but it can run parallel to Nashville.

Outlaws Still at Large is available everywhere.

Incognito pick of the week: Witching Waves

A couple days ago, I posted about the new release from The Creeping Ivies. That same day, an introductory message came from Witching Waves. The band introduced itself as “great, noisy indie punk.” Oh, and it’s a duo. And if you have read this blog at all, you know that a noisy indie punk duo is going to catch my attention more often than not.

And sure enough, I was hooked immediately on hearing the primitive rhythm at the beginning of “Concrete.” Add a fuzzy guitar part and really cool harmony vocals, and let’s just say that resistance on my part was futile.

This band really brings to mind 80s bands like Killing Joke. This has the same sort of dark mood although Witching Waves leans a lot more toward garage punk than Killing Joke. This band is noisy, fuzzy, loud, and primitive. I ask you: what’s not to like?

Oh, and for all you other bands out there…we are always accepting submissions. I’ll never know if I like your music if you don’t give me the chance to hear it. Take a lesson from Witching Waves, who reached out to me and ended up as our pick of the week.

Jessica Martinez: Spring 2014 featured model (part 2)

Welcome to part two of our Spring 2014 model feature of Jessica Martinez. These photos were taken by George Swar at The Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano. If you saw yesterday’s feature, you’ll recall that I promised a video Q&A with Jessica outside The Swallows (a video that we knocked out in one take). Sadly, it (along with the rest of the spring issue) was lost when my old laptop died. In any case, here are some more amazing photos of Jessica Martinez.

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Jessica Martinez…Wow!

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Jessica sips a cold PBR

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Jessica Martinez picks a song on the jukebox

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Jessica Martinez + motorcycle = awesome

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Jessica Martinez: A girl and a motorcycle – it’s a beautiful thing

Jessica Martinez: Spring 2014 featured model

On a beautiful “winter” day in southern California, Jessica Martinez posed for these shots at The Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano. It is an honest cowboy bar. Trust me when I tell you that I’ve seen people in the place wearing spurs. One of the traditions at this place is for a woman to hang her bra from the ceiling. Jessica did her part to sustain that excellent tradition. This is the first of a two-part series of her photos that would have been in the spring issue of the magazine. Look for the rest tomorrow, along with a video Q&A outside The Swallows Inn after her shoot. Photos as always are by George Swar.

 

Jessica Martinez enjoys a PBR

Jessica Martinez enjoys a PBR

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Jessica Martinez at The Swallows Inn, San Juan Capistrano

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Jessica Martinez

Jessica Martinez has something to hang from the ceiling

Jessica Martinez has something to hang from the ceiling

Jessica Martinez carries on the tradition at The Swallows

Jessica Martinez carries on the tradition at The Swallows

 

 

Primitive...that's how The Creeping Ivies live

Trashy Tuesday: The Creeping Ivies (Ghost World)

If you’re at all familiar with this blog, you know that Scottish duo The Creeping Ivies is one of my favorite bands. Well, loyal reader, I’m happy to announce that the band has a new full-length album entitled Ghost World. And you know something? This band just keeps getting better.

What is it about this band that attracts me so much? The first thing is the raw energy of this band. In every song, Duncan pounds out a primitive rhythm on the drums while Becca Bomb attacks the guitar and sings with a voice that is soulful and a bit spooky at times (which is fitting for an album called Ghost World). The new album has the energy and sound I’ve come to expect from The Creeping Ivies, but it also has a couple twists from previous albums. The title track includes some harmonica, which is very much in the background but provides another welcome layer to the song.

If you’re unfamiliar with this band and want to get a good sense for the sound, check out “The Bridge.” This song is psychedelic (a little), trashy (a lot), and features the howling vocals I’ve come to expect from Becca. And if you think howling is a bad thing, then you probably don’t like rock n roll.

The other curveball comes in “Dream Baby Dream,” a song that features some excellently greasy saxophone. It is an excellent compliment to the psychedelic guitar and primitive rhythm.

If I come across as a fanboy when I write about this band, it’s because I am. The first time I encountered The Creeping Ivies was on a Garage Punk compilation, and I’ve been hooked since then. The thing is, when I saw that the band had a new album, I was excited not only for me but also for my five-year-old son, who is also a big fan of the band. If you like your rock n roll raw, Ghost World will fit really nicely into your collection.

Thanks for a great 40th birthday Schwindig

Last night, I had my 40th birthday Schwindig at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach. It was truly a memorable way to celebrate. Many thanks to:

Mark DiPiazza for letting me put the show together

The Fallen Stars, Harlis Sweetwater Band, and I’MU for playing the event

George Swar for the amazing photos

and everyone who came to the show and made it the memorable event it was.

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The Fallen Stars

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The Fallen Stars at DiPiazza’s 20 March 2014

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Mikey of I’MU

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Mikey of I’MU

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I’MU at DiPiazza’s on 20 March 2014

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Harlis Sweetwater Band at DiPiazza’s 20 March 2014

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Harlis Sweetwater

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Harlis Sweetwater Band horn section

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Sing it, Harlis!

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The Fallen Stars

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Bobbo of The Fallen Stars

 

 

 

 

 

Intergalactic Freedom Fighter is available now on Spotify

Incognito pick of the week: The Grasstronauts (Intergalactic Freedom Fighter)

Once upon a time, loyal reader, (December, 2012 to be precise) The Grasstronauts was one of our featured bands in the magazine. So when I heard that the band has a new EP available, I was anxious to check it out. Not just because the band is that rare musical breed – a string band – but also because it is a really good band.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that everyone in this band knows how to pick with the best of them. Focus on any one of the instruments in this song and you’ll hear that these guys are impressive. The mandolin and banjo move the song along at a good pace, while the guitar is a bit more like a rhythm instrument in this song. Then it’s all wrapped up with a bass line that is sure to get your toes tapping.

The sound of this band reminds me a lot of Yonder Mountain String Band. It is a sound that is both traditional and modern. Also on this album, the band sings about a theme sometimes visited by YMSB (like “Holdin’”) with the song “Reefer Roach Blues.”

Now, if you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that I am a sucker for a song with a good message. On this EP, that song is “Tiny Pebbles.” Just dig these righteous lyrics.

Realize with life there is no winner of the race

There’s no need to worry on and on

Time will fly on by before you know it is gone.

See what I mean? Righteous. It’s a message we probably all need to hear repeatedly. After all, a message like that never gets old, and we humans frequently forget messages like this one.

Intergalactic Freedom Fighter is a great example of what an EP should do. It gives you a good taste of the band, but still leaves you wanting more. If you’re a fan of string bands, and Yonder Mountain in particular, this EP will fit perfectly in your collection.

http://youtu.be/2gImzjRLHmA

Scott H. Biram: Dirty old one-man band

I record songs so they don’t get lost: an interview with Scott H. Biram

This was scheduled to be the lead interview in the spring issue…before my old laptop died and took the spring issue with it. Scott H. Biram is a one-man band from Austin. By phone, he discussed becoming a one-man band, touring extensively, and what he would be doing if he weren’t making music.

I’ve tinkered with enough instruments to know that mastering one is hard. What compelled you to become a one-man band?

It was just a necessity for wanting to play shows. My bands broke up. I had a bluegrass band, and a punk-metal band. I was already doing this singer-songwriter thing. Once the bands broke up, I still wanted to tour. I toured just playing acoustic for a while. I realized I wanted to play rock clubs again. That’s more my style. So I had to do things to be able to compete with rock bands. Really, it just happened. I wasn’t inspired by any specific one-man band. It was all just a need to be on the road and a need to be something more than that singer-songwriter pansy ass.

I spoke to Cory Branan once and asked if people are surprised by his energy on stage. He said he has to do that so he doesn’t come across as a sensitive singer-songwriter type.

When I think of singer-songwriters, I just think of that bad acoustic guitar pickup sound. It makes me feel disgusted, so I don’t want to be that guy.

How long did it take you to put it all together?

It went from an acoustic thing to me stomping on the floor to me adding my vocals through an amplifier to me having something to stomp on. It’s been ever-evolving. It’s still evolving. It’s been 16 years I’ve been doing it as a one-man band. I think it’s going to keep changing until I get a band or something.

I just play acoustic guitar at home all the time. My writing and practice is me playing acoustic. Sometimes, when I play a song onstage, it’s the first time I’ve played it electric with the stomper. I try to play about 30 miles south of my hometown. I get a gig there and they’re like my guinea pig audience. I can play for two and a half hours and just get my chops back. We’re reeling it back now. We’ve got a new stragegy for when I’m playing. My Austin shows are going to be fewer than they used to be. For me, I would just keep playing as often as I could in Austin and my tour shows would be the big ones where I only come once a year. My manager and my booking agent want to turn Austin into another one of those places where I only play three or four times a year instead of 11.

Is that just to get you on the road more?

It’s to build my crowd in Austin. It’s so people don’t look at my shows in Austin and say, “Oh, we can just see him next time.” It’s music business bullshit. I don’t know. I just play music and manage managers and booking agents. I’ve been getting pretty burned out because I’m on the road 150 to 200 days a year. I need some camping time and time to build inspiration, and get in touch with reality again. The Booking Agent Blues, is that what I have to write?

That’s been a recurring theme in interviews. Musicians love being on the road, but realize they need their time at home to recharge.

It’s not even so much about being on the road. It’s that when you’re not on the road, the planning of being on the road is still happening. Even when you’re home, you’re still thinking about the road. I’m planning three or four tours ahead of time. I have an album that came out February 4th. I have a live DVD that’s in the can waiting to be put out after that. Hopefully that buys me some time and I can do some camping, or the beach.

You mentioned the new album. How does it compare to previous albums?

Nothin' but Blood - one of my favorite albums of 2014 so far

Nothin’ but Blood – one of my favorite albums of 2014 so far

It’s got a lot more covers than my last four or five records. Once I got signed to Bloodshot, I really started to focus on a lot more originals and a lot fewer covers. This album, there were some songs I wanted to cover and get out there. I’ve had them for a while. It’s still in the same vein. I consider my reords like an actual record of what’s happening with me musically. I come up with songs and I want to record them so they don’t get lost. Sometimes they get put to the side for four or five years. There’s always the chance that the’ll get lost, or I’ll forget how to play them. I try to get what I have going as soon as possible.

What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

I’d still be making music. I’d be a producer. If I weren’t touring and making music, I’d be in the studio. At this point I have so much experience booking and managing. If I didn’t do music at all, I’d probably do something that would have me driving. I like to drive. I like being on the move. I’m done with the fucking food industry. That’s for sure. I love cooking. I cook five nights a week at home. But within two days of being back on the road, I’m thinking of what I’ll cook when I get home. I’ve been getting into cooking briskets overnight. I’ve got all kinds of stuff.

What are some things you think about cooking when you’re on the road?

I’ve got this recipe for beef tips that I tweaked from a cookbook. Spinach enchiladas – that’s my mom’s recipe. Spaghetti and meatballs from scratch. I love grilling. I grill out probably three times a week.

 

Give it Time is available now

Trashy Tuesday: The Revellions

After what seemed like a long hiatus, Dirty Water Records once again sent some new music my way, and I am happy to receive it. The latest I received from this great label is from The Revellions.

Now, if you’re at all familiar with this page, you know that I am a big fan of the 60s garage sound. Give it Time provides the 60s garage sound in spades right from the beginning of the album. “Bitter and Twisted” opens with a boogie-woogie piano part. Then comes the fuzzy guitar and that organ that sounds like it was delivered straight from about 1963. Add to that some soulful vocals punctuated by a good scream at the end of the song, and what you have is three minutes and 33 seconds of garage goodness.

The intro of “Don’t Wait for Me.” reminds me a little bit of the theme song for a 70s cop show. This is a really cool song. It is pure garage soul (think Spencer Davis Group) including some horns that will get your backside moving. Seriously, if you don’t like this song, then you’re probably against fun in general.

This is a great album filled with some of the things I love most in music: trashy garage sounds, and healthy amounts of soul. If you are a fan of garage soul, this is an essential album for your collection.