Recently, we’ve had some good luck with new followers on Twitter. It almost seems that bands are doing a little homework and following us because they have seen what we do and they fit the profile.
Knocksville is a band that certainly fits the profile of bands we like, and it only took about three seconds for me to figure it out. I went to ReverbNation, and the first song I heard from this band was “Wait and See.” This song begins with a guitar riff that would make John Lee Hooker and Billy Gibbons proud. The rhythm section provides a boogie groove that would definitely get people moving on a dance floor.
Since this is ‘Billy Monday, this obviously is not just a blues-rock band. This band some pretty serious rockabilly and psychobilly influence too. Think Reverend Horton Heat…only trashier. The rockabilly sound is especially apparent in “Work It Out” and “Baby Stop.” When you hear “Baby Stop,” it’s pretty easy to imagine a scene of guys with pompadours swing dancing with beautiful rockabetties in dresses. The psychobilly sound really comes through in “Forever Young,” a song that reminds me quite a bit of Tiger Army.
If you’re a regular reader of our ‘Billy Monday posts, Knocksville is a band you should check out. It will sound great as you drive around in your primer-gray El Camino.
And bands out, use Knocksville as an example. Follow us on Twitter (@incognitomag). We may just like your stuff as much as we like Knocksville, which means that you could be featured here sometime in the near future.
Generally ‘Billy Monday is reserved for rockabilly and psychobilly bands, but today I’m doing a little something different. As I mentioned last week, sometimes I ask bands where they would file their music in a record store. More than that, I give them the latitude to create their own file-under category. Well, The Steady Swagger has created its own file-under category: Whiskeybilly.
What is whiskeybilly? Well, the recipe might go something like this: Take one part Tom Waits, one part Sleepy LaBeef, and one part United Steel Workers of Montreal, and one part gypsy punk. Add a cask of rum, and a healthy dose of pirate rock. Now let me explain at least some of the ingredients in this musical cocktail. The vocals frequently sound like the theatrical growl of Tom Waits. There is some definite classic rockabilly sound (as well as some vocals like Sleepy LaBeef) in “One More Shot.” The backing vocals by drummer Brigitte Desjardins sometimes remind me of Felicity Hamer of United Steel Workers of Montreal. As for the rum…something has to fuel this band and its energetic recordings. As for the pirate rock, what can I say? My two boys have become big fans of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
While that description is pretty accurate, it still doesn’t do this band complete justice. Do yourself a favor. Pour yourself a big shot of rum (since you’re listening to this band, don’t mix it with anything this time), crank up the volume, and give The Steady Swagger a listen. It will get you rocking, and it just might get you shopping for an eyepatch.
I’m not sure why so many great psychobilly bands come from the UK, but I kind of wish this is one area in which the U.S. followed in the footsteps of the English. This album begins with “Fright Night 2,” a song that begins a little slow, but then explodes into a psychobilly rumble after the first verse. This song embodies everything that is great about psychobilly: trashy and loud guitar, lyrics that lend some horror to the song, and a rhythm that is tough to keep up with.
The lead track is followed by “Going Postal.” The vocals in this song bring early punk to mind. If you like murder ballads, you’ll really like this song.
On the one hand, there is a murder ballad. On the other hand is a remake of “Teenager in Love” called “Psychobilly in Love.” Dion and The Belmonts never sounded quite like this. Speaking of never sounding quite like this band’s version of a song, The Griswalds also do a version of the theme from the “Banana Splits.” It’s unexpected, fun, and pretty different than the actual version of the song.
This album hits all the themes that you can find in a lot of psychobilly songs: drug use, zombies, crazy people. All wrapped up in trashy melodies and driving rhythms. If you want something that will get your foot stomping and your blood pumping, check out The Griswalds.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve featured a lot of Canadian artists recently, particularly for ‘Billy Monday. You know how this goes. You find one band, and then you get recommendations for other bands in the area. And really, what can I say? The Canucks are grabbing my attention at the moment.
The Howling Bullets is a punkabilly/horrorbilly band from Toronto. Now those terms probably turn some folks off immediately. They probably imagine band members in ghastly makeup singing about darker themes that are pretty familiar at this time of year. When you visit the website for The Howling Bullets, you’ll see a player with three song, two of which are “Ghoul County Limits” and “Devil Bat.” So yeah, this band has the Halloween sort of themes (and the makeup), but they’re really good songs with some loud and fast guitars and rhythms that will make you push the accelerator to the floor if you hear it in the car.
My favorite song of the three available on the website is “Mississippi Magnolia.” This is a great punkabilly sound. Just listen to the bass line in this one. If it doesn’t get you moving, it’s hard to imagine what will.
The Greasemarks might be as fitting a name for a band as I’ve ever encountered. What better name for a rockabilly band – a genre known for songs about hod rods and drag racing? The tagline for this band on Twitter says, “Nasty. Authentic. 50s style rockabilly.” Not one of those claims is false. This band plays 50s-style rockabilly filtered through some gritty garage rock.
The rockabilly sound is prominent throughout the melodies (particularly the guitar and bass). These guys from Toronto play the kind of melodies that get couples swinging on the dance floor. “Plowin’” is a great example. This song sounds like it could have been recorded in the 50s. In fact, it sounds a lot like “Mystery Train.” The garage rock sound is mostly in the vocals, especially in the song “Bring Her Back (Don’t)”.
If you like the classic rockabilly sound with just a little grit added, The Greasemarks is a band you should get to know. It will sound great coming from the speakers of your hot rod, or at your local juke joint.
Alastair Chirstl: Classic rockabilly at its finest
If you haven’t noticed, we here at Incognito HQ pay attention to our readers. For instance, last week I solicited suggestions for ‘Billy Monday. Alastair Christl was one of the recommendations sent our way. Lo and behold, here he is as our featured artist.
My first impression of this rockabilly guy from Toronto was “Candy Shop.” There is no other way to describe this song than classic rockabilly. From the vocals and guitar to the pedal steel, this is rockabilly the way it used to be. At times the western swing melody reminds me of Junior Brown. And like Junior Brown, this song will get you two-stepping.
There must be something about Spanish-speaking places for rockabilly guys. (Maybe they’re beguiled by the dark eyes and hair.) Christl has a ballad called “Spanish Melody” that reminds me a lot of Chris Isaak.
When you go to Christl’s website (and you should), “Spanish Melody” is followed by “Catfight.” It would be hard to put two more disparate songs back to back. “Catfight” is a rumbling rockabilly tune. How to explain it? Well, when you go to a rockabilly show and you see that one guy out on the dance floor who’s not afraid to sort of toss his dance partner around…this is the kind of song where he gets to show off.
Alastair Christl has a voice that was made for rockabilly. It tends toward the higher registers, but that fits right in with the vintage feel of his music. Plus, he never sounds like he’s straining. He has as smooth a voice as you’ll find. If you like classic rockabilly, check this guy out. He’ll make you want to comb your pompadour up high and get on the dance floor with some cute rockabetty.
Governor Grimm and The Ghastly Ghouls: evil psychobilly from Ohio
This is yet another band I found doing a random search for psychobilly on Bandcamp. I don’t know if the name of this band would frighten people away, but I certainly hope not. (And by the way, If there is a prize for alliterative band names, I think this band has closed the competition.) Anyone who shies away from this band because of its name is really missing out. The guitarist plays like his ax is on fire and the rhythm section plays like they’re daring the guitarist to keep up.
The EP begins with ”No Escape.” This is about as catchy a song as you can find about someone “leaving a trail of bodies” in his wake after setting a town on fire. I don’t think you’d be wrong if you described the guitar sound as evil, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Every song on this EP is uptempo, but I think “Raise the Dead” is most uptempo. You can work up a sweat just listening to this song.
The themes of the five songs on this EP are pretty familiar for psychobilly, but that doesn’t take anything away from the band or the songs. If you like psychobilly where the evil sounds a virtually tangible, Governor Grimm and the Ghastly Ghouls is a good band to get to know.
Well, loyal reader, sometimes you have to admit that you were wrong. More than that though, you have to do something to right that wrong. That’s what this post is for. Last week, you’ll recall I wrote about Tony Jones and The Cretin 3. I got a response that Tony Jones didn’t write those songs, which is not a huge deal. The bigger deal is that he’s accused of not crediting the songwriters. According to the comment, the guys that wrote the songs are in The Jerktones. So this week we are featuring The Jerktones.
The Jerktones, melodic zombie rockabilly
The first song on the band’s ReverbNation page is “Lady Frankenstein.” It would be easy to make this a real shocking horror rock song. But The Jerktones don’t do it that way. They make the melody perhaps a little spooky (as it should be considering the subject matter), but not over the top. It’s just one of those songs where the mood of the song is perfectly executed.
“Zombie Girlfriend” is another song that would be really easy to make into a sleazy horror-rock song, but it’s not at all. Of all the songs on the band’s ReverbNation page, this is the one that comes closest to the classic rockabilly song. The vocals are a bit like Elvis, the guitar is clean, and this song will get crowds swinging for sure. Oh, and if you think this is a surprisingly pretty song for the subject matter, just listen to “Bowling Bag.”
“Large Marge” is a great rockabilly song. The guitar sound isn’t the clean sound you get in classic rockabilly. There’s a little fuzz in the guitar on this one. The bass is enough to get people swinging around a dance floor, and the vocals seem very familiar. Somehow it reminds me of another Rhode Island rockabilly artist: King Sickabilly.
If you like rockabilly that is just a little fuzzy, The Jerktones is a band that belongs in your collection.
Marty Allen introduced himself via an email submission (always welcome and encouraged), and it’s a good thing for us he did. This guy is prefect for ‘Billy Monday because he’s got that old-time rockabilly sound. And I don’t mean like Stray Cats. I mean more like 50s rockabilly.
It’s fitting then, that the album you can preview on Marty Allen’s website is called The Sun Sessions. The opening track “Waiting for You Baby” has maybe a little more rock and roll in the guitar than 50s rockabilly, but it has that walking doghouse bass line you expect from any rockabilly song and that sound that will get people swinging on the dance floor.
Speaking of swinging on the dance floor, “Don’t Write Me No Letter” will definitely get people doing that. This is a classic rockabilly song in every sense, from the theme of a woman who unceremoniously splits to the mention of a black Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Oh, and the bass line in this one isn’t just swinging. It’s also deep enough to rumble something in your gut.
This is pretty simple. Marty Allen Band plays real rockabilly music that will make you want to slick back your hair, hop in your black Cadillac and go somewhere where you can do some dancing. If you like classic rockabilly, give Marty Allen Band a listen.