Monday, October 27, 2014

The Jimmy/Johnny Mobius Riff
DC Larson

The Tremors
"Old Fashioned Hillbilly Feud" (Brain Drain)

(IMPORTANT: If you have yet to actually hear the raw, ragged, and manic Tremors, put away these words and get thee to the record store!)

Jimmy Tremor and Johnny Ramone have more in common than battle-scarred pickguards. A lot more.

Johnny had a theory: when a band changed, it got worse, And throughout that seminal NYC punk assault combo's remarkable and lastingly influential oeuvre, buzzsaw-chording commando Johnny fought to keep the Ramones on familiar footing, both image and sound-wise. Some others in (or around) the group might have entertained occasional notions of creative roaming, especially in the 80s, when tastes were in flux and success writ large remained elusive. But Johnny was adamant. The economical shock trooper sound, the leather jackets/jeans uniforms, the surly, 'You-talkin'-to-me?' attitude -- as they had been in the Bowery beginning, so they would remain into Blitzkrieg perpetuity.

Just so, Jimmy Tremor (nee Gardner), leader of North Carolina's hell-bent-for-moonshine hillbilly rockers the Tremors, has ensured that they varied little over the course of 10 years and 5 CDs. There was and is no need; he was right from the start. The feral cats howling at the fractured, midnight blood moon from the red clay tobacco roads of America's lost hick-dimension have stayed true to Jimmy's original vision.

There has been one change: the Tremors grow more confident and able with each exuberant waxing.The title cut and "Cabin Fever" are trademark Tremors; good-timey rampages that just barely stay on the steel. That they never fly from the track is open-faced testament to the band's top-drawer prowess.

Drummer Stretch Armstrong and slap-bassman Slim Perkins wreak one of the surest and most frenetically rollicking rhythms on present offer. The two rock-ribbed stalwarts have been at Jimmy's elbow since 2004 debut Scourge of the South. And better complement cannot be located.

Jimmy's own jittery, impassioned, psychologically-tilted hayseed implorings -- punctuated now and again by strangled yelps recalling Hasil Adkins --  and white lightning-speed treble note squallings reach ever-higher plateaus of backwoods psychosis. (When Jimmy stalks the bass strings on the fevered cover of "Wreck of the Old '97," you'd swear that he'd lost his religion.)

Back to th Mobeus Riff: Watch old Ramones video clips -- the same fierce, possessed, jaw muscle-flexed visage Johnny profferred as he thrashed his Mosrite clenches Jimmy's features, too.

But like Johnny, Jimmy is much more the knowing businessman than his crazed, stage-lit demeanor might suggest, From disc one, he has imprinted the band's output in manifold ways, not only writing most of the songs (or collaborating with Stretch and Slim) and holding down the guitar and lead vocal duties, but also producing, and designing cover art. Jimmy even oversees the band's label, Brain Drain.

Another Jimmy/Johnny similarity can be found in the songs, themselves. Many cross the finish line in less than two minutes. Built for speed, their minimalist constructions allow for unloosed rocketship delivery.

Most importantly, Jimmy and Johnny share the same proudly defiant certainty of identity - of purpose, of direction, of one's only appropriate place in The Scheme - that distinguishes the iconic and crucial maverick driver from the driven rabble that follow.

Because maybe the world digs you and yours, or maybe only the few are hip to the tip, but the point is that it is your Frankenstein. You imagined it, and made it so. You raised it up, a singular noise that delivers bodies old and young into writhing epileptic paroxsyms of carbonated ebullience.

In that spittle-flecked, confessional exhortation lies the truest baring of self. Jimmy, Johnny -- it's a Mobius

Recommended tracks: "Old Fashioned Hillbilly Feud," "High Time," "Why I Cry," "Cabin Fever," "Wreck of the Old 97"

VIDEO:  ("100 Proof Blues Boogie," from previous CD)


Saturday, November 23, 2013

PART 2: The David Serby Interview, plus
Earlier this year, singer/songwriter/guitarist David Serby released "The Latest Scam." His fifth CD offers a 2-disc, 20-track countrypolitan ride. Vibrant, intriguingly textured and tantalizingly piquant, the venture is packed shoulder-toshoulder with hooks, intoxicating narratives, and an abundance of head-turning instrumental charms.
FROM DAVIDSERBY.COM: "Produced by the musician’s longtime collaborator Ed Tree at his Treehouse Studios in San Gabriel, California, it features Serby’s working band the Latest Scam: lead guitarist Tree, bassist Gregory Boaz, and drummer Dale Daniel. Serby contributes lead and background vocals and, for the first time, electric rhythm guitar."
Recommended cuts: "True Love," "Amnesia," "Waiting Out the Storm," "Pretty Little Kitty," "Gospel Truth," "Like She Was Never Here" 
5)      Are any of the songs on The Latest Scam derived from your own life?
I’d say they were all derived from my life in some way or another. 
One night, I asked a guy who I hadn’t seen in a while where he’d been and he told me he had a new girlfriend and he’d been spending a lot of time with her.  I went home that night and thought about what he’d said and realized the same thing had happened to me, in the past.  You fall in love and get so wrapped up in that other person you forget everything you’ve been doing and everyone you’ve been seeing.  That night, I wrote a song about a guy who falls in love with a girl named Amnesia.
Another time, I was talking to a guy about Bob Dylan.  Specifically, about how when Dylan showed up in New York he told stories about himself working in carnivals and riding the rails…all kinds of stuff that wasn’t really true.  But he was so amusing, and meaningful, and entertaining that when people found out some of his stories weren’t true they didn’t really care.  I thought that was a perfect metaphor for America.  This country can spin a good yarn.  So I wrote a song about a guy who comes from a questionable background of murder, beauty, religion, and daring (or does he?), he makes up some stories about himself, ingratiates himself into the lives of some famous people, makes up some more stories, and finally becomes so revered that he’s sent on a secret mission by the President of the United States (maybe).  That’s the Gospel Truth.
A lot of the songs (When Couples Fall in Love, Those Ain’t My Dreams, and Ain’t No Way to Live to name three) are about my love affair with music.  I realized my relationship with music was just like my relationship with women.   I need to work at something new instead of continuing to do what is/was comfortable; and sometimes that means giving up what I thought I  should be doing (making country or folk records) for a while and trying something different (making a pop/rock record).  And sometimes I feel like I work really hard but don’t get a lot out of it…that the music is getting the better end of the deal.  My guess is that everyone (no matter what they’re doing) feels this way…probably a lot of the time.
I love the movies, so Pharaohs is about Hollywood and cinema…and like Gospel Truth how we all like to hear a good yarn.  And if the yarn is good enough, we’ll be back tomorrow for more.
Pretty Little Kitty is about my cat who I though ran away, but didn’t.  I played it for my wife and she said, “Not bad…but I don’t really think it’s about our cat.”
All the songs have those kinds of stories. 
6)      What’s your main objective in writing – connecting with a certain audience, or allowing your muse free rein?
I always say that being an independent, self-financed artist is both bad and good.  The bad, obviously, is that nobody gives me any money and I have to pay for everything myself.  The good, obviously, is that nobody gives me any money and I get to do whatever I want to do.
Besides, I don’t really have the time, patience, technique, or soul, to chase what is popular.  And even if I did, by the time I caught it something else would surely be popular.
Also, I’ve never made enough money to make doing the same thing over and over again profitable, so, there’s no real temptation to do it.
Finally, I get bored with myself very quickly, and I’m always worried I’m going to bore other people, too.   I’d rather do something new and fail than be boring.  I’m lucking to be making music in Los Angeles.  The people who support independent roots music in this town won’t reject you if you try something different.  They’re very inspiring and empowering to local artists.
7)      I see Edward Tree produced (he also produced Haymaker’s “Now Now Now,” as well as your earlier “Poor Man’s Poem), and contributes guitar.  Did he capture the sound you sought?
I love Ed Tree.  He produced and played guitar on all five of my records, and of the hundreds of band gigs I’ve done in the last seven years around town, he played guitar with me on all but three of them.  He played guitar with me on a lot of my solo gigs, too.  And he lives about three blocks from me, so, whenever I have some songs I just walk over and record demos at his studio.     
Ed’s musical vocabulary is immense, and he is an extremely soulful guy (as I’m sure you can tell from his playing).  On Poor Man’s Poem, we were shooting for acoustic, folk, and blues and he absolutely nailed it.  On The Latest Scam, we were going for a late ‘70s early ‘80s pop rock thing and every note he plays on this record is inspired.  If you listen closely, you’ll notice that many of his guitar parts are speaking directly to the song lyric.  He the guy couldn’t play a clich├ęd note if he tried. 
Like I said at the start, this is the absolute best version of The Latest Scam we could’ve made and as always, a lot of that is because Edward Tree is producing and playing guitar.
8)      Tell us some about the disc’s other players.  Are they in your live band?
On my first three records, we always had the players in the live band play on the record, but we had a lot of great side musicians come in and contribute other parts, too (fiddle, piano, pedal steel).  On Poor Man’s Poem, the songs were recorded before we put together a live band.
For The Latest Scam, I wanted to put together a new rhythm section, and record the entire record with only the guys in the live band.  That’s me on electric rhythm guitar, Ed Tree on electric lead guitar, Gregory Boaz on bass guitar, and Dale Daniel on drums.
Ed Tree has played with a lot of great musicians.  He’s been in the Spencer Davis Group for the last 20 years, I think.  He was in Rita Coolidge’s band, and Juice Newton’s band, too. 
Gregory Boaz is a monster on bass guitar.  For years, he was a member of Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men, and before that he was the bass player in Tex & The Horseheads.  Greg added the perfect combination of roots, rock, pop, and punk to the record.
Dale Daniel has played with tons of great musicians, including one of my all time favorite bands, The Hacienda Brothers.  Dale is a good buddy of mine and I’ve seen him play tons of live shows.  He plays a lot of country gigs – In fact, he played drums on my first country record and was in my live band before he got really busy with the Hacienda Brothers.  I think when people think about The Hacienda Brothers they think of a country band, but if you ever saw them live you’ll know that they could rock it pretty hard.
I feel pretty lucky to get to make music with Ed, Greg, and Dale.  They’re good buddies and great musicians.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The David Serby Interview, plus
Earlier this year, singer/songwriter/guitarist David Serby released "The Latest Scam." His fifth CD offers a 2-disc, 20-track countrypolitan ride. Vibrant, intriguingly textured and tantalizingly piquant, the venture is packed shoulder-toshoulder with hooks, intoxicating narratives, and an abundance of head-turning instrumental charms.
FROM DAVIDSERBY.COM: "Produced by the musician’s longtime collaborator Ed Tree at his Treehouse Studios in San Gabriel, California, it features Serby’s working band the Latest Scam: lead guitarist Tree, bassist Gregory Boaz, and drummer Dale Daniel. Serby contributes lead and background vocals and, for the first time, electric rhythm guitar."
Recommended cuts: "True Love," "Amnesia," "Waiting Out the Storm," "Pretty Little Kitty," "Gospel Truth," "Like She Was Never Here" 
1)      I think The Latest Scam is exceptional!  Are you satisfied with it? 
Thanks for the kind words, DC.  It means a lot to me that you like the record.  I purposely set out to write a record that was radically different from the historical folk fiction on Poor Man’s Poem.  A lot of people responded favorably to that record and making a pop/rock record was a little bit of a gamble.  But I didn’t want to repeat myself (at least not right away…ha) musically or lyrically.  I do think the two records have something in common…They are both the best versions of the records I wanted to make at the time.  I don’t think we could’ve made a better The Latest Scam, so, I’m very satisfied with it.
2)       You wrote all of these tracks yourself.  Do you prefer writing alone?
The Latest Scam is my fifth record; combined, I think they total about 70 songs.  None of them are co-writes.  I do have a co-write on a Ted Russell Kamp record, and one on a Rich McCulley record, but mostly, I write by myself.   I usually enjoy co-writing but it’s not something I usually think to do.   Authors don’t usually co-write books; and painters don’t usually co-paint their paintings.   To me, a solo artist co-writing songs feels equally strange.  But that’s just me.
I guess maybe I’m a little selfish and I want to own that part of it.  I use songwriting and songs as an excuse to get to play music with musicians I love.  The songs are kind of the discussion top and once I hand it over to other musicians I usually don’t give them a lot of direction or input on what to play.  To me, that would be like inviting someone to have a conversation with me, but only letting them tell me exactly what I already know, or could’ve said myself.
That said, I did recently start a side-project with some great friends who also happen to be songwriters I admire and I’ve enjoyed writing with them for that project a lot…So, maybe I’m evolving on this one. 
3)      Which do you come up with first: music or lyrics?
I used to find that if I came up with the melody first then I had a more difficult time coming up with a decent lyric.  So, I’d say a lot of the songs on my first couple of records started with song titles, or snippets of lyrics.   I try to give the songs some story or arc and to do that I used to want to have a vague beginning, middle, and end before I started.  That’s probably a holdover from writing screenplays. 
On The Latest Scam, I’d say the songs evolved a little less thoughtfully…which probably doesn’t great.  I had song topics before I started writing a lot of them, but usually no real melody or lyric.  I just started putting chords together and singing random words, making up melodies.  When I found some words that sounded like they went with the melody I’d rework the words a little so that they at least made sense, then I’d just start putting it together one line of lyric and melody at a time.   A lot of the songs on the record came together very quickly.  That’s probably why I wrote about 50 songs for the record (of which w recorded 20).
4)      On what instrument do you write? 
I always write on guitar – mostly acoustic, but some of the songs on The Latest Scam were written on an electric guitar.  I have a couple of great Gibson acoustic guitars (an Advanced Jumbo, and a Hummingbird) and they both have a lot of songs in them. 
I really want to write some songs on piano but can’t really play one.  I’m actually thinking of taking a year off from writing, practicing piano all day, and then writing a piano record.   But for now, it’s all guitar.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Now Now Now" (Honey Bucket Records)
Alt-country threw a roadhouse party with pop-rock. The only "designated driver" needed was a confident rhythm section (David Serby and Dale Daniel) that knew the road. J.W. Surge/Mike Jacoby harmonies, and Mike 's own nimbly-picked, hand-tooled six-string articulations, brought the fun. And songcraft by J.W. and Mike shone all night. 
"We write songs and record them and play them for people in bars," J.W. explains. "We see it as the highest calling – entertaining people in a bar when they’re blowing off steam from a hard week at work. We take that responsibility seriously and do our best to give them full-frontal Haymaker.”
Recommended "Now Now Now," "Stomp the Gas," "Marisol," "Different Girl"

VIDEO CLIP: "Different Girl"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hot Rod Walt
and the Psycho Devilles
"Rockabilly Rodeo" (self)
The present author fears that there may be no way to state this truth without its seeming a coincidental slight of bassist Burford T. Ogletree and drummer Steve "Burnout" Barnett -- though such is not my intention, illegitimate as it would plainly be -- but this is guitarist/singer/songwriter Walt Richard's show. And a fierce, strapping, and good-naturedly sprawling affair it is. Have you ever heard a powerhouse galloping? This here one does.
RECOMMENDED "Ton Up," "My Guitar Saved Me," "Made of Me," "Being Home Again" "Cursed Be the Moon," "Bar Fight"
"Ton Up" official video, Cafe Racer TV theme:
Jinx Jones
"Rip and Run" (Home Braend)
Already famed as a breath-stealing fretboard adventurer both encyclopedic and devastating, Texan Jinx has again ascended o'er previous successes. The best part: Whereas another might take broadening capacities to assay styles more sanctified by clef-note gray-beards, Jinx stays put in the rockabilly/country mileau -- though he does unburden himself of jazz flairings aplenty. And the groove will not be ignored.
RECOMMENDED: "Redneck Barbie," "On Parole and Out of Control," "Never Live It Down," "Hot Rod Heartbreaker," "Prairie Dog Daddy," "What Makes You Think I'm So Lonesome?"
"Redneck Barbie" performance clip:
Royal Crowns
"Volume Three" (self)
Each marvelous, indispensible factor looms in abundance. The tunecraft is unerring, the instrumental dispatch of first-chair character. Neo-rockabilly definitude compels all in ear-range toward hardwood. Canada's august boppin' cats in killer form. A hale marshalling of beats lively, pensive, and pick-'em'-up, put-'em-down inspirational.
RECOMMENDED "Butterball Baby," "Don't Seem Quite Right," "Heavy Heavy Baby," "You Got It, and I Want It," "End Run," "Lady Pomp Gal," "Cry Cry Baby"
"Heavy Heavy Baby" performance clip: