Tag Archives: American Masters

Under The Radar – Howling Diablos

Gonna do me some howlin'...

Gonna do me some howlin'...

If you have heard of The Howling Diablos and have been enjoying their stew of soul, funk, rock and blues, I have one question to ask of you. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Al Kooper defined them as a cross between Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart and Canned Heat, and that’s a damned accurate description, although I’d add a healthy dash of Sly Stone and P-Funk to the mix. Tino Gross’ guttural growls spearhead their powerful sound, with the whipcrack rhythm of Mo Hollis on bass and the legendary Johnny “Bee” Badanjek on drums acting as a thundering pulse. The flavor is peppered by guitarist Erik Gustafson and harp/sax player Johnny Evans. It’s a gritty, urban street sound, tangents of Delta blues, hip-hop and even classic jazz brass bubbling up and popping for a sensual mix.

But yeah, baby, they do rock. How about “Gloria“?

The Howling Diablos have a handful of releases available (I can’t find their early release Beatnick Mambo): Car Wash, Live, Green Bottle, Christmas In Jail and this latest gumbo crockpot, Divine Trash Highway. Featuring guest spots from  Calvin Cooke (sweet sacred steel highlights the opener “If You Love Someone”), Vinnie Dombrowski, keyboardist Jimmy Bones and a host of Detroit luminaries (Bobby East!), this is an album that just oozes groove. “Check It Out” is a perfect example of soul/funk hybrid that makes it impossible to sit still, although it’s the kickin’ cut “Josephine” that really has me bobbing my head like a park pigeon

“Dodge Main” rocks as does the blues blower “Leaving In The Morning”, and even a fairly reverent cover of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” succeeds. I’m not as high on “Mom” and “Hobo Jungle”, but I will admit that the latter sounds like mid-period Jeff Beck crossed swords with Sun Ra. “Junkyard Jesus” sounds like the missing sibling of Marah’s brilliant track “Catfisherman” (really – play the two songs back to back – that’s a compliment to both tunes). And if you’re not skanking to the title track…well, there’s something wrong with you.

In addition, they’re included on the Sun Records tribute Good Rockin Tonight (the Diablos cut “Wine Spo Dee O Dee” with a guest appearance from Kid Rock) which led to a film for the American Masters series on PBS that includes a performance by the band. (Reportedly Kid Rock – then Robert Ritchie – was a band member in the embryonic days when the nucleus of the band got together to jam and back up other artists).

Tino Gross also produces records for Fat Possumis that enough cred for you? But as much as their albums are rump-quaking, ass-shaking, rocking good times, like most bands they turn it up several notches when they hit the stage. They’ve toured with and opened for a ton of bands, and although I have yet to sweat in the same room with these guys – and I will – there are visual testaments out there thanks to Al Gore’s invention. All it will take is one song to convince you…check out this video for the song Car Wash. Folks, this is greasy.

Start howlin’!

Howling Diablos on MySpace.

Howling Diablos website.

Criminal Mind” video, from 2009 gig opening for J Geils.

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

R.I.P. Les Paul

Put down Virtual Rock Band and grab an axe

Put down Virtual Rock Band and grab an axe

I think the two comments I saw most often in the emails I received today were “he changed music forever” and “we were blessed to have him around as long as we did”. Yep, I probably took it for granted that he’d live forever too. But like many of you, I’m saddened by his loss but appreciative of his accomplishments and his contributions to music – without his persistence and dedication, who knows how different the concept of amplified guitar would be today, or how long it would have taken to get off the ground? How would some of the world’s most legendary axemen been different? He pioneered multi-track recording, overdubs, tape delays…a true genius who lived 94 years to the fullest..

His contribution as an inventor should not overwhelm his legacy as a performer and recording artist; virtually any player of note can trace their lineage back to him through other influences if not directly. Lightning fast and clean, a master of tone, and a disciplined visionary who knew that more is often more.

I’m sure the web will be filled by tributes over the coming days, but the outpouring of sadness will be tempered by a wealth of stories about personal contact and inspiration that I could never hope to generate myself. So I’ll leave you with a couple of informative links and a recommendation, and I’ll be surfing and reading along with you. If there is a band in the next life, a ringer just walked onstage.

Get the American Masters DVD Chasing Sound.

Tribute on the PBS page

Les Paul discography

Les Paul on Wikipedia

les paul guitars

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Filed under Editorials, Music