Tag Archives: rockabilly

Top Ten Albums of 2010 – #3

You’ve heard the phrase actions speak louder than words? Well, before I say any more I implore you to watch this video clip and tell me it isn’t the most ass-shaking, head-knocking rock and roll track of 2010…

Video: “High Horse

The Jim Jones Revue can lay claim to being the fiercest rock’n’roll band on tha planet right now, and while that might not prove absolute, I guarantee you  they’d be in the final rounds. Slam some Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis down your throat and follow it with a chaser of Ziggy-era David Bowie and The Stooges and you’re only scratching the surface.

Video: “Shoot First

The band exploded (probably literally) on the English scene in 2008 and issued a hastily recorded self-titled album; last year a compilation of singles and b-sides called Here To Save Your Soul followed. Jones (formerly of Thee Hypnotics) fronts a powerhouse band featuring guitarist Rupert Orton, bassist Gavin Jay,  drummer Nick Jones and keyboard player Elliot Mortimer. Everyone is great – obviously – but it’s piano man Mortimer whose raucous boogie-woogie attack gives the band its hybrid punk/rockabilly energy. It’s scary how good this band has gotten in less than two years; I cannot wait to see them live.

Video: Live at the Dirty Water Club

Burning Your House Down is not only one of 2010’s most aptly named albums, it’s one of the loudest records you will ever own.

And it is absolutely one of the best.

Melt your ears at Amazon

Jim Jones website

Jim Jones Revue on MySpace

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Remembering Link Wray

It was almost five years ago to the day that I finally got a chance to see the late, great Link Wray perform. He blistered a small club in town despite being seventy-six years old, and just six months later he would be gone forever.

Last Sunday would have been his eighty-first birthday, and if you heard thunder from above it was probably Link showing God how to play that barre chord properly. Rumble, baby! I’ll spare  you my summation of the opening act that night, but below are my thoughts on seeing the master five years ago that were etched into the ether that was Cosmik Debris

Link Wray’s “Rumble” ripped through the air in 1958, so my first inclination was to think how fifty years could not have passed by so quickly. One sight of the frail Wray being helped up onto a two-foot stage not only reversed that thought but also made me appreciate the fact that the two of us were there at all. Him to rock me…and me to be rocked.

Once the guitar was draped over his shoulders and that immortal “D” chord was struck, it was a totally different story. Backed by an almost three-piece band (energetic jungle drummer, bass player who needed a much smaller cabinet and a woman – Link’s wife? – playing tambourine), Wray planted himself front and center and let his fingers do the talking. With his leather jacket, wrap around shades and fiery rhythms, he looked like the world’s oldest Ramone.

Nimbly bashing out every surf/punk/rock riff in the book with his textbook swagger and grin, with the occasional shimmy of the hips and/or guitar, it was a textbook lesson in the simple power of rock and roll that is still well-taught by the seventy-six year old legend. Sometimes it was hard to tell where one song ended and another began (my friend Bill quipped that the set list was comprised of two songs; “Rumble” and “not Rumble”) but it was one hell of a ride.

After almost an hour of non-stop tornado activity (the exception being an Elvis cover that featured his surprisingly sweet singing voice), he was helped back off the stage and into the dressing room where I imagine a stiff drink and a towel soaked in Ben Gay was waiting. I was torn between the desire to see more and the realization that I just witnessed a man older than my father kick my musical ass and I should be grateful for what I got. I settled on the latter, an emotion that a lethargic music industry should also sign on to. Here, indeed, is a living legend. Appreciate him before it’s too late.

Of course, it’s too late now…

But apply that same lesson to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and B.B. King or whatever trailblazing genuine icon crosses your path. Get your ass out to a show. Hell, go see the Stones and Macca and Springsteen. Don’t expect they’ll always be there for you, and be thankful you were fortunate to have shared time with them on this mortal coil.

Link Wray wiki

His bio and discography at AllMusic

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Blast From The Past: Rockabilly Raveups

For all the countless repackaging that we are constantly drowning in, sometimes the major labels throw us a bone with brilliant anthologies. Being a fan of garage rock, the pinnacle for me might be the original Nuggets collection, although I’m certainly not sneezing at the various label series that have followed in those caveman footprints to issue regional and chronological; collections of little-known garage and punk singles.

Rhino and Sony Legacy have really stood out in this regard (although in fairness to other labels, their access to the entire Columbia and Warner Brothers libraries is a hell of a head start). When these efforts are done right, you get a great cross-section of material in its best available sonic condition combined with some entertaining and/or authoritative liner notes written with care. If there’s one major drawback to the digital download medium – and there are several – the loss of liner notes might be the leading contender.

I didn’t grow up an Elvis or rockabilly fan, but I did grow up loving rock’n’roll, and chasing the roots of an art form is a worthwhile exercise for any devotee. These collections are far from complete but are an excellent primer for someone wanting to know what the fuss was all about.

When I saw that Whistle Bait is on sale at Amazon for $6.99, I figured I should pay props to these killer anthologies once again. Here’s my original review from 2000 as it ran in PopMatters

Fifty—count ‘em—50 snips of rockabilly, America’s original punk rock music, collected on two CDs to awaken your latent juvenile delinquent tendencies. Rockabilly was the cross-cultural spawn of hillbilly country, southern R&B, urban blues and rock’n’roll (which, of course, was itself a hybrid of the previous three). If you think the ‘50s were all about American Graffiti and Happy Days, you’re as wrong as the people who think Pat Boone butchering “Tutti Fruitti” was the cat’s meow. This was rebel music, parent-scaring yelps from garages and small towns across America. In your town, it was that kid down the block who chain-smoked and had a pompadour seemingly held in place by 30-weight motor oil. Thirty miles away, some kid with a buzzcut and an attitude was making the “bad girls” swoon.

Whistle Bait and Ain’t I’m a Dog strip-mine the vaults of Columbia Records—who, through their strong country music associations had a leg up on these things—and their associated labels. Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, in their post-Sun era, are just two of the stellar names among The Collins Kids, Johnny Horton, Link Wray and Marty Robbins. Perkins checks in with some pre-requisite sharp clothing titles like “Pink Pedal Pushers” and “Pointed Toe Shoes”, but cuts like “Jive After Five” prove who Dave Alvin spent a lot of hours listening to. Billy Crash Craddock might not have been the star that Elvis was, but “Ah Poor Little Baby” could fool many people in a blind taste test. For me, the revelations were Ronnie Self and The Collins Kids—it’s no accident that the first track on each volume comes from their catalogue.

Hard not to learn a few things along the way, too. I never knew that Ronnie Dawson cut tracks under the unlikely moniker of “Commonwealth Jones”, nor did I realize that Webb Pierce had a hand in writing both “Bop-A-Lena” and “Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle” (although now that I look at those titles side by side, I know why Mensa passed on my application!). Then there are the classic monikers like Ornie Wheeler, Ersel Hickey and Werly Fairburn; three names impossible to pronounce without a little twang in your thang. Many of these acts had one or two records and then disappeared; some (Cash, Perkins, Dawson) had long careers, and some wound up in unexpected places (how the hell did Larry Collins cut tracks like these and then later pen schlock like “Delta Dawn”?). Although the genre primarily existed for but a few years (the tracks here range from 1955-1961), there sure were a hell of a lot of great records, and you know there are plenty more where these came from. File these two right alongside Nuggets when not playing loud.

Listen to clips from Whistle Bait

Listen to clips from Ain’t I’m a Dog

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Under The Radar: Jet City Fix

Bittersweet memories – I got to see Link Wray play shorly before he died, and although he was as frail as a wet tissue offstage, once they draped that guitar over his shoulders and zipped up his leather jacket, he was The World’s Oldest Ramone. And it was that night that I also discovered the brilliant band that backed him up, the Jet City Fix. Still play the snot out of that one album and am hoping they haven’t given up the ghost. Here’s a reprint of my review of their one and only release to date:

 

This album goes to "eleven"...

This album goes to "eleven"...

 

Jet City Fix – Play To Kill

As Play To Kill made my speakers bleed, damned if I didn’t swear on a stack of burning bibles that the Jet City Fix was from Dee-troit, where real rock and roll oozes out of every pore. But no, it’s the “Jet City” of Seattle making up for a decade of substandard grunge by shepherding a goddamned real live rock and roll band our way. 

Here you have:

  • A band good enough to open for and back up Link Wray.
  • A band that can stand toe-to-toe with Iggy.
  • A band cool enough to not only revere The Wildhearts, but to cover one of their songs.
  • A band with the balls of Social Distortion that can write a hypnotic hook without making it sound like formulaic radio fodder.
  • Guitars that sound like they’re plugged in and turned up.
  • A vocalist whose sandpaper voice – imagine Elvis Costello straining to keep up with Buckcherry – can carry the melody instead of the other way around.
  • Fist-pumping songs like “Drowning” and “Dumb Luck” and “Whipped” – even a self-titled anthem called “Jet City’s Rockin”.

Play To Kill is one cup of glam, three shakes of rockabilly, a dash of Joe Perry, a lick of Mick Jagger’s swagger and two buckets of attitude dumped in a Waring blender and set to puree. To quote the closing track, “Fire It Up” – pretenders like The Strokes surely peed their widdle panties when they heard this one.

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