Six Modern Artists Doing Right by the Past –

6.) The Reverend Horton Heat

The good reverend himself, Jim Heath, and his band have been plying their trade for decades; it would be a sin to leave them off the list!  They say the Holy Ghost himself sculpted the Reverend’s hands to play a Gretsch.

5.) The Chop Tops

Can we talk about Sinner’s cardio?  Cause the man plays stand up drums and is able to sing like this.  Live recordings on YouTube make The Chop Tops sound especially terrible, so watch this video, process Sinner’s inhuman cardio and go buy Triple Deuces.

4.) Los Straitjackets

If you’re looking for a group of well-dressed gentleman from Nashville playing surf rock and wearing Mexican luchador masks, well then, look no further!

3.) Imelda May

Let’s not forget that when the Beatles infiltrated America, UK fans were more than happy to take up the torch for rockabilly, as it’s popularity in the States was already waning, and rock was already evolving into something different.  May’s voice is smooth and beautiful when she does jazz standards, but listen to the Wanda Jackson creep in on this Burnette standard:

2.) Nick 13

I already said my piece about Nick here, but wanted to include him again.  If you’re looking for a Hank Williams that’s not Hank 3, then find Nick 13.

1.) Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys

If your music catalog can simultaneously remind someone of Richie Valens and Louis Jordan, you must be doing something right.  Go buy all of Sandy’s albums.  Start with Turntable Matinee and go from there.  The music’s jump blues… it’s roots rockabilly… it’s western swing… it’s really hard to pick a song to put here to encompass his talent.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, I think it’s this: wear more suits and respect the stand-up bass.

Do you like American music?

I like American music.

It’s the obscure, the hard to find, the swell, the boppin’, the questionable, the inspired, the dirty, the they-don’t-make-music-like-this-any-damn-more.

If you’re a surf rat, blues hound, hep cat, baby doll, or swing daddy… well, if you’re any of those things, you’re probably well acquainted with WFMU*. But if you ain’t?

Brother, come on in…

If you’re looking to find the digital version of the vinyl collection you never had, start here: WFMU’s Rock ‘n’ Soul Ichiban. Go ahead, turn it on while you get lost in that blog filled with factual tidbits you can’t imagine living without, but never knew.

Oh, and if you think music stinks if it didn’t spin at 78 rpm? You’re an Old Codger and you’re taste in music is tops.

*Note: Take the time to pick through what WFMU has put together. Most of the Old Codger’s playlists can be found online, which is great: the songs run into one another and they’re most likely by someone you’ve never heard of. The blog for Ichiban is updated more than this blog, and full of goodies. Also, don’t forget to look up WFMU’s presence on iTunes, where you can find heaps upon heaps of music wonders. Music from phonograph cylinders? Yeah, they’ve got that. Cheers!

Hillbilly: the music of Nick 13

Let me say this plain: I’m one generation removed from shootin’ and eatin’ squirrel.  My grandfather once ran moonshine over the county lines, and hung around with men named Elvis and Slim.  Elvis and Slim referred to my grandfather as “Skillet” and although I would love to know the reason, the fact that this moniker is shrouded in mystery tickles me all the more.  My Granny was an avowed Hank Williams fan and came from “Missourah.”  My dad, though removed from Missouri at an early age retained enough hillbilly to steer me into the appropriate direction as far as country music went: “Marty Robbins is fine, but stay closer to “Streets of Laredo” than “White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation), okay?”

So often I hear the “I love all kinds of music, everything but country.”  I’m not sure when and where it became a badge of honor to distance yourself from country music, but there it was.  Somewhere between Loretta Lynn and Billy Ray Cyrus, everyone sorta forgot where Rock and Roll came from.  Now, I know country today isn’t what it was and I don’t want to take anything away from blues, jump blues, or swing as far as the birth of rock… but why has hick become such a four letter word?  It especially aggravates me to see rockabilly fans extol Johnny Cash as the be-all, end-all of the genre.  I love Johnny Cash, too, and I have 3 cash t-shirts.  Believe me, no one’s making any cool Charlie Feathers or Roy Orbison shirts… I would be wearing them.

That’s why I was soo pleased to see Nick 13 of Tiger Army make a self-titled “hillbilly music” album.  I’ve been listening to Nick’s album for almost two months now, and I think he’s perfectly captured how to make the country sound of the 40s and 50s translate to 2011.  It would have been easy to take only the Gretsch road, but Nick added Greg Leisz with a mournful steel guitar that reminds rock fans it all started with the Richenbacher.

Nick’s voice is plaintive and pleasing… we already have Sinner or the good Reverend Jim Heath to sing it low.  The shy stylings of Nick 13’s voice on his solo album has only been hinted at with Tiger Army songs… here it underscores the fact he is a master at ballad lyrics.  He’s slowed down songs from Tiger Army albums like “Cupid’s Victim” and “In the Orchard.”  The only nitpick I have is that he didn’t also add “Outlaw Heart”… next album, please?  But that’s hardly surprising, given that my favourite TA songs were the ones where Nick was obviously reaching into the past.  I can only hope that younger fans (what, I’m 30 and I’m calling out “younger fans”?  When did this happen?) investigate Nick’s obviously love for roots rockabilly.

Given that I have totally veered off course and turned this into an album review, let’s just end with this: the man looks good in a Nudie suit.  Can we clone him, please?

Buddy Holly Rolls Over in His Grave; Paul McCartney Officially Gonzo.

Perusing BoingBoing today I see that Soundcloud has a sneak peak for a… Starbucks cover album of Buddy Holly songs?  Not really, but after a hopeful listen, that’s what it’s boiled down to for me.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have anyone covering a Holly & The Crickets song if I ran the world, but there’s just something greasily hipstery having to listen to these covers that take seminal rock and roll moments and boil them down to coffeehouse dreck.

Now, I didn’t hate everything, which is to say, My Morning Jacket got it right by basically changing nothing about “True Love Ways.”  The Detroit Cobras and Patti Smith also get a pass, but I could have gone my whole life without hearing Kid Rock cover my childhood music idol.

But if you truly want to torture yourself?  Try Paul McCartney.

Johnny Otis — Not just a Greek cat who sounds like a piano playing Bo Diddley. He worked with Big Jay McNeely, Etta James, Little Esther, and produced the first “Hound Dog.” But let’s be honest… we know you really love doin’ the hand jive…

By the by that’s Marie Adams & the Three Tons of Joy looking fine.