Category Archives: rockabilly

USSS: Ross Durand

takes a lot of songwriting confidence to take on the challenge of writing an entire song for each line in Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. Takes a lotta songwriting chops to pull it off.

This year it looks like Ross Durand is going to finish this seriously ambitious and musically satisfying project. (continued)

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USSS: Phil Norman

Newgrass: it’s what’s for dinner. Okay, maybe that’s not how it goes, but I’ll have Phil Norman‘s take on American bluegrass and folk any day. (continued)

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USSS: Des McKinney

Pprefer a bit of edge with your Americana? Des McKinney‘s got it covered.

(continued)

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USSS: Billy Sea

Can you say “prolific” ? My buddy Billy Sea often writes 60 songs or more during FAWM.

And then writes hundreds (plural) more throughout the year.

(continued)

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Just a Couple of Kids

The youngest smallest smartest kid in my High School classes was tough. In the middle of 1st grade, they moved me to 2nd grade in the little 2-room country school I attended.

Volga and Range both had 2-room school houses, with 1st through 3rd in one room, 4th through 6th in the other. About 10 kids in each grade; 60 total in the school. We moved in after the school year started so I had the last seat in the 1st graders. When I was promoted, I didn’t even have to move my desk, I was just the first seat in the 2nd graders.

Bullying was a big part of my life when I was younger. (continued)

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What if the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Just the Headlamp of an Oncoming Train?

After repeated listenings to Cream’s Born Under a Bad Sign a few years ago I went to my music room to play around on my bass. Rather than trying to copy Jack Bruce’s bass line, I played what it made me feel like.

Speeding it up a little and moving down and back up a few times, all I needed was a brief refrain at the end, a turnaround between verses, and it felt complete.

What if the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Just the Headlamp of an Oncoming Train?

A rockabilly shuffle on the drums is loads of fun, but it’s hard to keep up if you’re not practicing regularly. The drums seem to have survived most of this trip.

When you commit to writing 14 songs in 28 days there’s a bit of a time constraint. When I started recording the springy lead guitar I realised that, though it was recording, it wasn’t coming out of the amp, and it wasn’t coming through the computer to my headphones. I could hear a tinny little noise straight off the strings on my Stratocaster, but even that was muffled by the headphones.

Knowing I could do it over, I soldiered on.

I didn’t do it over. This is what I sound like playing lead guitar when I can’t hear myself. Maybe I should try it more often.

Blues without harmonica seemed wrong. Then the piano started complaining about being left out.

I’ve written a handful of short verses which I might record some day, but if Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust can survive as an instrumental for more than a decade, this one will be okay.

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FAWM Over. We Win.

February Album Writing Month is officially over for 2009. And I officially won.

Which means I wrote or co-wrote at least 14 songs during the 28 days of February. (You’ll see on my FAWM profile that it lists 19; it’s actually only 18 because one is listed twice but I don’t want to lose the comments on my original post.)

This year I discovered the double harmonic scale, which makes everything you play sound all Arabian Night-ish. I wrote two Arabic-sounding songs (my most ambitious musical endeavours to date) and collaborated on another.

I wrote a German drinking song. In German.

I wrote a Mexican dance song. In Spanish.

I played a jazz guitar improvisation, my first guitar improvisation ever.

I did my first FAWM music video.

I also did, as I have every year, some country, some folk, and some swingabilly.

And now, I’m tired.

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Over the Moon

Woke up feeling like a million bucks on Friday the 26th. Five years ago I wrote a song that featured London Bridge, sort of, so I worked it out on the guitar again and recorded it on our balcony, with the Bridge behind me.

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Met Two New Bands in Jerome

Wandered into the hotel’s bar during the CD release party for ‘Los Guys’ who could have a better name, but sounded like Jackopierce and the Jayhawks. Good Americana originals. They all signed the CD. Their bass player was playing a Fender Resonator bass (which, for you musical non-geeks, makes as much sense as saying he was playing Einstein’s gas-engined Mona Lisa.) I didn’t know they existed, but it turns out they made a handful five years ago. It sounded spectacular and when he let me play it it was gorgeous. Of course, the only place I can find one new it’s up to $1,000 and there are no used ones left out there.

Also heard a band called ‘Cadillac Angels’ doing rockabilly covers and lots of originals. Loads of fun; great sound for a trio. Tony Balbinot plays a lovely Gretsch White Falcon like Neil Young’s, but he doesn’t play it like Neil does. Made me desperately want to put together a swingabilly band again.

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Little Debbie, Little Debbie

TTwang should be a genre all to itself. I’m a sucker for twang. Play way back by the bridge, turn the reverb up to some kind of tape-slap setting, and it might not even matter what the words are.

Of course, if the words are about oatmeal pies, pointy boots, quarters and Little Debbie, that’s just fine, too.

I blame Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS) for psychobilly; rockabilly was usually pretty friendly and happy. SCOTS took it to the edge, and many have taken it right over. None for me, thank you. I like my musical energy to be positive.

“Walk Like a Camel” is just plain silly, if you squint your ears and block out external nonsense. Of course, Little Debbie’s ‘special outfit’ probably isn’t a flannel sleeper, but at least there’s nothing here requiring explanation to the four-year-old.

Yet.

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Then Your Clothes

Despite the fact that I still don’t own his entire catalog, I’m saddened by Jude Cole’s apparent decision to record others’ music instead of creating more of his own.

This morning as I was taking Russia Saturn to work Jude put a smile on my face with my favorite track off “Start the Car”—”First Your Money (Then Your Clothes)”

A simple tale of misguided affections is accompanied by simple but effective music. One of the first things that struck me when I was learning the song was that the bass (my starting point) isn’t doing anything other than the root note of each chord: bom, bom, bom, bom instead of a rockabilly shuffle or alternating country bass or some complicated rock riff.

The album’s opening with the crunch of the title track strongly reinforces the laid back country feel of the rest of the album. “First Your Money” has the same kind of wryly amusing lyrics you might find in the work of Brad Paisley or even Roger Miller:

 My mom said, "Son, it won't last She'll be gone when you're out of cash." Hey, Mom, I need a ride back home

and later

 We stopped to wish upon a star She stole my breath; she stole my car

And one more:

 Oh, no, love ain't cheap There's a tollbooth up on lover's leap

Just as “Start the Car” is aggressive without being angry, “First Your Money” is more about lessons learned than some tragedy about love gone wrong. For my money it’s a better message.

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Heart Like a Train

One thing I love about blues is that they don’t have to be sad, despite the lyrics.

Chris Isaak’s “You Took My Heart” from his eponymous 1987 release is a two-chord rockabilly blues song with the kind of freight-train snare drumming you really don’t hear in any other genre. Despite Chris singing “There will be no more love for me . . . ” it’s hard to believe he’s all broken up about it as he repeats the line over and over, louder and angrier (or more exuberantly, perhaps?) Bass, drums, and guitars all drive like Jehu behind but not beneath the vocals. It leaves me smiling every time.

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