We are six decades removed from the advent of Rock and Roll. And while that may be true, there are still plenty of people out there in the music industry that use the old style of rock and roll as inspiration for their music. There are even people out there today who create the same style of music that had been created at the beginning of the musical genre by some of the genres’ founding fathers. One band out there today making what can only be called good, old-fashioned Rock and Roll is The Bellfuries.
There was a time in the music industry when a person would walk into a recording studio with nothing more than a few lyrics to songs he had written and that was all he had. It was after he walked into the studio that he would meet the men who would help put together all of the musical parts to the songs that would become an album. This situation hardly happens today so when it does, the resulting album is something unique. This unique situation surrounds the new release from singer-songwriter Coley Kennedy, a man who recently created a release under the moniker of Black Vincent.
Have you ever made a spur of the moment decision and gone off on a whim, chasing a gut feeling? And don’t you just love it when this pays off? Well, I recently trucked off up to Aberdare in the valleys of South Wales on one of these whims. This particular whim was to go and check out a couple of bands from Aberdare whom I had only just come across thanks to a good friend who lives there. The bands I went to see play were The Nukes and Clay Statues, and I was so pleased to find that the journey was well worth it, as both bands played blinding sets at The Glandover Arms.
The opening band of the night was Say When!, a young indie rock band. These guys played with great enthusiasm, but I have to say that they did not really do much for me. Their style of rock just blended into the vast collection of so many other similar bands who sadly fail to stand out from this bland majority of young and enthusiastic acts.
About fifteen years ago, while most of the music-loving fans in the world had discarded the poodle perms, black leather pants and the gaudy turquoise and silver baubles associated with hair metal to embrace the slackerisms and flannel workshirts associated with grunge, a different sort were looking at huge belt buckles, cowboy boots, and pedal steel guitars. These folks were encountering, then hopping aboard the alt.country trend, a musical sub-genre championed by the likes of Uncle Tupelo, Jayhawks, Eric Ambel, Blue Rodeo and many other lesser-known acts. While grunge was known as bare-bones, meat-and-potatoes rock with no frills, the purveyors of the alt.country trend took “bare bones” a bit further, with most adopting a sound best described as Johnny Cash on meth as performers and devotees yearned for the perfect blend between traditional country circa 1958-1965 and rock and roll derived from the days of Sun records revved up with a post-punk modern feel. Though grunge also had a primitive feel, it had it’s own sound. In contrast, while the best alt.country and roots bands filtered their music through the prisms of punk and post-punk, an equal amount were enamored with simply striving to emulate their ’50’s and ’60’s heroes down to the bent notes on their paisley Telecasters. Though bands of this nature were found mostly on the second-tier, even the edgiest bands such as Uncle Tupelo showed their indebtedness to their heroes from Nashville on their sleeves and were careful not to stray too far from their country inspirations. It was the same catch-22 which modern blues players find themselves. How much do they honor their past and provide a touchstone to fans, while still blazing a trail and progressing their music so new generations will find elements to enjoy?
Tom Petty – Live Anthology
To me, Tom Petty will always be the quintessential every-day guy who ended up making it big. But not because of his possession of exemplary songwriting talent but because of his irrepressible spirit and pure rock and roll heart, the true power of which may never be known but which will always be felt, which has always guided him throughout his career. Whether it was involving members of his old band Mudcrutch in his original record deal instead of simply going solo, riding out a record company buyout and the personal bankruptcy it caused to rally his band and create Damn The Torpedoes (ie – one of the best rock and roll albums ever), fighting his new record company to lower the list price on his album Hard Promises, punching a wall and breaking his hand just because he hated the producer’s mix of his album Southern Accents and on and on, Petty has consistently done whatever it took and made the right choices, not just for personal economic/monetary reasons but personally and for his fans. This is a man who lives and breathes rock and roll, but seems to love his fans even more and is a genuinely nice guy to boot. A life lived in the spotlight with very few scandals to speak of and nothing but admiration from your peers is a very rare thing indeed in the rock and roll business. If he didn’t bring the rock like a sonofabitch he would be this generation’s answer to Pat Boone for chrissakes. But he does, and people know it. Like AC/DC, Petty’s albums are not going to lead to the next big thing or make waves with any musical innovations but people who love true rock and roll know he is the real deal and bands looking to capture the spirit of what makes rock and roll great will no doubt be listening to and studying his albums until the end of time…at least.
While listening to The Other Side, the fine new album from emerging country rock singer/songwriter Eldon Johnson, I began to think back about what I found interesting about country music when I was younger and why I despise a lot of it now. Country music played a big part of my childhood and was the catalyst for some of the best times of my younger years. My parents were big fans of country, though I must say my dad was (and continues to be) very open to all sorts of music, something I admire and strive for myself. My mom was a little different and pretty much hated the “noise” of most rock and roll and thought the lyrics mostly nonsense but loved country music as most songs tended to be stories about life. Now, I understand country and rock and roll are pretty much the same. Sure, country came first – but I love my rock and roll and most country music on the radio sounds like the Eagles anyway so what’s the difference really? Y’know? As a child, well, that’s another story.
“Country music used to represent horses, railroads, land, Judgment Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.”
(J.R. Cash, February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)
Six Years Later,
Ten Reasons why JOHNNY CASH Still Matters: