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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Smear a King

To Smear a King:
Crossing swords with the power of myth
by DC Larson

It has become something of a tradition, albeit a regrettable one. As the August anniversary of Elvis Presley's 1977 death approaches, self-righteous hectors villify him as "racist."

It is a false claim, though for some one not requiring that examinable evidence ever be produced. But putting one's hands on contrary testimony is easily done.

The myth-debunking website (on its "Urban Legends Reference Page") details the origin of the counterfeit claim. The site cites Michael T. Bertrand's book "Race, Rock, and Elvis."

Bertrand had found that the April 1957 issue of the white-owned Sepia magazine contained the article, "How Negroes Feel About Elvis." The piece noted that, "colored opinion about the hydromatically-hipped hillbilly from Mississippi runs the gamut from caustic condemnation to ardent admiration." It offered views allegedly collected from both celebrities and "people in the street."

Snopes writes, "Presumably from the 'people in the street' came the infamous and uncredited quotation, "The only thing Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records."

Sepia sought input from African-American Minister Milton Perry. "I feel," Perry told the magazine, "that an overwhelming majority of people who know him speak of this boy who practices humility and a love for racial harmony. I learned that he is not too proud or important to speak to anyone and to spend time with his fans of whatever color, wherever and whenever they approach him."

It was not long, though, before the anonymous, 'people in the street' comment was being falsely attributed to the singer, himself. Again, Snopes. "The rumor grew and spread throughout 1957. It mattered not that the story came cloaked in impossible details, such as Elvis supposedly making the statement in Boston (a city he had never visited) or on Edward R. Murrow's Person To Person television program (on which Elvis never appeared)."

Unable to source the rumored comment, the website records, Jet magazine sent reporter Louie Robinson to interview Presley on the "Jailhouse Rock" set. ("The 'Pelvis' Gives His Views On Vicious anti-Negro slur" Jet, August 1, 1957)

"I never said anything like that," Presley told Robinson. "And people who know me know I wouldn't have said that."

A number of fellow musicians, whites and blacks, came to Presley's defense at the time. Notable among them was R&B singer Darlene Love, who had backed Presley with vocal group the Blossoms. "I would never think that Elvis Presley was a racist," Love was later quoted as saying in a 2002 article. "He was born in the South, and he probably grew up with that, but that doesn't mean he stayed that way." ("False Rumor Taints Elvis," Cox News Service, August 16, 2002)

(Other contradictory direct evidence exists on Charly Records's 2006 "The Million Dollar Quartet, 50th Anniversary Special Edition." In 1956, Sun Records alum Elvis joined Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at the Memphis studio for an impromptu session. Prior to a loose, collective retelling of his then-chart hit, "Don't Be Cruel," Elvis related seeing Billy Ward and the Dominoes's recent cover performance of it. "Much better than that record of mine," Presley concedes. He describes Ward's onstage energy: "He was hittin' it, boy!" Jerry Lee responds, "Oh man, that's classic!" Performers naturally admiring a fellow performer; not a hint of color consciousness to be found.)

Myths, though, are of a seductive quality -- often for cultural reasons other than themselves. This popular legend-based anti-Elvis sentiment persists, with recent illustrations including Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" (1989) and Living Colour's "Elvis Is Dead" (1990).

(To his credit, Public Enemy's Chuck D. later expressed a more complex and nuanced opinion. He told a reporter, "As a musicologist -- and I consider myself one -- there was always a great deal of respect for Elvis, especially during his Sun sessions. As black people, we all knew that...My whole thing was the one-sidedness -- like, Elvis's status in America made it seem like nobody else counted. My heroes came before him. My heroes were probably his heroes..."Chuck D. Speaks on Elvis's Legacy," Associated Press, 8/12/02.)

As noted in an 8/11/07 New York Times op-ed ("How did Elvis get turned into a racist? ") by author Peter Guralnick, singer Mary J. Blige also cited the scurrilous myth as if it were at all based in fact.

Of course rock'n'roll existed prior to Presley's 1954 recording debut at Sun Records in Memphis. It was in some cases electrifying and wondrous in ways known only to audiences and subsequent vinyl collectors.

But the national stage appearance of Crown Electric Co. truck driver Elvis marked -- not an example of white culture appropriating something blacks had already developed but for which they were denied credit -- but the emergence of the hitherto-unrepresented working class into popular culture visibility.

In early years, Elvis did perform for segregated audiences in the pre-Civil Rights-era South. But for critics highlighting that to be fair, they need to note that segregation of public facilities was then a matter of civil law and not of performers's choosing.

Some might hold that, that being the case, performers had a moral duty to refrain entirely from public performance. But that would have made performing impossible for all musicians, black as well as white. And for many, it's as much a calling as a profession.

A Memphis, Tennessee contemporary of Presley's, Paul Burlison first earned renown as lead guitarist for Johnny Burnette and the Rock'n'Roll Trio. I interviewed him for a 2000 Goldmine article. He shared something of what the situation was like for working musicians in that time and place.

Paul was in a country band in 1951, when he caught the attention of blues man Howlin' Wolf. He began backing Wolf on the latter's radio program, though due to racial codes, Burlison's name could not be cited in group introductions.

"The reason I didn't play in the clubs with him was because of the racial thing back then," Paul told me. He recalled having to enter black clubs through back doors and said of Wolf, "It was the same with him if he came up to where we were playing. We would have liked to have [played clubs together], of course. It just wasn't permitted in those days. Not in Memphis, anyhow."

(Before his death in 2003, Paul's credits included not only rockabilly genre pioneering giants the Rock'n'Roll Trio, but international solo work and a 1990s showcase at the Smithsonian Institution.)

The "Elvis was racist" article-of-faith mantra is an offshoot of the larger fiction holding against evidence that rock'n'roll is exclusively black in origin. But Tennessee rockabilly guitar man Carl Perkins did not sound like venerated shouter Big Joe Turner, nor did the frantic storms of Jerry Lee Lewis recall the risible and urbane stylings of Fats Waller -- though all helped develop the music.

In his invaluable volume, "Unsung Heroes of Rock'n'Roll," veteran music writer Nick Tosches noted that the burgeoning sound which spread across 1950s America began in regional pockets and was of mixed parentage.

"Rock'n'roll was not created solely by blacks or whites," wrote Tosches. Earlier, after dispatching mono-racial rock'n'roll creation arguments, the author observed, "One could make just as strong a case for Jews being the central ethnic group in rock'n'roll's early history; for it was they who produced many of the best songs, cultivated much of the greatest talent, and operated the majority of the pioneering record companies."

Difficult as it would be to construct an exhaustive review of early rock'n'roll without citing Doc Pomus, Mort Schuman, Les Bihari, or Sid Nathan, it is telling that many of today's race-as-creative-qualification theorists might not even be able to identify those men, significant to the style's germination though they were.

Rock'n'roll was more than just music, it acted as a socially-unifying wing of the growing civil rights movement, uniting people on the dance floor just as others would come together in polling places. (Not to paint an overly-rosy portrait. It was not the entire solution. But it did help immeasurably to spur the phenomenon.)

It is flatly anti-creative to argue as some do that an individual or community can "steal" art from another, and that instances of blended creation be discouraged and reviled. That's how art is created. One artist inspires another, an idea is raised up, turned around, and new art is born.

Concepts like ownership, territoriality and separatism are wholly foreign to the phenomenon. (Which is not to argue that these invalid notions are still not useful for some; indeed, Mos Def founds the narrative of his 2002 "Rock and Roll" upon that very sand.)

Too, this involves a fundamental issue, that of reason versus emotion. There is evidence -- which merits intellectual regard and can convert the unsympathetic -- and there is self-righteously uncritical passion. It is the latter that animates the "Elvis was racist" lie.

That untruth is comfortable within a cultural posture that pronounces it acceptable and proper for genuine histories of oppression and appropriation to be universally assigned so as to include any specific instance or individual the speaker might select.

It is a model in which an argument's merit turns not on soundness, on actual provability, but merely on the identity and cause of the arguer; in which unfounded partisan sentiment assumes all the legitimacy of objective fact and demands respect as such.

There is a long and reprehensible history of struggling artists being denied rightful due. And both black and white musicians were so victimized, indicating that the matter is one perhaps more of business predation and of class than racial prejudice.

Critics are correct to point out that elements of white-dominated mass popular culture have at times assumed and reinvented black culture-born idioms, while paying neither due acknowledgment nor recompense. Deserving artists went unnoticed -- and that was criminal.

But such critics expose themselves as intellectually illegitimate and unethical when they seek to superimpose that tragic broad reality upon every specific target that might be tactically magnetic, without benefit of evidence. (And yes, it is ironic that while Presley's 1950's white racist detractors despised his music's multi-racial sensibility, many of his contemporary ones castigate him for the identical reason.)

Elvis was one of many talented men and women whose music helped American popular culture become representative of all the country's people. To ignore that today and instead proffer slanderous myths is an affront not only to his contributions and the prize of racial unity but to the intellectual ideals of honesty and reason.


(A shorter and substantially different version of this piece ran in Counterpunch, in 2007.)

CD Reviews Oct 2008

October CD Reviews (copyright 2008, DC Larson)

Bloodshot Bill
"All Messed Up" (Hog Maw)

Everlastingly shined and good-timing, pomaded hants bounce off the tumble-down, paint-peeled walls of a possessed honky tonk. Sandpaper-throated one-wild-man band Bill beats Hell out of his acoustic and urges all to depths of scandalous delirium as hillbilly trash'n'roll busts against steamy night air.

Recommended Tracks "Ice Cream," "Here I Am, Drunk Again"

"Revenge of the Hot Rod Zombies" (Boss Beat Records)

Psychobilly is too combustible and urgent to have ever risen from a masses-mindful industry's drawing board. (Try selling designer perfume to a rampaging zombie darkside tale.) And if it never is appreciated by everyone, so what?

Recommended Tracks "Teddy Boy Stomp" (The Chop Tops ), "Evil Never Dies" (Black Rose Phantoms )

Dive Bar Stalkers
"Rock the House" (self)

What some might term "70s hard rock" -- vigorous arena dynamics and bluesy decisiveness getting down as one -- has actually never gone out of fashion in blue collar America. As long as people need to party, boogie ain't goin' nowhere.

Recommended Tracks "You Got What It Takes To Make Me Go," "Hit It On the Highway"

Old Bull
"Manifesto" (Big Blender)

The rich, warm sound is of an emotional/cultural clime unsullied by artificial corporatism - hell, it throws down a challenge to it. Real people and their lives count. Banjo, mandolin, guitars, accordian, piano, string bass and drums unite as a floor from which harmonies and humanities rise.

Recommended Tracks "Monsanto," "Dead In Your Grave"

Kick 'Em Jenny
"Untamed!" (Blue Lake)

Runaway European neo-rockabilly that cleaves to scruffy US lineage. Pushed centerward by frantic cohorts, Jenny epitomizes the raunchy and hip-shaking lipsticked rocker, singing down storms and battering her acoustic with ecstatic fervor.

Recommended Tracks "Take Me Down," "Maybe You Don't Care"

God's Revolver
"little black horse where are you going with your dead rider?" (Exigent)

Unholy communion of metal, psycho and gothic western (with haunting prairie flute cameo). It gallops, crashes, and kicks down barn walls, ending up in a desert of rage. Daubs arresting tableaus of existential storm.

Recommended Tracks "Scratch Dealt Me a Dirty Hand," "Preacher's Flask"

AL HENDRIX "Monkey Bite 2007"/"Never Stop Rockin'" (Rush Publishing) Austere, magnetic styling continues the rock'n'roll hop Al began in 1957. Producer/co-writer/multi -instrumentalist Jimmy Accardi proves a fitting accomplice...HOWITZER "Turncoat" + 3 (Hazard Hill Records) Anthemic hardcore/oi punk more relevant to 2008 proletariats than anything the industry's tarted up poseurs could or would ever muster. "My brother died fightin' this bullshit war."


CD Reviews Oct 2008

October 2008 CD reviews (copyright 2008, DC Larson)

Miko Marks
"It Feels Good"
(Mirrome Records)

If calculated disingenuousness is the current Giant of contemporary, corporate radio-tailored country (Toby Keith radiates all the sincerity of Dick Cheney), constitutionally authentic Giant Killer Miko is much needed -- and appreciated. Distinctions paid to the silk-and-suede voice from New Music Weekly to Ebony to the Independent Music Awards (which pronounced her debut "Freeway Bound" 2007's Country Album of the Year) to Country Weekly have been no more than her earned due. First-chair accompanists shine, their executive labors enabling at-turns carbonated and aching articulations to roam and flower. What honest country music sounds like.

Recommended Tracks "Double Dog Cheater," "Locked and Loaded"

Jackson United
"Harmony and Dissidence"(AcetateRecords/MVD Audio)

Up-volume punk anthems that grab, laced with politically conscious agitprop. Charged with the insistent exuberance of purpose. Yes, Clash imprints lurk. So do others. Promo lit reaches back to Stiff Little Fingers, but a fresher compatible is Australia's Living End. Foo Fighter Chris Shifflet is abetted by steady mates Scott Shifflet (Face To Face) and Doug Sangalang, with cameos by Foo Fighters Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. (New drummer Mighty Mighty Bosstones expatriate Joe Kid joined subsequent to recording.) Tour with Flogging Molly looms.

Recommended Tracks "21st Century Fight Song," "The Land Without Law"


प्ले CD Review

Play CD review by
DC Larson

"s/t" (drb)

Discs like this recall rock'n'roll's purest promise, and
why we first fell for the outrageous music. From defiance
rises optimism. It showers listeners with exuberant lilts,
cascading choruses, rainbow-streaming voices, and stunning
six-string pyrotechnics. Play cites the Who, Cheap Trick,
and the Velvets. And if they're not in that league, they're on
familiar track. Bonus points for inviting Glockenspiel into the
glorious madness.

Recommended Tracks "Entropy," "Window"

Paul Zone interview 2008

Paul Zone's underground
DC Larson

I owe Paul Zone a major apology. About 2 weeks ago, I arranged an interview with the singer/photographer. And he kept up his end of things, calling me and speaking for several minutes about his career and recent activities.

But before I could assemble it all into a time-sensitive blog entry, life got in the way (a new job, various other responsibilities). So, I am late in posting this. Better late than never, I can only hope...

I spoke with Paul by phone on a late July evening. His adopted city of L.A. had earlier suffered a 6.0 earthquake. "Right where we're going to move," the soft-spoken Zone laughed.

We compared weather stories. He'd heard news accounts of the flooding that had recently plagued my state of Iowa. It's tough all over.

He shared with me information about his now-underway photography showing at L.A.'s drkrm gallery. "Paul Zone - The New York Underground Scene 1972-1977" will run there until August 31. "It really focuses on the dark, uninspired days between Glam and Punk," he said.

Of Zone and his gallery showing, blog Art Star Press noted, "Back in the day, Paul Zone documented New York life, catching all sorts of superstars from Dee Dee Ramone to Debbie Harry, Divine, Iggy Pop, and the New York Dolls. Working as a photographer for Warhol’s Interview mag, Circus, and Rock Scene, Zone has managed to catalogue some superb scenes form the seventies."

In the 1970s and 80s, Paul was the lead voice for New York's Fast. That rock'n'roll street gang also boasted his brother guitarist/songwriter Miki (who'd co-founded Fast with singing and synthesizer-playing brother Armand).

They defied catagorization, spanning the Glam and Punk eras and interpreting both in their own inimitable way.

In the early 80s, Fast released two (now scarce) LPs, "The Fast For Sale" (Recca '80) and "Leather Boys From the Asphalt Jungle" (Recca '81). Both document Fast's amphetemine way with a fetching pop hook and Miki's tunecraft mastery and storming six-string prowess. Sadly, Miki never received the acclaim due him for those talents.

Songs to investigate include "Kids Just Wanna Dance," "Coney Island Chaos" and "It's Like Love" from the first, and "Jaguar In the Jungle," "Ride On the Wild Side" and "Ritual Sacrifice" from the second. (See videos of "Kids Just Wanna Dance" and "It's Like Love," as well as other Fast footage, on YouTube.)

Unfortunately, Fast's NYC fame never translated to big picture success. But vinyl collectors and scholars of those days know the Zone brothers's significance. (And it's an importance that endures, too. Listening today to vintage Fast recordings, one is at once struck by the material's rocketing soundness and knowledge that no contemporary band could -- or should even attempt to -- impressively cover it.)

Following their undersung triumphs as Fast, Paul and Miki relocated to Europe, finding new and heightened renown as dance club sensation Man 2 Man. (See "Hottest of the Hot" clip at youtube address, below.)

In 2008, Paul (now sadly, the lone survivor of the three Zone brothers) is recalling his singular pre-Fast efforts. He was on the NYC scene, snapping photos of celebs-to-be like the Ramones and Blondie, before the world had caught on to them.

According to its website (, the "drkrm gallery is an exhibition space dedicated to fine art and documentary photography, cutting edge and alternative photographic processes and the display and survey of popular cultural images." All Drkrm gallery events are free and open to the public. Prints of Paul's unique candid shots are available as posters, and prices are listed at the drkrm site.

He mentioned that the L.A. showing's opening attracted between 400 and 500 people, including the celebrities who have for decades been part of his scene.

He plans additional nationwide showings following the L.A. debut. And his photography can now also be viewed on YouTube:
("Paul Zone - The New York Underground Scene 1972-1977 @ drkrm.")

"I am in the process of doing a couple of book deals," he said, adding that he plans to continue with public showings before committing with a publisher.

During those pre-Fast years, besides attending countless shows and concerts with his camera ever at the ready (Paul saw Bowie debut his Ziggy Stardust character in a NY showcase concert), he also worked as photographer for journalist Lance Loud and assisted numerous NY bands as hairdresser and stylist.

He relates that Fast mini classics are today available on ITUNES, adding, "I think it's about time to get a new CD release" of the band's singular material. lists a Fast "Best of" that includes numerous non-LP tracks. But that reissue collection is old, and may be hard to locate.

So, reason exists for a new Fast compilation. And interest in the 1970s NYC scene is evident not only in the attendance seen at Paul's drkrm showing, but on the big screen, too. He says that Lion's Gate Films is doing a documentary on legendary NYC rock'n'roll club/subculture haunt Max's Kansas City. "They've interviewed a lot of people for it," he says.

Including, of course, himself.


*** ONLINE***:

"Paul Zone -- The New York Underground Scene 1972-1977 @ Drkrm"


Paul on MySpace

Fast page

Fast "Kids Just Wanna Dance"

Fast "It's Like Love"

"Best of the Fast"

Man 2 Man "Hottest of the Hot"

Armand Zone and Ozone

Scott Kempner "Saving Grace" review

Scott Kempner
"Saving Grace" (00:02:59 Records)
DC Larson

A photo of Scott on his 1992 "Tenement Angels" depicted the former Dictator and Del-Lord
kicked back on the fire escape outside an apartment window: playing a guitar, oblivious to grimy reality.

Apt, indeed.

Scott is a True Believer in the transformative power of rock'n'roll, a six-string apostle for whom the music is more than a mere collection of notes, chords, progressions and melodies. In the hands of the sanctified it is a vital, breathing articulation of every joy and upset that jumps in the animal night.

"Saving Grace" is an altar call. It testifies to the bloodline-consciousness and profundity of the man's faith, offering up flashes of impeccable inspirations from moments passed like a nod to Four Tops leader Levi Stubbs, a Supremes reference and the sort of upbeat, tuneful and jangly rock'n'roll that once blared from teenagers's transistor radios across America.

While the CD includes many august cohorts -- including veterans of the Del-Lords, Smithereens, legend Dion DiMucci (whom Scott has backed) and famed Motown rhythm section Mach II -- Scott impresses mightily as the disc's sole guitarist, assaying both acoustics and electrics to motivational effect.

Entering on pounding drums and pulsing bass, "The Secret Everybody Knows" blooms into rich and vivid guitared splendor. "Stolen Kisses" reminds strikingly of the hard-riffing, roots-embracing Del-Lords, its crunching guitars charging headlong through reinvented old school-type changes.

"Baby's Room" and "Heartbeat of Time" (this last co-written by Dion and Fern Carle) sweep with stirring majesty, their massive presences fortified by sinewy guitars and echoing background choruses.

New Frontier-era anthemic emotional confections are recalled by "Love Out of Time," while "Passion Red" is a slow-motion and sultry blues that invites Scott's deadly dirty soloing.

He rocks with authority. He's been to the mountaintop.

Two factors indicating rock'n'roll's health and eternal life present themselves. One is "Saving Grace." The other is the likelihood that somewhere in America tonight, a kid will fall in love with his first guitar.

Maybe on a fire escape.

CD Reviews 2008

CD reviews
DC Larson (copyright 2008, David Larson)

"In Stereo" (self)

Carbonated hijinx lured through a
kaleidoscope of upbeat melodies and exuberant
ruminations. Tends toward light, when some
other modern-times, rock'n'roll grounded alt-pop
combos favor heat.

Recommended Tracks "Ready Steady Go," "Sheila"

Brian Pepper
"Lost Days" (Ten-O-Nine)

Brian pens tunes straight from the heart, recalling
some of Bruce's more reflective motivational
ballad moments. All tunes here are originals, which
argues further for artistic regard. Brian's vocals are
both poignant and ground-level expressive. And
when the sweeping guitars, declarative keys and
decisive rhythms are joined by violin and cello,
"singer/songwriter" -- though eminently apt --
fails to convey the sheer force.

Recommended Tracks "Lost Days, "Louisiana Bound"

Sic Fu*ks
"Live, October 13, 2006 - The Bowery Collection" (MVD)

1970s NYC's raging punk deviants probably got
as far professionally as they ever could have.
Their demeanor was too coarse and rude for
the corporate, Don Kirshner outside world. (Blondie
had the charm and the game-playing smarts.)
This reunion disc captures the self-defining cool,
the wanton posture, and the bared scars.

Recommended Tracks "St Louis Sucks," "Insects Rule My World"

Eleven Hundred Springs
"Country Jam" (Palo Duro)

In which a crack assemblage of knowing players
demolish the false notion that country is sedate
and 'out of it,' This is real, knock-down country,
raw and sparkling, and it moves. Look for cameos
by Lloyd Maines, Nick Curran, others.

Recommended Tracks "Every Time I Get Close To You," "Whose Heart Are You Breaking Tonight? "

CD Reviews: Rockabilly Magazine 2007

CD REVIEWS: Rockabilly Magazine #34 2007 by DC Larson (copyright (c) 2007 Rockabilly)

Jerry Lee Lewis
"Last Man Standing" (Artists First)

"There are those rare pioneers within whom the
fires burn only more brightly in seniority," the
sage imparted. "For them, advancing years bring
additional glories."

"But," ventured the acolyte, "suppose such were
to be paired with younger, more accessible
colleagues. Would not the old seem obsolete
beside the new?"

The elder eyed him. "Boy, are you crazy?"

Recommended Tracks "Hadacol Boogie" (w/Buddy
Guy), "That Kind of Fool" (w/Keith Richards)

Link Wray and his Wray Men
"White Lightning, Lost Cadence
Sessions '58" (Sundazed)

The guitar that savaged the world, leaving an
upright generation in tatters and urging its upstart
successor to new delirium. Link's pioneering, DIY
distortion and scramble chords threatened global
domination. Mission accomplished.

Recommended Tracks "Comanche," "Creepy"

Boz and the Bozmen
"Dress in Deadmens' Suits" (Raucous)

Bracing, in-your-face tumble from the international
guitar hero, whose hillbilly inclinations enjoyed
spotlight on this 1987 Bozmen debut LP. Basic in
conception and combustable in presentation, with
spirit nods to Eddie Cochran and Marc Bolan. Steve
Hooker brought the surly R&B swerve.

Recommended Tracks "Mars and Jupiter Stomp,"
"Wild Heroine" (Steve Hooker)

Davie Allan and the Arrows
"Restless in L.A." (Sundazed)

As much trebly vehemence as you'd hope for from the
fabled King of Fuzz Guitar, whose early works included
proud outsider biker flick soundtracks and downshifted,
pensive ruminations. A mostly instrumental set in which
Davie's ambitious lead narratives, endorsed by acrobatic
Arrows, voice more emotion than many singers.

Recommended Tracks "Toxic Terror," "Wicked Woman"

The Sharks
"Ruff Stuff" (Raucous)

'83 alternates and outtakes. Ripping ghoulish strut from UK
Strat/standup/snare. Grisly cheek. More blade-slash than
average psychos, and certainly more gallows punchlines.
Among the first and best.

Recommended Tracks "Deathrow," "Take a Razor to Your Head"

The Tremors
"Invasion of the Saucermen" (Brain Drain)

Their spooky, riveting creature-bop is loved by
legions of the finger-popping undead. GASP IN
HORROR at sparks-throwing trio rockabilly from
the great B-movie beyond. Every cemetery is a
juke joint in the skewed dimension of the creepy

Recommended Tracks "World War III Boogie,"
"Late Night Drive In Monster Show"

Dale Watson
"Whiskey Or God" (Palo Duro)

Holy Fire and alcoholic escape share more than visceral
palliative benefit. Each leaves both the haunting spectre
of last night's respite and the new morn's reality of
enduring hardships. Limber-legged old school country
acknowledges that while both spirit and spirits may be
weak, the flesh remains willing.

Recommended Tracks "Sit and Drink and Cry,"
"Whiskey Or God"

Wayne Hancock
"Tulsa" (Bloodshot)

While the moods and rhythms vary, encompassing
handy western swing, forlorn country blues and
jostling jukers, the heart never wavers. An all-originals
songlist so emotionally pregnant and skillfully crafted
deserves -- and here receives -- nothing short of First
Chair interpretation.

Recommended Tracks "Tulsa," "Gonna Be Flyin' Tonight"

The Astro Zombies
"Burgandy Livers" (Raucous)

Sweaty and frantic live sample of gnashing French demons,
including skanky stutter-stepping beside the welcome,
hyper-speed bar chord crash/bash. Fury-fueled fun. The
strange and wonderful product of punk/psycho pile up.

Recommended Tracks "You Are Shit," "666 Racing"

Buzz Campbell and Hot Rod Lincoln
"Runaway Girl" (King)

Gretsch slung low, Buzz barnstorms across rootsy
overland. Fina and fiery cover from Ty Cox and Tim
Butler. The thundering stompers may first claim your
attention, but it is the swinging and swooping muses
that will bind it.

Recommended Tracks "Joint's Gonna Jump,"
"Walk Away"

The Bluejays
"A Hundred Songs" (Hithouse)

It is the desired destination of countless musicians,
the point at which alluring strains, siken harmonies
and trusted roots stylings collude with thoughtful
verse. Real world music grounded in human experience,
but reaching still for the fantastic. For the Bluejays,
that rainbow's-end reward is but the starting line.

Recommended Tracks "Anytime," "Devil in Disguise"

The Silvermen
"The Silvermen Attack" (self)

Succeeds as foray into complex jam territory, never
losing strident rock'n'roll identity or succumbing to
self-indulgent seriousness. Dynamic and flourescent,
with alert instrumentation more than equal to the task
charted by artfully busy arrangements.

Recommended Tracks "ronky donk machine,"
"one of the things"

Trent Summar
"Horseshoes and Hand Grenades" (Palo Duro)

Contemporary country generally smothers its own
potential by denying heritage in favor of latter-day pop
envy. Not so, here. Kicking Average Joe anthems
honor both moment and memory. Full band swings,
storms and even cruises, as appropriate. A rudely
fun party.

Recommended Tracks "Louisville Nashville Line,"
"He Stopped Loving Her Today"

7 Shot Screamers
"In Wonderland" (Big Muddy)

Evolution morphed St. Louis phenoms from de
riguer neo-billies to full-blown modern rock'n'roll
personalities modeling rip-and-stitch panache.
Ear-splitting flash becomes nuanced gentility
becomes technicolor conflagration sporting a
lopsided grin. One seconds Morrisey's "rockabilly
meets the New York Dolls line.

Recommended Tracks "World Domination Ball,"
"Hand of Glory"

The Derailers
"Soldiers of Love" (Palo Duro)

Seldom are fetching tunefulness and hard-knocks
poeticisms so cleverly conjoined, especially with
the welcome plus of time-tested hardwood twang.
Harmonies, hooks, jangly six strings and story-telling
heart for the midnight masses. The sound of living.

Recommended Tracks "Soldier of Love,"
"Hey, Valerie!"

West Side Winders
"Snaken Not Stirred" (95 North)

Guitarist Dan Peters also adds hearty vocals and
pens all originals, wisely expanding soloing beyond
the familiar Sun vocabulary and instilling remarkable,
blast-force neo-rockabilly with topical sensibility. A
whimsicality looms at times, a jutted jaw at others.

Recommended Tracks "Little Doggies," "Keep it in
the Family"

Colin Winski
"Rock Therapy" (Takoma)

L.A. shouter Colin didn't so much replicate fires that
preceded as loose the mighty blaze naturally within.
Born of legendary indie Rollin' Rock and possibly the
most uproarious of 70s/80s voices (and performers),
he was equally comfortable with heartsore country

Recommended Tracks "Love Me," "Burnin' Desire"


"Dark Angel" (Cult Epics)
Story, Production and Direction by Nico B.

Paige Richards recalls the innocent sinfulness that ensured
Bettie's fame. Brief, faux verite color vignettes are intercut
with stylized b/w recreations of classic 16mm loops like
"Whip Dance," "Fighting Girls" and "Bound and Gagged."
Danny B. Harvey charges each. Extras include photo
gallery and nude shoot. Accompanying soundtrack available.

Psycho Ward (Split Seven Records)

Pro-shot club footage. The Henchmen offer a trio of
bone crunchers, followed by 5 tracks of sturm und drang
from UK/US Phantom Rockers. Highlight: 4 songs by
raging L.A. metallic grotequeries the Hellbillys. Also here,
the Slanderin, the Phenomenauts and Los Creepers. Extras
include Phenomenauts's video "The Mission" and Devil Doll

Two Tons of Steel
"Two Tons Tuesday Live from
Gruene Hall" (Palo Duro)

Freewheeling reminder that the division between honky
tonk country and orthodox rockabilly is negligible.
Colorful, whirlweind 15-song live DVD, accompanying
15-song CD. Classic covers ("Little Pig," a video version
of "Red Hot") mixed with romping originals including
"Unglued" and "Stinking Drunks."

"Psychobilly Sickness" (Hardball 8/Stay Sick)
Directed by Ryan Davis and Duncan Garcia

Psychobilly's origin and import are explored through
narration and interviews with notables like P. Paul
Fenech, Kim Nekroman, Pip Hancox and Nick 13.
Covers psycho's global spread and impact. Acts
glimpsed include Demented Are Go, the Koffin Kats,
12 Step Rebels and the Starlite Wranglers.

David Bowie "Live Santa Monica '72" review

David Bowie
"Live Santa Monica '72" (Virgin)
DC Larson

An unexpected visitor turned up in my Monday mail.

Due for July 8 issuance (as a limited edition CD and double vinyl LP, including show photos and a related Robert Hilburn/Los Angeles Times review), this release presents David Bowie's first live US radio appearance: a broadcast of his Ziggy Stardust tour's Santa Monica Civic Auditorium show.

Bowie was never severely innovative (which would necessarily have been counterproductive to making cash registers ring out); only enough so to seem swirled when most around was vanilla. If anything, his knack was the hallowed one of the shrewd vendor, intuiting market tolerances.

More narratively ambitious and stylistically diverse works were to issue from the under-appreciated Sensational Alex Harvey Band ("Vambo," "Next," "Cheek to Cheek," "Tale of the Giant Stone-Eater," "Tomahawk Kid"). And the proposition of theatrics on the rock'n'roll stage would in short order be given the boot by the rip-and-stitch punk rock class of '77. (Though the phenomena did endure -- witness KISS and GWAR.)

Such naysaying having been committed to the page, though, there is cause to recommend this work. "Hang On To Yourself" and "Suffragette City" compel as much now as then by validating the conceit that rock'n'roll's veteran fires can indeed singe Now listeners. The songs are brash and they rocket in headlong extreme.

"Ziggy Stardust" illustrates why even preening narcissism couldn't strangle dominative riffing and the power of the bar chord. "Width of a Circle" merits notice for its wise accomodation of guitar master Mick Ronson's sparks-shooting exploits. In an extended bit of leg-stretching, he articulates intelligently and in soaring spectacle. His efforts unfurl and extend the geography of the electrified six string within the era's rock'n'roll.

It is, in point of fact, Ronson whose resources most raise these proceedings from the dustbin of pop culture history, there being no statute of limitations on unstilted instrumental fervor.

And in turn, much contributive reason for his own triumphs can be laid at the doorsteps of band mates Trevor Bolder (bass), Mick Woodmansey (drums) and Mike Garson (piano). An agile and vigorous company, they and Ronson made Bowie the affected-show biz-construct palatable to 1972 concert-goers more attuned to rocking out than posturing up.

All of which is, on reflection, quite a bit to find in the mailbox.


CD Reviews: Nov/Dec 2006

CD REVIEWS November/December 2006
by DC Larson

(All reviews copyright (c) Rockabilly Magazine, reprinted with permission)

Three Blue Teardrops
"Rust Belt Trio" (self)

Returning to the studio 14 years subsequent to sterling
debut "Poised To Hate," the 2006 Teardrops evince
all of their salad days's rambunctiousness, now with
matured assurance. Come for the playing, stay for the

Recommended Tracks "I'm Still Standin' Here,"
"Damage Control"

"Rock'n'Roll Train, Best of the Madhouse Years" (Raucous)

Since the 1980s, England's Restless has enjoyed due
reverence as master neo-rockabilly icons. Their superb
efforts unionize careening drive and artfully variegated
construction. That singer Mark Harman is as well a deft
guitarslinger and enabled by fierce partisans (including
brother Paul) further enriches.

Recommended Tracks "The Face," "Mo Mama More"

Truly Lover Trio
"Dance" (Twinkletone)

Were only the clever crafting of such trippingly attractive
pop/rock'n'roll material as easy as multi-instrumentalist
Marcel Riesco makes it seem. Indigenous, appealing
hooks abound in this steamy-hot record date. Know too
that sparkling, fun-forward personality is a cheering

Recommended Tracks "Baby Come On," "Spring Fever"

Shaun Kama and the Kings of the Wild Frontier
"Dear Scarecrow" (Boston Crown)

To call this simply an exuberant exercise in rambling,
country-grounded narrative weaving would be to
neglect the chilling psychobilly factor. Big, loud and
darkly-rendered. Ominous visitors include members
of Three Bad Jacks, Fishbone and Demented Are Go.

Recommended Tracks "Lost Lonely Road,"
"Ghost of the Twilight Storm"

"Beyond the Grave" (Fiend Force/Cargo)

The outrageous soundtrack demanded by singer /
guitarist Daniel DeLeon's psycho diatribes and
ghastly eroticisms comes from a crew including
former Tiger Army and Nekromantix perpetrators.
"She's a laser-whipping creature and a one-eyed
beast / dancing in the graveyard, makes me weak
in the knees." Who the Hell left the gate open?

Recommended Tracks "Devil Woman From Outer Space"
"Zombie Girl"

P. Paul Fenech
"The 'F' Word" (People Like You)

Other psychos handily tailor that style's orthodox cut,
but UK idiom pater familias Fenech reimagines it.
Thus, Spanish guitar, Dee Dee Ramone outsider poetry
and metallic manifestos collide center-stage in force -
fit fashion. Others may be Fenech's peers. No one is
his superior.

Recommended Tracks "Aggarondo La Guittara Del El Diablo,"
"Angel Song"

Los Creepers
"City Streets" (self)

In 1967, a clerical popular culture-scold hyperventilated,
"Rock'n'roll music is part of man's attempt to drive from
his mind the consequences of his evil living." To such a stiff,
full-on punk/psychobilly this potent surely promises particular
brimstone. The rest of us have a lot of fun living to do.

Recommended Tracks "Devil vs. the Mooks," "Bandidos"

Roy Orbison
"King of Hearts" (Virgin)

The Wink troubador's legendary status was long-since assured
by the time of this largely pacific CD's 1987 issuance, but his
inimitable operatic range and infallible instinct for stirring country
pop majesty remained as pristine as when in their Sun youth.
Sympathetic strings, elegant saxophone and busy guitars collude
on common territory. The listener believes.

Recommended Tracks "Heartbreak Radio," "Careless Heart"

CD Reviews: Sept/Oct 2006

CD REVIEWS September/October 2006
by DC Larson

(All reviews copyright (c) 2006 Rockabilly Magazine, reprinted by permission)

Demented Are Go
"Hellbilly Storm"
(People Like You/Hepcat)

Founding psychos DAG return from the grave (again)
with razored hooks, cockeyed melodicism, open -
throttle arrangements and hardcore up-amp guitars.
Metal goes crash and 'billy splinters. For the
embittered sociopath who has everything. Screw
bed check.

Recommended Tracks "Out of Control," "Someone's
Out To Get Me"

Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
"Turntable Matinee"
(Yep Roc)

So nimble and confluent is the A-list musicianship that
the material's folksy artfulness might elude first-time
listeners. Cherished elements of not only rockabilly and
western swing but bossa nova, spanish strings and
brass-fortified 60s Stax soul are intelligently intercut
with novel reckonings.

Recommended Tracks "Haunted Heels," "Lonesome

Jack De Keyzer
"Silver Blues"
(blue star)

With the wisdom of a superior bandleader aware of
his every player's significance, guitar master Jack
cedes soloing opportunities to piano, organ, trumpet,
sax and flugelhorn. His own slicing, straining and
emotionally-evocative six-string statements shine
blindingly in the thoughtful and layered arrangements.

Recommended Tracks "Cinderella," "Rock 'Til We

Danny B. Harvey
"Live In Montreal"

Eruptive, scintillating guitar-led rockabilly that
spans blues, country and primal rock'n'roll. None
wilder on offer. Mixed in with the rave-up tri-chord
flammables is flabbergasting instrumentation of
adventurous mien. Hendrix hot rodded? Listen
and learn.

Recommended Tracks "Buckshot," "I Get So

Thee Exit Wounds
"Bad Day!"

Caring not a whit for redeeming social values,
these exuberant malcontents (including 3 ex-DAGs)
vent at peak volume. Headslam psycho on the
excruciating metal-punk edge. Harmful if taken
eternally. Damnation dance party, tonight.

Recommended Tracks "Evil," "If I Was Satan"

13 Cats
"Live In Las Vegas"

A decidedly relevant supergroup (Rockats, Polecats,
Stray Cats), 13 Cats stitch unfamiliar vintage rockin'
flesh with modern-day sci fi/ fantasy to father
a psycho creation of formidably threatening character.
Caught here in 1997 salad days, they are full of verve,
strut and paternal swell.

Recommended Tracks "Sex Hex," "Rockaholic Baby"

Grizzly Family
"The Spirit of the Mountains"

Backwoods, Cajun-flavor from France. High -
stepping, engaging reels enlivened by a host of
instrumental spices including accordian, tifer,
maracas, harp, kazoo, brossoir, lap steel, piano
and mandolin in addition to guitars, drums and
acoustic bass. There's a whole American Music
world out there beyond 706 Union Avenue.

Recommended Tracks "Frenzy In the Jungle,"
"The Spirit of the Mountains"

CD Reviews: July/Aug 2006

CD REVIEWS July/August 2006
by DC Larson

(All reviews copyright (c) 2006 Rockabilly Magazine, reprinted by permission)

Fats Domino
"Alive and Kickin"
(Tipitina Foundation)

New Orleans-based Fats lost both
homestead and prized gold records to
Katrina and was himself missing for
days. But rather than falter in the face
of tragedy, the 78 year-old legend
produced this remarkably-bouyant
testament to the resiliance of musical
muse and human spirit. Piano-key
sprightliness and conversational vocal
stylings are complemented by rich,
sweeping brass and infectious French
Quarter syncopation. All proceeds
benefit the Tipitina Foundation's Big
Easy musicians-support efforts. That's
called, "giving back."

Recommended Tracks "Four Leaf
Clover," "I'll Be Alright"

Elvis Presley
"Concert Anthology 1954-1956"

This handsomely-packaged 2-disc set
combines vintage live tapes with priceless
contemporary rewardrobings of classics.
The former feature pioneers Scotty Moore
and Bill Black; enabling the latter's success
are Danny B. Harvey, Slim Jim Phantom
and Lee Rocker.

Recommended Tracks "I Don't Care If the
Sun Don't Shine" (old), "That's All Right
Mama" (new)

Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers
"Down To Kill"

Lurking amidst the cultivated junkie -
vagabond iconography was a singular
proto-punk stylist of exquisite rock 'n'
roll pedigree, one whose swiping and
swaggering forever tattooed the global
underground. 2 CDs/DVD offer rare
audio and professional video, arresting
personality and volatile substance
preserved for the ages.

Recommended Tracks "Born To Lose"
(demo), "All By Myself" (live)

The Kings of Nuthin'
"Over the Counter Culture"
(Sailor's Grave)

The Kings continue to strut the line
between Wynonie Harris and wrecking.
Rollicking 88s, honking party saxes and
slap-happy standup join declarative
guitar, driving skins and exhorting vocals
to contrive bachanalian fireworks. Psycho
R&B gon' get your mama.

Recommended Tracks "Only Time,"
"Quick Fix"

Guitar Wolf
"Golden Black"

Some 18 years ago, search-and -
destroy punk power trio Guitar Wolf
detonated over Japan. This incediary
retrospective collects vividly-wrought,
hyper exercises in thunderously-metallic
songcraft spanning a career of spectacular
evil. RIP, Billy Basswolf.

Recommended Tracks "Wild Zero,"
"Invader Ace"

Speedbuggy USA
"The City That God Forgot"
(Split 7)

Old-ways hinterlands rhapsodizing
with ripe voicing. Mandolin and lap
steel find welcome beside guitars,
bass, drums and harmonizing voices.
But as with Fats, the socially-conscious
group intends more than just sparkling
musicality. "All profits from this CD
will be donated to Habitat for Humanity -
Katrina Relief Fund"

Recommended Tracks "Engine #9,"
"Bitter Man"

Mad Sin
"Dead Moon's Calling"
(Sailor's Grave)

Craftsmanship is the conscious
governor of the creative impulse.
And, though frenetic in actuality,
these stellar tunes owe their
successes to authorial aptitude.
Psycho vent with dashes of whimsy
and irk. Sweet for midnight pentagram

Recommended Tracks "Plastic Monsters,"

Koffin Kats
"Straying From the Pack"
(Psychobilly US/Hairball 8)

Hard-driven, smash up minimalist
psycho with "fuck you" aplomb.
Distorted guitar delirium not for the
weak of spirit. CNN reports graveyard
wrecking outbreaks; eight reasons why.

Recommended Tracks "March of the Waynos,"
"For Hire"

Popa Chubby
"Stealing the Devil's Guitar"
(Blind Pig)

Perhaps the direst, most flame -
annointed blues guitar on this
upworld side of the proverbial
crossroads. Love, lust, desperation
and damnation come in for wry
lyrical examination as does (remarkably)
universal hopefulness. A sharpness to
cut through men's souls. Popa keeps it
real, harsh though it sometimes can be.

Recommended Tracks "In This World,"
"Long Deep Hard and Wide"

Jerry King and the River Town Ramblers
"A Date With..."

Affable, punchy late-50s-type rockin', which
means the emphasis is on melody as much as
vim. As able a group of proponents as on
offer in this age and smoothly-insinuating into
the bargain.

Recommended Tracks "You Forgot Your Name,"
"The Price of Love"

Jimmy Thackery
"The Essential..."
(Blind Pig)

Jems from the Nighthawks-founding
guitarist's subsequent solo years on
Blind Pig. Sparks by the gut-bucket load,
but also impressive, thoughtful sidetrips
into complex articulation. Two-fisted
blues with strategy.

Recommended Tracks "Jump For Jerry,"
"Wild Night Out"

"Peanut Butter and Jelly Live At
the Ginger Wing"

Forcible obstreporousness and headlong
cacophony may be inimical to the punk
ethos, but they are only parts of the
necessary whole. Energy and largely unfocused
bombast abound, though little centering sense
is discernable. Reason may come with time.
Today, brazen impulse journeys alone.

Recommended Tracks "Letter 2 London," "Ya
No Ya Wanna"

CD Reviews: May/June 2006

CD REVIEWS May/June 2006
DC Larson

(All reviews copyright (c) 2006 Rockabilly Magazine, reprinted by permission)

The Royal Crowns
"After Dark" (Royal Crown)

Great White North hepsters contrive heat from
coolness. Gently rhythmic, good-humored.
Swaying steel guitar lends particular piquance to
nimbly-twanged Gretsch, stolid standup and
busily ambitious drums. A train called rock'n'roll.
All aboard.

The Hypsterz
"Live At the Longhorn" (Bomp)

1980s Minneapolis quadrophonics who
reread vintage R&B and garage punk
classics with Ramones-era conciousness.
High-speed, guitar-led, austere sonic
bombardments. Fiercely and defiantly
boisterous. Reissue includes their live
(and only) discs, 1979's "Hypsterz Live"
and 1981's "Hypsterization," plus 15
hitherto unreleased live tracks and three
new 2004 cuts. The hardest working live
band of the era. I was on that scene
and I know.

Easy Bill & the Big Beat
"Stay Tuned!" (Rhythm & Roll Enterprises)

Not unlike a sideshow medium raising
dormant spirits amidst low-rent games of
chancery, Easy employs his guitar to evoke
decades-still Blues and R&B voices,
testifying in dance-worthy and salacious
ambiance. Of course, carnys are merely
conning. "Stay Tuned!" bespeaks an
authenticity grifters can but pretend at.

The Living End
"State of Emergency" (EMI/Capitol)

Australia's burning. As apparent as ever
on their new CD, this volatile trio weds brash
punk anthemic spirit with topical and acidically -
critical social commentary of Clash-like
universality: "Sick of all the laws/and we want
more." 14 melodic Molotovs hurled with insight

Th' Legendary Shack Shakers
"Pandelirium" (Yep Roc)

An intriguing odyssey through a
kaleidoscopic funhouse mirror of
angles, influences, perspectives and
creative strains. Old European muses
like polka share dance-floor real
estate with American rock'n'roll
exuberance. A rewarding United
Nations of song, with boundless
(and boundaryless) adventurousness.

Various Artists
"Liquor Brand Vol. 1" (People Like You)

Rival primal urges to create and to destroy enjoy
joint expression in psychobilly. None of which
discounts the mongrel genre as legitimate art, if
of a specifically inartful demeanor. Assembled here
are 20 mayhem squads of varying bent -- some
mellifluent, others corrosive, but all of lethal calibre.

Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs
"Stuffing Coffins Since '77" (Psychobilly US/
Hairball 8)

As magnetically-revolting a psychopunk endeavor
as you're likely to witness above-ground. Relentlessly
buzzing guitars and storming rhythm section offer
hateful backdrop for growled/shouted/sneered
antisocial rants. More kicks than a backyard cage

"Dark 'n' Mighty" (Psychobilly US/
Hairball 8)

Rampaging in throes of metallic psycho
distemper unforgiving, seedy apostles of
angst rage against the human machine. Musings
broaching poetic spheres luxuriate against rash
thrash countervail. Existentialism gone wild. (sic)

Alan Vega
"s/t" (Ze/PVC)

None since have surpassed this compellingly
adventurous 1980 rockabilly fireworks/
moderne techdrone crossbreed. Ex-NYC
synthesizer/vocals duo Suicide frontman Vega
took his signature Brando/Elvis/Iggy stance and
street corner poeticisms to uncharted climes.

Warner Brothers in 1996 retitled this "Jukebox
Babe," coupling it on CD with Vega's 2nd solo
disc, "Collision Drive."

CD Reviews: Mar/Apr 2006

CD REVIEWS Mar/Apr 2006
DC Larson

(All reviews copyright (c) Rockabilly Magazine, reprinted by permission)

Johnny Cash
"Legend of Johnny Cash" (Universal Music)

And the flesh was made music. 1950s Sun thrust
flows easily into 1960s Columbia and post-millennial
Rick Rubin-produced work. Johnny was indeed an
American Music legend. Make that "is."

Recommended Tracks "Get Rhythm," "Jackson,"
"One Piece At a Time," "Hurt"

The Knitters
"The Modern Sounds Of..." (Zoe)

Rather than trawling impersonal archives,
scholars intent on preserving the popular
record would do better to sift common
experiences. For amid miscellaneous
aspirations, despairs and dreams lies
definitional character. The Knitters
understand as much and affectionately
honor the soundtrack that was.

Recommended Tracks "Give Me My
Flowers While I'm Living," "Long Chain

Phantom Rockers
"On The Loose" (Split 7)

World-class Metallic KO hooky psycho
with punk snarl and sinew means guitars
on 11 and volcanic drums forward. Mark
Burke beats a brick doghouse and howls
moonward as befits a possessed soul.
Innocents beware.

Recommended Tracks "Dr Lector,"
"The Boogieman"

Los Super 7
"Heard It On the X" (Telarc)

Rock'n'roll hails many fathers. An
all-star cast enriches this paean to
50s/60s multicultural Pirate Radio.
Fiesta jubilance, Texas two-step
provocation and deep blues
resignation commingle like long -
separated bloods at a joyous reunion.
E Pluribus Unum with a beat.

Recommended Tracks "I'm Not That
Kat (Anymore)" (John Hiatt), "My Window
Faces The South" (Lyle Lovett)

Social Distortion
"Sex, Love and Rock'n'roll" (Time Bomb)

Survivors of the 80s California Punk Uprising,
Social D now temper welcome ferocity with
instrumental maturity. Mike Ness's narratives
have grown wise, whereas they once were
naturally wiseass. Punch with perspective.
Comes from surviving.

Recommended Tracks "Reach For the Sky,"
"Highway 101"

Southern Culture On The Skids
"Doublewide and Live" (Yep Roc)

Like a 60s beach wig-out flick cut with a 50s
JD rampage, SCOTS come off as concerned
primarily with careening experiance rather than
medium niceties. Which is, of course, exactly as
it should be for those so wailing-bent. And qualified.

Recommended Tracks "The Wet Spot," "Liquored Up"

Kirk Fletcher
"Shades of Blue" (Delta Groove Productions)

From somewhere way down deep, this college-age,
old school blues acolyte hefts genuineness that
transcends rote footstep-following. Respectful nods
to forebears preface personal muse orations. Kirk's
strings-on-fire testifying bespeaks stirring potency.

Recommended Tracks "Blues For Boo Boo," "Club

Boneyard Brawlers
"the blood red ep" (Lude Boy)

Behind his battered desk, the Lieutenant
stabbed out a Lucky. "What else you got?"

Opening the last folder, the Detective ticked off
offenses. "Stalking, hate guitar, homicide, beat-down
drums, demonic debauchery, ritual bass-slapping. You
know, Animal rock'n'roll." Looking up. "These guys"
waving a photo "are the Boneyard Brawlers. Just plain

The Lieutenant squinted. "Sound pretty dangerous."

"That ain't the half of it."

Recommended Tracks "blood red," "no reflection"

Back In the Day, 1983

American Patrol
"Backseat Boogie" (Vanity)

Swing, jump blues and rockabilly, joined. Roll -
back-the-rug material is impelled by a fluidic
guitar/sax cooperative. Leader singer/guitarist
Jerry Sikorski offered a mature, diversified approach
that drew judiciously on 40s/50s flair. An unsung

Recommended Tracks "Shake the Roof," "Texas and

Website writing: Robert Gordon


A couple of months ago, I was contacted by legendary rockabilly singer Robert Gordon's European promoter and asked to review several tour promo CDs for display on the singer's website. A longtime fan, I accepted and have reviewed 4 of Robert's discs.

This was an exceptional professional opportunity for me and I was glad to add it to my credits.

To read my reviews on Gordon's site, go to:

Scroll down to:

"review essential r.g."

"reunion tour review"

"born to rock"


"lotta lovin' review."

- DC

Liner notes: Barry Ryan CD

LINER NOTES: New Barry Ryan CD

In 2007, I penned the extensive liner notes contained in the booklet of Rockats guitarist Barry Ryan's first solo disc, "And God Said: 'Let There Be Rockabilly,'" it is available on New Jersey's Blues Leaf label.

Here's an excerpt:

"This dynamic solo disc is infused with the same distinctive styling Barry made so crucial to the Rockats's oeuvre, styling that drew on American popular music's blues and country roots and crafted a glorious pastiche at once familiar and excitingly new. (Should you need further testimony to his inimitable fretboard skill check with singer Robert Gordon, who often selects Barry to back him live.)

"Heady, rollicking passages spotlighting his infectious soloing and bubbling with the effervescent fun we all need in our lives are amply represented. They alone would win attention. And for the first time he handles all vocals, demonstrating muscular flair and enhancing the material's uniqueness...

"The electrifying sum is one of articulation as much as instinct, nuance as much as fury...

"Barry's hard-earned experience -- the global touring, the midnight stages, the simultaneous uncertainty and exhilaration of the rock'n'roll life -- informs each twanged, thrashed or elegantly touched-off note."

- DC Larson

Rick Larson: Greatness At the Margin

DC Larson

A guitar is buried in Marshalltown, Iowa. This is why.

A flash point is possible in grassroots-level live music. An organic, vital moment in which emotional and sensory phenomena coalesce in a connected soloist's muse articulation. The spark surges through the crowd, electrifying the atmosphere and leaving listeners viscerally touched.

Skin crawls. Grins erupt. Shouts ring out. And all is right with the world -- at least for that moment.

Marshalltown's Rick Larson found his way into that magical moment of greatness -- more than once, if truth be told -- as had so many unsung beat champions before him.

My brother, he knew his life's purpose from an early age. He got his first guitar when 12, and devoted himself to single-minded pursuit of earthly calling.

The demands of post-teen life typically compel would-be players to eventually pursue 9-to-5 careers, relegating live music to weekend sideline status, if even that. But Rick never stopped.

Because he and music were of a piece. And to him, no other pursuits mattered.

He never cut an album, shot a video or graced a magazine cover. What he did was infinitely more important. A veteran of the bar band culture, he helped to keep blues and rock and roll alive before average people every night.

For them, plagued by trials throughout the work week, the release and revelry offered by live bands is positively salvational. A person can be put down by a boss during the day, but they can be ten feet tall on the midnight dance floor.

Songs to which grassroots blue collar crowds today shout and thrill have roots in America's rich cultural mosaic and wonderfully diverse heritage. Tempos, melodic inclinations, and engaging rhythms from a score of shores met here and became new and as one.

American songs derive from the Appalachian Mountain country, and humming streets of Chicago. They hail from the highways that crisscross the land, and from the farmlands. From the cities, swamps, and suburbs. And they are born from common experiences, telling of human struggles, aspirations, pains, and triumphs.

It is through the efforts of anonymous players that folk stories and voices survive from generation to generation. A country's music serves as both popular record and expression of singular character.

Rick was professionally active in central Iowa from the 70s through the mid-90s. Indeed, the area live music circuit was richer for his indefatigable participation.

He co-founded numerous central Iowa groups: Amo, Armed and Dangerous, Party House, Ice Age, the Vipers, Commotion. And too many more to mention. Singer/harp player Mark Goodman and drummer Frank McDowell were usually in the mix. Accompanying players included keyboardist Doc Lawson and guitarist/vocalist Dave Taylor.

Of course, sometimes, formal band names or line-ups were not even needed. If a sudden gig opened up or a last-minute party jam presented itself, Rick would be there. Guitar in hand, amplifier on.

No prisoner of stylistic convention, he was as likely to rock the house as finesse a melody. He made all the right stops, from red-hot jumpin' to cool-blue orating. His intoxicating soloing interpreted heartache, passion and kick-out-the-jams exuberance. Lesser players were made conscious of their limitations.

Stevie Ray Vaughn, Keith Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Joe Strummer, Pete Townsend - these were his influences. He played the music that spoke to him, and it became important to his audiences.

Rick had something crucial to worthwhile musicianship: an absolute and unfeigned direct line between his heart and his art. He believed in each note he touched.

True, a few of the better chart songs sometimes crept into the late night sets. But only the better ones. For Rick, ignoring his instincts and selling out his musical integrity were simply not options. The gold ring mattered less than the music. The moment.

Devoted rank-and-file bar musicians like Rick who keep music alive -- who realize that all-important moment -- are infinitely more significant to real world listeners than is the trendy WRIT LARGE corporate music-product industry that takes them for granted.

For every transient and fabricated chart sensation, there are innumerable unsung authentics. And greatness belongs to them, too. Probably most of all.

For it is indeed possible to reach greatness in isolation from the 'big picture,' without the whole world's being aware.

Rick did.

His guitar fell silent in 1998. We laid to earth with him the cherry wood-grain, Gibson SG Standard that had been his earliest performing guitar. It was only right that they remain together into perpetuity. Together, they had realized the moment.

That is how I know that greatness can indeed flourish at the margin.

And that is why a guitar is buried in Marshalltown, Iowa.