CD Review: "Long Way To Go"

CD: Long Way To Go
ARTIST: The Fox Hunt

We've said it before: by the time we get our hands on anything awesome here it's been out for a while. Such is the case with Long Way To Go, the new CD from the rockin' Martinsburg-based bluegrass and country four-piece called The Fox Hunt.

Released waaaay back at the end of February, their third full-length (and fifth overall) since they formed in 2006 is packed with 12 foot-tappin' road weary, lovelorn, drunken, (and yeah, sometimes sober) ditties.

The amazing thing isn't really that the fiddle-centric string sound (no drums) and traditional acoustic, mandolin, banjo, and upright bass arrangements all come together with such rockin' results; it's that half of the songs are written by John R. Miller, and the other half by Matt Kline. So, The Fox Hunt, at least speaking in diplomatic terms, is some sort of egalitarian democracy or something. Well, fiddle guy Ben Townsend wrote one song.

As Long Way To Go progresses, the duo of Miller and Kline share the load effortlessly and with equally awesome results.

Miller composed and promptly gets dumped on the opening song, “Screw Me Up,” (“Screw me up and leave me with a tattoo of your name/Tell all of your friends that I’m no good anyway”) and is guilty of hit and run on the devilish sounding “It Suits Me,”
It suits me, if it suits you/You can have me for a night or two
But you ought to not be fallin for me girl, I’ll only let you down
Wake up in the morning, you’ll see I wont be hangin’ ‘round
The countrified “The Only Sounds I Hear” and “No Penance” are Miller's moments of painful musical catharsis. On “The Only Sounds I Hear” Miller sings:
After all the songs are done/and the shit’s back in the van
It don’t matter who I’m with/it don’t matter where I am
Your memory’s beside me, every corner, every bar stool
and every cloud of smoke I exhale in the face of every fool
Miller sings on the chorus:
It’s lonelier than hell down here in Knoxville
After all the barrooms have shut down
The only sounds I hear tonight are the buzzin’ from these old street lights/and a gang of dogs barkin’ on the other side of town
“Won’t Slow Down” is a road rockin' number about small town princesses, and on “I’ll Drink Cheap,” Miller goes without the expensive stuff so his date can drink Guinness Draught, Maker’s Mark and Jagerbombs. Now see, ladies, there’s a thoughtful guy, huh?

Kline’s contributions include the first single, “Trouble Making Woman,” the somber “Sinners Like Me,” the bluesy “Get Back Home,” “Lower Than I Should Be,” and the final track, the old time gospel flavored “When The Roll’s Called,” which sounds like it’s straight out of some old church, but fits right in with what bluegrass is all about and what The Fox Hunt is going for.

Ben Townsend penned and sung on “Four Horses,” a song about divorce, the death of a family and a special inheritance. A lot of the songs have killer banjo and or mandolin solos provided by Townsend and Matt Metz.

One of Kline’s strongest efforts is the very sober “Lower Than I Should Be,” a moment of fond reminiscing about lost love, a stripped down and hushed, almost painful sounding honesty out of Kline:
She used to write me letters on a foggy bathroom mirror
And say do your best and don’t forget that I’ll always be here
It used to be I’d think of her and smile
But I haven’t smiled like that in quite a while
And on the chorus:
‘Cause at night time when it gets colder, the cigarettes burn slower/And I start feelin’ lower than I should be
Now that I’m sober, I just wish that I could show her
I don’t want things to be over between her and me
Regardless of who’s writing and/or singing the songs, most all of the songs have great backing vocals, with pretty much everyone laying down harmonies, making them easy to sing along with.

The Fox Hunt recorded the CD in true bluegrass DIY fashion at The Doodio in Martinsburg, mixed and co-engineered by Townsend and then shipped off to Carl Saff in Chicago, who has worked with The Demon Beat in the past. Superb production.

And not only is the CD great, The Fox Hunt have recently been put on kinda big time; they recently (March?) played a set on Mountain Stage. Nice. We've heard a lot of nice bluegrass output from area artists, but for us, as a whole, the vibe on Long Way To Go kind of reminds us of listening to that Keller and the Keels CD, Grass, that we picked up a few years ago. Just the whole kind of fresh approach to a traditional sound, maybe.

It's great to hear traditional bluegrass in an appealing, fresh package. While we don't sit around telling people we're "Way more bluegrass" than they are, we've long been fans of it, and in their songs, you can hear all the elements (religious, Scots-Irish) that influenced country/western in The Fox Hunt's authentically rowdy output.

You know that saying, what once was old is new again? Well, The Fox Hunt have put their own contemporary twist on the old thing that is bluegrass, and with this release and their relentless touring, will continue to make fans.

It just sucks that it took us this long to get the CD, but now that we have it we're glad we do.

--- The Fox Hunt plays at the annual Vandalia Gathering in Charleston May 28 & 29

Related: Michael Theis' post on The Fox Hunt's CD release show

Related: Charleston Gazette article on The Fox Hunt

mp3: "The Only Sounds I Hear" by The Fox Hunt


Feel the Burn.

Posters, flyers, and many drunken pictures I have taken.

There are many things I enjoy in life, but there are few things that tap directly into some of my most primal of instincts, one of those things is Karma to Burn. Growing up in Fairmont, I spent many of my formative years seeing shows in Morgantown, since Fairmont's music scene was, and still is, pretty much nonexistent. We would all pile up into whomever's parents would lend us the car and head up to see countless local bands such as Karma to Burn, Law Biting Citizens, Circle Six, Draegerman, Brake Theory, 7X, UK, and many others that are slipping my mind. K2B were hands down my favorite, they had that raw dangerous rock n' roll edge and they truly were the perfect soundtrack for traveling down that dark psychotropic highway that my mind always seem to be barreling down. It amazed me and filled me with pride that they were a local band, they truly seemed to transcend, yet perfectly embody WV all at the same time. They were a great inspiration to a young and confused angry teen scratching pictures of skulls and Satan into his notebooks (and it turns out that not much has changed haha). Over the years, they are the band that I still consistently listen to from that era.

Even though they were originally an instrumental band, they released a self titled album on Roadrunner with a singer, and it kinda confused people. Old fans of the instrumental stuff, hated it, and new fans were confused to find out that they were an instrumental band after they got rid of the singer. There's was also the camp of people that I fell into, which thoroughly enjoyed both endeavors. The self titled was just so dark, that there just isn't much other way to describe it, and I relished every bit of it. That being said, it was nice to see them return to the instrumental form on the next two albums. Sadly like many great groups, eventually turmoil and addiction tore the band to pieces. Last time I saw them pre-break up was with Clutch at 123 Pleasant Street (which may have still been the Nyabinghi at that point). Neil Fallon came out and performed ZZ Top's La Grange with them, which totally blew my shit. I had no idea that would be the last time for years to come, but at least it was a lasting memory.

So then we fast forward a few years. After a few stops along the way for everyone involved; Will was now playing with the fantastic Treasure Cat, Rich had met Daniel Davies and started the formidable Year Long Disaster, and Rob Oswald played with Nebula, and I had moved to Huntington. After deciding to finally making a go of trying to pimp out my art services, I came into contact with Treasure Cat and began designing and printing t-shirts and other things for them. Even though I hate to compare the two bands, because they are both great in their own rights, it helped to fill the void of no K2B. Conversations with Will led me to believe there would never be any chance of a reunion, as you could tell it was still kind of a sore subject. Nevertheless, hell finally froze over, pride was swallowed and a reunion tour finally scheduled to take place. The band set out to show that not only had they reconnected but now had matured and were tighter than ever.

I have to say that I pretty much shit my draws when I got the chance to do not only one poster for their reunion tour, but 4. I did a series of 3 screenprinted posters for their WV dates, and a digital for a show in England with Sons of Alpha Centauri. I also would do another flyer for a Halloween show at The V Club, and ended up doing 3 more flyers for their current tour with Year Long Disaster. I badly wanted to screenprint these, but I have yet to get my equipment set up after moving in the winter. I love doing posters for them, it really gives me a chance to use imagery that I'm really in tune with such as the occult, evil looking anthropomorphized humanimal hybrids, and just an overall dark and menacing vibe. It's nice to play off of the vibes set forth by some of their art done by others, as subjects such the Goataneer really symbolize the music for me. Some of the things I've done for them definitely plays directly off of this, but I've also tried to add my own flavor in there as well and I didn't want to do a bunch of half-assed crap. That's the great thing is that they can totally work with images of evil preachers, goat headed mountaineers, or apocalyptic visions of a burning London. Their music truly stands on its own, but I always believed their fantastical dark album and merch art really helped to elevate the overall awesomeness of the band and I enjoy just being able to add to that visual lexicon.

On a personal level it feels like my life has come full circle in some ways from being that teenager who was frothing at the mouth to see such amazing music, seeing the band break up, and then seeing them reunite and being able to work with them on top of it.

Their new album art is no exception of excellence set forth on their previous albums, and after listening to it for a couple months (it will rock your stool loose by the way), I'm completely psyched up for these couple shows with YLD and Suede Brothers. The new album covers some known territory, but shows a lot of growth in the small handful of songs. The bonus disc of rare tracks and rerecordings is a nice touch. I'm excited to see what Daniel Davies brings to the table in his part of the live show, as Waiting on the Western World is a pretty mean ass song that is just begging to send crowds into a frenzy. All of it is pretty exciting in ushering in what appears to be a new era of Karma to Burn.

So get the new album, carve a bunnygram into your kitchen floor, and Hail Satan.

(ed. note: Check out more of Jimbo's art on his Amalgam Unlimited MySpace and Big Cartel sites, and our "Focus on the Flyers" split feature on Jimbo)

Karma To Burn back in West Virginia with "Appalachian Incantation"

Legendary Morgantown instrumental stoner rock trio Karma To Burn (L-R: Rob Oswald, Will Mecum, Rich Mullins) returns to West Virginia with “Appalachian Incantation”

Reposted from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

You could say that before Karma To Burn could reunite, one or more members had to get reformed.

Morgantown’s legendary instrumental stoner rock trio, together since the mid-90’s, abruptly disbanded in 2002 when bassist Rich Mullins admittedly allowed a heroin addiction to take over his life.

Now, Karma To Burn (Will Mecum: guitar; Mullins; Rob Oswald: drums) has been back together for over a year, and returns to West Virginia this weekend with “Appalachian Incantation,” its first CD in eight years and first on the Austrian-based metal label Napalm Records.

Before KTB could reunite, it took a difficult phone call between Mullins and guitarist Will Mecum to straighten everything out.

“Talking to Will for the first time on the phone was totally nerve-racking,” Mullins admitted over the phone. “When you’re with someone every day for nine years, and then seven years go by, it’s really crazy.”

Mecum said Karma To Burn’s indefinite hiatus was for the best.

“It was something that had to be done,” he said over the phone from Los Angeles, where Mullins and drummer Rob Oswald live. “There were a lot of personal problems within the band; chemical dependencies, things like that. If we’d have kept going the way we were going, I guarantee that one of us, if not all of us would not be here.”

As painful as clearing the air might have been for him, Mullins agreed.

“You can’t change the past. But looking back on it, I realize I’d be dead right now.”

“All of us got our act straightened out and we definitely have a lot more clarity with what’s going on right now,” Mecum added.

Despite all the time off, Mecum said the band is stronger and more popular than ever, and admitted to a bit of bewilderment to KTB’s increased popularity, domestically and overseas.

“We’re received better now than we were back then,” he said. “I don’t know if it took time for people to catch up or what. The tours that we’ve done and the attention that we’ve been getting is tenfold what it used to be. I don’t understand it, but I’m goin’ with the flow.”

“It all goes back to my theory of either your band has to break up or someone has to die in order for your band to get somewhat popular.”

KTB and friend Daniel Davies, front man for the L.A.-based band Year Long Disaster, have had a kind of cosmic convergence of late; not only did Davies (son of Kinks guitarist Dave Davies) join KTB on vocals for a song on the new CD, Mecum and Oswald join Mullins in the current YLD lineup.

Mullins said that KTB is looking forward to recording even more with Davies.

“Doesn’t it seem weird that we’d get back together with a singer?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s really special because they’re all my friends,” he added. “It’s great to be able to combine it all, and there’s a lot of talent when you put the four of us together. I don’t see any limits to what the four of us can do.”

In addition to the collaboration with Davies, KTB recruited Kyuss singer John Garcia to sing on the new record. Mecum said KTB likes the change of pace working with a singer.

“Most of the instrumental stuff, when we write it, it’s four bars of this, four bars of that, then the bridge. It goes by really quick because you have to keep people’s attention.”

“With the vocals, you can actually play a verse, a chorus, maybe several times, and you need to for the vocals to breathe. That style is a little bit different, as opposed to kind of constantly punching people in the face with riffs. You have to let parts of the song breathe and let the vocals take over. I think it worked out really well.”

The synthesized KTB and YLD lineups recently enjoyed a tour of Europe, where KTB is much loved, and geopolitical calamities followed the bands.

Mecum said Karma To Burn got to spend an unexpected extra night at the Roadburn Festival in Holland.

“We turned volcano friendly because there was a bunch of flights cancelled due to the volcano eruption, and the dust clouds over Europe. So they asked us to stay, and we got another show out of it.”

The European tour wrapped up nicely in bankrupt Greece. “I hate to use the cliche ‘We’re big in Europe,’ but we go where people want us to be,” Mecum said laughing. “It was one of the best tours I’ve ever been on.”

Where local fans of KTB want them to be is back in West Virginia, with the new CD. Mecum said the band wouldn’t be what it is today without the local support, and are looking forward to playing the V Club Friday night.

“As far as letting people know that we’re from West Virginia, we’ve made it a point to do that. And as far as the Huntington scene goes, we wouldn’t be what we are today without it. We actually got bigger down in Huntington in the 90’s than we did in our hometown. We did well in Morgantown, but we’d go down to Huntington and have huge shows. We wouldn’t be where we’re at today without breaking into that scene and having those people behind us.”

“The three towns, Morgantown, Charleston and Huntington, they all rallied behind us, and it will never be forgotten. Not a lot of bands get a second chance like we do, and it’s much appreciated.”


Marinelli approved: The Limbs @ 123 Pleasant St. 5.21

Described as everything from “Tom Waits meets Bad Brains” to “one part Frank Zappa, one part Leonard Cohen and one part Modest Mouse” (by other people, not us), Denver, Colorado-based rocker John Mazzucco brings his one-man rock and roll act known as The Limbs to Morgantown Friday for a show at 123 Pleasant Street.

Maybe you’ve already seen him ‘round these here parts when he’s swung through with another one-man band, some guy named J Marinelli. “Friend of Rockscene” member David F. Bello will open.

Just wanted to get this up to plug the show and let our fans (hi you two!) know we’re still here. Stay tuned. Or, tune out, but then tune back in tomorrow or something.

Photo: Keri Jones


Help Wanted: Karma To Burn questions from fans

Karma To Burn returns to West Virginia with "Appalachian Incantation" next week. KTB fans: If you had a chance to interview the guys, what would YOU ask 'em?

So, everything is looking good for us to interview Karma To Burn for an upcoming article in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

As what we're hoping will be a neat way for KTB fans to interact with the band, we'd like to get user-submitted questions for the band that we might miss, from the people who know 'em the best; their fans.

KTB has just released "Appalachian Incantation" -- their first CD in eight years -- and is playing Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown next weekend. Obviously there is a lot to talk about; we've already touched base with Rich Mullins, and are set to talk to him and Will Mecum Wednesday.

We've got our own questions lined up like ducks in a row. But maybe there's a perspective that you can add to the article.

We've never done something like this, but would like to hear what KTB fans would ask the guys if they had the chance.
Feel free to comment here with cool questions, be they of the hard-hitting or softball variety, or email us at wvrockscene@gmail.com. We know there are a ton of area fans who love these guys and thought it would be cool to do this.

Karma To Burn: "Waiting on the Western World" (w/Daniel Davies of Year Long Disaster)

Way more doom than you: Doom Room Mondays @ Shamrock's

Talking to Wizards of Ghetto Mountain singer Chuk Fowlord the other day for the H-D article, he mentioned Doom Room Mondays at Shamrock's Irish Pub in Huntington. Well, we love hearing about cool sounding theme nights, and then we came across this killer flyer designed by Jimbo Valentine.

And check out Jimbo's flikr page, where he's been uploading a ton of show pics from out Huntington way.


They Put a Spell on You: Wizards of Ghetto Mountain land recording spot with Steve Albini

Huntington-based Doom band Wizards of Ghetto Mountain (L-R: Garrett Babb, Chuk Fowlord, Bob Caution, Jim E. Toledo) play the V Club Friday night. Reposted from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Fear. Shock. Relief. Excitement.

All of these words describe the response the guys in Wizards of Ghetto Mountain had when hearing that renowned producer and engineer Steve Albini would be recording their debut album in July.

The story of how the Huntington-based “Doom” metal band, together for than less than a year, fresh off making a two-song demo for their Pittsburgh-based label and preparing to record a full-length with Bud Carroll, got studio time with Albini, who has famously worked with bands like The Pixies, Slayer and Nirvana, has to be read.

“I suggested it to our label rep just as a complete shot in the dark,” Singer Chuk Fowlord explained over phone. “He was like ‘Why would Steve Albini want to record your band?’ And I said ‘One; we’re from West Virginia, two; we’re awesome, and three; we’re called Wizards of Ghetto Mountain. Sounds like a winner.’”

Montage of the band rocking out in doom fashion; slower tempos, deeper guitar tunings and fuzzier tones, with heads, of course, banging.

“A couple of weeks went by, and he calls me,” Fowlord went on, “and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s a go.’ And I’m, like, ‘What?’ And he says, ‘We’re going to do the record with Albini.’ And I dropped the phone and almost passed out.”

The Wizards (Fowlord: vocals; Garrett Babb: guitar; Jim E. Toledo: bass; Bobby Caution: drums) are scheduled to take their version of stoner rock and doom metal into Albini’s Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago in July. Wow.

Drummer Bob Caution recounted getting the phone call.

“When Chuk called me at school with the news, he was in such hysterics I thought either Garrett or Jim had been killed in some horrible accident,” Caution said. “So I was greatly relieved and then massively excited when I found out that we were gonna be recording with Albini.”

“Like Bobby said,” Babb followed. “Chuk called me in hysterics, gasping for air, freaking out; he sounded like he was crying. I thought something terrible had happened to Jim or Bob. Then he told me about Albini. I didn’t believe him…it still rattles me that we have this amazing opportunity.”

The Wizards have been making moves at whiplash speed. They’ve got on Ulja Factory, a Pittsburgh-based label, played several shows with bigger-name, regionally touring stoner and hard rock acts, mainly in Huntington, made a few fans, and now, landed a highly coveted recording session with one of rock’s best producers.

Keep in mind this band hasn’t been together for roughly eight or nine months, and has played maybe twenty shows. They practice every Sunday at a friend’s house, maybe a nod to Black Sabbath, one of their biggest influences.

Toledo said that, regardless who produces their record, people who will like their version of music would probably like it anyway.

“[Albini] isn’t going to make people like your music who aren’t already predisposed to liking that sort of thing.”

“If you’re great, that’s going to come through, whether it’s Steve Albini, Phil Spector, or one of your friends on a 4-Track. It’s on us to be a great band in the studio when it comes time to record, and if that happens, then the music will sell itself regardless of who produced it.”

And Caution said that, regardless of who records the Wizards, they’re still going to rock.

“People who like stoner rock and doom metal are gonna like this album,” he said. “We’ve crafted an appealing sound.”

“I don’t like to brag, but we’ve got a really powerful thing going on here…it shows every time we hit the stage. I think Ulja Factory did help speed the process, and I’m eternally grateful, but this band is going places no matter what the circumstances.”

Babb kind of summed up the shock value of how fast things appear to be moving for the Wizards. “If you would have asked me about this stuff going on when this band started, I would have said you were a nutbag. I suppose we’re doing something right!”

“Honestly I feel this is the best music I’ve ever made,” Fowlord said. “I’ve been in bands for 10 years. There’s something special with this band; each time we play live we’re getting better. Good things are happening.”

“I can’t wait to see what this is going to sound like,” Toledo said of the debut record. “As for now, we’re saving and planning. That’s the only way off Ghetto Mountain.”

--- photo: Jimbo Valentine

--- Related: Our chat with the Wizards from January


One Big Bullet After Another: Q&A w/Tucker Riggleman

Regular readers of WVRockscene will recognize the name Tucker Riggleman. Bassist for The Demon Beat -- and Prison Book Club in his spare time -- he’s assembled a full stable of solid artists on Big Bullet Records, the DIY label he’s been running for the past couple of years.

We caught up with Tucker to see what was up with everything…

WVRS: How did the 4.24 V Club show go for you guys in The Demon Beat?
TR: The show was a ton of fun and we had a great turnout. Huntington is consistently one of the very best places for The Demon Beat to play and this show was no exception.

WVRS: Over the past few years, have there been any instances where you second guessed your decision to start your own label? Tough times?
TR: Ha, it's funny you mention that. Right now I am finding it very hard to stay positive about things. My computer recently crashed, and it basically was the label. I feel like I'm behind on everything, but I'm really happy to see that things are still happening. The Goddamn Hills just finished a great record, and Dandelion Snow is about to put out an amazing album as well that has international press lined up for it.

Not to mention that both Prison Book Club and The Demon Beat are making new albums in the next few months. I guess it's inspiring to see that what started as me procrastinating from finals back when I was still in school has grown into something bigger than just me. It's a close-knit group of amazingly talented people that write, record, and press great albums, and then they go out there and play some great shows.

WVRS: BBR has had more than a few great releases in the past few months; The Dreadful Horoscope, BLACK FAG!, and Prison Book Club back in October, how satisfied are you with what BBR has been putting out recently?
TR: I am very satisfied with what we've all been able to do. The PBC and BF! records were completely in house, but it's still awesome to see Jake and his crew doing things out in Morgantown that we can get behind too. It's the same way we feel when Greg Loftus or Stephen MacDonald & The Okay Win, or Dandelion Snow does something great. It's really grown into an upper East Coast type of a family and we're proud of all of it.

WVRS: Dandelion Snow will be releasing his new CD June 1st, produced by Chris #2 from Anti-Flag; how stoked are you about that, and what are your thoughts about Harvey’s music?
TR: I am insanely stoked about that record. It's called "The Grand Scheme Of Things" and it's been done for a little while now, we've just been keeping it under wraps until everything was completely lined up. Roger used to be in a bigger punk band called The Code from Pittsburgh, and they were best buds with Anti-Flag.

It's so cool that Chris and those guys continue to support what Roger's doing. As far as the label goes, it's obviously great to have our name affiliated with something involving guys of that stature, I mean that band is huge to a lot of people across the entire world.

As for Roger's music, I think Roger is an amazing songwriter. He played with The Demon Beat in NYC last year and we both ended up really enjoying each other's music. I feel like the market gets pretty flooded with folk singer-songwriter types and it's rare to have one standout as much as I feel Roger does. There is something completely genuine about his music, plus he's just an all around great guy.

WVRS: Then there are other BBR artists like Greg Loftus, Roma Renegade and Cait O’ Shea, anything notable to look for out of them (shows, releases) for the rest of 2010?
TR: Cait O'Shea actually just finished up tracking a new album with Adam and they both seem pretty excited about it. Roma Renegade released their new record in early February, and Greg has been laying low for a bit and doing some writing. Hopefully he'll have a new album's worth of material real soon too.

WVRS: You had the Terminal Ballistics compilation, which showcased BBR artists, how cool was it to get that out, and will you follow that up with more comps?
TR: It felt great to get that thing out there. It was one of my initial goals when I started up the label, and it took a lot longer than I had anticipated to get out, but I feel good about the overall result. Our Valentine's Day comp that we offered up in February is even better in my opinion, and really showcases what everyone involved is capable of doing musically. My favorite thing about these comps is that they're not greatest hits; they're rare songs, covers, or B-sides that you can't get anywhere else, plus they're 100% free. And yeah, there are definitely plans for many more comps in the future.

WVRS: You’ve got some favorable press for BBR, how cool is that?
TR: It's pretty cool I suppose because it's giving all of the artists some extra attention. Anything to help out those folks that are out there making good records and touring their asses off is pretty awesome.

WVRS: What are your personal relationships like with the BBR artists; is there any difficulty balancing a personal friendship with a potentially professional relationship?
TR: Haha, well there's not too much of a "professional" vibe with anything we do. We only work with our friends who are doing music that we believe in. Who wants to make records and tour with people they don't like?

WVRS: Talking to fellow musicians and/or people in the industry, when they talk to you candidly what are some of their worries about getting their music out, the state of the music industry, or indie labels in general?
TR: Everyone seems to be worried about the economy and all of that, but I'm a firm believer that art and music can wade through that shit. When times are hard people want to go out and hear music that makes them feel better, or get drunk and hear songs about how much things suck, but they eventually get better. It's a therapeutic type of thing, and I think that worrying about it isn't going to solve anything.

WVRS: Are you going to be doing any solo shows in the near future?
TR: Right now I've got May 15th lined up at The Blue Moon Saloon in Shepherdstown, but that's it for right now. I'm going to be really busy as we begin recording the new Prison Book Club record this month, then The Demon Beat album this summer. Also, whenever I find time in between I'm going to be recording a full-length album of solo material; mainly older stuff that I never got a chance to properly record. It will be pretty sparse and mainly just acoustic stuff, but these are songs that have meant a lot to me over the years and I've never given them a proper recording, so I'm looking forward to that.

WVRS: You’ve been handling BBR for more than two years now, how would you compare how you handle it now, versus when you started your own label; lessons learned or horror stories?
TR: I guess the biggest difference is that back then I didn't really know anything at all and now I might know just a little bit about what's going on. I still have no clue how to properly do any of this stuff, but at least I feel like we've gotten some good folks on our side who help spread the word about what we're doing, and if that helps our folks sell a few more records or get a few more people out to shows then it's all worth it.

As far as lessons learned, I would say be wary of outside "agencies" or "online distribution" sites that seem shady or gimmicky. Make good music, put out good records, play good shows, and the rest should fall in place. You don't need to pay someone else to do that for you, at least that's how I feel about it.

--- Related: Tucker Riggleman Q&A w/WVRockscene Pt. one & two; H-D article on The Demon Beat

--- photo: Brian Scott


On the Road Again: Unknown Hinson returns to the V Club

Unknown Hinson, Bubba Bruce and Tiny Kohrs return to the V Club Saturday night, with or without the party liquor. Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

“Have I met you before?”

The voice on the phone, with its thick Southern drawl, was instantly recognizable; the self-proclaimed “King of the Country Western Troubadours” thought he recognized my name for some unknown reason.

I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad that we’d never met, still, I was talking to Unknown Hinson.

Talking to Hinson at 2 p.m. on a weekday afternoon from his home office outside of Charlotte, North Carolina is nothing like hearing Early Cuyler, the wild redneck squid he plays on The Squidbillies, or the delightfully trashy, over-the-top dark parody Hinson character he (Stuart Daniel Baker) has cultivated since 1993.

He probably hadn’t even touched any party liquor.

No, for Hinson, quite graciously granting, politely and professionally doing interviews is all part of the very serious business he’s in; writing self-anointed “chart-toppin’ hits,” making his own version of honky-tonk psychobilly, recording records and touring.

He returns to Huntington for a show at the V Club Saturday night.

There’s not much to write about Hinson that hasn’t been covered already; his father was listed as “Unknown” at birth, working as a carnival barker, he was framed for murder and did 30 years in the pen.

“I was in solitary a good bit of that time. So I had a lotta solitude. And I think every writer needs solitude; if they’re gonna write a book or a song, they gotta be able to concentrate. But I ain’t bitter about it, ya know. It’s a big chunk of your life, but I feel like I’m makin’ up for lost time pretty good.”

He’s achieved cult celebrity status, making fans ranging from Marty Stuart to Hank III. He’s as famous for his appearance as he is for his musicianship, stage presence, and hilarity. Ventriloquist? Yes. Vampire? Not so much.

“The vampire thing, yeah I like to kina dance around that, ‘cause, it’s not something I try to cultivate.” He’s known to carry a little snub-nose revolver, but, “not for any ill intent,” he said.

“I like to fire it from time to time; it’s kind of a stress reliever. Some people like to jog or whatever ya call it, some people like to work out, I just like to fire my gun, it relaxes me. I don’t ever shoot at nothing or nobody.”

And, despite what you see in the motel pic above, Hinson says bassist “Tiny” Kohrs and drummer “Bubba” Bruce aren’t all that rowdy on the road. Really.

“They kinda tame, really. I do enough hell raisin’ for all three of us.”

One bit of a scoop for Hinson fans is that he’s working on a new CD that should be out “hopefully by late summer.”

All you really need to do to get Hinson off on one his famous tangents is to mention the state of Country music these days, and his place in it as “Kang” of the Country Western Troubadours.

“I like to think I play real Country Western music. What you hear on the radio nowadays, mainstream Country, I mean, that ain’t Country Western by a long shot. All that is, is formulated, fabricated, cookie-cutter kind of stuff. I can’t really tell one artist apart from the other one, I mean, whether it’s a man or a womern, I can’t tell. I mean, it sounds like every other record you hear on the radio, in a convenience store or gas station.”

“All I see’s a bunch of pretty boys in cowboy hats and tight jeans and thousand dollar cowboy boots, wearin’ a little ol’ Mack-Donald’s microphone around they chin, and dancin’ around a stage. I mean, to me, that ain’t Country Western music. That’s a Ice Capades mess.”

What if someone else started calling themselves the king?

“It wouldn’t bother me, because number one, I know they’d be a liar and a fake. I’d probably just laugh at it.”

Known as a romantic, Hinson said that no husbands need worry about bringing their wives to the show Saturday night.

“I never had no trouble, and I ain’t lookin’ to have no trouble. Womerns, you know, they come out and they swoon and all, and that’s good. But the man, they the ones that take ‘em home, not me, so they the ones that get lucky.”

But ladies, Hinson said he’s not married. “I don’t see nobody serious or nothing. I got to keep movin’ ya know.”

One thing that sets Hinson apart from other famous musicians is his propensity to stay after every show to meet his fans.

“Without my fans, I wouldn’t have a job, so by all means, they come first. That’s why after every show, I stay there to the last person. If they think enough of me to want me to sign an autograph or take a picture, I’ll be glad to stay. They’re what it’s all about.”

Hinson though, despite the carefully constructed and cultivated persona, is a lot like the normal musicians you see and hear all the time, hoping to touch listeners through music.

“I think a Country Western troubadour is somebody who’s got to sing from the heart about a real life mess they’ve lived through.”

And all that time in solitary may have helped not only him, but his fans too.

“I think that’s what being an artist is; if you can’t make this mess easier for yourself, you have to do it for other people, and hopefully they see things your way. And when they do, it makes it all worthwhile.”

If you go:
What: Unknown Hinson with Buckstone and The Barkoloungers
Where: The V Club, 741 6th Avenue, Huntington (304)-781-0680
When: Saturday, May 1, 10 p.m.
Cost: $12 advance, $15 DOS

photo: Aeryk Pierson