WICKED GAME – The True Story of Guitarist James Calvin Wilsey by Michael Goldberg (Hozac Books)
Spooky, soulful, nitro-twang genius, James Calvin Wilsey,Chris Isaak's beautiful guitarist, who conjured up all those memorable Ennio Morricone spaghetti western, eerie “Twin Peaks” vibes, was born in the Midwest but did not stay there long. His dad was one of those real old time, no nonsense, hard knocks, military aggressors.
I had a lot of close friends who played guitars in my middle school early garage bands, who had fathers like that. Ex-military, real macho, gonna make a manly man outta ya, big game hunter, type o guys. So yeah, being from smalltown Kentucky, my grandfolks family who raised me, were all old veterans and I was not like my cousins. I was never gonna be a 4-H show cattle, play sports, go to war for college money, type of person.
Then, we moved to a town whose only industry was building tanks in Ohio. man, that was a disaster for a little kid like me who could not catch a fucking football. My grandma had gotten me into Elvis from like, birth, almost. I used to wear a pink Presley concert ticket from the Rupp Areana show he never played because he died around in my middle school fedora during my "Pretty In Pink" years.
For me, it all started with Elvis. From there, I inherited an aunt's Monkees records and started seeing their show reruns on WXIX TV. My mother was a school teacher who tried to get me piano lessons, drums in the school band, a folk guitar that got stolen at Baptist reform school, but I sucked as a player. When I discovered Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop, I kinda decided I should be a loudmouthed frontman because I had all this feeling inside me, I wanted to express about the conflict I had with the sports and military culture I grew up in.
Concrete Box b/w Crazy For You – Room 101 (Lost in Pyrmont Records)
If somebody invents a time machine you could do a lot worse than dial it up to 1980 and land yourself in an inner-city pub in Sydney like The Heritage Hotel in Kings Cross, The Sussex Hotel in Chinatown or The Vulcan in Ultimo.
Inhale the fumes of a delicious cocktail of nicotine and Tooheys, piss in a toilet that needs urgent repairs, and pay $1.20 for a alcoholic beverage whilst being squashed beyond human endurance in a room that wasn’t designed for live music but was hastily converted into one when the late 1970s and early 1980s pub rock boom occurred.
Room 101 was one of the bands that thrived in this long-gone environment.
"Execution Days, A Celebration of the Life and Music of Spencer P. Jones" The Escape Committee + Adalita, Penny Ikinger, Sly Faulkner, Phil Gionfrido, Digger & The Pussycats, The Pink Tiles, Claire Birchall, James McCann, Jules Sheldon, Foggy Notion, Henry Hugo, The Last Gasp Horns The Tote, Collingwood, Melbourne Saturday 9 April, 2022 Photos by Michael Barry
Patrick and I first saw the Beasts of Bourbon in a relatively small venue, Le Rox, in the city of Adelaide in early 1992. After the first few bars of the opening song, "Chase the Dragon", singer Tex Perkins kicked over the mic stand, the band abruptly stopped playing and Tex stormed off the stage headed towards the mixing desk. We were standing roughly in that area as he came charging in our direction and I was genuinely in fear that he was about to wreak some savagery upon us as part of the collateral damage of castigating the sound guy.
As soon as I saw the beautiful album cover, my first thought was, how lovely it is, that Cranford Nix Junior's grown kids can look at all this stuff - the albums and heartfelt tributes and fanatical cult followers – appreciate the sentimental testimony of old friends and collaborators and understand how loved and talented their dad was.
Cranford Nix Junior was the charismatic, charmed life, bon vivant, hard-drinking, fringe dwelling, abyss mocking, gone-too-soon, the son of a famous Nashville studio musician. An Americana type songwriter, he was a little bit country, little bit glammy punk ‘n’ roll, like somewhere between Pat Todd and Tyla from Dogs D'Amour, with maybe a little Waylon Jennings, and Paul Westerberg thrown in.
The Meanies The Vains Cull - The Band Jive, Adelaide Thursday, 14 April 2022
You can't fault this sort of gig. First, it was one of those where folks you'd not seen in ages (I hadn't seen Nick in something like 25 years, for example0 and it was the eve of the first day where we can mostly ditch masks, QR codes and “social” distancing.Needless to say, most of us ain't 22 anymore so a lot of us were increasingly (and occasionally entertainingly - like the chap who tried to set up his own circular mosh pit) quite successfully drunk.
On the stage were three bands which instantly grab your attention, hold it despite your need to go for a wee or get more Coopers Pale, and keep you hanging on till the end of their set.
The Parade EP – Howlin’ Rats (Hiss and Crackle Records)
Doing anything new with the blues is a tough task. Doing something interesting is another matter. Newcastle, Australia, guitar-harmonica-drums trio The Howlin’ Rats, do just that on their debut five-song EP.
Opener “The Parade” is a harp-fuelled boogie stomp, an instrumental that serves to break the ice without busting any new ground. “MVII” is where things get interesting.
It’s an arcane slow-boiler that’s reminiscent of early ‘70s psych. Hobbit Harry’s winsome harp and a haunted vocal swim against waves of distorted slide guitar while drummer Tom Fairlie sits behind the beat and stirs the pot. It’s six minutes of splendour. Grass is optional.
I first met Chris Bailey in early 1977 when I was given the assignment of interviewing The Saints, who had recently arrived from Brisbane, and were staying in a semi-derelict block of flats on Berry Street, North Sydney. The last time I saw Chris was a few years ago when he was playing an acoustic set in a small venue in Draguinan, in the south of France. In between there were hundreds of shows, thousands of drinks and millions of memories.
Others will write about his legacy as a pioneering musician and the lasting influence on subsequent generations. However, today I just wanted to remember two of the times spent together.
In 1977, The Saints had arrived in Sydney after EMI Australia had been instructed by Head Office in London to sign and record them on the strength of their self-released single, “I’m Stranded”. Next door to flats was the office of their recently acquired managers, Together Management, who had been brought in as part of the upsurge in interest from EMI.
About 15 years ago, a burn of a CD turned up unsolicited in my mailbox, courtesy of the inimitable Dave Laing, then working at Shock Records. The band was Endless Boogie (named after the John Lee Hooker album) and the album was “Focus Level”.
It was eight songs, about 80 minutes, a heavy psychedelic smorgasbord of riffage, punctuate with Paul Major’s growling vocals. If ever there was a band that could take you to another dimension, it was Endless Boogie.
Having had to abort their most recent planned Australian tour in 2020 due to the plague, Endless Boogie is preparing to hit Australian shores again with Howlin Rain. I spoke to Paul Major from his home town of New York City.