Kool Kat of the Week: Welcome to the Dirty, Dirty! Dave Weil and The Blacktop Rockets Deliver a New Album and a Night of Revved Up Tunes and Low Down Shenanigans at The Star Bar

Posted on: Apr 5th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (Top to Bottom: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

Top to Bottom: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by Sloan Carroll Rainwater.

Atlanta’s own Dave Weil, head honcho and lead vocals/guitar, along with his partners in crime, The Blacktop Rockets [Johnny McGowan (guitar/vocals); Dave Watkins (drums); and Steve Stone (Bass)] will be raisin’ a ruckus, Sun Records-style, at The Star Bar this Friday, April 8 at 9 p.m.! They’ll be peddlin’ their new full-length CD, “GO!” with fellow rockin’ revivalists, Rodeo Twister in tow! It’ll be a hootenanny you won’t want to miss!

Dave, raised on jazz and crooners like “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, got rebellious ‘n’ hell-bent falling head over heels for some good old rock ‘n’ roll. So in 1993, he began dishin’ out tunes and slingin’ guitar with The Blacktop Rockets, and they’ve been revvin’ it up ever since! They’ve stormed the stage with The Blasters, the late Ronnie Dawson, Southern Culture on the Skids, Reverend Horton Heat, Wanda Jackson and so many more influential hell raisers and foot stompers! BTR’s first full-length album, MAKE MINE A DOUBLE,” was released in 1999, preceded by the single “What Ya’ll Have,” in 1996. In other words, it’s high time for a new BTR release.

ATLRetro caught up with Dave Weil for a quick interview about BTR, his take on “American music,” and reviving that old-school R&B and hillbilly twang! While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Dave, get an earful of The Blacktop Rockets live at The Star Bar (Nov. 7, 2015) with “Please Don’t Touch” (Nov. 7, 2015).

ATLRetro: The Blacktop Rockets swooped in on Atlanta’s rock revival scene like a bat out of hell during the ‘90s rockabilly resurgence; a rockin’ renaissance of sorts. Can you tell our readers what it is about that genre of music that keeps you coming back for more?

Dec Fest - Photo by John Phillips (L-R: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

Dec Fest. L-R: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by John Phillips.

Dave Weil: It’s the free-wheeling spirit of it all. The magical blending of black R&B with white hillbilly music that occurred beginning in the late ‘40s-early ‘50s, which led to what came to be called rockabilly and rock and roll. To me, it’s irresistible. When I hear it, I get a smile on my face and I just gotta move!

Any twisted tales on how you and The Blacktop Rockets get together and what’s kept you goin’ for so long?

Not really twisted, but it was a bit of a fluke. In 1993, I was doing this duo thing a la Flat Duo Jets called Sweatin’ Bullets and had a gig that the drummer couldn’t do. I had recently met David Watkins (drummer) at Frijoleros (old schoolers know) where we were both working, so I asked him to fill in and the rest is history as they say. Upright bass was added about a year later and then lead guitar. What’s kept us going is, well, all I can think is, we have to! Like Carl Perkins said, “The cat bug bit me and I’ll never be the same.”

Your sound has been described as being the “epitome of American music.” What does that mean to you? What exactly is “American music?”

“American music” is a lot of things and goes back much farther, but in terms of what I’m most familiar with and where BTR fits in, it goes back to what I said about the blending of black R&B with white hillbilly music. Twelve bar blues-based song structures with lyrics that include the tried and true themes of love and loss, regular folks telling stories, and just silly stuff like “Rock Around The Clock.” There were so many things changing in post-war America – culturally, economically, socially – and lots of those changes were reflected in the music being created then.4PAN1T

Even though the bulk of the retro rock ‘n’ roots revival pretty much died off in the late ‘90s, The Blacktop Rockets seem to have made a niche for themselves in Atlanta’s thriving sleaze-nitty-gritty redneck underground music scene. What draws you to the mischievous underbelly of Atlanta’s music scene?

That it’s the underbelly and we love underbelly. So juicy and sweet, mmm, can’t git enough of it.

Any interesting stories to tell our readers about your musical upbringing, or when you became interested in playing music?

My Dad was a musician – a damn good sax and clarinet player, but could find his way around any instrument. There was always music in the house. He was mostly a jazzer who listened to and played a lot of swing. He was also a big fan of crooners like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. We didn’t exactly see eye to eye back when I got into rock and roll, but he rolled his eyes and tried to tolerate it. I got into guitar like lots of my peers, from listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and other Brit bands. Through buying those bands’ records and reading the writing credits, I learned about the great American bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. Later on in the late ‘70s I did a similar thing when I heard the Robert Gordon/Link Wray records. I started digging deep into Rockabilly music and found Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and, of course, the legendary Sun Records material.

Photo by Jeff Shipman (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by Jeff Shipman.

We see that you’ve shared the stage with The Blasters, the late Ronnie Dawson; opened for Southern Culture on the Skids and Reverend Horton Heat; and backed the “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson and so many more! Can you tell our readers what it’s like getting to fire it up with all those movers and shakers?

Those opening spots have been some really fun shows. I feel like BTR truly deserves to be on those stages and we can bring it as well as anyone. As far as being the backing band for the legends, it’s a tremendous honor and kind of like living a dream! It’s definitely a set where you really, really want to be on your “A” game and not make any clams! Sure don’t want to get a dirty look from Wanda, ha!

You released your first album (full-length) MAKE MINE A DOUBLE in 1999, making that one long 17-year itch! Why did it take so long to get to GO, and how can our readers get their grubby little hands on a copy?!

We actually put out “What’ll Ya’ll Have” in 1996, so this is our third album. We also did a Christmas 45rpm and recorded songs here and there for compilations, but 17 years between actual full length releases is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m not sure what took so long other than I suppose the time was finally right.  You can buy one at the show on Friday, of course, plus it’s on CD Baby, iTunes and perhaps other online places. The commerce section of our website <here> is under construction now, although it might be running by show time.

If you had to choose your top three musical influences, who would they be and why?

The Star Bar: Photo Credit by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

The Star Bar: Photo Credit by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

I think it’s really hard to pinpoint influences per se, but I can tell you who I am always happy to hear on my stereo or anyone else’s. No particular order and I’m leaving plenty of others off – Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Ronnie Dawson, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry…you get the picture.

What can ATLRetro readers expect to experience at your honkytonkin’ hootenanny and CD Release Party, April 8, at The Star Bar?

The Blacktop Rockets still pack a punch in our live show like very few acts you will see. We have a great time doing what we do and it shows. The current BTR line up is sounding better than ever. Drummer David Watkins and I are into our third decade playing together so it’s a pretty special connection there. Anyone who has heard him play knows he’s one of the top drummers in Atlanta and beyond. He can bash ’em or lay back, but he always knows exactly the right part to play for our songs.

Many of your readers know lead guitarist Johnny McGowan from not just this band, but several other cool projects he’s involved with. Johnny plays with so much fire and creativity, plus amazing technical ability that he’s constantly blowing minds and making jaws drop, including mine! Johnny joined BTR around 1996, then left for a bit around 2000, but has been the guy now since around 2009. On stage, there is no one I’ve had this much fun with. It’s just a hoot because we have little musical inside jokes and he’ll play something goofy or weird and then shoot me a quick look like, “Did ya hear that one?” and then crack up laughing.

The new guy is Steve Stone on bass. He’s another very accomplished multi-instrument player who has been a lot of fun getting to know and assimilated into the band. I love playing music with these guys and I consider myself fortunate to share the stage with such outstanding players! Plus our pals, the excellent band Rodeo Twister are opening the show!

6What’s next for The Blacktop Rockets?

A lot more gigs this year than we’ve done the past several and probably another album or at least EP in the fall.

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about you or the band?

I think you will really dig the new record! We’re still doing some straight-up rockabilly, but there’s more to it in terms of the songwriting. This was the first time Johnny and I collaborated and we figured out we can write really well together. We simply let the songs be what they were going to be and didn’t try to put them in a specific box like rockabilly or swing or country. If I had to say what that sounds like, I guess I’d have to nod towards The Blasters or Rockpile. We’ve added electric bass on stuff where we used to use upright only, and that gives it a feel that I think reflects well on the newer songs especially. In addition to playing guitars all over the recording, Johnny produced the album and did a knock-out job. One of the things he did that I’m most happy with was to bring in friends to play some different instruments on a few songs. There’s piano, sax, trumpet and steel guitar that are added here and there that are really nice touches.

And last, but not least, what question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

For here or to go? The answer is always GO! 

Photos provided by Dave Weil/The Blacktop Rockets and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen Wax Nostalgic with a Pickin’ Pandemonium While Slingin’ Their Modern Brand of Rowdy Old-Time “Acoustic Brass ‘n’ Brew-Grass”

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2015 By:

by Melanie CrewUse Caleb_CD_front[1]
Managing Editor

Caleb Warren, ragtime rumble slingin’, guitar pickin’, Dixieland lovin’ purveyor of old-time dance hall tunes with a maniacal modern twist, along with his polite partners in crime, The Perfect Gentlemen (and lady) [Colt Bowen – percussion; Dave Aitken – lead guitar/banjo; Jenna Mobley – fiddle; Robert Green – trumpet; and Ian Blanton – upright bass] will be raisin’ a riotous ruckus at Mac McGee Irish Pub in historic Roswell this Saturday, August 15, at 9 pm! And if that isn’t enough, you’ll get a second and third hoppin’ helping of their juke joint jamboree at The Earl on Aug. 22, and a tail feather shakin’ good time with the band at the sensational ‘n’ seedy Clermont Lounge on Oct. 8!

Caleb hails from Chattanooga and has a hankerin’ for the tunes of yesteryear. Although heavily influenced by Western swing, gypsy jazz, ragtime and Dixieland blues, Caleb Warren and The Perfect Gentlemen (The Gents) have proven time and again their ability to tell relevant tales to the melodies of the past. The Gents have shared bills with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Billy Joe Shaver and more! Their self-recorded/self-released EP, “The River” was released in 2014, followed by their new single “Hoke Poole Stomp”/“Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia.” And if you’re cravin’ a whole lot more from these rowdy folks, don’t fret! The Gents and are in the works on their first full-length album, so keep your ears peeled!

CWPG2[1]ATLRetro caught up with Caleb for a quick interview about whiskey ‘n’ women, The Gents’ flair for old-timey janglin’ jingles; his retro influences; and his love of Lefty Frizzell! And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Caleb, get an earful of Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen’s new single “Hoke Poole Stomp”/“Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia.

ATLRetro: Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen’s sound has been described as coming straight out of the land of vaudeville, speakeasies, juke joints – all spiced up with that janglin’ ragtime Dixieland ‘n’ western swing, while “finding a place for the past in the present.” How important is it to resurrect the past to tell the stories of today?

Caleb Warren: Absolutely! I think being able to pay homage to the music that we love and the music that inspires us while telling the stories of today and connecting with the folks who are listening is not only an extremely important aspect of what we do, but an honor as well. The music we’re making today is hopefully a modern representation of some of the most pure forms of American music with our own twist, and if it weren’t for the pioneers of Western swing, country blues, gypsy jazz, Dixieland, ragtime, and blues, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing today.

Any interesting stories to tell our readers about your musical upbringing, or when you became interested in playing music?

Jenna Mobley

Jenna Mobley

When I was just a wee lad (haha) my grandfather, “Pops” or “Papa” to me, owned an alternator repair shop near Atlanta. He loved his work. He also had a love of honkytonk and classic country. Some of his favorites were Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams Sr. and George Jones. I can distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table of my grandparents’ home (the same home my dad grew up in) as a 12-year-old who wanted to learn anything and everything that I could about music, playing guitar, classic country and old gospel hymns from my grandfather.

As a result, when I sit down at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee or a glass of whiskey (depending on the time of day), that’s where some of my most introspective and personal writing happens. In my late teens I strayed a bit from my roots as a musician and was in a few bands that were a little louder and a little heavier, but eventually found my way back to making the music that is, for lack of a better way to put it, “In my blood.” All that to say, I’ve always been interested in playing music. It just took me a little while to find and settle into what musically feels like “home”.

(L-R) Dave Aitken, Jenna Mobley, Caleb Warren

(L-R) Dave Aitken, Jenna Mobley, Caleb Warren

We see that you (Caleb) hail from Chattanooga, a once thriving ragtime, bluegrass ‘n’ Dixieland swingin’ musical haven. How much of an influence did Chattanooga have on your current musical endeavors?

I do live in Chattanooga and it’s a wonderful city, but I wrote the songs we’re playing today while living in and around Atlanta as well as the mountains of north Georgia. Chattanooga is an amazing city centered around the Tennessee River and for whatever reason, there’s something about rivers and bodies of water that are extremely inspiring and seem to almost pull songs out of me. The extremely rich musical history in Chattanooga as far as the blues are concerned is pretty amazing! It’s the home of Bessie Smith and the Chattanooga Choo Choo!

What is it about whiskey, women and woeful misfortune that influence musicians, especially those of the old-time variety, to pour out their soul in front of the masses?

I feel like there’s a certain simple honesty and light-heartedness in a lot of the music we make that affords us the opportunity to write and

Robert Green

Robert Green

play songs that are fitting for the nights when you just want to have a good time, dance and forget about your troubles. On the other hand, this music lends itself really well to being able to tell some of the most heart-wrenching and deeply personal stories. Stories that might be autobiographical, might be about my best friend, or could be a declaration of love for a certain someone. I definitely feel like that’s one of the most beautiful and amazing things about this type of music. It’s made for telling stories. Good, bad, or otherwise.

We see that you’ve shared a bill with rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson. How exciting! Can you tell our readers a little about that experience?

It was a great experience! We got to see so much great music and share a bill with some pretty amazing names like Jim Lauderdale, Strung Like a Horse, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindi Ortega and Hot Club of Cowtown. It’s humbling to have our name on the same bill as those folks, Wanda Jackson included!

Who would you say are your top three old-timey musical influences and why?

Oh man! This is a tough one! Geez! I would have to say that Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies is a band that never ceases to inspire me. The swing that they have as a band just blows my mind, the rhythm section is so solid, and the lead players are top notch. Those fellas along with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were instrumental (no pun intended) in making Western swing and country blues a form of popular music fifty years ago and the fact that those tunes are relatable and relevant today is, I think, a testament to how much fun that music is and how well-written those songs are.

Colt Bowen

Colt Bowen

Lefty Frizzell is one of my absolute favorites. I’m a bit partial to Lefty because my grandfather was a huge fan, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Lefty Frizzell had one of the most amazing voices in the history of country music. You immediately know when you’re listening to one of his songs. I’m not sure there’s much more to say about that one.

Also, Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans is one of the first bands that really opened the door to all of this wonderful music for me. I can’t go a day without getting at least one Pres. Hall tune stuck in my head. The folks in that band are, to this day, teaching the newest generation of young musicians the traditions of New Orleans music and to me that is wildly inspirational!

Your newly-released single, “Hoke Poole Stomp”/”Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia,” was recorded live at the home of your fiddler, Jenna Shea Mobley. Can you tell our readers why you chose to record live and what sets this single apart from your EP, “The River”, self-recorded/released in 2014?

Of course! With the single, we really wanted to capture the feel and energy of a live performance and instead of going the route of tracking

live in a studio, we decided to do something a little bit different and track the whole thing like one of the Alan Lomax field recordings of the ‘40s where they would set up in a hotel room or a living room and just put songs to tape. It was kind of a way of paying homage to the folks who paved the way for bands like us. We had our good friend, Mr. Tony Terrebonne engineer and mix those tunes. Our lovely Ms. Mobley was kind enough to let us take over her (entire) house for the day and track those tunes as well.

(L-R) Caleb Warren, Dave Aitken, Ian Blanton

(L-R) Caleb Warren, Dave Aitken, Ian Blanton

Our EP, “The River” was recorded and mixed by our drummer, Mr. Colt Bowen at his home studio in Adairsville, Ga. We spent quite a good bit of time recording that one and making sure it was exactly what we wanted to give folks as a first impression of The Gents and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

That’s a bit of a round-about way of telling you that the two recordings are totally different from one another, they represent two very different times in our progression as a band, and we are extremely happy to have been able to put our name on two completely different, but stellar recordings. Colt and Tony are both wizards when it comes to engineering. We’re lucky to have those fellas around, and even more lucky to be able to call them our friends.

If you could put together a dream line-up of musicians to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

Freddy Mercury, Ray Charles and Robert Plant sharing vocal duties;  Big Bill Broonzy and Merle Travis on guitar; Willie Dixon on upright bass; Bix Beiderbecke on coronet; Fats Waller on piano; guest appearance by Django Reinhardt on lead guitar and “La Pompe” for a song or two. Why? Because, seriously. Think about that band for just a second. I wouldn’t play in that band. I’d sit down at the table right in front of the stage with all The Gents and a glass of great whiskey. I’d smile, laugh, chuckle, give a thumbs up, make a joke that wasn’t all that funny, buy a round for everyone in the bar, and then I’d enjoy the show! My dream lineup of musicians to play some tunes with? The fellas (and gal) in our band.

What can ATLReaders expect to experience at your upcoming shows at Mac McGee (Aug. 15), The Earl (Aug. 22) and The Clermont Lounge (Oct. 8)? Should they bring their dancin’ shoes? Anything special planned?

IMG_9970[1]You can definitely expect to have a hell of a time and, yes, dancing shoes are a requirement for every show. I might even get off the stage and cut a rug with you! Special plans? There’s a possibility that you might see a singer playing an upright bass solo at The Earl…Also, isn’t any time spent at the Clermont special?

What’s next for Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen?

Definitely more shows, new cities, more writing and starting work on our first full-length album. We have some great things to look forward to in the next six months or so!

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen?

Thank you! Thank you for listening to our music, coming out to shows and for supporting this band of ours. You folks are one of the main reasons we do what we do and you make all the work we put into these songs so worth it.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: What is the band’s favorite food?
A: Dude! Avocado (Guacamole counts), grilled chicken, bacon, bell peppers, pizza with all of the aforementioned foods as toppings, and if you really want to find the way to Uncle Buttermilk’s (Dave) heart, a damn good cheeseburger should do the trick.

Caleb_Warren_press_pic[1]

(L-R) Robert Green, Dave Aitken, Caleb Warren, Colt Bowen, Jenna Mobley, Ian Blanton

All photos courtesy of Caleb Warren and The Perfect Gentlemen and used with permission.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Digging Deep to Her Rockabilly Roots for a Breakthrough Album: Why It’s Worth Following Kim Lenz to Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Los Angeles-based rockabilly-roots musician Kim Lenz  and The Jaguars are no strangers to Atlanta, having played heard numerous times since she launched her career in 1998, but her return to Smith’s Olde Bar on Wed. August 14 is more than a little bit extra special. Her current US Tour supports a new album FOLLOW ME, due for release on Aug. 20 from Riley Records, which has received considerable advance budge beyond the roots community including from Country Music Television’s “Edge” Website.

Reflecting the impact of some recent life challenges for Kim, the new LP’s lyrics are a bit more serious and emotionally heavy and like so many great rockabilly and country women before her, a nice dose of female empowerment. The title track, “Follow Me,” is being compared to a range of amazing vocalists from Wanda Jackson to Amy Winehouse. The scarlet-tressed songstress also has some serious musical muscle behind the scenes since it’s produced by roots music icon Carl Sonny Leyland and recorded by Los Straitjackets bassist Pete Curry. In other words, despite some serious subject matter, it still puts the rock in rockabailly.

Kim has always been a mighty Kool Kat to ATLRetro, so we decided to catch up with her this week to find out more about her new songs and why you should follow her to her and The Jaguars’ Atlanta gig, which incidentally is opened by Chickens and Pigs with special guest Mark Johnson of Delta Moon.

ATLRetro: Your new album FOLLOW ME has been getting some pretty exciting advance buzz. How does it build upon your prior work and take you to the next level? 

Kim Lenz: I love American roots music and that’s what I’ve been doing via rockabilly for a number of years. My new record goes a little further into the roots and I also stretched myself as a songwriter… digging deeper into personal places.

You opted to record FOLLOW ME on vintage tube gear to two-inch tape in mono. Why stay retro when there have been such advances in recording technology?

There is a certain magic when dealing with tubes and tape and plate reverb and such. Modern technology has its place, but starting with yummy ingredients is important in my opinion.

The title track, “Follow Me,” is one amazing female empowerment anthem. I understand it comes out of a recent dark time for you, including learning that you were adopted and the death of your long-time guitarist Nick Curran last fall. Can you talk a bit about the genesis of the song and what you hope others will take from it?

Most of my life I felt like I was so tough. But the last couple years knocked me down. So far I wasn’t sure I could get back up. Music has always been the best way for me to cope with life in general.  I dealt with quite a bit of abuse growing up. This song is about taking back the real power of being a woman.

“Follow Me” is not the only song on the album that deals with life challenges. There’s a long history of female country vocalists who met hard issues head-on. Was there any one who has especially inspired you recently?

Strangely I rarely think of myself as a “female” musician. I think all artists use what they do to deal with life head-on. The ones I respect anyway. If I had to list he people who inspire me, it would be too many to print.

I take it, however, that this album is hardly a downer. You’ve said that producer Carl Sunny Leyland “took these sad songs and put a sparkle on them.” What was it like to work with him and can you expand on what you mean by that?

Carl is a genius. One of the if not the best roots musician on the planet. I brought these songs to him. He easily was able to see my vision but brought them out of the dark.

Any other songs on the album you’d like to single out for listeners to especially look out for?

We just finished making a video for “Pay Dearly.” It’s really dark and cool!

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Do you and the band have anything special planned for this tour and/or your Atlanta stop?

Record digging!!!!

You’ve toured through Atlanta quite a few times over the years. Do you have any favorite must-do things when you’re here?

We usually rock out and drink too much!!!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Caroline Hull Engel Keeps on Ramblin’ with a New Album and CD Release Party Saturday at the Star Bar

Posted on: Jul 19th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

(Full disclosure – Caroline recorded one of my songs on her new album, but I loved her music long before that happened)

It’s been a long time coming, but after almost 20 years, fans are FINALLY getting a full length album from the amazing Caroline & the Ramblers! They’ll be celebrating RED HOT MAMA with a record release party Sat. July 21 at the Star Bar, also featuring the Billygoats from Nashville, Whiskey Belt and Rockbridge Heights. Showtime is 9 p.m.

This “Red Hot Mama” is well known to the folks who frequent the Redneck Underground and rockabilly shows in town as one of the best singers around. She was even selected as Creative Loafing’s “Best Female Vocalist” in 2009. Keeping the spirit of the classic ’50s and early ’60s alive is her goal, and with an amazing mix of terrific original tunes and classy covers, Caroline & the Ramblers never disappoint.

We will let this week’s “Kool Kat” tell her own story…

ATLRetro: How did you first get involved in performing music? Please tell us about your former bands and how they developed over time.
Caroline Hull Engel: I have been singing and performing since I was little. I performed at many school and church functions from a very young age. And then later as an adult I would sing with different friends’ bands at house parties and such, but really hadn’t found “my tribe” yet. Not until one fateful night in the early ’90s at the Dark Horse Tavern in Virginia-Highlands where my best friend and I stumbled across a band called the Diggers. That changed everything for me. Once I saw those guys, I knew I had found “my people.”

After seeing the Diggers that night we found out when they would be playing their next gig. Turned out they were playing at a new bar called the Star Community Bar. One visit to the Star Bar and we were hooked. My friends and I started going there regularly. Night after night there were amazing roots rock bands playing rockabilly, country, hillbilly, garage, surf! We could always count on hearing great live music there. We were like kids in a candy store! It was an amazing time.

After that I was getting to know some of the bands and other regulars at the Star Bar, and one night I got up and sang a Patsy Cline song at an open mike night. This guy came running out after me as I was leaving the bar and he introduced himself as James, aka Slim Chance of Slim Chance and the Convicts. He asked if I would be interested in singing at a Patsy Cline tribute show he was putting together. I knew it was time to start my own band. Trail of Tears was primarily a country band with a hint of rockabilly. We did a lot of Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee covers – and a great Pogues song called “Haunted.”

Then I formed a new band called the Ramblers. This new band was geared more towards a combination of originals and obscure covers and was heavier on the rockabilly stylings of Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin and Gene Vincent with some torchy stuff mixed in. I had gone through a tumultuous relationship and breakup which gave me a lot of inspiration to write some songs that are finally ending up on my new record. Probably the best example of this time in my life is the song “Wasn’t Ready for the Heartache,” which is on the new record. Of course, a little time passing and meeting the love of my life – my husband Robert – helped a lot, too! In 1999 at the first Drive Invasion, I changed the name of the band to Caroline & the Ramblers. We’ve been playing as C&R ever since. There have been some lineup changes over the past 15 years, but I have been very fortunate to play with some of the best players in Atlanta.

Having lived in Atlanta all your life, what are your observations and impressions of the local roots music scene?
Like a lot of things in life, there are ebbs and flows, genres of music that are more popular at one time or another, and that is no exception for the local roots music scene. I think for Atlanta – the roots music scene was probably at its height from the mid-’90s to the early 2000s with a few of the original players maintaining a presence all the way through, but it definitely slacked off in the mid 2000s. Bands break up, people move, and some people aren’t with us anymore. There have always been bands and players who have consistently performed over the years, but there seems to be a resurgence as of late of some new roots rock bands. It is exciting to see this happening!

Who are some of your favorite local and national artists, and why?
JD McPherson’s SIGNS & SIGNIFIERS has not left my CD player since I got it a couple of months ago. Before that was The Bellfuries’ JUST PLAIN LONESOME. Both are truly fabulous records. My all-time favorite touring band is Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. I love how how pure they are and how they stick to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. “No fuss, no fanfare,” as my husband would say. They don’t try to conform to popular conventions; they just do their thing and they do it really well.

I’m very lucky to be in Atlanta where there are so many great local bands of varying styles – like Tiger, Tiger, Anna Kramer and the Lost Cause, Slim Chance and the Convicts, the Serenaders, Villain Family and Ghost Riders Car Club (GRCC), but everyone who knows me knows that my favorite local band is The Blacktop Rockets. BTR doesn’t play as frequently as they used to,  but it is always a thrill to hear them live. They are the best!

What were some of the challenges you faced in the process of making this new CD?
Time and money – but doesn’t that seems to be a challenge regarding a lot of things in life?

Since it was recorded, you have made some major changes in the band. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The original players on the CD THE RAMBLERSChad Proctor, Matt Spaugh and Rodney Bell and I – are not currently playing together. They are very busy with family commitments, other music opportunities and their own band. They are amazing musicians, and they did such a fabulous job on the record. It is unfortunate that we could not promote the CD together as a group, but the timing wasn’t right for it. Everyone is going in different directions and I wish them all the very best.

For many months I have been working with new “Ramblers”: Danny Arana – guitar/vocals; Big Joel G – bass/vocals; and Mike Z – drums. The new line-up is awesome! We are having a great time, and they seem to really dig this new sound we are creating. Danny’s harmonies will absolutely blow you away! This new chapter of the Ramblers has turned out better than I could have hoped for.

How do you go about selecting songs to perform? What is it that pulls you to cover a tune?
I’ve been listening to “old school” country and rockabilly since I was a little kid. My Dad had an old jukebox, and I would play it for hours and hours. A lot of the 45s he had on the jukebox like Gene Vincent, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and the Beatles were influential in the kind of music I play today. I listen to a lot of compilations of stuff from the ’40s and ’50s, too, and I keep lists of potential covers. I am all about things that are vocally appealing to me and either move me emotionally or make me want to get up and dance. I just know a cover song that will work for us when I hear it.

How interested/involved in music and performance are your two lovely daughters, Ava Bonner and Ella?
We get performances on a daily basis at our house. My prediction is that I have one future Vocal Star and one future Rock Star! The joke is that in a few years they will form a band with some of our other musician friends’ children, and then we’ll be the ones in the audience!

What would be your “dream gig”?
Nationally I would have to say the real dream gig would be to play at the Ryman in Nashville. To perform on the stage where so many of my musical heroes have played would be amazing! Locally I think it would be really cool to play Chastain Park and open for someone like Chris Isaak, Loretta Lynn or Brian Setzer. Of course, it would be great to open for my hero Wanda Jackson again!

What are your plans for the band now that the album is completed and released?
We have several shows on the calendar to promote the CD and are working on more for the Fall. Currently we are playing our CD Release party at the Star Bar on Saturday July 21, a show at Twain’s in Decatur on Thursday August 2, a live in-store at Decatur CD on Friday August 10 and a show at Big Tex Cantina in Decatur on Friday August 24. We also plan to play a few out of town shows this fall and winter. You can find out more about our music and show dates on our ReverbNation page.

You do a benefit every year for people with Down’s syndrome. How did you get involved in that, and why? When is the next one, and who is the featured artist?
Yes, I have two different childhood friends whose children were born with Down syndrome, and I started this to honor these beautiful kids and to help each of them with their effort to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta’s yearly Buddy Walk. This all started in 2010 with a show called “A Tribute.” Each year I pick a musical legend to honor, and I ask local bands to do a few songs by that artist. The first year we did Patsy Cline, and last year to coincide with his 80th birthday we did an evening of George Jones’ music. This year we will do a tribute to Ray Price! This year’s show will be on Saturday October 13 at the Star Bar.

RED HOT MAMA can be purchased on www.cdbaby.com and locally at Decatur CD. All photographs are courtesy of Caroline and the Ramblers.

 

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Weekend Update, April 15-17, 2011

Posted on: Apr 15th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 15

The 75th annual Dogwood Festival begins at noon at Piedmont Park including a large juried fine arts market, continuous live music including New Orleans-style blues from Swamp Funk Quartet at 3:40-4:30 pm, kid’s village, food vendors, Friends of Dogwood tasting pavilion, rides on the vintage Seattle Wheel (read ATLRetro’s preview here), built for the 1963 Seattle World’s Fair, and a classic 1965 carousel, and more. Also happening this weekend is Sweetwater 420 Fest in Candler Park, also featuring an artists’ market and plenty of live music acts, including the Gimme Hendrix Band at 5:20 PM.

The Atlanta Braves celebrate Jackie Robinson Night in honor of the 64th anniversary of the legendary player’s debut in Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier, with a pre-game reception and on-field ceremony featuring Hank Aaron before tonight’s game against the New York Mets. Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson holds court at The Loft, while contemporary Atlanta rockabilly band Psycho Devilles descends into The Basement at 1245 Joseph Street. Danish duo The Raveonettes, at The Masquerade tonight, blend ’60s beat with ’80s alt-garage for a sound both Retro and original. Eighties alt-rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket hit Variety Playhouse. The Hollidays bring rhythm and soul to Sidelines in Marietta. Salsambo Dance Studio unleashes some Latin heat at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXJoe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up The Mansion on Peachtree. Saxophonist Brian Hogans headlines Friday Jazz at The High Museum of Art, including full gallery access (see ongoing for current exhibits) and a cash bar. Or go really retro with the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. In Mozart’s comedic masterpiece, two Italian officers boast of their fiancees’ faithfulness, only to have a clever friend put it to the test.

Saturday April 16

Vinyl-lovers rejoice! Today is Record Store Day so be sure and support your local indie record store, even if you decide to buy a CD! Decatur CD celebrates with sales, Community BBQ sliders, free beer, concert ticket giveaways, and Atlanta’s own King of Pops with scrumptious freshly made popsicles outside after 2 PM (weather permitting)! Other great Atlanta and Athens indie music shops will host their own celebrations, so get yourself to Fantasyland Records, Wax n’ Facts (live music), Wuxtry (live bands at the Athens location), Criminal Records (live music) and Full Moon Records.

The 75th annual Dogwood Festival continues all day at Piedmont Park including rockin’ blues from Lefty Williams at 5 PM and outrageous ragtime from Blair Crimmins & the Hookers at 6:30 PM. Read ATLRetro’s interview with Blair here. Meanwhile at Sweetwater 420 Fest, catch 7 Walkers featuring Bill Kreutzman of The Grateful Dead at 4:50-6:30 PM.

Mon Cherie’s The Chamber Reunion transports attendees back to Atlanta’s notorious ’90sGoth/Industrial/fetish club with live fetish performances, burlesque/Boi-Lesque,  aerial feats, go-go dancers, drag skits, body paint, a chocolate bar and more surprises to tickle your fancy tonight at The Masquerade from 9 AM late into the night. Mon Cherie provides an exclusive preview as this week’s Kool Kat.

On any other night, The Chamber Reunion would win hands down the most exotic extravaganza in town, but tonight isn’t any other night. Creative competition comes from The Artifice Club, which presents The Clockwork Carnival, a steampunk circus featuring a night full of gypsies, fire eaters and other curiosities at The Goat Farm. Featured acts include The Imperial OpaHot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, the amazing aerial feats of Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, Thimblerig CircusPyro Salto of Birmingham, AL, music by DJs Doctor Q and The Davenport Sisters, and more. Also featured is a Vendor’s Market Caravan, photography sessions, The Circus Contraption Contest with prizes awarded for the most creative device you would need to work at a carnival, and a steampunk costume contest to crown the King and Queen of the Carnival. Festivities start at 4 PM and also last into the very wee hours of the night, we suspect. For ATLRetro’s sneak preview with Doctor Q himself, click here.

In Atlanta Rollergirls action at the Yaarab Shrine Center, the Dirty South Derby Girls take on the Tampa Tantrums at 5 PM, followed by a whole lotta shaking going on as the Denim Demons and the Toxic Shocks skate it out for a chance at a first win of the season. The Psycho Devilles rockabilly it up at Dixie Tavern in Marietta. Variety Playhouse turns the clock back and invites you to dig out the shoulder pads for The Reagan Rock Prom featuring “The Greatest ’80s Soundtrack Songs of all Time.” Music, dancing, a prom king and queen contest and refreshments. Better Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday April 17

Spend a lazy Sunday at the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park, catching bands such as easy-going, all-American Jackson County Line (2 PM). Or Sweetwater 420 Festival winds down with several bluegrass acts. Gentleman Jesse serves up the blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. Catch the final matinee performance at 3 PM of the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. At night, legendary blues musician Taj Mahal plays Variety Playhouse.

Ongoing

Leave it to the mad geniuses at Dad’s Garage to transform a beloved children’s classic into a bloody puppet musical. SCARLETT’S WEB features all your favorite characters from Wilbur the pig to Templeton the rat but adds some splattery special effects. Never mind, it’s all in fun though, they say, and definitely recommended only for anyone old enough to appreciate adult humor. Opened April 14 and runs Thurs., Fri. and Sat. nights at 8 p.m. through May 7.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, but it’s not a stretch to say that his vibrant posters and prints of showgirls, nightclub stars and the café culture influenced the 20thcentury romantic view of Paris and still inspire today’s burlesque performers. The High Museum of Art’s dynamic new special exhibition, TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND FRIENDS: THE IRENE AND HOWARD STEIN COLLECTION, runs through May 1. Also at the High through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, another blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening coming up, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, April 11-17, 2011

Posted on: Apr 12th, 2011 By:

Last week was fairly quiet when it came to Retro-inspired activities in Atlanta, So ATLRetro took a bit of a rest. This week starts slowly, too, but once Saturday hits, even I’m not sure what to do. Let’s just say EVERYTHING happens all at once and ATLRetro revs back up, too, with a bunch of special features including a bedazzling look back at last month’s Southern Fried Burlesque courtesy of the tantalizing Talloolah Love, an exclusive preview of Saturday night’s The Chamber Reunion courtesy of Kool Kat of the Week Mon Cherie, the Dogwood Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary with two vintage amusement rides, and more.

Monday April 11

An acclaimed musician whom B.B. King says has “soul,” D.B. Rielly takes rock and country back to its roots at Smith’s Olde Bar, with back-to-the-basics, ’70s-rock-inspired Saturn 5 and alt-folk Little Brave also on the bill. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday April 12

Splatter Cinema travels back to 1985 with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE at 9:30 PM at the Plaza Theatre. While ATLRetro reviewer Mark Arson admits the first sequel may not be the most creative of the Krueger movies, it still features a lot of fun scares, and you know the Splatter gang will dream up a photo op that will haunt your sleep.

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. J.T. Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits. Or go really retro with the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. In Mozart’s comedic masterpiece, two Italian officers boast of their fiancees’ faithfulness, only to have a clever friend put it to the test.

Wednesday April 13

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Deacon Brandon Reeves and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

Thursday April 14

ATHENS BURNING, a documentary about the history of the historic Georgia Theatre, a key venue in the college town’s famous music scene, screens at The Plaza Theatre at 7:30 PM. Cowboy Envy strums up some mighty fine traditional and original Western tunes at Atlanta’s tastiest new concert venue, Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc, in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Watch the classic Gregory PeckAudrey Hepburn romance-on-a-motorscooter movie ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), drink some wine, hear Free Poems on Demand, and check out PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE during MODA‘s Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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