What's great about motorcycling is also great about music. Both define who we are. Both are varied and diverse, an example of the dictum "Different stokes for different folks." Who wants to live in a vanilla-flavored world when there are so many flavors about? That's why one doesn't see a lot of beige bikes. Some want flames, others want pinstripes. Even the blacked-out look benefits from a little chrome and/or a little color every once in a while. And that's what we're offering this month: a little something for everyone...
In the bike world DIY bikes are home-built custom projects put together in accordance with the owner's vision and sweat equity, regardless of budget. In the end, they stand as a crowning achievement to the proud owner's perseverance. Welcome to the new world of rock and roll stardom. Like bike builders, these days bands no longer need the backing of a major label to get their music heard and sold.
Hailing from the glitzy jet set city of, Columbia, Missouri, Shaman's Harvest set out to do just that. Its second self-released album, Shine, caught national radio and fans by surprise, thanks to the power ballad "Dragonfly." It proves that young bands just need to develop that one song that captures everyone's attention. And play in front of as many people as possible. Having opened for "other" bands like AC/DC, Godsmack, Jane's Addiction, and Papa Roach, this five-man unit aims to barnstorm across America to keep pace with the dizzying speed at which its single has been selling. Thirty-thousand downloads and still climbing is a major feat these days. Hell, 30,000 of anything in the music business these days is phenomenal.
Shaman's Harvest consists of Nathan "Drake" Hunt, Matt Fisher, Josh Hamler, Ryan Tomlinson, and Craig Wingate. They play straight-ahead power rock that's perfect biker music, if rock is your thing. The songs on the album all hang in there together and make for enjoyable interstate listening. It's an excellent sophomore effort and it'll be worth watching to see where the band goes from here. Not bad at all for a garage-born project.
Flashback Of The Month
Exile on Main Street
The Rolling Stones
UME/Rolling Stones Records
The Rolling Stones' modern catalog first resided with Atlantic Records and then EMI. Everything from Sticky Fingers on has now been placed with Universal, who has a larger market share of music than any major label distributor. What could the distributor possibly do that hasn't been done before? What it is doing is akin to Harley rolling out new and improved versions of their vintage bikes. Imagine a fully restored knucklehead or panhead available in limited numbers.
This latest reissue of 1972's Exile On Main Street is many more miles down the road than anything that's been done before. First off, lets all agree that this was, and still is, one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded. In the context of 2010, there isn't an album in the universe that comes close to eclipsing Exile (bring on the email and letters). This time out, as record companies often do, it's been beefed up with 10 extra bonus tracks in the deluxe edition, plus a DVD and book on "The Making Of..." And for those firmly stuck in the '70s, there's high-quality vinyl pressings (if you have a turntable on your bike, please send pics). The only things missing for complete déjà vu are rolling papers and incense.
Upon the original album's release, the Hells Angels and Altamont were a few years gone. No one was wearing flowers in their hair. America had lost her innocence (along with the lives of many troops) in Vietnam. The economy was in a similar funk (funny how the album's title seems appropriate and especially relevant to what's happening now). Meanwhile the Stones were anxious to escape an onerous British tax system. So Mick and company set up recording the album in France, eventually completing it in Los Angeles, all the while bringing in a myriad of guest artists to complete what was to become a masterpiece.
In the end, it was born from a melting pot of blues, R&B, country, and gospel. In these days of downloadable disposable pop songs, Exile on Main Street succeeds as a double album. Playing it from beginning to end (and at loud volume) requires an investment of time but a good time is guaranteed. Sure, at times it's a little rough-and-tumble and the sound gets ragged, but that's clearly what the Stones wanted. The band obviously took time with the sequencing because each song works in the context of the preceding and following song. "Tumbling Dice," "Rip this Joint," "Sweet Virginia," "Stop Breaking Down," "Shake Your Hips," "Rocks Off," and "Happy"-each subsequent listen is like a road trip that reveals a new curve or thrill, and that's essentially what amazes. This ain't no Justin Beiber premature ejaculation pop stuff-it's only rock and roll. And we like it.
Joined at the Hip
Pinetop Perkins and Willie
"Big Eye" Smith
What if you inherited an old barn and found a completely stock 1915 Cyclone board tracker stashed in a corner? And let's say you got it running and found it to be pure joy-right up there with any modern machine. If you're into the blues, that's the feeling you'll get when you first hear the latest album, Joined at the Hip, from Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eye" Smith. Call him a late bloomer, whatever, but Pinetop's latest effort unites him with harpist Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and these two easily put any younger blues players to shame.
Born Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi, and at 93 years young, Pinetop predates the aforementioned Cyclone by two years. He spent his formative years playing guitar and then piano around the Mississippi delta with various legends and near-legends. His most successful stint came as a replacement for Otis Spann in the late, great Muddy Waters band during the great blues resurgence of the '70s. He eventually formed the Grammy-winning Legendary Blues Band.
Born in Helena Arkansas in 1936, drummer Willie "Big Eye" Smith also blows the harp like nobody's business. Mr. Smith didn't go to Washington but he did travel to Chicago where he happened upon Muddy Waters for the first time. That hooked him on the blues forever.
The Legendary Blues Band thus began racking up the credits. They played with everyone from Muddy to Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, and Junior Wells, to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.
Joined at the Hip is an important album. In the technological age, it reinforces the notion of the blues as an ongoing authentic and relevant American art form. No matter how plugged in we are, anyone can relate to the blues. Exhibit A is the lead-off track "Grown Up To Be a Man," a rambling blues shuffle that's perfect for back-road blasting in search of hidden honky-tonks. In the extended blues jam "Walking Down the Highway," one expects Muddy to suddenly come to life out of the speakers! There's a liberal sprinkling of both original and blues nuggets from the past-more than enough to get you down the road and home again.
I Am What I Am
It's surprising that Merle Haggard hasn't used this as an album title before. After all, if one looks up the word "authentic" in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Merle right next to the word. Merle has never been shy about speaking his mind. One doesn't go from misspent youth to San Quentin inmate to being one of country music's endearing icons (at 72 years old) without being real and telling it like it is. I Am what I Am is more of Merle Haggard being himself.
There are some surprising moments on the album. Recorded with his longtime band, the Strangers, the album features Merle's wife, Theresa, and other close confidants. Merle assumes the characterizations of lover and renegade with equal aplomb. The songs range from quiet introspection to social commentary. The opening track "I've Seen It Go Away" offers up a jolt of current reality as seen from the eyes of the singer. "Pretty When It's New," "Live and Love Always," "The Road To My Heart," and "We're Falling in Love Again" are obviously love songs, but not the cheesy schmaltzy over-produced crap that passes for modern country music these days. On one hand, Merle is vulnerable yet wise, and on the other he's that tough grizzled stranger from the past. This Okie is one to reckon with. On "Mexican Bands," a song that probably won't get much airplay in Arizona, Merle professes his love for south-of-the-border music, with a little wry humor:
"...I love frijoles, tortilla, and tacos
And listening to old Mexican bands
No sabe the lingo
I'm just a gringo
And I too like to work with my hands
And early Manana
l'll smoke what I wanna..."
Over the years many fans and critics have tried to define Merle. He seems to answer them in the last track, for which the album is entitled, and one which should be a favorite for quite a few bikers in the audience. Merle sings:
"I'm no longer a fugitive
And I'm not on the lam
'I'm just a rambler
I am what I am..."
Here's to Merle. May he keep the music coming.