By the time this month’s issue hits newsstands and mailboxes, spring will be under way. This usually signals a time to change fluids, plugs, etc., and get things ready for the coming months of warm weather riding. One area not to be overlooked is your bike’s sound system. A simple speaker or amp upgrade goes a long way towards dialing up a few more degrees of pleasure from one’s bike. Now’s the time to blow the dust out of the speakers, banish those rattles and fix that unwanted hum. The added demands of satellite radio and iPod/MP3 adaptors also require a check of the wiring to eliminate electronic bugaboos that usually seem to manifest themselves a few hundreds miles from home. No, a blown speaker or fuse won’t leave you stranded by the side of the road, but it can be a major irritant during longer trips. One minute you’re cruising along listening to (fill in the blank) and the next you’ve lost a whole channel.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the sights and scents of spring against a background of exhaust notes and motor cacophony. You don’t need to blast music every time you jump on your bike and there’s certainly nothing wrong with just the wind in your face and smells of spring. But for many, a little road tune-age makes the trip more enjoyable. Speaking of which, here’s a roundup of a few notable music releases for those spring cruises
King Mojo Records
Big Shanty may not be your standard-issue household name when it comes to the blues, but make no mistake; one listen to this release and you will most likely remember his name. Collection is the title of this double-disc retrospective that compiles 19 previously released tracks, plus a few rarer ones, some of which have been long out of print. Who knew? The press release says his sound has been described as death metal blues and heavy metal funk and mentions similarities to Hendrix, Neil Young, and Rob Zombie. But once you get past the hype, there’s definitely something brilliant going on here.
One thing for certain is you won’t hear music like this on terrestrial radio, which seems to be enamored with the trite and trendy. Big Shanty certainly flies under the radar of current pop culturetry Googling the name and you’ll end up with, among others, a famous civil war battle and a barbecue sauce. Big Shanty has been practicing his craft for a few years now and many are beginning to discover what may be one of the last honest musicians out there.
Of particular note to bikers, his song Whiskey Women, is an epic motorcycle tune, replete with Jim Morrison-style vocals and a groove made for headin’ out on the highway. Ditto Born Up In Trouble, a new instant blues classic. A few songs into this album and one will soon wonder, Wow, where has this guy been all my life? It’s definitely blues-rock, but advances the art far beyond the ZZ Top/Foghat/Cream era. Featured artists include bassist Jack Hall (Wet Willie), guitarist Spencer Kirkpatrick (Hydra), plus newcomer Liz Melendez and jam band alumni Col. Bruce Hampton. Together they lurch and grind out a driving groove that touches on everything from political commentary to love gone bad. It’s excellent riding music that goes well with the smell of 10w-40.
Album of the Month
If you’re old enough to remember Decade in its original form as a three LP set (as in vinyl 12-inch long playing records) from 1977, then move to the head of the class. You can quit reading now. There are few artists that come close to Neil Young for his influence and vast body of work. From his days with Buffalo Springfield and CSNY to his solo recordings with Crazy Horse, Neil’s career ranks him as one of modern music’s poet laureates, along with Dylan and Springsteen.
Decade, as the title indicates, is a 35-track, 10-year look back at Neil’s greatest hitsnot defined in terms of radio airplaybut critical success and seminal songs. Indeed, few Neil Young songs made their way as singles to the top of radio playlists. His songs are too complex, and don’t lend themselves to the required three-plus minute edits as singles. And they are devoid of pop music fluff like catchy lyrics and hooks. Yet they remain infinitely listenable and open to personal interpretation, which is what makes great art. And that’s what makes this album such a treasure. One would be hard-pressed to scroll through the Neil Young catalog online and select a better list of songs, if for no other reason than the fact that even Neil’s more obscure songs get better the more one spends time with them. Buy the CD set, or download the entire album because there is so much here that awaits discovery.
Obviously there’s no better place to spend time with this double disc set than on the road. Mr. Soul, Down By the River, Southern Man (the song that inspired Lynyrd Skynrd’s Sweet Home Alabama), Like A Hurricane, Cortez the Killer, and Long May You Run, are all candidates for Biker Music Hall of Fame hits. Go find a nice two-hour ride and road-test all the songs in this collection. Drop us a line and tell us what you think!