Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unbelievable Syncopation: The magic of the one-man-band

For this mid-week post, I've got three performers who all took the same approach to very different types of music. How many people can play two-to-three instruments at once while singing? Probably not many. How many people were able to master this technique while writing some REALLY fucked-up songs? Only three that I've found:

Abner Jay
Probably the most well-known of these talented outsiders. He used to tour the country selling records out of his car and playing his quaalude-slow rhythm and blues on a banjo and a drumset rigged with foot pedals (not to mention some fantastic harmonica playing as well). With his deep and soulful voice, he tackles such subjects as why young people use drugs, why HE uses drugs (namely cocaine) and how the mule and cotton is the backbone of American culture. As humorously outrageous as they are depressing, Abner Jay's songs sometimes sound the same but fuck it, I'll sing along anyhow.

Hasil Adkins
The 'wild man' of rock and roll, Hasil taught himself to play his guitar and drums at the same time (also rigged with foot pedals) after hearing Hank Williams on the radio and, upon seeing that no other musicians were credited on Hank's recordings, figuring that he must do it all himself at the same time. Instead of the old-timey country and western sound you might expect, Hasil actually pioneered a sound bordering on rockabilly and punk back in the 1950's. He recorded all his tunes with a cheap reel-to-reel in his shack/home and often talks about some pretty fucked up stuff. This includes cutting off his girlfriend's head so she doesn't eat anymore hot dogs, comparing a one-night-stand to a 'dying can of that commodity meat,' and doing various dances which he makes up and usually have to do with chickens. This stuff is raw, entertaining, and definitely rock and roll.

Jack Starr
Like Hasil, Jack Starr plays proto-punk rockabilly and was active beginning in the 1950's. I'm not sure if he played all the instruments at once, but it sounds like it. His recordings are even more horror-centric than Hasil's, most likely from his experience as a special effects/costume wizard for B-movies! I can't find much info about him, but he's got one compilation of tunes (pictured above) that range from crazy garage stompers to ballads. (p.s.--I've attached a download link for this album to the picture above because it's really hard to find)

That's it for now...there will probably be another full album this week, which I will make available as a download here. Be sure to tune into 89.1, WIDR FM Thursday nights from midnight to 2 am for the program.

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