CD Review – Carrie Rodriguez "She Ain’t Me"

Disclosure: I got this CD for free
As I posted earlier, I’ve seen Carrie Rodriguez play in Newcastle – a great voice and a great fiddle player. There’s little evidence of the fiddle here (a couple of tracks do highlight it – “Eldorado” for one) but the voice is great, as are the songs. I’ve had this CD a while, and it has been played a lot, worming into my head.

It seems as if Carrie is trying to broaden her horizons, and with them her appeal and audience. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Carrie has written or co-written most of the songs (many with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks), and many of them seem to tell of love lost, unrequited, forgotten, forlorn, etc. (“Rag Doll”, “Absence”, “The Big Mistake”). She sounds real sad on some of these tunes, sounding at times like Alanis Morissette. On others she seems to be struggling with the political situation (joined by Lucinda Williams on “Mask of Moses”) as well as the social situation in the USA (“Infinite Night”)

I love the sound of this album – there’s an atmospheric, layered approach to the tracks – instruments fade in and out as they are needed – everything seems to be exactly where it needs to be. There’s tasty guitar textures too – pedal steel, mandolin and tenor guitar all add to the feel.

I find the album very relaxing – melancholic overall, true, but it leaves me feeling better than when I started listening to it – so it is a success right there.

There’s a MySpace page and streaming audio here and here.

Stolen Hendrix strat sold for £30?

Believe it or not, Jimi Hendrix played a gig at The Imperial Hotel in Darlington, on 2nd February 1967. The photo up there was taken just before the gig started by Ian Wright and is available as a signed print here. Apparently the gig came to a standstill after 3 minutes when the fuses blew! Hendrix – who by then had claimed his first top ten hit Hey Joe – played in front of 200 fans at the Blue Pad nightclub at the Imperial Hotel, in Grange Road, known locally as the Imp.

At that gig one of Jimi’s strats went “missing” and the whereabouts of that guitar have been a mystery for quite a few local people over the intervening 40 years. Local Hendrix tribute band Sundance are playing a gig at the same venue on the 21st September and they thought it might be good if the guitar was returned at the gig and could then be returned to the Hendrix estate.

There was an article in the local daily paper, The Northern Echo, and today there was more news. Although nobody has owned up to “acquiring” the guitar, the guy who bought it has come forward. Unfortunately he no longer has the guitar – he bought it for £20 and sold it for £20 – £30.

Tony Carrrington was at the gig and got to jam with Hendrix. He was there when the roadies told Hendrix that the black strat was missing – he didn’t seem too bothered as apparently it was one that Jimi used onstage to throw against amps and stuff – he was more concerned about his white strat.

Some time later Tony was offered the guitar, now resprayed red. He bought it for £20 but says it was “Horrible – a dog”. He sold it a few months later to somebody local for £30, but doesn’t know where it is now.

If there are any further developments, I’ll keep you posted.

Northern Echo story here.

Hillbilly Hellcats – CD review

Disclosure – I got these CDs for free (and a cool t-shirt too!)

Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting some CDs from a different “Cyber Publicity” firm in the US. Some of them will be reviewed here and some won’t be reviewed.

A parcel I got yesterday had a cool t-shirt and 2 CDs by a rockabilly band from Colorado, Hillbilly Hellcats. Now I love cool t-shirts almost as much as I love music, but the inclusion of a cool t-shirt doesn’t guarantee a good review, or any review at all.
However, I’d have reviewed these CDs anyway, cool t-shirt or not.
I don’t listen to rockabilly a lot – there’s hardly any in my collection, though I do like the popular face of “rockabilly”, The Stray Cats, and I have various compilations with original, period tracks by original performers. But I do like rockabilly – I always enjoy it when I am listening to it – it makes me feel good. These 2 CDs did more than that – they made me feel great! I only got them yesterday morning and I’ve listened to each one 3 or 4 times. I’ve raved about them online and offline and might have got myself involved in promoting a UK gig for the band (gulp!)

The 2 Cds “Our Brand” and “Rev It Up With Taz” have 40 original tracks between them. The songs are funny, they offer social comment, and, I guess, are only one aspect of the mind of Chuck Hughes, vocalist, guitar player and main songwriter.

The songs cover subjects such as white trash (in the song of the same name), sex, drugs, drink, rockabilly, cars, cruising, skateboards, hippies (“Hippie Dance” even mentions The Grateful Dead!), love lost, found, spurned and hillbilly (“Hillbilly Love”), trains, surfing, food (“Roadkill Cafe” – “You kill it – we grill it”) and much much more. Whilst most of the songs are played at a pretty fast tempo, they’re not all like that. Some are even faster! (“Harder Faster”). Seriously, there are some mellow moments too.

There is also some seriously good playing by everybody concerned. Chuck on guitar is, I am sure, a very good guitarist in many styles – there are hints of his jazz, rock and blues chops sprinkled throughout these tracks. But he has this rockabilly thing down pat. There’s twanginess all around, lightning fast runs and solos, jazzy chords and more. There’s a tribute to Duane Eddy (Big Orange Guitar) and yes, Chuck plays an orange Gretsch. Taz on drums (formerly with Rev.Horton Heat) is essential to this sound – keeping the driving rhythm moving along and his pairing with Lance on double bass is ideal – they are the powerhouse behind this trio.

If you already like rockabilly, you won’t be disappointed by these guys, they’re the real deal. If you fancy a change from the usual stuff you listen to, head over to myspace and give them a listen – and tell them I sent you!

Tri on Bishop FM

Tri (Phil Graham, David Pratt and me) were guests on Terry Ferdinand’s Folk Show on BishopFm on Monday night. I’d been in the studio for the previous 2 shows, and this time all 3 of us were there. I did a couple of solo tunes to start with – neither of them “folk” songs! (Paul Rodger’s “Muddy Water Blues” and an old cowboy favourite of mine, “Ghost Riders in The Sky”) – I got some good feedback via email from the listeners. Phil followed with some Spanish themed tunes as he’d just returned from a Spanish holiday. Later all three of us played “Green & Red of Mayo”, “In My Hour of Darkness” “Black Is The Colour” and ended with that well known folk song “Dance The Night Away” by The Mavericks. We had a great time and all through the show we were getting messages from people around the world who seemed to be enjoying what we did. We’ve got a recording of the show so I’ll be sorting some tracks out to upload at our website and myspace pages. I’ll keep you posted.


I played at Maggiefest on Sunday (see poster in earlier post). I had a great time – the sound system was excellent – I was able to hear my voice wonderfully well – a little scary really but it allowed me to add nuances and such to, hopefully, good effect. By the time we got around to starting (a little late) there was a reasonable audience too. They were very attentive and appreciative, I think, of my curtailed set – I got some good comments afterwards and a good review too:

“First up Gary Grainger with a solo acoustic set of mid west/deep south blues style tracks including Grateful Dead, Lowell George and Kris Kristofferson. A cracking start to the event. Vocals were crystal clear and the sound was fantastic all night. My little entourage enjoyed this set as it was stuff you just do not hear that often in the local pub scene. Definitely one to watch out for if that genre is your cup of tea.”

Bands included The Creepers – Punk and Roll stuff – great fun and in Eva Destruction a great frontwoman and bass player. The Bandits were of course excellent – one of my favourite local bands and great guys too. They were followed by The Steve Gilroy Band, who have had a few personnel changes, recently. They blew the place away with excellent tight playing, a great choice of material and a blinding performance by the whole band – well done. Organiser Anto’s band The Gatecrashers were next up and I enjoyed their cover versions of well known rock tunes – Anto’s Les Paul sounded great through his Vox amp. I missed The Sticky Fingers, but I’ve seen them before and know they will have been great – drunk but great! An excellent night in aid of Tyneside Cyrenians – a charity for the homeless. Roll on next year!

Tom Yocky Appalachian dulcimers

A long time ago John Pearse had this series on TV about building an Appalachian dulcimer. Me and my friend Buzz had a go. Neither of them were great, but it was an interesting experience. Buzz’s brother Brian built a better one, I seem to remember. I also remember that I enjoyed playing my dulcimer for a little while, but it probably ended up as firewood (we had coal fires in them days).

On Monday night at Bishop FM, Linda Pearson was playing her new dulcimer, “Innocence”, made by Tom Yocky. It is a lovely looking instrument, and Linda did a great job of playing it. Naturally I visited Tom’s site and spent ages browsing around. I like his dulcimers a lot – especially the electric ones. There are some sound samples here – and I think I could even make a reasonable attempt at building another dulcimer after 43 years or so!

Bishop FM on Monday night

I was resident musician on Terry Ferdinand’s Folk Show on Bishop FM, last Monday night. I was joined by The Pearson Clan, a lovely couple who sing a variety of new and old tunes, as well as playing some great mandolin and dulcimer pieces. Geoff and Linda had a lovely mix of guitar and vocals – they played a lovely Gillian Welch tune “Orphan Child” that I’d love to have sung harmonies on – if I’d known the words. A Tom Paxton song “Getting Up Early” was good too. I particularly enjoyed the song written by a friend of theirs, Stan Graham, too.

I seem to have got into a habit of playing songs I’ve never played before, both on Terry’s show and at Crook Buskers. This week was no exception. After opening with my old favourite “Know You Rider”, I had a go at “The Highwayman” by The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson). I’ve heard the tune before, of course, but it got stuck in my head last week after I took a rare trip around the audio-visual department of our local Tesco. They were playing a Johnny Cash Greatest Hits selection through one of their home theatre systems. When this song came on I sat down on one of their sofas and listened – it was great!

After it rattled round my head for a few days I decided I’d use the power of the WundaWeb and find the chords and words. I did this about one hour before heading out of the door to go to BishopFM, so only had time to listen to the song once and play through it at the same time. Having said that, I enjoyed singing and playing it, and of course the millions of listeners out there in radio land didn’t have a clue that I had the words and chords right there in front of me – don’t tell them, will you!?

I took a similar approach to the other new song that I sang- though once again it is a song I’ve been listening to for a long time, by artists as diverse as Marty Robbins and The Grateful Dead – the gunfighter ballad “Big Iron”. My father used to listen to Marty Robbins a lot, as well as other singers of cowboy songs, so I guess that is where my interest in such songs started. Then at some point Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead started covering Big Iron and El Paso too. I used to play the song, sometimes, when I was in the Bob Allison Country Band, but only when Bob wanted to show the audience that our modern (and at times self-written) country music was very similar to the old standards that they insisted on listening too.

So I sang Big Iron for my dad, who always used to say that I should just go out there and do music with me and my guitar rather than in a band. He might have been onto something. I hope he’d have been proud of me.

I also sang Warren Haynes’ “Soulshine” and the night ended with me and the Pearson Clan on Little Feat’s “Willin'”, with some lovely mandolin from Geoff.

I’ve been promised some CDs of the last 2 weeks shows – I’ll edit them viciously and then let you listen to the one or two seconds that aren’t too bad. If you can’t wait until then, the show will be repeated on bishopfm on Saturday at 8:00pm.

Next Monday I’m joined by my good friends Phil Graham and David Platt – the 3 of us are Tri and we’ll be giving our own slant to various songs – some of them might even be folk songs! Tune in!