It's the final episode of Season 1 and I'm signing off in style with my guest this week, the spectacular Bettye LaVette. Bettye has a memory like a steel trap and an engaging and self-deprecating way about hr that makes for great storytelling. Since her first single "My Man - He's a Lovin' Man" in 1962 at age sixteen, Bettye has had a career full of ups and downs, and as she tells it, more downs than ups in the first forty! But in those years she managed to drift on and off Atlantic Records 5 times, and at one point, due to some questionable advice, actually asked legendary producer Jerry Wexler to be let off the label. He handed her $500 and told her she'd need it! Growing up in Detroit, and learning to sing in her parents' living room while they were selling booze to the locals, as well as the touring gospel groups of the day (Sam Cooke used to drop in for refreshments), Bettye developed an incredible voice and a desire to get out and perform. Some early success put her on the road with Ben E King, Clyde McPhatter, James Brown, and Otis Redding, but every success seemed to be followed by disappointment with some bad timing, poor promotion, and sketchy advice. It really wasn't until the mid-2000's that Bettye found a new audience and since then has made a string of incredible records with producers like Joe Henry and Patterson Hood with the Drive By Truckers. Her recent book "A Woman Like Me" tells her story, but as always, it's more fun hearing them straight from her! Bettye's latest album is called "Worthy" and is well worth seeking out. Thank you for listening to the show and being a fantastic audience. I'll return soon for Season 2 - stay tuned!
Drummer Jay Bellerose is my guest on the show this week. If your musical taste crosses over with mine at all, Jay is probably the drummer on some of your favorite records of the last 15 years. If you've been following this show, Jay's name has come up many times in other interviews, so it was high-time to drag him in for an episode of his own! Jay's unique approach to drumming, with unorthodox setups and an awesome palette of vintage drums has made him the go-to drummer for producers like T-Bone Burnett and Joe Henry. We talk about his approach to drumming and musicality in the studio, and how he tries to be very selective about the projects he takes on. In fact, he once turned down a gig with David Byrne, only to take his first gig with Joe Henry, opening for David Byrne! Jay has played on albums for BB King, Gregg Allman, Ray LaMontagne, Allen Toussaint, Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, Bonnie Raitt and the list goes on and on. Jay and I talked about his early days at Berklee, his long stint with Paula Cole, how to survive in a multi-drummer session with Jim Keltner, and how he had to work to fit into the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss touring band after making the acclaimed "Raising Sand" record. It's an illuminating conversation for any music fan - please share and enjoy, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes!
My guest this week is the very creative and grooving drummer, John Convertino. Along with Joey Burns, John started Calexico in the mid-90's after a long stint playing and touring with the seminal group, Giant Sand. His work with Howe Gelb in Giant Sand brought him from LA to Tucson, where he's been living for many years, and has helped to develop a creative and nurturing music scene. Calexico has released a series of amazing albums, and John's unique approach to the drums is always a highlight. The group successfully mixes folk, rock, twang, mariachi, and avant-garde music into their sound, and it was great to discuss all of those elements with John, as well as his history playing in his family band, how he met Howe Gelb and started playing in LA, his move to the desert of Tucson, and his experiences recording and working in the studio. Enjoy my conversation with John Convertino!
Known as The American Songster, Dom Flemons brings a deep knowledge of old-time, stringband, blues, and ragtime combined with the sensibilities of a modern songwriter to audiences all over the world with his band and as a solo artist. A founding member of Grammy-winning group, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom has gone on to release a string of solo and collaborative albums that explore these musical forms, and preserve the music of the past while keeping it fresh and modern at the same time. Dom is a great guitar player, but also plays the bones, jug, fife, banjo, and probably lots more. He's used all those instruments to make some great records, and Dom and I talked about his recording history in his early days in Phoenix, meeting the members of the Chocolate Drops at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, and how he wants to keep the spirit of that event alive in his music. We also discussed making records with Joe Henry and Buddy Miller and his current projects that include a collaboration with British guitarist Martin Simpson, and an upcoming release of Black Cowboy songs that will come out this fall. Enjoy the episode!
Studio drumming legend Hal Blaine is my guest on the show this week! Hal's career has been beyond remarkable - he is one of the most recorded drummers in history and was an integral part of the most prolific and adaptable recording teams in the history of music. From the Beach Boys to Sinatra, Elvis Presley to John Lennon, Hal Blaine played on everything coming out of LA in the 60's and 70's. Coming from a jazz background, and a traumatic event in his early life, Hal grew up playing in bands and orchestras before finding work in the studios of Los Angeles. Before long, Hal's personality and incredible skill made him the top call session player for almost any style of music. He had close ties to Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, and is even a character in the recent Brain Wilson biopic "Love and Mercy". Be sure to check out the great documentary "The Wrecking Crew" on Netflix, which documents the session players of that time. Hal was happy to talk about his history and some of the memorable sessions that he took part in. Please excuse the audio quality of Hal's voice - his phone was a little distorted, but you'll get used to it, and it'll be worth it... Enjoy my interview with Hal Blaine!
David Hood, the legendary bassist and member of the Swampers, the Muscle Shoals-based band that backed up countless classic soul records, is my guest this week. Guys like David are the reason I was inspired to do this show in the first place. I first heard him through the Duane Allman anthology, an album I picked up as a kid that contained all this amazing soul music that Duane had been a part of in the late 60's. Upon further investigation, I was led to the world of Muscle Shoals, and FAME Studios, the home of classic soul music for artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Boz Scaggs, John Hammond, Clarence Carter, and so many more. David also went on to play on albums for Paul Simon, Traffic, and the list goes on and on. The Muscle Shoals documentary from a few years back is a must-see, and David was kind enough to spend some time with me talking about the studios, life during that time in Muscle Shoals, and to detail some of the sessions that so many of us know and love. Enjoy my conversation with David Hood!
Bernie Finkelstein is my guest on the show this week. It's a natural companion piece to last weeks' interview with Bruce Cockburn. If you haven't heard that one (Episode 19), please check it out as well! Bernie has been in the biz for decades, originally starting out as a helper and manager for folk artists and rock bands around Toronto's buzzing scene in the mid/late 60's. His early success in the US with The Paupers and working with the legendary Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan's manager) led him back to Toronto to start his own label, True North Records. He made his mark early signing Bruce Cockburn, a relationship that continues to this day. His other successes have included clients like Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, and he even signed a little weirdo instrumental band from Vancouver called Zubot and Dawson. Bernie has great stories from all of those eras and tells them in his recent book "True North", but it's more fun to hear him tell them in person, so Bernie was nice enough to spend some time with me for the show. Enjoy my conversation with Bernie Finkelstein!
My guest on the show this week is legendary performer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Bruce has been recording and touring for over 40 years, and has over 30 spectacular albums to his credit. One of the most beloved of Canadian artists, Bruce has made a huge mark in the US and Europe as well. With humble beginnings in the folk scene of Toronto in the 60's, to releasing his first few classic albums on True North Records, before achieving massive commercial success in the late 70's and 80's with hit songs like "Wondering Where The Lions Are", "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" and "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". I've always been drawn to Bruce's creative guitar playing, which incorporates blues, jazz, folk and ragtime elements into a unique sound that instantly recognizable. Bruce and I had a chance to discuss his life and career in music and all the stages of his amazing career. Enjoy my conversation with Bruce Cockburn!
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix is my guest this week. Gurf has been an integral part of the Austin, Texas music scene for decades now and has worked on stage and in the studio with an incredible list of artists such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves, Warren Zevon, Mary Gauthier and Ian McLagan. Gurf was also a key member of Lucinda WIlliams' original band and produced her first albums. Gurf is a great producer, and plays a mean guitar, steel, bass and whatever else he can get his hands on. We talked about his career that took him to LA to work with Lucinda Williams, why he split and went back to Austin where he's been since the 90's, his production style, and the way he approaches recording, mostly out of his home studio. Enjoy the conversation, and please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for free!
Broadcasting legend and iconic label-head, Holger Petersen is my guest this week. For anyone living in Canada over the last 40+ years, Holger has been the voice coming at you on Saturday nights on CBC Radio, bringing you great blues music on Saturday Night Blues, or even longer in Alberta on CKUA Radio. His label, Stony Plain Records, is also one of the oldest and most established roots music labels in North America. Holger has a long history with music, playing drums in bands growing up in Edmonton, promoting shows for the likes of Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt, and releasing a steady stream of music to the world by artists such as Jeff Healey, Long John Baldry, Duke Robillard, Ian Tyson, Corb Lund, and so many more. Holger and I had a chance to talk about that history, hanging with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann, being a fly on the wall for a Herbie Hancock record, traveling with Long John Baldry, and the path his life has taken to be one of Canada's great purveyors of amazing music. Thanks for listening!
This week is the conclusion of my conversation with producer and artist Joe Henry. Joe is one of my favorite producers, taking huge risks and pushing sonic boundaries in the studio, mixing cutting-edge jazz with folk music, and capturing stellar live tracks that sound larger than life. He's been at the helm for some of what I think are the coolest sounding records of the last decade, for artists like Solomon Burke, Mary Gauthier, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, and so many more. Last week, I spoke with Joe about his upbringing and how he got into record-making, his association with T-Bone Burnett, and some of his first production projects. This week, the story continues and we delve into Joe's philosophies on recording, some of his recent work, and his amazing encounter with the great Ornette Coleman. Thanks to Joe for being so generous with his time and giving us this cool 2-part interview. Enjoy, share it, and please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for free!
My guest on Episode 15 is producer and artist Joe Henry. Joe came up through the ranks originally as an artist, but through some early interctions with T-Bone Burnett, ended up being T-Bone's assistant on a number of projects, which led to him producing artists for himself. Joe continues to make great albums of his own every couple of years, and I’m a huge fan of all of them. He’s developed a close working relationship with my guest from episode 6, Ryan Freeland. Ryan’s ability to capture depth and live performances in the studio along with Joe’s abilities to set the stage, and create a sonic vision for his recordings has led to what I think are some of the most interesting albums made over the last 10 or 15 years. Their recordings have inspired me both as a musician and producer, and their philosophy of recording live and letting the moment dictate the feel, and spontenaity override perfection has pushed me more and more down a similar path over the years, and is something that I hold in high regard and strive for. Joe has been at the helm for some great records by Aimee Mann, Bettye LaVette, Allen Toussaint, Rodney Crowell, Mose Allison, Bonnie Raitt, his grammy-winning album for Soloman Burke, my pals the Birds of Chicago, and so many more. It’s a huge and important slice of American Music that his body of work represents, and I was really excited to talk to Joe about some of these sessions and his path to where he is now in his career. Enjoy Part 1 of my conversation with Joe Henry!
Welcome to episode 14 of the podcast, where we welcome a Nashville veteran to the show. Fats Kaplin is his name, and when not performing slight of hand magic, Fats is one of the most in-demand sideguys around. He plays fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel, banjo, harmonica, dobro, guitar, oud, button accordion and I’m sure a bunch of other stuff. And he plays them really well. Fats has been in Music City for a long time, but he grew up in New York and got a gig as a youngster with Roy Bookbinder, a fantastic blues and ragtime player. Fats went on to play for years with Roy, and then the Tom Russel Band, touring the world. He moved to Nashville in the early 90’s and hooked up with Keiran Kane and Kevin Welch to form the Dead Reckoners, who were sort of a collective of great songwriters and instrumentalists.
He’s played with tons of artists, and in the last few years ended up getting a gig in Jack White’s band, with whom he now performs and records regularly. Fats is active around Nashville and plays with his wife Kristi Rose regularly. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Fats quite a bit oiver the last coupe of years and he’s a great improvisor and an incredibly receptive musician to play with. I feel like we’re sort of kindered spirits in our weird esoteric musical tastes and we always have a good time working on music together. Fats and I talked about his whole history with all of those artists, growing up in New York, recording and working in Europe with Tom Russell through to getting the gig in Jack White's band and tells some stories about going on the tour with the male and female versions of Jack's band. Then at the end, Fats brings out the violin and rips up the fiddle as only he can. Enjoy my conversation with Fats Kaplin!
Producer Lee Townsend is my guest on the show this week. Lee is a producer in the truest sense of the word. He’s not a performing musician, never has been, but has always been deeply into music and he brings a philosophy and easy going nature to sessions that make people rally around and perform their best. Lee is best known for his decades-long relationship in the studio and as manager for Bill Frisell, with whom he has made many records, earned Grammy Awards and countless other accolades, but he has also made some amazing records for artists as diverse as Dave Holland, Viktor Krauss, John Scofield, Charlie Hunter, Louden Wainwright, Carrie Rodriguez, and many more. He is an artistic member of the group Floratone, which is an experimental collaboration with Frisell, Matt Chamberlain, Tucker Martine, and Lee. He has also worked as VP of A&R for Verve/Polygram and as General Manager of of ECM Records in the USA. I thought Lee would be a great addition to the series here as someone who brings an intense love and passion for music to the table and has a long history of great records under his belt. He is a true Music Maker and Soul Shaker!
This week we have part 2 of my epic conversation with guitar legend and pioneer of TWANG, Duane Eddy. If you haven’t heard the first part of the interview, head on back and pick up episode 11 of the podcast and check it out. As I mentioned last week, he grabbed a guitar off my wall and kept it on his lap the whole time we talked and when the spoirit moved him, he plucked out some examples to illustrate his point. What you’re hearing is an electric guitar unamplified, and very casual! This week we pick the story up after he’s had some hits and we get into his further series of twangy records, how he got into the blues, working on major soundtracks and a classic country record he made in Nashville in the 60’s, "Twang a Country Song" and his reverence for the great steel player Buddy Emmons. It was such an honour to have Duane Eddy drop by and I hope you enjoy the episode. Feel free to leave comments and be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!
This week we're honoured to have the legend of TWANG drop into the Henhouse, Mr. Duane Eddy himself! For those of you who don’t know him, Duane Eddy revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar and became the king of "twang" with his trusty Gretsch guitar in hand. He had huge records in the 50’s and 60’s, most of which were instrumental. His playing and innovative guitar sounds, in conjunction with the pioneering production work of Lee Hazelwood resulted in over 12 million records sold before 1963! He had massive hits with “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, “Movin’ and Groovin’” and so many more. These songs were fixtures on the radio as well as TV, being a regular guest on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. He toured and performed with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, BB King, Chet Atkins and countless others. Duane was rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Duane Eddy lives in Nashville and was generous enough to drop into the Henhouse a while back and sit and tell stories and talk about some of the sessions for those legendary songs, some of his earliest musical experiences, and his involvement in the pivotal years of American Rock and Roll. He saw an Epiphone Casino hanging on my wall, which is the closest thing I have to a Gretsch, asked to play it and kept it on his lap the entire time and picked out some examples as he talked. There’s no amp, you’re just hearing him plucking on an unamplified electric as he talks. It was a huge thrill to have him here, and because of the length of our conversation, I decided to split it into 2 full episodes. Have a listen to now to Part 1 of my conversation with Duane Eddy!
Cindy Cashdollar joins me this week on the show. Cindy is a highly respected musician and sideperson, who has developed an incredible style and facility on the lap steel and dobro. Early on in her career, before she was really fluent on the lap steel, she got a gig with the popular western swing band Asleep At The Wheel, and had to really learn how to play that style on the fly. She ended up mastering the instrument, and her success as a player and sideperson to artists such as Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Dave Alvin, Van Morrison, Ryan Adams and many more is a testament to that fact. Cindy has released one album of her own called “Slide Show” that features some great performances with her and a number of high-profile slide and dobro players. She was also just nominated this week for an Americana Award for "Instrumentalist Of The Year"! I reached Cindy at her home in Woodstock, NY and we talked about those gigs I mentioned, the music that inspired her to pick up the guitar, growing up in Woodstock, getting in to blues and bluegrass, hooking up with Levon Helm and Rick Danko, and her trip through an 8 year stint with Asleep at the Wheel, to playing on Dylan’s 2007 masterpiece Time Out Of Mind.
Stephen Hodges joins us this week on Music Makers and Soul Shakers. Stephen is an incredibly creative and grooving drummer who plays on the most iconic Tom Waits' albums (Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and Mule Variations to name just a few!), all of Mavis Staples' recent recordings, and lots of other cool sessions and albums. He worked with David Lynch on the "Fire Walk With Me" Soundtrack, and cut his teeth in the bars of Long Beach and Los Angeles in the late 70's and early 80's alongside Los Lobos and the Blasters. Stephen discusses his early days as a drummer/composer for modern dance classes, working in seedy bars in through the 70's, getting his mind blown by Howling' Wolf, developing his unique drum setup with James Harman, and landing gigs with Tom Waits and John Hammond. This is a hilarious and energetic interview with a very humble and generous musician and much can be learned from him by drummers and non-drummers alike!
The mighty Marc Ribot joins us on the show this week! Marc is one of the most sought after session and performing musicians in modern music, not to mention an intensely creative spirit who is just as comfortable hanging with the most experimental free jazz players as he is playing with Robert Plant, Tom Waits, Joe Henry, Buddy Miller or any of the many other roots and Americana artists he regularly collaborates with. Marc emerged from the well-documented New York scene of the late 70's and early 80's with the Lounge Lizards and John Zorn before playing on some of Tom Waits' most iconic albums and creating his own impressive string of varied solo projects. Marc and I discussed those projects, his earliest influences, the importance and complexity of Chuck Berry, his history with John Lurie, how he got a gig early in his career with Solomon Burke, and lots more. It was a real honour to have Marc on the show and his stories and insights make him both an incredible Music Maker and a Soul Shaker!
My guest today is Danny Barnes. Danny is one of the most accomplished and eclectic musicians, songwriters, and wildly creative DIY artists out there. He just won the "Steve Martin prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo" and is a stellar banjo picker, but his adventurous nature and interest in improvising,new music and electronics really sets him apart. He fronted the genre-bending Austin-based band The Bad Livers before moving to Seattle about 10 years ago. Danny and I talked about his background, how he got into playing music, his history with his band the Bad Livers, Frippertronics, his love of the "Dr. Who" Theme, his epic hangs with John Hartford, and much more... His new album "Get Myself Together (10 Years Later)" is out now and well worth seeking out! This conversation swerved all over the musical spectrum and was extremely insightful for me, and I think it's a revealing look into the mind of a great creative artist.