Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Album picks

2012 brought us a lot of great music that we'll enjoy into the new year as well as anticipating what is to come.  We wanted to take a moment to look back at some of our favorite rockabilly, surf, roots, blues and just great vintage sounding releases.  They're in alphabetical order as it would be hard to arrange them otherwise.

The Beach Boys- That's Why God Made The Radio
There was a certain amount of mixed anticipation and nervousness in waiting to hear this project.  Admittedly, after being a fan for so many years, expectations were high for this one.  When you have an album like Pet Sounds in your catalog, there is always high expectations.  Literally within the first few seconds of the majestic opener "Think About The Days", all nervous feelings were gone.  Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and company have created one fantastic sounding project.  The title cut and "Isn't It Time" showed they still can create great pop sounding tunes while the trio of songs ending the project ("From There To Back Again", "Pacific Coast Highway" and "Summer's Gone") show they haven't lost an artistic sense about them.  The vocals are lush and the lyrics are as vivid as they've ever been.  Listening to Mike Love's "Daybreak Over The Ocean" will transport you immediately to some beach hideaway.  Don't make the mistake in thinking their best music is from the past.  Pick this one up today!!

Dion- Tank Full Of Blues
You can get more behind the scenes info on Dion and the release from our interview last year HERE.  Needless to say, I understand him when he says he feels more relevant now than ever.  I watched as hip radio stations added tunes from this project and brought attention to an artist that has never stopped reinventing himself.  A favorite from this project is his fictitious account of driving Robert Johnson to the Crossroads in "Ride's Blues".  His lyrics are as sharp as his guitar playing throughout the project.  Rolling Stone magazine even blushed over his "I Read It (In The Rolling Stone)" causing them to make this one of their weekly picks not to miss.  

The Explorers Club- Grand Hotel
How many times have we either said or heard the expression, "they just don't do music like they used to before"?  We usually mean we miss the vocal harmonies and interesting music melodies.  If you're looking for a fresh approach to the great sounds of the 60's, then The Explorers Club is your answer.  Fans of The Beach Boys, Dave Clark 5, Burt Bacharach and so many of the great sounds from the past will love this album!  Their tight vocal harmonies shine through on the first single, "Run Run Run".  "Anticipatin'", "Go For You" and "I've Been Waiting" are more highlights.  I can't recommend them enough!

Wanda Jackson- Unfinished Business
Wanda's Jack White produced project last year was a reminder that she is still the Queen Of Rockabilly.  This album was produced by Justin Townes Earl (Steve Earl's son).  It has a bit more of an alt-country flair which really suites Wanda's style.  Her cover of the Freddy King classic "Tore Down" is a wonderful slow blues rocker.  The ballad "Am I Even A Memory" is a hauntingly beautiful classic.  Other highlights include "The Graveyard Shift", "Pushover", "It's All Over Now" and "California Stars".  Wanda still has it...and we're the better for it!

Los Straitjackets- Jet Set
Few (if anybody) can do energetic surf music like Los Straitjackets.  If you are a fan already, you're sure to love this latest offering from the boys.  If you're not a fan, this is a great place to start!  Highlights include the title cut, "Crime Scene", "Brooklyn Slide" and "Space Mosquito".  Now that Christmas is over, this will have you thinking of outdoor summer parties that will rock!  Crank this one up!!

J.D. McPherson- Signs & Signifiers
This was released originally in 2010 on Hi-Style Records but released to a bigger distribution by Rounder Records this year.  Read more with JD here and with producer and bass player Jimmy Sutton here.  They have created a sound that is equally fresh and vintage.  If you go see them in concert, you'll see a new generation looking hip in retro clothes ready to dance.  The band never disappoints either!  From the opening strains of "North Side Gal", this project takes you on a high energy journey that doesn't stop until the band hit's the last note of "Scandalous".  Conan, Leno and Letterman all had the fellas on their show this year making anticipation grow for new music hopefully in 2013.

Lee Rocker- Night Train To Memphis
The latest project from this Stray Cat really rocks!  The disc kicks off with the classic Johnny & Dorsey Burnette number "Rockabilly Boogie".  This one has to played loud!!  There is a lot of energy in this album.  "Slap The Bass", "Wild Child" and "Twenty Flight Rock" are blazing ball of rockabilly bliss!  The title cut sounds like a classic as well.  You'll find yourself singing this one often.  Pick up The Cover Sessions from him as well.

Jack White- Blunderbuss
Lot's of high expectations on projects this year.  Jack White created a buzz in releasing his first solo project after many releases with White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather.  I've always loved his not-so-obvious choices for cover songs.  "I'm Shakin'" is a great tune originally done by Little Willie John.  The Blasters also did a great cover later as well.  Jack's version keeps the energy level up and gives it an extra bit of punch.  He toured with 2 sets of bands this year.  One was all female and the other was all male.  This brought a different vibe with each show.  This is nominated for "Album Of The Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Rock Song" for "Freedom At 21" for the upcoming Grammy Awards. 

Mark W. Winchester- Upright
If you missed our recent interview, you can check it out HERE.  Mark slaps a bass guitar with passion that few can match.  Fans of Planet Rockers and Brian Setzer Orchestra will recognize Mark from being members of both.  His "Rooster Rock" first appeared on Setzer's 68 Comeback Special- Ignition album.  The version here is a bit more acoustic swing.  There is plenty of twang, rockabilly, swing and good ole rock and roll here to keep your speakers blaring!  Kenny Vaughan and Jimmy Lester round out the trio on this project.  This is roots rock at it's finest!!

ZZ Top- La Futura
This Rick Rubin produced set returns that little ol' band from Texas to their loud blues roots.  "I Gotsta Get Paid" is a unique rap cover that gives you all the dirty guitar sounds you've come to expect from this trio.  "Over You" is a slow grinding blues number that will remind you why you became a fan in the first place.  Many highlights on this album.  "Heartache In Blue", "I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose You", "Flyin' High" and more.  If you've not listened to them in a while, this one needs to be in your collection.  You'll become a fan all over again!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Carl Wilson was born this day in 1946

Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys fame was born this day in 1946.  He left us way too soon in 1998.  His unmistakable vocals will forever live on.  Enjoy some select songs from his career with The Beach Boys as well as solo:

"God Only Knows"


"Good Vibrations"

"I Can Hear Music"


"Rockin' All Over The World" (John Fogerty cover)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mark W. Winchester: Look At That Rooster Rock!

If you ever have the privilege to see Mark W. Winchester live, you will see how lets the music explode out of him.  Few can match his energy as he slaps his upright bass.  We caught up with Mark recently to talk about his new album (appropriately titled Upright) as well as early influences, time with The Planet Rockers, Brian Setzer and much more!

What led you to play the upright?
I was led to play upright out of necessity, really. I was trying to form a rockabilly band in college, around '82/'83, but I was playing acoustic guitar and singing. I found Jumpin’ Jimmy Jackson on guitar but we never could find an upright bass player. All the guys that answered our ads were electric players. So, having taken 3 electric bass lessons in the eighth grade, I said, "I'll get an upright and learn to play it". My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) had a friend whose father had an old Kay in pieces in his attic, and he let me have it. I got it repaired, put on my Johnny Burnette and the Rock-N-Roll Trio album and started slappin' away.

Rockabilly seemed to be
the punk rock of that day. Do you think it's that energy that still keeps it popular and exciting to this day?
I certainly found it through punk. I think it's just a real pure form of music, a unique time period that it came from with the rednecks and hillbillies wantin' to play the cool "race" music they heard on the blues stations. Those times in history when a music form just gets put in a crucible and it burns red hot in the beginning, the records from those times will always live on. They have an unbridled energy. It’s like when Flatt and Scruggs joined Bill Monroe, or when punk came along as an answer to stadium rock.

Who were some of your earliest influences on your bass playing?
I taught myself how to play to Dorsey Burnette. Of course Bill Black's slappin' was awesome. It was only later after I'd been playing a while that I discovered Willie Dixon and realized Dorsey and Bill weren't inventing this thing exactly, they were just applying it to hillbilly music and keeping it going throughout the song, where as Willie might just slap on a solo. I've seen articles on other upright players who have an incredible list of slap upright players they were influenced by, but I never went on much of a search. I learned those Burnette brothers records and the Sun stuff and started playing gigs.

You were a part of a killer rockabilly group called The Planet Rockers. What was that time period like for you?
Moving to Nashville and hooking up with the guys that eventually turned into the Planet Rockers was an interesting time. I had actually decided to not play the bass. I was really here to try and get a songwriting career going. Right after my wife and I got married in Monroe, NC ('87) I joined a Top 40 country band and immediately went on the road and stayed gone a lot. The plan was to move to Nashville where I could do music in a music town and not travel. I sat in one night on upright with a band in Franklin (TN); then, through a series of events, Eddie (Angel) and Sonny (George) found out about me and the upright was back out of the closet for good I guess. I was young and wilder and had lots more energy for acrobatics on stage back then. It was great to be in a band where everyone got it and fielded their position stellarly. We had quite a buzz around town for a year or two…newspaper articles, making records at Emmylou's (Harris) house, packed clubs. I didn't appreciate it like I probably should have at the time. We've actually gotten back together recently to play rockabilly festivals that expressed some interest in booking the original Planet Rockers. We'll be in England in June for a big weekender there.

That time with The Planet Rockers was right before you toured with Emmylou Harris. How was she to work with?
She was fantastic to work with. Again, I probably didn't appreciate it at the time like I should have. Those three years were a great time for me musically. I grew up a lot on the instrument.

You've had a strong connection with Brian Setzer by touring with his orchestra as well performing with him on a few albums. How did you connect with Brian in the first place?
The story behind how I got the Brian Setzer Orchestra gig goes like this: Ricky
Scaggs had a show on TNN that they taped at the Ryman Auditorium called “Ricky Scaggs' Monday Night Concert Series” around 1995,96. Drummer Harry Stinson was the band leader for the house band, and he knew me from Planet Rockers and Emmylou. He knew me as a slapper, a rockabilly guy. So when Brian Setzer was coming to tape a show, Harry called me to supplement the house band behind Brian. Fantastic night for me. I also got to go out and do a segment, a tribute to sun records, with Brian, Elvis Costello, Ricky and Marty Stewart. Somebody told me recently they had a copy of that show, or somebody might have posted part of it on you tube, I don't know but I've never seen it. Anyway, after the taping, Brian's guitar tech at the time, Rich Modica, took down my name and number and said he and Brian dug it and maybe, who knows, we might be callin' you sometime. It took a year, but they did end up calling around the time they had most of The Dirty Boogie recorded. Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan's bassist) had slapped upright on the record, but he couldn't go out on the road with the orchestra, and the current bassist in the orchestra was more of a jazz guy, no “slappity, slappity”, so i was being offered this opportunity. That's how all that started.

Let's talk about this great new solo project called Upright. Kenny Vaughan (guitars) and Jimmy Lester (drums) back you up on this and the 3 of you guys sound amazing throughout the entire project. That had to be fun to do with these guys! 
For that kind of record, that kind of music, you don't get much better than those two guys. It was fun. We recorded it quite quickly. Very live. Kenny and I came back on day two and overdubbed some things. There's not much better place to record that kind of stuff than with George Bradfute at Tone Chapparal either. He gets great sounds and has a subtle way of suggesting exactly what the tune needs. "Hey Mark, why don't you just double that vocal?" Lot of first take stuff. "Okay, what's next" "Really?" I'd say. "That's the take?"

You were part of Setzer's 68 Comeback Special- Ignition album where you sang your song "Rooster Rock" on there. You've done a new version on this album which is a bit more of a laid back swing. 
That song has been with me a long time. Many, many years ago I wrote that. It had those two verses back then, but I called it “Cock-a-Doodle Doo”. I remember playing it for some guys that, like me, were trying to write songs that would get recorded by country artists of the day. They literally laughed at my song…not rockabilly fans, these guys. Years and years later, after I was playing with Brian, I took a big leap of faith and broached the subject of laying some tunes on him, hoping he’d be open to it. He took my song "Drive Like Lightnin', Crash Like Thunder" and re-did it with a different riff, a big band arrangement for the middle, and another verse for it. We recorded it on Vavoom! But he liked “Rooster Rock” just like it was, and let me sing lead on it when we cut the '68 comeback album. For some reason, I didn't get around to the third verse when we cut it. The version on my record has the third verse and repeats the first verse at the end instead of a double chorus, and yeah it's a little more swingy…more jump-blues than rockabilly. It works both ways I guess.

I love the "twang" that shines through on this project. "Damp As Dew" kicks off the album and sort of sets the tone. We talked about your bass influences earlier. Who influenced you vocally too to give you this sound? 
I don't know who influenced me vocally. It took me a long, long time to get better at singing. I used to pitch stuff way too high for my voice. Or in other words, I’d sing a song in the key I wrote it in. It didn't dawn on me for the longest time, that I could lower the key. I just wanted to sing the songs that I was writing. It all started with forlorn love songs to my long distance girl friend in college. I would make tapes of these songs and mail them to her. I guess I tried to sound like
the guys I was listening to…Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson. If it was a punk song, I tried to sound like Joey Ramone. For rockabilly, I liked early Roy Orbison. Carl Perkins, twangers. But I was bad for a long time…screamed and strained. I finally learned to relax. You know the advent of four track home recording machines helped a lot. Hearing it back, I’d say "why does that sound like crap?" You want to get better. “Damp as Dew”, that's just me trying to sing like a hillbilly. I literally just sang that line out loud one day plinkin’ around on the guitar. “My right foot's dry and my left foot's damp as dew”. Where does that kind of stuff come from? I had to use the songwriting process just to explain to myself why my left foot was damp. Maybe some long gone hillbilly cat just wanted to send back a nice little ditty from the other side.

"Mousetrap" has a slow grooving almost punk influence but fits in nicely to this collection. Tell me about this one.
“Mousetrap” came from an experiment in songwriting that I undertook a while back. I hadn't written anything in a long time, and decided to get up real early every morning and write a complete song, good or bad, everyday for as long as i could. It worked for about 60 something days until spring, when allergy season hit and I felt terrible and stopped. That's a lot of songs! Many of them were bad but there were some gems too. “Two White Dogs” and “Remember Rock N Roll?” came out of that too. “Mousetrap” stood out when i started listening back to all the rough guitar vocals I'd put down each morning on GarageBand. I dug it because it was a one chord song and I'd always wanted to write a one chord song--like bull by the horns---I'm not exactly sure what it means. It came out all at once. During that time I had a piece of paper that I had titles and phrases on it. I was crankin' down on that weird chord in the closet at 4:30 in the morning, looked down at the list and just sang, "build a better mousetrap, baby” and if I didn't want it to also be only a one LINE song, I had to make some other shit up. When we made the record, I wasn't sure it would fit either, or how i would play it on upright bass but it came out great. Kenny came up with some out guitar stuff on it. I tracked on my Harmony Rocket and sang it live. That's one George suggested I double the lead vocal on. Yes, I'm punk influenced. That's my “attitude" voice on that one.

I like the clever lyrics in "Absotively, Posilutely". Where did this idea come from?
“Absotively, Posilutely” is one of my all time favorites. I was a staff writer for a few years at Reba Macintire's publishing company, Starstruck, and there were a couple of guys there I liked to try to make up songs with. One was Jerry Boonstra and the other was a Texas guy named Doak Sneed. Doak brought out his hook book one day, or his list of titles/ideas and I looked down it and saw “Absotively, Posilutely” and thought it was clever. We didn't work on that that day, but driving home, I started singing and hearing that groove and style where that song lays and had the chorus and a verse before I got to the house. So I called Doak and asked him to come over and help finish it since it was his hook, you know, and he did and we came up with the second verse. We just built to be played on the upright bass. I'm proud of that song. Guy gets tongue tied around his girl says “absolutely” all backwards…easy to fill in those blanks.

There's some good rockers on here as well. "Hillbilly Train" comes to mind.
I stole that title from Sonny George when we were in the Planet Rockers together. He and I have different memories of how that all went down. I remember that he told me he was going to write a song called hillbilly train, and I said, "That’s a great title! Do you mind if I write one called that too?" He remembers that he played me his whole song called “Hillbilly Train”, and then later on, I appeared with my own song of the same title. Either way, good title, two good songs. The groove and lick of mine was influenced by that song on Tom Petty's Wildflowers record called “Honey Bee”. It's a stomp. I like a stomp…two chord song which is almost as good as a one chord song.

What's on the horizon in 2013 for you? 
The jury is still out on 2013…ust trying to make it to the end of 2012. The Planet Rockers will be ringing in the New Year at a rockabilly rave-up in Stuttgart Germany, and I hope to be out myself promoting Upright!

Where's the best place for people to stay connected with what's going on with you?
I have a ReverbNation page ( that I post my gigs on when I remember to. My CD’s can be purchased at “Like” my Mark W. Winchester Facebook page (

w/ Brian Setzer, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs- "Honey Don't"


The Planet Rockers- "Get Off My Back"

"Rooster Rock" with Brian Setzer

"Oh Well" with Billy Burnette, Kenny Vaughan and Jimmy Lester

"Hillbilly Train"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Brian Setzer Orchestra at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

Brian Setzer brought his unique orchestra full of rockabillies to the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN on Sunday, December 9th, 2012.  It was a sold out show and the crowd was eager to get in the Christmas swing!  He kicked off the show with "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus" and continued to play both Christmas favorites from his Orchestra projects as well as gems from his solo and Stray Cats catalog.  Songs like "Stray Cat Strut", "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (including the Grinch running around on stage), "Jump, Jive & Wail", "Sexy & 17", "Nutcracker Suite" and so many more were met with enthusiasm from the festive crowd.  One of my favorite moments was when he brought the upright bass player and drummer out for a rockabilly trio segment.  They rocked through "Fishnet Stockings", "Blue Christmas" and more.  Enjoy these great pictures from our friend Jennifer Allen.  She captured the night perfectly!  Click photos for larger view.

"Fishnet Stockings" (live from Nashville 12-9-12)

"Drive Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder" (live from Nashville 12-9-12)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Christmas music from The One & Nines

The One & Nines (previously featured HERE) bring their vintage sound on 2 Christmas tunes on the recent compilation from Mint 400 Records- "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus" and "Merry Christmas Baby".  You'll want to put these in your holiday party rotation asap!!  Check them out at the below and get your copy today!

"I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus"

"Merry Christmas Baby"