Speakers Push Air


Yep Roc-kabilly Rebels
January 4, 2008, 11:34 am
Filed under: MP3

In the last couple of years, Yep Roc Records (out of North Carolina) has become my record label of choice (an exalted position previously occupied by 4AD, On-U Sound, Blast First, SST.. you get the idea). In many ways, it’s become a bit of a resting place for hoary old, worthy old luddites and traditionalists (British artists like Paul Weller, Nick Lowe, Billy Bragg, Robyn Hitchcock and the like have all ended up there). But among some of the less marvellous US acts, Yep Roc has mined a rich seam of brilliant “-billy” bands of various types, and it’s those that have totally won me over.

As well as the three bands I’m going to feature here, there’s also Big Sandy & His Flyrite Boys (a chubby, parallel universe teen heart-throb doo-wop / rock’n’roller), Robbie Fulks (bitter and witty country rock), Heavy Trash (Jon “Blues Explosion” Spencer and Matt “Madder Rose” Verta Ray, turning their hand to diligently analogue / retro rockabilly), Los Straitjackets (Mexican, Spanish language rock’n’roll and garage by a bunch of wrestling mask wearing, Nashville based nutjobs) and The Sadies (rootsy ‘insurgent country’). And that’s just the acts I’ve already got round to….

What’s great about Yep Roc (hoary old pub rockers aside) is that not only does it clearly have pretty high standards, but also that its more retro acts (the ones I love most, to be fair) aren’t pitiful throwbacks, schlepping round the whatever-billy circuit churning out the same old crap. They all do something interest and exciting and new with the source material, use it as a stepping off point rather than a circuit diagram. And so to my three favourite Yep Roc bands (and three of my favourite bands anywhere, ever.. )

It pains me that I’ve still never seen Southern Culture On The Skids, I’ve somehow never managed to work it out. I first saw them on Alternative Nation on MTV a good decade or so ago, before I was really into this sort of thing, but even then they made an impact. It was the video for Camel Walk, a perennial SCOTS fave, and looking it up on youtube I realise I never noticed the ‘Flirting With Disaster’ clips / soundtrack connection – but it’s got it all: El Santo, the adorable Mary Huff shimmying, tractors and the rest…

I guess there’s a cross-over with the Cramps when it comes to SCOTS, but they replace the Franken-teen zombie trash of The Cramps with a broader palette of garage, surf and rockabilly sounds, hillybilly culture, lucha libre, fried squirrel and trucks. Brilliant musicians, very very funny people, a real variety of styles (the latest album, Countrypolitan Favourites, is a bizarre collection of souped-up, mostly country covers).

The track I’ve chosen is from their Santo Swings EP (ironically not actually on Yep Roc), and it’s a tribute to the king of the luchadores himself, El Santo!

Southern Culture On The Skids – Viva El Santo!
from the EP Santo Swings (Estrus Records)

The Reverend Horton Heat is probably the best known of this trio of Yep Roc acts, by virtue of a spell on Sub Pop, and probably the most determinedly retro too. How the Rev got lumped in with the plaid-clad hordes is beyond me, but it got him noticed. Now, the Rev is someone I have seen live, a couple of times, and it’s a great show (it’s pretty trad stuff – the double-bassist rides his instrument like a surfboard, that sort of thing) and if you ever get bored with the band (unlikely), the audience are about the best turned-out I’ve ever seen, at least to a weekendabilly like myself.

The Rev – despite (or maybe because of) being perhaps the most straight-ahead rockabilly of the lot, seems to have crossed over to all sorts of genres (a certain strain of metal fans seem to have a soft spot for him, for instance). The track I’m posting goes some way to explaining why: sure, it’s rockabilly, but it ROCKS.

The Reverend Horton Heat – Texas Rockabilly Rebel
from the album Space Heater

Finally, we come – again – to Th’Legendary Shack Shakers…

Not much more to say I didn’t already cover here, so I’ll just post the track – my favourite of all their releases – and move on.

Th’Legendary Shack Shackers – Blood On The Bluegrass
from the album Cockadoodledon’t


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great choice of track for Southern Culture on The Skids. I’ve got a feeling I may have played this when I was djing many years ago.

Comment by Will

Yeh, it was this.. Or Camel Walk.. or Soul City.. or…

🙂

Comment by dubversion




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