VIDEO: Truth and Salvage Co. in the studio

truthandSalvageCotitleThe coolest band in my world.  I’ve heard some of the new records’ songs on a demo.  Great hang backstage at the Avett Brothers show in Indy.  Always good dudes.  And they rock like I want a band to rock, with some country, some gospel and some Memphis soul.

Check out this video.  Best part?  As they are listening  to Joe South’s original take on “Games People Play” – great tune.

truthsalvage5610

I saw Mellencamp do a Joe South medley for his encore at Cobo Arena in Detroit during the Scarecrow tour.  It killed.  Georgia Satellites did decent cover on 1989’s Land of Salvation and Sin album.

Oh, and at the 1:55 mark, the camera goes 90 degrees sideways, and we hear people singing “for he’s a jolly good fellow” and see a dog barking.  Surreal and kinda beautiful.

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Indiana Music: Dane Clark and Larry Crane team for an Americana Review

daneclarkOriginally written for NUVO – published December 19, 2012

As the engine the makes John Mellencamp’s band rumble, Dane Clark sits behind a drum kit, driving the roots-rock sound. With his own band and album, he stands squarely in front, with a guitar and directing his own take on the heartland rock sound.

Clark and his band will team with another Indiana rock and roller, as they are joined by Larry Crane’s band for a night of heartland rock on December 20 at the Bluebird in Bloomington.

“The seeds of the idea for this show came from a live acoustic show we did in the WTTS Sun King studio last summer with Larry and Jennie Devoe,” Clark says. “I’ve been thinking about doing an Americana Review-style show, and this will be a good way to start.

“We will run the show with both bands set up to save time, and I will do a couple songs [and] he will do a couple songs,” he says. We’ll sit in with each other’s band. We will do our own music, and so will he, and throw a few Mellencamp chestnuts in their too.”

New sounds, unexpectedly made

“I think I did intend to go deeper into the Americana steel guitar and dobro sound,” Clark says, as we talk about his new album. “Records don’t ever turn into the one you envision as you go through the process.”

daneclark_albumThat said, Clark’s Songs from the Hard Road resonates with splashes of radio country and Mellencamp-inspired Lonesome Jubilee porch sounds. It’s a record that solidly based in the sound of Middle America.

“You’ve got to be realistic in the music business,” Clark says. “Nobody buys music anymore. You write songs so you can sing, get a band and go out and play. I love music. I have a great band that can pull it off.

He knows even the big guys don’t have the same power.

“One has to realize the state of the music business in 2012. Bruce (Springsteen) can put out a record, and it doesn’t sell like it did 20 years ago. What we make is modern music for adults. I hope people find a song that radiates – a lyric with a spark of truth.”

daneclark2Clark, who started playing piano when he was very young before moving to guitar and drums, realized that he “wasn’t going to be Jimmy {age or Elton John” but that he “could play like Keith Moon and John Bonham.”

“A drummer in a live setting is steering the ship. He’s the engine. With my band, I trust my drummer to be that engine.”

“I hope we can crack a little bigger audience,” Clark says. “It’s more about a few degrees of success – working to get to the next level.”

Reconnections

One of the side trips Clark has taken with the record is a reconnection with the legendary late 1960s rock band Moby Grape. After being enthralled by the band’s debut album (“It was life changing for me,” he says) Clark had a chance – many years later – to meet guitarist Jerry Miller and do some recording and touring with the group.

Clark connected with Miller when he used his Mellencamp pass to get backstage at Pine Knob in Detroit in 2007 for a ’60s-based Summer of Love show. It has led to the new album’s closing track “Over It” featuring the band – a chance for Dane to finally get the group together for an album track.

“Anything bad that could have happened to the band, did,” Clark says, of their history. “They only got the name back two years ago. There have been a lot of mishaps, but it was a great thing; five guys, and all five wrote and all five could sing. They were overloaded with talent.

It’s a relationship to a band that Clark is especially proud of, and you can hear the warmth in his voice when he talks about the San Francisco rockers.

Sounds of home

“I don’t know if there is an Indiana sound,” Clark says, when I ask him if there is such a thing. Though I believe there is, I still want to hear what someone closer to the heartbeat has to say about it.

“Rock music doesn’t really exist as we knew it,” Clark says. “What happened with rock is it became country music: Bob Seger with a fiddle. When John started using a fiddle in the ’80s, and that would be country music now. My roots are Midwest influences. Anyone my age is influenced by The Stones, Dylan, Cash and Haggard.”

“I want my record to catch on with people who think country radio is too cheesy for their tastes,” he says. “I wanted to make a record that isn’t appealing to the lowest common denominator.”

With these shows this month, Clark – and the gutsy Telecaster-driven rock of Crane – will both get their chance to find that ground that exists between country and rock; a place both artists feel comfortable.

December 20
The Bluebird
Bloomington, Indiana
8:00pm
216 North Walnut Street (812) 336-3984.

Album Review: Dane Clark – “Postcards from the Hard Road”

Dane Clark
Postcards From the Hard Road
Self-released

Make no mistake, there is a sound of Indiana. A Mellencamp-influenced sound, and any Hoosier musician around long enough to have played during 1980s heartland rock heydey must find the stuff thick in their veins.

For Dane Clark, who has worked as John Mellencamp‘s drummer for the past 16 years, his new album Postcards from the Hard Road brings together many branches from that Indiana heartland rock tree, through direct ties to Mellencamp (current bandmembers), or by way of Larry Crane, John’s guitar player throughout the 1980s. Twenty years ago, Clark played drums in Crane’s band when the guitar player first split with his former boss.

When Jennie DeVoe joins in on “I Wouldn’t Be Me Without U,” it is the magic of two seasoned Americana performers having fun. “Sweet Temptation ” cuts through with lyrics about opportunities to stray, matched to a blues-rock sound. “Waylon and Willie” is a Steve Earle/Joe Ely redux. The mid-tempo “Down in the Goldmine” – – with Clark working on the downbeat, beautifully dragging the snare just behind the vocals – recreates the Waylon vibe. Continue reading “Album Review: Dane Clark – “Postcards from the Hard Road””

Concert Preview: “The Wake” – Four Indianapolis American rock and roll bands ready for Earth House

Can American rock and roll survive in Indianapolis?  And if it is going to, where in Indianapolis can it be found?  And what happens when four bands, all who embrace the retro-yet-authentic sound of American rock, struggle to get booked into an Indianapolis club?

On May 18, the stage on the Earth House in downtown Indianapolis will be shared by four Indianapolis American rock bands, doing their part to make Telecaster guitars ring loud in our city, just as Roadmaster, Henry Lee Summer, Mere Mortals and many others did in the 70’s and 80’s.

Dubbed “The Wake: A Showcase of American Rock ‘n Roll” (i.e. if rock is dead, let’s have a freakin’ party), The Dead Hearts, The Weakenders, Attakulla, and Henry French & the Shameless bring three-chord rock and roll noise to the old church.

Yet to hear The Dead Hearts keyboardist Brian Gropp explain it, there seemed to be little love for the Tom Petty-esque rock the band embrace.

“At the end of February, Eli (Chastain) from the Weakenders contacted me looking to get a show going in Indy,” he says.   “A couple days later, I get an email from Greg Osborne from Attakulla.  Our name happened to be dropped to him.  I’m thinking the more the merrier. After listening to both bands, and knowing how good Henry French is, I thought this is one heck of a lineup,” Gropp says.

So they started looking for a venue.

“There was not a medium-sized club within I-465 that gave us the time of day.  We went after a few of our favorite clubs from multiple angles and were repeatedly ignored,” Gropp admits. “We started to get a little frustrated.  Nobody wanted this show.”

Eli emailed Gropp about renting a DIY venue or having a house party.  At the end of his email he said, “Is rock and roll dead dudes? Say it aint so!’

“We finally got a bite at The Earth House. After we worked out the details, we realized that we have to show that independent local rock and roll is very much alive in Indianapolis.”

French had the idea for the show’s theme.

“Since we kind of got snubbed by everyone, I consider this a call to action to an extent,” he wrote in the original email to the bands.  “Time to prove that rock and roll still has a crowd in Indy.”

It was his suggestion to build a title and theme for the show that’s on all the posters, website and handbills that proclaim “rock and roll ain’t dead.”

They found a media partner in the Back Roads Radio Show.  They emailed, and it intrigued me; one show, four American rock bands in Indy, and the struggle to do it.

***

The Dead Hearts

What the hell is American rock and roll anyway?

Do the Black Keys fit the description?  How about less-mainstream bands like the Bottle Rockets and Deer Tick?  Or Kid Rock, with his penchant for emulating his idol, Bob Seger?  Or is it the domain now of country performers like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church?

I’d wager it is somewhere in the influences of these artists, and standard bearers like Wilco, John Fogerty’s CCR, Tom Petty, and the sound of Seger and Mellencamp – who loves that sound more than Indy, right?

“Our opinion on it is kind of like this; our favorite bands wrote classic songs,” Chastain, the guitarist in The Weakenders, says. “To us, stuff like What’s the Story Morning Glory? or Damn the Torpedoes are always going be on iPods or in playlists or on radio for a reason; they’re full of absolutely undeniable jams. We are aiming for that kind of territory.”

Longtime Indiana guitar player John Byrne has been plying his trade for two decades as a go-to sideman in bands like Mere Mortals, Danny Flanigan and the Rain Chorus (who he is joining for their own show the same night at another Indy club  / Locals Only – 9pm), with Jess Richmond, 8-Track All-Stars and many others, most variations on a sound that used to be called heartland rock.

“It’s a tricky business trying to define or quantify something as broad and subjective as American rock,” Byrne says. “Neil Young said it best, I think, when he said ‘once you talk about mystique, you have none,’ but I definitely think that it has some essential, defining characteristics.

“For me – who basically grew up trying to be the kid that Patrick Fugit plays in the seminal rock movie “Almost Famous”, – the best, most effective American rock and roll had to have at least some self-awareness of what it was trying to deconstruct.

The Weakenders

Gropp echoes the sentiments of Byrne.

“(It’s) always a slippery slope when you start to define a genre.  We have some obvious influences.  All four Dead Hearts have a mutual enamoring of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.  I am biased being the keyboard player, but I love a band with driving organ and keys (and) love the E Street band so much.”

“If pressed to pick a single band that has become the most succinct standard-bearer for American rock in our current era,” continues Byrne, “I’d have to say Wilco because they quite literally took up the mantle of “Americana”, that somewhat self-congratulatory sub-genre that did its best to keep burning the twangy troubadour flame of vintage Neil Young, Gram Parsons, (and) Townes Van Zandt, and infused it with the intensity of the Stooges and the weariness of Steve Earle while rocking like a hurricane.”

With regional and national rock acts playing shows at the Vogue (upcoming dates include the Bodeans, Otis Gibbs and Dawes), Birdy’s (Paul Thorn has a show on June 23) and Radio Radio (two shows this month from The Lumineers), it would seem there would be a market for bands with similar sounds, on the local level.

What is trickier for most local and regional bands, is working on establishing a consistent fanbase for shows.  And to do that, it is more difficult if there is not a healthy American rock and roll scene.  Is there one in Indy?  I would argue a pair of shows from aforementioned The Lumineers, and consistent crowds for Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucinda Williams, Old 97’s and BoDeans, among others, gives the appearance of a plugged-in, web-savvy audience that knows the music and where to find the shows. Is that enough for local artists and bands of the genre?

“Rock and roll is still everywhere,” Gropp says. “In garages, basements, and house parties.  I think there are a lot of frustrated rockers wondering how to get the music elsewhere.  There are still a handful of places that will occasionally let a live rock band do their thing, but they better bring a crowd.  If not, they don’t want you back.”

“Indy just doesn’t have the same amount or type of clubs that it did 20 and 30 years ago,” Byrne admits. ”Save the occasional aberration, local music has been banished from Broad Ripple. Plenty of cool shows happen in Fountain Square, but it seems to me that the gigs that get the most notice are for bands from out of town.”

As Byrne notes, there are clubs in the strip malls that book cover bands, And he plays in those bars because, “at the end of the day, I just love playing guitar.”

Henry French

“If you want to find the essence of American rock and roll in Indianapolis any given week and you aren’t willing to settle for another heartfelt walk-through of ‘Mustang Sally,’ you have to dig pretty hard,” Byrne concludes “The good news is that there is music here, and plenty of it,  but there’s just no getting around the simple law of economics that supply doesn’t create demand.”

***

For the four bands playing “The Wake”, the potential success of the event becomes a lesson in hard work, and networking an audience that they, WTTS and the terrific Back Road Radio Show cultivate.  It also helps they believe deeply in the sound they are making.

The Weakenders are living in Nashville, Tenn, with three of their members are from Indianapolis.  This will be their first show back in town. They have a new record Super Major, coming out this spring.

“We’ve noticed with the band, people seem to actually mean what they say to us when they talk about our songs, or the new record or the live set or whatever it is,” Chastain says. “People seem to really think we’re on to something. That is a really good feeling.

For The Dead Hearts’ Gropp, the effort to carve a niche, or be a part of something that means a lot to not just his band, but many like-sounding and –minded others, is one reason to go forward.

Attakula

“So much of what we do is promotion and trying to find a balance between keeping people interested and not annoying them. It can be really taxing and frustrating, contacting countless clubs and not getting a response  The bottom line is the music.  We love making music.  We would probably do it even if nobody was listening.”

Attakulla call their music a “revival of American garage rock wrapped in a crunchy, electrified folk sound.”  Henry French likens himself to Tom Petty, the Foo Fighters and the Replacements. I even wrote that French was a “guy has the potential to make the next great Midwest rock and roll record.”  And that The Dead Hearts were the Indianapolis’ Best New Band of 2011.

Is that enough?  Can their passion, diligence and the sound of Indiana rock and roll get an audience to a beautiful old church in downtown Indy featuring these four?

According to Gropp, music fans know where to find good shows.

“I think people want something honest, something they can interact with.  Something personal where they can say, “Oh yeah, I was there that night.  I remember when that happened.’

For all their struggles in finding the right venue, they hope the show called “The Wake” will jump start something for them.

And Indianapolis will have a place for music that we call American rock, the trusted sound has never really gone away. For bands like The Dead Hearts and the Weakenders, they simply keep pushing forward, even if it is just three chords at a time. Because, for them,  that’s the only thing they can do.

————————-

http://www.facebook.com/events/417279008285814/
www.backroadradioshow.com
www.earthhousecollective.org

When: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:00 p.m
Where: The Earth House Collective, 237 N. East St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.
Tickets: $7 in advance ($10 at door) and available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/240272.

www.thedeadhearts.com
www.theweakenders.com
www.attakulla.com
www.reverbnation.com/henryfrench

Concert Review: John Mellencamp at Hinkle, Nov. 11

from NUVO – by Rob Nichols

For most of Thursday night’s John Mellencamp show at Hinkle Fieldhouse (“first show here since 1967”, Mellencamp commented), it was nearly all you could want: good sound, a refreshingly patient and attentive crowd, and a tight, rehearsed and raw band that seemed to be enjoying their own performance. The show faltered only near the end when it tried to be what it wasn’t.  Continue reading “Concert Review: John Mellencamp at Hinkle, Nov. 11”