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Bloodkin: Working Class Heroes

Posted: Jan 04, 2009

Bloodkin: Working Class Heroes
1/3/09

 …Another night at Dan’s house before the Bloodkin show. I came to Athens last night…gray skies and drizzling rain in Athens today, but not too cold. Tonight is the first night of Bloodkin’s 2009 gig schedule. It’s a big year for them…new record…new gigs…new beginnings. No band over the last 20 years has continued to record and write formidable music and play gigs only remain on the margin like Bloodkin.

Sci-Fidelity Records is the Boulder-based label the new Bloodkin record is to be released on February 3. So, after sound check Danny takes me out to David Barbe’s house for a game of Strat-o-matic baseball. Let me just say for the record…this Strat-o-matic baseball board game is a nasty epidemic among Athens' finest musicians. Danny and Eric played that game for years when we lived together. It’s a board game based on statistics of previous seasons. They are playing with 1971 ball players…names I haven’t heard in years. David Barbe is the main culprit and instigator of this hilarious disease. In fact, Barbe and Eric are meeting at 9AM on Sunday morning for a couple quick games…which may lead to an afternoon of fiendish board game baseball.

It was good to see Bloodkin-road manager Bear Fowler. Before the show I spoke with honorary Bloodkin-member William Tonks. William is an Athens-utility expert. He’s played in bands like The Gravity Creeps, Barbara Cue and a long list of others. If one needs dobro on a song Tonks is the man. He’s played on every Bloodkin record since 1999s Out of State Plates. I asked him to elaborate on the origin of his friendship with Danny and Eric.

“They’ve been around for years. I remember when those guys moved to town. In those days it was not cool to wear your Rolling Stones influences on your sleeve and they did. So I liked them immediately. I had a band called Monkey Men. Bloodkin was going to open the show, but by the time the show was booked and gig-time my band broke up. So, I opened for them as just a solo gig. That was 1986-1987. We always found ourselves at the same gatherings. By the time they started making records with David Barbe (Out of State Plates ) that’s when Barbara Cue (Tonks, Crumpy Edwards, Todd Nance, Jon Mills, John Neff) started playing with Bloodkin because Crumpy was the bassist for both bands. So we started doing shows together. As you know, hanging out with those guys it’s like hanging out with the smart people in high school. Or the guys who got their license a year before you…”

Bloodkin opened the show at the Fabulous 40 Watt with an old tune, “Success Yourself”. Next they played two songs off the new CD “Easter Eggs” and “The Viper”. Tonks contributes another dimension to the band with his dobro playing that allows Danny to play a little more acoustic which gives the songs more depth. David Barbe and I are watching the band from the bar. Barbe—the Athens sound wizard who Bloodkin and the Drive By Truckers swear by—leans over and says to me, “Aaron Phillips is the key. I’ve loved all of Bloodkin’s drummers, but Aaron and Danny lock in together and he keeps them in the pocket. I’m glad Aaron is back with them.” Aaron, another Athens veteran, was one of Bloodkin’s first drummers over twenty years ago.

Another song on the new CD, “Wait Forever” is played next. This is the oldest song on the new CD. They used to play “Wait Forever” back in 1992 and it’s interesting to hear it all of these years later. Eric sings another new song called “They Call Me Alice”.  "Ghost Runner” is next. This is a great rock and roll song about kids playing baseball that this writer believes should be the MLB theme song. The song “Taboo” is next, and Tonks delivers his own sound to this number. I’d also like to send out a kudos to bassist David Nickel for his laid back demeanor and warm bass sound.

David Barbe gets up with the band to play two songs with Danny’s new Gibson guitar. Barbe stays on for a rollicking version of “Happy” that Eric sang the verses in wrong order, and at the set break we were laughing about it and Eric grinned: “I saw Keith Richards sing the same verse three times!” An old song, “Quarter Tank of Gasoline” was rendered next. I saw my old pal and Bloodkin accomplice John Neff who is now the pedal steel player in The Drive By Truckers…so you’ll be hearing from him in the near future at Swampland/Mystery And Manners. They played another old ditty, “New Horse And Carriage”, which served as a nice balance of material.

Backstage I ran into old buddies from the Dashboard Saviors Mike Gibson and Todd McBride and we caught up on recent activities. It was really a who’s who of Athens musicians. R.E.M.’s Mike Mills was in the crowd. After the set break, they came back and played “Henry Parsons”, “Rotgut”, “Jazz Funeral” and then Eric sang “Is That All There Is?” along with another older song “You Better Pray”. Then onto the old classic “Transfusion”. They also played Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind”.

I ran into Hunter Hoskins who once worked at David Barbe’s studio. He recorded a spoken word session at Barbe’s studio two years ago that Danny, Eric and I conducted. He said, “Man you reading your stuff with Danny and Eric playing the music…people need to hear that stuff! It deserves to be heard.” I thanked him and told him down the line there will be more spoken word sessions, especially since Danny has pro-tools now. Not to mention all the old stuff we recorded. But there may be other willing locations…

They played “Black Jacket”, “Calling Back”, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, “Can’t Get High” and the evening closer “End of the Show”. So, in three weeks Bloodkin will play seven shows opening for the Drive By Truckers. I’ll be in touch with The Drive By Truckers' John Neff and Patterson Hood in the next couple of weeks for their insight into these latest musical developments.

In the next two weeks, I will interview Danny, Eric and a cast of other vital characters in my ongoing saga with Bloodkin for a close-to-the-bone perspective of these working class heroes. Stay tuned,

James Calemine


 

related tags

Music,
Georgia,
West Virginia,
Athens,
Mystery and Manners,

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