Es­pañola hill­bil­lies

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Steve Ter­rell

How can you not love an al­bum that be­gins with a slide gui­tar lick from a guy called “Khorn Sir­rup” fol­lowed by the line, “Well I ain’t too pretty and I ain’t too bright ...”? The al­bum is Old Good Poor Crazy Dead, and the band re­spon­si­ble for it is

The Im­pe­rial Rooster. They’re from Es­pañola, and the singer’s right. They ain’t too pretty. From the looks of the band photo on the in­side cover of the CD, I’d hate to meet these guys in a dark al­ley — or even worse, a well-lit al­ley. But pretty or not, I can’t get enough of this al­bum.

This is good, rootsy hill­billy slop. I don’t hear a jug in the mix, but The Im­pe­rial Rooster has a real jug-band spirit — on top of a punk-rock soul. The band mem­bers’ funny monikers — such as “Nat King Kong,” “Cootie LeR­oux,” and “Dusty Vinyl” — cre­ate a mytho­log­i­cal mu­si­cal world some­where along an as­tral plane be­tween Dog­patch and Es­pañola.

The first song, “Your Friends Think I’m the Devil,” has a melody sim­i­lar to an old tune called “Wild About My Lovin’” (a tra­di­tional song cov­ered most fa­mously by The Lovin’ Spoon­ful). It is a se­ri­ous, self-loathing blues song. “Well, I try to be a good man, try to do what’s right/But Betty Sue done told me that I’m a par­a­site.”

The song that first drew me to the Rooster was “Pig Fork.” The ti­tle should re­mind you of “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork” by South­ern Cul­ture on the Skids. But this tune, punc­tu­ated by fright­en­ing hog squeals and em­bel­lished with a cho­rus of “yeah yeah yeah” when­ever the singer says “pig fork,” achieves its own level of lu­nacy. “Well, I keep it in my pocket right next to my thigh/If you get too close you get poked in the eye/Stick it in a socket you get elec­tri­fied / I like my pork crack­lins deep fried.”

They’ve even got an eight-minute mi­norkey epic here. “Ad­vice of the Ages” starts off slow and spooky, led by the up­right bass of “Ten­nessee Skilly McGee.” A lengthy in­stru­men­tal starts to sound like Sym­phony Sid Page’s solo in “I Scare My­self” by Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. But in­stead of a vi­o­lin, the dom­i­nant in­stru­ment on the Rooster song is a ka­zoo. (“Pil­grum Hart” later comes in on the fid­dle.)

The Im­pe­rial Rooster plays The Cow­girl BBQ, 319 S. Guadalupe St., at 9 p.m. on Dec. 11. Bring your own pig forks. And in the mean­time, hear some Im­pe­rial Rooster tunes at www.re­verb­na­tion.com/theim­pe­ri­al­rooster. Other new CDs from this en­chanted land:

▼ Wheel of Life by Boris McCutcheon

& The Salt Licks. Here’s the lat­est col­lec­tion of melodic cel­e­bra­tions from the Mas­sachusetts-born singer-song­writer and his ca­pa­ble, un­der­rated band. Wheel is McCutcheon’s third al­bum with The Salt Licks. While I still pre­fer the first, 2005’s

Cac­tus­man vs. the Blue De­mon, the new one has some real de­lights.

My fa­vorites here are the ones in which he cuts loose with honky-tonk aban­don. The first song on this al­bum (“What Ails You?”) grabs you right from the be­gin­ning with its Johnny Cash chunka-chunka beat. That’s Su­san Hyde Holmes on up­right bass and Brett Davis on twang gui­tar and lap steel.

Also no­table is coun­try-funk charmer “Boxspring Plough.” Judg­ing from this and Tom Waits’ “Filipino Box Spring Hog,” one can only con­clude that songs with “box spring” in the ti­tle are fun. This one starts out with McCutcheon sing­ing about the an­nual “hip­pies vs. the lo­cals” base­ball game up near Pi­curis Pue­blo. Then there’s “Peeler,” which McCutcheon, on his web­site, says is about “a young man who falls madly and fool­ishly in love with a new age strip­per.”

Though McCutcheon is known mostly as a song­writer, on Wheel of Life he in­cludes three songs writ­ten by oth­ers. There’s a de­cent ver­sion of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall” and a fun take on “Lee Har­vey,” a tune writ­ten by Homer Hen­der­son but best known for The Asy­lum Street Spankers’ ver­sion. It’s about a guy who ap­par­ently was in­volved in some kind of ker­fuf­fle in Dal­las back in the early 1960s. De­spite its un­nec­es­sar­ily slan­der­ous lyrics about a Texas busi­ness­man named Jack Ruby, it’s a fun song, and McCutcheon does it jus­tice.

And once again McCutcheon teams up with Al­bu­querque song­writer Mark Ray Lewis from the band Trilo­bite. On Cac­tus­man, McCutcheon cov­ered Lewis’ spooky “Caves of Bur­gundy.” Here he does a Lewis tune called “Mark Twain.” It’s not about the author. It’s a com­pelling tale about a fate­ful ro­mance with a farmer’s daugh­ter and a trip into the un­fore­seen.

The al­bum ends with a jaunty lit­tle back­roads jour­ney called “Bad Road, Good Peo­ple,” which is also the ti­tle of his pre­vi­ous al­bum. Here he sings about his North­ern New Mex­ico home, which ap­par­ently is “a good place to burn a car or shoot an old washer or dryer.” Check out www. borism­c­cutcheon.com.

▼ Keep ’em Com­ing by The What­ev­erly Broth­ers. Long­time Santa Fe fa­vorite Jono Man­son joins forces here with an old pal, Bri­tish singer-song­writer Ge­orge Break­fast. The two were mu­si­cal com­padres in New York back in the ’ 80s and be­came The What­ev­erly Broth­ers in the early part of this cen­tury. The first 10 tracks in this col­lec­tion are new record­ings. But also here is The What­ev­erly Broth­ers’ en­tire first al­bum, Global Toast, which was recorded in Den­mark in 2001.

The mu­sic is sim­ple and un­der­pro­duced — in my book, a good thing. Mainly just two guys and their gui­tars. (Was that a dog I heard yip in “Warm Love”?)

There’s a new record­ing of Man­son’s “Red Wine in the Af­ter­noon.” Other fa­vorite tracks in­clude the bluesy “I Pre­fer to Walk” and es­pe­cially the wickedly clever “I Never Want to Be Your Ex.” The cho­rus goes, “I never want to be your ex/Some­one with whom you used to have sex/Who got swept aside when you cleared the decks.”

The What­ev­erly Broth­ers make a rare Santa Fe area ap­pear­ance at 7 p.m. on Sun­day, Nov. 28, at Mike’s Mu­sic Ex­change in La Tienda shop­ping cen­ter in El­do­rado. The sug­gested do­na­tion (come on, pay it, ya cheap­skates!) is $15. Visit www.mys­pace.com/what­ev­erly­broth­ers.

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