What's Up, Chuck?
But is He Blues?--Guitarist Terry Hiatt makes his MoCo debut; Those Darn Accordions do their darn thing.
Thursday, May 28, 1998
Yeah, he does blues, but it''s tough to call Terry Hiatt a bluesman. His self-produced, 1996 debut album, Brother Piranha, has a bunch of blues-based music that''s all twisted together with jazz and rock and New Orleans-second line and Celtic and, and... And although that makes for a jagged, sometimes jarring album, the wide-ranging influences also help to infuse the album with a surprising energy, even on the cover songs.
Hiatt''s making his debut in this area at Blue Fin Billiards on Saturday, so I figured it would be a good idea to give him a call and talk to him about blues and music and stuff. The conversation started kind of funny. Most of all of the press stuff in his package referred to Hiatt as a blues player, but what I heard on the album was only based in blues and went many other places. So I was puzzled about how to talk with Hiatt concerning such a commingling of styles, and he was puzzled about about my puzzlement and we wound up puzzling it out together. Sort of.
"I''m not really a blues man," says Hiatt, "I''m just a guitar player." OK. Cool. That makes sense. No musician likes the industry-driven mandate to make music from a pigeonhole. He''s not a blues guy. But then Hiatt says, "When we play places, we play more like the blues. We stay much closer to that format when we gig.
"But I don''t claim to be a blues player. I just keep trying. I''m not one of those guys who wears a hat and and carries a Stratocaster, and tries to follow that tradition.
"I''m one of these guys who don''t think blues should be in a museum...And blues audiences, if you don''t hit ''em with a total left turn, they''re pretty open to all sorts of things. But I''m not going to come out and play a bunch of rock ''n'' roll, you have to be respectful to the music. But it''s definitely an evening of blues-based adventures."
So, the best I can figure it, Hiatt is definitely not a blues guy except when he is a blues guy.
Which is probably a good thing. Although there are a lot of good, youngish blues musicians out on the road--Tab Benoit, particularly, springs to mind--who can rock the blues, mush ''em together with other influences and still have soul, too many guys (and it is mostly guys) are makin'' their guitars scream without any apparent reason for making the noise.
"That''s what attracts people to the music," says Hiatt. "It''s dirt-bones-and-blood kind of stuff."
And if it takes other influences to keep the music true to its emotional roots, that, apparently, isn''t going to bother Hiatt. The proof''s on the album from Hiatt''s swinging, shuffling cover of "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," through a hard rockin'' blues version of The Beatles'' "Tax Man," a funky cover of James Cotton''s "One More Mile," and his double-time, instrumental, country-blues take on Paul Butterfield''s "Mystery Train." Along the way, the album features Hiatt''s original stuff, like "Sco What," a tribute to the great jazz guitarist John Scofield, and "Heltic Celtic," inspired by Irish fiddle jigs.
Is it all blues? No. Does it matter? Only if you''re purist.
But make up your own mind.
Terry Hiatt, Friday, 9pm. Bluefin Cafe and Billiards. 375-7000.
Recommending groups like Those Darn Accordions will probably forever prevent me from getting any slice of my face printed up in CW''s promotions. (I am a professional and these are the risks I must take--at least until somebody offers me a lot of money and promises to make me a star. But I digress...)
Those Darn Accordions are not for everyone''s taste. They''re just too weird. But they''re weird good, you know?
The eight-piece outfit--six accordions, drums and bass--take on almost every musical style from polka to Hendrix, sometimes mixing everything together along the way.
Now, if you like accordions, this is all very cool. If you hate accordions, you probably quit reading already. And if you''re somewhere in the middle, well...this is likely to sound too much like a one-joke novelty act. Which it kinda is. What makes it palatable--and even appealing in a kitschy sort of way--is that the band is laughing along with its audiences.
The band takes the stage looking like some sort of circus that''s been costumed by the Salvation Army--fishnets, silver suits, petticoats, platform boots, big hair...get the picture?
So, if you''re looking for some laughs--and, actually, some really good accordion musicianship (yes, there is such a thing)--you might want to check TDA out.
Those Darn Accordions, Saturday, 7pm. Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz. $15.75. 429-7663.