Sex, drugs and cars are some of the recurring themes found throughout many rock albums. In February, Mike Beck will make a record that takes on a very different motif: horses. Beck, whose renowned horsemanship clinics have been held worldwide, recently partnered with the nonprofit Joyful Horse Project. The Austin, TX-based organization places homeless horses with people who can care for them – they also enlist veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq to help groom the horses and sometimes just keep them company.
Beck’s benefit album, due out sometime in April, will feature both old tunes and new material, and of course include all horse-centric songs.
“This album will benefit the [organization], these horses, veterans and me because there’s built-in publicity,” he says. “So it’s good for everybody.”
But before Beck gets started on his love letter to stallions and studs, he’s going to bask in the glory of his recent release, Pine Street Girl, Saturday at the Golden State Theatre. The 13 tracks include the musician and his band The Bohemian Saints – featuring local guitar favorite/Persephone’s Bees co-founder Tom Ayres – rocking mostly originals they’ve been playing live for years.
Beck bypasses technical detail and relies on emotion to guide his playing.
“There’s no rules when you write songs,” he says. “For me, songs are about a feeling and that feeling is different within each person that hears it. That’s the beauty of it.”
In addition to delivering jamming live shows, Beck also has a knack for translating his real life experiences into great tunes. “Oildale” – a small town next to Bakersfield where Merle Haggard was born – was inspired by a trip he took to Bakersfield to meet Buck Owens.
He found the country legend and got Owens’ signature on his own prized Telecaster, but when he drove through Oildale, which used to be home to a bustling country music scene, the clubs were closed and the town was reduced to a dust bowl void of any sign of music.
“Everybody played at The Blackboard [in Oildale] including George Jones and Hank Williams,” Beck says. “It was like the Ryman Auditorium of the West Coast and it became a Domino’s Pizza parlor. There’s no celebration of the history of great California music.”
While “Oildale” is about the death of a beloved era, “John Steinbeck Drinks Here” and “Summer of Love” celebrate Monterey’s illustrious cultural past as the place where one of the greatest American writers called home and the site of one of the most groundbreaking music festivals in rock and roll history.
Beck has released six albums now that cover a lot of musical ground; soon, he’d like to make a record showcasing the B-Bender, a guitar device he uses to mechanically bend the B-string up one tone to C-sharp. In the mean time, he’ll continue his role as the horse population’s best friend.
MIKE BECK CD RELEASE PARTY happens at 8pm, Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $10. 297-2472.