Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rockabilly- Hillbilly Casino Live

pic from

I recently went to see the band Hillbilly Casino play at Frank's Power Plant on Sept. 9th and they were amazing, as usual. If you aren't familiar with the band they are a powerhouse quartet of vocals (Nic Roulette), bass (Geoff Firebaugh), guitar (Ronnie Crutcher ) and drums (Andrew Dickson) that according to their own website bio "blends elements of honkytonk, rockabilly, psychobilly, and straight up rock and roll."  I will be writing more about these genres in the coming weeks, but you can get a head start on rockabilly by reading one of my previous posts.

Singer Nic Roulette is also a huge hip hop fan (as well as a fantastic trained tap dancer) and often throws in a few verses of some old school rap to mix it up now and then. The very first time I saw HBC at the 2007 Rockin' 50s Fest in Green Bay, they did a high-energy mash-up of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" with a few verses of Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance" in the middle. Below is an example of how this works:

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Yes a jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It'll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Little shoeshine boy never gets low down

But he's got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin' low at the peoples' feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How'd he keep from gettin' the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

   All right! Stop whatcha doin'
   'cause I'm about to ruin the image and the style that ya used to.
   I look funny but yo I'm makin' money see
   so yo world I hope you're ready for me.
   Now gather round I'm the new fool in town
   and my sound's laid down by the Underground.
   I drink up all the Hennessey ya got on ya shelf
   so just let me introduce myself
   My name is Humpty, pronounced with a Umpty.
   Yo ladies, oh how I like to hump thee.
   And all the rappers in the top ten--please allow me to bump thee.
   I'm steppin' tall, y'all, and just like Humpty Dumpty
   you're gonna fall when the stereos pump me.
   I like to rhyme, I like my beats funky,
   I'm spunky. I like my oatmeal lumpy.
   I'm sick wit dis, straight gangsta mack
   but sometimes I get ridiculous
   I'll eat up all your crackers and your licorice
   hey yo fat girl, c'mere--are ya ticklish?
   Yeah, I called ya fat. Look at me, I'm skinny
   It never stopped me from gettin' busy
   I'm a freak I like the girls with the boom
   I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom
   I'm crazy. Allow me to amaze thee.
   They say I'm ugly but it just don't faze me.
   I'm still gettin' in the girls' pants
   and I even got my own dance

Get rhythm when you get the blues

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you're a mighty little boy to be-a workin' that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin
Kept on a poppin' and he said again

Get rhythm when you get the blues

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock 'n' roll feelin' in your bones
Get taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

I found a live version of HBC performing the song so you can hear it-

Find more artists like Hillbilly Casino at Myspace Music

Not only did the mixing of the two seemingly divergent styles of rockabilly/hillbilly with hip hop work rhythmically, but combining the lyrics really showed the similarity of the genres in how they discuss the same subject. The idea of using music to create a sense of self that transcends social prescriptions and rising above them becomes much more poignant when adding Humpty's self-description.

Back to the most recent performance, HBC just came out with a new album "Tennessee Stomp" which is a continuation of their hard-edged rockabilly and honky-tonk sound. One of the things I like most about their music, which also sets them apart from many groups of the same style, is that they have a lot of layering in their music. Much of this is because each band member is an accomplished musician in many genres which allows them to fill space in a tasteful way. They are also very good at listening to each other and responding musically to what is going on in the moment. This is very much apparent in a live show because you can see the interaction of the players through eye contact with each other, as well as the individual concentration in the rhythm section, particularly drums, that produces a constant rhythmic movement underneath the vocals that is alive and evolving until the song ends.

LISTEN- Tennessee Stomp by Hillbilly Casino

Frank's Power Plant 9.10
 "Tennessee Stomp" is broken into 8 bar sections in a basic I-IV-V progression and the overall form is AABA. The use of changing rhythmic and harmonic textures, particularly in the B section, makes the song  more intricate and interesting. The B section also has a vocal counterpoint that adds to the forward movement of the song, one of many techniques used that often makes their songs feel like they are on the verge of dangerously falling apart. Of course, they never do but it definitely adds to the reckless charm of this band.

No comments: