I met Steve Earle at Guy Clark's house in Nashville. He was about eighteen years old and talking a mile a minute all the time. Steve clearly was a natural songwriter. His heroes were Guy and Townes, so he had a good basis for storytelling and the Texas songwriter tradition. I'd run into him in bars and talk about this and that. I think Steve liked the danger of Townes and clearly revered Guy. Everything revolved around Bishop's Pub for me. Guy lived near there and would come by now and again.
Guy might come in if Townes was around, but I don't remember Steve actually playing there. It seemed Steve was bouncing back and forth between Texas and Nashville. The Exit/Inn was going on and you'd run into those guys there. I remember talking with Steve at this place called Jock's and he was just going ninety miles an hour about something. I was worn out from doing whatever I was doing and I just said, “Steve, stop. Take a breath. Count to ten.” He was young and full of life.
I hadn't seen him in a couple years. I said, “Hey, Steve, how you doing?” I was thinking he'd do the time honored response: “Fine and you?” Except “How you doing?” to Steve is like the first line in a Russian novel. Two hours later, I'm still standing there listening to how he's doing. That's just how he is. At any point, you can say, “Hey, Give it a drink, Steve.” I saw him the other night on TV in the movie Leaves of Grass. I was thinking, He's really good. It took me a while and I think it took other people a while to realize Steve wasn't just blowing smoke when he was talking. There's a whole lot going on there. I think once he did Guitar Town that became clear to a lot of people. I remember hearing him do “Tom Ames' Prayer,” a very tight narrative story. I guess you would call it a dramatic monologue. It's very well done. I think he was nineteen when he wrote it.
It's a huge honor that he would perform my song “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.” I think in that time period – from the late seventies to early eighties – there were people writing song who were really struggling to get the right lyric. It doesn't mean that they were really stilted, they just worked really hard at things and the way you felt they ought to be said. It seems like songwriting today is just a lot of things blurted out. Sometimes that can work but back then Guy and Townes and John Hiatt, the goal is to write a song with natural sounding poignancy. I think people worked on that aspect. I think that's what Steve was talking about with “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.” I appreciate that another writer like Steve appreciates my lyrics.
- Brian T. Atkinson
The Mavericks' vibrant Play the Hits interprets classics from country (John Andserson's “Swingin'”) to rock (Bruce Springsteen's “Hungry Heart”) and back again (Waylon Jennings' “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”). We spoke to guitarist Eddie Perez about the record and what's next for the band.
“We've been working hard on a documentary film that tells the history of the band for the last year and a half,” Perez says. “We also might release an all-Spanish record this year, which would be the first Mavericks record in Spanish. Plus, we're getting ready to go on XM radio's Outlaw Country cruise.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Explain how the new album came together.
Eddie Perez: These songs have been influential in different degrees. They had to have a resonance with our front man Raul (Malo). We've been playing them on the road and fans have said, “Hey, we'd love to hear a recorded version of that song.” We started going into the studio last year when we were off the road and experimenting with some covers then that snowballed into this record once we got the energy going. We were thinking about the songs that pertain to the energy and spirit of the Mavericks.
Describe the song selection process.
We have many other covers that find their way onto a Mavericks set list from time to time, but these are the ones we felt most connected to and related most to Raul. The singer is putting that energy across, so the lyric and melody have to have a resonance with him. Raul guided this process. We figured a covers record would be a good thing.
Explain what drew you to 'Swingin'”.
That was such a massive song for John Anderson back in the day and it resonated with the band. Country music still had a certain sound and connection when the band was formed in 1989. “Swingin'” was always around back then. We'd performed it a time or two and had put our Maverick sound on it before we knew it. What a fun song to do. People dig it live. It was a big influence on us.
Describe how you approach the arrangements.
Well, the songs are all great in their own rights. People will say, “Why cover that song?” Raul stepped back a little – much to his credit – and allowed a band that plays a hundred-plus shows a year the time to get in the studio and experiment. He had great arrangement ideas, but it really is a collective effort. He allows the energy for individuality and we benefit from playing together so much.
Did you find it challenging or freeing to interpret covers?
It can be all kinds of things. I think our close proximity and comaraderie helps. There's not a lot of spoken dialogue about what we're doing. It's just the energy we have like we all speak the same language and we're all drawing on the same musical ideas and principles. There's a certain taste factor for what we do. There's a reason for all of it. It comes down to the sum of the parts for me.
That certainly applies to your cover of 'Hungry Heart.'
Thanks. Yeah, we're all big Springsteen fans, which goes back to the mid-seventies when I was first turned on to music. My father was a big music fan and he was into Bruce. We all have the same reverence for The Boss. We've recorded Springsteen songs in the past, but Raul just felt a connection with this one. He felt like he had a great twist on the melody and style. I feel like we did something in our unique Mavericks way.
– Brian T. Atkinson
Interviews copyright Brian T. Atkinson. All rights reserved
Artist: Kelsey Waldon
Hometown: Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky
Album: White Noise/White Lines
Release Date: October 4, 2019
Record Label: Oh Boy
Artist Website: https://www.kelseywaldon.com/
Label Website: https://www.ohboy.com/
Kelsey Waldon's White Noise / White Lines backs defiant country (“Anyhow”) with razor sharp songwriting (“Kentucky 1988”). The Kentucky native – who scored a rare deal with John Prine's Oh Boy Records for the album – talks to us this month about a singular influence: Waylon Jennings.
“I think I've taken away his soul and his attitude,” Waldon says. “He did what he wanted to do and in a different way. He was a badass. He's inspired me and everybody so much. One-of-a-kind artists do that. Everybody's got a piece of it in their own way and they're trying to do it the right way.
“I've been listening to Waylon Jennings for a long time. My grandaddy always loved Willie Nelson and Waylon and I started listening to Waylon when I started collecting vinyl in high school. I think I was attracted to what everyone's attracted to: Here's this guy who's from the rural Texas country who clearly has his own sound. I liked the rhythmic aspects, the vocals, the guitar playing and the attitude. Everyone loves the attitude, but nobody has a voice like that. I'm attracted to soulful singing in general. The sound as a whole was a huge attraction to me at a young age. I'd never heard country music like that before." - Kelsey Waldon
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