June 5, 2007

Hot Damn, Bobby’s all-stars, R&B revelry, and adieu to a Ky. treasure

BY MAT HERRON AND KEVIN WILSONWilco isn’t the only band to air its laundry for public consumption.When The Damnwells’ Alex Dezen was fighting over the phone with Epic Records over the company’s decision to shelve the group’s debut album, director, producer and friend Chris Suchorsky was right there, capturing every word. Suchorsky and Dezen winnowed 160 hours of footage down to the 90-minute documentary “Golden Days.” “Originally, it was about a band leaving behind their makeshift recording studio to hit the big time,” Dezen said in a phone interview. “Chris got a much better story than he anticipated.”Suchorsky followed the group religiously, from cutting tracks in the studio in March 2005 until January 2006, when Epic released The Damnwells from their contract.“Golden Days,” which was named Best Documentary at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, is compelling because it’s a good story, but appreciating the plotline was hard to do for the band during filming and, especially, when the members watched it for the first time.“I had my hand over my eyes,” Dezen said. “It was hard to watch. It was very, very hard for our old drummer to watch; in fact, I don’t even think he watched it from start to finish.” Suchorsky was convinced otherwise: “‘No. You guys look like the coolest band in the world. This is a story of your all’s ability to persevere.’”The group recouped, found a new label (Rounder Records) and is out touting Air Stereo. Finally, it seems, The Damnwells are doing well. “No matter what you do, there’re so many obstacles in this business,” Dezen said. “It’s an impossible dream. It’s not really so much about being successful at a certain point as it is about having experiences, being able to show up in a town and have people come see you.” The Damnwells perform Friday at Phoenix Hill Tavern (644 Baxter Ave., 589-4957). Ari Hest and Julian Velard join in. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, and are available at ear X-tacy (1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799) and at the Phoenix Hill box office.•••Saturday night is R&B night at the Palace Theatre (625 S. Fourth St., 583-4555). This all-ages revue will feature performances by the Stylistics (“Betcha By Golly Wow”), the Dennis Edwards-led Temptations (“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) and the bad boy of blind folk, Clarence Carter (“Strokin’”). Tix are $41.75-$71.75•••The NationalCincinnati claims ’em, and, now, so does the world. The National’s newest album, Boxer, is wowing critics (including ours — see review page 45) as the New York-by-way-of-Cincinnati group stretches out on its latest U.S. tour. The band previously visited Louisville with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to support its last record, Alligator, but Boxer promises to catapult the brooding rockers to a new level of success. The National stops Tuesday at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) with Talkdemonic and Shapes N’ Sizes. Tickets for the 18-and-over show are $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Showtime is 9 p.m.•••Like most kids, Bobby Bare Jr. wanted to be just like his dad when he grew up. But as Bare explained it to LEO, he had no run-of-the-mill father.“In my case, Dad happened to be a rocker up there shaking his ass on the stage every night. OK, maybe in actuality there wasn’t much ass-shaking involved, and I suppose Dad wasn’t performing every night, but he was still a rocker and so were all his friends, and so that’s what I wanted to become from an early age,” Bare said.Indeed, the elder Bobby Bare was an inspiring figure. A celebrated performing songwriter with a commanding presence, Bare Sr. ran with the outlaw fringe of country music. But he always had an ambivalent relationship with the music industry and was not eager to see his son follow in his footsteps.“After letting me sing with him on an album and us getting a joint Grammy nomination when I was, like, 5, the old man got freaked out and tried for a long time to keep me away from the business,” Bare remembers. “Still, I was never really that far from it. It seems like I was on the road selling T-shirts or whatever my whole damn life.”As Bare matured, he decided to major in psychology at the University of Tennessee. Soon thereafter he returned to Nashville and worked as a bicycle technician, ran lights at concerts and worked other random jobs around town. But it was during this period that he first connected with guitarist Mike Grimes and started writing songs for their project, which was to be known simply and collectively as Bare Jr.Under that moniker, Bare’s raucous band released two major label albums, largely over-produced and under-selling affairs. In terms of sound, Bare Jr. put forth bold roots-rock somewhat akin to Jason & the Scorchers. But soon enough things fell apart. The group disintegrated as the label lost interest. “Mike and I had a brief but intense falling out,” Bare recalls. “The good thing for music fans is that he went on to open Grimey’s record store and (the adjacent) Basement bar in Nashville. I started playing with a less-permanent line-up of musicians (The Young Criminals Starvation League) and signed with Bloodshot (Records).”This seems to have been the right alignment for Bare. Since 2002, the League has issued an EP, a live disc and three acclaimed studio albums. Bare has certainly utilized his current situation to be more experimental.His latest release, The Longest Meow, at times, bears a strong resemblance to My Morning Jacket, and for good reason. Jim James, Patrick Hallahan and Carl Broemel are among the 11 musicians that Bare employed for the now legendary one-day recording session that resulted in the album.Bare explained how the so-called “I-65 connection” came about. “We started playing together around the time their record At Dawn came out, and no one really knew who they were. I quickly became buddies with them and fell in love with their sound. Then when the personnel changes were happening within their band, I actually recommended Carl for the job. So, we definitely have a history. I’m just glad they could come down and participate in The Longest Meow.”Bare Jr. appears at Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) next Wednesday, June 13, with The Slip and The Elms. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.•••Death don’t have no mercy in this land. Joey Broughman passed away quietly last Tuesday in Lexington. An obscure but important bluesman and musicologist, Broughman was a true Kentucky cultural icon. His own playing style was heavily influenced by Doc Watson, the Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Blake, though Broughman was equally obsessed with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and the Rolling Stones. In recent years, he fronted a band called the Painkillers and was loosely affiliated with regional artists the Metropolitan Blues All-Stars, the Yonders and Frank Schaap.Before coming to the bluegrass, Broughman worked somewhat mechanically as a session guitarist in Nashville (he once reluctantly admitted to having played on an England Dan and John Ford Coley album). He was also employed for a number of years by Keith Richards.Broughman rubbed shoulders with plenty of stars and was no stranger to the surreal nature of a musician’s life. Still, he was always a humble soul who preferred to remain a mysterious and somewhat anonymous figure. As such, many people in Kentucky only recognized him as the affable guy who worked the door at the old Lynagh’s music club.When he was not busy running bars, collecting bootleg recordings or singing the blues, Broughman was usually on the road as a fan and scholar. To simply say he was an avid concert-goer would be an understatement. For decades his distinctive presence could regularly be detected at venues within a 12-hour driving radius of here. Broughman typically took in more shows during any given year than most people have the opportunity to catch in an entire lifetime.His own fabled lifetime was cut short at the age of 53. Broughman’s pleasant disposition, positive vibes, vast musical knowledge and immense talent will be missed by many. Contact the writers at leo@leoweekly.com