Friday, October 14, 2016

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 45

  Put 'er in Cruise Control

Let's drive that old Chrysler down to Las Cruces. Keep your hands on the wheel boss.... roll me up another Zig Zag, can't you do that with one hand? It's going on two years since we visited New Mexico's second city. It's a vibrant scene, though not one bent on experimentation. For the most part the local music scene is dominated by beefy classic rock inspired anthems produced by bearded bros rocking out like it's 1973 and ZZ Top just dropped “Tres Hombres” This trend is mostly due to the efforts and influence of Travis Manning, his Nasty Cactus recording studio and its legacy of heavy metal thunder bands such as New Mexican Erection, Dirty Clydes, Worm Hole and most recently Flat Blak. It's a variable time capsule of rehashed hesher riffs and beats. If you loved Grand Funk Railroad back in 1970, you'll love anyone of the previously mentioned bands.

The city's music scene also has an inspired progressive side, which we'll be exploring in this episode. I'm partial to DAMN Union a collective of musicians anchored by Danny Graves and Aaron Ransbarger, both formerly of The Rawdogs. Build around jam sessions referred to as The Dona Ana Music Night Union (DAMN Union) the lineup is fluid. I'm reading this off their Facebook page... the current touring roster consists of Graves, Ransbarger, Larry Ramos, Tucker and Andrew Levi Hiller. Other notable members include: Audra Rogers, Neeshia Macanowicz, Joe Hecker, Mike Granado, Ben Cantrell, Chuck Drexler. A variable super group of sorts, especially so when Sean Lucy joins the proceedings. Casting egos aside for the betterment of music, a collaborative effort that sparkles like the starry skies of Southern New Mexico.... the results speak for themselves. 

Sean Lucy is the last of the cosmic cowboys, taking up where Gram Parsons (the original cosmic cowboy) and legendary troubadour, Townes Van Zandt left off. Michael Murphy, another singer/songwriter with New Mexico ties describes cosmic cowboy music as “The cross pollination between Hippie and Cowboy. Early 70s hippie stuff combined with kind of the red-neck mentality. Texas accents and Country music” Boy Howdy. DoStuff Media: “This blonde cowboy hails from Texas, where lots of good things come from.... and then they stay gone” We'll stake a claim on the technicolor cowboy, Texas' loss in New Mexico's gain. Sean is a prolific songwriter with an extensive discography, Eleven albums starting with “The New Vulgarity” released in 2006 leading up his two latest releases, “King Clone Creosote” and “Pearl Snaps & Blunt Wraps”

As the frontman for The Answer Lies and then Shang-a-Lang, Chris Mason became synonymous with Las Cruces' minuscule but resilient punk rock scene. In addition he operated a record label out of his home and ran The Trainyard, a local venue that became a home away from home for Cruces punk rockers. Mason like so many other New Mexico musicians eventually felt the need to leave the state. “I was kind of feeling like, at 34, I was ready to live somewhere that already had a flourishing scene” that place would be Portland, Or. Home base for Mason's current band, Low Culture which includes Mason's longtime drummer Sam George, guitarist Joe Ayoub of El Paso, Tx. And Chicago transplant Jay Castaldi on bass guitar. Low Culture, essentially a slightly more melodic version of Shang-a-Lang, has steadily ingrained itself on the indie punk scene.

The Answer Lies was hardcore, a buzzsaw of punk angst delivered with propulsive determination. Shang-a-Lang changed things up just enough to cause critics to speculate whether Mason had gone soft or not. Low Culture continues down that path. Mature punk rock for mature punk rockers. “There's unlimited supply and there is no reason why” What do white punks approaching forty have to rage against? The answer for the most part is nothing and therein lies the problem with much of modern punk rock.... it's bland as fuck. The lyrics are selfishly self absorbed. The vocal delivery invariably whiny and given that we're currently living through a period of polarizing social change and one of the vilest presidential campaigns in recent memory.... totally devoid of significant sociopolitical content.

Anarchy in the U.S. It's coming sometime and maybe? Not a fucking chance, that would be bad for the brand. There's a big hard sun beating on a big people The future's so dim, you need night vision goggles just to grope your way through the sunniest of days. Don't be afraid homies, accept the Las Cruces challenge. To sample more of what Las Cruces has to offer, go to Bandcamp, tag New Mexico, tag Las Cruces. You'll be amazed at what you'll find. (There's also tags for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos.... by all means, check 'em out) My favorite Las Cruces bands from the past in no particular order: Rawdogs, Moonshiners, Beat Cowboys, Space Truckers, Liquid Cheese and my favorite Las Cruces bands recently active: The Raggies, Drunk Armstrong, Desert Ratts, The Gold Hearted Crows, DAMN Union, Everett Howl and the Wolves. Boy Howdy!

Titty Baby ~ The Raggies
Spooky Fuckin Blues ~ Holy Wave
Shake it Off ~ Low Culture
Drug Town ~ Back of a Car
Late Night ~ Sorrytown
Those Sweet Mojave Blues ~ Bad Homosapiens
Hot Fire ~ DAMN Union
Kinda sick and tired of paying my damn rent ~ Desert Ratts
Bill W. ~ Drunk Armstrong
No Way in this World- Sean Lucy
Texas Women/Memphis Girl- Everett Howl and the Wolves
Dead or Alive- The Beat Cowboys
Willow Grove- The Gold Hearted Crows
Albuquerque Freakout ~ Holy Wave
Southern NM ~ DAMN Union
Alamogordo ~ Back of a Car