There is a bit of a buzz around Zanesville and its environs these days. Word has it that the Blue Moon Boys are flexing more and more modern rock n roll muscle.
At the height of the hyperbole comes Finlands Jungle Records reissue of Covertoons a collection of the bands first demo recordings. If youre familiar only with the rock n roll juggernaut set in motion by Live in New York, or the sonic explorations of 1999s Sticks and Stones, it may be easy to overlook the fact that at the heart of the BMB lies one bitchin rockabilly band. Covertoons lays bare that still beating heart and serves as a long-overdue tribute to one lost but not forgotten soul: founding member and original bassist Keith Brewer.
According to guitarist Kenny Taylors insightful liner notes, the BMBs initial goal was simply to play the local V.F.W., American Legion, Moose and Elks Clubs. Maybe some cars shows and fairs. Do Sun-era rock n roll and do em like E even if E didnt do them. Make some good money, have fun on weekends. Given the song selection, that goal is clear all of the seminal standards are here: from the Burnettes and Berry to Perkins and Presley. Add to that a previously unreleased quartet of Abston/Taylor originals, however, and it becomes clear that even this earliest incarnation of the Blue Moon Boys was already more spartan than the average weekend warriors. Nic Roulettes now notorious stage persona rears its outlandish mug here and there: A country kitch delivery of 20 Flight Rock, and the exaggerated hiccup attack on Rock Therapy, for example. However, disciples recently converted by Roulettes charismatic preacher patter may be surprised by the smooth croon of Tears On The Track.
There is also no shortage of Taylors furious fretwork. Taylor has obviously absorbed more than his fair share of Atkins, Travis and Perkins (apparently by effortless osmosis, a trait that irks fellow guitarists myself included to no end), but his Guild Starfire thru Silvertone amp sound and frenetic flourishes owe as much to early Beck and Page as they do to Scotty Moore. And thats the cool thing about Covertoons its an inside look at a band that just cant leave well enough alone. Case in point: The four originals here dont merely ape the oeuvre, but take part in its preservation by copping the best of whats been done, then contributing a twist or two to the old trick bag. I can attest to the fact that by this point Taylor had quite a cache of kicking rockabilly originals. He could have easily picked up where his former bands left off. Instead, he saw the opportunity to inject new blood into the beast by writing with Abston.
The Abston/Taylor team may have since created the great two-headed monster that is now the Blue Moon Boys, but there can be no doubt that the BMB was the late Keith Brewers baby. It was Brewer who saw the potential in teaming the anxious upstart Abston with road-hardened rounder Taylor; and it was Brewer who for years reminded many of us that those early strains of R&B and honky tonk-inflected rock n roll were what mattered most no matter what the lot of us may have learned from all those Brits, hippies and punks.
Covertoons is dedicated to Brewer and another longtime friend of Taylors, the late Cub Koda. Koda was an astute essayist on the nuances of rock n roll history and, like Brewer, he was a rock n roll aficionado. He also saw fit to kick his beloved music in the ass by taking it to outrageous garage-rock extremes. Those are the spirits conjured up by Covertoons: upstarts, rounders, purists and infidels. And thats the spirit of rockabilly, all the way back to the earliest E: dress sharp, act like a gentleman, respect the elders that deserve respect but all bets are off when that bass starts to slappin.
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March 27 • The Clyde