Girls Guns and Glory (GGG) team with producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel on Good Luck (Lonesome Day Records) their fifth and finest album. Ward Hayden, singer and songwriter, sings with a timeless voice that recalls Roy Orbison, Dwight Yoakam, Chris Isaak and Hank Williams rolled into one yet somehow doesn't sound derivative. Ambel keeps what works from the four previous albums and tweaks it sharpening GGG's rockin' retro sound. Hayden can write a catchy 50's rock novelty dance tune complete with honking baritone sax ("Shake Like Jello") or a somber historical Americana narrative about a "town in Pennsylvania that burned for 50 years" ("Centralia, PA"). "C'mon Honey" finds the band channeling their inner Ramones, without losing GGG's signature sound, on the hardest rocking track. The band honors its country roots on the lone cover, "Rockin' Chair Money", an obscure Hank Williams tune. If there is any justice, "Good Luck" will transform the winners of 6 Boston Music Awards into a national act which might mean you get to see them live in a city near you! Listen to a few tunes and scroll down and read an interview with Ward Hayden. Good Luck is my springtime-porch sitting-beer drinking-friends over-album of the year. Enjoy!
HB-Congratulations on a great follow up to 2011's "Sweet Nothings". Eric Ambel is one of my favorite producers (Steve Earle, The Bottle Rockets, The Backsliders). How did you connect with him for your new disc "Good Luck"?
WH-Much thanks Hal, we're very excited about the new album "Good Luck". Eric "Roscoe" Ambel is the man, I feel like we got lucky in meeting him and getting the opportunity to work with him on this album.
Shortly after we released "Sweet Nothings" in 2011 we started thinking about who we wanted to make our next album with and Roscoe's name was at the very top of the list. We were all big fans his work with The Bottle Rockets and The Yayhoos. And as a matter of pure luck, Outlaw Country on Sirius started spinning some of our tracks and Eric happened to hear one of our songs.
The very week we were trying to figure out how to get in touch with him, he got in contact with us asking what our plan was for the next record. It was really cool and from that moment on we knew this was meant to happen.
HB-Girls, Guns and Glory (GGG) is such a cool name for the band. How did you come with it?
WH-It originally came to me in a daydream. I'd thought up about a million names and when this idea came to me for Girls Guns & Glory, being the 3 key elements of Country music, everyone thought it was funny and amusing. I always say it would've been 4 key element, but drinking doesn't start with a G.
HB-I saw you and the band live once a few years ago and really enjoyed it. You've conquered Boston winning multiple awards over the past several years. I really hope this disc helps spread the word!
WH-Much thanks Hal, we are feeling really good about this disc. The band has put a lot of time in getting our live show together and working on our sound. Since 2011 we've been doing about 200 shows each year in the US and Europe.
All the time spent on the road has helped us become better at working together as a band on stage and in the studio.
We spent over a 2 years talking with Roscoe to make everything for this album come to fruition. Writing songs and bouncing them off him for ideas. And we'd come to New York for a show and he'd come out to see us or meet us at the Lakeside Lounge. And we even had him up to Boston for a weekend of working on songs together. It was really a thrilling experience to have someone who's work you really admire and appreciate, and next thing you know he's in a basement rehearsal space in Boston helping you arrange your songs and with a guitar in hand, playing along with the band. I think the fun we had making this album and the effort we put into putting it all together shows on this disc. Even in the sadder songs, it feels like we're making a joyful noise.
HB-This disc certainly sounds like Ward Hayden and GGG but to my ears it is a little more 50's, a little more rock and roll.
WH-The 50's rock 'n' roll influence has always been a big part of our sound, but we definitely leaned more towards it for Good Luck. Roscoe has been to a number of our live shows and he kept mentioning how the rock 'n' roll songs were really moving the audience and getting people out of their seats. When we started thinking about what type of album we want to make we all landed on the same page with the focus being straight up rock 'n' roll.
We had songs like "Shake Like Jello" that we'd played live for almost 4 years, but we never found a way to seat a song like that on any of our more Country albums. The line up of the band, with Chris Hersch on Lead Guitar, Paul Dilley on Upright & Electric Bass and Josh Kiggans on Drums, has now been steady for over 3-4 years. And we've all found common ground with our appreciate for rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll. We've been consuming a steady diet of everything from Moon Mullican to Johnny Horton to The Spurs, etc. With all the time we've spent falling down the rockabilly/rock 'n' roll rabbit hole, it makes sense to me that it creep ever further into our own sound as a band.
This is the first album that doesn't have pedal steel. Which came from our mentality in the studio, that anything we wanted on the album we had to play ourselves. If we wanted piano, then Paul played piano. If we wanted banjo, then we got Chris a banjo.
It was a really cool studio approach. And thankfully Roscoe had bought his wife a banjo for her birthday, so when the idea popped up, he showed up the next day with a rickety old 5 string and Chris got to work crafting a part for the song.
HB-All originals except a Hank Williams' cover!
WH-"Rockin' Chair Money" wound up being one of my favorite tracks on "Good Luck". We were over in Europe last December and to get ready for our Tribute to Hank Williams that we perform on NYE & NYD here in Boston (the days of the two shows ole Hank never got to perform), I was listening to a lot of Hank Williams: Alone With His Guitar before going to sleep each night. "Rockin' Chair Money" kept jumping out at me as a particularly meaningful song lyrically and as having a very strong melody. One morning in France I woke up, took out my guitar and strummed out the song for the band. They weren't yet familiar with Hank's demo of the song, so they started giving it their own treatment without any outside influence. It was a really cool way to work up our version of the tune.
After doing some reading on the the song and the story of how Hank recorded it on an acetate machine while he was at KWKH, I then learned that it had been penned by a lesser known songwriter named Bill Carlisle.
Clearly Hank knew a great song when he heard one, even when it wasn't one of his own.
HB-I loved your cover of "Streets of Laredo" on "Fireworks & Alcohol". Are you adding any other covers to your live shows?
WH-We tend to pepper the live show with cover songs that we really love. Lately we've been doing a cover of Bill Kirchen's "Semi Truck" and one of Roscoe's songs called "The Girl That I Ain't Got".
And it wouldn't be a GGG show without at least 1 or 2 Hank songs. This was our 4th year of performing our Tribute to Hank, so we have about 30 of his classic and a handful of Hank obscurities to pull from when writing out the set each night.
HB-Could you name some influences? Favorites?
WH-Lately I've been really digging Fred Eaglesmith. His album "Lipstick Lies & Gasoline" is start to finish one of the best albums of all time in my opinion. It's dark, it's depthful, but it's beautiful and accessible. Lot's of surprising chord changes, just killer songwriting. To me it's one of those album that could change the opinion of someone who doesn't think they like "country" music.
It's, dare I say, undeniably good. If you like music of any kind, it would seem hard to not appreciate this gem on some level.
HB-How may shows did you play at SXSW this year? How did it go?
WH-This year was by far our best South By experience. GGG performed 9 shows in the 5 days we were there. We got to meet a lot of people and bands while we were there and connect with other people who we hadn't seen in a while.
Then Chris, Paul and Josh also served as the backing band for two of our favorite Boston based artists: Amy Black and Sarah Borges.
The guys wound up performing 17 shows over the 5 days and incredibly were still up to go out for a couple Shiner Bock's after their last show. Which I should add was a take no prisoners rocker of a show with Sarah. And one of the best shows I saw the whole week we were down there.
I think I can now use the word "indefatigable" when describing my bandmates.
HB-Thanks Ward. I'll see you May 31st at The Southland Ballroom in Raleigh, NC with Sarah Borges! Check GGG's tour schedule here and see if they're coming to your town! Good luck!