Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward's latest disc, Live In The Living Room, is an acoustic recording from one of my favorite Texas bands. One of my favorite bands: there is no need to add the "Texas" qualifier. Culling tracks from their three electric studio discs: Blow The Soot Out, The Lonesome Dirge and The Apology:Part I Rodney and the 50 Peso Reward show what they can do without plugging in. Thirty lucky friends and fans were invited to attend the unamplified listening session for Live In The Living Room which has a intimate folkier feel than the electric studio discs. Parker's a talented songwriter who paints memorable tales of life, living, heartbreak and heartbreaking.
Rodney's plaintive voice with a touch of drawl works perfectly with his alt country rural rock in an electric or acoustic setting. Live In The Living Room includes a great cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" by the band (the link is to Rodney's solo version) and two previously unreleased tracks: "Skin and Bones" is available as a free download courtesy of the boys. Live In The Living Room is destined to be one of my Top Ten discs of 2011. It stands on its own merits but you'd be cheating yourself if you didn't search out The Lonesome Dirge (2008) too. Rodney was kind enough to take some time and talk a little bit about the disc, the band, Texas and touring.
HB-I've really enjoyed Live In The Living Room and your acoustic versions of songs from Blow the Soot Out and Lonesome Dirge. Was it really recorded in a living room?
RP-I'm glad you are liking the record, that's awesome. And yes, it actually was recorded in my living room. That room has always sounded great to me and was sort of begging for something to be recorded in it. I had been wanting to do a live acoustic record there for a few years, and we finally had the opportunity to do it. We invited about 30 of our closest friends and family, so it was super laid back and felt just like a big party. It ended up being one of my favorite things this band has ever done.
HB-Could you name a few songwriters that were important influences?
RP-Man there are so many songwriters that have had an impact on me. In no particular order....Fred Eaglesmith, James McMurtry, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Jay Farrar, Robert Earl Keen. The list could go on for a very long time.
HB-"I'm Never Getting Married" is a great track. What do girlfriends think of it?
RP-That's funny that you ask about how the girlfriends react to this song, because it always has been something that comes up. It's usually the same question "So, about that song.....are you REALLY never getting married??". The truth is, it's just a song.
HB-You've covered Springsteen's "Atlantic City" and Kinky Friedman's "The Wild Man From Borneo". Does the band play any other covers in concert?
RP-Oh yeah over the years we have played a bunch of different covers. Lately we have been playing Little Feat's "Willin'", Will Kimbrough's "Goodnight Moon", "Bartender's Blues" made famous by George Jones but written by James Taylor, and a couple of other ones we sprinkle in on occasion.
HB-One thing I hate about Texas is that the state is so big bands don't have to leave it to tour! Any plans to tour outside of Texas?
RP-We used to tour a lot outside of Texas. The only region we haven't really tackled yet is the northeast. Tours like that are fun, but they're expensive with the way gas is now. Plus, we don't really get the radio support that we do in our home state, so we don't stand to draw near as many people. That said, I'm sure we'll get back out there again. This band has made a career of doing things that don't make sense.
HB-Rodney Parker and the 50 Peso Reward has opened for or played with?
RP-We've gotten the chance to play with some pretty big names. I was most pumped about the Old 97's though. I grew up and Dallas and first saw them at Trees when I was 15. They instantly became my favorite band. So those guys are legends to me. But for whatever reason, it took almost 10 years for us to open for them. When it finally happened I was too star-struck to introduce myself.
HB-Have you played any gigs that stand out as just plain freaking weird?
RP-We've played plenty of weird gigs. One time after a gig in Belgium we got a shotgun pulled on us. It's a long story, but needless to say it was a very weird night.
HB-I heard you're working on a new disc for a late 2011 release: "The Apology Part 2", is it another EP to follow up on 2010's "The Apology: Part I".
RP-The Apology: Part 2 will be out late this year. I'm not sure yet if it will be an EP or a full length, but the tunes are coming along nicely. I think it will be a good thing for us.
HB-The NoDepression crowd loves to debate labels and whether a band is Americana, alt-country, country-rock. How would you describe Rodney Parker and the 50 Peso Reward?
RP-Man, I really don't know what genre we fall under. I usually just say Americana, but I'm not sure if that's really accurate. I don't care what it's called honestly, as long as it's making some folks happy.
HB-Thanks Rodney and best of luck to you and the band.....and I hope to see you in NC!
left to right: Danny Skinner, Rodney Parker, Tony Spiro, Hillary Early, Brooks Kendall, Zach Galindo
photo credit: Adam Neese