Ronnie Fauss' I Am The Man You Know I'm Not (10/09/12) follows a string of impressive EPs with his first long player on Normaltown Records. If you're an alt-country fan that longs for one of the glory periods of alt-country/country rock there's plenty here to please you.
Flavoring his hook-filled twangy tunes with fiddle and pedal steel and the clever turn of phrase Fauss has compiled eleven memorable tracks and created one of my favorite discs of 2012. As a long time fan my only (totally unfair) complaint is I was already familiar with four of the tracks from a previous release. That won't be a problem for most listeners who check out Fauss' major label debut (NewWest/Normaltown) and hear this talented Texan for the first time. From the cover of Gram Parsons' "Sin City" to his original road-tune adventure "I Don't See You" (which recalls Jackson Browne's "Take It Easy" with a dose of Ronnie's humor and a bit more rock) Ronnie hits the mark.
His honest raspy voice reminds me of Tweedy during his Uncle Tupelo days and Lily Hiatt's sweet backing vocals hint at the magic Caitlin Cary added to Whiskeytown's recordings. I'm not the only one who digs Ronnie and his music. His disc is currently #10 on the Roots Country Report and he is nominated for the Dallas Observer Music Awards as both "best solo" and "best folk" artist! Highly recommended.
HB-Congratulations on your new disc on Normaltown Records! Could you talk about the disc, the label and how you hooked up?
RF - Normaltown is a new imprint of New West that focuses on newer or "emerging" artists. I met someone who works for New West a couple of years ago at a gig, we developed a relationship and then when they were starting this new imprint I got the opportunity to record my full length debut for them. It was a nice change to have significant resources behind the recording process. I hired Sigurdur Birkis to produce, he is based in Nashville and has a great network of musicians out there who did a really good job on the record. We were hoping to capture an old school full throttle country-rock sound, and I think we did that. Recording with new people in a studio in East Nashville was a great experience.
HB-Lily Hiatt just released an album on Normaltown and she joins you on your cover of "Sin City"
RF - It become pretty clear that we needed a female voice to balance out all the testosterone on the record! Lilly was perfect. I had an idea of a hushed , slowed down version of Sin City featuring a prominent female vocal. She nailed that part, and then we had her sing on some other songs as well. She's a great gal and she did a great job. Her debut album just came out on Normaltown as well, and it's beautiful.
HB-I'm happy to see the album closer "With Love" get a second life. I first heard it on your EP "New Songs for the Old Frontier Vol. I". What a great song Ronnie! If it isn't too personal could you tell the backstory?
RF - Yeah, it's a pretty personal song, but I did put it out there so I'm used to answering questions about it. Basically it tells the story of processing through the death of a family member, twenty years after the fact. Looking through the lens of being an adult with a family of my own, addressing what I was going through as a kid when it all went down, and how that resonates from then until now and into the future.
HB-I can hear influences and you put out an EP of covers "Any Lovin' Way But Wrong" so that's a big hint.
RF - That covers EP had 4 songs...1 of them was written by John Prine ("Sabu Visits The Twin Cities Alone"), 2 of them had been covered by John Prine (Kristofferson's "Just The Other Side Of Nowhere" and Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons"), and 1 of them was by an artist who was on John Prine's label (Todd Snider's "Happy To Be Here"). So, yes, John Prine is a huge influence on me! I love the way he balances humor and heartbreak within the same song, and even within the same line. Guy Clark is another one who's great at that. Sonically, guys like Steve Earle and Gram Parsons are big influences as well....I was intentionally aiming for their type of Americana sound on this record.
HB-I used to live in Houston and enjoyed all the music. There is a lot of great music in NC but not too many Texas Troubadours come through. I know it is a long way from Texas but do you have any plans to tour (outside of Texas)?
RF - Yes I do! I've been playing shows in nearby states since the release - Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and even Wyoming. I would love to get out to the southeast this summer - it's such a rich area for this type of music, especially your home state of North Carolina. I'd love to do a week or so in the east and another in the west. Traveling is a beautiful part of this job - it inspires in many ways. I love meeting people on the road and seeing new places.
HB-If you haven't heard ___________ you need to check them out!
RF - Lilly Hiatt. As you mentioned she is my label mate, and her debut "Let Down" came out a couple weeks after mine. It's a gorgeous record. Twangy with smart songwriting. She sang all over my record and it's all the better for it!
HB-A memorable gig-good, bad or just plain weird?
RF - Going to Oklahoma City is always special because I have a lot of extended family there that I don't see very often. A couple of years ago my late dad's cousin Kent Fauss joined me on stage at a gig - we had recently reconnected after a couple of decades. He and I played a couple of covers together (one by Townes and one by Guy) and then he played a few of his own. He's a great guitar player and songwriter in his own right, and he's been very supportive of me. It was meaningful to share the stage with kin.
HB-Thanks for chatting Ronnie and best of luck with the new album!