EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review but we think are worthy of your attention. Be Good to Yourself was released in November.
It’s the gig you’ve always wanted: Your name in lights, adoring fans cheering you on as you do the only thing you ever wanted to do, your dreams fulfilled night after night onstage. But when the lights go out and the crowd goes home, what then? For many musicians, the transition back to regular person is a downshift that strips out their clutches, the fluids and compounds poured into the transmission to keep their vehicle revving at top speed taking a devastating toll on mind and body. Depression, mental illness, and substance abuse take away a huge swath of the musical community, putting up figures almost double that of the rest of the population.
Fed up with going to funerals for his musician friends, North Carolina music journalist and bassist Ed Bumgardner decided to try to make a difference. He recruited musical friends including guitarist Rob Slater (Sneakers) and drummer/producer Chris Garges (Fred Wesley, Don Dixon) to contribute to Be Good to Yourself, a collection of covers by each other and by some biggies as well, including Jimi Hendrix, Bo Diddley, Free, and Edgar Winter. Signing on were musicians local to his home in Winston-Salem and some with a national reach, including Don Dixon (Arrogance), Mitch Easter (Lets Active, R.E.M. producer), Rick Miller and Mary Huff from Southern Culture on the Skids, Two Dollar Pistols and Rosewood Bluff frontman John Howie Jr., Bruce Piephoff, Caitlin Cary (Tres Chicas, Whiskeytown), Britt “Snuzz” Uzzell (Ben Folds, Bus Stop), Peter Holsapple (dBs, Continental Drifters), and Jamie Hoover from the Spongetones. The project aims to go beyond just raising awareness with the resulting 23-track CD; donation links associated with the project raise money to help with counseling sessions and addiction therapy for musicians in need through a partnership with Abundance NC and Mindpath Care Centers.
The album’s title track, “Be Good to Yourself,” was written by Free’s Andy Frazier and made popular by raspy throated Scottish soul singer Frankie Miller, who delivered it with an Allen Toussaint-ish second-line strut. The track here, with Doug Davis on vocals, stays close to Miller’s soulful original, an invocation to take care of yourself, not just feed your head and body with showbiz glitter.
Olympic Ass Kicking Team’s Terry Anderson’s “Thunderbird” might not be healthy, but it sure is fun to listen to with Southern Culture on the Skids’ Rick Miller on crusty lead: “Why don’t you come over here and help me drink this Thunderbird? / We don’t even need a corkscrew / We don’t need no fancy glass / Drink straight from the bottle if you want to / Or you can stay home and kiss my ass.”
But a little later on, Anderson is back with “Betty Ford,” performed here by Bob Northcott, a cautionary tale with a different take on alcoholic celebrations: “Thirty days ain’t half bad / Hell, you been in jail a lot longer than that / Gotta dry out, gotta get sober / You’ll feel better when it’s all over / I ain’t never been there so I don’t know / But I think you better get your ass to Betty Ford.”
David Childers’ chilling “Ghostland” gets a country coating from John Howie with his Dave Dudley/ George Jones hybrid treatment, with a gorgeous harmony assist from Caitlin Cary.
Bo Diddley’s “Pills,” covered manically by The New York Dolls, gets an even more punky/psychedelic treatment with Peter Holsapple on accordion backing Bruce Hazel’s frenzied harp and vocal.
Luxuriant Sedans guitarist Gino “Woo Funk” Grandinetti contributes punctuation on Robin Trower’s “Dreams That Shine Like Diamonds” and helps out with guitar grammar as well on “Betty Ford.” Steel drum guru Tracy Thornton (Been Caught Steelin’) contributes steel pans on the psychedelic confuzement of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”
It’s good music for a great cause, as good for self-fulfillment as it is for those in need.