Box Full of Letters from Issue #8
We must be high
I read the review of the High Noon record Stranger Things (ND #6, Nov.-Dec. ’96), and found it to be decidedly uninformed. It has been the consensus of most people (outside of the industry mainstream and the increasingly mainstream “alternative scene”), both in the States and abroad, that this is one of the best bands around and that Stranger Things is one of the best records of the year.
High Noon is far more than just a rockabilly band, and they draw on a great variety of musical influences, few of which are accurately noted in your review. For example, they cover “Mona Lisa”, but that is where their similarity with the pop styling of Carl Mann begins and ends. Warren Smith is an influence, not his rockabilly period as indicated, but his great honky-tonk recordings on the Liberty label — a much closer influence on “Call Of The Honky Tonks” than “Close Up The Honky Tonks”, which is similar in title only. On “I’m Done, I’m Through” and “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone”, they’re both slow ballads, but that’s about it. And on “Fishin’ Hole Boogie”, the great Texas hillbilly Lucky Boggs was the influence on that — not Johnny Horton (who is rapidly becoming the hippest name to drop).
The most frequent misconception about rockabilly is that it all started with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. This is not the case in general and certainly not the case with High Noon. Wrong again with the label compilations: Sun, yes; but Starday and Marvel far more than King-Federal, which outside of Charlie Feathers had a decidedly more rock ‘n’ roll roster than anything in evidence on this record.
Perhaps purity and reverence are not ingredients in your preferred “musical stew.” But it makes for refreshingly simple (and in this case great) music uncluttered by pretense. Furthermore, Jason & the Scorchers are not the founding fathers of modern country. And if you think the vague, lackluster and uninspired ramblings of Wilco, Sunvolt [sic], the Jayhawks, et al. are the next phase in the evolution of modern country, then I can understand why you subtitle your magazine “The Alternative Country (whatever that is) Bimonthly”.
Purist as they wanna be
Issue #7 [Jan.-Feb. ’97] of No Depression featured an album review for the Freight Hoppers’ Where’d You Come From, Where’d You Go by Jennie Z. Ruggles that has really got me fired up.
In her final summation, Ruggles writes, “While purism has its place, it begs the question: What about inventiveness? Maybe the Freight Hoppers will one day come down from the mountains for a look at modern music.” I’m being kind when I say that this is one of the most ill-conceived comments I’ve heard in a long long time.
First of all, the Freight Hoppers are by no means a “pure” old-time band. Sure, they are great, but they do not play just like you would hear a band play in the ’20s and ’30s. They often play too fast to be called “pure.” Also, I saw them in concert a few weeks ago and on a few songs Frank Lee actually employed the use of a wah-wah pedal on his banjo. Pure? I don’t think so.
Secondly, the comment about modern music seems to suggest that somehow modern music is the savior for all of those poor saps who are only playing traditional music in a traditional style. Maybe in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, “purism” might beg the question “what about inventiveness,” but this is not rock and roll. There is something to be said about the presentation of traditional songs in as close to their traditional style as possible, and in no way is this worth less than the most inventive of modern bands.