EP Review / Ronnie Fauss’ Mulligan (and the story behind the sweater)
You’re a singer/songwriter from Texas and you need a photo for your new recording: leather jacket, greasy hair, cowboy boots, pickup truck,cigarette? You can tell from the cover of Mulligan ( FTG Records) that Ronnie Fauss isn’t that guy. It takes a brave and talented man to use a family photo of yourself as a self-conscious young boy wearing a rainbow knit vest as the artwork for your 6 song EP of do-overs. Ronnie’s rerecorded some previously issued tracks filling out the bass, electric guitar and drums with the occasional fiddle, accordian, pedal steel, mandolin and harmonica. His raspy rough voice recalls some of the usual alt-country suspects and gives the well-crafted tunes a warm confessional personal feel. There isn’t alot of bravado and bragging or a whiskey glass to be seen or heard. This is the boy in the rainbow vest with his heart, sometimes broken, on his sleeve writing and singing honest memorable songs that I’d file somewhere in the folk, rock and alt-country triangle.
1 To Ease My Mind-a road song and a rocker about seeking serenity. “Won’t you tell me that you need me?”
2 Wish-Acoustic backporch music: a pretty song with a dark list of wishes.
3 It’s A Long Long Way-autobiographical talking blues that starts the year Nixon resigns and ends up referencing Snoop and “money and bitches”.
4 Just Another Tuesday-loving and leaving, a cross-country alt-country road song.
5 Tia Maria– a story with a sad sad ending.
6 Driving Through Memphis– A mournful piano tune with pedal steel about feeling lost and lost love that’s somewhere between Zevon and Hiatt. A perfect closer to a fine set.
HB- What’s the history of the album artwork? You’re a brave man Ronnie!
RF-That’s a picture of me and my cousins, at my grandparents’ house in the 80’s. I am the tall kid of the bunch. We used to have these wonderful extended-family get-togethers, and our grandparents were kind of the Ideal American Grandparents…with Grandma baking us cookies and Grandpa taking us in their backyard to shoot beebee guns and such. I’m in the habit of using old family photos for album covers, and it always happens by chance – I’m not looking for it, but sometimes when I see an old picture, it just hits me, and I know I have to use it. I think they say a lot.
HB-What’s the weirdest gig you’ve played?
RF-Last spring I was visiting friends and family in Colorado, when I got the last-minute opportunity to go play a show in southern Wyoming (Laramie), put together by some people who have been very supportive of my music. They tried to find a bar, but couldn’t find one on short notice – so they said “come on up and play in our garage, we’ll throw a house party”. There was a blizzard coming through Cheyenne Pass that day, but I headed up anyway. When I arrived (I hadn’t been given an address, they told me to go to the trailer “in between the junkyard and the concrete factory” – no lie) they had coffee and whiskey waiting for me, and a space heater, and about 25 of the kindest and coolest people you’d ever hope to meet. They brought mandolins and banjos and a tub bass and their voices, and these people…they worship Townes and Guy and Kristofferson and Prine, so when I ran out of originals we sat around and sang covers until 3 in the morning or so. I finally went to bed and they were still going strong. I woke up at 8 am the next day to the sound of wine bottles being popped open, eggs being scrambled, and Kristofferson on the stereo. It was like the party hadn’t ever stopped! I hung out for a bit until I had to tear myself away – they probably stayed there all weekend. I still talk to a lot of them on a regular basis, and I can’t wait to go back! (Sidenote: if anyone reading this has a trailer and whiskey and a handful of good people, let’s get together!).
HB-Name a few influences and favorite artists?
RF-The fellas I mentioned above – the older guys in this genre (Townes, Guy, Kristofferson, and Prine) – and perhaps Steve Earle more than anyone else. I try to approach the craft of songwriting (though maybe not the lifestyle!) the same way these guys did/do. I also love the specificity of the alt-country sound. So many artists try to shy away from it – “don’t label me, man!!” and such. Not me. I love the sound, I love the history, I love the culture…if no one else wants to be called alt-country, then I’ll be happy to be the only one!
HB-If you’ve never heard ___________ (name an unknown artist or two) you should really check them out.
RF-Bill Mallonee. He is somewhat well-known, but considering how great he is, he is not well-known enough. He’s an incredible poet, and he has a great ear for perfecting the Americana sound. His band Vigilantes of Love, which broke up a few years ago, put out some amazing albums, such as “Audible Sigh” and “To The Roof Of The Sky”, in the 90’s – but the solo material he’s doing now is excellent as well. If you haven’t heard of him, definitely check him out!
HB-Thanks for your time Ronnie. Thanks for the music and here’s a link to Ronnie’s new website!
Ronnie’s two previous two EPs New Songs for the Old Frontier Volume I and the digital only release I Can’t Make You Happy do not duplicate tracks from Mulligan and are available from the usual sources.