New CD from alt-old-time band The Water Tower Bucket Boys
Hearth Music is proud to announce that our very good buddies, The Water Tower Bucket Boys, have officially released their new CD, Sole Kitchen. This CD features all original songs and tunes from the Boys, and it charts the course for a new vision of traditional American music.
We’re working with the Boys to help promote Sole Kitchen mainly because we’re excited to see them transform from one of the best old-time stringbands we’ve ever seen into a full-blown alt-country maelstrom. You can stop by Hearth Music’s Listening Lounge or Artist page to learn more about the Water Tower Bucket Boys and to listen to and download tracks from their album.
Produced by Mike Herrera, of legendary punk band MxPx and alt-country-punk band Tumbledown, Sole Kitchen has a harder edge than any folk album you’re likely to hear this year. The Water Tower Bucket Boys tear through “Blackbird Pickin’ on a Squirrel” like a speeding Mack truck, appropriate for an original bluegrass homage to roadkill. This edge is born of the Boys’ punk and rock influences. Growing up listening to Rancid, Jimi Hendrix, Sugar Ray, and all sorts of 80s rock stars, they’ve adopted the intensity of rock and punk and channeled it into their songs and tunes. But they still love their roots and can’t go through a set without throwing in an old-time ballad or a bluegrass song. Lucky for us, the Boys were born in an era in which disparate musical genres are frequently mashed together. Their far-ranging influences enable them to see the common ground between folk, rock, punk and even jazz, and they draw from this common ground to create their unique sound.
Curious about their vision of traditional American music, we interviewed Josh Rabie, the fiddler for the Water Tower Bucket Boys. This interview originally appeared in the Victory Music Review as part of Devon Leger’s monthly Next Gen Folk column.
Devon Leger: When did you start fiddling? Was that your first instrument, and what led you to the fiddle?
Josh Rabie: Fiddle, started five years ago. First played guitar, started getting into blues and old-time, then I wanted to learn banjo, and then fiddle. Before blues and old-time, I just kind of played pop songs and new-age rock, like Nirvana and Green Day. And Jimi Hendrix. I was really into Jimi Hendrix. I had a shrine to Jimi Hendrix in my room. My parents were going to send me away because of it. They thought it was creepy.
DL: What drew you into the old-time music community?
JR: In high school, I was fifteen years old and I heard Sophie Vitells and Gabby McRae playing old-time music in the halls and I wanted to play with them. Actually, the Government Issue Orchestra did a demonstration at our high school. Immediately I was like, “Oh my God!” I started getting into flatpicking bluegrass guitar first and then playing backup for old-time.
DL: How do you think the folk revival generation has accepted this next generation of musicians? Do you feel like your career and your music has been supported by the folk revivalists, or have you hit a lot of walls trying to get through to people?
JR: They’ve been really supportive. Even when we do the crossover stuff, like punk-rock stuff, people are good to us. We want to be able to do a little bit of everything: Cajun, old-time, bluegrass, swing. Kenny has a sitar, we want to do Indian music eventually. I’ve always wanted to start a reggae band. I feel like traditional music has a lot of barriers and rules, and with Water Tower we’ve always been like, “Fuck the rules, let’s just do what we want to do.”
DL: What are your main fiddling influences?
JR: Sammy Lind. The big one. Definitely a lot of bluegrass fiddlers, like Kenny Baker and anyone that played with Bill Monroe. John Ashby. Dewey Balfa. Definitely Courtney Granger. When I first him I almost started bawling, like, “This is what I want to sound like.”
Other people in Portland like Caleb Klauder. I’ve always looked up to him, as far as learning how to sing and learning how to be a competent musician.
DL: Do you think it’s possible to get the same level of inspiration from a local old-time fiddler in Portland as you could from “source” musicians like Tommy Jarrell?
JR: Oh yeah. I did! What drew me to old-time music was Foghorn Stringband. When I first heard Sammy’s fiddling, I was like, “Oh my God”. I’d never heard anything like that. I got into Tommy Jarrell later. I draw a lot of inspiration from the local old-time fiddlers. A recording is good, but to actually see them or hear them is more valuable.
DL: Old-Time vs. Bluegrass: Gloves-off bare knuckle boxing match… Who wins?
JR: Really, is that the question? Awesome! I go back and forth so much. They both KO each other. I love ’em both. First it was bluegrass, then old-time, then bluegrass, then old-time. I love everything about them. I hate the snob that will only play one. I think you can take elements of both and add to each one to make them better.
DL: What are your non-old-time musical influences? How do you incorporate the swagger and attitude of modern rock/pop/hip-hop/punk into your music?
JR: Number one for me is the Velvet Underground. I think they’re my favorite band of all time. And also Bob Dylan, and also Spaceman 3. In Water Tower, we all listen to all kinds of different music and we want to write our own songs based on inspiration from those other genres.
DL: What’s your take on old-time/bluegrasss musicians who wear their pop/hip-hop/punk influences on their sleeves? Like the Carolina Chocolate Drops covering Tupac Shakur, or Nickel Creek covering Britney Spears.
JR: I think it’s cool. Why not? Why the fuck not? I don’t have any expectations or rules for anybody or any band. I love covers. We’re starting to do covers of all kinds of songs. Old ’90s songs from Sugar Ray. Punk bands like the Misfits and Rancid. ’Cause really we’re all kind of punk rockers at heart.