Red Meat – More than genuine movie stars
Musical dilettantes are often taken for granted in favor of their more focused counterparts. So when members of eclectic San Francisco bands the Movie Stars and the Genuine Diamelles came together in 1993 to form Red Meat, the expectation was they’d be a band that dabbled in a wide variety of styles. Instead they their vintage country & western act in local clubs for four years, releasing their first CD, Meet Red Meat, last year on their own label, Ranchero Records.
“We have a focus — Scott and Smelley are the singers,” explains bassist Jill Olson, referring to principal songwriter Scott Young and Smelley Kelley. “Scott had all the songs, he just needed a band. For me it’s really fun to play someone else’s songs and play the type of country music I like.”
Pedal steel guitarist Steve Cornell elaborates: “We made a conscious decision that this is the focus of our music. We could play funk if we wanted, we’ve all played in punk rock bands. We have soul, that’s the basic thing I miss in a lot of bands.”
So far, the band has remained true to their focus and resisted the temptation to branch out too far from their basic blueprint, although with the release of their second Ranchero album, Thirteen (that’s twelve original songs and one cover, for those of you scoring at home), the songwriting credits have been spread around amongst the band.
“You see Scott didn’t have a girlfriend for a long time, and then he got a girlfriend and the songs stopped for a little while,” jokes Kelley. Fleshing out the CD are a couple of originals each from Cornell and Olson, a couple songs leftover from the Genuine Diamelles, a Buckaroos-styled instrumental written by guitarist Michael Montalto (“just trying to make a guitar sound like a pedal steel,” according to Montalto), and a spot-on cover of Johnny Horton’s “I’m A One Woman Man”.
Where Red Meat’s first CD was recorded in a hurry at a punk rock studio that was on the verge of losing its lease, the band took two weeks and traveled to Los Angeles for the recording of Thirteen, with roots-rock renaissance man Dave Alvin handling the production and Big Sandy producer Mark Linett as engineer.
Alvin made them work hard, from rewriting lyrics and trying new song arrangements to having the singers change their technique. “Dave made Scott and Smelley sing more like themselves,” points out drummer Les James, regarding one of the more noticeable changes from the first record. Although Young and Kelley have been singing together for 20 years, Kelley acknowledged the improvement. “You kind of get locked into singing the songs the same way. It was difficult, but we pulled it off.”