When Steve Bowling first got together with his bandmates in Red Idle, the band he helped assemble a decade ago, they began by playing original songs for each other. Bowling breezed through a few of his compositions, eventually hauling out “Where the Lonely Reside,” a Countryesque tune informed by Bowling’s Appalachian roots, which sparked an interesting reaction.
“At the end of it, one of the guys, Russ Waters, goes, ‘Whew, thank God that’s over!’ ” Bowling says with a laugh over drinks at Troy’s Cafe in West Chester. “The experience is harrowing enough without that response.”
While Bowling has remained with Red Idle from its inception to its current cover band status, he also continued to write the Roots/Country songs that were dismissed by the band. That initial reaction inspired Bowling to christen his first solo effort with the title of the song that elicited the negative response — Where the Lonely Reside — and gave Bowling the name he’s bestowed upon the group that comprises his side project: Red Idle Rejects.
“That song was rejected by the group,” Bowling says. “So that’s where the name came from.”
Obviously, Bowling hadn’t presented his Country songs to the proper audience; the collective that comprises Red Idle Rejects has a completely different ear.
“I think (“Where the Lonely Reside”) is our favorite song to play,” says guitarist Steve Sigsbee, original guitarist for Elaine & the Biscaynes, a longstanding figure in the local music scene and the other prominent presence in the Rejects.
Although Where the Lonely Reside is just being released, Bowling has been writing the songs over the course of his band career, and in some cases even before that.
“I probably wrote the first one that’s on the CD 15 years ago,” Bowling says. “The newest one is probably three years ago. They’ve rattled around for a while. That’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do this. You’ve got these tunes, you want to do something with them.”
The Rejects coalesced a little over two years ago, after an on-stage altercation put Red Idle on a brief hiatus. Sigsbee, who was familiar with Bowling’s non-Red Idle song portfolio, suggested he do something concrete with the material.
“Steve came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you do a project with these tunes?’ and I said, ‘Why not?’ ” Bowling says. “There wasn’t any inspiration or magic bullet, it was just, over time, I really had to do this. I kind of dragged my feet at times during the recording process. I think that’s typical.”
Between family responsibilities, day jobs, outside band gigs and the natural delays that befall any recording project, Bowling, Sigsbee and their talented cast of players spent two and a half years arranging and recording Where the Lonely Reside. Some of the Rejects’ songs actually made their way into Red Idle sets, while others were pulled from Bowling’s extensive song pile.
“You play tunes for a crowd, you figure out which are good and which aren’t,” Bowling says. “You start out with 40 songs, and 15 the crowd really likes, and they tended to be that Appalachian theme, coincidentally. I threw in a couple more that rounded out that theme.”
From the Mekons-like Americana chug of “Mean Dry County” and the Jesse Winchester Folk balladry of “Ruthie” to the rootsy Blues swing of “Concrete and Leather Blues” and the Roots Rock blister of “Divorce,” the diversity of Where the Lonely Reside is woven together with Bowling’s Appalachian threads.
“It’s an urban Appalachian theme,” Bowling says. “The songs relate, from the beginning of the CD to the end, to leaving the hills and moving to the city. It could loosely be interpreted that way.”
“And the violin ties in everything,” says Sigsbee, who arranged the album with Bowling. “We decided to use it on as much as we could possibly use it on to have some kind of a central theme.”
At the moment, Red Idle Rejects is an untested live entity. When the band assembles for this Saturday’s CD release show, it will be their debut gig.
“Everybody in the group has played out millions of times in other bands, but this will be our debut performance,” Bowling says. “I hope we can get some gigs and play out as much as we can, but we all have our other music outlets, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Given that some of Where the Lonely Reside’s songs were inspired by Bowling’s divorce, the frequent references to Maseratis in the lyrics raise the question of whether it’s an iconic or actual representation.
“You know what it is, it’s such a great word,” Bowling says with a laugh. “It has a cadence. It’s four syllables and it’s perfect. She didn’t really dump me and leave in a Maserati. It’s artistic license.”
“And it rhymes with ‘karate,’ ” Sigsbee notes.
“And you can’t really do much with Escort,” Bowling says. “Or Pinto.”
RED IDLE REJECTS present their CD release party Saturday at Newport’s York Street Cafe. Get show and club details here.