David Rhodes Brown has recently found his muse again. The venerable leader and heart of Cincinnati's original Roots/Rockabilly band, The Warsaw Falcons, is dishing out new music at a rate likely to challenge Guided By Voices frontman Bob Pollard's recent cluster-bomb output.
On Saturday the Falcons release their second EP of the new year, All American Muse, at the York Street Café in Newport. The Star Devils open.
Releasing two mini-discs of original material within three months is certainly something that would draw the ire of a major record label. However, that doesn't concern the Falcons (Brown, bassist Peter Baer, drummer Mark Leshner, harmonica player Rick Howell and saxophonist Brian Hogg) whose deal with Virgin Records' imprint Pointblank (home to Van Morrison, Charlie Musselwhite and the late John Lee Hooker) is currently on ice in the aftermath of the recording industry's roughest year and the subsequent economic impact of the terrorist attacks. Both the label and the artist are treading lightly when it comes to inking a deal.
"We are back in contact with the label, but no deal has been set yet," Brown explains. "Virgin took an awful hit last September and has done some restructuring. I don't have all the details but it slowed down our deal considerably."
So Brown insists that instead of playing the waiting game, the Falcons will do what a group of ambitious, seasoned musicians do best: Keep making good records.
Similar in approach to January's four-song teaser, Ask Me About My New Lick (both discs were recorded over a couple weekends with engineer Jim Howard at Covington's Backstage Studios), All American Muse spells out the Falcons' sound: a saucy mix of Roots, Rockabilly and gritty Rhythm & Blues. Muse covers the bases, from the eternal search for true love ("On and On"), the personal mortality check ("I Pray The Angels") to the real muse that just reentered Brown's life and inspired the disc's title ("Melody"). A couple of new tracks and an old Falcons' favorite, "Staring at the Ceiling," round out the six-song EP. The energetic Brown is particular to a rave-up tune called "Lost My Head" noting "I get a chance to SCREAM!"
So why put out something so soon after the last one? Brown explains his musical manifesto.
"Write-play-record as often as you can," he says. "I think today's music runs like the water table: Take a drink, get along, take another drink, repeat as necessary. This stuff gets soaked up quick, and if I wait a year and pore over it ... (we) recorded this in a hurry at Backstage believing that it's best to dish it up and move on to more. I used to pore over songs like a Dad, but no more — out of the nest and then father some others. If the production suffers? Well, I've heard albums that took years, and the production still suffered. So what's the point? The point is put it out and hope it sucks just right."
No worries. Brown attributes the cohesiveness of the discs to long time friend and ally, Ted McConnell.
"Ted will quickly hear what is muddying up the creek and layer the players so they have their own speaking platform," Brown says. "Truly my best ally."
And with the band temporarily running its own show, Brown finds himself in multiple roles as songwriter, producer, player and publicist, with two new discs and a simple DIY promotional strategy.
"Radio is very short-lived so if I get something on the radio stations and it's on for what — three weeks?," he wonders. "If I put out another quick one, well one (song) might get on for an additional three weeks — repeat as necessary. Stay on the radio all year with some song or another." Also part of the plan, Brown laughingly reveals: "I'm still holding some shit back while it's developing."
A recording deal in the works and two new discs of material keep the musical child inside Brown alive. In fact, his recent ode to Cincinnati guitar great, Lonnie Mack ("Jimmy and His '44" off Ask Me About My New Lick) saw childhood fantasy turn into reality. A young Brown once climbed the walls of a Cincinnati country club to hear Mack perform. This time around, it was Mack who showed up at one of Brown's shows.
"He sat in with us down in Nashville at The Boardwalk one night but he borrowed my guitar, and I sat out," Brown recalls. "He stayed for a while and was very complimentary. What a total bad ass he is. Just so easy to love him."
THE WARSAW FALCONS release All American Muse on Saturday at York Street Café with special guests the Star Devils. The show will be broadcast live on WAIF (88.3 FM) at midnight. The Falcons will also be on WNKU (89.7 FM) this Thursday at 9 p.m.