A few years back, Mark Lynch was listening to WFMU's Sinner's Crossroads, a weekly transmission of all things black southern gospel from "pilfered field recordings and muddy off-the-radio sounds" to "homemade congregational tapes and vintage commercial gospel throw-downs," when an old advert for a psychic caught his attention:
"Is your way beset by trouble walkers? People who will lead you astray?"
From that moment on, Lynch was on the lookout for the right project to apply the name to. After a lineup shake-up in the local blues rock/punk outfit Hot Rod Grease Lightning, which Lynch had recently joined, the timing seemed right; with everybody else in the band on board, the Trouble Walkers were born.
Comprised of bassist Lynch and drummer Robert Childers (the former rhythm section from David Childers & the Modern Don Juans), as well as guitarists/singers Daylon Brumfield and Gabe Hinceman, the Trouble Walkers do its moniker proud on the band's brand new debut, Free Cowboy Hat. The disc's 12 songs are a no-apologies-nod to rock 'n' roll libertinism; with song titles like "Country Pussy," "White Devil Bag" and "Snakes on Crosses," for instance, you're listening to the wrong record if it's feelings you're hoping to share.
One reviewer has already lovingly dubbed Free Cowboy Hat "the least politically correct record of '08," though Lynch cautions listeners not to infer too much autobiographical from the subject matter.
"We're probably the most PC guys you'll ever meet, we're all liberals," laughs Lynch, "but it's fun to inhabit other characters and try to imagine other worlds; authors do it all the time, why can't songwriters do it? Writing about yourself is boring -- you better have a pretty fucking dynamic life in order to make it interesting in a song."
Still, let's not be naïve; you can't make visceral back-to-basics rock without having at least a passing acquaintance with the subject matter. That's why the songs -- a feral blend of Gun Club hedonism, Ramones' tude, Junior Kimbrough riffs, Pussy Galore distortion and booze-fueled twang -- ring true.
The record was also put to tape and mixed in nine days, says Lynch, who served as producer, at the Old House Recording Studio in Gastonia, with, not surprisingly, a minimum of overdubs.
"A lot of it's live, we didn't go back and fix a lot," Lynch says. "We made it on the cheap, we'll sell it at shows and put it on iTunes and all that other stuff -- but none of us have the time to really tour, beyond three or four-day regional jaunts ... we have modest expectations."
Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't ask about the album's title and "'nuff said" album art:
"I used to go the Palomino Club in L.A., this old country bar in the Valley," Lynch says of the infamous bar which closed in 1995, "and there was a seat protector [distributor] above the toilet, and some wise-ass had written above it, 'Free Cowboy Hats, Take One.' I said, 'Goddamnit, that's brilliant.'"
The Trouble Walkers are on a three-state mini-tour -- Virginia, Ohio and the Triangle -- in early August.
Odds & Ends: Nicolette Emmanuelle's 10-song debut, Pinafore, gets the CD release party treatment this Friday, July 11, at Snug Harbor; Buschovski, in which Emmanuelle plays cello, opens the festivities ... Benji Hughes' double-disc debut on New West, A Love Extreme, officially drops July 22 ... The Young Sons' debut, Hearts, Inc., is due out July 27, to be feted that night at Snug Harbor ... Yardwork's self-titled debut EP is out now out on local Kinnikinnik Records; the band is currently on a Southeastern swing with Des Ark ... Sea of Cortez' new one, recorded at Fidelitorium with Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Spoon, Okkervil River) at the knobs, is nearing completion; the same can be said for the Stellas' debut, recorded with Joe Kuhlmann at 36th Street Studio ... The Houstons have recently returned to the two-piece lineup -- brothers Matt (guitar and bass pedals) and Justin Faircloth (keys and drums) -- that won them much critical love back when they were known as The Houston Brothers ... The New Familiars' busy summer includes the Trinumeral Music & Arts Festival in Asheville in August and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in September in Tennessee; the band plays a free gig at the Neighborhood Theatre July 11 with American Aquarium and Horse Ghost ... POP Asheville is now accepting submissions for regional acts for the 2009 festival, set for Jan. 16-19; registration runs from July 7-Sept. 5. For more information go to www.popasheville.com; Charlotte bands are encouraged to apply.