Songs From The Fans – Chris Cacavas 60. Polythene Records

Today’s the day that Chris Cacavas racks up 60 runs around the sun. In that time, Cacavas has been a founding member of Green On Red, has had a lengthy solo and band career with Junkyard Love, played on innumerable releases by the likes of Giant Sand and Steve Wynn and currently mans the keyboards in the reformed Dream Syndicate. To celebrate his birthday, a host of friends and fellow musicians have recorded this album, comprised of covers of his songs from across his career, a surprise gift from them to him as it’s unleashed today.

Taking part in the enterprise are Calexico, Howe Gelb, Steve Wynn, Chris Eckman, Stephen McCarthy and Russ Tolman, all contemporaries of Cacavas back in the early Serfers/Green On Red Days. Also included are Pat Thomas (who released the first two Junkyard Love albums), Edward Abbiati from Lowlands (who has recorded with Cacavas) and Hakan “Hawk” Soold, who is the executive producer of the album, along with various others who have come into Cacavas’ orbit at some point. Cacavas is criminally underrated in his native USA but has always had a healthy following in Europe, perhaps a factor in his eventually moving to live in Germany, and this disparate bunch reflects his career, from Tucson days to the vineyards of Europe.

Listening to the album one is struck by the quality of the songs, reminding us of how good a songwriter Cacavas is, whether delivering hi octane rockers with a blistering Neil Young like fury or delving into emotional distress. Truth, by The Plastic Pals, Wrecking Yard, here performed by Pat Thomas and Drivin’ Misery, given a fine reading here by Steve Wynn, remind one of what a powerful listen the first Chris Cacavas & Junkyard Love album was. That said, the songs that tumble out here show that the quality control button has always been within his reach with Stephen Mccarthy’s E-Z Living (from the solo album, Anonymous) proving to be particularly poignant while The Surfin’ Nerdz’s delivery of California (Into The Ocean) allows one to consider Cacavas to be as acute an observer of LA malaise as John Murry on his Graceless age album. There are 18 songs here which remake and remodel Cacavas in varying degrees. Calexico transform the churning rock drive of Just Do Something into, well, a Calexico song with their trademark desert shuffle and mariachi horns. Howe Gelb likewise transforms the guitar encrusted howl of Pale Blonde Hell into a heady mix of cocktail exotica and lounge lizard vocals. We haven’t space to talk of all the songs but we can heartily recommend the album to any fan of Chris Cacavas or indeed, anyone with an interest in the so called Paisley Underground and its offshoots.

Happy birthday to Mr. Chris Cacavas.

Songs From The Fans is available on CD and as a download here.

Cheap Wine. Dreams.

cheapwinecover-225x225Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed an excellent live album from the Italian band, Cheap Wine, back in 2016, and, impressed by it, we delved onto their catalogue discovering several albums steeped in a serious American music jag. Steve Wynn and The Dream Syndicate loomed large in their sound along with E Street urban menace and even some of The Doors’ doomed romance. Now along comes Dreams, their latest studio missive, and it’s clear that they’re continuing to pursue their particular take on the American Dream. However they are no mere copyists, their take on what is by now, a traditional sound (some of their influences go back 40 years- if this were the seventies they’d be sourcing 1930s music) is elevated by the grace and fluency of their playing and, importantly the quality of band leader, Marco Diamantini’s, writing along with his vocals.

Dreams is actually the third of a trilogy of sorts. Previous albums, Based On Lies and Beggar Town reflected the turmoil of the economic crisis with the former quite relevant in these days of “fake news.” Dreams is, at times, an Arcadian vision of the future with Diamantini’s songs obliquely optimistic, dreams being, he says, “The magic wand that free us from the limit of the physical body.” As such he sings of reveries such as walking naked down a road on Naked while Cradling My Mind is a somnambulistic affair as Diamantini describes an idyllic car journey as the band gently press the accelerator.

Much of the album is in a similar vein to Cradling My Mind. The Wise Man’s Finger opens with Doors’ like electric piano and wah wah guitar effects before it unwinds over five hypnotic minutes. I Wish I Were The Rainbow’s arpeggio of rippling guitars and swoonful organ create a mood over which Diamamtini calmly declaims his opaque words. Reflection is a shimmering slice of bucolic acoustic guitars and gentle cello which harks back to English folk psychedelia while the title song, buoyed on another gentle tide of acoustic guitars and sympathetic keyboards has Diamantini speaking in a winning whisper of hope eternal, “Never be afraid of falling down or being wrong ’cause your mistakes will be your guide.” It’s a song which could easily fall into a schmaltzy sentimentalism a la Desiderata but instead it’s delivered with sincerity while the lengthy outro, graced with a fine guitar solo, has a grandiose sweep without sounding pompous. It’s tempting to say that this song would have sounded wonderful coming from the voice of Leonard Cohen. I do believe he would have liked a verse like this, “And remember, the greatest works of art were made for you. Dive into this great adventure and grow, baby, grow. And, most of all, always follow your dreams.”

There are a couple of spikier moments. The opening Full Of Glow is a barbed Paisley Underground rocker and Naked stumbles into view with a Crazy Horse like chunk of rhythm. The band even return to the band that gave them their name on the Farfisa organ fuelled grunge of For The Brave which does sound as if it was buried in an early Green On Red release. Quite wonderful.




Dan Stuart With Twin Tones. Marlowe’s Revenge. Cadiz Records.


“He was safe here; this was the place he loved – sanctuary, the paradise of his despair.”
Malcolm Lowry – Under The Volcano.

Malcolm Lowry, author of Under The Volcano, a novel about a drunk and disillusioned ex consul falling apart in Mexico, was an English writer who fled to Oaxaca, Mexico back in the 1930’s following a marital breakup and a spell in New York’s Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. Dan Stuart, known primarily as the singer of the now lauded Green On Red, trod this self same path around five years ago, rebuilding himself with the assistance of his alter ego, Marlowe Billings, under which name he wrote a “false memoir,” The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings and recorded an album of the same name. Mexico, despite its murderous reputation, appears to have been some kind of salve for the battered and bruised Stuart as he slowly re-entered the music business, however he seems to have been somewhat repelled by the current rules of the game, the sanitisation, the pigeon holing that goes on; he wanted to sound dangerous, to get some revenge on the business that all but chewed him up and spat him out back in the eighties. Holed up like some Graeme Greene character Stuart recorded some songs with a Mexican engineer, Daniel Sanchez Jimenez, who added some rudimentary percussion backing to Stuart’s guitar strums (a little black egg shaker and thumped telephone directory). Some of these songs were released briefly on Stuart’s A Little Guitar EP but he wanted more, some danger, someone to really spark off of.

“In Mexico your wishes have a dream power. When you want to see someone, he turns up.”
William Burroughs – Junky.

Stuart already had a foil, the mercurial Italian band, Sacri Cuori, who are like a dream band from an Alexandro Jodorowsky vision but they were 6,000 miles away. Burroughs’ drug stained quote is apt however as Stuart found a bunch of Mexican upstarts via Google who played scuzzy surf and garage rock, Twin Tones they were called. Contact made, turns out they had some mutual friends including Steve Wynn and Danny Amis from Los Straitjacket, and lo, holy mescalito, a union was formed and thus came about Marlowe’s Revenge.

Bolstered by the retronuevo garage blasts, fuzzed guitar and cheesy organ throbbings of Twin Tones Stuart lets loose his demons here, his voice snarling, sneering, sometimes vulnerable. Hola Guepo (Hello Beautiful) is a blunderbuss slice of 60’s fuzz punk, the guitars snarling like a two headed dog as Stuart pens a poisonous will for his wife singing,” you’ll get my ring, wear it from your neck, try not to choke on it.” He returns to his sense of abandonment on the spectacular guitar blazoned epic Soy Un Hombre, almost spitting out the words, “I’m a man who has always loved you no matter what the world had to say but you decided to leave with another less worthy than me.” There’s despair on the melodrama of Last Blue Day, a song that recalls Loudon Wainwright’s desolate Central Square Song on the opening bars before the band weigh in with a hefty thump sounding like a psychedelic version of The Band, Stuart at the end of his tether, dark thoughts on his mind with this stark image, ” darkness greets me as I open my door the rope on the crossbeam hangs to the floor.”

There’s  bi-polar mood swings throughout the album, rage, despair, defeat and a manic edge to some of his Boho tales of life on the skids, the cannibalistic fantasies of The Whores Above swimming in a scuzzy garage punk morass of guitar and organ mixing up Burroughs, Bukowski and Brion Gyson, an evil laugh from Stuart catching the unhinged joy of narcotic revenge. I‘m All Over You is an amphetamined Dylan sneer,  the tune pummelled into submission by massed handclaps and a stratospheric guitar solo while Name Hog roots itself in a Lou Reed strut as Stuart snarls his contempt of the treadmill rock’n’roll route.

Lest it be thought that these are just the musings of a misanthrope set to a farfisa and tremeloed heaven (or hell) Stuart actually delivers a bona fide (although slightly skewed) love song on the delicious Elena, a twisted Tom Petty like song that some brave radio shows might pick up on while Over My Shoulder is almost tender. Zipolite is a script in waiting, a sonic Mexican riposte to Alex Garland‘s The Beach, the band ominous as waves crash and dogs howl in the mix, this is really quite wonderful. Stuart winds it up with the languid flow of The Knife, a song that allows the band to show their mellow Santos & Johnny side although there’s a hint of menace in the guitars as if they’re being honed to kill; his whispered words recalling Brando’s utterances in Apocalypse Now.

Marlowe’s Revenge is an album that will surely please those who hanker for the unruly days of Green On Red, Stuart teetering on the edge, still sounding dangerous. However, This Dan Stuart is older, maybe wiser, certainly bearing more scars. I’ll leave the last words to his old sparring partner, Chuck Prophet, “It’s like I tell people, mark my words: Dan Stuart will end up in jail or an institution or living above a discotheque in Mexico City still writing real songs and shaking his fist at the world.”

Dan Stuart is embarking on a lengthy European tour including a date in Glasgow on 25th February where he’ll be supported by Tom Heyman (whose album Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed here) and Fernando Viciconte. A compelling performer this is not to be missed. All tour dates here.

And here’s a taste of Twin Tones

Chris Cacavas & Edward Abbiati. Me And The Devil. Harboursong Records.

This album is somewhat of a summit meeting of two (plus two) of the most interesting characters in Americana music today. Chris Cacavas is of course the keyboard player for the troubled troupe that was Green On Red way back in the eighties before releasing a series of essential recordings with his band Junkyard Love. Edward Abbiati is the UK born leader of Italian Americana band Lowlands who have intrigued since their first release, The Last Call, in 2008 with the essence of Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and Richmond Fontaine in their DNA. Cacavas guested on Lowlands’ debut album and last year he travelled from his current domicile in Germany to North Italy to record Me And The Devil with Abiatti picking up a crack rhythm section along the way, Winston Watson on drums, one of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour stalwarts (as well as past duties with Giant Sand and Warren Zevon) along with Mike “Slo Mo” Brenner, a multi instrumentalist who has played with Marah and Jason Molina who carries out bass and lap steel duties here. Cacavas and Abbiati huddled together and wrote the songs which the band then recorded in a two day burst in a barn close to Abiatti’s hometown of Pavia.

The end result of this “barnstorming” stream of consciousness approach to the record is surprisingly good given that it had all the elements present that could have resulted in an aural equivalent of an essay on “what we did on our holidays.” Instead the ten songs here are all robust with the band firing on all cylinders (with additional input on tenor Sax, cello and harmonica on some cuts) with at least one of the numbers achieving epic status. They open with the rumbling blues of Against The Wall, bass thumping and organ and harp (Richard Hunter) wailing while tenor Sax (Andres Villan) parps away. Like a Native American war dance sung by Morphine this is best experienced cranked up to full volume as the slab of sound hits in the chest and heart. A terrific opener. A chunky guitar rips into the introduction of the title song, a classic heat blasted slice of American music with a sludge like bottom topped by harmonica acrobatics from Hunter and a fierce guitar solo from another guest musician, Stefan Roller. Oh Baby, Please has Cacavas let loose on the organ while the sax drives a sixties garage punk riff that snarls with a pout not heard or seen since The Fleshtones, a song waiting to be discovered by hipsters on dance floors all over Tarantino land, again, play loud and just surrender to the dumb beat.
The Week Song is unfortunately titled as it palls in comparison to its predecessors but the opening chords of Hay Into Gold with a cello abetting the powerful bass and drum highway drive take us back into a dark Americana underbelly, lanced by shards of lap steel as the song creeps along in a disturbing stalking fashion. Long Dark Sky maintains this haunting, even threatening menace. Although it opens with a mighty mid sixties Who like thrash it soon unravels into a neon lit David Lynch nightmare lyrically while at the end the band bring it back to The Who with a mischievous morse code guitar stutter and thrashing Moon like drums. Can’t Wake Up is another dark tale with an acoustic slide driven push but The Other Side then sails into sight, towering above its compadres. Harking back to Cacavas’ early albums it employs a Neil Young slow burn as the guitars roil and boil churning up a menacing stew with Watson’s cymbals crashing away while the song ebbs and flows in magnificent fashion. The only complaint here is that it ends far too soon. I’ll See Ya in comparison is understated. Acoustic and tender it affords a ray of light in comparison to the devilish mayhem that precedes it while the closing song, Rest Of My Life, is another plea, plaintive this time, to be released from the shackles of the heart and given an uplifting feel with some winsome lap steel.

Overall Me And The Devil is a cracking album while the excellent cover art by Deborah Maggioncalda adds to the attraction. Very highly recommended.

Harboursongs website

Book review: Dan Stuart. The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings. Cadiz Music.

Rock autobiographies are big news these days with bookshelves groaning under the weight of confessional (and often redemptive) tomes from almost everyone who’s ever committed music to plastic. We get the up and downs, the trials and tribulations, the dirt is dashed ( after the lawyers are asked) and the reading public have their vicarious thrill. OK, for every dozen ghosted epics there’s a genuine nugget and it’s fair to say that Dylan (as usual) tops the list for critically acclaimed memoires with Chronicles offering a very slight insight into his head. For the most part however it’s the lesser known artists, the cult favourites, who have delivered musings that have opened up the often grimy and dreary life of rock’n’roll with the likes of Luke Haine and Mark E Everett stamping their personalities on their respective tales.

Dan Stuart, Ex Green On Red front man, who has only recently resurfaced after a decade or so of personal turmoil has now put pen to paper with his “false memoir,” The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings.” Billings is the alter ego adopted by Stuart for his 2011 comeback album of the same name as the book. The album followed a marital and mental breakdown that eventually found Stuart moving to Mexico with the avowed intention to top himself. Instead he found a second wind, recording the album, touring Europe and writing this book.

As Billings, Stuart introduces us to a sun blasted weed smoking minor delinquent who starts a band in the emotional wasteland of Tucson. Snot nosed and foul mouthed, glam rock then punk and Patti Smith fire him up in a milieu reminiscent of the kids in Alex Cox’s Repo Man. Overdoses, petty crime and rude sex only threaten to divert this weird messiah’s collection of disciples until he has a rag tag band that outgrows Tucson’s sin bins and decamps to LA. DIY recordings lead to record deals and label rip offs before Billings and crew set out to conquer the world only to find that the craziness follows them until the band falls apart. Intending to start afresh he’s fucked by legal shenanigans forcing him to retain the band name screwing his pals and hurtling forward into an ever increasing maelstrom of mental indignations. The book ends with Billings in a psychiatric institution.

If the above appears to be a conventional retelling of the Green On Red story then you’d be right apart from the conventional element. Stuart tells the story in short, staccato bites. Each chapter is no more than two or three pages delivered in a hard boiled, almost voyeuristic fashion. Like a fusion of Hemingway, Bukowski and Jim Carroll Stuart is bare boned in his reportage with no shying away from the misogynism of the times while drug fuelled embarrassments are described with a particularly debauched Edinburgh visit detailed. For a “rock” biography there’s little about the music itself within the pages. The set ups, the producers, the screw ups and legal crap are all here but unless you know the band you wouldn’t have a clue as to what they sound like. In addition Stuart (in fine roman a clef fashion) doesn’t name names for the most part but this adds to the attraction of the book as I was scouring album sleeve notes and googling like hell to pin down the cast list.

It’s rough, raw and rude but according to Stuart and others who were there that’s what it was really like. Stuart himself describes the book as “it’s just words and shit” but as a portrayal, not just of Stuart and Green On Red but numerous others in the post punk LA scene , it’s a visceral slice of life, warts and all.

Buy it here

Dan Stuart. Glad Cafe. Glasgow. Thursday 1st May.


This was a welcome return to Glasgow for one of our more perplexing musicians, Tucson raised and now domiciled in Mexico, Dan Stuart. Last time he played here the audience turnout was pitiful especially coming as it did only a few years after the sell out Green On red Reunion tour. Blame Stuart’s virtual retirement from the business or poor promotion. On this occasion however a packed venue bore testimony to Stuart’s once again rising profile and the sterling work done by promoter Kevin Morris’ The Fallen Angels Club who has astutely used social media and good old fashioned leafleting to ensure healthy turnouts for numerous shows around Glasgow.

With his last new release, The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings now two years old Stuart’s latest recorded offering was the release on Cadiz Music of two albums he recorded way back in the nineties, now repackaged as Arizona 1993-95. For the true fans (including one chap from Croatia) the lure, apart from the show itself, was an opportunity to buy two books written by Stuart. The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings is a warts and all snapshot of his early years (described as a false memoir) while Barcelona Blues is a collection of poems written while in the throes of a marital breakup which saw him decamp to Spain for a period of time. It’s clear Stuart has been in some dark places ( he’s recorded as saying his original intention when going to Mexico was to kill himself following a depressive episode, “my brain broke”) but tonight he seems in fine form, slightly combative on stage with a dismissive attitude towards much of his past works but engaging well with his foil and sparring partner for the evening, guitarist Antonio Gramentieri (from the Italian band, Sacri Couri) while at the end of the evening he was the perfect host patiently greeting the long queue that formed as he signed his CDs and books.

With Stuart singing and playing acoustic guitar and Gramentieri on electric it was a mesmerising show with deadpan humour, occasional menace and some soul baring. Ranging from the bruised tenderness of Why I Married You to the visceral shredding of Jimmy Boy the duo’s range was astounding with Gramentieri colouring in Stuart’s musical palette with bottleneck, reverb and barbed wire shards of noise on some of his solos. While there was a vulnerable air to Stuart as he revisited his darker times his wild and dangerous days of Green On Red were unveiled as he grimaced and roared on epic renditions of Jimmy Boy, That’s What Dreams Were Made For and Sixteen Ways while Clean White Sheets from the Marlowe Billings album had some blistering guitar from Gramentieri. There were several newer songs including Why I married You and the Hollywood Babylon like tale, The Day William Holden Died, which relates the solitary drunken death of Holden, star of The Wild Bunch with Stuart comparing his lifestyle to Holden’s. With the tour posters featuring Hemingway and Barcelona Blues not too far removed from Kerouac’s Book of Blues Stuart certainly relates to these doomed borrachos. His delivery of the Holden song was sublime and when, caught in the moment, he almost stumbled back over the stage riser behind him he quickly quipped “Bill just shoved me” as he recovered his balance.

Antonio Gramentieri was offered an opportunity mid set to play some of his and Sacri Cuori’s music reminding us of the superb soundscapes he can conjure up on six strings.Romantic with liquid notes flowing from his fingers it was all too short before Mr. Stuart came back to tell us a little about his book. Unfortunately there were no readings from the text but he did tantalise the audience talking about some misadventures in Edinburgh many moons ago involving spear guns in a hotel room (for more you’ll need to buy the book). Throughout the show there were humorous asides with the biggest laugh coming as he re tuned his guitar while telling us that Jim Dickinson, legendary Memphis producer thought that “tuning was a decadent practise of European homosexuals.”

Ending with a stomping Hair Of The Dog before an encore (and audience participation on) Little Things In Life we had almost two hours of Dan Stuart’s life given over to us and while it may be a bit melodramatic to say so there was a chance a few years ago that he thought he had no more time to offer. Here’s hoping that it’s not too long before we hear these new songs on a new disc. In the meantime the tour continues on the continent with another old Green On Red buddy, Chris Cacavas joining in some of the dates.

The opening act for the night was American songstress Kathleen Haskell. Ms. Haskell has a keen pedigree having sung with Neil Young while her latest album was produced by none other than Dan Stuart’s old sparring buddy, Chuck Prophet. Armed only with her guitar and a wicked way with some risqué rock’n’roll anecdotes she did a short set with the highlight being the title song of her album Where The Land Meets the Sky, a fine waltz time tune that recalled a chilled out Patsy Cline while the guitar coda was simple but captivating. Like A Pearl Necklace struggled to match the ribald introduction but I’ll Be Your Fool was a sensuous slink and, sitting at the piano for this one, Drama In The Dark proved to be a fine example of LA noir drama.

Dan Stuart/Marlowe Billings website

Kathleen Haskard website

Sacri Cuori website

And here’s some video of Dan and Antonia earlier in the tour.

Dan Stuart. Arizona: 1993-95. Cadiz Music.

Dan Stuart bounced back into view two years ago with his excellent recording, The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings. Long missing from action (apart from some sorties with revived Green On Red and Danny and Dusty line ups) he resurfaced in Oaxaca, Mexico with a tale to tell of suicidal leanings and incarceration in a mental hospital. Since then he’s issued forth from his Mexican bolthole on a few occasions (appearing with Robyn Hitchcock in Norway for example) but otherwise he seems to be living a Lowry like existence down Mexico way.
While the world (or a few of us at least) wait patiently for further musings from Mr. Billings (and Dan promises a “false” memoir in book form sometime soon) Cadiz Records have done us the grand favour of unearthing the two albums Stuart made in his wilderness years following the implosion of Green On Red and compiling them (along with three unreleased songs) into a handsome double pack with liner notes from Stuart and his compadre Al Perry.
Perry co wrote the songs and got equal billing on the first of these albums, Retronuevo, released in 1993. A Tucson musicians’ musician Perry seems to have been landlocked in what Wikipedia insists is “The Old Pueblo” although he’s recorded with scores of Arizona musicians including Rich Hopkins, Giant Sand and the legendary Fish Karma. On Retronuevo he picks up where Chuck Prophet left off as he and Stuart deliver an album that is not a million miles removed from the last couple of GoR albums, Scapegoats and Too Much Fun. Stuart, released from the confines and expectations of Green On Red ( “I was the guy paid to throw up in his shoes” he notes) appears to relax and engage in what he calls the “Tucson tempo, ” as they wallow in a very fine set of songs that are based in the blues and country sounds that permeate the south west. There’s a loose and lazy groove running throughout whether they’re mainlining some grungy blues notes on Daddy’s Girl or Mamacita or sweeping skywards on the sweet pedal steel of Neil Harry on Better Than I Did while Eyes Of A Fool is a brisk return to the early Green on Red garage sound and Little Slant Six is early Beach Boys in the desert instead of on a beach. Stuart and Perry reminisce on the making of the album in the new liner notes recalling that they were both in the throes of trying to save their respective marriages and that drugs were still an item. Despite this the pair managed to record an album that Perry refers to as “not a masterpiece or anything but it’s a lovely snapshot of that time a sense it’s a perfect album because we expressed exactly what was going on in our lives at the time.” Well put and it says it better than anything we could come up with.

Can O’ Worms followed in 1995 and was Stuart’s first solo album although there is a great deal of collaboration with JD Foster who co wrote several songs and plays guitar. Can O’ Worms is a darker affair than Retronuevo with Stuart writing some pretty naked sleeve notes relating to his marital troubles at the time, troubles that seem to have been subsequently resolved but which reappeared and eventually rent his relationship asunder 15 years later leading to his breakdown and eventual emergence as Billings. Indeed he claims that Can O’ Worms and The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings are essentially the same album with the same woman driving him to a dark space which he can only express in his music. Here the template remains the latter Green On Red albums but there’s a bite and bitterness that was lacking in their twilight years along with a decidedly Spanish flavour to several of the pieces. Foster and fellow guitar player John Dee Graham excel throughout and the production by Foster is superb with What A Day in particular standing out as a wearied vocal from Stuart is buttressed by some tender guitar and very fine percussion by Daren Hess. This is a song you can wallow in for a long time and never feel sated, it has a Lou Reed feel to it but with a clear desert air, not the grime of New York. As Stuart says, this is a break up album and we all know that makes for great art (Blood On The Tracks, exhibit one) or so they say. “I was living in Arizona after a very bad time in Madrid, we had been married five years when she ran off with a carpet salesman from Santa Barbera.” This bathetic description of Stuart’s situation at the time drives the album. There are recollections of Spain on La Pasionaria, a deceptively attractive cancion that relates a drug deal carried out in muggling heat while In Madrid appears to be a requiem for the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. Stuart bemoans his lost love on a brace of songs that form the heart of the album. Home After Dark shimmers like a heat haze as he sings “You can call me a liar, go ahead say it to my face. You can set my soul on fire, feel free, put me in my place. Twist the knife in a little deeper, I’m only flesh and bone.” It’s always been an outstanding song but Stuart’s revelations add an insight to the hurt he was feeling at the time adding to the song’s intensity. Who Needs More is surprisingly enough a celebration of love given a fine loose limbed bluesy feel but What A Day returns to the confessional with Stuart sounding weary and broken proclaiming “If I’d known what today would bring, what would I change?…only everything.” He’s pleading here for a return to the happy go lucky feel of Who Needs More but instead he tumbles into the nightmare neon flashing twilight world of Expat Blues with gutbucket guitar and leery saxophone. Filipina Stripper is another trip into the underbelly with Stuart finding succour and danger in New Orleans as the band flail around in Tom Waits style. Going back to the liner notes Stuart describes his ex wife as leaving a lot to be desired but he celebrates her as a muse and her inspiration certainly fills two of the best songs here. Waterfall returns to the chugging majesty of Green On Red at their best while Can’t Get Through is a dreamlike wisp of a song with sweet lap steel and harmonica as Stuart sings in his tenderest voice as he tries to communicate with his lost love. At the end, despite his stories of desperation and despair, Stuart rallies himself on The Greatest where he cites Mohammed Ali and his comebacks as inspiration for his own comeback.

Dust settled, we know now that Stuart and his muse made up and he disappeared from view for a decade and a half until a final separation lead to Marlowe Billings. However, tucked at the end of the Can O’ Worms disc are three songs, previously unreleased, recorded in 1995. With JD Foster back in the producers chair and on guitar along with Daren Hess again on drums these sessions included Joey Burns, Nick Luca, Craig Shumacher and Jud Newcombe. Loosely produced, these songs tumble out rubbing their eyes in the daylight but all three are excellent and for firm fans well worth the price of admission here. South of The Pyrenees recounts again Stuart’s time in Spain and his meeting with his wife while the band hit a loose groove around his vocals. What’s The Use? is as fine a song as Stuart has ever delivered as he ponders on his relationship with his vocals again recalling Lou Reed. The jewel here is the backing with the band coming across like the Rolling Stones in their Fool To Cry period, the Wurlitzer and coiled guitars funky as hell as they slink around Stuart’s extended rap like a New York Van Morrison. Your Arab Friend is a pointed barb at that “carpet salesman” and Stuarts adopts his vintage sneer for a fine put down song while massed guitars ripple behind him and then improvise like a boozy countrified Grateful Dead.

While Can O’ Worms and Retronuevo are not exactly “lost” albums it’s a fair bet that they slipped under the radar of most folk. This package is an excellent opportunity to grab these documents of Dan Stuart’s first curtain call while we wait for his next missive.

Dan Stuart

Cadiz Music

Dan Stuart

The great Dan Stuart is among us again. The voice of Green On Red and one half of the fabled bar band Danny and Dusty Stuart barnstormed and howled his way into our consciousness as part of the burgeoning California post punk roots movement back in the eighties. A bunch of young bucks, Green On Red crawled from Tucson to L. A. and released a crop of albums that owed as much to the sixties sound of The Seeds as it did to Hank Williams. Always teetering on the edge they fell over it when the band imploded with Stuart keeping a low profile for several years afterwards. Successful reunions of Green On Red and Danny and Dusty around 2006-7 saw him in fine fettle but again he retired from sight until now. Teaming up with Sacri Cuori who are very simpatico Stuart returns in the guise of Marlowe Billings on his latest release. Delivering a set of songs that may be autobiographical (although as with much of his mythology it’s cloaked in layers of mystery) his voice remains strained and compelling, second only to Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Who is Marlowe Billings and what is his relationship with the mysterious author of the Treasure of The Sierra Madre? We don’t know but Dan was kind enough to take the time to respond by email to a couple of questions we threw his way just before his Glasgow gig..

So who is Marlowe Billings and where do you fit in?

Me and Marlowe Billings? We try to accommodate one another, although we have competing narratives. He thinks he’s smarter than me… there’s a book as well with the same title for those that still can read. I’m lucky now cause I get to play a lot with a great band (Sacri Cuori) but I’m not actually in one. Bands are replacements for one’s family of origin which seldom are happy… bands are often worse.

What are your biggest influences and your most significant moment?

I could reply with a laundry list of the agreed upon canon but really “Blonde on Blonde” ain’t that big of a deal… or “Pet Sounds” for that matter. Of course I love Dylan and Brian but musicians are generally completely full of shit when it comes to what’s “good” or “bad”. Jimmy Cliff recently told an interviewer that he had been listening to Katy Perry… I thought that was hilarious. As for a significant moment, surviving when my brain broke…

What venue/gig do you most want to play?

The old places I used to play filled with sullen kids who hate the world. Now I have to play some roots venue with clean bathrooms of all things. How the mighty have fallen…

What is your favourite song you have written?

There’s a couple I’m proud of… Vivian Girls covering “Sixteen Ways” was a special treat.

What does the next six months have in store for you?

Playing Europe this fall, enjoying life and writing in Oaxaca, a west coast swing in the USA, maybe I’ll even get laid…

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Either walking the streets of San Felipe Del Agua or resting in its panteón… whatever Juquila decides.

Any recent sounds you might want to recommend that would gladden our ears?

Both my old compadre Chuck Prophet and his buddy John Murry have released great records recently… Sacri Cuori has a record coming out next month called “Rosario” that is fantastic. “Venice Dawn” by Adrian Younge is intriguing…

And intriguing is one way of describing The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings, Dan’s new album. Backed by the Italian band Sacri Cuori Stuart is in fine voice while the songs are for the most part superb with a couple of killers inside. I’ve reviewed the album at Americana UK while you can check out Dan’s website

Dan Stuart and Sacri Cuori. King Tuts Wah Wah Hut. Wed. 5th September.

Dan Stuart, former wild frontman of Green On Red has been sadly missing from action for several years. Despite occasional sightings in the mid 2000’s with (successful) reunions of Green On Red and Danny and Dusty there’s only been the occasional low key album release. A few months back a new release The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings was announced and then a European tour which mercifully included Glasgow on the short itinerary.
And so it was that a few of the faithful (too few by far) gathered in the bar at King Tuts to see and hear the enigmatic Stuart, lured by the legend and perhaps somewhat nonplussed by the recent stories of his incarceration and subsequent escape from a New York psychiatric institution, his settlement in Oaxaca, Mexico and his current hook up with an Italian country rock band.
Sacri Cuori played a short opening set and immediately it was clear that country rock does them a grave injustice. A four piece they unveiled an astounding palette of sounds that ranged from surf and Duane Eddy type guitar to Nino Rota cinematic whirls with Joe Meek electronica and superb percussion to take the audience on a trip through some weird places and left us feeling as if we were in the middle of Jodorowsky’s El Topo. Guitarist Antonio Gramentieri tackled the introductions informing us that local girl Isobel Campbell sings on their latest album Rosario and pretty much had us eating out of his hand by the end of their all too short set.
Mr. Stuart then came on and within a few minutes of his superb, humorous (with some barbed stabs at a few sacred alt country cows) introduction any possible doubts about his mental health were dispelled. Revelling in his banter he was a hit before even striking a note but it was clear from his opening song, a solo rendition of an old Green On Red song, Death and Angels, that he was totally in control. Delivered as a lament with his voice a warm croon and some fine guitar picking it was miles away from the old band version. Another Green On Red song You Couldn’t Get Arrested with Stuart joined by Christian Ravaglioli on accordion was next and it was spellbinding. A sly dig at Mick Jagger and his abandonment of his sixties Chelsea drug store decadence one could have heard the proverbial pin drop as the audience paid full attention; we could have listened to the solo Stuart all night. From here on in however Stuart bared his fangs and with the assistance of Sacri Cuori delivered a blistering set of tunes, old and new that featured his sardonic and sneering vocals while also offering a glimpse into his love and passion for Spanish and Mexican tinged ballads with an edge. Sixteen Ways kicked it off while amped up renditions of Zombie For Love and Gravity Talks showed that he still has some fire in his belly. Two Lovers Waiting to Die swung mightily with a heavy Neil Young swagger.

Along with the back catalogue Stuart unveiled several songs from the new album with What Are You Laughing About ? delivered almost like a Joe Strummer thrash, fittingly enough as it’s a translation of a poem by Mario Benedetti, a Uruguayan poet who had to flee right wing political persecution, Strummer would approve. Gringo Go Home utilised the exotic sounds of Sacri Cuori to their utmost as Stuart channelled Lee Hazlewood on what appears to a satire on the perceived dangerousness of Mexico for visitors while on Clean White Sheet the Joe Meek type organ exhilarated as the band went stratospheric towards the end.

Overall Stuart seems to a man at the top of his game, proud of his past and rightly proud of the new material, if you get a chance to see him then we would heartily recommend it.

We should mention the two local opening acts. Eilidh Hadden and her band were a nice whispy folk tinged crew with Hadden using a tape loop at times to multiply her guitar playing while Danielle Tonner delivered a solo set of covers and some of her own songs. Both acts delivered their material in good Scots voices, something we seem to be seeing more of these days.