HIGHWAY 13 HITS THE OPEN ROAD
Lady K dishes with Pittsburgh's rockabilly trio Highway 13 while the taNk gYrl captures it all on film...
For those of you not yet familiar with Highway 13, let me give you a little introduction. First, get off your rusty dusty and drag your ass on down to the local record shop and snatch a copy of their new album, Thrill Show! Second, reinstate yourself as a functional member of the musically conscious society.
Highway 13 plays that perfect blend of traditional and modern rockabilly that's full of energy and everything I like about this culture. They aren't traditional by sound, but they are traditional by style. Their songs are about cars, booze, women, drag racing, and gambling. Their music bridges across cultures and appeals not just to the rockabilly crowd, but to other audiences such as swing, country, alternative, mainstream and more.
Sparechange recently played weekend host to the men of Highway 13 as they played a number of shows in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area. The weather was uncharacteristically warm for November, so we decided it was time to test the Highway 13 grease by putting them behind the wheel of Lucky Devil, Lady K's 1950 Chevy.
Blair Powell, bass player for the trio, had no problem hopping behind the wheel. A true greaser, Blair has had a love for cars and bikes for years. He is the proud owner of a 1 967 blue Chevy Custom truck which he fondly refers to as "Bessie," a 1973 Harley Davidson Sportster, and a 1958 Triumph bike as well. The truck is his daily driver, while his bikes are still in the "rebuilding" stage.
Between his truck and his bikes, Blair keeps pretty busy. He's likes being able to do his own wrenchin', and can usually be found out in the garage when he's not slapping his bass. Not only is he good under the hood, but he makes one hell of a good batch of Brunswick Stew. Who said men can't cook?
Woody Bond, originally started with the band, at the time a five piece gig, playing lead guitar. Following both the rhythm guitarist and the lead singer quitting, the band decided it would be easier to split profits three ways so Woody took over the front man position.
Woody is walking the thin line between music and cars these days. Both being loves of his, he's currently torn between spending his hard earned cash on a hot rod or on a 6120 Gretsch guitar.
According to the group, Woody recently had his sights set on a 1960 Impala. But in early September, the band traveled to England to play with The Damned as well as Bill Haley's original Comets, and while there he had the occasion to play a Gretsch, and fell in love with it instantly. Sources (Blair) say he's been pricing the guitar, so he'll probably be bumming rides in Lucky Devil for quite a while.
In early September, Highway 13 recruited Jay Warner as their new drummer. According to the record, he's drummer number 9 if you count Blair's brief session work on the Blasters Tribute CD. Jay's joining the band was kind of a trial-by-fire in that he starting playing shows immediately after being hired. His second show ever with the band was the aforementioned show with The Damned.
Jay's progress with the band has been tremendous. He's come quite far in the few short months he's been with the group, and both Blair and Woody are pleased.
In addition to his merit as a drummer, Jay's love for bourbon makes him an integral part of the Highway 13 family. The band is also praising Jay because he has a valid driver's license and can drive the van.
The band is currently touring to promote their new release, Thrill Show!, which is available on Get Hip Records. Stop by the Highway 13 website to catch some sound samples of their albums and keep up to date with their tour.
Our time with Highway 13 was fabulous. We enjoyed dishing with these guys over hot dishes at the local diner.
The Sunday drive was something right out of a movie. Blair drove us all over town with style, suavity, and surety. We hit the back roads and toured about through suburban Maryland, and found just enough time to let Woody sit behind the wheel! We can't wait to have these cats back in the D.C. area soon! -- Lady K
The Two River Journal
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Night Grooves by Uncle Mike
Ever since hearing my new, favorite band, The Blue Moon Boys, at the Brighton in L.B., I got this rockabilly thang in my blood. So. When I heard that Retro-Reactive was doing rockabilly at The Saint in A.P., I was there. And while The Blue Moon Boys are still my faves, Highway 13, out of Pittsburgh, PA, and Josie Kruezer & Sun 209 from San Diego, CA, are now on my "keep an eye on" list.
Kickin' things off with "Dead Broke Drunk," the first cut from their latest release, Been Up to the Devil's Business, Woody Bond (lead v's./guitar), Blair Powell (upright bass) and Tony Danuga (drums), showed the crowd why Highway 13 is Pittsburgh's hottest rockabilly trio. Woody and the boys rocked out turning The Saint into a 50s juke joint with dynamite renditions of "I'm Gone" (hot lead t.), "Mustang Ranch" (great lead v./killer tune), "Cool Rockin' Baby" (cool g. intro/another keeper), "Dirt Nap" (big time bass & drums instrumental), "All The Time" (band nailed it), "Stingin'n'swingin" (classic rockabilly, "She's Got Everything" (a gem) and "Cuttin' Up" (guys went out rockin').
Look, for a two year old band with a drummer that joined them in Feb., Highway 13's talent belies their experience! Hey. These guys ain't perfect (yet) but once they get going, they kill. If you dig intense psychobilly rock, next time around, you gotta check out Highway 13!
Pittsburgh City Paper
It Don't Mean A Thang if it Ain't Got That Twang -
It's not often that a one-night stand turns into a long-term love affair. Luckily for the local music community, the band that was only supposed to play one gig turned into one of the area's best and most energetic bands. Highway 13's inception on New Year's Eve 1995 came about only because of a dare. But with the release of Been Up To The Devil's Business on local indie-champ label Get Hip Recordings, Highway13 exposes the joy of high-energy I-IV-V on-the-floor rockabilly.
"This is the only band that I've been in that my parents really enjoy," says new drummer Tony Paterra, and who can blame them? The appeal of the band's high-energy performances is infectious and translates pretty effortlessly onto convenient CD format, making for an easy and relatively cheap cure for depression.
"You got your girls, you got your cars, you got your beer," guitarist Woody Bond tells me about the band's lyrical content. But let's not forget our amphibious friends. "You better not be out walking after dark/you just might end up a lunch for come croc," Bond throats on "Kachunga," the story of man-eating gators down south and the hero that can save them. "I ordered up some bourbon and my liver sure is hurtin' but by gum my heart ain't aching anymore," (from "Hillbilly Heartache") is another good example of the type of finger-licking fun story-telling Highway 13 does so well.
Produced by the Grammy-winning ears (Best Large Jazz Ensemble category ... seriously!) Of Dino DiStefano, Devil's Business is a head-spinning 43 minutes of fury. The album feels live because it is: the disc was recorded live, vocals and all, at Woody's house. Lucky for the band that producer DiStefano made it out alive, considering he had to tap directly into the house's main power supply. "Dino was tapping into the supply and Electric Dave (the album's engineer) was holding on to him with a rope in case he got shocked," chuckles stand-up bassist Blair Powell. (Correction: Dave was doing the tapping and Dino was holding the rope) Bond laughs along, "We could see the needles on the electric meter just spinning ..." Potential electrocutions aside, the band is pleased with the live sound's results. "The Best sounds we've gotten have been from everyone recording in the same room and letting things bleed," says singer Bond.
Response to the band has been overwhelmingly positive. Playing at rockabilly weekenders in places such as Atlanta, Ga., with legends like the Blue Caps and Ronnie Dawson, has only increased the band's fan-base and helped gain them further respect. Run Wild Records, based in New Jersey, has asked the band to be on a rockabilly compilation this year. "We played at a custom car show/rockabilly show in Jersey," says Bond, "and there were, like, 65 bands playing. After seeing us, Run Wild Records asked us if we wanted to be on the compilation."
Another highlight of the band's live show is the performance of The Amazing Rob and Razor. Rob and Razor are two escape artists who jump on stage and, while Highway 13 plays a scorching instrumental, escape from straightjackets. "We were playing an acoustic set at an apartment," relates Bond, "and this guy comes up and says 'I have my straightjacket in the car, do you mind if I get it?'" The escape artists' performances are just further proof that things can get pretty crazy at a Highway 13 show.
Put Been Up to the Devil's Business in your collection right
alongside The Cowslingers' West Virginia Dog Track Boogie as two of
the most happening, in-your-face party discs out right now. And don't
forget your angry crocodiles.
HIGHWAY 13 & the LEAD EAST
If any of y'all are familiar with the Lead East, you may have already heard of these cats, who are, in my humble opinion, THE BEST FREAKIN' ROCKABILLY BAND there the whole weekend - and we're talking alot of TOUGH competition. And just in case you haven't heard about this fabulously fun weekender, Joanne and Greg Van Vranken put on a totally rockin' showcase of the best 'billy entertanment the country has to offer (as well as some overseas talents as well). Basically their segment of the gig is called "We Wanna Boogie" in conjunction with Lead East - an annual event held up in north Jersey that is basically the biggest 50's party you will ever attend. "Lead" East gets its name from all the cool antique/retro cars on display in ther parking lots; a kind of huge tailgate party with tons of food, vendors, wild and crazy car enthusiasts, bands, parties, etc lasting generally from Thursday through Sunday. This past year it was held between the East Hanover Ramada Inn and the Hilton in Parippany, NJ. We were lucky to book a room at the Ramada for the weekend, what with jive/stroll dance instructions from Doc and Sophie all the way from England, on a great ballroom dancefloor.
Saturday afternoon had us heading over the the Hilton poolside for another of my fave rockabilly bands, King Keronsene, and a coupla others that were equally fabulous. Antics abounded what with Del Villareal, the MC for the show being tossed into the pool in his T-shirt, jeans, boots and Ray-Bans; followed by Michelle (of the dance team Louis & Michelle) tossing herself in as well (and still looking fresh somehow, her hair still styled as she dripped dry).
Geez, I digress...
Highway 13 stormed onto the stage and blew me away baby! The stripped down three piece band were right, tight and outasite. Woody Bond on 'gitar and singing some of the coolest and funniest lyrics I'd heard in a while, Charlie-Sheen lookalike Blair Powell pounding on the bass, and Scott Sinclair keeping up the backbeat (they've since added a new powerhouse drummer, Tony Paterra ).
Every one was rocking out and a great time was had by all. Apparently I was not the only one so impressed with their style - many people I talked to felt Highway 13 were the suprise hit of the weekend.
Originating in Pittsburgh, the band first got together on a bet to play on New Year's Eve '94/'95 and have since been tearing up the Northeast, writing dozens of songs, drinking gallons of beer and playing anywhere that will have them. They've shared the bill with some pretty damn impressive acts like Robert Gordon, Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys, The Frantic Flattops and The Belmont Playboys. Whew!
The cool thing about the boys is that they are really down to earth and easily approachable. During a phone conversation with Woody (who is single ladies!) talkin about the swing and rockabilly scene in Pittsburgh he said he took a few dance lessons and I says to him, "Hey if you're a rockabilly boy and know how to swing dance you have it made in the shade."
After a totally rockin, sweaty show at the Saint a few months back put on by Retro-Reactive (along with King Kerosene and The Hellcats), Scott Stamper, owner of the Saint stressed how he was totally impressed with the show and that it was one of the best bands he'd seen at his club. The guys stayed at our house that night - they were slated to play at the Rodeo Bar and Connections the rest of the weekend - and they were downright gentlemanly as we all sat up til the wee hours talkin about the music scene and some of their crazier antics on the road (like the time Blair rode his motorcycle on the sidewalk in Times Square!)
Their all-original CD titled "Been Up to the Devil's Business" was recorded live (no overdubs) in Woody's living room, produced and engineered by Grammy award-winning engineer Dino DeStaphano. This live recording captures the essence that is Hwy 13 - the only way you're gonna get a better feel for the instensity is to park yourself on a barstool at the Saint on April 10th when Highway 13 is slated to appear with King Kerosene and Josie Kreuzer!!!
And be sure to buy one of their gas station/bowling shirts with with the
Highway 13 patch sewed over the pocket to add to the cool things to wear in