I have a friend who’s passionate about Michael Katon’s music, I mean really passionate. I like that. Passion! We need more of that in this world. I asked him what the best album to listen to would be if I wanted a sampling of the man’s music and he suggested Bustin’ Up the Joint, a live album cut at Howard’s in Bowling Green, OH. My buddy’s description was something like, “It’s blue collar blues with some boogie.” I had no idea what that meant.
Know this, I’m not very familiar with the blues. Many refer to Katon’s music as blues-rock, a sub-genre that brings the blues a little closer to my musical tastes. Hey man, my musical tastes are pretty broad. I’m a heavy metal fan at my core, but I like plenty of rock, classic rock, prog rock, easy rock, alternative, pop, hip-hop/rap, house, and classical music. Check out the list, I’m pretty well-rounded. Huh? Right?
Thanks for noticing. But the blues? I don’t own much, unless you consider The Black Keys… No? You’re right, their stuff nowadays is a little too refined to be called blues. Aside, The Black Keys seem to have overtaken AC/DC as the official band of TV sports intro/outro music. Squirrel!
So let’s get back to this term “blue collar blues with some boogie,” I had no idea what that meant. Nothing. But man, he was right on. Right on.
How do you like that short, repeated, non-sentence tactic I employed in the last para? Please give me your thoughts on that. Thoughts. Please.
I’ve been trying to simplify my life lately and this album embodies that spirit. The stripped-down beauty of a drummer, bassist, and lead guitarist/vocalist (Katon) from the Detroit area, playing at a small venue, in a midwestern college town (BGSU), had a big effect on me. My buddy says he was there the night they recorded this. It just feels right, and tangible, and it sounds great. Also, I’m not polluted by any studio sound because I’ve never heard any of his studio stuff.
It’s starting to make sense why both Adele and Pelican have struck such a big chord with me over the last few years. They also have aspects of stripped-down and simple. Adele sounds great without any electricity and Pelican makes great music without any lyrics. And both sound great outside of the studio.
Over the last month I’ve listened to Bustin’ Up the Joint in it’s entirety at least five times on long car rides during business travel. It’s really relaxing, for some reason. The lyrics may have something to do with it, blue collar is right. Let me give you a flavor.
Right of the bat, from the first song Rip It Hard, in throaty vocals:
Been all day since I seen my honey
been working ten hours tryin’ to make that money
slaving all day just to earn a dime
now it’s five o’clock and it’s party time
I’m gonna rip it hard
From the same studio album, No More Whiskey:
I drank enough whiskey to make a young man blind
boogied so hard then I lost my mind
no more whiskey
I don’t need no whiskey
living gets risky
when I drink that whiskey
Then there’s Get on the Boogie Train, which I think is one of his most popular. It has a bunch of somewhat familiar bluesy guitar sections and prodigious use of the word boogie. Three of the songs have the word boogie in the title, he uses the term in his lyrics often, and it describes some of his style. It’s a technical term folks, so don’t take it lightly. During this song he also wraps things up, thanks the audience, introduces his band. I love hearing that.
Yeah the boogie train
runs right on time
taking that load of boogie on down the line
ya know it never stops rollin’
catch it if you can
ride that train together
down to boogieland
get on the boogie train mama
ride it on down
After reading Guitar Zero, I’m trying to pay more attention to guitar tracks, bass lines, and arrangements, but I haven’t made any progress. I read that Wiki entry on boogie and I can’t make sense of it. I can tell that Katon is a serious guitar player and I can tell that I like it, but I can’t tell you why (not an Eagles quote). I have to do something about this, I know.
I’m on it.