Red Wanting Blue is a band that reaches you before they show up. They’re like Gary Oldman in Dracula, where, before you can even see them, you sense their presence has reached out and touched you. However, in this case that’s a good thing. Unlike Dracula, who will drain your life’s fluids and toss you to his undead female jackals, Red Wanting Blue is approaching you with hope and longevity.
Hope for the continued existence of a breed of band that churns out honest music while shunning the images of scarf wearing hipsters and phony, army jacketed Duane Allman’s. Longevity that allows the listeners a chance to digest the bands commercially crafted song imagery carved from a lifetime of “practice what you preach” at their leisure. They hope for that excited feeling you get leaving a show with that CD clutched in your pocket and a renewed passion for listening to new music.
Red Wanting Blue has been spreading that gospel for years now, going back over a decade with Scott Terry’s never ending infatuation with the road. I’ve read all about that lone highway and have discussed it directly with the group and it’s a public relations focal point that gets used a lot. But the group is exactly what they tell you they are. Road kings. RWB doesn’t actually call what they do touring, instead using the term ‘circuiting’ as they continually reach into different markets every few months, and never really end up leaving the road for more than a few days at a time.
It’s a timeless wandering throughout the country, looking for their next meal and audience. So I guess in a way they are like Dracula. But in a life seldom easy for any group, RWB has survived roadside tribulations that have crushed weaker bands and they have no problem telling the stories of that existence here on These Magnificent Miles, recently re-released on Fanatic Records (EMI) this summer.
Listening along on songs like “You are My Las Vegas,” I immediately got the ode to that bright lights town of risky, dark romance and chance. RWB wrap it all up in the chimey husk of acoustics, ukulele and reverb-drenched electrics and throw in a sprinkling of trumpets down over the ending. The thing I love about this is the imagery that pours out of the lyric like angry bees from a hive.
If you’re looking for the RWB commercial hit of the disk look no further than song number three. “Where You Wanna Go” sums up everything anyone is trying to say in pop music today with the best crossover appeal I’ve seen in quite a while. Uber commercial? Yep. Hokey? Possibly. But while the overall direction may seem to flow towards a fist raising Wes Scantlin meets Clint Black whirlpool, the chorus for “Where You Wanna Go” is unstoppable. This hybrid country, blue-collar rock and roll mix should focus massive new attention on the group from many walks of life.
“The Air I Breathe” is my second pick for strong, radio friendly appeal. Another example of crossover class, this mid tempo ballad winds and turns back through its own smooth and curvaceous passages. Like a blue-skied trip on California’s U.S. Route 101, “The Air I Breathe” offers languishing salvation and solace, reaching its destination via analog warm pianos, string arrangements and rhythm blasts. Smart and thick, this song evades common ballad pitfalls and sappy self-confessional sentiment like a quick-witted driver dodging a deer on the freeway.
Another notable song is “U.S. Bumper Sticker,” a song that sees the band cruising back into the deeper waters of alt-styled rock and roll featuring 4/4 drums, staggered bridgework and rock stance, dropped D choruses. The band grapples with current events and apathy in the USA with this song and it’s an angry hipshot as they lash out with, “Bless us with a curse. We must vote to make decisions. And liberty begins to look a lot like prison.”
Both sound and production is tempered thru the mind’s eye of producer Jamie Candiloro (Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, REM.) and captures an good measure of Red Wanting Blue live and free-falling in a small to midsize setting.
While I find myself to be a fan of the arrangements and overall writing style of Red Wanting Blue on These Magnificent Miles, songs like “Space Time” and “Finger In The Air” sound a little close to bands like Train or Nickelback and there is a lot of mid-tempo material here that holds the disk in a trotting gait instead of a gallop. However, I know that this is a re-release on a new label and that this is a sort of welcome wagon being laid out by the record company for broader audiences to become familiar with the band before moving on to the next project, so I don’t look at it as a horrible thing.
Their direction seems to be turning many more heads towards the band and after a decade of sweating it out against headlights, late nights and long drives, that success is well deserved. I would love to see them roll that Nashville smoke into their rock roots direction of 2000’s Model Citizen, a killer disk that got them noticed in the first place.
You can catch Red Wanting Blue live at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Thursday, Nov 18th long with special guest The New Rick Barrys, who will open the show. Thesaintnj.com or redwantingblue.com
Drummer Louie Appel Dies
Ask John Eddie and he will tell you straight off, Louie Appel was a major driving force in the band and their musical direction. Born in Long Island, New York, Louie’s dream of becoming the next Mickey Dolenz was something he saw come to fruition many times, moving way past his wildest fantasies as he mixed with the elite of Gospel, Bluegrass, Rock and Roll and Pop. Louie had one of the most versatile drumming resumes in the New York area and beyond.
Lou Appel achieved many great things as a musician and has been attached to playing with huge stars such as Ronnie Spector, G.E. Smith, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, John Waite, Phoebe Snow, Tom Verlaine, Debbie Gibson, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Vivino, Al Kooper, Robert Gordon, Peter Frampton, Leslie West, Joe Lynn Turner and as drummer for John Eddie. He was a great guy who always had time to talk with fans and friends and as usual, will be one of the great New Jersey players that we will all miss.
John Eddie reached out on his website with this sentiment on his longtime friend, “Louie was a great ambassador for me and the band. He always had a hug for the girls, a joke for the guys and drumsticks for the little kids who looked up to him in awe… I was jealous of Louie because he was a nicer guy than me… he was comfortable with everybody and everybody was instantly comfortable with him. There will be other drummers… other shows…but when I get to the part where I introduce the band I know that by force of habit… and wishful thinking… I will probably say… ‘And on the drums, Mr. Louie Appel’… love u brother.”
From tympani to drum machines, Louie Appel played them all. Lou passed away in his sleep in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 17th. His wife Anne, mother Catherine and brothers Larry and David survive him.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Greene County Council on the Arts: Louie Appel Fund, PO Box 384; Valley Cottage, New York 10989, Greenearts.org.