The Hooten Hallers – Back In Business Again
This St. Louis band is a roller coaster of rootsy rock explored in the past as well by the likes of The Del-Lords, Beat Farmers, Rubber Rodeo, Southside Johnny, the BoDeans, Chuck E. Weiss, Beat Rodeo & Canada’s Blue Rodeo. They’re in great company.
The Hooten Hallers’ energy level is high throughout even through routine stuff. The saxophones are delightful & the band doesn’t overstay its welcome. Short precise memorable songs. Everything is gritty & garnished with touches of rock ‘n roll, bad plumbing guitars grinding out twisted tones with plenty of Americana heart. Think Tom Waits with a sense of humor.
But it’s the diversification in their sound that’s most striking. There’s musical madness going on that doesn’t quite reach the level of classic Tom Waits, but their effort is commendable & peculiar in their chosen genre. They sprinkle novelty music with a serious intention as in “Now That I Know,” which is just cute. It’s a good upbeat dance tune but too typical compared to the ingredients that came from the first 3 opening songs.
But they didn’t slack off, just paused. Their music is like trying to hold Jell-O in your hand. It can get away.
Produced by Dominic John Davis (bass) the 10-cut, 33-minute performance on Back In Business Again – (Dropped Sept 9-Garlic Press) is a “trip.” With her excellent Gerry Mulligan-type deep-blowing Kellie Everett (baritone/bass & tenor sax/clarinet) also sings the jazzy “Even The Blues Get the Blues.” Her sax playing is actually the heavy sails of the band’s sound. The other musicians are just as important, but Kellie has the signature sound in her wind. She sets the group apart from Primus & Barenaked Ladies. Together this is a unit of expertise.
She supports John Randall’s vocals with finesse (guitar/5-string lap steel). “Cat Scrap,” brings a Howlin’ Wolf vocal from John Randall & mixed with a devilish harmonica (Ryan Koenig), deep bellowing sax (Mrs. Koenig, yes Kellie) it’s exciting stuff. At times it comes off with a Nick Cave refinement.
Some compositions have a bit of a Thelonious Monster edge (“Adios Lounge” with Waits) that segue into songs like their own “Van Killer” & “Broke the Spell,” – sounding like pure Captain Beefheart & quite good. There’s no mimicry here. They stretch out in formidable fashion splashed with Everett’s sax that comes off like Van der Graaf Generator’s David Jackson’s dual & triple classic sax attack on “Killer.” He was rock music’s admirer of sax legend Roland Kirk.
Highlights – “Back In Business Again,” “The Cobbler’s Children,” “Cat Scrap,” “Van Killer,” “Heal It,” (a vaudeville type reach) & “Even the Blues Gets the Blues” (beautiful). The balance of the group: Andy Rehm (drums/vocals) with John Wesley Myers (keys) & Hank Miller (trumpet).
Photo courtesy of The Hooten Hallers website & Kellie on monster sax courtesy of ACE Adventure Resort. CD @ https://www.thehootenhallers.com/