Mexican backhoe blues

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Last Saturday, Radio Social thought it was smart to have surf darlings, the Isotopes, play under a tent erected in the club’s grassy backyard, thus saving the roof from getting blown off, the walls blown out and the whole area blown up. 

The place has a retro “Big Lebowski” feel to it, which suits me just fine. “Over the line.” And they serve a great Sarsaparilla, too.

The ’Topes were celebrating 20 years in the music biz, but it was actually a reunion. In fact, every show you go to for the next few months will be a reunion with bands, many of them reassembling to mount the stage for the first time in over a year. 

So, we were all there celebrating with mucho jubilation as  the band unloaded their wild surf-instrumental tunes with a  backhoe and a decidedly Mexican giddy-up. Shattering the band’s all-instrumental rep, they invited hard rockers and show opener Violet Mary’s vocalist Mel Muscarella to rip it up on some George Michael and Elle King’s “X’s and O’s’’ without a shred of irony. It was sooo much fun.

I’ve noticed a lot of confusion on peoples’ faces when greeting one another lately and Saturday was no different. You’ve got the high-five, which is a little collegiate; the regular handshake, which should have left with the Nixon administration; the fist bump, which is only about 8 inches from a face bump; and one I’ve been testing on various venues around the time: the Covid Curtsy. Done like a classic curtsy. Only you recite “Good morning, Miss Fern.” 

Album review

Greg Townson

“Off and Running”

Hi-Tide Records

He’s toying with us, folks, just leaking out a whiff, a smidgen, a dollop, a dusting, a little at a time, just enough to leave us craving more. 

Yup, it’s Greg Townson with his new release “Off and Running” and, in particular, the single “Locomotion.” This long-player is the third in his all-instrumental Travelin’ guitar series—preceded by the already-classic “Travelin’ Guitar” and “More Travelin’ Guitar.” Townson is releasing the tracks one at a time. But this one is different. 

This time out, Townson has taken a break from his original storied songs and pure classic compositions pop joy to release an album stuffed with sugar-fried covers. But wait, there’s more. These classic cuts are all written or co-written by women, a theme Townson says he stumbled upon.

Where doing these songs strictly instrumentally is an interesting endeavor, the all-femme tribute approach is a subtle way for artists like Townson to dig in and put their stamp on it.  

All cuts on “Off and Running” have a splash-and-dash, bachelor pad royale swankiness and gentle swing that artists like Townson bring, like this week’s releases from the album: Little Eva’s “The Locomotion,” “Out In the Streets” by the Shangri-Las, and “Aztec” by Lady Bo. 

Townson brings the reserve so as not to steamroll the multiple melodies. Catchy as hell. And talk about an all-star lineup; this album was engineered by Townson with additional engineering from Todd Bradley and mixing by Pete Curry at the Pow Wow Fun Room in Los Angeles. 

Other cats rockin’ the cradle are:

  • Pete Curry – drums
  • Ray Jacildo – piano/organ
  • Dave Perrin – bass
  • Jasmin Guevara – drums
  • Jim Hoke – woodwinds/organ/banjo/kalimba
  • Lisa Pankratz – drums
  • Brad Fordham – bass
  • Graham Tichy – steel guitar
  • Pete Curry – drums
  • Jim Hoke – saxophone
  • DJ Bonebrake – vibes
  • Trevor Lake – drums
  • Eddie Angel – guitar
  • Yolanda Marvel – guitar
  • John Perrin – drums
  • Allyson Bice – vocals

This is an awesome album and tribute to Townson’s tremendous scope of influence. You can hear where the man is coming from and where he’s been coming from all these years. Pick up this record and come along for the ride. 

You can catch Greg Townson live, for happy hour, Friday July 23, at Abilene Bar & Lounge, 153 Liberty Pole Way.

Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On

Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.

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