2018 CD REVIEW
8 BALL AITKEN
SWAMP BLUES (RED ROCKER RECORDS)
8 BALL DITCHES BANANAS AND CANE FOR HIGH WATER SWAMP
“River rose in 62/ well Mr Shelby still ploughed with a mule/ rained like hell five days long/ knee deep in mud and pasture bone/ high water come again someday/ build your levee and hope and pray/ build your levee or you'll wash away.” - High Water - 8 Ball Aitken-Guthrie Kennard.
It's a long journey from banana picking and cane cutting near Mareeba in Atherton Tablelands to recording in Texas hill country town Wimberley but this much travelled troubadour excels.
Expat Queenslander Aitken's 10th album Swamp Blues , inspired by his Deep South environs, is aptly titled.
The 36-year-old name-checks blues mentors in Six Stringer and explores Mississippi in High Water - one of two songs written with Texas bluesman Guthrie Kennard.
“ Six Stringer pays homage to as many of my blues guitar heroes as would fit into a 4-minute song with two lead guitar breaks,” 8 Ball kindly explained about the song that references John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson B.B. King and many more.
“ High Water is a Mississippi groove (co-written with Guthrie Kennard) warns to take heed as the storm rolls in.”
And for those who desire a culinary hit between gigs and the grave there's more.
“ Mama's Cookin was co-written in Guthrie's place and describes how life in the Deep South revolves around fried chicken,” 8 Ball added.
“Guthrie also contributed to the low backing vocals.”
So who is Guthrie Kennard?
Well, one of his web pages is in French - no doubt to cater for his Cajun fans.
My French studies were two years in the dark distant past in 1962-63 and my efforts to make the French word for postman a staple sledge on the footy field was not a howling success.
Kennard left his Richmond, Virginia, home at 14 to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, where he signed with major promoter Bill Lowery before being sent home where he mixed music and study.
Guthrie moved to Texas in 1968 to stay with his Texas cousins and be with a friend who was stationed in El Paso, waiting to be shipped out to Vietnam.
He bounced between Texas and Virginia for a couple of years but cut his chops in the Lone Star state with artists diverse as Smokin' Joe Kubek & Doyle Bramhall, Sr. on Bird Records, and opened for artists diverse as Robin Trower, John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Leon Russell and Donovan.
He also played with Rocky Hill, with Brett Reid & Uncle John Turner, and opened for Texas music legends ZZ Top, Fabulous Thunderbirds , Johnny Winter, Delbert McClinton and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Guthrie and Brett joined drummer Jimmy Blueshoes Pendleton to form The Hippie Dogs - a band with “the soul of a hippie and the howl of a dog.”
In more recent times he recorded a solo CD Ranch Road 12 , produced by veteran Oklahoma born and latter day Texan outlaw Ray Wylie Hubbard.
That brings us back to 8-Ball who recorded his 12 track album at Yellow Dog Studio in Wimberley - latter day home town of Ray Wylie and where Kevin Welch lived before moving to the NSW south coast with his Aussie born wife.
IRON HORSES RULE HIGHWAYS
“Motor humming and the wild wind blows/ hold on honey and I'm coming to you/ we were born to ride the iron horse/ thunder and lighting, freedom is not slowing us down.” - Iron Horse - 8 Ball Aitken.
Aitken ignited international cross fertilisation by adding Michael Caruana's Hammond Organ at the Percy Street studio in Melbourne and his harmonica at Wildlife Studio in Airlie Beach between cyclones.
The hook heavy dream drenched album entrée Apple Tree segues into riveting romance plea Lindy Loo accompanied by a video we feature on Nu Country TV.
“ Apple Tree was written in my sleep and the song was still in my head when I woke up, so I recorded a demo straight away,” 8 Ball explained.
“The lyrics, chords, groove, and melody are all basically the same as the dream.”
“ Lindy Loo takes my breath away,” Aitken says of his video propelled single, “it's all there.”
Aitken's bikie freedom anthem Iron Horse is a vast contrast to love lament Drop On By .
“ Iron Horse is a tribute to the rhythm and freedom of the road and my first biker song,” 8 Ball explained.
“ Drop On By is a gentle song about love and friendship and being there, taking care of those in need.”
It's perhaps a sibling song of Say You Love Me .
“ Say You Love Me is about trusting, understanding, and knowing that someone loves you by their actions not by their words,” the artist revealed.
Maybe when the singer's character drowns his love sorrows in booze staple Sweet As You it's a perfect segue to Drunk And Stoned.
“Sweet As You is a tale of a man stumbling home drunk after losing his woman,” Aitken explained .
“Drunk and Stoned is for all the late night rowdy characters who fill the dance floor and features 3-string cigar box guitar and kazoo.”
Ah yes another Texan, Little Jewford, entertained audiences with kazoo on Australian tours with singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman.
It compliments fitting finale Love Makes The World Go Round - the art of compromise - in a Tony Joe White and J.J. Cale cued capsule.
“ Love Makes The World Go Round is a Mars vs. Venus battle of the sexes theme that results in compromising and meeting in the middle to get along,” says 8 Ball whose 2018 Australian tour brings him to Paynesville Wine Bar on July 27 and a private concert in Sale on July 28.
Aitken punctuates his Queensland and Northern Territory gigs with Texas and other U.S. dates.
Further info - http://www.8ballaitken.com/Tour