Now Dig This

GRANT GRIEVES Red Hot! Rockin’ Now & Then Wildhair Music WHWM 1423 Red Hot / Understand Your Man / The Gypsy / Folsom Prison Blues / That’s Right / Big River / Anything You Can Spare / So Doggone Lonesome /Rock Me Baby (Playing time: 28:50) Grant Grieves? The name did not mean a thing to me. Old Rockabilly? He’s not on any collection I have. He must be a great unknown. I went scurrying to my ancient copies of NDT. Jim Raper scribed a series with that same title that lasted for many a year. I had to go back to Issue No.48 (March 1987) and “G Part 5” to learn more about Mr. Grieves. Here’s what Jimmy had to say: “Kansas City artist Grieves at various times was part of Conny & The Bellhops and The Strangers—both Kansas City outfits—so it’s no surprise to find his solo releases were on the Big K label. Probably 60’s cuts, ‘Four On The Floor’, ‘Honky Tonk Fever’ and ‘Shake it Baby’ are all priced around £3.00 for originals but only ‘Four On The Floor’ has had a second showing on a long-deleted Injun 45. “Now that we all know as much as each other. I’ll get around to this new compact disc. Timing in at just a little short of 30 minutes, it features nine fine moments in music that sound as if they come from a seasoned pro rather than an “unknown.” Recorded in Nashville in the spring of 2002, it is unashamedly influenced by 706 Union Avenue. Grant shows his admiration for Sam’s Place by reviving six songs associated with this shrine to all things rockin’. There’s a nod to Texas too with a revival of Lefty Frizzell’s waxing of the Harlan Howard ditty ‘Anything You Can Spare’, plus a couple of originals thrown in for good measure. Things get off to a positive start with ‘Red Hot’ done in a style which moves away from the established versions by Riley and Luman. I was trying to think if he sounds like anyone else on this and I don’t think he does. An original interpretation, now that’s both novel and admirable! There are four Cash-associated songs here. There are definite Cash-isms on ‘Understand Your Man’ (heavily influenced by ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’) both in the vocal department and backing. Johnny Cash was/is so unique that it’s obvious when someone picks up his style. But don’t get me wrong, this performance is immensely enjoyable. There’s great instrumental support from Dug Grieves on guitar, Dave Roe on upright bass (from Cash’s latter Day band), Toad Grieves on Drums, Gordon Mote on piano and Kirk Johnson on harmonica. Naturally the band members aren’t featured together on all cuts but the individuals blend superbly when they appear. ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is more rockabilly than Big John’s and fairly pops along from start to finish. More great band support here. I’m impressed! I’ve heard so many inferior versions through the years. It does my heart good to hear a new rendition sung with such verve and enthusiasm. The sublime ‘Big River’ is such a great song, but unfortunately Grieves changes the great “cavortin’ in Davenport” line into “ported in old Davenport”! Why? N e v e r t h e l e s s , there’s still plenty of energy here. The slant on ‘So Doggone Lonesome’ sticks pretty close to the original, perhaps a tad brisker. It’s lovely to hear that upright bass and good simple basic guitar playing from the musicians. Of all the Carl Perkins songs to revive, ‘That’s Right’ might not spring to mind immediately, but it obviously appeals to Grant Grieves. He does it full justice without taking any chances with the production. It’s a good faithful rendition. The Grieves composition ‘The Gypsy’ has a ‘Big Boss Man’ meets ‘Milkcow Blues’ feel to it. The guitar work is a bit fancy for me at times with some overuse of that pedal thing. However, this is more than made up for by the tremendously spirited vocal that carries the whole thing wonderfully. Our hero is not totally hooked on rockabilly for he has included a fine Harlan Howard composition recorded back in 1967 by Lefty Frizzell. Delivered in a vocal style that is a mix of Frizzell and Ernest Tubb (both Texas boys). ‘Anything You Can Spare’ again features some quality backing including some appropriate harmonica work. As a Frizzell enthusiast, I can say that it compares well with the original. The set is rounded out with ‘Rock With Me Baby’, a moody slow rockin’ blues which features a strong vocal together with some pretty tough guitar and harmonica work. It’s always a surprise when an unexpected release like this comes along. Grieves handles things like a real master; there’s nothing tentative here. He goes for it and pulls the whole thing off incredibly well. One gripe: It’s a little short on tracks. Nowadays you could expect a few more, perhaps twelve or even fourteen. Nine appears to be on the meager side. Watch out for this on import lists (or give Bim Bam Records a call on 02380 600329) as it is worth listening to and having. And if Grant Grieves can turn all this into a stage act, putting in his own originals as mentioned earlier, we may get to see him over here at a festival. It could happen. Howard Cockburn

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