Billy Catfish is a man about town of the highest order and a renaissance man to boot. The good-humored, sometimes-mustachioed/bearded bard has been a performing and recording musician since ’89, playing with numerous Experimental, Punk and Garage bands.
In keeping with our town’s musical zeitgeist, he’s currently doing the “laid-back Country-Folk Singer-Songwriter thing,” according to the press release for Half a Jug Full = No Deal, his latest effort on Tokyo Rose Records. While it’s tagged as a collection of recordings with The Lonesome Tumblers and “other assembled friends,” the disc is essentially a solo album — an excellently fleshed-out one with some notable names providing some notable sounds behind it. There’s an endearing duet with Wussy’s Lisa Walker, some propulsive drumming by Don Thrasher (who did time in Guided by Voices and Swearing at Motorists) and crystal-clear production work by ex-Greenhorne and recent solo man Brian Olive.
Louder and more musically energized than the above “laidback Country-Folk Singer-Songwriter” reference might suggest, No Deal is actually a solid, electrified collection of sometimes spare, sometimes rollicking tunes that thematically cover many of the bases you might expect and plenty that you might not. Catfish wearily sings songs about everything from whiskey and beer to VCRs and flashlights and strums big chords in front of a rhythm section vibrant and rocking enough to make the whole experience feel a lot more like classic AltCountry than mopey Whisper-Folk.
Even the more mellow tracks keep things interesting: “Pillbug Blues” and “Awesome” offer cool-sounding drones that provide a perfectly undulating atmosphere for Catfish’s simply-strummed acoustic guitar and lyrics like “You’re a suicidal sex kitten hittin’ the bong.” Good stuff.
The CD release show, a free event, goes down at 10 p.m. Friday at The Comet in Northside. Writer/spoken-worder Shawn Abnoxious and Minneapolis rockers The Sleaze open. (myspace.com/billycatfish)
Hooray for Herzog
On Aug. 3 the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation announced plans to memorialize Herzog Studios’ contributions to local and national music history by erecting a historical marker at its former location at 811 Race St. downtown (CityBeat happens to occupy the building's top three floors). In the 1940s and ’50s the studio hosted recording sessions by Hank Williams, Patti Page, Ernest Tubbs, Flatt and Scruggs and other notable “Country & Western” acts. Williams recorded one of his biggest hits, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” 60 years ago this month at Herzog. (myspace.com/herzogrecordingstudios)
‘Green’ Jazz in Eden Park
Here’s something cool (and free!) to do on Thursday nights in August. Check out “It’s Commonly Jazz,” Cincinnati’s 24-years-and-running Jazz concert series. Held at Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday this month, the shows are being touted as green-themed for ’09 (as they were last year), so they’ll include lots of local musicians, accessibility via Metro Park-and-Ride service, games to improve environmental awareness and many more “environmentally-sensitive” features.
As for the music, Trinidad-native and steel-drum legend Othello Molineaux plays with local Jazz stalwarts The Art Gore Quintet this Thursday. The rest of the series features Jim Connerley’s Vintage Keys (Aug. 13), acclaimed trumpeter Terell Stafford with locals the Erwin Stuckey Trio (Aug. 20) and well-traveled vocalist Mandy Gaines with her Dream Band (Aug. 27). (itscommonlyjazz.com)
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