Back in the ‘70s, John Denver wrote the line, “I’d no more love just one kind of woman than drink only one kind of wine.” Guy Forsyth takes a similar approach when it comes to playing music in general, and the Blues specifically.
Forsyth could hardly be accused of repeating himself, from band to band, from album to album, or sometimes from song to song on the same album. Take his last album, 2012’s The Freedom to Fail, for example; Forsyth and his estimable band swing from contemporary electric Blues to Springsteenesque anthemics to Delta chain-gang field stomp in just the first three tracks.
It’s always been that way with Forsyth, who was hearkening back to an earlier part of the last century with his all acoustic Asylum Street Spankers at the same time he was dusting rafters and blowing off roofs with the Guy Forsyth Band (GFB). His Spankers days are long behind him now, but he continues to record with GFB, and his return to the Cincy Blues Fest marks the first area appearance of his new aggregation, the Hot Nut Riveters, another authentic acoustic exploration. The Riveters’ debut album, Moustashe Girl, suggests a summit meeting between the Squirrel Nut Zippers and R.
Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders. It also helps to fill the void left by his departure from the Spankers nearly a decade ago
“I would say ‘fill a void’ is a good way to say that,” Forsyth says on a short break from the road. “I miss the experience of playing acoustically and it has a lot to do with the physicality of the experience. Playing electric guitar, you have a whole bunch of power at your fingertips, but the thing is if you play it harder, it doesn’t really matter. No matter how much you grimace — ‘I’m really, really playing this note!’ — it’s no different. It’s a physical experience playing an acoustic guitar or an upright bass or a washboard or an accordion or any one of these old tools that have been used for a long time to shake air around.
The music that comes out of the player playing an acoustic instrument can’t help but be affected by the physical ritual that’s required to do so. That’s part of the fun.”
As often happens with Forsyth projects, there is an occasional intersection of talent, but the sound and mission statement of the Guy Forsyth Band and the Hot Nut Riveters (comprised of vocalist/guitarist Nevada Newman, guitarist Matt Smith, upright bassist Kristopher Wade, swing guitarist/washboardist Albanie Falletta, guitarist/banjoist Mark Rubin and accordionist/horm player Oliver Steck) remains distinct.
“Matt Smith produced one of my more recent records, The Freedom to Fail, and so he’s done some playing with me, and I played with Nevada Newman when he was with the Asylum Street Spankers, and Kris Wade has filled in on bass in my other electric band, and I produced a record for Chris’ band, Ghosts Along the Brazos, so there’s a lot of cross-pollination in all of this,” Forsyth says. “And yet, the difference between the different projects that I’m doing is profound and primarily driven by the personalities, abilities and proclivities of the bands they’re in. I remain me in both bands.”
The Guy Forsyth Band has two new albums out — its latest studio recording, The Pleaser, the follow-up to 2012’s The Freedom to Fail and another stunning addition to his electric Blues catalog, and an archival live set called Red Dress: Live — but Forsyth’s most immediate concern is to spread the gospel of the Hot Nut Riveters. The recent rise of Folk’s profile in the mainstream doesn’t hurt, but clearly any success that the Riveters generate will largely be due to the dedicated fan base that Forsyth has built over the past 20 years, as well as the stellar players with which he consistently surrounds himself.
“With all the different artistic projects and different musical voices that I’ve been attracted to and attempted to ape, right now I’m focusing on the Hot Nut Riveters, because this is what’s up in rotation right now,” Forsyth says with a laugh. “The album just came out, we’re working it and we just found out we were accepted for the Americana Music Awards in September, so that’s really good news.”
Later in the summer, Forsyth will head to Europe to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his debut release, 1993’s live High Temperature, recorded by maniacal Dutch-doctor-turned-music-producer Sjef Willieman; Red Dress: Live was culled from the same five-and-a-half-hour show that spawned High Temperature.
“I guess I like a lot of different types of music,” Forsyth says. “I don’t want to not do any of them. There’s a level of success that eclipses everything else, but I’m not burdened with fame.”
Although the Hot Nut Riveters hew closely to the Asylum Street Spankers, he sees several distinctions between the two.
“I think the thing that’s different is that this is more similar to the origin of the Asylum Street Spankers, when I was still in the band,” Forsyth says. “It has to do with the individuals in it. There’s a great balance. We’re being very creative; we’ve been writing songs in the van as we’re driving from gig to gig. The harmonies are at a level that I don’t think the Spankers had, although there was a lot of time that I wasn’t in the Spankers — they had a long career while I’d been doing other things. But the (Riveters) show is evolving really quickly and in great ways. It’s always great to get together with a bunch of people who all have the same compass, and focus and create. It’s fabulous.” ©
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