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The Reverend Horton Heat on the cover of Maximum Ink in February 2002

The Reverend Horton Heat

by Dave Leucinger
February 2002

He genuinely enjoys music - writing it, performing it, and recording it. He is steadfastly loyal to and respectful of his fans. But Jim Heath - better known as the Reverend Horton Heat - has some real issues with the two dominant forces in contemporary music: technology and corporate control. In a recent telephone interview from his home in Dallas, he discussed how these elements have alienated him from the mainstream - for better and for worse.

“Since we did our first record, the Internet and web sites have become more important,” Heath said. “But I’m confused about the Internet. I think the way it’s looking, the music will eventually just be free, and that’s not an easy pill for the industry to swallow,” he said. “For us, we don’t rely a lot on the recordings - we get our revenue off tickets and merchandise. I’m so far from the industry, I don’t have the slightest idea of what will happen. But these bands could stand to lose millions.”

An explosion of computer technology in the studio also has Heath riled up. “Since the 1970s and 80s, we’ve been moving into a world where it’s not the sound of the live band,” he lamented. “You put down the drum tracks, then throw in other loops - it takes fuckin’ forever for an album. It’s defining how music is being written and composed. And all they’re doing is turning knobs, while kick-ass players - people with real talent - are passé. It’s those posing knob-turners who are being marketed.” Brace yourself, folks - he points to one of the iconic rock acts as establishing the trend. “Sit and listen to a Led Zeppelin album - they had three guitar parts and three vocal parts on the records. It was all done with overdubbing. I question the validity of that - when you realize that it can’t be reproduced live. Technology has taken music to a weird place - way out there.”


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Clarence Gatemouth Brown on the cover of Maximum Ink July 2000

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

by Dave Leucinger
July 2000

an historic interview of this legend of the blues and grammy winner, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. Brown passed away in 2006. RIP Gatemouth


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International artist Bernard Allison on the cover of Maximum Ink in June 2000

Bernard Allison

by Dave Leucinger
June 2000

“My dad told me to never be a copy cat,” emphasized guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Bernard Allison in a recent telephone interview. “He told me, ‘you’ll have influences and idols, but you’ll need to put yourself into what you play.’” Allison, son of late titan Luther Allison, has taken his father’s message to heart in a career that reaches back more than 15 years. “I’m doing what I’ve always done – mix a 12-bar blues tune with a couple of rock tunes, and a couple of funk tunes.”

Contrary to many perceptions, the senior Allison was not the foremost musical teacher in Bernard’s early career. “There wasn’t that much teaching at the musical level,” Allison said. “I taught myself how to play guitar and sing pretty much on my own, although he showed me how to play a few things. But Our relation was more like brothers than father/son.” Bernard did note that his father gave him sage advice on other aspects of the business, however. “He did teach me about the road – but I also learned a lot from my 3 years with Koko Taylor.” That apprenticeship with Taylor, and later with Willie Dixon’s Blues All-Stars, saw the teenage Allison emerge with more of his own voice, further developed through tutoring by Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. So zealots who expect – or hope – that Bernard will develop into a clone of his father will be disappointed. “A lot of our music is naturally the same,” Allison said.  “Early on, there was a lot more stuff where I sounded like him. But now, you can hear a song and tell if it’s Bernard or Luther.”


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Ray Condo and his Ricochets on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 2000 - photo by Dan Zubkoff

Ray Condo And His Ricochets

by Dave Leucinger
May 2000

He’s 46 - well past living the life of your typical traveling musician, complete with vans, hotels, late nights, and lots of driving. But Ray Condo isn’t your typical anything. So he’s able to fit in quite nicely - lead the pack, actually - when the usually independent rockabilly world unites at festivals, such as last month’s Viva Las Vegas. “They’re pretty special,” he said of VLV and its kin. “It’s a ‘meeting of the tribes’ where the culture comes together once or twice a year.”

Amongst those tribes, Condo certainly rates as chief - or at least elder medicine man. The potions he mixes are old recipes - first blended in the 1930s at dance halls between Tulsa and Austin. It’s a concoction known as western swing - a blend of instrumentation and rhythm uniting the Kansas City swing of the era and early electrified country, complete with singing pedal steel guitars. “The draw of western swing is that it has so many modern elements - like speeded-up guitar and a tough rhythm section. These were the elements that formed early rockabilly and rock & roll.” Through the 1940s, artists such as Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys and the Light Crust Doughboys sent many boot heels tapping. “By the late ‘40s, Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell stripped the music into smaller combos - they were the Louis Jordans of the western scene. They put an end to those bands.”


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Big Sandy in the foreground with a Summerfest montage in the backround

Big Sandy And His Fly-Rite Boys

by Dave Leucinger
June 1999

Robert Williams, AKA Big Sandy, seemed to pick the right time to take a sabbatical from touring. Last year, at the height of the neo-swing movement, he was relishing in a solo west-coast doo-wop album, while his Fly-Rite Boys bandmates were soaring through a guitar pickin’ jamboree heavy on instrumentals. So instead of trying to lose the albatross that “swing” has become to some, Sandy and his band have picked right up where they left off - if not a few steps ahead for the rest. “I’ve been trying to be careful to not align myself too closely to any one scene,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “When I first started, I didn’t want to be part of any scene, but rather to create my own scene. Trends come and go, but we’ve continued to go along. I’m glad we’ve done it that way.”

That way has covered more than a decade as the Southern California-based group has criss-crossed the United States and Europe, building a following for up-tempo western swing and smooth hillbilly jump tunes. But while he edges away from typecasting in the retro mode, Sandy has built a growing group of followers in that camp – while also building awareness of the fruitful legacy of artists such as the Maddox Brothers, Boyd Bennett, and Merle Travis. “In general, the Europeans were ahead of Americans in knowledge of the music when I first started,” he said. “But having some of these trends has helped increase awareness in America of the traditional styles of music.”


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Joan Osborne on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 1996 - photo by Dave Leucinger

Joan Osborne

by Dave Leucinger
May 1996

If God were one of us, and his tour of duty brought him to Milwaukee, it’s a safe bet that he’d fill more seats than Joan Osborne did at the Modjeska Theater. Not as safe a bet is whether he’d be able to sing as well.

With five Grammy nominations under her belt, the question wasn’t if Osborne would sell out the 1,800 seat Modjeska, it was how quickly. Imagine the surprise when hundreds of tickets remained minutes before the Kentucky native took the stage May 11. The crowd was sparse – you could walk to within ten feet of the stage without a problem – but its diversity read like an open book on Osborne’s critically-acclaimed major-label debut, Relish.

There were the pop fans, weaned on the radio friendly “one of Us;” the music fans attracted to the show by Osborne’s endearing spirit and warm, folkish charm; and those that fell in between, more than willing to bask in the glow of songs that aren’t motivated by anger and rage.


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