God’s Outlaw

An interview with Brian Smith from God's Outlaw
by Mike Huberty
July 2012

Paul Scharlau & Brian Smith of God's Outlaw - photo by Richard Perez

Paul Scharlau & Brian Smith of God's Outlaw
photo by Richard Perez

With a sound ripped straight from Sun Studio circa 1954, Milwaukee’s GOD’S OUTLAW plays traditional country and rockabilly music with acoustic guitar, stripped down electric melody lines, and a big plucking standup bass. Since initially forming in 2004 as a duo that performed JOHNNY CASH B-sides as a tribute (and that’s an influence you can hear immediately), they’ve grabbed the attention of the music industry snagging opening slots for acts like HANK 3, BASTARD SONS OF JOHNNY CASH, and DAVID ALLAN COE as well as the band’s singer and acoustic player, Brian Smith, picking up the honor of Martin Guitar’s Player of the Month this past April. They’re quickly moving into the spot vacated by Milwaukee’s dearly departed .357 STRING BAND as the standard-bearers of Wisconsin’s underground country movement, and in June, they released their first EP, “Poetic Justice”.

Smith started singing when he was 10 and his parents were given a player piano (“The kind you put paper scrolls in”, he describes) and like every little kid in the 70’s, fell in love with music through the magic of KISS. He played in several different area rock bands in the 90’s and that teamed him up with GOD’S OUTLAW’s electric guitarist,  Eric “E-Man” Bulgrin. After the last incarnation of their rock band, DOUBLE LIFE, faded away, the duo decided to move into a completely different musical direction, “rebel country”. Since then, they’ve brought in Paul “The Wrecking Ball” Scharlau on upright bass to complete the classic sound.

Recorded and mixed by Milwaukee music all-star, Jeff Hamilton, “Poetic Justice” has a dark and haunting sound. “I had a dream that I came home to find a strange man in my house.”, Smith says, discussing the inspiration that led to the name of their debut recording. “I held my Smith & Wesson to his face and before I could pull the trigger he died of a heart attack. In the dream I was sent to jail anyway. I wrote about that. It’s a dark spaghetti western.” Another track that Smith thinks is particularly good for first-time listeners is “U-Haulin’”, a song he describes as “a story about redemption after fighting with the little lady, it’s fun and has a great beat to kick to.”

GOD’S OUTLAW plays music about “Fighting, drinking,  and having fun with your friends” and they’ll be performing at Atwood Summerfest in Madison on Sunday July 29th. Smith describes what you can expect from one of their shows as “lots of drinking, laughing, yelling, dancing and people surprised we play ‘that song’.” With a repertoire that includes over eighty songs by Johnny Cash alone(!) in addition to MERLE HAGGARD, WAYLON JENNINGS, HANK WILLIAMS (all of them), and their original songs, you can count on GOD’S OUTLAW to keep traditional outlaw country going in Wisconsin.

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God’s Outlaw
CD: Poetic Justice Record Label: Self-released