GTC EXCLUSIVE: AWSDOTR’s Hardy Hum Goes 5 Influential Albums + I’m Bad News
AWSDOTR – I’m Bad News is available now at Apple Music.
by Hardy Hum
When asked to name five albums that have influenced my songwriting and, I suppose, my style of singing and playing, my first reaction was: “Yes, I wanna do that!”, just to, almost immediately, capitulate completely before the sheer vastness of the task that calls for narrowing about thirty years of life in music to five musical still shots, entangled somewhere in the messy junkyard of experiences, amongst all the other things that leave their mark on your soul like poems, paintings, novels, encounters, situations… that together make a life narrative.
My guess is that any objective account of what five albums actually shaped an artists musicianship and artistry is forever beyond her/his reach. So, the best I can do is give glimpses of what five albums are tickling my senses right now. Consequently, my answer would probably vary considerably if I was asked yesterday, tomorrow, ten years ago, or in about a year or two. But here it is, unfiltered and with love.
Etta James – The Sweetest Peaches [Part One (1940-1966)]
This is a collection of released singles from one of the best voices in music history during her most productive years. Although all songs are absolutely breathtaking – both with regards to the songwriting, arrangements, and Miss James’ performance – the one I always keep returning to, sometimes listening to it on repeat for hours – is the closing track “In the Basement – Pt. 1”. Here, James is way beyond singing, she tears through the words with such a feeling and power that just commands respect. The arrangement with a playful choir of party people is spot on and the console overdriven guitar solo is otherworldly. Listening to it, I often find myself thinking: “If you can’t get yourself to feel it like this, then why even bother singing?!”
Howlin’ Wolf – Blues From Hell
Long time ago, I got me a double LP called Blues From Hell that is essentially an anthology of one of the finest blues masters of all times. I think this was the first time I really got music at the gut level – I understood the importance of feeling. You can’t find it on streaming services but you’ll get close enough with some of the other featured collections like The Genuine Article, The Definitive Collection, or similar. My favorite track from this album is “Who’s Been Talkin” in spite of the fact that my beloved Hubert Sumlin didn’t play the strings on this one. But the line up is next to divine nonetheless and the song is from Wolf’s best period (late 50’s). It is built on a heavy groove but without all the conventional overdriven guitars and groovy piano blues-hooks. There’s a call and response thing going on between Wolf’s harmonica and the saxophonist Adolph Duncan’s melodica line that carries the power of gospel. The lyrics give away a regretful man, left alone because he mistreated his woman and who also acknowledges that it’s his own fault by, for the time unusual, concluding statement “I’m the causing of it all”.
The Coasters – 20 Greatest Hits
Now, this is a wild card because I must admit, I’m not a fan of any early boyband doo-wop kind of thing. I’m not at ease with too much cheeriness and humor in music. Somehow I just don’t believe it. But I kind of stumbled over a track from this album that just completely blew my mind and I’m loving it, lyrically, the arrangements, the singing – everything. The track is called Down Home Girl and it opens with this groovy horn section followed by drums and bass and it just opens up when vocals come in and is so hooky you can’t standstill. Everything about it is just excellent! And perhaps the best thing is that when listened on repeat you can hear the huge difference in tempo between the end and the beginning of the song revealing that, back then, musicians didn’t play along with click tracks, there was nothing added afterward – it was just one bunch of people, one room, one take – and pure gold. I think that today’s endless editing possibilities in music production have brought us closer to perfection than we’ve ever been before. But perfection doesn’t resonate well with music though. On the contrary, it’s all those small imperfections that give character and meaning to any piece of music. Most songs today are so washed down, perfect to the smallest detail but completely without life. We all need us some The Coasters to keep ourselves from forgetting that.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Up Above My Head
What can I say – Sister Tharpe sang better than B.B. King, played guitar better than Chuck Berry and was far better live performer than Muddy Waters – and yet she’s almost absent from nearly most history books about music and especially the heritage of Gospel and Blues. There can’t be no other reason but because she was a woman and the guitar-playing was considered man’s business. However, her legacy is huge. There’s a vast number of albums on Spotify – all from pure gospel swing, rock, blues, a combination of any of them… you name it, she’s got it. And they’re all good! My favorite tracks from this album are the gospel-rock “Didn’t It Rain” and more traditional bluesy and soulful “Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down”.
Dr. C. J. Johnson – Run To The City Of Refuge
This is raw power! The feeling, the roar, the collective effervescence of a congregation singing and clapping hands as one with a reverend Johnson blasting out words like there’s no tomorrow. Nobody does this anymore. Most punk and metal acts come across like Piglet and Winnie the Pooh in comparison – none of them nearly as confident nor fierce as reverend Johnson and his choir.
Ooooo, such a difficult task – I would AT LEAST, like to mention some others like:
Billie Holiday – Billie Holiday (favourite track “Strange Fruit”)…. but also some of the more temporary influences like Tom Waits – “Real Gone” (favourite track “Dead and Lovely”), Daniel Norgren – “Horrifying Deatheating Bloodspider” (favourite track “Mean Old Devil Got On”), C.W. Stoneking – “Gon’ Boogaloo” (favourite track “The Thing I Done”), Marc Ribot – Don’t Blame Me ( favourite track “Don’t Blame Me)
… somebody, please stop me, I could go on forever!
I’M BAD NEWS
+ stream the full And We Should Die Of That Roar Spotify catalog
Artist photo by Gunnar Hagberg
“This is a song about a lacerated soul that is desperately seeking salvation in friendship and confirmation but is so damaged that all it manages to accomplish is to make people hurt and disappointed. I’m Bad News is the first single from the outfits forthcoming full-length album Deathbed Lullabies, to be released autumn 2020.” – Hardy Hum
“In these trying times, the world is in need of unsung rock n roll heroes. Not plasticine or a facsimile of what’s hip at the moment, rather those who wear their soul and social conscience on their sleeves. Baring it all for the sake of truth and AWSDOTR’s “I’m Bad News” is another gritty masterstroke, an epic gothic opus, from the heart, mind, and realities of bluesman Hardy Hum that will shake you to your core.” – Walter Price (gtc)