“Alan Leatherwood sings Rockabilly Noir, a sub genre that Alan has always been interested in exploring further, and here are 12 songs that do just that. Alan himself coined the term, “ROCKABILLY NOIR”. What is “Rockabilly Noir”? Well, it’s a dark mood, an environment, an ambience- and it probably involves a cheating woman, a girlfriend or wife, or someone who steals your heart, your money, your car, and maybe, once she's out of your life, even your identity. Or perhaps she’s just the standard generic psycho, someone that could go off at any minute. You know the type. You run into them all over the place, in bars, on the Internet, and on Facebook. Have you ever met a woman like Glen Close’s character from “Fatal Attraction”? Sure you have. On Facebook. Facebook is crawling with them. Crazy, dark, haunted people. People with tattoos. People with metal ornaments sticking out of their flesh. People with bald shaven heads, and light bulbs sticking out of their mouths. These are the shadow people, the ones who took a hit to the head once too often. In movie terms, they are all part of Film Noir. Put them in to musical terms with the rockabilly beat and it suddenly becomes "Rockabilly Noir".
The actual productions of the original rockabilly noir records usually had a brooding instrumental environment about them, something that lets you know that the leading character in these songs is a tragic figure, and someone who is under emotional duress. Rockabilly Noir as a genre was never defined as such, but it’s always been a part of rockabilly music, the music that predates mainstream rock and roll, beginning with Elvis, of course. Rockabilly, which drew a lot of its muscle from blues, was more realistic and honest than the later teen angst profit- driven rock and roll. The first rockabilly artists all had an adult’s perspective about life, as most of them grew up in some kind of poverty. Elvis himself grew up near the Memphis ghetto in a welfare housing project. He had the classic background of any great blues artist, or for that matter, country artist. Despite the soft-core pornography that rock has evolved into over the years, rock and roll did start out as a legitimate expression of the human spirit, and a lot of it was tragic.
As interesting a mood that “noir” is, in the canon of early rock and roll, there were only three artists who actually based their entire recording personas on what might best be described as “Rockabilly Noir”; Johnny Cash, Sanford Clark, and Jody Reynolds. These three all recorded a number of songs that could fall under the “noir” banner. With Cash, it was just built in to his psyche and personality, a dark melancholy attitude, and a Spartan kind of “cool” and hunger. This went a long ways into making him a great cross over artist, equally popular to fans of rock and roll, country, punk and folk music audiences- even up to his death a few years back. It’s easy to hear that darkness that permeates his best work on songs like “I Walk the Line”, “The Next in Line”, “Home of the Blues”, “Train of Love”, “Big River”, “Give My Love to Rose”, “Ring of Fire”, etc. People related to that kind of stark honesty.
With artist Sanford Clark, it was the dark brooding lyrics of producer/writer Lee Hazlewood, and the low, twangy, guitar sounds of Al Casey. Each one of Sanford’s best records had a cinematic quality about them. Picture some poor punch drunk palooka in a trench coat sitting at the bar, someone like actor Robert Mitchum, telling his tale of loss and woe to the bartender and the other haunted souls sitting next to him, his sorrow being punctuated by the simple low notes of a guitar with a heavy tremelo. After Lee Hazlewood and Al Casey developed this twangy style, which is similar, but more foreboding, than the style created by Luther Perkins, Cash’s lead guitarist, Hazlewood went on to produce all of Duane Eddy’s hit instrumentals, most of which also had a “noir” quality about them, whose deep echo was derived from the enormous water tank outside of Hazlewood’s recording studio in Phoenix. Not as dark as Link Wray’s work, but Noir, nevertheless. “Rumble”, by Link Wray, was so “NOIR”, that it was banned on a lot of radio stations., because it actually caused people to riot. This was just an instrumental! So, “Rockabilly Noir” is not just a gimmick genre, it makes real, lasting impressions on people. In the Sixties, Lee produced Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made For Walking” as well as the cult Sixties duets he sang with Nancy on “Some Velvet Morning” and “Summer Wine”. These productions were all the natural extension and evolution of Lee’s earlier rockabilly work, which might be defined by this time as "rockabilly music on LSD, via Hollywood". “These Boots are made for Walking” is similar lyrically to Johnny Burnette’s “Little Boy Sad”, and any good rockabilly artist could have had a hit with “These Boots”.
Hazlewood defined Sanford Clark’s career arc with simply written songs that explored man’s quiet pain and desperation in classics such as “The Fool”, “A Cheat”, “As Sure as the Wind Will Blow”, “Man Who Made an Angel Cry”, etc. Imagine a man wandering the streets at three in the morning, not knowing what hit him when he let a cheating woman talk him into trying to rob the liquor store, a heist that went completely wrong, a mistake that cost him ten years in a California prison. That guy could have been Merle Haggard. The artist to draw that picture could have been Will Eisner, creator of “The Spirit”. But Lee Hazlewood could set it to music.
And, then there’s singer/writer Jody Reynolds, who was another artist to explore the darker side of love, and he was an early rocker to explore attempted suicide in his only hit, “Endless Sleep”. But he explored the dark side on any number of his follow up recordings, like “Fire Of Love”, “Closin’ in”, “The Devil Made A Girl”, “The Whipping Post”, and even in the folk/rock duet he did with Bobbie Gentry in the Sixties, “Stranger in the Mirror”. And maybe it’s no coincidence, but the ambience and environment of his records were also accented by the dark twangy tremeloed sounds of Al Casey’s guitar.
Al Casey used this twangy guitar style with Sanford Clark and Jody Reynolds before actually going on to become the leader of Duane Eddy’s studio band, “The Rebels”.(Some people claim that it was Al Casey who actually played the lead guitar on many of Duane’s hits, although Duane himself has offered irrevocable proof that it was himself, not Casey, who played the lead parts, particularly on “Ramrod”). Jody Reynolds recorded an instrumental record called “Thunder” (released as “The Storms”) which was obviously the same studio band that would become Duane Eddy’s backing band, saxophone and all.
Most of the popular rockabilly performers of the Fifties each had at least one or two songs that could easily fall under the “Rockabilly Noir” banner. There was Jack Scott with “My Baby, She’s gone”, and “Two Timing Woman”. Jimmy Bowen sang “Ever Loving’ Fingers” and “My Baby’s Gone”. Billy Lee Riley had “Trouble Bound”. Elvis had “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Mystery Train”. Carl Perkins had “Her Love Rubbed Off” and “That’s Right”. Eddie Cochran had “Dark Lonely Street.” Gene Vincent recorded “Race with the Devil.” The Burnette Trio’s “Train Kept a Rolling” was one of the moodiest records of all time, above and beyond it’s place in history as arguably one of the ten greatest rockers ever made. The list could go on and on. Rockabilly Noir is a great sub genre, and perhaps this new collection of songs by Alan Leatherwood will eventually help the public at large recognize it as the powerful force it has always been. “
VOCALS & GUITAR: Alan Leatherwood: DRUMS: Max Bangwell ELECTRIC LEAD GUITARS: Paul Penfield (2,4,5,8,9,11,12); Jeff Green (3,7); Memphis Mike Metzger (1); Danny Dickerson (10); Alan Leatherwood (6) BASS: Randy Chestnutt (1,2,3,5,6,7); Mike “Slaps” Metzger (8,9,11,12); Frank Thedford (4); Bob Kommersmith (10); KEYBOARDS: Bobbie Antes (5,6); Don Heddesheimer (8,11) Vocal harmonies for “Stones” by Alice Stewart and Danny Dickerson. Frank Parisi plays the short acoustic solo during the instrumental break on “Torture.” Sadly, we lost Frank Parisi during the recording of this album;
he was a fine musician and a good friend. This CD is dedicated to his memory. Cover art by Emily Melton. Produced by Alan Leatherwood