Another fine mix 10/19/08
Gary Shane takes Abashed and new spin on old cover to Blackburn stage
By J. C. Lockwood
Gary Shane is unabashedly continuing his recent musical excursions back into the future, spinning the work and the personnel just a little bit differently and seeing what shakes out.
A perfect case in point is the evolution of “Johnny’s Coaltrain,” the Ipswich rocker’s monster hit from the early ‘80s, when his band the Detour ruled the local airwaves and transformed a skinny kid with skinny ties into a bona fide rock star.
A couple of years ago, he took the song, a rock homage to John Coltrane, the jazz saxophone giant that pulled down some of the biggest numbers the WBCN had seen up to that point, and put a completely different spin on it by adding, for better or worse, a backing rap vocal.
Then, a little later, he hooked up with Collin Tilton, the guy who played saxophone on Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance” (also adding, just for good measure, North Shore Hammond B3 wiz Ken Clark) taking the tune into such a different, jazzy direction that Shane actually renamed the cut.
And next week Shane will unveil yet another version of the tune during the return of his short-lived (and recently reunited) country band Alan Laddd and the Abashed this one featuring E.J. Ouellette, the veteran Newburyport musician who currently leads Crazy Maggy, and blues harpist Richard “Toolshed” Pierce, both of whom will join him in a performance of the band that Shane put together in the ‘80s to play music that didn’t fit new wave zeitgeist of the Detour.
The band, which takes its name from the actor who played the lead role in the movie “Shane,” will perform Oct. 24 in Gloucester’s newly re-imagined West End Theater, where the band recorded a live album a little more than a year ago. The venue is now called the Blackburn Performing Arts Center.
After the performance, Shane and Ouellette, who also owns Pine Island Music Resource, a Byfield recording center, will head into the studio to cut a new version of “Coaltrain” and other Detour tracks.
“I’ve wanted to dust off some of these tracks for a long time,” says Ouellette, who will also perform as a sideman with the Abashed at and open the show as a duo with Maggy alum Peter Whitehead. “I think we can do more with them.”
And his decision to perform with Shane?
He made Ouellette an offer he couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse.
“I find it difficult to turn down any show with Gary,” says Ouellette. “He doesn’t let me.”
Ouellette played with the Abashed for the first time with Pierce, a frequent Shane cohort, playing harmonica at a private party last month in Merrimac.
“Gary insisted that I come down and I did,” says Ouellette, who played, briefly, with the Detour during its heyday, when the band scored huge hits with songs like “Shadow World” and “Man and Machine.”
“They fit like a glove,” says Shane, “trading solos back and forth. It was fabulous.”
The Abashed has an unusual history, coming together accidentally in 1985, when Shane, then a real estate agent, “discovered” Bittercreek, a country-western band, rehearsing in the basement of one of his clients. He asked if he could sit in with them. He had a notebook of songs that were never going to make it into a Detour album or show. They weren’t exactly country tunes, not in a traditional sense more like country rock in a Neil Young-Dylan/The Band kind of vein with some gospel overtones. They clicked, musically, and six gigs and nine months after getting started they were history.
They never actually broke up and no one, even Shane, can explain what happened, but the musicians drifted apart. More than two decades passed. And last year, just as unexpectedly, Alan Laddd and the Abashed bassist Juan de Fuco (Dave Spataro), drummer Gary Herald and, of course, lead guitarist Zippy (Dave Zitzow) and Brian Hallisey, got back together for what was expected to be a one-shot deal. The project has since been upgraded to at least an occasional thing. Hallisey, who has prior commitments, will not perform. Ouellette will play fiddle and mandolin with the band.
Like Shane, who’s real name in Gary Lavenson, Ouellette expects to perform at least one new song/video project currently making political and musical waves for him under a pseudonym Eddie Joe & the Redeemers. The tune, “Long Live Bubba Nation,” is a scorching attack on the so-called religious right and Republican Party although Ouellette, a self-described libertarian now “over the top on the Obama bandwagon, says the project “is not a political appeal, but an appeal to the conscience.”
The video, the first of several Redeemer projects in the works, is stirring up the pot on YouTube and Neil Young’s Living with War Web site.