Tuneage Tutelage - New Music Monday....

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, June 03, 2009


His name is Joe Croker...no, noT Cocker, as in Mad Dogs & Englishmen fame...but Joe Croker of today's music scene in and around Nashville.

I received an email the other day from Mr. Croker with an mp3 attached. I wrote back asking how he had found The Couch and his reply was "We saw you liked Hot Tuna & The Dead and thought you might enjoy this."

The song is titled "Well It's Late", from his 2004 CD SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

I hit the mp3 and let it rip. What filled my speakers is some excellent rock and roll music. The song builds from the rhythm section who lay down the foundation. On top of that is a layer of guitars and keyboards all swirling around a tasty vocal arrangement.

The musical break at the end is right from the heights of the rock and roll experience and hearkens back to the sounds of The Byrds.

Mr. Croker has a talent for lyrics...they tell stories and that is omthing not always evident in today's music...

They can take my job
They can take my car
They can take my guitar
Oh that’s going too far
Take my land of the free
One woman, one man, one vote
Sweet Jesus, democracy

But if they take you
I’m bound to die
They take away
They take away
The reason why

Mr. Croker is snail mailing to me both SHAME, SHAME SHAME and his latest project, released last year, GRACE & TRESPASSES and we will give you some more of the music from them and also offer up each of the CDs to two of you lucky guests.

The following is an interview done via email. I am going to try this more and more going forward. Musicians are - most certainly about their music - but we become fans because of the people who are playing the music and the more you know of an artist, the easier it is to appreciate their talents.

Hope you enjoy...

How did you get into music originally and who was your first musical influence?

My family was always musical in the appreciative sense -- so I grew up hearing show tunes, 70's pop, gospel, R&B, patriotic songs, holiday cheer, marches, the occasional Mexican, Irish, Hebrew, or French song, and the rest of it. My older brothers introduced me to a lot of stuff, but it was Joni Mitchell who initially got me. She was so strong and feminine at the same time -- gorgeously androgynous. I wondered what sort of man would fall in love with her, and then I discovered that it might be a kid like me.

Your short bio states that you were born in Kansas City and spent part of your childhood in Washington, DC, now you live in Nashville, how has those three cities influenced your sound?

In the KC I knew as a boy, I was influenced by campfire ballads and cowboy songs coming up from Texas. Dixieland, too, believe it or not. It was only later (again in KC) that I started listening to old Basie and Charlie Parker records, though I do remember being really affected by a beautiful, middle-aged female blues singer who I heard at an old theater that my parents had taken me to as a child. The songs that I've put out hint at some of those sounds, but I have quite a few in the can that go in all kinds of KC directions -- downtown in the booze-drenched rain, the old Greek restaurant Athena (now gone) on Broadway, jazz clubs, Ozark taverns, and such.

In D.C. I used to hang out at a Spanish restaurant near Adam's Morgan and listened to a lot of guitar "a la gitana." Also, there's still a restaurant there in D.C. called "El Chalan" -- Peruvian -- where Latin American diplomats dine on Friday night and dance with their wives. I loved the music in there. My sound occasionally veers in a Latin direction, though I don't have authentic "chops" for it. Wish I did.

Nashville is a great town for music. I hear everything here, but two guys and one woman really got in my blood when I first moved to Nashville: Walt Wilkins (up from Texas), Malcolm Holcombe (from the Carolinas), and Floridian Adrienne Young. I already had written a song for Malcolm, called "Snake Handling Man," even before I knew him, and playing with Adrienne and Walt, on the rare occasion that it happened, was an honor.

I also love the writers in this town and those who come here to stay a while -- great guys like Tony Arata and Mark D. Sanders and Holly Williams and Mike Reid and Thom Schuyler and Cliff Goldmacher and Heather Rigdon and Charlie Degenhart and Doug Hoekstra and Luke Powers and Kelleigh Bannen and Audrey Ball and Minton Sparks and Jim Tract and Don Schlitz and Dave Fredrick and a thousand others. You can't walk down the street without getting hit in the head with a good tune.

But the best thing of all has been the musical talent -- for me people like George Marinelli (Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby), John Jackson (Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams), Byron House (Sam Bush, Dixie Chicks), Jay Hager (Trisha Yearwood), Tommy Spurlock (Shania Twain, Highway 101), Vinnie Santoro (Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris), Mark Prentice (The Fairfield Four), Harry Stinson (Marty Stuart), John Gardner (Earl Scruggs, James Taylor), Eric Bikales (Tom Waits), Tom Hoey (Josh Turner), Matt Combs (John Hartford), Jim Hoke (everyone), Mike Radovsky, Jim Photoglo, Dave Jacques, and on and on and on.

Your music has a strong message. Your website opens with the song "Heal" from your newest release GRACE & TRESPASSES and the photo montage takes you by surprise. What are the most important ideas you try and portray in your songs?

I worry a little bit about those opening images -- they're so painful (from Civil War imagery to the Nazi camps to a letter from Paris before the fall as it scrolls over Hiroshima) whereas a website is by nature dispassionate and remote -- and then there's this picture of me and a soft pitch for the record. It's all a little off but somehow still full of pathos. But the song came from a deep human hurt, mostly vicarious of course, and so I just tried to inhabit the old "problem of evil" space. A lot of my songs are about taking up residence in the house of some longing or desire or sadness or ecstasy that I've felt but that maybe others have felt more intensely. You always run the risk of inauthenticity, but songs are dreams made briefly real, so that's the nature of it.

How did you hook up with George Marinelli, from Bonnie Raitt's band to first produce you and then appear on your Shame, Shame, Shame CD?

George and I met up through Mike Radovsky and Jay Hager. Jay had just left Trisha Yearwood's band and told me that I needed to meet George. We've been friends ever since. He actually produced my first record, too -- "All the Pretty Girls." My Irish cousin Joan came over from Europe in 2004 to help us work on "Shame Shame Shame."

What is on your calendar for the summer?

I've been in the studio with John Jackson, Byron, Cliff, Vinnie, Tom, Harry, and George lately -- doing a new record that will come out next year. Travel to DC sometime in July. I'll be playing at The Bluebird in Nashville (early August).

Is there one city you have not played in, that you are aiming to take on?

I don't gig much right now. I'm doing a lot of writing (and reading), but I'd love to go down the road to Memphis or Birmingham. Asheville and Knoxville, Indianapolis and Chicago, too. One of these days we're going to go back to England and Ireland. I keep thinking that somehow I'll just run into the great Ian Hunter (who is now in his 70s, I'm told) and accept a tiny cardboard match from him. Ian is one of the great ones, and it's unusual to be so strong (like Leonard Cohen in the late 80s and 90s) at this hour. Ian keeps a flame, and few people know of it, but like Dylan said, "the stars above the barren trees" are sometimes your only audience.

When you are not playing music, what keeps Joe Croker occupied?

I have a beautiful wife and two wonderful daughters, so we're always up to something. As a self-taught graphic artist (mostly small prints), I can go on days-long visual voyages. I also teach art and English literature, so I tend to stay busy.

Thank you Sir...appreciate your taking the time to let my guests here on The Couch get to know you a little better.

OK, so this is "Well, It's Late". Remember to use the poll option It is becoming more and more apparent that the musical talent that comes to The Couch is interested in your opinion.


15 Of Your Sparks

  1. TopChamp Says:
  2. Hello - I can't judge this kind of music. Voted not for me, but I suspect I'll end up in the minority. Doesn't sound bad to me - just doesn't float my boat.

  3. DrillerAA09 Says:
  4. Oddly enough, I hear a lot of The Guess Who influence here, maybe even a little Steppenwolf! He's not a great vocalist, but most rockers aren't. With a little better post production, this could be a really good sound.

  5. star8278 Says:
  6. Great song. I loved the first few seconds, the strong opening really rocks. Can't wait to hear more. I will definitely be checking amazon and itunes tonight for him.

  7. Bond Says:
  8. TOPCHAMP: Understood...not in your comfort zone.

    DRILLER: I am not sure I agree on the vocals. I like his throaty sound. Thanks

    STAR: Very cool...thanks

  9. ...finally! someone out there that knows how to write a rock song with MELODY and a great hook!..

  10. katherine. Says:
  11. not too shabby. hard to tell with just one tune...

    but I really like the interview stuff...a lot.

  12. Dianne Says:
  13. I'm caught up!
    That was one heck-a-doodle of a post for Turnbaby!! You're a good friend

    And I loved this interview, lots of really interesting stuff there

    can't listen right now but I will check later

  14. interesting stuff. I'd like to hear more.

    On a separate not, I heard today that Mat Kearney is performing at the local music "festival" (using that term very loosely) next weekend. I'm going to try and make it down to see his performance.

  15. Meribah Says:
  16. **Puppy sticks her head in, cocks her head, listens** Hmmm, not sure. S'okay, I guess. At least it doesn't hurt my ears! :)

  17. Travis Says:
  18. The interview idea is a good one.

    I liked the song. It's a sound I recognize. Like you, I enjoy the throaty vocal.

  19. Patti Says:
  20. I hear the late '60s as an influence here. Some parts reminded me of Cream.

    The interview was interesting, Vinny.

    I like.

  21. Dana Says:
  22. I'm loving the new Joe Cocker project! Great rock 'n' roll is difficult to come by these days.

    The interview is wonderful too! You always give us a plethora of artist information, but hearing it directly from the artist gives us a different perspective.

  23. JohnH985 Says:
  24. Love the music. I'll have to look for Joe Croker, he's good. Like the interview too.

  25. Tug Says:
  26. I really like this! Got me going on a 'meh' day at work. ;-) I like the interview idea as well, he sounds pretty cool.

  27. Mimi Lenox Says:
  28. I especially enjoyed the interview process. This guy has alot on the ball. Nice!


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