Friday, December 04, 2009

Motel Santa

The Xmas songs y'all are here for are at the end of this post.

But, since it's Friday, it must be Deep Blues Friday. So why not take the time, while you're here, to check out our interview with, and some tunes by, one of America's great songwriters before heading on down for the Holiday tinsel. It'll be well worth your time.

We've written about Jim Mize before, and it's no secret he's one our favorite artists. He's a master lyricist, honed by the South, with a voice...well, here's what we said before, which we think still sums it up pretty well:

Mize is a..juke and VFW honed singer and musician in the vein of other Mountain favorites like Seasick Steve, Tom House, Cast King, and James Hand. He's been in the trenches too long to be pretty. He's taking you to a darker place, a wellspring of down and out beyond the cliches of the genre. His voice has a cracked weariness that matches his neon-lit, southern observations. Dark albums that rock, taking you to closing time with a shot glass and loneliness.

'Course we're barely scratching the surface.

We got a chance to meet Mr. Mize at the Deep Blues Festival, and he agreed to answer a few questions for us. Have a read and take a listen. It's really good shit.

A BRCM Interview with Jim Mize
(In which we learn about Ghosts)

Big Rock Candy Mountain: Tell us a little about yourself, where you're from and what you do. What type of music do you play, if you feel it even fits into a category?

Jim Mize: Well let's see; I'm from Conway Arkansas. I grew up in different areas of the state. I love this state and the south. I do limited touring; mostly neighboring states and cities. My home place for playing is the White Water Tavern Little Rock; it's been around for yours; you can smoke in there. I play mostly my catalog in which I've heard described from country blues; southern rock to Springsteen style. I hate to be categorized but I guess that's just part of the communication process.

BRCM: How did you come to pick up a guitar and start playing music?

JM: We lived near Memphis in the early 60's; got the Memphis TV broadcast; man, they had several music shows. And the radio; just AM; loved the mood that would come out of the thing. Picked up a Sears guitar in the 4th grade; hit my brother over the head with it; and haven't looked back since.

BRCM: Your music has a distinctly Southern feel, both in echoes of Blues and Country. Do you feel the South is a distinct influence on your work, or a merely a by-product of place and circumstances?

JM: Oh, the south is very influential on my music; hell that's all I know. I feel I could say a prayer with it. We believe in ghosts down here.

BRCM: Do you have definite influences, musically? If so, who best informs your ethos?

JM: My influences or taste, change a lot but I try and stay true to myself; I'm digging AA Bondy, John Paul Keith, Tom Waits, Chris Issac and gospel music on our community radio.

BRCM: Your lyrics have a literary quality to them. Do you cull from the written word when composing your lyrics? Who are your literary heroes?

JM: Lyrics; I should cull more than I do; Sometimes when I listen to a Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits or Townes Van Zandt; I'll turn the radio off and digest the mood of that particular song. It's like, thank you for sharing that with me.

BRCM: In keeping with your lyrics, many of your songs deal with folks gone sour in the world, loss, bad behavior done by folks who aren't necessarily bad, but have been pushed into Carver-esque circumstances. Do you pull from real life experience, or are they scenarios completely made up? Or a little bit of both?

JM: I believe there is a constant battle between good and evil, especially in our selves. Those battles influence our decisions; it makes us drunks; cheaters; hopeless idiots on one side and strong, humble and purposeful on the other. I pull from real life and observations. Like you feel so sorry for someone you don't even know. It's like you see them hurting.

BRCM: You're a Veteran who's played VFW halls over the years. How, if at all, does your approach differ between a VFW venue and jukejoint/honky tonk or, even, The Deep Blues Festival?

JM: Try and play to the audience; The VFW halls you try to stay clear of approaches by ugly women; juke joints you don't care. I'll usually play half and half; covers that I like and originals when they get drunk and don't care.

BRCM: Speaking of The Deep Blues Festival, how did you come to play there, and how was the experience?

JM: The Deep Blues Fest was a blast. I even picked up a couple of new dance steps from Dale Beavers. Fat Possum/ Big Legal Mess wanted some of their people to play and I have never been to Minn. Good times. I went to a hip hop club Sunday night and danced; one girl thought I was making fun of her when I danced. Hoped they liked my music and will invite me back. Loved the audience.

BRCM: You seem, lyrically, to have a connection to hotels and motels. Do you spend a great deal of time traveling, and do you find that this informs your writing? What is it about a motel...?

JM: I didn't realize there were so many hotel/ motels references; I use to work at a motel years ago; I remember many of those characters especially in the hotel bar.

BRCM: The musical landscape is continually changing, but some things seem to remain constants. Genres like Blues and Country seem to linger, but the approach varies. With a whole movement building around incorporating the Blues and Country into a more aggressive, almost punk sound. Do you find that this helps revitalize the forms, or do we lose something in the translation?

JM: For me it makes the music more exciting; I enjoy listening to someones interpretation.

BRCM: What is your favorite drink?

JM: Makers Mark / water; Big Legals official drink.

BRCM: If you went to the crossroads, who would you expect to meet there?

JM: The fucking devil; who else?

BRCM: What's next? We heard your plans for a 7" were scrapped. Do you have plans for more recording or touring in the future?

JM: Right now I'm going through band changes. I'm in writers mode. Oxford American Magazine interviewed me and is releasing a compilation of Arkansans from past and present on a CD which is exciting.

Now if that doesn't convince you, check out the following songs, pulled from his records No Tell Motel and Release It To The Sky.

Jim Mize: High (mp3)

Jim Mize: After The Storm (mp3)

Jim Mize: Let's Go Running (mp3)

Jim Mize: Release It To The Sky (mp3)

Now for the Christmas fun.

Mixed bag today. A little Rockabilly from Johnny Rabb, of the Neanderthals, who just wants to get lucky. The legendary Hasil Adkins takes on a classic, and gives it the Haze treatment. And the Street Walkin' Cheetahs (who we'll hear from again) sum up perfectly most folk's attitude towards the Season.

Santa Makes The Boom Boom Pow!

Johnny Rabb: Gotta Get Lucky For Christmas (mp3)

Hasil Adkins: Blue Christmas (mp3)

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs: I Wanna Die For Christmas (mp3)

Please support your one-man-band Carolers this Festive Season.


Anonymous said...

Jim Mize was one of the nicest guys at the Deep Blues Festival. Hopefully, he can make it back next year.

And, as always, the Xmas stuff rocks- especially that picture!


bigrockcandymountain said...

Let's hope there is a next year....