Picture this: A guy is standing in front of a room full of relatively unenthused university students. It’s lunch time. He starts strumming on his guitar. Plays a Johnny Cash song, a Johnny Paycheck song, then deciding, after reading the crowd, that maybe a Beatles or Jimi Hendrix song might work better.
People start drifting away with a quizzical look on their face, whispering to each other, some shaking their heads in confusion. Unmoved down front, a small gang of dedicated nerds, some from the local campus radio station aren’t moving. The guy finishes his set by making some remarks about how lucky those wandering off are to have their parents paying their way for a solid education.
He opens a bag of stuff and the small dedicated cadre of nerds whip out their cash for a copy of Eugene Chadbourne’s latest homemade cassette, wrapped nicely in a piece of photocopied artwork in a Ziploc bag. It’s a collection of blues songs going back to the Alan Lomax recordings, made on a four-track in his basement. This was 1986.
It’s hard to describe Eugene Chadbourne to people. He is a mix of country, bluegrass, psychedelic, Americana, freak, vaudeville, avant-garde, Jazz, hillbilly, noise, stand-up comedian…all that and a few things missed.
It is safe to say that Chadbourne is, on the one hand the most hardly recognized independent artists in America, but also the most ubiquitous and revered musicians in America, having played with some of the biggest names in alternative jazz, rock and country music while soldiering on as one of the most dynamic solo performers on the planet.
The list of luminaries who have performed and recorded with him can be seen online, some on YouTube, where you can hear/watch Eugene integrate his signature improvisational style with such musicians as diverse as John Zorn, Evan Johns, Camper Van Beethoven, Paul Lovens, and Jimmy Carl Black.
These days Chadbourne has decided to stick with the Banjo as his main instrument. As he strums through some classics, he can feed his virtuoso playing style with a more jangly sound that better meets the tone of his unique approach to interpreting American music, you get the sense of a painter reinterpreting the classics on the spot. He tears through the lyrics, inflicting his editorial perspective –easy as a former draft-dodger journalist who once worked for the Calgary (Alberta) Herald, while taking the music in unsuspected directions only to fall back on a recognizable theme, allowing the audience to connect just long enough for another foray into reinterpretation.
With literally hundreds of releases, some on vinyl, some cassette, others on homemade CD, the tome that is the Chadbourne archive starts around 1976 and winds itself up to the present day. As he likes to say, if you take care of the music, it will take care of you. So far, Chadbourne’s music has been taking good care of him.
More on Eugene here: www.eugenechadbourne.com
Win Free Tickets to see Eugene: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following question: Which double album did Eugene Release in 1987. Hint, it has an orange cover. Correct answers will be selected at random. Please let us know which show you’d prefer to attend in the subject line, Anacortes or Bellingham. You will be notified the day before the show.
Thursday, June 15, 7:00 pm Kennelly Keys in Anacortes with Ever Ending Kicks and Memory Boys. Advanced tickets at The Business
Friday, June 16, 8:00 pm at The Alternative Library, Bellingham w/ Squirt & Squeal and Danny Vogel Advanced Tickets at Avalon Record Shop