September-October 2007  

DOWN HOME WITH THE GOIN' SOUTH BAND

BY JOEL OKIDA

  There lies a musical posse scattered across the vast disparate and desperate basin and valleys of Los Angeles, men who strum along according to the book of who-cares-what's-on-the-pop-charts. gsb___press_photo_400.jpgFrom bluegrass to blues and from ballad to cowboy waltz, the varied art of the American troubadour gets a shot in the arm when a cadre of the Southland's best musicians get together and stay in one place long enough to record a sample of the Americana roots music rainbow. The Goin' South Band rounds up Rick Shea, Cody Bryant, Paul Lacques, Vic Koler, John Zeretzke, Fred Sokolow, and Rick Cunha, each taking time out from their solo and sidemen projects, and presents them as educators and purveyors of various forms of the traditional American musical songbook, not the bright lights of Broadway, but tunes that would perhaps be found down the road a piece and headed mostly southbound.

Goin' South's, Home in My Heart is produced by upright bassman and mandolin player, Vic Koler, and the musical direction is provided by fiddle player, multi-culti-composer and GSB founder, John Zeretzke. With those two actively participating in the band, the music gets a significant push by their vision and guiding hands. It doesn't hurt that all the remaining musicians are extremely good at what they do. Putting their own careers temporarily aside, they put forth a cooperative effort on this project and produce a gem of an album. That being said, every musician gets a chance to shine either through a self-penned tune or on any number of saw blazing or axe picking solos. This is the local string bending supergroup you want on your next recording or working live along side of you, whenever you want to elevate the goods or your image. Contrary to the stereotypes of crack musicians, they also would be the regular guys you'd want at your house playing their ass off on every lame song request, all for a beer, a rib or two off the grill and a decent round of oooohs.

Among the highlights, Cody Bryant and Rick Cunha vocally set the tone for the recording, carrying the title tune while the boys keep the tight and hot stringed instrument accompaniment afire with co-writer Paul Lacques slipping in dobro riffs in a charge up and down the song. Cajun Train features Cunha's vocals on an infectious two-step and where a button accordion might have been, Zeretzke's fiddle playing and Lacques' dobro ably fill in. Prolific teacher and guitar/banjo man extraordinaire, Fred Sokolow, offers up "Couldn't Care Less", meshing a strong country blues element with what seems to be a side of Celtic sadness seeping into the melody. His Fourteen Years features his slide guitar driving home the lament which pulls at the heartstrings as a Zeretzke viola accompaniment deepens the color even bluer. Boney Mountain Breakdow", an instrumental showcase from Vic Koler allows Zeretzke to flash on the fiddle and guitar work from Rick Shea and banjo picking by Bryant nicely underscore the melody. Like most of these musicians, Shea is an accomplished singer/songwriter and desired sideman and he punctuates his distinctive vocals on Shinbone Alley with some fine fretwork while Zeretzke's Stroh violin and Lacques' dobro weave in and out of this old time dirge. Cunha's reassuring and warm vocal take on his own Here Today, Gone Tomorrow eases thoughts of the inevitable and dreamily poses thoughts of reincarnation while his voice complements Zeretzke's haunting Cherokee flute and fiddle melody on Our Mother's Land.

  These tunes, all original compositions (except for the GSB-arranged traditionals, Black-Eyed Suzy/Suzanna and Lost Indian) would almost have you believing that they were written in eras long past. Some conjure up images of a depression-ridden soul singing the plaint of a forlorn life or love, some evoke the visage of a broken down cowboy or dustbowler kicking the last embers of a campfire, one which reflects a life burnt out rather than the source which can kill an evening chill. Still others would have you believe they were sung on a Cajun or Appalachian family porch, well after the day's work and inspired by the jug being passed around. This music has the air of authenticity and maybe it's because these guys might play it better than the originals. If not, they could sure give the old timers a run for their money.

 In the imaginary heartland of southern California where the deer and the antelope play (mostly at the zoo), and somewhere in this hazy fool's paradise where seldom is heard except on a cell phone, there walks a bunch of guys who ante up songs to those who want to hear a lyrical and very musical take on American dreams that went thataway, not straight ahead.

 

Goin' South Band is:

John Zeretzke - Fiddle, Stroh viol, Cherokee flute, and vocals.

Vic Koler - Upright bass, mandolin, washtub bass, and vocals.

Rick Shea - Guitar, mandolin, and vocals.

Cody Bryant - Banjo, mandolin, guitar, and vocals.

Paul Lacques - Dobro, guitar, jaw-harp, and vocals.

Rick Cunha - Guitar, hi-strung guitar, slack-key guitar, ukulele, and vocals.

Fred Sokolow - National guitar, banjo, dobro, guitar, and vocals.

 

Home in My Heart is on California Swampland Records

www.goinsouthband.com