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Husky holds the blues tight in his calloused fists, his fingers and heart hold the strings of his guitar where they are strangled, stroked, loved, and bent into his blues. Tough and tortured at times, thoughtful and barefooted at others, Husky Burnette's roots run deep through his music, and plays what he means. No posturing. No fedora, no ponytail. Just flat out rough, rollin' and tumblin' blues.
Now, full disclosure, I had the honor of being his drummer for two nights and it was a total thrill and challenge. We didn't rehearse, we just sat down and rocked out some blues, and had a ball. The next day at my house, we jammed out on a fast rockabilly drum beat, and that beat became a song on this album (with the great Dave Dowda on the skins,) called Rick's Late For Work. Because I was.
If you get the chance to see Husky Burnette live, you should go out of your way to do so. He usually works as a two-piece. I've seen him with a great drummer, a lacking drummer, and i've seen him solo. Regardless of the situation Burnett always rises above to reveal a terrific (in the true sense of the word) performer, a prodigiously skilled guitarist, and a powerful showman.
This interview took place over part of a morning in November via fB chat ::
It seems like you've been busier than ever this year. Touring pretty much constantly, working the new album. Looks like the tough years of slugging it out are paying off.
They seem to be I suppose. It's been a damn good year that's for sure. I try not to treat it like that, though. As long as I slug it out, day after day, maybe the good stuff will keep happening!
Speaking of touring, a friend of mine used to roadie for the Melvins and once commented that it's twenty-two hours of bullshit for two hours of bliss. How do you keep the road grinding drudgery from killing you?
Your roadie friend is right! That's a good question, and I really don't know how to answer that one. I think the best way to describe it is I go on knowing I have a job to do. And if I don't do it then its all shot to hell. So I have to do it, whether its killing me or my band or not. If I don't do the tours then nobody knows right? So when you do start getting brought down a bit you just shut your eyes, shut your mouth and keep going no matter what cause it's all for the cause.
It's nation-wide heavy lifting, man. I respect any touring band, but don't envy them. How'd you hook up with the guys from your new label Rusty Knuckles?
We made contact through mutual friends and Ralph, owner of Rusty Knuckles, made a point to watch my set at Muddy Roots 2012. From then until the end of the year we stayed in contact, talking about what I wanted and needed as an artist and what he wanted and needed as a label. All was well and right on both ends so I signed the contract at the end of February 2013 and here we are. Its been a busy year and it's been more than worth it. The label as a whole is more than family. I'm very content where I'm at right now. It's been a huge learning process too.
Judging from their roster it looks like a good fit for you. In fact, I gotta ask, when are you and label mate Kara Clark gonna start doin' a bunch of George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway-like duets? I'd buy an album of that.
We've actually talked about doing something. We've played a few shows together now, and when I slow down in December I can start thinking on cool ideas like this one.
I'm curious about the process of recording this album, and who you did it with. Your drummer on these sessions, Dave Dowda, tells me it took about five hours to record the whole thing. It was recorded by the nearly legendary J.B. Beverly...and you've got a bass player! Didn't you get the memo? No bass players allowed? I know we've talked about the importance to the boogie of that bottom end. I was glad to hear that lowdown sound. Who else helped out on Tales From East End Blvd?
Well, it took about a week to record. Drum tracks were done
Rebel Roots is JB's studio? And where is it located?
J.B. and Buck own it together. It's located in Fayetteville, NC. Great little spot. Secluded, quiet, rather perfect environment for doing what they do.
Come On, Carolina is such a stand-out track. It's different
I never expected to put this on any album (and definitely
never expected these guys
playing/singing on it). Maybe something like my acoustic EP from 2012 but definitely not my full length cause it's so different. I get bored when writing sometimes and think "this one sounds too much like the last one" etc. or "man, I wanna do a song like THAT one". So after a long two weeks of listening to singer-songwriter folk/blues/country type artists. It kinda just started itself with the guitar riff. It was going to be a Tennessee influenced tune about my home state. I started realizing I had more going on in the Carolinas at the time and how nice North Carolina had been to me as of recent so it was going to be easy to write. The lyrics flowed out pretty quick and easy for that one. Easier than they would have had it been about Tennessee.
I dig the nod to Hendrix on the song Work It. I hear him as an influence but also a lot of ZZ Top, tone wise. Who else would you call influences?
Lyrically, a lot of my influences are folk-country singer-songwriters. Roger Alan Wade is one my biggest influences. It's funny cause I can never seem to write as deep and heavy as those guys like Roger, Kristofferson, Guy Clark and Gram Parsons, (in most situations it wouldn't fit the tunes or style that I play), but, it's still a huge influence to write period. I'm a big lyric guy when it comes to being a listener/fan. As far as soul and blues go, it's Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jr Walker & the Allstars and Leon Russell. I listen to them, and all I hear is dirty, nasty grooves and boogie, in one way or the other. So in a lot of my songs I try to go for that feeling and groove. It's got to have a groove.
You're known for an intense live show. You play as if your life depended on it, like if you just dropped dead on stage you'd be cool with that. Talk a little about that.
I'm an old school rock n roll guy so maybe that's where the intensity comes from? I'm not real sure but, if I had to guess I'd say that's it. I played in metal and rock bands growing up and always loved the intensity of it so I guess I just haven't lost that feeling for music, listening and playing both.
RS::Your also known for an interesting array of guitars. What are you using these days?
My current guitar roster for live shows is an Epiphone Dot Studio hollow body for my electric slide tunes, a Diamondback Stringworks custom telecaster-copy build for all my electric standard tuning songs and a Cigar City CBG's 3-string cigar box guitar for a few tunes. For acoustic stuff I'm still using my trusty National metal-body resonator. I have backup electrics I like to bring such as an Epiphone SG and Epiphone Les Paul Standard.
I'm wondering if you'd mind giving a little rundown or back story on each of the songs from East End Blvd.?
Ok. Here's the back stories::
1. East End Blvd. - This was written about a real bad area in Chattanooga, TN. I had my troubles down in this low place and got sucked into it for a period of my life so I figured I'd write about it. Jill Scott put it best in one of her songs, "Your background, it ain't squeaky clean. Shit, sometimes we all got to swim upstream". There's plenty to write about from those days!
2. Highway 41 - Highway 41 runs right down the road from where I grew up and also where I live now. Lyrically, it was just intended to be one of those good ol' hometown/highway/woman cheating tunes we know so well. I wrote the main riff on accident (at 2am in a tattoo shop after a show with the Pine Box Boys) during an instrumental blues jam session with Dodds (drummer) and Lester (vocals/guitar) of the Pine Box Boys. I love that tune
3. Work It - This one I've had for quite a while. There's no frills to the backstory on this one. It's about gettin' it on, sexual relations, doin' the do, bumpin' uglies. Nothing more, nothing less.
4. Beat & Lowdown - I wrote this one in a trailer park. Haha. My old drummer and I were out back at his place trying and trying to come up with a new tune. While fooling around on break I came up with the riff and here we are. It's another favorite of mine on this album. I wrote it around the time I was having what we'll call "woman problems" so it kind of speaks for itself there.
5. That Liquor - When I wrote this one I was dying for a slow, creepy, groove-blues tune. It's written, very loosely, on some crazy shit from my rebellious younger days. I'm very thankful I had J.B. Beverley as a producer on this one.
6. See-Saw - This one is kinda like "Work It"....strictly about getting it on. I've always loved those blues tunes that are a bit comedic yet about real life happenings, such as sex, jail, partying or anything else percieved as bad things. So I figured i needed me one of them songs.
7. On My Way - This one is special to me. I wrote it in the van on the way home from tour. I tried to incorporate everything I like in a folky song like this: good lyrics, meaning, feeling and little concentration on your instrument to bring the folks in with the words. I'm a big lyric guy so I tried to make something I would want to hear. It's coming from the eyes of an old Mississippi farm hand in the days of slaves and cotton fields but it's pretty much universal to the working man of any kind in any area.
8. Dazed Away - I wrote this about those days where being a road dog isn't your concern, playing tonight can't physically happen or "I'm sorry but I just don't wanna do it today". You can't help but have those kinds of attitudes and feelings running through your blood on some days after being on the road for a while. I think everyone gets tired of traveling at some point. It may take a few years for those of us who have to do it every week, every year to keep a roof and food but, we still get tired at some point. This song is about when you just can't "go in today" and the batteries have to be recharged. Musically, I just thought it was time i had some kind of rock n roll in a song again.
9. Coonie Hill - Coonie Hill is just a fictional story about an actual place. While on tour in upstate NY last year my friend Maryrose and I were driving past some very wealthy neighborhoods on an off-day. One of the streets was Coonie Hill Drive. We laughed at how it didn't fit and should be the name of a street in a dark neighborhood street on the bad side of town. So, really, it just started out as a joke but with a title like "Coonie Hill" I felt it was my duty as a citizen to write this tune!
10. So Far From Home - This tune was written out of pure anger and disappointment. Sometimes there are shows that suck, sometimes there are shows where you wish someone would stab you in the face to put you out of your misery. This was written about the latter, after a show in Daytona, FL. I wrote it the next morning around 8am in Titusville, FL at my boy Lone Wolf's house. I tried to describe the discomfort me and the band felt that night. It was definitely song-worthy.
11. Rick's Late For Work - This was written along with the handsome fellow doing this interview, the almighty Mr. Rick Saunders while we were jamming for the fun of it. We stopped by Rick's house the morning after a show in his town, St. Augustine, FL. We sat around geeking out on music, talking jazz, blues and biographies, when all of a sudden jamming in his back room sounded like a better idea than him going to work in a few minutes. This rebel called in to work and told them he's gonna be late just so we could jam together. The rest is history and track #11 on the new album.
12. Come On Carolina - This one is completely different than any other tune I've written or recorded. Six musicians, all acoustic, recorded live sitting around one microphone (only a couple days after I finished writing it). A killer line-up on this one: Me on vocals/rhythm guitar, Billy Don Burns on rhythm guitar/backing vocals, Buck Thrailkill on banjo/backing vocals, J.B. Beverley on snare drum/backing vocals, Shooter Jennings on backing vocals and Aaron Rodgers on slide guitar/backing vocals. It was actually never intended to be on the new album but once it was done we felt it needed to be. We were in Fayetteville, NC at Rebel Roots Studio for a few days hanging out, playing shows and drinking moonshine when miraculously on the last night we got something recorded. I just got lucky that it was my tune honestly. I'd been having a lot of good things happen for me in NC at the time (the studio, the label, great gigs, newfound family, etc). It's almost like a nod to those times and those people believing in me and bringing me in to give me a shot. It was very easy to write.
Thanks for taking the time, Husky! See you down the road. Y'all can buy Tales From East End Blvd via the links up top.