New Orleans Stick Band "Fear of New Shoes"
Four Cats/Radionic Records FC 1123-2
Back in the mid 1980's I purchased my first "Chapman Stick", a 10 string iron/wood instrument. The transition from keyboards to the stick fueled a burst of songwriting, and I put a band together merely hours after getting the thing! Obviously, grooves and good soloists were a priority; Tim Green and I hooked up again….having played in other combinations, and with Coleman O-Donoghue on drums……we brought a decidedly "un-NewOrleans sound" to local clubs.
Well, with time comes change….and the original vinyl LP record documents our sound during the weekly gigs at the (now closed) "Tyler's" on Magazine St. in New Orleans. With the arrival of Dennis Elliot on violin, James Cabiran on drums, and Carol Robinson on vocals we moved from long grooves to more "athletic" arrangements that were a lot of fun to play! I don't recall if Tim and Dennis ever played "live" together? But……their distinctive styles greatly enhanced the compositions.
The new "bonus" tracks on this CD feature my second stick, a 12 string version (6 Bass & 6 Guitar strgs.) with a decidedly more "electric" sound. I find myself going back to a more "groove" oriented style…..with a more "uppity" Bass, and more tonal variation in the right hand (guitar strings).
Now thanks to Four Cats/Radionic Records, the original stickband recordings (released in 1989 on vinyl only) are available for the first time on CD, along with 4 newly recorded "bonus" tracks. The original recordings were engineered and recorded by Four Cats/Radionic Records owner Buzzy Beano, and he always expressed to me that he felt these 1989 recordings were "great music" that needed to be heard. And like so many musicians of the period, we released the record on vinyl, right before vinyl disappeared!
Thanks to all who listened, kept up with the changes, & may be listening still!!
"No, this isn't what it sounds like. It's not a band fronted by some hillbilly banging a couple of pieces of hickory together in some sort of horrible jug band Frankenstein. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The stick referred to here is what is commonly known as a Chapman stick. For those not familiar with the instrument a little background might be in order here. The "stick" is a stringed instrument based on the guitar and bass that resembles an enlarged fret board and is played with the tips of the fingers. But unlike the guitar or bass, it is not plucked or strummed but tapped in a method most guitar players and Eddie Van Halen disciples know as a "hammer-on." It is played upright with both hands and can vary anywhere from eight to twelve strings. The instrument, based on the method of guitar playing devised by Emmett Chapman in 1969, allows one to play bass lines, lead melodies, rhythm, and chords simultaneously and in any combination. As if that wasn't enough, recent advances have made it possible to connect a MIDI module to the instrument in order achieve the sounds of virtually any instrument. All instrumental eccentricities aside, the playing and songwriting on Fear of New Shoes is nothing short of stellar. The tunes range from dark, brooding Lord of the Rings-esque jaunts featuring the creepy vocals of Carol Robinson to the bright Bela Fleck-like soarings of "Air Conditioning." David Goodman's stick work carries the record while the agility of James Cabiran's drumming provides even more rhythmic exploration. The only downside to Fear of New Shoes is the sometimes cheesy sound of Tim Green's soprano sax and Goodman's stick. The technique and feel of the work of both players is impeccable but aesthetically their instruments at times venture too far into the new age. But bear in mind the somewhat passé sound of the record is probably the result of it being originally recorded in 1989 (this is its first release on CD). To an ear circa '89 it would likely not sound so anachronistic. An added bonus of this first time CD release is the addition of four bonus tracks. These tunes explore the funk potential of the Chapman stick and focus more on the bass licks possible on the instrument. "Eeore Minor" is a bouncing creeper that would not be out of place in any funk band's set. All in all, this is an excellent record with strong songs and expert playing. If you love jazz fusion or are just interested in hearing the Chapman stick this record is probably for you and so, to quote another 1980s release, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."
-James Bailey, Offbeat Magazine (May 2003 review)
"The stream of consciousness, mostly instrumental jazz of New Orleans Stick Band is a welcome addition to the jam scene. Tightly woven with enough eclectic expanse to not feel constricted, fear of new shoes explores time signature, world beats and ambitious song structures with breath taking ease. The result? A beautifully crafted, well-produced release, remastered to full, radio ready quality. A must-have for the smooth, fusion-oriented Jazz lover."
Pork Tartare - 2003
The "Chapman Stick" is a 12 string electric instrument that is played with both hands on the fretboard using a finger tapping technique. Two separate groups of "Bass" and "Guitar" strings enable the player to perform Bass, melody, and rhythm parts simultaneously, over a 4 and ½ octave range.