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Honest-to-goodness one-man bands kicking up a storm

The big corporate record companies aren’t the only ones scaling back these days. A growing number of indie rock ’n’ rollers are streamlining their acts — multitasking, if you will — as the one-man band format becomes more prevalent each year.

New releases by two of the better of these acts, John Schooley and His One Man Band and BBQ, prove that doing it alone is not a bad idea.

When these cats form their one-man band, this is not some sort of singer-turns-solo-act trip or the home-studio genius overdubbing on top of overdubs. These guys do it all live, making as big a racket as they can all by their lonesome — guitars in hand, drums at their feet.
John Schooley.jpg

Schooley (above) plays guitar, harmonica, kick, snare, hi-hat, cymbals, washboard, tambourine and screams his head off all at the same time on his self-titled debut on the Voodoo Rhythm label out of Switzerland. Schooley is best known as the singer and guitarist for a couple of blues-punk rock bands, the Columbia, Mo.-based Revelators then the Austin, Texas-based Hard Feelings. He actually started out on his own, as his first single was credited to his one-man band and released singles throughout his other bands’ careers before making the One Man Band the primary outlet for his modern blues anthems after two albums each with his previous combos. His trashy-blues style is split between originals and covers by Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf Lazy Lester and others.

“Drive You Faster” is an original rave-up that lives up to its title. The oft-covered “Killing Floor” has never sounded more alive than in Schooley’s quite-capable hands.
Blues-based stomps are the vehicle of choice for many in the current crop of such one-man bands as Bloodshot Bill, Lightning Beatman and Ghostwriter. Such acts as Scott H. Biram and Bob Log have country leanings.
BBQ stands out from the pack by doing a one-man mixture of 1950s R&B, Brill Building pop, 1960s garage and punk rock. The Montreal-based BBQ is Mark Sultan (above), formerly of Les Sexareenos. His second full-length, Tie Your Noose, is out on Bomp Records, one of the last signings by the late Greg Shaw.

Over a dozen originals, Sultan will have you swooning through all the aforementioned styles with equal skill, with a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time” thrown in.
The one-man band scene is alive and well in a year when the original one-man wildman, Hasil Adkins, checked out. Adkins was found dead in his West Virginia home on April 23, but this man made way too much of a racket to be resting in peace. If you are not familiar with The Haze’s primitive rockabiliy recordings, check out his extensive releases in the Norton Records catalog, including recent expanded CD reissues of his first two Norton releases. Although Adkins was prolific, recording and releasing dozens of records in the late ’50s and
early ’60s, he remained an obscurity.

The Cramps recorded Adkins’ “She Said” in the early ’80s, rekindling interest in his career worldwide. The first Norton release, “Out to Hunch,” came out in 1986 and Adkins never stopped until his last show, which was in Las Vegas in September 2004. In between, through songs about hot dogs, chicken, women and cars, Adkins put down some of the most primitive sounds ever — all by himself.

— By Joe Belock

* Shakin’ Street is a regular column by staff writer at large Joe Belock, the host of the Three Chord Monte radio show on free-form WFMU-FM in New Jersey.