Published in Inpress (Melb), March 2010
Lil’ Band O’ Gold
A little over a decade ago, a couple of young upstarts had an idea for a band, a side-project of sorts, a group that came to be known as the Lil’ Band O’ Gold. It was in the steamy depths of south Louisiana that this band came to be, born of the myriad sounds and flavours prevalent to that part of the US, born of the rumble of late night juke joints and sweat soaked whiskey jams on front porches and street corners, born again of over a century of musical knowledge and experience – indeed, a little band of gold. These young upstarts though, were hardly that. CC Adcock, guitarist extraordinaire who’s slung the six-string for Bo Diddley and Buckwheat Zydeco, and world renowned accordion player, Steve Riley, both emerging legends in their small, steamy part of the world, a place where they like their BBQ hot and greasy, and their music swamp pop.
“Really simply, Steve and I were huge Warren Storm fans,” Adcock himself explains of the origins of this group, who will incidentally, be heading to Australia for the first time later this month. “We’d go to see Warren all the time when he was playing at this little lounge on the outskirts of town called the Four Seasons Lodge. And we ran up such hefty bar tabs, we thought it’d literally be cheaper if we just started a band with him.” Storm, after much convincing, was the third member to join LBOG, and after that, recruitment became easy, as Storm is regarded as not only one of the finest drummers around, but at 68 years old, as the founding father of swamp pop.
Players like guitarist Lil’ Buck Senegal; songwriter, Dave Egan; pedal-steel guru, Richard Comeaux; swamp pop legend, Tommy McLain plus a host of others followed, slowly but surely turning the LBOG into what many call a swamp pop supergroup, although Adcock isn’t wont to agree with such sentiment. “I think that’s a funny word, so maybe a supergroup within the confines of our small community,” he smiles. “It’s not like we’ve got the biggest names in the world playing in the band, but for our little scene, we’re all generals and governors and that’s what makes the band work, it’s a band full of leaders. Everyone in the band is the best at what they do, and then that’s backed up with the ego and the bullshit and the demands that come with that, but there’s something about that dysfunction that makes the band rock pretty hard.”
The Lil’ Band O’ Gold formed in the late 90s, and by 2000 had released its eponymous debut, a record which tagged this as a side-project to watch. Since then, in amongst their own stellar careers, these eight musicians have whipped out the LBOG whenever time permits, never rehearsing (“That’s a dirty word in these parts,” laughs Adcock) but meeting in dark, smouldering dives to play this music they’ve all grown up on. “Yeah, it’s been pretty haphazard and random and it can stay dormant for long periods of time,” Adcock concurs. “But then we’ll bring it out to do something and remember how much fun it is.” The LBOG have really only played around the Gulf Coast of the States, and so aside from an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the band’s trip to Australia for Bluesfest and the Apollo Bay festival will mark their first proper shows outside of their native country, a treat for Australian fans indeed.
So to this music, this ‘swamp pop’. The band’s trip to Cannes last year was in aid of a documentary that’s been made about the group, The Promised Land – A Swamp Pop Journey, also the name of their accompanying second record. In this doco, McLain describes this music as “white people playing black people’s music, damn good”, which I think is a more than fair description. “Yeah, that’s good, although another good explanation is that it’s fais do-do meets Fats Domino, fais do-do being what they called an old Cajun dance,” explains Adcock. “I think Warren has the best handle on it though, him being an originator and a founding father, he just calls it South Louisiana music.
“People down here talk a different way, they act a different way, we eat different things, sorta feel things a little different, live our lives a little different, and so that certainly is reflected in the music that we make,” he continues. “It’s just got a different loping beat to it and no matter what styles we play or attempt, it sorta gets put through that filter and I think that’s what swamp pop is.” For a true, definitive look and listen to what this music sounds like, the LBOG’s second record, the aforementioned The Promised Land, is where you need to go. Seams of Cajun and Zydeco music run unabated through a blues bedrock with country stylings and a touch of jazz to smooth it over – the record goes from croon to foot-stompin’ again and again, every track a gem, indeed it is the promised land.
“Yeah, I think if you listen to it and are driving through the countryside here, it’s a pretty natural soundtrack,” Adcock muses. “All the different dialects and all the different skin-tones and all the different backgrounds and foods and smells and sights and sounds, yeah, it’s the Lil’ Band O’ Gold.” The Promised Land has been a few years in the making, in terms of writing. As the accompanying doco was being made, Adcock was accruing material, as were other writers in the band, and it seemed once the general feel was there, the LBOG’s second record fell into place with a minimum of fuss. “Yeah, I’d been keeping a little sack of songs I thought would be perfect for the band, and meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dave Egan was writing some great songs too,” Adcock tells.
“So eventually we sat down and listened to these songs I’d been wanting to do, figuring out who could sing what, who could do what, and then the next thing you know we were off to the races and we had a record,” he finishes simply. The result is as definitive a look at what these cats are doing as you could want. And it stamps this band as just what they are – masters of their chosen music. And while it may be music heaped under the one umbrella, it’s a rich, steaming stew of aural delights, it’s the promised land, it’s the Lil’ Band O’ Gold, truly worth it’s weight.
Samuel J. Fell