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MEET MY NEW BEST FRIENDS,
Several months ago the mailman brought me a little package containing a CD and a note from someone I’d never heard of, a fellow named Travis Young, who identified himself as the banjo player in a band called the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. It’s an arresting name, especially to a confirmed tippler like myself, and I’d noticed it on a marquee or two around town, but had never heard them play.
Travis said he had recently come across an old piece of writing of mine, a story I’d originally published in Playboy way back in 1973, about Lexington’s own irrepressible Little Enis, a local rockabilly legend since the 1950s, who billed himself as The World’s Greatest Left-Handed Upsidedown Guitar Player. Enis, whose real name was Carlos Toadvine, was maybe the Original Elvis Impersonator; back in the fifties, if Elvis released a new single on Wednesday, Enis would be performing it downtown in the Zebra Lounge by Friday night. In fact, he took his stage name from the then-current joke about Elvis the Pelvis and his little brother Enis. He died young in 1976, of too much living.
Anyhow, after he’d finished reading my old Enis story, Travis said that “within ten minutes” he had written a new song titled “Little Enis,” which BCLP—a non-traditional acoustic bluegrass foursome—hoped to put on Anywhere Else?, their forthcoming second album. I could listen to the song on the enclosed CD, he said, and I had veto power: If I hated it and didn’t want my name associated with it in any way, they’d cancel the whole deal, and leave it off the album. But since the lyrics included several phrases and images from my story, if I liked the song, they’d list me as co-author.
Co-author! Of a song! On an album!
Cross my heart, I would’ve loved this song, and this band, and this album, even if they hadn’t put my name on it. These guys can play, folks! They mostly write their own material—the only cover on Anywhere Else? is the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” (on which Blind Corn does a great job, by the way)—, they all sing, and they all just flat play the hell out of their respective instruments. As one reviewer (Mick Skidmore of Relix Magazine) said of them, “They play with a perfect combination of reckless abandon and precision.” These tunes are up-beat, energetic, and rousingly high-spirited, the lyrics fresh, wry, witty, intelligent, and chock-full of good-natured mischief. If the Beatles were reincarnated as 21st Century punkabilly Kentuckians, they’d probably sound a whole lot like the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers.
In addition to Travis and his banjo, BCLP consists of Joel Serdenis on mandolin, Todd Anderson on stand-up bass, and Tom Fassas on guitar. They’re all genuine grown-ups, with responsible day-jobs: Joel works at LexMark; Todd sells fancy gates for horse farms; Tom is the president of his own company, Petro Serv, which supplies equipment for service stations; and Travis, who spent several years teaching English in Japan, is a translator for a Japanese company in Frankfort that manufactures assembly-line equipment for Toyota.
I think my favorite song on the album—aside, of course, from my song (well, Travis helped a little)—is “River of Blazing Bourbon,” a zippy, fast-paced ballad, also written by Travis, about the distillery fire in Bardstown a few years ago, wherein flaming whiskey flowed down the slopes of Nelson County into the Kentucky River, much to the detriment of the catfishes’ little livers. I also like “Europe on $15 a Day,” by Joel, and “Puttin’ Up Hay,” by Tom, and … but to hell with it; I like all these songs so much that it almost seems a shame to mention favorites.
I think the only musical miscalculation these guys ever made was inviting me to come on stage with them back in February, to join them for the chorus of “Little Enis” when they opened for the Asylum Street Spankers at the Dame—Me! On stage! At the Dame!—and even (the more fools they) allowed me to sing, acapulco, a song of my own composition, “All the Roads in the World,” one of my three Greatest Hits. (Hey, McClanafans, I wowed ‘em!)
The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers will perform at the new Morehead Conference Center on Friday, August 25th, at 7 p.m. (admission $5). The show will be broadcast live on Morehead State Public Radio (WMKY—90.3 FM), as part of the Americana Crossroads series. You can also read all about BCLP on their website, www.blindcorn.com.
|Copyright © 2005 - 2012 Ed McClanahan. All rights reserved.|