Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Fendermen - Mule Skinner Bluesdotdotdotdot
artworkThe Fendermen first caught my attention in the dark ages of the Nuclear Nightmare, those years referred to loosely by those in denial as the Happy Days. It was a late and rainy day in 1959, when suddenly across the earphones of my crystal set was heard the most amazing cowboy rock my young ears had ever encountered. it nearly yodeled, it almost smelled of the trail, and yet it rocked rhythmically from the chorded meter of the guitar. It was infectious, and I didn't care that it was an old Jimmy Rogers song that had been covered and covered a million times on the cactus side of the Grand Old Opry's tradition. It was maybe the fifth or sixth single I bought, and it looked cool on that silver-on-black Soma Label. In those days of small labels, it was common for the B-side to be better than the A-side, so I flipped it over, hoping for another yelpin' trail epic. Instead, there was this unbelievably strong and infectious instro with just two guitars (no bass at all), called "Torture." Since then, I've been hunting for their recordings, so when this CD came along, I was very glad. This CD features some fine instros, and a solid helping of their Madison, Wisconsin cowboy-crossover brand of pure Midwest rock.
Picks: Torture, Beach Party, Honky Tonk, Koo-Koo, Caravan, Fas-Nacht-Kuechel, Rain Drop

Track by Track Review

Torture dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is one fine instro, especially when you realize that there are just the two guitars, no bass, and no drums. The rhythmic qualities of the piece carry it, as does the fine progression. It is this first Fendermen instro that justified to a young Paul Johnson the lack of a bass in his own seminal surf band the Belairs. This is essential pre-surf listening.

Beach Party dotdotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Now, this is a killer track. It has all of the infectious rhythmic magic of "Torture," but it is augmented by bass and drums, which make it all the sweeter. This is a remarkably timeless piece, powerful in it's sparseness. It's playful-party atmospherics are perfect for the title.

Honky Tonk dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a heavily reverbed chunky version of the Bill Dogget hit, and among the first to use guitar as the focus with reverb. Mean, vibrant, intense, and downright magnetic. The break is even double picked. Powerfully infectious.

Koo-Koo dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Flat pick rockin' good old boy instro madness, complete with yelps of joy and maximum edge. Intense, though not very melodic.

Caravan dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Chunky semi acoustic backtrack with electric guitar lead, full of life and finesse. The rapid fire picking is a combo of surf and country, with real live twang. This arrangement of Duke Ellington' "Caravan" is quite appealing.

Fas-Nacht-Kuechel dotdot
Fifties Rock & Roll (Instrumental)

One of the great under rated bands from greater Minneapolis. This track is a boogie, and these boys knew how to boogie! Not their best work, but nor shabby either. Some of their work was quite surfy. This is not.

Rain Drop dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Echoed guitar, a moderately interesting progression based melody, and big sounds keep this just out of the boredom zone. An intense example of the Midwest instro sound.