Making Trouble in Tough Town
“Somewhere between the swampy sub-tropical, humidified edges of Texas, and rain-soaked passages of the Pacific N.W. was bred another original band now calling Stumptown their home…and they mean to stay…long after they take the nation”.
Rich Layton’s thick accent and even thicker musical history comes from deep roots in Houston and along the Gulf Coast. Its been said the brilliance of any flower is determined only by its longest root. Playing folk music for tips with then girlfriend Lucinda Williams at a local university in his early days more than likely planted fertile seeds. His musical time with the likes of the Blasters, Lyle Lovett, Townes Van Zandt, Buckwheat Zydeco and Dave Alvin just to name a few broke the bud out of the hardened ground. Oh yeah, can’t forget Dr. Rockit, and numerous performances w/ Bo Diddley. Hey! Rich Layton was named as one of six Texas Harmonica Tornados, right along side of Kim Wilson and Delbert McClinton. The flower bloomed. Brilliance ensued.
Entrenched in the music circuit rocking clubs, dance halls and roadhouses along Interstate 10 stretching through the Lone Star State, Rich formed a one-of-a-kind approach blending rock, blues, country, R&B, blue-eyed soul, Cajun, zydeco. Hints of Johnny Cash, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Hyatt and the Stones begin to reveal themselves the more I hear much of what he does. One can only imagine the harp influences he soaked up down in that dust bowl. Few harmonica players have done much or this writer- Rick Estrin, Carey Bell and surprisingly…Mick Jagger. Paul Delay took the instrument to levels way beyond the fringe. Rich Layton, though an entirely different animal seems to press the listener into different territories that only he can forge. His phrasing and tone downright speak the language of purity. Its not how many notes…but which ONE that speaks the loudest.
Keith Richards describes the 2 guitar approach as an “Ancient form of weaving”. When the relationship and communication is so close, the lines of distinction are blurred, like when you can’t tell who’s playing what except the separation for solos- or when playing in polyrhythmic sentences. This makes for some of the chunkiest stew around. The inter-play between Rev.Sexton and Larry McCoy fit that category to a T. Other than the StrangeTones, Guns & Roses or the Stones themselves, few other bands can attain this kind of union, evident only w/ that rare chemistry. Just as important is the rhythmic foundation.
From his starting point in Houston, Rich set out on the road in search of a place to take what he’d learned to new audiences. Chalk it up to fate he ends up where all great musicians hang their hat…PDX! This music junkie thanks God every day for living in a place where the best of the best set their musical compass and call us home. Portland makes for the perfect alchemy; After coming here Layton quickly found local uber-talented musicians who share a relentless love of blending styles, and a willingness to support his creation of new songs. The Troublemakers were born.
There from the very beginning, bass player Robert Lefebvre( pronounced ‘la-fave’) understands the relationship of the machine, since he carries the bottom like an anvil. Though drummer Mike Henke is a relatively newer addition, he has a varied history in the local circuit, most notably from a popular favorite Beatles cover band called, Revolver. He fit right in, filling the cool spaces essential to tightening the noose of the sound.
Humbly paying their dues, bit by bit, small gig after small gig, Playing to 5 and 10 count audiences, then opening for larger acts, they honed their skills, tried out new songs and carved out a sound they can call their own.
The Tmakers are an original band who merely tip a hat to their predecessors and mentors, because the rest of is all their own….and they own it well. Doing their damnedest to keep the flame of American roots music alive, while forging new territories in alt-country, swampadelic and gritty rock & roll with no parole. They’re a little piece of hard-boiled, sweat-infused S.W., mixed w/ a coffee-infused characteristic funk of Portland. Now the game is on…there’s nothing stopping them from taking this town, and the region hostage.
Along w/ a few newly penned songs, the Tmakers first release, ‘Chop Shop Pit Stop’ was a good, solid record and bore some of Rich’s great if uncompleted early efforts. But now they’ve upped the ante with “Tough Town”. Containing enough first-rate material, almost any one of the songs could pass for title tracks, just take your pick. It’s a tight recording with great songwriting, melodies and chalk-full of guitar riffs to satisfy. Rich’s harp punches are snap-tight.
The title track may seem like some song you’ve heard before, but that’s only because of its radio-ready construction, leather-hide toughness and thick strapping guitar work from Sexton/McCoy Telecaster Duo. Stunning audio display of prowess and mean-intent. Rich adopts the megaphone filter for the vocals,matching perfectly against a very heavy bottom from the rhythm section. The fuzz-tone and reverb is enough to level most any living room if turned up enough.
The Blues Are Comin’ Back Home-
A jump blues number, w/ a country flavor, Rich Layton has a real knack for writing original songs in all-too-familiar genres, where many tread yet few seem to make the grade w/ out sounding like all the rest.
The video was released last year. Frankly, the hit of the record. Great melody, vocals and hooks reminiscent of John Mayall and late-70’s era Stones w/ Mick Taylor. Spooky and mysterious, one could almost hear Tina Turner chiming in on this one. Killer hooks and sharp corners…a rocker w/ a dash of R&B.
Maria & Ramone-
Another touch of authentic country/cowboy make up another Layton penned Spanish flavored number. Marty Robbins comes to mind, w/ hints of Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. Harmonizing vocals by Donna Lynn Davis make excellent accompany to Layton’s chorusing.
I Feel Fine-
How many bands can touch the Beatles w out sounding contrived? Here’s a southern twist that does the trick…makes you actually proud. And since the Fab 4 borrowed heavily from the likes of Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly, the Makers are already there- so this version pays homage to both…most excellent.
The guitar tone alone knocks it out of the park. Vocals, along w/ the telecaster duo are stone-cold sinister.The constant hiss of the snare is like a rattle-snake dry rock being turned over and out pops the ghost of Billy the Kid.
Fellow Texan and Portland producer Terry Wilson worked well in helping forge the unique sound of this effort. Being a fellow Texas native, induced what he calls, “Texas Trash” to the over-all sound of the record by sprucing up vocals and strategically placing some of his secret mastery skills to the work. The co-production between he and Rich make this effort a double-barreled ‘Mojo Filter’ shot of rock and roll.
Many other great songs on this CD…Million Dollar Town, Love American Style on down the line.
And now you’ll get to hear them perform most of the songs from this stellar release live and in person…up close and personal for the cd release party.
The Secret Society Ballroom – With Ron Rogers & the Wailing Wind
Saturday, April 16 at 8pm
Don’t miss this double-barrel helping of swampadelic Americana psychobilly from the heart of Texas. Ron Rogers & The Wailing Wind also plays in celebration of his new release called”Country & Eastern,” with songs inspired by Austin and points west.
At the crossroads of twang and tremolo, it’s high-octane honky tonk music, harmonica fueled and swampified!