New Country Rehab combines the extensive fiddle experience of John Showman, who had never fronted a band before, with a drummer, Roman Tome, trained in Latin percussion who had never used a drum kit before, an electric guitar player, James Robertson, who had never gone acoustic, and ultimately adding a bass player, Ben Whiteley, who had played upright bass since he was a teen. Each of the band members brings years of playing to New Country Rehab, but their experiences and influences converge only as this band. Ultimately, their goal is to make music inspired by old traditional country, bluegrass, and old time music, rather than push the definitions of either and invent their own progressive sounds. New Country Rehab’s mission is as much to reinterpret traditional songs of artists like Hank Williams and Bill Monroe as it is to create their own songs.
Showman formed the band to expand beyond his own fiddle prowess, having spent so many years creating progressive, mainly instrumental tunes. For a musician for whom songwriting is fairly new, though, his years working with everything from “jamgrass” to jazz have given him a breadth of string music’s repertoire in popular music from which to pull. Typically, Country Fried Rock avoids “cover songs,” but New Country Rehab takes those originals and makes them their own; New Country Rehab arranges the songs into something more than a cover. Narrowing down an extensive repertoire into just a few songs for a record can be difficult, and for New Country Rehab, this yields a bit of an inconsistent sound to the album as a whole, but makes perfect sense in the greater realm of music that is this band. They only took three days to record the entire thing–and for less than $5000 (CAN) including artwork and pressing. Covering all of their musical styles in less than 45 minutes does not do them justice; you really need to hear them headline a show to feel the arc of their prowess.
Songs in Episode #1216 include:
- 3 from New Country Rehab’s self-titled debut
- Creaking Tree String Quartet, Side Two “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (John’s former band)
- Black Flag, The First Four Years “Louie Louie” (John’s punk phase as a teen, also chosen because of the use of cover songs being completely reworked for different genres, as part of the conversation)
- Dead Kennedys, Bedtime For Democracy “Take This Job and Shove It” (chosen for similar reasons as the Black Flag tune, but also in response to Showman leaving Classical music behind abruptly)
- Mac Wiseman, The World’s Greatest Bluegrass Bands “Wreck of the Old 97” (part of the discussion about bluegrass standards and innovation within a repertoire)
- Waco Brothers, Straight Outta Boone County “Nine Pound Hammer” (more of taking traditional tunes and making them your own)
- The Whiteley Brothers, Taking Our Time “Saskatchewan Blues” (these are Ben’s father and uncle, accomplished and noted Canadian musicians in their own right)
- The Magnificent Sevens, “Red River Beaver Fever Rag” (label mates on Dollartone Records, also more about fusing genres and making the hybrids your own)
- Rakish Paddies, “Cooleys Maid Behind the Bar” (traditional Irish fiddle tune standard)
- One from next week’s episode, #1217 Lincoln Durham, The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones “Love Letters”
US audiences can catch New Country Rehab in April HERE.