Rootsy soulfulness oozes from every note of Rumble, Shake And Tumble (released Stateside on August 16), a long-player that lives up to its onomatopoetic title, kicking up a ruckus that’d do pill poppin’ Johnny Cash proud. Melbourne-based Wagons stomps and croons ‘em like a new day descendent of Brinsley Schwarz – pub ready and just twangy enough, armed with their own budding Nick Lowe in singer-songwriter Henry Wagons, a tunesmith of great humor, abundant heart, and a downright charming gift for mixing casual profanity and poetry (“My life would’ve been a fuckin’ mess without you/ Turn my moon into the sun/ I need you now like I never needed anyone”).
Willie Nelson gets name-checked in his own song on Rumble, and it’s not hard to imagine Wagons opening for any of the Outlaw Country guys in their 70s heyday. Today, this band slots in just right with Shooter Jennings’ XXX movement – i.e. down ‘n’ dirty real country with a juicy side of rock and raucousness. Henry Wagons’ tunes also recall Buddy Holly and the gruffer side of fellow countryman Paul Kelly – touchstones that ain’t nothin’ but good – and the whole band moves with muscle and heat, tangible life force inside songs filled with a whole bunch of humanity in all its strange tumble of tears and laughter.
A succinct sense of the band’s humor and playfulness – as well as the firm ground they wish to build upon – can be gleaned from their MySpace page list of influences:
Roy Orbison’s driving habits
Canned Heat’s dinner
Puddles around houses in A Clockwork Orange
Cormac McCarthy’s final chapters
Early Rod Stewart’s fanclub
Johnny Cash’s dirt on his gravestone
Adam Green’s jacket inside-out
The Boss’s cap
We fired off DI’s signature question set to Australia and here’s what Henry had to say to our inquiries.
- 1. Great music rarely happens without…
- Someone telling you how much worse it is than Prince’s “Rasberry Beret”. In some moods I tend to agree.
- 2. The first album I bought was…
- The Beatles Barkers on tape. It’s the Greatest Hits of The Beatles performed by dogs.
Mum bought it for me from the shelves of K-Mart when I was small. (Listen for yourself here).
- 3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
- Jessica Lea Mayfield’s Tell Me is an amazing album. At once naïve and wise. Before that it was the Beatles Barkers.
- 4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
- A philosopher king.
- 5. My favorite sort of gig is…
- One with a good free meal provided. It is also great when the show is good and loud and fills the space, so you can hear some of the energy of the music whip back at you from the rear of the venue, filtered by the sweaty backs of people’s heads.
- 6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
- I have two dogs. Peeps, a half pug/half poodle (Pugoodle) and a pug called Gordon. Peeps is smart and sensitive, and Gordon is mentally challenged but friendly. I miss them when I’m on the road quite a bit. They are the original odd couple.
- 7. I love the sound of…
- Chocolate fondue cascading.
- 8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
- The Beatles Barkers. Sorry, won’t milk that any longer.
Probably Neil Young’s Harvest. That record takes me to so many different places and times. Once track sounds like it’s recorded in a shack and the next in a L.A. studio reverb chamber, yet the whole album hangs together like the finest chandelier. Amazing piece of work to aspire to.
- 9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
- Voodoo Donuts in Portland. The Bacon Maple Bar. A donut with two rashers of bacon on it. It takes like pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, to go. Never thought I’d be able to get that taste while in the car.
- 10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
- …accordance to closer proximity to one of the Earth’s poles.
- 11. The worst habit I’ve picked up being on the road all the time is…
- Being able to keep track of my rhythm section’s hygene habits. It’s a strange relationship when I know how long a man will take in the bathroom, how many days he is likely to wear one pair of socks, and how he likes the temperature set in the car. I hope to use all this info against them in some way in the future. Probably to help win an argument about the temperature in the car.
- 12. Led Zeppelin or Radiohead, which flips your switch the most and why?
- If I have to choose, Led Zeppelin, but compared to the mammoth and gritty steel levers that Elvis, Cash, Orbison or even Tom Jones has compared to these guys, Led Zep and Radiohead have quite small switches for me. I am, at times, slightly ashamed to admit this.
- 13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
- A pretzel M&M (or maybe jerky chicken nuggets).
Instrument(s) of choice: Hot air with force and pitch and acoustic guitar.