“Any Old Time” salutes the songs of Jimmie Rodgers
Co-bill with Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart, Saturday February 1, 2003, Laurel Theatre – Knoxville, TN, 1538 Laurel Avenue – 865-522-5851
Showtime: 8:00pm – Tickets: $13 door $12 advance.
KOCH Records is pleased to announce the release of Steve Forbert’s tribute to the legendary Jimmie Rodgers, Any Old Time, produced by Garry Tallent. The disc presents one of contemporary music’s most distinctive vocalists applying his pipes to a dozen tunes culled from the herculean, meteoric recording career of one of the primary architects of country music.
Dubbed “Mississippi Blue Yodeler,” Jimmie Rodgers became country music’s first superstar between 1927 and his death in spring of 1933. Although ravaged (and finally killed) by tuberculosis, he exerted such overwhelming and enduring influence on the style, shape and substance of modern popular music in that brief span that when the Country Music Hall Of Fame opened in 1961, Jimmie Rodgers was its inaugural inductee. In 1986, his sweeping impact was further underscored when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a “Founding Father.” This year marks the 75th anniversary of Rodgers’ initial recording session with RCA Victor visionary Ralph Peer in Bristol, Tennessee.
Steve Forbert, like Rodgers, is a native son of Meridian, Mississippi, so the usual interest a fledgling singer/songwriter would take in Jimmie’s music was magnified by the fact that he grew up surrounded by both the spirit and tangible evidence of “The Singing Brakeman.”
“I grew up with that in Meridian, and a cousin of his taught me guitar,” says Forbert. “I’ve heard those records all my life, but for the longest time I wasn’t that interested, ‘cause, as a kid, I was more into the Jefferson Airplane and such.
“But I started to put the puzzle together when I was about 17,” he continues, “And began to hear people like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. And the next thing you know, I was listening to Merle’s tribute [“Same Train, A Different Time”], and I started to realize that Jimmie Rodgers isn’t a long way from ‘Country Honk’ by the Rolling Stones. So then it all took on a different, special place among my influences.”
The 12 songs included on Any Old Time were meticulously chosen by Forbert who reviewed the complete catalog of over 110 Jimmie Rodgers recordings. “We went through all of them and did the homework, and then we picked about twenty to work with,” Forbert recalls. “Some of them were just too out-dated, and then you have those that apply to his tuberculosis, which I didn’t feel I had any right to sing about. And it wasn’t just about picking which songs to do, but finding different ‘colors’ and deciding on some different approaches.”
Forbert hand-picked the band for the project, and the magical chemistry achieved is obvious from beginning to end. Keyboardist Bobby Ogdin (who graced Steve’s 1979 hit “Romeo’s Tune”) returns to the fold to provide myriad textures ranging from front parlor to riverfront whorehouse, and drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks underpins the proceedings with an agreeable, loose-limbed funk.
Charlie Chadwick (upright bass), Bill Hullett (all things stringed), Ken Lovelace (fiddle) and Steve’s own acoustic guitar and harmonica complete a group sound that is breathtakingly fresh and vibrant. The timeless material is treated with respect, yet kept alive and well by avoiding preciousness or song-killing reverence.
Likewise, Forbert makes no attempt to re-shape his voice to mimic Rodgers’. It’s clear he really gets a bang out of the yodeling parts, but he’s under no illusions here.
“Jimmie was so good at it,” he states, “he truly had a great voice. For all of the varied material he did, he always got a grip on it. So I don’t have any thoughts about being a yodeler like him; his was so clear and strong. But to get in the spirit of it, you gotta do it—to leave off the yodeling would have been a lot worse than just taking a good-spirited stab at it. We really had fun making this record.”
Presented with an unmistakable affection, cracker-jack musicianship and a palpable sense that these seven-decade-old gems continue to remain living, breathing things, Any Old Time is a cover-to-cover treat.
Somewhere up in that great blue yonder, Rodgers has got to be grinning from ear to ear. And when Forbert & Co. take Jimmie to Lubbock on the inspired, giddy-up rock’n’roll take on “My Rough And Rowdy Ways,” you know ol’ Buddy’s cracking a smile, too.