Bad Ass and Blue

People get ready, there’s a mule train a-comin’

The story goes that Casey Cannon — under normal circumstances educated, sharp, not prone to confusion, but in this case, road-weary and beginning to succumb to the effects of low humidity and the relentlessly monotonous desert landscape alongside guitarist Xavier Gonzalez — somehow mixed up the city named Twentynine Palms with the street called Mule Team Road. And in one serendipitous moment, out of the ancient dust plastered to his brow by the sweat of the last 100 miles, 29 Mules came into being.

Cannon and Gonzalez, both with roots in Texas and California, met, as so many talented musicians do — pushing gear at Guitar Center. Whether or not the stars aligned is anyone’s guess, but only fate could be responsible for such chemistry — the result of which is balls-to-the-wall, boot-to-the-booty, hip-shakin’, rock solid, smart, sexy,  badass country music. That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional sun-kissed ballad in the band’s 500-song repertoire, but inasmuch as a country band can genuinely rock — 29 Mules does.

The union that’s been tearing up the L.A. rockabilly/psychobilly scene like a slow-moving twister through the plains, began as a funky blues-rock thing more than a decade ago. “Kenny Wayne Shepherd meets the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” says Gonzalez. But given that they both had at least half a heart in the Lone Star State, their progression from rock to country was a natural one. It is the symbiosis between Gonzalez’s shredding blues sensibility and Cannon’s multi-instrumental quickdraw plus clever, country boy charisma that give their sound the edge that separates them from the pack.

“I’ve always done things differently — musically and artistically,” says Cannon.  “I never really existed on the same plane as most people, especially in Fort Worth.” Despite his differences with some of the state’s majority socio-political viewpoints — “the real cowboys of the South are open-minded” — Cannon’s and Gonzalez’s fondness for Texas is undeniable. “I still love where I come from — farmers and ranchers. My grandpa could tell it was gonna rain a week ahead of time by the cattle.”

Cannon and Gonzalez, who form the nucleus of 29 Mules, have been both blessed and cursed with a rotating stable of crack players (David Raven,drums; Johnny Griparic,bass; Ted Russell Kamp,bass; David Spangler,harmonica) who, because of engagements with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Slash, Shooter Jennings and Jason Bonham, are not always available to plow the local and regional club circuits with the Mules. This makes a permanent lineup an elusive goal, but one they will continue to pursue.

In a live environment, response to the Mules’ brand of raucous, party-time country music is most noticeable on the dance floor, where even people not normally prone to shaking their stuff in public are compelled to get in on the action. On stage, great songs played with gusto are accented by Cannon’s infectious energy and Raven’s old-school punker spin on the drum kit, but ultimately it’s Gonzalez’s skilled and soulful handling of those six strings that drives this mule train. A natural bluesman who’s been playing since he was 16 years old, Gonzalez’s style tips a hat to Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughn, breaking into solos that summon Carlos Santana — and somehow it all weaves seamlessly into the band’s country patchwork. Raised on Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, Gonzales knew the only kind of country he would be able to roll with was the outlaw variety. “We want to take some traditional stuff and beef it up — it’s so much more fun,” he says.

While 29 Mules goes best with whiskey shots, snakeskin boots and eau de dive bar, the next best thing to seeing them live is rockin’ them on the iPod.  The band released 80 Feet Deep, its second full-length, late last year and a third is in the works — which Gonzalez says, despite being more mature, will “still kick ass.” But it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll, or if you wanna rock Nashville.

Their biggest break thus far — besides working with some of the best musicians money can’t buy — has been getting a rotation on SIRIUS XM satellite radio’s Outlaw Country station. The airplay has expanded the band’s fanbase to the Midwest, where they hope to tour in the near future.

Next up for 29 Mules is a short tour of Texas and just maybe a little love from the HBO cult series True Blood. For now, you can catch them Thursday, Aug. 12, at Sans Souci in Ventura and at the Ventura County Fair Station Stage on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 9 p.m._

29 MULES BRING THEIR BRASH SOUND TO VENTURA THIS WEEK

These Mules don’t have many rules, but here’s one they live by: Country is meant to be played loud, fast and hard. That’s the plan of attack for 29 Mules, a Los Angeles band known for their brash “garage country” sound.

For folks with a wahoo world view, they’ll provide the perfect soundtrack on Thursday at Sans Souci in Ventura and Saturday at the Ventura County Fair.

29 Mules plays hard-edged country that’s beloved by dancers, lurkers and elbow-benders alike. Their new one is “80 Feet Deep.” Their old one is “No Rules For Mules.” Maybe their dream gig would be with Jackass.

Frontman Casey Cannon and guitar player Xavier Gonzalez have been making new fans with their infrequent but highly anticipated local shows. Cannon discussed his favorite band during a recent phoner.

So why 29 Mules and not 28 or some other number?

Well, we got lost trying to do a head shot picture for the band when were out looking for 29 Mule Team Road. Yeah, we were out there in 29 Palms, Barstow and Boron and these people kept sending us further north. We drove for six hours and got lost before we realized they were lying to us. So we ended up camping and wrote a bunch of songs and played some cool stuff and decided on 29 Mules.

What’s your take on “80 Feet Deep”?

It’s really interesting that XM is playing us and some of the local college radio stations here in L.A. are digging it and playing it. We’re selling a bunch in Germany, in Spain and overseas because of XM. The soldiers love us over in Afghanistan. I know we’re No. 9 on the military radio.

Who goes to a Mule show in SoCal?

One of the beautiful things is that we get hippies and we get rednecks. We get bikers and we get rockers. And they all get along.

Wow. Then what? Do they dance or stare?

Once the girls start dancing, even the most macho man in the world will start to shuffle his feet a little bit.

You have zeroed in on the dynamics of the bar scene: Get the girls dancing, then you’re in there.

You are. It’s almost like a snake charm. I know men who say, “I don’t dance. I don’t dance.” But then show them a beautiful blond surfer girl in front of him swinging those hips and, suddenly, he’s dancing!

Exactly. So, are you guys too rock for country or too country for rock or are you your own thing?

I wish I could answer that. I don’t know. I was born in California, raised in Texas. My dad was in the Air Force. Even though I was raised on country music, I would say I was more influenced by Zeppelin, The Who, Hendrix and Black Sabbath — you know, the rockers. That’s really what my love was, my true love. In retrospect, once you hit 25 or 26 and you’re away from your home for about 10 years, you start loving the things that you used to have and that’s pretty much what happened to me. I grew up on Johnny Cash, George Jones and Waylon — that’s all Dad ever played.

When we got out to California, Xavier and I had a rock ’n’ roll band and when we started playing this stuff again, I realized that I really missed it. I also realized that we played it really well.

You have an 818 number. Is there a country music scene down there and do you guys hang out?

We do. You know, we play with all those fellers — the Welldiggers, the Snake Handlers, the Lonesome Spurs, the Doogans. Yeah, we all hang out together and try to play shows together. The problem with L.A. is that it’s whoredom. They expect you to pay 10 dollars to get in, 10 dollars to park and 10 dollars for a drink and we won’t do that. We won’t do that to our listeners, so we’ve semi-isolated ourselves away from that Hollywood scene because we will not ask our listeners to do that.

Excellent. How many 805 adventures have you guys had?

It seems like we’re getting a bunch more and I’m very appreciative of that. We’ve played the Sans Souci and Dirty Vinyl — I like Nick there, he’s a good guy. I love the Sans Souci and I love that little vibe. When it gets packed in there, you smell the energy. We love Ventura and we’re excited about playing the fair.

How long has the Mule band been around?

Well, Xavier and I started a band called Cold Water Canyon back in ’97 or ’98, but we found out the name was already taken so we changed our name to Cannon and played under that name and that band became 29 Mules. You know Roby Duron, right? He was an original in 29 Mules with Xavier and I. He was from the Santa Clarita area and Xavier and I were out of Rosamond. That whole area is what I like to call Palmtucky.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a musician?

I guess, be careful what you wish for. You know, you wish to be idolized, loved and generally appreciated and if you get that, you realize you don’t get any money and you don’t get any fame, so which is better? Maybe you get fame and money but no one appreciates you, so it looks like it’s a three-ring circus because you have to get lucky and hit all three.

It’s supposed to be fun, right?

People see you up there having a blast and, usually, they don’t think much about all the effort that led up to that moment. I typically spend at least two hours a day playing the piano, the guitar or mandolin. I try to keep my skills together for when that moment occurs and I have to play. I don’t wanna be behind in my game. I take the craft very seriously as well as I suspect actors do. If you’re a natural talent, then good for you, but I’m not. I really need to work at it.

Who would you pay to see?

There’s a lot of talented people. You mean in the area?

Whatever, man.

Right now, I’d really like to see Jamey Johnson. I like him. I’d always like to see Willie again. I try to see him once a year no matter what it costs. I’d really like to get out and see Black Cherry Smoke — that’s a kick-ass band. I really like seeing new bands that play something cool.

That’s why we do this, man, to find new music.

I can respect that.

E-mail Locey at blocey@pacbell.net.

29 Mules at Ireland 32

Hold on to your cowboy hats, you are in for a wild ride! Texas Rock, Country, Blues, Psychobilly, a little theatrics, and you’ve got 29 Mules, one of the most versatile and exciting bands to hit the Los Angeles club scene in recent memory. Just back from a well-received Texas tour, the Mules blew the roof off Ireland 32 pub Wednesday night with two tight, high-powered sets.

 

The Los Angeles based band consists of long and lean Casey Cannon on lead vocals, the talented Xavier Gonzalez on lead guitar, the seasoned drumming of David Raven; Swedish born Johnny G. on bass and the often manic Dave (Hillside) Spangler, whose bluesy, energetic harmonica highlighted many of the bands songs.

Cannon commanded the stage with his dynamic performance and his perpetual motion. At one point in the night, Spangler was writhing on the dance floor, ala Jim Morrison, while still playing the harp. These are seasoned musicians and it shows. Much of their musical influences stem back to country legends such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. Along with their country influence, their eclectic musical styling kept the enthusiastic crowd on their feet the entire night, ready for anything.

 

29 Mules began with a hard-driving, rockin’ first set, featuring selections from their newly released CD entitled, “80 Feet Deep” including “Stopped Drinking Whiskey,” “Hell Don’t Want to Ride,” and their own unique rendition of Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule.” For their second, more soulful set, they were joined by Aubrey Richmond on the fiddle, and Shawn Davis (Stonehoney) on guitar, playing cover tunes by Stevie Wonder, The Water Boys, and the classic “Six Days on the Road.”

 

Brett Acker, a recent L.A. transplant, has followed the 29 Mules since he arrived from upstate New York 7 months ago. “I’ve seen them 6 or 7 times. I just really like their high-energy vibe. They really stand out. They are an amalgamation of several genres, and in doing so they create their own.” He added, “And I can always count on them to do a great jam at the end.” After this exhilarating show, you can bet that Brett will be back again.

The band scheduled two CD-release parties. Attend the first on Saturday, June 20th at Ireland’s 32 in Van Nuys at 9:30 pm. Find the second party at Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood on July 31st starting at 10 pm.

-Story and photos by guest contributor Deborah Rose

 

 

Continue reading on Examiner.com 29 Mules at Ireland 32, 6/10/09 - National Music | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/music-in-national/29-mules-at-ireland-32-6-10-09#ixzz1oJ8VCyEy

80 FEET DEEP

29 Mules are unabashedly ballsy and rowdy as fuck.  Some people run screaming immediately upon the sight of their bulging pants, and others are attracted much like a pornophile will slither through the gutter for a peep.

 

The thing is, the actually write some fucking good songs (full disclosure:  they are good friends of mine).  They take their Texas roots seriously and their style is straight up country and ain’t scared of it, but they bring a californiacated and hard punching twist to it with the occasional infusion of the rap inspired stylings of harmonica player and backup vocalist Dave “Hillside” Spangler.

 

Their brand new album, 80 Feet Deep is a worthy follow up to 2007’s No Rules for Mules, and they continue in the tradition, showing no signs of letting up.  They are not new to this, and have been a fixture on the LA scene, holding it down every Wednesday at Ireland’s 32 in Van Nuys for the past several years.

 

On the surface these guys appear to give less than a shit what anybody might think of them, but it doesn’t take much digging to reveal the sensitive boys they really are.  Lead singer Casey Cannon is like a wild wounded Mustang who wears his soft spots tucked just beneath his sleeve.  And the boy can sing.  He and lead guitarist Xavier Gonzalez form the creative core of the group and handle most of the songwriting duties.  On the new album the sensitive side comes through in such tracks as the loping ¾ time “lifetime Away” which laments the long and hard road they have been down, and what has been lost along the way.  Yet they are at their most potent when they stick to the dark and loud side of things, the best track on 80 Feet Deep is the spooky and pissed off “Devil Stole My Last 10 Dollars” which proclaims:  “It don’t matter what I done/ ‘cause everything means nothin’, anyway/ I hate the world, it hates me/ I don’t need it’s rotten company.”  Another standout is “Hell Don’t Want to Ride” which is a new sound for them if only because they deviate from the root-5th bass lines, opting for one which almost reminds me of the catchy appeal of a good 80’s pop song complete with adrenaline-pumping chorus.

 

They even lay down a version of Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule” which has become a signature track in their live shows.  “Stopped Drinking Whiskey” is a vintage rockabilly jam bejeweled with an intro featuring a bona fide gospel choir for backup.  80 Feet Deep is a strong offering which is sure to please core fans of the FarWest Almanac sound ™


 

ALBUM REVIEW: 80 Feet Deep - by 29 MULES

First let me say –I never in a million years would have thought I would one day be reviewing music like this. I just never liked music like this and have avoided listening to it at all cost. In light of that –let me say that this is one of the most powerful discs I have heard in a long time. It’s dirty, oil smudged and sweaty. It’s got something and I just can’t pinpoint. It’s like ZZ Top and Charlie Daniels got together, smoked some crack, drank some Jack and laid down some southern, dirty boy blues.

 

I really didn’t want to like this record but it grows on you like a bad addiction. Most of 80 Feet Deep is very dark sounding. I would have to describe 29 Mules as the Alice in Chains of Southern Rock. I am really surprised that I have not heard more about these guys.

 

The country and blues cliché’s run rampant with 29 Mules. Again something that I would normally wince at and criticize as being unoriginal, but here it works and really adds to the theme. These guys are just damn good.

 

The production is flawless. The performance is powerful. The writing is dark and about as red neck as it gets but they pull it off with such power and conviction you can’t help but feel the grime and sweat on your own skin. Stand out tracks are FW. TX, Caballero, and Hell Don’t Want to Ride. My favorite track is Devil Stole My Last $10. I actually felt like I was going to get hit by a train while listening to this track.

Conclusion:

Just buy this CD!! If you like ZZ Top, Mr. Daniels, or even Skynard but have a hankerin’ for somethin’ a bit heavier -check out 29 Mules – 80 Feet Deep. Even if you are not a fan of southern rock but like it heavy, I would suggest giving this disc a chance. Like I said, I didn’t want to like it but now I can’t get clean. 

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