There are two Nashville sounds.
There’s the overproduced dreck on FM radio, the music you hear in LongHorn.
Forget Music Row, though, and hunt for the good stuff. There’s real music out there, Webb Wilder says, and real people making it.
Wilder’s been delivering that message about 25 years, staying true to his amped-up version of roots rock with just the right amount of humor. A country frame of mind melded to a rock ‘n’ roll frame.
I first saw him and his band, the Beatnecks, at the Cotton Club in Midtown Atlanta in the late ’80s, after the release of his debut album, “It Came From Nashville.”
What a great sound. Two guitars, bass and drums, played by pros, turned up loud.
I saw him most recently in September in Chattanooga, performing the same energetic show — OK, maybe not quite as loud, and not quite as much shtick.
His most recent CD, “More Like Me,” may not have the gut-busting kick of earlier records, but it really grows on you and comes across well live. Upcoming shows include two Halloween performances in Austin — including the very cool Antone’s Record Shop — and visits to Knoxville on Nov. 19 and Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta on Nov. 21.
Q: Your new CD presents a new side of you. Several songs seem more mellow than anything you’ve recorded. Is that why you called it “More Like Me”?
WW: Well, I can’t speak for everyone but, I do think a big part of what’s important in life is being comfortable in your own skin. Some people start out that way more than others. I don’t know. I found myself writing a song called “More Like Me” and it seemed like a good title for the album after the fact.
Q: Jerry Reed is another artist who could combine humor and great playing. Was he an influence?
WW: Maybe not directly or consciously, but I came to realize how great he was years and years ago. GREAT, innovative, soulful guitarist, larger than life personality, proud son of the South, etc.
Q: Your recent riverside show in Chattanooga was a blast — bringing back fond memories of shows at Atlanta’s Cotton Club about 20 years ago. Are you and the band reinvigorated?
WW: Well, I’d like to think we were invigorated the whole time but the truth is everything has its ebb and flow. There have been many infusions of energy of various kinds over these many years. Doing the album and getting out and playing the songs has been invigorating for all of us, I think. In other words … Yes!
Q: Who are you listening to these days?
WW: Well as I always say, “The past is vast.” A lot of what I listen to is older, but diverse. In the last couple of months, I’ve listened to Junior Wells’ early pre-Buddy Guy stuff, The Faces (always), “Sticky Fingers” and “Metamorphosis” by the Stones, the deluxe edition of “The Who Sell Out,” the remastered “Abbey Road.” The Steeldrivers debut album blew me away … especially “Sticks That Made Thunder.” Was checkin’ out some early David Bowie the other day. Those records SOUND great.
Q: Here’s an age-old question — The Beatles or the Stones?
WW: Well, The Beatles totally rule. I dig both but I AM a big Stones person. Some folks aren’t. I suppose some Stones fans don’t dig The Beatles but the snobbery seems to emanate more from the Beatle camp usually. I am and always have been in awe of The Beatles but, I naturally gravitated to the Stones, Animals, Kinks and all the blues-based Brits. I am a big Who fan, too. They’re really sorta unique, as all the aforementioned groups are as well, I suppose.
Q: The Yardbirds or the Byrds?
WW: Well, once again, I dig both, but I think I immersed myself more in the music and hoopla of the Byrds early on. I particularly like the Gene Clark era although Clarence White and Gram Parsons are giants (though small in stature!) among men. “Shapes of Things” by The Yardbirds absolutely blew me away. I remember these records from when they were NEW! It is still super cool as is/was their whole thing. Clapton, Beck and Page! Come on!
Q: I love your line about Elvis: “If you don’t think he’s number one, you’re full of number two.” Do you believe that?
WW: Sure! Elvis was standing on the shoulders of giants to a certain degree as soon as he came on the scene but, when you look at how early that was, how bold and GOOD it was, not to mention his incalculable X factor of charisma, etc. … he kinda invented the wheel. He CERTAINLY did for white Rock and Rollers. He hybridised/galvanized/embodied some disparate elements into something altogether his own, the ripple effects of which are still being felt.
More on Webb Wilder:
Video of Webb Wilder, “Just Had to Laugh:”