Chuck E Weiss: Old Souls and Wolf Tickets (Ryko)

 |   |  1 min read

Chuck E Weiss: Sneaky Jesus
Chuck E Weiss: Old Souls and Wolf Tickets (Ryko)

Some people are more rewarded for what they don't achieve rather than what they do. There are politicians whose gift is to keep their heads down, make no mistakes but do nothing of consequence, and wait for a position on a board. 

That's in the nature of self-serving politics, perhaps. However it's more unusual for musicians who are assessed by the noise they make to be hailed as having made a contribution when their "careers" are largely composed of silence.

But consider the occasional "careers" of the Proclaimers, Blue Nile and Leonard Cohen who have yawning chasms between albums. Add to that list Chuck E Weiss, best and possibly only known as the Chuck E who was in love in the Rickie Lee Jones song of almost 25 years ago.

He hung out with Tom Waits as a boho-hipster and Tom sang Jitterbug Boy about Weiss, who became more famous for being sung about than anything of his own. Down the past two decades he released a couple of albums, but prolific was hardly a word you'd use. His '99 album Extremely Cool came a leisurely 18 years after his debut.

But Chuck was well-known in hip LA circles and was the brains behind Johnny Depp's money in the founding of the Viper Room on Sunset Strip.

Suddenly Weiss has become almost unnaturally productive, and only three years after Extremely Cool (which, like his almost immediately deleted debut, is extremely hard to find) he has surprised us with another album.

Old Souls and Wolf Tickets is an oddity, and sometimes actually likeable.

With suggestions of Waits' crankhandle rhythms and textures, and some Dr John southern funk, it opens with Congo Square At Midnight and goes out with Dixieland Funeral. Along the way he includes a swinging and wobbly treatment of Down the Road Apiece recorded live at the Viper Room with Willie Dixon, pianist Sunnyland Slim and harmonica player Carey Bell in 1970, and as one Jew saluting another who also interpreted black music, pays tribute to Al Jolson in the driving Jolie's Nightmare.

Yes, Weiss is hard to categorise, but he explores the roots of music that became jazz and early r'n'b rock by linking back to acappella vocal groups on the corner and New Orleans funk (No Hep Cats gets both in the same pocket), and the blues. So when he and his band the God Damn Liars rock out, they know exactly what they are doing. And less is more from these guys, too.

If Tom Waits' cast of night-creeper characters before about 1980 appealed, boogie-woogie piano and wheezy harmonica mean something to you, or second line funky saxophone crossed with gritty guitar is your kind of thing, then Chuck E once more has an album for you.

Better hurry though.; He seems in no rush to do these things, and they tend to disappear from sight fast.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Brigitte DeMeyer: Rose of Jericho (BDM)

Brigitte DeMeyer: Rose of Jericho (BDM)

Although now five albums into her career, it is highly likely few have heard of this soulful country-rock singer who here co-produces with Brady Blade. She has a little gospel and blues in her... > Read more

Lila Downs, Shake Away (EMI)

Lila Downs, Shake Away (EMI)

The new album by the US-Hispanic singer should get a good reception here given her popularity at the last Womad (see tag for interview) -- but this one sees her embracing a more centrist rock... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Creole Choir of Cuba: Tande-la (Real World/Southbound)

The Creole Choir of Cuba: Tande-la (Real World/Southbound)

Already tipped to be one of the highlights at next year's New Zealand Womad in Taranaki, this choir of Haitian ancestry certainly sing up a powerful sentiment (see clip). But this isn't an easy... > Read more

THE BEATLES BEYOND 1 AND 1+: All you need is these

THE BEATLES BEYOND 1 AND 1+: All you need is these

It's a safe bet a number of people knew what they wanted so bought their own Christmas present this past year. And that a whole bunch of others — maybe people getting it from parents or... > Read more