Red Beans and Weiss, the new and cleverly titled album from Los Angeles legend Chuck E. Weiss is a hoot. It marks Weiss’ first release since his 2006 album 23rd & Stout and has been developed, completed and released over a relatively leisurely time frame. He began recording in October 2012 with strong encouragement from his friends and mentors, Tom Waits and Johnny Depp, who are executive producers, both of whom consider this to be Weiss’ best work yet.
“Tupelo Joe” is a rockin’ boogie number with great guitar work and frantic staccato vocals which adds urgency. “Shushie” has a playful, tummy-rubbing jazz groove with heavy-breathing singing, seductive saxophone and tasteful guitar, with the upright bass keeping everything in a fine line.
“Boston Blackie” is a treat – a cascading, rolling, thumping chorus and a siren guitar, leading to a rocking and rolling name roll call. Here’s a clip of that track.
“That Knucklehead Stuff” continues the ramshackle theme with a vibe reminiscent in some ways of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. “Bomb The Tracks” takes us on a journey through international politics through delightful, rhyming shuffle rock diplomacy. The Jagger/Richards tune “Exile on Main Street Blues” has a New Orleans-style rolling piano which evolves to a full band – the sax maintaining a delicious groove. It’s a belter of a song – get dancing! before the boogie woogie sax and piano take us out. The interestingly titled “Kokomo (Boy Bruce)” is a tight, funky number with Weiss’s rough-hewn voice serving the material very well.
Next it’s off to Mexico for so fun – “Hey Pendejo” is a loose-limbed and rambling Tijuana trip while “Dead Man’s Shoes” returns to a rockier place, another taut song with nothing bloated or overdone in sight. “Old New Song” has a terrific vibe, an electric guitar and stomping piano setting things up, while the lyrics draw you in about the dangers of being alive. “The Hink-A-Dink” creeps and slithers with a slow and low moaning chant and wonderful backing vocals by Judy Brown. “Oo Poo Pa Do In The Rebop” sounds like it is – a funky, strutting affair. More lightheartedness follows with “Willy’s In The Pee Pee House” (the content here is a little enigmatic to these ears but I don’t think it really matters too much).
And so endeth the Chuck E. lesson, with a smile on my dial.
All songs bar “Exile on Main Street Blues” are by Weiss – either written solo or collaborations with Will MacGregor, J.J. Holiday, Tony Gilkyson or Michael Murphy. Key players on the sessions are Tony Gilkyson (guitar), Will MacGregor (bass), Don Heffington (percussion), Cece Worrall-Rubin (sax), Michael Murphy (piano) and Judy Brown (backing vocals). As an aside, Johnny Depp helps out with drums on two tracks and provides backing vocals on “Boston Blackie”.
The front cover art is tremendous – buy the album and spend some time picking the faces, like some of the older among us did with The Beatles’ St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
More background about Chuck E. Weiss can be found here.
Red Beans & Weiss is out on ANTI records.
Have fun and rock.
“Chuck E Weiss is a rare treasure. If you buy one record this year, make it this one. It’s insane.”— Johnny Depp
“He put the sin in Synagogue.”— Danny Tate
“Idiosyncratic and eclectic.”—Billboard
“Full of great wit, charm and an utter carelessness.”—USA Today
Thanks to the folk at Footstomp Music