Back at the Quonset Hut
Available now on Ramseur Records (Feb. 28, 2012)
If there was ever a doubt it was possible to put a youthful, energetic spin on classics without being disrespectful, Chuck Mead has buried it on Back at the Quonset Hut.
Mead and his Grassy Knoll Boys rip through a dozen country and rockabilly standards on Back At the Quonset Hut, infusing each with a simmering vitality that drips off the disc while simultaneously wearing their reverence for the tunes proudly on their sleeves. A tribute to Bradley Film and Recording Studios, better known as The Quonset Hut, Mead recorded the paean to a legendary studio in one November 2010 weekend. He brought along former BR5-49 band mate Chris Scruggs and studio legends such as piano man Hargus “Pig” Robbins to help out.
While country luminaries like Bobby Bare join Mead for duets such as Carl Smith’s “Hey Joe,” the real stars here are the songs and the country giants that made them standards. Aiming for the highs of Roy Acuff (Wabash Cannonball), Hank Williams (Settin’ the Woods on Fire) and Tammy Wynette/Johnny Paycheck (Apartment #9) can be a fool’s errand, but Mead proves once again he’s nobody’s fool. Giving each tune his energetic vocal treatment, they are faithful renditions of songs he very sincerely loves. Yet this is no mere mimicry. Mead works effortlessly with his fellow studio mates and rips through each tune in his own way as though he’s been playing them for years. In many cases, he has.
Nashville has been a country town for decades - thanks in no small part to the greats who recorded at the Quonset Hut - but many a fine rockabilly cat also prowled through town. Mead tips his hat to two of the finest, Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins with toe-tappin’ versions of “Be Bop A Lula” and “Cat Clothes” respectively. But the real star of the quonset show is honky tonk standard “Sittin’ and Thinkin,’” made famous by Charlie Rich. Mead and pedal steel guitarist Carco Clave wring every possible drop of heartbreak and desperation out of the tune, like the narrator might on another one of his destructive binges. Like so many country songs attest, love can hurt, but when you love the music as much as Mead clearly does, you just can’t quit.