Music Review: Chuck Mead – Back at the Quonset Hut

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Chuck Mead
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.

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