Preston Frantz Hellbent & heartbreakin'
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Preston Frantz Hellbent & heartbreakin'


Band Country Americana


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"This ain't no bubblegum country"

For all of Nashville's legitimate associations with the greatness of country music, there sure as hell have been a lot of terrific artists who left town because of the ladles of cheese sauce the industry insists on pouring over its product.
Folks like Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Robert Earl Keen - just to name a few.

The implication remains that country music as per Nashville's establishment is nothing more than glossy pop music with cowboy boots. It's an impression embraced by Old Lyme's Preston Frantz, who, with his band Hellbent & Heartbreakin', has just released a debut, self-titled CD. The 13-song effort, including visionary covers of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash songs and several tunes written or co-written by Frantz, is redolent in affection for pure honky tonk and American roots music.

”You know, I'm not a total purist in terms of old school country, but basically the country scene in Nashville right now is like the late '70s or early '80s rock music, in terms of production,” Frantz says. “I call it bubblegum country. We don't wanna be pigeonholed as a strict honky tonk band, either - we've got folk and bluegrass and swamp influences - but it's real and passionate music delivered with attitude. It's not bubblegum country.”

Frantz and Hellbent and Heartbreakin' perform tonight at a CD release party in the Rose Barn Theater at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford.

On songs such as “Barstool in Vegas,” “Heartbreak Central” and the poignant “Can't Get Used to Missing You,” Frantz uses his distinctive baritone to warble a variety of scenarios which revisit the lonely and sometimes raucous musical environs made famous by folks from Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb to Junior Brown and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

”There's really nothing you can do, musically,” Frantz laughs. “It's all been done by the masters. But there are some original scenarios within the form. I'll come up with a catchphrase or scenario and we'll go with it. If I need to use a term like 'jukebox' or 'honky tonk' within a song - and I have a few - it's also part of providing us with an identity. Not all music fans that hear us are maybe familiar with that kind of music, so we don't worry about clichés.”

Frantz grew up playing in a variety of bands of different styles, including the popular area band, the New Johnny Five. He also became friends and played with fellow country enthusiasts Ken Atkins and Paul Brockett. But he'd actually taken a step back from performing and writing for a few years before the need to create reenergized.

”I was listening to country music and started hanging out with Ken and one thing led to another,” he says. “Suddenly, I had a band.”

Atkins, who'd been playing hardcore country music all along with his band, the Honky Tonk Kind, and who played on four songs on Frantz's new album, says, “It was really good to see Preston come out of semi-musical retirement. He's a great entertainer and he's got a great band. The unique thing working for them, live and on album, is that there are a lot of different flavors of American roots music - plus just the slightest tinge of a jam band feel. It draws people in on a lot of levels.”

Indeed, the musicians of Hellbent and Heartbreakin' - Tim O'Connor (mandolin), Corina Malbaurn (bass), Todd Little (fiddle/vocals), Sandy Allen (pedal and lap steel/vocals), and Bret Farrar (guitars) - add the sort of perfect barroom empathy and chops one would more likely expect to find in Austin. Or, of late, in New London.

Along with the Honky Tonk Kind and the Paul Brockett Roadshow Band, Frantz has earned a sizeable local following in part because of the Blue Collar Happy Hour that takes place every Friday at the Bank Street Café in New London. Conceptualized by Atkins and Frantz shortly after Frantz dove back into music, the Happy Hour showcases their bands as well as a variety of increasingly widespread artists from across the Americana stylebook. It's been wildly successful and provided a venue for a kind of music not particularly well known in New England.

But Frantz has always known about it.

”Honestly, I grew up in a family that listened to all kinds of music - but more often than not Hank Williams was on the turntable in our house,” he says. “It's easy music to play and, more importantly, it's easy music to connect to.”

Copies of the CD will be available for sale for $10, and special guests such as Brockett and Atkins will sit in and perform.

- Rick Koster The New London Day


self titled CD release for Dec.2008
I Ain't Never has radio air play on WCNI Conn College.



Hellbent and Heartbreakin’ formed in the year 2007. With the desire to create a traditional country sound, Preston Frantz recruited Todd Little on the fiddle and Corina Malbaurn on upright bass. After a few shows Preston decided to add a lead guitarist, Bret Farrar. Bret coming from a jazzy, rock/blues background put a new twist on the songs which Preston refers to as swamp music. Corina introduced Tim O’Connor on mandolin, which added a great deal to the rhythm section. Between Corina’s slap bass style and Tim’s train like rhythm on mandolin you can’t tell the band is drummer less. Sandy Allen soon came aboard to add his tasteful and smooth lap and pedal steel playing. With Todd’s complementary vocal harmonies it’s hard to get Hellbent’s melodies out of your head.
Preston had been writing original country songs since the early 90’s with long time friend and band mate Ken Atkins, whom both preformed in the 80’s band New Johnny Five. Ken performs with Hellbent on guitar whenever the opportunity arises. Hellbent also likes to take cover songs and put their own spin on them. With their self titled CD release in 2009 on the Horizon Music Group, they plan on performing as much as possible. If you’re a fan of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or Ernest Tubb then you’ll enjoy the good ol’ bass thumpin’ country swing and swamp music of Preston Frantz Hellbent and Heartbreakin’.

Influences: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Wayne Hancock, Dwight Yoakam, Elvis, the Beatles, Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and BR549.