the Hot Carls
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the Hot Carls

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Though separated by in age by at least two decades, Rodney Owen and Stephen Corbett share a rebellious hybridizing instinct that has carried across several generations of American popular music: The urge to soil the sterility of pompous rock music and upturn the pious sentimentality of country and western.

Their tradition goes back to at least the late 1960s, when Gram Parsons introduced heartbreak honky-tonk and country soul to the southern California rock scene. It runs through the 1980s when Jason & the Scorchers, Rank and File and Uncle Tupelo in their various ways melded incendiary punk rock with traditionalist twang, paving the way for the alternative country movement of the 1990s.

"In the seventies we were into Jerry Jeff Walker when everybody else was playing Yes," says Owen, bass player for the High Point honky-tonk rock and roll outfit the Hot Carls. "When I heard Gram Parsons, it blew the top of my head off."

The band's singer and rhythm guitar player Stephen Corbett, who goes by the stage name of Señor Ellis Diablo, adds: "I got into it through Steve Earle. I always listened to the Rolling Stones. My mom was into straight-up country. My uncle was dating a chick that was into Prince."

After Corbett's holy trinity of "Prince, [George] Jones and the Stones" was cemented, his family moved from Charleston, SC to nearby Johns Island, and the budding musician transferred into a predominantly black high school. He quickly immersed himself in gangsta rap, and still later schooled himself in grunge long after Kurt Cobain's suicidal coup de grace.

Tonight, during a Tuesday slot reserved for offbeat bands not ready to contend for the cover-heavy weekend shifts in Greensboro's live music scene, the second incarnation of the Hot Carls makes its raunchy debut at the Clubhouse, a beer and pool hideaway near Guilford College. They launch into a ragged and deafening cover of Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" Bill Comstock fairly assaults his drum kit. Shawn Patch dispatches expository lead guitar lines. Owen imposes a throbbing and fluid bass line. And Corbett leads the band with his warbling and agitated vocals.

Later, as the band rolls through Hank Williams' brooding "Ramblin' Man," Corbett's eyebrows arch demonically and his eyes flash with laser-like intensity. The Hot Carls transform the George Jones' honky-tonk classic "You Better Treat Your Man Right" into a snarling punk anthem. The band also barrels through a batch of originals, including "Groovin' In the Backseat," "Smirnoff Morning" and "Dirty Girl." Altogether, they incorporate Stones country honk, rural balladry, tortured soul arpeggios and double-bass drum propulsion.

The Hot Carls' original songs hew to a classic narrative of debauched living cast within the crucible of Southern romantic excess - a line developed by novelist Harry Crews, along with Jones and Earle that has become somewhat clichéd, yet remains compelling and frightening all the same. "It's another Smirnoff morning, Jack Daniels afternoon, and cocaine in the middle of the night," Corbett sings. "A hundred miles from Tuscaloosa, a thousand miles out of my mind, with a girl who looks like you behind the wheel."

They've made a promising second attempt after a false start last summer that ended with the band disintegrating after a disastrous gig in Charleston in November. They had a slot opening for Joey Alcorn, a hard-core honky-tonk act with national exposure. It should have been the Hot Carls' moment.

"Everybody showed up blitzed," Corbett recalls. "The drummer was awful. We politely asked him to leave in the middle of the set. Then the bass player walked out. It ended with me and the other guitarist playing some songs together. The last words I said were, 'Shit happens, and it certainly happened tonight.'"

The humiliation of that show was coupled with a personal encounter of sustaining grace for Corbett, however. A Hot Carls demo was passed along to Chris Etheridge, who played in the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons more than three decades ago. Summoned by the legendary country-rock bass player, Corbett made a pilgrimage to Meridian, Miss.

"The first thing he said is, 'What the hell do you want to know about Gram Parsons?'" Corbett recalls. "I said, 'Nothing. If I wanted to know about Gram Parsons, I would have gone to Florida, where his family is.' We spent the first hour looking at his garden and talking about plants. Then he goes into his bedroom and brings out this homemade CD of the Flying Burrito Brothers opening for the Grateful Dead in 1969. He says, 'You wanna hear this?' Me and Chris ended up playing an impromptu show in Meridian with me on acoustic guitar. He calls himself 'the hippie from Mississippi.'"

As for the band's name, Corbett does not deny that in addition to blistering honky-tonk it also refers to a particular act of sexual kink involving defecation, but insists that he settled on it by innocent - YES! Weekly


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Hot Carls have billed themselves as “The World’s Greatest Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Band,” and anyone who has seen their electrifying live act will testify it’s a hard claim to refute. With both feet planted firmly in the hallowed cow-punk grounds of forefathers Jason & the Scorchers and Uncle Tupelo, the band has been described as a mix of George Jones’ soul, the Rolling Stones’ swagger, and the Sex Pistols’ attitude.

The Hot Carls was formed in early 2006 and performed its first shows in the summer of that year. By the fall, the band had been asked by Hellbilly Booking to open a few shows on the One Month of Misery tour with Those Poor Bastards and Joey Allcorn & His Hillbilly Band. Unreliability necessitated some early roster changes, but the core of the current line-up (Ellis Dee, Carl Williams, and Shawn Patch) was solidified in the early winter of 2007. Rick Barbour became the newest Carl in March of 2007.

Señor Ellis Dee-ablo (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) is the founder and sole original member of the Hot Carls. Influenced by his heroes George Jones, Keith Richards and Prince, Ellis began writing songs at the tender age of 7, and started performing onstage as a teenager in the classic rock cover band Borderline. He also tried his hand at prog-rock (Catapult) and hardcore punk (Asshole Cancer), before starting the Hot Carls.

Carl Williams (drums, background vocals) was a seasoned veteran of the Chicago club scene well before he turned 18. With over 25 years of experience on the stage and in the studio, he has added his expert drumming to bands like Temper (alternative rock) and the Ardent Fools (rockabilly). Williams can repair and tune drums just as easily as he can destroy them and has worked as a drum tech for bands like KISS Army, Blackfoot, and Lucky 13.

Shawn Patch (lead guitar) became a very important piece of the Hot Carls puzzle, when he brought his keen ear for melody and pyrotechnic guitar playing to the band. Patch began playing guitar in his early teens, and has synthesized influences as diverse as Guns ‘N’ Roses, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Son Volt into a signature sound that’s every bit as distinct as they are. As a founding member of the 404s, Patch has played in clubs from Georgia to Vermont and as far west as New Mexico.

Rick Barbour (bass, background vocals) got his start playing in the bluegrass quartet the Thousand Sticks Express, which is fitting since he comes to us from Kentucky. Though he was initially influenced by Flatt & Scruggs and the Osborne Brothers, his 30 years of playing has taken him to almost every genre imaginable. Early in his career, Barbour toured extensively with the metal outfits Danang and Tara Thunder. He was also a member of the popular Greensboro grunge band Prometheus Bound in the mid-90’s.

Collectively, the four members of the Hot Carls have nearly a century of playing experience, have performed in nearly every state in the eastern half of the United States, and have shared the stage with Mojo Nixon as well as members of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Mudjunkie, Pioneers of Alaska, and Wayne Hancock’s touring band.