Watkins and the Rapiers
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Watkins and the Rapiers

Rochester, New York, United States | SELF

Rochester, New York, United States | SELF
Band Americana Folk




"Watkins and the Rapiers"

Watkins and the Rapiers refuse to behave. From the pseudo-country sarcasm of "What Ever Happened to Billy Ray Cyrus?" to the funky shuffle of "Monroe Avenue," this quirky Rochester sextet crosses stylistic boundaries with impunity and a hefty measure of wiseass wit.

Play Along with Watkins and the Rapiers (All-Time Records), the lively debut disc from these creative, good-time players, is a fun listen, especially for listeners who think there's just too much serious music in this world, anyway. Their humorous songs, describing everyday topics such as "Wilson Farms" and a "Cheap Motel," entertain as clever novelty numbers, but the Rapiers also flirt with social commentary on surreal ditties such as "Elevator Man in the Woods" and "Blue, Blue Planet."

Some Rapiers' tunes are pure nonsense, but that's OK. The zydeco swirl of "Je M'Appelle Rocco" necessarily throws off any serious pretense, so one might as well join in on the junior-high school foreign language chorus: "La bibliotheque est la bas/ Et un autre chose, comment ca va?"

"One Too Many Polkas" is a polka, of course, but with a twist. This tune describes a somewhat deranged polka fan pushed over the edge by one too many oom-pah-pahs played upon the stage. And how many bands would mix a Shaft-styled soul-brother electric guitar riff with an acoustic mandolin lead, as the Rapiers do on their wickedly sarcastic teen anthem "I'm Gonna Rock Your World"? The ultra-corny "Cornbread" cooks as a hillbilly hoedown, while the folk music process gets turned on its ear with "The Ballad of the Professor," a perverse reworking of the Gilligan's Island "Acres of Clams" theme.

Instrumentally, the Rapiers cover enough territory for two bands. Bruce Diamond, formerly of the Wilderness Family, plays fiddle, mandolin and piano; Rob Goodwin squeezes the accordion; Kerry Regan plays bass, harmonica and kazoo; and Marty York adds drums and percussion. Tom Whitmore, formerly of the Syracuse band Jim Tobey and the Rock Trio, plays bass and guitar; brothers Kerry and Scott Regan, who grew up in Camillus, play guitar (as does everyone except the drummer), and all the band members share the credit for vocals, which often favor passion over pitch. Scott Regan wrote five of the tunes on this disc, while brother Kerry Regan wrote six, Goodwin wrote three and Whitmore two.

Play Along... recently won a national "New Artist Alert" contest sponsored by Soundstone Entertainment of Somerville, Mass., and judged by a panel including Milo Miles of The New York Times, Village Voice and National Public Radio's Fresh Air program. The album will receive national distribution and be featured at in-store kiosk listening stations at retail outlets around the country.

Watkins and the Rapiers, named after an inexpensive, British-made guitar, make their Syracuse debut at Happy Endings Cake & Coffeehouse, 317 S. Clinton St., Friday, May 29, at 8:30 p.m.

Watkins and the Rapiers can be contacted at All-Time Records, Box 18663, Rochester 14618-8663; (716) 461-4874; or via e-mail at kregan@netacc.net.
- Syracuse New Times

"Watkins and the Rapiers: It's Christmas Baby!"

Goddamn, this record is good. Watkins and the Rapiers deck the halls with acoustically rooted Americana . Not one to flog the yule log, the band came up with 12 original Christmas ditties that appeal to the socially conscious smart aleck in all of us. “Christmas On The Border” discusses whether illegal immigrants should be sent back to Mexico after doing such a good job here all year long. Porno funk serves as the backdrop to impending disaster on “Wildfire,” about Boy Scouts sneaking cigarettes behind dried-out Christmas trees. There’s a nod to Johnny Cash, who’ll no doubt get re-packaged to death like Dean and Frank from here to eternity. Then out of nowhere it’s as if John Prine shows up with “Where Angels Fall From The Sky.” It’s Christmas, Baby will crack you up, but the instrumental beauty and lyrical irony keeps the hilarity in check so no eggnog comes shooting outta your nose. - City Newspaper, Rochester, NY

"Something in the Water: Music from Rochester, N.Y."

Watkins & The Rapiers are a most unusual band. They have chops but not all of the
usual ones. They have a classic American sound with sing along songs. We saw
them live at the Flipside on Main Street and they are a joy live. You'd be surprised
to know that they are a dance band live. Lead singer, Scott Regan has a weekday
morning radio show on WRUR-FM (88.5) called "Open Tunings". He plays lots of
Colorblind James and has one of the best shows on the air. Their beautifully
designed cd package features found slides like the Unknown Woman photos. - The Refrigerator

"Watkins & the Rapiers want to be your Bad Santa."

"We're very reverent," insists guitarist and co-lead singer Scott Regan, despite evidence to the contrary aplenty on the band's 15-years-in-the making, brand-new holiday treat, It's Christmas, Baby!

Exhibit No. 1: "Santa's Got a Gun," loaded with surf harmonies and Bo Diddley beats, and a sweet story of Santa visiting a park. Suddenly, the moment becomes a hostage situation as "there's something shiny in his hand, good Lord I don't understand."

The annual Christmas shows by the Rochester roots rockers date back a decade or so, to the old Rose & Crown on Monroe Avenue. Drummer Marty York's mom made their Santa hats, which they still wear. This season, the band has two shows: Saturday at Daily Perks Coffeehouse, 389 Gregory St., and Dec. 22 at the Flipside Bar & Grill, 2001 E. Main St. "One with coffee, one with beer," Regan says helpfully.

Regan's brother, Kerry, first began writing some of these songs 15 years ago. "Every year, we'd add a song or two," Scott says — enough that they could release a second album of Christmas music.
Kerry's "Pink Slip," with Bruce Diamond on mandolin, is "an up-tempo song about being laid off at Christmas time,"

Scott says. Heroes abound: Diamond and guitarist Tom Whitmore fill their "Wildfire" with James Brown-style R&B horns, while Johnny Cash's concern for the disenchanted is paid tribute to as Kerry sings "even on Christmas day, he wore black."

The lyric details are quite tasty, and authentic, Regan insists. "Cinnamon and sugar on tortillas is something I got from an actual Mexican-American," he says of one of the treats on "Christmas on the Border." Amazingly, the song — with Geneseo record-store maverick Buzzo playing trumpet — may be the first ever illegal-immigrant Christmas polka.

"We were trying for a first in something," Regan says. "We just didn't know what it would be."

For more on the band, go to www.rapiers.org. - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

"Watkins & the Rapiers not a secret, but close"

Watkins & the Rapiers is one of the finest bands in Rochester, but you don't have to take my word for
it; they got the seal of approval from no less a songwriting whiz than Loudon Wainwright III, who OK'd the band to open his Jan. 12 show at Montage Live.

So, how come you've never heard of these guys?

They're not masters of self-promotion. In the band's "nine or 10 years," says guitarist and songwriter Scott Regan, who seems somewhat uncertain of the timeline, the band has released one official album, Play Along With Watkins & the Rapiers. And one unofficial album, Whatever Happened to Watkins & the Rapiers? "We make them as we need them," Regan says, to sell at shows.

Regan also released a solo CD, 2002's Homemade Maps, which kinda gives you an idea of where
Regan's songwriting comes from. Or, the more appropriate tone, where it wanders in from: "Days Go
By" opens with the lines "Mama get some water, dog looks mighty dry. Movin' kinda slow, got two bloodshot eyes."

And there's a whole mess of original Christmas songs circulating among friends and fans; the band
has played a Christmas show every year for the past eight years. "I think it's some of our coolest stuff," Regan says. "My brother has written some great ones. They're not like other Christmas songs.
You don't often hear a song about Santa taking hostages."

That's called "Santa's Got a Gun," if you want to call out a request next holiday season. Comparisons?
How about the Colorblind James Experience, one of the finest and quirkiest bands to have ever come
out of Rochester. Regan even used to play with Colorblind himself, the late Chuck Cuminale, in a jug band when the two lived in Oswego in the early '80s.

"Neither one of us could play guitar or sing," Regan says in a self-deprecating way. "Not much has

It's American roots music. Even the disco-Christmas songs.

More likely than stumbling across the band, you may have stumbled across Regan on "Open Tunings," his weekday morning radio show on WRUR-FM (88.5). That began about 15 months ago. Regan, whose sole experience as a deejay was one two-hour slot on the old "Folk Lunch" show in the mid- '80s, heard what the little basement station on the University of Rochester campus had in mind, and said, "I could do a show like that."

"That's my record collection, basically. It didn't pay anything, but it was a big commitment. They taught me how to do the buttons, then said, 'You wanna go on the air?' That was it."

That's OK; he's a 53-year-old hockey-playing guy whose needs seem few, after spending years as a
house dad, raising two now-grown kids.

Regan's radio playlist is as eccentric as his dog songs. He seems to like Bob Dylan. "I like to play
songs that excite me, and emotionally touch me," he says. "There're so many good songs out there.
There's a huge inventory that has never been touched by radio. I know just a fraction of it. I don't
consider myself a musicologist. Just someone with a great curiosity."

Curiosity got stomped to death in corporate radio years ago. Did you know that last year, both Sony
and the Warner Music Group paid substantial fines after an investigation by the office of the New York
state attorney general revealed that they were giving money and gifts to radio programmers to play
certain artists? That included the local pop stations, WKGS-FM (106.7) and WPXY-FM (97.9).

No such temptation comes Regan's way. No one's offering him high-definition TVs to play the new
Mariah Carey album. He sees what he does as a return to the ideals of college radio, more than adecade ago, when they were simply playing the coolest music. When you listen to Regan's show, it's
like being in his house, and he's saying "Listen to this. ..."

"Sometimes it's interesting to juxtapose things you are very familiar with and things you don't know,"
he says. "Frank Sinatra. I play some Sinatra. And Dean Martin and Peggy Lee. Rosemary Clooney.
You put them out there next to, oh, let's see, I can't think of something, because I do it so intuitively.
Maybe 8½ Souvenirs, and you make some connections between different styles of music you might not otherwise connect."

But doesn't playing a swing band like 8½ Souvenirs alongside the tortured characters of Lucinda Williams break a few rules of radio?

Long pause from Regan. ... "There are rules?" - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

"Irreverent holiday harmonies from Watkins & the Rapiers"

No actual position as Rochester's Official Band of Christmas exists, but few acts are as automatic this time of year as Watkins & the Rapiers.

"We stepped up to the plate on that one," concedes Kerry Regan, one of the primary songwriters for the charmingly rustic roots rockers. He's been writing Christmas songs since the 1970s, beginning with a now-forgotten ditty about President Gerald Ford wiping out while skiing in Vail, Colo. But it wasn't until 1997 that Watkins & the Rapiers first began unloading irreverent holiday harmonies on innocent
audiences. They'll do it three times this season, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday with "Hail, Hail the
Holidays" at Village Gate Square, in a Benefit for the Center for Youth Services.

Hosted by the local alt-country rockers Hunu?, the show is set up like the hugely popular annual Dylan
tributes. More than two dozen performers will be onstage for just one song. Watkins & the Rapiers will play a handful, and get deeper into its Christmas catalog when it moves on to its own Christmas shows, with the coffee-fueled Dec. 13 performance at The Mez Coffee House, and a slightly more barroom-driven Dec. 20 at the Flipside Bar & Grill. The band's Web site lists 28 Watkins Christmas originals, with a few new ones debuting this year, including, perhaps, "Santa Needs a Bail-Out."

One song on the bubble as to whether the band performs it is "Christmas Time for the Red, White and
Blue," written in 2002, and satirically questioning George W. Bush's gearing up for the invasion of Iraq: "The great North Star that shines so bright, can't compete with the smart-bomb light, carving craters from the earth, to safe-keep the land of the Savior's birth." Like Ford's ski mishap, Regan wonders if it's too topical, that history has already moved on.

"On the other hand, it is his last term in office," he says. "He might be someone who's worth imitating for many years to come. People might look back on it nostalgically before we know it."

For more, go to www.rapiers.org. - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle


Full-length CDs:
- The Return of Watkins & the Rapiers (2010)
- It's Christmas Baby! (2006)
- What Ever Happened to Watkins & the Rapiers (1999)
- Play Along With Watkins & the Rapiers (1997)

- Watkins and the Rapiers Live OnStage (2007)

Songs from "Play Along With" and "It's Christmas Baby!" have received airplay in a number of U.S. states.



We play mostly original music, written by the band’s five songwriters. It’s Americana music, folk music with a beat, exploring many genres, rather than calculating a sound to fit a marketing category.

We’ve been together more than 15 years, nurturing a loyal following while amassing a repertoire of well over 100 original songs. We also cover dozens of songs by the likes of Colorblind James, Steve Earle, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Jonathan Richman, the Traveling Wilbury's and Van Morrison, among others.

In performance, we have no single front man, but a collection of distinctive personalities who share the spotlight over the course of a show. Like The Band, we have many multi-instrumentalists, we share lead vocals, and we draw inspiration from a range of eclectic, rootsy influences. Some of our songs are tightly arranged, some are platforms for improvisation in styles ranging from New Orleans swing to jug band stomps, two-step polkas, old-time country, juke-joint rock, folk ballads and jangly pop.

Most nights, our performances are loose and fun, equally suitable for rowdy pubs, pin-drop quiet coffeehouses and stately concert halls. For the last few years, we have maintained six-month residencies at the café in Rochester’s art movie theatre, so we work hard at keeping our shows fresh and topical.

As part of our effort to stay fresh, each year we challenge ourselves to write new Christmas songs. As a result, we now have more than 50 original Christmas songs to draw upon for our December shows, which have become an annual tradition for many in Rochester.

Band Members