Historicity of music | Album Review: “American Rocker” | Music

Gary Gibula for the south

Regular readers of this column know well that your humble narrator is a rocker.

I have the pleasure this week to tell you about an incredible multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who is also a rocker – in fact, an “American rocker”.

That guy is none other than Joe Bouchard, perhaps best known for his 16 years and 18 albums as a member of Blue Oyster Cult.

Mr. Bouchard, not at all underestimated in BOC, has surely today embraced his underlying identity, musical potential and songwriting maturity with the Friday release of his sixth solo album, aptly titled “American rocker”.

With gracious thanks to Chipster PR and Consulting, I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Joe about his new album as well as several other topics which you can read about in next week’s column.

Joe was BOC’s bassist, songwriter, collaborator and lead vocalist. The musical chemistry shared with his bandmates, producers and lyricists likely had a basis in his upbringing.

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“I played my first gig at 10,” Bouchard told me. “In high school, I was third chair trumpet in the school band.”

His older brother, Albert, had been a drummer since childhood and the two siblings eventually became founding members of BOC.

By now, Joe is a sufficiently impressive multi-instrumentalist to be mentioned in the same sentence with such talented musicians as Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood, Todd Rundgren and Dave Edmunds.

On “American Rocker”, Joe of course sings lead vocals, but also plays many string instruments: rhythm and lead guitars, slide guitar, baritone guitar, guitarron, bass and mandolin. He contributes keyboards including piano, clavinet, synth and organ; horns such as trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet; and percussion, including vibraphone, castanets, shaker, hand claps and even finger snaps.

Why were so many different instruments used on the album?

“There are enough sampled or synthesized sounds,” Joe said. “I love when real instruments are on a recording. There’s nothing like the emotion of the real instrument.”

Playing a multiplicity of instruments is not the only variety in Bouchard’s interests. His post-BOC career includes no less than six previous solo albums: Jukebox in My Head (2009), Tales from the Island (2012), New Solid Black (2014), The Power of Music (2016), Playin’ History (2017 ) and Strange Legends (2020).

Joe is currently teaming up with his brother, Albert, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Dunaway, original bassist of the band Alice Cooper, in a combo called Blue Coupe. The trio – which occasionally includes a fourth member – has recorded three studio albums and toured the North East and Canada regularly.

Additionally, Bouchard has made three albums with The X Brothers, done sessions and gigs with his brother’s bands The Brain Surgeons and Albert & the Sleigh Riders, and has producer credits with half a dozen others. , including the late Helen Wheels.

Not to be confused with Paul McCartney and Wings’ song of the same name – which is about a car, Helen Wheels (aka Helen Robbins) was a legendary punk rocker who collaborated with Bouchard and BOC on several song lyrics.

One of them, Tattoo Vampire, featured a memorable line describing the words of a tattoo on a woman’s wrist: “life and love pass by quickly.”

Joe and Helen co-wrote songs like Celestial the Queen and Nosferatu, from BOC’s 1977 album Specters.

Although she died in 2000, following complications from back surgery, Wheels left behind a song, “Katherine”, which Joe included on his new album.

“Helen wrote this song,” he said. “Otherwise, this is the most lyrics I’ve ever written for an album. This is my pandemic album, where I had time to make the record that I always wanted to make.”

The first song – and single, also a video – from American Rocker is the appropriate “My Way Is the Highway”, one of five songs on the album that features Albert Bouchard playing everything from percussion to guitar. to sound effects.

“It was a song where I had some guitar chords in my head that I had saved two or three years ago,” Joe said. “The lyrics came almost simultaneously. It’s a melody that goes with the title of the album, which defines me – you gotta burn some rubber and not be late for the gig.”

Bouchard’s songwriting in the melody evokes the imagery of driving down a California highway in a convertible sports car en route to a show, which in itself “chases the blues”.

“In the Golden Age”, which is also a video single, recalls Joe’s days with BOC.

Ragin’ long on the music machine / you never forget how lucky you are. Draw fans on the road / on the stairway to the stars.

“That’s exactly how I felt, with those lyrics,” he said. “I wrote this track about my life in the 70s.”

In addition to the song’s title being a possible reference to the BOC tune “Golden Age of Leather”, the lyrics “stairway to the stars” themselves are the title of a mind-blowing rock tune of the same name from the debut BOC album. from 1972. .

Not to be overlooked, guitarist John Jorgensen plays on “In the Golden Age” as well as “Off Season Hotel”.

“John happens to be a friend,” Joe said. “We went to Iraq together in a star group to entertain the troops in 2010. We were both asked to do it and we jumped at the chance.”

Jorgenson is best known for his guitar work with bands such as the Desert Rose Band, a band founded by Chris Hillman of the Byrds.

Other American Rocker songs have songwriter overtones reminiscent of early BOC songs, a style that defines Bouchard as an evolving, mature, and immensely accomplished musician.

“Deadly Kisses,” for example, features a haunting piano reminiscent of “Astronomy,” a song Joe co-wrote with Albert for the BOC album Secret Treaties.

“Hounds of Hell” sounds Nosferatu-ish, the tune Joe wrote with Helen Wheels.

“That one has a scary E minor 6th chord, a really dark key,” he said. “The first thing I thought of with the lyrics to this song was that the hounds of hell were on my trail. I grew up on a farm and when it was dark you could hear the hounds howl every time it was a full moon.”

The official release date of “American Rocker” is Friday, June 3 and it will be available on most streaming sites like iTunes and Spotify.

“It’s also available on my website,” Joe added, “where you can buy autographed physical copies and a nice bundle where you get an autographed booklet with all the lyrics, t-shirts, picks, and all kinds of groovy stuff. Check it out.”

This website, www.joebouchard.com, also offers a world of other information, including song lyrics, photos, concert dates and more.

Be sure to check out next week’s column with part two of my interview with legendary musician and true American rocker Joe Bouchard.

Gary Gibula is a SIU alumnus, musician, writer, editor and author of the Music Historicity Columns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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