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CROSBY TYLER-THE ONE MAND BAND REBELLION CD REVIEW  MAY 25TH, 2014

Review by Paul Kerr

LA based Crosby Tyler has proven his affinity for the American folk and blues tradition with his two previous releases, Ten Songs of America Today and Lectric Prayer. On these he was backed by some stellar musicians including Peter Case (who produced Ten Songs), DJ Bonebrake and members of Nickel Creek. The One Man Band Rebellion is exactly that, Tyler on guitar, bass drum and harmonica, a genuine one man band with all songs recorded in one take, no overdubs or studio gimmickry. As he says ” It seemed that nobody knew how to record direct, one-take style, as a one man band. The bass drum posed a problem for most modern day engineers.” Tyler credits producer/engineer Jamie Bridges for capturing the sound he wanted and it has to be said the sound is excellent capturing the old time roughness of spontaneous playing with a sparkling clarity while the bass drum/guitar/harp set up is perfect for Tyler’s hobo folksiness.

The album itself continues Tyler’s mission to document and champion the underdogs, society’s cast offs be they junkies, bikers, hippies, white trash which was evident on Ten Songs. The language is raw (and not radio friendly) but it speaks of the streets with some arresting tales and images and the overall impression is similar to a collection of short stories in the tradition of Willy Vlautin with some Bukowski thrown in (up) for good measure. And while the subject matter might be downbeat the delivery is at times very up with slide driven acoustic blues and gospel tinged campfire songs sidling up against some very fine songs in the manner of Kristofferson and Guthrie.

Tyler opens the album with the scrubbed country blues of Live Or Die featuring an escaped convict who “jumped barbed wire had myself a weekend/I drank tequila sang Johnny Cash tunes/I got my face on the six o’clock news” who’s sitting with a stick of dynamite waiting to die. Merle haggard and Willie Nelson get name checks as they’re playing on the jukebox in the one horse town Tyler rides into on Bikers, Hippies and Honky Tonkin’ Cowboys, a foot stomping portrait of the type of bar Thelma and Louise visited with the denizens described as “you can love them hate them but there ain’t no better crowd.” Red Cross Blues eases on the gas as Tyler fingerpicks his way through the sorry tale of a wounded vet returning home and worried how he’ll be able to face his child. It’s an impressive and affecting performance with a sense of anger hidden in the pathos. This unsentimental portrayal of hurt and damage continues inUs Black Sheep Ain’t Like The Others, a fine raw slice of drug addled lives where “our blood is hustlin’, dealin’, stealin’ and some days killing, Black sheep we ain’t like the others, we were born to be rowdy motherfuckers.” Their poverty is highlighted at the beginning of the song in the line “there ain’t no McDonalds here in Mendocino.” The bleakest moments come in the magnificent Bloody Mary Mornin’ Till I Die where Tyler applies Willie Nelson’s momentary sense of regret to an entire life as his character “is dogging from the law holed up in Little Rock, Arkansas/held up a 99 cent store/something that I drank made me so irate/almost put a granddaddy in his grave.” Unlike Nelson, who’s flying away from his regret, here we have a man who “just shaved my head/ laid all day in bed/watched Porky Pig cartoons” and who appears doomed, never to reach California as“the orange blossoms wither” and he’s stuck until he dies. Powerful stuff indeed.

Tyler offers further snapshots of drug addled, booze ridden captives in Pissed It All Away, Never Trust a Junkie and It Ain’t Easy to Be Me with his voice wearied and road worn while his trusty guitar, drum and harp accompany this bleak roll call of America’s underbelly. All in all a great album

SINGER-SONGWRITER CROSBY TYLER CHRONICLES THE UPS AND (MOSTLY) DOWNS OF AMERICAN DREAMERS - April 30th, 2010

By Bill Forman


Crosby Tyler has a love/hate relationship with his hometown Los Angeles, but it's mostly hate.

Sure, his Peter Case-produced 10 Songs of America Today may cause former Angelenos to miss the city of contradictions. The influence of his Highland Park neighborhood's Latino population is much in evidence on songs like "So Out of Place" and "Payasos Borrachos Y Locos" (which in English means "Clowns, Drunkards and Crazies").

Still, the love pretty much ends there.

"I don't want to down Los Angeles, but there is something wrong with it," says the singer-songwriter, whose poignant lyrics make Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles" sound optimistic by comparison. "I just played in England and people there are just enamored with the blues, Northern soul and a lot of other American music. And then you come back to L.A., and it's like baboons! There's a lot of good talent here, man, but some of the people that proliferate this place — it's just Bozoland."

Which may be where the clowns come in. One of the standout tracks on Lectric Prayer, Tyler's newly released follow-up to 10 Songs, is the darkly wistful "Good Ol Circus Days." A sample lyric: "Who knew in '82 / The only thing I'd own are giant shoes / That I wore for 19 years / To kick beach balls in the back of Sears."

Cheery stuff. The song also name-checks Frosty Little, a veteran clown who actually runs Frosty Little's Circus Museum in Burley, Idaho.

"Don't tell me Frosty's still alive," says Tyler, before reluctantly proceeding to explain the song's origins. "I was just doing research on old circuses and who the famous clowns were during a certain period of time in America, and Frosty Little came up. I've always been fascinated by clowns — I sort of feel like a lonely clown a lot of times — and some songs just sort of go to the bone in terms of imagery."

Another Kind Of Blues

Among Tyler's most poignant songs is "Red," which he wrote about his father: "To the world you were just a no one / An army number unclassified / But to me you were always my father / Though we never had a chance to say goodbye."

"My real father, he was a beautiful guy," says Tyler of the song's subject. "He had this sort of boho spirit, but he also just had a lot of problems mentally."

Tyler says his dad wasn't the only troubled personality he spent time with through the years. Back in 1992, he produced an album by bluesman Ray Bailey that got picked up by a major label, won two awards from Living Blues magazine, and led Bailey to international tours and an eventual breakdown.

"He's this guy from Watts, an unbelievable guitar player — a combination of Hendrix and B.B. King — and we made an album that took like six or eight hours. So when you ask why I write songs like these, here was a guy who just destroyed his whole life on crack and coke and booze, when he could have probably been one of the top five blues guys."

While Bailey's website chronicles how the guitarist "sank into drug use and depression," the story has taken a positive turn with the 2008 completion of a rehab program at downtown L.A.'s Midnight Mission and the recording of a new album that will be his first in a decade.

Case Studies

Tyler also recalls his own rough period, back before he took songwriting classes with former Plimsouls leader Peter Case.

"It was something I really needed because, to be honest with you, I was dealing with a lot of fucked-up jokers and assholes, or that was the way I was perceiving it. I mean, whatever I was attracting or doing, that's how the dice were rolling. And Peter just kind of shot me through with lightning bolts. He praised my work and just put me on another level. He just orchestrated everything, filling out the songs and coming up with some very unique things."

Tyler considers his teacher-turned-producer a musical genius, one who excels at singing, guitar playing and songwriting.

As for himself, Tyler figures he's mastered one out of three: "As far as songwriting, I'll go up against anybody. I don't know if I'm gonna win, but I'm not afraid as a songwriter." The guitar playing, he says, takes continual work. "And the singing, I don't know if I give a damn anymore, I just do whatever I can do."

Self-criticisms aside, Tyler still considers himself fortunate.

"There's millions of singer-songwriters now, and millions of people in the American genre and everything else, but I'm very thankful that I have the opportunity to do this right now. And while I can do it, you know, I'll do it 'til the end. I mean, T-Model Ford's 89 years old, and he still does shows."
CROSBY TYLER -LECTRIC PRAYER CD REVIEW MAY 17TH, 2010

Review by Paul Kerr


Tyler’s last album, “10 Songs of America Today” was an accomplished piece of Americana detailing a multicultural life in the mixed up mess that America finds itself in today. Despite this it was an uplifting album helmed by Peter Case there was a blue collar sub Springsteen type feel to it but when he toured the UK last year in lieu of Case (who had undergone cardiac surgery) he unveiled another side to his character, a bohemian troubadour steeped in American traditions, the railroad, the carny, the hobo, the latest in a line that included Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ramblin Jack Elliott and Michael Hurley.

Lectric Prayer reflects this side of Tyler, less orchestrated than 10 Songs here he is supported by Sarah and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, Don Heffington (Emmylou Harris and Lone Justice) and Sebastian Steinberg (too many to mention). The sound is acoustic with the violin well to the fore. Tyler’s way with a melody and lyric are as strong as on the previous record and he delivers again with his well worn husk of a voice.

In this more traditional setting there is less of the mordant observation apparent in 10 Songs but Tyler is able to delve deep into tradition to produce some fabulous songs. The stringent folk blues of Oooh You’re Scarin’ Me and the rickety gospel of Train To Heaven are stompingly good. The introspective Bless That Day and Good Ol’ Circus Days reflect his ability to capture an audience with nothing but his guitar and talent. Lectric Prayer is a hypnotic groove with wheezy harmonica and a railroad rhythm and the tub thumpin’ Runaway Hellbound Train allows the band to swing merrily.

Overall this is probably a better album than 10 Songs. It should appeal to anyone who thought Springsteen was earthy due to the Seeger Sessions or indeed anyone interested in modern day American folk.
CROSBY TYLER -LECTRIC PRAYER CD REVIEW MARCH 28TH, 2010

Review by Maurice Hope

Road musician, travel junkie Crosby Tyler over the years has absorbed music of everyone from Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy (among others) of the blues genre to the Beatles, Jim Morrison and the Doors to Johnny Cash by way of the folk singer-songwriters of the 1960s, Springsteen and as on the opening cut on his latest album ‘Lectric Prayer’ —is that a hint of Neil Young I hear?

The term Americana is Tyler-made for the likes of Crosby; sorry about the pun but I felt it was worth a try. Just like you should do with this album or better still go out and sample his music live —since he is currently in the middle of a tour of the UK and Ireland.

How would I define Tyler’s music? He reminds me of another guy who cares little for fame or dwelling on yesterday’s wine and that would be Grayson Capps — who is dynamite live and who, when it comes to stories about New Orleans and the like has more to tell than most anyone.

Tyler, who has links with among other places Los Angeles has in support of his own guitar those incredibly talented members of progressive bluegrass ensemble, Nickel Creek, Sara Watkins (violin, backing vocals) and her brother, Sean Watkins (tenor, guitar, mandolin and backing vocals), Sebastian Steinberg (stand-up bass, ‘busted’ banjo) and top session man Don Heffington (drums). As he spins such inviting tales as ‘Good ‘Ol Circus Days’, the feisty, slide-guitar aided blues fashioned ‘Pitchfork Brigade’ and with a pounding rhythm, fiddle and banjo support the ‘in the groove’ ‘Runaway Hellbound Train’ has him cut a swath rich in muscle plus, he is also given as strong harmony vocal assists as one could with for.

‘Back On The Cross’ featuring a bluesy harmonica intro is one of those deep and a little dark songs that have become the trademark of Ramsay Midwood and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and you won’t find me saying much wrong about either musician. On hearing Steinberg’s modal banjo styled work on ‘Train To Heaven’ —where there is a likeness to something Terry Allen once did his banjo really does sound busted! But it detracts none from the short, sharp vignette of old-time blues gospel fare.

With so much music having been absorbed by Tyler there are others acts who come to mind, too —like with ‘Bless This Day’ as folk singer-songwriters like Tim Hardin of the late 1960s cum early 1970s. As for his own life outside music he could just as easily be the man mentioned in his song ‘Fugitive In The Law’ and who if he was born in another age (and another race) worked on the infamous Mississippi Parchman Farm. So, if he is playing near you go along and see if he really is as good as he sounds (shame the musicians on the album aren’t going to be with him). Also Tyler has John Chelew (Blind Boys Of Alabama, John Hiatt and Richard Thompson) produce the album and boy, isn’t that some pedigree!
CROSBY TYLER - THE LEITH FOLK CLUB, EDINBURGH - FEBRUARY 17TH, 2009

Review by Rob Adams

Red nose day came early to Leith Folk Club on Tuesday. But then, every day - or at least every gigging day - is a red nose day for Crosby Tyler, who, by adding the smallest detail of a clown's stage gear, manages to get deep into the character he portrays in his nostalgic Good Old Circus Days.

A guitar and harmonica rack aside, the red nose is Tyler's only prop in a show that reveals the soft-hatted, careworn voiced Los Angeleno to be as much theatre director as troubadour, marshalling a rich cast of characters, including the clowns, drunkards and crazies of the Tex-Mex flavoured Payasos Borrachos Y Locos, war veterans, fugitives, refugees, hobos, bozos and sundry bluesmen, and making them all come alive.

Tyler only inherited this first Scottish tour when his producer and mentor, the marvellously characterful singer-songwriter-guitarist Peter Case, took ill and had to undergo heart bypass surgery. The fact that all proceeds, less travelling expenses, are going towards Case's hospital bills should, however, allay any suspicions of opportunism. Besides, Tyler's talent would have earned him a booking here in his own right.


A naturally gregarious character, he involves his audience from the moment he sets foot on-stage, inviting them into the neighbourhood he lives in, sharing his enthusiasm for Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly, getting them to sing along to songs about cotton and, um, other crops, and mixing the light-hearted with the sincerely and movingly personal. If his notion that we might all be speaking "Scotanish" - rather than his Hispanic neighbours' Spanglish - by the gig's end proved a mite hopeful, it was a rare misjudgment in an absorbing debut.
CROSBY TYLER - THE STEEPLE HALL, KILBARCHAN - FEBRUARY 16TH 2009

Review by Paul Kerr

When Peter Case’s UK tour was cancelled due to heart surgery Crosby Tyler stepped in to perform the dates as fund-raisers to pay some of Case’s medical bills. Riding high on the reviews of his debut album, “10 Songs of America Today” (produced by Case), Tyler, a tall rangy individual, didn’t disappoint. Performing solo, the quality of his writing, his way with a tune and his engaging presence made for a fine night. Looking weirdly like a younger Michael Hurley, Tyler was able to produce a set of songs that tapped into American folk sources with touches of humour and, at times and in a more serious vein looked at the underbelly of American society.

The bijou venue was almost like having a house concert without comfy chairs but allowed Tyler to engage with the audience in an intimate style. A storyteller, (in his own words, a balladeer), his songs in the style of old folk blues artists regaled us with hard times, car hopping, running from the law. With guitar and harmonica and a splendid well worn voice he buzzed on the feedback from the crowd, several songs had them joining in the choruses despite the certainty this was the first time they had heard them. Covers of Big Bill Broonzy’s “All By Myself” and that old chestnut “Cottonfields” capped the singalong. Tyler, who is from LA and looks as if he has had a fairly counter cultural past also threw in a couple of ditties referring to weed which reminded one of the likes of Arlo Guthrie and the sixties celebrations of this hippie sacrament.

Other songs were on a more serious note, the tragicomic tale of a clown reminiscing about his past and a vegan lament, dedicated to his pet sow and sung on her behalf with a passion. “Hobos, Bozos and Lost Lonely Things” portrayed the outcasts, Americans who don’t fit in with mall culture, harking back to a possibly mythic, but possibly utopian, railroad riding boho past that appears more attractive than our modern stress ridden angst.

Throwing some light onto the origins of some of the songs from his album Tyler referenced his multicultural neighbourhood in fine renditions of “So Out of Place” and “Payasos Borrachos Y Locos”, updated the protest song on “Six Tattoos and a Tongue Ring” and eulogised his father in “Red,” a song that demonstrated the damage war can inflict on its survivors. The highlight of the evening was a tremendous rendition of “Leave It All in the Hands of the Lord.” As Tyler explained, not a religious song but a description of ex prez George W’s abdication of responsibility for the mess he got us all in.

UNDER THE SKIN OF CROSBY TYLER-NOVEMBER 10, 2010
            

by Craig Borland

CROSBY TYLER is a bit of an enigma. Look at him in a certain light and you'll see the face of someone who's been round many a block and accumulated no shortage of worldly wisdom along the way - and yet, at the same time, a twinkle of youthful innocence and childlike wonder is never far from his eye.

It's an intriguing combination, which makes a conversation with the man never less than fascinating, and makes any Crosby Tyler gig a rewarding experience.

If you want one word which describes him with a reasonable degree of accuracy, though, you could do worse than 'nomad'. His latest visit to Bute, which took in gigs at St Blane's Hotel in Kilchattan Bay and the Original Sunday Session at the Argyll Arms in Rothesay last weekend, was his third stopover on the island in less than two years - and he's fitted in an awful lot in between.

"I have a routine, and it's called touring," he says. "I play constantly. Since the last time I was here, in March, I've toured in the (Pacific] Northwest, in Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

"After that I went to Belgium and did some recording with a bass-playing producer friend there; we recorded about 13 tracks, but I don't know what's going to come out of them yet."

So far, so busy. But that was followed by another Northwest tour - and the acquisition of a new skill, about which it's virtually impossible to tell whether Tyler is being gently self-deprecating or genuinely excited.

"That was when I introduced the bass drum playing," he says.

"It's a skill I've never thought I would be able to do, but it's a challenge I've conquered, and my audiences reacted really well - so now I'm no longer just a singer-songwriter playing acoustic guitar and harmonica."

On top of that he's begun work on a new album, working with Tom Rothrock, whose CV includes albums by James Blunt, Badly Drawn Boy and Athlete, among many others. So what should fans expect from this next Crosby Tyler offering?

"The difference between this album and the rest," he says, "is that this will be much more minimal - I really wanted to scale down the whole band thing, which is an unrealistic thing for when I'm touring."

And touring, as if you didn't know already, is something he does a great deal of, no matter where he might be in the world.

"Last night (at St Blane's Hotel) was my first date in Scotland this time round," he says, "although the tour has already visited London, Portsmouth, Brighton, Topsham and Stockport, and I'll be playing in Strathpeffer, Leith, Kinross and Suffolk before going back to the States."

Does it not leave him exhausted? "Not at all," he says. "I think it's the nomadic ingredient in my bloodstream. I'm truly more exhausted driving in my truck, back in the States."

His trenchant views on the state of his home nation, and of the world in general, are never far away: 2008's 10 Songs of America Today was a not-very-thinly-veiled critique of the belligerence of the Bush years, and its follow-up, Lectric Prayer, reflected the optimism which seemed to engulf the country on the election of Barack Obama.

So, in the wake of the American mid-term elections, what does he think of his country and its politicians now?

"It's a pretty dim, dire state in the US," he laments. "Times are tough for the middle class and the working class, and I definitely believe it's going to get worse - things are really ripe for some sort of pseudo-revolution, I think, but will the people ever get the nerve to do it?

"We had an election in California with a candidate, Meg Whitman, who spent 150 million on a state election - and for what? It's just rubbish. It's really out of balance, and that's really irritating a lot of people.

"Obama was supposed to be a saviour, and his ideals are good, but the reality is that his ideals may be unrealistic."

Tyler's songwriting seems to thrive on these kinds of situation: he specialises in tales of fugitives, misfits and others whose last sight of the straight and narrow path came a long while ago. That might seem a bit pessimistic, but it provides a rich vein of material, and happily - or not so happily, depending on how you look at it - he doesn't see that particular well running dry any time soon.

"Nothing will ever get fixed," he says. "And I'll always have something to write about - just a few days ago I wrote a song about a Sunday roast they gave me down in England, when it wasn't even Sunday, and I've even been inspired by a line from a song I saw on display in your own Discovery Centre."

And, sure enough, there's no sign of fatigue in his performance, despite that hectic touring schedule: with Acousticrat's Paul Templeman adding a depth of richness to the Crosby Tyler sound, he fairly rattles through his back catalogue, with particular emphasis on that latest (for now) album, Lectric Prayer, from the plaintive regret of Good Ol' Circus Days to the rocking and rolling of Fugitive From The Law.

All are received warmly by an audience who either already knew, or have just discovered, that while his writing, and his outlook on life, may not always be sunny, Crosby Tyler is a very hard man not to like, and his music equally hard not to enjoy.