For 20 years now, Bill Davis and Dash Rip Rock have been drinking their way around America and Europe, leaving a trail of empties and bad jokes in their wake. Now, things have changed. For one thing, Davis is teaching high school history in Nashville, Tenn., so he's not available to tour as much as he once was. On top of that, he gets a regular paycheck and doesn't have to tour as he once did. "It used to be every single night, Dash Rip Rock. It wore thin," he says, but adds that now "it's such an injection of joy into an otherwise regular schedule."
Davis is the one constant in Dash Rip Rock, but bassist Brian Broussard has played with the band for almost two years and Kyle Melancon has occupied the drum chair longer than any other Dash drummer. He and Davis backed former Squeeze member Glenn Tilbrook on five songs on Tilbrook's recent album, Transatlantic Ping Pong (Compass). Now Dash is looking to record again with an eye on touring Europe.
"The main thing for us is to get overseas," Davis says. "We had a really good tour over there last year, and it's good to put a record out over there and reap a little money from it. It's interesting to see how it takes hold over there, particularly in Scandinavia, where they love the Southern rock. Any sort of Southern, crazy rock 'n' roll, they go ape-shit for."
The years have made Davis realistic about Dash. The band has enjoyed periods of crazy success, and there have been down times. "We've pretty much had to go after a whole new audience," he says. "We let things slip away to the point where people forgot who we were anyway. It's funny to go into markets where we were one of the biggest touring bands to come through and to have people say, 'Where'd y'all come from?'"
Dash Rip Rock will perform Thanksgiving night at Le Bon Temps Roule along with the Swingin' Haymakers, the country band led by his wife, Kim Davis. "Kim has been playing bluegrass around Nashville," Davis says. The two have also been doing some acoustic duo shows as well, but they are particularly excited about some recordings she's doing with Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd. "We started putting together a record on her," he says. "He's writing a lot of songs and collecting some songs for her."
This edition of the Swingin' Haymakers is without pedal steel player Harold Cavallero, who added a touch of authenticity to the band's honky-tonk sound. With his placid, "I'd rather be bowling" demeanor onstage, he was a fan favorite. When they played Tipitina's, even Bruce Springsteen came backstage to meet him. "We're falling all over ourselves to get pictures with him, and he just wanted to shoot the shit with Harold," Davis says.
"I used to get so down back in the '90s, when Cowboy Mouth was kicking around," he says. "When I moved up here and got an overview of the whole music business, I thought, 'Man, we were so lucky,' especially in Nashville, where everybody's a struggling musician. Here, you realize it's a lot of desperation, broken dreams and dashed hopes and you go, 'Shit, I didn't have it so bad after all.'"
Just before Jazz Fest this year, organizers announced that many of the shows were being recorded and would be for sale as either downloads or CDs. The company that recorded those shows, Munck Music, also recorded some of the shows at the Voodoo Music Experience in October, though people who passed on the Pixies disc because they figured they could buy it later online better hustle as only a limited number are available. Not surprisingly, there are few headliners' sets available, but a lot of New Orleans acts have their shows for sale. The Jazz Fest shows can be purchased at www.munckmusic.com/wms/voodoo/index.html, but check the sound quality at the Web site because it varies radically. Tony Dagradi sounds like he's a tent away on the Astral Project recording, but Anders Osborne has never sounded hotter. By contrast, unfortunately there's no mechanism for auditioning most of the Voodoo shows at www.munckmusic.com/wms/jazzfest/index.html, so buyers have to take their chances.
Speaking of live music, New West Records has teamed with Austin City Limits to release live CDs and DVDs of performances on the Austin-based television show. The Steve Earle performance from 1986 catches him at the beginning of his career, and all the recordings are of the complete concert, including material that wasn't used in the broadcast. The first releases also include CDs and DVDs of Robert Earl Keen and Susan Tedeschi, as well as a DVD of the Flatlanders; shows featuring Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams and Richard Thompson are in the works for 2005.