Thursday, April 30, 2009
The Midday Ramblers have more than earned their townie stripes with a 12-year run as the most consistent and well-dressed bluegrass band in Lawrence. The lineup of Kory Willis (mandolin), Mike Horan (guitar), Paul Schmidt (upright bass), and Leo Posch (banjo) has endured through kids, career changes, microbursts, one ill-fated gig in Peculiar, Mo., and that whole “O Brother Where Art Thou?” thing. The Ramblers show no signs of slowing down on their fourth album “Run Mountain (Chuck A Little Hill),” which features 18 more bonafide sides from the group’s deep catalog. Each member steps out as a songwriter on the disc, which also features Ramblerized versions of songs by Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, and long-dead mountain folk who would probably be pleased as punch to find their tunes in such good hands. We suckered the Ramblers into a half-hour chat about the new record, CB radios, and heavy-metal banjos.
No-fi highlights from the podcast
lawrence.com: You guys boast that you’re the longest running band in Lawrence with no personnel changes.
Willis: Only wardrobe changes. We didn’t used to dress up when we first started.
The Midday Ramblers have more than earned their townie stripes with a 12-year run as the most consistent and well-dressed bluegrass band in Lawrence. The lineup—Kory Willis (mandolin), Mike Horan (guitar), Paul Schmidt (upright bass), and Leo Posch (banjo)— has endured through job changes, microbursts, one ill-fated gig in ...
Run Mountain (Chuck A Little Hill)
Why do you think the band has endured?
Horan: We’re too lazy to move.
Schmidt: We’re not ambitious enough to try and “make it.”
Willis: Make what?
Horan: We get along as guys and happen to have similar musical senses of humor.
Schmidt: Bluegrass doesn’t angry up the blood. There are no contentious practices or anything like that. Nobody ever asks me to turn the bass down.
Willis: If you go in angry, you hear the banjo and you feel good.
In order to keep your status as a professional bluegrass band, is there something in the contract where you have to play a certain number of gospel songs per record?
Willis: Yes. If you look at a lot of the old records when they first started making bluegrass LPs, each side would end with a gospel song … Even if you were recording a secular record, typically Side 1 and Side 2 would end with a gospel song.
How do pick the cover songs in your repertoire?
Willis: If it’s good.
Horan: We always keep our ears out for stuff that isn’t typical of some bluegrass bands.
Schmidt: I’m as tempted as anyone to try and redo some rock and roll songs in the bluegrass style, but we always pull back from the edge.
Horan: We tend to pick songs from country genres and bluegrassify them.
(referring to the song “Drive, Drive, Drive”) Do you guys have any experience in the trucking industry, or is that more of a fictitious muse?
Willis: It’s a dream. I used to have a CB radio when I was a kid.
Would you recommend CB radios for today’s youth?
Willis: Yeah. I’d like to get one myself. You can get them cheap on eBay; nobody wants them anymore. People have their iPhones and laptops and whatnot … But you still see CB antennas on trucks. They know that when the bomb drops, that stuff’s not going to work anymore. It’s going to be all CB radio all the time.
What’s the lowdown on your record release show?
Schmidt: We love doing early shows at the Replay because it’s outside and the kids can come. If MAW is playing, we don’t have to get a babysitter; we just trade off.
Willis: The trick is to keep the kids out of the puddles of PBR.
And the May 9th show at Liberty Hall?
Schmidt: That’s a benefit for a co-worker of mine at Martin Logan named Rick Carr. He got diagnosed with cancer and he’s undergoing treatment. A bunch of us are in bands there, so we threw together this benefit show to try and raise some money for his mounting medical costs. Martin Logan is also donating some fancy speakers that you can win for $10 a ticket.
Given that you guys all have rock backgrounds, I’m surprised that doesn’t sneak into the Ramblers more. You guys play it pretty straight.
- Saturday, May 9, 2009, 7 p.m.
- Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
- All ages / $10.50
Willis: Oh it does. There’s rock playing going on. We’re just playing it on acoustic instruments.
Horan: I think if you were to have us play in between two traditional festival bluegrass bands and ask a hardcore bluegrass fan, “Which of those bands sounds different?” – it would obviously be us. Some people get it and some people don’t. We have mixed reviews in the festival world.
Schmidt: Bluegrass rocks. It used to rock, anyways. Bill Monroe pretty much invented rock and roll … Listen to “Bluegrass Breakdown” – when the whole band comes in, it’s as loud as any rock record and it’s just as furious.
Willis: It’s no accident that Eric Mardis (of Split Lip Rayfield) plays banjo as well as guitar. Banjo is the most heavy metal of the acoustic instruments.
- Sunday, May 3, 2009, 6 p.m.
- Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., Lawrence
- All ages / $3
Have you ever played the Walnut Valley Festival at Winfield?
Willis: No. Improperly.
Schmidt: We only went down once as a group, and we played Stage 7 a couple of times and Stage 5. The Wilders were nice enough to have us onstage, and that’s probably about as close as we’ll get to a proper audience at Winfield.
Willis: We had sort of an “in” one time and somebody recommended we apply. We were promptly rejected. The next year we didn’t even apply and we still got a rejection letter, just in case we were thinking about it.
Schmidt: Let’s go ahead and send them a rejection letter this year.
I’ve noticed there are some reoccurring themes in your songs: coffee, rabbits, birds…
Willis: Drakkar Sauna already had horses.
After 12 years in Lawrence, I think you guys are on the verge of really breaking through.
Schmidt: I hope not. That would mess everything up.