MELBOURNE, Australia (Press Release) — What do you get when you mix Nick Cave’s growling menace with Elvis Presley’s gold lamé swagger and then add in Lee Hazlewood’s twisted melodramas and a bit ofJohnny Cash’s hangover blues? A man named Henry Wagons — a musician Justin Townes Earle has described as “like Dr. Seuss meetsConway Twitty.”
In his native Australia, Wagons ranks as one of the nation’s best-known performers. For over a decade he has fronted the always entertaining, and much honored, country-rock band Wagons as well as hosting a popular radio show, making regular appearances on TV and being named one ofMelbourne’s most influential people.
America now will get to know Henry Wagons better with the release of his solo full-length debut,After What I Did Last Night … , due out February 12, 2016, on Goldview/Metropolitan Groove Merchants.
Wagons, whom the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) crowned “the new Prince of Country Noir,” takes listeners on an exhilarating musical joyride that crisscrosses Americana. Over the course of a dozen tunes, he offers up a wild combination of off-kilter honky-tonk and roots rock all delivered in his resonant, richly expressive baritone voice. Wagons’ wickedly dark wit draws the listeners’ attention, and he certainly packs After What I Did Last Night … with entertaining tales of drunken bar fights, morning-after laments and strange encounters in Poland.
The album, however, also is a uniquely personal work that tugs surprisingly at your heartstrings. In its own ramshackle way, the record charts Wagons’ life — from his rowdy misspent youth to being a tour-hardened troubadour and then a new father.
The bleary-eyed country weeper “Cold Burger, Cold Fries” and the liquor-soaked “King Hit” getsAfter What I Did Last Night … off to a rough-and-tumble start. Wagons intermingles colorful life-on-the-road misadventures “Head or Heart” and “Cowboy in Krakow” with some heartfelt songs of love (“Anything You Want” and “Tomboy”) before he concludes with the tender “As Long as I Breathe” (a song about parenthood that recalls Elvis Costello’s balladry) and affectionate odes to family (“Only Child”) and his hometown (“Melbourne”).
To create this record, Henry left his homeland for Nashville, a place that he seemed destined for. “So many of my favorite albums have been made in Nashville with pick-up studio musicians,” Wagons revealed. “And over the years of going to Nashville I’ve gotten drunk enough at bars there to have met some great musicians. Basically, it was great to be able to rock up and do the same process as so many of my favorite albums.”
Wagons enlisted “New Nashville” lynchpin producer Skylar Wilson (Justin Townes Earle, Caitlin Rose, Andrew Combs) to helm After What I Did Last Night …. With Wilson also providing some key piano playing, Wagons received added support from other regulars of Nashville’s vibrant Americana scene: lead guitarist Richie Kirkpatrick (Jessica Lea Mayfield, Langhorne Slim, Bobby Bare Jr.), drummer Jerry Pentecost (Jonny Fritz, Caitlin Rose), fiddler Josh Hedley (Justin Townes Earle, Jonny Fritz) and harmonica player Cory Younts (Old Crow Medicine Show) with buzzed-about singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter chipping in some backing vocals.
After What I Did Last Night … builds upon what Wagons started on his prior solo outing, the seven-song EP Expecting Company?. That record, which had Jenn Grant, the Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster and the Kills/Dead Weather’s Alison Mosshart among its guest vocalists, suggested Wagons’ unique take on a Hazlewood/Sinatra duets album. American Songwriterpraised it as “a cool, downbeat and shadowy version of the duskier side of Americana.”
The half-dozen releases by Wagons (the band) have regularly ranked high on both Australian critics’ and readers’ polls, winning several Best Group and Best Album honors. Their most recent release, 2014’s Acid Rain and Sugar Cane, was co-produced by Nick Cave’s right-hand man and fellow Bad Seed Mick Harvey.
Over the past few years, the ever-busy Wagons has shared stages around the world with such illustrious acts as Lucinda Williams, Justin Townes Earle, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Calexico, Bill Callahan, Will Oldham, Okkervil River and John Hiatt, as well as appearing at SXSW and Americana. He also was selected, along with notable performers as the North Mississippi Allstars, the prestigious Upstairs at United series that was recorded at Nashville’s historic United Records pressing plant. Wagons found his time in Nashville to be a very exciting experience. “I’ve got the taste,” he says, adding: “Good burgers on tap, fine bourbons and American accents, Southern gentlemen, kind manners and long stories. I suspect I’ll be over to the States again to record one of these days.” As After What I Did Last Night … bears witness to, Nashville certainly brings out the best in Henry Wagons.
"Cold Burger Cold Fries" available now on iTunes: http://bit.ly/CBCFiTunes