Sju Kjappe: Terry Lee Hale

Terry Lee Hale
Photo: Frédéric Pauvarel

«Sju kjappe» has turned English again this weekend, because we’ve been in contact with our long time hero Terry Lee Hale, the Texan singer/songwriter me and my brother have been following for more than two decades. His album Frontier Model was kind of a hit record in Tromsø, mostly because Egon pushed it on every single person that walked into Feedback back in the days, and that’s when it all started. That album is “Ukas Klassiker” in our blog this weekend, and if you haven’t heard it and like what you hear, you should do your best to purchase everything in his beautiful discography.

I’ve seen Terry four times in Tromsø. The first time was back in November 1994 at Blårock, and I remember the talk about him being named the best guitar player in Seattle, a city filled up with grunge heroes at the time. He actually won an award three years running for being the best acostic guitarist, from NAMA (The Northwest Area Music Association), an association that was like Seattle’s own Grammy’s. With mostly open tuning, the guy was a sensation, and everybody that attended Blårock that night will remember the concert forever. My brother remembers his first message to us before he got started: “Man, I love this crazy city. The first thing that happened when I got off the plane was that I fell straight on my ass on the ice. Gotta love that..”

Lee Hale came back to Tromsø the year after, and played two terrific shows at Blårock. I went to the first concert, and because it was so funny and good, I was in no shape to get back the next day. At least that’s what I believe.

The next time I attended a concert of Terry was 12 years later, when he played at Circa the autumn of 2007. Me, my brother and my oldest son drove from Finnsnes (about 350 kilometers both ways) to Tromsø, and Terry was so impressed with our sacrifice that he mentioned it several times during the gig, and we even had a good talk about that and everything else during the break. Just 35-40 people came, but still he played like the devil that night, mostly from his latest album back then, Shotgun Pillowcase.

The last time he was in Tromsø was when he played at Buktafestivalen three years ago. A lot more people saw him at Little Henrik that night, and even though Oslo Ess did their best to outplay him from Paradisbukta, we had a great time. Again, it was a devilishly concert, and he played most of my favorite songs from “Ride Hard” to “He’s Still Drinking”. He even took a picture of his audience, ’cause he thought we were so damn pretty.

Terry at Bukta
Photo: Terry Lee Hale

Lately I’ve been listening to Hardpan’s album from 2002. Hardpan was a band consisting of Terry, Chris Burroughs, Joseph Parsons and Todd Thibaud, four singer/songwriters on The Blue Rose Label at the time that wanted to do something together. They went to Burrough’s studio in Tuscon, Arizona in September 2001, and after a really drunken party on the night of the 10th, they wanted to get started working on some music the next day. Everybody knows what happened that day, but after some apathetic hours in front of the TV they thought: “Fuck off, you fucking terrorist scum, you cannot stop us from doing what we want.” And then, ten days later they had made a briliant record everybody in this world should check out. The real beauty of this little epistle is that Mr.Lee Hale just told me that they are going back to the studio come January. 2017 will start perfectly.

So, Frontier Model is the classic of the week, and I had to ask Terry if he would do these questions. After sending him the seven quick ones, this reply came: Here you go Johnny. thanks for the questions. These things are surprisingly tough to do though. Anyway, it’s good for me to lay things out like this. Fun too. I didn’t have time to open up too much but hope I make my case here for my choices. 

And, answers we got? The best.

What is, according to Terry Lee Hale, the top five albums of all time?

Lucinda Williams, Essence (2001. Every song is killer along with the band. She’s never sounded this good. This record elevates my soul).
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks (1975. How can you choose just one album of his? Absolutely a master of songwriting and Dylan proves it time after time).
Chuck Berry, After School Sessions (1957. Another master writer. Every song on the record is a masterpiece).
Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain (1960. A deeply rich, beautiful and adventures album).
Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (this LP is a compilation released in 1961 from a series of 78’s recorded in 1936 and 1937. The raw intensity and guitar virtuosity is mesmerizing).

This is like the blueprint. How can anybody disagree with you on your picks? I’ve even got to admit that I play Sketches of Spain from time to time. The rest is masterpieces.
Could you do us the favor and put together the coolest band in your imaginations? It shall consist of a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, one keyboardist and a vocalist. You cannot pick more than one member from a group, but you decide whether they are alive or dead, meaning that Elvis Presley could be our singer, and if you fancy John Bonham, he could do the drumming in your band.

Bill Frisell, guitar
Jim Keltner, drums
Robert Plant, vocals (This was a tough choice. I wrote first the names of Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Aretha Franklyn, Elvis Presley and Prince. In the end though I chose Plant not only because of his work with Led Zeppelin but mostly for his current output. A remarkable vocalist still to this day. The record he did with Alison Kraus “Raising Sand” is a great example).
Booker T. Jones, piano/organ (Booker T. & The M.G.’s)
Joey Spampinato, bass (NRBQ)

 

What a band! The best of the best, more or less. The name of this band would have to be something like The Perfects..
From your dream band to a more trivial question: What was the first record you bought, and where did you buy it?

Revolver, The Beatles. In 1966. I got my first record player as a Christmas present and so was finally able to buy my own records by saving up my pennies. At some department store I think.

 

Hah! You couldn’t start off better as a record collector. Probably the best record from what most people consider the best band ever..
If you could pick one song you’d wish you wrote, what would that be? And, is there a song you are really happy you didn’t make?

“You Are Never Alone” – Vic Chesnutt. Like much of Vic’s work this song is a profound combination of pathos, cynicism, humor and wisdom. I’m a huge fan of everyone of all of his work.

“Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent. Anything ever recorded by him needs to be deleted forever. You should definitely start with this one. A complete and total waste of sonic and human space.

Finally! Finally somebody really nail this question. Hard and brutal. Ted Nugent, this one’s for you. Vic Chesnutt (RIP) was just a lovely artist, and I’ve actually played West Of Rome so many time that I wore it out and had to buy a new one. Your pick of choice from North Star Deserter is a really interesting one, and a song I never would’ve guessed. It’s a beautiful song that I think is about us humans being too laidback and not caring about much.
Which album do you have the highest expectations for in 2016?

The first record that comes to mind is my own 2016 release Bound, Chained, Fettered. After 2 years of preparation, practice, effort, one complete rewrite and all the money we put into the project, who could blame me? It’s a record I’m proud of not only for myself but also for all those others who worked with me as well. The reviews have been very positive too. Now we have to see if that translates into positive sales figures. I am hoping for the best.

 

Fingers crossed. Me and my brother love your album, and we are among those giving it a great review (the dice showes six eyes), but what really counts is for people to buy it and play it. You deserve it, making such a great record.
Do you know about any Norwegian band or musicians? If so, what/who is your favorite?

I’ve been listening a lot to Spidergawd ll this year which is a really great record. Still, today anyway, my all time favorite Norwegian rock band would have to be the mother band Motorpsycho. I saw them a few years back in Paris at a small club with maybe 100 people in attendance. I was truly blown away how great they were and have been a fan ever since.  I also like Al DeLoner a lot and his band Midnight Choir. Stein Torleif Bjella is another favorite.

Hah #2! Crispin Glover Records gave us this really cool record, and I know you did a single on that label. Motorpsycho goes without sayin’, as do Midnight Choir, but you listening to Bjella, that’s interesting. I mean, his lyrics is in Norwegian, and the words are so important to his songs. But you probably understand him, just by listening to the feelings of his records.
Both my brother and I are nerds when it comes to Tom Waits, and have to ask everybody about their Tom Waits “moment”. Which song do you think is the highlight of his career?

Of course, like most people with ears, I have always been aware of and liked what Mr. Waits was doing but to be honest I never really owned a record of his until relatively recently. Mule Variations in 1999 was when I really “got it”.  Fantastic production, songwriting and performances. Like having to choose a favorite Dylan song it’s almost impossible to pick a “best” Waits. “Time “ is great but today I’ll choose “Get Behind the Mule”. Don’t forget though that, unlike Dylan, many of Waits lyrics are co-written with his wife Kathleen Brennan and full credit must be given to her. (A note: I also love a record by John Hammond Jr. singing Tom Waits songs called “Wicked Grin” which was produced by Waits. Fantastic record! This record inspired me to go back into Wait’s album catalogue). 

Hah #3! I knew it! A marvelous musician like you more or less have to love Tom Waits’ work. And Mule Variations is a masterpiece. Kathleen Brennan itroduced him to Captain Beefheart, and turned him into what later became the 80s trilogy, consisting of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years. She should have a medal for that, and be on a shelf for co-writing hundreds of great songs with her husband. Wicked Grin is a cool record, and so is Southside Johnny’s Grapefruit Moon (2008), a collection of Tom Waits songs he did with La Bamba’s Big Band. Tom even sings on “Walk Away”.

Thanks a lot, mister, for the answers, and to the rest of you: check out his last album..

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