Bill Culp

Artist: Bill Culp
By: Dan Brisebois

A reminiscent but refreshing stroll through the roots of rock and roll is the vision behind Bill Culp’s debut CD, ROOTS ‘n’ ROLL. Seen through the eyes of someone who’s obviously lived with the genres, this is tailor made with the philosophy of ‘a little something for everyone’.

Co-produced by Jim Zolis, best known for his work with Jane Siberry, The Nylons, and The Northern Pikes, the disc gains instant credibility with a healthy helping hand from some friends like Garth Hudson (The Band), Dave Rave (Teenage Head), and a host of others, enough cooks in the kitchen to lend a spice or two to the recipe. It’s the different twists in the recipes that will keep you coming back for seconds.

Starting with “The Ballad of John Paul”, it gives you a taste of a reminisent journey of a time when there was still honesty in the studios. Genuine energy fuels the numbers “Your Sins Will Always Find You” – revved up and stripped down, complete with harmonica solo, showing a ‘middle-aged punker’ side to the disc. But even that’s reminiscent of the southern Ontario sound in the 80’s, which Culp was part of with his band Problem Child.

“Full Time Fool” is another number that keeps moving and just a rough and ready straight forward rocker. “Things Are Better” follows in their vein, slick and simple guitar hooks and raw harmonies that sum up the disc’s philosophy on a reviving trend today to give music a more honest appeal.

With “Memphis Connection”, Garth Hudson’s wailing on the piano and big guitar sound fresh from the swamps are the highlights of this rockabilly-flavoured number, as the credits say, “makin Jerry Lee proud”.

“Riverside” is a Culp original complete with slide guitar and harmonica, is a gentle ballad where long dark roads and lonely hotel rooms while paying his dues were no doubt its influence.

The ukele driven “Lipstick Lies”, “You Can’t Keep Lookin” and “She Waits” continue to show the softer side to the disc, and are as diverse as the album in general. The duet with Mary DeKeyser on “Two Left Feet” has a two-stepping fiddle and slide guitar number that brings back country music’s saloon era. Culp’s experiences in the taverns and jukeboxes started with his first bar show at aged 15.

The cover of Leiber & Stoller’s rag-time boogie “One Bad Stud” is prime example of Culp’s obvious infection of roots syndrome. Close your eyes and tap your toes. Carl … Jerry Lee … Roy … Elvis … Hank … they’re all present and accounted for meticulously.

One of the key elements to ROOTS AND ROLL is the genuine honesty in the lyrics. Drawn from a wide range of personal experience, the two decades Culp has spent on the southern Ontario music scene are the backbone of the albums’ 14 seperate indulgences.