by J.D. Reager
This Saturday night, the Hi-Tone Cafe hosts an interesting and cohesive double-bill, with local favorites John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives joining forces with Little Rock roots-rocker Jim Mize.
The two artists, labelmates on the Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess label, have been working together quite a bit recently — the One Four Fives backed Mize for recording sessions at Big Legal Mess owner Bruce Watson's Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS earlier this year. The initial result of this budding collaboration is a newly released 7” single on Big Legal Mess, the A-side of which, the Springsteen-ish ballad “Drunk Moon Falling,” equally showcases Mize's soulful vocals and impeccable songwriting atop the One Four Fives understated and tasteful playing.
John Paul Keith spoke to the Flyer this week about working with Mize and more.
Flyer: How did you first become aware of Jim Mize?
Keith: I think I first heard about Jim when we started talking to Bruce Watson at Big Legal Mess about putting our record (Spills & Thrills) out. Bruce had done a couple records on Jim already. I liked what I'd heard.
How did you get approached to work with him in the studio?
Bruce just called me up one day and asked us to come down to his studio (Dial Back Sound) in Water Valley, MS, to back up Jim on a few songs.
Mark Stuart, John Argroves and myself just went down to the studio without having heard any of the material or anything. Jim showed us the tunes on the spot and we just worked out the arrangements and then started cutting. The first session, we cut three tracks I think, two of which are on the single Bruce put out. We were only down there for an afternoon. It was very laid back. We tracked mostly live, like we prefer to do. Later on, Al Gamble overdubbed his organ parts at Scott Bomar's studio, due to his schedule. Since then, we've had another session with Jim in Water Valley, for what I assume will be a full-length at some point.
What was he like to work with?
Jim's a breeze to work with, no ego, no pretension. His material is pretty straightforward, musically, and his influences are very familiar to us, so we understand pretty instinctively where he's coming from. The trick is to stay out of the way of his lyrics, which are very interesting, and his vocals, which are really soulful and honest. He's the real deal, there's nothing phony or contrived about him, and I think you can hear that in his voice and his songs.
Do you prefer being a frontman or a side-man?
I wouldn't say I prefer being a frontman, but I do feel compelled to do it. But the sideman thing is a lot of fun, and a lot less stressful for me, because if the song stinks, well, don't blame me, I just work here! I do think it's good for any frontman to do sideman work from time to time, because it gives you some perspective on what your band members must go through dealing with you. And I've always liked the idea of being kind of a "house band," like the MGs, who could do their own records but could also back up other artists. I'd like to do more of that.
It's also good for a sideman to have some experience fronting a band, because it informs your playing. I think it makes you listen more to the song itself, and makes you play the way you would want someone to play if it was your song. You also respect the songwriter's veto power more if you've been a songwriter yourself, I think.
What else are you guys working on?
Right now we're trying to finish up the next One Four Fives record, which is almost done. It's just a matter of scheduling at this point. Hopefully we'll have something out this spring. I did quite a bit of touring this past year, and Mark was sick for a while, so we had a lot of delays that couldn't be helped. But we're almost done. I'd like to do some more touring in 2011, once the record is out. And hopefully we'll get to do some more sessions with Jim, too, and other folks around town.
John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives and Jim Mize
Saturday, December 4, 10 p.m.