20 Miles with Bob log iii at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 23). $10. 416-598-4753.
The horrible Plastic Fang disc may well be the faint final gasp of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but guitarist Judah Bauer isn't worried about the group's future. If anything, he sounds genuinely surprised that the Blues Explosion has lasted as long as it has, chortling, "Every Blues Explosion record is the last one as far as I'm concerned."
The fallback plan involves his 20 Miles project, which began six years ago as a remedial blues program enabling Bauer and his drumming brother Donovan to connect with the Mississippi hill country musicians that inspired them.
But after ornery fife master Othar Turner shunned them as "sellouts" for insisting on playing electrified instruments, and Donovan split for San Francisco with the idea of starting a new career as an independent filmmaker, Judah was left with few alternatives.
As the ragged, raw Keep It Coming (Fat Possum) album indicates, he chose to strike back with a raunchy rock and roll record of his own design.
"The last 20 Miles record, I'm A Lucky Guy, was done during my Skip James phase," explains Bauer, who's killing time before punching the Blues Explosion clock in Toronto.
"It was more acoustic and intimate, with an emphasis on finger picking and trying different Delta tunings. This time I wanted to do something loud and rockin' that you could play on a Saturday night."
To do it, Bauer needed the right people. However, in a city the size of New York, sorting out the select few who could understand his screwy idea of what rock and roll is all about proved to be a time-consuming challenge.
Potential players were summoned to the tiny makeshift studio in his apartment and were promptly asked to leave. By his own count, Bauer auditioned no less than 25 bassists before finally hitting on the only person capable of grasping the metaphysical nuance of his groove -- himself.
"I don't like it when the bass playing is too macho. I tried to tell them that they needed to play more feminine but they just couldn't get it, so I wound up playing the parts."
It seems like a female bass player might've been the answer, but the concept of hiring a woman for the job never occurred to him.
"I'll probably sound like a jerk for saying this, but most women bassists can't really play their instruments. I know a lot of chicks who play bass, but none of them is any good."
That helps explain the disc's long list of musician credits. But the decision to try recording what was intended to be a loud rock and roll record in his Manhattan apartment is still a bit perplexing.
"I was spending so much time working with the Blues Explosion. I needed to record my album in New York, so I built a small studio at home.
"Each time we'd want to start recording, I had to call my neighbour and tell him there was going to be some noise for a while. He was cool with that. He only called the cops on me once."
Fortunately for Bauer, the NYPD officer who answered the call proved to be exceptionally understanding.
"He was ready to give me some serious shit," laughs Bauer, "until he saw my guitar. I could tell he wanted to pick it up so I let him play it. He was actually a pretty good roadhouse blues player in a Stevie Ray Vaughan style.
"After wailing for about 30 to 45 minutes, his partner said, "Yo, man, we gotta go!' And they left. As long as he wasn't writing out a fine, I would've let him play for hours."email@example.com