RANDY WEEKS

 

2009 is shaping up to be a time for change in America. However, for critically acclaimed roots-fueled rocker Randy Weeks — whose new disc Going My Way arrives February 24 — the big change started in 2007. That’s when longtime hero of the Southern California music scene uprooted himself to Austin, Texas.

As Weeks explains, “Life in L.A. was comfortable — maybe a little too comfortable. I knew I could count on a packed house at every gig and I lived in a cool little shack three blocks from the beach. But it was time to shake things up. Sometimes that’s what’s needed to shift things into high gear."

Living in Austin, Weeks admits, has loosened up his musical approach, and that’s reflected in Going My Way. Funky soul-infused songs (“Fine Way To Treat Me” and “I Think You Think”) mingle with rootsy rockers (“A Lot To Talk About” and the title track, a colorful travelogue of old romances). “The One Who Wore My Ring” offers a slice of timeless honky tonk heartache, while “Little Bit of Sleep” is a big-beat folk-rock rant that Weeks describes as “a non-committal political commentary.” He even includes some uplifting love songs here: the Willie Nelson-flavored “That’s What I’d Do” and the L.A.-set “I Couldn’t Make It.” It all makes for his most diverse sounding disc, while still being a cohesive song collection.

To create Going My Way, Weeks tapped luminaries from both the Austin and Los Angeles musician pools. Austinites Rick Richards, Eliza Gilkyson, Cindy Cashdollar and Mark Hallman were joined by Mike Thompson and Weeks’ trusty guitarist, Tony Gilkyson from Los Angeles. Weeks met producer/musician Will Sexton while playing a residency at Momo’s in Austin and they hit it off immediately. “I could tell Will had a musical sensibility similar to mine,” Weeks reveals. “When we got into the studio, I really saw how talented he is. He was full of quirky, creative ideas that I never would have thought of.”

Weeks and Sexton fostered a fast and easy-going studio atmosphere. Says Weeks, “I was lucky to have incredibly talented people to work with and every one of them was really enthused about the project. Right away there was an easy rapport, both musically and personally, and things just clicked. I think that’s why we didn’t have to spend a lot of time agonizing over each track. Two or three takes and we were able to move on. That comes through in the way the songs turned out — to me they sound very alive and real.”

Weeks’ prior solo records — 2000’s Madeline (HighTone) and two self-releases, Sold Out at the Cinema (2003) and Sugarfinger (2006) — all garnered critical accolades. All Music Guide hailed Madeline as “a great album” while Salon.com called it “maybe the best breakup album since Chris Isaak’s Forever Blue.” Sold Out wound up on the “Best of” lists for No Depression’s co-editor Peter Blackstock and Billboard’s Chris Morris. The praise grew with Sugarfinger, from the Dallas Observer declaring it “one of the finest albums released this year” to Performing Songwriter marking it as a “stellar album.” Sugarfinger also scored Weeks his biggest hit with “Transistor Radio.” Described by CMT.com’s Craig Shelburne as “easy to sing, impossible to get out of your head,” this indelible tune became popular on L.A. taste-making radio stations KCRW and Indie 103.1 before spreading across the nation on terrestrial and satellite radio stations.

He also built his national reputation through his famous bi-monthly Saturday gigs at the cozy but influential Culver City club, the Cinema Bar, from 2002-06. After film director Peter Farrelly caught one of his shows there, he included a Weeks tune on the Shallow Hal soundtrack. Films like Stuck on You, Sunshine State and Jack Frost have featured Weeks’ music as well.

Weeks played a vital role in the ‘80s Southern California roots music movement that spawned the likes of Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Jim Lauderdale. With Jeff Rymes, he led the Lonesome Strangers, a band that updated the harmony-rich country stylings of the Delmore and Everly Brothers with rock vigor. A popular act at the legendary Palomino Club, the group toured multiple times with Dwight Yoakam, released three well-regarded discs and scored a Top 40 hit with their Johnny Horton cover “Goodbye Lonesome, Hello Baby Doll.”

It wasn’t until Weeks’ song “Can’t Let Go” became the biggest hit on Lucinda Williams’ Grammy Award-winning album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road that he began to see himself as a songwriter. “Well, that’s one way to get a boost of confidence,” he laughs. As he focused more on writing, he developed his own masterful style. Lucinda has proclaimed that Weeks “writes amazingly well-crafted, beautifully melodic songs” while BJ Huchtemann of the Omaha Reader recently declared Weeks is “the kind of knockout songsmith other songwriters admire.”

Weeks’ love of music began during his childhood growing up in the small Minnesota town of Windom. Listening to powerful AM stations like Chicago’s WLS, Little Rock’s KAAY and Oklahoma City’s KOMA, he became inspired by the British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Kinks. Weeks’ first instrument was the drums. By the time he was 16, he was playing in a popular local country band that gave him a great musical education and experience. After working in cornfields and at his hometown-based Toro Company, Weeks headed north to Minneapolis, where he played in hard rock bands and switched over to guitar. Searching for greener musical pastures, he heeded a friend’s advice and moved west to Los Angeles.

It is the sounds of his youth that help to form his sound today. Blending together British Invasion rock, Stax soul, old-time R&B and classic country, Weeks creates something particularly his own. He describes it as the sound of “late ‘60s AM to early ‘70s FM.” Weeks’ musical cross-pollination has drawn him such diverse comparisons as being “part J.J. Cale and part Al Green” (Houston Press) or if “Robbie Fulks and Tony Joe White were somehow merged into one person” (Salon.com).

Weeks will take to the highway when Going My Way comes out, connecting the dots between his fan hotspots in Southern California, Texas, Omaha, Nashville, Minneapolis and the upper Midwest as well as hitting new cities to conquer. “I have really cool bands in Texas, Southern California, Minneapolis and Nashville, so I’m ready to live on the road for the foreseeable future.”

 

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