Interview: Thelonious Hank, “Walk Between the Raindrops”

Thelonious Hank - Walk Between the Raindrops

As I was listening to the new album from Thelonious Hank the other night, M stopped in his tracks and said, “Wow – that’s old school.”  And yes, that’s precisely what “Walk Between the Raindrops” is – a delightful visit to the eras of classic country and classic jazz melded together.  If you’re a fan of either genre, this album will surely please you.  Thelonious Hank, comprised of Ted Hawkins on vocals and drums, guitarist Nichol Robertson, Bob Taillefer on pedal steel, and upright bassist Kevin Walsh, has put together a great collection of songs here from their long tenancy at Castro’s in Toronto.

The gently shuffling title track opens the album to get you moving (my feet were definitely moving), while “Fukushima Baby” is a driving, fun tune (and reminds me a bit of some of Petunia and the Vipers’ work).  “Movin’ Man” is one of my favorite tunes on the album (for somewhat embarrassing reasons detailed below), and “Howl” allows Kevin Walsh to shine with a striding bass line.

Nichol Robertson (who answers a few questions below) mentions that they have a loyal cadre of fans who come to hear them every week, and this album totally explains why.  If you aren’t up and moving midway through the album, you just may be immovable – this project is a blast, and is guaranteed to warm you up even on the coldest day.

Thanks to Nichol for talking to us!

My better half/blog partner caught me listening to the album and his first comment was, “This reminds me of Marty Robbins and ‘El Paso.’” What are some of your musical influences on this project (in addition to Thelonious Monk and Hank Williams, after whom you’re named)?

Lots of classic country and jazz; from Little Jimmy Scott to Little Jimmy Dickens. We don’t really understand much country music past the early ’90s, nor jazz past the ’60s.

Some of my favorite music coming out of Canada right now is keeping classic/historical musical styles alive (yours, for example, and Alex Pangman’s recent album, just to name a couple).  Is there something about the Canadian music scene that’s more open to exploring these older styles of music as opposed to always having to be ‘new and fresh’?

As a band, we’re not involved in the Canadian music scene. We exist in a tiny little bubble every Saturday afternoon at a bar called Castro’s in the East end of Toronto. So, we get to make the kind of music we want to, without regard for what others might think. We couldn’t make a popular album in this climate if we tried. Our fans (from 1-92 years old) come out every week and dance and drink and sing and request songs. It’s a blast, but has nothing to do with what is currently going on in the music industry.

Have you been working together for a while or has Thelonious Hank only recently formed?

We have been playing as this group for about 5 years. Prior to that, we were Scotty Campbell’s backing band, the Wardenaires.

I think one of my favorite songs on the album is “Movin’ Man”… as corny as this will sound, it somewhat reminds me stylistically of one of my favorite songs from my childhood, “Convoy” (by C.W. McCall, from the extremely terrible movie of the same name). How do you find the inspiration for songs like this one?

Our singer, Ted Hawkins, used to own (and now currently runs) El Cheapo movers, a popular moving company in Toronto. We’re big fans of ’60s truckin’ songs, and we thought it’d be hilarious to write a movin’ song.

Do you have any plans for doing this material live in the next few months?  What else is on the horizon for Thelonious Hank?

We play every Saturday from 6-8pm at Castro’s in Toronto, and we’re hoping that this album will get us some festivals next summer. Oh, and January 6th at the Dakota. That’s one of my favourite bars in the world, and it’s always a rockin’ time.

~ L

Visit Thelonious Hank on Facebook.

Listen to “Walk Between the Raindrops” on Spotify.

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