8 Ball Aitken grew up in North Queensland, Australia listening to cassettes of the blues masters John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, R.L Burnside, Tony Joe White, JJ Cale. 8 Ball speaks to Gman live from Nashville about his new album Swamp Blues 2 and how COVID-19 has affected his world. When 8 Ball Aitken drove his car full of guitars out to Wimberley, Texas in September 2017, he was ready for his rootsiest and most credible legit blues album to date. Swamp Blues was the result.
When he and producer Dave Percefull stripped back the sound to the core of the groove, they knew they were on to something special. Blues was nominated for two Australian Blues Awards, hit #2 in the Australian Blues Charts and stayed in the Australian Blues charts for 18-months. 8 Ball was shortlisted for an APRA 2019 Song Of The Year for ‘High Water’. He has toured the album extensively across Australia and USA to critical acclaim and excellent reviews. “There is a point that an original musician, songwriter reaches when everything feels right. Once you perfect your own sound and identity, you feel completely natural and do great work”, says 8 Ball Aitken.
There was still unfinished Swamp Blues business, so 8 Ball Aitken called on Dave Percefull from Yellow Dog Studios to lock in another session. 18 months later the same crew were back together working on the next batch of songs. SWAMP BLUES 2 was recorded by the Blanco River in the gorgeous Hill Country community of Wimberley, Texas. 8 Ball Aitken sang and played all the guitars joined by JJ Johnson (drummer from Tedeschi Trucks Band / John Mayer), Austin bass guitar legend Glenn Fukunaga, the deep vocals of Guthrie Kennard, and the sweet vocals of Julie Meridan. 8 Ball Aitken penned all the songs except for two co-writes with Guthrie Kennard (Tremolo Rain & Living On The River), and one with Australian Harmony James (The Bed That You Made).
‘Tremolo Rain’ was inspired by the city of New Orleans and the sound of a tremolo guitar pedal. I was touring in Dallas, Texas one day and sitting in Guthrie’s living room one rainy day. Guthrie said “That rain sounds like a tremolo pedal”. The song flowed out as we described some characters who inhabit the streets of New Orleans and the rest is history.
‘Week Man’ was the first song I wrote for Swamp Blues 2. Lyrically it is all about being on call for the one you love, no matter what day of the week it is. The groove is primal, slow, pulsating, and funky. ‘Murders Bar’ was conceived on the way to a gig after a journalist called for interview with 8 Ball. He answered many questions about the early 2000’s blues scene in Brisbane, particularly about the old Melbourne Hotel, Murderers Bar which was Brisbane’s home of Blues music for a few years when he first arrived on the local music scene there.
“When I was eighteen years old I moved to Brisbane City and became involved in the blues music scene immediately. I was able to go to bars legally for the first time and I used to hang out and jam with Bling Dog Donnie & The Reverend until Donnie started giving me gigs and joining me at mine, even filling on for me when I went on tour. I ended up getting networked into the local music community and hired as a guitar player from there. It was the best place to hang out if you loved blues music because all the best players came through there. ‘The Murderers Bar’ had a reputation and the musicians ignored all the dark seedy side of that part of West End, because the music there was just so good and the blues bands needed a regular home at the time. Some fantastic festivals and larger gigs happened there as well. Eventually it was tore down to make way for progress and new venues that fitted code. It was very old and run down. The interview jogged my memory and I wrote the song within a few days of jogging my memory”, says 8 Ball.
”Dave was encouraging me to make a track with a fat sounding 3-string guitar tone reminiscent of my live shows. ‘Gently Knocking On Your Door’ is the result. We create a tone that sounds like a plane taking off with just drums, bass and a 3-string cigar box. I was working that riff for months and on a nature walk I wrote the lyrics within minutes. It all came together really fast and I got to do some soulful guitar fireworks on the 3-string cigar box slide,” adds 8 Ball. ”Thirty-Nine is a grooving retro, vintage blues-rock track about loving a woman who is aging gracefully. She’s still got her mojo working. It acknowledges that she has still got it, she’s turning heads, and he’s very much into her. This track is a tip of the hat to the ladies who aren’t looking or feeling their age. ‘She’s fine, she’s mine, she’s thirty-nine,” adds 8 Ball.
“Although ‘My Sexy Guitar’ may sound like a song about a hot lover who changes her hair colour and who loves you all night, it’s all a big metaphorical play on words. This is one for the guitarists and their true lovers, their guitars. Every six string player has their favourite that they come back to and when they open the case to pull it out and play it is still as big of a thrill as the day that they met”. “With all the swampy grooves on this album, we needed a rocker. When I started demoing ‘The Bed That You Made’ we all got excited. It’s a co-written song that 8 Ball Aitken worked on with his long time friend Harmony James. The song was originally written from a woman’s perspective and it appears on her 2019 album release ‘Resignation’. With one lyric change in the chorus its become an 8 Ball Aitken rocker too with some baddass slide playing on a Gibson Les Paul Junior during the solo.”
“My Darling is the midway through the album stripped back love song that comes straight from the heart. This one was written for 8 Ball’s girlfriend Lindy Loo. It is a real acknowledgment of appreciation for how hard she works, while painting a picture of the joys of sleeping with the one you love on a rainy night with the river rising. It’s one guitar track the whole way through with pretty Hammond organ and gorgeous vocals from Julie Meriden too.“ “Living On The River was a co-write that Guthrie Kennard and I worked on over a couple of days hanging during Summer last year. I kept thinking of when I was a kid floating on the old tyre tubes down the Baron River in Mareeba and Emerald Creek where my family lived when I was a teenager.
We used to just hang out without a care in the world. I think Guthrie was picturing a slightly different scene in Mississippi and we worked out way through it. ‘Living On The River’ was born and it has a three chord swampy laid back feel to it.” “Chocolate, Jack Daniels, And LSD has appeared on my albums before, but never like this. Recorded with the whole band. The song has developed and is still on of the most requested songs at my live shows. I always wanted to record it properly with the full band and this was my big chance to lay down the definitive version of it.”
“I called up Lindy Loo and explained that I’d written a blues song with a big banging shuffle beat. I had the working title Cherry and I wanted to call the song Lindy, but on the last album I’d already had a song called Lindy Loo,” explains 8 Ball. “Now Lindy’s got herself an extra nickname and I get to play some wailing slide guitar up the neck and sing about the feeling of having the one you love and feeling that you will always be there for her,” adds 8 Ball. “Cold Shower is a little picking pattern in my favourite tuning that I recorded into my phone and played with for a long time. When I go on tour I miss my girlfriend so much that sometimes it hurts. Loneliness put to music has worked for a lot of songwriters and this song practically wrote itself.”
“The song ‘L.O.V.E’ was a challenge from 8 Ball’s girlfriend. “Lindy was requesting that song for a while and I resisted. One Monday night in Melbourne I found myself with a night off so when the sun went down the song just came out without much effort,” says 8 Ball. “I played my favourite Fender Telecaster on it and I got a chance to stretch out and cut loose in the outro.”
SWAMP BLUES 2 now available so check it out!