Oh Sweet Margarita of Cascia, Patron Saint of Lost Causes, we beseech thee! Make the world safe for instrumental music once again! Is there no room for swank little numbers uncluttered by the human voice? Time was when the radio waves were littered with songs that eschewed the crutch of vocals: Tequila, Sleepwalk, Popcorn, Green Onions, The Rumble, Walk-Don’t Run. Hell, even the themes to The Rockford Files and Taxi cracked the pop charts. Why then? Why not now?
Jon Rauhouse, god love ’em, is not one to give up this quixotic quest so easily. The pedal steel/Hawaiian wizard, who has contributed his alternately swashbuckling and swoony stylings to recordings by-among others– Calexico, Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Giant Sand, Sally Timms and the Waco Brothers, lets fly his third CD, Steel Guitar Heart Attack. Hitting all the hotspots and g-spots between Harlingen and Honolulu, Jon and his band (featuring Calexico and Jon’s longtime guitarist/ co-conspirator Tommy Connell) swing, sigh, giggle and charm their way into even those with hearts of tar.
As a concession to the whims of those in need of a human voice every now and again, there are performances by a few of the top notch singers of our day: Neko Case (“East of the Sun”), Kelly Hogan (“Big Iron”), Rachel Flotard of Visqueen (“Harbor Lights”) and Sally Timms (“I’ll Be Seeing You”). These ladies’ll melt the ice in anyone’s punchbowl. Jon even steps to the mic for one (the theme to the Andy Griffith Show “The Fishing Hole”—betcha didn’t know it had lyrics, didya?)
The rest of the album is pure instrumental magic. Woozy, dreamy songs that’ll set your mind to sailing into the sunset, happy hour, or the arms of your Polynesian princess. Beguiling melodies that take us to “Idaho,” the “Hood Canal,” and the “Girls of Pajama Hill” (who hasn’t wanted to go there?) or provide the perfect wordless soundtrack when you want to wet your line or wet your whistle. Everything from country classics to the theme song from Mannix. That’s called versatility, my friends. There’s even a banjo number that shows Jon can play stuff standing up, too (note: we cannot absolutely confirm that he was standing when this was recorded). And with some songs clocking it at a 1:50, Jon can bring it with Ramones-like brevity, but with class.
Steel Guitar Heart Attack is Jon’s third solo CD, following Steel Guitar Air Show (2002) and Steel Guitar Rodeo (2004). Why “Heart Attack?” Well, Jon started noticing chest pains when carrying his amp. Seems he had something known as a Widowmaker Lesion and critical blockages in major arteries from his heart. Emergency procedures, angiograms, catheterizations and stents followed. We are happy to report that all is well now; with his heart fixed, he can re-focus on saving the instrumental.
Jon Rauhouse’s Steel Guitar Heart Attack shows us all that you don’t need words, man, you just need a good rhythm while you’ve got the gin in the shaker.
- Bongo Ride
- I’ll Be Seeing You
- 5 After 5
- Drinkin’ & Smokin’
- Harbor Lights
- Everybody Loves the Sun
- Ballad of the Black Chihuahua
- East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)
- Begin the Beguine
- Holiday for Strings
- Hood Canal
- Girls of Pajama Hill
- Big Iron
- Red Pollard
- The Fishin’ Hole
- Jon Rauhouse – Pedal steel guitar, banjo, lap steel on track 6, rhythm guitar on #6 & 8, Hawaiian guitar on #11 & 18, vocals on #5, 9 & 18.
- Tommy Connell – All guitars except where noted, B bender guitar on #1, Hammond organ on #7.
- Sally Timms – Vocals on I’ll Be Seeing You
- Rachel Flotard – Vocals on Harbor Lights
- Neko Case – Vocals on East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)
- Kelly Hogan – Vocals on Big Iron
- John Convertino – Drums on #1, 3, 16.
- Joey Burns – Bass on #1, 13, 12, 16.
- Will Lovell – Bass on #2, 4, 5, 9, 14, 15, 17, 18.
- Nick Luca – Vibes on #11, 16.
- Jeff Livingston – Piano on #1, 13.
- Jacob Valenzuela – Trumpets on #12.
- Kevin O’Donnell – Drums on #2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, 17, bongos on #2, 13.
- Paul Rigby – Mandolin on #4, 8, 14, guitar & vocal on #18.
- Bill Herzog – Bass & drums on #8, 10.
- Jeff “Fruit Pie” Marchant – Trombones on #12.
- Johnny Marston – Basoon & saxaphones on #12, electric bass on #7, bass on #6, 11.
- Idaho Choir – Jon, Tommy, Chris Schultz, Craig Schumacher, Jeff Livingston, Don Windham, Joey Burns, John Convertino & Johnny Marston.
- The New Big Iron Singers – Kelly Hogan, Scott Ligon, K.C. McDonough, Mike Bulington & Augie.
- Tracks 1, 3, 11, 12, 16 – recorded by Craig Schumacher at Wavelab Studios, Tuscon AZ.
- Tracks 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 – recorded and mixed by Jon Rauhouse at The Shrine, Lilliwaup, WA.
- The New Big Iron Singers – recorded by Mark Greenberg at Mayfair Studios, Chicago, IL.
- Mastered by Mike Hagler at Kingsize Sound Lab, Chicago, IL.
... Zippy instrumentals and lovelorn ballads that rather wonderfully walk the hitherto undiscovered middle ground between SpongeBob SquarePants and Patsy Cline.DIW MAGAZINE
Those of you who associate the pedal steel guitar solely with cry-in-yer-beer country weepers are in for either an unpleasant shock or a delightful surprise. Jon Rauhouse plays pedal steel guitar the way John Zorn plays the saxophone. That is, he thoroughly messes with your head as he takes you on a schizophrenic musical journey. On ... Heart Attack Rauhouse covers western swing, Hawaiian music, Big Band standards, '60s easy listening schlock, Bing Crosby crooners, the TV themes to Mannix and the Andy Griffith Show, and gunfighter ballads. Along the way, he's helped out by members of Calexico, Giant Sand, The Mekons, Kelly Hogan, and the incomparable Neko Case, who lends her pipes to the old Sinatra chestnut "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)". Best of all is Rauhouse's take on Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" where the pedal steel does a Broadway turn. It's great, uncompromising, wildly eclectic music.Andy Whitman
...when Jon Rauhouse steps out solo, he has a timeless sound that beguiles anyone who hears it...Whether he's conjuring some epochal style or offering a faithful rendition of steel guitar music, Rauhouse transcends boundaries and generations to be the new king of Margaritaville.Wade Coggeshall at Nuvo
Neko Case's pedal steel player stretches out over a gauntlet of genres...buy it for its own merits, then sit back and enjoy.Grant Britt at Creative Loafing