Musicians have all this lingo jargon ballyhoo that is this sort of insiders talk, but I am going to get rid of the mystery; cut through the shit with my samurai sword of words. You might hear talk of this mythical beast called the ‘rhythm section’, it cries out from the chasms of primal sludge and rears its magical teeth upon your unprotected orifices.What a good rhythm section is is a solid bass player with a drummer that can play his ass off, that is it, well, plus a little extra.
Harley, the bass player in Cowpuncher, came from the band 5 Star Homeless and for most of the duration of that band there was no drummer. What the hell does that mean? It means that the rhythm section was comprised entirely of Harley, he was the time keeper ( Matty Griffith’s acoustic playing in that scenario also acted as time but Harley was the anchor for all the of the tunes). Check out someone like Wayne the Train where there is no drummer, the thing still moves along like a well greased monkey’s ass. Harley can pull or push the band with time in whatever direction he feels it needs, there is no stopping the man, he is an animal. On top of the time duty the bass runs double duty providing the harmonic foundation that the songs sit on, country music usually has a two feel (that dump dump dump dump sound) and there is really no breathing room in that and no room for error.
Jeff Sulima is a total monster. I consider him one of the best drummer’s I have got to play with, powerful and tasteful at the same time. Jeff’s relationship to Harley is critical, the two of them have to lock like lovers longingly looking to the each other for support (no giving the $20 for a cab ride on this one). All the shots have to be there tight, tight, tight, or else the whole thing falls apart. Jeff has played with a ton of different bands and that sort of genre shifting has given him a sense of direction and concept that allows him to balance his technique will a musicality that doesn’t happen to often in a drummer. The drummer’s role in the band is to: convey the bass player’s time to the whole of the band, cue sections with fills or subtle little shots, feel the form of the song and ‘show’ it to the group – Jeff covers all of this and more.
These two jugernaughts of the country rhythm section pantheon probably have a better marriage than most straight or gay couples do, there is no fighting, each just accepts the others faults, they work off of each others strengths and try to support the other when one is weak – put that in your pipe and smoke Dr Laura, men that aren’t mucking about.
Now, there are off shoots to the rhythm section that are critical. Matt’s acoustic guitar is providing the form of the song, the quicker time (like the chuka-chuka-chuka that you hear – eighth notes or sixteenth notes to all the quacks in the room), and Matt writes the bulk of the tune so what he hears in his head he has to let the whole band know. Matt is the signal master of the band, that pace car. He might want to try a song slower or faster so he has to let the band know through his playing. Matt is also a great time keeper right along with Harely and Jeff, the three of them together show the band where to go.
There is also a fourth item that comes into play in the form of man (less an item, more a man). Ryan Kelly, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Kelly. He is a baritone guitarist (which is a lower tuned guitar with a different scale of frets on the neck). He is like a bass player mixed with a guitarist. The way that I view Ryan is like he has all these hook parts that suck you into the song but he is locked in with Harely (listen to Thank God for Pretty Girls)…..
Scott Martin, Shawn Canning, and myself all sit on the edge of the rhythm section and just add icing to the cake. Scott would be the main frosting, Shawn is like the decorations, I am like some little flower or gel icing picture of a princess. The 3 of us sit on the shoulders of the core of the rhythm section and try not to get in the way of the song.
What the hell is a rhythm section? Put your hand on your left side and feel your heart pumping inside of your chest. Without that little piece of machinery ticking you no longer are alive (true fact I looked it up), stick some bad cholesterol in one of those pipes or put a hole in that pump and the skin and lips turn blue pretty quick; take the rhythm section out of the band you lose the heart.
Remember that I still love you. Tynan.