Monday, October 27, 2008

Barbeque Bob and the Spare Ribs: New Brunswick Bayou Blues

Photos from the Internet

This is the sixth part of a series of articles or interviews that have been published before in magazines that no longer exist. This one was originally published in
Oculus Magazine, September 1996; an update follows.

Barbeque Bob and the Spare Ribs: New Brunswick Bayou Blues

Bill Monroe’s (a founder of popular bluegrass) obituary was in the paper the day I interviewed Robert Pomeroy, known in music circles as Barbeque Bob, leader of the Spareribs. When I mentioned it to him, Bob reminisced about growing up in Southeast Ohio, across the river from West Virginia. “Country music, I hated it when I was growing up, so I tried to do what I thought was the opposite kind of music: Blues. When I got to New York, it was Blues, jazz, hard rock. I’ve always been kinda antisocial with music. I always liked opposite stuff from what people liked when I was going to high school in the mid-‘70s.”

CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City were his haunts when he first moved to the New York area, Television being his favorite band. Pretty soon Bob and Kevin Trainer, later of the Surreal McCoys, formed Needledick while in college. Soon after, the band Barbeque Bob and the Spareribs was active in the scene. And now, some years on, with a few releases under his belt such as two recent singles on DaDa records, his followers are growing. This includes those who enjoy the music, but do not fully understand the concept, in particular a writer who liked one record, positing the group as “British Blues-based garage.”

After School Special, 1996
While noting the positive side of the review, Bob also takes a bit of umbrage: “Some people are so ignorant about Blues that they don’t realize that Blues – and even electric Blues – comes from the United States. It wasn’t invented by English guys. It’s like punk rock. People think that English people invented punk rock. It pissed me off so much when the Sex Pistols stared their world tour that they started the whole thing all over again. I said, 'Oh, man!' If you went to see what was punk music [in New York] then, there wasn’t any particular sound, and there wasn’t any particular look, either. The bands invented their own look. These bands now, well I read somewhere that Rancid and Green Day are like Sha Na Na, ‘cause the music they’re playing is over 20 years old.”

Pass the Biscuits, 1999
Having been involved in the underground scene in New York for a large number of years, Bob has the voice of experience behind him, such as the fact that he does not rely merely on the Blues. “I tell people it’s kind of like deconstructed rockabilly, ‘cause the way we play you can hear the Blues in it, you can hear the country in it, you can hear all the different parts. It’s probably a type of music that’s never really existed; it’s not a nostalgia kind of thing, it’s an idealized form of how I want things to sound.”

The Sacred and the Propane, 2002
One of the more notable assets of Barbeque Bob and the Spareribs is that they are four extremely talented musicians (and, as is easy to see, friends). The heart of the group is guitarist Ira Spinrad, playing licks hot enough to burn down the house. The soul, however, is Bob. As the night progresses and he gets more into the music, he becomes one with the songs, making sounds and noises that parallel the height of excitement and passion, spontaneously inventing stories to go along with the music in free form, stream-of-consciousness fashion. His harmonica playing at once ignites the songs, as he glides along. At one point, he rolls through the crowd like a harmonica fog, unmiked but heard, and eventually lands under a table. Later, he places the mic under his chin while playing. “Big Walter Horton used to do that,” Bob explains. “I’m very interested in texture, and it give the harmonica a little different sound.”

Burning Sensation, 2006
Their singles are in “glorious, straight-ahead mono,” and soon they’ll have a CD out (also on DaDa), with some cuts in “primitive stereo,” Bob laughs. He continues, “I think it all sounds like the same band. We recorded it all to analog, and then did some overdubs. We remastered some tracks that were on our cassette. The guys in the band said, ‘Are we going to record the songs again?’ I said, ‘No way, we sound like that.’” And that is not to be taken lightly.

All this time later, the band is still boppin’ around, playing often here and in Pennsylvania. The current lineup is as follows: Robert Pomeroy, vocals, guitar, harp; Wild Bill Thompson, guitar, slide guitar; David Lee Ross, drums; Arturo Baguer, Bass; also Tom Diello, Fender bass; Glenn Healy, drums; Charles Otis, drums. They are also still associated with DaDa Records.

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