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Ian McLagan & The Bump Band

Live at the Saxon Pub, Austin, TX

26 August 1997

by Kent H. Benjamin

Austin, Texas, proudly bills itself as the "Live Music Capital of the World"; Ian McLagan, the once and future organist for The Faces, fronts one of the best live bands in Austin, although few know about them yet. The band has performed under a number of names: Ian McLagan & Monkey Jump, Ian McLagan & Bullet. Sometimes they've even just been Bullet or Monkey Jump. Now, they've finally reverted to what Mac wanted 'em to be called all along: ...& the Bump Band. The group played its first gig several years ago: Aug. 8, 1994, at the Continental Club. In April 1995, they taped two half-hour sets for local cablecast on the Austin Music Network. In March 1996, they showcased their act at the SXSW Music and Media Conference with a hot set at Liberty Lunch. Nine new songs have been demo'd, with two finished recordings done to date, for a projected new album when a label gets smart enough to sign McLagan. This summer, Ian McLagan & the Bump Band have played a regular Tuesday residency at The Saxon Pub on South Lamar Blvd. in South Austin, so we thought it would be appropriate to brief you surfers of Room For Ravers about Mac's new band.

The (new) Bump Band is an all-star quartet featuring some of the hottest players in Austin - musicians' musicians, and all successful artists in their own right, as well as players with many other local outfits. On bass is the very lovely Sarah Brown, generally considered the best bass player in Texas. Brown is essentially the house bass player at Antone's, the most famous blues club in the world (located here in Austin, of course). Brown has been playing on the local scene for many many years, backing everyone from the LeRoi Brothers to a host of guest blues greats at Antone's. She's the unofficial 4th member of "The Girls", the brilliant vocal trio of Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli, & Marcia Ball. Earlier this year, she released a critically acclaimed album by her own Sarah Brown Band.

Drummer Don Harvey is generally considered among the top four drummers in Austin; he's primarily known as Charlie Sexton's drummer, but has many years of session and touring work under his belt. Nowadays, he mainly plays live only with Mac, since his "day job" as the co-owner of the Austin Rehearsal Complex (A.R.C., famous as the place for which the ARC Angels were named: Sexton, Doyle Bramhall Jr., and Stevie Ray's rhythm section).

Harvey's a rock solid groove drummer of a type grown only in the deep south. On guitar is the great "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb, a Mississippi native who moved here over ten years ago and formed Loose Diamonds with the Campbell brothers; one of Austin's best rock bands, they have released several excellent albums, notably Burning Daylight on the dos label (an Antone's subsidiary). Scrappy is also an integral part of Toni Price's acoustic band, which includes Casper Rawls (of The LeRoi Brothers) and Champ Hood on fiddle. As part of that band, he's been voted "Best Acoustic Guitarist" in Austin in The Austin Chronicle's annual Austin Music Awards. Still, in a town famous for its brilliant guitar players, Scrappy is known as one of the hottest guitar-slingers around, and is much in demand for sessions and live work, as well as for being a fine songwriter, like Brown.

Mac plays his trademark Hammond organ, piano, and handles all the lead vocals (with occasional backing vocals from Brown and Newcomb). Amazingly, he's taken to performing several songs each night on guitar, which many of you may not know was his first instrument in his earliest bands; as a guitarist, he's surprising good - certainly better than Mick Jagger or Roger Daltrey, who've also taken to playing on stage in recent years - a very good rhythm guitarist in the Keef/Woody mold. Mac still looks great, his trademark spiky haircut now gone all grey, and his singing is better than ever (I'd rate him as much better than Woody or Keef, and at times, it could almost be Rod Stewart singing, not that Mac's really in that league).

The first set on 28 August included: Booker T. & the MG's Can't Be Still, I'm Hot, You're Cool, Big Love, Trapped, Judy Judy Judy, You're My Girl**, Alligator**, Mystifies Me, She Stole It, Hero, Hello Old Friend, Let Me Walk You Home**, and If It's Lovin' You Want. After a break (to drink beer with friends and fans in the crowd), they returned with: Suzie, Movin' Out, Little Girl, Cindy Incidentally, You're So Rude, So Lucky, Judy Judy Judy (again), Wild About You Baby, I Will Follow, Lil' Troublemaker, You're My Girl** (again), and Last Chance To Dance. Songs marked ** featured Mac on rhythm guitar instead of keyboards. Long-time fans will no doubt recognize several tracks from Mac's two solo albums, along with two Faces songs he co-wrote: Cindy Incidentally and You're So Rude; The Faces' Pineapple And The Monkey is generally also performed most nights. The band always play requests, so frequently songs get repeated due to audience requests.

The set-opening Can't Be Still is nearly perfect: no one in the world does Booker T better that this lot, except of course for the originals. Pineapple And The Monkey is also usually a real highlight, with Mac's lovely warm Hammond sound and Sarah's inventive, melodic, and forceful bass taking on an almost lead role. Ronnie Lane isn't around anymore with his wonderfully melodic bass lines, but Sarah Brown's contributions are always in that league. Next up is a new rocker, I'm Hot, She's Cool, very much in a Faces/Stones mould. Trapped is a fine new ballad, with very good vocals. Big Love and Judy Judy Judy are rockin' faves from Mac's solo albums. With a guitar strapped on, the band roar through You're My Girl and another new rocker, Alligator; with your eyes closed (or even open), it's almost like seeing the Faces or the Stones circa '72, at their peak - this band is that good. Mystifies Me is always the best ballad in Bump Band sets. A relatively new addition is the humorous She Stole It (the tale of an ex-girlfriend who stole the narrator's record collection).

Suzie sounds like a sure-fire hit single, a slab of primo Faces material that easily cuts all of Paul Westerberg's and Tommy Stinson's attempts to recreate the band's sound; written for an Austin friend of the McLagan's, it's bound to be a highlight of the upcoming album. More great rockers follow with McLagan classics Movin' Out and Little Girl, before a romp through Cindy Incidentally, which invariably equals the Faces version. Another Faces track, You're So Rude, is a classic number co-written by Lane and McLagan, sung by Lane on the album. Li'l Troublemaker is another of my favorite rockers, and the new set-closer Last Chance To Dance is perfect late night bar last call fare.

Picture Mac with his flashy swirling Hammond sounds, big grin and spiky hair; Don Harvey in back, intently looking down at his kit while hammering out the beat; the lovely blonde Sarah Brown in the middle, often grinning ear-to-ear; and Scrappy Jud on the right, all lanky rocker cool, with his weight on the right leg, perpetual cigarette drooping from his lips, playing chunky rhythm lines with lightning leads and classy fills. One of the best and most entertaining live acts in America, and one I hope you'll all one day get an opportunity to see.

If there's any justice in the world, some smart hipster like Alan McGee will sign 'em up, put 'em on a prestige bill opening for Oasis, and record a hot new album. With new songs like Suzie, I'm Hot, You're Cool, She Stole It, Trapped, Hello Old Friend, Last Chance To Dance, Hero, and I Will Follow, the band's ready to be heard by a vastly larger audience than the forty-fifty folks each week in a tiny club. For now, they're certainly my favorite live club act.

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