The first thing that struck me listening to Scott Aycock's sophomore release, Foxhole Radio, was a feeling of community and inclusiveness. Granted, that could have been a preconceived notion as I had already scanned the liner notes to find a who's who of the local music scene making guest appearances, but the songs immediately felt more like a sit-in jam session rather than an all-star project.
Aycock paused to reflect on that, not only on the recording of the disc, but of the local music scene as a whole. Intertwined with local music for more than three decades, Aycock said, "I feel like in the last 10 years, the music scene in Tulsa seems stronger than ever. It's a crossroads where all these styles come together. It was that way in the '70s, but it just seems more cooperative now. There's definitely more inclusivity between musicians and bands."
Aycock has witnessed a more nurturing scene as of late, taking particular note of older, established musicians encouraging young new artists to step up and perform. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, then, to have that camaraderie and come across on his new disc.
When discussing how Foxhole Radio came together, Aycock explained that when he recorded his first disc in 2000, he had a band and recorded as Scott Aycock and the Empty Pockets. By the time the latest disc came to be, however, he no longer had a band and pondered the decision of how he should approach the music. Should it be a solo disc, or should he record with a leaner, more stripped back backing band? After discussing it with Don Geesling, who produced the previous disc, he decided he would really like to record with a number of local artists that he admired.
"On Folk Salad," he said, referring to the weekly radio show he hosts on KWGS (89.5 FM) and KOSU, "our mission statement is to promote the rich musical heritage and talent we have here in Oklahoma. I decided I really wanted to extend that to the CD."
With 25 musicians featured throughout the course of a dozen songs, Aycock has made a valiant effort toward doing just that. "There are a hundred more (artists) that I would like to work with, but I had to start somewhere," he said with a chuckle of the disc's guest list.
"My thing is, I wanted to bring in a lot of the musicians that I personally admire," he said. "And of course, play with my sons, Jesse and Dylan." Ironically, when editing the disc, the track that Dylan Aycock played drums on was left off, to perhaps be used at another juncture. Even so, a sense of family and community is exactly what Foxhole Radio is truly about.
Much like what we are currently seeing in Tulsa's music scene (or at least in certain segments), the collaborations on Aycock's disc bridges a generation gap, pairing younger players like Jesse Aycock, Dustin Pittsley and Sharla Pember with Tulsa's old guard players like Steve Pryor, Randy Crouch and Rocky Frisco. The disc also provides a blend of genres, touching on blues, country and even a bit of New Orleans jazz, all anchored by Aycock's keen folk sensibilities.
When putting together his wish list and roster, Aycock sat down with Geesling and started going through the songs he had compiled to decide which instrumentation was most appropriate. From there, he started calling some of his favorite musicians to fill those roles.
For the most part, it was just a matter of asking as each guest jumped at the opportunity to record with Aycock. While some of the artists were paid for their performances, many were happy to play for free even when offered payment. "Everybody, whether they were paid or not, was worth way more than I could have offered," he said. "It was really just an outpouring of generosity and love -- and love of music, from each of them."
Although the performances center on Aycock's songs, ultimately, he admitted, "it became a celebration of all the artists." Even so, it's the consistency of his writing that ties any loose ends together, regardless of the style or players.
Initially, tracks like "Thousand Headlights," "Poor Boy's Dream" and "We're All In This Together" hint that Aycock's forte lay in lazy, shuffling roadhouse blues. Once you work your way through the disc and hear flourishes of country throughout and even a touch of Dixieland on "Louisiana Stomp," you realize that's not necessarily the case.
Ultimately, it should come as no surprise to find that the co-host of Folk Salad is exactly that at heart: a folk singer. His true gift is in storytelling, and he does that in each song with a manner informed by Guthrie and Steinbeck. You might miss it upon first listen, as the warmth of the recordings draw attention to the arrangements (Steve Pryor nearly steals "Wondering What Tomorrow Might Bring" with his pedal steel work), but the stories themselves come to the forefront after repeated listens as the disc has a very natural and organic flow and feel.
Even more than the cooperative effort of the musicians, it's the universal nature of folk songwriting that creates the inclusiveness and sense of community that first struck me with this disc and that comes through loud and clear with this set of stories.
You'll be able to experience that sense of community first-hand when Scott Aycock celebrates the release of Foxhole Radio Thursday night, May 20, at the Blue Dome Diner and Roadhouse. Admission is $10 ($5 for students) and dinner will be available throughout the evening at this all-ages, non-smoking event.
Not all of the musicians on the disc will be able to appear, but you can expect many to be on hand as Aycock performs the majority of his new material with a core band of Don Morris on bass, Dylan Layton on guitar, Ron McRorey on drums and Don Geesling on Hammond B3 (organ). Anyone else who shows up will be able to slide in and out of the set throughout the evening and confirmed guests include Jared Tyler, Jesse Aycock, Jeff Graham and Randy Crouch. You can expect even more to appear during the course of the evening, however, as the concert will likely end with an open jam session spotlighting those who stop in.
Of course, Foxhole Radio will be available at the show, and a portion of the proceeds from CD sales will go toward "Musicians for Smoke Free Oklahoma," a grass roots organization which Aycock's wife, Margee, established a few years ago.
The disc can also be purchased online via CD Baby or at scottaycock.com. If you really want to grasp what the disc is about, however, the CD release party is undoubtedly the way to go as the local music community gathers around one of its biggest supporters.
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