I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Al Foul. Many, many moons ago, when I was first exploring the wonderful world of rockabilly music, he and his band the Shakes were the only live rockabilly act I ever got a chance to see. You'd catch them on a street corner on 4th Avenue --Tucson, Arizona's beatnik thoroughfare -- raising hell acoustically: Al on guitar, belting out classics like "The Train Kept a'Rollin," Jimmy King on lead guitar, Craig Hall on drums and a mysterious character known as Pigpen on gutbucket. That's right, 'gutbucket:' Instruments don't get more down home than that.
When I moved up North to Portland in the mid-nineties, one of the prized mementos of my Arizona days came with me: Al Foul and the Shakes debut seven inch, featuring "Long Way to Hell (But You Drive a Fast Car)" b/w "Don't Feel at All." The A-side is funny, rollicking, jangly, but the B-side is a rockabilly classic that has never gotten its due. "Don't Feel at All," is an ominous, tough little number about a stony-hearted man, featuring killer guitar work, outstanding vocals and the kind of plodding, thrumming bass (thanks, Pigpen) that you only find on real-deal rockabilly music. The platter was supposed to be the first in a series of three, coming with hand-drawn cover art and a cartoon on the back, but alas, that was not to be.
Years later, home visiting the Naked Pueblo during the holidays, I stumbled across Al Foul's second vinyl offering, a self-released platter with two great songs, "I was a Teenage Kiddie Porn Star," and a bona-fide Christmas classic whose title is too long for me to type here. In 2009 I wrote about his third plastic platter, a 4-Track E.P. released by Le Disques Steak, a French imprint that had the foresight and taste to bring Al all the way to France to record and perform (anybody who digs roots music knows all too well that Europeans celebrate our fine American musical traditions more than we do ourselves; if you don't believe me, watch the video clip below). It's one of his best records, boasting mature, heartfelt vocals and wry, sly lyrics. "Have You Ever Been Hit by a Flyin Saucer" has to be one of the best, and most amusing songs about domestic abuse ever written.
Fast forward to 2013: Al Foul is still doing his thing, and he's as good as he ever was. He has a new album out, "Keep the Motor Running," which I'm sad to report isn't on vinyl. I recommend grabbing a copy anyway. Better yet, catch him live when he brings himself West this week for two very rare performances: Friday night at San Diego's Shakedown Bar, and Saturday here in L.A. at the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana: 9:30 p.m., and no cover, people, so no excuses, please: go check it out. Before you do, check out Al's website and browse through the attached slideshow of cover art.