about Rich Mahan
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Guitarist/singer-songwriter Rich Mahan (last name rhymes with ‘Rayban') lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he recorded his solo debut, Blame Bobby Bare in 2012, and its follow up, Hot Chicken Wisdom in 2018.
He switched from piano to electric guitar in junior high after seeing girls go crazy for a local band playing Rainbow’s “Since You Been Gone” at a talent show. He grew up loving the blues (Freddie, Albert and B.B. King), garage rock (Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells, The Action), and post-British invasion bands (The Jam and Secret Affair), but credits the Grateful Dead with opening his mind and ears to all styles of music, and agrees with his Uncles who told him someday he would love country music.
Mahan lived in California most of his life — moving up and down the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and the Bay Area — where he spent his time surfing, jamming, recording, gigging, and developing a deep love for Mexican food.
Over the years, he’s toured and recorded with several groups, playing roots rock with Jam Band Avocado Sundae and co-founding the alt-country band Shurman, which was signed to Vanguard Records in 2004.
He moved to Nashville in 2010 to make music and join the city’s growing population of former Californios, or, as he says, Golden State Refugees.
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Hot Chicken Wisdom – Bio
First off, what IS Hot Chicken Wisdom, besides the new album from guitarist/singer-songwriter Rich Mahan, his first full-length release since 2012’s Blame Bobby Bare? Well, there’s a story behind that, a tasty, poignant one reflected in its diversity of genres, tones, and grooves.
To hear Rich tell it, we begin in Nashville, Tennessee, where the California native now lives, and where he and a crack band waxed his debut, Blame Bobby Bare, at the Rendering Plant, a studio owned by engineer/producer Brian “Brain” Harrison (Shelby Lynne). Brain quickly became a confidante and trusted guide to Music City, particularly its epicurean pleasures, as he directed the newcomer to the fiery flavors of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, a Nashville institution since 1945. Brain was also renown for his way with language and the wild-life tales he spun with it. Thus, he was blessed with “Hot Chicken Wisdom.”
In 2014, Brain died suddenly of a heart attack at age 54, just as he and Rich were prepping a new album. Rich put the new album on hold and focused on performing live “until the desire to complete these recordings had healed.” By that time, he had completed his home studio, which Brain had helped him design, and Hot Chicken Wisdom was born.
Hot Chicken Wisdom, due June 21, is the outcome of that process, an often-raucous, tongue-in-cheek celebration of life and gratitude steeped in country, barrelhouse rock, juke-joint infernos, sanctified redemption, and gleeful flights into jam-band divinity, all from an artist schooled by everyone from Bobby Bare and ZZ Top to the Grateful Dead, Commander Cody, Frank Zappa, and Little Feat. The Alternate Root has deftly called him a "roots-music Buddha whose songs always make sure the faithful leave with a grin" — and maybe a legend or two of their own to spin.
This 11 song disc is no exception, kicking off with “Boots Off,” a tantalizing saunter in country-rock threads with a squalid-funky lope to kill. “Daydrinking” slakes a bleary-eyed thirst on a double shot of righteous six-string peelers. “Coffee in the Morning,” the sunnier yin to its yang, floats easy along an acoustic current. If you can’t make it to Prince’s in person, “Hot Chicken and an Ice Cold 40,” grinding down atop P.T. Gazell’s (Johnny Paycheck) grit-caked harmonica and a sweat-baked Mahan solo, is bound to satisfy.
Wah-wah curls drive the jaunty “Hippie in the City,” an undaunted sonic stranger in a strange land that nevertheless keeps on truckin’, backed by soul-powered harmonies from Bekka Bramlett (Bekka & Billy, Fleetwood Mac). It’s smartly paired with a take on the Dead’s “Loose Lucy,” a slinky blowout that grows in git-down as Lucy weaves groove and the band turns hot. It’s also the last track the crew cut with Brain before his untimely passing.
But you can't have wisdom without the funny and sweet, and Hot Chicken's got plenty of both, including the strummin' roller "I Smoke Pot." Conversely, "Stoned as a Roman Slave" one of Brain’s famed expressions, explores the beauty of a hallowed high, complete with gospel-choir redemption and David Ralston's dobro purr. The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" receives exquisite treatment, and Chuck Prophet’s "Open Up Your Heart" burns with a holy, authentic Nashville sumptuousness here. Bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed) sets the tone with a soulful groove.
It's the end of the album, but the rise of a new beginning -- a tribute to fallen friends, callbacks to good times, liquid conversations deep into the night, and experience accrued over an adventurous life. Hot Chicken Wisdom may not have come easy to Rich Mahan, but it goes down smooth, and the party's just getting started.
Blame Bobby Bare - Bio
Rich Mahan smiles when he sings. And it’s not just because the songs on the Nashville artist’s freewheeling solo debut Blame Bobby Bare are laced with ribald humor and 101-proof wisdom.
The biggest reason for the guitarist/singer-songwriter’s ear-to-ear grin is that his album features several musicians he listened to growing up in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Music City legends like harmonica master P.T. Gazell who played for years with Johnny Paycheck and pedal steel guitarist Robby “Man of Steel” Turner who’s worked with everyone from Waylon Jennings to Frank Sinatra.
Also appearing on the album and providing background vocals is Bekka Bramlett, a solo artist, former member of Fleetwood Mac and daughter of ’70s rockers Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. “When I was a teenager, I saw Delaney play at Trancas in Zuma Beach in the late 80’s. He had a fantastic singer with him, and I remember thinking she was giving Bonnie a run for her money. Not long ago, I was hanging out with Bekka and asked, ‘Was that you singing with your daddy back then?’ She just laughed and said, ‘You think?’ Turns out, I was enamored with her singing even before I knew who she was.”
Everyone Mahan invited to take part in the recording sessions said yes. “Even more unbelievable,” he says, “Each of these super heavy players dug recording these songs so much that they offered to come and play live too.”
They agreed to join Mahan and producer/engineer Brian Harrison (Shelby Lynne) based largely on the strength of songs like “Mama Found My Bong,” “Rehab’s for Quitters” and “Tequila Y Mota,” which mix country and rock in a way that recalls the outlaw country movement of the ’70s. “P.T. indirectly paid me a huge compliment after a recent gig,” Mahan recalls. “He told a couple of the other band members that these songs reminded him what he was doing with Johnny Paycheck back in ’78.”
The warm, natural sound at the heart of Blame Bobby Bare is deliberate, says Mahan, who insisted that the album be recorded with vintage analog gear. Tracked to 24-track, two-inch tape, the music was then mixed and mastered to preserve the music’s natural dynamics (i.e., no brickwalling). “I truly believe music sounds better when it ebbs and flows. Much of that’s been lost today where loudness is king, which is why so many albums sound like a shouting match instead of a conversation.”
That emphasis on dynamics highlights the tasteful arrangements, which provide ample space for the instruments to shine. Mahan says his approach was influenced by Grammy-winning producer Billy Sherrill (George Jones, Charlie Pride). “His productions were so great at stating a theme at the top and then having different instruments take turns riffing through the song — guitar under the verse, pedal steel for the chorus and then harmonica for the solo. It’s about focusing on what serves the song best and getting rid of everything else.”
As you would expect from its title, one of the album’s primary influences is Bobby Bare, a legendary country artist whose hits span nearly three decades and range from the playful (“Tequila Shelia,” “Quaaludes Again”) to the poignant (“Streets of Baltimore,” “How I Got to Memphis.”) For this album, Mahan chose to cover “Put A Little Lovin’ On Me,” a hit for Bare in 1976 from his album The Winner and Other Losers.
“Growing up, I remember how stressed my dad would get from work. But on the weekends, he would cut loose and crank these great records by Bobby Bare. Those songs made him so happy. I wanted to tap into that power and make a record that makes people feel good.”
As for Bare, Mahan believes the Nashville legend will appreciate the album, even if it does “blame” him. “I hope a copy finds its way to him and he gets a kick out of it,” Mahan says. “Who knows, maybe we’ll end up fishing together and I’ll get a chance to thank him for all the smiles he’s given me and my dad over the years.”