Agony Shorthand

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Of course I’m talking about HASIL ADKINS, the one-man early 60s rockabilly wrecking crew from the Deep South. I just gave another couple of spins to his awesome 30-track collection “Chicken Walk”, and it only reconfirmed the pure wacked-out genius of the man. Sure, novelty-esque numbers like “She Said” and “I Need Your Head” have garnered him the bulk of his longtime underground cred, but it’s easy to forget just how amazingly raw and drop-dead great his souped-up rockabilly numbers are. Tracks from this collection that just destroy include “I Want Some Lovin’”, “No More Hot Dogs”, “Truly Ruly” "Chicken Walk" and “Walk and Talk With Me”, among many others. I feel like he hasn’t really received his due as a king of the genre – likely because this stuff is just so much more amped and screaming compared to the Sun Records crew. As “Deuce of Clubs” puts it in the intro to an online interview,

“"An American original"--the appellation is an overused one, but Hasil "The Haze" Adkins could have occurred nowhere other than the dark woods of West Virginia. It's impossible to imagine Adkins' screaming vocals, frantic guitar style, and freewheeling approach to rhythm emanating from any other corner of the world. The wonder of the Adkins sound--preserved for future generations in the form of rough recordings made at his Madison, West Virginia home during the 50s and 60s--becomes even more amazing when you learn that Adkins plays all the instruments on his recordings--and at the same time, all at the same time. Perhaps only The Legendary Stardust Cowboy-- another one-man band -- approaches Hasil's manic style, but Adkins is so altogether unique as to comprise a backwoods genre unto himself: sooey generis, you might say. When The Cramps covered Adkins' best known song, "She Said," Lux Interior reportedly had to stuff styrofoam cups into his mouth to get anywhere near Adkins' vocal sound. (Adkins says sometimes people pay him not to play "She Said.")"

If you’ve never seen the brief 30-minute “shockumentary” on Adkins, “Wild World of Hasil Adkins”, you owe it to yourself to find a screening at your local microcinema. You’ll see that he actually does play everything (well) by himself – guitar, drums, vocals – and better still, there’s a wild dance floor catfight between Haze’s jealous girlfriend and another woman while Adkins plays. It’s a true trailer trash moment, straight out of redneck central casting – which is probably where it came from (I remember thinking there’s no way the filmmaker could have been that lucky!).