Severn Sanders/Molly Allen
Local singer-songwriters Austin Walkin' Cane (left) and Chris Allen.
Friends for years, local singer-songwriters Austin Walkin’ Cane Charanghat and Chris Allen regularly write songs together and play on each other's albums.
One thing they haven't done, however, is play a joint release party. But since they both have new albums out, Allen and Charanghat decided to team up for what they're calling "one damn good show" that takes place on 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, at the Music Box Supper Club.
Charanghat released his first album in 1994 and has steadily put out new material and played locally, nationally and internationally since then. His new album, Muso
, represents his seventh effort. The title comes from a slang term for musician that he first heard in Australia. A song like “20 Years Forgotten, 20 Years Gone” comes off as a good grunge-y number with echoing vocals, and the track “Delilah” has a swinging zydeco feel to it.
Allen’s been a part of the local scene for just as long. His new album, Last Trip Around the Sun
, commences with the hard-rocking title track but then veers into R.E.M. territory with the moody “Your Summer Skin” and the horn-driven, Dylanesque “Sometimes a Heart.” Each song features Allen, Charanghat, bassist Don Dixon and drummer Jim Brock.
One recent afternoon over beers at the Harp, Allen and Charanghat both spoke about their respective albums.
Have you guys co-hosted a release party in the past?
No. Usually, we’re always writing on each other’s records. We get done with one and start the other one.
Usually, as soon as one of us finishes an album, we start on another album.
This only worked out because the pandemic slowed down Austin’s release.
It canceled because it was March 20 of last year [a Scene
preview for that show that provides an overview of Charanghat's career and of the album's creation didn't wind up in print, but it did run online
]. It took a pandemic for this to happen.
You’ve known each other forever. Talk about what made you want to write songs together in the first place?
For me, it was Chris. He was writing songs first. Chris would write songs and come over and start recording on my four-track. He’d record a tune, and I’d play guitar on it. It would be random. We would sit in my parents’ house and record it. He would split, and I would figure out my part and I would mix it.
“Hard Road to Cleveland” was one of them. We started writing for his records, and then we got into a regular songwriting habit. We would get together on Mondays. It just became a fun ritual. We would treat it like a job and go to work.
Chris would have a song and run it by me, and then we’d finish that, and I think with [Allen's] Acetate
, Chris said we needed to focus on the record and get it done. That started the pattern.
Can you each talk about when and where you recorded your new album?
I recorded mine at GAR Hall. It started in 2016. I was going to use four tunes from the 2014 session and eight tunes from what became Muso
. They didn’t jibe at all and were two totally different records. I used a few for Muso
. The first eight tunes were written in one night. I think we wrote one song between 9 and midnight. Then, I hit a lick and Chris had a look that he gives me. An eyebrow goes up. Then, we started working, and it turned into this whole thing, and we never ate except for pretzel rods. I had two bags of pretzel rods, and we just attacked them.
I recorded in Charlotte at [drummer] Jim Brock’s studio. I wanted him to play drums. He played drums on my first solo album. He’s a legendary drummer. He was on a James McMurtry record. I thought it’d be kick ass to get him and [bassist] Don Dixon on the record. They’ve worked together for decades. Jim said we could go to his studio, and we recorded for two days. Austin came with me to the studio for the album. He’s guested on things before, but he was in the band for this album, and we did most of the tracks live. We recorded June 7 and 8. Back in April was when the idea came up. I had been collecting songs, and I wanted to do a record. Most of the songs were written recently, and one of them we wrote the night before in the hotel. We wrote it at midnight and recorded it at 10 the next morning. Jim was not pleased. He likes to be prepared, but it was a straightforward rocker.
Austin, what music influenced you for this particular record?
was just that one night. I had sketches and ideas and things like that, but we were just rolling. It was one of those things. Every lick that we came up worked pretty well. Originally, it was going to be more acoustic. My friend David Morrison is a great harmonica player, and he’s a great singer and overall great guy. I wanted to do something with him. I was listening to it and thought if it just had a little electric, it would be better. Now, the whole thing is mostly electric. Chris ended up doing cool tremolo sounds on it.
I brought some of my Rosavelt tricks to it.
It’s so unique to the blues.
And what about you, Chris.
We knew what rhythm section we’d have and we knew everything had to have a good groove to it. We had a song that was more alt-country, but anything that reeked of that got thrown out. I was using my voice a little more than I have in the past. I’ve been playing so many dates for so long, I wanted something I could play live.
I think it’s some of the best singing you’ve ever done.
Austin had all of his guitar parts written down. We had those songs down cold when we got to the studio. COVID made me appreciate the people that I know, and I now longer think about my next record because there might be no getting together again. You don’t know. We just wanted to do something for art’s sake in the moment.
You both used to play locally on a regular basis. The pandemic has really hurt local musicians and local venues. Talk about the impact it’s had on you.
I’m doing okay. There were a lot of weird gigs last year. My friends have a Dairy Queen in North Ridgeville. They asked me play in the parking lot. I said, “Sure. I had nothing going on.” I was going to do a release gig and then go to Europe. I was going to come back with a little chunk of money and was excited about it. Instead of going to Europe, I was playing the Dairy Queen. I was dreading it, and then, I did it, and it was the greatest thing ever. I might even do it again this year. It was fun, and it was a saving grace in a lot of ways. Facebook Live was great too.
I had regular gigs every Tuesday and Wednesday and always promised myself that if I didn’t play those nights, I would write. I had a Tuesday night music club with members of the Ohio City Singers, and me and Austin were writing all the time. We got a ton of Christmas songs written, and I wrote a Falling Stars album, and Rosavelt wrote a bunch of songs. I’m not going to lie. It was nice to have nights off. I needed it. My daughter and I spent a lot of that time together, and I did a lot of cooking.
What can we expect from this release show?
We’ll trade songs. The backing band will know both records, so we’ll play songs from both records and some of our older tunes. Me and Austin will do some songs as a duo. [Local musicians] Kelly Wright and Meredith Pangrace will join us as part of the band. We’ll mix it up a little bit all night.
It’s a release party, but we’ll do a bit of everything.
Austin wanted to make it a storyteller session, but I told him no. I said, “Boring!”
I think only Ray Davies could pull that off.
Austin Walkin’ Cane Charanghat and Chris Allen, 8 p.m. Saturday, July 17, Music Box Supper Club, 1148 Main St., 216-242-1250. Tickets: $18 ADV, $25 DOS, musicboxcle.com.