MP3 Jake La Botz - All Soul and No Money
La Botz incorporates elements of electric blues, acoustic country, hellfire gospel, (and even a dose of New York noise pop) to bring his songs to life.
13 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Americana, ROCK: Roots Rock
"His midnight gifts evoke Hank Williams and Skip James as much as Tom Waits and Dylan. Not everybody will get this music - because not everybody is ready for the truth."
--Jerry Stahl (author of "Permanent Midnight")
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (***1/2)
by Nick Cristiano
In the movie Ghost World, starring his pal Steve Buscemi, Jake La Botz plays guitar in what is supposed to be a cliched blues band. On his national debut, the Chicago native, now based in Los Angeles, shows that his own music is anything but hackneyed.
La Botz calls it "soul folk," but his category-defying mix includes heavy doses of blues, rock and gospel, reflecting his background playing both on the street and in church. Singing in a voice that falls between the braying power of Axl Rose and the ragged, hipsterish drawl of early Tom Waits, he sounds equally at home with the blaring title cut and with the gently picked "Ballad of the Unknown Bluesman (Back to Mississippi)," one of the best examples of his colorful storytelling. He also moves easily between the sacred ("I Gotta Write to Know Jesus") and the profane (the pretty funny "Love Advice From Grandma").
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES (*** 1/2)
by Jeff Johnson
Jake La Botz has gone Hollywood since pulling up stakes in Chicago, where he used to woodshed on Maxwell Street with Jimmy Davis. You might have seen him playing guitar in Blueshammer, the world''s worst pseudo-blues band, in "Ghost World," or entertaining his fellow cons in Steve Buscemi''s "Animal Factory" (his big number in that film, "Used to Be," is included here). Over in South Central, he''s been sitting in with the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church band.
But have no fear: He retains true grit on this debut disc. "All Soul and No Money" is described as "soul-folk," but there are certainly elements of blues and punk rock as well. La Botz is just an all-around fine storyteller with a knack for capturing the ironic futility of the human condition.
"He is a medium of voices from a forgotten time: melodic gospel, Delta blues, twisted hillbilly. His dedication and stark, emotionally direct style is stirring and sincere in a way that''s unlike anything LA has recently produced."
"Sadder than hell balladry, razor sharp testifying, storied takes on loneliness, beatnik-on-the-Mexican-border music, coffeehouse chic. This is music from a deep well, a blues with country, folk and sharply observed lyrics....as affecting as a shot of overproof rum on a hot day." --Tattoo Magazine
JAKE LA BOTZ on "All Soul And No Money"
"It all starts underground, doesn''t it? In the murky depths. There''s something down there that''s screaming to come out. It takes heat to boil that base material and bring it up to the birthing stage. After the babies come out you have to introduce them to the outer elements. When Things are really cooking internally and externally, and all the elements come together Chaos and Order dance at a vibration that can sustain life; consciousness. Making this record was a volcano erupting. When it cools I hope it will be an island with rich soil to help nourish further creativity."
Jake La Botz is a man of contrasts. A rough exterior that camouflages the heart of a poet. A street musician who has opened for Ray Charles. Someone who has lived in his car and also hobnobbed with movie stars. A punk rock kid with an affinity for Mississippi blues.
Like its creator, All Soul No Money (on Joseph Street Records) is a study of contrasts. The music travels from the backwoods rural South to the gritty urban North, from Saturday night to Sunday morning, from Hell to Heaven.
On his first nationally released disc, La Botz taps many American musical roots. Numbers like "Lost Child" and the gospel-infused "I Gotta Write To Know Jesus," La Botz generates a fiery rock ''n'' roll sound. He conjures up the saloon blues of early Tom Waits on "Used To Be" and "Getting Closer", while stirring tales like "The Grey" and "...And Keep On Praying" reveal the work of a thought-provoking singer/songwriter. His blend of rock, blues, soul, country, folk, and gospel can be termed "working class Americana." Or as La Botz himself describes it: "soul folk."
Jake La Botz''s life also spans America. While he was born in San Diego, his story actually begins up the California coast in San Francisco. It was there, the story goes, that he was conceived while his parents were listening to Texas blues legend Mance Lipscomb. That was the first time that the Lipscomb factored into La Botz''s life, but not the last time.
Chicago, however, is where La Botz grew up. He moved there when he was a toddler with his father, a truck driver and union organizer as well as a journalist. La Botz says that his dad was the only white reporter at the black newspaper, the Chicago Daily Defender. As a boy, he was exposed to different cultures and ideas, from the political meetings held at his home to hanging out in his melting pot Uptown neighborhood. A born adventurer, La Botz took to traveling around the city when he was 8 or 9. As an adolescent, he discovered the library where he listened to records or read Nelson Algren, Jack London and the Beats. One of his favorites was The Death Ship by Treasure of Sierra Madre author B. Traven. "I think I read that book when I was 14 or 15 and thinking ''This is it. I''m going to discover the world and do all these wild adventurous things.'' "
What he discovered first was the Chicago punk scene. When he was 12 and 13 years old, he''d attend local punk shows as well as going out to see reggae concerts by the likes of Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff. He had friends in Chicago punk bands like Articles of Faith and Negative Element. It wasn''t until he was around 15 that he really discovered the blues and hillbilly music. One early favorite was Dr. Ross. La Botz recalls that this one-man band bluesman "had such a funky sound, playing drums, harmonica and guitar that I wanted to play guitar and sound like that guy." Around then La Botz got his first guitar, but he found it intimidating trying to play like Robert Wilkins or Skip James. It was the music of Hank Williams that made him believe that he could play too. "Williams sounded equally as soulful as (Wilkins and James) but his guitar playing was so much simpler that it kind of opened up guitar playing for me."
Around this time too La Botz''s wanderlust caused him to drop out of high school and travel around America. "I stole a car and made it as far as Colorado one trip, ended up living under a bridge in Trinidad, Colorado for a few days and then in Denver for a bit." He admits to pulling a couple stunts like that in his early teen years. La Botz says that his dad, a radical, lefty guy with a strong sense of adventure, gave him a lot of freedom.
He spent much of his late teens and early twenties traveling and working various odd jobs. He worked for a while in a graphite factory in Rodeo, California, which he compares to working in a coalmine. "Three months after quitting that job I was still blowing black snot out of my nose." Other "memorable" jobs included fixing roofs in freezing wintertime Chicago and writing obituaries for a local neighborhood newspaper.
When he was in Chicago, La Botz liked to head down on Sundays to the fabled Maxwell Street flea market, where Muddy Waters and Little Walter used to perform. There he became acquainted with the "Mayor of Maxwell Street" Jimmy Davis, whom he describes as "a fascinating guy. He had a raw sound, like a window to a different world."
It was only in his early twenties that La Botz started to perform music - some Hank Williams and Merle Travis and a lot of acoustic blues from the 20''s and 30''s, including songs by Mance Lipscomb. "I must have worn out Mance''s first album," La Botz recalls, "trying to figure out what he was doing." He didn''t really consider being a professional musician, however, until he started hanging out with Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis and fellow blues legends Homesick James and Honeyboy Edwards. He remembers, "I''d be at Honeyboy''s house and he''d request me to play songs that he was listening to when he was kid. He''d say ''play that record by Tommy Johnson'' and the fact that he would be entertained by me was like ''I found home; I''m on the right track.'' So I was really thinking that this is where it''s at it. If these guys like it I must be doing it the right way."
Ever the wanderer, La Botz wound up in Los Angeles in 1996. "It was really like I ran out of land and ended up at the ocean." A pal''s promises of work and a place to stay turned out to be less than true, so La Botz ended up living in a downtown L.A. SRO hotel. Although his world seemed to be unraveling, there actually were some bright sides. He got a weekly gig at the hipster club Al''s Bar in exchange for his room upstairs at the American Hotel. And, as La Botz puts it, "until you actually plant yourself someplace, you don''t have an opportunity to grow. That was what I needed. All the running around was very interesting but now it was time to grow and quit running."
La Botz started attracting a following around Southern California and soon he received the opportunity to record his first album. The Original Soundtrack to My Nightmare came out in 1999 on the small label Spinout Records. La Botz admits that the title pretty much describes his state of mind at the time. "I had this weird fatalistic scene happening in my mind. I felt I needed to put down what songs I had." The recording sessions lasted only a couple hours spread over two days. "I sort of walked in and walked out". His follow-up disc, 2000''s Used To Be, took him only one day to record as he wanted simply to do an acoustic album of sad ballads.
While both of these discs received limited releases, La Botz ironically got his widest exposure in feature films. Performing around L.A., he got to know a number of people in the movie business. One was actress Brooke Smith, who starred in Silence Of The Lambs. She was so taken with La Botz and his story that she actually filmed a documentary on him. A friend of Smith''s, Steve Buscemi came to some of La Botz''s gigs and cast him in his prison drama Animal Factory (starring Willem Dafoe). Besides playing a convict in the film, he also performed several of his own songs. La Botz has gone to appear in more films like Alexander Rockwell''s Thirteen Moons, Buscemi''s upcoming Liv Tyler-starring Lonesome Jim and the cult classic Ghost World, in which he was the guitarist in the intentionally bad blues band Blueshammer.
La Botz had a different type of brush with fame when former Guns ''N'' Roses guitarist Slash asked him to audition for the supergroup, Velvet Revolver. While that didn''t pan out, he did play guitar for a couple of years at the Greater Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles. What he liked about playing there was the way churchgoers responded to the music. "When people start to move, embody the music, then something really starts cooking."
It is this feeling that courses through La Botz''s own music - where a primordial spirit travels between the performer and the audience. For La Botz, songwriting is almost like being possessed. "It feels like a strange energy that creeps into my body and demands attentions," he explains. "I start to follow a thread and I keep pulling at it and following it. Moving it around and playing with it, and trying to understand it in terms of my own experience."
All Soul No Money is the first album where he had the time and opportunity to do things the way he wanted. He self-produced the disc with the able assistance of ace engineer Todd Burke (Ben Harper, Jack Johnson). Also helping La Botz achieve his vision is a number of veteran L. A. players; most of whom had performed with him before. Drummer Jim Goodall (one-time Flying Burrito Brother) plays with La Botz in his full band and duo settings. Bassists Jeff Turmes (Tom Waits) and Bobby Tsukamoto are La Botz vets as is guitarist Peter Atanasoff (Tito and Tarantula). Other guests include organist Eddie Baytos, Adele Bertei (of James Chance and Contortions fame) and Willie Chambers from the Chambers Brothers and a church friend of La Botz''s.
Full of tales of sin and salvation, All Soul No Money stands as a culmination of La Botz''s life up to now, but it also serves as a sign of what his future holds.
All Soul And No Money - 2004/2005 Joseph Street Records
Used To Be - 2000 Utel Records
The Original Soundtrack To My Nightmare - 1999 Spinout Records
Animal Factory - directed by Steve Buscemi
Ghost World - directed by Terry Zwygoff
Lonesome Jim - directed by Steve Buscemi
The Grey - directed by Shane Taylor
Thirteen Moons - directed by Alexander Rockwell