Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. This week, we are featuring songs by bands performing during the 24th Annual Shake The Shack Rockabilly Ball, September 22-24 at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. Today’s song is “Haybales” by Knut Bell & the Blue Collars from the album Wicked, Onry, Mean, & Nasty available from Marlingspike Music.
Seattle’s musical attention this week has been focused on what put our fair city on the map as a music town for much of the world -- the 90’s grunge explosion that centered around the release of Nirvana’s break through album Nevermind. There’s been a lot of talk about what constitutes as the “Seattle Sound” in this post-grunge era and those who had forgotten about us with few exceptions Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie come immediately to mind, but most recently it’s been Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and The Head and the Heart, which has caught the world’s attention. Those outside the Emerald city struggle to quantify what our Seattle Sound is while we smirk, knowing it’s just as diverse as it’s always been.
We’re home to artists like Quincy Jones, Jimmy Hendrix, The Sonics, to Kenny G, to Pearl Jam, Death Cab, and Blue Scholars. Rock, soul, folk, hip-hop (and I suppose wanky saxophone driven “jazz”) have been a part of our musical climate for generations, but what hasn’t always been so prevalent is country music. Especially wild, honky tonk style country music that gets folks dancing. Music like what today’s artist, Skagit Valley’s most favored son, Knut Bell and his band the Blue Collars, make. You can hear traces of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and David Allan Coe in the feel, but Bell’s songs are all his own, born of his experiences as a fisherman, a rabble rouser, and a son. Today’s song, “Haybales” is a driving force, propelled forward by Bell’s gruff baritone vocals that give warning, and tell of life on the road. The driving rhythm that is peppered with warm tones of the pedal steel will have your toes a tappin’ if you’re not already up two-stepping.
Knut shared a few thoughts on how he uses his musical Chi to get folks up on their feet.
How did you get your start as a musician?
KB: I have always sang/wrote songs. My mom has me on tape at about 3 years old singing. I got a Sears and Roebuck guitar from my Grandma when I was 10 (of course I could not play it...still can’t :) and I would make up truck driving/country songs. I wrote my first complete song ‘Leave Me Alone’ (found on the Honkahillarockabilly album) when I was 14.
After completing my career as a commercial fisherman (crab/cod/salmon) in Alaska...I started the band and have been doing that full time since.
You have a lot of seasoned musical veterans in your band The Blue Collars. How did the band come together?
The band has naturally progressed over the years to the current line-up. I’ve been blessed with good members in the band and have not had any problem players for the most part.
How autobiographical are your songs?
What can you tell me about “Haybales?”
The idea was born from a log truck buddy who was telling me about the time he dumped a load of logs because he was checking out a hot chick in a car while driving. Something happened...he overcorrected and he dumped his load. The visual twists like “timber in the trees...timber on the road” are just the way my inner brain functions.
When I had completed this song... I knew it was for Dr. Leon Berman of ‘Shake The Shack’!
Your shows are raucous and lively and often you have a bus load of fans that come out to see you live. What do you think is the most important element to putting on a good show?
Making sure that everyone has a good time. Finding that one person that really isn’t into it...then reeling them in and getting them to be a part of the flow of energy. Chi... it’s all about Chi and one can learn to follow/direct it’s path. In order to do that though...one has to be in a total natural state, relaxed and themselves.
You can catch Knut Bell and the Blue Collars TONIGHT (9/23) at The Tractor Tavern as part of the Shake the Shack Rockabilly Ball. It’s also quite a treat to see him at his regular gig at the Conway Pub up in Conway, WA where the food is greasy and the beer is cheap (Sunday 9/25) if you want to keep the good times going. More dates and info on his website or Facebook page.
Here they are from last week’s in-studio performing “Ballard Avenue.” You can catch their whole performance on the KEXP Archives.