Thursday, October 4, 2012

Billy Doohickey "Looking for Easy Street," "Goin' Back to Town," "The Bluegrass Collection"

(Lightning Records) Mr. Doohickey is of interest to Roctober readers because his alter ego Arshag Chookoorian is the son of Roctober fave Guy Chookoorian, the Armenian Mickey Katz! These releases are on the label Guy started in the post-War period, and Guy even appears, singing and oud-ing it up on these releases. But Billy is his own man, or to be more accurate, Billy is Disneyland's man, as Arshag and his crack crew of bluegrass-ready rockers appear at the park as a hillbilly act entertainign the strolling crowds (and since the Country Bears got fired they are the keepers of the rural torch). And you just might see another Billy and the Hillbillies playing when they ain't there. BUT what makes these recordings so interesting is that Arshag is the least rural singer, ever! His smooth, elegant vocals as urban and urbane as could be, and his devotion to 70s AOR icons resulting in countrified versions (often not too countrified) of Doobie Brothers and Dan Fogelberg songs, and when he does Willie, Hank, and Ferlin Husky he still manages to make it more Midnight Special than Hee Haw. That Arshag ended up a themepark hillbilly is an imperfect fit, but like all Roctober family never-quit diehards, I like to see the positive side: this is a survival in the biz victory for a talented cat rather than a cruel twist of music industry fate.

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