Bradley “B.A.” Allan Fielder
The first timeWelcome to part eighteen of our series on Woodyfest 2018. This installment features singer-songwriters Brad Fielder and R.T. Valine. this writer heard Brad Fielder was in . I was at the Bluebonnet BarThe Bluebonnet was at that time the divey-est of dive bars. Cash only, beer only, the same two-dozen faces gathered on the barstools and around the pool table every night. The “stage” was located under a glass-shaded pendant which glowed a feeble red, fighting to penetrate the dense, smoky air. In operation since the , the Bluebonnet changed hands in , when new owner Tanner Miller immediately added public Wi-Fi and a credit card reader and removed the red pendant. A liquor license followed a few months later. to see Alex Culbreth, whom I’d met at Woodyfest; Fielder followed him in his regular Sunday night slot. I was knocking back a PBR between taking photographs of Culbreth when Fielder sat on the barstool next to me, leaned over, and said, “That’s a mighty fine Leica you have there.” He was referring to the rangefinder which was, at the time, my main camera. Now, very few people would know enough about old (or in this case, old-looking) cameras to recognize a Leica — mostly other photographers, and only a strange, nerdy subset of them. In that moment, I identified Fielder as a member of my tribe.Fielder is a professional photographer working in a specialized field.
Spine-Tingling True-Life Tales
As is usual for Fielder’s Sunday night residency, he performed solo, with just a microphone and a tiger maple-topped Epiphone electric guitar. The songs were all originals — in the past, when Fielder performed with his band, $69GUITAR!,$69GUITAR! is on indefinite haitus. he would choose a different song selection.
There are some songs that I play both solo and with the band. The songs played with the band are generally more in the country/honky-tonk/rock spectrum, more suited for an ensemble of players. Songs in the solo set tend to be written from a more personal perspective: nostalgic stories, observational narratives and songs with a message to the listener.Quoted in Carman, Becky,
One particular song caught my ear — a biographical number called “Black Mottled Back Porch Cat.” The song tells the story of how its author came into the world one of Oklahoma’s many oil booms. the boom became one of the worst busts in Oklahoma history.
We’re all oil-bust babies / Some born of roughneck ladies / Our daddies in the eighties had it hard, writes Fielder in “Enid, Oklahoma.” Set in Enid, a town reliant on oil, agriculture, and the nearby Vance Air Force Base, the lyrics relate how Fielder’s mother undergoes a long and difficult labor. Eventually, his grandfather goes in search of Fielder’s father. Bursting into the local watering hole,
He said, When the song ended I blurted out,
Fielder! / Where you at, boy! / You’re havin’ a baby! / Better get your ass to the hos-pi-tal!
Spooky! Fielder replied,
That’s because it’s true.
Fielder has gone into the studio thrice to record the song: the first time multitracking drums, bass, guitars, and vocals for the Cheap Wine Records compilation A Taste of Cheap Wine,Download the entire album free on the label’s Bandcamp page. the second time to record a solo version for his own Shive Records. The final, full-band version, released on the eponymous $69GUITAR!, was retitled “Entrance Exam.”
From Magpie to Master
Fielder’s best material is either drawn from his own life or his observations of others’. A prolific writer, he puts pen to paper for three or four songs a week but doesn’t perform them until they are burnished to perfection. There was a time, well documented in his early catalogue, when he would record anything and everything he wrote. These days he’s far more circumspect about releasing just any old ditty. Of his old, profligate ways, he says,
That makes for bad songs.Carman.
I don’t agree that they are bad — they sound like someone still finding his voice and learning his craft. Fielder’s early work shows a magpie curiosity — solo and in collaboration, he’s a recorded concept album (Chinese Food, a collection of pseudo-reggae songs inspired by the titular cuisine), a hardcore punk album (Slamdance/Oi!), an album that asks the question,
What if you gave two train-hopping hoboes an endless supply of whiskey and marijuana, handed them guitars, and recorded the results? (You Gotta Wait, released under the nom de guerre
Clemins & Fitsimmons), and a hip-hop album (Interpretation of the Situation: Beats and Streets of Enid). There’s also loads of psychedelic rock — one standout is “Eyeballs on the Ceiling,” about first-hand experience dropping LSD in an acquaintance’s apartment before wandering the streets
tripping balls.Fielder, describing the experience to the Band Camp song circle. Band Camp is a group of friends and acquaintances who camp at the same particular location at the Okemah Rodeo Grounds for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival every year. Like many of the other campground cliques, they host a late-night song circle — sort of a folk open-mic, but without the microphones. Fielder later reworked it into a Woody Guthrie-style talking blues.
Fielder is a superb picker on both guitar (electric and acoustic) and banjo. When he stopped by the Band Camp song circle on festival he played another personal favorite, “Little Man,” which I’d only ever heard him play on the banjo. He’d brought his guitar to the circle, and listening to the song in an unfamiliar arrangement I realized just how great his playing is. And let me tell you, it’s really great. Not just technically great, either — Fielder’s playing is musical and nuanced, with gorgeous tone and subtle timing and sonority you have to hear in person to appreciate.
Fielder’s last few releases have been deeply personal but paradoxically universal, featuring heartfelt, deeply humanistic songs such as the redemptive “The Brick and the Broom” and “Give Them What They Need!” a protest song inspired by the Oklahoma teachers labor action and our feckless legislature’s mewling inaction.
Anyone who likes Fielder’s current material — which, by pure logic, is anyone who has listened to him in the past five years — will find something of interest in his back catalogue. And lucky you, as of this writing, you can download his entire solo output on his Bandcamp page for half price — that’s a mere $34.00 USD. All dozen in-print Shive Records selections, comprising work by Fielder and others, are free to download. If the good Lord smiles on you, there will be a couple dozen more volumes in the coming years.
RT ValineWelcome to part eighteen of our series on Woodyfest 2018. This installment features singer-songwriters R.T. Valine and Brad Fielder. was born with a soldering iron in one hand and a hot-glue gun in the other. At least, that’s what you’d think looking at his band R.T. ’n’ the 44s’s instruments.Styled RT N’ THE 44s Those instruments, assembled from washtubs, drumheads, nuts and bolts, duct tape and solder, and probably a wad of chewing gum, are reflected in the band’s fashion choices too. The band are inveterate thrift-shop pickers, with the eyes and patience of professionals.
I think [our style] is Valine and Willard quoted in Feuer, Daiana,
old sh‑t. We play instruments cobbled together out of garbage and wardrobes cobbled together out of garbage. […] Old sh‑t’s been happening for a while […]. We’re the perfect band for the recession. We’re not going to turn anyone away because their guitar only has two strings on it.
Originally based in the largely Mexican-AmericanEl Sereno is one of the least heterogeneous neighborhoods in Los Angeles, with about 81.2% of residents identifying as Latino. El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, Valine and his wife Jaqueline moved to Allen, Oklahoma in . While in California he lived in a farmhouse raising goats and chickens; his animal husbandry continues in his new digs. This should be no surprise since he grew up on an Ohio farm, helping his family raise steer, before moving to Bowling Green to get his BFA and eventually settling in California.
For his second Woodyfest appearance, Valine played solo, trading songs with Brad Fielder on the Hen House stage. Sporting a well-worn western hat and cowboy boots and wearing a blue neckerchief, Valine cut a fine figure. His deep baritone projected to the back of the house as he sang a mix of originals and traditional cowboy songs. The venue operators might want to invest in one of those portable defibrillators in case he plays there ; I reckon his disarming smile and twinkling eyes provoked a few palpitations among the audience.
R.T. ’n’ the 44s began life in when singer-songwriter Valine joined forces with Brendan Willard (banjobass)The banjobass is Willard’s one-of-a-kind homemade bass-banjo hybrid. Webb’s washboard is also unique, sprouting various appendages and topped with the upper half of a high-hat cymbal. There’s even a cup holder on the left side. and Michael “Swimmy” Webb (washboard). They spent some time busking the L.A. streets, then moved indoors as their popularity grew.
With and without his band Valine has released five singles, two EPs, and eleven albums, plus two restropective compilations. Due to the difficulties presented by geographical distance Valine plays with the band only infrequently these days. His local shows are mostly solo. Sometimes guitarist Bart Weilburg joins him, as he did at ’s Woodyfest.
Valine credits artists such as Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, and the Carter family as influences on his songcraft. Despite the band’s reputation for rowdy (but family-friendly) sing-alongs, much of his material addresses mortality.
It’s not something to be afraid of — maybe to embrace that a little. A lot of these songs about death are catchy. You sing along, stomp your foot.Willard, quoted in Feuer.
Death isn’t that scary because in the meantime we’re all together and we all have to take that trip so might as well enjoy it. We should only take care of the people we care about — the people we love.Valine, quoted in Feuer.