Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thank You Ohio For Good Friends And Motorcycles

Oh Panhead, let me rescue you back to North Carolina
Weekends come and go like the sun sets each day and brings about the change of light to dark. But every now and then you get to have a weekend where it seems to shine in perpetuity. While up in Columbus, Ohio last Friday through Sunday we worked on a quick little documentary about Fred Workman of the Big Bike Shop and talked on quite a few of his incredible builds. Hopefully we will be able to launch that video project in the coming weeks.

If there is one bike shop to obtain all the information you need to know about how to work on any Harley of any make or to find that rare Knucklehead gasket, the Big Bike Shop is the answer. Fred is as humble as they come and seeing him smile while talking on his projects is truly a rare find. I feel honored to have spent a few hours hanging out at the shop and getting a few of his stories on film. Also big thanks to the entire Ohio Posse for always making a good time even better. Muchos Gracias to Tyke, Brad and Sherwood for being hombres.

Can't wait to be back in a few months to run the Ohio Mile

Fred Workman talking to one of his customers at the Big Bike Shop in Columbus, OH
Me, Tyke and Fred Workman talking on a few builds
Getting my first taste of a Little King in Brad's 55 Chevy

Fred explaining his dirt drag build

Fred Workman and one of his over long front ends

Need a primary cover

Brad working on the front headlight of his FLH Shovelhead

Good time wtih the fellas in Ohio

Tyke and I out checking the local scenery
A bit of oil blow by on the ol' Panhead

Bin of old carbs

Sturgill Simpson Is The Astral Explorer Of Country Music

Sturgill Simpson is the astral explorer of Country Music
Few bands plumb the depths of space and time in a way that challenges us the listeners to ask for me. Quite a few bands in metal tread these waters and it feels par for course due to the style of music and rebellious nature. Sturgill Simpson is asking folks on the country tip to go along for the ride and damn if it doesn't feel good to hear the fresh approach. Buy the ticket and take the ride.

Check it out on NPR

"Believe it or not: a country song can be about anything. People who seek out stories about Daddy's farm and fishing trips and Solo cups will easily find them, but the genre's most creative souls have long been interested in much more than sentimentality and a good old American time. Country and the rock that intertwines with it bears a rich legacy of artists asking The Big Questions in warm, relatable accents, from Willie Nelson and his friends at the World Armadillo Headquarters in the 1970s to the Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell today.

Sturgill Simpson is the latest to take on this challenge. The 35-year-old native Kentuckian, who played in the insurgent bluegrass band Sunday Valley before releasing last year's High Top Mountain, a dynamic (and fairly traditional hard country) solo album, didn't set out to blow minds with Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, to be released May 13. He just found himself in a new place, both musically and in terms of his fascinations.

That personal paradigm shift is represented in the album's first track, "Turtles All The Way Down," the video for which debuts here. "There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane," Simpsons sings in his outlaw baritone as his band lays down a gentle arrangement reminiscent of Merle Haggard's "Kern River".

The next lyric might make you jump: "Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain." Aliens? Simpson's having fun with a cosmic-scientific meme connected to an old myth that imagines the world perched upon an infinite stack of the green-shelled creatures. Simpson invokes the Turtle in connection to his own quest for meaning, which never does let up. The song's video, created using software artist Scott Draves's distributed computing project Electric Sheep, similarly blends a straightforward, intimate performance with synapse-stimulating, AI-generated effects.

After this detonation of the treasure chest of country stereotypes, Metamodern Sounds continues to flesh out a deep and unconventional relationship between traditionalism and new ways of thinking. The groove Simpson finds with his band is loose and immediate. At times the playing gets almost psychedelic. At other times players circle back on old styles like Southern gospel and do them right. At the center of it all is Simpson, a hot guitar player and mighty singer whose insistence on being complicated makes Metamodern Sounds far richer than most emerging artists' wrestling matches with tradition.

Simpson and I recently had a conversation via email about legacies worth resurrecting and making music that's "like life."

The new album isn't exactly what people might have expected from a guy often called a honky-tonker — though those classic elements are present, too. Where did you begin with these songs?
I just reached a point where the thought of writing and singing any more songs about heartache and drinking made me feel incredibly bored with music. It's just not a headspace I occupy much these days. Nighttime reading about theology, cosmology, and breakthroughs in modern physics and their relationship to a few personal experiences I've had led to most of the songs on the album.

Dr. Rick Strassman's book The Spirit Molecule was extremely inspirational,as were a few recent highly visionary indie films and a lot of Terrence McKenna's audio lectures. The influences are all over the place but they culminated into a group of songs about love and the human experience, centered around the light and darkness within us all. There have been many socially conscious concept albums. I wanted to make a "social consciousness" concept album disguised as a country record.

"Turtles All the Way Down," is a shot across the barricades. And you've made a video that matches it. Tell me about how the video came about and how it relates to the song. Do you think CMT will play it?

I expected to be labeled the "acid country guy," but it's not something I dwell on. I would urge anyone that gets hung up on the song being about drugs to give another listen ... to me "Turtles" is about giving your heart to love and treating everyone with compassion and respect no matter what you do or don't believe. The cosmic turtle is from a much quoted story found in publications throughout modern physics and philosophy, even ancient theology, that now essentially serves as a comedic picture or expression of a much grander idea.

The video is a tightly budgeted attempt to capture or represent a visual simulation of that idea. After some correspondence with Dr. Strassman and Andrew Stone at www.cottonwoodresearch.org I was introduced to visionary software artist Scott Draves, creator of Electric Sheep. After a few emails and hearing the music, Scott was generous enough to offer his assistance with the project. A friend of mine, Dex Palmer, knew some pretty tech-savvy kids at Cineshot Productions that I enlisted for the chore of filming and editing this thing.

As for CMT playing the video, I honestly never gave it too much thought. What they do is great to a lot of people, and it creates jobs for a lot of people, but mainstream country avenues weren't really a goal for me with this album. I'm interested in exploring various forms of newer media that might allow those who otherwise don't listen to country to find and connect with my music.

The song's title invokes Ray Charles's classic album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music — which was a huge, loving and very successful challenge to the genre. This album poses challenges too, and not just the obvious ones. It's not slick like mainstream country, but it also has a more adventurous and looser spirit than a lot of Americana music. How do you think these categories need shaking up right now?

Part of me still feels like I've never had the opportunity to properly express all my earliest influences, so for now I find isolation to be my biggest influence. Somebody told me once it takes an Americana song five minutes to say what a country song says in three — so I try to write country songs. But really, all good music is just soul music.

You're working with a traditional sound but your music still has a roughness and immediacy to it that's very vital. How do you protect that?

I want to make records that feel like life. So in terms of recording, I am very much a live performer and I've learned to treat the studio as an extension of that only with a much broader sonic palette to paint with. I cant even use headphones. We just set up extremely tight in one room and set the levels ourselves naturally with dynamics. This is how all my favorite records were made.

You cover of a song called "The Promise" on the new album and it sounds like a classic country weeper. I thought it was a Mavericks song when I heard your version. But it's a 1988 electropop hit by the English band When in Rome! Tell me about taking a song that's so different stylistically and finding the country in it. 

I believe it's one of about three thousand brilliant compositions from the 80's that got lost in production. I always thought the lyrics to "The Promise" made for a very beautiful, sweet love song and decided I'd like to lay down a somewhat "Countrypolitan" version.

You also have a trucking song on the album: "Long White Lines," written by Buford Abner but better known from a version by '90s country star Aaron Tippin. Mainstream country is full of trucks, but never mentions trucking — trucks in songs today represent leisure, not work. You turn that around here.

CB radios were a big part of the early 80's. They sort of became an obsession after Smokey and the Bandit. My grandfather had one in his truck when I was a kid and I would play on it constantly, in the garage or going down the road, until truckers started telling dirty jokes and he'd make me turn it off. Since the album is a figurative trip, I figured it needed a road song. I became familiar with the tune years ago on an old Charlie Moore & Bill Napier bluegrass trucker album by the same title. We started working it up on the road last year and it just keeps getting looser and funkier every time we play it. At this point it's basically hip-hop.

There's nothing more traditional in country than invoking family, but nostalgic songs about childhood can be so very corny. You have one on this album, "Pan Bowl," that avoids cliché by employing what seems like real details from your life. And you grandfather "Dood" Fraley announces the title of the album at its very beginning. How do you manage to invoke family without getting too sentimental?

Yeah, I wrote that song a few years back and honestly it probably doesn't belong on this album. I just felt that by the end of the record most folks might need some sort of "return to innocence," so I added it as a hidden bonus track. Every word of that song is true. As for the album intro, really I just wanted my grandfather to emcee the album, almost entirely for sentimental reasons, and I thought it made for a nice juxtaposition.

There are points with the band where you almost get into jam-band territory on this album. Is this a reflection of where you're going live? It's a different kind of stretching out than what you did with your old band Sunday Valley.

There is still so much room for sonic exploration in country music. You always have to serve the songs and the songs have to serve the records. Someday, if I ever get to a point where I find that I am repeating myself, that's when I'll know I'm done."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

News and Updates From Altco Music With Stevie Tombstone, Black Eyed Vermillion, Joshua Morningstar and Kern Richards

Jeff Harris captured some great shots at the Black Eyed Vermillion Show at Stubbs in Austin, TX

The forecast for the future is dark and cloudy as we anticipate the release of Black Eyed Vermillion's single "Box Of Pine". They are riding high after some great shows, including a recent Austin appearance with Flogging Molly.The video release of Box of Pine is coming soon and more Altco releases are already in the works for the upcoming year. Word on tour dates will come after the single release. Be sure to look for them at Moonrunners . The digital single features artwork by none other than Alexandre De Meyer who recently designed the artwork for the latest Nashville Pussy Release. You can check out his work at right here:

Kern Richards feature review on No Depression

Kern has been getting a slow and steady foothold on his new release and he's about to hit the road this summer for the East Coast. Mr. Richards has been racking up airplay and great reviews already and we know he's just getting started. A word from No Depression- "Don't expect no "Happy go lucky" here but do expect much brutally honest lyrics and some great arrangements which I was pleasantly surprised. Anywhere but home is the perfect name for the record which tells stories of lonesome, highways, 24hr cafes,booze, lost love, injustices and everything that comes with. Richards voice really stands out and sounds like" its been in a smoke house for several days and placed on the highway only to be hit by a semi truck". Get the whole shootin match here.


Work has begun on the upcoming Joshua Morningstar release slated for late 2014. The singer songwriter was recently added to the ALTCO roster and will be appearing occasionally with Stevie Tombstone as they prepare to hit the studio. The release promises to be a honest portrait of Joshua and his talents. Be sure to keep and eye out for him on the road and check him out on Facebook for updates about his new project. He just may be at Moonrunner's as well so give him a warm welcome if you see him on the midway.


More copies of Greenwood will be available on vinyl soon so stay tuned for details. Until then enjoy the Altco version of " Lucky" the first track off the Greenwood release . Its available now on Itunes and Amazon and in your finer record shops.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kern Richards Feature Review On No Depression

Kern Richards of Altco Music on No Depression

Check out the original post on No Depression

"Every once in a while I get blessed with something that sticks out in a high-definition world. I personally get tired of being fed "Happy go lucky" and need that black and white fix from the high-def culture we live in. My great friend Mr. Stevie Tombstone turned me to a ALTCO label mate Kern Richards and I can't thank him enough after listening to his latest released entitled "Any where but home". Kern hails from the great state of California and is a pure singer/songwriter who has the ability to make you believe in the stories he sings.  Don't expect no "Happy go lucky" here but do expect much brutally honest lyrics and some great arrangements which I was pleasantly surprised. Anywhere but home is the perfect name for the record which tells stories of lonesome, highways, 24hr cafes,booze, lost love, injustices and everything that comes with.  Richards voice really stands out and sounds like" its been in a smoke house for several days and placed on the highway only to be hit by a semi truck" . I would describe living where  Tom Waits drawl and Lenoard Cohen's lullaby echos over lap. In the title track of the same as album name Anywhere but home the singer explains 
"Monday drunkard bar-stool...Tuesday couldn't care....Wednesday night sick with fright and headed no where....Thursday's back in rehab....Friday getting stoned....from Sunday dawn to Saturday night I'll go anywhere but home"

After hearing those lyrics the great Krisofferson is kicking his own ass for not penning such. Its safe to say that Kern won't be playing many weddings but will speak to the working man, truck driver, the outcast, the beaten down, the guy who doesn't wanna go home from the bar, the cook at the Huddle House at 3am, and such. I for one really got into and still growing into this record for much of the things he is speaking of I too have been thru it. I can respect the hell out of a man who is honest in struggles of life. Not everyone can related to beach life and eating at Applebees. Thank god for folks like Kern Richards who tell it like it is and make you feel it's heartfelt under-belly Americana. Go pick up a copy of his new release now and thank me later."


Friday, April 11, 2014

Can Motus Be The Next Great American Motorcycle?

The Motus Motorcycle is an object of lust


Ask any seasoned motorcyclist how many bikes they own and most of the time, the answer will always be more than one. It could be a stash of parts here, a few full bikes there and sure enough a couple will at least always be on hand. I personally have had at least two bikes for the last eight years and always hope of expanding into the double digits or until garage space runs full and need to invest in another garage. One can dream right?

One of the bikes that I find myself continually coming back to is the brand new American company, Motus. They are brand new to the market but their approach has had me biting my nails for quite a few years. 

I am a fan of most anything on two wheels, but what makes Motus distinct is their proprietary motor that was concepted out and then refined by Pratt & Whitney. The sound and roar are distinctive along with its styling cues. As a beloved Buell enthusiast, learning more on the back story of Motus reveals another great mind that runs parallel to Erik Buell's vision of a how a motorcycle should operate.

Do yourself a favor and read on about these great new machines about to hit the market.

Check out the original article on Motorcycle.com






"The Motus MST is the most distinctive motorcycle we’ve seen in years. Designed and built in America, and using what is basically half a Corvette V-8 engine, the 1650cc MST offers a bold new take on sport-touring motorcycles. 

Building a new motorcycle from scratch and certifying it for production is a long and winding journey, but the Motus crew is getting near the end of that road. The engine’s 15,000-km (9320 mi.) durability testing is being completed this month, with EPA-certification testing scheduled for this spring. Once EPA and CARB standards have been achieved, Motus has a full warehouse ready to begin production.

Motus says its 16 dealers have already taken orders for more than 200 MSTs, adding it intends to build 250 bikes in its first year of production. A hand-built sport-tourer with a bespoke (and powerful) engine is never going to be inexpensive, and so it is with the MSTs. The base version retails for $30,975, while the high-spec MST-R has a $36,975 MSRP.

We can’t wait to ride it, but in the meantime, here are some riding impressions of a pre-production MST from our buddy Neale Bayly, a freelance motojournalist who has been closely following the Motus story from its inception. We’ll bring you our own impressions once the bike nears production. – Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief


A word I’ve never used during my career to express my feelings after riding a new motorcycle is “proud.” But it was the first word to mind after stepping off the pre-production Motus MST following a high-speed blast along Interstate 20 outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

I was buzzing on pure adrenaline, blown backwards with how well the bike had performed and just so unbelievably proud of what the small crew at Motus have achieved with this motorcycle.

Tom Vaeretti in Waxhaw N.C. Photo by Neale Bayly
Motus Production Manager Tom Vaeretti with the Motus MST in Waxhaw, N.C.

It all seems like a lifetime or two ago that I sat in a Birmingham bar with Motus co-founder and director of design, Brian Case, in April 2008, as he pulled a notebook out of his leather satchel and showed me sketches of the motorcycle he wanted to build: An American V-Four sport-touring motorcycle. For those not familiar with Case, you should know he cut his motorcycle design teeth at Confederate motorcycles and was the chief designer on the radical, world-renowned Wraith.

We met in New Orleans back in 2004 when I tested a new Confederate Hell Cat, the first one in the lineup to use the exhaust pipes as the swingarm. It was a heady time, as Confederate owner Matt Chambers philosophized the gestalt of his creations and JT Nesbitt was swearing vows of celibacy to bring the Wraith to life. Case had closed the doors of his industrial design business in Pittsburgh and traveled south to join Confederate. Motorcycle history was being made by this eclectic collaboration of genius.

Over the two years following our initial conversation, Case partnered with Birmingham businessman Lee Conn, and the pair went to work on starting an American motorcycle company from scratch. Fairly frequent visits at that time were always fascinating as sketches turned to clay models, Pratt and Miller started building a chassis, and Brian and Lee’s dream started the long, slow slog to reality.

For me, it was near purgatory to know so much about Motus and not be able to say anything about it, as the last thing I can do in this life is keep my mouth shut. But with the threat of wearing an inverted fork tube in my ear if I squealed, somehow I managed.

Pratt and Miller. Photo by Neale Bayly.
The Pratt and Miller team show off the chassis it created for the Motus MST.

The engine was unveiled at the Barber museum in 2010, and Motus was in front of the world. The clock started ticking as an eager public awaited the new American sport-touring machine. By early March 2011, there was much chatter throughout the world’s media about this clean-sheet, American-designed and -made motorcycle, and a lot of speculation about the small company.

Joining Brian and Lee on a bitterly cold day that year, I watched them attend photo shoots and work on all the details of their upcoming trip to Bike Week in Florida, where they intended to show the world their two prototypes for the first time. Late in the day, as the light was fading, out of nowhere Brian asked me if I wanted to ride Bike No.2.

It’s not the first million-dollar motorcycle I’ve ridden – Valentino Rossi’s M1 was the other – but the Motus MST was not owned by mighty Yamaha and represented the fruit of three years hard labor for Brian and Lee. Not to mention it had a date in Daytona later in the week to be revealed to the world’s media.

A rolling test mule, it had no fairing and looked raw and aggressive in a streetfighter sort of way. Its EFI didn’t include an idle circuit, so it had to be kept revving, and the penalty for stalling was a slow, complicated process: wait four seconds for the Bendix to engage, hit the starter, and try to coax the engine to stay running, without either over-revving or stalling.

Nervously pushing the very stiff gear lever into first, I took off on the Birmingham side street. Holy shit. The suspension must have been set up for Andre the Giant, as even the smallest of bumps threatened to bounce me out of the seat. The gear lever took an act of Congress to select the next ratio, and there were some viscous hesitations and stumbles as the big 1650cc V-Four tried to climb up through the rpm range. The clutch was heavy, and trying to let the engine die down enough to change gear without stalling was putting my limited skills to full test.

But the seating position felt just right, and on a smooth piece of road I realized how light and easy it was to transition the bike. There was an intoxicating roar from the engine, and as I managed to get my heart rate down a little and my breathing under control, I realized I was riding the motorcycle I had seen on a sketch pad just three years prior. Brian and Lee were the only other people to have ridden the bike, and I have never felt so honored or privileged in my life.

Brian Case and Lee Conn proved the Motus MST's touring capabilities by riding it across the country from Daytona Beach to Monterey, Calif., for the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.

Brian Case and Lee Conn proved the Motus MST’s touring capabilities by riding it across the country from Daytona Beach to Monterey, Calif., for the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.

Fast forward a few months and the bike had undergone many revisions, mostly undetectable to the human eye, for a stint at the MotoGP in Laguna Seca. For the event, the two prototypes were to be ridden to California and back.

I joined Motus at Laguna and shared riding duties over the next couple of days as they made their way home, before leaving them in Denver. It was an insane trip as we rode long and hard, pulled all-nighters, took the bikes to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a sunrise photo shoot, and blasted across America at high speed.

Motus MST at Bonneville
One of the stops on Motus’ cross-country tour was the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The bikes were an evolutionary leap forward. Suspension setup was light years ahead, the gearbox heavily revised, fueling way better, and the ride was inspiring. Its high-speed handling gave me insight into the strong points of the Motus, backed up with an intoxicating, under-stressed powerplant that clearly had bucket loads of untapped potential to come. Built to make lots of fast miles in comfort, it was an incredible couple of days that left me excited about Motus and its progress.

Hit the fast-forward button again to October 2013 at the vintage festival in Birmingham, Alabama, where I’m in deep conversation with the guys at the Motus booth. The company has moved into substantially larger premises at the original Barber museum downtown location.

Brian Case and Mr. Barber. Photo by Neale Bayly.
Brian Case discusses the Motus MST with  George Barber. If anyone knows anything about noteworthy motorcycles, it’s the founder of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

Motus has a number of full-time employees, a dealer network in place, and hundreds of orders for new bikes. The last couple of years have been deeply complicated and stressful for the young company, as they have fought for investment capital, moved locations, and worked on bringing the Motus to production.

The current production engine shares not one part from the original Katech prototype, and the direct injection that was the buzz point of the original design has been replaced with conventional fuel injection. Just listening to Brian talk about what it takes to design an intake unit for a motorcycle’s fuel injection system and how to get it to production is enough to leave you exhausted! And that’s just one part of a motorcycle for which he designed virtually every component.

As we talked, Production Manager Tom Vaeretti filled me in on the current 30,000-mile accelerated durability tests the bikes are undergoing and the company’s plans to streamline assembly. With everything running at full throttle and EPA testing in the near future, it’s hoped that production will begin this summer.

Looking at the latest pre-production units under the tented area, and watching people’s reactions as they came to see them, Brian turned to me. “I need to swing by the office and pick up a few things. Would you like to ride along?” It was such a wonderful surprise, as I hadn’t even let my mind have such a thought. I jumped at the chance.

Just pulling out of the crowded parking area, the differences from the prototypes were like night and day: smooth and light clutch action, slick gear selection, decent steering lock, and a steady idle. The crowd of excited onlookers made the moment even more special, and within minutes I was carving my way down Mr. Barber’s driveway at speeds that would have me struck off his Christmas card list if he found out. I would have begged for forgiveness though, because if he could have felt the way the Motus MST was taking his lovely bends, he would have fully understood.

031714-2014-motus-mst-Red in the Moab curve 3

This thing’s a sportbike with the ability to go touring. Smooth fueling shot me forward, and keeping the rpm low, I short-shifted through the box, quickly realizing there is nowhere the Motus isn’t producing very strong, solid amounts of power.

Hitting the highway and dialing the big V-Four on about 80 mph, the tachometer was registering a little over 3,500 rpm and the bike was carving through traffic like a red-hot knife through butter. Brian did a couple of top gear roll-ons next to me, evaporating away in front of me as I watched with a mixture of schoolboy crush and excitement. How many people, I wondered, get to twist the throttle of a motorcycle that they gave birth to?

As we made our way into Birmingham, I pulled up next to Brian so he could see my shit-eating grin while I enjoyed the seamless power and the composed nature of the machine. Entering the complex system of exit ramps and flyovers downtown, he quickly left me in the tight turns, as I didn’t have the confidence to really lean the bike over.

Brian Case riding Motus MST in Birmingham. Photo by Neale Bayly
Brian Case takes the MST for a spin in Birmingham.


Watching Brian at speed spoke volumes about the handling and how much fun I will have when I’m more used to the bike. Braking hard for an intersection revealed strong, solid brakes, and with the front fork doing its job perfectly, I hammered them harder for full effect.

At the Motus headquarters, we ran into JT Nesbitt and got into some conversations about his newest machine and the Confederate days, so my excitement about my ride was momentarily pushed into the background. Brian finished his business, and as we said our goodbyes before heading back to Barber, he reminded me to keep the engine below 7,200 rpm for now. Suddenly realizing there was so much stimulation filling my limited amount of cerebral space on the way here, I had paid virtually no attention to the tachometer.

So back on the highway exploring the incredible rush of power available in top gear, I figured out I had only been shifting in the 3-5,000 rpm range, and had not even begun to explore the engine’s full potential. Moving cautiously into the outside lane, checking for members of the club that take offence to riding over the speed limit, I settled in. Clicking down a gear and opening the throttle to just past seven grand, I upshifted and pulled the trigger again.

I deliberately didn’t look at the speedometer, but realizing there is another wave of power available from 5-7,000 rpm that I didn’t think existed, I let loose a stream of very un-PG13 expletives.

Motus Prototype in Daytona. Photo by Neale Bayly.

The nature of the engine is so unlike most motorcycles I’ve ridden. A Honda ST 1100 has a similar layout, but feels like a neutered donkey at a steeplechase in comparison. The closest I can get to describing the feeling is its similarity to a big Moto Guzzi, although with massive amounts of extra power. If you’ve ever ridden a Guzzi, you’ll be familiar with the way the heavier flywheel continues to spin up for just a brief moment after you let off the throttle, and that’s sort of the sensation you get from the Motus engine as you roll off the gas.

It’s deceptively fast, and there is a strong need for caution. The noise-to-speed ratio is going to take some adjusting to, as you would swear the engine is on a Sunday walk, while the bike is hammering along the freeway like Josh Hayes heading into Turn 1 at Barber on his superbike.

For now, horsepower figures are not being released, but I wouldn’t be surprised if final figures revealed a number north of 160 when rated at the crankshaft. Considering the MST’s claimed dry weight of about 540 pounds (about 580 ready to ride), it’ll be the most exciting sport-touring motorcycle on the market in America – and one that’s designed and produced in America.

Motus HQ in Birmingham. Photo by Neale Bayly.

Back at the Barber facility, after a more respectful approach, I climbed off the Motus MST and handed it back to Brian and Lee. Feeling like one of the Chipmunks after inhaling a party balloon full of helium, I was so jacked up, it’s a wonder my aging heart was able to handle the extra blood flow.

Absorbing every second of the experience, I realized the moment was one of my absolute all-time motorcycle highs. The bike still has a few issues to be resolved before it’s ready for the general public, but they are few and minor. The V-Four’s fueling could’ve been smoother and the gearbox was a bit noisy, but these nits were already being addressed by Motus in advance of the production units.

As I type, teams of riders are putting in serious test mileage, Brian is overseeing the fine tuning from fuel maps to production processes, and the rest of the team are at redline working round the clock to bring the Motus to dealer showroom floors. Stay tuned, it’s going to be an historic event in motorcycling."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does It Take A Motorcycle To Sell A Watch?



Photo: Bell & Ross
This bike may be for looks but at least they made it damn cool

Does It Take A Motorcycle To Sell A Watch? Maybe for Bell & Ross it does, but the praise should be sent over to Shaw Speed & Custom out of England. They are known for some great custom builds, but this one is decidedly different. Most likely this bike will never see a land speed racing track so in all reality its a poseur, but the details are so on point, its hard not to like.

Check it out on Wired

"In the same vein as the gorgeously impractical Lotus C-01, we have another motorcycle too beautiful for mass production–let alone to ride. It’s called the B-Rocket, and it was commissioned by Bell & Ross and built by British Harley-Davidson specialist Shaw Speed & Custom to give the French watch-maker something special for its booth at the Baselworld Jewellery and Watch show in Switzerland.

The B-Rocket follows the success of the Nascafe Racer, another two-wheeled collaboration between Bell & Ross and Shaw, which won numerous awards, including a trophy from the Sturgis bike show. But Bell & Ross wanted to go bigger and Shaw was happy to oblige.

“The B-Rocket’s look was inspired by speed-bikes and the ’60s experimental U.S. aviation,” said Steve Willis from Shaw.

To that end, Shaw started with a Harley-Davidson FXS Softail Blackline cruiser, which it then stripped to the frame and added a handmade body that cribs heavily from the hyper-aerodynamic, record-breaking land speed racers that blast down the Bonneville Salt Flats. The front fairing is pulled from a vintage land-speeder, and the bodywork is coated with an aircraft anti-glare coating to evoke the aesthetics of vintage planes. Other interesting bits include a hub that remains upright when the front wheel is rolling–just like a Rolls-Royce–along with two small wings on the forks that can be adjusted to increase the front downforce.

But for all its beauty, the B-Rocket isn’t about setting records–it’s a marketing accessory for the BR 01 B-Rocket watch. And with a price tag of 4,500 euros, you’ve got a better chance of seeing the bike on the road then seeing the watch on someone’s arm."

Dedication To Your Craft Helps To Grow Your Reputation

Adam from England enjoying one of our "Buckstache" Banjo Straps

 
 
Dedication to your craft is the only way to live. This is why putting all the extra effort into our work makes it worthwhile, especially when we get a note such as the one below. Thanks to Adam and the multitude of folks that have purchased quality guitar and banjo straps from us. We aim to create a product that you can pass on for multiple generations.

"Dear Ralph \ Banjo Buck,

Many thanks for
the personal note accompanying my recent 'Buckstache' banjo strap. The strap is fantastic, I'm delighted with how perfectly it matches the color and style of my Epiphone - both were a really special 30th birthday gift from my brother. Been playing keyboards for 20 years or so but banjo only a few months so a great present enhanced by a great strap.

I wish you the best of luck selling more Buckstaches to Europe, i'll be recommending you to my fellow pickers here in Nottingham.

Cheers guys,"


Adam

Sunday, April 6, 2014

This Is What Happens When A Band Attacks Your Drawing Pad On Tour

This is what happens when bands attack a drawing pad on tour

"Hey Ralph, new shirt?" Just happened to pull out a stack of drawings and this gem fell out. Turns out ol @rorykelly83 decided to attack one of my sketch pads sometime in the past and added a hilarious personal touch. Damn I miss the good times on the road with my hombres in Crank County Daredevils. Their last album was the launch of Rusty Knuckles Music five years ago and from that album we have been able to start an empire. Love ya Scotty, Rory, Velvet and Mikey!!!

Want To Cut Your Grass Faster?


Photo: Honda
Worlds fastest lawn mower and one hell of a cool build


Many a time on the back stretches of my lawn I postulate on ways to cut it faster or how many cans of beer I can drink while mowing. Yes, these are time tested problems and ones in which this shorebilly tinkerer thinks of what else can be created with a lawn mower. Did you see our lawn mower pirate ship?

Knowing that there are other gear heads out there who aspire to greatness with what might be simple tools is a great feeling. My grease soaked hat sends a cheers out to these Brits that just conquered a Guiness Book World Record with a lawnmower that hit 116+ mph. Bravo!!!!


For some, there’s nothing better than spending a lazy Sunday cutting the grass on a riding mower. For others, ripping around a racetrack is the perfect way to unwind on the weekend. Honda thought they could combine the two, and the result is a 109-horsepower beast that just set the world speed record for lawnmowers. Yes, that’s a thing.

Honda’s U.K. division joined up with its British Touring Car Championship partner Team Dynamics and tore apart a Honda HF2620 Lawn Tractor before revamping the whole thing with a custom-fab chassis and a 1000cc engine from a Honda VTR Firestorm motorcycle. For good measure, the team took the suspension and wheels from an ATV to cope with the extra grunt.

Of course, this is a lawn mower we’re talking about. Guinness, sticklers that they are, required that the Mean Mower be able to actually cut grass. So Team Dynamics created a custom cutter deck out of fiberglass and installed a fuel tank, high-capacity oil cooler, and secondary water cooler for the radiator in the mower’s grass bag to preserve as much of the look of the original tractor as possible.

There’s a six-speed paddle shift tranny, along with a custom racing seat and exhaust, and since they couldn’t find the right size steering rack for something this small, they pilfered one from a Morris Minor. All that adds up to a mower geared for a top speed in excess of 130 mph with the 109 hp 1000cc engine propelling its 308 pounds from 0-60 in just 4 seconds.

Photo: Honda
Damn you Honda for beating me at something I have always dreamed of, worlds fastest lawn mower


Two electric motors were installed on the cutter deck, with 3mm steel cable spinning at 4000 rpm making to keep the judges happy. It can actually cut grass at up to 15 mph, more than double the speed of the machine on which it was based.

The world record was set at the IDIADA Proving Ground, in Tarragona, Spain on a 2km stretch of tarmac. Top Gear writer Piers Ward was behind the wheel, averaging 116.57 mph over two runs in opposite directions through a 100 meter speed trap, crushing the previous lawn mower speed record of 87.83 mph.

Ward wrote that the mower was stable, with “no wobbles, no drama.” Sounds safe enough, even if it doesn’t have a seat belt.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Husky Burnette Talks On All That Is Hill Country Blues

Hill Country Blues is rock n' roll in its purest form
What is hill country blues? It’s a way of life for one. It’s a regional style of blues that comes from North Mississippi, particularly around the greater Holly Springs area. It gets down in your blood if you let it (and sometimes you don’t have a choice in the matter). It makes you wanna get up and get down. It’s a sound that moves you. Then, eventually, it forces you to physically move cause it gets you up out of your seat, throws you into a coma-like state and makes you MOVE. (Remember I said you have no choice in the matter?) This is a groove unlike any other. Not a groove like Funk, R&B, Jazz, Funk or any other kind of groove in music. This is trance music.






Hill country differs from all other styles of blues. It’s built from guitar-driven riffs, emphasizing the rhythm and percussion, very little use of the harmonica and the song structures themselves are more unconventional than any popularized blues songs on the radio, tv, etc. It’s different than Delta Blues for sure. Often, people mistake all styles of blues for being the same. For starters, this mistake happens simply because they all came out of Mississippi. Plus, Delta Blues took the limelight first. It’s far more popular than others, due to the old delta pickers taking their music to Chicago and becoming successful with worldwide recognition. Sometimes the styles even overlap. Take, for instance, T-Model Ford’s music. He hailed from the Delta but his sound and his playing was clearly Hill Country. From a musician’s point of view, the chords used, or lack thereof, are completely different from Delta and Chicago blues songs. It’s not your basic three chords (I-IV-V) you normally hear in popular blues progressions (Mustang Sally, Sweet Home Chicago, The Thrill Is Gone, etc). For the most part you’re just using that first chord (the I chord) of those three and, typically, never straying away from it. They hit that chord/key, lock into a groove, and ride it on out ‘til the wheels fall off. Obviously there are exceptions, as there are in any and every style of music. But, for the most part, it’s just trance music baby...all night long. And they didn’t wear no stinkin’ expensive suits either. They’re from the hill country. They wore wife-beaters, boots, trucker hats, overalls...they’re country-livin’ folks.





When you think hill country, two of the musicians that are mentioned the most, in modern times, are R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. In the 90’s their styles caught on with blues crowds and indie/alternative crowds alike. Especially when they appeared in the 1991 Deep Blues documentary and then signing with the Fat Possum record label out of Oxford, Mississippi. They actually began recording in the ‘60s, playing mostly at juke joints and house parties close to home. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that they actually started playing festivals and even Europe but, then in the ‘90s they gained much success, extensively touring in the states and overseas, inspiring many artists who would go on to emulate their hill country sound along the way. Burnside’s most popular trio consisted of himself, his grandson Cedric on drums and his buddy and “adopted son” the legendary Kenny Brown on slide/lead guitar. One of Kimbrough’s most notable lineups consisted of his son Kinney on drums and R.L.’s son Garry on bass guitar. Where Burnside’s music was more on the happy, dancing side of things (for a lack of better explanation), Kimbrough’s music portrayed a much darker side and approach to the style. Both Burnside and Kimbrough influenced tons of heavy-hitter artists who’ve recorded their tunes, such as The Black Keys, North Mississippi Allstars and more. They’ve had their songs in commercials, television shows, films, etc. But who influenced them? Burnside and Kimbrough both were heavily influenced by the music of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. However, Burnside learned directly from guitarists Mississippi Fred McDowell and Ranie Burnette. McDowell’s sound is said to have helped define the hill country sound early on. His performances had that “drone” style, that’s prominent in hill country, heavy on African rhythms and the percussive side of things.

RL Burnside will always be my personal favorite Hill Country Blues artist







Even though Burnside and Kimbrough have passed, their families still play on in this tradition that was passed down, keeping this style of blues alive: Duwayne Burnside, Duwayne Burnside & The Mississippi Mafia, The Burnside Exploration, Cedric Burnside, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Kent Burnside & The New Generation and David Kimbrough. Kenny Brown and other North Mississippi artists, such as North Mississippi Allstars and Hill Country Revue, have taken the style or their newer version of the style to international fame as well. If you’re not hip to hill country blues, hopefully this will help get you on your journey and be the starter kit to learning about North Mississippi music. Do yourself a favor and seek out some of these artists mentioned, new and old. The same ol’ blues is gonna be just that without expanding to check out other voices and other ways of the land and music in Mississippi.


For a more in-depth look at the blues in all of it’s forms, check out the book Deep Blues by Robert Palmer. A great read for lovers of southern music!