Published on April 14th, 2015 | by Ballard Lesemann0
The Punch List with the Bushels’ Singer/Guitarist Jim Algar
Metronome Charleston‘s Punch List series puts local musicians on the spot with a questionnaire that touches on music, venues, gear, records, vices, and more. This week, singer/guitarist Jim Algar of acoustic string band the Bushels takes a stab.
1. What is your favorite local hang and why?
“The Charleston Music Hall. Aside from the best acoustics around, people come to actually see the show not to be seen.”
2. You know you’ve played an excellent show when…
“You hear the phrase, ‘Man! You guys…’ more than twice.”
3. What was the last show you attended that really got you fired up in a good or bad way?
“Lionel Richie at Red Rocks; a paradox of emotions. The show was last year. I’ve been to Red Rocks before, but never for a show. Billed as ‘Lionel Richie: All the Hits, All Night Long,’ it was my first show at this amazing venue, and I wanted the U2 ‘Pride in the Name of Love’ experience but had to settle for ‘Penny Lover.’ ‘Penny Lover’ is still a good song, but I wanted fire bellowing from the tops of the rock formations but had to settle for ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello’ is a great song, but none the less a paradox of emotions.”
4. Define your musical style in exactly 10 words.
“Acoustic singer songwriter who loves to rock rhythmic jazz chords.”
5. What’s your theme song?
“James Brown’s ‘The Boss.’ Three kids, a mortgage, and several businesses… Everyday I’m hustling. James Brown is always in control from start to finish. Listening to this track has James simply holding court — essentially being the classical conductor of funk, making sure everyone serves the groove and respects the down beat One. Being a father of three, broker in charge of 843 Real Estate, my music students and playing four gigs a week. My wife is an amazing woman, and time management is my jam.”
6. Gear-wise, what’s is your irreplaceable baby?
“My ’67 Gibson J-45. These late’60s Gibsons have these awful screws in the saddle that raised and lowered the string height — an engineering idea that was a total flop and limits the contact between strings and the wood of the guitar. I found a guy who worked on museum antiques who removed the metal saddle holder, filled in the void and painted the same wood pattern of the bridge so you can’t tell it ever had that awful set up.”
7. What’s the most overplayed album in your collection?
“Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. Lyrically, it has no equal, and the arrangements are like my own personal spa music. I first heard this album in high school and was fascinated with how rather than verse lines rhyming couplets Dylan was having a conversation within the song while telling story. I didn’t realize it until years later Dylan’s marriage was dissolving at the time, but it just makes the lyrics even more astounding.”
8. When was the last time you were genuinely star-struck?
“Traveling around the country, I saw about nine shows in a row of Medeski Martin and Wood in ’98 with DJ Logic. Seeing the level of improvisation inspired me to try to create on any and every instrument I could.”
9. What’s your poison?
“Jameson. It’s something I enjoy neat, or it’s great to sip with a beer. Like salt on a margarita, you don’t have to have it, but it accentuates the experience.”
10. In 10 years, I will be…
“Watching my students make their way in the music scene. Most of my students currently are not old enough to play in bars. I try to teach my students towards their desire. Guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, drums, vocals, songwriting, etc. I’m willing to help anyone who wants to learn. My main goal is to teach my students to be musicians — to be able to communicate through music. I feel a true musician can create something on any instrument.
Writing songs is big for me, learning how to put a band together, getting a gig, how to correctly wrap a cord, understand that buying more gear isn’t going to make you a better player, creating arrangements that feature one’s talent over falling short of the original song. I’ve discovered and struggled in my 25-year career being a professional musician. and I try make my students aware what to expect.”
The Bushels kicked off as an acoustic string quartet in the Charleston area in 2008, playing an eclectic, harmony-laden mix of classic country, folk-rock, gospel, and Americana. Guitarist Jim Algar, mandolinist Mal Jones, banjo player, Guilds Hollowell, and bassist Whitt Algar (Jim’s younger brother) leaned toward the traditional side of bluegrass and mountain music, but they cleverly snuck fun reworkings of vintage rock ‘n’ roll and old-school country hits into the set as well.
In 2013, the Bushels released an independently produced, self-titled album of original songs. Compared to their two string-heavy previous discs — a self-titled EP from 2009 and a sophomore mini album titled Wood & Steel from 2011 — the new stuff rocked and bounced with an aggressive “full band” sound. The band invited local drummer Jack Friel to sit in on the sessions at Mantis Studios.
The Bushels is available on iTunes and will be for sale at Monster Music in West Ashley.
Last month, the Bushels launched a new weekly residency at the newly established, award-winning downtown brewpub Edmund’s Oast, located at 1081 Morrison Drive. Every Tuesday evening this spring (and possibly into the summer and fall), the quartet will perform in the courtyard by the Bower (the brewpub’s elegantly covered outdoor seating area and bar, see top photo) from 6-9 p.m. It’s always free and open to the public.
Top photo by Ballard Lesemann.
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