St. Louis rockabilly band reunites behind "lost" album "Lies and Damn Lies"


By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


August 13, 2010

Photo by Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Rockhouse Ramblers are (clockwise from front) guitarist John Horton, drummer Danny Kathriner, bassist Dade Farrar, guitarist Gary Hunt and guitarist Kip Loui.

The Rockhouse Ramblers' “new” CD is called “Lies and Damn Lies,” but it's no lie that the band was among St. Louis' very best country-rockabilly outfits when it called it quits five years ago.

Which is why quotation marks surround “new” above: “Lies and Damn Lies” was recorded in 2004 and would have been the band's third album. But record label problems and band burnout conspired to keep it under wraps.

Now the Ramblers are getting back together to support the release of “Lies” with a KDHX benefit show at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room tonight, featuring special guest Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets.

The Ramblers feature multiple singers and songwriters in lead guitarists John Horton and Gary Hunt, rhythm guitarist Kip Loui, bassist Dade Farrar and drummer Danny Kathriner. Individually, they have been members of some of the area's best bands, from One Fell Swoop and Belle Starr to the Transmitters, Diesel Island, Bottle Rockets and Colonel Ford.

Whether they're back for good, for a while or for one night only is an open question, Loui says. If tonight's show rivals the band's last one, a farewell blowout at Riddles in the Delmar Loop in 2005, who knows what might happen.

“That show had a good feeling, a good vibe,” says Kathriner who joined his band mates at Schlafly's Bottleworks recently to talk about the album. “We had a good turnout.”

Hunt remembers “we played 40 choruses of 'Streets of Bakersfield.' John and I traded solos for 15 minutes.”

It was years of that kind of marathon performance that led to the musicians' exhaustion. At the same time, their new label, the soon-to-be-defunct, New England-based 95 North Records, wanted the band to tour, which would have been a hardship on five day-job-holding family men.

“It wasn't like we were going to crack the country music nut,” Hunt says. “And I didn't want to travel to Chicago to make $400 like we did here.”

“Lies and Damn Lies,” which features 12 original songs and a fine cover of Liz Anderson's “Bubbles in the Glass,” came back to life via the urgings of band fan and St. Louis graphic artist Gene Abbey, who found an early version of the CD among his collection, and remastering engineer Jack Petrocek.

Only Hunt and Loui had copies of the original masters, so “it was new to me,” Horton says. “I'd forgotten how good it sounds.”

The CD rambles through countryand honky tonk via Haggard and Owens' Bakersfield sound. From the opening “Bottleneck Boogie,” fueled by the twin dueling leads of Hunt and Horton, to the closing “Leadfoot,” Loui's homage to country hot rod and truckin' songs, the CD is loose and assured, a bittersweet hint of what might have been.

Farrar, looking back at the decision not to tour and the subsequent breakup, says, “If it had been 10 years earlier, we would have been crazy about the idea. ... We left that record at the altar.”

Rockhouse Ramblers Reunion & CD Release Show

9 p.m. Aug. 13 / Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard / $8 / 314-727-4444