Song Spinner: "Raise a Rookus" by the Can Kickers
This edition of our Song Spinner series, which takes you into the hearts, minds and hands of local musicians and their creative process, reveals the story of "Raise a Rookus" by the Can Kickers.
BIO: The Can Kickers are on a loose hiatus. That the three band members are respectively living in Connecticut (Daniel Spurr, guitar/banjo/vocals), Texas (Doug Schaefer, drums/frottoir) and Arizona (Daniel Thompson, fiddle/jaw harp) contributes to this situation. Still, the New London group performed recently at the Hygienic Art Rock Fix, and love to play together whenever fate allows.
In the lore of the scene, they were pioneers in a variety of ways. The trio was one of the first area bands to travel extensively as part of the Book 'Em And Go tour philosophy. As such, they made music fans and club owners across the country aware of not just their band but also the New London scene. The Kickers were among the first to meld what were at the time two disparate musical styles here in New London: indie/punk and Americana roots.
SOUND: As musically curious folks never afraid to mine for obscure — or at least less-than-chart-topping — genres and artists, the Can Kickers are fond of mash-ups. Following in the overdrive tradition of Texas groups such as the Bad Livers and Killbilly, the trio pulled out the sonic quilting supplies and deftly stitched the speed and attitude of punk with the historical twang of Appalachian hillbilly exercises.
HOW THEIR "RAISE A ROOKUS" CAME ABOUT: A lot of the Kickers' tunes were written in the time shortly after 9/11, and they marvel over the fact that much of the material from those days seemed to turn out to be, in the words of Spurr, "kind of about terrorism."
In the case of "Rookus," Spurr was watching AMC and saw a plantation-themed musical where slaves were singing "Raise a Ruckus." A short time later, he was having a conversation with a gentleman at the Polish-American club who mentioned the Gold Star Bridge as a potentially ripe target for terrorists. For some perhaps odd but fortuitous reason, it occurred to Spurr to juxtapose these two indelible moments in one song. He changed the traditional "Ruckus" lyrics to fit the blow-up-the-Gold-Star scenario, and the piece started to coalesce.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Three principal things. 1) The band didn't have a song featuring a jaw harp in their repertoire, and Thompson, who dabbled in jaw harpery, thought it would be fun to make this a reality. 2) However distinctive the jaw harp might be, the guys realized its sound wasn't so diverse that it should completely preclude Thompson's virtuosic fiddle. As such, they decided he should provide a sort of Cornfield Paganini fiddle breakdown — and a section of an old song called "Prettiest Girl in the County" fit perfectly. 3) Schaefer went all Motorhead on drums, blowing the tune into a break-the-surly-bonds-of-Earth tempo.
DOES IT WORK? Oh, hell, yes.
RAISE A ROOKUS
Mister Casey carries a gun in his hand, on his face he carries a frown.
And he just don't know where he's gonna go when that bridge comes a tumblin' down.
Come along little children come along, while the moon is shining bright.
Get on board, float down the river, gonna raise a rookus tonight.
He got the hollers, he got the shouts, he got the weeping and the moan.
There is something in the air at ground zero, gonna raise a rookus tonight.
Mister Casey, he is a God fearing man, he fall on his knees and he pray.
He remembers 9-11 and the Alamo, gonna raise a rookus tonight.
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