Hobos, New Dresses, Buckshots & All That Glitters for Free: 10 Questions with “Uncle Luke” Boswell

It ain’t no secret folks, I love me an honest to goodness good time getting down and dirty with some roots music and bourbon.. I do have a hillbilly bone in there, maybe more than one.. and The Redbucks appeal to it.

Redbucks at Ditan Folk Fest ( found on Douban)

I’ve been following those guys since the first time i spotted them at Tun’s Open Mike night a few years back and I’m stoked to no end that they’re finally releasing their debut album and that they’ve won “local Band of the year” at the City Weekend awards.
Having already subjected the lovely Daisy Sweetgrass and “2 sheds” Jackson to interviews, I tracked down the artist formerly known as Hobo Luke for a few questions! Here’s what came out of it:

1- Who is Uncle Luke and what’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:

I play banjo, dobro, and sing bluegrass and old-time music with the Redbucks. We’ve got our album release party this Saturday, June 5th, at Yugong Yishan. It’s going to be a badass party and everyone gets a free copy of our album with their admission ticket, so COME! We’re also doing a China tour during the first week of July and we’ll be starting it off with a BBQ at 2 Kolegas, and then we’ll be hitting some really cool venues in Qingdao, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and possibly Chengdu and Chongqing as well. So check us out then too.

2- The Redbucks just won “Local Band of the Year” for the 2010 City Weekend awards. How’s that feel?

Awesome. We were all really psyched just to have been nominated, and so winning was a surprise and an honor. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been able to create some traction playing bluegrass music in a place where it’s so far away from it’s roots, and especially in Beijing where there is a pretty dynamic music scene to begin with. Even people back home sometimes tend to pigeonhole bluegrass as being antiquated, or as hillbilly music, without really recognizing the flexibility within the form. So, even though we do try to spice it up beyond bluegrass when we can, the simple fact that a bluegrass band can win an award like this (and against some stiff competition) is definitely a testament to how open-minded and receptive Beijing music-goers are to all different types of music.

3- Y’all just finished recording an album “All That Glitters” due to be released on June 5th.. how was the writing/recording process?

It was crazy. We had a pretty tight window to work with because of various peoples’ travel schedules and Jackson recently having had a son, so we all worked long hours. Our friend Mike Hambrook helped us record, and then all of the overdubs we had to do were done on the fly (we played a gig in Jiangsu over May holiday and packed the recording equipment down with us and did mandolin overdubs in our dingy little hotel room). Jaime Welton of Black Cat Bone and Bad Mamasan gave us some awesome pointers on mixing, which we mostly did ourselves, and then he mastered it for us. All I can say is that the man is a wizard of sound! We’re all really pleased with the final product… 13 original songs and it’s a mash up of bluegrass, old-time, country, cowboy, western, jam-band, fast, slow, manly, feminine, down-home good shit.

4- First time I remember seeing y’all brand of hell-rising stompers was i think at Tun’s open Mike night over two years ago, I think y’all were called “Swamp Mama Johnson and the La Dudes” back then… can you remember all the names you’ve performed as since then (by my count at least 7)?

Man, I’m not sure I can even remember them all. For a while when we were just gettin going we would make up a new name for every gig we played, mostly for our own amusement… but that just wasn’t sustainable.

Swamp Mama Johnson and the La Dudes
Dumpy Loves and the Boiled Peanuts
Amy Spice and the La La Band
Jimmy Yeehaw and the Yodelays
Hobo Luke and the Redbacks
Uncle Ben and the Greenbacks
Two Sheds and the Little Houses on the Prairie

There are probably more that im forgetting…

5- Talking about name changes: you used to go by “Hobo Luke” and now you’re “Uncle Luke”.. is that a sign of growing up?

Ha! I think it’s just a sign that I finally got a home. When I moved back to Beijing two winters ago (after a stint in England and then some time in Idaho) I was living on my friends’ couches for quite a while. That was where the hobo tag came from. I’m not sure when or how it left me, but it makes sense that you’re no longer a hobo if you have a home. You can still call me Hobo Luke though… Just don’t let the real hobos out there know about my new digs.

6- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.

* Beijing: spit

* Shanghai: sticky

* Baijiu: I dig

* Banjo: Bach

* Appalachian: hippies

* Polka dots: Daisy Sweetgrass needs some new dresses

7- What’s the deal for saturday and what can we expect? All Redbucks show, opening acts?

It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re giving out free copies of our CD with the door ticket; we’ve got a ton of new songs that we’re breaking out for the occasion, and we’ll be dustin’ off some old ones as well. I can’t lay all my cards down now though. Without saying too much, everyone should make sure to stick around ‘til the end of the show. Special guests and special treats will ensue. Also be on the lookout at the bar for the debut of the “Buckshot.”

8- Back to talking about “All that Glitters” for a bit. You got 4 singers in the band with yourself, Miss Daisy, Jimmy Yeehaw and Dumpy Loves! How did you guys figure out who was gonna sing on what song? arm wrestling, rock paper scissors, seed spitting?

Actually, everybody sings, including Jackson “Two Sheds” and Amy Spice.

With our originals it’s usually just whoever writes it sings lead, and then we all get together and sing harmony parts and pick the ones that work the best. Sometimes that means 4 part harmonies, sometimes we just stick with 2… Other times we’ll just choose who sings based on the feel of the song. For example, the final song on the album is one that I wrote but that Daisy and Amy Spice sing. As you’ll soon see, it’s really sassy (in a old-timey/jazzy sort of way) and would never have worked without the ladies spicing it up.

We try our best to balance it all out so that everybody can sing as much as they want to, but it’s not always easy with 6 people. In general we try to get Daisy to sing more. She’s been known to melt hearts (BD note: wonder where he got that impression) and I can’t say the same for myself. I will say though that it’s really nice having so many singers and such a range of voices and singing styles. It keeps it interesting for us, and hopefully for our listeners too.

9- Seems to me like Beijing’s music scene has exploded over the past few years with veterans and new comers and It’s getting harder to keep track of the bands/shows now; Any particular gems people should be aware of in your opinion? Some bands or singers that pretty darn good but can’t seem to get recognition?

I’ve got some buddies who play in a band called Autobots, Deploy! They get real’ funky and are definitely worth checking out. Y’all should try to catch them at some point this summer (likely at Jiangjin?).

10- You look like someone with a decent appetite and we love to eat over here. Any good Beijing Gems you care to share as far as Chinese food goes?

I like Sichuan food and there are surprisingly few places in town where you can get the real deal. Two off the top of my head are Zhang Mama in Fen Si Ting Hutong, and the Chengdu municipal Gov. restaurant, which is in a bin guan on Sha Tan Hou Jie, near Jing Shan Park. Chinese food aside, if you like fried chicken you gotta go up and get some Korean fried chicken at this place called OK Chicken in Wangjing. It’s legit! Gotta also mention NOLA in the Western food category. They serve up some mean jambalaya.

Great Stuff from Uncle Luke and congratulations again on the album and the awards! I look forward to an amazing party Saturday night. I was fortunate enough to get a preview of the album and I’m looking forward to it, really!
In the meantime, I’ll leave you guys with a preview of the album here for you courtesy of The Redbucks: “All that glitters” lead single from the album, is available on Beijing Daze for a few days for FREE:

Download All That Glitters single for free (right-click, then save as)

Thanks to Uncle Luke and The Redbucks, y’all come back and see me again! Yeehaaaa! In the meantime, please come out Saturday June 5th at Yugong Yishan to support them!

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