HARD HITTING: Carlevale and his crew.
Over the years, Providence’s Johnny Carlevale has served as a kind of musical archivist. With his throwback sideburns and neo-thrift shop attire, he spends a lot of time dwelling in the past, which is a good thing when it comes to the music of the present.
On That’s Life, a project he recorded with his latest band, the Rollin’ Pins, he celebrates the raw rockabilly sounds of the New England artists of the 1950’s. “In fact,” he says, “we got our name from the Ricky Coyne tune ‘Rollin’ Pin Mim!’ ” This is Carlevale’s first attempt at fronting a rockabilly band since the Young Ones a few years back. “I’m proud to dedicate this band to local guys,” he says. “Nobody realizes that there was a lot of great rockabilly around New England in the ’50s. They just didn’t get the kind of national attention that Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly got. Some of the tunes are just as good if not better than those done by the bigger named artists.” The Boston rockabilly band the Raging Teens introduced him to “Rollin’ Pin Mim” at a gig. He then found the song on a collection named The Raging Teens (from which the Boston band took its name) that featured music by those vintage local rockers. “A record collector and music historian by the name of Jack Warner was the man who put the collection together and Norton Records released the set,” Carlevale says. “Jack is an amazing man to talk with and the two of us have started a wonderful friendship.”
Recorded in Wellington, Ohio, at Ace Brown’s studio, That’s Life brims with great tunes and boasts the kind of throwback production that enhances their authenticity. Of course they cover Coyne’s tune, which is indicative of the band’s formula: zesty acoustic guitar with “go cat go” electric licks provided by Brown. The opening “Cry Baby” and the randy, rollickin’ “You Better Stop” are especially smokin’, but the rest is pretty hot, too. “Brown,” says Carlevale of the set’s producer, “has an amazing ear for authentic sounds of almost any era, and he built the studio himself in order to get those unique sounds.” Flanked by Brown, Derek Moniz on bass, and Jeremy Kroger on drums, Carlevale really lets it fly and demonstrates an undeniable affection for the genre.
This weekend the band’s busy getting the word out. Johnny Carlevale & the Rollin’ Pins kick the celebration off on Friday with a live set on DJ Easy Ed’s Variety Hour on Tufts University’s WMFO at 6 pm (stream it at wmfo.org). After the radio gig, they head to the Plough & Stars in Cambridge (word is that Coyne will join the band on stage). On Saturday they’ll hit Jerky’s, where Ace Brown & His Ohio Valley Boys and the Stumbleweeds set the table. Call 401.621.2244.