Cincinnati City Beat
When Steve Bowling first got together with his bandmates in Red Idle, the band he helped assemble a decade ago, they began by playing original songs for each other. Bowling breezed through a few of his compositions, eventually hauling out “Where the Lonely Reside,” a Countryesque tune informed by Bowling’s Appalachian roots, which sparked an interesting reaction.
“At the end of it, one of the guys, Russ Waters, goes, ‘Whew, thank God that’s over!’ ” Bowling says with a laugh over drinks at Troy’s Cafe in West Chester. “The experience is harrowing enough without that response.”
While Bowling has remained with Red Idle from its inception to its current cover band status, he also continued to write the Roots/Country songs that were dismissed by the band. That initial reaction inspired Bowling to christen his first solo effort with the title of the song that elicited the negative response — Where the Lonely Reside — and gave Bowling the name he’s bestowed upon the group that comprises his side project: Red Idle Rejects.
“That song was rejected by the group,” Bowling says. “So that’s where the name came from.”
Obviously, Bowling hadn’t presented his Country songs to the proper audience; the collective that comprises Red Idle Rejects has a completely different ear.
“I think (“Where the Lonely Reside”) is our favorite song to play,” says guitarist Steve Sigsbee, original guitarist for Elaine & the Biscaynes, a longstanding figure in the local music scene and the other prominent presence in the Rejects.
Although Where the Lonely Reside is just being released, Bowling has been writing the songs over the course of his band career, and in some cases even before that.
“I probably wrote the first one that’s on the CD 15 years ago,” Bowling says. “The newest one is probably three years ago. They’ve rattled around for a while. That’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do this. You’ve got these tunes, you want to do something with them.”
The Rejects coalesced a little over two years ago, after an on-stage altercation put Red Idle on a brief hiatus. Sigsbee, who was familiar with Bowling’s non-Red Idle song portfolio, suggested he do something concrete with the material.
“Steve came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you do a project with these tunes?’ and I said, ‘Why not?’ ” Bowling says. “There wasn’t any inspiration or magic bullet, it was just, over time, I really had to do this. I kind of dragged my feet at times during the recording process. I think that’s typical.”
Between family responsibilities, day jobs, outside band gigs and the natural delays that befall any recording project, Bowling, Sigsbee and their talented cast of players spent two and a half years arranging and recording Where the Lonely Reside. Some of the Rejects’ songs actually made their way into Red Idle sets, while others were pulled from Bowling’s extensive song pile.
“You play tunes for a crowd, you figure out which are good and which aren’t,” Bowling says. “You start out with 40 songs, and 15 the crowd really likes, and they tended to be that Appalachian theme, coincidentally. I threw in a couple more that rounded out that theme.”
From the Mekons-like Americana chug of “Mean Dry County” and the Jesse Winchester Folk balladry of “Ruthie” to the rootsy Blues swing of “Concrete and Leather Blues” and the Roots Rock blister of “Divorce,” the diversity of Where the Lonely Reside is woven together with Bowling’s Appalachian threads.
“It’s an urban Appalachian theme,” Bowling says. “The songs relate, from the beginning of the CD to the end, to leaving the hills and moving to the city. It could loosely be interpreted that way.”
“And the violin ties in everything,” says Sigsbee, who arranged the album with Bowling. “We decided to use it on as much as we could possibly use it on to have some kind of a central theme.”
At the moment, Red Idle Rejects is an untested live entity. When the band assembles for this Saturday’s CD release show, it will be their debut gig.
“Everybody in the group has played out millions of times in other bands, but this will be our debut performance,” Bowling says. “I hope we can get some gigs and play out as much as we can, but we all have our other music outlets, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Given that some of Where the Lonely Reside’s songs were inspired by Bowling’s divorce, the frequent references to Maseratis in the lyrics raise the question of whether it’s an iconic or actual representation.
“You know what it is, it’s such a great word,” Bowling says with a laugh. “It has a cadence. It’s four syllables and it’s perfect. She didn’t really dump me and leave in a Maserati. It’s artistic license.”
“And it rhymes with ‘karate,’ ” Sigsbee notes.
“And you can’t really do much with Escort,” Bowling says. “Or Pinto.”
Country Music Magazine Review
Steve Bowling is the singer and main songwriter of theRed Idle Rejects, who were just called, Red Idle. The name was changed after the band members initially rejected the songs on the new CD, as “too country”. They are not. Can a song be, too country? Probably not, for readers of this magazine. The press release for the disc, calls it a concept album, telling the tale of, “an Appalachian who moves to the city only to discover heartache, but ultimate triumph, found therein”. All ten songs do stand on their own as well.
First song, Mean Dry County, which is also a single, has a country/rock “n” roll feel, and Steve Bowling really “attacks” the tune with lots of passion. The track, Ruthie, is a stunner: a dark blusey country song with a timeless feel. It’s a foot-tapping delight featuring a nagging guitar that gets in your head, and let’s not forget the fiddle. Wonderful!
The band may have got nervous about the CD’s final three songs, all of which are pure, real country. Where The Lonely Reside has a classic crying-in-your-beer feel, Simple Blue sounds like Commander Cody at his most country, and A Mountain track, with added banjo. The album does have one rock song, Divorce,sounds a little like The Jefferson Airplane with a punk edge. This is one of the better rock tracks of recent years. The song also throws up a dilemma for The Red Idle Rejects. Clearly they can do
quality rock and country, but which way should they go? The more traditional country songs here are so strong, that the country road seems the one the band need to be on.
Steve Bowling is a real find, a very high quality songwriter, with a strong voice, a little over-the-top at times, but it works. Red Idle have performed a fair number of covers, including a very reasonable version of Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman, but any band who has a songwriter of Steve Bowling’s talent should be performing, all or mainly original songs. That way the band will create their own identity. This seems to be the way forward. The Red Idle Rejects have clearly got something, it would be a great
pity if they lost it.