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Bassholes

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Biography

In the wake of the 1992 demise of the posthumously-fabled Gibson Bros., three bands that were to define the garage rock and blues music underground emerged -- Bassholes, '68 Comeback, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Of these outfits, Bassholes remained closest to the rural isolated vision of traditional American folk-blues while simultaneously taking the sound the furthest from traditional rock & roll. Formed as a duo in Columbus, OH, featuring Gibson Bros. drummer Rich Lillash and songwriter/singer/guitarist Don Howland (taking the lead on everything else), Bassholes have since reinvigorated the blues duo sound that such artists as Lightnin' Hopkins had made so potent, and have added elements of punk, folk, and the "Old Weird America" Greil Marcus described when writing about Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. The band has produced a prodigious amount of singles and full-length records, but it's their albums that mark the high points of their career. Their debut album (as with most subsequent releases) was released on In The Red Records in 1992 and soon after, Lillash left the band and Howland joined up with then-19-year-old drummer Bim Thomas. The pairing proved fruitful as Thomas' enthusiastic, seemingly free-form drumming (which was, of course, always grounded in blues and rock rhythms) provided a launch pad from which Howland could make his guitar and voice wail, weep, shout, and scream. Preferred Bassholes subject matter includes sexual and social frustration as well as the introduction of rock, folk, and blues' fringe underlying strangeness. Howland points to the lyrics and music of such idiosyncratic country blues artists as Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, and Furry Lewis -- as well as the Ramones first album as touchstones ("There's a menacing undertone, something not quite right, but really catchy," said Howland). Bassholes' records are, for the most part, extremely lo-fi affairs recorded on the cheap. But Howland still manages to get the point across. And it wasn't lo-fi for its own sake, either. Bassholes made the best albums with the resources they had at hand, connecting folk's one room microphone ambience with punk rock's DIY ethics. High points in the band's recorded output (both critically and according to Howland himself) include the albums Blue Roots, Long Way Blues, and Deaf Mix. Each of these albums feature Bassholes at their most eclectic, mixing genres, recording fidelity, instrumentation, subject matter, and voice via an expansive musical palette. Other recordings point toward Bassholes' punk roots and revel in a rock & roll volume, pace, and attitude. Howland calls North Carolina home and Thomas stays in Cleveland, OH, but Bassholes continue making irregular music for misfit fans of misfit music nevertheless. ~ Chris Handyside

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Formed:

1992 in Columbus, OH

Genre
Years Active:

'90s, '00s

Contemporaries