Diesel's brings a taste of Americana to Rooty Hill

Those with more than a peripheral interest in music are well aware of its ability to transport the listener to times past; to experiences, emotions and memories.

It's powerful stuff.

Mark Lizotte, aka Diesel, is one who understands the power of melodic structured sound. And it was the deeper reminiscing qualities that inspired his latest longplayer Americana.

Much more than a collection of cover material, Americana serves as a sonic history of Lizotte's formative years, growing up as the youngest of seven in a house of album collectors.

While having made his musical name in Australia, Diesel is of American stock, born in Massachusetts. And it was the music of that land that inspired him to pick up a guitar.

Americana sees him take on tracks by the likes of Johnny Cash [Ring Of Fire], Joni Mitchell [Circle Game], Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers [Here Comes My Girl], Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band [Born To Run] and Bonnie Raitt [Angel From Montgomery].

The picture used on the album cover is from the wedding album of his parents, showing the young couple standing infront of a hired car.

According to Diesel, like the music, it is in keeping with the theme.

So what exactly is the Americana sound.

"It's like roots music," Diesel said. "When we started in '88 and '89 the term roots music wasn't really floating around too much. I think when we came into the '90s people started using the term roots music for people like Ben Harper and of course John Butler and those sort of artists.

"To me it comes from a derivitive of the blues, gospel, soul and jazz, it's all Americana really. It's a part of the world that's given birth to a lot of music. I guess historically it comes from shores that are beyond its own shores. It came from Africa and Europe and anywhere that people came from, which in America's case is a large melting pot."

The idea for Americana came from Diesel's manager of 27 years, Tony Grace.

"It was very personal, more personal than I bargained for," said Diesel of the experience.

"It wouldn't have been my gut feeling to call it Americana, but my agent was like, 'why don't you?'. I mean it's like doing a blues record and calling it Blues; making a soul record and calling it Soul. Then I thought, 'hang on, if I turn it into a personal thing' - and I guess I have spent half of my life in that country - and then if I put a personal spin on it ... yeah, that's Americana."

Diesel said the song selection was quite easy.

"I didn't think it was going to be so autobiographical until I started picking and then I realised," he said. "I guess Americana is such a wide umbrella that so many things can fall underneath it, but this was a chance for me to go back from my childhood and we're talking early early childhood. That Joni Mitchell song was one I used to sing in the tub with my sister because she was obsessed with the song at the time. She was like 16 at the time and I was about two or three.

"Large family. Seven kids. You're going to get a lot of influence from the older ones when you're the youngest. I wouldn't have a recollection of a song like that if I didn't have older siblings.

"It was a real trip back through my whole musical life I guess, from two to three years old to now. The Tom Petty, Here Comes My Girl, was the song I would always play before I would play the rest of the album and then Born To Run ... people were like, 'gee are you sure you want to take on that', and I was like, 'well it's a song that means a lot to me, what can I say, I'll have a go at it at least'. I remember my brother bringing home the record and I had read about it in Rolling Stone. He went out and bought it in the '70s and he got fairly obsessed with the album and long after his obsession I was still obsessed. I'd come home from school and listen to it from song to song and read the liner notes from cover to cover.

"When we came to recording the songs I almost feel embarassed to say that I didn't really listen to the originals at all ... they're kind of embedded in my brain."

Diesel said while the material was all extremely familiar, it was on making it his own that he looked deeper at some of the lyrics, Cash's Ring Of Fire in particular.

"The lyric to that is really dark and I think that is the misconception with a lot of country music, that it's really happy and chirpy," he said. "When you listen to Johnny Cash's lyrics, he was the Trent Reznor [Nine Inch Nails] of the day long before he did that song Hurt by Trent Reznor. He was writing Trent Reznor lyrics long before people picked up on it. The man in black."

Diesel said that he had no apprehensions approaching the material, despite much of it being regarded classics.

"I think you have to go into it wholeheartedly and believe it otherwise you just become a doubting Thomas, which is not going to work," he said.

"It has be absolute belief otherwise you're just kind of stabbing at it. There always has to be a bit of grappling at the beginning, and it's usually a motif or a drum and bass groove that gets it going and you've got traction. I'm really lucky that I've got a great rhythm section that has been with me on quite a few albums."

"You have to have a lot of f**ks to give ... it's pretty easy to be a session guy and be a really good player but if you don't have the f**ks to give to start with, you're just going, 'well this is a good take, there you go'. You really have to care about the music on a fundamental and emotional level."

Before the release of the album, Diesel took the Americana songs on the road for an acoustic tour. He said the audience seemed more than approving.

"It did feel feel quite natural I guess," he said. "These are the building blocks of my DNA so it stands to reason why the punters that come to the shows and listen to my music got into it ... if my music means something to them it seems like quite natural. They're in the same room with me and they've probably got the same record collection as me."

Diesel is currently on the road with his band, offering punters the plugged in version of the set.

He said he enjoyed the band experience.

"I did the solo thing four times as much as the band run, which was a lot of fun, but now with the band it's like a reward," Diesel said. "Delayed gratification. It's been a nice unusual gestation period which isn't always the case. I really look forward to getting it out there."

Diesel will play Rooty Hill RSL Club this Friday night, September 23. For ticket information call 9625 5500 or visit rootyhillrsl.com.au

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