Aplscruf's Music Blog

Diary of a Married Groupie

Meet The Hi-Risers!

The Hi-Risers L-R: Greg Townson, Jason Smay and Todd Bradley

I discovered The Hi-Risers quite by accident, but they’ve been a branch of a growing musical family tree for years.  The tree sprouted for me when my love of Jimmy Buffett’s laid- back, Margaritaville empire led me to Will Kimbrough, who writes and plays occasionally with Jimmy and lives in Nashville.  Ms. Marshall Chapman, a singer/songriter and Nashville legend, also wrote for Jimmy and plays regularly with Will.  When my husband’s company moved their corporate headquarters to northern Alabama, we made a trip to Nashville last summer and got to meet and visit with Will and Marshall.  Marshall also wrote a book about Nashville artists called They Came To Nashville  and included a chapter about Eddie Angel, who used to be lead guitarist for her band.  Following so far?

Eddie Angel is currently fronting Los Straitjackets, an instrumental surf band.  Two weeks after I read Marshall’s book, Los Straitjackets played at Slow Food Roots Music Festival just north of Seattle.  Two members of Los Straitjackets, Gregorio El Grande (guitar/vocals) and Senior Jason Smay (drums) also play in The Hi-Risers, based in Rochester, NY.  Gregorio El Grande, a.k.a. Greg Townson, founded The Hi-Risers in 1997 with his long-time music collaborator Todd Bradley (bass/vocals).  When Greg and Jason aren’t playing with Los Straitjackets, you can catch the trio tearing the place apart in a Rochester venue, various cities along the East Coast, or maybe even Europe.

After meeting Greg and the rest of Los Straitjackets briefly at the festival last summer, he was kind enough to send me a copy (via Todd Bradley–thanks, Todd!) of The Hi-Risers’ latest album, Once We Get Started (Spinout Records, 2008).  They have several albums out, including some on a Spanish label, Rock & Roll, Inc.  Greg was involved in writing most of the songs and collaborated with several talented people, including Todd, to complete the album.  Some of the songs were previously recorded on Rock & Roll Inc., then  re-recorded for this album.  The history of the making of each song, tour dates and music store can be found on The Hi-Risers website.

I asked Greg how he managed to get so big in Europe, especially Spain.  “We first went to Spain in 2004. A promoter there heard our second record, In The Spotlight, and hired us to play an amazing festival in Gijon.  After that the band started to tour there on a regular basis and we built up a nice following. We’ve also played Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Finland, Belgium, Sweden and more.  Rock & Roll Inc. is run by a good friend of mine and is based in Madrid.  He’s a big fan and one of the nicest people I’ve met in the business.”

Once We Get Started is a delightful 14-track mix of multiple decades and genres of rock ‘n’ roll, surf,  swing and rockabilly, but with original songs and their own trademark sound.  Greg’s superb guitar skills rock each song with complex rhythms and runs, while Todd keeps that rock ‘n’ roll beat on bass.  Greg and Todd also have sweet retro harmonies on many tracks.  Jason Smay absolutely kills on drums and adds depth and speed to the poppy tunes.  Their songs have very addictive lyrics; the title track stuck in my head the rest of the weekend.  Don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple composition of these songs, though.  As Greg says, “We work very hard to make it sound like we don’t work very hard, if you know what I mean.”

They tear the place apart on the first song, “Foundation Rock”  and end the disk with a screaming guitar solo on the frenetic “Two Week Notice”.

“She’ll Be My Ruin” makes me want to learn to swing dance:

“ATM Inside” has a modern rock tone and a darker quality as the boys lament their loss of funds from a girl with a heart like an ATM.

“Katy Did”, a pun on the katydid grasshopper, even includes a lyric about finding her in a meadow!

“One Note Joe” is frustratingly funny, as he literally only plays one note throughout the guitar solo:

Other tracks include heartbreakers and sweet love songs, as well as one that sounds like Jimmy Buffett himself should record called “Slack Jawed & Trout Mouthed”.

The Hi-Risers have a new album coming out in July called Hang Around With You.  I look forward to reviewing that  and spreading the word about this band made for sock hops and summer lovin’.

Here’s another video, just for fun:

And another:

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April 12, 2012 - Posted by | Music, The Hi-Risers | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. What a small world. Just makes me wonder who else you are going to meet.

    Have you ever listened to Electric Bonsai Band? I’m not sure if he is even still around.

    Great post!

    Comment by Fannie Cranium | April 27, 2012 | Reply

    • It’s been a bizarre series of events over the last year!
      I looked up Electric Bonsai Band, and looks like his site is under construction. I’ll have to check him out, though.

      Comment by aplscruf | April 30, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] Townson – Solo artist, Hi-Riser (Meet the Hi-Risers Here!) and Gregorio El Grande of Los Straitjackets.  He can sing a swoon-worthy love song (buy his […]

    Pingback by Concert Season 2013 Wrap-up « Aplscruf's Music Blog | October 11, 2013 | Reply


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