Cool Ride

The Luxuriant Sedans are a
rockin’ throwback machine

Musicians get asked a lot of questions, ranging from the inane to the bizarre. Interviewers, besotted with their momentary brush with fame, ply them with queries such as, “What’s your favorite color?” “Do you sleep in the nude?” “If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?” Oddly enough, there’s a select group of Winston-Salem players who have a ready answer to this last query: The Luxuriant Sedans. The five-piece outfit, whose new release, Double Parked, drops on February 13th, reconstructs obscure rock and blues tunes into road trips that everybody wants to ride along with.

“Might as well call it blues archaeology,” bassist Ed Bumgardner says of the band’s musical GPS.  Like a lot of baby boomers, Bumgardner got his first taste of blues from British performers such as the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals. “It’s one of those conceits of the modern rock era, as it got more commercial. Performers understood they didn’t make as much money if they wrote their own songs rather than looking for songs. For most of the history of recorded music, interpretive singing and interpretive performances were the norm.” But as more artists snatched glowing embers from the blues bonfire, the rekindled campfires glowed less brightly, giving off more sparks than heat before flaming out. “There’s a zillion faceless three-chords-and-hard-times songs out there,” Bumgardner says.

But buried under those cold ashes are hot flashes that never got enough air to fan them into flames. That’s what Bumgardner and harpist Mike “Wezo” Wesolowski were raking through the ashes to discover. “I would get on iTunes and just go down a rabbit hole, for two or three days,” says Bumgardner, who honed his musical digging skills working for the Winston-Salem Journal from 1984 –2009, supplementing his income with pieces in Billboard, Rolling Stone and Spin. “Just any band I’d never heard of, pull it up and start listening.” His persistence led to some gems “that represented somebody’s hopes and dreams and cares for the future that had been dashed against the walls of the music business and banished for posterity. But if we can bring ’em back and redo ’em, that’s the thing.”

That thing they do has kept most of this quintet in touch most of their lives. “We’ve all known each other forever,” Bumgardner, says. He and guitarist Gino “Woo Funk” Grandinetti were in their first band together when they were 12 and 13. He’s known singer/harpist Wezo since sixth grade, Bob Tarleton, the drummer, since the early ’70s, and knew of but just met guitarist a Rob Slater recently. “We’ve been circling each other for years,” Bumgarnder says.

A ridealong with the Luxuriant  Sedans pins you back in the seat, buffeting you with soundalike throwback from Exile [on Main St.]–era Stones, strirred up with endless John Lee Hooker-esque boogie as interpreted by a Bad Company/Free hybrid sprinkled with Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”–style  guitar overlaid with Delbert McClinton’s soulful croak then doused with scalding Sonny Boy /Little Walter/Cotton–style harp. You may not recognize the tunes, but the music will touch your soul.

“We’re interpreters, not coverists,” Bumgardner insists. “Hopefully people will hear these songs and like our songs.” And be inspired enough to seek out the originals. “Every one of these people we pulled from deserves to be heard.”   OH

— Grant Britt

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