The son of a Texas preacher, singer and keyboardist John Wesley Myers, aka James Leg, cut his teeth in the Black Diamond Heavies, Cut In The Hill Gang and The Immortal Lee County Killers before launching a solo career with 2011’s Solitary Pleasure. The following year saw him team with Left Lane Cruiser on the album Painkillers, while this month fanfares the arrival of his second solo record. Below The Belt, recorded over six weeks, is his most explosive work to date. “I’m always going for in-the-red, honest and loud,” he says.
What’s the idea behind Below The Belt?
I reckon every record to be a snapshot in time… in that way these songs were all relevant to shit I was going through or had just gone through, so there’s a thread in that sense. I tend to wear that shit on my sleeve.
It was recorded in a Masonic Lodge.
Yeah, Johnny Walker of Soledad Brothers and Cut In The Hill Gang fame has a studio in an old Masonic Lodge in Dayton, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. The live tracking room is the auditorium where the meetings were held.
A sermon on rock’n’roll blew my mind.
What are your musical memories?
Music was a constant when I was young. My mother and father both sang with the church choir and often performed solo or in ensembles. My siblings and I sang in the children’s choir. My world was all gospel growing up. I took piano lessons for a couple of years starting at the age of six.
How did you make the leap from church to secular music?
There was a tent revival came to our town when I was 15 years old. We went every night except Sunday for the three months or so it was in town. One night, the sermon was a rock’n’roll exposé… “The devil’s after your kids and he’s coming for them through rock’n’roll” kinda deal. The evangelist showed album covers on the overhead projector and played bits and pieces of songs with “satanic” words and it was everything and all over the place… the Stones, The Beatles, Queen, AC/DC… That sermon blew my mind in a way the preacher hadn’t intended.
How did you discover the blues?
One of the families in the church, the dad was a truck driver and gave me a tape that had Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Little Walter… I wore that out and started seeking. Blues is songs about hard times that make you not think about hard times. Anybody should be able to dig that.
Below The Belt is out now on Alive.