Rat Trap Winner
"I Can't Lose (Part 1)"
Tony Owens, un-issued, early 1970's, from I Got Soul *
For the real groove hounds among us (you know who you are), we can sometimes be quite happy with a track that’s got great (or, at least, interesting) beats going on and not much else. Those of you who prefer your music with such niceties as melody, changes, meaningful lyrics, and further complexities should probably skip this one. When I heard “I Can’t Lose” a few months back on the Grapevine CD compilation* of Tony Owens material, I Got Soul, I knew I would have to feature it. The drumming style and Tony shouting out, “Take it, Rat!”. before the first drum break immediately caught my attention.
Let me backtrack a bit. Last year, in response to a piece I did on David Batiste and the Gladiators, my friend, Dwight Richards, frequent commenter here and Chocolate Milk’s funky drummer, told us a story about a drummer he knew back when he was coming up on the music scene in the late 1960’s. Here’s some of what he said:
The Gladiators were one of the hottest bands around during the mid-60s. They rocked all the talent shows back then! This is when talent shows were premier events. I believe the drummer on that track [“Funky Soul”] was none other than [someone] I only knew as Ratty! Back then, “ratty” meant funky, and, to have the name Ratty, one had better be Damn funky. And he definitely was. I had the good fortune to be one of his friends or protégé, more likely. The reason Russell Batiste is so good today is because he got to see and hear and watch Ratty on a daily basis.
Of course, Dwight is talking about Russell Batiste, first class New Orleans drummer and son of David Batiste, who grew up playing in the family band, the Batiste Bothers, and went on to funk up, among others, George Porter’s Runnin’ Pardners, the Funky Meters, PBS, as well as his own group. If Ratty influenced Russell, he had to have some chops, alright. But, as Dwight told me later, Ratty had all sorts of problems with the law and was never able to work steadily as a drummer and didn’t ever get to record much. Dwight wasn’t sure what ever happened to Ratty. This track, then, from an unreleased early 1970’s Tony Owens session, is one of only two recordings I can pretty much say for sure he played on. Of course, as soon as I discovered it, I immediately got a hold of Dwight and let him hear it, too; and he knew it was Ratty.
So, enjoy the quirky, spring-loaded syncopations of Rat’s trap drum style on “I Can’t Lose (Part 1)”, where he’s called out for two breaks. The other accompaniment (bass, guitar, piano and tambourine) is sparse, but definitely in the groove. I don’t want short change vocalist Tony Owens (see last year's full post on him) . His singing is nothing short of searing here. But this one is Ratty’s ride, and Tony knows it.
* I highly recommend this CD for fans of New Orleans soul singers. Primarily an impressive deep soul man, Tony Owens could throw down, too, as evidenced on today’s feature. The Grapevine comp also includes the funky Island single side I featured on him in 2005, “Do What You Wanna Do”. And, by the way, Dwight played drums on some of the tracks on this CD, too.