As the lead guitarist for the Foo Fighters, Chris Shiflett has one heck of a day job.
But while the band’s nonstop work schedule keeps the 48-year-old Shiflett plenty busy, being the standard-bearer for modern hard rock and all, he makes the time to celebrate his other passions in different outlets, both as a musician and as a fan.
His first extracurricular enterprise is his solo career and he’ll be at Temblor Brewing Company this Saturday in support of his latest solo album, “Hard Lessons.”
Even though the Santa Barbara-born Shiflett has a punk pedigree, having played with punk bands No Use For A Name and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, to go along with his track record with the Foo Fighters, his solo albums tend to skew more toward honkytonks than mosh pits.
“Hard Lessons” — his second solo release after 2017's “West Coast Town” — is a sonic time warp back to the 1970s that builds a musical bridge between Laurel Canyon’s sunny country-tinged rock and Texas’s bold outlaw country.
The album has a gruff sonic crunch: the bass is almost rubbery, the drums thick and thuddy, the guitars warm and rich.
But make no mistake: this is a guitarist’s album — which these days almost feels like an anomaly — one that doesn’t skimp on the songs in favor of guitar pyrotechnics. No, these guitar shenanigans are earned.
From the singalong opener “Liar’s Word” to the upbeat bummer “Leaving Again,” the whole album rewards with repeat listens.
“Weak Heart” is a pure slab of power-pop. “The Hardest Lessons” and “I Thought You’d Never Leave” have a fantastic Rolling Stones-swagger. “This Ol’ Word” sees Shiflett channeling his inner Waylon Jennings for the 21st century. Heck, he even looks like a cross between Keith Urban and Willie Nelson now.
My personal favorite is the track “Welcome to Your First Heartache.” It is a sympathetic but pragmatic affirmation of solace to someone dealing with this particular form of agony. It’s a bit more of a 1990s bouncy alt-rock song but with that supra 1970s shaggy density.
On the delightful track “The One You Go Home To,” Shiflett revisits his love of the Bakersfield Sound that he ably explored on the title track of “West Coast Town.”
On “The One You Go Home To,” Shiflett cheekily trades verses with vocalist Kristen Rogers (channeling her best Dolly Parton) as two cheaters just about sick of each other, bantering over an upbeat country shuffle highlighted by Paul Franklin’s tasteful pedal steel playing.
It’s hard to tell whether it’s his gig with the Foo Fighters or his solo career that takes precedence since Shiflett wasn’t available for an interview due to his tight schedule. But I can say after seeing him perform an outstanding show at Sandrini’s Pub a few years ago, that the man knows how to put on a show and has a deep affinity for Bakersfield and its rich musical history.
His second extracurricular outlet is his long-running podcast “Walking the Floor” where he interviews a wide swath of musicians including country artists like Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart, SoCal punk icons Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, TSOL’s Jack Grisham, and professional skateboarder and musician Steve Caballero amongst many, many others.
And the very first guest that kicked it all off was none other than our very own Red Simpson. Fellow Bakersfield Sound architect Tommy Hays was his eighth. Shiflett knows his stuff.
Get there early to catch opener Jade Jackson, named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of 2017s “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.”
The Santa Margarita-native’s latest album “Wilderness” is a modern-country gem in the same vein as Shiflett’s: tastefully respectful of the past, but with no qualms combining it with more alt-rock or even punk rock sensibilities.
Some of Jackson’s songs, like the driving “City Lights,” are reminiscent of an acoustic Social Distortion song gone country (no surprise since the album was produced by the aforementioned Mike Ness) and “Secret” is in serious danger of pushing her right into the mainstream.
Also at Temblor this Saturday, local Americana and more chanteuse Amber Michelle will be performing an unrelated show from 7 to 9 p.m. (she’ll also be at the Lengthwise Pub on Calloway Drive on Saturday at 8 p.m.). Michelle comes from the same aesthetic school as Shiflett and Jackson musically and I really hope that the three of them somehow cross paths and end up having a drink together, ruminating on why the world runs on sad songs.
Chris Shiflett, featuring Jade Jackson 8 - 11 p.m. and Amber Michelle 7 - 9 p.m. this Saturday at Temblor Brewing Company, 3200 Buck Owens Blvd. Ste. 200; Tickets: $12; ticketweb.com; 18 and over (the Amber Michelle show is all ages)
Who will be the Open Mic: All Star?
A few weeks ago, I covered the burgeoning weekly Thursday night open mic at Dagny's Coffee Company, by the sunny and vibrant Kelsey Sill.
Well, Sill had a brainstorm and decided to try something different: an “Open Mic: All Star” competition.
Fifteen musicians will perform two original songs in front of an audience and a panel of judges (disclosure: I will be one of the judges) for various prizes including the grand prize: a two-song recording session courtesy of Triple 7 Studios. If you know someone that will be competing, come by and show your support; it really does matter.
“The outpouring of support from our community for these local artists has been absolutely breathtaking,” Sill said. “I am blessed to be able to volunteer this time to facilitate every Thursday night, and be connected to so many new, kind faces in this town. Come out and catch what is sure to be an unforgettable and unique evening of some of the best up and coming talent in Bakersfield!”
Attendees are also encouraged to bring a new hygiene item or gently used clothing items that will be donated to the Apple Core Project Inc..
I’m aware that music competitions, from countless battle of the bands over the years to last Sunday’s 6 String Showdown at Temblor Brewing, are nothing new. But It’s been a while since I’ve heard of an open mic competition happening around town. Most of them are generally copacetic, so to see the heat turned up for a competition? Oooh boy. That’s exciting.
Seating will go fast, so try to get there early.
Open Mic: All Star Competition, 6 p.m. Thursday at Dagny’s Coffee Company, 1600 20th St.; free admission; all ages; seating is limited.