Kerosene Hat

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Kerosene Hat
Studio album by Cracker
Released August 24, 1993
Recorded March 25, 1993
Genre Alternative rock, alternative country
Length 72:43
Label Virgin
Producer Don Smith, Cracker
Cracker chronology
Cracker
(1992)
Kerosene Hat
(1993)
The Golden Age
(1996)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]

Kerosene Hat is Cracker's second album, released on August 24, 1993. It reached #1 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart, and #59 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The well-known hit single from this album, "Low", helped Cracker gain widespread notice.

According to frontman David Lowery, the album's title comes from the band's early days in Richmond, Virginia. Lowery lived with Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman in an old dilapidated house whose only source of heat came from two kerosene heaters. To buy more kerosene meant a cold walk to a nearby gas station, so before he left the house, Lowery would bundle up and put on an old wool hunting cap - hence the "kerosene hat". "To this day," says Lowery, "the smell of kerosene reminds me of the poverty and the wistful hope we had for our music."[2]

Background & Recording Notes[edit]

Following the release of their debut album - which went gold [3] - Cracker entered the studio in 1992 intending to record their next album completely live to tape. This idea was eventually scrapped, but four live-in-the-studio tracks were released later that same year as the Tucson EP.[4]

Seeking a new recording location away from the distractions of Los Angeles and their record company, the band scouted out a few sites, including a Palm Springs house that once belonged to Frank Sinatra. It was during this search that they happened upon a derelict soundstage in Pioneertown, California, which was part of an old movie set once used to shoot Western films and TV shows.[5][6]

As Johnny Hickman recalls: “It really wasn’t that much of a sound stage. It was more of a barn. There were holes in the wall you could see through and it was just a huge, huge barn basically. But it was just big enough to open the doors and drive a mobile recording truck into. So we got all of our equipment and the truck into the barn and shut the door and for the next six weeks proceeded to make Kerosene Hat.”[7]

Recording took place in February and March 1993.[8] The weather was cold, and the band salvaged old mattresses and other material from the junkyard to insulate the makeshift studio.[9]

Song Notes[edit]

The leadoff track from the album, "Low", had the most immediate impact on the album's success. After Hickman started playing what would become the song's signature riff during a hungover soundcheck in Portland, Oregon, the song came together very quickly.[10] Upon release it became - as noted by Spin - "a ubiquitous signpost of the alternative-as-the-new-mainstream era".[11] Author David Maine calls "Low" the signature song of the Summer of 1993, as rock radio added it to heavy rotation[12] and the band's visibility increased. It would peak at #3 on the Modern Rock Radio charts[13] and remain a permanent fixture on rock radio playlists for years to come.

Contributing to the song's success was a noir-ish, black-and-white video shot by director Carlos Grasso, which was added to MTV's Buzz Bin. In the video, Lowery spars with comedienne Sandra Bernhard in a boxing ring and gets knocked out. Grasso claims that during the video shoot, Lowery insisted that Bernhard's punches be real and that the frontman's face was "all puffy" from the hits by the time cameras stopped rolling.[14]

Lowery described "Low" as "part Wizard of Oz, part Flowers of Evil", while NME called it "grunge noir".[15] Due to perceived drug references in the song's lyrics, Lowery was asked by Virgin Records to write a letter to radio stations swearing that there was nothing drug-related about the song at all. According to the letter, the lyric "being stoned" was actually "being stone".[16]

The second single from the album, "Get Off This" was written in response to naysayers who accused Cracker of selling out and making music that was more mainstream than Lowery's previous band, Camper Van Beethoven. Thematically speaking, the song declares the band's independence and their desire to write real songs that come from an honest place.[17] The song peaked at #6 on the Modern Rock Radio charts.[18]

Written in a New Jersey hotel room,[19] "Eurotrash Girl" tells the story of a lonely young man in Europe who suffers through a series of humiliating episodes. While Lowery created the central character of the song, the other band members suggested additional ideas to the story. Having spent time in Europe, Hickman noted mischievously: "Some of these things [in the song] happened to us, some not." Even before Kerosene Hat was released, the song had become a live fan favorite. So despite protests from Virgin Records of putting too much material on the album, the band surreptitiously included this song, along with "I Ride My Bike", as hidden tracks during mastering. It was producer Don Smith's idea to make "Eurotrash Girl" track 69.[20]

"Sick of Goodbyes" was co-written with Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, and was later re-recorded and released as a single from that band's album, Good Morning Spider.[21][22]

The final song on the album proper, "Loser" is a Grateful Dead cover. Jerry Garcia once told Lowery and Hickman that he liked their version of the song.[23]

Legacy[edit]

In the post-Nirvana climate of early 90's alternative music,[24] Kerosene Hat went platinum[25] and would be Cracker's most popular album to date.[26] Twenty years after the album's release, webzine Spectrum Culture noted, "In the cases when both music and lyrics are on the mark - and there are many - the record achieves something close to greatness."[27]

Says Lowery: “We've always been a country roots rock band. We've always leaned on American roots stuff, whether it's soul, blues or country... Fortunately, our sound somehow fit into modern rock radio back when grunge had taken over the entire world."[28]

Hickman adds, “We kind of snuck in the back door by being a band that had something to say and were lucky enough to write a catchy three-minute song.” [29]

Pioneertown, where Kerosene Hat was recorded, still holds a special place for the band members, as Cracker hosts a music festival there each year.[30][31] In 2011, the band paid tribute to its landmark album by performing it live in its entirety.[32]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Low" (David Lowery/Johnny Hickman/Davey Faragher) - 4:36
  2. "Movie Star" (Lowery) - 3:33
  3. "Get Off This" (Lowery/Faragher/Hickman) - 4:26
  4. "Kerosene Hat" (Lowery) - 5:36
  5. "Take Me Down To The Infirmary" (Lowery)- 4:05
  6. "Nostalgia" (Lowery/Faragher/Hickman) - 3:34
  7. "Sweet Potato" (Faragher/Hickman/Lowery) - 3:16
  8. "Sick Of Goodbyes" (Linkous/Lowery) - 3:10
  9. "I Want Everything" (Lowery) - 5:53
  10. "Lonesome Johnny Blues" (Hickman) - 2:48
  11. "Let's Go For A Ride" (Lowery/Hickman/Faragher) - 3:08
  12. "Loser" (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) - 6:11

Non-consecutive Track:

15. "Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab" (Lowery/Hickman/Faragher) - 0:41

Hidden Tracks:

69. "Euro-Trash Girl" (Lowery/Hickman/Faragher/Peters)- 8:04
88. "I Ride My Bike" (Lowery/Hickman) 6:34
99. "Kerosene Hat" (Lowery) (Out Take) - 1:23

Note:

Tracks 13 and 14, 16 to 68, 70 to 87 and 89 to 98 are hidden/blank tracks of 4, 5 or 6 seconds of silence. Tracks 69 and 88 were previously included on the "Tucson" EP.
The album was recorded at a soundstage built in an old barn in Pioneertown, California.
The last words on the album are "Leather Tush" uttered by Bugs Salcido.

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kerosene Hat at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
  2. ^ "Kerosene hat-Cracker. Richmond and Oregon Hill Continued.". 300 Songs. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  3. ^ "Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven to regale Grand Rapids 'Crumbs' with country-hued alt-rock". Local Spins. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0879306076. 
  5. ^ "Hit The Road: Pioneertown". Badass Digest. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  6. ^ "Music fuels 'Campout' in Pioneertown". The Desert Sun. 2013-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  7. ^ "Music fuels 'Campout' in Pioneertown". The Desert Sun. 2013-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  8. ^ Kerosene Hat at AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  9. ^ "Cracker Look Back at 20 Years of 'Low'". Spin. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  10. ^ "Interview: Johnny Hickman of Cracker". Spectrum Culture. 2010-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  11. ^ "Cracker Look Back at 20 Years of 'Low'". Spin. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  12. ^ "Holy Hell! Kerosene Hat Turns 20". Spectrum Culture. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  13. ^ "Kerosene Hat: Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  14. ^ "Cracker Look Back at 20 Years of 'Low'". Spin. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  15. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0879306076. 
  16. ^ "Cracker Look Back at 20 Years of 'Low'". Spin. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  17. ^ "Movie Star and Get Off This-Cracker.". 300 Songs. 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  18. ^ "Kerosene Hat: Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  19. ^ "Jean-Paul Villere: Kerosene Pie, or, A Tale of Two Bands (The Johnny Hickman interview)". Uptown Messenger. 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  20. ^ "Interview: Johnny Hickman of Cracker". Spectrum Culture. 2010-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  21. ^ "David Lowery: The Palace Guards". PopMatters. 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  22. ^ "Sparklehorse Revel in Life After Death". Rolling Stone. 1999-02-11. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  23. ^ "Jean-Paul Villere: Kerosene Pie, or, A Tale of Two Bands (The Johnny Hickman interview)". Uptown Messenger. 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  24. ^ "Movie Star and Get Off This-Cracker.". 300 Songs. 2010-09-06. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  25. ^ "Head of the camp: An interview with David Lowery". C-Ville. 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  26. ^ "Music fuels 'Campout' in Pioneertown". The Desert Sun. 2013-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  27. ^ "Holy Hell! Kerosene Hat Turns 20". Spectrum Culture. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  28. ^ "Head of the camp: An interview with David Lowery". C-Ville. 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  29. ^ "Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven to regale Grand Rapids 'Crumbs' with country-hued alt-rock". Local Spins. 2010-09-29. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  30. ^ "Hit The Road: Pioneertown". Badass Digest. 2010-10-25. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  31. ^ "Interview with Robyn Celia". Desert Lifestyle. 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  32. ^ "Camper Van Beethoven & Cracker Reunite!". Spin. 2011-01-18. Retrieved 2013-10-27.