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At what point do you cross the line between genres?

Is there a tipping point, where maybe 49% of another style will get a pass but 51% will invalidate the record from being considered rock?

If so this might technically step over that line, but isn’t necessarily doing it with both feet, primarily because the artist is getting his own release outside of the group which is firmly in the rock genre.

Maybe that’s a technicality, but how else can you tell the story of their collective careers without at least exploring the side ventures they undertook, especially when this one might still have enough rock elements on its own to warrant a mention.

Besides, it’s generally not wise to argue over such trivial things when a guy in the story is brandishing a weapon.


You Can Call It What You Please
All artists, no matter who they are, what they were exposed to growing up, or what style they personally like best, are free to sing and play any type of music they want at any time.

You don’t have to be an uninhibited extrovert in order to try your hand at rock ‘n’ roll, just as you don’t necessarily have to be sad and lonely to sing the blues. Plenty of sinners were gospel stars, just as lots of city dwellers have found fame as country artists.

Of course doing any of those things authentically is another matter and you generally need to conform to a few accepted standards to fit the bill, most of which Allen Bunn does on The Guy With A .45… for the blues.

You have the desending guitar intro, the harmonica accompaniment during the chorus and the bleak mood set by the lyrics.

So what’s it doing here, you ask?

As stated in the lead-in to this review Allen Bunn was a member in good standing of The Larks, a pure rock vocal group (who incidentally had started off as a gospel act) for whom he sang occasional leads and played guitar as well as wrote some of their material. In due time he’d have a solo career, under the name Tarheel Slim, often with his wife Little Ann, which straddled rock and blues.

Considering the versatility of that group, the popularity of their records which cast a very wide stylistic net, including blues-based records such as Eyesight To The Blind, it stands to reason that if down the road The Rolling Stones, Cream and Led Zeppelin will all incorporate blues songs into their repertoire and still be called rockers, the same should hold true for Allen Bunn, even if this song, more than most of theirs, actually is a better fit as “pure blues”.

Besides, considering we just looked at a former jazz guitarist, Tiny Grimes, who took things he learned in that field and applied them to rock, it makes sense to show how much wider the gulf between blues and rock at this juncture actually was by focusing on a record that sometimes leans too far into the other realm for comfort.

When This Bad Guy Walks Out
Just so we can justify the inclusion of this side of the record based on musical traits, let’s start off by saying the rock elements it possesses, while more generic, are still pretty clear thanks to the loping bassline on piano and Bunn’s vocal during the verses.

That both of those things are changed up considerably during the choruses means this is sort of a schizophrenic record to begin with and that split in perception helps to show just where things diverged between the genres overall.

The nods towards rock ‘n’ roll that comes to light during the spinning of the tale at the center of the song are seen in how Bunn’s voice is lighter and more melodic while holding notes and letting them ride, almost worrying his lines to a degree which is something he learned in gospel. Those parts have a natural flow to them and had he recorded this with the rest of The Larks and let them embellish it with airy harmonies it’s not hard to see this as a pure rock track.

Granted the subject matter is a little dire for rock ‘n’ roll where usually losing your girl or getting busted for partying too loudly are the worst outcomes you can face in songs. Here however Bunn is admitting to being with the hottest girl around who is cheating on her violent boyfriend with him, leaving an understandably wary Bunn to step lightly when he sees The Guy With A .45.

Now let it be said that nobody here is in the right. Certainly not the two-timing girl, nor Allen Bunn who, despite what he may try and rationalize about his own opportunistic behavior, is just as wrongheaded for his actions.

Should he want this girl so badly he needs to simply tell her, “I’ll be around if and when you break up with the gun toting knuckle dragger, so come and see me then”. That way he’s putting a higher value on himself than the girl which leads to more devoted attention in the long run – and possibly heading off the chance that she’ll cheat on HIM if they ever become a couple. But when he freely states that she’s worth dying over, well… you can see he’s not all that interested in ethics or image.

Besides, if that’s what he really WANTS then who are we to stand in his way!

Anyway, the story is at least colorful and the supposed allure of the girl in question spices things up, even if she probably is transmitting countless STDs with her bed-hopping activities.

Where the song derails though is in the rather mundane chorus where the blues facets such as that gloomy harmonica come to the forefront and Bunn’s voice becomes more of a caricature of the style, downbeat in tone and predictably sliding down the scale to better project its foreboding outcome.

Not only does it create a schism between the sections, it makes the fatal mistake of building up to something where the purported payoff doesn’t pack as much of a visceral wallop as what led to it. Yes, I’ll grant you this makes sense thematically, but musically it’s definitely a let down after what preceded it.

The result, like so many songs we’ve covered that try to appease two stylistic masters, is that it leaves both parties laying face down in the street, riddled with bullet holes.


Bad Business
The problem Apollo Records has now is they don’t have enough artists to fill the needs of each genre. The Larks were their only rock vocal group for awhile and were being relied on to get them sales in that area. But they could modify their approach and pull in some pop fans, or revert back to spiritual topics and conceivably appeal to the gospel crowd.

With Bunn’s natural affinity for blues they could also get some interest in that field and since blues typically was a solo affair vocally, what would be easier than recording him alone and coming out with songs like She’ll Be Sorry, the flip side of this which leans even more blatantly into pure blues technique.

Had they instead looked to find two or three pure blues acts and let them focus on that genre it’d free up The Larks to do what they did best and then if he did cut a few solo numbers, rather than be a desperate attempt by the label to dip their toe in the blue(s) water, it’d merely come off as a vanity project, not a company dictive that spread their assets too thin.

So the question this review needs to answer is whether or not The Guy With A .45 would work better as a pure blues song by changing the delivery in the verses to suit that style, or if left untouched does this still have more appeal to a blues fan than a rock fan?

At first I thought yes on the latter because those blues touches are so overt that it’s hard to think of it as anything BUT a blues track, but as a blues fan in good standing I gotta say those still remain the weakest parts of the record, so injecting additional blues elements to it won’t help make the record more appealing, even under a banner it’d fit more comfortably under. While as it is the rock half is compromised by the chorus, they stand out by comparison even if they’re still not enough to make this more than just an ill-advised curiosity.

The lesson, as always kids, is the only arsenal you need to emerge victorious on the musical battlefield is a coherent plan of attack.


(Visit the Artist page of Allen Bunn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)