Archived Arts & Entertainment

Mountain of pain: Beloved Missouri blues-rock act to play Water’n Hole

The Hooten Hallers. (photo: Dave Jackson) The Hooten Hallers. (photo: Dave Jackson)

Cutting through the onslaught of monotonous bar bands and diluted midnight hour showcases like a buzz saw gone haywire, The Hooten Hallers remain one of the most mesmerizing, innovative and raucous acts on the national scene these days.

Fronted by John Randall (guitar/lap steel), the group also features Kellie Everett (saxophone) and Andy Rehm (drums). The Columbia, Missouri, trio are a well-traveled band of road warriors. They continually seek hard-earned truths and fleeting compassion on this never-ending barnstorming tour crisscrossing the country, one resembling some wild-n-out spider web to destinations known and unknown. 

With Randall’s snarling junkyard dog vocal delivery, the tone is chaotic, a fast-paced blend of the Delta blues and Chicago jazz, all amid a thick thread of devil-may-care rock-n-roll and punk stylings.

This troupe of Midwestern folks are an unhinged band of pirates, rolling along the high seas of beer joints, back alley hole-in-the-wall establishments and seemingly any place where there’s just enough space (or not) to set up shop and bulldoze over any and all within earshot.

The keen lyrical aptitude of the melodies shines a light on the seedier (often more realistic) side of humanity, the everyday struggles and hard-fought battles — whether in front of you or within you. 

It’s about bringing those hurting and howling out of the shadows and back into a society where all are left to exist within their own devices of curiosity, artistic vision and simple madness of being a human being in dark times. 

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And though The Hooten Hallers have released a variety of studio albums, it’s the live show where the ensemble shakes the audience into a frenzy of human emotion and connectivity — this freewheelin’ vibration to finally feed into your deeply-held urges to dance with your heart on your sleeve and let it all hang loose. 

Smoky Mountain News: How much has the original intent of the sound and purpose of the band changed or stayed the same since this musical journey began?

John Randall: Our sound has evolved dramatically, but our purpose and intention has remained consistent. However, as a band, we’re more conscious of arrangements now, whereas in the early days many of our songs had a lot of improvisation.  

SMN: What is it about the blues and pure rock-n-roll music that speaks to you? Why those styles of music? And what separates those sounds from other genres and ways of creating and performing music?

JR: Collectively, we’re influenced by a wide-range of music and when we bring all of that together, there are certainly elements of blues and rock-n-roll. But, there’s also punk, country, and jazz at times, as well. 

We’re inspired by all types of traditional American music and seek to honor those who created it. There’s not really a definitive style that we’re working within, and we’re totally fine with that. It’s more of a conveyance of emotion and feeling, and there’s something very appealing to us about the raw simplicity.  

SMN: In an uncertain era of the music industry, what is it that keeps you going and inspired to push ahead and overcome the tough financial and professional challenges of being a touring and ever-evolving act in the digital age?

JR: While it may be a tough business, we work for ourselves, and count ourselves lucky to be our own boss. Doing something that you love and you’re passionate about has its own value, finances notwithstanding. 

Making music that people connect with and providing a soundtrack for their day-to-day activities is well worth the hard work and the difficulties that we face as a touring band.  

SMN: For you, personally, what does the live setting spark within you, and also within your band?

JR: We’re at our best when we connect with the audience. The best shows are ones when a cycle of energy is generated between the band and the audience and it continues to build throughout the show.

SMN: You’ve spent a large portion of your life creating and recording music, traveling the world, having all kinds of experiences, and meeting folks from all walks of life. What has that taught you about what it means to be a human being?

JR: We feel that people are essentially the same everywhere, though they have different and specific wants and needs. Nearly everyone wants to experience connection with other people and their environment, and music can easily build bridges. We’ve found that often those who have the least can be the most welcoming and hospitable.


Want to go?

Acclaimed blues/hard rock act The Hooten Hallers will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at The Water’n Hole Bar & Grill in Waynesville.

Admission is $5 at the door.

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