AUK’s Chain Gang: 16 Horsepower proving the squeezebox is not uncool on “American Wheeze”

Aside from last week’s clip proving that Nils Lofgren is a consummately cool dude, it was fascinating to hear him talk of his accordion playing days and the oompah oompah polka influence he brought to bear on Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’. He notes that back in the 60s the accordion got a “kind of square rap” i.e. it was uncool. While that may have been the attitude of the ‘Woodstock tribe’, more attuned to mind-bending guitar solos, the accordion had long evolved from its European roots once transplanted to the new world. Folk, blues and country musicians had long used it and it was an integral component of Bill Haley’s Comets, so, it was in at the birth of rock’n’roll.

Here’s not the place to examine all the aspects of the accordion in americana music but it’s probably fair to say that those Woodstock hippies still alive (and their offspring) wouldn’t blink an eye now when an accordion pops up on their playlist. For those of us on this side of the ocean, Jimmy Shand memories had similarly been set aside since Richard Thompson added the instrument to his version of folk rock back in the 70s.

So, what link to add to the chain here? It’s tempting to go down a Zydeco route with Clifton Chenier or hone in on Mexico with Flaco Jiménez but instead we’ve plumped for a song which, in its title and in the actual playing, is an almost onomatopoeic description of the instrument. So here’s 16 Horsepower’s ‘American Wheeze’ with David Eugene Edwards playing a Chemnitzer concertina (or squeezebox), a close relation to the accordion. And while we’re here, why not search out E. Annie Proulx’s novel ‘Accordion Crimes’ for an interesting read.

About Paul Kerr 439 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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