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Kid Rock keyboardist Jimmie Bones wanders into his own solo album, finally

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Jimmie Bones has been playing in bands for the better part of 43 years — most notably on an international level with Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band and Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise.

So an album of his own seems a little ... overdue.

“I’ve always been writing and recording and doing stuff like that; I just never really took that next step to release it,” says Bones (nee Trombly), who just released his first album, “Snakebit And Wandering,” on the Royal Oak-based Funky D Records label. “So this is nothing new for me — but the actual releasing of it and putting it out there for the public to buy, that’s something new — and it’s been a long time coming.”

Bones, 58, finally got the push to do his own album by his friend, Funky D co-founder and Howling Diablos frontman Martin “Tino” Gross. The two collaborated on “A Bothered Mind,” the 2004 album by the late Mississippi blues legend R.L. Burnside, and Bones became what Gross calls “the house keyboard player” for Funky D, contributing to releases by the Diablos, John Sinclair, Horse Cave Trio and others.

“I just had a stockpile of songs that I felt strong about,” says Bones. Some were pitched to Kid Rock, Bradley and former Twisted Brown Trucker bandmate Uncle Kracker over the years. “Tino and I had been working on some things for a few years and he just said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to put out your own record.’ That was a good five, six years ago, then we got real aggressive with it in the last three years.”

Gross says he was intrigued by Bones’ “cool perspective on songwriting” as well as “a craftsmanlike approach to music.” The idea for “Snakebit,” he adds, “was to keep the songs pure, focusing on his voice and piano without losing it to too much production. He has a real powerful tenor from singing backup. I suggested dropping the vocals a bit to explore all the great texture in his lower register and put the light on his great lead singing.”

Bones sang and played from a young age. Raised in Roseville, he also spent summer time on his maternal grandfather’s farm in Huron County, where Bones was “exposed to a lot of hard work — that’s something that stuck with me and remains with me.”

His musical education started with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and broadened to R&B and blues. He learned to play Hammond organ as a youth, after his parents bought one for the home.

“It was really something my mom and my sister were thinking about trying out. You bought this organ and got six free lessons,” remembers Bones, a father of five who now lives in Brighton with his wife, Leigh. “My dad had all these old Billy Preston records, and I used to listen to that stuff and lost my mind and started picking it up by ear. It became almost natural.

“My mom and sister fell off, and I stuck with it.”

Bones learned to play harmonica at that time, and started playing in bands when he was 15, first with a high school blues troupe called Crossroads — the first song he sang was Freddie King’s “Going Down” — then moved on stage and in the studio to groups such as the Grave-Robbers, Mimi Harris & the Snakes, Bootsey X & the Love Masters, the New Barbiturates and others. After a gig with Big Chief at Saint Andrews Hall to launch that group’s “Mack Avenue Skull Game” album, Bones was recruited into Blackwater Surprise, including nationally released albums and tours.

Financial issues caused that group to cut back, but Bones wasn’t out of work for long.

“I got a call from Bob (Ritchie, aka Kid Rock): ‘Hey, I hear you’re not in Bradley’s band anymore. I want you in my band,’” Bones says. Thus began an association that started with sessions for 1996’s “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp” and continues to this day.

“What I’ve really learned from (Blackwater Surprise) and Bob is simplicity,” Bones says. “I was probably guilty early on overplaying. When you’re playing in blues bands in clubs it’s almost like a chops exercise. Then you start recording and playing on records and you really have to learn simplicity. These songs, and all the old, great stuff that was recorded in Detroit and Motown and Muscle Shoals and Memphis, even Chess Records. There’s this beautiful simplicity to all of it that really grabs the ear. That’s what I’ve really come to embrace.”

Being part of the Kid Rock orbit also gave Bones plenty of memories, from playing at Woodstock ’99 to touring with personal heroes such as Aerosmith and Peter Wolf, opening for the Rolling Stones and having Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page praise him after a concert in London.

“I pinch myself on a daily basis,” says Bones, who’s dubbed himself a candidate to be Secretary of Useless Information in Rock’s U.S. senatorial office. “I really think that (guy) could win,” he notes.

Bones strove to put all of that musical background into “Snakebit,” which features an all-star lineup of players including the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, Bob Dylan’s bassist Tony Garnier, Was (Not Was) and former Twisted Brown Trucker saxophonist David McMurray and members of the Howling Diablos, Detroit Wheels, the Rockets, the Detroit Cobras and more. A video for the title track and first single will debut on July 28, when Bones celebrates the album’s release with a show at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills.

“I definitely wanted to draw heavily from blues, heavily from the R&B influence and heavily from the garage and punk feel I’ve always loved, too,” Bones explains. “There’s a lot of music I like to play. To have things all come together and come up with a sound that puts it all together and I can call my own — finally — is pretty great.”

• If You Go: Jimmie Bones & the Snakebit Wanderers and Horse Cave Trio perform at 8 p.m. Friday, July 28, at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Tickets are $15. Call 248-858-9508 or visit atcallahans.com.

Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

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