The State of Rock has never looked, or sounded, better.
Over a year ago I launched the State of Rock collection — a design featuring 99 Ohio rock, soul, dance and Americana artists packed into the outline of the Buckeye state — and it’s been my most popular image by far. (You can read about the creation of the design in my previous blog post here.) Today, you can get this image on t-shirts, hoodies, kid’s tees, posters and tote bags in a variety of colors, including the brand new limited-edition Tailgate orange that celebrates Ohio pro football.
Recently, I was interviewed by rowdy Rick Gethin for his Cat Club Podcast to talk about the collection. Rick usually interviews musicians like The Ufgoods and Kyle Sowash or local music icons like CD 92.9’s Randy Malloy, so I was honored to be invited to discuss Lost Radicals and Ohio rock. We first met in August at my pop-up shop inside an audacious punk rock rum release party hosted by 451 Spirits and bartender extraordinaire, Jesse Hubbard from St. Russel Productions. At first glance, Rick knew a discussion of the State of Rock collection and the overwhelming amount of talent from this state would be great fodder for a podcast like his that usually features three to four songs from local artists.
For our episode, I chose four tracks that I felt reflected the best of the state, but there easily could have been eight alternates, and sixteen more after that. I decided to focus on personal connections and sonic variety: soul, Columbus country rock and alt-garage pioneers. The playlist went something like this:
A grainy GBV pic I took at the Southgate House in 2010.
“I am a Scientist” by Guided by Voices — Any good Daytonian should start here with the most prolific and influential forces to ever come out of the Gem City. The early albums Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are still personal favorites, but every new release by Bob Pollard, et al. is a good moment to sit up, take notice and marvel at this raw talent. Like the Velvet Underground, I’m sure Bob has inspired thousands to hit “record” on the 4-track in their garage.
Tim Easton wearing his State of Rock tee.
“Maid of the Mist” by Tim Easton and the Freelan Barons — A friend and fellow artistic spirit, Tim is one of the best songwriters to ever come out of Ohio. We met many years ago when I booked him to play my wife’s birthday party and we’ve looked for time to reconnect ever since. Our most consequential endeavor was a collaboration on this album, Beat the Band — Mona and I were financial backers and I helped with the design of the CD packaging, posters and gig cards that we then helped distribute throughout Austin for SXSW 2011. Backed by the immense musical talent of the Freelan Barons (Aaron Lee Tasjan, Mark Stepro and Alex Livingstone), this track isn’t necessarily representative of Tim’s larger canon, but it highlights his mastery over rhythm and rhyme and his warm gravel road-worn vocals.
Lydia Loveless and Todd May playing our launch party back in 2019.
“Same to You” by Lydia Loveless — Another Ohio original that I’m just starstruck by, Lydia was kind enough to play my launch party back in November of 2019. She’s put her spin on pop hits by Prince and Justin Bieber, but this song and much her work epitomizes that midwest sound that rests on the razor’s edge between raucous alt rock and country heartache. Lydia’s lush twang and rebel lyrics are elevated by her masterful band featuring Todd May on guitar, Ben Lamb on bass, and George Hondroulis on the drums.
Classically cool Bobby Womack circa 1982. (David Corio / Getty Images)
“Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack — Mr. Womack was a Cleveland native who grew up performing gospel standards regionally with his brothers only to be taken under Sam Cooke’s wing to share his prodigious talent with the secular music world. While his other popular recordings, like “Looking for Love” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” dominated the soul charts, nothing beats this track written for the blaxploitation film of the same name for it’s cinematic and soulful soundscape. It doesn’t hurt that Quentin Tarantino later featured it in his iconic film “Jackie Brown”.
Again, I could pick another slew of songs that exemplify why Ohio is the State of Rock. If you’re a fan of midwest rock, you’ll definitely dig the podcast interview which features more stories and discussions of these tracks here.
If you somehow got this far without seeing the State of Rock collection, you can find it here.
Finally, for a deep dive you can listen to the epic 96 song Spotify playlist I created for the collection below.
Big thanks to Rick for the chance to shed more light on these homegrown heroes! As you can imagine, with a 96 song foundation, we could talk for hours about Ohio rock. Hmm.
Good luck and great music!