Blackbird Signs John Surge and the Haymakers

A longtime member of Los Angeles' roots-rock community, John Surge has spent countless nights onstage, filling the room with a blend of roadhouse country and rocking honky tonk. Between songs, snatches of unfiltered conversation from the audience will make their way to his ears. Almost Time, his second album as frontman of John Surge and the Haymakers, is filled with those barroom tales.

Recorded in Floresville, Texas, Almost Time presents a revised version of the live John Surge and the Haymakers lineup. Joined by Volin on guitar, western-swing darling Brennen Leigh on harmony vocals, and Texas-based musicians like bassist Brad Fordham (Dave Alvin, Hayes Carll), drummer Tom Lewis (Junior Brown, Heybale), and piano legend Floyd Domino (Asleep at the Wheel, Merle Haggard), Surge recorded the majority of the album's 10 tracks in two inspired days. The group worked fast, arranging the songs together in real-time, capturing a sound that matched the craft of Surge's writing with the spontaneity of a live band.

Despite being recorded amidst the live oak trees of southern Texas and featuring some of the state's best-known instrumentalists, Almost Time isn't a “Texas country” record. It isn't a tribute to LA, either. Instead, the album creates its own geography, blending the saloon-styled shuffle of "You're So Right" — a song built for dancehalls, with a thumping Telecaster hook line, a shot full of pedal steel guitar and a singalong chorus — with the barn-burning bluegrass of "All You Gotta Do," the country-rock stomp of "Lesson I Never Learned," and rootsy rave-ups like "Tricks of the Trade" and "Rattle Me." Some gorgeous acoustic moments are scattered throughout the album, too.

Surge, who covered the Beat Farmers' "Gun Sale at the Church" on Your Wonderful Life,remains a fan of the genre-bending songwriters who came before him. Almost Time features a countrified version of "Big Train" by Chip Kinman and Tony Kinman, two brothers who helped pioneer Southern California's cowpunk scene with Rank And File before regrouping as the electronic outfit Blackbird. In Surge's hands, "Big Train" is reborn as a country-western classic with harmonica, guitar, and guest vocals from Chip Kinman himself.

From his early days attending seminal shows by LA’s roots music masters to his years playing with power-pop bands, harmony duos, and rock groups, John Surge has never been afraid to explore the full range of his musical influences. He emphasizes his country leanings with Almost Time. It's a collection of stories from the bar — a place where relationships start, stop, fire, and fizzle — delivered by a singer/songwriter who's logged plenty of time in the country's watering holes. Surge remains a loyal citizen of Los Angeles, but Almost Time widens his horizons, offering up a version of raw, rootsy country music that's informed not by the city in which it was created, but by the songwriter himself.

Manda Mosher, co-founder of the Blackbird Record Label says, “John Surge is a treasure of the California Country music scene, not only as a performer but as a tastemaker with his own live music series, Twang City. His upcoming album, Almost Time, is a honky tonk romp worthy of your best dancing shoes and finest whiskey. It’s a fantastic album and we’re honored to have John Surge and the Haymakers join the Blackbird family of artists.”


For more info: A&R: Manda Mosher, [email protected]