Slim Bawb and Perry Lowe will play Howard's in Shiner

Jan. 30, 2013 at 3:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

Mash together the best of bluegrass, zydeco, funk and blues, and you might get close to "swampgrass."

California native Slim Bawb, aka Bob Pearce, has mastered the art of grit and grime with songs that are sure to have your hips swaying like an alligator tail on the bayou.

Each song tells a story. Although not all are personal, the ones that are, as he says, hit close to the bone.

In 38 years of playing, Slim Bawb - who gets his name from a band he led for 20 years in Sacramento called The Beer Dawgs - has mastered the banjo, resonator guitar, mandolin, mandola, electric guitar and foot pedal bass.

When he isn't recording albums at his home studio or gigging with the Chubby Knuckle Choir or Udu Swamp, he soaks in Hill Country life just outside of Austin.

How'd you settle into 'swampgrass?'

I evolved into that. I made some trips to Louisiana and it kind of just soaked into my writing, and the songs started getting a little bluesier, a little swampier.

You play multiple instruments at once. What was the first instrument you added in?

I started playing banjo, and I played some guitar. Then, I added the mandolin and then the dobro. I've been playing bass with foot pedals for the last couple of years now, so I don't have to have a bass player. It took me a couple of months to get the hang of that, but I've always stomped my foot while I was playing. It was a natural thing just to play notes on the bass pedals.

When I play, I try not to think about it too much. I just let it go. Strings now are second nature to me.

Which song do you think Best tells the story?

"Empty Chair." It's a tune I wrote the day after my dad died about the house and the empty chair in the house. It took me about an hour to write, and it seems to connect to people when I play it.

It's kind of a quiet tune. That one kind of hit the closest to the bone. When the crowd's listening, I'll play it. When I play at Gruene Hall, I always play it there because people come just to listen.

How do you approach songwriting?

I kind of wait until they hit me over the head. My desk has Post-It notes of song titles all over. I just keep writing them down and putting them up there. Then I'll glance at it and think that'll make a good story.

I've been trying in the last 15 years to write story songs, not songs about myself. A lot of songwriters write about themselves, the stuff I like are more stories.

Playing in bars for 38 years, I've met a lot of different people. I people-watch and make up stories about them.

You left California in 2006 for Texas?

I've always wanted land and you can't really buy that in California. I spent my 50th birthday in Austin ... it was a Monday night and there were bands playing everywhere. I thought this was the place to be.

We do a wildlife preservation thing, so we put out food sources and water, feeders for mostly small animals like deer, rabbits and opossums.

It's the most peaceful place I've ever lived. I don't ever want to leave it.

There's just more possibilities. I'd been doing my own music back in California, but I was having a harder time finding places to play.

I'd also hurt my wrist and had surgery on it from playing basketball. I was planning on quitting. I was going to come out here and work on the land, but the surgery helped and I started playing pedal steel and that led to me doing my own thing.

After 38 years, have you met your goals?

I'm making a living out of it- that's all I ever wanted to do. I wouldn't mind moving up a couple steps on the ladder, but I'm having fun and getting to do my own music. I tried slowing things down and it didn't take.

What turned you on to music?

I've been playing music for 38 years. I started when I was 18 in 1974. I picked up the banjo and mandolin, and then I picked up the pedal steel guitar. I didn't really sing very much for the first 10 years or so, then I started writing my own stuff.

I liked bluegrass. My dad was a old time yodeler from the mountains, so there was always music around, a lot of different stuff: folk music, Elvis, Al Hirt trumpet records.

What are you currently listening to?

On my iPhone I have Ry Cooder and Dr. John and this banjo guy from Austin, Danny Barnes.

For the last month I've been working on other people's albums. I have a studio out here so I've been working on mixing those, so I haven't really had time to listen music.

What's in store for the future?

Probably a lot more studio stuff, keep writing songs and putting out CDs. I've put out seven since I moved here.

I've got another project, Udu Swamp. My friend calls it trance music. We just make up tunes and he plays all kinds of African drums.

Sometimes I feel like I'm spreading myself too thin, but I'm actually turning down shows that I don't want to do.



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