Rube Waddell – Stink Bait – Review

Rube Waddell

Stink Bait (Vaccination)
by Jon Sarre

“Baseball is a metaphor for life,” Mike Hudson sang/spoke on the Styrenes’ “He Was a Loser.” Rube Waddell (the man, not the band) pitched for Connie Mack’s great Philadelphia Athletics team of the early 1900s; he’s enshrined in the Hall of Fame and, by all accounts, was one of the most colorful individuals to ever play the game of baseball (he wrestled alligators, chased fire engines, taught geese to speak Chinese, and struck out 349 batters in one season). Rube was a renaissance man, maybe, an idiot savant, perhaps. “It is sad to realize that Rube Waddell could not exist today, that in the eyes of modern men he would be given an appropriate label and promptly taken care of, his competition limited to heaving a rubber-tipped javelin in the Special Olympics,” Bill James writes in his Historical Baseball Abstract (Villard, 1986). “But,” James continues, “he lived a real life, like anybody else’s, only with more adventure. We are not that adventurous anymore.”

Rube Waddell is also a band comprised of three San Francisco-based twisted neo-traditional folkies who play more instruments than you can swing a baseball bat at (banjo, accordion, ukulele, train whistle, slide guitar, washboard, harmonica, and “the Fred Sanford” make up about a quarter of the stuff they have listed). Their music is tribal, folksy, bluesy, countrifried, Paul Simony World Beat rip-off, often all at the same time. “Eclectic” doesn’t come close to describing Rube’s sound, just as “different” doesn’t do the ballplayer justice. Most of the time, Rube Waddell sounds like a million things you’ve heard before sounding like nothing you’ve heard before.

Any attempt to describe the sounds that emanate from the disc that arrived in a metal sardine canister marked “Stink Bait” (nice packaging, by the way), is gonna take more space than I have here, but it should suffice to say that Rube Waddell resists any “folk blues” or “noise” labels. Even the artists they cover/namedrop (Fury Lewis, Johnny Cash, Son House, Cormac McCarthy, Friedrich Schiller, Beethoven and various long-lost balladeers) would do a doubletake if they were to hear their songs so recorded. I do, however, think Rube Waddell would make sense to their namesake. And it’s time someone did him some justice.
(PO Box 20931 Oakland, CA 94611)