Monday, October 31, 2005

Rick Moranis Makes a Country Record

From the New York Times:

[Moranis's] album, "The Agoraphobic Cowboy," 13 sly songs delivered in deadpan style atop some intricate string-playing, went on sale this month. Those who know Mr. Moranis as the bespectacled father of the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" movies, or as Dark Helmet in Mel Brooks's "Spaceballs," or as Bob McKenzie of the dim-bulb Canadian comedy team the McKenzie Brothers, may have a hard time picturing it, and they should: Mr. Moranis is a long way from the rugged, shaggy country look of Alan Jackson or Toby Keith.

"For some reason I just started writing these songs," said Mr. Moranis, 52, who is from Toronto but has lived in New York for 20 years. "And I was singing them to a couple of friends on the phone. After I had three or four, they started saying to me that I should do something with them."

So he did, and the result is an album of original songs that might strike some as mere novelties, others as sublime comic gems. Sure, there are lyrics about booze and babes, but there's an opening track, "Nine More Gallons," whose chorus drops references to Truffaut and Nicholson:

Two more times a lady,

Three more hundred blows,

Four more easy pieces,

Five more days on the road.

Seven more days a week, now,

Eight more lives, a cat,

Nine more gallons and I'll have me a hat.

..."I never thought of this as a parody," he said. "I never thought that I would put on a cowboy hat and a cowboy shirt and ride a rocking horse and pretend to be a character. It just felt like something I wanted to do." And besides, there's precedent. Think "Dang Me" and "Gitarzan."

"Not that I deliberately had Roger Miller or Ray Stevens in my head," he said, "but when those guys were doing their stuff, they were just writing witty, clever, sometimes funny lyrics in the country genre."

...Getting such stuff made into an album required an unconventional approach, and Mr. Moranis found a willing partner in Tony Scherr, a versatile New York musician best known for playing jazz clubs but who works easily in rock and country as well and also has a recording studio in his home in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Mr. Moranis met him through Brian Camelio, founder of ArtistShare, which markets CD's exclusively on the Internet (and is offering Mr. Moranis's at

One hint that Mr. Scherr might be the right guy to record Mr. Moranis's quirky music is the centerpiece of his studio: while practically everyone else has gone digital, Mr. Scherr still records on an old eight-track reel-to-reel Otari.

"Yeah, I've got the wood-burning tape machine," Mr. Scherr said, as deadpan as Mr. Moranis's songs. "There's been many albums done on it now that very few people have ever heard," he joked, among them some of his own, like "Coming Around."
It goes on, but I think this might be a good one. Also, when oh when will Mel Brooks make the "Spaceballs" musical?

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