In October 2019, to the heartbreak of jointpop fans, Trinidad’s headline rock ’n’ roll band broke up. On August 3, former bandleader Gary Hector releases his first solo album, National Trash, the first new songs since 2017 from the man who wrote jointpop’s anthem Let’s Pray for Rock ’n’ Roll.
And every jointpop fan expecting Gary Hector and a new backing band is going to be surprised. National Trash, produced and mixed by Sean Bartholomew, boasts of fully three musicians: Hector on acoustic guitar and tambourine (recorded in Port of Spain by leading producer Martin “Mice” Raymond); and John Heinrich on pedal steel guitar and Nikki Nelson Welcher, backing vocals, in Nashville.
Despite the simmering rock ’n’ roll potential of some of the songs on National Trash (particularly the title track, Searching for Jimmy Crime, Waste of Time and the closing lagniappe track, as glorious as it is short, the not-quite-one-minute long Not One F—) Hector’s first solo album shows the man who christened himself Mick Richardson was almost as swayed by the music of the Man in Black as he was by that of the Glimmer Twins; and that the man Hector calls “Mr Zimmerman” himself recorded an album called Nashville Skyline.
The bulk of the songs on National Trash sound as if Marie Osmond recorded her biggest hit, I’m a Little Bit Country, He’s a Little Bit Rock ’n’ Roll, not with her brother Donny, but alone: it’s as if Hector is singing, “I’m a Little Bit Country, I’m a Little Bit More Country.”
There will be jointpop fans who will hear these songs, particularly National Trash and Not One F—, and wish Dion Camacho’s trap set would kick in at the same time as Jerome Girdharrie’s bass, followed by Phil Hill’s keyboards. They will yearn for Damon Homer’s lead guitar (the other defining element of jointpop’s sound, after Hector’s vocals and songwriting).
They should remind themselves National Trash is a solo album. Featuring three musical instruments; four, if you count the tambourine. But it is jam-packed with Gary Hector songs.
There isn’t a melody that doesn’t get under the skin, and many a lyric that makes that skin crawl. As in all of Hector’s songwriting, there is a neck-and-neck race for the best lines between the romantic, entirely invented phrases and the confessional autobiographical ones.
Compare (from Nashville Dreaming) “I fell asleep in Port of Spain but woke up next morning in Nashville… And if I could spend 24 hours again/I will, in Nashville, dreaming” with (from Former Gang Leader): “I got kicked out my gang/And sentenced to hang/For something I never done.”
But Hector made it all plain from the album’s first single, Today I Ride Alone (released July 1). In cowpuncher regalia, from a rocking saddle, wearing a cowboy hat, he sang: “Saddle up my son/It’s time to move/This sleepy town is void of groove/And it’s so done… I don’t know where I’m going/But I’m going on my own/Today I ride alone.”
The album reaches its peak over and over again, with every song as perfect as it could be, provided listeners remember they’re hearing a maximum of five musical instruments (counting two voices and one tambourine) on a Gary Hector song.
But there is a particularly special moment within them all.
The song Searching for Jimmy Crime takes as its jumping-off point the impromptu name Hector gave an acoustic trio version of jointpop – himself, Phil Hill and Damon Homer – at the launch of the restaurant guide magazine Cre Olé (which was edited by one BC Pires) in 2003.
Jimmy & the Murderers played together until jointpop disbanded. In 2019, Hector formed the Double Dog Trio with Hill and Chris “Bones” Mouttet to play mellow acoustic dinner sets.
The lyrics of Searching for Jimmy Crime include references to jointpop’s first single and video (shot by Walt Lovelace), After 1/2 Past Nine, and two other well-known jointpop songs: “Where is Jimmy Crime? …His soul’s gone cheap/That’s what the people say/And for rock ’n’ roll/He no longer prays.”
The song ends with the same words this review will, namely: “He (Jimmy Crime) was last seen/In a silver sequinned pants/Singing cover songs in some upscale restaurants/A drunk lady told me she thought she recognised his face/He sang a Dylan song and then he vanished without a trace.”
A review of the first solo album by former jointpop frontman Gary Hector