Chris Acker and the Growing Boys, with Zach Bryson
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A balding, baby-faced, purveyor of nasally folk-rock, Chris Acker is one of America’s great translators of absurd mundanity. Often said to be a torch carrier for the legacy of the late John Prine, Acker possesses both the bravado of a backroads sing-a-long emcee and the fashion of a Goodwill rack hound who’s just happy to be here. But he’s as much a descendent of poet Frank O’Hara as he is of Prine, fusing the unavoidable humor of human existence with the vernaculars of assorted lands he’s had the privilege of thumbing around, showcasing the trades he picked up from stays in cities he hasn’t thought about since leaving them. “I love the conversation between New Orleans music and Western Louisiana music and Zydeco and Cajun and R&B. Cajun people even started making swamp pop music, which is a style of 1950s R&B that I fucking adore,” Acker says. “One of my favourite parts about folk music is, you can track its development through economic and migration patterns.”
And that migration has always been on Acker’s radar. Before he was sleeping in Montana motel bathtubs under purple moons, recording YouTube duets in Langhorne Slim’s living room, and serving as the Yin to Nick Shoulders’ Yang, Acker was in college in Bellingham, Washington getting exposed to Sam Doores and The Tumbleweeds for the first time. The subsequent rabbit hole he went down culminated in how Bayou favorites Hurray For the Riff Raff wouldn’t exist without Cast King’s blues-soaked outlaw catalog from Mississippi Records in Portland. “I think it acknowledges the fluidity of American music, in the ways that certain things influence each other,” Acker adds.
He spent his teen years drunk on his father’s love for the folk revivalist era. His passion for writing was then augmented by his high school English teacher, who dedicated class periods to dissecting every word of Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. “I just felt such a strong kinship to this guy,” Acker adds. “He didn’t just teach me guitar; he also turned me on to the stuff of Mississippi John Hurt and Billy Joe Shaver.” But Acker’s influences bend back as far as early childhood. His dad grew up in Chicago just after Prine had come to the city and got famous. “He really adored that,” Acker says. “My earliest memory of music is listening to [Prine] on a long family road trip to Idaho for Christmas.” Then came a period of brick and mortar for Acker: Getting stoked on Dylan’s ‘Boots Of Spanish Leather’, thinking his life would never be the same, and forming bands with dudes who shared that same naive, youthful admiration and excitement.”