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The Wags -- "Headin' Down To Henry's"


The Wags
"Headin' Down To Henry's"

Reviewed By Michael P. Jones

They call themselves "The Wags", after a good ol' dog. This acoustic band has been called many things after they appear on stage before a live audience. Some of the listeners claim they "never knew what hit 'em", because they were laughing so hard, while others just bask in the afterglow of listening to darn good music.

"The Wags" definitely are not your run-of-the-mill Folk or Country band. They are just slightly different than being called either, and they seem to be refreshingly influenced by Swing, Blues and Jazz, with even a hint of Dixieland, and not forgetting Ragtime being thrown in for good measure.
Country-Blues is probably the best description of the music of "The Wags". However, because they are generally performing humorous and entertaining songs, sometimes their music is referred to are being "Yardcore".

San Francisco Weekly described the music of "The Wags" as "...good-time country blues and rags may make you want to holler in your pitcher of home brew, drop your drawers on the barroom floor, and prance around like a sailor on shore leave." And, upon listening to them, one generally agrees.

"The Wags" is led by Captain James Cook --- not the famed Northwest Explorer who circumvented the world --- but the one who writes them darn interesting songs. A songwriter extraordinaire, his tunes are catchy, humorous, clever, and enriching with superb music backup as the primary enhancer that will sometimes include the spoons, dobro, sax, fiddle, or trumpet. Cook "cut-his-teeth" playing the stand-up bass. He performed with the San Francisco-based "Jimbo Trout and the Fish People", and toured Europe and the Western United States several times. Eventually, he was able to break away and formed "The Wags" with Scott Van Schoick and Steve Neil.

The personnel of "The Wags" are three talented individuals who know how to make music and enjoy doing it at the same time: Cook plays lead on a 1928 National Tenor Guitar and sings the lead vocals; on percussion is Schoick, the man with the reportedly "larger-than-life personality", playing a single snare drum, or solitary cymbal, and a host of other things that enhances the tunes including the trombone, and also sings scant vocals; on stand-up or acoustic bass is Neil, who is a "budding" songwriter just beginning to blossom and starting to contribute tunes to the band's song list.
"The Wags" also will include other musicians from time to time, both in their live performances and in the studio. This includes: Tommy Atkin on piano and singing backup; Wrench plays spoons, percussion, and sings backup; Carl Prescott is featured on trumpet; and Sara Cook, a three-year-old, who, believe-it-or-not, has a creative "Ah-h-h-h" at the end of one track.

The latest release for "The Wags" is "Headin' Down To Henry's". This is a great thirteen-song CD featuring some of the best musical potpourri of this Country Blues band. They include "Headin' Down To Henry's", "You Can't Kick The Dog", "Skin Mop", "Back To The Hoedown", "Relaxin' Fool", and others. One of the best is "Wishing Well", complete with haunting guitar work.

"Headin' Down To Henry's" CD can be purchased for $12, which includes shipping. Send check or money order to: James Cook, 4632 N.E. 23rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97211.

Musically, "The Wags" appear live in various formats. Sometimes they take to the stage as a trio, or a foursome, and sometimes even more. At other times, however, it is just Cook and his guitar. But, always, it is great music that possesses a great big dose of fun.

Cook and "The Wags" is one of the featured performers at the year 2000 "Great Northwest Music" stage at the Cascade Geographic Society's "Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days" and the year 2000 "Mount Hood Salmon & Mushroom Festival". For more information about this great Country-Blues acoustic band, check out their website at www.thewags.com or email them at the captain@thewags.com or call them direct at (503) 288-1784.