Wednesday, May 22

Former BusBoy returns as Black Bart


Former BusBoy returns as Black Bart

O’Neal brings new blues rock sound to Tower Records

By Kristin Fiore

Former head BusBoy Brian O’Neal is back with a brand new band
and a brand new bag.

The BusBoys, noted for numerous movie music contributions,
including 48 HRS. "The Boys Are Back in Town," enjoyed an 11-year
run that ended in 1991. When some of the band members felt the need
to test new musical waters, O’Neal was left with a tough
decision.

"My choices from that point were whether or not I wanted to be
like the Temptations, where the faces change, but the name remains
the same or not … The BusBoys had been such a wonderful,
illustrious, kick-ass, off the wall project that I didn’t want to
dilute it," says O’Neal.

So he didn’t. After months of soul-searching, O’Neal decided to
form Black Bart, whose different musical direction would allow
O’Neal to incorporate an entirely new palette of ideas. The result
is Bootleg Breakout, a blues rock album with O’Neal at the helm as
singer, songwriter and producer.

With influences from Bob Dylan and Sly Stone to Led Zepplin and
Jimi Hendrix, Black Bart has a much harder edge. However, its
melodic blues elements and more positive outlook divide it from the
current styles.

Lyrically, O’Neal aligns himself more with Sly Stone’s "Everyday
People" than Snoop Doggy Dog’s "Murder Was the Case."

"There’s a lot of emphasis (in today’s music) on what’s not
working and on violence. There’s a lot of violence in our culture,
and an association with manhood and violence, and I’m bored with
that. I think that’s bogus," says O’Neal, who vents this
frustration on the album’s "You Don’t Know" and "Living in the
Shadows."

"Manhood, in terms of being a complete person, is about growing
and giving things and loving things … I think a lot of that comes
out in Black Bart."

Aside from their positive perspective, O’Neal’s lyrics are much
more intimate and dig a little deeper than his previous work with
the BusBoys. O’Neal speaks as an "I" instead of a "We" and has
replaced the BusBoys’ blue collar anthems with songs of personal
struggles and discoveries.

However, none of this introspection and maturity has dulled his
sense of adventure, a fact illustrated in O’Neal’s unusual choice
for a band name.

Black Bart was a 19th century Western outlaw who held up
stagecoaches and trains without ever firing a shot. His reputation
and voice were enough to inspire fear, though he was known as well
for his chivalry. He refused to rob the ladies, and always left a
poem in the place of whatever he stole.

"Something about the daring, mischievous spirit and the poetry
connected with me, and that’s how I picked the name," says O’Neal,
who shows similar fire in Black Bart’s live shows.

O’Neal loves to tour, and has as many anecdotes and horror
stories as any seasoned rock ‘n’ roller, though he has yet to
venture out of California with Black Bart.

"Every city has its own personality … and every night is more
than an adventure," he says.

He recalls playing an academy with the BusBoys on a stormy
night. They had just finished some post-show partying with some
fans on their tour bus. The next thing they knew, the fans had
absconded their truck full of equipment and were swerving out of
sight. They led campus security, the cadets and the band’s crew on
a wild goose chase before missing a turn and rolling upside down.
The band watched through the rain as the abandoned truck spun on
its top, a BusBoys tape blaring from its speakers.

The BusBoys played the next night with the recovered equipment
and a new story under their belt. And though O’Neal now thinks
twice before asking fans onto the bus, he has no regrets.

"I treasure all of these golden moments we call show
business."

CONCERT: Black Bart performs free at Westwood’s Tower Records,
Wednesday, May 10, at 3 p.m.

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