Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner Spins Some Sweet Ol’ Tunes

The Nashville native builds a playlist that mixes a touch of "Hee Haw" with a little doo-wop.

Photo Credit: Elise Tyler

Musician Kurt Wagner is the frontman for the Nashville music collective Lambchop and over the course of 12 albums, he’s drawn on everything from country to hip-hop, to create odd, lyrically rich music. With his new album, “Flotus,” he’s added beat-driven electronica into the mix. The Los Angeles Times describes it as, “something really magical.”

Here’s Kurt with a party soundtrack filled with vintage tunes for the next time you’re slurping soup and passing the dinner rolls.


Lefty Frizzell – “(Honey, Baby, Hurry!) Bring Your Sweet Self Back to Me”

Kurt Wagner: It never hurts to kick off things with a little Lefty Frizzell. It’s a song called “Bring Your Sweet Self Back to Me.”

There’s something about the man’s voice that draws you in. And he starts out in a sort of a capella unadorned sort of way. You think it’s going to maybe become a mournful, beautiful, sad ballad, and it just kicks over into something straight out of “Hee Haw.”

I grew up in Nashville in the ’60s. My folks were from Brooklyn, and they’d just moved down to Nashville. And it was like they’d moved to the moon. I was a young man with hair down to my butt. But I was fascinated by country music.

They had like a superstore for steel guitars, and you could see all these musicians just hanging around because had nothing better to do and they were all just wailing away. So it was kind of like hanging out in outer space. All these crazy sounds. And I was completely taken with it.

Dick Todd – “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me”

So, I think the next song going to play, we’re going to get right to it. This is a guy named Dick Todd. While you’re slurping up your soup and maybe passing the dinner rolls, we can listen to the song. It’s called “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me.”

One of the things that draws me to this type of music, there’s a sound that sort of takes you to this place when dinner parties, I think, were an important way people got together and shared their lives together. That kind of orchestration sort of sets that mood for me. Maybe I’m just an old dude.

He’s so damn sincere, you know? But somehow I think maybe it can be read in a different context, a more modern version of what we think of when something’s a mother.

Ink Spots – “Do I Worry”

The next song that we’re going to check out is a song by the Ink Spots and it’s called, “Do I Worry”

For me, they actually could be one of the true innovators of hip-hop. I mean this is a doo-wop group that introduced spoken word into their songs. I think hip-hop came out of doo-wop. It came from people just making music a capella on the streets.

I started out as a sculptor, and I was getting my Masters in Montana. Winters would last at least 10 months. So there’s a lot of shut in time. And I created a room and I drew on every surface of the room: the bed, the windows, the walls.

I was sort of thinking, “Well if you were kind of trapped by a snowstorm, and all you had was like a ballpoint pen or a pencil, what would happen?” [Laughs.] “Start drawing on all your stuff!” And then, when I finally unveiled it as part of a show, I had on the loop an Ink Spots song.

Lambchop – “Howe”

I would absolutely never play our Lambchop song at one of our own dinner parties, but I’m making this exception for y’all [laughs].

The way that I’ve sort of been going about writing the songs for this new record — and our track “Howe” in particular– is I essentially just use my voice and a software program. So I didn’t use a guitar or anything like that. Just simply using that technology and then sort of expanding upon it.

Usually at the end of a party when things are winding down, I’m doing the dishes and just kind of making sure that everything’s shipshape before I just go full boar into the chair and nod ride out like an old timer.