Van Halen

Have fun Diamond Dave! Have fun!

Former Van Halen front man Roth Strummin’ With the Devil on bluegrass tribute
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The blond mane and leather pants are gone from his days fronting Van Halen in the ’80s. But David Lee Roth’s boisterous personality is still intact.
He was in town recently to promote his latest project, a bluegrass tribute to his former band called Strummin’ With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen that came out Tuesday, and he seemed every bit the Diamond Dave of old – a wisecracking, motormouth cross between Robin Williams and Wolfman Jack.
“It’s been 27 summers – like the way I put that?” he asked, explosively laughing. “That’s metric for years. Sounds like less. Sounds thinner (more loud laughter). Easier to digest, like, ‘I’m watching what I eat as opposed to I’m on a diet’ (laughter). I venerate the language also, sir (laughter).”
Roth’s emerged as Van Halen’s party-loving lead singer in the late ’70s and stayed with the group until splitting on less-than-amicable terms in 1985 for a solo career that started strong, then petered out. Rock fans still debate whether Van Halen was better under Roth or his successor, Sammy Hagar.
In January, Roth took on the daunting task of replacing Howard Stern on a syndicated morning show for CBS Radio. His show was cancelled in April.
In a posh hotel suite with the bed still unmade and empty beer bottles on the end tables, the 51-year-old picked up a guitar and played a country-flavoured tune he said he wrote when he was nine and discussed his appreciation for 1970s country-tinged rock acts like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
The tribute album began with Roth deciding he wanted to cut an acoustic record and putting out the word to some of Nashville’s finest pickers, including Blue Highway, the John Cowan Band, Mountain Heart, Larry Cordle and David Grisman. He said he wanted the album to be a credible interpretation of Van Halen, rather than a tongue-in-cheek exhibition.
“Nine times out of 10 when people do a tribute album or tribute songs for somebody, it’s what I call ‘white boys playing reggae,’ ” Roth said. “They know they can’t, we know they can’t, so they sing like they can’t and play like they can’t. They gently make fun of the idiom or sing in a false accent.
“My only real insistence was that we reinvent the songs completely. Take it way past where we found it to the degree you may not even recognize the song until the vocals come in, so other ingredients of the music present themselves that you may not have been consciously aware of before.”
As odd a concept as the record might seem, it mostly works. Hard rock classics like Panama and And the Cradle Will Rock … retain the energy of early Van Halen, but with mandolins and fiddles instead of electric guitars and drums. The first single, Jamie’s Cryin’, takes a new, mournful tone with the acoustic instrumentation.
Roth sings on only two tracks: Jump and Jamie’s Cryin’. The singer who made a career of leaping into the air on stage and surrounding himself with scantily clad women in his videos didn’t want to go over the top.
“I’ll never convince you that I’m either a cowboy or black. Those two songs stuck out as the most legitimate,” for his vocal style, Roth said.
If he had sung on the others, “Well … white boys playing reggae.”