Acoustic Ross

ACOUSTIC ROSS's fiercely original take on life is a one-man assault on all things idiotic. Equal parts folk, punk, rock, blues, country, and pop, it's highly energetic Service With a Smirk. Nothing is safe, as ROSS skewers his targets - obsessive lovers, pet causes, pop culture, rampant stupidity - with a biting wit and a wild irreverence seldom seen in these hyper-PC times. Except, of course, on the Antfolk scene. Founded in NYC two decades ago by Antfolk patriarch LACH, and still centered primarily on the east coast, Antfolk has long been a haven for a unique brand of folk music that's as much Joey Ramone as it is Woody Guthrie. The name is something of a misnomer, really, since part of the idea was to counteract the mellow (boring) image associated with acoustic music in the 60's and 70's and return to a more 'classic' folk sound... Antfolk, however, is more an approach than a sound, but most Antfolk artists incorporate a healthy dose of humor into their music. And ACOUSTIC ROSS is one such artist. A steady diet of old comedy records (Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer) warped the young ROSS, and by high school his songwriting was already uniquely twisted. After that time, ROSS would learn more from punks like the Dead Kennedys and the Minutemen than from Paul Simon or James Taylor. "I was a smart-aleck from day one, and ended up getting sent to my room without dessert a lot," ROSS explains. "But all that taught me was that I had one chance for a good wisecrack, so I should always make it a really good one." That instinctive sarcasm, combined with a natural skepticism and a built-in BS detector, molded his acerbic wit, and helped hone that pointed sense of humor. In 1994, ROSS's first band, The Vaguerants, experimented with the humor and stripped-down instrumentation (Ňa snare, a cymbal, an acoustic bass, and meÓ) that would become ACOUSTIC ROSS trademarks. Armed with his guitar, his skewed perspective, and a DIY ethic stolen from punk, ROSS moved from his native Ohio to Springfield, MO in 1995 -- stripping that sound down to a bare minimum now -- and soon established a weekly gig at the Magic Bean coffee shop. From open-mike nights to opening for young punk bands to headlining nights on his own, his bizarre, darkly humorous original songs & parodies of pop hits endeared him to the coffee shop crowds and attracted a strong local following. Mixing in some heartfelt sentiments to offset the punch lines, ACOUSTIC ROSS moved to Tulsa, OK the following year and continued to carve out the peculiar niche he calls "Comedy Rock with a Dark Side." He's made several TV appearances, and his signature tune "Idiot" appeared on the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento radio show in 2000. "I've always gotten complaints and compliments on exactly the same material," ROSS notes, "so I guess I'm doing something right." In late 2001 it finally occurred to ACOUSTIC ROSS that he might indeed be an Anti-Folk artist, and he started throwing the word around a bit. It was Tulsa's first exposure to that word, and most didn't know what he was talking about. Not that they'd understood him much before that anyway. In early 2002 ROSS released his first independent CD, News From Around The Bend, and was later honored with a nomination from the Tulsa World newspaper in its annual Spot Music Awards ('Best None of the Above' category). He continues to perform regularly at a variety of venues around the Tulsa region, providing living proof that solo acoustic music doesn't have to be boring, quiet, or mellow.

The Tip:

CD REVIEW: ROSS, News From Around the Bend: If Ben Lee let his sense of humor loose, Ross wouldn't have much of a music career. But then, he doesn't really. Such is the fate of guys with guitars who have such sharp senses of humor. Ross knocks out catchy pop riffs on his acoustic guitar and sings always amusing, often hilarious slices of life, from well-meaning stalkers to pack rats and the other losers at open-mike night. His cynicism isn't too cutting, almost cuddly. -- Thomas Conner