Crate-diggers have a new reason for rejoicing. A long sought-after collectors’ item, White Boy & the Average Rat Band’s 1980 self-titled debut, has been reissued by Heaven and Hell Records on CD, and digital formats.
The band was the project of Mike Matney, a Nashville-by-way-of-Richlands, Va. guitarist who played in David Allen Coe’s band for a while. His nickname of “White Boy” was given to him during an earlier stint where he fronted an otherwise all-black Nashville funk band named Taboo. Upon returning home, he picked up studio time, tracking the album with friends in exchange for working in the record store in the front.
The tracks on White Boy and the Average Rat Band mostly mine that territory between punk and classic metal that made Motorhead made famous. The guitar tone and riffs on “Neon Warriors” and “Maybe I’m a Fool” sound like a talented rural Bible Belt band’s attempt to be Black Sabbath, and there’s a winning, raw DIY energy to it. But there’s also an experimental streak, with “Blue Moon” showing off Matney’s acoustic blues fingerpicking chops and “Sector 387” being reminiscent of Alex Chilton’s deconstructionist work.
When the album was completed, Matney and bassist Tommy Altizer had 300 copies pressed in Nashville, although 50 of those got lost at the bus station on the way back. But the band, like most, didn’t last much longer.
Many years later, Matney got a call from the father of an old friend looking to track down copies because they were selling for $125. Bootlegs followed, adding to the band’s mystery while increasing demand and the album’s value.
We’ve embedded the original eight songs below, and check out this 2012 interview with Matney at L.A. Record for more info. Over at Bandcamp, you can buy the digital album and the CD, which is limited to 500 copies, adds five bonus tracks and an eight-page booklet with Matney’s liner notes. They also plan to release 500 more on vinyl, with 400 copies in standard black and 100 in coke-clear.