The Bootheels sprang to life for a few glorious months during the first half of 1988. Their brief existence was noted by a fortunate handful of friends and fans who happened to be in the right place and time to experience the youthful L.A. foursome’s meteoric creative surge and their equally swift dissolution. In between, the band developed a raw, distinctive rock ’n’ roll sensibility and a repertoire of catchy, funny, introspective songs that never had a chance to become records.
The Bootheels were composed of frontman/songwriter/bassist Luther Russell, who would later lead the Freewheelers before emerging as a prolific solo artist and half of Those Pretty Wrongs (with Big Star’s Jody Stephens); guitarist Jakob Dylan, who would soon achieve stardom as leader of the Wallflowers; future Wallflowers guitarist Tobi Miller, whose instrumental interplay with Dylan provided one of the Bootheels’ most notable sonic features; and drummer Aaron A. Brooks (who would go on to work with Moby, Lana Del Rey, and others).
These tracks (13 on LP plus three bonus tracks on CD/Digital) provide a glimpse into the origins of teenage musicians who would rise to greater heights than they could ever have imagined. The packaging contains photos and an aural history of the band — with interviews with all four members conducted and assembled by noted writer Scott Schinder. The resultant compilation, 1988: The Original Demos, is due out on CD, LP and Digital via Omnivore Recordings on September 24, 2021.
Russell said of the band’s short tenure, “We only played two shows outside of the garage, bottom-of-the-bill Tuesday night gigs at the Troubadour and at Madame Wong’s West. But otherwise, it was really hard for us to get gigs. That may have been because of our ages, since three of us were under 18. But it was also sketchy just being an unknown band playing this kind of music.”
Jakob Dylan: “The band ended when I moved to New York to attend art college. The Bootheels was really Luther’s band, and I knew I’d eventually need one of my own. But it was truly an incredible beginning to learning all the things a band might include. We had a great one for a really short time.”
Tobi Miller: “I can only imagine how the Bootheels would have evolved had we stayed together. When we formed the band, Luther was already a fully developed singer-songwriter. Although Jakob wasn’t singing in the Bootheels at that time, he was writing songs and already showing signs that he could be a brilliant songwriter as well. So it’s really daunting to think how strong the Bootheels would have been had we given it enough time for all the songwriting talent in the band to develop together.”
Aaron A. Brooks: “Had we stayed together, I think we would have accomplished extremely great things musically. All the pieces were in place. I’ve absolutely no regrets, as we’ve all had amazing careers, but I know it would have been a wonderful trip, had the stars aligned. We didn’t really break up. We just quietly dissipated, like the debris and dust settling after a massive explosion.”
Produced for release by Russell and Grammy®-winner Cheryl Pawelski, it’s not a story of what might have been, but of a powerful one that was. However briefly the Bootheels’ light shined, 1988: The Original Demos shows that it indeed shone bright!
1. See It in Your Eyes
2. Thing Called Love
3. Empty Wallet, Empty Bottle, Empty Heart
4. The Deal
5. Wasted Dime
6. Interstate 68 Blues
7. Got Me on My Knees
8. Glad It All Worked Out
9. Halfway There
10. B-Line for You
11. Seven Seas
12. Queen of Hearts
13. Too Many People
14. Images of You [Bonus Track]
15. All I Want Is You [Bonus Track]
16. Think Of The Time [Bonus Track]