Bio: “I’m Les Raww, I’m from Arkansas.”
In his song “Arkansas Killing Time,” Les Raww sings, “Take comfort in this guarantee: One day they will catch up to me. And you know that they’ll put me away in a grave dug in Arkansas clay.” Could this be a confession of guilt? Or, perhaps, an acknowledgement of good ol' fashioned karma going 'round?
Lester T. Raww was born in Merrietta, Georgia, moving to Florida to Virginia to Arkansas before trekking to San Francisco, California. How, then, does he justify calling himself “Les Raww from Arkansas?” His answer:
“Sun Ra once said, ‘Where you’re from is the last place you were at.’ Of course, he was talking about Saturn, and that's a long way from Arkansas.”
With a mother from Florence, Alabama and a father from Bakersfield, California, Raww was practically baptized in country and bluegrass. It was to the rhythm of an old rocking chair that Lester recalls his mother singing him to sleep with old-timey songs, particularly murder ballads. “Her mother and grandmother sang songs like ‘Skin and Bones Lady’ and ‘The Knoxville Girl,’ so she never thought twice about singing me to sleep with those tunes.” It is little wonder that Lester has made the murder ballad his specialty, his current project The Pine Box Boys dedicating themselves almost exclusively to the sub-genre.
But murder ballads make up only a small part of his overall output. “Murder ballads should be read figuratively. They are still about ‘the human condition,’ they are about love, sex, hate, trust, betrayal – all the stuff people have sung about for centuries. I find it just as easy to leave the killing out of a song and still get the same message across.” So why does he still return to songs about killing, stabbing, burying and such? “We’ll have to leave that to the therapist.”
His current project, The Pine Box Boys, have been making a name, and a mystique, for themselves by performing fast, energetic sets that actually make killing sound fun. Lest they be discounted as a novelty or specialty act, they include a few of Raww’s non-bloody material with songs like “Weary Friend,” “Bakersfield,” “And Your Lips,” and “Waiting for A Christmas Card.” Raww declares that The Pine Box Boys are so much fun to play with, he can’t imagine playing in a more mainstream combo, but he would like to get some of his “nicer” songs in to the hands of the right performers.
“I see myself working on two careers: fronting The Pine Box Boys, and songwriting. I don’t expect to record everything I write with PBB’s, some of the songs just don’t fit what the four of us are trying to do. But there are great voices out there that need good songs, and I’ve got a bunch of them.”
Joining him in The Pine Box Boys are bassist Col. Timothy Leather, stand-out drummer S. "Your Uncle" Dodds, and banjo-picker Possum Carvidi.
In 2005, The Pine Box Boys released Arkansas Killing Time on Trash Fish Records. They are currently touring the West and preparing for a European tour in early 2006.
For more information on The Pine Box Boys, go to www.thepineboxboys.com.