Local songwriter starting his show with a ‘Bang’

Fred McCormick

When Frank “Bang” Blinkal and the Cook County Kings take the stage at Pisgah Brewing Co. on Thursday, May 19, they will be performing songs from their upcoming album “The Blues Don’t Care.”

The album is a return to the blues sound that Blinkal became known for while playing alongside renowned musicians such as Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Buddy Guy. But the title track is connected to Black Mountain by songwriter Dan Johnston, who will be opening for Frank Bang and the Cook County Kings.

Johnston owned the Town Pump Tavern from 2000-09. He didn’t begin writing music until 2004, around the time he met Blinkal, who goes by the name of Frank Bang.

“My involvement with music early on really revolved around just booking acts with good, original music,” he said. “Frank played for us a few times, and we became friends. When he was in town he would come over to the house and we would play music together.”

Bang was so impressed by Johnston’s skills as a songwriter he used three of his songs on the album “Double Dare,” recorded with his band the Secret Stash in 2013.

“I felt validated as a songwriter that he would use my songs on the album,” Johnston said. “It’s different when your friends and family hear you and say ‘Oh, that’s wonderful,’ than when professional critics are writing about your work.”

“Double Dare” featured the songs “18 Wheels of Hell,” “This is What It’s All About” and “My Own Country Way,” all written by Johnston, who describes the tracks as “more in the vein of Americana, although ‘18 Wheels of Hell’ I really see as a rockabilly song, in its truest form.”

Johnston will be joined on the Pisgah stage by local musician David Bryan, who himself has played with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Artimus Pyle, formerly of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“I’ve been friends with David for a long time,” Johnston said. “A lot of people are familiar with him from when he used to host open mic night at the Pump and the acoustic jam at Dark City Deli. We’ve been playing music together for many years.”

Johnston credits the many singers and songwriters that he booked at the Town Pump with giving him the inspiration to begin writing music.

“I’ve always been really into the artists that tell great stories and bring out emotions through songs,” he said. “And after hearing many of them I decided one day that I would try that.”

Johnston considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with those artists after their shows, which allowed him to hone his craft. He wrote “The Blues Don’t Care” and shared it with Bang the last time he came to visit.

“He immediately gravitated towards it,” Johnston said. “And with him being a much better guitar player than I am, he really knows how to play the blues, he started working on it right there on the spot.”

And with his chemistry with Bang, Johnston said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the headliner join him and Bryan onstage.

“It will just be David and I, but Frank may sit in to play with us on the songs that he used on his album,” Johnston said. “That’s something that he’s done in the past when we’ve played together.”

Johnston said his set will offer many of the familiar trappings of country tunes.

“There might be some drinking, some heartache and maybe a love song or two,” he said. “It will be real and straightforward. There are no mysteries to what I’m talking about.”

“The Blues Don’t Care” can be heard on frankbang.net. The album is scheduled for release in the summer.

Blues-tinted glasses

Who: Frank Bang and the Cook County Kings, with Dan Johnston

When: May 19

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $7 advance, $10 show