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How much can one fan of OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) accomplish in just a couple of years? Plenty, if it's Rockzilla, aka photographer Michael Johnson. From 2003 to 2005, rockzilla.net was a chronicle of the alt.country scene from a uniquely Texan perspective. But all good things must end, and Rockzilla has retired from the online 'zine scene.

This mirror site was copied from the rockzilla.net site with the express permission of Rockzilla hisself. If you don't believe me, go to the KHYI-Fans email list and ask him! Buddy will back me up, too.



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Quick Notes! is compiled by the Rockzillaworld staff.
 

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Earl Musick, Done Deal. Reload Records

Judging from Earl Musick's picture on the cover of his new disc, Done Deal, I was thoroughly expecting either a bit of back porch country or some outlaw tales of hard-won experience. What I got instead was a little taste of DIY done DFW style. Musick founded Reload Records as a means to record his own music as well as a way to gain exposure for some of the numerous musicians that haunt the fringes of the Ft. Worth area, and the songs on Done Deal exemplify the cavalier attitude and unique sound his down-home operation revels in. Owing more to Rusty Weir and Simon Stokes than to Hank Williams, Jr., Earl Musick runs the gamut from good ol' rock 'n' roll ("A Good Thing Just Got Better") to Cowtown funk ("Caught in the Middle") to progressive country ("American Dreamer") to western swing ("Doing Things"). Blurring lines between genres and defying categories like only the inspired, the insane, or the oblivious are capable of.

Done Deal is homemade music in the truest sense of the phrase. So, if you're looking for an overproduced, characterless recording, then you'd best go elsewhere, but if you're in search of some real music -- the kind that can be heard coming from that little hole-in-the-wall bar on Tuesday and Wednesday night -- where heart means more than vocal cords, then Done Deal should make you feel right at home.--JB

www.reloadrecordcompany.com


Brazos Brothers Band, Harmony Road. Reload Records

If you've ever wondered what the offspring of a Peter, Paul and Mary and Crosby, Stills and Nash liaison might sound like, or have ever found yourself yearning for a more hippie version of Firefall, then wonder and yearn no more because Reload Records offers you Harmony Road by the Brazos Brothers Band. Now while the members of the group are not brothers in a familial sense, they have certainly forged a unique brotherhood musically, producing a sound that is a throwback to '60s folk and '70s soft rock with just a touch of country. Original songs like "Being Friends," "Easy," "My Best Friend," and "Quietly Waiting" wouldn't sound out of place on any K-Tel Best of AM radio collection. The musicianship is clean and tight, the lyrics for the most part are thoughtful, and the overall feel of the disc is like listening to a group of friends singing in someone's living room.

The Brazos Brothers Band's Harmony Road was not made to make anyone famous or wealthy; instead, it is music being made by veteran musicians for the sheer joy of making it, and if you decide you want to listen in, I'm sure they wouldn't mind.--JB

www.reloadrecordcompany.com


Drexel, Ohio, Drexel, Ohio. Donger Records

Drexel, Ohio's eponymous latest effort showcases in painstakingly detailed clarity just how agonizing life must be in states above the Mason-Dixon. If this is what passes for small-town bar bands these days, it's time for someone to take over that scene the way Sam Walton did with the corner five-and-dimes. The largely piano and synthesizer-driven arrangements manage to deftly weave fragments of beauty into an otherwise stark and chilling aural landscape. Production is sparse at best, and serves to further illustrate the value of the music this happily talent-free duo has chosen to record. Consider the final track, "Subaru Blues," with these intriguing liner notes: "You wanna hear something fuckin' real? The true tale of an afternoon of teenage alcohol abuse, offers of group sex and four-wheeling gone awry." Or don't. Ben Kenobi once said that all things could be true or relevant -- from a certain point of view. David Sparks and Brian Pelfrey, Drexel, Ohio's main residents, have apparently attained a vantage point most others won't reach. Reasons for that achievement (or failure, depending one's point of view) will vary.--DP


Belleville, My Friends Are My Estate. De-Tona Records

One of the problems with classifying music is that it almost always does a disservice to the bands that come to be defined by a specific genre. Take Belleville, whose latest release My Friends Are My Estate has enough pedal steel, bluegrass-inspiration and harmonica to guarantee them a spot among the legions of alt-country wannabes. Add to that the fact that the band is named after Belleville, IL, the hometown of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, and Belleville would appear to have painted themselves into a creative corner. And while alt-country may not be an entirely inaccurate label, Belleville proves to operate as much in the pop tradition as they do in country or roots rock. My Friends Are My Estate is loaded with tight, clever tunes that show Belleville to be smarter and more skilled than many of the bands they are likely to be classified with.

The opening track, "Light," is a shuffling rave-up that sets the tone for what follows. Particularly telling, however, is the second cut, the Pernice Brothers' "Wait to Stop." Joe Pernice, formerly of the Scud Mountain Boys, has been stuck with the alt-country label even as he produces consistent pop gems that defy the categorization. Belleville stays relatively true to the original, complete with string accompaniment and Beach Boy harmonies. The choice of cover material hardly seems incidental. Just as Pernice continues to defy his alt-country categorization, Belleville appears poised to follow his lead.

"Sunday" opens with a Bacharach-esque trumpet flourish and piano accompaniment. Front man Mark Caputo sings, "Life can be a hard master, I know, I've done my time," setting the tone for the entire album. What follows is a fine album that bounces between styles like flipping through a music fan's record collection. And apparently, Belleville is indeed a group of music fans. Unfortunately, there are a couple of missteps along the way, namely the bluegrass inspired "Cabin in the Pines" and the lyrically awful "Shy." Still, Belleville has managed to create a gem of an album that continues to grow more and more appealing with each listen. With any luck, Belleville will avoid any labels placed on them and continue to make solid music for music fans uninterested in genre limitations.

--DW

* www.milesofmusic.com


 
 

Mark Merritt, Peace of Me. Reload Record Company

Reload Records is a small, indie company out of Fort Worth, Texas, that specializes in signing and recording local talent. Superficially that would seem about as daunting a task as finding a bow tie at a Nation of Islam rally, but music history is littered with stories of musicians whose formidable talents in live performance simply refuse to translate into the studio. Now, I'm not sure what he sounds like live, but based on Mark Merritt's debut CD, Peace of Me, Reload Records has made one hell of a discovery.

To label the disc eclectic would be an understatement. Mark Merritt either wrote or co-wrote all ten of the tracks, and from song to song the musical magnetic north that is Texas music is displayed prominently. Mr. Merritt walks the gamut from folk-rock ("Great Unknown," "Watered Down, Washed Up") to roadhouse bar rock ("Way Past Cool") to classic/Southern rock ("If I'm Dreamin'") to country ("Stay the Course") to Django Reinhardt inspired jazz ("Snappy in 'G-Whiz'"), all with equal aplomb and envy-inducing musicianship. In fact, I would put Mark Merritt right up there with the best guitar players the Lone Star State currently has to offer -- and while I'm at it, he just may be one of the best bass players also.

Peace of Me is one of those rare discs that, because of its diversity and the artist's faculty with the varying styles, never becomes dull. Mark Merritt has made quite a statement with his debut disc -- one that Texas has already been fortunate enough to hear, and the rest of the country desperately needs to.

Go to www.reloadrecordcompany.com to pick up Peace of Me. --JB


 
 

Trailerpark Troubadours, Doublewide and Dangerous. Riostar Entertainment

With titles like "Skinny Women Ain't Hip" ("nah, bony ain't beautiful, bite your lip"), "Aunt Beulah's Roadkill Overcoat," "Mud Wrasslin' at Pinky's (the epic hepcat rap detailing a mud wrestling grudge match between Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart), "Wreck of the Bookmobile," "Redneck Aphrodisiac," and their original hit, "It Ain't Home 'Til You Take the Wheels Off," the Trailerpark Troubadours' original release Doublewide and Dangerous has become an underground bubba classic. Antsy McClain and his partner Flem have taken their trailerpark comedy schtick to a level of artistry most comedy acts only aspire to. Produced by Waylon vet Richie Albright, Doublewide shows these talented musical comedians to be a complete package of hijinks and melody.

The Troubadours' career received a huge push after George Jones heard them and scheduled them to do some opener dates with him. They recorded a second album, Now all they need is for CMT to come up with a sequel to Hee Haw.

* The Trailerpark Troubadours have a third album, Living in Aluminum - LIVE! which was released Dec. 5, just in time for the Xmas shopping season. Go to www.unhitched.com and purchase the new one, the rerelease of Doublewide and Dangerous, and Way Cool World. Then you'll only need one more hubcap to have a full set.--WMS


 
 

Paint It Black. Madacy Records

A tribute to "the world's greatest rock and roll band," Paint It Black is a smart concept, hooking up some of Jamaica's reggae stars with primo material from the Rolling Stones. Reprising well-known Stones' hits by legendary reggae warriors like Toots and the Maytals (doing "Start Me Up") and a host of other Kingston outfits, the collection serves not only to highlight the universal appeal of Jagger/Richard lyrics but also demonstrates the breadth of the sound called reggae and the subtle virtuosity of reggae musicians.

The most interesting interpretation is Sugar Black's rendition of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which combines the guitar lightning of Richard's original chording with Marley-esque singing and rhythm. Steel Pulse's take on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Andrew Francis's version of "Under My Thumb" come off as reggae-gone-MoTown,while Chalice's "Paint It Black" is even more sinister than the original, becoming theme music for a voodoo ritual here. The Heptones' "Satisfaction" sounds like a new theme for The Harder They Come and Glenn Ricks' "Honky Tonk Woman" smokes like one of Marley's potent sacramental fatties.

Paint It Black makes a perfect soundtrack for your next Rasta congregational smokeout.--WMS


 
 

Gato Barbieri , The Shadow of the Cat. Peak Records

The movie Last Tango in Paris was the first exposure to Buenos Aires saxophonist Gato Barbieri for some of us children of the '60s. During some of the scenes in a Paris tenement apartment, Marlon Brando could hear a black saxophonist practicing in an adjacent room. The fluid does-he-ever-breathe sax was incredibly sensual, yet had a dangerous, druggy edge that fit the mood of the movie perfectly. The movie changed Barbieri from a Latin jazz star into an internationally recognized figure in the music world. It was also partly responsible for opening the psychedelic generation's eyes to jazz.

The Shadow of the Cat is the 70-year-old Barbieri's 50th album. Producer Jason Miles has rerecorded some of Barbieri's best known works including the Lat Tango theme. What emerges is part jazz, part worldbeat, all brassy and funk-a-pated in that beautiful Latin rhythm way. Barbieri is a master of his instrument and he is paired here with trumpeter Herb Alpert and with the wonderful jazz singer, Cassandra Reed. The music just oozes out of the grooves.

* If smooth jazz is your thing, The Shadow of the Cat will be a must; hot enough for winter but cool enough for summer. www.peak-records.com --WMS


 
 

The Tractors, the big night. Boy Rocking Records/Audium Records.

Everyone knows The Tractors, right?

Their 2002 Christmas release, the big night, contains a stocking-full of Yuletide classics, with a few originals thrown in to spice up the musical egg-nog. It's a tight performance all around. Among the best performances are the covers of Willie's "Pretty Paper," the irrepressible, but ingratiating Chuck Berry toe-tapper "Run Run Rudolph," and the old, old "Christmas Time's a Comin'." There is plenty of groovy guitar work and joyful piano playing to go around on this one.

My favorite is "The Little Drummer Boy," one of the most intrinsically beautiful and most often-abused Christmas tunes of all time. It's always been very dear to me and if a performer wants my applause, he'd better have spent some time pondering the subtle expressions in it and learned to love it for them before ever trying it in public. Steve Ripley definitely gets it, and I recommend it.

This is a just a cool Christmas record. I've been playing it for everyone who comes to visit, and taking it to Christmas parties everywhere. I'm getting all kinds of mileage out of it, acting ultra-hip and cool.

Oh, yeah. It's a lot of fun, too. http://www.thetractors.com --SLW


 
 

Watercolor, Beautiful Mistakes. Independent.

There are certain catch-words in real-estate ads one must watch out for and recognize as being loaded with double-entendres that tell more than they are ostensibly meant to. "Quaint" often means ugly as sin; "fixer-upper" usually means dilapidated almost beyond repair.

There are also certain dubious words in common music parlance which are just as insidious. The words "ethereal," "heart-rending," and "moving," are some of the most often used. I hang onto my wallet when I see those words in a title or description. Each can almost always be best interpreted as indication that a record is utterly vapid. In addition to those verbal veils above, I will never buy a record that displays the words "essence," "cathartic," or "transcendent," on any visible face of the package. Now, with great remorse, I find that I will have to add "watercolor," to that list of tip-offs to avoid like the plague.

Watercolor is a Liz Hodder-Joe Pisapia collaboration. I think it has the most accurate title I've ever seen on an album: Beautiful Mistakes. This album has some beautiful instrumentation on it. It also contains some very poorly conceived singing and songwriting. Pisapia is a highly esteemed guitarist and songwriter, and both he and Liz can sing; they just shouldn't do it together. This is a collection of songs written mainly to showcase their ability to perform and harmonize together. Sadly, harmony only goes so far when good melodies and lyrics aren't anywhere nearby.

This could happen to anybody. When one is as intent on pushing the envelope of musical exploration as Joe is, it is bound to happen eventually.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Forgotten is forgiven." Give Joe a mulligan here.

http://www.watercolormusic.net --SLW


 
 

Mike McClue, Twelve Pieces. Compadre Records.

Mike McClure's solo effort Twelve Pieces is a collection of some of the best songs I have heard in a long time. The project started as just something he wanted to make and pass out to a few friends, but luckily they realized very quickly that these songs needed a bigger audience. So, taking a short break from his duties as frontman for Red Dirt pioneers The Great Divide, McClure "pieced" together a collection of songs he had written in the past few years. One of the highlights of the album is a song with Susan Gibson ("Wide Open Spaces") called "Wicked Game Of Hearts." McClure and Gibson have unique voices that blend to make an almost perfect duet. "Hotel Band" is a great love song written for McClure's wife, "Driftin'" is a song about the simple things in life, and "Between Two Thieves" is a powerfully religious song about the death of Christ. McClure is currently doing dual time promoting this solo effort along with a new offering from TGD. For more info Twelve Pieces and other projects visit www.mikemccluremusic.com/. --DM


 
 

Danny Dean and the Homewreckers, Growl Delirium Records

They say not to judge a book (or CD) by its cover. The front of Danny Dean and the Homewreckers' Growl CD depicts a group of 50s rockabilly refugees with hair and suits that would make Gene Vincent proud. In this case, Dean, a founding member of L.A. punk band Anti, delivers on the promise of the cover. The Homewreckers always keep one foot in the 50s, playing either rockabilly or swing. But covers from previously released compilation albums ("Pretty in Pink" from The Pretty in Pink Soundtrack Revisited and "Two Hearts" from a U2 tribute album, Even Better Than the Real Thing) show they aren't stuck in the 50s. Then there's the cover of Soft Cell's hit "Tainted Love" (originally a '60s soul song for T-Rex cohort Gloria Jones, not wimpy synth-pop). Recasting these songs into the Homewreckers' style works better than you might imagine.

Visit www.deliriumrecords.com or www.dannydean.com for purchase information. --AK


 
 

Julia Fordham, Concrete Love Vanguard Records

I associate Vanguard with folk acts like Joan Baez or Ian & Sylvia, but they're also the musical home for a long line of jazz artists. At first it's hard to imagine a style of popular music that could be further away from Rockzillaworld's focus than this. Fordham combines soulful vocals with jazzy musical accompaniment, well suited for the soft jazz radio format where she's getting the biggest promotional push. However at heart she's a singer-songwriter (writing or co-writing all of her material) and occasionally the lyrics get closer to the edge than you might expect ("I wanna to get lucky / I wanna to get laid / And I want to lay down in the bed that we made") on "Wake Up with You (The I Wanna Song)."

Disc highlights are "Wake Up with You" and "Roadside Angel," described as "a musical valentine to the late Minnie Ripperton." A hidden track of Ripperton's hit, "Loving You," and guest appearances by multiple Grammy nominee India.Arie and Billy Preston on keyboards make this one well worth your time if you're interested in expanding your musical horizons.

Visit www.juliafordham.com for more. --AK


 
 

Alex Whitmore, The Bar Farcist WMP Records

Those self-help books that purport to explain how to succeed in life advise playing to your strengths. On his latest release Denton, Texas' Alex Whitmore has done just that, listening to the fans that tell him his humorous songs are their favorites. The best of these from his previous releases (most reviewed elsewhere in Rockzillaworld) make up about half of this disc. The rest are previously unreleased tunes in the same vein.

Old favorites include "A Dog's Life," "Daddy's Little Girl," and "Chiggers." New songs include "The T and A in Texas" and "Eye of the Beerholder" (I bet you can figure these out on your own). Whitmore says he's sometimes told he "isn't country enough." Those who think that haven't heard the gem of his new tunes, "He Might Sound Like Merle," the story of a struggling songwriter who "headlines at Adair's on a Monday night." (He ain't no Merle / but he's lookin' pretty haggard to me / he's no Townes Van Zant / but he ain't trying to be"). If you like music that makes you smile, give this one a try.

Visit www.2aw.com to purchase information. --AK


 
     

 
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