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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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Forgotten is forgiven."
Give Joe a mulligan here.
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
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
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.
for more. --AK
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