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Charlie Robison, Live Columbia
Scanning a pre-release
track listing of Live my initial thought was "what's
the point why even bother?" Getting beyond that impression
took several spins. With the exception of "Walter"
(the wild card in this collection - a studio recording of a new
song that surprisingly was not written by either Robison brother)
you won't find much new here. These performances, culled from
a two-night stand at Gruene Hall, contain the obvious set list
including a repeat of all four of Charlie's tunes from Unleashed
Live ("Barlight" is a fun song, but a version on four
of Robison's five releases, two of them live, seems like overkill).
My hope was that Charlie would use this as an opportunity
to record songs that were longtime staples of his live shows.
Covers like John Prine's "Daddy's Little Pumpkin" or
the Stones "Dead Flowers." Possibly include some new
material written by one of the Robison boys. No doubt marketing
advice would nix the latter and Charlie dropped those covers
from his show at least two or three years ago. He's beyond that
point. Maybe I should be too.
If the purpose of a live disc is accurately reflecting what
could be expected from an artist's current show this does the
job. Close your eyes and listen. You'll imagine lead guitarist
Kevin Carroll bouncing around the stage as he plays "Barlight."
As "Tonight" segues into a slowed down cover of AC/DC's
"You Shook Me All Night Long" you'll envision Charlie's
sly grin as he talks about pissing off the older crowd by playing
heavy metal while dragging Main in Bandera. I can almost taste
the Shiner Bock as I picture the twenty-somethings raising their
glass with a loud yeehaw while the gray-hairs wear a nostalgic
smile. Maybe this disc is just what it should be after all. --AK
Heather Morgan, Six Strings And Slow Backroads
debut album is chock full of surprises. You never know from one
minute to the next if you are going to love or hate the cd. Her
voice can wash over you like a gentle waterfall, or get on your
nerves almost as much as an evening with the in-laws. Credit
this to producer Scott Melott trying to showcase what is certainly
a beautiful voice, but not knowing when to rein in and keep it
mellow. Her lyrics can switch from poignant to trite in the space
of a stanza, and leaving you wondering why. Credit this to the
fact that she is only 22 years old and not having the life experience
to convey all that she wants to say. Look for the gems "Mississippi,"
"Night By The River," and a cover of The Band's "The
Weight." Despite its shortcomings, I'd still advise you
to get this cd, and here's why: Chances are, Heather Morgan is
going to be a star. She has too much talent not to be. --DM
Randy Hopper, Big Texas Boys
(Ed. note: This record
is one of those that simply fell through the numerous cracks
here at Rockzillaworld through no fault of the artist.)
Here's a record that sat in the To Do pile for a long time
simply because the demo copy we received came through the mail
slot without any liner notes or other information. Don't even
know who played on the disc. And nine times out of ten the records
that show up in the above condition are well-meaning labors of
love from pickers who couldn't sing their way out of a karaoke
machine. On the one hand, we don't want to hurt their feelings.
On the other hand, we don't want to waste your time as you read
through our site. So Hopper's record sat and gathered dust.
Oops. Big reverb here, y'all. Tasty lead guit licks greasier
than the ribs at Stubb's. Meaty vocals that almost crystallize
when they need to and set new records for loosely controlled
throaty raggedness the rest of the time. There are some throwaway
tracks here that aim too squarely for that "I's born here
and that makes me a better Texan'n, uh, Sam Houston" crowd,
but when you score those in the up-and-trying-gotta-score-an-audience-somehow
category they lose some of their bitter taste. The rest of Big
Texas Boys is a genre merging sampler growling blues
interspersed with country and rock that ultimately balance out
to a surprisingly competent piece of ear candy. There's work
to do, but Hopper's playing the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex like
a madman and honing his chops. This record's one that's ready-made
for summer grilling and coldbeer. Randy keeps it up, the next
one's liable to be a barnburner for the big time. Get on over
and listen for yourself. -- DP
T.J. Casey, Blue Montana Skies
Ahhhh ha. Western
swing, y'all. Campfires and coffee in metal pots. Cold beer and
hot dance floors. Rodeos and cowgirls. All that stuff you haven't
heard since Bob Wills was playing Panther Hall. Except what T.J.
Casey's laying down is all new. That's right, original cowboy
music cut from the old cloth and sounding familiar, but every
last lyric and note something new and fresh. Cowboy music that
a cowboy would still be making in the 21st century if there were
any real cowboys left. Reckon there's at least one, been doing
it for 25 years and writing poetry and songs along the way. This
record is one nice listen that'll take you straight to the prairie
if you're of a mind to go. Casey's voice isn't quite the vibrant
brush that, say, Don Edwards' is prone to be, but it's a beauty
nonetheless and if you listen close enough you're bound to smell
the smoke and hear the horses staked out under the trees. It's
refreshing to hear this style of music without the obligatory
shot at "Streets of Laredo" or "Strawberry Roan."
It's good for the soul to realize that the legend is still alive
out there somewhere in the middle of Montana, and that if you've
got the itch it's as easy as hitting Play to get the big city
to turn you loose and set you free.
Get Blue Montana Skies at www.tjcasey.net, and while you're there read
some poetry that'll open up the pores and spring a mountain sunset
on your soul. --DP
Country Blue, O Brother, Here They Come
Try and form a sentence
using the words "alternative country rock band," "Philadelphia
metro area," "Delaware valley music scene," and
"New Jersey native" without cracking a smile. I dare
you. Well, if you need a little convincing, as I did, that those
seemingly disparate elements could add up to a pretty damn good
sound, Country Blue offers up their latest disc O Brother,
Here They Come.
Comprised of singer/songwriters Bobby Kirk and Michael Orzek,
these backsliding Yankees provide some very convincing raw, earthy,
and soulful country-, rock-, and blues-influenced tunes. The
voices aren't pristine, but they fit the music perfectly. Check
out tracks like "Carly's Song," "Concrete Cowboy,"
"Snake Skin Boots," and "Fast Cars and Cheap Cigars"
and see if their placement on the unfortunate side of the Mason-Dixon
line isn't soon forgiven and forgotten.
John Paul Martin & Southbound 35, Jamaica Texas.
Texas is a scary
fuckin' place - - musically. I've been to open mic nights there
where the least talented in the bunch could be a headliner in
any number of other cities. But such an argosy of ability can
also be a detriment, as some very talented folks can be easily
overlooked by listeners simply overwhelmed by the quantity as
well as the quality of performers. I can only hope that such
a fate doesn't befall John Paul Martin & Southbound 35 because
if their new release, Jamaica Texas, is any indication,
these boys are one of the more promising country bands out there.
With a sound that is a hybrid of Cross Canadian Ragweed and
Aaron Watson, John Paul Martin & Southbound 35 have a lively
style that easily straddles the distance between the classic
and modern honky-tonk. With songs like "San Antone,"
"Rarin' To Go," "Dallas Women," and "The
Tears Look Like The Rain," they have just enough sawdust
to keep the traditionalists happy while not neglecting a tip
of the Ball Cap to the sovereign Nation.
Jayson Bales, Pretty Good Year
In Jayson Bales'
press material, he's compared to Robert Earl Keen no less than
five times. This is doing a grave injustice to both artists.
Jayson Bales bears little if any similarity to the poet from
Bandera, but that is not meant as a slight to Mr. Bales, because
he has a style that is uniquely his own. Jayson Bales is a folk
singer, and on Pretty Good Year he displays a literary
deftness with his story-songs that few songwriters today possess
let alone attempt.
By the end of the ten tracks, you come away with the same
feeling you do as when you finish an exceptionally well-written
collection of short stories. The people, places and situations
are etched with such detail and framed in such familiarity that
a feeling of dj vu hovers long after the disc is over. The song
"El Capitan de Galveston" is one of the best I've heard
this year, and, honestly, the CD is worth the price just for
the hilarious "The Love Song." Very impressive work
from a songwriter who shouldn't have any problem finding a niche
for himself in the Texas music scene.
F.Co, The King of Texas. Self-released
Well, y'all are about to be privy
to the most succinct review in my rather verbose history. Let's
see ... F.Co's lyricist is an award-winning ad copywriter --
something he inexplicably admits to with no shortage of pride
in their press release -- and their music sounds as though it
was learned by rote via a "you too can play guitar"
home video course. The only thing even remotely original is that
their name has a period in the middle of it and could be mistaken
for something obscene by the khaki-wearing microencephalitic
frat boys who more than likely are the core audience for this
Bottom line: If F.Co spent a sixteenth of the time working
on their music as they do picking out their t-shirts, they might
Anytown, Welcome Home.
Easy on the ears,
largely acoustic and deeply melodic, Anytown seems at once in
tune with and isolated from the sorts of bands that Dallas tends
to let escape into the great big world. Between Colby Logan and
Jason Dickson's jangly James Taylor-influenced guitar work and
their Gram Parsons-breathy vocals, this self-produced debut fairly
overflows with pretty pop numbers. Unlike Denton neighbors Deep
Blue Something, who got inside everybody's head a few years back
with that "Breakfast at Tiffany's" tune, though, these
guys understand how to construct a melody. As opposed to one
insatiable half-life-longer-than-that-of-a-cockroach's hook.
And the overall appeal ranks an order of measure beyond any of
the atonal crap the New Bohemians unleashed on us just before
grunge became prevalent. The copy of Welcome Home we got
here at Rockzillaworld lacked liner notes not even
song titles. But Scott Miles' percussion stays spot-on throughout
and leads Lee Pool's bass in directions just subtle enough to
drive from the back seat. Logan and Dickson trade vocals here
and there, though we don't know who's singing what at which juncture.
Doesn't matter much, though; they're both solid vocalists with
a deft feel for the degree of sound and delivery each cut needs
to come alive.
The usual themes apply, love lost and found and souls laid
bare by the warfare of urban nightlife. Somewhere between Jackopierce
and Robert Earl Keen most of the time, with hints of George Michael's
Faith era thrown in for seasoning here and there, the journey
seems worth the while. My wife, who was born under a Stevie Nicks
moon and never gave it up, put this one on endless repeat. Said
it reminds her of the time when Fleetwood Mac was relevant and
the world was a better place.
* Online at www.anytownonline.com.
Worth a visit if you need some new back porch grill easy listening
music to remind you that Dallas has some decent musicians if
you know where to look for them.--DP
David Piper, All My Angels Past. Trough Records
The Trough Records
web site calls David Piper and their other acts part of the Acoustic
Underground movement in Southern California." "Date
with a Rattlesnake" is equal parts Frank Zappa parody and
acid-soaked '60s-folkie rave-up while "Heroes and Princesses"
has a country waltz accompaniment, but for the most part All
My Angels Past is folk in the worst sense of the term.
Tunes like "That's How" ("Tell me about the
great ones from long ago / how they made their mark on you /
speak to me of olden days when you were young") and "From
a Soldier Dying Young" (inspired by a group of 18-year-old
soldiers from Ohio who were ambushed and killed in the Civil
War) are typical folk fare. Piper is more Glenn Yarbrough than
Townes Van Zandt, more the Brothers Four than Country Joe McDonald.
He's the stereotypical earnest folksinger who drives me out of
coffee shops and into bars in search of the true acoustic underground.
www.trough.com or www.davidpiper.net --AK
Two Cow Garage, Please Turn the Gas Back On.
With a rocking sound
reminiscent of old indie rockers The Replacements, Ohio's Two
Cow Garage go for the throat with their debut disc, Please
Turn the Gas Back On. What they lack in technical skills
they more than make up for with pure adrenalized energy.
The only thing that really allows them to be considered alt.country
is the occasional steel guitar or fiddle thrown in for a few
short notes. However, they do this very effectively on the opening
track "Been so Long." After rocking out for the first
couple of minutes, they suddenly slow the tempo down and bring
in a beautiful warm fiddle line which winds things down through
the final minute of the song. I admit that I'm a sucker for the
mid-song tempo change (done to perfection in the ending piano
section of Eric Clapton's "Layla"). It shows some musical
originality to veer away from the regular path or song 'formula.'
On "Girl of my Dreams," Shane Sweeny (bass and vocals)
and Micah Schnabel (guitars and vocals) harmonize in their own
rockin' way. Usually when I write about harmony parts, I say
they blend together 'softly' or something like that. In this
case, they scratch together like a match on the side of a matchbox.
Their matching screams show appreciated intensity.
Having only been together a few years, this is a raw but fresh
effort from Two Cow Garage. They may be a little wet behind the
ears, but they certainly pack a punch. As they roll around the
country this year on their first club tour ever, I'm sure their
musicianship will improve by leaps and bounds. While this record
is good, their next one could be great. www.twocowgarage.com --KM
Stephanie Urbina Jones, Stephanie Urbina Jones. Casa
I like shakin' things
I like pushin' the boundaries
I like livin' my life on the edge
And chasin' far fetched dreams
Stephanie Jones songwriting career received its biggest boost
when two of these songs were recorded by Nashville singers Lorrie
Morgan ("Shakin' Things Up") and Jon Randall ("She
Reminds Me of Texas," recast as "He Reminds Me . .
." here). The first, a rockin' tune with attitude, ain't
bad. Although the second is accompanied by a weeping steel guitar
that sounds great, Jones' vocals sound too much like a country
diva, kind of Celine Dion does Nashville. These two cuts tell
the story of the rest. While all sound good musically (especially
when Jones spices them with a little Tex-Mex from her native
San Antonio), the slow tempo tunes are easily forgettable while
the up-tempo cuts stick with you. The best of these, "Left
of Center," is a tale of romance between a combat boot,
cowboy hat wearing girl and a bible toting Harley rider.
I keep telling myself I should like this disc more. The A-team
supporting cast includes Dan Dugmore and Larry Franklin (who've
each played on hundreds of records, most of 'em pretty good)
guitarist Kenny Vaughn (Jim Lauderdale, Rodney Crowell) and Darrell
Scott (Tim O'Brien, Guy Clark). No shortage of talent there.
I guess I'd prefer Jones get a little further left of center
and really shake things up. www.stephaniejones.net --AK
Clay Potter A Good Time For A Change Rettop
heroes are underrated. Doing their thing their way to the thrusting,
hollering, occasionally writhing adulation of the hometown crowd,
fighting shy of the big stage usually for good reason but still
more than capable at what they do, these are the acts that keep
the lights burning in the hidden honky tonks. Without them, we'd
all be standing in line at Country 2000 or some other flash in
the pan yuppie club patiently waiting to lay down our twenty
bucks for a Diamond Rio show. So God bless the Clay Potters of
the world. From the Charlie Daniels meets Molly Hatchet shredding
of "The Heat" to the standard but still beautiful balladry
of the title track, Potter's A Good Time For A Change
serves up clean white shirts and starched blue jeans in abundance.
Flashes of beer-stained brilliance take a star turn from time
to time, as evidenced by "You've Got No Business":
I know you've come to take her
God I wish it wasn't true
You'll touch her just the way you used to do
I guess my heart has known all along after all that we've been
I only took good care of her for you
But for every "Mattie" reminding us of the good
old days when George Strait would tell a story, there's a "Baby
Come Back" that's good for filling a dance floor but somewhere
south of suited for airplay. Potter can pull off upbeat ("There
You Go") but here he misses more than he hits. For now 2003's
release on RETTOP Records indicates this might be a band you
want to hear live if you're in North Texas. Check out the schedule
Time will tell whether the sparks of local genius here will translate
into a viable recording career. Clay's a good'n, but if this
is the sounding board he's not quite there yet. A Good Time For
A Change is the record you play when you're throwing a hootenanny
of your own out back with some friends and some ice chests. Good
a thing as that is, repeated listens give the impression Potter
can do better. We'll see. --DP