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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.

Previous Quick Notes!

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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

Heather Morgan's 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 to randyhopper.com 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.

*www.countryblue.com --JB


 
 

John Paul Martin & Southbound 35, Jamaica Texas. Jackrabbit Records

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.

*www.southbound35.com. --JB


 
 

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.

www.jaysonbales.com--JB


 
 

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 tripe.

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 be tolerable.--JB


 
 

 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. Shelterhouse Records

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 Del Rio

I like shakin' things up
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 Records

Local 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 through
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 at www.clayapotter.com. 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


 
     

 
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