Monday, April 30, 2012

Mo' Doom Ghost

Producer Britt Robisheaux shared with me the latest set of recordings from Doom Ghost: seven new songs, two of which will be released on a split 7-inch with War/Party in a couple of months. I was sorry I missed their performance at Doc's on Record Store Day, but these new sides show a clear progression from the demos that first caught my attention towards the end of last year.

Frontman Lavern Marigold and his boys paint with broad strokes and eschew everything inessential. This results in songs that are brief, but substantial. The ones here average two minutes or less, with the festival of self-flagellation they call "Shoes" (sample lyric: "I'm a cocksucking bastard, there's a reason I'm alone") the lengthiest at 2:32 and "Chem Trails," which sounds like a TV show theme, the shortest at just 47 seconds -- over before you know it, but long enough to burn itself into your synapses.

"I'm sitting on the fence between the past and the future, can't decide which way to go," Lavern sings on "Cherry Berry," the title to which might refer to the willful perversion of Chuck Berry's signature guitar gambit that propels the tune. There's plenty of slop here, in the grand tradition of the Replacements' cassette-recorded drunkfest The Shit Hits the Fans (particularly the "solos" at the end of "Dog") and Johnny Thunders' entire career, but that only goes to show that these guys possess the correct spirit. (Rock 'n' roll is not a music of technical precision, which players forget at their peril.) Lavern spits out the lyrics with a quiver in his voice, like Marc Bolan channeling Ray Davies, but he chops out the chords with slashing authority, while Jeremy Brown beats out a slapdash rhythm and new bassist Mama Cass (um, I'll bet that isn't his real name) thumps the thudstaff. Me like real much.

In a just universe that exists only in my imagination, somebody with a couple of grand in their ass pocket would release all of these songs along with the 2011 demos on an LP. Sure, it'd only be 20 minutes long, but so was The Kinks' Greatest Hits.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

4.27.2012, Oak Cliff

This week, Friday was my Monday (working the next five days), but Clay Stinnett, drummer and outsider artist extraordinaire, was having a show of his comic book paintings at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff -- that's right, the place where they arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, which has been undergoing a revival the past couple of years -- so my sweetie 'n' I headed over to the Cliff (second place I lived in Texas). Little did we know that we'd be getting more than we bargained for.

On the way, stopped for dinner at Norma's Cafe on Davis, my old neighborhood spot, and fell by the Kessler Theater to see Jeff Liles and Paul Quigg. Jeff informed us that Junior Brown was playing that night, and graciously invited us to come back after the art show to check him out. Paul -- who recorded a live album for Junior last night -- was still enthusing about the (shamefully underattended) Khaira Arby show the previous night. Khaira's a singer from Mali in Africa, who brought a band that included a couple of guitarists in the King Sunny Ade juju mode, and Dennis Gonzalez's Yells At Eels had opened with a four-horn front line that included ex-Ghostcar trumpeter Karl Poetschke, trombonist Gaika James, and altoist Aakash Mittal (a childhood friend of YAE drummer Stefan Gonzalez) alongside Dennis (who told me later that he'd particularly enjoyed the evening because "It's been a long time since I've written for four horns").

Headed up to Jefferson Boulevard, where I hadn't set foot in 35 years. As we were walking toward the theater, we heard drums, looked through a window, and saw Yells At Eels with Aakash Mittal performing before a small but attentive crowd at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. They were playing "Document for Toshinori Kondo," so I figured they might be finishing, but after the tune ended, Dennis waved us in and we took seats up front with his wife Carol. YAE played an absolutely blistering set. It'd been awhile since we'd seen them, and they seem to have reached a new plateau of intensely focused communication.

Stefan kicks the traps like a warrior god, molding and sculpting time and reveling in his authority. On bass, his brother Aaron looks like a naughty cherub as he wrestles monolithic slabs of sound from his upright. "They still kick my ass," their dad says, but from where I was sitting, it only looked like they were inspiring him to ever-wilder flights of exploration, and when Dennis picked up a gong, he and Stefan coordinated their hits with astonishing precision. It seems YAE's music is becoming more structured and arranged, while retaining its spontaneity and near-telepathic -- maybe make that genetic -- interplay.

There's a surprising amount of humor in YAE's performance, as they crack each other up with their own jokes, or Dennis vocalizes through his trumpet. A couple of times, Aakash Mittal looked like he was being fed to the lions before soloing in front of this crew, but he extemporized intriguing variations on the tunes' thematic materials, then dug deep and blew from the bottom of his feet like it was 1966 or something. The mutated funk groove of "Namesake" (dedicated to Dennis' dad) was a particular highlight, and they closed with a blazing rendition of "Wind Streaks in Syrtis Major," their new 7-inch on local indie Treefallsounds.

The Texas Theater was a great venue for Clay's show, with vast expanses of white wall that he filled with his large canvases, which evoke '50s pulp magazines as much as they do comic books, replete with lots of visual gore and sleaze, oozing colors and Clay's distinctive redneck-from-outer-space imagery. It seems like his bride Lanette has really helped him to kickstart his art career, and it's muy impressive how productive he is these days.

Clay's also kicking the traps with Saddle Tramp, a Dallas-based C&W outfit -- a far cry from the improv flights of Ghostcar, the indie rock of the Boom Boom Box, or the soul-Rawk of The Black Dotz, until one remembers that he also used to drum with Hank Hankshaw. They're playing in Fort Worth today at the Rahr Brewery from 1 to 3pm, when I unfortunately will be shilling potions 'n' lotions for the man.

Junior Brown looks something like Homer Simpson would if he was a honky-tonk muso, and when he lights into his self-designed "guit-steel," he evokes the spirit of every crazy country picker that ever touched a Telecaster, doing a sleight-of-hand act to switch between the straight guitar and steel necks. He uses a very unorthodox right hand technique (flatpick and two metal fingerpicks -- whenever he dropped one, his rhythm guitarist wife Tanya Rae would hand him one of hers) and plays a lot of runs that work of off hammering on open strings, while singing in a vocal range that you feel through the bottom of your feet before you hear. You'll come for the honky-tonk, but you'll stay for the blues and surf-rock.

He's a witty songwriter, too (although he avers that "just because I write 'em doesn't mean I can remember 'em"), and put us in stitches with his hits "My Wife Thinks You're Dead" and "Gotta Get Up Every Morning (Just To Say Goodnight To You)," as well as the brand-new "The Apathy Waltz" (a rumination on our modern technological malaise, which Junior played on Tanya Rae's acoustic) and one with the refrain "Hang up the phone and drive." My sweetie got one of Tanya Rae's picks as a souvenir, which she's keeping in the heart-shaped box that she bought at Ooh La La, a recently-opened gift wrap and novelty store that just opened across the street from the Kessler. It was a sold-out house -- typical for the Kess these days. We'll be back there on July 7th, when Ronald Shannon Jackson takes the stage, if not sooner. And that live album of Junior's should be a corker.

All in all, a nicely serendipitous evening. We may not get out of the house much, but when we do, we don't fool around. And we always have a good time in Oak Cliff. Nice to have such good friends there.

Monday, April 23, 2012

4.21.2012, FTW

I don't post anymore about every goddamn show that Stoogeaphilia plays, because I can't always remember details and who really cares, anyway? (How Mike Watt is able to write a novella in the van after every gig is beyond me.) But thisun was special -- our sixth anniversary as a band, and Record Store Day at Doc's Records, which is now located way the hell out on Highway 80 West instead of down the street from me like it used to be. (Hembree told me, "If you'd said it was by Grissom's Jewelry -- where I've bought every relationship-significant piece of jewelry in my entire life -- I'd have known exactly where it was." So there.)

I'd originally tried booking a Wednesday night at Lola's, which we consider our home, since it's the successor to the Wreck Room, where we played our first-ever show on a Wednesday night, 4.19.2006. Our intention was to play two sets for free, the way we did every month at the Black Dog Tavern before it closed unexpectedly at the end of 2006. But Spune Productions already had something booked at Lola's on that date, so when Dave Howard from Doc's reached out and offered us a spot on the bill for their Record Store Day festivities, I jumped at the chance. We asked to play late, since Teague and I both had to work, so we wound up closing the show, following Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Fungi Girls, and a bunch of other bands (including Doom Ghost and War Party) that I didn't get to see because I got there so late. (Probably just as well; I can never go the distance at these all-day marathon events, having learned my lesson at Fredtoberfest 2006, where I was unable to play due to excessive _indulgence in refreshments_, something I have yet to live down with the Stoogeband.)

I hadn't been to Doc's since HIO played there back in December, before the "grand opening" at the new location even, but the place has a lot more room for merchandise, and there's even some room to grow yet, if they want to move their fixtures closer together. The paintings that formerly adorned the outside stage in back -- which Dave Howard informed me were done by "Doc" himself, Dr. Jerry Boyd -- are now on the indoor stage at the back of the store, and they make an interesting backdrop, which was accentuated by somebody's low-budget idea of a light show (although better than the lamp-with-colored-cellophane-and-a-revolving-fan-in-front-of-it that bands used to use when I was in junior high).

Dr. Jerry was cooking fajitas on a grill outside, and there were a couple of kegs of beer, which we availed ourselves of after loading in. I encountered my old backroom guy from Peaches Records & Tapes, Mike Woodhull, whom I hadn't seen since I moved out of the duplex in Benbrook, eight years ago. We'd been yakking online, and I've resolved at his behest to make it to Lola's some Tuesday night when Big Mike's Box of Rock is playing, since I like my fellow muso and record collector Mike Richardson real much and I've never seen his rock band, only one of his solo sets. Woodhull is the kind of old school record guy that I remember: in love with music, and into turning other people onto what he loves. I told him, "We never got over it," and he replied, "I don't ever intend to, either." It did my heart good to see him.

That same day, my buddy Mark Deming, who scribes for the All Music/All Movie Guides in Ann Arbor, went to a birthday party where someone told him that "no one actually likes the New York Dolls or the Clash except people like me, who have a sentimental attachment to their music because of our advanced age." Perhaps age-ism would be the new racism/sexism (oldsters competing with younguns for jobs in a shitty economy, after all), were not those other two "isms" still going so strong. I'm fortunate that I haven't encountered this kind of bullshit in my social interactions (although I have encountered other kinds, recently). I play music with guys fifteen to twenty years younger than me, and aside from the occasional interval when their talk starts sounding like Charlie Brown adults when they're enthusing over '80s-'90s hardcore bands at Stooge prac, we get along just fine. At Doc's, I was even shooting the shit with a coupla 30something music cats I now about my kids and grandkids and my 80something moms, and I got no vibe from them that it was creepy or weird. I guess I'm just a lucky asshole.

The Fungi Girls, who were nominated for "best music act" in D Magazine's culture poll on drummer Skyler Salinas' 18th birthday, tore shit up as is their wont. They're our favorite band to play with right now, and I was gratified to hear that Sky and the bassplayer are moving to Fort Worth soon, which would seem to indicate that he's not going to college out of state like he was saying he might. In any event, it occurred to me today that the first time Sky walked up to me at Landers Machine Shop and said his band would like to book a show with the Stoogeband, he was 16 years old. Damn. If I'd had his kind of determination and focus when I was that age...I'd have had a different life than the one I did, which wouldn't have been a good thing. But it definitely gets my respect, and whatever field of endeavor Sky decides to pursue in the future, musical or otherwise, I'm betting he'll blow the doors off it. Seeing him and his boys play does my heart good, too.

I didn't even realize until that morning that it was Iggy's birthday. The li'l Stoogeband was planning a short set, figuring the store would close at 9pm (we hit at 8pm), but Dave Howard told me we could have played for an hour and a half if we wanted. (I didn't want; I still needed to crate-dig before they closed up shop.) Ray brought a cooler of Tecates, so we wouldn't have to ask for beers from the stage (always bad form). We broke in a couple of newies: "Life Stinks" (sort of a hybrid of the Pere Ubu and Rocket From the Tombs versions, with Richard tearing it up on lead) and Reagan Youth's "Degenerated," which Teague had last played at Joe's Garage on Highway 80 with Little Boy in 1990. (Having allowed me to relive my misspent yoof, the fellas are now reliving theirs. We have toonage by Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys in the offing.) If someone had told me 40 years ago that when I was pushing 55, I'd still be learning solos off of records, especially ones that sound like the one on "Degenerated," I'd have laughed at them. The only reason I keep getting up is to find out what's going to happen next.

Richard was on fire the whole set, Hembree was using a rig he'd borrowed from Teague and attacked it in his usual fashion on "TV Eye" (an unplanned addition to the set, as was the closing "Funhouse"). A kid handed Ray a jar of peanut butter, which he stuck a finger in and tasted but declined to smear (remembering the time he'd done that at the Moon and how disgusting it was afterwards). I was using my "Michio Kurihara rig" -- Branden Smith's SG through my Twin (true, when I saw Michio with Boris at Rubber Gloves in 2008, he had _two_ Twins chained together and more pedals than the mind can imagine, versus my three) -- so I wore my Boris Smile T-shirt. I played a couple of songs with my eyes closed due to dripping sweat (shades of the Black Dog), and spent a lot of time trying to visually cue with Teague, since he couldn't hear Ray at all and often can't hear me onstage. We weren't too loud for the room like I'd feared we would be, and camera video I've seen indicates that the balance out front was OK. (Hembree set up his recorder over a trash can, so maybe we'll get our own Metallic K.O. out of this.)

Crate-digging, I found a copy of the first Exuma LP (an FM radio staple in New York ca. '70), an '80s copy of Alice Cooper's Love It To Death (we may yet make good on an early vow to add "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" to our set), Henry Kaiser's Those Who Know History Are Doomed To Repeat It (the only SST record to include covers of Grateful Dead songs and the Andy Griffith Show theme, although it's missing the Captain Beefheart covers that were on the CD), and a U.S. Aftermath, the second side of which is probably my favorite Rolling Stones LP side of all ti-i-ime (although I'm still partial to the UK release, I'm not willing to pay what it costs these days). And Woodhull said he'll sell me a clean copy of Savoy Brown's Raw Sienna at a way cheap price. Hooray!

Next: Sunshine Bar in Arlington on May 26th. And I'm in the middle of three writing projects, two of which have deadlines in two weeks, so blog blather may be light for the next couple of weeks.

Record Store Day pics @

My sweetie just posted some of her pics of Stoogeaphilia, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, and Fungi Girls from yesterday's Record Store Day extravaganza at Doc's on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?

Jeff Beck Group on Beat Club, 1972

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rolling Stones in an Irish hotel, 1965

Proof positive that Keef could play something besides Chuck Berry licks before he met Gram Parsons.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A few good jazz records on Clean Feed

Am I the only one who thinks it's kind of odd that Pedro Costa, honcho of Lisbon-based Clean Feed Records, found it necessary to pen a liner note concerning "authenticity" on one of his label's new releases (specifically, Kulhammer/Aalberg/Zetterberg's Basement Sessions, Vol. 1)? Universally hailed by the jazz community, this plucky little label-that-could maintains a robust release schedule that's surely indicative of demand for its product.

Yet, Costa writes, "Mainstreamers can be put off if they think that Clean Feed is only an avant-garde record label. Modernist explorers might feel as though Clean Feed is too aligned with traditional jazz idioms. For me the label is a vehicle for contemporary, authentic, improvised music: so called jazz, played by 'authentic' people." So much for being all things to all people. Sounds like a worthy statement of purpose to me.

On the disc in question, a trio of Swedes (Jonas Kulhammer - tenor/bari, Torbjorn Zetterberg - bass, Espen Aalberg - drums) explore territory previously traversed by the classic Coltrane quartet on albums like Crescent. All three men are skillful and expressive improvisers, and they play the music -- alternately contemplative and bracing -- as though they own it, which in fact they do (the notes are universal, feeling is universal).

A different kettle of fish entahrly is Aggregat, a trio date led by Elliott Sharp, a Lower Manhattan brainiac who's done work in a variety of idioms since the late '70s, and whose compositional/improvisational inspirations include "fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors." (He did postgraduate work with both composer Morton Feldman and ethnomusicologist/Urban Blues author Charles Keil.)

Here, E# (do his friends call him "F?") blows a brawny tenor -- like Archie Shepp after his debt to Ben Webster became apparent -- a searching soprano, and a skronky, Sharrockian guitar that's most effective to these feedback-scorched ears when it's used as a percussion instrument. He's backed to the hilt by NYC stalwarts Brad Jones (bass) and Ches Smith (drums). Dig a taste of what Sharp's about from the documentary Elliott Sharp: Doing the Don't.

Brooklyn has taken a lot of ribbing of late for being the epicenter of bearded, Buddy Holly-bespectacled, porkpie-hat-and-skinny-jeans wearing indie rock hipsterdom, but time was when the borough where both Jackie Robinson and Sonny Rollins played (at Ebbets Field and on the Williamsburg Bridge, respectively) was actually a hotbed of jazz. That's the heritage referred to in Brooklyn DNA, a stunning duet album by multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten.

The titles to the tunes contained therein are more crammed with Brooklyn referents than any artifact since Wayne Wang's film Blue In the Face, including the aforementioned bridge, the address where the late saxophonist Dewey Redman resided (he once told me that his mostly West Indian neighbors, hearing him practice, asked if he knew any Kenny G), and Don Cherry's album Where Is Brooklyn? (to which Joe and Ingebrigt respond, "Here and Now").

My deep dive into '70s jazz a couple of months back reminded me of how sublime were the duets recorded by Ornette Coleman with Charlie Haden and Sam Rivers with Dave Holland back in those days, and Brooklyn DNA is right up there with those stellar works. What makes it so is the timbral variety provided by McPhee's array of axes (pocket trumpet, soprano and alto), Haker Flaten's sympatico and engaging accompaniment, and the myriad moods evoked by the confluence of their spirit-songs.

Estilacos by the prolific soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy is both the least and most remarkable of the current Clean Feed crop. Lacy's an interesting figure: a former Dixielander, he was an early familiar of Cecil Taylor's and an acolyte of Monk's, specializing in soprano saxophone before Coltrane popularized the instrument with "My Favorite Things."

Recorded at a 1972 Lisbon concert, Estilacos was the first jazz record released in Portugal at a time when jazz was frowned on by the government (which was overthrown in 1974). The group includes Lacy's wife and longtime collaborator Irene Aebi on cello, transistor radio, and harmonica, and Steve Potts on tenor sax. The music has the tempestuous sound of late-'60s "freedom music," which must have sounded to European listeners like the simmering cauldron of American social unrest coming to a boil. In a time when Europe is experiencing similar turbulence, it's a worthy reminder of why a label boss might feel compelled to reaffirm his commitment to "authenticity."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Churchwood, Chief Fuzzer

This pair of vinyl seven-inches from Saustex Media fulfills the same function as lotsa singles did, back in the day: to wit, serving as teasers for something else, in this case a couple of EPs that are available via digital download, and in one case, a full-length that's due later in 2012.

Churchwood first turned my head with a self-titled debut album that sounded like the bastard sons of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, but on Just the Two of Us -- not a Bill Withers cover like you might think, but rather, a reference to the two sides of the rekkid, or perhaps the parasite depicted on the picture sleeve and its host -- they demonstrate that they have more than a few tricks up their collective sleeve.

"A Message from Firmin Desloge" opens with a blast of heavy fuzz like this was a Boris record or something, before the rhythm section comes in laying down a choppy groove and moonlighting poet/professor Joe Doerr makes his entrance, declaiming in a gritty yelp. It's less Beefheartian, more in the realm of something like '70s obscurantist faves Josefus. "Metanoia" features chattering contrapuntal guitars against a steady rhythm, while Doerr commands us to "Siddown and shut your pie hole" with the authority of Mojo Nixon channeling Tom Waits. The axe interplay between Bill Anderson and Billysteve Korpi recalls Richard Hell's Voidoids as much as the classic Magic Band tandems.

The best is yet to come, though, on the digital-only track "Weedeye," which pits slide against straight guitar rifferama (I struggled to identify the source before flashing on Led Zep I's "Dazed and Confused") and a groove that staggers like a drunk trying to find his way out of a blind alley, while Doerr assures us that "We don't have to anything 'cept live till we die." "Rickshaw Rattletrap" opens with a mutated disco groove (!) until the freewheeling guitars enter and stomp it into the barnyard, with Doerr unleashing staccato streams of verbiage. A winner all the way around, I'm a-thankin'.

Chief Fuzzer is something else entahrly: a trio of young cats from San Marcos -- home to a university, an Air Force base, and little else, until now -- who've swallowed the history of what used to be called "hard rock" (Cream, Hendrix, Led Zep, ZZ Top) whole, and used it as the basis for a somewhat heavier hybrid: still blues-based, with vocals in a register that most Americans have forgotten existed, replete with the two essentials of '70s rifferama, fuzz 'n' wah. If you've seen the documentary Such Hawks, Such Hounds, you get the idea.

Their sound is dark, dense, and eerily menacing. The five-minute "Transcendental Road Blues" serves as its manifesto, while the flipside, "Bad She Gone Voodoo," adds a soupcon of psychedelia to the mix. Of the digital-only tracks, "Theme" is a minute-plus snippet of atmospheric feedback, while "500 Lb. Bad Ass" is a pretty good representation of what the Rides Again James Gang would have sounded like if they were Millennial brats, and "Whight" burns slowly with incandescent fire. Singer-guitarist Cody Richardson has clearly mastered his materials, making Chief Fuzzer a band to watch.

Hendrix - "Roomful of Mirrors" @ the Royal Albert Hall, 2.24.1969

The Experience with Rocky Dzidzornu on congas, Dave Mason on guitar, and Chris Wood on flute. Dzidzornu (aka Rocky Dijon) played with the Stones on tracks that include "Sympathy for the Devil," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'." Mason and Wood, at the time, made up half of Traffic; Wood had played on Electric Ladyland.

This clip comes from the film Experience, the soundtrack to which was released on two separate LPs back in the '70s. So far, Experience Hendrix has declined to do anything with this material; the definitive Albert Hall versions of "Little Wing" and "Voodoo Child" were even stricken from the EH version of In the West.

Here you can see Jimi outgrowing the Experience and moving in the direction he'd pursue during his Woodstock sojourn, which culiminated in his performance at the festival on 8.18.1969.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

T. Tex Edwards' "Intexicated!"

Is it just me, or does it seem to anyone else that some of the brightest musical stars in the constellation that is "America's Live Music Capital (R)" originally hail from somewhere other than Austin? I'm thinking of Alejandro Escovedo (San Antonio via San Francisco), Ian McLagan (London), Mike Buck (Fort Worth), and the topic of this bit of scrawl, T. Tex Edwards (Dallas via L.A.).

Edwards, once and future frontman of Big D's proto-punk pioneers the Nervebreakers, possesses a uniquely twisted sensibility that digs deep into the esoteric intersices of rock (particularly of the Brit Invasion and psychedelic varieties), rockabilly, and country (in the same manner as Nick Tosches' Country, which reads more like gothic horror than a book about people that made music) only known to aficionados, with a good bit of whiskey-sodden tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in. (These days, of course, T. Tex is sober, having grappled with Hepatitis C and become something of an expert on organic gardening, nutritional healing, and other subjects one wouldn't expect from a rockarolla, which would perhaps only serve to reveal the limits of one's imagination.)

Over the years, T. Tex has recorded at a much more prolific rate than he's actually released records, and the artifacts of his various projects were rarer than hen's teeth, at least until Saustex Media, the San Antonio-based label helmed by Hickoids frontman Jeff Smith, picked up the gauntlet and reissued the long out-of-print underground classic Pardon Me, I've Got Someone To Kill a few years back. Now, Saustex Media's blessed us with Intexicated!, a career-spanning collection of rarities that manages to sound of a piece in spite of having been recorded over 25 years.

The earliest tracks date from 1982 and Tex and the Saddletramps, a Nervebreakers offshoot with NBs guitarist Mike Haskins on board, including a couple of killer originals: the Eddie Cochran-esque "Move It!" and "Have You Ever Spent the Night In Jail," which isn't a Standells cover like you might assume if you're an Ugly Things-reading garage rock nazi, but rather, a redneck version of arena rock as reimagined by the Dictators ca. Bloodbrothers. The latest, from 2007, is a version of the Only Ones' "Baby's Got a Gun" by Purple Stickpin, the outfit T. Tex co-leads with ex-Sons of Hercules guitarist Dan Hoekstra that's currently treading the boards down in Austin and elsewhere.

T. Tex's L.A. aggregation the Loafin' Hyenas is well represented by a couple of tracks including "If Looks Could Kill" -- a grinding slab of fuzzed-out garage psychedelia worthy of the Chocolate Watch Band that also sounds like a kissin' cousin of the Nervebreakers' "I Love Your Neurosis" -- and "Goin' South," a slide-guitar driven lament that neatly evokes both the Beggar's Banquet Stones and the Teenage Head Flamin' Groovies.

Two tracks with the guitar-heavy '90s Dallas band Lithium X-mas are particular highlights: versions of "Love Power" -- that's right, Dick Shawn's Eric Burdon-aping Lorenzo St. Dubois feature from Mel Brooks' The Producers -- and "Nobody Likes Me," an early Alice Cooper chestnut that sounds for all the world like Neil Young and Crazy Horse in a low-budget precursor to Queen's A Night At the Opera. In a similar vein, there's also a nifty Y'allternative take on Dave Davies' "Death of a Clown" that reminded me of the time my sweetie 'n' I drove down to Austin to see T. Tex with Out On Parole and his set included a cover of an obscuro song from Who bassist John Entwistle's forgotten classic Whistle Rhymes.

A few of the tunes will be familiar to loyal Edwards fans: Out On Parole takes of "LSD" from '89 and "Psycho" from '84; an '89 version of Homer Henderson's "Lee Harvey" backed by the Hickoids. There are also oddities like "Blood On the Saddle," on which T. Tex is backed by Paul Quigg (ex-Superman's Girlfriend/Nervebreakers/Vibrolux/Decadent Dub Team, now tech director at the Kessler Theater) and David Price on synths under the rubric Mechanical Bull, and a jingle for Chili's baby back ribs that he recorded with John "Breakfastime" Hancock in 2001. And it's bookended by two versions of the title track, an instrumental shuffle by the Big D Ramblers, an outfit that included hotshot guitarist Danny McCreary (who's also in a couple of bands with Haskins -- ah, incestuousness).

Throughout, the common factors are T. Tex's demented redneck persona, his songwriting acumen and ear for a good song, and his impeccable taste in collaborators. Methinks that going forward, it's Intexicated! I'll be reaching for when it's T. Tex I've got a hankering to hear.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Zappa @ the Roxy, 1973

Still no sign of a DVD release, but I can dream -- can't I? C'mon, Gail...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Sardines Revisited @ Arts Fifth Avenue, 4.14.2012

Johnny Case sends:

We want to let you know about the upcoming Sardines event this Saturday, April 14, at Arts Fifth Avenue. It begins at 7:00pm with a 3-course lasagne dinner, followed at 8:00pm with the Sardines trio (Joey Carter on drums, Chris White on bass, myself on piano).

The cover for all of this is $25, $20 to seniors. Arts Fifth is located at 1628 Fifth Avenue, which is the corner of 5th Avenue and Allen. Parking is just across 5th Avenue. To make reservations call 817-923-9500 or, if it's easier, let us know and we'll do it for you!

Also, if you have special memories of Sardines that are sharable, would you like to talk? Let us know!

Hope you can come.
Johnny and Kitty

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Ralph White pics @

My sweetie posted some of her pics of one-man Austin bluegrass band Ralph White on her photo blog. Click on 'em to make 'em big and leave her a comment, why doncha?

JB on the One

When I came back to Fort Worth in the spring of 1980, after an abortive stab at making a band in Colorado, my roommate J.D. Fields and I cooked up a harebrained scheme to bootleg James Brown's Live At the Apollo LP -- then out of catalog and a highly sought-after collector's item. Hampered by our inability to lay hands on a copy, we finally gave up after considering the potential ramifications of poaching on the Godfather of Soul's preserve. Not long after that, a label called Solid Smoke reissued Live At the Apollo and a good compilation called Can Your Heart Stand It, alerting Polydor to the potential benefit they stood to reap from reissuing JB's catalog. Happy ending.

A convincing argument could be made for James Brown as the greatest musical artist of my lifetime. (I was born the year after "Please, Please, Please.") Sure, his records declined in quality during my teen years, but how many times do you have to change the world? For that's what he did, starting out in the doo-wop era and making his major impact during the soul years, before inventing funk out of whole cloth in the mid-'60s.

The progression from "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in 1965 to "Cold Sweat," "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)," I Got the Feelin'," and "Licking Stick - Licking Stick" in 1967, to "Say It Loud" and "Mother Popcorn (You Got To Have a Mother For Me)" in 1968 represents nothing less than the birth of a new musical style, and JB put the icing on the cake in 1970 with "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Super Bad."

He continued making good records after that, a couple of which have funny associations for me: the cat I was stationed with in Korea who could recite "King Heroin" from memory, f'rinstance, or the time we had to move a Hammond B-3 over the bar at an Albany shit-dump called the Showbar (the stage was _behind the bar_) so some guys I knew could play "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing."

Hear the original hits (there are loads of good compilations, from the Star Time box set to my favorite, the early-adopter's delight The CD of JB, which now sells for a penny on Amazon) or the plethora of good JB live albums -- the three from Harlem's Apollo Theater (vintage 1962, 1968, and 1970), the epochal half-live/half-pseudo-live Sex Machine from 1970, the '90s vault discoveries Love, Power, Peace: Live At the Olympia, Paris 1971 (a showcase for Bootsy and Catfish Collins that was originally intended as a triple LP release before most of the band quit to join George Clinton's P-Funk Mob) and Say It Live & Loud: Live In Dallas 08.26.68. Anyway you choose, you'll get your money's worth.

Simply put, JB made rhythm king. Who needs chord changes, when you can orchestrate the syncopation of simple, interlocking parts -- drums, bass, guitar, organ, horns, and lest we forget, voice -- to create a groove as undeniable as it's insistent, with a formal complexity to rival Bach's? (If you find that claim extravagant, listen to "Untitled Instrumental," a track cut in 1970 that didn't see the light of day until the 1988 outtakes compilation Motherlode.) Without JB, no Sly Stone, no Michael Jackson, no Fela, no '70s Miles, no George Clinton, no Prince, no hip-hop.

That he had to wait until after he'd done the heavy lifting of creating his masterwork to get the props he deserved is probably reflective of the fact that he operated in the fickle and disposable realm of black street music, and had a reputation as a flamboyant performer, not to mention a willful and egotistical man. (Thwarted by his record label, he'd recorded the original '62 Live At the Apollo on his own dime and even then King Records didn't want to release it, the fools.)

I first saw him on some TV show with my mom when I was 11. It was surprising to see a rotund man move so gracefully, and his leather-lunged scream about scared me to death. His 1968 hit "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" started fights at my junior high school, when the black kids would play it on their portable record players in the cafeteria. (It seems odd now that kids would carry these machines to school along with stacks of scratchy 45s, but that's what they did, back in those pre-iPod days, when they didn't feel like relying on the radio to satisfy their music jones.)

Perhaps its provocative nature led JB -- who'd helped avert a riot in Boston the night Martin Luther King was killed by allowing the local PBS affiliate to record his performance at the Boston Garden (now DVD available and a worthy document) and rebroadcast it all night, and wound up campaigning for Hubert Humphrey -- to drop the song from his live repertoire not long after its success. For all his latter-day drug-fueled eccentricities, this man who'd grown up poorer than poor in South Carolina embodied old-fashioned values: respect, hard work, a notion of interracial brotherhood that only seems quaint in retrospect. (In the mid-'60s, he even employed a white bass player, future Neil Young sideman Tim Drummond, in his band.)

It's easy to forget, in light of his later unraveling, that back at the moment when the youth of black America were looking for someone to stand up and represent them as a figurehead, role model and exemplar, JB was willing to do just that (fuck the Charles Barkley dumb shit), in the same manner as Muhammad Ali at his draft board and Juan Carlos and Tommie Smith at the '68 Olympics. (He actually had a #4 R&B hit with "Don't Be a Drop-Out" in 1966.) And in the same way as Joe Nick Patoski opines (and I agree) that Jimmy Reed kicked open the door for MLK by making white Southerners think it was cool to be black, so JB planted in the heads of cats like the ones in the German-Irish-Italian Catholic 'hood where I grew up, who were _afraid_ of black people (sorry, fellas, but no other word applies), the idea that black folks just might be human after all.

In 1967, when I was ten, New York State education commissioner James E. Allen (after whom the university center I briefly attended in '74 was named) vowed to send in the National Guard to enforce the integration of public schools on Long Island. White parents marched in protest. When it was decided that fourth and fifth graders from my neighborhood were going to be bussed to the elementary school in the predominantly black neighborhood in our town, older kids told us that "The niggers are going to stab you through the seats on the bus." I remember some of those same kids singing the "Baby baby baby" chorus from "I Got the Feelin'." How's that for irony? But I digress.

One of the most distinctive sounds of the '60s was the choked, syncopated ninth chords that JB's guitarist Jimmy Nolen used to play -- derided by the white rock guitarists I knew, but then, none of them could play 'em, either, the way Nolen did. (Back then, the state of race relations clouded people's perceptions. I remember a white drummer I knew telling me "how fucked up it is that the niggers are stealing our music." When I asked him what he meant, he said, "You know, ma-a-an: Hendrix." True story.) No matter; Nolen's was one of the archetypal guitar noises of the era, as distinctive a signature as Chuck Berry's, Bo Diddley's, and Elmore James'. The sounds of drummers Clyde Stubblefield (who played the most sampled drum break in history on "Funky Drummer") and Jabbo Starks, trombonist Fred Wesley, and saxophonists Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis similarly worked their way into the music's DNA.

When I listen to this music now, I'm reminded of the first band I ever played in, back when I was 15. Bruce Monroe and Johnny Cobb were two black guys I knew from school. Both of them played guitar and drums, and they had a band with another guy named Curtis Byrams, who was just odd. Curtis liked to sit with his girlfriend in a car on blocks in his front yard with his girlfriend, or he'd strap on his bass and thump on it while we were walking around the neighborhood, looking for pieces of the drum kit. As fortune would have it, Bruce and Johnny's lead guitarist quit the very week I managed to arm-twist my parents into buying me an electric guitar and amp for my birthday, and since I'd been bullshitting them for two years that I knew how to play, I was the likely candidate.

Somehow, I managed to fake my way through, in spite of the fact that all of my solos started the same way (with me running my finger up the neck, searching for "the note"), and I only knew four cowboy chords my sister had taught me, which were of no use whatsoever in the funky R&B we were playing. I cribbed a little bit of Nolen style from the scratchy 45s they gave me to learn, even though I had absolutely no clue regarding musical structure, which made the no-chord-changes JB formula perfect for my illiterate ass. (Same thing was true of stupid Cream jams when I started playing in white rock bands.) They gifted me a Univox wah, and I used it and my sister's violin bow to add some first-Led-Zep-album psych shit to the mix.

We spent as much time hanging out as we did playing, and I developed a taste for black coffee, cheap wine, and monster movies. Eventually, I drifted out of the band, but the first week I was away at college, my mother called to say that Bruce and Johnny had come by the house looking for me. Apparently Bruce's brother Waverly, who used to park cars at a rock club called Rum Bottoms, was managing the band and planned to put them on tour of chitlin' circuit-type clubs upstate. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd been there when they came to see me.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pinkish Black "Bodies in Tow" video

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

My scrawl in the FW Weekly

Reviews I penned of the new split EP by War Party and Doom Ghost, and Drift Era's debut EP Cosmic Intentions are in this week's paper and online now.

Dennis Gonzalez/Yells At Eels' "Wind Streaks in Syrtis Major"

The resurgence of vinyl having spread to the jazz avant-garde, you can now dig prolific Oak Cliff-based trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez and the band with his hardcore-rooted sons that he's fronted for 13 years on this ten-minute track that fits nicely on two sides of pristine white 7-inch vinyl. Recorded for Polish radio last November and released by local 7-inch-centric indie Treefallsounds, it's a concise distillation of Yells At Eels' strengths, featuring a roiling riddim section of Aaron Gonzalez and Wojtek Mazolewski's basses and Stefan Gonzalez's Elvin-esque trap-kicking and "orgullo primitivo" percussives, with horn polyphony reminiscent of Ornette circa Shape of Jazz To Come riding on top (Dennis plus fiery tenorman Marek Pospieszalski). Things percolate like Trane's Meditations, and Dennis even vocalizes for a moment before returning to the tune's head. A genuine auditory exorcism. The digital download comes with a succinct but potent snippet from another piece. Cop via the label, or directly from the artist.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Pinkish Black - "Bodies in Tow" on Pitchfork

A track from Pinkish Black's self-titled LP is streamable now via Pitchfork. Producer Matt Barnhart told D Magazine that they're his favorite band he's ever recorded, which is indicative of his good taste. My favorite band, too. Jon Teague played me some of this in his van awhile back. Can't wait to hear it on sweet, sweet vinyl.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Patti Smith interview from CBS "Sunday Morning," 4.1.2012

My scrawl on the Dallas Observer blog

A "gig alert" I penned on the upcoming performance of Frank Zappa's music at UNT, featuring two former members of the composer's band, is online now.

New Patti Smith album 6.5.2012

Was just thinking about Patti Smith the other night and the next morning, got this via her email list:

greetings from patti smith

It’s been a long time since we spoke, and many sweeping events have changed our world. Yet we do our work, we live our lives, and seek adventure where we may.

On April 1, we are releasing a song from our forthcoming album Banga. "April Fool," co-written with Tony Shanahan, invites you all to come and embark with us and experience the fruits of our quest in the making of Banga. It took Lenny Kaye and me on a voyage on the ill-fated Costa Concordia where we mapped future journeys and wrote the lullaby "Seneca." It took me to San Juan on the set of The Rum Diary to write “Nine.” It took our band to Moscow to perform and visit the workplaces and graves of Gogol, Bulgakov and the great filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. It took us to Arezzo to view the frescoes of Piero della Francesca. It took us to Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis. We toured many places and the lyrics and melodies of the songs reflect these journeys.

In the wake of our travels we mourned the untimely death of Amy Winehouse and the passing of the French actress Maria Schneider. We said our prayers for the people of Haiti, for victims of the Tohoku earthquake and for Nature herself.

All of these things are encompassed within Banga. Songs of celebration, concern and lament, co-written with Tony Shanahan, Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty, on real and imagined ships. All of you are invited to embark and transform our rich and tempestuous Banga experience as an adventure of your own.

patti smith

Home Made Dance Project

Here are some excerpts from HIO's December collaboration with Big Rig Dance Collective's Amanda Jackson and Whitney Boomer. Beginning discussions of another collaboration later this year.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

JATSDFM - "Hankelburst (Quit pissing about...)" and "Tsrubleknah (No, really. Stop.)"

Two different views of a subject from HIO's Matt Hickey, a guy with almost as much musical imagination as he has time on his hands.