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.


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