Archive for July, 2010

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Dickey Betts

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by 30daysout

Now this is one from my own record collection … today we blow the dust off Highway Call, the 1974 solo album by Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts.  But for his first solo album, he’s billed as “Richard Betts.”

In 1974 the Allman Brothers Band had hit a crossroads: both Duane Allman and bass player Berry Oakley had died, and the album Brothers and Sisters (mostly recorded after the death of Oakley) had been a hit.  But the album introduced a softer, country-rock direction thanks to Betts’ “Ramblin’ Man,” which was a radio hit.  Pianist Chuck Leavell was also heavily featured, and the result was a sound that strayed a bit from the Allmans’ trademark dual-guitar attack.  With the direction of the band in question, both Betts and Gregg Allman set out to cut solo albums.

Betts’ Highway Call was an extension of his country-rock approach, and the album’s opener “Long Time Gone” could be the sequel to “Ramblin’ Man.”  Instead of an extra guitar, though, this song has a steel guitar (played by John Huhgey) that opens up this road-ready album.  “Rain” adds the country backing vocals of the Rambos (Buck, Dottie and Reba) for yet another dip into Betts’ country-rock pool.

The title song, coming third in the lineup, is a slow one that steers us closer to pure country thanks to Leavell’s honky-tonk plinking.  “Let Nature Sing” begins the second half of the program (this is a short, six-song album) with down-home gospel harmonies and banjo pickin’.  To me, it’s a little reminiscent of the Byrds’ country sound on Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Fiddler Vassar Clements kicks off the  stomp “Hank Picked,” and a square dance breaks out for 14 minutes on this extended instrumental.  This song puts Betts’ guitar work into a stricter country context, and he shines on this cut – it’s certainly the album’s centerpiece.  “Kissimee Kid,” another fiddlin’ instrumental (this one actually written by Clements), ends the album on an upbeat note.

Highway Call was successful but it didn’t get the attention that Gregg Allman’s solo album Laid Back did about the same time.  Allman had a radio hit with his remake of the Bro’s “Midnight Rider” and maybe Betts got lost in the shuffle.  But the two albums couldn’t be more different – Allman’s was more of a singer/songwriter move, while Betts’ was meant to showcase some superior musicianship.

Of course, you know the rest – the Allmans would record intermittently in the ensuing decades and finally they parted ways with Dickey Betts in 2000.  He formed the Dickey Betts Band and played also with an outfit called Great Southern, which featured Betts’ son Duane (guess who he was named after).  In December 2009 Dickey Betts announced he was no longer going to tour, although he played some dates as recently as July with Great Southern.

MP3: “Long Time Gone”

MP3: “Let Nature Sing”

Dickey Betts official website

Video of the Week: Earl Poole Ball and the Cosmic Americans

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on July 29, 2010 by 30daysout

You may have never heard of Earl Poole Ball, but you’ve probably heard Earl Poole Ball.   For more than 20 years, he was Johnny Cash’s pianist, and he has played with Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, Rick Nelson, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, among others.  Remember the song “You’re Still On My Mind,” from the Byrds’ 1968 country-rock classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo?  That’s Earl playing piano.

Earl’s lived in Austin for many years, and he divides his time between two bands – Heybale, a great country outfit with Merle’s ex-guitarist Redd Volkaert, plays every Sunday at the Continental Club; and Earl Poole Ball and the Cosmic Americans, another sweet band with guitarist Casper Rawls and singer Jodi Adair.  Here’s EPB&TCAs, doing a little Johnny Cash shuffle at Austin’s Saxon Pub … close your eyes and picture yourself in the club for happy hour.

Earl Poole Ball & the Cosmic Americans MySpace page

Heybale MySpace page

Repost: On the Trail of the Hellhound

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by 30daysout

(Editor’s Note: Recently John Mellencamp has been in the news, promoting his new album No Better Than This, which comes out in August.  He recorded a couple of songs for the new album in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly recorded some of his greatest songs.  We’ve been told repeatedly that nobody knows where the recordings really took place, and there is no explanation in the press material for the album how they identified this particular room.  But who cares, really – here’s our original post from 2008.)

Perhaps no musician is as influential as the bluesman Robert Johnson.  Supposedly he sold his soul to the Devil so he could play his guitar like no one else.  And maybe he did – his songs “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Dust My Broom” are part of the bedrock of American music.  Johnson’s songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, among many others.

His music comes from the heart of the Mississippi Delta where Johnson lived and played until he died in 1938 under mysterious circumstances.  However, his entire catalog was recorded in Texas, during two short sessions in San Antonio and Dallas.  The San Antonio sessions produced some of the songs listed above.  Writer Dave Marsh once said, “Has there been any other single recording session that produced music so beautiful, so tortured, … so historically resonant?  No.”

Johnson first recorded in November 1936 at San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel, located just a few blocks from Alamo Plaza.  Now called the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, it has a few more floors than it did in Johnson’s day but it is still a nice place.

Some years back, I decided to stay a few nights in the Gunter close to where Johnson cut some of his most famous songs.  I had long since replaced the hellhound on my trail with two rugrats on the back seat – so I took my family.

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Early Video of the Week: The Jim Jones Revue

Posted in News with tags on July 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Hide the women and send the kids to bed, British rockers the Jim Jones Revue are back!  Here’s their new song, “High Horse,” which comes off their second album Burning Your House Down, due out September 6.  These guys can rock it into the red, like the unholy spawn of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis on speed.  Gentlemen, start your guitars!

The Jim Jones Revue MySpace page

Extra Early Video of the Week: Sahara Smith

Posted in News with tags , on July 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Sahara Smith is a 21-year-old singer out of the Austin area with a big future in front of her.  Her debut album Myth Of The Heart – coming out August 31 – is produced by no less than über producer T-Bone Burnett, who calls Smith “the best young artist I have heard in many years.”  As my wife’s grandpa used to say, “she’s also very easy on the eyes.”

Sahara Smith’s MySpace page

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Kinky Friedman

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on July 25, 2010 by 30daysout

Today we’re gonna cheat a bit: our record today isn’t from our sister’s record collection, it’s a leftover from our pile of Essential Texas Party Albums that we talked about yesterday.  Kinky Friedman is the self-titled second LP from singer/songwriter/author/gubernatorial candidate/Fine American Kinky Friedman and although it would be a cool party record I’m afraid it would offend most normal, sensible people.

Now nobody would accuse a regular Texan of being normal or even sensible, so that’s why Kinky Friedman is a hero in our great state.  Nevertheless, when Kinky Friedman first appeared in 1974 it was met with overwhelming indifference by the great American Audience despite the fact that a couple of the songs are excellent country tunes, a couple more are pretty funny, a couple more are pretty strange and one song is simply one of the most politically incorrect ditties ever written.

“Rapid City, South Dakota” is one of those very nice country tunes.  The singer tells of picking up a young hitchhiker who’s running away from something.  “Now the reason he was goin’/ I ain’t sure I could say/ Might’ve been the rodeo in Santa Fe,” the singer explains.  “There’s a doctor in Chicago/I know she’ll be all right/He told himself as he stared into the night.”  The next tune is another sensitive ballad, but it’s only when you get to the chorus that you begin to notice something is amiss: it’s about “Popeye the Sailor Man.”

“Homo Erectus” is hilarious, propelled by a nimble arrangement and (appropriately) a Jew’s harp, and it’s a love song to our hero’s professor of anthropology in college.  “Before All Hell Breaks Loose” is similarly clever and funny, even though it casts the world in a rather despairing light.  “Now I know what the gypsy meant/When he told me I’d never be President,” Kinky says – which is good because you don’t have to be a gypsy to know he sure as hell is going to run for Texas governor again.

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Our Guide to the Essential Texas Party Albums

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by 30daysout

More than once someone has asked, “If I wanted to throw a party at my house and I wanted that Texas sound, what should I play?”  Well if your house is in Buffalo, New York, then you can play the Goo Goo Dolls and probably half the crowd would say “Yeah, that’s Texas.”  Hopefully the other half would correctly recognize the Goo Goos are a local band from Buffalo.

And unfortunately that’s sort of the situation here in Texas.  This state has many transplants who really couldn’t identify a true Texas artist outside the obvious (Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks).  So I’m stepping up to your service, a native Texan with a working knowledge of our state’s great artists, with a collection of albums made by our native boys and girls.  And true to Texas, you can ask someone else from around here and they’ll come up with a completely different list – and want to kick the ass of the guy who came up with this one.  So let’s party and forget where you got this list:

1. Texas Tornados Live From Austin TX – Recorded for the venerable TV show “Austin City Limits” in 1990, by the supergroup featuring Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez.  A brilliant gumbo pot of blues, country, Tejano and rock and roll with memory-tugging versions of Fender’s “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About A Mover” and a rollicking “96 Tears,” this single CD spans the incredible breadth of Texas music.   It’s worth the price of admission just to hear Fender sing “Baby What You Want Me To Do.”  This CD is a party all by itself.

MP3: “Who Were You Thinking Of” (live at Austin City Limits) by the Texas Tornados

2. The “Chirping” Crickets – When four Lubbock boys cut this album way back in 1957, they had no idea how much this music would transform the world.  Songs like “Oh Boy!,” “Not Fade Away” and “That’ll Be The Day” made their writer and singer Buddy Holly a star and the latter would become a hit.  This is the birth of rock and roll as we have come to know it – written and performed by members of a rock band.  In fact, the record caught the ears of four young musicians in Liverpool, and in a few more years the world would change yet again.

MP3: “Oh Boy!” by Buddy Holly & the Crickets

3. Texas Flood – Okay, we can’t get too deep into the list without name checking the late, very great Stevie Ray Vaughan.  He was perhaps no more electrifying than on his 1983 debut.  Texas Flood was instantly a success, and one of the most popular blues albums ever recorded, but Vaughan was more than a mere blues artist.  His technique and ability on the guitar instantly put him toe-to-toe with legends like Hendrix and Clapton – and since his death in 1990 virtually nobody has even come close to Stevie Ray.

MP3: “I’m Cryin'” by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

4. Honeysuckle Rose: Music From The Original Soundtrack Yeah, it’s a soundtrack.  And yeah, it has the dreaded “On The Road Again.”   But it’s prime Willie Nelson, recorded in 1980 live as the movie was being made.  It has the hell-raising energy of Nelson’s best Texas roadhouse shows, as he and his rockin’ band charge through classics like “Whiskey River,” “Bloody Mary Morning” and the whacked-out anthem “Pick Up The Tempo.”  Guest appearances by Texas legends Hank Cochran and Kenneth Threadgill are a bonus, and I swear you won’t even notice the songs featuring better-seen-and-not-heard actresses Amy Irving and Dyan Cannon.

MP3: “Pick Up The Tempo” by Willie Nelson & Family

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