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Okay, about that Jessie Dayton teaser last week. It was sort of a no-brainer for anyone who's been paying attention. Dayton is working with Randall Jamail and Justice Records. They're in an Austin studio now, recording what I'm told will be 15 tracks of a new CD. The name out front is Jessie Dayton and the focus is Jessie Dayton, and the stable of musicians forming the band at various times includes Darin Murphy and Charlie Sanders, alongside session regulars such as Kenny Aronoff and Steve Bailey and guest appearances from former Alamo Jet steel player Brian Thomas and legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble. Doug Sahm is sitting in on a song or two.

Jessie sounds excited and proud, in his drawling way, about the arrangement, with nothing but nice things to say about working with Jamail, who has in his years in the record business inspired, if nothing else, a wildly varying range of opinion about his competence-to-resource ratio. Jamail, for his part, seems never to tire of blowing sunshine up our young buck's butt, to the point that if he utters a sentence without the words "Jessie" and "star" side by side you want to ask for five bucks, as if they'd forgotten to give you your receipt at Walgreen's.

It's all very cozy, and made the more unusual for the fact -- a fact Randall emphasizes for press purposes -- that the two are working under what both describe as a five-album handshake deal. No contract.

They're emphasizing this, of course, because there are a good number of music observers in town who can't figure out why Jamail and Justice, with plenty of legal know-how and enough money to float the Vatican a loan, have managed to churn out such a large catalog of largely mediocre albums, and why so many of those albums give the impression of being somehow less than they could have been. A lot of folks blame Jamail's overactive production hand. Then again, a lot of folks say he's just a joy in the studio. Whatever. Justice hasn't, with the exception of a lovely but flukish Willie Nelson album and a reasonably successful Tab Benoit campaign, approached commercial viability and scene credibility, and they want it bad. That's what the newly released Hellhole Houston punk compilation is about. And that, in a slightly different direction, is what Jessie Dayton is about. And the credibility factor sure as shit has a lot to do with Jessie and Randall announcing a five-year commitment on a handshake. They trust each other, you see.

Or maybe it's not that at all. Maybe it's that Jessie saw Justice's recently released Release, the sophomore effort from former Houston up-and-comer David Rice. Rice lives in Los Angeles now, and he called me to ask about the album. Says he didn't know it was coming out until a week prior. Says he thought he had an agreement that the album would never be released. He's pissed. Called to say, "I had nothing to do with it, and I'd really like to disassociate myself from it." Called to say of Jamail, "I just pray that he continues to do things the way he does, so that people will eventually realize how wicked he is."

Jamail, of course, is too professional to go public with his conflicts with David Rice, but you can be sure he's got 'em. Just take a look at the cover of Release. It is, as Randall says, "an artist's rendition of what his contract would look like if it was ripped up."

Maybe Jessie just figured his cover would look better with an airbrushed hot rod on the cover....

Other Stuff... There's a new record label of sorts in town, and like most of the record labels in town, it's sprung up to release one particular record. The label is Tone Def Records, and the record is 666: The Neighbor of the Beast, product of the teeming loins of Deth Kultur BBQ. The BBQ kids recorded the whole thing on their own equipment in an apartment, says Tone Def guy Steve Puccio, and the CD's scheduled to be here in time for an April 1 release party at Laveau's. Maybe I'll see you there.

But maybe I won't. I might be napping. I might be reading. I'll probably be starving, and even if I do decide to go, there's a pretty good chance I won't be able to get in free. All of which brings me to the sad occasion of the last item I'll write for this column: I've resigned as music editor of the Houston Press, you see, and this is it for me. For us. It's over, baby. Up and quit. You ought to try it sometime; it's great fun. Much like falling out of a plane.

People often ask me (not true, but indulge a poor man's last fiction) Why, Brad? Why? How can you even think of quitting such a cushy, perk-filled, high-profile, ego-feeding (and surely very lucrative) job? True enough. It was a decision hard-fought and well-considered. But when the new-look Astros offered me the shot at big-league first base I've dreamed of since toddler-dom, I was unable to refuse. Life priorities and dream fulfillment, you know. I've turned in my two week's notice, and in a matter of days I'll be wearing The Star That Means You Suck.

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