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In 1993, Simon Bonney, the former frontman of Australia's Crime and the City Solution, took a road trip across America. Joined by his pregnant wife and musical collaborator Bronwyn Adams and their baby daughter, Bonney drove from his newly adopted home in Los Angeles to New York to play a series of acoustic shows. On the trip up Route 40, Bonney collected the images and characters his young family encountered in their new country. Eventually, these colored memories became the basis for an album, Bonney's recently released Everyman.

With Everyman, Bonney says, "I wanted to capture my impressions of America from first arriving; that sense I imagined and experienced as an immigrant traveling across America; that sense of newness. You come to America with these preconceptions, and they're all very true and they're all very false." Through the endless world of small towns and truck stops, Shoney's and honky-tonks, Greyhounds and Cadillacs, Everyman searches for what Bonney says is a "simpler kind of life, where what you say and what you mean are the same."

It's also a bit, well, country, or maybe folk. Either way, Bonney's music today stands in sharp contrast to the music he made over 15 years as leader of the various incarnations of Crime and the City Solution. Beginning in Sydney in the late '70s as a traditional punk rock group, Crime eventually recruited members of Nick Cave's original band, the Birthday Party, moved to London, then Berlin, and assumed many of the dark and gloomy gothic characteristics Cave became known for.

As Bonney explains it, his first taste of contemporary country came out of boredom with the music he'd been playing, and with the standard rock canon in general. Bonney, who's always been more of a lyricist than a musician, heard in the words of his favorite country songs a voice that echoed his own maturing perspective. "I found that the lyrics in country music were very strong and interesting on a sociological level," he says. "They're all about fear of modernization, alienation, fear the world would change so fast there would be no place for the person in the song .... It really captured a certain fear of the unknown which I could relate to quite strongly."

Now the question is whether it's something that Bonney's former fans, or maybe new ones, can relate to as well. Everyman suggests that Bonney has found a productive new vein to tap. The live show should tell.

-- Roni Sarig

Simon Bonney plays Wednesday, April 12 at the Urban Art Bar, 2801 Brazos. Doors open at 8 p.m. Call 523-0192 for info.

Crit Picks:

Gillette -- If you've ever wondered what Tiffany would have sounded like had she not groomed her act in America's malls, but had instead hooked up with some hip-hop gurus and, as an extra bonus, had her vocal cords surgically intertwined with those of actress Rosie Perez, well, Sandy Gillette's here to show you. On the cover of her debut CD, Gillette on the Attack, she appears to be trying to decide whether she should look cute or mean (she does cute a lot better), and the song that's gained her some notoriety, "Short Dick Man," would suggest that Gillette's a novelty act about halfway through her alloted 15 minutes of fame. But Elvis Costello once noted that, when given a good song, Tiffany could really rip into it, and Gillette occasionally shows that she's capable of being considerably more than just a pretty face with a dirty mouth. Her show at Kaboom could be seen as a homecoming of sorts -- she's from Chicago, but studied theater at UH and for a while was a familiar performer on area commercials. At Kaboom, 6130 Richmond, Thursday, April 6. 784-2395. (Mitchell J. Shields)

La Diferenzia -- When a band's chosen to kick off a new subsidiary of a major label, it can be for one of two reasons. Either the group is groundbreaking and can catch people's ears that way, or it's exceedingly professional at producing an already popular sound. La Diferenzia, whose eponymous CD launched Austin-based Arista/Texas, falls more into the second category. They're not pioneers of any note in Tejano, their style of choice (and apparently Arista/Texas' style of choice as well, given that La Differenzia's labelmates include Flaco Jimenez, Freddy Fender, Joel Nava and Rick Orozco), but they're awfully good at it. Their CD went gold 90 days after it was released, their cumbia "Si Lo Quieres" stayed at the top of the Tejano charts for five weeks and they've been garnering considerable notice in both San Antonio and Austin. Houston, though, has been La Diferenzia's best market, so now they've decided to come where the sales are. At El Dorado Ranch, 800 Almeda Mall, Sunday, April 9. 948-0520. (M.J.S.)

Michael Hedges -- This isn't the sort of fellow you'd expect to be recording for Windham Hill, a New Age label that's generally a good source of music to go to sleep by. But while Hedges is all acoustic, he's hardly a lullaby guy. Live, he's likely to mix his originals with non-electric takes on the Who's "Pinball Wizard" or Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance," pounding out a little rhythm accompaniment on his guitar body. One critic called his stuff thrash acoustic. Hedges himself has termed his style "violent acoustic guitar." Now he prefers "savage myth." Whatever, it's not particularly quiet, so No-Doz is probably not required. The ability to be surprised, though, may be. At Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, Wednesday, April 12. 862-3838. (

 
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