Ready to Rise

Raisin' Cain may give Jesse Dayton his long anticipated push into prominence

"I think there's other ways to drag my music into the mainstream other than singles or making a Nashville Record," he says. "Look at Harry Connick Jr. or Lyle Lovett. Those guys never get played on the radio, but they sell a lot of albums and they have careers. That's all I want. I want to build a family with this thing. You give me a band and a truck and a little hippie pad outside of Austin, let me make my living this way, and I'm set, you know what I mean."

But if Dayton spends a good amount of time talking about how his outlaw country may or may not relate to the mainstream, and about avoiding Nashville homogenization and maintaining artistic integrity, it's because a little hippie-pad outside of Austin isn't, in fact, all he wants. He's a natural born performer, and he's got a sense -- like the fans who've followed his career waiting for this break -- that he could make it big. It's a sense that's been building as Dayton sold his songs to Hollywood for placement in Melrose Place and Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class, and as he appeared acting as Pam Tillis' bandleader in two country video hits.

Sitting in the Studio B control room for an interview, Dayton isn't quite the same precocious greaser who might have offered you a beer and a conversation about vintage shoes backstage at the Satellite three years ago. For one thing, Willie Nelson has just listened to his finished album and invited Dayton to perform at his annual Fourth of July picnic in Luckenbach, where Dayton will join a history of similarly chosen up-and-comers, among them Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. For another, these past three years have seen a goodly number of journalists following his career, pegging him as a rising star and waiting to see what would happen when he finally made his definitive move. So he's pretty well used to interviews now, and he's professionally and personally sensitive to the jealousies and second-guessing that follow in his wake as he moves from being a promising Houston boy out into the wider marketplace. For instance, for those who question his signing with a relatively small Houston label instead of one of the majors, and working with Randall Jamail, whose attention can be split between the legal and musical worlds, Dayton stands ready with a reminder that smaller labels can often give beginning performers more personal attention, and that some of the world's greatest music has been released by rich lawyers, from Leonard Chess to David Geffen.

Push him about his ambitions and he'll admit that "I want to sell a lot of records. I want everybody to know who I am, to look back in 30 years and say, man, that guy made some classy records. I think this is one of them. And I'm gonna make a lot more. But I can't get a big head about it because it's not out there yet. I don't know if people will buy it. But it's about a work ethic. That's what it's all about. Because there's a genius on every corner."

Jessie Dayton celebrates the release of Raisin' Cain at 9:30 p.m., Thursday, May 25 at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. Call 869-COOL for info.

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