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Despite assorted personnel changes (aside from Martin, Cortez is the only original member left), the True Infidels hung tough over the years, performing in the sterile restaurants and nightclubs along the Riverwalk and various smoke-choked dives further off the beaten path. Eventually, they amassed enough funds to finance a debut CD, 1994's Babel, a much fussed-over affair with a staid, antiseptic quality that hardly hints at the group's energy live, or the leap in song quality that came with Waiting on Angels. Martin's writing has matured significantly since the group's first release -- his initial tendency to lapse into cliche replaced by a world-weary grace as intriguing as it is mysterious. And the music has come a long way, too -- far enough, in fact, to catch the attention of a few major labels, though no deals have yet been signed. Meanwhile, Martin says, Waiting on Angels is selling well enough in Texas to pay off the loan the band needed to record it.
But even with two CDs of strong originals, a hard-won San Antonio following and a slow, steady increase in popularity around Texas, True Infidels still find themselves on-stage playing other people's music much of the time. For now, it's a necessary evil that Martin says the True Infidels are forced to accept if they want to survive as a full-time operation -- unless, that is, they move to Austin, an unappealing option after a stable 12 years in the same city.
"There's really only a couple of rooms [in San Antonio] where you can go and just play your own stuff. It's been tough, because we want to be playing all originals," Martin admits. "We get a lot of flack from some of the younger bands [for playing covers], but they get up in the morning, go to work and then sometime in the evening they decide to go out and play, whereas we have no choice. This is our job -- we play all week long and at a lot of the clubs we play four hours [a night]."
That's why True Infidels try to escape the Alamo City and head north and east as often as possible. In cities where original music is a more common commodity, the True Infidels can take the stage as an opening act and easily whip off a 45-minute block of their own material. At least that's been the case in Houston: after working years to squeeze themselves into a regular spot on the Texas touring circuit, the Infidels are finally seeing signs of a following here.
In town last month for a show with the Subdudes at Rockefeller's, the True Infidels played to a surprisingly receptive audience and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, with wide smiles and good-natured jokes all around. The largely acoustic set was tight, tuneful and (with the exception of a harmonica that just wouldn't stay put on its stand) well-executed, with Martin relishing his role as the band's charismatic frontman. "We're seriously thinking about adopting this city as our second home," Martin says.
There's good reason for that, he adds. In Houston, audiences have been willing to focus on the band's original material. "It's really liberating to come to a town and not have everyone calling out for other people's songs," Martin says. "The Al Stewart/Rolling Stones thing gets old after a while."
True Infidels perform at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 11, with Trish Murphy at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. For info, call 869-
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