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Eating It Up

Slobberbone is playing with its heroes, and living off expectations

When Brent Best was finally ready to pick up a guitar and start messing with the songs rattling around in his 16-year-old head, he had already survived infatuations with Rush and R.E.M. By then, it was the bar-band rock of Jason and the Scorchers that served as his primary inspiration. Now, 11 years later, Best has the chance to tell his idols just how much they mean to him. In fact, he can say it right to their faces -- over and over again, if he likes -- seeing as his Denton band, Slobberbone, is opening for the Scorchers on a two-week string of tour dates.

"Maybe I'm making a bigger deal out of it than it is," Best admits. "But for me, it's a pretty cool band to be able to go out with. For me, Jason and the Scorchers are a much bigger deal than they are for other people."

Best is way too reverent to render such a judgment, but with all due respect to the cow-punk veterans, they might want to consider wearing asbestos boots after Slobberbone warms up their stage. Crow Pot Pie, Slobberbone's sole CD to date, is packed with so much driving C&W twang, so many strangely appropriate Bad Company riffs and such a flood of couplets heady enough to survive an alcoholic blackout that you might be led to think this band was the future of country rock. Certainly, few groups have ever twisted Thin Lizzy sonics into the sort of shape you hear on "Tilt-a-Whirl," one of Crow Pot Pie's half-dozen standouts.

Slobberbone's rumble has been four difficult years in the making. In the beginning, the band contained more would-be songwriters than any group of twentysomething amateur drunks could be expected to endure, and for three years the band couldn't seem to find a gig outside of the back room of a Denton pool hall. Then last year, just when things were starting to settle into a workable form, Slobberbone co-founder Lee Pearson quit. It was the idea that a CD might help them land gigs that paid more than just beer that led Slobberbone to enlist Denton neighbor and Brutal Juice frontman Sam McCall to record Crow Pot Pie in 1995. That disc attracted the attention of Austin's Doolittle Records, which this spring spruced up and re-released the self-produced CD, and the rest is ... well, the rest is merely a lot of touring so far, and keeping a level head, both ambitions that sit just fine with Best.

"It's really just getting to the point of where my ideal for this band was a couple of years back," he says. "I feel like we're pretty close to that, in terms of having an album out that people can get -- it's not gonna be in Wal-mart in Nebraska, but you can get the album -- and you can go see us. That's good enough for me right now."

Push for more juice, and you'll get an apology. "I wish I had something really exciting to tell you," Best says, searching his brain for a usable story. "Doolittle hired a publicist to work with us. She called a couple of weeks ago, and she wanted some kind of funny anecdote or something from touring to, I don't know, make a press release. I'm like, well, I can't think of anything. She said, 'Why don't you call me back in a couple of days, talk to the band, see if y'all remember anything. Nothing happened on tour?' Well, we had a blowout and almost died. She said, 'That might be funny.' That's not funny! And I couldn't go to the band with that, I'd just feel like a schmuck, you know?"

Feeling like a schmuck is familiar territory for Slobberbone on Crow Pot Pie. Tunes such as "Sober Song," "No Man Among Men," "Ruin Your Day" and "Stumblin'" all exhibit a finely tuned sense of a self gone wrong, but one too busy celebrating to beg forgiveness. As far as life off the CD is concerned, causes for celebration have been limited, although more than one major label has courted the band.

When it comes to music industry popularity contests, Best tries to maintain a level head. "The thing is, if you stay around those people long enough, you start using the same words as them," he says. "It's kinda gross." He admits, though, that "we've had a few expensive dinners. But Brian [Lane] our bass player, he's got a good approach to it. He's the oldest guy in the band; he's 30, he's six-foot-seven and he's just kind of a big lug. Every time we've ever been taken out to dinner by any kind of record label people or anybody, he has no shame. He'll order as much food as he can, and he won't talk. He'll just sit there and eat.

"It's pretty funny just to watch the guy, whoever the host is, as he's trying to talk to you about artist integrity, and watching his eyes jump over to Brian shoveling in chicken-fried steak or something. I'm hoping to get to the point where I can do that. I'd love for the whole band to do that."

Slobberbone opens for Jason and the Scorchers at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, November 2, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $8. For info, call 869-

 
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