By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Slowly but surely, the Web site www.allmusic.com has become the permanent record your teachers always warned you about, the Encyclopedia Britannica of popular music. If you're a music scribe or other music professional or a dedicated fan, this free site is the first place you look to verify album titles and dates, get bare-bones bios, and even a little critical opinion. For new and/or obscure bands, getting an entry there is an arrival of sorts.
The site is seldom brilliant, but most times it is fairly effective and it has steadily been getting better at giving its users the correct basic facts. And it's a staggering enterprise they've got going. In the Allmusic database, there are 615,000 albums, almost 65,000 artist bios and more than six million album credits.
It's almost like the IRS or DPS database, and as anybody who has ever dealt with those two fine agencies can tell you, mistakes are made. Allmusic is no exception. And when it comes to Houston artists, Allmusic's errors are legion, and what's more, they're hilarious. Let's take a look at a few, shall we?
First, let's look at Chris King, whom must of us know as the versatile guy who led the collective Bloodfart, played bass for Carolyn Wonderland and most recently kept time on drums in Jug O' Lightnin'. But according to Allmusic.com, he's done all that and more. Did you know he co-produced DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's 1991 comeback album Homebase, which featured the rap classic "Summertime"? And did you know he also wrote the liner notes for Junior Walker's Essential Collection, and that one of his songs appears on the house music collection Gay Happening, Volume 4, and that he executive-produced another dance album called House Yo Mama? It even says he worked with bluegrass colossus Bill Monroe, though the details are skimpy. Platinum producer? Songwriter of gay-themed house music tracks? Music historian? That's what the site says, so it must be true.
Racket wondered why King was holding out on us. Why hadn't Houston heard more about this renaissance man? Reached at the pizza restaurant where he works, and hearing his Allmusic listing for the first time, King was pithy. "Dude, I wish I was me," he said. But what about working with Monroe? "We were on a prison road crew together once," he said.
John Egan is another one. Most people around here know him as a gruff-voiced Americana-leaning bluesman with a deft hand as a record producer. Allmusic's got all that in his entry. But little did we suspect those talents are the barest sliver of his spectrum of outrageous versatility. According to the site, he was also psychedelic rockers Ozric Tentacles' first-call flute guy, and a graphic designer whose album credits include Letters to Cleo's Aurora Gory Alice, Green Magnet School's Sub Pop debut, Blood Music, and Boston punkers Tree's debut, Plant a Tree or Die.
"Yeah, I really make the rounds," Egan said. "It's kinda my secret. I didn't really want all that to get out, but now you know."
John Evans is yet another cross-cultural mutha for you, not to mention a child prodigy. Not only did the then-five-year-old Evans play lead guitar on blues shouter Big Joe Turner's 1974 Pablo sessions, but he also mastered and produced Byron Lee and the Dragonaires' Soca Fire Inna Jamdown Stylee.And Evans's old bandmate Jack Saunders allegedly drummed for Eartha Kitt and Perry Como. And then there's Houston's hard-rocking honky-tonk poet laureate Greg Wood. Did you know that he released a new album this year called Focus, Surrender, Experience, Understand?(Focuswas described elsewhere on the Internet as "heartfelt acoustic rock in the vein of Dashboard Confessional, Bright Eyes and John Mayer.") Did you know that he translated the lyrics of two Cuban son albums and played keys and sang backup for mid-'80s Def Jam soulster Tashan? That he produced the score for Terminator 3? That one of his tunes was recorded on quiet-storm balladeer Alexander O'Neal's Saga of a Married Man? That's all in his bio, so it has to be right.
Among the numerous writer-musicians and others who have contributed in these very pages there's yet another gold mine of misinformation. Who knew that the same Marty Racine who contributed 20 years of top-notch music writing over at the Chronicle also played mandolin, mandola and violin in the hard-driving French-Canadian folk band La Bottine Souriante, a group described by folkie mag Dirty Linen as "the greatest band in the world"? (His entry is under his formal name, Martin Racine.) According to Allmusic, the Free Radicals' Nick Cooper played trumpet with Texas blues guitar legend T-Bone Walker and dropped cello parts on tunes by Irish boy bands Boyzone and Westlife and British dream poppers Super Furry Animals. In his spare time, not only does freelancer Rob Patterson write liner notes for Austin friends such as Ray Wylie Hubbard and Don Walser, but according to Allmusic, he also has enough cash to bankroll sessions by George Clinton, the Dazz Band and the Ohio Players. ("Where are my royalties?" Patterson wants to know.) We knew Patterson dabbled as a performer too, but we didn't know he played a mean enough fiddle to contribute a track on Dean Martin's Lay Some Happiness on Me: The Reprise Years.Lance Walker's past involvements with Quick Step Maneuver and Port Vale are duly noted in his entry, but what caught us by surprise was his work as a singer on the Body of Christ Workshop Choirproject.