By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
By Rocks Off
By Rocks Off
Charlie Robison, at the Ziegenbock Festival
Not that long ago it seemed like Charlie Robison was going to single-handedly change Nashville and country music. Instead of playing the it's-all-good, speak-no-evil, how's-my-wardrobe-look game, Robison was great copy. He once called Brad Paisley "that little moron" and started a huge brouhaha by publicly trashing Pat Green and his clones for hijacking the mantle of "Texas music." When accused of selling out when he signed with Sony Nashville, Robison replied that he was "Nashville's worst nightmare."
Well, he did okay with Step Right Up, but Charlie Robison neither pulled down the walls of the citadel nor chased the moneylenders from the temple. Like fellow Texas outlaw Jack Ingram (with whom he shares this bill), after a short run, Robison quietly parted ways with Sony. His new album, Good Times, is due out this week on Dualtone, the Nashville independent label that's home to such artists as Jim Lauderdale, Chris Knight and Radney Foster -- acts with loads of integrity but little of the dumbed-down homogeneity that today's tightly controlled radio play lists demand.
For Good Times, Robison returned to Lloyd Maines, who produced Robison's signature album, Life of the Party, as well as his first album, the hugely underrated, out-of-print Bandera. The new album is pure Robison, featuring a mix of cheeky double entendres like "Love Means Never Having to Say You're Hungry," barroom sing-alongs like "Good Times," and dark touch-of-evil folk ballads like Keith Gattis's "El Cerrito Place," the surreal border sketch "New Year's Day" and a classic remake of the tender "Always," which originally appeared on Bandera.
Rather than marking a drastic sea change, Good Times is a logical extension of Robison's previous work. Marriage and fatherhood and a couple of hard years in the ring duking it out with the country music establishment have seasoned and tempered Robison, but what counts is that he's still plenty capable of John Prine-ish lyrical genius and South Texas get-outta-my-way swagger, all delivered in that guy-two-double-wides-over voice that first brought him to our attention: "I woke up Sunday morning / Had myself a piece of toast / Had $50 in my pocket / Gonna chase myself a ghost / Went down Camino Espinoza / Gonna get me a divorce." While Good Times may not quite achieve the Zen moment that Life of the Party did, it still displays all the maverick traits and musical breadth that drew us to Charlie Robison in the first place. -- William Michael Smith
Saturday, September 25, in Old Town Spring Preservation Park, 405 Main. Eli Young, Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers, Drew Womack, Cory Morrow, Phil Pritchett, Honeybrowne, Reckless Kelly, Jack Ingram and Roger Creager are also on the bill. Admission is free. For a schedule, visit www.ziegfest.com/oldtown.htm or call 832-237-8900.The Cramps
In 1976, while Americans were celebrating the bicentennial with a lot of renewed interest in the past, mondo bizarro aspiring musicians and romantic couple Erick Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace pursued their own sort of history lesson. Rechristening themselves Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, they fused their interest in vintage sounds like rockabilly, surf and garage and mid-20th-century schlock culture like B-grade horror movies, kitschy drive-thru Americana and primitive sex flicks -- all that seedy '50s nostalgia that Sha Na Na, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirleyignored.
The illegitimate offspring of Link Wray and Jayne Mansfield have pursued this rarely varying sound ever since, with Interior's screaming/moaning vocals and Rorschach's dirty, bottomed-out chords anchoring a changing but always reverb-drenched quartet lineup. Their live shows, equal parts rock and Rocky Horror, are celebrations of fun-loving decadence. And forked tongue-in-cheek album titles include Gravest Hits, Smell of Female and Look Mom, No Head!
Their latest release, on their own Vengeance label, is the double CD How to Make a Monster. The first disc includes early demos, rarities and studio outtakes, while the second features two gigs at venerable NYC punk venues: a 1977 date at CBGB's (their third performance ever) and a 1978 gig at Max's Kansas City. And though the sound quality varies wildly, the fact that you can hear patrons heckle the band and even make a drug deal with a waitress (!) shows how confrontational and dangerous many of their early gigs were. The surfeit of repetition makes it a collection for diehards only, but it nonetheless provides an interesting glimpse of the band's earliest days as fledgling fiends. -- Bob Ruggiero
Some of my crit-comrades complained about the thin lyrical content on Jon Dee Graham's last album, Hooray for the Moon (did they just fast-forward through "Laredo"?). But I'd like to hear them try to argue with me about his next album. On the great battle, Graham has bowed his literary neck, channeled into John Updike territory and, in the process, delivered the most complete album of his solo career.
Graham begins with "Twilight," a theme-setter that immediately lets us know where he's coming from -- middle age -- with these cracked-mirror, rusty-razor, where-did-that-ache-come-from musings that seem ripped still bleeding from his subconscious: "How much trouble are we in / Don't you hear those violins / Do you believe we were conceived in sin / Well, I do." Listen to the album a few times and the title becomes less and less ironic. In Graham's vision of the great battle, beautifully harmonized with Patti Griffin, "Good things will happen / Bad things will happen / And very often I won't know the difference at all."