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Rebel with a Cause

Dimebag lives on in these new recordings

Sitting in a hotel bar, Vinnie Paul Abbott is stunned that not a single TV is tuned to the hockey game. His boys, the Dallas Stars, are taking an ass-whuppin' at the hands of the Avalanche -- or so Big Vin tells me -- and he'd like to see it. I have no use for hockey, but he's a die-hard fan. And since he's Vinnie-fucking-Paul from Pantera and Damageplan, for chrissakes -- one of the most powerful and revered timekeepers of the past two decades -- I have little doubt that if he really wanted to watch the game, he could make a few phone calls and within minutes be seated in the owner's box.

But Vinnie is gracious to a fault. In fact, he doesn't even ask the bartender to change the channel. He didn't come here to talk about hockey. He's here on a Tuesday night to drum up some interest in Rebel Meets Rebel, a collaboration between legendary country outlaw David Allan Coe and three of the Cowboys From Hell: Abbott, his late brother, Dimebag Darrell, who was brutally murdered on stage a year and a half ago, and Rex Brown. Aside from some Damageplan demos recorded before Dime's death, these are among his last recordings.

Vinnie believes in this project. So much so that he formed his own label -- Big Vin Records -- and secured a distribution deal with Fontana. Now he's getting out there and spreading the word on his own dime. But while the personal appearances are a nice touch, the record speaks for itself: It's Coe fronting a kick-ass metal band.

"It was a total trip, because none of us knew what to expect when we first got together," Vinnie explains. "It wasn't even really a project at first. It was just kind of an idea. Dime went out and met the dude, hung around after the show, waited 20 to 30 minutes in line to get an autograph from him. And then when he got up there, David looked at him and goes, 'Man, look at you with this curly hair, this fucking goatee and all these tattoos -- you gotta be somebody, man.' And Dime goes, 'Yeah, well, I play in this little band from Texas called Pantera, here's one of our DVDs, check it out,' you know. Dude got back in his bus later that night and put in the DVD and then just flipped out. He goes, 'Man, here's this dude that waited 30 minutes in line to get an autograph from me, and he's playing to 20,000 people in Japan on this video. I gotta call this dude back.'

"So he calls Dime back up," Vinnie continues, "and says, 'First of all, I want to apologize for not knowing who you were,' and all this. He goes, 'Dude, I watched the DVD. I loved it. You guys are the outlaws of heavy metal as I've been to country music my whole life.' And then further along down the conversation, next thing you know, they're talking about 'We ought to hook up and write some songs together.' "

The next time Coe came through Dallas, just a short while later, he looked up the brothers Abbott. He parked his bus in front of Dime's house and got drunk -- "like we should've in the first place," notes Vinnie -- with the Cowboys From Hell. Later that night, they ended up in the studio -- the same one where the last two Pantera albums and the Damageplan release were recorded -- and commenced jammin'. Understandably, the Cowboys were intimidated by Coe's iconic status.

"He just said, 'Y'all do what you do,' " Vinnie recalls. "So me and Dime and Rex just kicked in like we always did and started slamming away, and we kept asking, 'What do you think, David?' And he's like, 'That's cool, man. Just keep rocking. I'm just writing some words over here.' " -- Dave Herrera

The Abattoir

Let's draft Neil Young. Sure, he's a 60-year-old brain-damaged Canadian who made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for "Heart of Gold." But let's ship him off to Fallujah with an M-16 anyway, because he's hurting America.

See, Young just released a new protest CD, Living with War, with a single, "Let's Impeach the President." And soon the dazed Bay Area hippie will launch a 29-stop national "Freedom of Speech '06" tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Charging upward of $250 per seat, he'll preach his clichéd ten-song stinker of a new record to a grinning choir of thousands. His goals? Exchanging ideas, getting the word out, power to the people and unification. Yeah, right.

No sane person believes music has much of an effect on politics, except for a few mush-brained burnouts and their contemporary wannabes.

Musicians such as hardcore icons Sick of It All say singing about politics makes them feel good but doesn't change anything. Ska heroes the Slackers believe entertainment comes first. Band promoters, roadies -- hey, even Neil Young fans don't buy the political song and dance.

"I don't know if music helps. There's nothing we can do to control it all," said Carmela Capozzo, a 53-year-old Neil Young superfan who showed up at Tower Records in Concord, California, on April 30 to score tickets to a recent CSNY show.

Most of the Neil Young fans we've talked to cited Woodstock and the '60s as the big nexus of music and politics, but when pressed as to how exactly a song can swing a swing state or, say, counter a million bucks' worth of dirty funding, they all came up rather blank.

Crit Crejar, a 52-year-old former drummer in corduroys who sports frizzy Muppetlike hair, wanted to hear Stills's guitar work, not Young's whining. "I don't think music can contribute, but it could rile people up the way old newspapers used to," the Vietnam draftee and attempted Woodstock attendee said.

By far the most telling response came from the first person in line. That was Joe Henderson, a 49-year-old school custodian who may well be the No. 1 Young fan. He showed up at 7:30 a.m. in an early-'90s turquoise Hyundai Accent with a busted front end. Red veins laced his tired eyes, because he'd just pulled a double graveyard at a nearby high school with a busted water main. His overtime pay earmarked for a single $250 ticket, Henderson was seeking his icon in concert for the 21st time, after having first heard "Cinnamon Girl" in a thrift store at age 21. "It was like falling in love with life," he said. "The sound, the lyrics, the mellow acoustic of 'Old Man' and 'Old Laughing Lady' just blew me away."

Henderson voted for Kerry in '04 and sees no way out of the current morass. To him, music and politics in the '60s involved a confluence of sounds, images and events: "It was a whole lot of things. The TV of the coffins -- I don't know. I'm pretty complacent. I always have been."

Somehow, though, I think Young buys his own malarkey and thinks it will change something. Living with Warincludes songs about leaders behind locked doors, even as he refuses interviews to the likes of Press Play. What he's deigned to tell CNN about the album's genesis involves bits about seeing wounded soldiers in the paper and crying to his wife and starting the album: "It's about exchanging ideas, getting the message out...empowerment...unification."

Yet this hastily made recording exchanges not a single new idea, gets no new message out, empowers no one -- and as for unity?

Come on.

Young can still shred on his Les Paul while subdued drums and bass occasionally keep time, and a hundred-voice choir or a trumpet will sometimes belt something out, but mostly it's an aging rocker barking "No lies! No lies!" as though he were watching C-SPAN coverage of social security reform.

The marquee song, "Let's Impeach the President," is as insipid as it is depressing. Its very title is the political equivalent of yelling "Free Bird!" at a show. It denotes you as a dated, unoriginal, unfunny jackass.

Simply put, you can't unseat a president whose party controls all three branches of government. George W. has dodged four kamikaze airliners, a disastrous hurricane and enough car bombs to destroy every concert arena in the country. Now a rock 'n' roll torpedo is supposed to sink him? It won't even rock him, which makes all this contemporary protest music by Young, Springsteen, Pink and Pearl Jam feel like opportunistic, profitable tripe.

Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet. He's the perfect paper-money tiger. Set him up, and even Good Charlotte can tear into him and collect the windfall. But when entertainment subs for engagement, America loses. Neil Young and his ilk provide a self-righteous outlet for people to stay seated. Just not in the lawn section -- bad backs.

Which brings us back to the drafting of Neil Young.

Bad back or not, conscript this man. Stick him on the wall of the Green Zone with that harmonica in his mouth and bullets whizzing by, and roll the cameras. The sight of our sad, confused old Crazy Horseman limping around, yelling "I've been a miner for a heart of gold" could match the pathos of that little girl running from napalm with her clothes burned off her.

That's how you rock a vote and make a buck. With televised carnage and a draft.

Just ask "Ohio." -- David Downs

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