Before the Flood

Historian, musicologist, songwriter, performer and Cuban-music label owner Ned Sublette is in town from New York City to promote his new book The Year Before the Flood, which details his life in New Orleans during the year before Hurricane Katrina while he was on a grant at Tulane University. Sublette will also be performing his newest songs at the Big Top Friday night, as well as participating in this year's iFest.

Chatter: How did you get interested in tracing the development of jazz and rock and roll through Cuba to New Orleans?

Ned Sublette: I followed my ears. I was one of those people that always wanted to know, where does that come from? At some point I started to realize how much of my favorite rock and roll/R&B from the '60s was based on the cha-cha-cha. Like "Duke of Earl" and "What'd I Say."

C: You were born in Lubbock. Did you intersect at all with Terry Allen, Joe Ely, Lloyd Maines, et al?

NS: Not until I was grown, because we didn't live in Lubbock. We lived in Portales, New Mexico. Lubbock was the big city to me. Lloyd Maines became a good friend, and I flew to Austin to put him on some of the tracks on Cowboy Rumba. Any time I record, I want Lloyd Maines there.

I went to Lubbock with my band in 1984 and recorded some tracks with Lloyd and Jesse Taylor, including the version of "Cowboys Are Frequently­, Secretly" that Willie [Nelson] heard. That album's never come out. It's called Sweet Texas Crude, and I do plan to release it, hopefully this year.

C: What are some factors from a childhood in Portales that influence who you've become?

NS: Until I was nine, I lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the bad old days of segregation, less politely known as white supremacy. The first section of The Year Before the Flood is about that. Then we lived a year in El Paso. So I was born in Lubbock under the sign of Buddy Holly, and then I had Fats Domino and Elvis in Louisiana, then Mexican music in El Paso, then Bob Wills in eastern New Mexico. Not a bad background for an American musician.

C: Did you write "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other" specifically for Willie Nelson?

NS: I wrote that in 1981, 25 years before Willie's single came out, but I imagined Willie singing it from the moment I composed it. Willie found out about it one night in the late '80s when he was guesting on Saturday Night Live. Tony Garnier, who'd played on a recording I made of the song, was subbing T-Bone Wolk's chair in the house band that night, and he knew Willie from back in the day in Texas when Tony was with Asleep at the Wheel.

He gave Willie a cassette of the song. For years after that it was a favorite band-bus song of Willie's, but it took until the now-or-never of Brokeback Mountain for it to be recorded and released. Brokeback turned the song down, both Willie's version and my version, I guess because they thought it was funny and they were making a tear-jerkin' movie.


Saturday is Record Store Day, the annual demonstration that people do still in fact buy nondigital music – and lots of it. Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Deerhoof, Soundgarden and Wilco will be releasing exclusive RSD product; see a complete list at There's "easily four times the stuff as last year, and we had people lined up when we got here," says Cactus Music owner Quinn Bishop. Here's what Cactus and two other prominent Houston-area music merchants have planned.

Cactus Music (2110 Portsmouth): Them Crooked Vultures T-shirt; 15 percent off all non-RSD-exclusive, regularly priced new and used vinyl, and an additional 5 percent with a receipt from another Houston-area record store; in-store performances by sIngs (1 p.m.), Freddy Steady 5 (3 p.m.) and Grandfather Child (5 p.m.).

Sig's Lagoon (3710 Main): Sig's is opening early (9 a.m.) and bringing back the "Swap 'N' Bop" trading bazaar of art, vintage clothing and used vinyl in the Continental Club's backyard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. DJ Psychedelic Sex Panther will spin, and the El Orbits and Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man provide live music.

Vinal Edge (13171 Veterans Memorial Dr.): Vinal Edge is also opening at 9 a.m. and is giving away a 20-track "Best of 2009" sampler CD to the first 50 customers. Five crates of behind-the-counter LPs will go on sale at 9, as will a box culled from owner Chuck Roast's 7" collection. Other specials include buy one, get one free on all used CDs, and $1 classical LPs if you buy 10 or more.


Top Sellers
88 E. Crosstimbers, 713-694-6800

1. Monica, Still Standing

2. Usher, Raymond v. Raymond

3. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part 2

4. Marvin Sapp, Here I Am

5. Floyd Taylor, All of Me

6. Boss Hogg Outlawz, In the Beginning 2K10

7. Mel Waiters, I Aint Gone Do It

8. Lil C Presents, I Aint Takin No Loss 2 (feat. J-Dawg & Z-Ro)

9. Method Man, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon, Wu Massacre

10. Swisha House, True to the Game


104 KRBE
KRBE (104.1 FM),
Top songs, April 8
Data from

1. Jason DeRulo, "In My Head"

2. Kris Allen, "Live Like We're Dying"

3. Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"

4. Ke$ha, "Tick Tock"

5. Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé, "Telephone"

6. Taio Cruz, feat. Ludacris, "Break Your Heart"

7. Rihanna, "Rude Boy"

8. OneRepublic, "All the Right Moves"

9. Train, "Hey, Soul Sister"

10. The Script, "Breakeven"

(lists compiled by Chris Gray)

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