With a band reunion facing him in a little less than three weeks, Greg Wood is just happy to be here.
"Man, I had that heart attack when I was 35 and I never figured I'd ever see 47, but here I sit," he gestures expansively around the twilight Sunday scene at his local watering hole, West Alabama Ice House. "With my lifestyle, I'm never going to be a picture of fitness, but I'm actually doing pretty well, all things considered."
"I'm so introverted and I've had so many health problems," Wood continues. "I mean, I was virtually living at Ben Taub off and on for almost two years.
"I wasn't sure I ever wanted to do this again," he explains as he sips a 16 oz. Busch Lite. "So there we'll be July 15 doing an evening [makes quotation marks in the air] with Horseshoe. Amazing, really."
Wood will be joined by original members Scott Daniels on lead guitar, drummer Eddie Hawkins, and bassist Ben Collis. Ken Jones, who spent a long time in The Missiles, will fill Cary Winscott's spot at rhythm guitar; Winscott passed away from skin cancer complications in 2008.
Along with his own band, which has played Last Concert Café hundreds of times, Daniels was Carolyn Wonderland's guitarist foil for a decade, Collis currently plays with honky-tonker Amber Digby, and Hawkins is a technical whiz for the Houston Symphony.
Horseshoe took Houston's alternative scene by storm beginning in January 1995, when first album King of the World was released. Rocks Off first saw them when they opened for Sonny Landreth at Rockefeller's, and we became lifelong fans that night.
There really was nothing else quite like the mix of rock and surly country that Wood and his mates were putting out, although No Depression magazine had recently coined the term alternative country and that seemed to be as good a genre description of Horseshoe as anything.
Rocks Off's then-teenaged guitar-picker son took King of the World and retreated into his bedroom, where we frequently heard him whanging away on songs like "Covenant" and "Slow Learner."
By 1997, the band had a successful California tour under their belts and Billy Joe Shaver had called their show at SXSW "some of the best damned music I've ever heard." But the wheels were already beginning to fall off.
Horseshoe's second album, the highly anticipated Moving the Goods, seemed to take forever to complete as the band lost all of the momentum it had worked so hard to build. It was finally issued in 2000, and in spite of some brilliant songs like "Tall Texas Trash" and "Last Concert Café," it was a serious disappointment to many fans - a scattered, disjointed, somewhat confusing collection that had too much acid, too much heroin, too much excess-everything written all over it.
"Blue Shimmer," "Purgatory," and "Wild Flower Child" sounded like a band in a death match with heroin. Live shows became fewer and fewer as Wood descended into his own personal hell.
"Man, I was borderline insane at that point, just pushing the envelope too far in every direction," Wood shrugs. "I just have that kind of personality."
"The ironic thing about us doing this is that it has made me exercise more, kinda get back in shape, because I could tell right at the first rehearsal that I wasn't strong enough to do this," he says. "And if we're going to do it, I want it to be right.
"We thought it was going to be easier than it's turned out to be," Wood chuckles.
Wood made a brief one-off return to performing two years ago with a one-hour solo show at Rudyard's put together by his buddy Charlie Sanders.
"I was very disappointed with that show," says Wood. "By the end I was gasping for air and I had to push the mike away at the end of some lines just so people wouldn't realize I couldn't hit the note."
The reformed band has worked up 40 songs for the upcoming show at Rudyard's.
"We had no idea how much work this was going to be," Wood laughs. "But we've worked up virtually all of the recorded Horseshoe material plus three or four songs that we had written but have never performed."
The band gave a brief glimpse of what to expect on a recent edition of Pat and Rosie's late night show on KPFT.
"I think we did 14 songs that night and it went pretty well," says Wood. "But it was also a good wake-up call that we've got more work to do."
So why a Horseshoe reunion now?
"Eddie and I had been talking about it," Wood explains. "And we finally called Scott to see what he thought and he was in."
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"For me, I'm doing this because I don't feel like I left on my own terms," he adds. "My heart attack and all the subsequent medical problems just took me out of it. I had no choice, and there was nothing any of us could do."
"If this is our last show ever, I want Horseshoe to go out right."