Houston Music

Various Artists

After listening a few times to this quirky cannabis cacophony (in various states of consciousness, strictly for scientific purposes), some interesting questions emerged. For one, how come nobody has written joyful odes to crystal meth or crack? And how the hell am I going to pay for this Grand Slam Breakfast when I left my cash at home?

Singing about weed seems a little too, shall we say, Age of Aquarius for the present day. Ever since Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie" made it past TV censors, the ganja genre has lost much of its cachet. Sure, kids can still get off on pot references in teen flicks, but these days weed seems more of a mainstream political issue, with headlines about legalization and medicinal therapy cropping up regularly across the country.

New Jack Hippies guru Guy Schwartz originally conceived of the album as a collection of cover songs, but local bands surprised him with a batch of new tunes. So it makes sense that there's a sarcastic, postmodern feel to the 21st-century ditties, even the ones that musically emulate old-style Deadhead tunes.

While there are some seeds and stems in this sack, more than half of the 14 cuts reflect some serious thought. The songs cover the gamut of styles, from Texas shuffle and eight-bar roadhouse blues to funky bong hits that might have been found on an old Sister 7 disc to Sly Stone revisited and dancehall rap. And even the clunkers benefit from Schwartz's workmanlike production effort.

Bitchin' tracks that take a serious approach include Sound Patrol's bass-heavy "Cannabis Sativa" and Dubtex's chopped and mixed "Good Weed" ("especially the kind that never have one seed"). "Paper/I Smoke the Pain Killer," recorded at a late-night KPFT broadcast, is a poetry slam by the Kool B-led Wandering Poets. To spare guitar/percussion accompaniment, B orates thusly: "With these occupied jail cells, with no room for the dealers, but they got room for me 'cause I smoke the pain killer." Later, Schwartz references the drugs-breed-terrorists TV ads on the Casey Jones-style romp "Grow Your Own." The best way to cut out street-corner dealers and international rogues, Schwartz suggests, is to invest in hydroponics and indulge in a little Jeffersonian idealism, Jerry Garcia-style. What could be more patriotic than that?

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Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr