Freda & the Firedogs Reviewed
Freda & the Firedogs, Lubbock Lights, and The Contenders
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 13, 2002
Freda & the Firedogs(Plug)
Supernatural Family BandLubbock Lights (Akashic)
Greezy Wheels"Finding Happiness"/"Monkey in the Church" (Tana)
Four recent local reissues here, each one a milestone of Austin's progressive country era in its own inimitable way. Freda and the Firedogs is the legendary lost recording from Atlantic Records, capturing the beloved local band at its 1972 zenith. In addition to Jerry Wexler's expert production and remastering by local country radio pioneer Joe Gracey, Freda pushes the boundaries of country, from Loretta Lynn ("Fist City") and Hank Williams ("Jambalaya") to blues (Taj Mahal's "EZ Rider") and folk traditionals ("Make Me a Pallet"), with Marcia Ball's youthful, distinctive vocals. After the enormously popular Uncle Walt's Band disbanded locally, the power duo of Champ Hood and Walter Hyatt teamed up in Nashville with Steve Runkle, Jimbeau Walsh, and Tommy Goldsmith to form the Contenders, from 1976 to 1978. This self-titled CD is the reissue of the one and only vinyl album, plus the requisite extra tracks. The band's considerable experience resulted in an astonishingly eclectic sound that was adept at rock & roll ("Talk"), ballads (the gospel-inflected "Lack of Love"), country ("Walking Angel"), and blues ("Chain of Emotion"). The multitalented, multigenerational Hancock family performed as the Supernatural Family Band in the Seventies and early Eighties before relocating to Austin, and Lubbock Lights captures their essence. Recorded live for vinyl at Lubbock's Texas Spoon Cafe & Bar in 1986, the CD offers three Tom X bonus tracks ("The Desert Blues," "The Marfa Lights," "Lubbock Lights"). The album has a wistful, nostalgic feel as it hearkens as much to Texas classics ("Faded Love," "San Antonio Rose") as it does patriarch Tommy Hancock's days with the Roadside Playboys and the family band magic. Freda & the Firedogs were hot stuff when Greezy Wheels first roared onto the scene in the mid-Seventies. Their album Radio Radials was as hugely popular as they were, another family affair with Cleve Hattersley, his fiddle-playing wife Sweet Mary, sister Lissa Hattersley, and an extended family of talents. After 20 -odd years of dormancy, the band revved up and put out 2000's Millennium Greezy and last spring began a creative campaign to its fan club called "Song of the Month." With the recent release of the CD single "Finding Happiness" and "Monkey in the Church," the Wheels roll more than halfway toward the finished product. This is not Nashville-defined country; Greezy Wheels' whimsical pop influences are ever present in the charmingly folky, if slightly irreverent, quirky little songs.
(Supernatural Band, Greezy)