Jon Dee Graham Reviewed
Big Sweet Life: The Songs of Jon Dee Graham
Since his appearance here in the late Seventies, dressed in black and spewing outrageously loud guitar licks for the Skunks, Jon Dee Graham's been an inextricable member of the Austin music scene. After joining the True Believers in the Eighties, his square-peg songwriting began fitting Austin's round hole, and by the late Nineties, he was rightly considered a stalwart. When news of his son Willie's illness emerged, so did the help. In staggering numbers. Witness Big Sweet Life: The Songs of Jon Dee Graham, a heartfelt benefit on two discs, audio and visual. The star-studded CD was recorded in June at the Continental Club with a wild array of performers from Beaver Nelson and Kathy McCarty to Ian McLagan and Charlie Sexton interpreting Graham's catalog. Outstanding contributions are offered up by Ray Wylie Hubbard ("Freeway Jesus"), the New Hot Damn ("Butterfly Wing"), and dueling versions of "Laredo" from James McMurtry and Bob Schneider. Filmed atop the News 8 building, the DVD offers mostly solo, occasional duo, and one full band performance as Ray Benson, Terri Hendrix, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, and others polish more of Graham's sparkling gems. Here, organizer and Resentments bandmate Scrappy Jud Newcomb and Tosca String Quartet's "World So Full," Elizabeth McQueen's "One Moment to Another," Patty Griffin's "Faithless," and the Gourds' "Lucky Moon" get the kudos. DVD extras include Traci Goudie's photo gallery and an interview with Graham himself, who contends, naturally, "This is about Willie." How cognizant of music can a 6-year-old be? The answer lies in CD track 16, "Rock and Roll," penned by Willie himself and amped up with Iggy Pop groove. One thing's for sure: Willie Graham's not only got the genes, he's rock & roll to the bone.