The Austin Chronicle

Just One More

By Jim Caligiuri, June 4, 2007, 12:45pm, Earache!

There have been tribute records for truck drivers and marijuana, literary figures, and recreations of complete albums. But with its easygoing nature, Just One More: A Musical Tribute to Larry Brown (Bloodshot) is one of the best of its kind to come out in a long time.

Brown, an Oxford, Miss.-based author, passed away at age 53 on Thanksgiving Eve 2004. If you have never heard of him, seek out one of his books. Almost any one will do. Many lauded Brown for his detailed yet raw fiction about the rural South. He’s been compared to fellow Oxford resident William Faulkner, but he was also a huge music fan. His wife claims that if he didn’t play his guitar every night, “he felt like the day was wasted."

Brown wrote a story on Robert Earl Keen for No Depression magazine and the liner notes to an album by Mississippi band Blue Mountain. He became friends and acquaintances with quite a few musicians over the years, which is the reason for Just One More. The album’s producer, Tim Lee (The Windbreakers), remembers the first time they met.

“It was at a dinner party in Oxford in the early Nineties,” he recalls. "John Grisham was there. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t impressed with that Grisham guy, because I was such a big fan of Larry’s. I happened to be in Oxford when he died and I went to the visitation. After, when I was driving home to Knoxville where I live, I thought about how much Larry loved music and how much musicians loved him. He treated everybody great, but he treated musicians just a little bit better. It just kind of occurred to me that someone really needed to do a tribute.”

“It didn’t get off the ground initially,” he continues. “But last summer it was revealed that [Brown’s last book] A Miracle of Catfish was coming out in the spring and there was going to be a conference in Oxford with a focus on Larry. I thought that if it’s going to be done, now’s the time.”

The disc features a wide range of Americana types from Greg Brown to Scott Miller, Keen to the North Mississippi Allstars. Longtime Austin favorite Caroline Herring, who went to college in Oxford, wrote a song specifically for the tribute, the haunting “Song for Fay.”

While in Oxford, Herring had a hand in starting the Thacker Mountain Radio show, which featured both music and literature.

“Larry wrote a short story called ‘Beam Me Up Scotty’ that he read for the show one Christmas Eve,” Herring relates. “It ended up snowing in Oxford that Christmas and it never snows in Oxford. It was kind of magical. He was a big supporter of the show and of me. They said one of my CDs was in the stack next to his computer when he died, so they asked me to be part of the project. I thought that if he could write a short story for my radio show that I could write a song for him. I wanted to write a song about his main female character. She gets more attention than any of the other women in any of his works. I know that his works are about men’s men, but I thought it would be an interesting perspective.”

I discovered Larry Brown through Alejandro Escovedo. In the early part of this decade, Lee Gutowski, who was the publicist for Bloodshot and working with Escovedo at the time, alerted me that the two were on tour together. She lent me Big Bad Love (later made into a movie) and I instantly understood what everyone saw in Brown. Escovedo contributes a very different version of “Baby’s Got New Plans” to Just One More, recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in 2006, with the likes of Buddy Miller, Sam Bush and other Nashville players backing him up.

“We did a little book tour of the East Coast together,” Escovedo remembers. “I’d try to keep up with the mood that he’d be creating with his reading and then I’d play a song. It was wonderful. With Larry there was no rehearsal. We just went for it. It was really a great experience to be around him as much as I did. We had a lot in common. We were born in the same year. We both had friends that served in Vietnam. I felt very close to him like someone I’d known all my life. I thought the tribute was a great idea because Larry was so connected to music. He was a brilliant writer. His literary ability, if you were talking about songwriters, it’s like Dylan. He had a very distinctive voice. He was a very unusual man. He had that Southern craziness that I love.”

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