The Austin Chronicle

Blaze Foley Reviewed

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, December 24, 1999, Music

Blaze Foley

Live at the Austin Outhouse (Lost Art)

More people have heard of Blaze Foley than have actually heard him. With the CD release of Live at the Austin Outhouse, this circumstance is likely to change, however. A cassette of these recordings has been circulating around Austin for years, and this is a digital remaster of the original tape; a cleaned-up version that retains the defunct club's ambience with random voices, squeaks from chairs and doors, and sounds from the cash register. One of the most revered singer-songwriters from Austin's past, Foley was captured on a four-track cassette recorder just a month before his death, and these 15 tracks are startling in their simplicity. With the exception of the occasional harmonica, fiddle, and piano, Foley's deep whiskey-and-cigarettes voice is prominent, distinctive, and haunting, while his guitar playing is economical. His stories and songs capture bits of life with remarkable precision for their brevity. Townes Van Zandt was a friend and champion of Foley's songs, and it's easy to see why; Foley lays his soul out, which occupied the same dark hollow that Van Zandt's inhabited, yet his blues and folk melodies bring emotions to life in ways that very few, excepting Van Zandt, of course, have ever been able to do. Besides his best-known tune "If Only I Could Fly" (recorded by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 1987), Foley performs "Our Little Town," "Picture Cards Can't Picture You," "Small Town Hero," and "Clay Pigeons," songs that are considered by his fans to be among his best. The between-song patter provides a glimpse into Foley's personality and his view of the world as well. Whether asking for some brandy, talking about the pleasant effect of marijuana despite its expense, or waiting for the bartender, Ed Bradfield, to join him onstage and play harmonica, Foley appears affable, kind, and lucid. In the past couple of years, Blaze Foley's legend has become better known, although more for his derelict ways and his tragic death. Live at the Austin Outhouse portrays his humanity and offers ample proof as to why his music is remembered a decade after his death.


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