Don't wanna meet yo daddy, just want you in my Caddy
Look to the West
The South Austin headquarters of New West Records are in a tizzy thanks to the recent signing of Dallas alt.country heartthrobs the Old 97's. "We're thrilled to death," says President Jay Woods. "My whole office has gone berserk." Not wasting any time, the band is recording their first New West LP, and sixth overall, next month at upstate New York's Dreamland Studios with co-producer Mark Neil. Other New West names headed for the Empire State soon include the Flatlanders, whose Wheels of Fortune bows Jan. 27, and Steve Winwood sideman Randall Bramblett, whose Thin Places is out now and who will play with Traffic at their February induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Down Muscle Shoals way, Woods says the Drive-by Truckers are "wrapping up" the follow-up to 2003 ace Decoration Day; that and the 97's record are due this summer.
Still closer to home, Jon Dee Graham and Charlie Sexton are in the mixing stage of Graham's forthcoming LP, and Delbert McClinton, the Flatlanders, and possibly Los Super Seven are on board for New West's SXSW festivities.
Monday's first-ever Austin Music Network Video Awards could safely be dubbed "Too Hot for TV." Musical funnyman and Best Comedic Video presenter Jerm Pollett set the tone early, explaining his tardiness in reaching the podium at a packed Alamo Drafthouse Downtown with "I had to take a dump." A little later, AMN late-night hostess Nadia one-upped him, dropping several f-bombs before announcing the Best Live Video winner. It wasn't entirely off-color, however: The Resentments' "That's Love" video offered a poignant tribute to "Mambo" John Treanor, joining videos from Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Big Boys, Asleep at the Wheel, and Daniel Johnston as the inaugural inductees into the AMN Hall of Fame. Winners included Sexy Finger Champs, Comedic Video; Willie Nelson & Toby Keith, Country Video; Del Castillo, Latin Video; Trail of Dead, Live Video; Kevin McKinney, Singer-Songwriter Video; Dirty Wormz, Urban Video; and the Swells, whose trippy "Through and Through" took home plaques for Experimental Video and the hotly contested "Viewer's Choice" award. The latter might have been construed as something of an upset had one band member not explained from the stage, "We have a big mailing list, and we got the word out." Then everyone adjourned to Bigsby's in search of whatever Nadia was on.
At this early date, all announcements out of SXSW can be considered tentative, but if there’s one thing that’s usually not, it’s the keynote speaker. Until now. When legendary R&B/hip-hop producer L.A. Reid stepped down Tuesday as president of Arista Records after a shaky three-year run, he also dropped out of the SXSW keynote slot. SXSW’s Craig Stewart says organizers already have their gaze fixed on a suitable fill-in, which he expects to be announced soon, perhaps in the next few days. In other SXSW news, despite a weeklong, simultaneous nonconference stand by Southern Culture on the Skids booked months ago, Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer says he still hopes to participate. “I’m trying to work out a deal where everyone will be happy,” he says. “If they let me have it back at midnight, we can start [showcases] at 8 or even 7.” Meanwhile, the Eighties invasion continues apace with Matador Records’ announcement last week that underground icons Mission of Burma are on board, and you didn’t hear it here, but anyone who might enjoy a last cigarette under the Milky Way tonight should line up for wristbands pronto. And should you be in search of a respite from the avalanche of music, you won’t find it at the SXSW Film fest either. Festival producer and Chronicle Blue October specialist Matt Dentler has lined up several music-themed films, including The Mayor of Sunset Strip, a documentary on L.A. radio legend Rodney Bingenheimer. Also set are the locally shot Welcome to Antone’s, featuring Sandra Bullock, B.B. King, and Willie Nelson; Robert Duvall-produced Billy Joe Shaver doc Portrait of Billy Joe; and 270 Miles From Graceland, a lensing of last year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival. Oh, and The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time, which Dentler dubs “a twisted, experimental Radiohead movie.”
THE REAL HEROES, Greetings From Russia
FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE: Formed in the wake of the Duckhills and Bongo Hate, Room 710/Parish/Emo's rockers the Real Heroes return with their first LP since late 2000's self-titled debut. It was worth the wait.
GOLDFINGER: Greetings features a pair of Real Heroes cuts redone to a glossy metallic sheen: glamtastic opener "Elise, Elise" and frenetically paced "Me Is the Drug."
OCTOPUSSY: Overall as sexually charged as any Maxim pictorial, Greetings packs extra leer on the lubricious "The French Song" and the extremely Bolanish "Move That Strut," on which singer Save Hotchkiss announces, "I've got designs on the front of your pants."
CD release 10pm tonight (Thursday) at the Parish with the Stepbrothers and DJ Linda.
Kiss That Frog
One of Austin's best-known pieces of public art, Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You" frog, nearly had a date with oblivion last week before a spontaneous 11th-hour protest led to a stay of execution. "We wanted everybody to know there's no maliciousness or surreptitious design here," John Oudt, owner of the Baja Fresh Mexican Grill set to take over the old Sound Exchange space in April, said at a Jan. 7 frogside press conference. "We were just ignorant, but now that we know, we're gonna save it." Also on hand was protest organizer Dan Solomon, who simply told reporters, "I think it's great."
Scene Stealers: Soul Odyssey
Seeing how it was inspired by a movie about a hyperaddictive new designer drug, it's hardly surprising the Formula 512 mix tape is loaded with chemistry. After a late-night viewing of 2002 Samuel L. Jackson thriller Formula 51, local MC Mirage da Griot had a brainstorm and called his partner in rhyme Arson Optics, who quickly agreed the idea was dope. The duo assembled a host of ATX hip-hop talent -- Bavu Blakes, Tee Double, Dok Holliday, Tray God, Element, Global, Buzzy, and Kaizen -- for an epic recording session at ATX Records and enlisted DJ Phyfteen to thread the whole thing together. "Everybody came through with they dopest shit," affirms Mirage. "Everybody ripped." A Prairie View A&M graduate who remembers seeing Run-DMC and Eazy-E at the old KAZI studios off Loyola, Austin-born Mirage, now 28, first met Arson Optics in 2001, when the then 16-year-old "Boy Wonder" brought him in for a track on his solo album Based on a True Story. "The first song we did together was crazy," confirms Arson, a Pittsburgh native who studied drums for a year at Boston's Berklee College of Music and is already one of Austin's most in-demand beat-crafters. As Soul Odyssey, the pair have lately been readying their debut, The Offering, dropping in late February or early March. Mirage hopes the album will capture the wide-open spirit of hip-hop circa 1987 and '88, when De La Soul carried as much commercial clout as N.W.A. "A lot of it is really soulful and melodic," he says. "But there's some bangers on there, too."
Mirage & Arson Optics join the Freaks the Funk bedlam Sunday at Miguel's. See "Music Listings."
Bullet the Blue Sky
It's not too late to vote in the 2003-04 Austin Chronicle Music Poll -- look for the ballot on p.2 of the print edition, or vote online.
Well on her way to becoming better known locally as Lance Armstrong's main squeeze than the voice behind "Soak Up the Sun," Sheryl Crow hopped onstage last week at the Lucky Lounge to join locals WideAwake on her 1996 hit "If It Makes You Happy." Smart money says she just may be around for the Armstrong Foundation's "Unplugged at the Paramount 2" benefit Jan. 30, with Shawn Colvin, Kelly Willis, Billy Joe Shaver, and David Halley. Tickets through Star.
"TCB" spies report that locals Hot Club of Cowtown rang in 2004 with a rousing version of "Orange Blossom Special" on the BBC's Top of the Pops. Cor blimey!
That George Strait has yet another country smash is hardly news, but the speed at which stations are jumping on "Desperately" is. The Honkytonkville track wasn't supposed to even go to radio until Jan. 25, but is already at No. 56 on Billboard's Country chart and No. 44 on Radio & Records. "That's great even by George Strait standards," marvels Monte Warden, who co-authored the song with Bruce Robison and is looking forward to accompanying his son to Strait's March 3 RodeoHouston performance at Reliant Stadium.
While painting his house not long ago, former Do It Now Foundation singer/guitarist Tom Cuddy found "a box or two" of the brainy indie rockers' 1994 LP Dig Deep. He was so tickled he set up one show Jan. 22 at Beerland with Ethan Azarian and the Pretty Please (no longer the Via Satellites) and another Jan. 29 at Room 710 with Jackie Ono. Best of all, at both shows, one damn dollar takes Dig Deep off his hands and into yours.
Rockstars booker Matt Meshbane is offering a spot on the club's guest list for every show until SXSW to anyone who Friendsters him or joins his BookMyBand.com e-mail list before midnight Sunday. He came by the nickname "Insane in the Meshbane" honestly, folks.