Sarah Dashew, Jessie Lee Miller, Carrie Lee & the Saddle-ites, and Marilyn Rucker
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006
Sarah Dashew, ex-Austinite and once half of Vera Takes the Cake, returns with Jealous Girl. That's just the title, not Dashew's sentiments, though she's produced an enviable dozen songs produced by Chuck Plotkin. Dashew's new digs in Los Angeles have given her music a sharper, sometimes poignant ("Empty") but no less playful depth ("Brad Pitt," "Hash It Out," recently heard on My Name Is Earl). Newcomer Jessie Lee Miller's pinup-girl good looks suit the Western swing sound of her CD Now You're Gonna Be Loved, but it's her sultry alto that gives it the honky-tonk kick. Produced by Sean Mencher, the CD is finely stitched material that's part original ("It's a Lonely World") and part well-chosen covers (Roger Miller's "Invitation to the Blues," Cindy Walker's "All or Nuthin' Gal") that are red-hot with no doodley squat. If Miller conjures up Patsy Cline, Cari Lee & the Saddle-ites evoke Rose Maddox on their new Brought to You Via Saddle-ite (Star Tone). Her satiny voice is all her own, but she really shines on duets with bassist Danny Santos. And if the L.A.-based group's dancy Western swing has a familiar touch, it's thanks to Austin's Horton Brothers and the inimitable touch from their recording studio, Fort Horton. They come to Austin, they go from Austin, they record in Austin, and sometimes they stick around. That's Marilyn Rucker, formerly of Therapy Sisters, whose sly humor ("Spoiled Rotten White Girl Blues") and lit-referenced lyrics ("Canterbury Rap," "Cassandra") made the group the feminine version of the Austin Lounge Lizards. On her new solo disc, Everybody's Somebody Else's Weirdo (Furry Gecko), Rucker keeps up the tradition with songs like "Grandma Show Us Your Tattoos." Unlike many songwriters, Rucker knows when to rein in a song: In the Tom Lehrer tradition, most are under three minutes. Weirdo's a prize that will likely fly right under the radar.