CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

The eternal major-label tango continues in Austin. Moving in one direction is Don Walser , who is now with Watermelon/Sire for Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In , the fifth CD from the 63-year-old. Nothing has really changed, though: Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson is the producer, and Walser’s signature yodel and contemporary country sound remain vibrantly joyous and sometimes mournful. (Oh, yeah, the avant-classical Kronos Quartet turns up for an Oscar Hammerstein song; that’s a new wrinkle.) Heading in the other direction is Prescott Curlywolf , but Funanimal World (Freedom) suggests the post-punk foursome is happy to be “former Mercury recording artists.” The twenty-song set, captured live in the studio in a mere two days, is a collection of bare-bones ditties that ranges from twangy and crunchy to thrashing and sweet. In other words, it’s only rock and roll. You’ll like it. JASON COHEN

David Dennard’s recent reissues of vintage recordings by unsung heroes Ronnie Dawson and Gene Summers belatedly recognized Dallas’ importance in birthing rock and roll in the fifties. Now comes Dennard’s crowning achievement, The Lost Dallas Sessions, 1957 —’58, by Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (Dragon Street Records), a 21-song compilation that celebrates Vincent, the tremendous influence of Ed McLemore’s Big D Jamboree, and the role Dallas played in nurturing a slew of rock heroes.…Houston’s Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws Standing Room Only  (Bridge Entertainment) explains why the chanky-chank of the black Creoles of Texas and Louisiana is the hottest regional sound in America. In contrast to his young contemporaries who are throwing hip-hop into the gumbo mix, accordionist Rideau sticks to the lala basics, preferring to pay respects to elders Rockin’ Sydney, John Delafose, and Boozoo Chavis. JOE NICK PATOSKI

As his band funk-rocks up a batch of Tex-Mex on En Concierto (Hacienda Records), Albert Zamora churns out what’s best described as heavy-metal accordion, working chunky riffs and darting leads into the conjunto format. The 25-year-old Corpus Christi native plays tight, bracing solos that are improvised but not self-indulgent. If Zamora has yet to convince the conjunto world that he’s one of them, he leaves no doubt that he knows what he’s doing.… Jimmie Vaughan ’s Out There (Epic) is right in there. As always, the Austinite goes for a sparse, spare sound that lets him say what he has to without playing at all. Riding on a slinky Texas-to-California blues axis, the album has plenty of space to breathe yet contains some of Jimmie’s finest soloing. He may be the last of his generation to remember that there’s a lot of largesse and humor at the core of the blues. JOHN MORTHLAND

After graduating from Denton’s North Texas State University in the sixties, Houston-born saxophonist Billy Harper cemented his reputation in New York stints with Gil Evans, Art Blakey, and others. His recordings as a leader have been scarce in the past decade, but If Our Hearts Could Only See ( DIW) welcomes him back in excellent form, with a varied program of fiery bop, Coltrane-influenced modal excursions, and astonishing tenor play.…Fifty-three years after Nat “King” Cole aficionado Charles Brown released “Driftin’ Blues,” his easy, soulful delivery still enraptures listeners. The Texas City native’s So Goes Love (Verve) features artful arrangements that are smooth but never schmaltzy and a vintage forties jazz sound without a trace of cheap nostalgia. Even in his late seventies, Brown exudes a style and a swagger many singers can never hope to attain. jeff mccord Austin jazz drummer—pianist Graham Reynolds’ Golden Arm Trio is only occasionally a trio; the rest of the time he performs as a solo act or in a duo, quartet, or sextet. On their eponymous debut (Shamrock/Jinx), Reynolds and a grab bag of musicians plow through a book that ranges from the rousing klezmer of “Moses Supposes” to a pair of lovely Prokofiev and Chopin covers.…Dallas siblings Deryl and Stan Dorsett of Symbiosis put together their second album of techno music while hanging out in the den watching the Cowboys, but there’s nothing housebound about it. The drifting pulses of “Los Ovnis” and the breakneck beats of “Sensory (Deprivation)” make Meta (Domestic) the perfect soundtrack to some sort of journey, though whether it’s through inner or outer space is your call. JEFF SALAMON

Hot Books

Summer demands volumes of vacation-worthy fare: We recommend The Widower’s Two-Step (Bantam, $5.99), written by San Antonian Rick Riordan , in which the tough-guy template gets a Tex-Mex twist. And with Father’s Day nigh, the possibilities for Pa range from fiery to funny; consider The Pepper Lady’s Pocket Pepper Primer (University of Texas Press, $17.95), by Jean Andrews of Austin, the world’s greatest chilephiliac, and The Boy Ain’t Right (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, $14), a paternal discourse by Texan Hank Hill of sitcom fame. Or, get fiery and funny combined in Lost Cause (Kitchen Sink Press, $16.95), a graphic novel about gunslinger John Wesley Hardin by another Texas legend, historical cartoonist Jack Jackson of Austin. ANNE DINGUS

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