CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

Grammy award aside, Flaco Jiménez ’s last solo album was a big disappointment, for it showed how far Texas’ greatest accordionist had strayed. After all those studio sit-ins with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Dwight Yoakam and those trips around the globe as the ambassador of Tex-Mex, his sound crept closer to Nashville country-pop and further from El West Side of San Antonio. So it is satisfying to report that Flaco’s latest, Buena Suerte, Señorita (Arista/Texas), is the one that really deserves a Grammy. It’s an exceptional back-to-basics piece of cantina fare—dusty, dirty conjunto that wraps vocal harmonies and a bajo-sexto twelve-string rhythm around Flaco’s pile-driving squeeze-box leads. And you don’t need to understand Spanish to appreciate the polkas, which absolutely rock. JOE NICK PATOSKI

With his jivey, country-boy-gone-urban-hipster persona and eclectic musical tastes, Lyle Lovett remains the postmodern Bob Wills, and despite such gaffes as a campy makeover of “Long Tall Texan,” The Road to Ensenada (Curb/ MCA) finds him true to form. The skewed Western swing of “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” provides only the most obvious example. As usual, there’s also enough faux jazz to build a solid case for Lovett as the leader of the ironic lounge music revival. JOHN MORTHLAND

Austin’s latest entries in the major-label alternative-rock sweepstakes are Prescott Curlywolf and Fastball. On Six Ways to Sunday (Mercury), the boys of P-Wolf strike a balance between radio-ready rock anthems, meat-and-potatoes guitar fests, and twangy Texas weirdness. Fastball’s Make Your Mama Proud (Hollywood) is, if you’ll pardon the expression, more prone to high hard ones, with a commanding pace and jacked-up guitars surrounded by sweet, shameless pop hooks and high school prom harmonies. JASON COHEN

Hot Books

Can Texas lawyers do what John Grisham and Scott Turow have done: successfully swap writs for fiction writing? Consider exhibits A and B. In Defiance County (Pocket Books, $23), the eighth novel by former San Antonio assistant district attorney Jay Brandon , a female prosecutor travels to an East Texas backwater to investigate the murder of a young couple whose baby is missing from its bloodstained crib. Brandon’s strengths are his ability to depict sympathetically both city slickers and rednecks; the plausibility with which he interweaves his heroine’s legal flubs; and the staccato tension of authentic courtroom scenes. In Society of the Mind (HarperCollins, $25), a wild blend of sci-fi and techno-romp by Houston securities attorney Eric L. Harry , a Harvard professor (also a woman; way to go, guys!) journeys to a reclusive genius’s secret compound to psychoanalyze a near-omnipotent and possibly deranged computer. The tale is jargony and contrived but, with its elements of Pinocchio, Jurassic Park, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Island of Dr. Moreau, Harry’s book easily approaches the benchmark of readability. ANNE DINGUS

Hot Crime Scene

Once upon a time, it was the site of the most famous murders in Fort Worth’s history. Today the $6 million mansion once owned by Cullen Davis—who was tried and acquitted of those murders—is home to the new Stonegate Mansion Restaurant , where young tour guides brimming with morbid fascination escort diners back through the events of the hot summer of 1976. The basement utility room, where twelve-year-old Andrea Wilborn was slain, is now a wine cellar and party room. Stan Farr’s bullet-ridden body was sprawled near what is now the service bar. On a recent evening, visitors even got a glimpse of Davis himself, who entertained family and friends in what was once his master bedroom. At his side, wearing a diamond as big as a cue ball, was his third wife, Karen, who furnished the alibi that helped win his freedom. By the way, the food isn’t very good—but then, in a place like this, it’s always going to take a back seat to the ambience. GARY CARTWRIGHT

Hot Video Game

Doom may be doomed: There’s an even better shoot-’em-up out there called Duke Nukem 3D . Designed by 3D Realms of Garland, Duke offers the usual first-person viewpoint and blood-and-guts galore, but with much smoother graphics, humor for the Beavis and Butt-head set (you go into a bathroom and find, huh-huh, relief), and an astonishing range of motion (when you’re not strafing bad guys, you’re flying, swimming, or handing dollar bills to exotic dancers). Download a free demo ( http://www.3drealms.com) or order the full version for $39.95—either way, you’ll be Nukeing till you glow. JOSH DANIEL

Hot Musicmaker

His collaboration with the Wannabes on Popsucker won him a 1996 Austin Music Award as producer of the year, but it is ex—Reivers front man John Croslin ’s stunning work on Spoon’s Telephono that threatens to propel his career fast and far. Matador, the hot New York indie label that Spoon records for, recently tapped Croslin to do an on-the-fly mix of Pavement’s “Painted Soldiers” for the soundtrack of the Kids in the Hall movie, Brain Candy . That went well, so he is now consulting with Matador’s other marquee act, alt-rock diva Liz Phair. And his songwriting talents haven’t been forgotten either: Last year Hootie and the Blowfish covered the Reivers’ “Almost Home” on a CD single, giving Croslin his best seller ever. JASON COHEN

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