CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

In the sixties, Mayo Thompson’s The Red Krayola was a Houston psychedelic band with a writer—Frederick Barthelme—for a drummer. Thirty years later, the amorphous experimental outfit has a new lineup that makes music with the help of such guests as Minutemen alumnus George Hurley, but time has not tarnished Thompson’s gift for adventurous mutability: The Krayola’s new album, Hazel (Drag City), is an ethereal, skittish affair that runs from strangely beautiful folk rock and twisted cabaret to Beefheartian jazz and, of course, occasionally unlistenable noise. JASON COHEN

Oklahoma bluesman Lowell Fulson blossomed in Texas and among expatriate Texans in post-war California. His new reissue, My Baby (Jewel), was cut in Dallas and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and first appeared in 1971, targeting the emerging white blues crowd. Like most of that era’s crossover blues, it’s flashy and trashy, with hissing cymbals, medicine-ball bass, and such unlikely material as the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.” But it stands as a walloping, fully realized experiment in heavy centered on Fulson’s precise guitar and sinuous vocals, with slide (from the late Eddie Hinton) and rhythm guitars that cut like jagged glass. JOHN MORTHLAND

Mariachi is one of Mexico’s richest musical traditions and perhaps its best-known export—yet preconceptions about the genre will be shattered by the self-titled debut from San Antonio’s Campanas de Americas (Barb Wire). The orchestra led by Juan and Belle Ortiz draws on big band, modern Latin, jazz, and pop to give mariachi a contemporary feel without compromising the qualities that make it so compelling. JOE NICK PATOSKI

Hot Books

The historical exploits of the last great Cherokee warrior provide the momentum of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana ’s Zeke and Ned (Simon and Schuster, $25). In the late 1880’s Ned Christie was a respected citizen of the town of Tahlequah in the Oklahoma Territory—until members of the tiny Cherokee community, including his fictionalized father-in-law, Zeke Proctor, are threatened with the white man’s law. The inevitable clash of cultures underpins the requisite chase-’em-downs and shoot-’em-ups, just as an element of horror lurks in McMurtry’s humorous dialogue.…Subculture, not lost culture, is the thrust of 8 Ball Chicks (Anchor Books, $23.95), an exposé of girl gangs in three big cities, including San Antonio—but this real-life tragedy is unrelieved by humor or historical distance. Written by former Mademoiselle staffer Gini Sikes , who spent a year hanging out with modern molls, the book is all the scarier because it’s true. ANNE DINGUS

Some food-filled tomes are less about eating than reading. That’s certainly the case with the Austin and Hill Country Celebrity Cookbook (Lost Trail Productions, $20), whose sales benefit the Austin Parks Foundation. This collection of recipes and cheeky commentary contributed by more than one hundred famous Texans is best seen as a coffee table book to be thumbed through. How can you not be curious about Tommy Tune’s red eye gravy, Mary Lou Retton’s paella, or physicist Steven Weinberg’s anhydrous zucchini? Best of all, perhaps, is Dan Rather’s vinegar pie. To whip that up would take…courage. EVAN SMITH

Hot Radio Personality

John Doggett , the new afternoon voice of Austin’s KVET-AM, isn’t the first black conservative to grace the airwaves; nor is the attorney who testified against Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings the only minor-league celebrity to end up behind a microphone. But Doggett is no talk show slouch. He allows listeners to disagree with him without cutting them off (something Rush Limbaugh never does), and he’s a genuine local policy wonk: He recently mediated three hours of debate over the fate of the Austin parks system—and did it reasonably and respectfully. JOE NICK PATOSKI

Hot Documentary

In 1988 Leo Jenkins walked into a Houston pawn shop and brutally murdered 20-year-old Kara Kelley and her 26-year-old brother, Mark. Five years after Jenkins was sentenced to death, five members of the Kelley family watched him die by lethal injection—the first Texans ever to witness the execution of a loved one’s killer. That experience is the focus of A Kill for a Kill , which premieres on HBO this month. The riveting documentary asks all the right questions and recognizes all the moral ambiguities: Would you do the same? More important, should you? The answers are, like the film itself, complex and heartfelt. JOSH DANIEL

Hot Jailbird

When East Texas native Henry Ray Clark (a.k.a. the Magnificent Pretty Boy) was busted late last year for selling crack cocaine, it was his fourth conviction on drug-related charges—so why did Dominique de Menil and Sissy Farenthold write letters pleading for leniency? The cultural doyenne and the ex–state legislator are collectors of Clark’s richly colorful pen-on-manilla-folder drawings, and they’re not the only ones. The sixty-year-old has been a renowned folk artist since he won Best of Show at the 1989 Texas Department of Corrections Art Show; since then, his work has been shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and at galleries in New York and Santa Fe. Expect a new batch of Clark creations soon; he is about to have 25 years of free time at the TDC’s Walls Unit. SHAILA DEWAN

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