CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

Thanks to her auspicious debut, Baduizm (Universal), 25-year-old Erykah Badu is being billed as the hip-hop Billie Holliday, which may be a bit—how do you say?—premature. But working with jazz and hip-hop all-stars and singing originals that are definitely more intimate than gritty, the silky-voiced South Dallas native does seem to be most at home in a cabaret. And just as impressively, she manages to reconcile Southern music’s traditional warmth and languor with hard, up-to-the-minute rhythm tracks.  JOHN MORTHLAND

Canta a la Vida (SAA), a charity recording benefiting the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, is justly being hailed as the tejano We Are the World. The lead tracks, “Tenemos Que Abrir Los Ojos (We Must Open Our Eyes)” and “Let’s Not Look Away,” are eminently hummable, but the real triumph is the coming together of a musical community historically plagued by infighting. Nearly every Latin star lends a voice here, from living legends Little Joe and Ruben Ramos to next-generation crooners Emilio and Ricardo Castillón. Not surprisingly, the standout performance is by Joe Lopez, who demonstrates why he’s the top vocalist of the genre. JOE NICK PATOSKI

For its third album, Hogs on the Highway , Austin’s Bad Livers set up shop on the folk-roots label Sugar Hill—which makes sense, since the band’s own pedigree includes all kinds of folks and all kinds of roots: The music touches on (among other things) bluegrass, conjunto, polka, and country, while the instrumentation features tuba, banjo, and mandolin. That the title of the new CD refers to Harleys and hoofed mammals says it all; Bad Livers straddle the fence between inspired trailblazing and noble resurrection, wedding contemporary energy and invention to old-world traditions. JASON COHEN

Perhaps the most brilliant and certainly the most scathing comic talent of his day, Houstonian Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at age 33. Hicks’s devotees may have to wait years for a comparable ironist-polemicist, but consolation arrives in the form of Bill Hicks: The Complete Recorded Works (Rykodisc). The four-disc set comes astonishingly close to capturing the fury and hilarity of a man who could make us laugh while reconsidering the follies of the Gulf War, drug policy, the IRS, and Jay Leno. Not for tender ears, however. ROBERT DRAPER

Hot Books

For Austinite Mary Elizabeth Thurston , writing about her favorite animal was a pet project. After nine years’ work, the result is The Lost History of the Canine Race: Our 15,000-Year Love Affair With Dogs (Andrews and McMeel, $24.95), a fetching, wrenching read that moves from the ancient Chinese practice of selectively breeding palace dogs to the banning of cart-dog abuse in Victorian times. Another doggedly researched book comes from Arizonan Eileen Barish . If you travel with Fifi or Rex, Doin’ Texas With Your Pooch (Pet-Friendly Publications, $19.95) deserves a permanent home in your glove compartment. The 640-page reference includes recommended hikes and walking tours in more than 300 Texas towns and (for the dog-tired) 1,350 pet-tolerant hotels. Sit! Stay! Read! ANNE DINGUS

Hot ’Zine

More than 35 percent of country music listeners have white-collar jobs these days, and two of country’s biggest markets are New York and Los Angeles. To appeal to this better-heeled, hipper audience, Fort Worth’s EgoMedia has launched the glossy monthly Twang, whose first three issues included such un-country offerings as a six-page spread featuring Nashville songwriter Angela Kaset modeling chic clothes and a story about cool band BR5-49 told in comic book form. There’s also a record review section in which veterans like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens critique new releases. Twang is on sale at most newsstands. JORDAN MACKAY

Hot Art

Opening No matter what medium he employs, musician-filmmaker-artist David Byrne exhorts his audiences to stop making sense. His latest effort is “ Desire,” an exhibit of illuminated billboards (right)—some mixing images of scenic locales with drug paraphernalia—accompanied by a nontraditional audio guide designed not to explain what you’re looking at but to scramble all attempts at logical thought. On view at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary museum in Dallas beginning March 7, the show may make perfect sense, though, to readers of Byrne’s book of fetishistic travel photos, Strange Ritual, which talks of “a world where nothing has the ‘meaning’ one commonly associates with it.” CHERI BALLEW

Hot Expatriate Restaurant

Californians who hunger for true Tex-Mex cooking know to head east of Los Angeles to the town of Covina and a restaurant called Taste of Texas . Founded by San Antonio exes Nick and Roy Martinez—whose grandfather was a cook at the King Ranch—this culinary outpost serves authentic fajitas and brisket, perfect soft flour tortillas (made with distilled water so they won’t harden), and the only bottles of Big Red for a thousand miles. The walls are decorated with photos of Lone Star stars, and there’s a mini-replica of the Alamo out front. “It’s the music, the food, and the culture that makes Texas so special,” Nick says. “We bring Texans here from all over so they can feel at home.”  BILL BENTLEY

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