CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

The Horsies are an extremely unusual outfit, so it figures that the perverse, polymorphously percussive Austin combo’s second record, Touch Me Columbus , is only available on the relatively obscure Japanese label Benten (though some Texas record stores will be carrying it). A giddy three-man, three-woman band with five often simultaneous vocalists, the Horsies evoke the B-52’s, Parliament-Funkadelic, Afropop, and klezmer—all in the service of surreal, political, and frequently grotesque songs about, among other things, Junior Brown, hairy legs, and the perils of dipping snuff. jason cohen Give George Strait his due: No other country artist, Texan or otherwise, has racked up so many hits over such a long stretch of time without faltering. Strait’s latest CD, Carrying Your Love With Me (MCA), delivers his usual smart set of innocuous Nashville power ballads interspersed with a hard-core honky-tonker or two and, of course, a mass-appeal single. It’s a formula that manages to please radio programmers and dance hall traditionalists alike—which, considering what passes for country these days, is no small feat. Joe Nick Patoski

Totally Tejano” Old School (DCC) compiles tracks from the eighties that were first released on vinyl and cassette by Hacienda Records, the independent Corpus Christi label that dominated the genre before the majors caught on. The three-disc set captures an era when the music was more experimental and rock influenced, with punchy horns and less reliance on synthesized sounds. While some of the artists (David Lee Garza, Ram Herrera) went on to bigger things and others (Steve Jordan) have always been in a class by themselves, most peaked too early to catch the current wave—so this is the first time their work has been out on CD. John Morthland

Hot Books

Good and evil are so inherently dramatic that most crime novels circumvent the victim’s point of view. In The House of Forgetting (HarperCollins, $24), Benjamin Alire Sáenz hones in on the readjustment of a young woman to her childhood kidnapping and longtime enslavement. There’s the requisite good guy—bad guy clash as well as a nice understated romance, but the El Paso writer—noted for his lyrical, simile-rich style—wins originality points for his portrayal of the essentially reborn Gloria. . . . Aaron Latham serenades the World War II generation with The Ballad of Gussie and Clyde (Villard, $19.95), the sweet if wispy saga of his widowed father’s octogenarian romance. Latham is a longtime New Yorker, but as the screenwriter of Urban Cowboy and a native of Spur, he can push all the vanishing Texana buttons. Ultimately, though, his presence is intrusive—Gussie and Clyde are most charming when they are allowed to speak for themselves—and Latham’s liberal use of poetical goo (“Come live with me and be my love”) is like putting frosting on fudge. . . . Noted with interest: Frank Vandiver ’s Shadows of Vietnam (Texas A&M University Press, $29.95), a revisionist history of Lyndon Johnson’s tempestuous relationship with what he called “that damn pissant little country.” Anne Dingus

Alan M. Klein ’s Baseball on the Border: A Tale of Two Laredos (Princeton University Press, $29.95) analyzes the unique standing of the Mexican League’s Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes—for ten of the past twelve years the only binational baseball team in the world, playing home games in Laredo as well as Nuevo Laredo. Klein won’t win many baseball fans with the more academic sections of his book, but he will with his look at team chemistry—the Mexican players’ nationalism, the American imports’ sense of superiority—in which he reaffirms that the saying “The river joins and the river divides” applies to baseball as much as everything else on the border. John Morthland

Hot Booze

Not exactly the product we’d expect to see coming out of Margaritaville and several years too late to ride the designer vodka wave—but who cares? Tito’s Texas Handmade Vodka is so luxuriously smooth you’d think it was named after the Yugoslavian dictator rather than a lifelong Texan named Tito Beveridge. Crafted in southeast Austin by Fifth Generation, the state’s only existing distillery, the vodka retails in the $15 to $18 range in liquor stores throughout major Texas cities. Robert Draper

Hot Survivor

When the Japanese invaded the South Pacific in 1941, six-year-old Dirk Stronck —the son of Dutch colonials—was detained for three years as a prisoner of war in an Indonesian concentration camp. Today Stronck is a Houston oilman, and the story of the ordeal is on the big screen in the film Paradise Road. Being reminded of the brutality might upset some people, but not Stronck: “The positiveness has always been there for me,” he says, “and now absolutely nothing can faze me.” Jordan Mackay

Hot Getaway

Think Key Largo, or even better, Casablanca: ceiling fans spinning lazily in tall, shuttered rooms where anything may be going on. Located in the restored 1914 Ed F. Melcher Building on a secluded stretch of the San Antonio River, the Havana Riverwalk Inn is the Alamo City’s newest, most intimate hotel. Each of its 27 rooms (ranging from $150 to $700 a night) evokes a sultry, tropical mood, and in a few months an arbor will provide a shady retreat. After a couple of gin and tonics, you might even hear strains of “As Time Goes By.” Patricia Sharpe

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