The Roy Orbison Official Authorized Bootleg Collection
HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED. Bootleggers of music, once reviled as thieves of intellectual property, are now being recognized as archivists, Bob Dylan’s “Royal Albert Hall” concert of 1966 being the most notable example. Now comes one of Texas’ genuine legends, Roy Orbison, whose voice was regarded by many as the finest and most versatile ever in either rockabilly or rock and roll (check out the high notes he hits on the last line of “It’s Over”), with The Roy Orbison Official Authorized Bootleg Collection, a four-CD set of live performances initially captured on tape under less-than-official circumstances.
Three of the recordings were made in England in 1969, 1975, and 1980; the other is a 1980 performance in Birmingham, Alabama. All have been decently remastered, and all are eminently listenable, which means you get four pretty good versions of “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” “Running Scared,” “It’s Over,” and his biggest hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman.” The first record is the most intriguing, mainly because the performance is padded with interpretations of “Break My Mind,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” “Money,” and perhaps the weirdest cover of Orbison’s career, “Help Me Rhonda.” The others, well, they’re all Roy Orbison performances, which is the draw, but none really stands out.
As for presenting a complete picture of his career, the collection necessarily falls short, considering there’s no wildcat version of Orbison back when he was a Sun Records labelmate with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, no snapshot of the maturing Orbison, and nothing from the end of his career. On top of that, the included merchandise catalog (Orbison caps! Orbison T-shirts!) makes me wonder if enrichment of the estate was the higher priority in this project. Since the fans kept the flame burning long before the estate did, they’re the ones most likely to add this collection to their collection. Frankly, they deserve better. Joe Nick Patoski
Oh Yes My Friend
Nickel & Dime Records
SUPEREGO’S PAUL MINOR has been holding court at Austin’s Hole in the Wall every Sunday night since 1994. The Rock and Roll Free-for-All, as the hootenanny is aptly named, is a cross between the Band’s Last Waltz and the Gong Show, with Superego serving as the house band. For many acts, performing there has become a rite of passage, and some, like Spoon, the Damnations TX, and Fastball, have graduated to the major leagues. Superego’s third release, Oh Yes My Friend, is as sprawling as the Free-for-All, a patchwork quilt stitched together with the help of some of the musicians (from Fastball, Sixteen Deluxe, and the Meat Puppets) who’ve shared the Hole in the Wall’s stage. Minor is seemingly influenced by everything: There’s the bossa nova—esque opener “Misery Date,” the candy-metal double entendres of “Tulips,” the lilting barroom country of “Lagniappe,” and the loose-limbed take on Archie Bell’s “The Tighten Up.” Despite the stylistic hopscotch, Oh Yes My Friend is a surprisingly focused collection of Minor’s pop-inflected songs and an extension of the camaraderie that glues Austin’s music community together—well, at least at the Rock and Roll Free-for-All on Sunday night. (Available at www.io.com/~superego.) Luann Williams
IF EVER A CASE WAS TO BE MADE against the East Coast prejudice that dominates the American jazz scene, Dallas’ Marchel Ivery would be first on the docket. For the fortunate who heard his tardy 1994 debut, Ivery’s fervid tenor work seemed to spring full-blown from the ether, yet the veteran saxophonist has had a lengthy career and the widespread admiration of his better-known peers. Ivery remains an unknown to most jazz fans and major labels because he remains a Texan. 3 presents ample evidence of Ivery’s A-list talent; his round-toned, catch-and-release phrasing projects an assured confidence. Organist Joey DeFrancesco sits in on the first of two trio dates. His nimble bass pedal work and Larry Young—inspired licks augment Ivery’s melodicism; only “Three Coins” lays on the cheese too thick. Better still are the bass-drum-tenor sessions, particularly the album’s two originals, which wrap things up on a forceful hard bop note. Mark 3 Exhibit A, and count Ivery’s days of anonymity as numbered. Jeff McCord
My Perfect WorldTornado
FORMER RODEO COWBOY ED Burleson of Lewisville is too country for contemporary country, but he has none of the retro fussiness or portentousness of alt-country either. He’s a throwback, and most of his songs are about past wounds he can’t shake, as in the title song’s “I want my life back / Back on the right track.” He can thus be downright reactionary (“Wide Open Spaces”), but it’s hard to fault a man who writes lyrics (with executive producer Doug Sahm, in this case) like “I live in a dream world / She lives in a nightmare.” His full, rounded voice has only a few tears and minimal country acrobatics; mostly, he just honks ’em out through his nose from a metaphorical beer joint that never closes. Sahm provides a meaty rhythm section and all-star sidemen like steel player Lloyd Maines, dieselbilly guitarist Bill Kirchen, and fiddler Alvin Crow. Burleson knows his way around a shuffle and a two-step, and his songs wear their steel and fiddle breaks like a badge of honor. Despite the closing “Home to Texas,” he sounds as if he’s never been anywhere else. John Morthland
Burn Your Piano
LIKE HOCKEY, VISUAL ART, and sex, the Barkers are best experienced in person. This relatively new Austin quartet has a unique, wide-ranging aesthetic, and Alice Spencer might be the most sweetly electrifying singer to hit town since Kelly Willis. Burn Your Piano doesn’t have the loose-limbed energy or ambitious musicality of the band’s live show, but it still makes for an appealing introduction. Spencer and her husband, Will Walden, write the songs, share lead vocals, and play almost a dozen instruments (she hits the keys and pedals, he picks the strings) between them; the band is rounded out by stand-up bassist Bill Gribble and drummer Stephen Van Balgooyen. Together they’ve hit on an impressively unforced eclecticism. With a handful of well-drawn songs and Spencer’s bell-ringing vocal beauty leading the way, the Barkers make equally convincing forays through barroom stomps, rootsy farmhouse folk, tearstained torch songs, and—as the name would suggest—boisterous carny cabaret. Step right up. (Available via e-mail: [email protected]) Jason Cohen
Last Stand—Reinventing Custer.
The River and the Horsemen
IN THIS DAY OF REVISIONIST HISTORY, few facts about the American West remain unchallenged, but two indisputable ones involve George Armstrong Custer: He was a jerk, and he seriously screwed up at Little Big Horn. In The River and the Horsemen historical novelist Robert Skimin of El Paso presents an unvarnished depiction of Custer and his equally insufferable wife, Libbie, whose shared arrogance tempted fate. Skimin has done a fine job recreating the petty society of a remote cavalry post and the peaceful rhythm of Indian village life, letting the contrast speak for itself. He also manages to avoid retrofitting Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and their fellow Sioux with an excess of nobility. Of course, this tale of Custer is Skimin’s fifteenth book; the author—unlike the soldier—knows what he’s doing. Anne Dingus
AS A SERIAL ESSAYIST, LARRY McMurtry is a thoughtful man and generous with his ruminations in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond (Simon and Schuster). McMurtry mourns some of modern life’s greater losses, but this is no dirge. And his dry and gentle humor makes the essays read like his best fiction…
Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss (Houghton Mifflin) is hugely well written, at least until it screeches to an abrupt conclusion. A co-confession by brothers Frederick and Steven Barthelme, who gamble away their inheritance, the tragicomedy escalates when the Houston natives are indicted for conspiring to cheat their favorite casino. But where’s the ending?…
Effie is borderline senile, but her notebooks document heaven and hell breaking loose in the antique shops of fictitious Worth Row. Joe Coomer’s Apologizing to Dogs (Scribner) is a quirky slow-starter of a novel, but it builds to a glorious crescendo. Coomer, who deals antiques in Azle, captures every moment of collectible weirdness…
Males of a certain vintage will find Dan Jenkins’ latest work stupefyingly funny, and his raconteurism shines throughout I’ll Tell You One Thing: The Untold Truth About Texas, America, and College Football. With Pictures to Prove It (Woodford Press). However, his locker-room nostalgia will prove eminently resistible to many. Mike Shea