DALE WATSON AND HIS LONE STARS
The Truckin' Sessions
WHILE NASHVILLE GAZES at its collective navel and trots out a parade of confused pretenders, Austin-based Dale Watson looms over popular country music as a man among pretty boys, a cutting-edge throwback, a maestro of supersonic honky tonk. In a more sensible era, he'd be recognized as a legend in the making. Regardless, he remains the only emergent artist who could get away with singing, "I'm too country now for country/just like Johnny Cash...."
Watson's fourth release, The Truckin' Sessions, finds him in signature form: a thunderous baritone, red-hot six strings, and a collection of songs that roam from diners to interstates, heartaches to temptations. The twist this time is that, as the album's title implies, all of the tunes orbit a truck-driving theme. Lesser artists would implode amid such a seemingly narrow parameter. Watson, however, seems to thrive on the challenge, cranking out 14 diverse numbers that engage flat tires, roadside lust, trucker ethics, caffeine addiction, engine trouble, radio banter and even an "everyday knuckleclutchin', gearjammin', supertruckin' loose nut behind the wheel."
Newcomers to the Watson oeuvre might find The Truckin' Sessions a little overwhelming, sort of like a shot of homemade whiskey on an empty stomach. It can never hurt to acclimate oneself to the artist through his stunning debut album, Cheatin' Heart Attack, or last year's masterful I Hate These Songs. But when the road beckons--when the Pink Poodle Coffee Shop glows amid an endless highway night--soundtracks don't get any better than this.
SUN ZOOM SPARK
PERSONAL DISCLOSURE Part 1: I work with one of the three guys in Sun Zoom Spark, but I tactfully returned the $50 bill and wedge of cocaine he'd tucked into the review copy of his group's latest cassette mini-album (his company is reward enough). Personal Disclosure Part 2: I'm a sucker for power-trio shit. Naming yourself after a Captain Beefheart tune automatically earns kudos in my neighborhood as well, and covering both the Stones (a swampy, edgy, slightly psychotic cover of "Play With Fire"--imagine Charlie Manson at the mic while Creedence Clearwater serves up the music) and Flaming Lips (a whorling, out of control take of "With You," replete with wheezing synth, desperate slide guitar and rhythm section depth charge explosions) pretty much guarantees that I won't be late mailing in my fan club dues.
All that aside, SZS has gotta be one of the more exciting young
bands on the Tucson scene. Praying to its own eclectic muse, the
band simultaneously celebrates hirsute hard rock glories of yore--I'd
wager there's at least one Blue Cheer
Aluminum Tunes: Switched On 3
THE ALWAYS-PROLIFIC Stereolab is back with yet another collection (their third so far) of outtakes, B-sides and rarities collected on two long-playing CDs. The usual solid sound is there (Karl Marx grooving on Kraftwerk, with Brian Wilson on moog), but the more recent tunes show a new maturity in direction, such as manic Phillip Glass workouts ("Speedy Car"), loopy dance remixes ("Metronomic Underground") and fractured sample-heavy pop treatments ("Iron Man"). Also included, in its entirety, is the ultra-rare (and ultra-expensive) import EP Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center, a 20-minute suite of lilting heavy-concept lyrical musings. Hardcore fans would be amiss to pass it up, while the rest of the masses should be ashamed for not being hardcore fans.
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