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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

January 12, 1994

Margo Makes My Day

Cowboy JunkiesThe Cowboy Junkies, Pale Sun, Crescent Moon (RCA 1993) -- Four-piece Canadian blues rockers The Cowboy Junkies have released yet another scorching disc in Pale Sun, Crescent Moon. Featuring the strong songwriting and virtuoso guitar work of Michael Timmins, The Cowboy Junkies are continuing on their self-defined, uncompromising journey.

The Cowboy Junkies burst on the music scene with their breakthrough disc, The Trinity Sessions (1988), a subdued album that was recorded in an empty church. While I could never get into the sparse, breathy atmosphere of The Trinity Sessions, it was clear the band had unusual promise.

The band's follow-up albums, The Caution Horses (1990) and 1992's Black Eyed Man, established The Cowboy Junkies' hallmark sound -- moody, guitar-driven blues, featuring wicked, late-night tales set against the backdrop of Michael's wistful guitar and the intrinsic interaction between drummer (and brother) Peter Timmins and bassist Alan Anton.

However, the lovelorn grace of The Cowboy Junkies would be foregone without the etherial soprano vocals of lead singer Margo Timmins. While brother Michael may be the best bottleneck blues player since Robbie Krieger (of the Doors), Margo is quietly developing into the best woman blues singer in the business.

After the retirement of 10,000 Maniacs, I was ready to tout The Cowboy Junkies as the Next Big Thing. But they won't be, because the band simply isn't interested in pursuing a pop sound. Instead, songs like the rock-styled "First Recollection," the stripped-down "Hard to Explain" (with its haunting refrain, "My loss is someone else's gain"), and the radio-friendly "Anniversary Song" (with Michael Timmins' slide guitar slippin' all over the place), prove that the band is ready to branch off into a darker blues/rock vein than has been seen recently on vinyl.

More power to them. Pale Sun, Crescent Moon may not be The Cowboy Junkies strongest effort, but the highlights are outstanding. Catch the buzz from one the best bar-rock/blues bands in the business.

SoulhatSoulhat, Outdebox (Epic 1993) -- Soulhat, a four-piece band hailing from Austin, Texas originally released its debut disc, Outdebox on an independent label. After considerable local radio success in Texas, the group's alternative/southern sound has new life on this Epic re-release.

The band, consisting of Kevin McKinney on guitar and vocals, Bill Cassis on guitar and vocals, Brian Walsh on bass and vocals, and Barry "Frosty" Smith on drums, developed a fervent grass-roots following by playing marathon weekly gigs at the Black Cat Lounge in Austin. In 1993, Soulhat was named Austin's "best rock band of the year."

From the Allman Brothers-influenced "Big Back Yard" to the more pop-oriented "Things Aren't Like That Any More," Outdebox has a versatile, nouveau-alternative sound. With the backing of 20-year studio musician Frosty Smith (who has also appeared with Sly Stone and Parliament-Funkadelic), Soulhat recalls the jazzy feel of Southern boogie rock. Like the Ginger Baker-influenced Masters of Reality (whose 1992 album, Sunrise on the Surferbus, was a real treat for all Cream fans), Soulhat has the ability to mix traditional rock elements while producing a fresh sound. Catch this band on its way up.

Glen DelpitNew Year's Report -- A jumpin' good time was had by all at the Wild Blue on New Year's Eve as Glen Delpit and the Subterraneans heated up the crowd before the Houserockers reunited for two sizzling sets. The Subterraneans (also appearing at the Blue on January 22nd) made welcome waves with the recent addition of bearded barrister John Suhr to their fold.

John, who tickles the 88s and hums on the Hammond, got a real workout as he added to the band's ever-honest and soulful sound. The Houserockers then did themselves proud on old favorites like "Champagne," while also including surprise covers such as "Into the Mystic" and "Take Me to the River." The band played until 1:30 A.M., and nary a soul left before closing time.

Speaking of the Wild Blue, here's giant tip of the hat to its vastly underrated soundman, Bob Martin. Bob is, without question, the best board jockey in the Valley, and always delivers a stellar mix. It takes real talent to make it look as easy as Bob does, and he deserves a full measure of credit for the clean, comfortable sound at the Blue.

Central Valley Music Fair -- The annual Central Valley Music Fair will be held on Sunday, January 16th at the Ramada Inn Fresno (324 East Shaw Avenue) from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Numerous vendors will hawk both new and used LPs and CDs and other rock n' roll memorabilia; featured items will include rarities, collectors' discs, and import albums. You'd be surprised at the number of interesting items that can be found at this show (I know I spent too much $$ last year) -- make plans to be there.

-- Randy Krbechek

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