End of an era

After seven years and hundreds of thousands of miles, Killbilly calls it quits

Wooley says he began to notice the dulling of the creative edge about two years ago--around the time the band inked a deal with Flying Fish Records out of Chicago, released their CD Stranger in This Place, and were tagged as the readers' choice for Best Act Overall in the 1992 Observer Music Awards. He says now it was like "a puddle that dried up gradually," and he began having his doubts about his future as a member of Killbilly.

Not long after the release of Stranger--a wonderful album highlighted by Wooley's masterful playing, the sweet-but-never-sickly-so harmonies of Wooley and Taylor, and smart lyrics--the band filmed a video at Trees for the single "Muddy Rio Grande" that proved a monumental mistake. It was, as Schwedler says, "a giant money pit" and an expenditure the band couldn't afford.

"It was too country for MTV, and too rock for country," Schwedler says, "and it never got played anywhere." He adds that various problems with management over expenditures and the group's musical direction compounded the difficulties.

And in the end, he says, there arose conflicts regarding the band's sound. Foggy Mountain Anarchy captured a band caught between its purist bluegrass roots and its members' punk-rock pasts, going so far as to include a blistering cover of HYsker DY's "Hare Krsna" among the standard mandolin-and-corn-brewed fare. It was a terrific testament to the band's live performance--finally--but raised some concern about direction.

"Alan had some frustrations during a period where we became more of a rock band than Killbilly should have ever been," Schwedler says. "The interpretation that it outlived its usefulness is correct, but we definitely needed a retro facelift, pushing it without turning into a rock band."

For Wooley, more so than anyone else in the band, the end of Killbilly could not have come at a better time: the Cartwrights, his country project with Donny Ray Ford, Barry Kooda, and ex-Killbilly drummer Richie Vasquez, are taking up a considerable chunk of his time, and he is becoming enamored of producing (evident on his current behind-the-board work on the Old 97s' Hitchhike to Rome). Schwedler, who now runs Big West Productions, will continue managing and booking the Cartwrights, Old 97s, and 66. Taylor is less clear about his future in music.

"I'm tired of the voluntary impoverishment which I've endured for the past seven years," he says. "I don't want to be wealthy. I just want to be lower-middle class, which would make me very happy."

"We got out of it at the right time," Wooley concludes. "If we had stuck it out any longer, who knows--we'd all be bums living on the street."

Killbilly, with special guests, performs for the last time November 5 at Club Clearview.

Bedhead goes to church, releases EP
Bedhead is that rarest commodity: a perfect band that gets better with each performance and each release. With the recent departure of guitarist-singer-songwriter Matt Kadane for school in New York City (not to mention the recent nuptials of his brother Bubba--mazel tov!), Bedhead as a performance ensemble has been put on hold (with the exception of a few occasional brief tours), but that has not stopped them from releasing a four-song EP that's a remarkable follow-up to this spring's WhatFunLifeWas, which remains the most complete and flawless work ever released by a Dallas band.

Recorded March 31 at the Kessler Community Church in Oak Cliff, straight into a lone stereo microphone plugged into a two-track deck, the pragmatically titled 4SongCDEP19:10 encompasses all that's great about Bedhead: songs that begin as three-guitar lullabies and grow slowly and surprisingly into crushing bursts; vocals that blur past like half-heard whispers; painfully intimate music that's rife with beauty and tension. But the EP is hardly formula follow-up: because of its short length, it can't sustain the hypnotic mood of its predecessor (though it comes damn close) and instead succeeds on the strength of its magnificent songs (more subtly diverse than before, and the last of which is a Joy Division cover, "Disorder"). Inspirational lyric (if you can hear it): "You speak to me, but it's in a dead language, and I speak back to you, but your ears seem to be dead, too."

4songCDEP19:10, on King Coffee's Trance Syndicate Records out of Austin, is available at finer record stores around town.

Drummer for hire
Ronnie Dawson has heard it a million time: "Hey, man," someone will tell him after a show, "I'm in love with your drummer." That didn't happen back when he was playing the Big D Jamboree in the late '50s--but he didn't have a female drummer then, either. So now, he'll just smile and say thanks, he loves her, too. And he'll be talking about her playing. As he says, "She's honest, and I like her spirit. It's real easy to communicate with her musically, and she's got great instincts. Plus, she plays her butt off."

In the past two years, since Lisa Pankratz has been accompanying Dawson and High Noon during concerts here, in Austin, and even as far away as Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, she's developed her own following. You can always spot the drummer fanatics standing in the corner, playing air drums and trying to make time with the woman keeping time.

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