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The Enablers take Nino Rota and Dick Dale out for cocktails

But rather than look upon his arrest as bad publicity--of which there's no such thing, even if you're The O.J.--Herndon ought to seize the opportunity to establish himself as the new Bad Boy of Country. Herndon, whose music is so bland and pop it's closer to Bread than it is to even John Denver, has finally found a way to join the country tradition his music always distanced him from.

Hank Williams was kicked off the Grand Ol' Opry and the Louisiana Hayride for his alcoholism, and Willie Nelson is renowned for dope-smoking onstage, even at Billy Bob's. David Allen Coe used to love his coke and heroin, and before he found God in the back of a limousine, Johnny Cash used to visit "Cocaine Carolina" every damn chance he got (in 1964, he was arrested in El Paso for possession of almost 700 Dexedrine capsules and 500 Equanil tablets).

Bob Wills used to get so drunk he wouldn't show up for gigs, and on the 1937 recording of "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas" by Wills and the Texas Playboys, Tommy Duncan sings the line, "I can sell you morphine, coke, or snow." And closer to Herndon's heart--way closer, depending upon the dosage--in the 1940s, the Texas Rhythm Boys recorded "Benzadryne Blues," an ode to the joys of speed.

The allegations of whippin' out Li'l Ty in front of a police officer--in a park notorious for its cruising--are potentially more damaging in the redneck, homophobic world of country music. For years, Randy Travis vehemently denied the charge he was queer and married his manager, a woman some three decades his elder, to prove his manhood. (It should be noted that Herndon is indeed married to a woman named Renee C, to whom he partially dedicated his album: "Without you my dreams are wasted.")

As Nick Tosches wrote in his 1977 book Country: Living Legends and Dying Metaphors in America's Biggest Music, "There is not a surface plenty of faggotry in country music." But, Tosches does point to one song as the leading example of the genre--Cowboy Jack Derrick's "Truck Drivin' Man," released in 1946 on the King label. In the song, Cowboy Jack ("in his raspy baritone," says Tosches) anxiously awaits the return of his main squeeze: "When my truck drivin' man comes back to town/I'll dress up in my silken gown."

Harping on it
Cindy Horstman, one of just a handful of jazz harpists in the country, has just released her second album--the appropriately titled Fretless, on her own Seahorse Records label. With a song list ranging from originals ("Ballade for Andy," "Rio") to standards (Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" and George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime") to a cover of Steely Dan's "Do it Again," Fretless is an engaging work, successfully balancing the coolness of jazz-pop and the warmth of bop. It's the kind of album that could get played on KERA, the Oasis, and a straight-ahead jazz station--all the disparate parts adding up to something wholly unique.

For her second album, Horstman has called upon such pals as guitarist Andy Timmons (voted Dallas' local musician of the year in the 1995 Dallas Observer Music Awards), sax player Fulton Turnage, bassist and percussionist Michael Medina, singer James Kings, and a handful of others. The result is an album more varied than her 1994 debut In Flight--and more accessible to a pop audience, sometimes at the expense of the blues and bop that made In Flight such a welcome surprise.

Horstman will celebrate the release of Fretless with a performance June 22 at Sambuca in Deep Ellum from 8:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. Many of the musicians on the album will also sit in with Horstman throughout the night.

Speaking of Timmons, he can also be heard on one track on the new Paula Abdul album Head over Heels. He joins the string section of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on the tepid and overwrought ballad "Cry For Me."

Scene, heard
Darden Smith has had to cancel his June 30 show at the Sons of Hermann Hall; he has been asked to open the European leg of Joan Baez's current tour, and likely will play the hall near the end of July. In his place, Austin singer-songwriter Michael Fracasso will perform at the Hall on the 30th...

Liberty Valance, Yeah!Yeah!Yeah!, and the Sole Poets will perform June 25 at Club Dada for a benefit for David Ranke--the monitor mixer for the Beach Boys and a Dallas resident--who is recovering from recent surgery to remove a brain tumor. Ranke, like so many people in the music business, doesn't have insurance and is having trouble covering bills. The benefit runs from 28 p.m., cover is $3, and free barbecue will be provided.

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