Junkyard jazz

The Calways go a little crazy

As this lineup coalesces, a new sound is emerging; Pertll and Hall are working hard on their backup singing. "Not just screaming," Pertll says, "but really singing together." This new focus gently turns the Calways away from honky-tonkin' and toward something poppier.

Think of the Crickets, with the minimalism of post-punk but with more options.

"I don't really like guitar solos," Deatherage explains, no doubt appalling his old blues buddies. "They're not necessary. We're a song band, not a guitar band."

"We're not a country band, and we're not a jazz band," Hall adds. "We're just what we are."

"People keep calling us rockabilly, and I hate that," Deatherage says with a hint of exasperation. "Because we're not. Rockabilly--you've gotta have your hair right from the '50s and your clothes right from the '50s or people won't come."

While the band members refuse to acknowledge the limits of style, there are limits nonetheless. This summer they spent time in the studio with Matt Castille of the Vas Deferens Organization, but ended up not using the songs that bore his trademark production skills, which can often take a band's sound to outer space. Neither party really wants to discuss the matter, and there's the lingering hint of an exasperation common when creative people find themselves at cross purposes.

"We're trying to build a regional base," Deatherage says, "and to do that you've got to be able to recreate on stage what people expect."

"It's like a lot of these blues bands," Hall says. "They go into the studio with all these keyboards and horns and it's great, and then you go see them at the Bone and it's just three guys...and one of 'em can't really sing that well."

"The trio gives us room to stretch out," Deatherage explains. "Sometimes it'd be nice to have a keyboard player, but when you've got one, all of a sudden he has to do something every song."

"Plus," Hall says, "we don't want to make $30 a night instead of $40." The three burst into laughter.

There's another factor that distances the Calways from their honky-tonkin' cousins: While the heartbreak of some makes them come off more pissed on than pissed off, there's a real edge to even the prettiest Calways tunes that adds a parenthetical doubt--as in losing "Losing My Cool" (Is that healthy? Are you armed?)--that moves them over toward angry dyspeptics like the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano. In fact, the band has gotten more than a few Femme comparisons from fans.

"It's not a conscious effort," Hall says. "It just comes out of the pulse that Todd [Deatherage] feels as a songwriter, which is really different."

"I was quite the ham in high school," Deatherage admits. "Very disruptive. It set me up pretty well for leading a band."

The Calways currently have a five-song demo--new songs and remakes of 96 Summer Demo tunes--but haven't yet decided whether they'll make a couple hundred tapes for public consumption. They're really more interested in landing a deal with a bigger indie label.

"The key is to keep writing songs," says Deatherage, who, according to Hall, is a songwriting machine. "Right now we have no money, so anything we do is done in a day at a friend's house...but we do want to make a real album. I guess our goal right now is just to get somebody to pay for it."

The Calways play Saturday, October 26, at Bar of Soap; and Monday, October 28, at Muddy Waters.

Scene, heard
In a promising break with local tradition--which usually places the musical equivalent of your father's Oldsmobile on stage at charity functions--the fifth annual Boo Ball, a black-tie costume gala hosted by the American Diabetes Association, will feature Brave Combo playing for your dancing pleasure in the Malachite Showroom.

"Dallas is blessed with a lot of good, young music," explains the Ball's administrative chairperson, Bill Gibson. "We didn't want to attract just the Tommy Dorsey crowd; we also wanted to get younger folks involved...We want to get our message out to more people and increase awareness, because diabetes is a disease that often isn't detected until something else crops up, so early awareness can be very important."

The whole shindig--for which tickets run up to $300 a person--involves various ceremonies of honor, a champagne reception and dinner, and a silent auction; pianist David Gross will play during the dinner. To be held Saturday, October 26, at the Grand Kempinski, the event also offers those who wish to both do good and shake a tail feather the option of a "Friends" package ($35 singles, $60 couples) that gets them in from 9 p.m. until midnight and includes hors d'oeuvres and two free drinks. Charity events like this are something that succesful grownups do, so get some practice; if you happen to associate such maturity with stagnation (or just need to rest your feet), check out octogenarian Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery--longtime Light Crust Doughboy and mentor to the great Ronnie Dawson--in the Garden Court and discover that 'tain't necessarily so; For more info call the ADA...

The band birch county has been invited to play at this year's Philadelphia Music Conference, a three-day, four-night confab that will feature 300 bands at 31 different venues; the band plays the conference November 1...

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