No retreat

After the setback of the Cartwrights, Donny Ray Ford gets a taste of success

Lankford soldiers on, playing with local bands with names like Jelly Belly and the Tectonics and Twisted Rainbow (two bands), learning about the dynamics and resonances of different-sized crowds, finding the sweet spot in his own playing, dealing with fickle, fuck-you club owners and prima donna frontmen. He was in limbo, his last band just having fallen apart, when he joined what his mother called "a Negro band headed for parts unknown." They were Salt and Pepper, and their drummer had just quit, leaving organist Dennis and guitarist Vince, two Black musicians from Chicago--Chicago!--in dire need of either a white drummer or a new name. Although at first he was barely tolerated, in time he came to be friends with the pair, who shared their own uneasy truce: Dennis could've settled down to a nice house gig in the Windy City any time, but Vince was a talented junkie who had to be out on the road at all times lest he succumb to his monkey. Together the trio get lost, play countless shithole gigs, eat animals they hit on the road, and find the small peaks and valleys that the road affords, until the relentless pace finally compels Mike to bail out. For years after that, he never thinks about music, until a friend coaxes him back behind the drums and he rediscovers--with battling emotions--music all over again. The way in which he makes his peace with a conflict that has been with him throughout his life isn't brash or heroic, but it's totally real in a way most musicians--amateur or pro, current or lapsed--will immediately recognize. By choosing to avoid big moments and self-inflation, Lankford has made his real moments--and his real self--ring even truer.

Scene, heard
Will Johnson will celebrate the release of his first full-length Centro-matic album on steve records, titled Redo the Stacks, at the Argo in Denton Thursday, April 3, to be preceded by an in-store appearance at The X music store; the show will also include performances by Peter Schmidt and George Neal...Cresta has just agreed to a demo deal with MCA Records and will begin working on recording next month...Austin's Miss Lavelle White will celebrate her new release, It Haven't Been Easy, Saturday, April 12, at J&J's Blues Bar in Fort Worth. Longtime practitioner of the same kind of uptown Texas blues that onetime Peacock labelmate Bobby Blue Bland made his mark with, Miss Lavelle is a class act and essential area listening...Jack Ingram has a new album out, Livin' or Dyin', produced by major country names Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy...Brave Combo will be at Poor David's April 5...When Chris Cannon of the Denton band Schwa--which included Joe Schwartzott, Eric Neal, and Mark Pittman--had a nervous breakdown and relocated to Utah, it seemed unlikely any of us would ever hear from him again; but he's back--tanned, ready, and rested and sporting a new group, which reunites aforementioned Schwasters under the name Friends of Baxter. It seems that while in Utah, Cannon was working with area songwriter Harvey Barham on a lo-fi effort released under the name Gentleman Losers. Barham was also keeping company with the Cannon-less Schwa and has brought the whole famn damily together under the FOB moniker. Recording on Pukka Records--which had previously released Schwa's EP, uh--FOB is about to release their first single, "Sunflower" b/w "Not My Fault." They'll debut at Club Dada Sunday, April 6...congrats to Hippie Gumbo on snagging the opening slot at Caravan of Dreams for Wayne Toups on April 18...The Mullens recently turned down two offers to tour--one in Europe, the other in Japan--but decided to wait six months for their full-length album to come out; happily, both promoters have issued rain checks. The group has also been asked by Sore Losers director Mike McCarthy to submit a song for his next movie, due out in December...

Street Beat gathers no moss at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.

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