Together again

Respected but short-lived country-rock outfit the Cartwrights are getting back together

Nobody's looking past this one gig, but the late, lamented Cartwrights--a virtual family tree of local bands past comprising Barry Kooda (Nervebreakers, Yeah Yeah Yeah), Alan Wooley (Killbilly), Kim Herriage (Feet First), Donny Ray Ford, and Richie Vasquez--will reassemble to open for the Skeletons' Hightone Record-label release party at the Sons of Hermann Hall. The shindig, celebrating the Skeletons' latest album, Nothing to Lose, will be held on Saturday, May 17. The Cartwrights were together a little over a year and had released one excellent album, Ponderosa Fabuloso, and had another in the can when internal tensions caused the group to splinter. Kooda and Ford went on with their other band, the Mutineers, and the remaining band members followed suit. Mike Snider--he who books the best in Texas music into the Sons and other venues--started working on the reunion a few weeks ago.

"Mike called me, and I said sure, if the other guys said yes," Ford--who is also in Liberty Valance and the Widowmakers--reports. "Enough time has passed where there aren't any hard feelings, and I thought it'd be fun."

"Hell no, I ain't playing with those motherfuckers!" Barry Kooda spat into the phone before bursting into laughter. "But yeah, Mike called me, too, and I said that if he could get everybody together, I was in. You know, while there are differences about the business stuff between me and Alan that'll probably never go away, all of us still talk, and I loved being in the Cartwrights; I think they're great."

There was a series of serendipities that conspired to make the reunion happen. Wooley--the one most observers had predicted would probably say no, and currently in Frankly Scarlet--said yes. Herriage, currently with the Lucky Pierres, another steadily gigging band around town, had some time off owing to the marriage of Pierres' Michelle Gonzalez and Frank Pittenger. Vasquez, who drums for Houstonian Jesse Dayton, just happened to be in Dallas that night down the street at the Dark Room, and it seemed like there was a green light all the way around; the deal was done.

"People are always saying that you can't step back," Kooda says. "But I like stepping back to the Cartwrights, because it's like we didn't finish. The truth is that I enjoyed being with those guys, and Alan's one of my favorite people to harmonize with. I think I liked practicing with 'em--just sitting around laughing--more than playing with 'em."

"They're a great bunch of guys, and they really press you to be at your best," says Herriage, who agrees with Kooda's preference for practice. "When you play live, it's easy to let things--like the crowd, the sound, the other acts--affect what kind of a time you have. When you're practicing, it's just you." As far as the group's plans after May 17, no one's ruling anything out--or in. The major factor, in Ford's words, will be "how much fun we have that night. Whatever we end up doing, that's a good way to start."

First anniversary
Johnny Reno got an interesting--and unwanted--present, just in time for his April 24 album-release party at the Red Jacket, incidentally marking one year of Thursdays performing his smooth cocktail jazz with backing group the Lounge Kings at the swanky nightspot. Our copy of Swinging and Singing--featuring a sharkskin-suited Reno and his tenor sax on the cover--opens up with a most un-loungey blast of guitar noise that sounds like an airplane taking off. Oh, well, a surprising new direction for Mr. Reno, perhaps? Even the most unengaged listener, however, can't help but notice that by the disc's third cut, nary a sax has been heard, and the overall sound is less sharkskin and more black-T-shirt-and-nose-ring.

"Rrrrrgghh" was the reaction from someone within the Reno organization who prefers to remain nameless. "We've had one other report of this so far, but who knows how many others are out there that haven't been listened to?" The album's manufacturer--Disctronics, of Plano--has assured Reno that this was just a case of some other pre-recorded discs being in the pipeline that accidentally got identified as his, but a sense of vexation still lingers. In the meantime, the party for the release of the album that sounds like Reno will start at 8 p.m., when the doors of the Red Jacket open.

Scene, heard
Gloriously trashy drunk-rockers Buick MacKane--the red-headed stepchild of the many bands with which Alejandro Escovedo blows off creative steam--will be journeying up from Austin for a Friday, April 25, gig at Club Dada. It'll be interesting to see how Escovedo's new sobriety--brought on by a bout of hepatitis contracted after a family trip to Mexico--will affect the raucous dynamics of the band, but catch them in any case...Breadbox's record-release party will be May 1 at the Last Beat Record Store...

Rapper Ice T--who played a mutant kangaroo in the less-than-pedestrian movie Tank Girl--has announced the formation of a "pay-per-view extravaganza" called Ice T's Extreme Babes, which will feature seven of the aforementioned "extreme babes" shedding all of their clothes. There will also be an Ice T website, which will offer the following features: interactive live sex, a "strip on demand" area, a "sin-sational" Fantasy Revue, an adult newsstand, a section for personal ads, erotic games, and a "huge collection" of erotic photos. One can only assume that one of the copulating couples in the live-sex section will be Ice T doing the nasty with what remains of his career...

The Greenville lads in Radish will celebrate the release of their new album at Club Clearview Saturday, April 26, with a special all-ages show that kicks off at 7 p.m. Next to Clearview, the Art Bar is the site of a black-and-white exhibit of Jimmy Sasso's work that will run through mid-May...The Texas Woman's University Student Jazz Combo will perform free at the Gainsco Building, 500 Commerce, at noon on May 1...Loveswing is currently in the studios at Last Beat working on a new album to be released this summer...Longtime local journeyman blues-rocker Joe Silva will be pulling up stakes and moving to Nashville; his last gig here will be May 3 at Daddy Rocks...The Texas Fog Society will be playing at the third annual InnerCity LIFE! Festival on Saturday, April 26, at the Dinh Van Phuong Plaza at the Old East Dallas Farmer's Market at Peak and Bryan streets.

Battling Festivals: The Mandalay Festival of Arts and Jazz will take place April 25, 26, and 27 in Las Colinas around the famous bronze mustang sculpture. There will be all manner of arts and crafts on display and sale as well as performances by local jazz artists like Marchel Ivery, Joe Vincelli, Joe McBride, and the Dallas Jazz Orchestra. National talent performing will include Lee Ritenour, Warren Hill, and Gato Barbieri. The festival is free; for more info call (972) 831-1881...Meanwhile, up in Denton, the Denton Art and Jazz Festival takes place the same Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Denton Civic Center Park. Also free, this "pre-heat" festival features Brave Combo, Stephen Bruton, the One O'Clock Lab Band, Carlos Guedes, Mushroom Groovy, and Little Jack Melody and his Young Turks, and the usual arts 'n' crafts and sundry diversions...

Melatonin Bullet EP is the name of the latest offering from Transona Five, finally ready after many remixes, broken air conditioners, and other delays...look for a release party to be announced soon, followed by the release of their Italian seven-inch...

The Grand Street Cryers have added a new bass player, replacing Fred Koehn with Austin's Steve Bernal, who has played with such river city talent as Joe Rockhead, Alejandro Escovedo, and Abra Moore...The writer Robert Olmstead has described Bill Morrissey as "New England's own bluesman--not hot and humid Delta blues, but deep snow and sharp pine blues." The Texas Music Connection is bringing Morrissey to the Sons of Hermann on Friday, April 25; look for some songs off of his excellent new album You'll Never Get to Heaven as well as his six preceding albums...If you enjoyed Hank Thompson's knock-'em-dead set at the Sons last Friday--second in Mike Snider's Legends of Texas Music series--stay tuned for number three, the immortal Ray Price. Price will be playing two shows on May 10, and seating--usually general admission--will be reserved. Tickets start at $25, and the first show sports a free BBQ dinner, the better to tempt you into going early. For more information call 747-4422...Welcome back to the airwaves: Abby Goldstein has joined the Zone (KKZN 93.3 FM) and hosts a two-hour show on Sunday evenings from 8 to 10 p.m. The slot, according to Goldstein, calls for her to play "whatever the hell I want to" and has generated a "huge response."

Street Beat values your feedback, input, and outflow at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.

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