The last roundup

Soul Food Cafe throws in the towel

There's nothing wrong with a little self-empowering confidence or belief in your mission, but there comes a time when you have to acknowledge that your plan ain't workin'. After seven years and three albums, and a period of popular ubiquity in the early '90s, Soul Food Cafe is facing that fact: The band plays its last gig Saturday, May 31, at Club Dada.

"It's really frustrating when you have something that you think of as special, and other people just don't see it that way," said band leader and vocalist Sean Wisdom. "We pretty much decided at the start of making So Bright, So Blind [their latest release] that we'd put everything we had into one last album and see if anybody noticed."

Nobody really did, not in any of the ways that matter to a band. "We were set to start working on another album--I'd already written three or four songs that I think are better than anything on So Bright, So Blind--but there was just this feeling that we were fighting a battle that couldn't be won."

Indeed, SFC had been fighting since their beginnings. The unfortunately titled Gospel and their occasional use of horns stampeded many fans into labeling them as a blues or R&B act. In fact, they were a rock act, the vehicle for a singer-songwriter-style presentation, with just enough funky touches to seriously cloud the image. Their ability to pack 'em into clubs like Trees and Club Dada during their heyday led some to dismiss them as a slightly exceptional frat band. Soul Food Cafe was ambitious, with a good show, but their brand of "musician's music" was out of step with what it currently takes to jump up to the next level. "Yeah, people have told me that we peaked with Gospel," Wisdom says grudgingly, reluctant to cede the point. "I really don't know."

No one has any other projects. "It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out," Wisdom says. "I've got those songs for the fourth album, but I really have no plans."

Caught in motion
When she was nominated for a Dallas Observer music award in the field of blues, Cricket Taylor--as noted in our little introductory paragraph on her that came out before the votes were tallied--has been in and out of the local scene lately. Her last official sighting was a few months back, when she unexpectedly showed up at Greenville Bar and Grill and wowed the crowd before vanishing again.

It turns out that Taylor has been globetrotting, hanging out in Amsterdam and Italy, and working on her painting. "I've always liked painting," she says. "But I never really had the time to pursue it." She got more free time when she broke up her band in the first part of 1996.

"It was just time for us to go in different directions," she explains. "I wanted to learn more about different kinds of music and different ways of expressing myself." Taylor has some of her work hanging in Fair Park's Bar of Soap, consisting mostly of nudes and musical figures. Some of the paintings are on canvas, while others are painted on oddly shaped pieces of plywood--surfaces of opportunity that match Taylor's sometimes-primitive approach. With Ike Zimmerman, she gets funky, employing a Van Gogh-like swirling.

Don't get too worked up about Taylor's return, however; the opening party for her exhibit was also a farewell fete, as she'll soon be taking off again, first to Mississippi for a spell, after which she'll "move on to another major music city overseas."

Boredom with the local music scene isn't a factor. "Dallas isn't really known as a music town, which is insane," Taylor maintains. "Dallas is a great music city, and there's a lot of good music out there. It's just that it's time for me to move on and try new things."

Cricket Taylor's paintings will be hanging in the Bar of Soap until the end of the month.

Phase two
From the ashes of Code 4 come the Terror Couple--brainchild of Tim and Jacqueline Sanders--a "live hip-hop" effort that makes its first public appearance Sunday, June 1, at the Rehab Lounge. Backed up by someone called Semaj and former Spot drummer Davis Bickston, the group has spent the past year getting ready for this live debut; Tim estimates that each song requires about 100 hours of preparation.

The band is Jacqueline on bass, Bickston on drums, and Tim on vocals and various instruments and sound-making thingies. Semaj is in charge of the various members' parts and a wide array of prepared samples, which he'll control through a sub-mixer, doing with knobs what a conductor might do with his hands.

"People talk a lot about this keyboards-versus-guitars thing," Tim Sanders explains, "but I think it really goes deeper than a fad like that, to a male-female kind of thing. I think the show's going to be really different--we're going to be exploring our feminine side pretty thoroughly, through keyboards rather than guitar. We're going to come as close to musical sensualism as we can," he says, adding that he's been listening to a lot of artists like Marvin Gaye and Andrae Crouch lately. "I like the way they can bare their souls through their voices, how their singing is so expressive that they don't even need words."

The showcase, which will be broadcast as part of KEGL 97.1 FM's "The Local Show" on Sundays at 10 p.m., is one of only two planned for the group this summer.

Scene, heard
From the land of alligators, handguns, and giant insects comes news that a Florida state senator has freaked out at the filth and degradation that fairly oozes out of the music of shocker-provocateur-menace to society Robert Earl Keen. According to an April 25 issue of The Gavin Report, state Senator John Grant--already in a lather over Tampa radio station WMNF's coverage of gay Olympic gold medal winner and anarchist firebrand Greg Louganis' address to the University of South Florida--wigged out completely when he heard the lyrics to "Undone." A tale of a man's personality coming apart under the strain of poverty-level living, "Undone"--off of Picnic, Keen's latest--features civilization-toppling references to "back-seat" sex and bad words such as "bastard." Grant has diverted over $100,000 in previously awarded state funding from the station, no doubt saving the state of Florida from a reputation as a vicious backwater full of lawless, amoral crazy people...Keen has vowed to help the station continue its evil work, making a personal donation and appearing in Tampa to help raise money...

When Warner Brothers swallowed up Rick Rubin's American Recordings, it put the fate of many of American's acts in an uncomfortable limbo that most musicians know all too well. Fortunately, Dallas' Mark Griffin, aka MC 900 ft Jesus, is unfazed. "It's all very up-in-the-air," Griffin says of his position. "At least as far as my part goes. [Rick] Rubin is still renegotiating his deal with Warner Brothers, and I guess he's laid off just about all of his people, and I'm halfway through an album, but my contract carries me through all the stuff that goes with that--touring, a few videos, the whole deal. My deal's been pretty cushy, but the label was never much on promotion for people at my level."

Griffin--who thinks that his work-in-progress may be released by year-end, but makes no promises--likens his position to somebody "off in the corner" of a room, someone who might never notice that their room has changed from one in a five-room bungalow to part of a 60,000 square foot mansion. "It's weird when the whole thing switches over," Griffin says, "but us peons don't get that much attention anyway; when something finally happens, I'll be the last to find out."

Mike Swedler has just returned from Tornillo, Texas, where the American Fuse--following in the footsteps of another one of his acts, the Old 97's--is wrapping up their full-length debut album, produced by Taz Bentley, originally of the Rev. Horton Heat and currently pounding skins for Tenderloin. Swedler says to look for release sometime in mid-summer...Since we opened this Street Beat with an artistic endeavor, it's only appropriate to mention Club Clearview's collection of band art, displayed in the main room, over the bar. The ongoing collection draws mostly from the local talent pool, although national bands like Gene Loves Jezebel are also represented. Although there are some cheaters, paintings are officially limited in execution to the Digital Application Process--fingerpainting to those analog holdouts amongst you. Many works feature the band name--it seems you have to have an ego to play in front of people--and range in technique from the neo-primitive drunker 'n shit school to more thoughtful, controlled efforts like Birch County's implied theology and the serenely sublime octopus that graces Buck Jones' contribution.

A tip of the Street Beat bowler to Phil "Am I Dead Yet?" Anselmo and the rest of the gentlemen in Pantera for showing up at the Motsrhead cover night benefit for KNON at Fort Worth's Tattoo Bar. "It's not often that you find guys who have all the money, the fame, and the record contracts, and all that stuff that still bother to do local stuff like this," says event organizer Dave Chaos of KNON 89.3 FM...

In a bit of a turnaround from its usual Kerrville-friendly fare, Poor David's will host longtime Ramones drummer Marky Ramone and the Intruders June 8; the Big Gundown, profiled last week in this space, will open...Patrick Keel's advanced business of music class at Collin County Community College has finished Son of Eat Yer Vegetables and will have a release party to commemorate same on Friday, May 30, at the Lone Star Country Club. Festivities start at 4 p.m.

If it's all the same to you, we'd really prefer not to go where the Iron Crosses grow. We'd rather stay here where it's all warm and snuggly at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.

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