Lady sings the Blues

Chonita "N'Dambi" Gilbert is a back-up singer no more

Then she lets out one of those little-girl giggles. Yes, it's hard to believe.

Pulling the Radish
Do not believe everything you read in The New York Times. In its South by Southwest roundup, which appeared last week, Times pop music writer and professional Marilyn Manson sucker-upper Neil Strauss wrote that among the bands that had performed at the conference was Radish, which Strauss said had been "recently terminated" from its deal with PolyGram subsidiary Mercury Records. But the so-called Paper of Record is wrong: Radish is still signed to Mercury. It just doesn't feel like it.

Or, to put it in the words of Radish frontman Ben Kweller: "It's so fucked right now."

Kweller and a label exec both say the band has managed to survive the Universal Music Group-PolyGram merger that has caused the firing of thousands of employees and the dropping of hundreds of bands, including such Dallas-based acts as the tomorrowpeople and Slowpoke. But Kweller says the band might as well be off the label, since "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand's doing anymore." Meaning, the band's pretty damned good second album--originally titled Discount Fireworks, since rechristened Sha Sha because it's more "fun, summery, Zappa-esque"--was originally scheduled to be released this month, but has now been given a release date of the fifth of Nobodyknowswhen.

"It doesn't seem they're so psyched about it," Kweller says, hinting not too subtly that there are other labels interested in signing the band should Mercury choose to release Radish. "I'm not too into Mercury right now. But V2's totally psyched. TVT's totally psyched. We might be leaving Mercury. They've been holding us too long and not moving. I would be so psyched to be with an independently owned record label that still has pull--like V2 or DreamWorks--a label that has money and can promote records to the fullest but isn't part of the corporate chain."

Either way, the record--which is a giant leap forward, the sound of a young man's voice breaking...everything in the room--won't be out anytime soon. It still needs to be mixed, and Kweller is going to excise five songs from the 17 Radish recorded when the band briefly featured ex-UFOFU guitarist Joe Butcher. And to make matters even more difficult, Kweller is leaving the countryside of Greenville for the countryside of Connecticut. In July, Kweller's moving to a farm 15 minutes outside of New Haven to live with his girlfriend, a handbag designer with a successful business of her own. Last Friday's show at Trees will be the band's last local appearance for...well, a very long time.

"We're ready to give everything we have to this record, but after that, I'm gonna do a solo record," Kweller says. I'm not breaking up the band. I'm just growing up. That's all. It's all good, baby. My songs are becoming more me--me and acoustic guitar, me and piano. I'm ready to be Ben Kweller."

And who isn't?

Digital round-up
Sooner or later, we'll get around to reviewing every one of the following CDs, which is not a threat. But you should be aware of some notable area releases that are in your local mom-and-pops now or headed there in the next few days. Most of them are pretty damned good, which only goes to prove my theory that local music is undergoing a secret renaissance. Feel free to use that phrase during conversations with your friends.

Among them are brand-new discs from The Baptist Generals (a five-song self-titled EP on Hot Link Records), Meredith Miller (madami'madam, on Binkey Records and reviewed in this week's Out Here section, page 86), Cornhole (Hornswaggled, also on Hot Link), and ex-Adam's Farmer Jeff Whittington (Twenty-Five Pin Connector, out on Pukka Records America). Doosu will perform April 3 at Trees to celebrate the band's first record in three years, Aqua Vita, out on Aden Holt's One Ton Records.

Centro-matic's new 16-song disc, Navigational, is finally out on Idol Records, as is Mazinga Phaser's four-song EP Counting Breaths, which features one studio track and three live songs (or one really long song). There's also a new disc from an Austin band called HairyApesBMX, which features the likes of Mike Dillon (ex of Billygoat and every other Dallas band that once used a percussionist), Zac Baird (keybs, used to play with cottonmouth, texas and Whitey), J.J. Richards (bassist with Billygoat), and drummer John Speice (also formerly of Whitey). The band's debut, Expatriape, is being released by the Lawrence, Kansas-based V&R Records. HairyApesBMX plays the Curtain Club April 23.

On the compilation front, Jeff Liles and Perla Doherty's label HEIRESS-aesthetic is in the process of handing out freebie copies of the 31-track double disc Static Orange. The collection, split into "passive" and "aggressive" sides, features new and previously released tracks from the likes of Tele, Reed Easterwood, Pleasant Grove, neon girl, Lewis, Orchid, Valve, Buck Jones, and Legendary Crystal Chandelier. KNON-FM (89.3) has also released the second volume of its Texas Blue Radio series, featuring the great Joe Jonas, Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, R.L. Griffin, Randy McAllister, Cookie McGee, and nine other acts.

Scene, heard
Hagfish plays its final show ever April 2 at Trees, with the Commercials opening. Good-bye, fellas, and good luck.

Send Street Beat your product to rwilonsky@dallasobserver.com

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