Blue notes

Centro-matic's second album is so good, it will break your heart

"I remember when I first heard his stuff, and the first two songs were like the junior Replacements," says Pence, who still plans to release songs Johnson wrote and recorded then. "But from the third song on, it sounded like he knew exactly where he was going. It took him two songs to do what it takes most people two years. He found his voice so quickly."

Eventually, Johnson released two EPs before settling down to make Redo the Stacks. This year alone Centro-matic plans to release three albums: Navigational, Activator #1 (a collection of odds and ends "in the spirit of Redo the Stacks," Pence says) in May or June, and an out-and-out pop-rock collection later in the fall. (The latter two, in addition to subsequent Centro-matic albums, will be released on Barnhart's Quality Park label.) This is a band that can't afford to wait a year between releases. Too many songs, too little time--delaying the release of just one record would create an enormous backlog, and Johnson fears he and his bandmates will get bored playing last year's songs, or even last month's.

The forthcoming songs are just as astonishing, as captivating as those on Navigational. This is not a case of being unable to edit out the best and leave the rest on the mixing-room floor. It's almost as though Johnson, who didn't write a song until four years ago, is making up for lost time, sprinting forward while others merely run in place.

"I'd like to do three records a year so long as I'm inspired," Johnson says. "So long as I feel like I'm being honest."

Scene, heard
You will never find a more appropriately named record than Scott Meeks' forthcoming A Long Time Coming. Meeks, a Los Angeles-born jazz composer-musician who moved to Dallas in the early 1970s and played briefly with L.A. legend Horace Tapscott, is only now releasing his debut album, and it comprises a dozen songs written during the last 10 years--though one, "A Summer's End," dates back to 1979. The disc will be released in the next few weeks, and it's a stellar collection that features the best local jazzers no money can buy: Earl Harvin, Marchel Ivery, Shelley Carrol, and Madukwu Chinwah among their lot. Meeks will perform songs from the disc April 10 at the Clarence Muse Cafe at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters at 650 S. Griffin. The program begins at 8 p.m.

Send Street Beat your four-track love to rwilonsky@dallasobserver.com.

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