By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley probably could have interested a bigger label in their new project, The Burden Brothers. After all, Lewis was, until last August, the front man for the Toadies, and for years Bentley supplied the big beat for Reverend Horton Heat. Instead, fed up with the bureaucracy and wasted time inherent with any label deal, the duo has set up an online record label, TK (a joint venture with Last Beat Records), where they plan to release their music. It's a simplified, streamlined version of the recording industry: Lewis and Bentley come up with the songs, Last Beat schedules time at its studio on Commerce Street, and the finished tracks are put up for sale on the group's Web site (www.burdenbrothersmusic.com) as downloads or CD singles. (There are also plans to issue the tunes on 7-inch vinyl.) At the end of the year, or as soon as enough songs are ready, it will all be collected on one disc and the same business plan applies.
The first two cuts made under that blueprint, "Hang Your Head" and "Your Fault," are already available on the site, as well as on the latest edition of the Buzz-Oven compilations (along with tracks by The Deathray Davies, [DARYL] and Bee). For the moment, there are only two Brothers, part of Lewis and Bentley's plan to let the songs go where they want and keep the pair from getting stuck in one place for too long. Baboon's Mike Rudnicki and Mark Hughes and Pinkston's Josh Daugherty joined the group during its first live appearance, at November's North Texas New Music Festival, and they may play with Lewis and Bentley during their scheduled appearance at South by Southwest. But don't get too used to that lineup; it appears as though, now that Lewis and Bentley are on their own, they plan to keep it that way for a while. If nothing else, if TK is successful, it can be the "screw you" Lewis was looking for after Interscope Records treated the Toadies like a dollar whore on cowboy payday. And we can't think of anyone who doesn't like the sound of that...
On March 5, Ben Kweller will release Sha Sha, his solo debut for ATO Records, the label owned by Dave Matthews. Except that it's not exactly his solo bow; Kweller put out Freak Out, It's Ben Kweller on his own a few years ago, and if we remember correctly, there were at least a couple of other home-recorded releases he sold at shows and via his Web site, www.benkweller.com. At any rate, the new disc on Matthews' BMG-distributed imprint is his solo debut on a major label, so there isn't much point quibbling. Sha Sha contains a couple of tunes (including the title track, co-written with Pleasant Grove's Joe Butcher) originally set for inclusion on the album Kweller recorded with his one-time band, Radish, a record that eventually was lost under a mountain of dust on the shelves at Mercury Records. (That disc was titled Sha Sha, as well.) Mercury was once the home of Kweller and Radish, until Universal Music Group bought most of the music industry in 1999 and Mercury was folded into Island Def Jam and Kweller was not, finally allowed by the suits to take his business elsewhere.
ATO didn't waste much time snapping up Kweller, impressed by his songs and his solo guitar-and-piano live shows, opening for the likes of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Evan Dando, Juliana Hatfield and Kristen Hersh. Kweller will be at the Ridglea Theater on March 1, opening for Dashboard Confessional, also known as singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba, apparently a huge fan of Kweller. To wit, in the latest issue of Request (and we request you don't pick up this "magazine" very often--or ever), Carrabba says, "This kid opened up for us on the beginning of the tour. His name is Ben Kweller. Holy! He's amazing. I think he's going to take over the world." Maybe that's a step too far. At least Kweller has the songs to back up the hyperbole. Most of it, anyway...
Coupla spots you need to check out on Wednesdays: the Dallas Creative Music Alliance shindig at The Elbow Room and Evolution Wednesdays at Inferno Lounge. Led by Flipside, the DCMA has been building a solid night of jazz and instrumental music at the cozy bar on Gaston, providing a place for listeners who prefer Ornette Coleman to the straight-ahead standards offered up at Sambuca and places like it. Now is a good time to get on board, because on February 27, Flipside holds its CD release party at the Elbow, a shindig for its new live disc. But make it a habit, so you can catch the likes of Ghostcar and Quartet Out and others. For a different scene, and yet another alternative to the rock in Deep Ellum, Evolution Wednesdays at Inferno Lounge (on Sears, just behind The Milkbar) features DJ KP and VJ Smooth spinning hip-hop (old, new, local, whatever) and reggae. And that's just a start. It's also an open-mike night for spoken-word artists or up-and-coming MCs and home to live performances from local artists; The Legendary Fritz--seen recently on Channel 8 and heard lately on K104--performed at Inferno last Wednesday. Hit one, hit both, alternate--it doesn't matter. Just check 'em out...