Normally, we stay away from writing about an album in the, ah, concept stage; it's a little bit like critiquing a building from an artist's rendering. But we couldn't help butting our noses in where they don't belong when we received a copy of a letter One Ton Records big bossman Aden Holt sent out to almost two dozen local bands asking them to contribute to a forthcoming compilation Holt is trying to put together. Maybe we feel entitled, since Holt also sent out our 1999 Music Awards blurb about best-label-winning One Ton, including a section of the article highlighted in yellow about how this proposed record is "ambitious" and "a step in the right direction toward bringing together a disparate collection of bands beneath the 'community' umbrella." Dude, if we knew this was the record you were talking about, no way that would have made it into print.
Seems Holt is finally making good on a promise to record and release a disc featuring local bands covering local bands; hence the title The Great Dallas Cover-Up, a disc whose purpose, Holt writes, is to "bring our music scene together and celebrate the home of so many diverse and talented alternative bands." He mentions in the missive that he hopes for a release on October 15 and 16, with a fashion show to coincide with the release parties.
It's a promising concept, to say the least: Get two prominent area acts to cover each other's songs -- say, the Old 97's would perform the Commercials' "Overthrow," while, in turn, the Commercials would record the 97's' "Barrier Reef." (That's just one of the 11 pairings Holt suggests in the letter he sent out May 25.) It's basically an expanded version of what the Old 97's and Funland did a few years back, but nonetheless, a noble experiment, even if every band that agrees to appear on the compilation will have to pay for its own recording session. (OK, Crystal Clear is reducing the standard hourly rate to $40, which is a deal...if you work very, very fast or decide to cover a very, very short song).
But you know what they say about the road to hell: It's paved with bad compilations. Therefore, we feel it necessary to beg Holt not to make this record, at least not as he has proposed it. Think of this as an intervention, Aden; consider this friendly advice from people who care. Look, do you really want to make a record with Deep Blue Something (doing Slow Roosevelt's "Friends I'd Like to Kill") or Jibe (American Fuse's "Don't Chingale My Chevrolet") or Hellafied Funk Crew (Cresta's "My Reminder") or Cresta (HFC's "1 Track Mind")? Take a deep breath. Of course not. Life is too short.
A project like this has such grand potential: It can be relevant and fun, enlightening and entertaining. As it stands now, having One Ton band Slow Roosevelt cover Deep Blue's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is too cute, too between-the-quotes ironic -- and not at all funny. It's the obvious punch line to a joke Holt started forever ago, the first time the ex-Caulk frontman stood on a stage wearing a "Deep Blow Someone" T-shirt. We already know what it's going to sound like: Pete Thomas chewing on bubble-gum. Got it. Funny. Next.
When Holt talks about celebrating "diverse and talented" local bands, he should mean something more than "good and bad" local bands. He talks about uniting a scene, when in fact his "scene" consists of nothing more than three streets. Holt's falling into the familiar, numbing mind-set that Dallas' so-called music scene begins on Elm and ends on Commerce and contains within its narrow boundaries nothing but bands that play guitars. And so he seeks out the usual suspects -- the Toadies, Reverend Horton Heat, Centro-matic, Tripping Daisy, Captain Audio, Dooms U.K., Doosu, Baboon -- and asks them to do the obvious. Hey, nothing wrong with those bands (gawrsh, we love 'em all), but it's a wide-open world out there. Might as well call the record Tunnel Vision.
Why force bands to cover particular songs in the first place? Do you think Captain Audio has a particular love for Tripping Daisy's "I Got a Girl?" For God's sake, even the Daisy is tired of that song, having moved so far beyond it that they can no longer see it in the rear-view mirror. And why pair up bands, thus forcing the issue? Why not just invite local artists to participate and ask them which local songs they'd like to cover? They might display some surprisingly good taste.
Like I said, this isn't a bad concept; it's the potential execution that scares the hell out of us -- we even told Holt as much a few months ago, when he first mentioned the idea. Back then, we told Holt he should consider expanding the concept to make it something of a history-of-Dallas-music collection as told by today's best and brightest. We offered our suggestions then, and we're going to do it again. Hey, it's Holt's company, and he can do with it what he pleases; we're just trying to help out a buddy, that's all, before he steps in broken glass while wearing nothing but socks.
And if Aden doesn't want to make this record (think: The Greater Dallas Cover-Up), maybe someone else will (could be Dallas Observer, Scene Heard Volume 4, if you're not careful). It'll be a smash hit -- or at least bigger than Come On Feel the Metal.
1. Budapest One, "Matchbox Blues" (originally performed by Blind Lemon Jefferson). Rumor has it Keith Killorean and Blind Lemon once rode the rails together.
2. Erykah Badu, "Stormy Monday Blues" (originally performed by Aaron "T-Bone" Walker). You could see this coming from a hundred miles away.
3. Earl Harvin Trio, "Seven Come Eleven" (originally performed by Benny Goodman Sextet, featuring Charlie Christian). If there are three people in the world who could take the place of six, it's Earl Harvin, Dave Palmer, and Fred Hamilton. Who else but they could cover this tune, co-written by Goodman and the Dallas-born Christian, the father of the electric guitar? The title alone makes it an Earl Harvin Trio natural.
4. Slobberbone, "Crazy Arms" (originally performed by Ray Price). We considered 1100 Springs and Cowboys and Indians and even the Dixie Chicks (ah, but they would never consider us), but settled on Slobberbone to breathe a little raucous life into this fine country waxwork.
5. Cowboys and Indians, "Faded Love" (originally performed by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys). Besides, we needed Cowboys and Indians for this tune. Inevitable.
6. Reverend Horton Heat, "Action Packed" (originally performed by Ronnie Dawson). Speaking of pre-ordained...
7. Radish, "Dance, Franny, Dance" (originally performed by the Floyd Dakil Combo). Ben Kweller was about, oh, minus-21 when Dakil and his band recorded this lost local gem about a good-lookin' girl down Dallas way. But if there was ever a band born to cover this teenybopper rave-up, it's Radish.
8. The Old 97's, "Thunderbird" (originally performed by the Nightcaps). We can just hear Rhett Miller singing the opening words: "Get high, everybody, get high." Either Miller or Jeff "cottonmouth, tx" Liles.
9. Legendary Crystal Chandelier, "Quiet, Do Not Disturb" (originally performed by Bobby Patterson). Deep inside Peter Schmidt is a sweet soul brother in a sailor's cap dying to get out. Trust us.
10. Dooms U.K., "D.O.A." (originally performed by Bloodrock). ASKA would do it too straight; Pantera, too loud. Only John Freeman, Jon "Corn Mo" Cunningham, and the Dooms would get it right, from the opening sirens to the final crash, and still keep it creepy, funny, and, of course, real.
11. The Commercials, "She's in Love with the Rolling Stones" (originally performed by The Telefones). The old new wave meets the new new wave.
12. Pleasant Grove, "Bringin' it Down by Hand" (originally performed by End Over End). We hope David Mabry hasn't forgotten how to play it.
13. Meredith Miller, "What I Am" (originally performed by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians). We thought about Lisa Loeb for this one. The only problem was it might be hard to tell it was a cover.
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14. The Darlingtons, "You're So Fuckin' Great" (originally performed by Last Rites). We know, we know -- but we suck.
15. Shabazz 3, "The Formula" (originally performed by The D.O.C.). Today's most important local hip-hop band covering yesterday's most connected hip-hop artist. It's a match made at Dr. Dre's house.
16. Ronnie Dawson, "Impala" (originally performed by Funland). Who better to perform a car song than the only rockabilly who matters?
17. Café Noir, "Bedside Table" (originally performed by Bedhead). Always did want to hear this with strings. Bedhead, of course, would hate it.