Paul Slavens, still known to most Dallas music fans for his now-suspended band Ten Hands, has been busy since he folded that particular tent. Dr. Paul's Freak Show saw Slavens taking over the stage at Club Dada on Wednesday nights and playing with a rotating lineup of area musicians. Now he's solidified things, deciding on a steady trio format with Reggie Rueffer (violin) and George Dimitri (bass) as his accompanists.
Well, he's kind of solidified things: An evening with Dr. Paul is still the epitome of loosey-goosey, with Slavens soliciting requests, improvising on lyric suggestions tossed out by audience members, and learning (or making up) songs on the spot. Old Ten Hands tunes, tangos, demented Brechtian barrelhouse, pop standards, the theme song from Three's Company, the western swing classic "Big Ball's in Cowtown" (complete with Scottish falsetto third verse), and more are all part and parcel of a Wednesday evening with the trio. Rueffer--noticeably sunnier than he's been since the dissolution of Spot--plays one of the most soulful violins in town, full of tone and passion; Dimitri--who plays for the Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Symphony and met Slavens through a Dungeons and Dragons pal who managed the pizza place Slavens delivered pizzas for--coaxes notes out of his double bass that have the gently buoyant grace of undersea mammals, then switches to a rapid-fire burble.
But Slavens has long enjoyed playing the piano by himself, often putting aside the goofiness and performing modern classical numbers that he's written. Now he's collected 16 of these compositions on Absolute. "It was funny when I read in Street Beat about this being a whole new direction for me," Slavens said between sets recently at Club Dada. "Because actually, it's where I was before rock and roll. I wanted to do rock, but like Frank Zappa--who used his rock to trick people into listening to classical. When Ten Hands was winding up, I realized that it was time for me to move on and up to this."
Absolute is the result, nothing but Slavens playing his compositions on piano--no bass, no voice, no percussion. "I guess it's classical, for lack of a better term," he says. "Maybe 'serious art music.' What I wanted to do was to make something that was as free as possible from any commercial considerations, and to expose people to this kind of music in little chunks." Indeed, tonight is a particularly good night at Dada, and Slavens has given away--that's right, given away, as in free of commercial considerations--more than 100 copies of Absolute. "A lot of these compositions are too hard for me to play. I mean, I can play, but I know what's possible from a really capable player.
"The music on the disc is meant to be documentary," Slavens continues. "I don't take a whole lot of liberty with tempo or anything. What I'd really like to do with this is get it to someone who really can play and get them interested; I'd love to get a copy to Andrew Litton and Keri-Lynn Wilson."
Corn Mo on the Crue
As no one else could bring themselves to go see Motley Crue's show at the Bronco Bowl this June 12, we deputized the inimitable Corn Mo to make the scene. Mr. Mo, who plays Crue songs on the accordion, files the following report:
Until the ninth grade, I hated metal because--like turnip greens with pepper sauce--I had never given it a chance. I was really into Kenny Rogers and Survivor, which are good lubes with which to slide into metal. I had just moved to Kentucky when my best friend, Alvin, sent me pictures from San Antonio of the Crue's Shout at the Devil tour. They frightened me a bit with their pentagrams and whatnot, but I was quickly sucked in. I had the balance of good and evil with my Crue tape in one hand and my Stryper tape in the other, but my Crue hand just got heavier, and now that hand shoots man-o'-war flames when I'm playing accordion.
John Freeman and I went to see the reunited Crue at the Bronco Bowl. The girls were sporting the "Dallas City Limits" look (tight leather outfits and tank tops) and set a good foundation for a great rock 'n' roll show.
They opened the show with a song from their new album, Generation Swine. Their idea was to play the whole album in its entirety. Vince was hanging from a huge chandelier with electric-candle lights that you find in dark seafood restaurants in Annapolis. He's got orange hair now, and there was a giant set of lips that were pierced with rings from which hung butchered pigs.
Lots of folks enjoyed their new songs including me. About five songs into the set, Vince said, "Let's kick it up a notch!" and played "Wild Side." Tommy Lee played a grand piano and sang, accompanied by string players who were silhouetted behind him on oriental screen blinds. Vince sang a ballad called "Glitter," which I hope becomes popular, because proms and homecoming dances need that song. After they played all the new songs, they played a few old ones, including "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart," and a fast version of "Shout At the Devil."
Afterward, select audience members were allowed to come on stage and sit on couches for the Motley Crue Q&A part of the show. There were a few questions, but most of the microphone holders just gave praise: "I've been listening to you guys since the fourth grade, and you don't understand how much you guys mean to me. You guys fuckin' rock."
"I'm the guy that made you that sword, and you guys have fuckin' rocked me since..."
"That guy makes really cool swords," said Vince.
The questions and praises tapered off, and the stage was full of folk getting autographs and talking to bandmembers. One girl got her Vince Neil painting autographed. The band was really nice, smiling and talking to everybody who wanted to talk to them. Meanwhile, I was able to make my way on stage. I walked up to Nikki Sixx and put a Corn Mo & Mauve Oed tape in his front shirt pocket. I said, "Have this tape. I did an accordion version of "Home Sweet Home."
He replied, "Man, I'll fuckin' have to listen to that." The rest of my night was glory.
Homeboy's keeping busy
The new project of the Dallas Blues Society's label is an all-instrumental CD by guitarist Denny Freeman. When you hear Austinites being smug (when are they not?), remind them that one reason their town's blues scene bloomed is because of the relocations of Oak Cliff residents Doyle Bramhall, the brothers Vaughan, and Freeman (whom both Vaughans acknowledged as an influence). Freeman played with essential Austin bluesers like the Cobras, Angela Strehli, and Lou Ann Barton during a time when the Live Music Capitol of All Known Time and Space hadn't yet discovered its blues heritage. Freeman was in Barton's road band, the Heartbeats, in the early '80s, when she seemed on the verge of blowing up big. When her career failed to ignite after her Jerry Wexler-produced album Old Enough (Asylum, 1982), the Heartbeats (which included Freeman, drummer Bramhall, and reedman Joe Sublett) started gigging on their own. In 1989, Freeman split for L.A. with an eye toward TV/film soundtrack work.
Freeman hasn't done an album of his own since Out of the Blue (in '86, for the now-defunct Amazing Records, which had one of the all-time best indie slogans: "If it's a hit, it's Amazing"). Fearing that he might become typecast as "just" a sideman, he cut a CD's worth of self-penned instrumentals and shopped it to labels, but they were slow in responding.
On a suggestion from Bramhall (who drummed on the first Dallas Blues Society album, ZuZu Bollin's Texas Bluesman), Freeman sent a tape to DBS founder Chuck Nevitt.
"I called him the same day I got it," says Nevitt. "It took me one listen to decide, yeah, I'd put this out in a heartbeat!"
Nevitt has produced all of the DBS' previous albums (Big Al Dupree, Henry Qualls, and the Holy Moellers) and relishes this, the first project he won't have to sink time and money into producing. He says the tunes run the gamut from bluesy to surf-ish to near-psychedelic, a blend that's consistent with the notably diverse Freeman, who at this writing earns his daily bread performing with Taj Mahal.
DBS plans an August release for the album, and Freeman will be in town to play at soon-to-be-scheduled CD release parties.
Local fixture Big Al Dupree will be at Cedar Street on Saturday, June 28. The pianist and sax player--who started playing professionally in 1936, the same year Robert Johnson recorded his definitive cuts here for Vocalion--has honed his chops through years of gigging in restaurants and clubs. His playing has its roots in post-war jump blues and big-band swing, and he strings songs like "Wee Baby Blues," "Sheik of Araby," and "Sent for You Yesterday"--all of which appear on his 1995 debut Big Al Dupree Swings the Blues--through an evening with uncommon grace and fluidity. Cedar Street itself has not been doing too badly: This month, the club has been host to a nationally syndicated blues show called Real Street Blues, filmed live on the premises each Sunday evening. So far Jimmy Smith and Bobby Patterson have been covered, with more to come...
Friday, June 27, is the date set for the "Friends of Joan Malone" benefit concert up in Carrollton at the Plaza Theatre. Malone is the real estate agent who was stabbed and left for dead while showing a home last March. The show will feature Lee Beck, Amy Marcontell, Jason Cox, and the Deep River Band in an evening of country-flavored entertainment whose proceeds will go to benefit crime prevention programs in Coppell and Carrollton. Call (972) 242-2775.
Denton funksters Mushroom Groovy are picking up momentum, although bassist-manager Jim Root is uncomfortable with the whole "funk" label. "There are so many kinds of funk now," Root marvels. "There's 311 funk, Chili Pepper funk, P-Funk funk--we just sort of do our thing." The horn-heavy nine-piece group recently played a show up in Oklahoma City where a national rep for Sony heard them and was "ecstatic" about the band, promising to relay her enthusiasm to the right people. "Two Places," off of their last album, has been getting radio play in OKC as well, and the group is pushing forward with plans for a live album, followed by a second studio effort tentatively scheduled for release in the middle of September.
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Retro-reverb/turbo-twang group the Big Gundown is looking for a drummer...It may be cryin' time for Lithium Xmas, but Lithium guy Mark Ridlin already moved on to what he calls "another fake band," this one with Brian Peterman. Named Spoth, Ridlin terms the group's music "uneasy listening," then groans "that's such a cliche." Nevertheless, the 12-inch 45 (yes, a 12-inch 45) is due out at the beginning of July from Honey Records, most recently celebrated here for their work in bringing one-man band Homer Henderson to the masses...
It's a weekend of landmarks for Poor David's Pub: On Friday, June 27, Ray Wylie Hubbard says goodbye to the Dallas-Fort Worth area after a long residence here; Hubbard is moving to Wimberley, where the living is easy. On Saturday, June 28, Gatemouth Brown will make a rare solo appearance...The Indigo Girls concert at Starplex Saturday, June 28, is featuring a "For the Love of the Lake" package with a catered reception before the show and other perks; for more info call (972) 622-SAVE...
In our last issue's story on Homer Henderson, we failed to credit the live shot of him to the extremely friendly and helpful Bill Logan. Sorry.
Street Beat craves your feedback, hints, allegations, blather and spume at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.