More better blues

Local bluesman Pat Boyack has fully recovered from an unfortunate bit of confusion last summer when longtime Mike Morgan and the Crawl vocalist-harmonica player Lee McBee decided to stick with (actually, rejoin) Morgan & Co. rather than play with Boyack. Although Bruce Bowland, the vocalist he was working with immediately after McBee, didn't work out, Boyack is glad things turned out the way they did, especially when he listens to the album he just finished recording at Austin's Arlyn Studios.

"It all turned out for the best," Boyack says, noting that all the principals in the confusion remain friends. "This new album is the beginning of a new direction for me, the start of me getting my own's not totally different--I don't want to freak people out--but I think it's safe to say that the only thing that's the same between this disc and my previous two (Breakin' In and On the Prowl, on the Rounder-affiliated Bullseye Blues) is that I'm on all of them," he says with a laugh. "Down in Austin, I hooked up with all these new people, [bassist] Franny Cristina from the Fabulous Thunderbirds, [drummer] Frosty from Soul Hat and Chris Duarte, and Kevin Smith on upright bass (he's from High Noon), and Ronnie Dawson.

"I'd never played with any of them before," Boyack adds. "And you could tell the difference right away...Jerry Hall was our engineer--he did that Moeller/Size album [Return of the Funky Worm, one of the Observer's best of 1996] and used to work with Motown--he records the old-time way, really live, and we got a lot of spontaneity, like when we put Frosty and Kev together. Kevin's playing occupies this real narrow niche, and Frosty drums with a very dynamic, rhythmic approach. He's a busy player and puts a lot into the beat, but when we put them both together, they just went nuts, and it was really cool."

Boyack, who announced last summer that he wanted to get a new sound on his third album, was totally open to the contributions of bandmembers. "When I did the demos of the songs on the album, I purposely left them as spacious as possible so that the guys could put their own stuff in," he says. "It's boring when you always have the same guys and the same sound. There's some Chicago stuff, of course, and some harp, but there's also some big band stuff and a Pee Wee Crayton number, too; I really love Pee Wee. [Austin blues institution] W.C. Clark sang on one cut, but the best thing about the album is how warm it sounds. There's hardly any delay on it, and it just sounds like you're there in the room with us."

Austin's Spencer Thomas--a veteran of the Solid Senders and Sixth Street mainstay Big Pow Wow--has been singing with Boyack for about a month. "The thing about Spencer is that he doesn't want to do a great Muddy Waters or a good Howlin' Wolf; he just wants to sound like Spencer Thomas," Boyack says. "The most important thing is the entertainment factor, to get good grooves and get people up and dancing and everybody have fun with it."

Another big change for Boyack was his stepping into the role of songwriter. On Boyack's previous two albums, vocalist Jimmy Morello handled most of the writing duties, but the new album--tentatively titled Super Blue and Funky if Boyack has his way--will feature 10 to 14 original compositions. "I wrote a lot of them on a transatlantic flight to and from Europe," he recalls. "I had all this time, and I just took a notepad and was drinkin' wine, getting loose, and writing all these lyrics. Later I had to go back and figure out what I'd written."

For a guy who was baffled and struggling to maintain his equanimity just nine months ago, Boyack is a study in "all's well that ends well." "I'm grateful for the change," he admits. "We're all still around, and I'm doing some things with Spencer that I couldn't do with Lee. I just want to get my own sound; I don't want to be a real traditionalist--I tried that, and the audience is limited--and I think what I'm doing now is different. Different but better."

Scene, heard
Speaking of Johnny Moeller and Paul Size, their band The Holy Moellers was one of three Dallas blues acts invited--expenses paid--to the renowned Moulin Blues Festival this May; the other two acts are Memo Gonzales and Tutu Jones...bobgoblin's debut album for MCA is scheduled for release April 8...Baboon plays Trees February 13, then returns to the Orbit Room on the face, the band that was a semi-finalist in last year's Musician magazine best unsigned band contest, has a self-released EP cassette that they'll be selling at gigs; their next show is Saturday, February 15 at Club Clearview...Lyles West--best known to most through his association with Cafe Noir and Earl Harvin--brings his quartet to the Gingerman Sunday, February 16...

Contrary to a very convincing, authoritative sentence in Street Beat, the correct number for tickets to Sammons Jazz Series shows (among others) from ARTTIX is 871-ARTS.

No animals were killed, injured, insulted, embarrassed, made to wear a fez or ride a cute little motorcycle during the production of this Street Beat at Wait a sec--is a dolphin an animal? Technically?


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