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Pilgrims at rest

Leave it to the man who wrote a song called "I'm Sorry I Killed You"--mainly "'cause now I am in jail," although the protagonist (if that's the right word) finds some solace at making goo-goo eyes at the victim's underage sister--to pick up and get on with his life. The upper floor of Naomi's is being converted into living quarters and the club itself will soon be refitted to serve as a laundromat for nearby apartments, developments that find recent piscatorial poser and local music legend Barry Kooda--along with partner-in-crime Donny Ray Ford--dry-eyed and already ensconced in another hangout.

Upon hearing of Naomi's demise, the redoubtable duo immediately set off on a blitzkrieg-paced survey of area clubs before settling on a new base camp at the Dallasite Club at the corner of Ross and Hall. Several test gigs have gone well, including the most recent last Saturday, featuring Barry Kooda and the Mutineers (Mssrs. Kooda and Ford ably supported by drummer Gerald Iragorri and the Hon. Kim Herriage on electric and pedal steel guitars).

"We just showed up off the street, and everybody was very friendly," Kooda says, pausing only to grunt as he shifts the weight of the large bluefin tuna he's carrying with him. "When we left, the bartender said to be sure to come on back." The club--at its present location two years after almost two decades on Gaston before a decaying neighborhood and rezoning forced a move--is indeed an agreeable place. It is patronized primarily by longtime regulars who are friendly yet respectful of boundaries and is graced by a killer jukebox (helpful hint: the entrance is in back). The most recent gig found the Mutineers in fine form--particularly Herriage, who has long been an underappreciated aspect of the local music scene--as they ran through Kooda Klassics such as the aforementioned "Sorry," and most of the songs off of Crossin' the Line, his latest release.

"I think it'll be cool," Kooda says, looking to the future. "We're trying to build a scene here, and that takes time." Meanwhile, he says, "karaoke night is impressive, with these two black guys at the bar who really know their Sinatra."

"Most of my customers have been coming here for over 20 years," confirms Rhonda Dungan, who owns and operates the establishment with her husband, Fred. "We have all kinds of people come in here, and we all get along wonderfully. Barry's great, and we'll try whatever it takes to get it together."

Donny Ray Ford will be at the Dallasite Club two upcoming Saturdays: September 13 and September 27.

Real rock remembered
Hot on the heels of Hightone Records' reissue of Mac Curtis' excellent mid-'70s collaboration with rockabilly fan and producer Rockin' Ronnie Weiser--a joint effort with Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records--comes Texabilly, a similarly conceived pairing of Weiser and essential cat music comet Johnny Carroll. A kid when he first burst upon the local scene with a series of hits for Decca, Phillips (of Sun Records fame), and several regional labels, Carroll's talent, frenetic stage presence, burning sincerity, and focus afterward reminded many of an artist who should have gotten a spot much higher up the rock 'n' roll ladder; Carroll converts mention with brio the 'E' word when making comparisons. Undeniably talented yet denied that lucky break, by the end of his life in 1995. Carroll seemed to have made some degree of peace with the music biz, pursuing a career in country that at times seemed a lot like a poorly tailored suit made out of very fine fabric.

The re-release of Texabilly proves that there was peace to be had through that compromise and that Carroll was born to make music regardless of genre: Who else but a true believer could have made such a true pilgrimage to the shrine of rockabilly back when the music itself was not just dead, but mouldering in its grave unmourned? Who else could've gone through the Stations of Gene Vincent with a heart pure enough to make the corpse get up and dance?

Texabilly reaffirms Carroll's soulful genius, but the whole emerging Hightone/Rollin' Rock series is a tribute to the man who believed in something enough to revel in being the loyal page, a knob-twiddling Sancho Panza to a string of black-leather Don Quixotes: Weiser himself. It was in a European flea market in the early '60s when Weiser--a native of Italy--stumbled upon his first vintage American rock records. They flipped his wig.

"It was hot rock from the wild, wild west," he recalls. "Unfettered and unchained, totally out of control. It was wild, man! Gene Vincent! People thought I was sort of strange because after that I was looking only for American music, all American music, but that was it for me! Nothing else!"  

Weiser--who, when excited, sounds a bit like Ren Hoëk--embarked upon his quest, his grail defined simply. "If it rocks, that's it! I started finding out about all these people, and eventually I got around to Texas rockabilly and guys like Mac Curtis and Johnny Carroll." Weiser, whose devotion soon moved him from excited end-user to a role in the preservation--nay, resuscitation--of the music he loves, feels like the Lone Star State has a particularly potent vibe when it comes to rock 'n' roll.

"Texas is the wildest, most flamboyant state, the most cowboy, exciting place," he says. "It is to states what Las Vegas [where Weiser now resides] is to cities. Eighty percent of the people I've recorded are from Texas, and a lot of those are from Dallas-Fort Worth. There's no place on earth more rockabilly; the sound matches, and Johnny is the leading proponent. When I first heard him, he blew me away--his singing is incredible, his guitar phenomenal!"

Smitten by Carroll's spark, Weiser wrote "Johnny Carroll Rock" in the early '70s and eventually tracked Carroll down and came to Texas in 1978, where the two recorded four of the tracks on Texabilly. Weiser implored Carroll to come out west sometime so that they could collaborate further; one night, his phone rang.

"It was Johnny," Weiser said, still sounding exultant. "He said, 'Come git me--I'm ready to rock!'" The non-Texas remainder of the album was made in Weiser's garage and is a tribute to the eternal flame burning within Weiser and Carroll: crisp (especially on the CD) and true without being derivative. Carroll's playing is paper-cut sharp, and in his hands, "Gene Vincent Rock" sounds as greasy, sinister, and pilled-up as the man himself. "Whiskey River"--the Johnny Rivers warhorse before Willie Nelson beat it into the ground--serves notice that Johnny didn't have to push himself all that much in order to cop a country attitude. Mac Curtis' tribute at the disc's end--"Johnny Carroll Rock"--is heartfelt yet dignified, sentimental but not pandering. Tributes that reflect so well on those who issue them are usually hatefully self-referential, but only love comes through Texabilly.

"He was a savage rebel," Weiser says of Carroll with awe.
Takes one to know one.

Lenzwatch
Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars have a new record out, a 45 on Wormtone Records produced by Deke Dickerson, formerly of the Dave and Deke Combo. Recorded in Denver, Colorado, on vintage equipment, the clear orange vinyl disc bears four songs. The two on the A-side are by Lenz herself ("Shake a Leg" and "Up to My Old Tricks Again"), and the B-side sports the ultra-obscure covers that she and her band specialize in: "Bop City" and "Minus One--Blast Off," which is a nice version of the countdown motif used to such good effect by the Leroi Brothers on their early-'80s hit "Moon Twist." The recording was made on authentic ancient equipment--"the microphones didn't even have tone controls," she reports--and the sound is analog all the way, baby. She and her band continue to jell in a pleasing fashion (particularly guitarist Mike Lester), but now that she's attaining mastery over all those little rockabilly vocal flourishes--the yips, growls, and hiccups--the next step is not to do them. Lenz is tickled pink with new booking agent--Brian Swanson's Minneapolis-based Hello! booking, the same folks who book Dale Watson and the Derailers--and the results they've gotten so far. "They've already made a ton of good things happen for us," she reports.

Scene, heard
The brief resurgence of Schooner's was just that, according to local blues maven Kathy Prather. Despite the new ownership and plans to revamp and upgrade the club's facilities, neighborhood opposition to the blues bastion and drinkery put the kibosh on the plans of area restaurateurs Nathan Peck and David Vincent for a revival. The rumor is that somebody nearby had friends in high places down in Austin, resulting in a curt "no way" from the TABC...Overflow has a new drummer, Jerry Howeth; check them out Friday, September 5, when they play Club Clearview...Groovy Joe Poovey, still recovering from his recent heart attack, has three songs on the just-released Johnny Paycheck retrospective, The Real Mr. Heartache, a collection of songs he recorded for the Little Darlin' label--considered by many to be his best work...A revamped Birch County--now with Bruce Alford and Jason Dickson on drums and bass, respectively--have been sounding like this might finally be the lineup that clicks for them; see for yourself and check them out soon...

Dallas-based rhythm ensemble Percussion Things--percussionist Lynn Barnett, drummer-percussionist Brent Nance, pianist Pablo Mayor, and trumpeter Freddy Jones--will present an evening of Afro/Latin percussion music at the Bathhouse Cultural Center on the east side of White Rock Lake (521 E. Lawther Dr.) on Saturday, August 30. Seating for the event--which will feature exotic percussion instruments such as the djembe, bata, and shekere as well as the more familiar congas--is limited, so try to get there early; showtime is 8 p.m...  

Club Clearview celebrates Labor Day on Sunday, August 30, with a long lineup of local talent including Pimpadelic, Push Monkey, Plaid Faction, Slow Roosevelt, Huge Peter, and Sandwhich. Things get off the ground at 8 p.m...Buck Jones is having its album release party for Shimmer at the Dark Room on Thursday, August 28. They come on at about 11; $3 includes admission and a poster...Last Beat Records has two new singles out, the first being a colored vinyl effort from NYC's Clowns for Progress entitled "Joyride." The second was born out of the intersection of 22 Jacks--brainchild of former Waxman Joe Sib--and local punks Mess, who cooperated on a split seven-inch that features two new Mess songs. A significant step up for Last Beat, these two releases mark the first time the band has worked with an act from outside Texas...

Thought for the day
Hey, didja hear the news? The Rolling Stones, man, at Texas Motor Speedway, that'll be the best--just you and 125,000 of your closest friends--helicopters overhead, machinery lining the road, medical response teams and the air filled with smoke. Welcome to the '90s, where the way to make everything seem like Apocalypse Now is not to eat the acid.

Gather (and relay) ye news, info, tips, and data while you may, for full well does Street Beat know that having once but lost your prime, you may forever tarry at Matt_Weitz@dallasobserver.com.


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