Professionalism never sounded so good
Marshall Crenshaw opened last year's performance in Deep Ellum with the offhand greeting "Hello, we're professional rock musicians.
" He then proved his yeomanlike salutation a massive understatement, revealing himself as a masterful songwriter who could've topped the charts three or four decades ago alongside the Byrds, the Hollies--or Buddy Holly, for that matter. No one else today can write songs that pack an authentic Brill Building wallop yet still remain wholly original creations.

But Crenshaw doesn't traffic in throwback Xeroxes of chestnuts; his songs are here and now--even though commercial radio won't allow his music on the air. In concert, Crenshaw casts his spell of shoulda-been hits, delivering them with thunder and seductively offering passage into his never-never land of pop.

Humble and unassuming, Marshall Crenshaw is no poseur or poster boy, which explains in part his lack of mass-market fame, yet he did play Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba and, 20 years ago, John Lennon in the debut Broadway cast of Beatlemania. Like Lennon, his rhythm guitar keeps a perfect groove, and his solos sweeten songs without a wasted note.

Crenshaw has released eight albums since 1982 and sings the "Bad Boy" theme on the current sitcom Men Behaving Badly. Definitive covers of his songs have been recorded by Robert Gordon, Bette Midler, Was (Not Was), Kelly Willis, and the Gin Blossoms, with which he wrote that group's 1995 hit, "Til I Hear It From You."

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Crenshaw's craftsmanship as producer of his own work is also superior. "Don't Forget Me," his self-produced cut on last year's Harry Nilsson tribute--For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson--stands out as the best among the album's 23 tracks.

Crenshaw says he has been "draggin' my sorry ass around the country" on tour, but he'll be rip-roaring into town as part of a power trio in support of his new album, Miracle of Science. Victor DeLorenzo, formerly of the Violent Femmes, opens.

--Josh Alan Friedman

Marshall Crenshaw plays Poor David's Pub Saturday, November 23.

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