No matter what you thought of my good friend Sam Machkovech, many of you know by now that he'll no longer be filling this column space. As you read this, he's en route to Uganda (yes, Uganda) for an unexpected yet well-deserved vacation from the Dallas music scene, and we wish him well. Also, if you're a club owner in Deep Uganda, we suggest you get your act together... Jonanna Widner, a Fort Worth native and assistant editor at the Santa Fe Reporter, will roll into town later this month to take the reins. Until then, several staff writers will fill this space the best we know how.
While others prepare to leave, some familiar faces find their way home this week, including former UNT student Shara Worden, currently on tour opening for indie-folk superstar Sufjan Stevens (she's also a member of his band, the Illinoisemakers). On Bring Me the Workhorse, her debut as My Brightest Diamond (she previously recorded under the name AwRY), Worden makes good use of her time in UNT's prestigious opera program, mixing her classical training with inventive pop arrangements reminiscent of Björk (the video for "Dragonfly," which features Worden cavorting in the woods while wearing a pair of butterfly wings, only adds to this comparison). "At school, I was that girl in the baggy pants, skating across the carpet, late to opera workshops," she says. "So I come to classical music with that rebellious attitude, and I come to rock music with a reverence for discipline."
When she wasn't in class, Worden was plying her craft in the clubs and coffeehouses of North Texas, where she worked with local luminaries such as Mingo Fishtrap and Paul Slavens. "My dad is an accordion player, and he played a show with me once at Club Dada where we performed a bunch of Edith Piaf songs," she says. "That night Paul Slavens had the late slot, and the night degenerated into us singing this improv duet where I was doing my French thing and he was growling out his faux French and the audience was in stitches."
Club Dada is also where Worden met future in-demand session drummer Earl Harvin, who plays drums on Bring Me the Workhorse. "When I began making my first record, I had no clue what I was looking for in musicians or what it meant to make an album," she says. "I started asking around, 'Who's the best drummer in town?' and everyone responded, 'Earl Harvin.' I found out that he had a gig at Dada with Ten Hands, so I showed up in the afternoon for sound check and asked the doorman, Beard, if Earl Harvin was there. I didn't know what he looked like, so Beard had to point him out to me. I nervously handed him a cassette tape with my demos on it, and from then on we've had this ongoing musical relationship. He recorded on my first album, and recording with him for Bring Me the Workhorse was a real gift."
Worden's star is certainly on the rise, with Workhorse drawing rave reviews upon its release last month (including an 8.1 from Pitchforkmedia.com) and a second album, A Thousand Shark's Teeth, nearly completed, but success has been a long time coming for the former Dentonite--so long, in fact, that much of the Denton she remembers no longer exists.
"When I was in Denton, there were places like Karma Cafe, Cool Beans, The Brick House, The Argo--little smoky corners where an immature songwriter could work out their craft without the pressure of having to pack a house and sell beer," says Worden. "I attribute so much to those club owners who were dedicated to music, encouraged art-making and provided me with a space to suck, but also to grow." Unfortunately for us, Worden had to split town to finish growing, but what the hell--she paid her dues in the clubs of North Texas, so we'll claim her just the same. If you see her in town Wednesday, make sure to welcome her back.
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Handstamps: Former Cavern soundman Glen Farris kicks off night three of Lance Yocom's Spune Week Retreat Friday, playing his first and last solo show in Dallas before splitting town in October for a life on the rails and a trip to New York City. You might have seen him playing guitar and keys for Dallas Observer favorites such as Doug Burr and Current Leaves, but with hypnotic folk tunes as good as "Don't Fail Me Now," a demo that wouldn't sound out of place on a Great Lake Swimmers record, he's sure to get some attention on his own--especially on a bill with erstwhile Little Grizzly front man George Neal, who will preview songs from his upcoming (and long-awaited) solo album, Beautiful Days.
Saturday brings recently departed Dentonites Cartright back to the Cavern, but the night belongs to Little-D ex-pats and fellow Austinites the Faceless Werewolves, who at long last return with a new album in tow--the ferociously sexy Medium Freaky. With guitarist Baldomero Valdez trading vocal volleys with band mates Erica Barton and Kelsey Wickliffe, the disc summons the great male-female give-and-take of X or Eleventh Dream Day, but make no mistake--Barton's pounding drums and sassy punk howl set her firmly in the driver's seat, ready to make your hips swing and your ears bleed.
Rubber Gloves' Free Week also continues, with three nights left of diverse and stellar locals such as Sarah Reddington, Hogpig and the Great Tyrant. Last but not least, Friday night finds the Theater Fire at Lee Harvey's, where they'll play not one but two sets. Catch them now before they leave on tour later this month.