Out Here

Nick Brisco
Damn the Possibilities
(Pluto Records)

Nick Brisco and cast
Centaur Battle of San Jacinto (an extended barroom brawl)
(Pluto Records)

Nick Brisco moved to New York at the beginning of the year, giving up on Dallas again in his quest to Make It. He's made similar moves before: Brisco spent the better part of 1992 in Los Angeles, chased back to Dallas by pissed-off label executives who weren't sure whether Brisco was Bob Dylan or just thought he was. He was full of strange ideas and strong convictions, imposing the symphonies he heard in his head on people who just wanted to hear rock songs. But that was the old Nick Brisco, the one who broke up Fever in the Funkhouse at the height of its popularity, the one who thought he was bigger than any band could be and didn't understand why everyone didn't agree with him. The Nick Brisco that moved to New York this time wasn't looking for major-label money. He didn't want to be a star; he only wanted to find people who would appreciate what he did.

Brisco may have found his audience in New York, though it's in off-off-off-Broadway theaters rather than nightclubs. His first project since moving north, Centaur Battle of San Jacinto accompanies Ruth Margraff's play of the same name, though it feels more like the play accompanies Brisco's songs. It's a big enough project to contain some of Brisco's more grandiose leanings, yet it's intimate enough to bring him back to his Fever in the Funkhouse roots. Along with traditional material such as "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Yankee Doodle," Brisco creates a set of songs (especially the thrilling opener "Houston's Theme") that could have reasonably been born around the time when Jim Bowie and William Travis died in the Alamo, or when Ozzy Osbourne urinated on it.

Of course, Brisco didn't have to go all the way to New York to learn what works best for him. Damn the Possibilities started well before he ever left, in his former Fever in the Funkhouse bandmate Chris Claridy's home studio in the winter of 1997. Joined by former Slobberbone guitarist Michael Hill, bassist Steve Chambers, drummer Jim King, and utilityman Reed Easterwood, Brisco is in top form on Damn the Possibilities. He sings in a voice that sounds as if it's at the beginning or end of a weeklong drinking binge--cracked in the middle, curling up around the edges. Brisco's voice is exactly what songs like "Persephone" and "You Would Not Be My Lover" need, letting simple country songs live and breathe and cry and die. It's clear from Damn the Possibilites that his dreams of stardom died years ago, when Brisco went from headlining Deep Ellum clubs on weekend nights to packing them out on weekdays. But his dreams of being a rock-solid singer-songwriter are, hopefully, just beginning.

Zac Crain