Banding together

Page 2 of 3

But just as the music isn't rehearsed, the running commentary--frequently on the state of affairs in Austin--isn't a routine. "It's not like something we go after," Bruton explains. "It's just a by-product of everybody not really taking it seriously. I think if we were all up there trying to be a big thing, it wouldn't work. Consequently, it does work. Because at the same time, the musicianship is there. And the songs are there. It's its own little perpetual-motion machine."

The origin of The Resentments is simple. About three years ago, Saxon Pub owner Joe Ables offered Bruton--who has played with Raitt and Kris Kristofferson, produced Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Alejandro Escovedo, and put out three fine solo discs of his own--a regular Sunday-night slot. Since "the great folk scare of the late '50s and early '60s got me into playing guitar," explains the Fort Worth native, "I really thought it would be nice to have a place where I could play acoustically." He invited Ketchum, who was living in Austin at the time, to share the night, and recruited Graham to join them.

"Hal and Stephen wanted to get together here and just do a sit-down night," Graham recalls. "And then, the more we started talking about it, they brought me in. Then we were trying to figure out what to do about drums, and Hal said, 'You know, I started off playing drums, let me do it.' And then it just turned into this thing." Ketchum's bassist Keith Carper initially held down the bottom end, while former Storyville and Joe Ely guitarist David Holt rounded out the lineup.

"We just showed up and started playing," Bruton says. "We had a couple of rehearsals just to get familiar. It was real fun, man. It was one of those things with absolutely no pressure. There's a lot of levity, and it seems that everyone is on an equal playing field, playing-wise, so it's real hard to throw anyone a curve up there, because everyone's done it all. So it's real fun to bring in a '20s jazz song, or a new song." Bruton then points to Treanor. "He walks in one night and gives everybody a chart, and says, 'It's a Cajun song,' and we just did it."

Such informality even extends to group membership, as former Loose Diamond and current Toni Price cohort Newcomb notes when asked how he became a Resentment. "I'm not really sure," he says. "They asked me to play a few shows, and then I was playing all of them. I'm not sure what the circumstances are, and I've never asked."

When Graham comes off stage after the group's first set at The Saxon Pub a few Sundays back, I suggest to him that The Resentments are kind of like church. "Yeah," he says with a laugh. "It's every Sunday, and it's hard to walk home afterward from both of them." No, that's not a double entendre, as if The Resentments fill their early Sabbath evening crowd with spirits rather than the spirit. Their crowd isn't the last-gasp party-hearty bunch trying to get in their final blasts before work on Monday. Rather, it's listeners who also like to get up and dance to, of all things, an acoustic group of singer-songwriters sitting on stage. You try to figure it out.

Maybe it's because the good time the musicians are having onstage--genuine enjoyment, not the false enthusiasm of trying to sell a set of songs, as so many gigs seem--is infectious. "More than anything, what it's sort of become is that I love playing with these guys," says Graham. "I love playing these songs in an acoustic format. When we're doing my songs off my two records, the approach on it is so different. And I really like that. It keeps the stuff from getting stale, because I get to hit it differently every week."

For Hughes, joining The Resentments had a similar appeal. "It's a bunch of great musicians. Who wouldn't want to play with them?" he asks. "There's nothing more to say about it. It allowed me the opportunity to learn a bunch of great songs, sit in with some super-caliber musicians. And also, they were already complaining, so I fit right in."

Treanor calls the Sunday-night stand "my favorite gig." And Newcomb, the youngest of the bunch, finds the whole affair incredibly enlightening. "Not to be over-the-top with anything, but it's just such a thrill to play with all those guys," he says. "Much like the Toni Price situation, it's like a guitar lesson every time you sit down to play with people of that caliber. That's absolutely how I see it."

With the pressure off, their two-set shows are almost like witnessing a living-room jam: guys swapping songs, trading riffs, and cracking jokes, all for their own mutual pleasure. "That's one of the things about being here, is that I don't care about whether we're cool or not, and I don't particularly care what people think," Graham says. "So there's a lot more chance for us to just open up and do what we do."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Rob Patterson

Latest Stories