Guiding Big D's Sonic Pilgrims

It's Thanksgiving, folks, and during the tryptophan hangover, there's something we all need to do. No, we don't need to reflect again on the Pilgrims gettin' their maize on or how to enslave an otherwise free-spirited and lesser-clothed people. Instead, we need to give proper thanks for some musical releases from artists in an area just a touch southwest of Plymouth. The metroplex has tossed out some fine creations that, like the Indians, didn't get the respect they deserved.

In order to guide you, Big D sonic pilgrims, I cruised my big-ass ship into port, donned my buckled shoes and feathered headdress (genealogically speaking, I'm fashion conflicted) and feasted for the last week on the top picks for the holiday. So please rise, criss-cross those arms, bob your head and give thanks to these musical explorations.

Silk Stocking
Dialogues With the Devil

Liz MacGowan and Shawn Mauck start out their latest full-length like Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in an Ironweed bar—bare bones, raw, on the edge and with an inherent artistic chemistry that makes it evident there's not one other person with whom either would be better paired. "It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)" is a brilliant rendition of the Willie Dixon classic that allows MacGowan to show off her new range-roving skills as she sings and howls with the sincere emotion of the wronged.

While the Silk Stocking has been compared before to an amalgam of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and PJ Harvey, the duo really makes the trifecta of burdened and blues-influenced songwriters proud on Dialogues. Mid-album, on "12 Years Later," MacGowan finds the vocals that were lost in the gap between Harvey's Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love. She is at once intimate, sexy and brutal. Cave's "The Carny" enjoys a bit of brief homage in "Dear You," and Waits is channeled through simple percussion and guttural haunts on "Motherless Child." These comparisons are not a discredit to Silk Stocking's originality, but rather a testament to their ability to create an eerie realm, a story and an emotion rarely accomplished even by self-proclaimed fans of such masters.

Shiny Around the Edges
I Just Can't Let You Say Goodbye
Paper Stain Recordings

There's nothing like a little white vinyl 7-inch to bring out the best and the evocative in a Willie Nelson cover. Jennifer Seman's pure and lilting voice creates an amazing tension when coupled with an ominous drone. The railway sound effect adds an atmospheric quality that's unexpected and ethereal despite its mechanical nature. Shiny's collaboration with Castanets on this track makes for no Willie you've heard before.

As far as B-side "Applied Quantum Physics," I want it crafted into some sort of material form and hung on my wall. It's a builder of a song, beginning with a simple strum pattern and a bang of the drum before swelling into an aggressive stomp assault that lyrically acknowledges both confusion ("It was last night or maybe next week") and resolve ("I found the book/I found the answer"). The less often heard vocals of Michael Seman are alluring and convey a sense of honesty. The track has its own murky spirit, which is lifted and unnervingly carried above and away by the piano-playing of Sean Kirkpatrick. "Applied Quantum Physics" grips tights and won't let go. Now give us an album.

Salim Nourallah
Snowing in My Heart
Tapete Records

Dallas has its fair share of pop musicians. Few, however, have offered such an accessible, solid album of poppy gems as Nourallah. Save for one or two slightly repetitive skippers, Snowing in My Heart is as close as you can find to a Beatles/Jellyfish/Finn top o' the pops in Big D.

The hooks run rampant. "The Wicked Are Winning" isn't gonna leave your head for a few days, and that's not a bad thing. It's a simple, winsome track with infectious harmonies and a chorus that's easily learned by the last round. "Erased" comes along with more backing harmonies and a...well, a bop, so to speak, that might just be the only thing to get "The Wicked" out of your head. Nourallah also gives listeners several slower, more ballad-y works without losing steam, the most successful and accessible (affectionately) being "I Miss You (So Come Back)."

Snowing is not only a who's who of Dallas musicians (Danny Balis, Daniel Hopkins, Rahim Quazi, Jason Garner, Chris Holt, the late Carter Albrecht and others), the vocals are sincere and basically unaltered, the instrumental layers are complex but natural, and shit, it's catchy.

Laura Palmer
Johnny Cashin' In


Back in the heyday of variety shows, there were legendary multifaceted performers such as Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball and Carol Channing. They were damn funny, intelligent ladies, and they were also talented musicians. (Ever seen Diller play the piano?) They weren't real edgy by today's standards, but were they giggin' around Dallas today, they might hang with chanteuse/comic/songwriter Laura Palmer.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin