Sounds of Texas--From Scotland
Ry Cooder meets the Pretenders.
John Lee Hooker meets Lone Justice?
Or, maybe, Ennio Morricone meets the Cowboy Junkies?
Anyone attracted to those musical pairings should find “Southside,” the debut album by a Scottish band named Texas, an especially inviting work. Already attracting considerable attention in Britain, the album is due here July 25 from PolyGram Records.
The quartet’s songs are fairly conventional offshoots of traditional blues-oriented statements of desire and regret.
But Ally McErlaine’s bottleneck guitar work on such key numbers as “I Don’t Want a Lover” and the instrumental title track echoes the tension of Morricone’s spaghetti-Western film scores and the earthy, seductive feel of Cooder’s most sensual efforts, including the sound track to the film “Paris, Texas.”
However, Texas’s most appealing element may be the way Sharleen Spiteri’s vocals combine the independence and bite of the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde and the soulful rejoice of former Lone Justice vocalist Maria McKee.
With so many influences in Texas’s music, it’s not surprising that some English critics argue that Texas--formed two years ago in Glasgow--has nothing new to offer. New Musical Express, a leading rock journal there, found the group’s live show--which included a cover version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine"--calculated and hollow.
But those are the same charges hurled by some U.S. critics at the Cowboy Junkies, the magnificent new Canadian band whose emotional purity on stage (the music is virtually all a shade of moody blue) has been branded simply a pose. Even if sound does tend to overshadow the substance on “Southside,” the sound--or style--is marvelously promising at times.
“You do hear a lot of blues influence,” Spiteri has said of the band’s style. “It’s a music which affects me in a really personal way--but the art is in taking that and making it your own, making it newer.”
About the band’s name, she adds: “When you think of Texas, you think of vast, open spaces and our music is very open. The guitars come across really clear and you get a sense of openness listening to it.”
ALSO PROMISING: At a time when most British bands conform to either arty alternative-rock guidelines or vapid dance-pop exuberance, Texas is one of several up-and-coming British bands that aim for rock’s guitar-oriented, American-roots mainstream.
Two other promising groups in this loose-knit contingent--Scotland’s Deacon Blue and England’s Diesel Park West--also have new albums.
Deacon Blue’s name may be from a line in a Steely Dan song, but the band’s Ricky Ross seems more aligned philosophically with the rock-as-inspiration qualities of Bruce Springsteen and U2.
“When the World Knows Your Name,” the group’s new Columbia album, is due in stores next week and it is a convincing, eclectic affair--a bright array of moods and melodies that ranges from the near hoedown lilt of “Queen of the New Year” to the tender, reflective “Orphans.”
Ross doesn’t write about racing in the streets or small towns a la Springsteen, but he injects in the music the themes--being true to an ideal and facing up to challenges--that are reminiscent of the ambition and scope of Springsteen’s work.
Diesel Park West is even more immersed in Springsteen (the promised land expedition of “Live Like Princes”) on the group’s just-released “Shakespeare Alabama” album, but there is also a touch of Kinks’ social observation and wit in places, notably the satiric “All the Myths on Sunday.”
The quintet, formed in the early ‘80s, is based in an industrial region of England, and the group’s often provocative lyrics have a blue collar undercurrent.
“I try to write songs from my own experience, which has been working class, secondary modem, factory fodder,” explains John Butler, the band’s singer. “I live in a city totally geared to that system.”
LIVE ACTION: Patti LaBelle has been added to the cast of the Who’s benefit performance of “Tommy,” which is scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Universal Amphitheatre. She will play the Acid Queen. As previously announced, Elton John, Robert Plant, Phil Collins and Billy Idol will also be on stage. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Also on sale Sunday: Laura Nyro’s Aug. 18 appearance at the Wiltern Theatre plus the Judds’ Sept. 28-29 shows at the Greek Theatre and Sept. 30 stop at the Pacific Amphitheatre, and the B-52’s dates, Aug. 2 at the Greek and Aug. 4 at the Irvine Meadows. . . . Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe have added a Sept. 5 stop at the Pacific Amphitheatre to the band’s Southern California itinerary.