INTEXICATED - T. Tex Edwards (Saustex)
T. Tex Edwards is a Texas treasure, and despite a few hiccups, "Intexicated" is an excellent introduction to his particular brand of genius. Sometimes still best-known for his stint in the Dallas-area punk band Nervebreakers who opened for Sex Pistols and backed Roky Erickson, Edwards nevertheless should be better known for his pioneering work in the cowpunk tradition.

His original contributions are limited, but they stand tall next to the classics he covers with gusto. Then again, how far would Cramps have gotten had they not mined obscure one-offs for blueprints of their kind of genius?

"Intexicated" is a rough and tumble collection of Edwards' lesser known recordings, culled from long lost 7" records, demo tapes and other assorted avenues. Less cohesive than his "Loafin' Hyenas" or "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone to Kill" albums, "Intexicated" is not by any means insubstantial. It's just messy. It includes songs (and I mean both covers and originals) that rival anything recorded in the cowpunk arena, and a few serious contenders in even the much larger Outlaw Country scene. Backed by a number of outfits in various guises and genres, nearly all of them consist of superbly talented musicians under names like Out On Parole, The Saddle Trams, Lithium X-Mas, The Swinging Cornflake Killers and Purple Stickpin (I can't say the same for 'Mechanical Bull' which, however, does what it needs to).

Just listen to the dynamic interplay of Out on Parole covering Leon Payne's "Psycho" back in 1984, or the Big D Ramblers with their "Intexicated!" bookenders. This is musicianship that's not just showing technical prowess; it's dynamic and it's organic, it's performed with flair, with a sense of joy, but always in tune with whoever is performing next to you, all together in service of the song.

The song selection is fine, including mostly unreleased songs or unheard versions of otherwise familiar cuts. Oddly enough, the sole cut from the Loafin' Hyenas album is the one that always bugged me in an otherwise impeccable record, "If Looks Could Kill (I'd Give You a Second Chance)." Then again, I always thought "Cities on Flame" and "Stairway to the Stars" were the only two mediocre songs on Blue Oyster Cult's eponymous album, so what do I know?

Furthermore, the singular cover selections ("Love Power" from Mel Brooks' Producers, Tex Ritter, Bill Haley and Alice Cooper among others) proceed in a somewhat scattershot order, but everything is funneled through an off-kilter filter that is T. Tex. Whether growling, crooning or doing the rockabilly hiccup, this is a fun collection of pure oddball country injected with a genuine shot of rock'n'roll mojo. Offbeat, yes, but consistently on the money, "Intexicated" is a great overview and a perfect introduction to one of the few true unsung pioneers of alternative country. -JT Lindroos

PARDON ME, I'VE GOT SOMEONE TO KILL - T. Tex Edwards & Out On Parole (Saustex)
AGAINST THE FLOOR - T. Tex Edwards & The Swingin Kornflake Killers (Honey Records/Saustex)

T. Tex Edwards' prior convictions preceded the arrival of these discs in the I-94 Bar postbox, but he'd been someone we'd heard more about than we'd actually heard. Long-term Barfly Ken Shimamoto is a long-time fan so that alone would be cause to listen in itself.

But first the backstory: As vocalist for quirky Texan punks the Nervebreakers, T. Tex opened for the Sex Pistols in Dallas on their ill-advised first US tour. If that wasn't enough glory to cover themselves in, he and the Nervebreakers went on to back two-headed dog owner and all-round legend, Roky Erickson, in one of his many post-Elevators configurations.

T. Tex moved between L.A. and Tejas in the '80s, working with the Loafin' Hyenas in California and T. Tex Edwards & Out On Parole when he was back in the Lone Star State. "Pardon Me, I've Got Someone To Kill" was the album that put T. Tex on the bigger musical map.

Sympathy For The Record Industry had the gumption to unleash this collection onto an unsuspecting world. It's a covers album of irreverent but mostly directly-rendered, obscure country songs about death French label New Rose followed Sympathy's lead and released it in Europe. It was long out-of-print, and this is a re-issue on a Texan label.

It's a completely subjective position but I think the best country music doesn't take itself seriously. Here in Australia, years of radio and TV bombardment fromy second-rate, locally-grown numbnuts whose ambition didn't go past apeing the passing peanut gallery (read: saccharine) monkeys of American mainstream charts made the C & W moniker the equal of the devalued Zimbabwe currency (in today's money.)

For our sins, we Australians still live with a bunch of vanilla, genetically-modified cardboard country cut-outs, celebrated in a lather at annual awards with most of them attuned to offshore mass-market success,. Way back in the '80s, many of us were growing up on a slew of inner-city wackos who did their level best to take revenge on the genre with their own skewed variant called Cow Punk.

It was the same in many other places so it's no shock that T. Tex Edwards' murder ballads record went down with legions of black-clad swamp and trash-country underground denizens like a soft bed and sleeping tablets after a two-day speed bender. In other words, this is a keeper.

The Beasts of Bourbon might have beaten them to "Psycho" by a good few years, but there's enough bittersweet twang in the version that T. Tex and On Parole committed to tape to hang a houseful of matricidal maniacs.

Musically, On Parole are/were a fine bunch of country players (hell yeah - the John X Reed on guitars used to play with Doug Sahm and drummer/song compiler Mike Buck was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds.) It's their playing and T. Tex's convincing vocal delivery, contrasted with the sheer ridiculousness and/or unhinged nature of the lyrics, that makes "Pardon Me" work so well. It sure beats singing death duets with Kylie, Mr Cave...

The title tune's a Johnny Paycheck number and while it might be fairly unsettling to know that he really meant it, the blue ribbon for being-off-the wall goes to "LSD Made a Wreck of Me." A soft spot is also (literally) reserved for "Rubber Room."

"Up Against The Floor" (2007) also wears threads cut from a country cloth but varies the wardrobe with the odd swampy rocker ("The Living And The Dead") and some oddball covers. If the credits hadn't told me David Bowie wrote the fuzz-and-scuzz tune (at least in these hands) "Black Country Rock", I wouldn't have been any the wiser.

Book-ended by a tasty instrumental, "Dirtweed", and an almost-instrumental, the rumbling Link Wray-styled "Bonus Track Baby", this is a varied but substantial work. You won't be bored over the course of 15 tracks.

If you're going to write a country song you may as well make it an anthem and "Ain't No Bars In Heaven" qualifies fer sure. Long live double-entendre. And as for odes to excess like "One Helluva Weekend", who sez American don't get irony?

The Wanda Jackson cover ("Funnel Of Love") is worth the price of admission alone.

Spin both discs at your next party. Just hide the sharp cutlery from the guests. - The Barman


(both)


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