CD Reviews for 01/21/05 (Yep Roc & Heart of Texas 2004 leftovers) by Dan Ferguson

This week closes out our three installments of “clearing the desk'” where Compact Capsules plays catch-up on releases from 2004 that there was all the intention of covering during the year, but one for reason or another fell through the cracks. Anyway, there’s plenty of good music still to be had of the 2004 variety and any of the following are deemed capable of piquing the interest of music lovers out there. Let’s get to it.

Yep Roc Leftovers

We kick off our 2004 new release finale with a roundup of recordings from North Carolina-based Yep Roc Records. For my money, what with close to 30 new releases in 2004 spanning pop to rock to roots rock to blues to neo-folk, this label is quickly ascending to the top of the indie pyramid. Releases that fell through the Compact Capsules cracks during 2004 included albums from Jake Brennan & the Confidence Men, Robyn Hitchcok, Dolorean, C.C. Adcock, and Ian Moore.
On Love & Bombs (Yep Roc YEP-2074), Beantown singer/songwriter Jake Brennan ignites things with a couple of meat and potatoes rock and roll tunes. From there, Love & Bombs settles into a more of a roots rock ‘n’ country bar band groove which kicks in on track three called “Believe Me”, arguably the best cut on the album, and stays pegged there for the remaining 10 cuts. Brennan displays a pretty deft songwriting touch not to mention intriguing taste in covers mixing in tunes from an odd sampling that includes Frank Black (“If It Takes All Night”), Moe Bandy (“It Was Always So Easy(To Find An Unhappy Woman Until I Started Looking for Mine)”), and Ian Hunter whose “Original Mixed-Up Kid” gets an ultra-satisfying country makeover. The son of noted Boston rocker Dennis Brennan, ol’ Jake certainly has the bloodlines working for him. Let’s just say that on Love & Bombs he does the Brennan name right, all in the spirit of roots rock ‘n’ roll.
What do you get when you mix a near legendary English popster with a couple of American traditional music revivalists on the order of a David Rawlings and Gillian Welch? The latest release from Brit Robyn Hitchcock called Spooked (Yep Roc EP-2086). Produced by Mr. Rawlings and featuring Welch in a supporting role, Spooked is a trippy sort of psychedelic record with sitar and all that probably would fit as neatly in the neo-folk sounds of the late 1960s and early ’70s as it does right now in the anything-goes new millennium. The album was inspired in part by a common love by Hitchcock and Rawlings of the music and songs of Bob Dylan. Recorded in Nashville, there is a decidedly Dylan feel to the songs of Spooked, all written by Hitchcock with the exception of what else but a Dylan cover (“Tryin’ To Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door”).
Cajun rocker C.C. Adcock checks in with a heavy-duty batch of swamp rock ‘n’ roll called Lafayette Marquis (Yep Roc YEP-2040). A fellow who made the label rounds over the years, given Yep Roc’s proclivity for rockers of the all-points-South variety, the addition of Adcock to the roster is a good one. Lafayette Marquis is a sometimes spellbinding, beat-heavy 10-song mix on which cool guitar sounds, all courtesy of the talented Mr. Adcock on the six-string, abound. It’s an album that owes as much to those hoo-doo Bayou swamp roots of Adcock (“Loaded Gun” just one prime example) as it does those Cajun ones (check out “Runaway Life” which is a straight-up fiddle and guitar number that’s pure Cajun) with plenty of muscle, to boot.
Dolorean is the brainchild of Al James who as lead singer and sole songwriter has now with its second release for Yep Roc Records evolved the Portland, Oregon-based band into a four-piece. Pretty is just one way to describe the pastoral, folk-pop sounds of Dolorean as evidenced by the 9-song beauty of a recording called Violence in the Snowy Fields (Yep Roc YEP-2082). And the band expansion pays big dividends in the textured sounds making up Violence in the Snowy Fields which even with its calming demeanor, is rich in song and melody.
Rounding out the Yep Roc segment of this week’s Compact Capsules is the label debut of Austin rocker Ian Moore. As talented as they come on guitar, Moore was once upon a time thought to be the next big blues thing from that blues-heavy city that gave the world the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Recent years, however, have seen Moore move more and more away from the genre and turn his talents towards songwriting set to a rock backdrop. Luminaria (Yep Roc YEP-2083) is a moody and sometimes translucent 11-track collection of what is arguably some of Moore’s best songs to date.

Heart of Texas Country

The heart of Texas, namely the small town of Brady, is home to Heart of Texas Records. The label has just recently unleashed a three-pack of total Texas dancehall honky tonk music, two from a couple of seasoned veterans of the C&W wars in Darrell McCall and Curtis Potter, and the other from a fellow in Justin Trevino who to these ears has few rivals when it comes country singers.
A fellow who earned his stripes as a member of Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys band not to mention the bands of Carl Smith and Faron Young, Darrell McCall had himself some pretty decent regional chart success from the late 1960s through the 1980s. Whereas McCall has continued to perform on the live circuit, record albums over the last decade were another story. The dry spell on the recording front now comes to an end with the release of Old Memories and Wine (HOTR-108), his first release in 10 years and debut for Heart of Texas Records. Expertly produced by the aforementioned Mr. Trevino and featuring a supporting crew that includes some of Central Texas’s finest country musicians, the hardcore country stylist McCall is in fine vocal form on Old Memories and Wine. It finds him covering both classics (“When Your House Is Not a Home”, “I Feel Like Crying”, “I Miss You Already”, “Divorce Me C.O.D.”) and never before recorded songs which in the hands of this team sound nothing but classic.
What with a resume that includes a 13-year stint as bandleader for country music hall of famer Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys, Curtis Potter has also had a storied history in country music. The 12-song recording Them Old Honky Tonks (HOTR-106) is Potter’s debut release for Heart of Texas and a mighty fine one it is. The album is mired deep in the traditional fiddle, steel (the legendary Buddy Emmons guests on steel guitar) and guitar driven honky tonk shuffles and ballads that still fill many a Lone Star State dancehall on a Saturday night and a sound that Potter has hung his hat on since those Brazos Valley Boys days.
We close out this look at recent releases from Heart of Texas Records with an album from a fellow who had he been making his brand of country music back in the 1950s and ’60s, would no doubt be riding high on the charts. Justin Trevino is his name and his release Too Many Heartaches is about as good as it gets when it comes to authentic country music. A walking encyclopedia when it comes to the golden era of country, that deep catalogue insight plays heavily into Trevino’s own fine songwriting as well as the covers selected for inclusion on this excellent album. Possessing a potent tenor voice that ebbs and flows to near perfection with the emotion of the songs and can stand toe to toe with the best mainstream country has to offer, Trevino deviates nary from the formula that carried so much great country music, that being plenty of fine interplay between guitar, steel guitar, fiddle, bass, and drums. The San Marcos-based Trevino employs a top shelf group of Texas talents for Too Many Heartache and it pays dividends time and again resulting in a record that is just about perfect in every aspect of the game as far as country recordings are concerned. (Yep Roc Records, PO Box 4821, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4821, or; Heart of Texas Records, 1701 S. Bridge, Brady, TX, 76825, or www.hillbillyhits.c…