ROCK The Jayhawks Glasgow: The Arches, Sun 8
‘I couldn‘t get arrested if I tried,’ sings The Jayhawks' Gary Louris on ‘Big Star', which by this stage in his career is presumably an ironic title. There was a time when they might have said such a thing without irony. Of a generation of alternative country acts who were lumped together under the 'No Depression' tag, after the fanzine of the same name, The Jayhawks seemed the most likely to crossover into the MTV mainstream. But despite spending a million bucks on recording their last album, Tomorrow the Green Grass (another hint at better times around the corner) under the direction of Black Crowes producer George Drakoulias, the release was met with the familiar good reviews and indifferent sales.
With the departure shortly after of Mark Olson, who along with Louris made up the songwriting and close harmonies team which gave The layhawks their distinctive, Eagles- ish sound, it looked like the end of the line for the band. After much deliberation, Louris eventually decided to carry on, forming a new writing partnership with bassist Marc Perlman. The result is Sound Of Lies, a rawer and less obviously country-influenced album. It’s not as immediately catchy as its predecessor but further plays yield the real soul of the record.
With hindsight, Perlman reckons the band had become over-reliant on Olson and Louris's sweet
harmonies to carry weaker songs. ’To me this record is very dynamic,’ he says. ’There’s a limit to what you can do with vocal harmonies and we had these other two amazing singers in the band and their voices weren’t being utilised properly. We took a lot of time to come up with more interesting vocal arrangements, rather than just straight Everly Brothers-style harmonies.’ While Olson left on good terms, the rest of the band says, to spend more time with his singer wife, Victoria Williams, Louris was writing new songs as his marriage was disintegrating. Though Perlman says Sound Of Lies
The Jayhawks: still holding out for a brighter future
COUNTRY Dale Watson Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket, Sat 3t May.
Dale Watson: real country musical values
44 THE U81 30 May-12 Jun 1997
In an era when much of what gets called c0untry music is really JUSI pep and rock masguerading under a Stetson, Dale Watson is a hold-Out for real country musical values Underneath his splendid wrong-Side-of-the-tracks quiff and tattoos lies a man who really cares about what it means to sing and play country.
Watson has played here once before, in an under-publiCised gig at King Tut's, but Big Big Country has wisely given him a platform from which to promulgate the true word. His three albums for Hightone (the latest, / Hate These Songs, is JUSI Out) have laid down his calling card: new songs done in a hard-hitting, no nonsense, classic honky tonk style.
He has one of those strange voices which doesn't seem to fit with the way he looks. The very essence of the road- side honky tonk, it is darker, deeper and lots more mature than you would expect to hear coming out of his wiry little frame. It is also as earthy as they
was fun to make, the pain is apparent in Louris's lead vocals and the more angsty tone.
'Whoever writes the songs uses whatever they are going through at that period,’ says Perlman, 'but as far as the recording, it was kind of the way I always wanted to make a record. It was up-beat and very personal to the musicians. We’re all from Minnesota — we're a stoic people. You would probably have to put us under hypnosis to figure out what's going on in our heads.’ Or cock an ear to the new album — it's all there if you listen closely. (Eddie Gibb)
come - this is a man, after all, who reckons George Jones is too sophisticated for him
Watson picked up his early love of the music from his father, Donald Ioe Watson, who was also a country musician Dale took up his calling when he moved to LA, inspired by the hard- dfl‘HllQ guitar sound of Buck Owens, Ray Price and Merle Haggard A song- writing stint in NashVille proved frustrating, for ironic but predictable reasons, and he settled in the Texas music stronghold of Austin
'My stuff is iust too cOuntry for Nashville,’ he says. 'They want a rock SOund down there, and my stuff isn’t what they want to hear, I know there’s a lot of folks there feel the same way as me, but they aren't the people in power I think people do want an alternative now, and what I do is maybe a bit more honest ~ if they buy my record, they know they are gomg to get a hard-core country record, and that‘s the bottom line' (Kenny Mathieson)
Chico Hamilton's Euphona
Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, Fri 30 May; Glasgow: Mitchell Theatre, Sat 31 May.
Chico Hamilton’s principal focus these days falls on Euphoria, a quartet with saxophonist Eric Person, and a trio made up of the sax-less remainder of the band, with guitarist Cary DeNigris and bassman Kenny Davis. Their funky, semi-electric groove has kept the 75- year-old drummer in touch with a contemporary edge in his music, but it was a very different combination which made his initial reputation.
The spacious, lightly textured sound of the Original Chico Hamilton Quintet was a major success back in the mid- 505. The drummer attributes his essential lightness of touch within the band's unorthodox instrumentation ~ Dick Katz's cello, Jim Hall’s guitar, Buddy Collette’s flute and alto, Carson Smith's bass — to years spent working as an accompanist.
’I spent about fifteen years playing With no one but singers before that, and to complement the voice, you have to learn to play in an intensified way in the danger zone, at a very soft level. I developed a pretty strong brush stroke, and was able to sweep and keep good time, and when I formed my group, I applied the same principle to the instruments.
'Originally I was thinking of French horn, and it was pretty much by chance that I brought in Fred on cello instead. I have to say that, like the original Gerry Mulligan quartet that I was involved in around that period, it was a case of five guys in the right place at the right time, but it was a very musical group, and it was different.
’Eventually, though, I knew I had gone as far as I could with that band when I realised I was imitating myself — I was so busy trying to be Chico Hamilton that nothing was happening musically, so I broke it up and got a new band, and that’s what I’ve done each time I've reached that stage. You can’t stand still in music — everybody changes, it’s a different world, a different audience' (Kenny Mathieson)
Chico Hamilton: still drumming up business