T.I. Unveils Trouble Man at Houston's Wire Road Studios

photos by Marco Torres

T.I. is no Marvin Gaye. Or is he? Both men were blessed with supreme talent as musicians and songwriters. Both men exhibit an overflowing charisma and a flair for the dramatic. Both men chose acting as a supplementary alternative expression of their talents.

Both men were also cursed with an unfortunate capacity to seek out dangerous situations involving women, drugs, guns, and death.

In other words, T.I. just might be this generation's rap version of Marvin Gaye.
On a relatively warm December evening at Wire Road Studios in The Houston Heights, an eclectic group of rappers, journalists and fans were invited to a listening party for Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, the eighth studio album for Mr. Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., better known as the Atlanta rapper and sometimes actor T.I. (or Tip).

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Hayes Carll Playing Cactus Music Next Thursday, Reissuing 2002's Flowers and Liquor

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Hayes Carll, right, with John Evans this past weekend.
While we wait for his follow-up to 2011's damned fabulous KMAG YOYO, Cactus Music has announced that Hayes Carll will be playing in-store on Thursday, December 13 at 5:30 p.m.

That's next Thursday, you turkeys.

Carll, one of the most vocal Houston Texans fans on Sunday afternoons on Twitter, is also playing the House Of Blues on December 28 with his Hayes Carll's Burlesque Circus and Sideshow Freakout. Craig Kinsey and Corb Lund are on the bill too.

Lund's latest record, Cabin Fever, is a big must-hear for 2012. Our own William Michael Smith talked about Fever a few months back on the occasion of a Lund show at the Firehouse Saloon.

This is gonna be one of those shows where you should all shut up and get shit-faced at.

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Business as Usual at Music Town CDs & Records, Since 1979

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Photos by Creg Lovett
When James May unlocks the doors to Music Town each day at noon, his little shop on Stuebner Airline across from Klein High School is mainly filled with CDs, new and used vinyl and an enormous amount of cassettes. When he first opened the shop in 1979, the sign actually said "Music Town Records and Tapes," but he also sold 8-tracks -- which, at that time, were more trouble than they were worth.
People back then were still buying everything by Elvis, especially that Moody Blue album he'd made right before he died. Soon after that they'd begin lining up to buy everything John Lennon ever made, both the Beatles and the solo stuff. The Beatles stuff still sells, of course; on vinyl it's one of his biggest sellers.

That and Zeppelin, the Doors, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and anything metal. Kids seem to still love metal. Kids in concert shirts from bands I didn't recognize came in every couple of minutes mainly picking up or making special orders. Some browsed but most knew what they came for.

"I don't have a job right now, so my aunt is buying this for me so I'll baby-sit," said the young man picking up a special edition of Slipknot's first album.

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Follow This: 5 Brutally Honest Reviews For 5 Bands Who Did

Gaze upon three of my 287 followers.
Up until recently I've remained fairly indifferent to the number of followers I have on Twitter. After all, if my ego was dependent on the number of people following me I would just drop the $5 necessary to buy a few thousand and call it a night.

Ever since I started writing here at Rocks Off I've noticed random musical groups from across the country following me. These are people I've never talked to or talked about, from places I've never been. They never reply, retweet or favorite anything I say. It feels oddly impersonal.

Since they aren't interested in communicating with me, I've never felt the need to follow them back, which I can only assume makes me a bad Twitter friend.

So today I've decided to do them one better. Someone somewhere had to take the time out of their day to hit the follow button on my Twitter account. If they were nice enough to do that I figure the least I can do is give them 30 seconds of my time to give them a brutally honest review of their music.

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Digital Chaos: 8 Experiments In Wub Machine Remixing

Contrary to what they want you to think, Diddy his crew at Bad Boy did not invent the remix. If you really wanted to meet the people who first made dance remixes you'd have to go back a bit further in music history, to the land of the mid-'70s. In sweaty discos across the land people were looping songs the old fashioned way, probably unaware that their experiments in tape editing were one day going to be big business.

What was true then is true now: people love remixes. Go to YouTube and type in your favorite song of the moment and add the word "dubstep" to the end; there's a good chance you'll find a version of that track given the Skrillex treatment. (You mean you never thought "Call Me Maybe" needed to be heavier?)

Remixes take a certain amount of time and musical ability. Luckily for us lacking both of those things, an enterprising programmer by the name of Peter Sobot created a Web app that will give all of us the chance to become dance remix superstars. He calls it the Wub Machine.

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The Best LP Side Ones Ever

Spurred on by the realization that both David Bowie's commercial breakthrough Let's Dance and Queen's News of the World had solid, sturdy side ones on their vinyl releases, I then began the hunt for other great vinyl slabs with amazing side ones.

Of course, the idea is that this could only include albums from the (first) great rock vinyl heyday. I am sure that Wilco and others have turned in great side ones in the past decade, but only a select few of you have heard them on vinyl.

The secret to great albums, of course, has everything to do with genius and gripping songs, plus proper sequencing and editing. And you may remember a few years back, when I attempted to cut some of most popular double slabs down to one lean collection.

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20 Albums To Leave Your Children Plus Five To Grow On...

It started as a simple question: What albums would you leave your unborn children, if you knew you were on borrowed time and may not be around to show them the way. At first I asked for albums for sons, but then it grew broader, not out of needing to pacify the PC-thug in me, but to make sure everyone, regardless of gender, had a sort of Rosetta Stone of musical history in their hands.

You could leave them pristine vinyl versions of these, a collection of cassettes, or maybe just a diamond-covered flash drive, if are so inclined. As for me, I will also leave my unborn child my Rdio account. That's not a paid endorsement, that's just me being expedient.

To get some obvious picks out of the way, the entire Beatles catalog will come standard with being my child, like seat-belts in cars. As will George Strait's Strait Out Of The Box, and ZZ Top's catalog.

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Listening Room: Neil Young's Fork In the Road

Neil Young

Fork In the Road


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Ya gotta love Ol' Shakey. Even moreso than fellow cantankerous classic rocker Bob Dylan, he goes where his muse leads him, everyone else be damned. Acoustic rock? Heavy rock? Country? Blues? Rockabilly? Unintelligible vocoders and synthesizers? He's done them all - and even been sued by his record company for not sounding like himself.

It's a good thing that Neil has full artistic control, too. Imagine the pitch session for his latest album: "I want to do a concept record about my project to turn my 1959 Lincoln Continental into a mostly electric powered vehicle." (it's true! Click here.)

"Oh, and also about America's crumbling financial situation."

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Listening Room: What's Been Tickling Our Earholes Lately

As Rocks Off has noted in our periodic Mail Call entries, even though the tide of promo CDs has been greatly reduced by the digital revolution - Rocks Off can count on one finger (the middle one) the times he's actually used the streaming/download email link publicists are ever more fond of these days - he still gets more new CDs via snail mail than any one person can rightfully be expected to audition.

Most of these are eliminated either through gut instinct or a quick glance at the accompanying bio, but quite a few still find their way onto the old CD player. Here's what we've been digging most the past couple of weeks.

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The Boxmasters
, Modbilly (Vanguard): First of all, we just wanted an excuse to post the hilarious Sling Blade prank call we ran across on YouTube the other day (above). More to the point, Modbilly - which ever so slightly ramps up the British Invasion influence over the laid-back country-rock trio's self-titled 2008 debut - confirms that Billy Bob Thornton's writing talents aren't confined to his Oscar-winning screenplays.

Thornton's originals on Disc 1 ("Ours"), especially "Reasons for Livin'," "That's Why Tammy Has My Car," "New Mexico" and "Two Weeks Notice," deftly balance heartbreak and humor. That, in turn, gives the "Theirs" covers disc a comfortably lived-in feeling that shines on Glen Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind" and Bill Anderson's Sunday-school-teacher rebuke "The Lord Knows I'm Drinkin'." No doubt He does.

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