South Mouth: Alt-Country Firebrand Robbie Fulks Returns

courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Robbie Fulks has something to say about Nashville: "Fuck this town"
It's been interesting to watch the career transformation of Robbie Fulks.

The Chicago picker and writer grabbed some notoriety -- and a decent alt-country cult following -- after his frustrations with trying to "make it" in Nashville in the mid-'90s led to his did-he-really-say-that tune, "Fuck This Town."

The entire No Depression nation screamed a big "Hell, yes" to Fulks' wry observations on his 1997 album South Mouth.

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Excess of Talent: Meet Austin Super-Ensemble the Eightysixxed

courtesy of David Holt
A young David Holt and Nick "Mr. Carlene Carter" Lowe in Nashville
If Lonesome, Onry and Mean was a betting man, we'd bet our entire bankroll that while Warehouse Live or Fitz are filled to capacity with folks checking out the latest hyped-up, flash-in-the-pan, cover-of-Paste-magazine band that's been in existence, oh, at least a year or two, Austin's worn and weathered the Eightysixxed will probably play to maybe 100 cognoscenti Wednesday night at Under the Volcano.

None of these Eightysixxed knights of the road, who have thousands of gigs under their belts in bands with legends like Joe Ely, Robert Palmer, Carlene Carter and Jesse "Guitar" Taylor, chases the frenzied admiration of hipsters anymore; that would be demeaning and embarrassing to artists of such stature and ability. They're past the "flavor of the day" hype contests, preferring to let their instruments do the hyping.

But just so everyone knows what they're missing when they don't see the Eightysixxed Wednesday night, here are some short bios of each member. Read 'em and weep.

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The Everlasting Joys of "Let's Work Together"

Lonesome Onry and Mean was pondering the greater meaning of all things with the aid of a cold bottle of Thought Elixir when Dwight Yoakam's version of the old Wilbert Harrison R&B smash "Let's Work Together" came up in the iPod mix. Harrison's original has been part of our DJ sets since Day One, but hearing Yoakam's twang version reminded us of Bryan Ferry's glam hit with his cover of the tune which was tearing up Europe just as we arrived there in 1976.

Thought Elixir being what it is, down the YouTube rabbit hole we plunged in search of our past. While Ry Cooder and Buckwheat Zydeco, Bob Dylan, Kentucky Headhunters and others have covered the tune, these are our favorites beginning with Harrison's 1970 masterpiece.

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Our Top Five Hank Williams Sr. Covers

L-R: Leon Payne, author of "Lost Highway," Hank Williams, and Jerry Irby in Houston circa 1950
Kids, there's a reason Hiram "Hank' Williams, who would have been 90 years old September 17, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dead of an overdose of pain killers in the back of his long white Cadillac at 29, Williams was, in his brief interval in Nashville, not only a hit-making country star but a songwriting machine.

Now don't get me wrong, Hank was no Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, capable of building staggering cloudbursts of carefully sculpted, magnificent poetry. No, old Hank was the working man's bard, the guy who cut straight to the heart of any matter -- and most of those matters were either woman trouble, drinkin' trouble, or a combination of the two unless he decided to wax eloquent about mama goin' to heaven or the perils of gossip. The working class had a voracious appetite for almost anything Hank would commit to wax.

What many don't realize is that much of Williams' financial success came when his songs were cut by others who were sometimes not in the country genre at all. In fact, Williams was known as something of an egotistical braggart around Nashville, occasionally whipping out receipts for his royalty checks to impress other writers or executives.

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Outlaw Book Takes Wild Ride with Waylon, Willie & the Boys

Photo by Jason Wolter
Billy Joe Shaver at Discovery Green, May 2013
Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville
By Michael Streissguth
It Books, 304 pp., $26.

A recent Rolling Stone cover story on Johnny Depp was titled "An Outlaw Looks at 50." To what extent that a multimillionaire movie actor who won the genetic lottery could be viewed as an "outlaw" is highly debatable, but it points to just how diluted the term has become to encompass any practitioner of any art from who is a bit "outside the norm" (whatever that means), lives "by their own rules" (while still adhering to many), and is viewed as "unique" (despite similarities to others).

In the 1970's and '80s, "outlaw" country music was the catch-all phrase given to country music artists -- some of whom had been around for decades -- who embraced long hair, beards, drugs, a more rock and roll sound and attitude, and a rowdiness and rebelliousness that would have horrified Hank Snow or Roy Acuff, not to mention the thought of "country" artists on the same bill as acts like the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead.

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The First Alt-Country Record? Flatlanders Rediscover The Odessa Tapes

courtesy of New West Records
L-R: The Flatlanders in Odessa: Steve Wesson, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tony Pearson, Joe Ely
A lot of stellar music came out of that flat land known as West Texas. Bob Wills, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Terry Allen, Guy Clark, and the Sparkles are just a few artists who found something in the wind, the dust, the heat, the cactus, the mesquite, the sandstorms, the blizzards, the endless horizon, the solitude and isolation that translated into great music.

In January 1972, almost 20 years before Uncle Tupelo recorded No Depression and the media began to use the term "alternative country," a carload of Lubbock guys drove down to Tommy Allsup's recording studio in Odessa to record a glorified demo.

The purpose was to convince Shelby Singleton, the new owner of Sun Records, to sign the group and release an album. The resulting Odessa Tapes, recently released by New West Records, is considered by many to be the first alt-country recording.

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Austin's New (C)KOKE-FM Can't Beat The Real Thing

Lonesome, Onry and Mean had been hearing about the new KOKE-FM progressive country station in Austin for a few weeks. One friend in particular kept raving about the station, so today we finally sauntered over to KOKE-FM (99.3) on the world wide web.

Back in the day when we were in Radio/Television/Film school at UT-Austin, KOKE-FM broke the mold for country radio when it announced its progressive country format that featured not only Waylon, Willie, Coe, Jerry Jeff, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Murphy, and Asleep at the Wheel, but also corralled such outlaws as Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and the newly formed Gram Parsons band with Emmylou Harris.

There was also space for Austin treasures like Freda and the Firedogs and Greezy Wheels.

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The Coolest and Uncoolest Songs About America's Coolest City (Us)

Above is Dean Martin doing "Houston" on his television show. Epic fail, but nice outfit.

As you may have read, Forbes magazine recently determined that, by their measurement criteria, Houston is now America's coolest/hippest city.

Of course, while the rest of the world has looked down its nose for years while imagining us to be little more than a city filled with men in large hats and stupid belt buckles, our un-permitted six guns blazing as we ride our gas-guzzler mechanical bulls to work while our beehive-haired, large-chested women mind the homestead and do a little daytime sport-fucking to pass the time, in fact, most of us who live here realize Houston is a lot more like a little rougher, steamier version of Portland or San Francisco than Los Angeles or Atlanta, more like Chicago than New York City.

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L.A.'s Tremoloco Drops Smokin' Salsipuedes With Local Help

Nothing gets Lonesome, Onry and Mean's blood pumping like opening the mail and finding a long overdue album from Los Angeles roots outfit Tremoloco. The band's previous release, 2008's Dulcinea, was in heavy rotation on the jukebox at our local water hole for several years, and the album seldom left our truck.

The band supported the album with a stupidly funny video of opening track "Mi Novella" (the Spanish term for soap opera).

But with the first listen to 16-track Salsipuedes, with its mix of barroom weepers, Spanish-language ballads, and funked-up country-rockers like "Claudine" and "La Mexicana," we immediately knew that Tony Zamora, Bob Robles, Cougar Estrada, Mike Tovar, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez Jason Lozano, Juan Chacon were back in the same cool East L.A. groove that made Dulcinea so great.

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A Feisty Texas Radio Road Trip with the Mike Stinson Band

Photo by Bob Sullivan
Mike Stinson band at Sons of Hermann Hall, Dallas (l-r): Lance Smith, Mike Stinson, Mark Riddell
Lonesome Onry and Mean hasn't been out on the road with his son, Mike Stinson Band guitarist Lance Smith, in quite a while. But due to a propitious routing that took us to my father's place in Gatesville for a couple of days, LOM hit the highway with the band last weekend.

It is worth noting that LOM's CD player in his battle wagon went kaput about two weeks back, so this trip involved extensive radio scanning. And while there is certainly no dearth of terrible radio out there in the Houston/Austin/Dallas triangle, there are some bright spots on the dial.

Once out of range of our favorite Houston radio signals around Brookshire, the scanner kicked in and brought us tons of Tejano music and, on the AM dial, a mother lode of Rush Limbaugh and all sorts of wack-job right-wing politicos.

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