Rock in a Hard Place 

Deep inside the local scene

The folks at
Oakland's HighTone Records have put out a couple of collections of songs from their back catalogue. They put out a fair amount of country down at HighTone, y'see, and that means a lot of songs about Texas. Texas Boogie collects some of the best of 'em, and some of it's just the Lone Star fetishism one might expect, but some of it'll bring out the long tall Texan in even the crustiest Berkeley hippie or gutterpunk. Just try to resist Jimmie Dale Gilmore crooning a gorgeous ode to "Dallas," guitar guy Redd Volkaert tackling the charmer "Home in San Antone," Johnny Rodriguez and Tom Russell tugging at the heartstrings with sentimental ballads, or Hank Thompson's delightful Tex-Mex anti-cowboy ditty "Condo in Hondo." But it's HighTone's drinkin' song compilation An Empty Glass that really kicks your ass. Aside from some unbearably cheesy easy-listening country from Gary Stewart, it's a marvelous collection, boasting Dale Watson's rousing call for "Hair of the Dog" and tender heartbreaker "Wine Don't Lie," Heather Myles' spunky done-me-wronger "Lovin' the Bottle," Thompson's sweetly smooth rendition of the love serenade "Scotch and Soda," Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys' chagrined cha-cha "Tequila Calling," the Hollisters' sly sad song "Drinkin' for Two," the Sprague Brothers' silky, Everlys-esque "Pink Champagne," and the Sandy-less Fly-Rite Boys' boisterous "Booze Party."

And no one likes a booze party better than Jim Beam. But the purveyors of hooch are so much more than that--in fact, they're patrons of the arts! The bourbon barons' B.E.A.M. program--Benefiting Emerging Arts in Music--awards $100,000 to huddled musicians yearning to breathe pure money. Remaining application deadlines for grants are June 30 and September 29; the forms can be found at www.jimbeam.com. Applications will be rated by "originality, professionalism, and creativity," they say, and advisory board cochairman and sometime Smithereen Pat DiNizio interviews the finalists. (Matthew Sweet, the recently added other cochair, is on outreach duty.) Recipients of the previous two years of grants include... no one I've ever heard of, which is as it should be.

Mission District barrio rockers Los Mocosos sound up for any kind of party on their Six Degrees Records debut, Shades of Brown, due for release at a bash next Thursday, June 7, at the Elbo Room in (appropriately enough) the Mission. Whether rocking en español or in English, Los Mocosos (hard to translate that name without sounding snotty) swing with a jubilant, funkified, brass-ridden sound that may remind you (a lot) of War--whose "Spill the Wine" is covered on the record--but that's not exactly a bad thing. If there's any justice in the world--and I'm not saying there is--this should become one of those records that they play at every damn party until it really starts to work your nerves and you kind of want to start some shit with somebody, only you can't because the music is so damn happy it turns all your ire to jelly.

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