Thursday, October 27, 2005

Salon Gives Shout Out to Texas Music Scene

I was happy to see Will Johnson's band South San Gabriel mentioned today in Salon's audiofile feature. Johnson's the prolific songwriter and lead singer for Centro-matic, a band that was based in Denton when I was based in Dallas. (Denton's about 45 minutes north of the Big D, and is home to the University of North Texas, which has a notable music program. Partly for that reason, I think, many aspiring bands live and work there, though Johnson has since relocated to Austin if memory serves.)

His output includes solo records, Centro-matic records, and South San Gabriel records, but they all sound like Will Johnson at slightly different tempos. If you ever get a chance to see him/them live, do it. He's got a strong and rich, if a bit adenoidal, voice and a quirky songwriting sensibility. ("They'll buckle up the new brigade, it's us they know about. / Their tanks and jeeps are on parade, I'm sure they'll find us out" -- That's a fairly typical lyric, which he somehow makes flow, though he's capable of much more direct, affecting lines. And yes, I'm a lyrics geek.)

The songs linked to on Salon come from SSG's latest, The Carlton Chronicles, which is allegedly a cycle of songs written from the perspective of Johnson's cat. I would have once doubted the possible effectiveness (or even sanity) of such a conceit until a couple of years ago, when I heard the song "Plea from a Cat Named Virtue" by the Weakerthans, a very good Canadian band. The song is actually moving in its way, as the narrator-cat discusses the lonely depression of its owner. But it also contains the kind of entertaining lines you might expect from such a project, like:

So, we should open up the house.
Invite the tabby two doors down.
You could ask your sister, if
she doesn't bring her Basset Hound.
Full lyrics here.


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