As has already been documented, I spent last week in San Antonio, Texas. Usually when I go, the tradition has been to squeeze in one or two workouts while I’m there but this time around I mostly just ate, drank and pooped. One habit I did keep however was a visit to Hogwild Records in search of local musical fare. This ‘Local Customs: Lone Star Lowlands‘ album is one of those finds.
This is actually the second release in a series of peeks into the world of regional studios honing in on Mickey Rouse’s Lowland operation in Port Neches, TX. At the time, Rouse’s studio was a hard-luck concern that recorded minor acts from the region between 1969 and 1972 when it shut its doors.
In essence, long after the Bopper’s plane crashed and the Winter brothers (Johnny and Edgar) and Janis Joplin split, Texas’ “Golden Triangle” (which existed in between Port Arthur and Beaumont, located between Lake Charles, LA and Houston) was home to a vibrant group of musicians, songwriters, and entrepreneurs just trying to make it in Houston, let alone the world. Holed up in a run-down strip mall, groups like Mourning Sun, Insight Out, Sage, Sassy, Mother Lion, Hope, Circus, and Boot Hill tracked out hundreds of demos, most of which were put on the shelf and left to bake in the southeast Texas heat.
Until now that is.
The Numero label (which I have grown to love) has painstakingly audited every tape in the Lowland archives, selecting the best of the best (28 tracks in total) for this peerless compilation. The songs themselves run the gamut from southern boogie rock, CSNY clone workups, British blues thunder, garage-psych hangovers, Morricone-tinged supper club instrumentals, yacht rock, and what can only be described as Bobby McFerrin fronting the Velvet Underground…each of them threaded to another in the way only a tightly-knit scene knits its output together. Forget bringing these treasures back to life – ‘Lone Star Lowlands’ gives them the life they never had. And today I’m resurrecting them all in the comforts of my basement office while cranking out financial presentations.
While the material ranges in form and genre but certainly has a sound. There’s the folksy pop-psychedelia of Bobby Welch’s ‘Yellow River‘, and his more Texas songwriter-oriented pop on ‘Benashaw Glen‘, and the spacy, harder rocking ‘Give Me Time‘ from Circus, and ‘Take a Look at Your Friends‘ by the Next Exit. There is also the deeply Crosby, Stills & Nash-saturated influence on ‘Where’s Love Gone Today‘ by Mourning Sun that almost directly rips the “doo-doo doo-dit-doot-doot-doo doo doot” of ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes‘. None of the acts or tracks here here ever hit it big — the obscurity is, of course, part of the raison d’être of Numero’s project.
But like the other Numero purchases I’ve made over my past few visits to Hogwild Records, Numero has done its usual amazing job in putting together a real “vinyl experience”, complete with exhaustive research including a long liner essay by Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley, and stellar packaging with lots of rare photos. In short, it’s gorgeous.
Another great find from a great record store documenting great “local” music from a Golden Era to accentuate an otherwise great visit to the Lone Star State.