By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"I actually got 86’d from here a couple of weeks ago," Tex rasps. "They caught me smoking a joint out front, but we’re still playing the show, so I guess it wasn’t really an 86 — more like a 69."
Later, Tex says, "[The band] means everything to me. It’s hard to describe, but if I didn’t have the band, I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with myself." Besides, he adds, things are looking good — actor Joey Lauren Adams is pitching "How Come I Only Love You When I’m Drunk" for the soundtrack of an upcoming Billy Bob Thornton/Dwight Yoakam picture she has signed to appear in. The Rednecks already had one song used in a movie, and, Tex says, "I get a check for about a quarter every six months."
Inside the Frolic, the Rednecks are jammed into that slimy niche just left of the entrance; venerable scenester/party beast Donny Popejoy makes a smooth broadcaster-toned intro: "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome for the 424th time . . ." and they kick into "Drinkin’ Band," a rabble rouser of the highest order. Tex rips his dingy white cowboy off his head and tosses it discuslike down the length of the bar. The congenial dipsos lining the trough love it, a camcorder-toting tourist sneaks in to get some footage of the debauch, and the faces on the Hershfeld mural that covers one wall seem to register that even after all these decades, they really have not seen it all. The romp is afoot, a characteristic barrage of Billy Joe Shaver–simple lyrical observations cast out upon a riptide of just-irresponsible-enough musical performance — an appealing combination that commands the audience to, as Rose Maddox always used to say, "Live it up tonight so you live it down tomorrow."
Not long ago at Viva Cantina, country singer Moot Davis has just finished his set. Producer-guitarist Pete Anderson had worked Davis there a couple of times a week, tempering his prot√©g√© and breaking in a band in preparation of road work to support Davis’ debut album. The boy can sing, and with the presence of Anderson, an outstanding soloist who manages to flabbergast with every song, it’s a pretty damn good show. But the preponderance of ’50s-era covers and retrofitted originals leaves one asking, "Why, Baby, Why?" Just shy of creepy rockabilly revival, it seems unnatural, a surefire way to hobble one’s own artistry.
Cody Bryant was due up next, and I asked him before he took the stage, "Why can’t these guys just be themselves?"
"Fear," he replied without hesitation. "That’s the scariest thing to do — it’s a pit full of snakes and fire, something to be avoided at all costs."
Few of those who do not suck in contemporary Los Angeles country are able to reach that wild extreme and sound not just convincing but natural — whether it’s Tex bellering, "I’ve got a bar in my jacket and a party in my trunk," or Molly Howson spitting out "fuckin’ fishin hooks." The misfires are maddening, as is the imprimatur of hip that the "alt"-Americana set enjoys. Still, the phonies are easy to recognize and easier to ignore. With country, Cody Bryant said it best: "It chooses you, you don’t choose it."
Where To Go Country
The best thing about local country joints is that most all of them are no-cover (call ahead to confirm). These include Coles, 116 E Sixth St., downtown, (213) 663-4090, an old-time watering hole that hosts Molly Howson and I See Hawks in L.A. most Friday and Wednesday nights; Viva Cantina, 900 Riverside Drive, Burbank, (818) 845-2425, which is Cody Bryant’s official headquarters; and El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., (323) 668-0318, the once-a-month home of Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance showcase, which often features the Groovy Rednecks. Genghis Cohen, 740 N. Fairfax Ave., (323)653-0640, is the every-second-Tuesday monthly site of Tonya Watts’ It Came From Nashville, and with an average admission charge of $7 (and visits from the likes of Deana Carter and Jim Lauderdale) rates as a hell of a good deal.