Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

DECEMBER 21, 1998: 

Lyle Lovett, Step Inside This House (MCA Records)

While the iconoclastic Lovett has always been outside of the mainstream Nashville country factory, he’s solidly within the Texas songwriter tradition. He revels in his roots on this new two-CD set filled with excellent songs written by 10 Lone Star songwriters. It’s delivered with obvious adoration by Lovett and some great musicians, including guitarist Dean Parks, mandolinist Sam Bush, and fiddler Stuart Duncan.

This is a great introduction to those unacquainted with contemporary Texas songwriters. Some names will seem familiar, including Guy Clark (who wrote the title track), Robert Earl Keen, and Michael Martin Murphy. Lesser-knowns include Willis Alan Ramsey, Eric Taylor, Vince Bell, and David Rodriguez.

Lovett covers one tune each from seven writers, then spotlights Townes Van Zandt, Steve Fromholz, and Walter Hyatt with four songs from each. Van Zandt’s selections include the powerful “Flyin’ Shoes” and “Lungs,” as well as the beautiful “If I Needed You.” The best surprise is the somewhat obscure Fromholz, whose “Bears” is a delightful tune that gives the metaphor of the “beast within” a simultaneously silly and serious reading in a fashion worthy of John Prine. Fromholz’s “Texas Trilogy” is stunning in its depiction of a lost rural America, and stands as the highlight of this exceptional album. Lovett’s done a great service here by exposing people to some great artists, many of whom are relatively unknown outside of Texas. Highly recommended. – Gene Hyde

Peter Wolf, Fool’s Parade (Mercury)

Cruel fate hath no better partner in tragedy than the entertainment business. Legendary vocalist/songwriter/frontman Peter Wolf (formerly of The J. Geils Band and one of the funkiest white dudes around) creates what is his finest effort to date with his fifth solo effort, Fool’s Parade, and chances are this excellent record will go largely unheard.

Liquor-industry giant Seagram is in the midst of purchasing Polygram (Mercury Records’ parent company, the label responsible for releasing Fool’s Parade), and the resulting tumult will likely leave Peter Wolf and Fool’s Parade (as well as numerous other deserving releases) out in the cold without label support. Which is a pitiful shame, since Wolf hasn’t sounded this convincing in years.

Fool’s Parade emerges as a mature work from a rock-and-roll survivor who’s definitely been around the block more times than he can count. An amazingly restrained record from a man known for his raucous nature, Fool’s Parade exudes a quiet strength that reinforces each track. Wolf is definitely looking back here, and these reflective, beautifully constructed songs carry an air of conviction rarely found in today’s music.

There are no screaming guitars to be found on Fool’s Parade, just a well-balanced mix of soulful vocals and percolating musical accompaniment. That’s not to say that it doesn’t still rock, as witnessed by the first (and perhaps only) single, “Turnin’ Pages,” and “The Cold Heart of The Stone.”

Ten of the 11 songs on Fool’s Parade are Wolf originals, co-written with either Will Jennings or Taylor Rhodes. A snappy cover of O.V. Wright’s “I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled, And Crazy” adds a blast from the past to legitimize Fool’s Parade as a true rhythm-and-blues album, steeped in Peter Wolf’s own personal tasty blend of soul.

Fool’s Parade is a true labor of love that deserves acclaim (as well as radio airplay and monster sales) for its creator, the masterful Mr. Peter Wolf. It will be a true crime if this album falls by the wayside just because Polygram/Mercury is being currently devoured by an uncaring corporate giant. But it’s happened in the past (more than once to Mr. Wolf), and it’s likely to happen again.

So it’s up to the CD buyer (and reviewers like yours truly) to promote this record to instant classic status instead of leaving it alone to die an undignified death in the cut-out bins. Let’s hope Fool’s Parade takes on a life of its own, and Peter Wolf once again reaps the spoils of music-industry turf battles. This music is just too damn good to be left alone. – David D. Duncan

Bill Nelson, Atom Shop (Discipline Global Mobile)

If you are unfamiliar with (but intrigued by) avant-popster Bill Nelson’s output, you might just as well start with Atom Shop and then navigate your way backward through numerous and stylistically varied works, finally sampling the fruits of his early (’70s) efforts with Be-Bop Deluxe, the vehicle by which his name first became known to much of the international music-listening public.

Why start with Nelson’s latest release? Most significantly, because this record serves to display one of the artist’s more prominent and successful means of expression; i.e., cool, removed, other-worldly pop music featuring a dollop and a half of old-school electronica. Nelson can rightly be credited as one of electro-pop’s pioneers, and continues to weave sampled/looped/synthetic sounds with well-considered guitar phrases and Bowie-esque vocals to satisfyingly surreal effect.

The songs on Atom Shop seem so natural, pleasing, and nonthreatening (in the pop sense of the concept) that one is startled now and again to realize that this music is, in fact, quite weird. – Stephen Grimstead

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