duke bardwell

doug hoekstra

johnny dowd

terry clarke

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robert forster

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odds and ends



the urban folk revival starts again and again

label spotlight

For the keen eyed record collector in England there were a few gems to be found in the mid to late eighties lurking under the Heyday label which was leased here under a Rough Trade/ World Service deal. It was the brainchild of ex-Absolute Grey drummer Pat Thomas who had wound up in San Francisco with a bunch of cool friends - remnants of various 'Paisley-Underground' bands whose experience of major label deals had been less than thrilling . He set about righting wrongs.

review this a way

In the community of San Francisco he drew together a talented roster of artists who would now fit into alt-country/americana but who he saw then as more a continuation of the exceptional labels out west like Elektra and Vanguard. His early efforts at promotion included a bumper sticker that read 'the urban folk revival starts here'. Over ten years later and it seems the dream's coming true again!

In between, and despite a bad case of burnt fingers courtesy of a failed Rough Trade operation, he brought out another set of great records by the same artists via the Normal record label in Germany which continues but in different hands. Back home so to speak and using the advantages for small labels of the internet Pat Thomas has joined forces with ex-True West singer-songwriter Russ Tolman to establish a third variation on the theme -Innerstate Records- . It has already re-released a spate of previously only european discs which are as new to the U.S. and is now launching into some exciting new releases.

Among the re-releases is a welcome re-appearance of the Okra All-Stars disc first released on the now defunct Okra label that sees Dave Schramm, Jeb Loy Nichols and co turning in as fine a set of straight-ahead country as has graced the alt-c revival.Maybe the future will see other Okra discs appear and who knows maybe one day even some of those seminal Gibson Brothers discs? ( therein lies another article). For now the policy of leasing has paid dividends already with 'This Notes for You Too' a double cd of versions of Neil Young songs courtesy of Dutch label Inbetweens.It has a cross-section of the Innerstate great and good on it including Russ Tolman, Chris Cacavas and Sonya Hunter. the durn thing..

Closer to home is the San Francisco Song Cycle Vol.1 which suggests a Vol.2 cannot be far away. Again the above mentioned artists feature in acoustic sets recorded live at the Paradise Lounge. S.F. along with a huge bunch of other artists including Old Joe Clarks mainman Mike Coykendall and former Green On Red-er Chuck Prophet. A generous 35 tracks archives a moment in time along with excerpts from John Cage and some poetry! Sure is artistic out there! Another noteworthy release is a fitting tribute to the talent that was Epic Soundtracks -Everything is Temporary.

Drawing on his own schedule of releases at Normal Pat Thomas has made available some tracks by Sonya Hunter, Gary Floyd and Steve Wynn which were only available in Europe in some cases as ltd editions. Among these are the standout Finders Keepers where Sonya Hunter's pure mountain stream of a voice takes good care of some favorite songs in a mostly acoustic setting (Nichols' G.T.O. is a stunner). Gary Floyd's voice I'd only come across previously on a Glitterhouse sampler but his Back Door Preacher Man is a walk through texas blues/ Muddy Waters and even has a Cajun feel at times - highly recommended -and not only for that voice!

Steve Wynn has been blessed with a few discs in his career post Dream Syndicate and Take your Flunky and Dangle It is an entertaining jog through some of the lost tracks and out-takes involving some mighty fine company - Calexico, John Wesley Harding, Chris Cacavas etc. Not just for Wynn completists. Innerstate has most recently also released a Sonya Hunter EP which makes available some of the Finders Keepers tracks plus an exquisite take on Expecting to Fly.


Last but not least and a great set from one of the most criminally under-rated west-coast talents is Chris Cacavas's Dwarf Star. First of a totally new set of recordings from Innerstate it sees the man follow on from previous discs such as Pale Blonde Hell and the Normal ltd. Six String Songs in much the same confident manner. That his profile,in this country at least, seems to be less than zero is a tragedy as live acoustically he is simply superb. This new disc cuts a less rocky path than previous discs with slide, mandolin and accordian backing. There's even a cover of Mathew Sweet's Someone to pull the trigger and production by Eric Westfall who produced the seminal Giant Sand's Love Songs record so check it out!A full review next issue.


Links to the Pat Thomas Story / Chris Cacavas and Sonya Hunter homepages can be found on the links page.