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September 05

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Scott H. Biram
The Dirty Old One Man Band

Austin’s Scott Biram may or may not be old or dirty, but he’s one hell of a one-man band. Blending an eerie combination of Buddy Holly-esque (sure, that’s a real word) high-speed rockabilly guitar, a gravel and Marlboro voice sung through fuzzy microphone and a thumpin’ foot (apparently he’s only got one after a little tussle with an 18-wheeler several years ago), Biram makes you forget he’s the only guy on stage from the first note.

This is Biram’s fourth album and after listening to it you’ll want to find the first three. From the first song, “Blood, Sweat and Murder,” you know what you’re getting, and if you don’t like this hard, fast thumpin’ growl of dirty blues and rockabilly, you should just stick to your Backstreet Boys remix tapes.

Having played with the likes of Hank Williams III, the Reverend Horton Heat and Kris Kristofferson, Biram’s sound is as purely blue-collar Americana as can be, like a shot and a beer at some dusty ol’ truck-stop on some backroad that’s goin’ no particular place.

The song titles make what’s here pretty clear: “Raisin’ Hell Again,” “Muleskinner Blues” and the classic “CB Transmissions” say it all. True musicians (that means the ones who are successful without being pretty…) like Biram don’t come along very often in the present world of Justin “Timberloser” and Jennifer and Ashley “Sucksson.”

So if you happen to be drivin’ by some honky-tonk on a Saturday night, and you hear a growing commotion of music that could make Ol’ Big Red himself stomp his foot, pull over, get a cold one, and listen, cause either you get this or you don’t baby, and if you don’t…well, enjoy your wine cooler. www.scottbiram.com —Brandon Whitehead (posted 9/23/05)

The Tossers
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Victory Records

If you happen to be a fan of hard drinkin’, fast playin’, loud singin’,— type Irish music by the likes of the Pogues or Shane McGowan, you might have noticed a somewhat universal theme to Celtic/Folk/Punk songs, and if you haven’t guessed already, that theme would be drinking.

In fact, most of these loud and frenetic tunes come in a sort of trilogy that starts with “Lets get Drunk!” then goes to “You got a problem?” and inevitably ends with “I’m so sorry, and where are my pants?”

Chicago based Irish/punk band the Tossers (really mostly Irish…”Punk” usually just means faster, and most Irish jigs are already fast anyway…) have been playing this whiskey-stained format for something like ten years now, and their latest CD The Valley of the Shadow of Death shows just how good an Irish band can lay it down.

Led by Tony Duggins on vocals and mandolin, tracks like the lead off, “Goodmornin’ Da (oh, I’m in jail)” pretty much tell you what you’re gonna get here. Throw in some classic titles like “no loot, no booze, no fun” and “pread san ol” (no idea…), and you’ve really got something to drink about.

While Irish music isn’t for everyone, if you like it, you’ll more than enjoy tossing down a few with the Tossers. www.thetossers.com —Brandon Whitehead (posted 9/16/05)

Far Beyond Frail
A Girl, Almost...Echo Music, Grey Glass Publishing

While many duets lack either the talent or time to truly develop a unique sound, those few that do can command the room when performing with the power of an entire orchestra. Far Beyond Frail's second CD A Girl, Almost...is an excellent example of quality songwriting and recording of some refreshingly “adult” music that appeals to a somewhat more sophisticated ear than your standard pop.

Singer-songwriter Sharlynn Verner has a classic torch song/cabaret vocal styling that blends excellently with keyboardist and fellow songwriter David Cecil. The arrangements are simple, but then most duets about heartache and loss should be uncluttered, despite many a musician’s attempts to “pump it up” with pointless additions that only cloud what should be musically the equivalent to crystal clear water.

With drummer Lester Estelle, Jr. and some fantastic pedal steel from Kevin Jones helping out here and there, this is some remarkable work for a second album. Makes your wonder what kind of woman this “Girl” will someday becomes.

You can catch Far Beyond Frail Sept. 12 at Fred P. Ott’s on the Plaza. Go to the above website for details. www.farbeyondfrail.com —Brandon Whitehead (posted 9/2/05)

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