Austin360 On The Record: Revisiting the Commandos' glory days
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
Commandos, “The Lone Star Sessions” (Jungle). Recorded in October 1983 but at the time resulting only in the Halloween-themed single “Psycho”/“Baby Loves Monster Movies,” these dozen songs are a welcome reminder that the Commandos may well have been Austin’s best pure rock & roll band of the 1980s. Close kin at the time to the higher-profile LeRoi Brothers — indeed, the LeRois’ Mike Buck plays drums on many cuts here — the Commandos had a special charisma built on the chemistry between co-leaders Gerry “Phareaux” Felton and Suzy Elkins. Felton’s clean twang-blaze guitar licks and Elkins’ passionate yet playful singing would captivate audiences at their home base of Hole in the Wall as they belted out an equal-parts mix of originals, old-school rock & roll covers, and tunes by close friends from their Mississippi days such as R.S. Field, Webb Wilder and Omar Dykes (of Omar & the Howlers, whose drummer Wes Starr plays on many tracks here). A 1985 LP, “Edge of Town,” stressed the originals, but this archival set better captures what those hot Hole in the Wall nights were like. Elkins melting down the world when she closed sets with the Sonics’ classic “Psycho” is forever etched into my memory, but some of the best moments were when Felton stepped out for a lead vocal, as on the Field/Wilder wisecracker “Wild Honey” (“she likes the feel, of my … motorcycle.”) The Commandos knew the value of getting in and out quickly: These 12 cuts clock in at less than 30 minutes, and the Elkins/Felton pop ditty “Morning Train” (the only cut that carried over to the ’85 LP) is the longest track at 3 minutes and 3 seconds. Felton died of a heart attack in 2007, so there’ll be no reunion gigs to support this release. Elkins is back in Mississippi now, but she left a lasting mark on her adopted hometown that, thanks to this excavation, is still paying dividends. Plans for a physical disc version are apparently in the works, but for now "The Lone Star Sessions" is available digitally via CDBaby. Here’s the track “Baby Loves Monster Movies,” which includes a vocal cameo by Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis (who just happened to be in town when the Commandos were recording):
OUT THIS WEEK
Hunt Sales Memorial, “Get Your (Expletive) Together” (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum). A drummer who’s lived mostly under-the-radar in Austin for decades despite tenures with major stars David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren, Sales steps out front with a dozen songs of that range from the swaggering rock & roll of opener “Here I Go Again” to more nuanced balladry of “One Day.” The “memorial” added to his name may be an ironic reference to the 64-year-old’s unlikely recovery from what he says was a 40-year heroin habit. His experiences inform hard-boiled songs such as “I Can’t Stop,” “Sorry Baby” and “Angel of Darkness.” Co-produced by Sales and Fat Possum exec Bruce Watson, the album features musicians from Austin and Memphis, thanks in part to former Austinite and current Memphis resident Will Sexton, who brought Sales to the label’s attention. In-store Jan. 24 at Waterloo Records, release show Jan. 31 at Antone’s. Here’s the video for the track “One Day”:
Terry Klein, “Tex.” The follow-up to Klein’s 2017 debut “Great Northern” further attests to Klein’s penchant for folk-based arrangements and songwriting that relies on a keen eye for the small details. Klein’s not a naturally gifted vocalist, but there’s character in the way he sings, a slight Southern drawl seeping into conversational lines that often feel half-spoken. “Sagamore Bridge,” the opening track, is the clear highlight, its gently propulsive rhythm picking up steam from Warren Hood’s exquisite fiddle accents. Austin troubadour Walt Wilkins, who produced Klein’s debut, returns in that role here; other contributors include pedal steel player Kim Deschamps, drummer John Chipman, keyboardist Bart de Win and multi-instrumentalist Ron Flynt. Release shows Feb. 15-16 at the Townsend. Here’s the track “Oklahoma”:
JAN. 31: Kenny Williams, “Sings” EP, playing Jan. 24 and Jan. 31 at Parker Jazz Club.
FEB. 1: Bright Light Social Hour, “Jude Vol. 1” (Modern Outsider), in-store Feb. 1 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 1: A. Sinclair, “Catpaws” (Nine Mile), in-store Jan. 28 at Waterloo Records, release show Feb. 2 at Mohawk.
FEB. 1: Go Fever, “Daydream Hawker” EP, release show Feb. 2 at Cheer Up Charlie’s, in-store Feb. 17 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 1: Quiet Company, “On Corners & Shapes” EP, release show Feb. 1 at Mohawk.
FEB. 1: Beth // James, “Falling” EP, release show Feb. 1 at Cactus Cafe.
FEB. 5: George Ensle, “Home” (Berkalin), release show Feb. 9 at Threadgill’s.
FEB. 8: Gurf Morlix, “Impossible Blue” (Rootball), release show Feb. 1 at El Mercado Backstage.
FEB. 8: Atlamesa, “Idol Frontier,” release show Feb. 8 at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
FEB. 8: Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, “The Whole Shebang,” release show Feb. 8 at Continental Club.
FEB. 8: Mamahawk, “Brain Invaderz,” in-store Feb. 8 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 8: Rebecca Loebe, “Give Up Your Ghosts” (Blue Corn), in-store Jan. 29 at Waterloo Records, release show Feb. 9 at Saxon Pub.
FEB. 8: Daisy O’Connor, “Ether,” release show Feb. 10 at Cosmic.
FEB. 14: Robert Ellis, "Texas Piano Man" (New West), in-store Feb. 14 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 14: Harlem, “Oh Boy,” release show Feb. 16 at Antone’s.
FEB. 15: Hayes Carll, “What It Is” (Dualtone), playing Feb. 20 at Saxon Pub, Feb. 21 at Continental Club, Feb. 22 at 3Ten and Feb. 23 at Antone’s.
FEB. 22: Moving Panoramas, “In Two” (Modern Outsider), in-store Feb. 22 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 22: William Harries Graham, “Jakes,” in-store March 3 at Waterloo Records.
FEB. 22: Frederico7, “Exotico Americano,” release show Feb. 23 at Empire.
FEB. 22: Kelly Hafner, “If It’s Love.”
MARCH 1: Gary Clark Jr., “This Land” (Warner Bros.).
MARCH 8: Patty Griffin, self-titled (PGM/Thirty Tigers).
MARCH 8: Danny Schmidt, “Standard Deviation.”
APRIL 5: Brandon Wayne DeMaris, “Brave Bones,” release show April 10 at Antone’s.
APRIL 26: Randy Rogers Band, “Hellbent.”