DIARY - 25 FEBRUARY 2006 - CHRIS WALL
HITS THE TEXAS WALL
born and raised way out west/ but the thing that I like about living here
best/ it ain't the mountains, the valleys, the hats or the boots/ it's
having plenty of guns and having something to shoot." - Something
To Shoot - Chris Wall.
born singing cowboy Chris Wall graduated from rodeo to radio shortly
after hanging out with revered Texan troubadours Guy Clark and Jerry
Jeff Walker in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming.
Jerry Jeff persuaded him to move from behind the high country bars
to the stages of Lone Star state corrals.
And it enabled the singer to fast track his six-album career, catalysed
by the genetics of his dad who collaborated with Bob Nolan of Sons
Of The Pioneers fame in his hey day.
Wall, born in Newport Beach, spent time on his agrarian uncle's
ranch before moving to Montana where he swapped songs with Clark
one-time ranch hand also worked as a history teacher, bartender,
football coach and actor before running his Cold Spring label.
But it was a meeting a year later with another Texan - transplanted New
Yorker Jerry Jeff in Wyoming, that lured him to Austin where he blazed
his own trail.
Wall was bartending at a club where Walker was performing.
During the break, Wall got up and sang a few songs.
Walker told him to visit him in Austin and maybe write some songs together.
Almost a year later, Wall decided to accept the offer.
"I'd met him in Jackson Hole and played some songs with his band,"
"I was tending bar there. That's all true. We went back to his hotel
and stayed up half the night, playing songs and stuff. He said if I got
a tape together to send it to him. It took a good year before I got a
tape together, and I sent it to him. I went back to working at ranches
in Montana, and he called me on a Sunday in September of '88. My number
was on the tape, so he said, "Do you want to come down and write
some songs?" I said sure, but I don't have any money. "That's
okay," he said, "You can open some shows for me." I planned
on staying a few weeks, but one thing led to another. Got some real good
response, was getting paid and winter was coming on in Montana. So I decided
to stay and see if I could make a go of this music. It's been 10 years
Jerry Jeff invited Wall to record for his Tried & True label in 1988
and he cut the first two of his six albums.
Wall, now 55, and his Rhythm Wranglers, released Honky Tonk Heart
on cassette in 1989 before it was re-mixed and released on CD for Rykodisc
And No Sweat followed in 1991.
Wall's next four albums were on his indie label Cold Spring.
Cowboy Nation in 1994 was followed by live disc Any Saturday
Night In Texas in 1996.
Tainted Angel, cut with Reckless Kelly, was released in 1998, and
Just Another Place followed in 2002.
in this bar-room almost every night/ I don't cause much trouble/ I don't
start any fights/ I wait my turn and I tip way too much/ and the waitresses
all like me cause I smile but I don't touch." - Hanging Out -
wrote all the tunes on his debut disc including Trashy Woman -
cut by Jerry Jeff and Nu Country DJ Leslie Avril and a huge hit for
Confederate Railroad in 1993.
He used the publishing royalties to create his label Cold Spring.
Honky Tonk Heart also featured the stone country tunes I
Wish John Stetson Made A Heart, The Empty Seat Beside Me
and Rodeo Wind.
But the tunes that scored most exposure on High In The Saddle, Acid
Country and Nu Country were Wall's satirical barnburners Entourage
and Something To Shoot.
the stone country theme on his second disc No Sweat with the same
Radio picked up on Hangin' Out, Boots, Faded Blue, I'll Take
The Whiskey (You take The Wheel, Fine Line and Larry Mahan-Fred Crane
tribute Rodeo Cowboy.
set up Cold Spring with the Trashy Women royalties he signed other
acts to his label.
"After I left Jerry Jeff's label in 1993, I just didn't have anywhere
to go," Wall says. "Nobody was particularly interested in a
40-year-old cowboy singer. So I started my label so I could release my
album, Cowboy Nation. Once we made our money back, we did the live
That album did better and then we had the chance to do the Chasing
the Dream soundtrack. About that time, Reckless Kelly were ready to
record their album, so now we have five releases. We decided to sign another
band and were able to get the Asylum Street Spankers.
Wall produced Cowboy Nation with Lloyd Maines and Pat Colgan and
hired Bruce Robison and singing spouse Kelly Willis and Lost Gonzo Band
co-founder Bob Livingston on harmonies.
It featured memorable originals Way Out West, I Feel Like Hank Williams
Tonight, Roadhouse Whiskey, The Bouncer At The Cowboy Bar and I
Drink Therefore I Am.
ANY SATURDAY NIGHT IN TEXAS
you give us back Keith Whitley if we sent You Billy Ray?" - A
Gal From San Antone - Chris Wall.
compared his life to a Fellini movie in the satirical A Gal From
San Antone in his live album - recorded on Independence Day, in
Robison and Willis rejoined Wall for this inspired 14-track live disc
cut with his road band Cowboy Nation at Gruene Hall - the oldest dance
hall in Texas.
Wall set the mood with I Feel Like Singin' Along - a road-weary
musician sits with a bottle in one hand and a pistol in the other.
thought of possible posthumous fame and his ex-wife getting all the royalties
stays him from suicide.
Also on board
at the New Braunfels honky tonk were Dale Watson and his famous Lone Stars.
Wall wrote Ship Me Back To Texas with Watson and 33 Reasons
To Say Goodbye with Dale's guitarist Brad Fordham.
"Pour me a glass of Jim Beam/ pour me back on a plane/ and ship me
back to Texas/
I'm goin' insane, Nashville's such a lonely town/ but they say that it's
the only town
where you can lay your music down/ and lay your soul upon the line/ but
where are all the hats and boots/ and who are all these 3-piece suits?/
like tumbleweeds without roots/ they're just blowin' in the wind."
Highlights included Texas Time, Runaway Cadillac, Miles Of Rodeo, Independence
Day and Damn Good Time.
The latter song revealed the tender flip side of Wall.
"In some south Austin music store/ a kid buys a guitar/ he only knows
one thing for sure/ he's gonna be a star/ and you wanna scream 'Kid don't
do it, you can't stop it once it starts'/ but something old inside your
soul." - Damn Good Time.
Elvis blew up two TVs cause he hated Bob Goulet/ I swear that one is all
I'd need to do in Billy Ray" - Half Of What Killed Elvis - Chris
recorded his 1998 disc Tainted Angel with Reckless Kelly who
took their name from Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.
"Basically they moved down here, and I know their dad real well
from Idaho," Wall says of Reckless Kelly.
"Muzzie Braun, father of Cody & Willy Braun, of Reckless
Kelly had a band up there - the Braun Brothers Band. His kids were
in the band, Cody and Willy. I've known them since they were little
kids. When they decided to move to Austin I did all I could to help
them get started. They wanted to make a record so I put Millican out
on my record label.
We just started
hanging out, doing a lot of picking together and some of the music started
to make sense. I had some songs that I thought needed to be rocked up
a little more, and they played the country stuff real good. So, we talked
about it and thought it would be a fun deal to do. I really heard it in
my head coming out about the way it did. It was a fun project to do."
Tainted Angel included revamps of The Empty Seat Beside Me
and No Sweat, I Never Got Over Losing You, God's Own Jukebox, Waltz
To Cheyenne, Turns To Tears, Big Blue Teardrops and the evocative
Dylan Montana's Last Ride.
his latest album Just Another Place in 2002 with five different
Robison returned for The Round Top Sessions and Marty Muse played
dobro on Cribworks Session One.
Cribworks Session Two featured Brad Fordham on bass and acoustic
guitarist Danny Britt on Hank William' Cadillac and Love Is
Just A Place.
Hank Williams' Cadillac details a musician's life of fast living,
hard playing, and paying dues the hard way in the name of chasing the
dream, eventually losing sight of the reason why he started in the first
place, realising the toll, and wondering if it was time to just pack it
in and go back home before he winds up "crucified on a treble clef
made of gold."
Dale Watson's Lone Stars played on five songs and the South Austin Jug
Band on other tracks.
The satirical The Poet Is Not In Today set the mood for the 15-track
gem that had many other highlights.
It lampoons the Nashville assembly line songwriting approach but Chris
gives it a new twist by getting inside the head of one of these writers,
one who once had much to say but is now restrained by the limits Nashville
has put on his writing.
And the character ultimately decides he no longer wants any part of it,
and would sooner walk away than continue to write songs that had nothing
pays tribute to Waylon Jennings who died at 64 on February 13, 2002,
in his song An Outlaw's Blues and maybe Five Piece Band.
It pays homage not only lyrically but in Kenny Grime's Waylon-style
guitar and Wall's singing.
He covers all facets of ruptured romance - love gone bad in Ten
Cents on the Dollar, gone away Still in the Dark or never
showing up Old Broken Record; even when it does Love Is
Just a Place where arrival is hard-won, full of doubt as much
Other highlights include Raining in Atlanta, The Jagged Edge, Canadian
Rockies and Somewhere Between 40 and Fallin' Apart.
Raining In Atlanta is a lament about the relationship of a
couple whose outlooks are very different, and though they're no good
together, they're no good apart.
Edge, featuring the South Austin Jug Band, explores the perspective
of a honky tonky hero who was once on top and is now living in a shattered
Somewhere Between Forty and Fallin' Apart finds a middle aged man
pondering his aches and grey hairs, and wondering where the years have
gone, has he made the right decisions, where does he go from here, as
well as his own mortality.
Canadian Rockies is delivered as a passionate search for salvation.
The fitting finale is a hidden track Haunted Old Pawn Shop Guitar
featuring vocals from nearly everyone involved on the album.
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