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Daily Texan: Foley tape a worthy memorial to one of Austin's best

BYLINE Lee Nichols

Blaze Foley Live at the Austin Outhouse (And Not There) Outhouse Records I had the privilege of seeing Blaze Foley in his last performance. It was the only time I ever saw him, and even then it was only because he was opening for Timbuk 3 at Hole In the Wall. The blues/country folksinger's performance was warm, witty and fun. I looked forward to seeing him again and asked him to send me a copy of his tape when it came out. A week later Foley was dead, shot to death in a drunken South Austin brawl, and suddenly the show took on an added importance. The obscure 39-year-old songwriter achieved a small measure of the fame that had eluded him during his career, and his name crossed the tongues of music fans all over town. Unfortunately, he caught the public's notice for the wrong reasons - perhaps, had he lived longer, someone would have noticed that this odd, drunken-looking man held one of the greatest writing talents Austin has ever known. Thankfully, Foley left a testament to his abilities on the (unexpectedly) posthumously released Live at the Austin Outhouse (And Not There). The tape is so titled for Foley's recordings at the Guadalupe Street club - all original material - which were enhanced after the fact with some harmony, bass and piano parts. The other musicians back Foley well, most notably fiddler Champ Hood and pianist Lost John, and the production is startlingly excellent for a cassette - especially considering Foley's friend John Casner recorded it on a four-track recorder. Foley's style branches from love songs to more comical (and sometimes obscene) numbers, but all his tunes accomplish the goal of the true artist - they effectively communicate an emotion and lead the listener to an understanding of the man's inner character. The similarity between his style and that of the legendary Kris Kristofferson strikes the listener most of all. Foley's love songs reach for somber, tender feelings, unfolding slowly and leaving images of the intimate, beautiful kind of love that few people ever actually know. Several of these numbers stand out, with If I Could Only Fly being the most noteworthy because Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard also recorded it on their Seashores of Old Mexico. Haggard said the tune was the best country song he had heard in the past ten years, and Foley's moving version adds credence to that argument. Some tunes are quite funny, especially the disgustingly funny Springtime In Uganda, an older song about the infamous Idi Amin. The title of Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream speaks for itself. Others mix humor with a trace of bitterness. Officer Norris, his tale of a run-in with corrupt Southern "law enforcement," hits home with anyone who's ever had good reason to call a cop "pig." The best song from the tape, Oval Room, similarly seethes in understated anger. Reflecting Foley's long-standing concern for the homeless (one-eighth of the cassette's profits go to the Street People's Advisory Council), the finely crafted number is a scathing attack on Ronald Reagan's appalling lack of concern for the poor. Although Live at the Austin Outhouse (And Not There) might not have attracted anyone's attention without Blaze Foley's death, it deserves every compliment received. Someday, historians of Texas music will stumble across this tape and realize what Merle, Willie, Timbuk 3 and Blaze's few hard-core fans already know - one of Texas' most promising songwriters was tragically cut down long before his time.*

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