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Weekly Wire: Blaze Foley: in Tribute and Loving Memory, Volume One by Lee Nichols

Blaze Foley was one of those people about whom everyone seems to have a story, and I have mine: As young scribe with The Daily Texan, I went to catch Timbuk 3 one night at Hole in the Wall, only to find some homeless-looking person opening for them. He blew me away. I left talking more about him than T3, and immediately decided to do an article on him. A week later, a gun got to him before I could. I had caught his final performance. Friends came out of the woodwork to lament the loss of the Austin Outhouse icon and praise his songwriting abilities. It was quite an outpouring of love, and that's the best way to describe this tribute album -- an outpouring of love. Critiquing the performances themselves almost seems beside the point; while there are varying degrees of success in interpreting Foley's lyrics, every track seems layered with truly heartfelt care. A perfect balance seems struck between mourning Blaze (Jubal Clark's "Blaze Ablaze" poem) and celebrating his life with humor (such as the the silly "Springtime in Uganda," an ode to Idi Amin as performed by Townes Van Zandt), and while a few of the performances here fall flat, several seem perfect: Kimmie Rhodes sings "If I Could Only Fly" (recorded in the Eighties by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard) as if it were written specifically for her; Michael Reed Barker does a straight-up "Christian Lady Talkin' on a Bus" that could pass for Foley's original; and the contempt for social expectations in"Small Town Hero" is perfectly suited to Timbuk 3's temperament. The final track ("Our Little Town") is from Foley's Live at the Austin Outhouse (and Not There), with a few dozen friends dubbed in as a chorus. Thus far, no one has released that album, but you might find a few people around town with copies of it on tape. For now, this is as close as you'll get to a Blaze Foley album, so take advantage of it, and discover what death has ensured will always be Austin's best-kept secret.

[ original review at http://weeklywire.com/ww/02-08-99/austin_music_recviews.html ]

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