Deep South Productions|
The Blaze Foley Tribute Reviews
Next February 1st will mark the 10th anniversary of the murder of Michael Fuller, aka Blaze Foley. After a decade of silence, this tribute, released on what would have been his 49th birthday, brings back albeit indirectly, the voice of one of Austin's most remarkable singer-songwriters, best known or, more easily referenced, as the author of the Willie & Merle hit "If I Could Only Fly".
*Perhaps overcynical, I tend to regard many, if not most, tribute albums as pointless distractions from the genuine item, naked displays of artistic and intellectual bankruptcy, tainted by mercenary calcuation. There are, of course, exceptopns, but few, if any, are quite as clearcut as this one. In the first place, the artists who contributed to it, with no expectation of making any money or futhering their own careers, actually knew and loved Blaze Foley, moreover-surely a first in tribute albums-it can neither detract from nor promote sales of Foley's own recordings because there aren't any,Zero,zip,nada. If you know the right people, you could wangle a dub of the cassette-only "Live At The Outhouse But There", otherwise it's down to tracking down the eponymous mid 80s Vital LP, the even rarer single from it ("Oval Room"/"Girl Scout Coolies") or the equally scarce 45 ("If ICould Only Fly"/"Let Me Ride In Your Big Cadillac") put out by a long defunct Houston label.
*Among those who knew Foley far longer and intimately, the tribute project got rolling several years ago-Townes Van Zandt and Timbuk3 date it petty good-when it became clear that Blaze himself might not be heard from again in our lifetimes, though it could have come out much earlier but for a fixation on the predictably chimerical prospect that Willie Nelson might participate. Essentially, the organizers passed the Foley songlist around and let his friends pick the ones they wanted to do. Very oddly, nobody bagged "Girl Scout Cookies" or "Clay Pigeons", but Kimmie Rhodes took "If I Could Only Fly", Cody Hubach "Oooh Love", Texana Dames "Picture Cards Can't Picture You", Tom Smith "Lovin You", Mandy Mercier "My Reasons Why", Pat Mears "Darlin' ", Calvin Russell "I Should Have Been Home With You" (a different version from that on "Crack In Time"), Timbuk3 "Small Town Hero", Townes Van Zandt "Wouldn't That Be Nice" and much to everyone's suprise, "Springtime In Uganda", and the late Jubal Clark, who kicks off the album with a rather soupy poem, "Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream". There are also an ensemble, The Blaze Foley Hillbilly Band, featuring Rhodes, Mercier, Clark, George Ensle, Ponty Bone and many others, doing "Big Cheeseburgers, and from the Outhouse tape with an overdubbed, not say over the top, 39 strong choir, Foley himself singining "Our Little Town".
*On something of an insider note, an encouraging thing about this project is that has enthusiastic support from one of Blaze's sisters. Ever the optimist, I take this as a promising sign that the Fuller family is getting a little impatient with the strategy of silencing Blaze's voice. However, as those involved would be the first to acknowledge, it's an expedient, a stopgap substitute for more preferable, but nonexistent, authentic Blaze Foley albums. For all the love that went into it, the first volume, at least, is artistically uneven and occasional ragged edges are reminders of its low budget. That having been said, if you want to hear the songs of the late, great Blaze Foley, you don't have a hell of a lot of options, so one can only thank those who made this tribute possible.
Review by: John Conquest
From: 3rd Coast Music Magazine #24/113 January 1999
Back to top
Austin American Statesman, first review
Foley's Songs A-Blazing
It took friends of Blaze Foley so long to put together a tribute album for the late songwriting troubadour that two of the singers they lined up have since died, while one the bands involved has broken up. But the good news is thar "Blaze Foley: In Loving Tribute and Memory, Vol. 1," featuring Townes Van Zandt, Jubal Clark and Timbuk3, among others, is finally in stores and shows the hard -fought dedication that made it possible.
"We got it started and then just happened to run out of money," explained Ryan Rader, one of the producers of the album. Rader and associate Jon Smith began recording the tracks back in 1993, four years after Foley was gunned down by an arguing neighbor at age of 39. Some of the other artists they recruited along the way include Kimmie Rhodes, the Texana Dames, Mandy Mercier and Calvin Russell. That things took so long may have been a mixed blessing, as interest in Foley's music has risen anew thanks to Lucinda Williams song that chronicles his troubled life, "Drunken Angel." Word is Foley's "Live at the Austin Outhouse" may soon see CD format, while Rader and Smith have already finished a second tribute CD for Foley and are moving on to Vol.3.
"We never had any trouble finding any of Blaze's friends who wanted to do a song or two," Rader said. "The man had friends, that"s for sure."
Review by: Chris Riemenschneider
From: Austin American-Statesman XL-ent section December 31, 1998
Back to top
BLAZE FOLEY: IN TRIBUTE AND LOVING MEMORY, VOLUME ONE
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 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 describe this triubute album-an outpouring of love. Critiquing the performances themselves almost seems beside the point; while varying degrees of success in interpreting Foley's lyrics, every track layered with truly heartfelt care. A perfect balance seems struck between mourning Blaze (Jubal Clark's "Blaze Ablaze: peom) and celebrating his life with humor (such as the silly "Springtime in Uganda" an ode to Idi Amin as performed by Townes Van Zandt), and awhile 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 Timbuk3's temperament.
The final track ("Our Little Town") is from Foley's Live at the Austin Outhouse (and Not There), with few dozen friends dubbed in as a chorus. Thus far, no one has released that ablum, 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.
By: Lee Nichols
From: The Austin Chronicle, February 5, 1999
Back to top
Austin American Statesman, second review
"Blaze Foley: In Tribute and Loving Memory"
Coming 10 years after his murder, and some five years after this project was started, Blaze Foley's much-deserved tribute album has all the qualities one would hope for - which is a lot of heart and warmth, if not prefection. Best known as the songwriter of "If I Could Only Fly," covered by Waylon and Willie, as well as the posthumous subject of Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel," Foley wrote lovin' and drinkin' songs that could melt the toughest of hearts.
Many of the singer-songwriters featured here were cut from the same cloth, including Townes Van Zandt and Jubal Clark, themselves now deceased, plus Timbuk3 (broken up) and Austin fixtures such as Kimmie Rhodes, the Texana Dames, Mandy Mercier, Calvin Russell and more. The disc has an unwavering old-Austin feel to it, which is as appealing now as it was back before Foley was shot. As this tribute points out, a piece of that Austin was lost with Blaze, but it can reclaimed anyytime we want.
By: Chris Riemenschnieder
From: Austin American-Statesman Life & Arts section
Back to top
Have only had a chance to listen to this a couple of times, but even if put my personal feelings about Blaze aside, (didn't know him personally, but love the guy's songs) this is a pretty strong body of work, BF songs covered by Jubal Clark, Cody Hubach, Pat Mears, Mandy Mercier, Rod Nunnelee, Michael Reed Barker, Kimmie Rhodes, Calvin Russell, Tom Smith Texana Dames, Timbuk 3, Townes Van Zandt, and Blaze himself, along with his Hillbilly Band.
When I opened up this package and begian looking at the liner notes, )by KUT-Texas Radio Show/Blue Monday host Larry Monroe) I was reminded of visiting the memorial site of SRV. where I noticed a square of something on the ground, picked it up, gently pulled open and looked at it - it was something a fan had left, a bunch of what looked like newspaper articles, letters, personal notes, etc. all folded in an aragami(sp?) style, resembling those little multii-folded fortune telling things kids make in elementary school. Had folded so nicely and with such love, that like these Blaze Foley liner notes, I was taken with the thought that went into this object that was created less for someone else to read, than an effort to express how badly this person (SRV/Blaze) was missed.
Kinda sad, but at the same time, makes me happy to have all these songs on one disc, by great artists that truly loved and miss the Man, his songs, and his duct tape.
There's a lot of half-assed tributes out there, but I don't think this's one of 'em.
This review was sent in by a third party from overseas.
Back to top
Austin Chronicle Review, Volume 2
BLAZE A BLAZE: VOLUME TOO
Blaze Foley must surely now hold the record for the most tribute albums devoted to an Austin artist who never got famous, and he's not even through being feted - this supposed to be the second in series of three. The late songwriter certainly merits the honor, though. If he wasn't quite the flat-out genius that his freind Townes Van Zandt was, then he was surely the next closet thing. If you were wondering why your Foley favorite was left off of the last trib, there's a good chance it's here: "Clay Pigeons" gets a smashing sendup from Julieann Banks & the Apaches of Paris, sounding a great deal like Nanci Griffith; De Lewellen caustically revives Foley's anti-authortarian spirit on "Officer Norris"; Richard Dobson & State of the Heart make a very competent delivery of "Faded Love and Memories"; and there's nice homage to Foley's also-late buddy Jubal Clark.
Of course, it's rare that everything on a tribute album pans out, and some things don't work here: Rachel Rain's take on the Ronald Reagan ode "Oval Room" dosen't quite carry Foley's drunken, insolent tone (although the sly altered-lyric jab at Bill Clinton works well) and Sheri Frushay's husky style of singing ("Election Day") wears thin after a while. Regardless of flaws, it's better to have this strong tribute in the hands of Foley's Austin Outhouse friends (Calvin Russell, Shiva's Headband, and John Casner are just a few of the other names here) rather than some major label with flavor-of-month superstars and slick production. Friends and integrity were all that really mattered to Blaze Foley anyway.
From: Texas Platters - The Austin Chronicle - October 29,1999
By: Lee Nichols
Back to top
Third Coast Music Review, Volume 2
BLAZE A BLAZE BFI Volume Too
None of the late Blaze Foley's friends and admirers--but I repeat myself--woulld argue that ideally you should be listening to his own performances of his songs rather than their interpretations. However, as I mentioned in last January's cover story, marking the release of Volume One of a projected three CD tribute, though Foley left several albums worth of recorded material, none of it has been made available to say senseless, lacuna, I'll say no more than cherchez la sheister and move on to applaud the love, generosity and talent that's gone into this gallant and noble project to perpetuate the name of great singer-songwriter. A project, moreover, that's improving, Volume Too being rather better value than its predecessor. Far from having skimmed the cream off the Foley songbook in the first round, the 15 magnificent songs include my personal Blaze favorite, Faded Loves And Memories, the A side of one of his two singles and the B side of the other.
Moreover, the first volume seems to have been a learning experience for executive producers Ryan Rader and Jon Smith, because this time round the songs do more than stand up, they sound far better and the performances don't vary as wildly in quality. I have to pick out three tracks for special mention, superbly focussed readings of Clay Pigeons by Julieann Banks, It's Just You by Calvin Russell and Faded Love And Memories by Richard Dobson, but David Waddell (Let Me Ride In Your Big Cadillac),De Lewellen (Officer Norris), John Casner (The Way You Smile), George Ensle (Blue Love, which he cowrote), Sheri Fushay (Election Day), Harvey "Tex Thomas" Young (Down Here Where I Am) and The Rhythm Rats (WW3) all do Blaze proud. Somewhat less impressive but still acceptable are Shiva's Headband (Misty Garden),Tom Smith (Alibis), Jim Stricklan (No Goodwill Stores In Wakiki), Rachel Rain (Oval Room) and, the closest thing to a dud, The Ramblers (Cold,Cold World). Volume 3 is already in the works, and will, or so I'm told, at long last include a verison of Girl Scout Cookies.
From: Third Coast Music #31/120 August 1999
By: John Conquest
Back to top
Austin Chronicle review, Volume 3
BLAZE FOLEY INSIDE: BFI THREE
We're up to the third volume in a tribute series to the most famous singer you've never heard of. Surely, you think, a good idea is being beaten to death and it's time to end this thing. Well, this is supposedly the last of the series, but you'd be wrong about it getting tired; heck the first two volumes didn't have "Girl Scout Cookies", so how could it have stopped there?
Again, excutive producers Ryan Rader and Jon Smith have artfully woven a collection of the late Blaze Foley's pals and snippets of the local singer-songwriter's between-song conversation together for exactly what a tribute should be: an expression of love. With only a few exceptions - two particular - you've never heard of the singer-songwriters on here, and that's precisely what makes it work.
If you pine for the old days of the Austin Outhouse, this sounds like a recorded jam session from that late, great local dive. Not everything here works, but when it does, it's far better than any high-budget, all-star tribute could have been. Highlights: Gurf Morlix, in his typical oddness, covers "123,1234": the Blazettes, including Blaze one-time girlfriend Mandy Mercier, capture the silliness of "Girl Scout Cookies" perfectly, Deep in Cider twist the R-rated "There Goes That" into something that might belong on a Prince tribute; and Misfit Zion has an appropriately moody take on "(New) Slow Boat to China". But wait, there is some star power on BFI Three; Rader and Smith managed permission to include Foley's greatest commerical success, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson's cover of "If I Could Only Fly", originally on the Seashores of Old Mexico album.
Oh yeah: Check out those enigmatic hidden tracks at the end.
From: Texas Platters _ The Austin Chronicle - September 29, 2000
By: Lee Nichols
Back to top
Local Flavor review, Volume 3
"BLAZE FOLEY INSIDE" subtitled BFI Three is our hands. The third volume in a series of tributes to the songwriter who penned the Merle Haggard/Willie Nelson hit "If I Could Only Fly" and this disc is that exact version of Blaze's song. Like Volumes I and II, Blaze Foley songs are performed on this disc by Austin artists who are great songwriters in their own right, but who are giving their voices to keep Blaze's songs alive. Gurf Morlix, Cody Hubach, Jon Emery, Ponty Bone and others perform perfect cuts of great lyrical works. And The Blazettes, listed as performing "Girl Scout Cookies", are no less than 13 of Austin's female songwriters including the stunning voices of Julieann Banks, Sheri Frushay and Mandy Mercier.
From: Local Flavor Newsletter #4 - October 15, 2000
By: Sue Donahoe
Back to top
International Review (Australia)
BLAZE ABLAZE ON DISC A DECADE LATER
When Texan troubadour Guy Clark was making his first Australian tour in 1989 he suffered a shock on the eve of his final gig at Madigans Druids Lodge in Brunswick. Gregarious Guy had a few extra drinks that night after learning Austin singer-songwriter Blaze Foely, 39 and no longer holding, had been murdered by a man named January on February 1.
Foley, real name Michael David Fuller, died of a gunshot wound during surgery at the Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.
The prolific songwriter began his career in the Fuller Family - a West Texas gospel group - but many of his songs were never recorded in his life time. Merle Haggard sang the tune If I Could Only Fly at Tammy Wynette's funeral in 1998 after he and Shotgun Willie Nelson released it as a single in 1987. Now, 15 of Blaze's tunes have been re-incarnated on Blaze Foley: In Tribute And Loving Memory...Volume 1.
This time it's Kimmie Rhodes who honors Blaze with her cut of the Merle-Willie single while the late great Townes Van Zandt, who also had a few extra drinks at his Madigans finale, performs Wouldn't That Be Nice and the hilarious Springtime in Uganda.
The legend of Blaze is illuminated by a colorful cast - Pat Mears, Mandy Mercier, Cody Hubach, Tom Smith, Texana Dames, Calvin Russell and Jubal Clark (who had 20 minute talk breaks between songs when I caught him on the south side of Austin in 1978).
The 16 tracks and extensive liner notes makes this a must for collectors, especially those with Townes tribute Blaze's Blue and Lucinda Williams ode Drunken Angel from Car Wheels On a Gravel Road.
From: High in the saddle country news & gossip
By: Dave Dawson
(Dave Is also Program director for Nu Country - 94.9 FM in Austraila)
Back to top
International Review (Netherlands)
BORDER AFFAIRS Country Gazzette
In de vorige aflevering van Border Affairs ging ik even in de fout met het bespreken van nieuw werk van de tragisch overleden singer/songwriter Blaze Foley. Er zijn twee nieuwe albums uit. De eerste is een tribute-CD genaamed "In Tribute And Loving Memory, Volume 2", uitgeven door Deep South Productions (tel. 512-441-3045) met bijdragen van onder meer Richard Dobson, Jubal Clark, Sheri Frushay en Calvin Russell. Daarscheen genaamed "Live At The Austin Outhouse" op het Lost Ark Records label. Het betreffen opnamen van een live cassette die op 1 februari 1989 aan de muziekpers werd gepresenteerd. Precies de dag waarop Blaze Foley is doodgeschoten door de zoon van een bevriend alcoholist. Op het ablum staat onder meer " If I Could Only Fly", de song die Merle Haggard ooit typeerde als de beste countrysong die hij in 15 jaar had genoord. Blaze werd in het verleden door Townes Van Zandt ooit geeerd met de song "Blaze's Blue" en onlangs nog door Lucinda Williams met de song "Drunken Angel". Zie ook zijn website: www.blazefoley.com
From: BORDER AFFAIRS Country Gazzette - NR 292 - Maart 2000
By: Paul Jonker
Back to top
International Review (England)
Songs For Blaze, A Friend Of Ours
The "Blaze" referred to in the album title is, Blaze Foley aka The Duct Tape Messiah, an Austin-based musician who was gunned down during an altercation in February 1989. If you're familiar with the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard duet "If I Could Only Fly" [See Note #1] then you've heard at least one Blaze Foley song. A few months after his death a cassette featuring Blaze in concert and titled Live At The Austin Outhouse (....And Not There) was released by Outhouse Records. Selections from that cassette were issued on CD, bearing the same title a decade later by Austin based, Lost Art Records [See Note #2]. The previous year, 1998, Deep South Productions began releasing a series of tribute albums that, apart from one initial exception [which we will return to later], featured Blaze's songs performed by his peers and pals...and in a couple of instances, by the man himself.
Songs For Blaze is the fourth release in the Deep South series, and marks a variation in the material featured, with the twenty songs having been penned by those peers and pals in tribute to the Marfa, Texas-born songwriter. According to the album liner, "They were written for and about Blaze by the people who loved him and admired him as a songwriter and a singer." As for their vintage, apart from Patricia Belen's 1986 cut "End Of The Bottle" - Blaze was partial, the remaining songs all date from the year of his death through to last year. A number of cuts - eight - have already appeared on albums released by the contributors. Introduced by a Byrdsy sounding guitar, the best known is probably "Drunken Angel" which Lucinda Williams included on "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" . From the same "previously released" category, there's Richard Dobson's "Foley" and Townes Van Zandt's "Blaze's Blue."
Stylistically, the songs fall within the boundaries of Folk/Country/Blues. Steve Hopkins cleverly titled "Owed To Blaze Foley" recalls events from the 39 years of his friend's life, while John Casner's - who was responsible for the Outhouse cassette - performs "Straight To The Heart." In the latter cut, Casner recalls the "old man" Foley befriended, and for whom Blaze lost his life when he "put it on the line." Mandy Mercier penned the opener, "Poison Man," and in addition to being spirited, even fifteen years on, her interpretation reflects pain and loss that is still deep [raw even]. Later, there's another Y2K Mercier paean titled "Love Is A Comet." Although not credited on the liner, Beth Nielsen Chapman takes the lead vocal on the second verse of the spiritually slanted lyric to Kimmie Rhodes' contribution, "Our Father's Face."
Gospel-tinged the latter cut is stunning in concept and execution. In the opening paragraph I mentioned an initial exception in terms of the songs featured in the "BFI" - Blaze Foley Inside - series. The opening track on the first album in the series was the Jubal Clark composition, "Blaze A Blaze" and, fittingly, till the next time it also closes this collection.
This album, and the others in the series, are available on the internet from www.deepsouthaustin.com and also from that wonderful sound emporium in Shawnee, Kansas, Village Records. In life, Blaze Foley was very much a law unto himself - an enigma in many ways - yet the words of love consistently expressed throughout this collection are palpable. Although he had shortcomings, Foley was a man who honestly lived life for the sake of the song...and we should be truly thankful for his legacy.
#1 - Included on the album Seashores Of Old Mexico. When released as a single it peaked at #58 on the Country charts in late 1987.
#2 - Available on the Internet from www.lostartrecords.com and Village Records.
By: Arthur Wood (founding editor at FolkWax)
Back to top