Old Stone Gang
It’s hard to believe that the Textones have been together for thirty plus years and are just now releasing their third album, recently signed to Blue Elan Records. Fans will remember the Austin-based releases Midnight Mission and Cedar Creek from the ‘80s which were reissued by Omnivore in 2015. This release, Old Stone Gang, essentially keeps their core sound intact. Leader Carla Olson says, “It sounds similar to what we used to do, but of course we are older and supposedly wiser (laughs) and I like to think, a little more sage.” Surely, the band took delight in the line below Carla’s credit as producer with “Recorded in THE 21TH CENTURY!”
Amazingly, this is the original lineup from Cedar Creek with drummer Rick Hemmert, guitarist George Callins, keyboardist/saxophonist Tom Jr. Morgan, and bassist Joe Read joining lead vocalist/guitarist Olson. During the ‘80s this was the L.A. club scene’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, complete with raucous rock n’ roll, and the inevitable comparisons of Morgan’s honking sax to Clarence Clemons. That sound is best typified on “20 Miles South of Wrong,” a Callins-Olson original, featuring a Morgan sax solo, and Allen Clarke (the Hollies) on harmonica and label mate Rusty Young (Poco) on pedal steel, banjo, and mandolin. Other racks like “Ghost on the Run” have a Springsteen-esque quality too.
In fact the album features several notable guests including Barry Goldberg (piano), Todd Wolfe (vocal), and the late Phil Seymour (drums, vocal), a former drummer, on “One Half Rock.” “One Half Rock” actually started years ago with the Seymour lyric (She’s one half rock/One half roll”) and was finished for this session with Carla on lead vocal and support from the others. Callins gets credit for the Chuck Berry inspired guitar.
Other guests pre-date the two aforementioned albums and had worked with Olson in L.A. Kathy Valentine (partner with Olson in The Violators, leaving for the Go-Gos) takes the lead guitar on “Walkin’ or Waitin’” along with bandmates from the early ‘80s incarnation – David Provost (bass), Markus Cuff (drums), and Richard D-Andrea (baritone sax). The Textones received early accolades from Bob Dylan, and had Ry Cooder, Don Henley, and Barry Goldberg contribute to the two releases.
“The Textones didn’t break up,” says Olson. “I got sick in December of 1986, when Cedar Creek was getting played on radio stations, and we were on tour. I knew I was losing weight dramatically, and having to drink gallons and gallons of water, When I went to the doctor I was diagnosed with type one diabetes mellitus. I had to stop everything I was doing, learn even more than I already knew about healthy eating, and learn how to take two kinds of insulin four times a day. It slowed me down considerably.” The Textones went their various ways. Olson later recorded with Gene Clark and Mick Taylor, as well as a few solo projects. She became a formidable producer too.
Olson describes writing with The Textones as much different than any of her other collaborations or solo outings. She says The Textones write as a unit, thinking of which solos would fit best in different songs. That’s how they’ve bridged the gap in years. Take, for example “Carly Jo.” Callins added a backwards guitar as well as dulcimer, acoustic guitar, and accordion. He sent Olson some, as she describes it, ‘Yardbirds-style ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ -type stuff,” delighting in how it fits so well together.
This is a hard-edged, intelligent band that could have been monstrous in their time. It didn’t work out that way, but they’re re-energized and are here to rock us again.
- Jim Hynes.
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