If you know me well, you know my alma mater is The University of Texas at Austin.  Therefore, you'll also know that I'm hesitant to like anything to do with Oklahoma.  Now, there are a couple of exceptions.  For example, if you're reading this and you're from Oklahoma, I like you very much. 

The second exception is a cool dude named Hoyt Axton.  


Hoyt Axton (1938-1999)

Most people will refer to the late Hoyt Axton as a country and folk singer/songwriter.  Granted, there are some elements of truth to that, especially when you listen to his underrated solo records.  However, his most famous songs, which were recorded by different artists, are straight-ahead classic rock and roll! Here's a couple examples:

I'm willing to bet that you didn't know Hoyt Axton wrote these outstanding and famous rock songs!

Awesome, right? 

You know what Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night sound like.  But what does Hoyt Axton sound like? Well, as I said before, it's the country/folk variety with maybe a hint of blues.  He doesn't have a great voice (he's certainly competent) but when he softens his voice and adds a touch of rasp, as he does on "Grizzly Bear" and "Gypsy Woman" for example, he actually sounds a lot like Tom Waits.  His lyrics aren't like poetry, rather they're more like sketches of scenes and characters.  So, let's have a listen:

Axton was also a somewhat prominent TV personality and character actor. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, I Dream of Jeannie and Diffrent Strokes, to name a few. Before dying of a heart attack in 1999, he was actually arrested when police found about 500 grams of marijuana in his home! Hoyt Axton was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2007.



Billy's Live Bait by Gear Daddies

Gear Daddies are a 25-year old Minnesota Alt-Country/Country Rock staple.  Apparently, they still put on one helluva show.  Billie's Live Bait is their second album and it was released on Parlophone in 1990.  There aren't any gems here, however, everything is very listenable and well-written. Billy's Live Bait succeeds not because of epics and instant classics, but because of ordinary, likeable, small pleasures.  Such consistentcy makes this a worthwhile listen from start to finish.  It's a terrific album to have in your car for a long drive.  And now that I think of it, after a few listens, you'll probably find yourself singing along to "Stupid Boy," "Wear Your Crown," "Don't Look At Me" and "Gonna Change."  Minneapolis is a city that loves to rock.  But if your tastes are geared more to the Country side of the Twin Cities—like The Jayhawks, for example—Gear Daddies will reel you right in.

Billy's Live Bait by Gear Daddies



Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder

The title almost says it all.  Rising Sons also included future member of The Byrds and The Rolling Thunder Revue Kevin Kelley, as well as veteran session drummer Ed Cassidy of Spirit—he was in his mid 40's here and he sounds like he loves playing with a bunch of kids!

But let's face it, if you're looking at this page, you came because you're wondering if a collaboration between two guitar legends, Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, is worth listening to.  I have good news for you.  Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder is not simply worth listening to.  Rather, if those two names mean anything to you, it's essential listening.

The guitar interplay is fantastic and is what you would expect from two virtuosos.  But, this recording, which combines 22 tracks recorded between 1965 and 1966, is more than a guitar showcase.  There are a lot of worthy cuts on here, which are treated with both plenty of integrity and originality.  

Recommended tracks include: "If The River Was Whiskey," "Let The Good Times Roll," "11th Street Overcrossing," "Tulsa Country," "The Girl With Green Eyes" and "Take A Giant Step"—the latter two would have fit perfectly onto Workingman's Dead by Grateful Dead.

According to Richie Unterburger of the All Music Guide, "this archival release has value above and beyond historical interest." 


Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder