Hailing from Denton, Texas, Slobberbone record and perform songs that bridge the post-punk music of such bands as Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and Social Distortion with the music of traditional honky tonk country music and that of Irish band the Pogues. Much of this music is labeled alternative country, a music that is rooted in post-World War II American country music but also embraces elements ranging from punk and classic rock to folk music. Slobber-bone’s members, however, have insisted that their music is rock.
The songs written by Slobberbone’s primary writer, Brent Best, focus on the revelry of youth and alcohol, as well as representing the despair of small-town life and unhappy relationships. Also the lead vocalist in the band, Best—with his gruff and raspy vocal quality—has drawn critical comparisons to the Pogues’s Shane McGowan, Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, and the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg. The loose and loud guitar-oriented musical style performed by the group has drawn critical comparisons to the recordings of Neil Young with his occasional backing band Crazy Horse. Slobberbone’s recordings have attracted positive critical attention, and their live performances are noted for the energy the band displays, conjuring comparisons to
Members include Jess Barr (joined group, 1997), guitar; Brent Best, vocals, guitar; Scott Dan-bom (left group), fiddle; Tony Harper, drums; Michael Hill (left group), guitar; Brian Lane, bass; Sam McCall (left group), bass.
Group formed in Denton, TX, 1992; recorded first album, Crow Pot Pie, 1995; attracted label attention at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival, 1996; signed with Doolittle Records, re-recorded Crow Pot Pie, 1996; released Barrel Chested, 1997; toured as support act for Jason and the Scorchers, the Old 97’s, and the Bottle Rockets, 1998-99; signed with New West Records, released New West Records debut, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, 2000.
Awards: Dallas Observer Music Award, Best Album Release, Country & Western for Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, 2001.
bands made famous during the peak years of punk music in the late 1970s.
Formed as a bar band in Denton, Texas, a city northwest of Dallas and Fort Worth, Slobberbone originally comprised Best, fiddle player Scott Danbom, guitarist Michael Hill, drummer Tony Harper, and bass player Sam McCall. They took their name from a childhood term for a dog’s chew bone. “I thought it was funny when we named it. I was sitting on the back lawn with Lee, our old bass player, and the dog was playing with this big ol’ bone, and we always called them slobber-bones as kids,” Best told No Depression magazine’s Jeff Copetas. The band originally played for free beer, sometimes performing outside a package liquor store in Denton. Their first paid performance netted the group $175, which they spent on beer for a party they threw for their friends.
After gaining popularity in the Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth area, the band spent $400 to record their first album, Crow Pot Pie. The 1995 album was intended to be an overview of the band’s capabilities that would entice club owners to sign them for one-night performances, but it ended up a regional hit album in Texas. In 1996 the band gave a standing-room-only performance at the Split Rail venue in Austin, Texas, during the city’s annual South by Southwest Music Festival. The Austin-based label, Doolittle Records, subsequently signed Slobberbone and had the band re-record Crow Pot Pie in 1996. Attempting to characterize the music on Crow Pot Pie, critic Jon Steltenpohl commented on Consumable Online: “Imagine Uncle Tupelo’s strange cousin with a Replacements hangover (and a bad attitude to match) and you’ve basically summed up Slobberbone.” Not everyone familiar with the original Crow Pot Pie was pleased with the rerecorded version. Dallas Observer critic Zac Crain wrote: “If the original Crow Pot Pie was like taking a ride through the backroads of East Texas in a beat-up pickup truck with only a handful of Merle Haggard and AC/DC cassettes, then the re-recorded version was like taking the same trip in a Volvo station wagon.” Best attributes the difference in sound to the fact that he and drummer Harper were the only musicians appearing on both versions.
The band followed up their debut with Barrel Chested in 1997. Recorded as a trio after Danbom and Hill had left the band and bass player Brian Lane had joined the lineup, Barrel Chested is noted for the more mature approach of Best’s songwriting, which displayed the existential dilemma of the drunken-party lifestyle. The album was recorded in Denton and Austin, but mixed in Athens, Georgia, by music business veteran John Keane, who had worked with the Cowboy Junkies and R.E.M. The songs on Barrel Chested feature such traditional instrumentation as dobros, fiddles, and lap steel guitars in addition to the band’s standard lineup of bass, guitar, and drums. Among the guest musicians on the album were Texas steel guitar and dobro legend Lloyd Maines, violin player Susan Voelz, and guitar player Michael Hill.
To support sales of Barrel Chested, Slobberbone hired guitarist Jess Barr and toured extensively between 1997 and 1998. The band played more than 250 performances a year with such alt.country bands as Jason and the Scorchers, the Old 97’s, Drivin’ and Cryin’, and the Bottle Rockets. The hard work resulted in many new fans outside their regional Texas fan base. The group signed with New West Records, another Austin label, in 2000 and released their third album, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, in the summer of 2000. Produced by Paul Ebersold in the Memphis, Tennessee, Argent Studios, the album featured several guest musicians, including Jim Dickinson on piano; Eric Lewis on fiddle, mandolin, lap steel guitar, and pedal steel guitar; Charlie Woods on Hammond B-3 organ, accordion, and toy piano; Scott Thompson on trumpet; Kirk Smothers on saxophones; Sean Murphy on tuba; and guest vocalist Patterson Hood.
The album was recorded in the same studio in which Dickinson had produced the Replacements’ seminal album Pleased to Meet Me in 1987. In a tribute to the Replacements’ obvious influence on Slobberbone, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today features the song “Placemat Blues,” a musical homage to the Minneapolis-based band that employs a chord progression from the Replacements’s song “I.O.U.” from Pleased to Meet Me. Rather than address their musical inspirations in the song’s lyrics, however, the song protests economic inequality with such lines as “Where’s the place at the table for folks like us?” In “Gimme Back My Dog,” Best sings the song’s title repeatedly before moving into the verse. According to critic Greil Marcus, writing for Salon.com: “The dog, it turns out, is the singer’s true self, there’s almost nothing of it left after the years he’s spent with the woman he’s talking to, and the only way he can get it back, the only way he can look in the mirror and see anything at all, is to beg.”
The album resulted in the band receiving a 2001 Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Album Release, Country & Western. The Observer’s Robert Wilonsky explained the album’s significance: “Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today is that Breakthrough Record every band dreams of, only to have it remain a distant, unattainable fantasy; it’s Slobber-bone’s Pleased to Meet Me, Exile on Main Street, Anodyne.”
Crow Pot Pie, self-released, 1995; reissued, Doolittle Records, 1996.
Barrel Chested, Doolittle, 1997.
Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, New West, 2000.
Dallas Observer, April 16, 1998; April 19, 2001.
No Depression, September/October 1997.
“Slobberbone, Crow Pot Pie” Consumable Online, http://www.westnet.com/consumable/1996/10.14/revslobb.html (July 23, 2002).
Additional information was obtained from a Slobberbone press release, July 25, 2000.
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