OVAL ROOM REVIEWS & ARTICLES
BLAZE FOLEY: Oval Room (Lost Art Records).
Austin Chronicle. Austin, Texas. Texas Platters. Oct. 22, 2004.
"Three and 1/2 Stars"
The Blaze Foley legend keeps growing. Oval Room continues the re-release of Live at the Austin Outhouse tracks, recorded in December 1988 at the late, lamented Guadalupe venue just four weeks before the obscure Austin songwriter was shot to death. And where 1999's 12-song CD reissue of Live suggested a quirky genius lay within the always jobless, often homeless local bard, Oval Room expands on and solidifies that notion. It couldn't be more timely. Perhaps it's the season, but two biting political tunes make the hardest impact here, the title track and "WW III." Although written for Reagan's Cold War ("If you don't hurry, sure enough, all these kids'll be grown up – be too old to die for you, so get 'em if you're going to"), the bitterness is even more prescient now. This isn't to slight Foley's tender love ballads or his sick, perverted sense of humor, though the visceral heartbreak that cuts through many songs explains why Merle Haggard developed a posthumous fascination with the guy. Meanwhile, Foley's utterly disgusting but hilarious ode to Idi Amin is long overdue for wider release. Bonus: This disc also preserves rare work by the late Champ Hood, as well as sound musical aid by other Austin icons such as Gurf Morlix and the Texana Dames. One hopes Champ and Blaze are jamming up there somewhere.
- Lee Nichols
BLAZE FOLEY: Oval Room (Lost Art Records).
3rd Coast Music. San Antonio, Texas. Oct. 1, 2004.
"Four and 1/2 Stars"
Had I ever thought about it, it'd make sense that John Casner had unused material left over from the nights (December 27th & 28th, 1998) that produced Live At The Austin Outhouse. Whether it was usable or not was an even remoter consideration, but while I have absolutely no quarrel with Casner's selection, tailored to fit as many as possible of Foley’s best and best loved songs into the limited space of the original cassette tape, it turns out that he had to sacrifice an even longer album's worth of equally powerful material.
The timely title track was, of course, written about Ronald Reagan, but works just as good, maybe even better, for Shrub, but the 16 tracks, plus a couple of intros, mix political satire (WW III, Springtime In Uganda) and deeply personal, melancholy love songs (My Reasons Why, Someday, Ain't Got No Sweet Thing), profound poetry (Cold Cold World, For Anything Less) and sardonic humor (Wouldn't That Be Nice, Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream). Discreetly strengthened by former Blaze sideman Gurf Morlix, with touches of electric and slide guitars, bass, vocals and, on No Goodwill Stores In Waikiki, drums, this, once again, demonstrates, 15 years after his death, why Blaze Foley was, and for some people still is, the gold standard of Austin singer-songwriters. - JC
"Kindling the Flame: Late singer-songwriter gradually is gaining the recognition he deserved."
Thor Christensen, Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Oct. 15, 2004.
Blaze Foley's up-and-down career finally was taking shape in early 1989. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson had a hit with his song "If I Could Only Fly," and the Austin singer was about to release his first live album.
But all that ended with a bullet from a .22-caliber rifle that left Mr. Foley dead at age 39. The details are hazy, but the singer had been trying to protect an elderly friend during a fight with the friend's son. A jury acquitted the son of murdering Mr. Foley, ruling that he'd acted in self-defense.
"When Blaze died, nobody knew who he was," says his friend Lost John Casner. "But his legend continues to grow."
Lucinda Williams immortalized Mr. Foley in her 1998 song "Drunken Angel." Lyle Lovett recorded "Election Day" on his last CD, and Mr. Haggard is talking about doing a whole CD of Mr. Foley's songs.
And now comes Oval Room, a new CD pieced together from recordings Mr. Foley made at the Austin Outhouse nightclub weeks before his death. The disc ranges from poignant love songs to comic ditties to timeless political tunes like "Oval Room" and "WWIII."
"He'd always say exactly what he was thinking," Mr. Casner says. "He'd confront somebody in a bar over any sign of bigotry. If people weren't listening to him, he could get ornery as well - especially if he was drinking too much."
Like his old pal Townes Van Zandt (who wrote "Blaze's Blues"), Mr. Foley was almost as famous for his binges as he was for his songs. He'd sober up for weeks or months at a time, Mr. Casner says, but he spent much of his life drunk and homeless, sleeping in cars or on friends' couches.
"In some ways, Blaze was his own worst enemy. At the time of his death, the Austin Outhouse was the only place that would let him play because of his reputation for getting drunk and sometimes disorderly."
Oval Room stems from two shows Mr. Foley played in December 1988 at the Outhouse, a long-defunct club near the University of Texas campus. Those concerts also spawned Live at the Austin Outhouse, which came out shortly after his death (and was re-released on CD in 1999), but there was enough material left over to create Oval Room. Guitarist Gurf Morlix and other old pals of Blaze fleshed out the stark Oval tapes with new instrumentation, and their playing blends in so well that it's hard to even notice.
One of the CD's most telling moments is "20 Years Introduction," where Mr. Foley speaks proudly about his reputation as a half-crazed vagrant. "Twenty years from now, I might be haunted by this talking part ... or maybe not," he says.
It almost sounds like a man predicting his own premature death.
"I don't think he had a death wish, but he wasn't afraid of dying," Mr. Casner says. "He was always going to stick to his guns even if he knew it would get him in trouble."
Oval Room is available at www.lostart records.com. Mr. Casner, Mr. Morlix and others will perform a CD-release concert Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight at Ruta Maya, 3601 S. Congress, Austin. $5. 512-707-9637. Proceeds benefit the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.