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Slobberbone - rock group - Brief Article

Byline: DAVID SIMONS

One day in 1994, Slobberbone guitarist-songwriter Brent Best rounded up 11 of his best songs and headed for a nearby studio with the rest of the band in tow. The idea was to make a disc that might get the band a few more gigs in and around their hometown of Denton, Texas. A couple of hours (and a few hundred bucks) later, the guys emerged with a finished product, Crow Pot Pie. The album wound up on the desk of Jeff Cole, owner of Austin-based indie label Doolittle Records. Cole liked what he heard. Doolittle released a second, rerecorded version of the material; critical raves ensued; and in a matter of months, Slobberbone's audience was growing by leaps and bounds.

Juiced by the attention, Best went back to work. His new batch of songs had a streetwise, hard-rock exterior, but with an inner core of death, doom, and drunkenness that reflected an unmistakably Southern perspective. Before long Slobberbone was back in the studio, this time with engineer John Keane at the controls. "We knew we wanted something a little tougher than our first album, but nothing too slick," says Best. They succeeded: Barrel Chested became one of the indie highlights of 1997. Its tube-driven, sledgehammer rhythm section and sinewy pedal-steel accents resembled some dream hybrid of Crazy Horse, Dwight Yoakam, and Dumptruck. Best and company have achieved that subtle balance of reckless abandon and literate storytelling normally associated with the exalted likes of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, or Steve Earle.

Slobberbone (the name refers to a dog's chew toy) kept up the pace in 2000 with their third album, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, recorded at Memphis's Ardent Studios with eminent producer Jim Dickinson on board. One track on the disc, "Gimme Back My Dog," even caught Stephen King's ear. In the novelist's best-seller, Black House, character Henry Leyden observes, "Every five years or so, another great rock 'n' roll song comes break-dancing out of the woodwork ... this is a great rock 'n' roll song."

Even though the band's personnel has changed somewhat over the years - Best and drummer Tony Harper are the only ones still there from the Crow Pot Pie days - Slobberbone's records have always had the same spontaneous edge. "Some people think you have to go in and do a record that will sound exactly like your stage show," says Best. "I don't agree. I've always loved making an album and not knowing what will happen until we're actually there working on it. I don't worry about how it will come off onstage until later on."

In classic bar-band tradition, Slobberbone derives its power from Best's and Barr's simple but powerful double-barreled guitar attack (Best plays a Guild solidbody into a Matchless amp while Barr favors a Gibson Les Paul through a Mesa/Boogie). "We'd like to get more going up there - we've had Scott Danborn, who plays fiddle on the albums, join us from time to time - but that requires more money, more equipment, and all the extra hassles. So we just compensate any way we can," which, Best says, seldom requires much time, effort, or gadgetry. "Like in 'Gimme Back My Dog,' instead of going from banjo to electric guitar as it does on the record, we just go from electric guitar to electric guitar through a [ProCo] Ratt pedal! I mean, if we can grab the crowd and create the right atmosphere by just hitting a couple of distortion boxes and jumping up the volume all at once, that's fine."

Slobberbone's success secret? Simple - a good set of tires. "We tour relentlessly," says Best. "At one point, we were doing over 200 dates a year, until we'd really gotten our name out there and people knew we were coming. We did it without mainstream radio or a major label - but as it turns out, we didn't need 'em."

David Simons is a New England-based music journalist.

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ESSENTIAL FACTS

Slobberbone

Home base: Denton, Texas

Selected recordings: Crow Pot Pie (Doolittle, 1996); Barrel Chested (Doolittle, 1997); Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (New West Records, 2000)

Web site:

www.slobberbone.com

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