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May 4, 1999

Roots, Rock, Reggae

Ronnie Dawson Returns to Southside

The Blonde Bomber is coming to a local dive. Dauphin Street’s South Side will play host to Texas rockabilly legend Ronnie Dawson on May 14th. Last summer’s show was exciting enough for Mobile to be included in Mr. Dawson’s itinerary of his current tour, which began in late March at Austin’s famous Continental Club with a party for his new album “More Bad Habits.”

Anyone interested in seeing one of the greatest live rockabilly acts shouldn’t miss this show. Ronnie Dawson has the energy of a teenager, yet the seasoned maturity to be the perfect showman. When he first started playing in the late fifties, the word “rockabilly” didn’t exist. Though Ronnie played on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, he never became as popular as other similar musicians like Carl Perkins or Roy Orbison. “More Bad Habits” was recorded on Yep-Roc Records in Chapel Hill and is Ronnie’s first album recorded in the States since the sixties -- he’s been much more popular in Europe. Like his previous recordings it is upbeat, straightforward rockabilly with a little bit of Texas twang. Many of the new songs like “FrimFram Sauce,” “Chili Pepper Mama,” and “Party Slab” have a rather spicy culinary connotations about them that makes me think Dr. Dawson likes a little flame to his BBQ as well as his music. On “Waxahachie Drag Race” Ronnie sings about things he used to do for kicks back in his high school days in Texas. Though he’s no longer a teenager (his sixtieth birthday is in August), Ronnie still has the shock of blonde hair that earned him the nickname “The Blonde Bomber” and the energy and intensity in his live show to blow any crowd away.

Opening the show for Mr. Dawson will be Mobile’s own Gretsch Rockin’ Cat. This will be his first downtown appearance since acquiring his new steel guitar player. I’ve heard that Gretsch has been listening to a little George Jones and Buck Owens lately, so you may expect to hear more honky-tonk in his sound. Be on the lookout for an album out sometime this year by him and his band.

Hopefully by the time school starts back in the Fall, enough people will know about some of the bands from Athens, GA (Elf Power, Olivia Tremor Control or Neutral Milk Hotel) that are part of the Elephant Six collective. Each of these bands is a good example of interesting music being made on independent or alternative labels these days. It would be great to see them play a show here in town or at least in Pensacola. I think it would do everyone a favor if more people in Mobile would check out some albums this summer by bands that aren’t played on the radio. With the easy access for checking out new music now, it’s past time for many people to expand their musical knowledge beyond inane bands (i.e., Better Than Ezra and The Goo Goo Dolls) that try to pass for “alternative rock” these days. Go buy something by Calexico, 16 Horsepower, Jennyanykind, Mr. Bungle, Sparklehorse or The Magnetic Fields and give it a spin.

-- Chuck Cox

The Harbinger, P.O. Box U-980, Mobile, AL 36688-0001