Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hard times in the land of plenty...

some got it all, and the rest - ain't got any

Hard times causing a return to string-banding of yesteryear

Tokio Store – Al Cinek cues up Omar and the Howlers, a full-tilt boogie blues band from Austin, blasting out “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty” over his laptop. Listen to this, Jim. He pops his fingers. "Listen, man."

The refrain cuts like a knife through the Sunday evening quiet of the old beer joint. “Some got it all, and rest – ain't got any.”

Earlier, he showed The Legendary the “line of demarcation,” an imaginary boundary that runs down the middle of the front porch of the 100-plus year-old venue that has served cold brewskis to thirsty Texans since at least 1872.

Twice denied an on-premises beer license because of neighbors who complained about loud music and hog-riding fools on Harleys, the Navy veteran runs the skinny down in ceramics in the dialect of high glaze, making it clear it's time to make a move, see what happens, bust it on out. Deal with it.

He's got that ornery look in his eyes, the one that says something is fixing to happen.

“Next Sunday is musician's reunion,” he says. “There ain't no telling who will show up.”

He points to a picture of Billy Joe Shaver that hangs over the bar. “Even old Billy Joe could show up and play all his songs. Wouldn't that be something?...He's overdue.”

The point is that no one knows, and that's what makes Sunday jams in country Texas beer joints and road houses fun to behold and even more fun to attend. It's a fine old tradition, this thing of going to the store in your neck of the woods - just to see who will show up. "It's just like when Deryl Dodd showed up here. No one knew who he was. They knew when he got up there and started playing."

Omar and the Howlers have said they wouldn't mind coming to play the Tokio Store, knowing its history of standing up to McLennan County authorities and claiming a beer license when the clique tried to deny it.

Hard times never got harder, but it sometimes has its moments.

“I walked up to him at the Republic of Texas Rally and said, 'Omar, I can't afford your band.' He said, 'Don't worry, Al. One of these days, I will play the Tokio Store.'”

It's the kind of thing those who ride Milwaukee iron would just love. This band plays Jimmy Reed songs such as “Big Boss Man” out of South Dallas and Deep Ellum, and Bo Diddley lick-log lolapaloozas off the scalding asphalt of the Delta and east Texas' piney woods, tunes like “Who Do You Love?”

“I strings 47 miles of barbed wire,
wears a cobra snake for a neck tie,
got a brand new house by the roadside;
it's made from the rattlesnake hide.

“It's got a genuine chimbley up on the top
and it's made from the human skulls.
Come on, take a little walk with me, honey,
and tell me, who do you love?”

There are other songs like “Mississippi Hoo Doo Man” to consider, plus the fact that Jimmie Vaughn and Omar have spent time together working out the kinks, running down the road and laying down the blues. Will they show up?

“You never know.”

One thing for sure, it will be loud. Jumping. The air will be filled with the gasoline-rich odors of Harley exhaust with its potato, potato, potato rhythms and the smell of hot oil, the dusty and vaporous miasma of the darkness on the edge of town - where anything, anything - can and will happen.

Be there – next Sunday, a week from today, at beer-thirty, eightish.


Toy run from Bubba's in Hewitt to Tokio - breakfast at 10 a.m., kickstands up at 11.

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