Monday 5 March 2001
Peter North, Special to The Journal
The Edmonton Journal
Live In Austin
**** (out of 5)
Here's a labour of love honouring one of the main players in the history of British rock music who lost a long battle with multiple sclerosis in '97.
Ronnie Lane, apparently one of the genuinely great guys in a world of inflated egos, was responsible for the Small Faces' smash hit Itchycoo Park. A few years later, he co-wrote some of the Faces' best material, including Stay With Me. Before eventually landing in Austin, he cut the critically acclaimed Rough Mix disc with Pete Townsend and earned high praise with his band Slim Chance.
Wheelchair-bound, Lane made the rounds in Texas, performing more often than not in acoustic format with a cast that included Alejandro Escovedo, members of Poi Dog Pondering and Rolling Stones sideman Bobby Keys.
Eighteen songs interspersed with candid conversation make for a total of 73 minutes of music that was made for all the right reasons. Culled from a number of Austin radio broadcasts, Lane and pals relied on singing and playing from the heart while worrying less about spit and polish.
Not that this is a sloppy free-for-all by any means. A perfectly set fiddle line rolls out the head of Ooh La La as a sprightly played mandolin line dances across the melody. Coupled with its rousing chorus, one has to wonder what Rod Stewart was thinking when he deferred on it on the first time around in the '70s.
Lane's slightly battered but still impassioned vocals drove tunes like the 20-year-old Kuschty Bye, Under The April Skies, which he borrowed from writer R.C. Banks, and The Poacher from his post-Faces days.
One moment it will be fiddle and accordion laying on serene instrumental accents, while the next turn finds a barn-burning crew led by the honking sax of Bobby Keys giving a song its juice. A zydeco version of Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell even makes it into this wonderful collection.
A fabulous 20-page
booklet and great cover art acts as the icing on this release honouring
a true talent in rock 'n' roll.