Quemado, Texas: population 320. If you found yourself on the Mexican border just south of Del Rio, you would probably be in Quemado. If it were 1970, you could find Jon Dee Graham playing piano in the local church. That is where his music career started at the age of 10.
At 13, Graham got his first gig in a band and two things became clear: First, he realized that playing bass in a roots band made him a whole lot cooler than playing piano in church; second, he discovered that playing the six string guitar was where his heart belonged. He spent his teens listening to pirate Mexican radio stations that cluttered the airwaves with their border music mixed with pop hits. There was one English station that came in, KMAC out of San Antonio, and it was their policy to play anything that was loud. To a teenager in Quemado, the hard rock guitar songs of the seventies gave him lots to learn, and the early punk rock that started finding its way along the airwaves of KMAC gave him lots of inspiration.
At 18, he headed for Austin to attend the University of Texas. It wasn't long before he formed the band the Skunks. The band began to open up for the Ramones, the Clash and Jon Cale. Next came the True Believers that paired Graham with Alejandro Escovedo. Together they spawned a sound that became known as alt-country. More long, wild tours with other early roots-rockers like Los Lobos developed, and a major record deal arrived.
Graham's latest release is comprised of all Austin musicians including Rafael Gayol (drums), George Reiff (bass) and Michael Ramos (organ/keyboards). Patty Griffin joins Graham on the duet "Look Up."
Web: www.newwestrecords.com or (323) 653-1338
This review is copyright © 1999 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.