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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE

Texas Twang : Jimmie Dale Gilmore brings his folk- influenced style of country music to the Ventura County Fair.

August 27, 1992|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Wahoo and howdy, it's County Fair time in Ventura, which just may be Bakersfield-by-the-Sea judging by the number of acts this year poised to please the pointy shoe crowd. Several of the headlining events have a definite country flavor to them, from Conway Twitty to Larry Gatlin to Juice Newton to a two-day rodeo and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the pride of that place where many people have three names, the Lone Star State. See what I mean?

Gilmore is from Lubbock, home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and, for musical purposes, Buddy Holly. He grew up listening to country and the early rock 'n' rollers and eventually played in a lot of bands, most notably the acoustic Flatlanders along with Joe Ely. They released an album in 1972 which can neither be found nor afforded these days.

Relocated to Austin, the hotbed of the Texas music scene, Gilmore recorded a couple of albums for Hightone Records in the late 1980s. His last album for Elektra, in 1991, garnered a bushel of swell adjectives from the critics and Country Album of the Year award from BAM and USA Today, and Country Artist of the Year from Rolling Stone. A clever writer, Gilmore writes songs with titles such as "My Mind Has a Mind of Its Own" and "Treat Me Like a Saturday Night."

He will play two shows on Friday night on the Budweiser Stage at 7 and 9. In a phone interview from his home outside of Austin, Gilmore discussed all the fun he's been having:

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It's been awhile. When are you going to make another album?

In November, I'll probably start another one, and hopefully it'll be out in January, 1993. It's not really a deadline, but a preferred time. I'm just getting all the stuff together to make the best recording I can. I don't have to prove that I can write 10 songs. I may do 10, eight or six of my own songs. Also, I like every single person I've met at Elektra.

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What's the Austin scene like?

Lots and lots of stuff, there's music everywhere. It's always been like that. Austin may come and go in the public eye, but there's never a dry spell. There's a lot of writers and a lot of young people. I usually don't go out so much anymore unless I'm playing, and I've only played Austin twice this year.

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Is everything big in Texas?

Egos are.

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How 'bout those Cowboys?

They have a chance. I like for the home team to win, but I don't put much emotional energy into it.

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Who goes to a Jimmie Dale show?

Things have changed a lot since I signed with Elektra. I've got a whole new following. Before, I had a small, loyal following. I used to come to California and fill up McCabe's, but that's a small place. During the last year, I've been doing larger gigs like opening for Bob Dylan and John Prine. I'm flexible; sometimes I do a solo show or use a full tilt band. Sometimes I get the country dancers, sometimes some rock 'n' rollers, and in Europe, even the young people dressed in black.

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What was it like playing in Europe?

The Europeans have a whole different take on art. They're more into substance rather than the packaging, which Americans tend to be into. When I first went to Europe in 1982, I was surprised that I was well-known there, and especially so for my first full tour in 1986. Over here, no one notices who writes songs except for other musicians and writers. In Europe, they pay attention to writers, and they are something to become interested in. In America nobody pays attention to anything but the star.

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Tell me about a really strange gig.

Well, there were several that were in Europe in different countries. The fans there dress up in old movie outfits like the westerns. They associate country music for some reason with the wild West. They'd wear cowboy and Indian outfits, Civil War uniforms. It was really strange seeing these Indians wearing a full headdress and stuff like that. In Australia, they even had mock shootouts. It was the silliest thing, but no sillier, I guess, than a Renaissance fair over here.

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Why is country music always about drinkin', drivin' and cryin'?

It's working-class music and I think it's one form of catharis.

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How did you get started?

My dad was a guitar player, and he taught me the first few things. Later, I started getting interested in Dylan and Joan Baez, so I was mixed up in both worlds, pop music and country-Western. Most of the people I know went one way or the other. If you liked one, you hated the other. I just tried to keep up with all of it.

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How would you describe your music?

My basic roots were Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams Sr. and Marty Robbins. I also liked some of the early rockers like Elvis and Little Richard, and also the folk blues guys like Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy. I think my second Hightone album had sort of a slick Nashville sound, but usually I just follow my own taste and not gear it to the marketplace. My music is a hodgepodge of country, blues, folk, and rock 'n' roll. I've got sort of a nasal timber to my voice that people seem to like.

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Your bio says your music is "too country for country radio." What does that mean?

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