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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Song Swap Works for 'Austin on Road'

March 04, 1994|RICHARD CROMELIN

They used to be called song swaps--a number of musicians sitting around and performing in turn. It's a format that's still going strong and at the Alligator Lounge on Wednesday, it proved a perfect way to showcase the fertility of the Austin music scene.

Titled "Songwriter: Austin on the Road," the show found four of the Texas capital's singer-composers lined up in a row of folding chairs. Jimmy LaFave, looking like a sensitive biker; Michael Fracasso, a slight, dark-eyed, Montgomery Clift figure; Jo Carol Pierce, a mischievous earth mother behind her electric keyboard; and David Halley, an earnest, blue-collar romantic.

If one musical strain recurred, it was the old Southern California folk-country-rock hybrid associated with Jackson Browne and the Eagles. But the performers brought plenty of twists and individuality to the music. LaFave's powerful growl instilled an urgency into everything he did, while Fracasso's lean, country- and blues-inflected voice lent tension to his tunes.

Halley was solid in a heartland-rock vein, and he stayed busy laying electric guitar leads into the others' songs. For Pierce, there seemed to be no boundaries at all. Her music is a free blend of pop and traditional elements, and her imagery is biting, funny and wildly imaginative.

This was too limited a sample of Austin's music to be called a genuine microcosm of that community. Call it a good will mission and hope for more.

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