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Hey NashVegas, check out Jesse Dayton

By Jon Johnson, November 2001

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Around the same time, Dayton performed on Waylon Jennings' 1996 Justice album "Right For the Time."

"I went to Nashville and did this interview on 'Crook and Chase.' Me and Kris Kristofferson were on there. All of Kris' friends were watching it. That night while we were taping Waylon cut his finger cooking. So, I'm walking out of my motel room, and I get this phone call. It's from Waylon's producer saying he's got to be on this Willie Nelson tribute record ("Twisted Willie"), and he wants (me) to come and play guitar for him. So, I went in and played that cut for him, and two weeks later I got a call to play lead guitar on his new record. But that first day was especially cool because I spent the whole day with Johnny (Cash) and Waylon. That opened up a lot of doors immediately."

Dayton returned to Texas late last year because his work in Texas was increasing.

"Well, I just got so busy down here with the whole Texas music thing exploding. It was kinda dumb for me to keep two places. We do pretty well down here, and it's to a point now where we're starting to get a lot of offers nationally, Europe and Australia to come over and play. And with me and my manager down here, it's a lot better to run our label."

"Hey Nashvegas!" was originally recorded in 1998 for Justice, but just released almost one year after he put out "Tall Texas Tales" on a tiny Texas label.

Randall Jamail's Houston-based Justice label that briefly counted the likes of Waylon Jennings, Price, Willie and others before it closed its doors around that same time, stranding Dayton's record without a label until Dayton released it himself on his own Stag label.

"We licensed the record. (Justice) actually owns the masters. They might be willing to sell it at some point. We're kind of keeping our options open."

"We recorded it in Nashville in this old church on Music Row, Oceanway Studios. And then we recorded some of it at Willie's place (Pedernales), and some of it in Los Angeles. When we were recording at Willie's place we had the Dixie Chicks, Johnny Gimble and Flaco Jimenez."

"We also got Mandy Barnett to come in and sing the Conway/Loretta-type thing on 'Don't Take Yesterday,'" says Dayton, referring to the soaring honky tonk number that feels like the album's centerpiece.

The new album also features some excellent backing vocals from the Dixie Chicks on the western swinging "Panhandle Jane." At the time the album was recorded the trio was still relatively unknown outside of Texas.

"They were pretty hardcore hillbilly/bluegrass before they went mainstream. They're obviously great singers, so it was a great fit for the part. They came in and nailed their part in half an hour and were gone."

For the moment, Dayton seems perfectly happy as an independent artist; running his own label and recording the kind of material he likes.

"We're really focused on staying indie because we do have national distribution. When I first got away from Justice, I put out that little 'Tall Texas Tales' record. I made it at a friend's studio for next to nothing and put it out myself. And I've re-couped (the costs) umpteen times."

"I hate to use this analogy because it's not really my style of music, but I like what the rap artists and the hippy bands are doing. They're saying, 'We'll record our records. Keep your money, and keep your advance, and when we need you guys, we'll call you in to work this record.'"

As for his future plans, Dayton continues working on soundtracks and sessions, and is currently working on his fourth solo album, tentatively due in early 2002.

"We're in the studio right now working on an acoustic record. It's not gonna be like a folkie coffeehouse kind of thing. It's going to (have) fiddles, mandolins, dobros, banjos, accordions, tubas, pianos and all kinds of stuff. But there'll be no electric instruments. It's a lot of songs that I've written that I'm not going to try to push towards commercial country radio."

"I'm (also) scoring this indie film that's going to be at Sundance called "Wrecked," so I'm pretty excited about that. A friend of mine who's an actor/director named Lou Temple (is making it). I actually co-wrote part of the script, and I'm going to be in it, too."

And though the Road Kings aren't Dayton's main concern these days, he leaves the door open for more recordings. "Yeah, I think at some point we're going to do this real rootsy, stripped-down country-blues-sounding record. I never was into that kind of militant rockabilly thing. My rockabilly stuff was Johnny Horton, early Cash...that kinda stuff. I grew up in country cover bands playing 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' and I'd have a Social Distortion tee-shirt on. So, (this) is a natural progression for me.

"But it was the best stuff I ever could have cut my teeth on. When you're young and single, and you're playing music that comes from below the waist, it's a blast." -+

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