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10 City Run is something else

By Brian T. Atkinson, June 2006

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Hooking up with the Burrito Brother is a perfect example of the maxim that success is all about who you know. "Our former guitarist was friends with John Beland, which is how we made the connection," Frank says. "He and I became friends over time and played a few gigs in Austin. When the opportunity arose, he was the natural choice, given our sound and where we were wanting to go."

As for Rawls, it was purely happenstance. "We needed a guitarist, and (Casper) had just moved back to San Antonio from Helotes, (Texas)," Frank says. "He was in the area, and he was available - we're sure glad to have him. We were really stoked to have him on board."

It might seem curious that someone with Rawls' stature and significant experience - he's also performed with Albert Lee, The LeRoi Brothers and, notably, Sahm - would be interested in joining a fledgling outfit like 10 City Run. To the contrary, the Helotes native sees it as a natural fit for him at this stage in his career.

"They give me the freedom to do what I want, and so I am," Rawls says. "It's great. There's no parameters put on me at all, and so I get to explore some different avenues that I haven't been able to do before. You can't just jump outside of boundaries in some bands - this band hasn't been afraid to let me do that."

"I love diversity, people that play a lot of different kinds of music. The thing that draws it back to Doug Sahm is that he was from San Antone, and he was never ashamed to tell you that. It brings it all together for me to play different styles of music."

"Somethin' Else" is a Technicolor landscape of 10 City Run's eclectic tastes. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that the album is a nearly equal split of originals and covers. The band infuses songs like Warren Zevon's "Carmelita" with an accordion-fueled southern border feel and Tommy Duncan's "Stay All Night" with a gritty hillbilly swagger, while Frank's own tunes lean toward fundamental country roots.

"I grew up with a lot of traditional music - bluegrass, a lot of old timey music, old country," Frank says. "It was just always around me. It pretty much shaped my outlook and defined the direction in which I'd go. We play a mix of traditional country, but there are other influences like rock and blues. We were influenced heavily by the Bakersfield sound."

Like Hank Williams Sr. and other pioneers of early country music, Frank sticks to what he knows and has experienced for writing material. After all, fact is often stranger and far more interesting than the most elaborately dreamed up fiction. He admits to using a bit of artistic license, though, in songs like the album's first single, "City of Angels," in which the narrator's girlfriend leaves him abruptly for another man in Los Angeles.

He finds a Dear John letter that is "short and to the point," "It said, 'Hi, how are you?/Well, I found somebody new,'" Frank sings, "And I said, 'I may be a dumb ol' country boy'/Lord, it might be true/But them blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach boys/Don't do the down home things I do."

"I don't have any (writing) process per se," Frank says. "They come when they come. When I'm writing a song, it's usually based in events in my life or stories from people I know. Take that, tweak it, embellish it here and there, and that's pretty much it. It can strike me in the middle of the night, sitting in traffic, whenever. I just try to hone in on what's interesting about the story.

"Some of ('City of Angels (Dumb Ol' Country Boy') is biographical, but the part of the part about murdering somebody is not biographical," laughs Frank. "The part about the chick leaving was. I was reading a lot of Jim Thompson at the time, and my story seemed like the beginning of a Jim Thompson story. So, I just followed it to the logical conclusion were it a Thompson story."

Perhaps the best example of the band's synthesis of musical genres is its cover of Emily Graham's "El Camino." The song begins with a jagged surf-guitar riff, immediately establishes a forceful two-step country groove and proceeds to nod to Sahm throughout with a joyous delivery. The clever opening lyrics set the song's playful mood: "Well, Senor El Camino, when I say no, yes, I mean no/I mean no, I mean no/You're no Vinny Barbarino, don't go blamin' it/On El Nino, when I say no, I mean no."

Graham, a little known songwriter nationally but a regional star in the south, was the lead singer of an Alabama-based band called Buffalo Nickel. Frank wanted to include the song on "Somethin' Else" as a tribute to Graham. "I lived in Tuscaloosa for a while, and those guys were kind of big in the deep south alternative country scene," he says. "I first heard that song on mp3.com, maybe five years ago and thought it was a great song."

"She passed away in a car accident, taken too young. She was a tremendous talent. We're just happy to do her song. The guys in Buffalo Nickel - and Emily's family as I understand - are very happy to have us do it. Emily was a big fan of the Burritos, so the fact that her song was on our album produced by John Beland made everyone in that neck of the woods really happy."

The same could be said about "Somethin' Else" and its effect on the whole of Texas. It's making plenty of people happy. And thanks to a new video for "City of Angels (Dumb Ol' Country Boy)" set for broadcast on television, 10 City Run is poised to spread its good cheer to an even bigger audience. And that could be somethin' else, indeed.

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