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Songs from the Range 

by Mike Corrigan


Sourdough Slim. Sounds like a tasty sandwich, doesn't it? Mmm....a long, cold cut and cheese-stuffed hero on a narrow, crispy sourdough baguette. Well, it's not. The fact is, Sourdough Slim (aka Rick Crowder) is a one-man variety act with a song in his heart, a ready yodel on his lips and an accordion strapped to his chest. And you don't get chips with that. Instead, the Sourdough Slim comes with cowboy boots -- wrapped up in twill and topped with a wide-brimmed hat.


These days, it requires rather large cojones to create a live stage routine combining some of the most under-respected instruments and vocal stylings of the modern era. Most aspiring accordion-playing, yodeling cowboy singers would have a tough time in '05 impressing career guidance counselors - not to mention club owners and contemporary music-lovers -- with their entertainment potential. That kind of Western Frontier iconography began losing its currency back in the days of Roy, Dale and Trigger. So how should we size up Sourdough Slim -- as some dusty anachronism from a long-forgotten era of American mass entertainment? Or is he something even more astounding? Could he be the real thing, unselfconsciously without irony or camp or kitsch?


Well, if doing everything possible as a performer to get smiles out of your audience is an old-fashioned ethos, then Sourdough Slim is guilty as charged. Catch a case of his highly contagious fun this Monday afternoon at the Met Theater for a sweet little Valentine's Day something called "Cowboy Love Songs," featuring Sourdough Slim and the Inland Northwest's own singing cowboy, Wylie Gustafson.


Slim's free-wheeling, fast-paced routines tap into his formidable skills on guitar, accordion, ukulele and harmonica, which are then woven into a spectacle of storytelling, comedy and song. A consummate showman with one foot in the Grand Ole Opry and the other in vaudeville, Slim pulls out all the stops whenever called upon to engage and entertain an audience. He also sports a keen knowledge of the traditional Western repertoire -- the very songs that for more than a century have comforted riders of the range on those long months away from home.


Six Guns 'n' Sage is Sourdough Slim's latest album, his first new studio recording in three years. Recalling the sounds and attitudes of such country music pioneers as Jimmie Rodgers and Tex Ritter, Crowder puts his own unique brand on 16 classic and original songs, all while accompanying himself.


Slim's bill-paying alter-ego, Rick Crowder, was born in Hollywood, and while he spent much of his childhood on a family cattle ranch in the Sierra foothills, he knew even at a young age that his destiny was that of an entertainer. "My true calling as a cowboy was not on the range but rather, on the stage," Crowder says.


And so he developed his comic character while honing his musical and yodeling styles. Crowder picked up the nickname "Slim" while performing in several traveling Western bands in the 1970s and '80s. "Sourdough Slim" emerged as a way to meld his experiences into a solo act centered on the persona of a goofy, accordion-playing and yodeling cowhand. Since 1988, Crowder has been a hit at major clubs, festivals, fairs and cowboy events across the country. Career highlights include performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and ABC's Good Morning America. He's now widely known as "the most entertaining cowboy singer-yodeler-accordionist in existence."


I know, I know. How many of them can there be, right? Still.





Punk Authority -- Though they're based in Seattle now, the Authorities first formed in the dusty Inland Northwest punk nebula out of the shattered remnants of various stellar Spokane bands that once brightened our nights right here in Lie Lack City. The band's members claim to be refugees from former local acts such as Plugugly, Six Degrees of Separation, Kringe, Fatty Lumpkin and the Shirkers.


Speaking of the Shirkers, that local band of fine, upstanding young men will be opening a show for the Authorities and another former Spokane band who have since relocated to Seattle, the Mindless Thuggs, at Mootsy's this Saturday night.


Four years ago, brothers in arms Ralph (drums), Josh (bass) and Justin (guitar, vox) Authority discovered they had an itch to play loud, hard, fuzzed-out punk rock 'n' roll. So they scratched it.


"We found ourselves in Seattle with little better to do than rock," Justin explains.


Sporting a collectively adopted last name and infusing their punk with healthy doses of blues, country, R & amp;B, rockabilly and soul -- in essence, American roots music -- the band went on to play all over the Northwest, including Spokane. They play it straight, punk it up old-school-style and stab at the heart of boredom -- all with very little pretense.


"We love playing Spokane because we get to see lots of old friends and play killer rock n' roll shows," says Justin. "Spokane takes good care of us and we appreciate it. It makes us feel at home."


And according to Justin, his home live-music scene looks a hell of a lot better these days than it did just five years ago, when he first climbed over that fence into the greener pastures of Seattle.


"It's great to see so many bands," he says of the improving Spokane scene. "And there are so many venues out there now, and so many people going to the shows."


For his part, Justin assures us that he and the Authorities will do all they can to insure that bracing and fun rock 'n' roll music shall not perish from the face of the earth. All you have to do is answer the call.





Basnight's Thing -- Jim Basnight was there. In the late '70s, he and his band the Moberlys were one of the pioneers of Seattle's original rock scene. His high school punk band opened for the Ramones at the punk godfathers' first Seattle gig in 1977. He lived in Manhattan during the heyday of CBGB, actually staying for a time in Joey Ramone's Bowery loft directly across from the infamous punk club.


Basnight brings almost 30 years of rock cred to his latest project, the Jim Basnight Band -- and to the Blvd. Thursday night.


The original, Seattle version of the Moberlys was only together for a brief time (1978-79) and produced but one album of material (released posthumously in 1980) and one bona fide NW hit single, "Live in the Sun" b/w "She Got F***ed."


But Basnight wasn't still for long. He soon formed a new version of the Moberlys while playing around with the likes of Johnny Thunders, Alan Vega and other NYC music scene heavies. He spent many years bouncing back and forth between the two cities, never quite getting a foothold in either due to shifting trends in commercial music and bad timing.


His uncanny knack for being in the right place at the wrong time culminated in the Moberlys' (in a third incarnation) move to L.A. in 1985 at a moment when Motley Crue and Guns and Roses-style metal was at the height of fashion. He moved back to Seattle and eventually started playing again, this time in a group he called the Rockinghams.


Basnight's current free-form pop excursions (as leader of the Jim Basnight Band) have had the backing of a steady lineup for the last eight years. With the help of Mike Rollins (bass, flute, saxophone), "Wedge" Michaels (drums), Jim Knodle (trumpet), Susan Sims (vocals), Ben Smith (percussion) and Jeffrey Sick (violin), Basnight effortlessly brings all of his experience to bear, blending jazz, blues, country and acoustic rock into a brisk and satisfying live music cocktail, one that satisfies and leaves no bitter aftertaste or unsightly stains.





Publication date: 2/10/05
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