True Believers

If enthusiastic press and the praise of your fellow musicians were all it took to become a rock star, the True Believers would have been one of the biggest American bands of the 1980s. Blending a tightly woven three-guitar attack and passionate songwriting with a punk rocker's love of pure energy and the sonic firepower of a hard rocker, the True Believers were heroes in their hometown of Austin, TX, and often shared stages with some of the most-respected bands of their day. However, their unique sound was a bit tricky to translate to disc, and by the time they'd finally managed to make it work, the recording was fated to not see the light of day until years after the band's breakup.
True Believers formed in Austin, TX, near the end of 1982 by Alejandro Escovedo. Escovedo had been a founding member of the pioneering San Francisco punk band the Nuns (who opened for the Sex Pistols on their final show of their 1978 American tour), backed up New York new wave artist Judy Nylon, and played in the pioneering country-punk band Rank & File. After a lengthy tour supporting Rank & File's first album, Escovedo quit the band and invited his brother, Javier Escovedo, to join him in forming a more rock-oriented project in Austin. Javier also had roots in the early West Coast punk scene as a member of the Zeros, and had blossomed into a promising songwriter when he got the call to join up with his older brother. Joining the Escovedo brothers, who traded off on vocals and guitar, were drummer Kevin Foley, who'd been a member of the Nuns with Escovedo, and bassist Denny DeGorio, originally from San Francisco. Jon Dee Graham, an Austin singer and guitarist who'd been an early figure on the Texas punk scene as a member of the Skunks and later played with polished new wavers the Lift, was invited to sit in with the band at an early show, and soon became a full-fledged member of the group.
True Believers quickly developed a potent reputation on the Texas club scene and were soon opening shows for Los Lobos, Green on Red, Love Tractor, and Rain Parade. The band was eager to make an album, but major label A&R reps seemed unsure about the group's commercial prospects. One label was ready to commit, the watershed roots music label Rounder Records, who had begun dipping their toes in rock & roll a few years earlier with George Thorogood. Rounder was not able to offer the band a large advance and the group's self-titled debut album, released in 1986, was recorded in less than a week for under ten thousand dollars. While the results were a bit rough, they were good enough to attract the attention of EMI-America, a major label that had entered into a distribution agreement with Rounder. EMI-America picked up distribution of True Believers and bought out the band's contract, promising them a bigger budget and a major promotional push for their second album. The band went into the studio in early 1987 with producer Jeff Glixman, who'd recently scored a major chart hit with the first Georgia Satellites album. Glixman saw potential in the group, but also insisted that a different rhythm section be used for the recording session; this led to a major rift within the group and before long, both Foley and DeGorio were out of the band. The second album was a far stronger representation of the True Believers than the debut, but shortly after it was completed, EMI-America's parent company decided to fold the label into another affiliated company, Manhattan Records, and much of EMI-America's roster was dropped, including the True Believers. The second album was pulled from the release schedule only two weeks before it was scheduled to ship, and the label's asking price for the master tapes was far more than the band could afford to pay. The band struggled on for a time, playing live shows with Hector Muñoz on drums and J.D. Foster on bass, but in late 1987, Javier Escovedo decided to quit the group and True Believers called it quits shortly afterward.
Hard Road
After True Believers broke up, Alejandro Escovedo went on to a career as a solo singer and songwriter, releasing a handful of critically acclaimed albums, as well as playing with glam-punk firebrands Buick MacKane and Texas singer/songwriter supergroup the Setters. Javier Escovedo signed on as guitarist with Will & the Kill, and later worked with the bands the Lost and Sacred Hearts. Jon Dee Graham worked as a sideman with John Doe, Simon Bonney, the Gourds, and Calvin Russell, and his song "One Moment to Another" was recorded by Patty Smyth. In 1994, Rykodisc released a True Believers retrospective CD, Hard Road, which featured the band's entire recorded output, including the unreleased second album.

The Hard Pans

Shed Rock. Low/No Budget Music for any alignment.

A couple Gourds, a Gourds sound guy and some other dude.

Frank Smith

Despite what you might guess from their name, Frank Smith is a band, not a solo act, and no one in the band is named either "Frank" or "Smith." Instead, Frank Smith is six guys who play country-infused indie rock with smarts and an emotionally ragged edge. Frank Smith was formed by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Aaron Sinclair, who was born in Texas but later transplanted to Boston, where he became a critic's favorite as the leader of the group Drexel. Sinclair later became drummer with indie noisemakers the Lot Six. While busy with the Lot Six, Sinclair began writing some country-influenced songs and assembled a band to play them, featuring Scott Toomey of Eyes Like Knives on guitar, fellow Lot Six member Julian Cassanetti on keyboards, Jon Lammi on bass, and Jesse Kramer (son of Aerosmith's Joey Kramer) on drums. Calling themselves LaGuardia, the group released a self-titled album in 2002, only to discover that another group was already using the name LaGuardia. Sinclair coined the name Frank Smith, telling a reporter, "We were getting tired of trying to think of clever or cool band names, and it turned into, 'What's the most monotonous, everyday-Joe name you could think of?'" By the time Frank Smith released 2004's Burn This House Down, their first disc under their new name, the group had experienced some personnel changes -- Drew Roach, formerly of Stray Bullets, replaced Kramer on drums, and fellow Lot Six alumni Dan Burke took over for Lammi on bass. Frank Smith's 2005 release Think Farms was named one of the ten best albums of the year by the Boston Phoenix, and Boston's Weekly Dig gave a similar accolade to 2006's Red on White. During this period, Cassanetti left the group (Toomey began dividing his time between guitar and keyboards), and pedal steel guitarist Steve Malone and Brett Saiia on banjo joined the band to shore up their country sound. In late 2006, former Blake Babies leader Juliana Hatfield heard Frank Smith and was impressed enough that she not only signed the group to her Ye Olde Records label to release their album Heavy Handed Peace and Love, but invited the band to collaborate with her on an EP, Sittin' in a Tree..., both of which were released on May 29, 2007. In the spring of 2007, Frank Smith pulled up stakes and relocated from Boston to Austin in Sinclair's home state of Texas, where they arrived in time to play a showcase at that year's South by Southwest Music Conference

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