Freddie Krc and the Shakin' Apostles – Paisley Prairefire (2000)

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by Nick DeRiso

Freddie “Steady” Krc’s work as leader of the Shakin’ Apostles is as crunchy and cool as his old boss Jerry Jeff Walker’s contemporary stuff is serene and settled.

The group had gone through several lineup changes since its inception in 1993, but by 2000 settled into a format of hard-rocking guitar, bass and drums to back Krc’s happy-go-lucky lead. Yes, like Dave Grohl in Nirvana, when drummer Freddie Steady stepped out from the Walker band, he picked up the rhythm guitar and did the singing himself.

A great place to delve into the Shakin’ Apostles’ fun New West vibe is this early overview compilation. “Paisley Prairefire (Best of 1993-2000)” features several tracks from each of the band’s four releases up to that point — including what may be their best, a live recording aptly titled “Too Hot for Snakes.” Four tunes, all with steel-toe sizzle, appear — the best of which must be the original lead-off tune.

Second guitarist Pat Kelly was due for carpal-tunnel syndrome after the workout on tunes like “Devil’s Hand” — with it’s growling “whiskey-whiskey-whiskey” verse. He equals or — hush, now — bests Jerry Jeff guitarist John Inmon’s original.

Even with all that ferocity, Krc (pronounced like “birch”) can turn as sweet as bluebonnets on tunes like “Walk Tall,” where his happy idealism matches well with a trippy little mid-section. There are plenty of warm breezes and purple sunsets to be found on “Paisley Prairefire,” even with a galloping rhythm section led by Waco Jack McVey on drums.

“I’m trying to create my own breed of Americana,” Krc has said. “When I was a kid, the bands I loved — the Byrds, Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield — took all these influences and mixed ’em up into something uniquely their own. And since I grew up with all sorts of music – Cajun, blues, rock, country, conjunto and psychedelic — that’s what I’m trying to do today.”

The instruments themselves add a certain timelessness to the proceedings. The band plays vintage Gretsch and Rickenbacker guitars in the style of George Harrison, Roger McGuinn and countless other jangly pop pioneers.

The Shakin’ Apostles‘ thrilling blend of the dusty Texas blues with the touchstone elements of ’60s rock underscores Krc’s musical relationship with Roky Erickson and the legendary 13th Floor Elevators. In fact, “In My Head,” also from the live show, was written in 1980 when Freddie was in an Austin power-punk combo called the Explosives and played with Erickson.

Krc’s gotten around, though. Now the leader of Austin’s Freddy Steady 5, he’s played with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters along with similar talents like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Doug Sahm and Butch Hancock, among others. Each seems to have helped forge his muse in one way or another.

Over the course of a comprehensive overview on “Paisley Prairefire,” he’s part idiomatic country rocker in the style of the Byrds (except more), occasionally Bob Dylan-ish (“Hotspur”), sometimes wah-wah wonderful like Jimi Hendrix — by turns hard-bitten and honest and passionately hopeful.

With Freddie’s steady hand, the thing works, though.

“No matter how many different spices we stir into the pot,” Krc once said of his music, “it’ll always be rock ‘n’ roll. You don’t need a Ph.D. in musicology to figure that out. But we like to change things up.”

See, Freddie Steady says he still has plans to get into raga.

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