Urban cowboys, The Porter Draw and the horror

by Chris Aaland

Many consider the 1980 John Travolta honky-tonk romantic drama, “Urban Cowboy,” and its accompanying soundtrack to be the low point of country music. I disagree.

Director and co-writer James Bridges painted an accurate picture of life in the south Houston suburbs in the late 1970s. I know. I lived in Pasadena in the mid-‘70s. Just watching that movie conjures up the smell of oil refineries, the feel of sticky air, the sound of that gawd-awful drawl, and the image of those big city rednecks I lived among. Faulkner would be proud of Bridges.

Besides, John Travolta’s “Bud Davis” character was a sappy dolt that you had to root for and Debra Winger … well, she was smoking hot. Our doublewide in a crummy trailer park three miles east of Rifle just had cable installed and HBO seemed to play “Urban Cowboy” on a weekly basis along with such awful swill as the Village People movie, “Can’t Stop the Music,” which amazingly won only two Golden Raspberry Awards. But I digress.

The “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack was full of cheese, but it was tasty. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, the Eagles, Joe Walsh and Bonnie Raitt found themselves on a two-LP set with Top 40 country schlock by the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Mickey Gilley, Kenny Rogers and what became the anthem of the cowboy-hat-with-pheasant-feather-hat-band and big belt buckle sect, Johnny Lee’s “Lookin’ for Love.”

Well yee-haw and flash forward 30 years and you’ll find Johnny Lee & the Urban Cowboy Band playing the sixth annual International Indian Finals Rodeo at McGee Park in Farmington at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. History and music critics dealt Lee a crummy hand. He single-handedly took the fall for countless country outlaws who were misled by the evil influence that disco had on all genres. Think of how dance beats caused Kiss to nearly implode with “I Was Made for Loving You” around the same time and you get the picture. We forgave Gene and Paul because, let’s face it, it’s a catchy tune. Where am I going with this? “Lookin’ for Love” has aged just as well. Not a one-trick pony, Lee was all over the country charts in the early ‘80s with five No. 1 singles. So dust off that old Stetson, find a leisure suit at the thrift store and drive on down to Charmington looking for love.

I’ve written about the rowdy Albuquerque country/bluegrass act The Porter Draw countless times in these pages, and they’re back for a pair of shows this weekend. On Friday, they play at the Ska Brewing World Headquarters, where there’s always $1 pints for ladies from 5-8 p.m. Fridays. On Saturday, they return to their old stomping grounds of the Summit. I dig this act: they bring the same irreverence and energy to bluegrass as Split Lip Rayfield does, all the while paying homage to rowdy country and Americana singer-songwriters.

The “Mark Twain of contemporary children’s music,” Bill Harley, croons at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday). The two-time Grammy winner received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities this past Monday. His songs and stories include “Monsters in the Bathroom” and “50 Ways to Fool Your Mother.”

Ska hosts its annual pumpkin bowling event, the Bodo Bash, from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, with half of the proceeds from beer sales benefitting our local United Way. Smashing pumpkins was never so rewarding.

Ott, Emancipator and Lucy bring dub, electronic and psychedelic music to the Abbey on Friday, with doors opening at 9 p.m. The Abbey also hosts another triple bill on Saturday, with Pigeon John, The Abilities and Three the Hard Way working the crowd into a frenzy with hip-hop and indie rock.

The Abbey seems to have found something with their free movie night. Wednesday’s theme centers on ghouls, ghosts and other ghastly creeps with the pairing of “The Shining” at 7 p.m. and the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at 9.

Steamworks hosts a rally and meet-the-candidates session on their back deck from 6:30-8 p.m. Monday for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper and his running mate, Joe Garcia. Not to take sides, but Hickenlooper got his start at the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, and Garcia worked wonders as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo. I enjoy craft beer and received my college education at a state school, so I’m anxious to hear what these two have to say. Since many of us get our local TV stations out of Albuquerque (thanks, DirecTV and the FCC), following Colorado politics is as cumbersome as trying to eat healthy at the fast food window.

I guess if Christmas ads start running around the time of Thanksgiving, other holidays should jump on the early-bird bandwagon. The Gentlemen present a “Nightmare on Funk Street” pre-Halloween party at the Starlight on Saturday night, complete with a costume contest.

This week’s Starlight slate also includes Salsa Night on Thursday with Dario and free dance lessons; DJ Double D on Friday, Musica del Mundo on Sunday; and Dave Luna on Tuesday.

Get down at the Summit this week with DJ Treazon & friends on Thursday, a Psychedlic Mojo happy hour Friday and Glass Delirium at 10 p.m. Friday. Scottie also promises an Insane Sunday with Morbid Justice, Flying Donkey Punch and Anmus Divine.

Also on tap: Barkadaeaus plays originals and covers at this week’s Ska-B-Q tonight; Black Velvet returns to the Derailed Saloon at 7 p.m. Friday; and FLC’s Bala Sinem Choir entertains at the Durango Farmer’s Market from 8-9 a.m. Saturday, followed by Gigi Love.

The year 1980 marked one of the last great years of classic country music, regardless of your feelings about “Urban Cowboy.” This week’s Top Shelf list examines some 10 other highlights from that year, all No. 1 hits:

1-2. Waylon Jennings, “Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)” and “I Ain’t Living Long like This”

3-4. Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again” and “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”

5. George Jones, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

6. Alabama, “Tennessee River”

7. Oak Ridge Boys, “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”

8. Kenny Rogers, “Coward of the County”

9. Don Williams, “I Believe in You”

10. Ronnie Milsap, “Smoky Mountain Rain”

Single bars and good time lovers? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.



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