site logo

Derailers Biography

Last updated: 01/27/2004 03:23:34 AM

A lot of trains have jumped the tracks of late, but Austin's hard-driving Derailers have not only stayed the course, they've stoked the boiler and gone full-steam-ahead. On their second burnt offering to Sony Nashville's Lucky Dog altar (and fifth studio record overall), these rump-shakin' roadhogs continue their relentless search for that mythical Golden Crossroads where--on the best of all possible days--the likes of Buck Owens, Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins and The Beatles would all hook up and kick that thang around. And they decided to call the biscuit "Genuine" (pronounced 'jen-you-WHINE') for the simple reason that that's just exactly what it is...

It's a gross understatement to say that an awful lot has happened since The Derailers made their label debut for Lucky Dog with "Here Come The Derailers." Released on the previously-innocuous date of September 11, 2001, "Here Come the Derailers" (like many, many aspects of our lives) was relegated to the margins by that day's horrific events even before the first record store manager could turn the key to open shop.

Thankfully, the world kept turning, life in general gradually approached something resembling pre-9/11 days, "Here Come..." corralled across-the-board critical acclaim, and The Derailers continued to crank out their magnificent, inspired blend of country, pop and rock'n'roll (sharply-informed by the classics of those genres) at the grueling rate of about 250 dates per year. But when the band returned to the studio to record "Genuine," the imprint of that fateful day was impossible to ignore.

"Things were getting pretty crazy out there," says lead singer Tony Villanueva, "and when that happens, you gotta just settle down with the basics and take stock of what really matters. We consciously went about making an upbeat, positive record that reflected that feeling of getting comfort from simple things."

To be sure, 'upbeat' and 'positive' have been hallmarks of The Derailers' work ever since they were co-founded by boyhood pals Villanueva and lead guitarist/singer Brian Hofeldt in Portland, Oregon back in 1994. The group really took root in Austin the following year, but if their near-constant touring has been heck on rhythm sections, Tony and Brian feel they have their most flexible unit yet with Ed Adkins pluckin' the bass and rock-steady Scott Matthews kickin' the cans.

For "Genuine," the band has again called upon "Here Come The Derailers" producer Kyle Lehning, a savvy studio wizard who's worked with such luminaries as Chuck Berry, Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette and George Jones.

Befitting a combo known for its high-energy road work, "Genuine" most often sports a spontaneous "live" feel, but when the time comes to get extra wiggy, low-down, or even down-right pretty, the boys ain't too proud to spread the court and augment the sound with grace notes from A-list sessioneers like keyboardist John Jarvis, steel guitarists Dan Dugmore and Bruce Bouden and fiddle-king Aubrey Haynie.

The resulting disc is at once unmistakably The Derailers and the group's most adventurous and varied outing to date.

Longtime fans of the band's mastery of giddy-up honky-tonkers (which dominated the Dave Alvin-produced "Jackpot," "Reverb Deluxe" and "Full Western Dress") will still find plenty of sassy high-steppers here: the Buck-ified "Take It Back," the stuttering, manic "Boomerang Heart," the disarmingly UN-hip "Uncool" and the instrumental workout on the Buckaroos' own instrumental evergreen, "The Happy Go Lucky Guitar."

But they'll also find two drop-dead-gorgeous showcases for Tony's enviable vocal stylings--the tender, Orbison-esque "Alone With You" and the sweeping, heart-rending "Whole Other World," PLUS the driving, hip-shaking country-rocker "The Way To My Heart," the bordertown steam of "Leave A Message, Juanita," and a pair of those patented Derailer hybrids that Hofeldt calls "our Bakerpool/Liversfield thing"--the snazzy "Genuine" and the splendid, Merseybeat garage-rock of "Scratch My Itch."

Stroll on out with the nutty, tongue-in-cheek salute to The King ("I Love Me Some Elvis") and a sweet, original country gospel biscuit ("The Wheel"), and you've pretty much toured the many and varied haunts which have combined to shape The Derailers' unique, ebullient sound.

Amid their relentless touring, tracking down enviable duds and generally spreading the good word with unflagging cheer, The Derailers took a brief sidetrack last year to chip in on Texas Music Round Up Records' tribute to Owens, "Happy Birthday, Buck". An outgrowth of the Buck Owens Birthday Parties which have been held at Austin's fabled Continental Club every year since 1992, the disc spreads the joy even more than one would otherwise expect by donating a portion of the proceeds to the Children's Advocacy Center of Austin, Texas. Our Dear Boys' offering to this all-star confab was a sterling rendition of "Under Your Spell."

"Tony'd had pneumonia real bad, so we were the last people to record for that project," Hofeldt recalls. "As a result, it ended up that they didn't have a shuffle on that record, and for us, heck, we cut our teeth on that kinda stuff. I mean, we can do ANY Buck Owens song--not saying we're the KINGS of that, necessarily, but we are flexible, and "we do know Buck..."

They do, indeed. And, as "Genuine" makes perfectly clear, these self-confessed "honky tonk door-to-door salesmen" also know Merle, Marty, Jerry Lee, Elvis, The Big O, The Fab Four, and‹best of all‹how to create a "Genuine," rump-thumpin,' shindiggin,' hullaballooin' hoe-down. It's right here in your hands, folks; let it go to work for ya.