True Believers: “Hard Road”

KUTX’s Studio 1A is built pretty solid. It would take a pretty heavy rock ‘n’ roll wallop to test its limits, and recently, we had just that. The legendary True Believers reunited this past SXSW, and we were able to capture not just one, but TWO wall-shaking performances.

The brothers Escovedo. Jon Dee Graham. The True Believers were hard-rockin’, rootsy, and more Austin than the bat and the breakfast taco. Alejandro Escovedo formed the band late in 1982 when he asked his brother Javier to join him in a new musical venture. Both Escovedo brothers had punk-rock roots: Alejandro with Bay Area band The Nuns and pioneering country-punkers Rank & File, and Javier with Los Angeles act the Zeros. Former Nun member Kevin Foley came in on drums and Denny DeGorio on bass. The quartet quickly became a quintet when Austin punk-pioneer Jon Dee Graham joined up. The combined three-guitar assault of the Escovedos and Graham became one of the keys to the True Believers’ sound. Their killer live act started to attract label attention. Rounder Records was first, recording and releasing–with a distribution deal with EMI–the band’s self-titled debut in 1986. EMI scooped them up from Rounder, but a troubled recording process and re-shuffling at the label led to their sophomore album not being released, and the band being dropped all together. Javier Escovedo left the group in 1987, and the True Believers disband pretty quickly after.

Graham pulled up stakes, and headed to California for a spell, and became a sideman for folks like John Doe (of X fame) and Patty Smyth. He returned to Austin in the mid-90s, and released his solo debut Escape from Monster Island in 1997. Alejandro Escovedo, of course, has had a prolific solo career.

The year 1994 saw the release of Hard Road, an album that combined the True Believers debut and un-released sophomore record on one disc. There’ve been a couple True Believer reunions over the years, and we were darn glad to be a part of the latest one. They closed out KUTX’s Saturday at the Four Seasons, and helped get the whole party started Wednesday with a session in Studio 1A. The opened up the session with the song “Hard Road.” It’s LOUD, hard-rockin’, and there’s a deeply groovy break-down a little over halfway through. When the song, and the thundering applause from the live audience stopped, we were lucky the studio was still standing.

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