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Lone Star Sounds: ‘Tragic Songs from the Grassy Knoll’ reflects upon JFK assassination

Posted 12:00am on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013

Living in North Texas these past few months, it’s been possible to feel somewhat fatigued from the John F. Kennedy remembrances.

There’s no question the 50th anniversary of his shocking assassination should be commemorated, but the constant sifting of the past, even down to the granular level — watching the Zapruder film frame by frame, for instance — can take its toll.

Which is why Tragic Songs From the Grassy Knoll, a new compilation from Norton Records, packs a surprising punch. (It’s being released on CD and “grassy knoll green” vinyl.) These half-century-old songs, 16 full-bore country and hillbilly ballads from artists like Hasil Adkins, Johnny Dee and Homer Henderson, feel fresh, if only because they haven’t been subjected to endless replays in the various tributes and retrospectives.

Using Kennedy’s murder as fodder for old-fashioned weepers may strike some as tasteless, but a clear thread of respect and anguish runs through these compositions (nearly all of which feature either “tribute” or “death” in their titles).

To celebrate the release of Knoll, Top Ten Records in Oak Cliff, not far from the Texas Theatre (pictured) where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, will host an event at 2 p.m. Saturday, featuring a full preview of the album, as well as a performance by Henderson.

Online: nortonrecords.com

Texas Footstompers, ‘New Strings on My Old Guitar’

The Texas Footstompers describe their sound as “a blend of Texas country and Americana with a touch of rock and bluegrass,” which is to say, the music is very much reflective of the place they call home. Three of the four members — Lynn Cooper, Felix Guerrero and Frank Laux — grew up on Fort Worth’s north side, and vocalist Shelley Braach hails from Montana. The quartet’s freshman LP, New Strings on My Old Guitar, was produced at Dallas’ January Sound Studio and is refreshingly unforced. The dozen songs here are propelled forward by the musicians’ obvious chops and a gift for subtle melody ( After the Fire Was Out is a lovely, elegiac tune). A winning debut.

Online: texasfootstompers.com

Holy Moly, ‘Brothers’ Keeper’

Fort Worth’s self-described “cowpunks” Holy Moly seems to be embracing more of the “cow” side of that equation on its latest LP, Brothers’ Keeper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as the quintet ably marshals pedal steel, chugging acoustic guitar and bass lines and frontman Joe Rose’s wonderfully wounded vocals to create 13 addictive tracks. The band will host a record release party Thursday at Billy Bob’s Texas.

Online: holymolytexas.com

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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