Brian Houser
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Brian Houser

Denton, Texas, United States | INDIE | AFM

Denton, Texas, United States | INDIE | AFM
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On his third disc, Denton's Mr. Houser, who made a living repairing rollercoasters at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, sticks to the roots of country, tossing in swing, honky-tonk numbers and a few folky Americana cuts. With producer Lloyd Maines on the knobs and the instruments (he plays just abou anything with strings), we get an honest album brimming with traditional spirit.

Mario Tarradell - Dallas Morning News


Recent years have underscored just how important the Texas musical scene is, drawing from the roots of American sound, and how both qualitatively and quantitatively relevant it has become thanks to a series of artists who have brought tremendous inspiration and energy.

Brian Houser, singer-songwriter from Denton, Texas, debuted in 1998 with an album entitled Never Look Back that already showed surprising qualities, which the subsequent Son of a Common Man (2001, produced by Lloyd Maines) reinforced, thanks in part to a level of maturity reached through intense and fruitful activity.

Three years later, Houser returns with unaltered strength -- again under the supervision of Lloyd Maines and accompanied by some of the most established Texan musicians, from Glenn Fukunaga on bass and Paul Pearcy on drums who form one of the classic rhythm sections from the Lone Star State, to the poetic and frenzied fiddle of Dennis Ludiker; from the great musical experience of Riley Osbourn on keyboards and Adam Odor on harmonica to the vocal harmonies of Terri Hendrix.

Structurally, you also have all the knowledge and sensitivity of the producer, a musician with a rare talent playing the dobro, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, and the electric and acoustic guitar. Based on the perfect blend of sound in Simple Lives, we can glimpse Houser's natural gifts as a composer, a singer with an expressive voice, a natural vehicle to tell stories that are both fascinating and banal. His songs make you relive in a vivid and simple way various aspects of life in Texas, deftly avoiding stereotypes and the commonplace, giving an overall autobiographic and personal feel. His story-songs, a mixture of country music, bluegrass and rock, will surely be appreciated not just by his fans, but also by whoever enjoys quality music.

Born & Bound for the Road, Jody Why, the conversational Tex and Dymple, Sally Bowman, One More, One Last Beer and Simple Tragedies are inspired by events and people that Houser has metabolized, turning them into splendid pictures of provincial life from the past and present. Standing Strong for You and Joy's Valentine are a testament to his affection for the loved one; I'll Take Texas Every Time (which could be the motto of every Texas music lover) is a delicious swing, while the only cover, Cowboy Song, arranged with extreme good taste, is an old single from the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Simple Lives is an album worth hearing and enjoying note by note, in my opinion it's one of the best albums of the year on the Texas scene. The website where you can learn more about the artist and get his three albums is www.brianhouser.com - AMERICANWEST.IT


Talk about a long wait. The last time we heard from Denton’s Brian Houser was three years ago when he released his fine debut CD, Never Look Back. Since then, Texas country has blossomed outside the Lone Star State thanks to major label-work from Charlie Robison, Jack Ingram, Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen.

But there’s still plenty of room for honest talent, for a singer-songwriter who isn’t afraid to sidestep the Texas cliches (bars, beer, wide-open spaces) and explore simple, personal truths. Mr. Houser does just that throughout the album’s dozen tracks.

He’s at his best when singing about his roots (“Son of a Common Man”), the plight of everyday people (“Song of the Workingman”), and the divine inspiration that keeps us going (“The Gospel Song”). It’s all wrapped in real rootsy musicianship and Lloyd Maines’ uncluttered production.

Mario Tarradell

- Dallas Morning News


Music-scene regulars were whispering about Never Look Back, Brian Houser’s debut, long before the album was even finished. Houser, a regular at Adair’s when he’s not fixing Six Flags roller coasters was the future of country music, they said, even though he was mining the past, looking to Waylon, Willie, and the boys for inspiration.

Maybe so many people perceived the 39-year-old Houser as a savior because he’s old enough to remember when country music was more than just bland 70’s pop with fiddles and pedal steel guitars tacked on for a bit of, uh, authenticity. He recalls a time before Nashville became a city full of hat racks with guitars and girls who look real purdy in second skin jeans and sparkling halter tops (never look back indeed). He also knows that nothing can save Nashville and its music, which has all the rebelliousness of a Methodist minister.

But that doesn’t keep him from trying. Backed by an all-star cast–including Mitch Marine (formerly of Tripping Daisy and Brave Combo) on bass and drums, Andy Timmons on guitar, Sara Hickman on vocals–Houser deftly combines melancholy, tears-in-my-beer laments (“River Run Dry”) and boot-scootin’ rave-ups (“Tryin’ Hard”). The result is an album that won’t save country music, but it might make people remember why they liked it in the first place, especially when Houser and Hickman team up on the Lynn Anderson classic “Rose Garden”. The rendition is stunning, as Milo Deering’s weeping pedal steel and a delicately strummed acoustic guitar nudge along the duo’s sweet-and-sour vocals. “Santa Fe Trail” is even better, adding the “western” back to country, boosted by Marine’s knee-slapping beat and Hickman’s breathy vocals.

At times, Never Look Back gets bogged down in cliché, particularly in the lyric sheet. Too often his words (“I been bloodshot on tequila/ I been gutshot on the whiskey and the rye” off “Tryin’ Hard”) seem torn straight from a country-music primer. But Houser sings the lyrics with such conviction, he makes you forget you’ve heard the same thing a million times before–then again, nobody ever got rich in country doing something brand-new, at least not since Hank Williams died for your sins. He also uses his crack band ably, leaning on it when the song isn’t good enough: “Long Lost Woman” would be nothing without Deering’s weepy fiddle and Timmons’ guitar. And when the song is good enough, the band’s even better. “The Dog is Mine”–with its “Keep the bitch/ But the dog is mine” chorus–could have been a novelty throwaway, just this side of Ray Stevens filler, but Houser and the boys manage to two-step around could-be, should-be parody. The band pounds out a juke-joint rhythm, while Houser’s one-more-for-the-road voice maintains the friendly, fuck-you tone of a small-town sheriff. Houser’s proof enough that country music stopped being good about 20 years ago.

Zac Crain
- The Dallas Observer



Suddenly, Brian Houser is everyone’s Next Big Thang, hailed as the latest country-music savior even before his debut Never Look Back hits stores, which might happen in July. Maybe it’s a case of jumping on the bandwagon before it leaves the station. Maybe country’s in such dire need of repair that any 39-year-old Denton boy (by way of St. Louis) with an aw-shucks delivery, a little sharp wit and a good taste in covers makes for a decent messiah in these desperate times. (If local boy Ty Herndon’s allowed to have a major label career, then Houser ought to be appointed head of the Country Music Academy.) Houser–a Six Flags roller-coaster carpenter by day, Adair’s journeyman by night–isn’t a bad horse to bet on. He’s got the kind of voice that makes a programming director get a little wet, a backup band that plays outlaw country like parolees and keeps the beat on a tight leash, and a pocketful of songs that will play to the purists and the revisionists. Indeed, the roster of musicians on Never Look Back reads more like the 1989 Deep Ellum outfield: Mitch Marine (formerly of Tripping Daisy and Brave Combo) on bass, Chris Claridy (ex-Fever in the Funkhouse, currently with Jack Ingram) on guitar, the Combo’s Jeffrey Barnes on sax, and Sara Hickman on vocals.

“The Dog Is Mine” is the should-be single, the kind of song that’ll get the good ol’ boys hollering and make their wimminfolk stare: “I got a message for the man who’s screwing my wife,” he begins, “I wanna thank you for takin’ her out of my life.” It’s the stuff of which great country’s made, a song about a dog that’s really all about, well, pussy. The record swings with slide and organ and a little lifted twang, and it’s better than most everything that comes out of Nashville; then again, so’s anything that comes out of Cleveland. Houser’s got a legit shot at something bigger than Adair’s, if that’s what he wants, but a word of caution: Houser ain’t no overgrown 14-year-old girl from Garland, and today’s overnight sensation is far too often tomorrow’s carpenter once more. No one ever became a star before they released their record.
–R.W.
- The Dallas Observer


Brian Houser’s professional life has been a roller coaster ride. Literally
“I’ve been working at Six Flags for several years,” Mr. Houser says. “I started back in 1976 in the Georgia park, then went to Missouri. My first year of playing music at the Texas park was back in 1978, when I had the house band. Then I bounced around for a while, and eventually ended up back here.

What began as a summer job performing at Six Flags has turned into the longest gig of his life: two decades later, Mr. Houser is the man who keeps the Texas Giant on track. “What happened was, I started working in the carpentry shop during the off-season to make some extra money,” he explains. “When they built the first wooden roller coaster, I got to work on that and help maintain it. Then they built the Texas Giant, and that’s what I do now.”

Mr. Houser has worked full time at Six Flags Over Texas since 1990 where he monitors the daily conditions of the track. “We basically walk the track and inspect it, then we make small repairs,” he explains. “It’s rough on the body, because sometimes you have to replace long sections of track and, unless it’s wintertime, you can’t take a crane in there. So basically it’s two or three guys hauling the stuff up there with ropes and making the repairs.”

It’s grueling work, acknowledges Nancy St. Pierre, public relations manager for Six Flags Over Texas. But it’s work that Mr. Houser handles with amazing enthusiasm.

“Brian’s a man of many talents,” Ms. St. Pierre says. “First of all, he’s an amazing carpenter. I don’t think people know that about him. And he’s on of a few guys who absolutely loves working on the Texas Giant. In the summertime, walking that track can be awful, and most of the guys dread it. But not Brian. No matter what you throw at him, he always seems happy.”

Although walking the track of the Texas Giant seems a far cry from the stage where he began, Mr. Houser hasn’t let go of the dream that initially got him through the gate. The difference is that instead of showing up at Six Flags to perform, he performs with the Brian Houser Band once he leaves the Arlington entertainment park.

“I started playing around Denton back in 1989 just for something to do,” Mr. Houser recalls. “I went through a divorce, and I wanted to get out of the house.”

“I was desperate for crowds, so I’d buy people a pitcher of beer if I saw they were going to leave. It usually made them stick around.”
It also earned Mr. Houser the moniker, “The Beerman.”

Although most members of his audience never seemed to recall his name, they could remember The Beerman. When fliers for his weekend shows went up, the crowds came out.
The Beerman played at a handful of small Denton clubs and restaurants, from Billy’s Brewery in a strip mall to the rustic Sunset Grill to the frat pack hangout of Fry Street’s Tavern of the Green. The crowds were diverse and enthusiastic; at times they surprised Mr. Houser. At one point, someone in Denton printed up “Beerman for President” bumper stickers.

“I had a pretty good run with those little clubs,” he says with a smile. “We had a lot of fun.”

His shows featured primarily cover tunes, which he’d lead the crowd in a sing-along. Songs like “Margaritaville” united the crowd in a musical group therapy. And occasionally, Mr. Houser performed original songs he’d penned, which usually were sharp-tongued clever anthems.

His fate as a local celebrity was sealed when he emceed Denton’s annual Fry Street Fair in 1996. By the, fans were asking for a tape of his music.

As he began making plans to make a tape, he remembered a drummer he’d seen who performed with Tripping Daisy and Brave Combo at the Fry Street event. So Mr. Houser contacted Mitch Marine, who also had played bass for country music act Jack Ingram. When Mr. Marine heard The Beerman’s tape, he heard something that went far beyond the jocularity of his sharp-witted compositions and reached deeper than his catalog of cover tunes.

“I knew that there was so much more he could do,” Mr. Marine says, adding that a cover band can only go so far. “For a singer/songwriter like Brian, that’s a dead end.”

Mr. Marine helped open doors, and last November, Mr. Houser released Never Look Back , a 12-song debut that has earned praise. In place of The Beerman’s antics are serious musicianship and full, mellow vocals. Boasting a host of well-known musicians, including Andy Timmons and Sara Hickman, this airtight debut didn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s been well received. I can’t complain,” Mr. Houser says. “A lot of artists put a CD out there and a month later, it’s dead. This has been getting in promoters’ and club owners’ hands, and that’s scored me some really good gigs. What we’re hoping now is that it translates into more airplay.”

So far, it’s been picked up by KPLX-FM “The Wolf” (99.5) and was ranked No. 28 on KSCS-FM’s (96.3) Top 40 Texas-produced albums of 1998–beating out such revered acts as Brooks & Dunn and LeeAnn Womack. His song “Roll Along” has found its way into the popular Sunday night KSCS Honky Tonk Texas program with Mike Crow.

“The fact that he even got is foot in the door says so much about him,” says Linda O’Brian, music director and assistant program director at KSCS. “We get so much music every week from people who want to be on the show, and you have to be pretty special to make the cut. It’s a very short list of people who actually get on the show. The thing about Brian is, he gets what we’re doing. He gets what this is all about.”

Ms. O’Brian credits Mr. Houser’s success so far to marketing savvy, superior storytelling skills and hard work.

“You have to know all aspects of the business and then do what it takes to make it,” she says.

“Brian is one of those people who has the wherewithal to do that. Those are the kinds of people who make it in this business. He’s made all the right moves. I would say that he’s primed for (a record label) to pick him up.”

The Brian Houser Band has performed for clubs and festivals throughout the Arlington-DFW area, playing at everything from hole-in-the-wall clubs to, finally, larger venues. From Deep Ellum to the Stockyards, the band has worked tirelessly to take its music to the masses. And it has not fallen on deaf ears.

“When I heard his disc, I thought it was awesome,” says Lane Arnold, theater director at the Bronco Bowl in Dallas. “I have the feeling that he’ll e up there one day.”

Mr. Arnold received the CD from Jeff Liles, owner of the HEIRESS aesthetic label that released Mr. Houser’s disc. He immediately told Mr. Liles that he wanted Mr. Houser to play the club.
“I just see him as someone who has what it takes. He’s the kind of act who can play in front of thousands of people. He’s got the talent,” Mr. Arnold says.

He was so convinced of Mr. Houser’s ability that hired the band to open the show for Billy Ray Cyrus last month, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“He went over really well. I think anyone who likes Texas country music is going to like Brian’s music. I can see having him open for people like Robert Earl Keen or Pat Green or Jerry Jeff Walker. I don’t have any doubts that he’s got what it takes,” Mr. Arnold says.

There are days, of course, when Mr. Houser doesn’t feel like he’s got what it takes. He has worked hard in a business that is unpredictable at best, one where politics and connections are often more important than talent.
Monetary returns on self-financed albums are slow in coming, and oftentimes the small club gigs barely pay enough to cover the gas it takes to get there.

Nashville’s scene is in turmoil and recent layoffs don’t’ look good for the country music scene overall. But Mr. Arnold says in spite of the obstacles, he sees a bright future for Mr. Houser.
“The cream always rises to the top. I think he’ll find a way,” Mr. Arnold says.

Like most success stories, that way is going to involve more of what he’s already pumped into his music–time and hard work.

“Brian has worked so hard, and he’s so good that you just want to see him do well,” says Ms. St. Pierre. “He’s dropped every penny he has into this CD. He is busting so hard to make it work. I think he has such a passion for what he does, and that’s what keeps it all going.”

Ms. St. Pierre said they have discussed the possibility of having the Brian Houser Band perform at Six Flags but, unlike his previous music experience there, he’d be opening for major country acts on the Music Mill Amphitheatre stage.

“When we hear him, we can’t help but just be so proud of him,” she says. “I think he’s incredible. And of course, he’s the best ambassador for Six Flags that we could ask for.”

Mr. Houser is hopeful for his musical future while at the same time downplaying the magnitude of his talent. He has been featured on WFAA-TV’s (Channel 8) Texas Tales, and next month opens a show for Willie Nelson in Hillsboro. The band is also slated to play the Main Street Fort Worth Festival and the Richardson Wildflower Festival.

“If nothing else, this CD scored me a gig with Willie Nelson, which is like a dream come true,” Mr. Houser says. “Who knows what will happen. I just keep thinking if I get it out to enough people that maybe one day we’ll get somewhere with it.”

- Arlington Morning News


Discography

Never Look Back - 1998
1. River Run Dry
2. Long Lost Woman
3. Someone Like You
4. Santa Fe Trail
5. Harvest
6. To Hold On To You
7. The Dog Is Mine
8. Eyes of a Stranger
9. Roll Along
10. Tryin' Hard
11. Rose Garden
12. Makin' Me Blue

Son of a Common Man - 2001
1. Son of a Common Man
2. County Line Road
3. Something You've Got
4. Song of the Workingman
5. Never Look Back
6. Stranger in This Town
7. Cryin' Again
8. Flying Machine
9. See Your Soul
10. Shipwrecked
11. The Gospel Song
12. Last of the Outlaws

Simple Lives - 2004
1. Born & Bound to the Road
2. Jody Why
3. I'll Take Texas Every Time
4. Simple Tragedies
5. Sally Bowman
6. One More, One Last Beer
7. Tex and Dymple
8. Standing Strong
9. Cowboy Song
10. Lonesome Old Freight Train
11. A Little Ahead
12. Joy's Valentine

Photos

Bio

Brian Houser was born in St. Louis, Missouri. But, his roots grew deep in the country as he was raised in the rural Missouri countryside, just south of the city near the town of Antonia. The youngest of four children born to Brant and Jane, Brian grew up in a small house that his parents built with their own hands.

Brant and Jane Houser were both actively interested in music and always had a wealth of instruments around the house while the children were growing up. This opportunity for musical exploration, combined with the musical interests of his older brother Doug, were to be the seeds that later would germinate into a musical career for Brian. In 1975, Doug took Brian to a Kris Kristofferson concert. This event was a turning point musically for Brian as he finally found a form of country music that spoke openly, honestly, and artistically about life and living. This would open the door to other legendary favorites, most notably Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash.

A carpenter by trade, music has always been a form of release and celebration for Brian. Usually every performance has been preceded by a forty-hour workweek and singing from a working man’s perspective fits his core belief that country music should be a true reflection of common people and their simple lives. In 1998, Brian Houser released his first CD, the critically acclaimed “Never Look Back.“ It was produced at the demand of his loyal followers in his hometown of Denton, Texas and documents his emotions of a failed 10- year marriage. The attention garnished by this work led to performances with Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Keen and, most notably Brian’s musical hero, Willie Nelson.

For the second CD, “Son of a Common Man”, Brian was able to secure the legendary Lloyd Maines to not only produce the CD but also to play pedal steel and a wide assortment of other musical instruments. “Son of a Common Man,” with its tribute song to Brant Houser, received great reviews for the quality of the songwriting and the production.

The Houser/Maines combination is currently being repeated on the third CD, “Simple Lives.” Like his previous work, these original songs reflect his long-standing Texas heritage and his connection with the common man that has been the foundation of country music for generations. “Simple Lives” was released in November 2004 on the Yippee Records label.