Finally the good folks at TAR PIT GRAPE TIRE RECORDS have released the long awaited PETE LABONNE anthology c.d. collection. An excellent follow up to the JAKE SMITTHENS best of thing they put out last year. Well, it’s all here and a lot more (hats off to whoever excavated and compiled this balling monster) including remixes, dance versions, demos, outakes, oneoffs, live versions, long lost acetates, wing-it’s, warts n all mistakes, duets, and sound scetches of some of his lesser and better known hits. lf that’s not enough to remortgage your home so you can afford this fridge-sized fold out (26 c.d.’s in all) consider the packaging. No expense was spared here, for within it’s many folds one finds a wild array of artwork, graphics, stickers, chewing gum, never before seen baby photos, all the lyrics and famous artist perceptions of his songs and the artist including a few frameable portraits all printed on bizarre materiels resulting in a no two are exactly alike collectible. A big (literally) additional surprise is the life size glossy poster peal-off found inside the card board exterior cutout, shaped like the profile of an aleosauris hunkering over a multi-colored pastiche of lovely LAKE LUCERNE. Cumbersome yes, but worth it none the less as it is one of the most incredible career spanning releases this reviewer has had the pleasure to scrutinize so far.

It took me several months to get through it, but the adventure was an exciting, awesome and sometimes enlightening experience. I found it difficult to not jump ahead to some of the later discs to the more familiar materiel in their cleaned up remastered forms but it was a pleasure to educate myself to the ground breaking earlier offerings dispersed throughout the first dozen or so chronologically presented discs. I prefer this format as in this case (and what a case!) one can really hear the growth of the artist as he continued his wonderful journey through, over and under sound shapes unvisited by any other. Only long stringy detailed sentences suffice in describing the credibility of this singer songwriting musician maniac.

The listener is first introduced to PETE in the earliest known recordings direct from his close and play kiddie recorder. The songs clearly display the child’s vision of a very young rocker hamming it up to the delight of his plav pal audience. These reel to reel tapes were evidently full sounding enough to be included and are fine raw examples of pre-teen angst set to stomping beats and wailing auto harp resulting in primitive garage R&B. Here one finds the original and legendary versions of some of his outrageous cult hits such as “ROCK THE BONE”, “PONYTAIL”, “NOSEBLEED “ and the much later recorded jukebox standard “STRIP JOINT”. I was equallv blown away with the CARNEGIE HIGH SESSIONS (C.D.#3) where it sounds like the spectators were dissected and set aflame to the thunderous recital of a then thirteen year old flute, ukelele and washtub bass playing LABONNE, which includes the a Capella masterpiece “IN THE BEGINNING’’ which is really a cleaned up rendition of the afore mentioned soon to be classic “STRIP JOINT”. This tender song bought tears to my eyes and further illustrates his unparalelled approach to song craft. Profound ideas and Iyrical messages parade with gelatinous rhymes and overflow onto the first eleven C.D.s. The wild array of song structure and field hollers combined with caustic poetry nearly numb the senses, causing one to quickly consider alternative belief systems to replace existing dead ones collecting in the brainwashed expanse of the pop conscious present yet barely alive in the new mind of our universe today. Yes, He could become the next charismatic leader if the right people wrongly interpret the radical viewpoints that murkily surface within the digitally reproduced grooves and bitmaps of this wicked coup. The Companion C.D.ROM (#12) visually compounds the evident power of his benevolent stare, as one witnesses with shear wonder the live video footage restored from an archaic OHS taped “LIVE AT THE GOLDEN FLEECE” shown here in it’s glorious entirety (at last!) complete with an introduction provided by the shapely CHERYL LOWRY. The version of ”SPACE CAR DRIVER” shook the wind-ups right off my cabinet in the next room near my bungalow listening booth . It is so damn rocking I contemplated masturbation while cranking it up to ten on my SONY PLACE MAT 2000. 1 only got my cloths off before the next number “THE DESTRUCTOR” came on, which in typical LABONNE fashion changed my mood completely whereupon I decided to dress up in my leather motorcycle jacket and put on my peach-fuzz wool pajama bottoms. Oddly enough most PETE freaks I’ve e-mailed seem to have similar stories pertaining to changing cloths while checking out various LABONNE tunes. Why this phenomenon seems to happen is any ones guess but, I believe the strange sonic designs present within his music cause a person to find it hard to remain in the same outfit while listening to certain tunes, Especially on the fantastic remixed versions of the monumental recordings “ANTIQUE REVOLT”(C.D.#13) and of course the newer “DOPE FIEND”(C.D.#19). I can’t begin to express the significance and importance of the music presented here, needless to say the historians of pop and un-pop culture of the future will use this anthology as the bedrock of all that follows in it’s wake. As if bored with merely confronting and conquering each musical boundary, PETE created a few new ones along the way. No love songs have ever come close to the feelings stirred up in the anguished and dramatic ballads that seem to effortlessly flow from the pen and tongue of LABONNE. One listen to the heart wrenching “ORIGIN OF MY GIRLFRIEND”(C.D.#15) or the equally sublime “THE “F” WORD”(C.D.# 16) among others, Will rend any skeptic speechless and temporarily impotent. Time and time again within the confines of his songs and music, he finds different wavs to stupefy the inherent limitations of the common tendencies of radio formatted disciplines prevalent on the airwaves for the last three centuries. Not to be outdone by his sensitive side PETE crams nearly each C.D. with generous portions of light hearted prose deftly adhered to some of the most infectious rhvthms and melodic instrumentals ever. Stuff like “SCREEMITIS’ (C.D.s#13& #21 respectively) The history based “THE WORLD IS SQUARE’’ (C.D.”14) and others keep things from getting sappy. He can be pretty funnv when he wishes, obvious in gems like “BRAIN DEAD”or “ROLE MODEL BUICK”(C.D.#lO), originally found on the NIKKOLAI WIEDEMANN’S DECENT BURIAL, COLLECTION and here on C.D.for the first time.

At this point it’s probably time to mention some of his collaborators with whom he shares singing and sometimes instrument duties. There are duets a-plenty for those looking for twosomes. Divas like his babette SHELLEY muster up some fine vocal treatments as well as his third wife SUE. Big name stars like MARGARET FOURNIER, BRUCE EATON, PAUL DODD, ARPAD, FEATHERHEAD JOlNES jr., RICHARD HELL, JANIS JORDON, BAAZWA and others all contribute and make cameo appearances throughout the GIGUNDA (Aptly named) collection. Each song or composition freely conjured is often fully inverted for the listeners pleasure. Check out… The aqua blues song “SWIMMING HOLE”( C.D.# 16), The psi-scarring “NOSE BLEED” (C.D.# 17), The crunching obligatory “EAT HOT DOGS”(C.D.#21) The anxious”HUNCH A RAG” ( alsoC.D.#21) The very heavy “CEMENT TRUCK” (C.D.#20), The twisted “SIR DANCE A LOT” (C.D.#22), The sad “POOR LITTLE FLOWER” (C.D.#18), The tell all “HOLLOW FIGURINE”( C.D.s#4 & #15), and of course his now epic monumental “SLAG HEAP”(C.D.s#8,#12,#14,#21 and #25) are here gloriously presented. The Essential “SLAG HEAP” gets special treatments and is fabulous in each, there’s the 4-track demo(C.D.#8), the studio stereo single mix (C.D.#12), the extended ganja dance mix by D.J. BONG-O (C.D.#14), the two live versions a:Infest 1992, b:Courtyard by Marriott 1999 (C.D.#21), and the intense “SLAG HEAP 2001” (C.D.#25). (That song alone justifies the somewhat hefty price tag of $1.399.00.)

I had the extreme good fortune of interviewing PETE and his righteous squeeze SHELLEY at the ROCHESTER PUBLIC HEALTH CLINIC this past June (see interview, THE DALLIANCE ROUGH NECK POST issue #143) there we talked about his Japanese releases, his favorite guitars and how he pulls down trees near his Adirondack retreat and studio. I was vastly impressed with his intelligence, good sense of humor and the brand of cheap beer he preferred. Now I eagerly await his “ULTRA-RARITIES” collection and his next record “BLASTING CAP,THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK”. Both supposedly due for release next spring. So, “GIGUNDA” is here and both the past and the future of music joyfully collide within it, so “get off and get in” and buy yourself a ticket to the next three fads. NOTE: The first twenty thousand copies of “GIGUNDA” include a free LABONNE BIC™ LIGHTER and a Commemorative brass medallion collectible pendant bearing LEROY NIEMAN’s LABONNE PORTRAIT on one side and the SEMI MAN graphic on the other.

Cape Codder 10.30.03
Music preview / By Joe Burns
Friday, October 31, 2003 If you go…
Pete Labonne, Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Old Jailhouse Tavern, 28 West Road, Orleans
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1. Tickets: $10 at the door

He lives in the Adirondack Mountains in a dirt-floor cabin with no indoor plumbing, and has made fewer public appearances last year then Puxatawny Phil. He’s Pete LaBonne, an eccentrically talented songwriter and musician so original and obscure that he’s almost fictional.

A LaBonne sighting is rare, right up there with spotting Big Foot or Dick Cheney.

“Last year was my big year. I think I played six times. It was a lot. I felt like a star – I think I even got paid once, LaBonne says. It didn’t quite cover the gas money.”

Having the reclusive singer come all the way to the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans on Nov. 1, to open up for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic is a singular treat.

“Of course Chandler’s blowing my cover here giving me this gig. I was almost a myth. I could have been a myth,” says LaBonne, spoofing the semi-legendary status he’s attained in some circles.

LaBonne has, in fact, already appeared with Travis on several off-Cape shows. It’s a pairing of kindred spirits, something that each discovered some years ago. LaBonne remembers being urged by a Casuals/Philharmonic fan to check out Travis’s material.

“I had a friend on the Cape and she was always into their music. And for a long time I was just saying, yeah, yeah, OK. She just finally forced these tapes on me and I took them home, listened to them and said: This is somebody I think I could work with.”

A short while later Travis began receiving surprise packages with an upstate New York post mark.
“I just started getting these tapes in the mail. … They were so out there. I was like, oh my god, what the hell’s going on here,” says Travis, who was hooked by the first song he heard, a slightly deranged polka called “Sound of Doom” that coupled lines like “a tidal wave hitting the beach” with “a trapeze out of reach” as it bounced along happily spinning out visions of “imminent disaster.”

The song became one of 16 selected by Travis for the Sonic Trout CD “Meditation Garden,” a sampling of LaBonne compositions culled from the collection of tapes that Travis had acquired.

Written over a 10-year period, the songs were inspired, LaBonne says, by “isolation” and “hangovers.” Unpolished gems (“I wouldn’t know which way to buff it,” LaBonne says), they were recorded in glorious lo-fi by LaBonne in his “hodge-podge lodge” home studio, where he overdubbed all the parts himself on his seven-track (formerly eight-track) reel to reel.

The compilation is anti-pop in the purest sense – think Beck, Captain Beefheart, Brave Combo, Tom Waits, The Residents and Zipp the Pinhead.

The pounding, panting “Pajama Pants Baby” is a seizure set to music. The instrumental “Title Cut” sounds like a lounge band tired of being ignored and looking for revenge. You’ve got to love lines like: “Somebody must be praying for me because nothing is turning out the way I planned it” or “Open up the cash register, Pandora, we’re headed for the last snafu.” And guaranteed, the refrain from “The Drivin’,” LaBonne’s screwy sobriety sing-along, will bore its way into your brain.

“He’s an amazing musician. … He really puts his own personal stamp on everything he does,” Travis says. “He’s almost got some sort of reverse stage presence. Stage absence is what he’s got. He’s so strange out there that people immediately get kind of quiet and try and figure out what this guy is doing.”
LaBonne’s live solo performances differ from his layered recordings in that he limits his accompaniment to electric guitar, and maybe a bit of harmonica.

“The guitar is a little louder, and hopefully a little more complex, he says of his live act. “The guitar’s getting louder and louder all the time. I think the last time I played, the mike was on 10,” he says. “I think opening for them I would tend not to blow it out – unless someone yells for me to.”

City Newspaper, Rochester NY 4.4.01
Pete LaBonne – Glob
Precious few can cross-breed lo-fi and hi-brow without sounding convoluted or full of shit. You know, the whole “get me, I’m an enigma” set. The genuine article, in my opinion, is too cooL for the mainstream plebeians choking down Whoppers as they play miniature golf. Pete Labonne is too cool and perfectly eclectic. LaBonne has exiled himself to a shack in the Adirondacks and creates music of infinite brilliance, full of bluesy raunch and crackpot insight. Denizens of the Beefheart-Waits world will immediately latch onto LaBonne’s pounding instrumentation, lush arrangements, and left-of-center suggestions for a better tomorrow. The emissions from his new release, Glob (Earring Records), are extremely visceral and to the point; simultaneously soothing and upsetting. The songwriters we most adore are generally those that, deep down, make the most sense, even if it’s not readily apparent. This is clearly genius or madness at work. And if it makes you shake your ass, laugh your ass off and think, who cares? LaBonne’s guitar work is thick and primitive, his smatterings of piano virtually vaudeville. He is truly one of the great (relatively) unknown songwriters of our generation. His song “Kill This Bottle” has been stuck in my head for almost 10 years now. Pete LaBonne and Nod (celebrating the release of Good Night’s Sleep on Smells Like Records) play at 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at The Bug Jar. Info: 454-2966. $5.
– Frank De Blase

ArtVoice, Buffalo NY 6.6.02
Former Buffalo resident Pete LaBonne’s disc Meditation Garden answers the musical question, “What, would it sound like if Bruce Springsteen dropped acid, died and rose from the grave as a wild-eyed zombie?” The tracks on this disc bear more than a slight resemblance to such a bizarro Bruce, but also recall such non-imagined voices as those of solo Richard Lloyd, soulfully struttin’ Willy Deville, Alex Chilton’s post-Big Star, coke-fueled freak-outs and Captain Beefheart at his best. While musical comparisons are an easy means of setting a groundwork, LaBonne’s music is clearly in a class of its, own. There is no distinct rhyme or reason to LaBonne’s music, and therein lies its charm. A song, that blends lounge, acid rock and a subtle dance beat (ala “Soft Paper House”) lies comfortably next to a not-so-tongue-in-cheek faux gospel song like “Sound of Doom.” Similarly, LaBonne’s naturally comic, lyricism runs scattershot throughout the disc, popping up in the strangest of places (check out songs like-“The F Word” and “The Last Snafu” for prime examples). Perhaps LaBonne’s musical collage is a result of his surroundings. A big-time-city musician who moves to the mountains (he currently lives somewhere in the Adirondacks), LaBonne, has got to have a lot of noises rumbling around in his head even if there are no cars, street signs and night clubs to produce them. Meditation Garden produces just such a musical inner stream of consciousness (only we all get to hear it). The best compliment I could give this album is that every time I listened to it in the office, passersby would look at me like I was crazy just for listening to it … how’s that for a reaction? LaBonne’s album presents the sound of well-trained musician with musical dyslexia. Luckily, you don’t have to listen to his music backwards to feel immediate pleasure. Pete LaBonne will make a rare local appearance this Sunday at the Mohawk Place at 8 pm. Don’t miss, this one!
– Mark Norris

Atlantic Monthly Magazine
Recording at home has become almost as cheap as writing poetry at home, which means there are more creators than consumers. And rightly so, because like every other art form, most of it is terrible. But some of it isn’t, achieving a certain diamond-in-the-rough, folk art originality that can flower only outside the entertainment conglomerates. One such diamond in the very rough is Pete LaBonne, whose Meditation Garden (Sonic Trout) has numerous charms that transcend the savage-beast quality of the recording. Those charms include lots of highly musical hooks, which make the listener wonder what he could do in a first-rate studio as opposed to the dirt-floor cabin in upstate New York where he lives and records. Another charm is the arrangements, which are cubistically reminiscent of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. Most charming is LaBonne’s sense of humor, which is laugh-out-loud funny when he parodies sensitive folksingers (“Days of Yore”) or reminisces about his father making unwanted suggestions to his teenage rock-and-roll band (“Trophy Bowler”). He also achieves true political incorrectness, unlike the vast majority of comedians who claim such a stance: “If you’re gonna do the driving, I’m gonna do the drinking / If you’re gonna do the drinking, baby, I’m gonna do the drinking too.” One can hope that tune (“The Drivin”) doesn’t become a big hit while still guffawing at its dead-on portrait of low-rent alcoholism.
by Charles M. Young

City Newspaper, Rochester NY 4.4.01
Pete Labonne is a genius. A master of the little word/big concept school of songwriting. Labonne’s songs exude a dizzying brilliance. Spreading several lifetimes’ worth of reckless creativity over a 16 song collection, Meditation Garden runs roughshod through a vast variety of styles and genres, leaving each infused with a depth and humor that can barely be contained. Standout cuts include “Sound of Doom,” “F Word,” “Somebody Must Be Praying For Me,” and the too-good-to-be-true “Trophy Bowler,” in which Labonne summons up the demented ghost of The Old Philosopher and brings him to depths that even that world class crackpot would’ve thought impossible. Meditation Garden is a magnificent gift from a very generous fellow.
– Chuck Cuminale

Farm Report NYPress 3/23/01      by Crispin Sartwell

Glen Rock, PA – Dale Earnhardt is dead. And almost as bad, Wanda June done left me. She got sick of stoking the wood stove, sick of droppin young’uns, sick of cooking up her man-pleasing meals, sick of hoeing the taters. She got sick of me laying in bed all day drinking Pabst.

So anyway one day she goes to an “art” opening in the big city and discovers her true self: a French lesbian named Chloe. Now she’s moved to a flat in the Folies Bergere with some butch bint, leaving me, in despair, to ponder the meaning of life.

Hence I have turned to the great philosophers. “Only two things in life that make it worth livin’: guitars tuned good and firm-feeling women.” That’s the wisdom of Waylon Jennings. Dwight Yoakam’s version: “Guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music: that’s the only thing that keeps me hanging on.”

For Waylon, it’s women. For Dwight, who has actually dated Sharon Stone, it’s cars. But one thing they -as also Epictetus, Lao Tzu and Nietzsche- agree on is the necessity of good country music. Without country music, life is empty, vain: life is pretentious yet gutless: life is insufferably sophisticated yet utterly vapid: in short, life is France.

Personally, the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on is antidepressants, personal lubricants and the amazing albums that people keep sending me in the mail. Day after day, I lie on the floor, quivering like a huge yet tasty gelatin dessert waiting for the mailman. And day after day I find what I need to keep me keepin’ on.

Okay, I’m breaking it down into different categories of true national American treasures.

(A): Universally acknowledged national treasures.

Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn are of course no longer commercial forces in country music, as revealed by the labels of their recent albums (If I Could Only Fly (Anti) and Still Country (Audium) respectively). This is due to the movement toward youth and beauty that has brought us that gigantic kewpie doll, Faith Hill. And it must be admitted that neither Merle nor Loretta can deliver the kind of world-challenging moments that they once did: “Okie From Muskogee” or “The Pill”.

But they both have something that they didn’t have 30 years ago: a kind of late-breaking perfection or an exquisitely sweet overripeness. Merle and Loretta are beyond trying to impress anybody or being anything other than exactly what they are. The performances here have a degree and variety of perfection that we hear also in the recent work of Johnny Cash and George Jones, a retrospective achievement that surveys and masters not only a distinguished career, but a whole tradition of American music.

Both albums are explicitly about aging and loss; indeed they’re almost concept albums. And hence they continue the tradition of both artists and of country music of focusing directly on experience. Where Merle used to sing about prison, whiskey and patriotism, now he sings about wishing he could still snort cocaine and trying to reconcile with his kids. Where Loretta used to sing about having babies and dealing with cheating men, now she sings with extreme poignancy about the death of her husband Doolittle.

Dolly Parton is younger than Loretta and Merle, and her delicate soprano has not ripened. That’s fine, because it is certainly one of the defining instruments of American music. Her second bluegrass album, Little Sparrow (Sugar Hill), shows that despite a long record of commercial recording in a variety of styles, Dolly is still most comfortable with straight-up old-time Appalachian music.

But the album is not traditional bluegrass, for a simple reason. Bluegrass is rarely a showcase for the solo voice: the vocal is traditionally a perfect ensemble of close harmony. There is some harmony on Little Sparrow, but it’s a Dolly Parton album and so built around her voice. In that sense we should think of it more as an acoustic country album than as bluegrass. And anyway, to be perfectly honest about it, there’s a lot of contemporary bluegrass that I like better (Don Rigsby’s masterful Empty Old Mailbox (Sugar Hill) springs to mind), though the album has beautiful moments. And there are do many dead babies whose mothers’ ghosts haunt the mountains that it begins to feel a bit over the top. Dolly’s voice is similar to, say Emmylou Harris’, but while Emmylou’s performance is always understated, Dolly on occasion emotes so vociferously that you laugh when you should be crying.

(B): Soon-to-be universally acknowledged national treasures, now in their prime.

John Anderson is certainly one of the defining artists in country over the last 20 years. Both an insistent traditionalist and a one-off eccentric, he takes up a nasal, fairly high-in-the-register vocal style that runs from Lefty Frizzell through Merle and Keith Whitley. Nobody’s Got It All (Colombia) is one of his best albums, though there is nothing on it quite as good as his very best songs, classics like “Swingin'”, “Seminole Wind” and “Bend It Until It Breaks.” On the other hand, there’s great shit here about snake handling (“The Big Revival”), self-loathing (“It Ain’t Easy Being Me”) and marital contretemps (“Baby’s Gone Home To Mama”).

I guess I hate to admit this, because even people who don’t like country music like him, but I do think that Dwight Yoakam is the best country artist working today. These people, though, who purport to hate country and love Dwight -this includes Wanda wherever she may be- need to reflect, because he’s perfectly hard-corn. In particular, the arrangements achieved by Dwight and producer/guitar player Pete Anderson show an encyclopedic knowledge of the tradition from 1950 to 1980. The stuff is original, but it is filled with sly references that range throughout all the styles of country music. That’s why I prefer a full-blown studio production like Tomorrow’s Sounds Today (Reprise) even to last year’s exquisite solo acoustic set

Dwight’s style is poised between the Ralph Stanley bluegrass of his native Kentucky and the Buck Owens honkytonk of his fictively adopted Bakersfield. Dwight’s last several studio albums of originals have been devastating, approaching ever closer to total perfection. It is hard to picture how he, or indeed anyone, can do any better than Tomorrow’s Sounds Today. There are several songs that deserve to be classics, including “Dreams Of Clay” and “The Heartaches Are Free,” and the thing finishes off with two insanely excellent duets with Buck.

Mark Chesnutt is both commercially successful and extremely underrated. When people mention the top few male country singers, they never mention Mark, but twenty years from now we’ll remember him with Dwight and Alan Jackson as one of the central artists of the era. The voice is absolutely classic: ringing with Jones and Gosdin but also unique. He’s always had great songs, but the albums, like a lot of mainline Nashville albums, have had their clunkers. Lost In The Feeling (MCA), on the other hand, has no clunkers, and shows Chesnutt at his very best on every cut. Covering the Conway Twitty classic title cut was a great idea, and Chesnutt’s reading is definitive as always.

(C): People who could eventually be national treasures

Kacey Jones’ song “Till Dale Earnhardt Wins Cup #8” turned from being a novelty song about the sex strike of a Winston Cup fan to heart-rending eulogy. It might be hard for some of you New Yorkers to understand that this thing has out here been like the Kennedy assassination. Earnhardt was our Jordan, our Ali, our RuPaul. We’ll be devoting the rest of the year to disbelief about and then again to an exquisite appreciation of the exquisite perfection of Earnhardt’s death: on impact, last lap at Daytona.

Back to Kacey: her album Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay, Or Dead (IGO) is quite the mixed bag. There are a lot of comedic cuts, including a wonderful version of the Loretta/Conway duet “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.” On that one, she works with Delbert McLinton, whose own Nothing Personal (New West) is as good as any roots rock album in the last several years. Or try this lyric: “I hate your lousy rotten stinking guts, but I’m not bitter./It’s just my luck, you stupid schmuck, you boinked our babysitter.” Then again there are beautiful serious country cuts that Kacey interprets with great intensity. The funny stuff gets your attention, but it gets old fast. On the other hand, Kacey has got something that will last if she uses it.

Trick Pony is what we might call a hell of a bar band. They got the rowdy country rock thing going in a big way, as on their first single “Pour Me.” Trick Pony (Warner Bros.) is put together beautifully, so it sounds both rootsy and fresh as hell. Heidi Newfield has a kind of bar-vet knowingness combined with a strong voice that, along with a bunch of good songwriting, makes for a pretty distinctive sound. Plus they’ve recruited Johnny and Waylon for a version of Cash’s “Big River.”

Leslie Satcher is the best new country artist I’ve heard in some time, and Love Letters (Warner Bros.) is both lithe and gutsy. The title cut, “Love Letters From Old Mexico,” which features Emmylou and Alison Krauss on harmonies, is a neatly constructed and affecting piece of writing. But Satcher. who wrote or co-wrote all the songs, is just as notable for her voice, which is supple and commercial and distinctive. There are a coupke of songs here that could be standards, especially “Goin’ Down Hard.”

(D): A national treasure who may not actually exist.

Pete Labonne is the Sasquatch of American music. I had heard rumors about him for years, and people would tell me that he had dozens or “hundreds” of bizarre of great songs, including the legendary “We Mad A Mountain Out Of A Molehill (Of Love).” I spent some time searching for the supposed 45 of the supposed song “I Mow The Lawn” supposedly made with a band called the Party Nuggets. He was, according to rumor, a sort of rootsy Frank Zappa or a postpostmodern Van Morrison. Every so often, I’d hear that he had gigged in Costa Rica, The Ivory Coast, British Colombia. He was 20; he was 70; he didn’t exist at all and was the nom de disc of some bipolar country star..

Then a friend of mine finally sent me an actual CD, and told me that Labonne was perfectly real and that he lived in a cabin in the Adirondacks without electricity, phone, running water. I’m not sure I believe this any more than the previous tales, but there is undeniably this disc: Meditation Garden (Sonic Trout), that seems to have pictures of the elusive Labonne on the cover.

The legend is fully justified. Take the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs and jack up the eclecticism and the eccentricity one more notch, throw in lyrics by Andre Breton and record it all on maybe a four-track and you’ve got one of the most challenging and amusing things you’ll ever hear.
Lounge piano and polka accordian and flamenco guitar bounce off of boogie-woogie and soul and folk music like a NASCAR pile-up. There are strange jokes and beautiful sentiments.

Hope never really dies. Maybe Labonne can be coaxed down/back from wherever he really is to play a gig or record an album in a professional studio. And maybe Wanda can be coaxed back to heterosexual hoeing.

Tape Op Magazine Number 15
Pete LaBonne recorded Standard Time as a solo project last winter at the “Hodge Podge Lodge” in the Adirondack mountains. After hearing just a portion of this tape, I couldn’t help but wonder how isolated he was. This stuff is crazy! It opens with a blues rock quitar qorkout on :Flashlight” and continues with the “Rib Crib,” a tale of the Spice Girls and Dracula performing at a rib joint. Standard Time has thirteen songs, all featuring LaBonne’s unique sense of humor (I eat brains” from the closer “Mongrel 900”) and multi-instrumental prowess (guitar, keyboards,/piano, drums, vocal effects).
The tape is loud and full sounding and well recorded. LaBonne’s equipment list includes a “Fostex A8 mounted on heating pad with front cover removed to to catch the drive belt (with knitting needle),” an “Alesis Disinigrating Monolith 16 (since replaced by Crest Audio “Ten Series” 12 channel – love it.), 2 ART Multiverb, a Fostex spring reverb, 2 Shure PE 47L mics, a Double Barrel 12 ga.”

New Mass. Media 08/09/01
If Gertrude Stein, Captain Beefheart and Beck got together for a barbecue, the result might be Sonic Trout recording artist Pete LaBonne’s album Meditation Garden. It’s one beautiful train wreck. The lyrics leave you bewildered, amused and blown away all at the same time. “I smell days, golden reptile days, perpendicular gentile days,” he delivers, atop what promises to be a normal folkie yawner until the lyrics come smashing in. LaBonne, be he gentile, Jew or philistine, can pen fabulous verbal Frankensteins. You’ll have to find one of those standard issue singer-songwriters for the usual talk of girlfriends past and bus tickets to nowhere, ’cause it ain’t to be found here.
So what’s so great about a bunch of nonsense, a pile of odd-sounding words forced together? It’s the cumulative effect, the constant surprises and the use of words just for the joy of how they sound together. The album is an exuberant tongue-twister, both verbal and mental. It’s like waking up the morning after the New Year’s party astride the Empire State Building; it’s like a lot of things that can’t be described.
The music is more than just funny, though. In “Clouds Are Overspreading the Region,” LaBonne says he’s seeking “something to remember yourself by,” something authentic and meaningful amidst his rubble of bon mots. These moments surface regularly, offering the motion-sick just enough equilibrium.
The music is inventive, if perhaps less giddily dangerous than the lyrics. A whole pawnshop’s worth of lo-fi instrumentation (much of it recorded in his dirt-floored cabin in New York) piles on for the slippery ride.
The dense textures and pounding, squirgling Ringling Brothers rhythms owe something to fellow Sonic Trout recording artists The Chandler Travis Philharmonic, who will bring three rings of avant-Dixieland-pop along to the Bay State the same night.
By James Heflin

Pent Up News Group Intl.
Pete Labonne / The Rutliners Live at Spotty’s 2/29/02
”He’s gonna off himself onstage tonight “ I heard as I entered the club. Most seemed to be there due to the wild rumors that have been spreading like wild napalm fire on the internet and in the alternative/ indie mid-fi gutter press about Pete Labonne.”This guy’s supposed to be some kind of a sick depraved psycho animal !” says some pierced stooge in a yellowish carhart coat. “I think he’s got naked black chicks with huge purple afros that sing backup for him” assures one zit faced college kid to another. As I looked around the room I realized two things; one was that I had to get totally wasted that night and two, that I had to talk to Pete again (maybe before he hit the stage).

This place is a box full of collegiate breeding training enactments every weekend, theres no place to stand , no place to sit down and the bar is only about four feet long so, it takes about a half an hour to get a beer , the collection of folks at the joint must form a slow migratory like pattern circling about the room stopping at the watering hole with each member of the flock always looking towards the stage. The sound is terrible no matter what new stuff they “just put in”.

I shmoozed my way into the third floor dressing hole at around nine o’clock thinking I would have about an hour to ask some questions and get caught up, instead I ended up doing lines with the two black ladies ( whom I later found out were prostitutes ) and downing shots of 500 year old tequila with Pete’s bus driver Jeff. Pete was a few feet away sitting on an old green couch, nursing a Jenny lite while eating chicken wings and chocalate covered grasshoppers. “These wings are really good!” I heard pete say, before his management came along and swept all of us lowlifes (except the prostitutes) away. Damn! no interview!
Three hours later Pete hits the stage and sure enough both black chicks (“Miss Nelly” and “Miss Nasty” are in the raw along side of him humping his amp while he’s playing his guitar upsidedown! Within about 40 seconds, before anybody even knows what song he’s supposed to be doing, the cops bust in the back door right behind the drums and right when you think the big fat cop is gonna pulverize Pete with his nightstick, both cops rip off each others cloths and start having gay sex in front of everybody. Of course these cops turn out to be catholic priests and not real cops but those uniforms sure as hell fooled everybody including Spotty himself who was drunk at the end of the bar and as confused as any of us.

Needless to say most of us were already thouroughly disgusted and started booing and gagging and heading out of the place, but some on the other hand were yelling “yeah!’ and “go Pete go !” and so preety much all of us hung around to see what would happen next. Pete starts singing something about a go-cart and the place just explodes! Beers fly in all directions, floor boards are pulled up and thrown along with bar stools,tables and ashtrays at and towards the people in front. Whom go along with it as if it’s all part of rocking in the pit. Soon enough somebody is shooting a gun at the aquarium and theres water and slimy exotic fish all over the floor. Some people start raising there arms and gyrating to the light acoustic strumming ignoring all this chaos as if It’s all some iritation that will go away so they can enjoy the serious music .The doors are clogged with bodies so nobody can get out, meanwhile Pete Labonne is still singing his ass off up on the stage and somehow never gets even a drop of beer on him, he’s up there playing away with his eyes closed all sincere like.

The gun fires it’s sixth and hopefully last bullet into the wall behind the fish tank and all you hear is dead silence , about 15 more maddening seconds of quiet uncertainty goes by when the entire room hears Pete softly singing in his most girlish falsetto a litte nursery rhyme sounding thing about getting a valve job done on a classic car. Miss Nasty turns out to be an amazing harmonica player, sometimes playing three at a time. The remaining audience not knowing If they can even relate to what he’s putting down but unable to pull away from the twisted spectacle before them. And just when you find yourself questioning the validity of his tortured soul splitting delivery the lights dim , you see someone offstage hand Pete a sawed off shotgun . It gets real quiet and as one everybody , draws in thier breath and peals thier eyes to the stage . Pete stands up off his stool throws the rifle into the crowd and walks off laughing , drinking something out of an old silver flask. Pure Genius man! Pure Genius !

Pete Opened the show for The Rutliners and if anyone stayed to see them please notify this writter and tell me how they were.
– Jacob Cristen

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