Album Review

Suzy Elkins - Glass Slippers (Just Hurt My Feet)

Suzy Elkins - Glass Slippers (Just Hurt My Feet)

It was twenty years ago todayawell, this fall, actually, when I first heard Suzy Elkins sing. Back home to attend the University of Texas as a sophomore after a year of exile at TCU in Fort Worth, I'd yet to be enveloped by the magic of the music that overflowed in Austin, apart from the wafts of sound that drifted through the walls of Liberty Lunch as I drove home from work well past midnight. It was probably one of my newsroom colleagues, Joe Vargo or Gary Rice, who prodded me to check out this band called the Commandos that played regularly at a campus-area dive called Hole in the Wall. One night I wandered into the Hole and found Elkins and her bandmates onstage, romping through a classic bar-band set ranging from raw, rowdy roots-rock to instantly memorable muscular pop to all-out wailing abandon. I was hooked. The Commandos never really went very far -- a 7-inch single, a song on a minor regional compilation, an independent album that didn't get noticed beyond their home turf (and failed to capture their Hole in the Wall voodoo). Ace guitarist Gerry "Phareaux" Felton turned up in the Grammy-nominated Big Guitars From Texas project, but by the end of the '80s the Commandos were history, and Suzy Elkins -- as commanding a stage presence as a bar band could ever desire -- seemed vanish from the radar. Turns out she moved back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she still occasionally plays gigs and keeps in touch with old running buddies whose profiles have prospered over the years -- notably roots-rock wrangler Webb Wilder and producer R.S. Field. The latter helped her put together this album, which reprises a few of the old Commandos staples (many of the songs are Elkins/Felton co-writes) and adds a few more recent tunes. A couple ringers drop in for a few tracks -- guitarist David Grissom and drummer Davis McLarty from Joe Ely's late-'80s band, plus Chris Layton from Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble -- but much of the instrumentation is handled by Field, Felton, and Danny Thorpe. Glass Slippers carries no air of major rediscovery or revelation; rather, it plays like a welcome surprise postcard from the good old days. When Elkins sneers out the album's title lyric in "Bad Attitude", or hits that perfect pop melody in the line about how she "wouldn't hear nothin' but the radio" on "Pink Patio", or shoots straight and true in "Tell It On The Line" that it "can't be wrong when love's so real"aI'm right back there in the cozy haunts of the Hole in the Wall, an autumn breeze blowing down The Drag, the Texas Tower glowing orange across the street, and the Commandos onstage rocking the house, in full command.