Calhoun’s Falter Waver Cultivate 

By Ken Shimamoto 

A world-class cynic, a fierce competitor at basketball and racquetball, a prolific scribe and singer of songs, Calhoun frontman Tim Locke’s been the Fort’s very own king of depresso-rock since moving from Cream of Mushroom to Dead City Radio and thence to Grand Street Cryers over a decade ago. His Coma Rally collaborator Daniel Harville having gone off to play highly stylized ‘80s synth-pop with Pretty Baby, Tim put his head down and soldiered on with Calhoun – the rubric under which he’s mostly operated since 2003 – and for his troubles, he just garnered “rock song of the year” (for this disc’s lead-off track “Breathe”) and “best songwriter” honors in the Fort Worth Weekly music awards. 

The first time I heard “Breathe,” on the Fort Worth Weekly 2008 Music Awards compilation CD, I was struck by its ‘80s new wave sound. Nice to know that its author – who’s equally enamored of George Jones and Led Zeppelin – hasn’t been letting grass grow under his feet. Tim’s always been a versatile artist, equally capable of Big Rock (not Rawk) dynamics and almost painfully intimate confessional songwriting. His gift for melody propelling a well-crafted line has never been more evident, and his vocalismo has never sounded so confident as it does on Falter Waiver Cultivate.  

A representative example of what he’s up to here is “Hunting,” which seduces you with a gorgeous tune -- sung in a soulful falsetto that’s sweet enough to evoke comparisons with Smokey Robinson’s, floating on clouds of organ chords, piano arpeggios, steel guitar, and strings – before smacking you in the face with a chorus that warns: “Keep watch over year heart / That’s where the whole thing started down / That landfill inside your chest / It’s going to come spilling out your mouth.” Or try on for size “Double Minded,” which starts with a soaring chorus that undercuts its Polyphonic-like uplift with the ambivalence of its message: “Some days you believe it / Some days you just don’t.” The closing benediction “The Earth Has Lost Its Hold” is Tim Locke at his most compassionate: “And the doubts and fears they disappear / And the Earth she’s losing her hold / Don’t you cry, don’t you waste one more tear / ‘Cos there ain’t none of that here.” 

Behind him, long-serving bassist Byron Gordon and relatively new drummer Mike Ratliff provide solid, unobtrusive support. Multi-instrumentalist Jordan Roberts -- the sole survivor of the Audiophiles, a band of Radiohead-alikes that created a stir on the local scene for a moment a few seasons back -- has assumed the role of instrumental right hand man formerly occupied by Casey Diiorio, decorating the songs with an array of textures and colors. The production – by Stuart Sikes, Locke, and Roberts – frames Tim’s songs more sympathetically than they were on either previous Calhoun release. As lush as the sound sometimes gets, there’s no clutter on this disc, and you never get the feeling that the musos are filling tracks simply because they can. 

Last time I saw him, Tim was bemoaning the impact of rising gas prices on the ability of indie bands like his to tour, and pondering getting out of the music game, a thought he’s entertained periodically over the years. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t; we need more records like this one.