Help Make Compton Maddux Famouser
I met Compton Maddux through a Chicago poet named John Rezek, who speaks in a deep baritone, knows the difference between zeugma and syllepsis, and can recognize an authentic voice through a locked door. He figured I'd dig Compton, a musician/wordsmith who also has a very nice baritone and a deep sense of humor. He is what they call a singer/songwriter. Maybe he's a songwriter/singer. But, you know…he somewhat resembles Steve Earle genre-wise, although he looks nothing like him and tends to stay out of trouble. He's sort of urbane country. As my wife said, "You know why he's not famous? He lives in Nyack! He should live in Austin or Memphis or Nashville."
I had Mr. Maddux on my old cable show TV Party several times, and he appears in the documentary about the show that's available on DVD (and which Jerry Stiller says "belongs in the Smithsonian Institution.") He dressed in surgical scrubs and sang a couple of great songs—"I'm a Clone of Myself" and "Ka Ka Disco"—backed up on vocals by me and Debbie Harry. He put on a great show. (He also put in a great comic turn playing the celebrity chauffer in the film Downtown 81 starring Jean-Michel Basquiat.) I think the problem with his career was that he was sort of a man without a category—he was country, funny, new wave, singer-songwriter. Since then, Compton has countrified considerably, digging into the music he loves, but still he is not a household word. Talent is not enough, my dear readers, oh no. Other factors abound such as luck, the stars, suffering, chance, synchronicity, payola, truckling, and toadying, etc. If it were just talent and persistence, well, this guy might have come in as Mr. Congeniality in the Sexiest Man Alive competition.
Maybe the wife is right. Compton lives in Nyack, where he makes better and better music and maintains an expertise on many things. For example, he came over to my place and explained why the "Decorator White" oil-based paint on my doors and windows was turning yellow. Then he gave me his CDs "Feats of Clay" and "Dirt Simple," and then he fixed my trim. It was strange. It felt like having John Hyatt help you move or Bonnie Raitt give you a haircut. But talent knows no bounds. Nyack, however, does. I have told Compton that if he moved to Austin, the live music capital of the world, he would probably make it big. But he expects me to drive him.
I've got Compton's music on my MacBook now, in heavy rotation along with Jarvis Cocker, Duke Ellington, Lee Perry, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lou Rawls, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, King Pleasure, the Gothic Archies, Dean Martin, and Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. Since the radio turned to trash I pretend my computer is a radio, and WGOB plays a heady mix of reggae, soul, funk, disco, singer-songwriter, and jazz, attempting to achieve absolutely zero format. So Compton fits right in, right along with all those famous artistes. The guy writes gems and performs them delightfully. But he's way underfamous. That's what happens sometimes when you don't do the obvious thing.
Compton Maddux was born in New York City. The country in him comes straight outta Compton, right from the DNA. He is country because country is white blues. He is a true country singer from the most urbane and densely populated area of the nation. This would seem to be a disadvantage, as Gina points out, yet Billy the Kid was born on Allen Street in Manhattan, and I believe that coming to country from the outside is exactly what gives Compton rare perspective and trenchant irony. See, he's also a poet, having studied with Ed Dorn and Stephen Spender and Tony Hecht. But of course being a poet is, professionally, in the same category with being a lutist or a shepherd—no, actually there are less openings—so he starting playing music and writing songs. Often they were humorous, which can be the kiss of death. And often they were exquisitely sincere: ditto. But as we all know, suffering and struggle is supposed to be great for artists and poets, so Compton now has a tremendous advantage, having put in years of both. Check out the lyrics:
She's half saint and the part that ain't
Is the part that's good to me…
That's from the song "Designated Driver":
She's my designated driver
she drives me to the Bar
she drives me to drink in her car
And I love "Bible Belt":
I'd swear a month of Sundays
This sorry hand I'm dealt
Deep down low she hit me
Way down low
Below the Bible belt
Both of Mr. Maddux's discs stink of excellence, including the musicianship, which features the fine guitar licks of Jeff Golub and Jim Lauderdale on "Feet of Clay" and the brilliant fiddling of Allison Cornell (Shania Twain) on "Dirt Simple." Help me make this fine songwriter famous and, well, not rich, but comfier. I think he could be New York's answer to James Hand, the great soulful country singer from central Texas who released his first album last year at the age of 53. (And check out Mr. Hand, please! The Truth Will Set You Free (Rounder Records) is produced by the eminent Lloyd Maines, producer and father of one of the Dixie Chicks.) His albums are available on Cdbaby.com, singles through iTunes.
Young whippersnappers have nothin' on these ripe type cats who have been working hard at it a shy lifetime. Mr. Compton Maddux will be playing The Turning Point in Piermont, N.Y., Saturday, May 26th at 9:00PM. Call (845-359-1089) for reservations.