Sweet soul

There have been some notable transformations in recent rock history, such as Primal Scream's metamorphosis from slack indie band…

There have been some notable transformations in recent rock history, such as Primal Scream's metamorphosis from slack indie band to full-on funkadelicists, or Blur's shift from seaside promenade sideshow to Pavement-oriented garage monsters. But no change has been more dramatic than the one effected by Scottish band Texas; they've gone from uncool, AOR washouts to stylish soul warriors, and singer Sharleen Spiteri has been promoted from nondescript vocalist to attention-grabbing "it" girl in one deft sweep of glossy magazine copy. In 1993, Texas looked like going the way of T'Pau and all those other smoothie, softrock has-beens; in 1997, however, Texas are back in vogue and Sharleen is pop's new thirty-something pin-up idol, the thinking man's Kylie Minogue.

So when did the change come about, and how did Texas switch from country-rock combo to sweet soul sensation? Let's go back a bit, to 1989, when a young Sharleen got together with fellow Glaswegians Johnny McElhone, Ally McErlane and Stuart Kerr, all of who shared her interest in the music of Ry Cooder and Johnny Cash. They hit paydirt with their debut single, I Don't Want A Lover, which went into the Top 10 and became a staple of radio station playlists for the next few years. The band's debut album, Southside, was equally successful, and the future looked bright for Texas.

Alas, soon after the release of their second single, The Thrill Has Gone, the shine started to fade on Spiteri's lone star, and subsequent releases failed to repeat the blinding success of the band's opening gambit. Oblivion beckoned.

Around this time last year, Texas announced a showcase gig at the POD's Red Box, and the media let out a bored yawn. After all, it had been three years since their last, unremarkable album, and it was reckoned that Texas would just keep treading the same dusty country-rock road. We reckoned wrong.


At the start of this year, Say What You Want sidled seductively up the charts, sounding like Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing delivered by a sweet, soul diva. The album, White On Blonde, was a revelation, a Motown classic made for the 1990s, and it shot straight to No 1 in double-quick time. On Monday night, Texas play the first of two sold-out gigs in Dublin's Olympia, and this time the press corps will be jostling to see the band. Who knows, by New Year it could all go pear-shaped, with Texas mocked as second hand soul scavengers. Until then, however, let's just go with the groove - they can always re-invent themselves as the new Blur in 2001.

Texas play at the Olympia Theatre on Monday and Tuesday

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist