Long before punks turned to Americana, local Hazeldine (née Blister) played the finest y’allternative music on bills with hard rockin’ Burque outfits like Elephant and the Drags. Hazeldine held its own. After an especially hot set you’d feel pleasantly washed-out, as if you’d just seen a raucous punk show.
Formed in 1996, Hazeldine was a favorite at the Fabulous Dingo Bar run by Miguel Corrigan, who had enough sense to offer every flavor of music from slow and sweet to fast and furious. The Dingo site is now home to Burt’s Tiki Lounge with that little pinché stage, but back then the club had a generous performance area and formidable sound system where the foosball table now resides.
Hazeldine was never a shoot ’em up bar band; instead, it let its emotional lyrics and earnest delivery tell the tale. Frontwoman Shawn Barton kept her cool but made the rafters ring with her powerful voice as Tonya Lamm provided perfect harmony, the pair like evangelical twangcore missionaries. Drummer Jeffrey Richards (previously with Vic Chesnutt) kept metronome time while Anne Tkach waltzed sweetly with her bass.
David Sinclair soon took the drum stool and Richards was free to add more of his occasional down-tempo banjo licks. But when he broke out his ax—far from adding a third and unneeded guitar as many feared—Richards amped the band’s dynamics. The sound was as full as a corn crib fixin’ to bust wide open, threatening pandemonium in the barnyard.
Sadly, Hazeldine was appreciated more by other musicians than by the average club goer. Overseas, however, it was a star—particularly in Germany, where Glitterhouse Records released its acclaimed 1997 debut CD How Bees Fly. Previously the band dubbed a few cassettes, and L.A.’s Cherry Smash Records pressed a classic 7-inch. After Europe got ahold of it, CDs became expensive imports and Burqueños had fewer chances to see Hazeldine live and local.
Recorded earlier but not seeing wide release until 2002, Orphans had a stark and traditional flavor with unlikely but lovely covers of songs by Neutral Milk Hotel, Sparklehorse and The Mekons. Soon the band went in different directions; Lamm to Tres Chicas, and Tkach with Willard Grant Conspiracy and Magic City (among many others), while Richards played with Shine Cherries and formed the unjustly overlooked Bright Carvers. Last I heard, Barton enjoys relaxing with red wine in Florida. Me, I’ll take whiskey and press play on How Bees Fly over and over.