Houston Press
Houston Press (5/25/05) A New Kid in Town For years, "venue closing" and "X band is moving to Austin" were staples of this column for both the present writer and his predecessors. Not so the past few years; what was the last major venue to close here? The Fabulous Satellite Lounge? Emo's? The Oven? And how many high-profile local acts have moved on to the capital lately? Anyway, seems like these days we're keeping our homegrown folks, and as many new players are moving in as moving out. The latest is pop-rocker Lanky, a New Jersey native who settled here about three months ago and whose upcoming full-length CD, Odd Hour Work Week, would be a welcome addition to any scene's body of work. At his best, you are reminded of his hero Pete Townshend, albeit with an acoustic guitar. I caught up with the, um, lanky troubadour on the front patio at Helios, which is where he played his first Houston show, one that turned out to be fateful. Lanky -- who was born Frank Stabile -- says it was there that he entered into a romantic entanglement, among other things. "I think I was down here more for her than I was caring to admit," he says of the woman. (The two have since split up.) "But I also came down here because at my first show here I fell into the hands of basically a bunch of great pop songwriters -- people like Tody Castillo, Paul 'the Falcon' Valdez, Arthur Yoria. And I was playing in Montrose, and it was amazing to me that this place has such a small-town feel and is such a major city. How much those guys were playing amazed me too -- original music all over town." Lanky says that family and friends back in Jersey are a little alarmed about his move. "A lot of people in the Northeast kinda freak over Texas; when the town I told them I was moving to didn't start with an A, they really got weird." Lanky says that, in his view, Austin is somewhat overrated. "I like Austin, but it didn't have the camaraderie. And I think it's going to the same thing that New York is, where there's an amount of too-cool-for-school." And that's definitely not Lanky. If I had to use one word to describe this guy, it would be "honest." It's in his songwriting -- there's no vague imagery or inscrutable lyrics -- and he's willing to cop to influences that would set your average hipster to shuddering in his Converse high-tops. Lanky cites the Indigo Girls alongside Townshend as a primary influence, and also praises John Denver and even Kenny Rogers crapola like "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" and "Islands in the Stream." "Unfortunately I'm just really adamant about being truthful," he says of his love of Denver and Rogers. "Those were the records my mother played. And in hindsight they were great records, great songs." (We beg to differ, but don't worry, you can't hear that stuff in his music.) His candor extends to the reviews section of his Web site (www.lankymusic .com), where you'll find not just the usual glowing praise. Nope, you'll also find stuff like this: "With just an acoustic guitar and his voice to protect him, Lanky sounds naked -- not in the way that, say, P.J. Harvey does when it's just her and her guitar but the way you do when you get locked out of your house mid-shower while trying to retrieve the cat." Some people were upset that he included the bad reviews, he says. "It is what it is. If they come in, I put 'em up. I think that a lot of times if they're bad, they're not grounded. I enjoy a good grounded bad review, and grounded good reviews. Some of the good reviews on there aren't very grounded either."