Most people aren’t even aware of it, but the Textones were among the most important bands of the ‘80s when it came to pursuing a rugged country rock revival. Bred in Los Angeles and fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Carla Olson, the band effectively picked up where groups like Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers left off, further nurturing the common bonds found in their rootsier realms. Olson herself would continue this tack when she went solo after the band’s demise, gaining credibility alongside some of the forebears of Americana, Bob Dylan, Percy Sledge, Ry Cooder, Don Henley, John Fogerty and Gene Clark among them.
Nevertheless, Olson’s own career owes its impetus to the Textones and the resilient sound established on both their seminal studio albums, 1984’s Midnight Mission and 1987’s Cedar Creek. Although the two discs attracted only a passing glance in their original incarnations (the first got a major label bow on A&M, the second was doomed to obscurity when it was shuttled off to short-lived indie label Enigma), they’ve received belated recognition in retrospect, reputations that will almost certainly grow thanks to these two expanded reissues.
Both albums stand up well even today, more than 30 years after their original release. For its part, Midnight Mission provides an authoritative introduction, given added credibility by the inclusion of the Dylan-penned “Clean Cut Kid”, Olson’s assertive vocals, and an anthemic stance that was spirited and sincere. Likewise, the band was never shy about sharing a political perspective, and on songs such as “Number One Is to Survive”, “Standing in the Line”, and “Midnight Mission”, their insistence and insurgency is unapologetically strident.
Sadly, a lyric from “Midnight Mission” touches a nerve even today:
We all work for the weekend
That’s when we kick back with ease
But you’re sending all our children
Off to corporate wars
When we can’t even feed
Our own families
The bonus tracks — live versions of album tracks “Running” and “No Love”, a dynamic alternative version of “Number One Is to Survive”, and an impressive unreleased tracks “It’s Okay” and “Just a Matter of Time” — complement the original entries and affirm the fact that it definitely merits a revisit in its expanded form.
The same can be said for Cedar Creek, an album that saw the contributions increasing from the others in the band, and sadly, the loss of drummer/songwriter Phil Seymour due to ill health. Nevertheless, it manages to maintain its emphasis on a muscular and often edgy approach. “You Can Run” and the Stones-like “Never Afraid” were the standout offerings and they remain so even now. “We Can Laugh About It”, a cowrite between Olson and original Textone Kathy Valentine (who later went on to success with the Go-Go’s and re-recorded the song with her new compatriots), is noteworthy as well. However, it’s the bonus eight tracks recorded live in Santa Cruz in November 1987 that make real cause for reinvestment. Previously available only as a highly sought-after bootleg, it shows the band fully engaged and performing at their peak.