Cracker Biography

A rowdy update of the 70s Californian folk rock fraternity, Cracker are fronted by Redlands natives David Lowery (10 October 1960, San Antonio, USA; formerly the founder of skewed rock architects Camper Van Beethoven) and fellow guitarist Johnny Hickman. Vocalist Lowery had been recording offbeat pop songs from the age of 16, issuing a number of tapes before joining covers bands. From there he graduated to original material with Box Of Laughs and Estonian Gauchos - who included Hickman. When Camper Van Beethoven imploded on tour in 1989, Lowery once again approached Hickman, who had been unable to join the latter band due to solo commitments and his work with ill-fated country band the Unforgiven. Immediately the duo picked up the Lynyrd Skynyrd mantle, later appropriated with less raucous abandon by Counting Crows. Cracker recorded its self-titled 1992 debut album for Virgin Records, who still had Lowery under contract following the dissolution of Camper Van Beethoven. The album, recorded by Lowery, Hickman and bass player Davey Faragher with guest help from veteran drummer Jim Keltner and keyboard player Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers), melded influences as diverse as psychedelia, country rock and delta blues, forging a style that was at once ethnic yet universal - its wry centrepiece, ‘Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)’ was the first to alert commentators to something a little special about their activities. Cracker would sell over 200, 000 copies, a figure soon doubled by the follow-up collection, Kerosene Hat. Much of the ‘buzz’ concerned opening single ‘Low’, and its black-and-white video featuring Lowery boxing Sandra Bernhardt - the perfect backdrop to the song’s moody, overpowering grunge guitar and lyrical paranoia. Now based in Richmond, Virginia, where Lowery co-owned a studio, some of Camper Van Beethoven’s more dizzy excesses spilled over onto the album. These included a final listed track, the beautifully titled ‘Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab’, which they never actually completed, instead inserting a 40-second sound collage. The CD release was then programmed with 99 tracks, most of which comprised three seconds of silence. However, Kerosene Hat also worked on a more sober level. ‘Nostalgia’ offered salutations to the lonely Soviet cosmonaut who spent a year drifting (space being a recurring theme). Other fine moments included a cover version of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Loser’, or the neo- Rolling Stones interlude, ‘Take Me Down To The Infirmary’.

Faragher was replaced by Bob Rupe (ex-Silos) following the recording of Kerosene Hat, although the band’s substantial fanbase would have to wait three years before the release of The Golden Age. The album’s move towards a more polished country rock sound indicated their future direction, although the follow-up Gentleman’s Blues proved to be a career high point of sorts. Brandy Wood was brought into the line-up in 1999 to replace the departing Rupe. The following year’s Garage D’Or compilation was initially issued with a bonus collection of outtakes, demos and live tracks. The band recorded one more studio set for Virgin Records, 2002’s Forever, promoting the album with a tour of honky tonks and trucker bars under the moniker Ironic Mullet. The following year’s Countrysides found the band embracing their country leanings with a renewed fervour.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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