North West Arkansas News

Texas musician Steve Brooks brings a liberal dose of wit to Arsaga’s
WHAT’S UP! Staff

It seems there is no limit to the 10-gallon hats Steve Brooks is willing to don.

The common thread connecting Brooks’ occupations is a love of words. The Austin resident’s infatuation with language began with reading Dr. Seuss books as a kid.

“Dr. Seuss is one of the great unacknowledged inspirations of American writers,” Brooks said in a phone interview during some downtime between shows in Cape Girardeau, Mo. “He gave me the idea that language was something to have fun with. You can play with words, pull them into different shapes, come up with creative rhymes.”

Patrons of Arsaga’s will have the opportunity to hear some of that creative wordplay in action on Saturday as Brooks, armed with his guitar and harmonica, performs country-flavored “songs about Texas, love and war, duct tape — and a couple of puns thrown in.”

Brooks’ fourth and most recent CD, “Fever,” which was released in January, contains a clear indictment of recent U.S. actions abroad. The title cut is not about flu-like symptoms or elevated temperatures; instead it addresses the war fever Brooks perceives within the current administration.

But the album is about more than just the war in Iraq. Brooks described it as a post-Sept. 11 collection of songs about various situations America has faced and the”dysfunctional way in which our government has responded.”

“Fever” is not the first time Brooks has used music to convey his political leanings.

“I’ve been using music that way on and off all my life,” he said.

Having grown up about 15 miles from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., Brooks was home from college when the near-meltdown occurred in 1979. He got involved in citizen demonstrations and even played a few songs with Pete Seeger at a protest at the state capitol — one of his “favorite musical memories.”

Several years later, Brooks began writing a song a week about current events for Jim Hightower’s radio show, syndicated on more than 100 stations. He performed the songs live on Wednesdays and compared the experience to his former job as a business and finance reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“Figuring out a catchy lead and writing songs on deadline is a lot like writing daily newspaper articles,” he said.

Brooks later recorded 12 of those current-events songs for his second album, “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” largely concerning the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair.

When he’s not wearing his political commentator or songwriter hats, Brooks turns to a less socially acceptable pastime — making puns.

Apparently his fondness for the groan-inducing jokes is genetic; his dad was also a compulsive punster whom Brooks attempted to emulate early on.

When he moved to Austin, home of the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, he discovered an entire town of punatics and became a local celebrity when his epic puns such as “The Texasburg Address” and “Tex-Mexistentialism” took top honors — six times.

About a month before a competition, Brooks undertakes a strict training regimen. He recruits a friend to choose random topics about which he must make five puns as quickly as he can.

Realizing that this might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, he said he’s happy to train with “anyone who’s willing to help me out. I try to spread the pain.”

* * *


Where: Arsaga’s Espresso CafĂ©, 1852 N. Crossover Road, Fayetteville