Cracker - Biography
By Audra Wolfmann
Rising from the ashes of the eclectic 1980’s alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven, vocalist and songwriter David Lowery wasted no time in teaming up with his childhood friend Johnny Hickman (former guitarist for The Unforgiven) to form Cracker in 1990. In the following year, Cracker added bassist Davey Faragher (of the late1970’s family band The Faragher Brothers) and they were signed to Virgin Records -- Camper Van Beethoven’s former label.
Cracker had some pretty big, if not quirky, shoes to fill. Their energetic and witty debut album Cracker (1992 Virgin Records) was both a critical and popular success, establishing them as a major voice of the ironic and irreverent early 1990’s alternative music scene. The album charted at number 10 on the Billboard Heatseekers Hot 100, with two songs placing on the U.S. Modern Rock chart. "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” which charted at number one, reflects Lowery’s infectious habit of writing lyrics that flow like clever punchlines:
"What the world needs now, is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head.
What the world needs now, is a new Frank Sinatra, so I can get you in bed."
The band’s follow-up album, Kerosene Hat (1993 Virgin), surpassed the popularity of Cracker, charting at number 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Hot 100 with three of its songs high on the charts. Proving that catchy Americana guitar hooks and good-humored social criticism was the 90’s zeitgeist, Kerosene Hat was the first of four gold records for Cracker.
Three years later, Cracker released their third album The Golden Age (1996 Virgin). The line-up had changed since Kerosene Hat (Faragher was replaced with Bob Rupe of the supergroup Gutterball, while the drummer’s seat continued to operate as a revolving door) and a subtle change in Cracker’s sound became evident. The tracks of The Golden Age seem to sidle uncomfortably between grunge and country, two musical poles Cracker hadn’t yet visited in such extremes.
After touring for The Golden Age, Lowery turned his attentions towards his Sound of Music recording studio in Richmond, VA. Lowery produced albums for several notable musicians including Sparklehorse, Joan Osborne, Lauren Hoffman, Magnet, and Fighting Gravity, and also co-produced for the Counting Crows. Diversifying his resume, Lowery tried his hand at acting in director Eric Drilling's 1998 film River Red. (He went on to appear in Matt Leutwyler's comedy This Space Between Us in 2000).
Drummer Frank Funaro and keyboardist/accordion player Kenny Margolis joined up in time to record Gentleman's Blues (1998 Virgin), which continued Cracker’s exploration into country rock (with a little blues and bar rock, for good measure). Although Cracker’s mainstream popularity was waning, they released two more albums with Virgin: Garage D'Or (2000 Virgin) and Forever (2002 Virgin).
They left Virgin in 2003 and released Countrysides (2003 iMusic/BMG), a rowdy and enthusiastic collection of their favorite country songs. Flexing their new-found freedom even further, they released a collaboration with the bluegrass outfit Leftover Salmon and aptly titled it O' Cracker Where Art Thou? (2003 Pitch-A-Tent). O' Cracker consists solely of bluegrass-style Cracker covers and was reportedly recorded in two days.
Cracker was thrust back into the media spotlight in 2006 when they intentionally released their compilation Greatest Hits Redux (2006 Cooking Vinyl) on the same day as Virgin’s collection Get On With It: The Best of Cracker (2006 Virgin). Cracker had not authorized Get On With It, as they were not allowed to participate in the production of the collection. Greatest Hits Redux’s retaliatory, mischievous spirit excited Cracker fans and the next release, Greenland (2006 Cooking Vinyl), was embraced as a true realization of the Cracker sound.