Present Tens

Ten Cent Redemption finds joy in making music without expectations.

"This band has been destined to start since mid-2002, before I moved out to L.A.," Burke adds. "I was on the fence, trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge and move with those guys. And Rhett was trying to keep me here in Denver. He's like, 'We'll end Carolyn's and start the Wilco band.' I was thinking about it -- I considered it briefly -- and then I ended up moving out there. As soon as I got back, I didn't have anybody in town to play with. I kept meaning to get ahold of Rhett and say, 'Hey, let's start our Wilco band.' And finally, I ended up bumping into him a couple times, and it turned out happening."

And how. Within a few months, Ten Cent debuted three songs at a Halloween party at Bob Rupp's house. By New Year's Eve, the act had amassed enough songs for a full set, which it played in support of the Railbenders. Soon after, the band entered the studio to record its exceptional debut, prophetically titled Worst Plan Ever. The disc's name was "apropos," Thomason says, "because of the way it was recorded, mixed and released. We went through a lot of challenges getting it out."

"There were a lot of things we were going through," Lee explains. "Basically, when it came down to mixing and mastering, the only one that could be there for it was Johnny. Julie, my wife, was in the hospital, so I was out. And these guys were busy with stuff, so they were out. We had a deadline. We had our CD-release party booked before we were done recording. So it just kind of became the worst plan ever to actually try and get it all done. But in the end, I'm happy with the way it all came together."

Dime-store prophets: Tony Burke (from left), Bill 
Thomason, Rhett Lee and John Waggoner are Ten 
Cent Redemption.
Jeff Strahl
Dime-store prophets: Tony Burke (from left), Bill Thomason, Rhett Lee and John Waggoner are Ten Cent Redemption.

Although that time period was trying, it also produced one of the disc's most poignant tracks, "Already Raining," a song Lee penned as his wife was hanging on to life in a hospital bed. "She had a 47-degree angle in her spine," he recounts. "When we walked by, when they showed us the X-rays, she told me later that she was looking at the X-rays on the wall, thinking to herself, 'At least I'm not that person' -- and that was her.

"Don't ask me about this," he continues, letting out a nervous laugh as his eyes mist over. "She was supposed to be in the hospital three days, but one of her lungs collapsed and she almost died. She was in the hospital about two weeks."

Elsewhere on the disc, Lee wistfully eulogizes his former band with "Somewhere in Between," perhaps the best song he's ever written, and the singer gets downright menacing on "Bring Your Gun." Although some fans say that Ten Cent's debut already outshines his former band's entire output, Lee insists that Carolyn's Mother will always have its place. As long as his songs continue to resonate, he'll be happy.

"When Bill and I met in high school, when we were first starting out, we said, 'If we can write music that touches people, then we've done it. We've accomplished the ultimate thing.' So as long as we keep doing that," Lee concludes, "if you want to call us a bar band, that's okay with me."

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