The Ginger and Sarah Show Revisited

I got a phone call the other day from my longtime (yet still very young) friend Ginger Leigh. Said she had a new album out called “Amazing” and asked me to take a listen.  I mentioned in return that her old singing partner Sarah Dashew had just sent me a download of her new album, “Sarah Dashew,” and Ginger immediately found it on the web and purchased her own download.  So naturally, I thought, why not review the two albums together and in the process revisit the old Ginger and Sarah Band days well over a decade in the past.

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SARAH DASHEW (self titled)  

I started writing this column in September 2003, and just a month later I was writing that, “for the first time in God knows how long I got to see and hear the wonderful Sarah Dashew.”  That late night solo performance at the Saxon Pub was notable for me buying Sarah’s brand-new “Music for Cruising” CD (just before I embarked on a 25th Anniversary cruise!) and for Sarah cutting her finger on her strings — but also for reminding me how glad I was that she had bounced back from a year-long illness.

A decade has passed, and while I get to hang out with Ginger all too infrequently , Sarah remains a veiled mystery — last I checked she was down in New Zealand again.  But I am always like a new puppy hearing his master drive up to the house when I get any chance to interact with this amazing, strong woman who only plays every instrument on the new recording — and the very first words I hear when I get the download down are, “When I was just a bay I spent some time in Texas …”  As I listen, I realize this album is a complete song cycle that begins with the recognition that whatever you thought about your last relationship while it was blossoming and blooming, you now realize that you are still alone.

“When a Train Rolls Through” speaks of the loneliness of waiting for that someone who is yet undefined to come to make your life complete.  [Boy do I know that feeling of late!]  The eerie “Something Wicked This Way Comes” speaks to missed opportunities, and “I Miss You” to a friendship soured by “slaking my thirst.”  And “It’s Gone” is the crash after a missed ultimatum and learning that the family bond was deeper than a relationship that may have challenged that bond. And “Riding Through the Desert” speaks to the aftermath — the accusations, the misunderstandings about how each former partner deals with the breakup. “Wherever You Go” shows the bitterness that follows the hurt and pain and regret.

“Better Than This Morning” is the beginning of healing — the remembrance that there was love at the core — just not enough to overcome the obstacles.  “The Road” speaks to the recognition that both are walking their own roads now .  Sarah writes, “The thing I wanted most in life was just a little peace;  I found the only way forward was walking through my grief; It’s not the kind of road that you would want to walk alone; But that is just the thing it takes to make your own way home.”

In “Live To Fight Another Day,” Sarah counsels herself (?) to “Follow the road that you are on; All the ways you go you’re meant to go; Let your horses show you the way home; Sometimes it is best to let them roam.”  In short, just to let things go and let the wind take you when you know not the right path to follow.   In the final chapter (song), the light bulb comes on and she realizes that there remains the hope, and so she throws out to the universe, “Let’s Be Friends.”

There is no benefit left from grieving or rehashing why or how or whether things could have worked out.  And Sarah’s lesson for all the rest of us is straightforward:  ”Spent a lot of time impatiently waiting for the world to see I was right and make things right; But that’s not the way it works and furthermore it makes things worse when you keep trying to fight it.”  And like I said, Sarah, who grew up sailing in boats (big ones) her father made and sailed all over the world, has been spending time in New Zealand back in the water that is as much her home as any place on terra firma.

But how I hope Sarah will someday return to Austin for more than just one show — and yet I still have the memories of one very hot day at a long-forgotten venue on Lake Austin’s south shore and that night at Ruta Maya (also long closed) and of course the first time I saw Ginger and Sarah at yet another long-shuttered and torn down venue … she rather is a little of a pirate, come to steal your hearts and leave them longing for more.

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Jane Tutu Cones

[Photo of Jane Tutu Cones]

GINGER LEIGH – AMAZING

Now the first thing I know about Ginger Leigh is that she can laugh at herself — and while she truly IS “Amazing,” the only time she might try to pull that one off on you is if she is doing card tricks or a magic stunt.  Just for effects.  Because first and foremost, Ginger is a showman, the daughter of show business, and holder of what amounts to a Ph.D. in entertainment.

On the other hand, Ginger is by no means all glitter and no guts — she has made some hard choices that have sometimes had hidden or even very visible costs.  Not that long ago, Ginger hosted one of the best song series in my Austin memory — at Flamingo Cantina.  She has also appeared on stage at the Zachary Scott Theatre and performed all over Europe, put out numerous albums (most of which I have been privileged to review), and become a real force in this little river town.

I grabbed the new CD from Ginger in a handoff at the W Hotel as both of us were in the middle of business meetings … and smiled as she gave me a huge hug.  She also thanked me for turning her onto Sarah’s new disc, noting that hers is heavily produced and Sarah’s is much starker — evidence of the very disparate directions their musical paths have taken since the days of the Ginger and Sarah Show (in which Sarah was clearly the straight woman and Ginger the comic — well, most of the time).

Back to the present — The title cut, “Amazing,” was written by Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde.  Ginger also covers Dayna Kurtz, Nino Ferrer (in Italian), and Mark Addison and Nina Singh (twice) — and the rest are all her own songs (though she truly makes other people’s songs her own as well).   At least two — “Better Than Well” and “Jetstream” — are studio remakes of songs on her prior album, “Better Than Well: Live at the Saxon .”  One cannot mention GInger (or John Pointer) without also mentioning Patronism and the many patrons who contribute monthly toward her art.  Check it out!

Ginger is joined in the studio by longtime collaborator and boy genius John Pointer on guitars and vocals, Dave Madden and Stewart Cochran on keyboards, Nina Singh herself on drums, Frank Favacho on percussion, Jeff Botta on bass, Jake Langely on lead guitar on three cuts, and the lovely Wendy Colonna on backing vocals on four songs.  Cris Burns was the engineer at Summit Studio in Austin, and Ginger was her own producer.  Even though this is a studio recording, you get that same sense of joy that you got from the prior live record — that you are AT a Ginger Leigh show, and for me that is as good as it was for OLDER people to get to see Bette Midler live and up close.  Except Ginger is a LOT cuter!

One of the special features of this recording is Ginger singing along to an old recording of her grandmother Jane Tutu Cones (who passed away last year at the age of 82) to “That’s My Desire,” written by Helmy Kresa and Carroll Lovesday a very long time ago.  (You may remember the Louis Armstrong version.)   Ginger’s grandma had her own radio show in San Antonio and sang with Big Bands locally and nationally — and she was the mother to the Cones Sisters (including Ginger’s mom) — which makes Ginger at least a third generation entertainer.

The title song is power pop (as done by Ginger).  Her own song “Your Place,” which follows, is sort of jazzy funk .. perfect for sloppy slow dancing.  I almost visualize Michael Jackson slipping and sliding on the dance floor.  The Dayna Kurtz  ballad, “Love Gets in the Way,” is squeeze her tight and don’t let go slow dancing,.  Longtime fans will recognize the true funk in “Better Than Well,” which is also an anthem to Ginger’s recovery from breast cancer …  and a huge celebration of life lived to its fullest.

“Driver’s Seat” is a bittersweet ballad  about her family and a lost love … “I wanted more than you could give to me … “  with this great line, “you were my continent and I was your city,” that describes the difference in commitment level  that led to the end of a vision.  “My Dear” evokes the spirit of the Broadway ballad — theatrical, showing Ginger’s emotional vocal range.  “Jetstream,” remains for me maybe Ginger’s best song in ten years … a power ballad she just belts out, showing the pain that evokes the call to “rescue me.”

The musical journey of Mark Addison and Nina Singh began (I am told) with The Borrowers in a land long ago and far away (Los Angeles), then moved the band to Austin and released more music, some under the name KittyGordon (about the time I got to Austin and started paying attention).   I will post an update later that gives better information on their two songs covered by Ginger here.

“Godspeed” c loses out the album (well, not really)  — Ginger sings that “there are no boundaries placed on our dreams …  Life is all about living — no regrets and no shame.”  Not so oddly, this song has the same message of sorts that closes out Sarah’s latest album — that despite the failure (or just the temporality) of hoped for long-term relationships, we just have to keep on flying through life.  The “bonus” track, “Bring Back the Light,” is a sort of slower soul pop that reminds me of Lauryn Hill.

Ginger has a show (I think it is a CD release) scheduled on April 26 at One 2 One Bar.  I would plan on getting there early and grabbing a drink or two.  Once the music starts you will neither have the time nor the inclination.  With the band she is sure to assemble for the show, you too will fixated on the stage!

 

 

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The Jersey Mikes: Mike June and Thick Red Wine (Mike Wojciechowski)

New Jersey music means The Boss, Bon Jovi and – more recently, two guys who now live in Austin: Mike June and Mike Wojciechowski, aka Thick Red Wine.  Jersey Mike’s is of course a nationwide subs chain which started up in 1956 at Point Pleasant Beach (hometown of Matthew Jurasek whose band Thee, Idea Men, who stayed at the Flanfire house during SXSW)  – but our Jersey Mikes will fill your soul, not your tummy.

Mike June: Talkin’ Revolution Blues

When I first met Mike June he was working with the Killer Artist Agency and I did not catch on that he was such an accomplished songwriter.  I went to Strange Brew for the release party for his new CD, Talkin’ Revolution Blues, and was duly impressed with the songs and with his New Jersey band (with a couple of ringers – for example, New York born Jess Klein).   And with Ben Todd on lead guitar (his old band, Beautiful Mistakes, was one of my favorites), you can hardly go wrong.

The opening cut, “Pray for Rain,” is a rocker that showcases that lead guitar and presages the political content that culminates in the title track.  “The Pauper’s Princess” switches gears; it’s a bouncy love song, yet again with that have-nots theme.  “Charlie and Lily” is also cut from softer cloth musically, but again touts the theme of hard times and disappointments.  John Mellencamp would love this song.

“Hard Times” is an acoustic blues rant (until the organ kicks in) reminiscent of Woody Guthrie – and Billy Bragg.  Things have gotten so bad, says the protagonist, that “I don’t believe in hope and change any more…. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  “The Lucky One” is a classic rock anthem – with more guitar and organ.

“Long Lost Brother” is gospel-tinged with lots of organ … feels a little like The Band.  And “April Showers” has that classic anthem rock riff throughout – a hint of Bob Seger maybe.  Back to back songs about the need to pray (not to mention Pray for Rain) … “Jesus was a rebel, when he died they took him corporate … you know the President knows him well.”

All that has gone before, though, is only the lead-in to the title cut – “You said you want a revolution, but you don’t want to walk the walk … [and so] it’s all just talk.”  A far cry from another East Coast lad I once knew.  Steve Scolnick joined the Revolution at age 16, having fled prep school with his camera and a dream to come to Washington to work with Marshall Bloom and Ray Mungo at Liberation News Service.  Stevie took a few great photos – one made it into Atlantic Monthly – before his camera got stolen and one day as he was driving up to Vermont his car ended up in a tree.

You get the idea that Mike June is a little bit like that seventeen-year-old charmer whom the ladies loved, smiling and talking his way into and out of trouble while serving a cause greater than himself.  And like Stevie, you get the idea that Mike June would rather live a revolutionary life that changes hearts while mocking the nakedness of the overlords of the Establishment than be the guy who violently pulls down one set of rulers to set himself up in their place with the same ruthless greed and arrogance.  And maybe that’s why I like this Jersey Mike.

Thick Red Wine (Mike Wojciechowski) – Never Wanted To Be Cool

I remember the first time I met Mike whose name is so long he bills himself as Thick Red Wine (well, most of the time).  He was just out of college in Chicago, a Jersey boy with stories to tell with his guitar and a voice not ready for prime time.  In fact, he admitted to not performing in public until the first time (or thereabouts) he stepped onto the front porch at House Wine on a Monday night.

As a performer, Mike was raw, and his “songs” lacked structure, but from the minute he opened his mouth to sing (really, as soon as you were engaged in conversation with him off the stage) you knew you wanted to listen to what he had to say.  The title song alone has endeared Thick Red Wine to a legion of fans – fellow open mikers to start with, truth seekers in general and of course the arrogant who might think they want to go on after him not realizing that their cultured voices and skillful fingers cannot mask the vapidity of their so-called songwriting.

And yet Mike kept on getting more polished (not noticeably so, that is, not losing his “charm”) – and more focused on making a real recording.  It did not hurt that his day job brought him into contact with one Darian Momanee – the same Darian that Kullen Fuchs had recommended to work with The O’My’s on their first visit to Austin in 2009, the same Darian who then took three high school boys under his wing and put them to work while also learning THEIR music.  That guy who plays trumpet and drums and co-produced Mike’s debut record.

Mike also gets help on this recording from fellow House Winers William Wallace, Shawnee Kilgore and Leah Nobel (who just released a lovely new video), along with Courtney Howell.  But it is Mike’s songs and his honesty – and for some, maybe, his boldness to write and sing even about excrement as handled by an innocent child – that have won him loyal friends and fans alike.

There are ten songs here, but I will only write about the title track – and let you all find your own way through the other story songs either live and in person or by finding this record for yourself.  I just would not want to spoil your party.

So to work – imagine yourself as a pretty cool kid who had the respect of your fellow fifth graders, until one day when one of the Bobbys of the world chides you for hanging out with someone who has been labeled “not cool.”  How many of us would back away from such a friend, not wanting to lose coolness points?  Mind you, Bobby himself is clearly not cool either – I mean he ate glue in kindergarten!  But he maybe had a family with significant enough assets to buy his way into coolville.

Well, our hero “never wanted to be cool,” and upon realizing that his friend was not taking this condemnation very well, he was not at all going to play it cool.  With his very best Stone Cold Steve Austin imitation, young Mikie chased Bobby around the school yard and put the hurt on him … and went back to hanging with his “uncool” friend.  You really have to listen to the song – but now you know why Mike is such a magnet.  He much prefers to be real than cool.  In real, not cool, life!

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Austin’s Next Generation Has Arrived – and taken over!

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TOP: Pangia; MIDDLE: Carson Brock and the Effect; BOTTOM: Max Frost and band.

Long years ago before Jovita’s was raided and called by the feds a heroin operation masquerading as a restaurant and music venue, the late Amado “Mayo” Pardo played host on Saturday afternoons (later expanded to weeknight evening shows and more) to bands whose members were not old enough to order a beer or glass of wine.  Heck, many of them were not old enough to get a learner’s permit.

I well recall one such afternoon, watching 13-year-old Max Frost on guitar with a singer named Althea who was maybe a few months older in a band called Joyride.  I had gone out to see a much older band (ages 14 and 16 at the time) called The Steps, fronted by Will Thompson IV (whose dad is an old friend) and also featuring Alex “Z” Lynch on drums.  That band made it all the way to London.

Joyride’s other members were Kai Roach on bass and Chris Copeland on drums – about whom more will be said later.  This was July 2006, and I noted that Max was bravely singing harmonies even though his voice had not completely changed – and that he had “it.”

TUESDAY NIGHT – MAX FROST AT FRANK

Fast forward to Tuesday night at Frank the hot dogs and beer music venue around the corner from what soon will no longer be Antone’s.  Max Frost, now nearly 21, and his funk band that, yes, features his guitar riffs – but also his strong vocals and even stronger lyrics.  But that’s no surprise.  Max, Kai and Chris went back to rock camp later that summer and emerged with a new lead singer, the lovely Sasha Ortiz, the 17-year-old (back then) daughter of my good friend (and musical force) Natalie Zoe.

Later they added a rhythm guitarist and backup singer named Patrick Mertens.  The band was Blues Mafia, and they went on to play at the Blastbeat International Battle of the Bands in Dublin, Ireland, finishing in second place.  And on Tuesday night, Patrick Mertens, who along with Kai formed the Calico Jazz Trio (yup, he became a jazz rock guitar god), was playing bass in Max’s band along with Jonathan Deas on keys and Colter Lutz on drums.  [Editor’s note: at one time, Max, Kai and Colter were all part of Ruby Jane’s hot band. More on her later.]

The crowd was really into the music – and so are the SXSW kingmakers.  Max already had an official showcase at The Saxon Pub at 1:00 am on Friday the 15th and now he has another – at Meduse Lounge on Saturday the 16th at 8:00 pm.   Before the show I told Max that fellow Austin gunslinger guitarist Alex Campbell had been celebrating his 22nd birthday by flying down from Berklee in Boston (where he has been recording a new album that already sounds incredible!) and coming out to Max’s show.

Alex, whom I first saw in a band called Maiden Austin, is a student of the instrument like few others I have known.  Today he plays specially made guitars, works for Warner Brothers writing music for movies and more, and the music he wrote and played for the video game Crysis 3 was just released last week.  He and his mates from Berklee will be playing two shows for Flanfire next week –  at Stompin Grounds on Friday the 15th at 10 pm and at Santorini on March 14 at 7 pm — just before Gypsy, fronted by Devin and Dave North (on bass and guitar) and featuring another power packed singer named Payton Keller (with Ben Baron on drums).  He has numerous other showcases as well.  This is a must see!

 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT – CARSON BROCK AT STUBBS

It was in February 2009 that I first saw the then-15 year old Carson Brock, though I had heard of the young phenom (whose dad had played with Eric Johnson).  The show was out at Roadhouse Rags, and sharing the bill were the wonderful Fireants, who went on to play the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Old Settlers’ Music Festivals before parting company when violinist Ian Stewart went off to Berklee.

I had met Carson a while earlier playing as a sideman for Lindsay Wells, but he did not play behind his back at her show – nor did he have Victor Ziolkowski on drums.  [Editor’s note: Victor’s other band at the time was, who else, The Fireants!]  A month later the Carson Brock Group with Victor on drums won the Texas School Jam competition, which meant a trip to Germany, and Victor won a new snare drum as best drummer in the competition.

Since then Carson has worked with a variety of players, and on Wednesday night at his CD release party at Stubbs his drummer was former Blues Mafioso Chris Copeland, with Austin Simmons (also with the Tucker Jameson Band)  on bass.  Carson and Chris, who is also a good singer, have been working together for a while, and Chris plays and sings on every track on the new album.  Simmons shares bass duties with Kai Roach and Jon Kolar.

The packed-out Stubbs downstairs was treated not only to Carson’s steadily improving and always awesome guitar licks but also to special appearances by blues legend Malford Milligan and 18-year-old fiddler and singer Ruby Jane Smith, who is accustomed by now to working with hotshot guitarists (Max Frost for one, and Trevor Labonte for another).  [I well remember not long after Ruby first arrived in Austin encouraging Althea Capra and her mom to come out to Waterloo on 38th to her show, and the two talented teens had some good times.]

Carson plans to hit the road after school is out and tour all summer until college starts in late August.  And why not?  The band is tight, the songs are dope, and the energy is bouncing off the walls!

THURSDAY NIGHT — PANGIA AT CLUB DEVILLE

Why, you might ask, is Victor Ziolkowski not working with Carson any more?  Well, Victor began his professional career at age 9 as the drummer for Misspent Youth, and by the time he was 12 that band had played at Gruene Hall, Antone’s, the Hole in the Wall, the Broken Spoke and Flamingo Cantina (among other places).  Dad Vic Ziolkowski has been a member of such bands as Two Hoots & a Holler and Chapparal and currently plays with The Derailers.

Once known for his long curly locks, Victor after The Fireants went off to Europe and came back with a renewed passion to play in Pangia with his 15-year-old brother David (lead guitar of excellence).  At first hearing this, I scratched my head.  Until tonight.    The surf music loving brothers, together with bassist Deven Ivy of Residual Kid, popped every button on my britches.

This was straight up instrumental rock and roll – faster than a speeding bullet and twice as powerful.  Victor is as he has been for years – lightning fast – but without the curly hair.  I told Will the sound guy that he might not see a better band at Club Deville next week at SXSW.  I am pretty sure I am right.  Ot at least close.  What a week this has been – and it’s only Thursday!

Saturday morning I have Running Still – Kole Hansen and Asi Meskin – plus Roem Baur from San Francisco coming out to the Cedar Park Farmes Market at Lakeline Mall, and then that night it is off to Rusty’s for the Outlaw Roadshow!  The British band Vox Pop is closing down the show – and oddly enough I just had gotten a call from my friend Gabriella asking if they could stay at my house and maybe could I get them another SXSW gig, as they are her roommates in Brooklyn.  Small world, eh?

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Austin: Where the Music Never Stops!

Jaimee Harris, Darwin Smith, Ellen O'Meara  - Five & Dime!

Jaimee Harris, Darwin Smith, Ellen O’Meara – Five & Dime!

Has it been a week?  And what a week!  Starting with Monday night at the Monkey Nest with Todd Wolfson and family — this time, Gabe Rhodes, Mark Gumby Williams and the incomparable, wild and woolly Sara Hickman, plus special guests Johnny Goudie and Darin Murphy.  We heard rhythms, silly stuff, amazing songs, and even old standards … and got seriously funky for a while.

Okay, already.  I am not forgetting that night at the Continental Gallery when Aimee Bobruk debuted her new CD with a great band and Erin Bobruk and Erin Ivey singing angelic harmonies.  The only down side was that I learned my dear friend Michelle Harrell, who had flown down from Chicago for just a day or so, was at the door outside but the room was at the legal limit — and so I missed seeing the most beautiful woman in all of Cook County.

I cannot write much about the party at Ricky Ozuna’s that followed — other than to say that cameras, power cords, and more were left behind not because anyone was having too much fun, but because the quality of the performers was so stunning that people just forgot themselves.  At least that’s what D….  told me much later.  I will say that my house guests, Erin Miley and Kyle Offidani, both played sets.

Back to last week.  The ever-creative Charlie Faye had organized an event people will still be talking about over Christmas dinner — the Carole King – James Taylor tribute show, with 18 songs in all and a different Austin musician singing each one.  One major highlight was Mark Hallman, who along with Eric Johnson was once a member of Carole King’s band, singing “Goin’ Back,” my very favorite song ever that was made popular by The Byrds.  Ellen O’Meara then sang a second Carole King song from The Notorious Byrd Brothers CD, “Wasn’t Born to Follow.”  Darwin Smith sang “Sweet Baby James,” and the hits just kept coming.  There are some YouTube videos floating around, but one can almost guarantee this show will become an annual event.

That was Wednesday.  On Thursday, I trekked down to Lambert’s to see two new bands with familiar players.  Nori features Akina Adderley FINALLY singing jazz, Erik Telford playing the trumpet, Bob Hoffnar on the pedal steel, Aaron Allen on upright bass, and bandleader Andy Beaudoin just killing it on drums.  Akina is more known here for the funky stuff that her father Nat Adderley, Jr., was producing for the likes of Luther Vandross and others, but this music is more reminiscent of that which her grandfather Nat Senior and great-uncle Julius (Cannonball) made famous.  I flat out loved this band!

Sharing that bill were Grace Park and the Deer, headed up by the former centerpiece of the popular underground band The Blue Hit.  Good news!  Grace is still magic on stage .. and Michael McCloud (also of Good Field, which has a big show on February 22) on guitar energizes Grace’s songs in a new way.  The new record will be available soon, Grace promises, and Flanfire has already booked the band for a show at Santorini’s on March 17th.  Grace reminds me so much of Natalie Merchant: Even without the swinging and swaying, she weaves a spell on her audiences.

On Friday, I stopped by House Wine to see my old friend Brett Randell, fresh from half a year backpacking across Europe and Turkey, in his first show in Austin in nearly a year.  The next show will be after SXSW, Brett acknowledges, or at least a while down the road.  Later that evening I caught Sons of Santos at the Mellow Mushroom on the Drag.  Luis and Nick Soberon (guitar and cello, respectively) are quite a handsome duo, and very entertaining as well.  Amazing how Luis balances law school and becoming a rock star.

Saturday night was again very special — even though I missed B Sterling Archer’s CD release party because he sold it out before I bought my tickets!  First, I stopped by One 2 One to catch a rare solo acoustic guitar set from Douglas Jay Boyd, then it was off to the White Horse for the Green Ranch’s (thanks, Jessica Fife and Howdy Darrell) presentation of Heart Worn Highways, the 1976 film by James Szalapski that documented the founding of the Outlaw Country movement in Texas and Tennessee.  A stellar band led by Jesse Harris, with Brendon Ryan, Jesse Elbaugh, Tim Campbell and Charlie Pierce, backed a procession of singers that included Jimmy Deveney, Brennen Leigh, Leo Rondeau, Noel McKay, Selena Rosenbaum, Josh Buckley, HalleyAnna Finley, and special guest, nine-year-old Kaia Pierce (Charlie’s daughter), who sounded like Emmy Lou singing “If I Needed You” in a duet with her dad.  One of those priceless moments that years from now people just might be bragging about seeing live even if they were twenty miles or two hundred miles away.

And then, to cap off what has to be one of my favorite weeks of all time, Matt McCloskey showed his sensitive side with acoustic renditions of songs from his full-band CD’s, opening at Flipnotics for the debut performance of what looks to become a very popular trio, Five & Dime.  The James Taylor look-alike Darwin Smith was even smiling tonight as he was flanked by Jaimee Harris and Ellen O’Meara and all three swapped instruments throughout the set as they brought out both originals and standards (including the songs Darwin and Ellen had sung at the James and Carole tribute show).  All three are captivating songwriters — yet their voices, and their musical tastes, blend together so well after such a short time that one wonders just how good they can become over time.

Finally, wrapping up the night, I flew out to the Sahara Lounge where Kyle Offidani and Amy Arani were trying out playing as a duo and it was working very well.  Then we all went over to a music jam on Bolm Street and found Harlan Hodges and Charlie Pierce and a couple of trumpet players and a set of pots and pans for drummers to bang on.  This is the kind of scene at which new musical ventures are birthed.  Stay tuned, or at least stay in tune.  Keep your powder dry, too.  There will always be more good music in Austin, the live music capital of the world even if Donn’s Depot is closing down for a new high rise.

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Surfin’ the Sahara with Jess Williamson and Chris Catalena

JessandCallie
I have been going to the Sahara Lounge long before Topaz and his family took over the place and changed its name from TC’s.  Caught many a Soul Track Mind and Little Elmore Reed Blues Band show there, and even some R&B shows with Philip Alexander back in the day.  It is my neighborhood bar of sorts, now that I live within the shadow of Springdale Road and Ed Bluestein.

My old friend Daniel Whittington has a residency of sorts at the Sahara, and since Billy Masters has been playing guitar for him, it is a double treat to get over when he is playing.  Especially when the Seattle (well, Bellingham) Songbird Havilah Rand is singing harmonies — and when the effervescent Jaimee Harris shows up to sing a couple of songs with her old Waco running mate.

But there was another reason — beyond hanging out with Lori Stevenson behind the bar — for going over to the Sahara this night.  I had not seen Chris Catalena in quite a while, and I had been hearing about his newest venture, Chris Catalena and the Native Americans, and they were tonight’s headliners.  I met the Navasota native years ago when he was in a band with Stephanie Hunt called Ghost Songs — I recall one strange show outside at Headhunter’s and maybe a couple more … then things went their way.  But Chris is a magnet for energy … and boyish adventure that reminds me of my mac and cheese days.

The gathering crowd came early, and it was not long before I found out why.  After sitting out in the back talking to “friend of Jazz” Rose Barnett (who has an installation set to open next month at San Antonio’s Flight Gallery and meeting some of the film crew brought in to record Chris’s show, I walked back into the club to two visions of loveliness sharing the stage — one of them wielding a banjo, the other a guitar, then a cello.  And I was mesmerized by a voice I later learned belonged to one Jess Williamson — “haunting,” I said, and so did three or four other guys with whom I randomly spoke after their set was over.  Rose agreed, “haunting, but in a good way.”  [That's Callie Hernandez on the cello and Jess on the banjo.]

The several dozen who had come out to the storied venue, like me, sat or stood in stunned silence holding onto every syllable as Jess and Callie waved their magic wands (okay, their instruments) and opened the pores of our hearts to allow the caresses to reach our deepest hurts and fears.  Quiet smiles conveyed our collective approval … and the recognition that we were participants in a fairyland dream.  Jess has this song cycle apparently known as “Medicine Wheel/Death Songs” that you can find and download on Bandcamp or iTunes (or from her website), and another project in the weeds.  Jess, by the way, is also a noted photographer with multiple exhibitions and commercial clients.  She also has a show next month at Swan Dive — which I highly recommend.

As the evening wore on, it was time for Chris and his band to hit the stage.  I was still somewhat in reverie, but Chris has his own charm and wonderful songs … he even played a couple of special covers, signing almost reverently even with the lyrics given to him from the wind, maybe like a younger, less weather-beaten Steven Collins.  Before and after his set, we chatted about old times and possible near-future gigs and hangouts with mutual friends in  (and from) La La Land … and maybe at a party somewhere a night or so ago that has to be revisited to pick up some dropped off pieces.

I will never tire of spending a musical evening with Chris Catalena.  Or any evening.  It’s wavelength.

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The North Door: Blum and Bonnie and Colin Gilmore too!

I am told that the North Door, Austin’s coolest, perhaps most hidden from view, music and arts venue at 5th and Brushy (just east of IH-35 and half a block from Progress Coffee), has a direct connection backward to the old Electric Lounge, a long-lost venue that I got to visit a couple of times long after its heyday.  I have watched this venue evolve and well remember in early 2010 Brandon Badillo putting on his second annual Nina Simone tribute show there … with seating … and watching Bryce Clifford and a host of others grace that gorgeous stage (with great stage lighting).

Back then,  the North Door (aka the ND or the Independent at various times) did not have its liquor license as it does now.  There was no pizza oven just inside the doors, and the venue was only open now and then, as construction was continuing (including work on the balcony).  Nowadays you enter the North Door via, of all things, the north door, in the alley, as if it were a speakeasy in the Twenties.  And you walk into the back bar, where last night some of the guys who work there and some friends were putting on their own songwriter showcase– and these are not small potatoes talents: Nathan Singleton, Will Evans, Joshua Bain, and company.  Old friends, many Momo’s refugees, home from the road and having fun together.

Up front, my longtime friend Bonnie Whitmore had put together a nice showcase featuring new Austinite Chris Porter (half of the duo Some Dark Holler, the other half is Helen Gassenheimer), the Colin Gilmore band, and her own new project with Jason Blum and (for the evening, at least) the incomparable Dony Wynn.  The North Door has become one of my favorite haunts, largely because of the stage and the fact that old friends work there … but also because musicians I enjoy listening to enjoy performing in this relaxed environment.  Our chief complaint is that not enough Austinites have found their way to the venue.

Chris Porter opened playing solo, singing songs he boasted would be sad enough or even sadder (some with Bonnie, who may have persuaded him to leave his native Alabama for our sunny climes).  But not to worry, because it was Colin’s birthday party (a few days late, but who cares when you have gluten-free strawberry cake!) and his lovely wife Tammy got up to sing a Townes song with him.  Colin’s band featured Andre Moran on  lead guitar, always a treat.  Every time I see Colin, I also think of Nathan Hamilton, another wonderful Austin songwriter whose character I admire as much as his work on stage.  And like Nathan, Colin’s songs strike chords of real life with all of its pain and all of its joy.BLUMANDBONNIE

I like Jason Blum.  I just rarely get to see him play — so last night would have been a treat if he had been on stage solo.  But when I read a short time ago that he and Bonnie were going to be performing together (she as his bassist, he as her guitarist, and both swapping great songs with strong vocals), I was getting really hungry!  Blum and Bonnie — What a tasty treat — surf and turf, one might say.  Bonnie was a tigress at the mike, growling out songs with her big voice that somewhere reaches to the sultry side of Stevie Nicks.  The much-traveled Jason with his stories and songs and his minor key riffs.  And both from families with music deep in their bones.

Now Bonnie had already been on the road playing with Brent Mitchell for years before I met her at the age of 19 when she joined the Shelley King Band. We got to know her a lot better when Shelley and Susan Gibson hosted a cruise that was my 25th anniversary present to my beloved Nancy.  Then there were the Bonnie and (Jamie) Blythe years and the year that Bonnie coached big sis Eleanor to leave off being a super side woman and stand in front of the mike … and to become half of the powerful duo the Mastersons with hubby Chris.  Then there were the “lost” Nashville years that led to her first CD, “Embers to Ashes,” which some say gives Izzy Cox a run for her money as “queen of the murder ballad.” [Note: "lost" means only that Bonnie was not in Texas, and so I got to see her only occasionally; she was playing with Hayes Caryll and getting herself all over the country as a top bassist and honing her singer-songwriter skills to near perfection.]

Somewhere along the way, Bonnie also became a professional baker — well, we did once call her “bon bon.”  But much more importantly for this writer, she recently moved back to Austin and now with a new record about to drop, Bonnie is ready to come into her own as a featured performer.  Brother-in-law Chris Masterson produced and played guitar; other players include Falcon Valdez on drums, George Reiff on bass, and sister Eleanor on vocals and fiddle.  This new venture with Jason Blum debuted last night, and I gave it two thumbs and a round of shots up!

Cannot leave you without mentioning two people I met last night — Texas (and Seattle) songwriter Russell Bartlett, who had just been on a West Coast tour with Colin Gilmore, and Ishaq Clayton, a lifelong friend of the Whitmore family who just moved to Austin and is putting together a band.  Clayton, a longtime violinist (and cellist who encouraged Bonnie on that instrument) who grew up in Denton, switched to bass a while back and told me he is working on getting his violin chops back up now that he is back in Texas.  Russell, Colin and the all too infrequent visitor to central Texas Waylon Payne have a show scheduled in San Antonio later this spring.

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Brother acts … can be special

What happened at Threadgill’s tonight was so restorative for so many who attended that I cannot sleep without talking about it.  Okay — Warren Hood (with Willie Pipkin) played a stellar set, and Warren and Willie are two of Austin’s younger adult generation of super musicians with their own songs and stories.  Pretty good ones, at that.  But watching Charlie and Will Sexton on stage together, armed with acoustic and not electric guitars, swapping songs and stories was so cleansing for the soul of Austin that I can hardly wait for the video and for a repeat performance, hopefully on Austin City Limits for the world to see.

Will Sexton is my friend.  I bought Christmas presents for my grandsons from his eclectic collection of boy stuff.  I also know Charlie a little.  I know a little of their early history, and a lot more about the legends they have become in Austin and beyond — legends that began as they (admittedly) spent their childhood at the Armadillo.  For all he was, and all he meant to Austin music, Stevie Ray grew up in Fort Worth, and his songs reflected that.  Willie IS Austin, but he was a boy ninety miles north.  Stephen Bruton adopted Austin and Austin adopted him.  But Charlie and Will grew up here.  Austin grew up with them.  The two of them together embody Austin’s soul.

As I watched the dynamic duo cracking jokes and singing songs they wrote together and sometimes with other friends, I felt something of the Old West, desperadoes waiting for a train (or maybe a bus, given that Will was due to get on one at midnight to go play music somewhere down the road).  Scruffy, glad to be home, glad to be together … for all we know, they might not have realized how refreshing it would be (for themselves, and for everyone else) had not a special friend (Charlie called out Charlie Faye on this!) put the bug in their ears (directly and indirectly).  Sometimes the obvious is just too plain to see.

All that said, I will not even pretend to give you the set list.  There were highlights.  The video will soon be available.  Check it out for yourself — maybe with some vintage Austin food and a six pack.  But do not think for a moment that the glory days of Austin music are behind us.  Far from it — there is a brand new generation, still in high school (or even younger), ready to follow in Charlie and Will’s own footprints or to make their own.  Earlier in the day, I was over at Antone’s for Jam Fest, a youth band fund-raiser for the Eanes Education Foundation (EEF), which is a fund for teacher’s salaries.  I got there late, and did not see the two bands that won first and second in the competition.  I am sure they were good (I have likely seen some of the players before).  For the record, the winners (based on judges score, ticket sales and audience response) were 1. Identity Crisis; 2. Doomsday December; and
3. Splendeur.  I saw Splendeur.  The three girls and two boys brought two original songs and a cover, all sung well to a happy pop beat.

I admit I was really there to see two other bands whose members I have some rapport.  The Bare Feat is a collective led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mason Ables, who shares lead vocals with Luz Zamora.  The band has bass and drums and a four-piece horn section too.  They open with an instrumental that teases us with some well-worn tidbits recognizable only to parents and grandparents who were legion in the audience.  Mason and Luz trade vocal lines and also sing together for the next two songs.  The horns, the lead guitar, the vocals — the energy!  And then Luz hits a high note that sends shock waves through my spirit.  I want to see this band again. Soon.  Their sound is a little like It’s A Beautiful Day with Chicago’s horn section instead of the violin.  Okay, most of you have no idea.  But that is what research is all about.  Do your homework.  Parts of “Limbo” (see their Reverbnation page) sound a  bit like “Twenty-Five or Six to Four” by Chicago.  The audience, for some reason (maybe they are not ready for the horns?), is flat.  They seemed not to know what to do.  Or maybe they were in shock.

The other band I came to see I ended up going to dinner with.  Devin North (bass) and Dave North (guitar), Payton Keller (vocals, guitar) and Ben Baron (drums, most of the time) are creating a tight band and writing lots of new songs that are slowly replacing most of the covers they started out with (largely because they were all in other bands and the songs they had did not always fit).  I know Devin and Dave through Rock Camp (the one Dave Sebree started and continues to oversee).  Last year I walked in, saw the lads in different bands, but clearly leading along their bandmates, and jokingly said to Dave, you ought to be paying those boys as teachers.  Turns out they had effectively been hired.  These lads are going places.  They are humble given they have shared stages with such players as Van Wilks and will do so again soon.  Payton is the big surprise.  She just gets better every time out.  She takes guitar lessons and sometimes plays guitar with the band.  But Payton is a vocalist through and through.  Some compare her to Ann (or maybe Nancy) Wilson of Heart.  I did once.  Drummers, of course, do what drummers do.  They get no glory and fewer inches unless they are Keith Moon or John Bonham.

As I was watching Charlie and Will tonight, though, i thought back to earlier in the day and the North brothers at dinner with THEIR banter.  Gearheads, for sure.  But Austin boys with a vision and lots of adventures already behind them.  Playing “in the shadow of giants” (actually an old Blues Mafia EP title), Devin and Dave have effectively opened for ZZ Top (they played the same festival at the Backyard last summer), and they have shared the stage with David Holt and Malford Milligan and others at times.  Devin just turned seventeen; Dave turns fifteen next month.  Who knows, maybe in 20 years they too will be much loved by this whole city.  Maybe by then, they will have notebooks full of songs, many that look back to their childhoods, that they co-wrote with equally famed performers and fellow minstrels.  They, of course, are not looking that far ahead, nor are they even seeking short-term glory.  They just want to play.

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Calculated Carelessness Kickoff at Club DeVille – a real treat!

laurengwithchristy

From the first time I laid ears (and eyes) upon her as a member of the Pistol Love Family Band, Lauren Gurgiolo has blown me away.  There was for example this magical night of music and theater at the Cathedral of Junk with dissonant chords from a band spread out all over the edifice and hordes of people in attendance with mouths agape.  But that was a while back.  Since then, Lauren has become the lead guitarist with Okkervil River, started her own project The Dialtones, joined up with Neal Kassanoff in the Dead Left, and lent her many talents and charm to a host of other projects.

So when I saw her email about Calculated Carelessness, described as “an installation art piece” that Lauren had conceived, I took quick notice.  Lauren explained an the blurb that the piece “incorporates music, interactive sculpture and projection to transform one’s perception of space within a dynamically immersive environment.”  The installation will take place April 11-14 at the Museum of Human Achievement in east Austin.  Lauren’s inspriation is Soren Kierkegaard’s work, “The Seducer’s Diary.”  It began as a collection of songs for The Dialtones but grew into a full-blown inter-media project bringing together creative (visionary?) minds from architecture, design, music, sculpture and animation.  You can learn more about the project at Lauren’s Kickstarter page, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2019852060/calculated-carelessness-an-inter-media-installatio .

To kickstart the kickstarter, Lauren and some of her many friends put together a benefit concert at Club DeVille’s outdoor amphitheater on a cold night in January (thankfully there are propane heaters).  The special treat was some southwestern (means it has cactus in it) gumbo made by Lauren’s father, together with some King Cake (it is nearing Mardi Gras, and this was still gumbo!) served up by her mom and maybe aunts and uncles were in the mix — a real family affair.

And so was the music.  Lauren plays lead guitar these days with Christy Hays, who started the night off with some of her great country songs.  I remember meeting Christy at the now-defunct Jovita’s and noted tonight that her band, her songs, and her on-stage presence have just gotten better and better.  Next up was my dear friend Aimee Bobruk, playing solo on her electric guitar and singing songs from the CD she will be unveiling on January 26th at the Continental Club Gallery (with help from producer Brian Beattie, world class drummer and all-round raconteur Dony Wynn, and more).  Aimee, who was just featured in “American Songwriter,” has titled the new effort “Ba-Brook.”  I could go on and on … others have already done so … but I will hold off for the CD review.

Next up was fellow Dialtone Michael St. Clair, the first of many one-man bands for the evening.  Michael played keys, trumpet and guitar and who knows what all else … and then Lauren got back on stage with her mandolin to play some old standards with the legendary Stanley Smith (apparently this duo has been doing quite a few shows at the Elephant Room, but I somehow had been in the dark).  By this time the gumbo was largely eaten, the King Cake searched for the baby, and people were ready for a little something extra.

That of course would mean Te Dialtones themselves, with Will Landin filling in for Lindsay Greene, Karla Mansur on lead vocals, and the aforesaid St. Clair on keys.  Oh, yeah, Lauren plays lead guitar here, too — This is the quirky music that Lauren loves (and so do I) .. indeed, on this occasion the music that will be the backdrop/focal point of the coming installation.  To give Lauren a rest for a moment, the not quite shivering audience was warmed up considerably via a rare solo performance by the man I call “The Voice,” Paul Banks.  Paul, whose new record “Yelling at the Sun” was ranked the third best Texas made album of 2012 by Texas Music Magazine, brought the house to a standstill — with  a voice described by the Austin Chronicle as able “to go from sounding like a folk-singer Strokes frontman to a gorgeous Roy Orbison to stripped down Muse.” [Yeah, they compare him to Jeff Buckley, too!!]

The highlight of the evening, though, had to be the Dead Left set with Gray Parsons on drums and vocals, Lauren on lead guitar, Wil Landin on bass and renowned songwriter and bandleader (and founder of the Groundworks Music Project) Neal Kassanoff on guitars and lead vocals.  I had never seen Neal sing with such power and conviction (and he always does!) — maybe it was the stage, the lighting, the occasion, the incredible guitar work that Lauren was laying down, maybe it was the gumbo.  Whatever, he looked and sang like a rock star.

One might call the solo sets that followed — by band mates Gray Parsons and Wil Landin — the denouement.  But that term would properly be reserved for the tearing down long after the music stopped. Parsons, known more for his drumming, was standing at the keyboard with a guitar slung around his shoulders tonight.  Landin’s set featured his washboard bass, his ukulele that he played at one time strapped in place while he was picking his one-string washboard bass and banging on a makeshift drum built around a 3-gallon water bottle.  At other times, the uke and also his electric bass were backdrops for some fancy finger picking so food Colonel Sanders would have wanted a lick.

Just when we all thought the night was all over, DeVille soundman Will Rhodes (himself quite a musician) gave quite a speech (as we had all profusely thanked him for his hard work and good sound) about the entire day — working with the Gurgiolo family and signing up for a private lesson in maing a good roux.  Then he proceeded to serenade us all with some amazingly bad so-called country (impromptu for sure) songs.

Don’t forget, you can give to this effort at The Dialtones’ kickstarter, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2019852060/calculated-carelessness-an-inter-media-installatio .  But most of all, if you see that the Dialtones, the Dead Left, Christy Hays, or Stanley Smith (or anyone else who played tonight) give them a shoutout and go hear Lauren play.  You will not be disappointed!

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You are going to like these “Changes” from B Sterling Archer!

B Sterling“Searching Through the Changes” — B Sterling Archer

B Sterling Archer spends his days teaching music at a local private school and his nights changing his son Ace’s diapers — and somehow finding time to write and often enough perform some pretty darn good songs.  Good enough to get him into the Kerrville New Folk showcases in 2011  This new, higher profile encouraged B to go into the studio with the wonderful Mark Hallman and Andre Moran at Congress House and make this new record, “Searching Through the Changes.”

I recall meeting B at Momo’s — Bryce Clifford and some of our mutual friends introduced me and invited me to go to Mosaic to hear the church band … and there I met B’s amazing wife Jess Archer, who oh by the way is shopping her new book about her father’s work with Billy Graham.  B and Jess also introduced me to David Ramirez on Easter Sunday a few years back.  We have roots.

So I was thrilled to learn that he had been chosen to play at Kerrville, because I knew his first record, “Time Has Come,” was very good.  I also recalled that and when his longtime keyboardist Nicolette Manglos was off to Africa for a while I was pleased to recommend the incomparable Sarah Lincoln (now Cosano) as a fill-in — and later B got the equally incomparable Lauryn Gould to play in his band!

And I was equally thrilled to learn that he would be working with Andre and Mark, along with Nicolette, Lauryn,  with some pedal steel by Patterson Barrett.  I was even happier as I would run into Mark and Andre here and there and when I asked about B’s project, they would just smile. I knew this was going to be good.

I was right.  The 11 songs here are all worth multiple listens … starting with “Hang On,” which promises “rest for the weary” if you “hang on past your swan song and sing about your troubles,” life will get better.  “Follow Suit” is a paean to Jess, whom he says is “playing your hand … loving the man you drew.”  Now we know why B named his son “Ace,” and of course he calls himself the Joker. Should be a crowd pleaser.

“Guide Me Calm” is just one of many songs in which we recall that B conducts a school orchestra and knows how to use strings (he plays both upright bass and cello here as well as acoustic guitar).  The mood is as “calm” as the title.  Peace reigns.

“Beginnings of Things,” however, packs quite a punch — he points the finger directly at someone who “mostly shops for satisfaction, feeling the attraction of buying something that’s rare,” but who quickly tires of acquisitions and “only like(s) the beginnings of things.”  B brings out his trumpet here.  This could be a Shawn Colvin song, it has such a bite!

“What We’ve Started Here” is another of B’s songs that speak of the real world of marriage … how it is not all sweetness and light, but the struggles are worth it if you keep on believing.   “Just One More” has B on guitar, cello and fluegelhorn — another self-reflective poem about love and regret. “What You Used To Love” might be the sequel to “Just One More.”

“You’ll Never Come Back” is one of my favorites here … yes, this one opens with “I’ve given up smoking,”  but remember not all songs are autobiographical. The simple melodies speak about the changing of habits to trick what’s inside — and, yes, that is Mark Hallman playing banjo!

“Recollections” is another gorgeous song that shows the range and passion in B’s vocals.  This song has the feel of a minuet, as well as of a 19th century short story.  “To Find You” would be a great finale song (except for the one that follows).  Reminds me a bit of “Hotel California” in its structure, but with a much more hopeful message.

Did I mention that this entire record has that sense of the classical fused together with the contemporary — such that even without lyrics it would be powerful.  And yet, the lyrics speak to just about anyone who is actively engaged in the struggle to live by a moral code that centers on being someone your partners and friends would be proud of.

Fittingly, and  one might say providentially, Mark was able to coax Eliza Gilkyson (with whom he has worked for years) to come in and sing a duet with B on “Brave New World,” the crown jewel of this song collection.  Who better to help B interpret  a deeply spiritual song, which includes a plea to “hear my prayers that are hidden still and calm my frightened heart, teach my soul in this brave new world to know how great Thou art.”  And, yes, this song should become an anthem sung worldwide … it is that powerful, that true, that personal and universal all at the same time.

B has a CD release party at the Cactus Cafe on February 2 (Groundhog Day).  ”B” there!

 

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Breakout Bash for Beth Lee!

Beth LeeBETH LEE and the BREAK UPS — One More Time Again

I first met Beth Lee a few years ago at the Hole in the Wall, back when she was just getting started as an Austin musician.  She was energetic, red-headed and a little vulnerable yet tough.  What else would you expect from a Houston girl who grew up in the bars and honkytonks where her songwriter father Jimmy Dundon played shows?

I missed a couple of those shows before I finally got out to see her play.  I also caught her band once at Cheapo during SXSW (or maybe some other big Austin event).  From that day forward, I was a huge fan.  Maybe it’s the red hair, maybe the fact that she was playing with her dad and yet you could tell she was very much in charge.

I keep tabs.  For example, Beth was living in the apartments next to the Wilson Street cottages before they, too, were bulldozed so the property owners could squeeze in just a few more high-end condos on the property.  I recall her playing at Baker Street not that long ago .. with bassist Jessica Will and guitar slinger Adam Burchfield, but I do not recall if her drummer, Joel Duhon, was on stage that night.  TheBreakups (maybe Jimmy is back playing bass again, at least sometimes) provide a solid floor for Beth’s songs.

Beth is a bright penny tinged with the redneck hippie culture that makes her songs come alive.  She may chide me for comparing her to such Houston songwriters as Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle (because they are guys), but I can hardly compare her to fellow Houston redhead Carolyn Wonderland.  Nah.  I put Beth in the tradition of the late great Cindy Walker.  While she grew up in old-style rock ‘n’ roll, Beth’s music to me is Texas roots country with a tinge of Houston soul.

Beth keeps getting better as a songwriter .. this new record has some amazing cuts that half the women in Nashville would die to cover or purchase to call their own.  Some of my favorites are “Foolish Heart,” “”13 Roses,” the title cut, and “Back to Houston.”  “Every Time We Touch” is sultry, a song that could well could have been written by Bobby Blue Bland or Eric Burdon.  All of them are good!  I am hoping to hear a bunch of them on Outlaw Country on XM (and of course lots of Texas radio).

Ron Flynt, who produced Beth’s first song collection, is back at the helm as producer and engineer and multi-instrumentalist.  Beth gets vocal help from Bracken Hale, Jenn Miori and Christy Hays, plus some extra music from Vicente Rodriguez, Jim Hawkins and Matt Giles.  This record will grow on you, because the songs are real — the performances are just right — and we have all been there before.

The CD release will be at the Rattle Inn on February 8th.  Doors at 8, show at 9.  If you like really good, danceable, soulful Texas music, Ray Benson’s joint just off West Sixth Street is a very good place to be that evening!

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