OK, on Amanda Cevallos’ new CD, “Country Music Turns Me On,” she ONLY does “Luxury Liner” that Gram actually wrote, but who else has NEIL FLANZ — who toured with Gram and Emmylou in the Fallen Angels Band (you know the live recording from New Jersey at least!) — as her pedal steel player? PLUS Gram and the Burrito Brothers did maybe the best version ever of “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music,” and she has Neil Flanz.
Amanda, who has been performing as Loretta Lynn of late (and looking and sounding quite lovely, and whipping out those Conway and Loretta duets with guitarist Will Dabbs), contributed four of her own songs to this fine collection, including the title cut, a paean to playing at the Broken Spoke on Tuesdays for Happy Hour. She also covers Tanya Tucker (“When I Die”), George Jones (“Why Baby Why”), Leon Russell (“Truck Drivin’ Man”), and the Oakridge Boys (“Elvira,” and I gotta luvit!).
Did I mention that the whole band — and yes this is a live recording done by my very close friend Jason Richard of Clockright Studios “at a church in South Austin” — sounds crisp and tight? Dabbs has a fine touch; Chris Trafton is on drums, Ben Eisenberg is on bass, and Grammy nominee Jorge Herada plays acoustic guitar. At her live shows, it’s Robert Maas on drums.
Maybe my favorite song on the record (starting with Dabbs’ opening guitar licks interspersed with the pedal steel) is “Think I’m Goin’ Crazy,” as Amanda sings, she used to think he was “the one,” but now, she tells him “…I’m thinkin’ maybe, you’re just a son of a gun.”
But the truth is that I am a pedal steel junkie — and Neil Flanz played with Gram and made his music sing! He makes Amanda’s music better, too, by also being her musical director — writing the charts, even giving fashion advice (again, he DID play with GP!), and being “very computer savvy” too. But I think the biggest thing Neil Flanz has done for Amanda Cevallos is to give his total affirmation — by, for example, writing out charts to ALL of her songs before they even had their first practice!.
Amanda and her band have been playing Tuesdays at the Spoke for several months, thanks to the wisdom of the legendary James White — and this Sunday (November 6) the band has the 10 pm slot at the Saxon Pub as part of a tribute to Doug Sahm.
[NOTE to self -- Beg, cajole, plead, do ANYTHING to make sure that Neil Flanz gets added to the GRAM PARSONS TRIBUTE SHOW at Threadgill's World Headquarters on Sunday night -- YUP -- that show precedes the Doug Sahm tribute at the Saxon, so you can get to BOTH if you can get in the door!]
Which brings me to a quick point about what an AMAZING TOWN AUSTIN IS! Just take the past couple of daze — great open mikes at Baker St. on Sunday and House Wine on Monday (and Lisa Kettyle is doing a great job at Romeo’s on Mondays as well); over at Momo’s on Monday, it was Meggan Carney and her hot band (in full Halloween regalia!), followed by the Huey Lewis endorsed Chewy Sprewis and the Screws (George DeVore and friends), then by the Velvet Underground as interpreted by Jack Edward Martin and Cause for Applause (with special guests). On Tuesday, I caught Amanda’s Loretta Lynn show at the Spoke, rolled down the street to the Saxon for a smokin’ hot set by The Moonlighters, featuring Lonnie (soon to be married and off to Spain for a honeymoon!) Trevino on bass and front and center vocals, slash and burn guitar gods Josh Zee (Mother Truckers) and Phil Hurley (Stonehoney), and drummer Phil Bass. You might say, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” OR you could go from electric to acoustic (as I did) and head back to Momo’s for the Drew Smith songwriter circle featuring (on this night) Graham Wilkinson, Jon Beckham, Kurt McMahan, and Ethan Kennedy. My idea here is that these guys should turn this into a college credit course in songwriting … and pack the house every week! Graham BTW has a release of his five-song EP “The Spiritual Accessories” on Friday (Drew’s band The Lonely Choir will also be on that bill at Momo’s); Ethan’s new band Kinky Machine (named after a Jimi Hendrix line) has a hot show at Frank on Thursday; Kurt’s band King Biscuit will be playing every Sunday in November at Momo’s; and the Beckham Brothers will open for the Band of Heathens on Thanksgiving Friday (again at Momo’s).
Meanwile, I am promoting TWO SHOWS with great lineups NEXT WEEK –
Tuesday, November 8th at Beauty Bar — Holiday, Sorne (fresh from their Southeast tour), and Brooklyn-based RUBBLEBUCKET whom I saw in Chicago three weeks ago and immediately jumped on board to help fill out this bill … This eight-piece band — with Hammond B3 and a great horn section — marched into the crowd at Chicago’s Double Door and they have asked local horn players to show up at the Beauty Bar for what they hope will be a Nawlins style parade as part of the show. My report is that I danced for 90 minutes straight to this band and plan to do so again!
Then on Wednesday, November 9th, it is Meggan Carney and her band opening for Nashville-based Madi Diaz and Kyle Andrews.
Like Gillian Welch and her inseparable, unbilled cohort David Rawlings, Madi Diaz is actually a duo. One half is Diaz herself, and the other is her performing and songwriting partner Kyle Ryan, whom she met while studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The two had begun playing music in their teens, and Diaz even had an odd, early brush with the spotlight: At 16, while attending Philadelphia’s now-infamous Paul Green School of Rock Music, she appeared in the documentary Rock School, which inspired the 2003 Jack Black flick. [OR SO THE STORY GOES -- Dave Sebree recalls that the movie's creators actually spent time at the Austin School of Music and Rock Camp in their research for the film.]
Kyle Andrews may be best known for his song “You Always Make Me Smile,” which was featured in a worldwide Holiday Inn ad that included a massive water balloon fight. He travels with a hot band and will be playing songs from his brand-new release, “Robot Learn Love.”
BOTH these shows will be absolutely awesome — and at Frank you can get waffle fries with your Chicago dog!
Before I go, I have to mention that, among the new to Austin artists whom I have caught at recent open mikes, these few stand out (though others are also pretty good!) –
Ima Nsien with Ashton Sullivan — Ima, whose family came to the U.S. from Nigeria, sings R&B, and Ashton, who hails from Virginia, is a fine jazz guitarist — they had a band together in L.A. and separately decided to move to Austin just a couple of months ago.
Thick Red Wine (aka Mike Wojciechowski) – This New Jersey native found his voice while at college in Chicago and then moved to Austin, where he regales a growing fan base regularly with his witty, self-revealing songs that transmit his zest for everyday life into the hearts of those blinded by boredom.
Erica Nobel — this Phoenix transplant just writes great songs and is attracting top players to back her.
Heidi Nadine — This Canadian songbird just flew in (by way of Denmark) bringing tracks she had recorded in Switzerland and around and borrowing a keyboard from the lovely Kristin Astourian (out on her own after leaving Children of the Feather). She totally STUNNED me at Baker St. the other night.
And let’s not forget nationally known author-public speaker Jenni Schaefer — whose book “Living with ED” has helped untold fellow sufferers of eating disorders — but who is also a singer-songwriter with a lovely voice and powerful lyrics. Jenni, by the way, is speaking (and hopefully also singing) at the National Eating Disorders Austin Walk at Mueller Lake Park in Austin on November 19rth.
AND BEST OF ALL — my new friend Laura Jean Thompson, who debuted her new CD “River of Doubt” at Chicago’s Uncommon Ground last Friday, will be bringing her songs to Austin in late December – shows are already set at Romeo’s (12-21) and the Ham Jam Concert Series (12-28), and others are lining up fast.