Flanfire (Duggan Flanakin) is bringing LIFE to Austin music -- and telling the world how sweet it is!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

So tonight we went out to the Texas Music Cafe for a quiet meal on the patio - great weather - and The Dream Band, with guitarist Slim Richey, songbird Lady Lacynica, and bassist Francie Mosher -- it was pure jazz! The trio plays again at the TMC for Sunday's Jazz Brunch. The joint was jumping with folks inside and outside enjoying the food and those outside the music as well.

On a day that started with a missed (by the other person) appointment, continued with a worm attack, and ended with one of our young friends locking her keys in her car (allowing me to play Sir Galahad to rescue her spare set from her distant domicile), my youngest daughter also officially got married, my oldest daughter started her new job, and my wife got great news from her office.

So, to celebrate at least some of those events, we trekked over to Ross' Old Austin - way up North Lamar in the nosebleed section of North Austin - to the next-to-the-last edition, we are told, of Aussie Roseanna Hill's Tuesday night songwriter showcases. Ross, BTW, has been hosting music at this location for at least a decade - both indoors in a room that seats about 50 and outdoors in nice weather where folks on his front porch and those sitting on outdoor tables can enjoy a good time. He also serves up tasty steaks, salads, and soups - and stuff and has a bunch of old maps of Waterloo and Austin as the city progressed from its infancy. His family has been in the Austin food business - including the bakery business - for decades - and he's got dozens of stories to tell if you can get him going.

This week's show featured an opening set by Roseanna (who also shows up at Ruta Maya for a similar gig), followed by half an hour or so by the Rainravens' Andy Van Dyke - who says the venerable Austin country rockers are still hoping to record a new CD - perhaps a collection CD for distribution in Japan - this year. That's www.rainravens.com for those who forgot or never knew their stuff.

Closing out the evening was a young romantic, Parker Worsham, native Austinite, who plays around town. But we were there to hear our new friend Tahni Handal, a California native and emigre seeking to expand her horizons and share her songs in the Live Music Capital of the World! Word is she is headed to the studio with Woody Russell, a Montana native and Seattle emigre who arrived in Austin in 2002. This singer-songwriter is playing next month at the Y-Bar and the Ginger Man.

But more on Tahni, whose songs are intensely personal and reflect her faith in a God who intervenes in her life to help her deal with life's tough stuff. She did let on that she at an earlier age was a metalhead player -- and somehow that old lifestyle did not destroy her ability to carry a tune or to write quiet songs that you can actually listen to up close.

Ross' is NOT a hip venue - but you can have a good meal, interact with real songwriters (and at lunch, sometimes, an old-fashioned piano player), and not spend a fortune - and maybe, if you pay attention, get an Austin history lesson as a bonus.

Monday, September 22, 2003

RAIN! Falling softly and coolly, putting a slight damper on crowd size at the Austin City Limits music festival -- but not on the great music there. Trekked to the site with two young friends who were buying CD's left and right and thoroughly enjoying bands I had missed on Saturday -- String Cheese and the Rebirth Brass Band in particular, and got to hear a little of Shin -- which sounded GREAT even from a distance.

I stuck around long enough to catch Lucinda - playing with Dwight Yoakum's former rhythm section and a lone gunslinger (er, guitar player), but spent most of that hour with Doyle Bramhall and Mike Keller -- where I ran into Glenn Fukunaga and complimented him on his not too distant past appearance with the Chicks at the music awards show. He of course credited Nat's dad Lloyd for his good fortune, which included a whole month of their infamous tour (including the London show) -- and Glenn told me he will be in the studio starting this week with Eliza Gilkyson (with Mike Hardwick on guitar, I think). THAT should be cool.

I also ran into Austin radio's best-looking couple - Eric and Michelle Leikam of 95.5 FM -- Eric hosts an Austin music show on Sunday nights at 10 pm that should not be missed by anyone up and out at that hour, while "Shelley Knight" is our favorite 9 am till 2 pm deejay. The handsome Antone was a little sleepy.

[Oh, and I forgot to mention that I ran into Laura - former owner of Laura's Bluebonnet Cafe, now called the Austin Diner - at Steve Winwood. She says that Jake (her son) is now getting his Jake's Cakes at home, and she loves being a full-time mom - though she does still dole out chocolate-covered strawberries on special occasions.]

The highlight of my Sunday, though, was taking the wife out to Manny Hattan's and then over to the Gateway to see The Fighting Temptations.

What a surfeit of great music and great musicians - from the Ojays to Beyonce Knowles to Christian rapper T-Bone and throw in the Blind Boys of Alabama and The Reverend Shirley Ceasar -- plus Cuba Gooding, Jr., showing his dance moves. See the movie - get the sound track - then see the movie again, if you are indeed a gospel music lover at ANY level. The message in the film ain't bad, either -- but I will not spoil the plot. This - amazingly - is an MTV movie.

Okay, so I missed some of the best music at the ACL Fest -- but I was satiated anyway and opted to spend time with the one I love best. What a way to spend one's birthday!!!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

What a week it has been -- celebrating my 59th birthday by --

a - having some young musicians - Brennen Leigh and her brother Seth - over to dinner on Thursday night along with the impresario Tom Stevens, who runs the Wednesday Extravagonzo Nights at Maria's Taco X-press along with the Austin Chapter of the Harmonica Organization of Texas.

b - working Friday morning at the ticket booth at the Austin City Limits Music Festival to earn a three-day pass and have a lot of fun seeing who was buying tickets at the gate, then getting into the festival in time to see Steve Earle, a lyrics-forgetting Robert Earl Keen in his acoustic set with Rich Brotherton, the fabulous Los Lonely Boys, a little bit of Martin Sexton, and getting very close to the stage (and video screen) to dance for a solid hour to one of my all-time favorites (and the chief reason for my going to this year's festival), Steve Winwood.

c - staying at home on Saturday to watch my beloved LSU Tigers scratch and claw out a victory over the University of Georgia Bulldogs on national television - that's football to you, Catalystforfungirl.

Of special note, Austin City Limits has not brought "gospel" acts to the TV screen, and one reason I hear is that the ones they have approached have not been willing to do the show for scale (which speaks volumes about either their egos or their misconnection with the purposes of sharing the gospel), but the ACL Music Festival is LOADED with both gospel music and with ordinary musicians like Winwood and Los Lonely Boys - and if you listen to Steve Earle's latest efforts, him too - who profess their faith in a song or two or three during their sets. Winwood at an early age wrote the great Blind Faith hit, I Have Finally Found a Way to live, in the presence of the Lord -- and I remember seeing him on Letterman several years back acknowledging that he puts at least one spiritual song on every one of his records. One that I like is from Refugees of the Heart - "In the Light of Day" -- the lyrics include --

On the street tonight the innocent are dying
And the world's not right, so many millions crying
Evil lives and hate never gives
Hell is never far and is this all we are>

Oh Lord, hear us cry up in the fiery sky
That our souls may fly to you when we die
Help us feel the light inside us
Help us feel it everywhere, Oh Lord be there.

Also from that same CD is "Every Day (Oh Lord)"

What a world of trouble we all are asked to bear
But we have to keep on living, find our strength somewhere
And I choose to keep on hoping faith is still there....

Reaching for the stars for the song of us all
Looking through the lonely night for a faith that will not fall
For morning, glad I'm here when morning comes
Here when morning comes, one more day to keep on singing.

Another Winwood song, "There's a River," includes these words --

There's a river pouring
From a pure and a crystal stream
And it carries my heart along
Carries me all my life
And I know it will bring me home

There's a choir singing
With a force that can light the sky
I will join with a voice deep inside
Anthems for joys gone by
And for joys I am sure will come

But what Winwood really brings is a creativity that has not dimmed as he has gotten older. It was forty years ago that he stepped onto the stage with the Spencer Davis Group at the age of 15 -- and his set on Friday night included I'm a Man and Gimme Some Loving, along with Dear Mr. Fantasy and Back in the High Life Again -- plus songs from his brand-new CD including Different Light and Why Can't We Live Together -- which is a plea for racial harmony among other things. He played mostly the glorious Hammond B-3 - God's instrument, I have long believed -- but played mandolin on Back in the High Life and an amazing guitar on Mr. Fantasy.....

I will NOT bore you non-fans with the tale of the football game, but rather encourage one and all to enjoy each day of this wonderful life.

Friday, September 12, 2003

This has been quite a week, and the pleasure has not been all mine. One reason to have extra ice chests around the house - if your daughter's refrigerator goes out just after she and her husband had bought two weeks' worth of groceries. The good news - they now have a "new" refrigerator in their apartment - one in which the icemaker actually works! My daughter and I finally went to see Seabiscuit and Finding Nemo - both with her 11-week-old son Caleb, who especially enjoyed Finding Nemo - a movie, of course, designed to bond fathers and children together ever more closely, and one that should be seen intergenerationally.

My pal James Bruce and I checked out the Texas Music Cafe for lunch this week - I had the gumbo, catfish po-boy, and creme brulee; he had the meatloaf sandwich. All I can say is --- YUMMMMMM! Do not miss this new and lovely (especially the outdoor music patio in the back) establishment that has been a long time coming. It is just two doors up the hill from the Continental Club, and two doors down the hill from what is to become FactoryPeople - a clothing venture with ties to the Bookpeople people. SOCO never looked so good and continues to become an even greater neighborhood for eating, shopping, and having tons of fun. NEVER TEAR UP THIS BEAUTIFUL STREET FOR LIGHT RAIL!!! Instead, put cuter busses (maybe trolley-style) or even horse-drawn carriages or whatever. And never forget First Thursday!!!

Lessee -- Did I mention the brand-new CD release week being conducted by my pal Greg Adkins of the Gospel According 2 Austin project? Volume 4 - Turn Your Radio On - features the Brennen Leigh Band, which consists primarily of Brennen (tall, blonde, 20 year old, mandolin picking, Hank-style singing western Minnesota girl whose first CD - Lonesome, Wild, and Blue - features several of her own compositions and songs by Billy Joe, Steve Earle, and others of note), her brother Seth (tall, brunet, 22 year old, guitar picking songwriter who spent a year in Nashville before relocating with Brennen last year to San Marcos and moving this week up to Austin after spending the summer mostly in Minnesota and North Dakota), Lonnie Key (banjo picker from San Marcos), and often joined by veteran Austin players BB Morse and Phil Fajardo.

So we trekked on down to the Broken Spoke on Wednesday for a set that also featured a pedal steel player -- the house was unpacked, perhaps because Ray Benson was playing for free at Hill's Cafe that evening, but Damon Bramblett was there! He for the record is taking a sabbatical until he heads down to South America in January, but in case you have forgotten what a great songwriter he is, you'd best hit his website and demand more action. I love Damon, and especially remember his solo slots at Stubb's a while back out on the upstairs porch.

Thursday was wild for the kids - a luncheon gig at a hotel conference, a 3:30 appearance with Jody Denburg, a 5:00 in-store concert at Waterloo, and then the 7:30 gig - normally outdoors, but there was this wind and rain threat, so they moved it indoors - at Threadgill's Riverside. Did I mention that Billy Joe Shaver showed up to sing his own song from Brennen's gospel CD -- and provided a bonus by getting the band going full speed and then some to that little ditty, I've Been To Georgia on a Fast Train. Don Walser had intended to drop by, but was reportedly not feeling well.

Brennen and the boys are playing in Luckenbach on Saturday and doing the Gospel Brunch at Threadgill's this Sunday (11 am - 1 pm). We will NOT be there, as we will be in North Lousiaiana celebrating a birthday and the landing of a great job by my oldest daughter who is moving back to central Florida (so I can visit her during spring training).

Thursday, September 04, 2003

September 4, 2003

Last Saturday while grinning at Gruene Hall with my Nancy to the tuneful muse, Shelley King, and her band, I ran into Jessica Shepherd who was handing out flyers about her gig two doors down at the New Braunfels Museum of Music and Arts (what a cool place it turned out to be). She was hosting a songwriters in the round with - ta-da - fellow redhead Carolyn Wonderland and the inimitable Susan Gibson (whose guitar has the same last name).

This sounded like a gig not to miss - Carolyn is just back from 60 days on the road, and Jessica keeps talking about going to Australia again - for two whole years. And Nancy had never seen Susan Gibson (though we will be on a cruise with her in October). And the gig was to be in Gruene - which can only be explained as the Texas equivalent of Mecca.

So we slog through the rush hour traffic until we hit open road south of Ben White, and trek on down in time for a quickie dessert (blackberry cobbler) at the Guadalupe Meat and BBQ place just at the big curve on Gruene Road. There was a little deer who had lost its mother hanging out, and the wait-person said they were trying to figure out what to do to help the creature survive. I thought - there is plenty of grass in the backyard, and so long as he (or she?) does not cross the fence and get too close to the "bad bull" reportedly across that fence the deer could hang out for quite a while and get bigger. After all, that's what they do in Lakeway.

But I digress. We pull into the parking lot and enter the facility - and found a cool new book based on Steven Fromholtz's Texas Trilogy (see the Lyle Lovett double CD of Texas songwriters music for a modern rendition of these great songs) that costs $29.95 and will make a great Christmas present for those who have everything. They also have a lot of corny stuff for sale and rent - and it only cost five dollars if you were not a member (free for members) to get in. But they had free beer (for a donation, of course) and wine and even sodas for the weary and thirsty. Plus a great exhibit of photos of musical instrument makers from around the nation - comes from the Smithsonian (with which this museum is affiliated) and a whole bunch of cool instruments upstairs (too much of a trek for these tired legs tonight).

The stage is big enough - Willis Allen Ramsey is playing there next Thursday - and an acoustic set by the Cosmic Dust Devils on the first Thursday (that's the monthly gig deal) in October. The sound is great, because the acoustics in this two-level building (looks like a barn from the outside) are quite fine.

This is the first time that any of these women have been on stage with each other, but obviously Jessica in particular knows a lot of her colleagues' songs, because she does some great harmonies. And Carolyn plays a bunch of lead guitar riffs on her Gibson blues boy (her baby) - and also adds a few backup vocals - as does Susan.

The evening starts off with a song from Susan, then Jessica and Carolyn in back-to-back songs show off their whistling talents. Susan admits she is whistling-deprived but keeps trying, but she scores bigtime by opening (as noted before) with a tribute to Carolyn, whom she saw a decade or so ago at the Last Concert Cafe in Houston before she (Susan) was even in a band. Later, when Carolyn played lead on one of her songs, she acknowledged that she had long dreamed that one day this would happen - and tonight it kept happening.

A highlight of the night was Jessica's tribute to the beauty parlor - at which the ladies were not just washing and rinsing hair but there were some "perming, teasing, filing, smiling, coffee drinking, beehive making" good times. that one got everybody into the act - even though Carolyn and Susan appeared to know little of the pleasures of the parlor experience.

As we began the long drive back home to Austin, my wife leaned over and thanked me for taking her. Nuff said about THIS experience!

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