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

Friday, December 31, 2004

I went to Dallas to see Jessica Shepherd tonight - with her band -- Kyle Judd on guitar, Perry Drake on drums, and Greg Bumgardner from Canyon Lake (now San Marcos) on bass. Lest anyone be confused, Dallas is a night club on Burnet Road with a huge oval-shaped dance floor (with three posts in the middle to hold up the roof), lots of pool tables, cheeseburgers and fries to go along with your beer and liquor, three - make it four - bars, and live Texas music on Thursday nights. Dallas' reputation is as a kicker heaven - hats and two steps - but oddly enough in between Jessica's sets tonight, the house threw in a bunch of hiphop and funk and that stuff seemed to draw even more folks onto the dance floor than the live countrified pickin'. There were a few who braved the floor for traditional Texas dancing - but not that many. Even so, folks generally had a very good time. Jessica and the band played songs from her Travelingirl CD (which still sounds good after nearly four years), some of her newer material (including the beauty parlour song that makes me want to get a copy for my mother), and a few covers - including a rousing rendition of The Doors' "People Are Strange" which got applause from some of the regulars. Jessica always closes with her version of One Way Ticket to Austin, which she co-wrote with Shelley King - and which featured lots of solo work by Kyle and other band members. Greg's other band is a duo (sometimes trio) called Acoustic Jungle.

Today is New Year's Eve - and as my old friend Scott Wesley Brown says, I wish you peace.

Friday, December 24, 2004

El Goins is goin' places -- and on Wednesday nights at Momo's (when he is in town) his drum kit is goin' all night long - as are the guitar-pickin' fingers of the wonderful Wayne Sutton.

Flanfire had for weeks been trying to get down to the "family" scene that Eldridge had told me was what Wednesdays are all about there. I missed the opening act - Jade Day, but I am told that Sutton plays guitar for him, too, every week. My special reason for slipping away from my wife, mother, daughter, and grandson was the invite from Wendy Lorraine Colonna, whom I had run into on a previous Sunday at Maria's during the Gospel Brunch. So with both El and Wendy on my tail, I HAD to go.

It was well worth it. Wendy and Wayne and El (with a bass player I do not know and the inimitable Cole El-Saleh on keyboards) also had Guy Forsyth in the house PLUS Brad Hauser on baritone sax (and the guy is really a bass player). Now Wendy is the woman many guys would probably vote as the one they would most like to be lost on a desert island with - sure she is sexy and funky, but the woman can probably crack a coconut, pick out the right herbs (and eschew the wrong ones), and even help build a raft. Plus, she is a RIOT and a deep thinker in her songwriting. Unlike the tinwoman/cowardly lioness women of television (the Brits and Jesses and Christinas without hearts or brains), this babe has both. She writes pretty good songs herself, but I was captivated by her cover of Snowin' on Raton. The band was JAMMIN' and Wendy was ringin' her "jingly-ass bells" and dancin' all over the stage.

After a break, the players lined up (El, Wayne, and Wendy) with a different bass player (Seth?) to back South Carolina import Brian Keane (whose CD, out in February, is being produced by El and is EXCELLENT!!!!!). Now Brian is a songwriter, but he threw in at least two Tom Waits covers (one a duet with Guy Forsyth that will be on the CD and the other a solo effort) and a Rachel Loy song (she, too, was in the house!). [DO NOT FAIL TO CATCH RACHEL LIVE!!!]
Songs like "Another Piece of Me," "Better Days," and the outrageous "Odysseus" (a Texas version of the story of the Greek mythology hero), and my personal favorite "Concrete Sidewalk" -- well, it was until I heard his final song (done acoustic) "She Used To Carry Me," which HAS to be an anthem song. [Find him at www.keanetunes.com NOT briankeanemusic.com or the actor Brian Keane] Sometimes one might think of Brian as an easy-going guy - but one song on Wednesday night outdid even Kris Brown's ode to a French Slave Ship. It was BAAAAAADD (and not just the lyrics) - "23 positions" must be the title, but the point of it all was some incredible drum work by Eldridge and awesome wailing by Brad Hauser (of the New Bohemians and Critters Buggin and all over) on baritone sax.

El and Wayne were keepin' on keepin' on, and the final act of the evening was the lovely Joy Davis, who is Patrice Pike's taller sister. Patrice told me this was just Joy's fourth live gig in front of an audience (since going to Nashville at age 17, Joy has had a couple of children that have kept her busy) - but what a voice. Patrice got up for a duet (This Is the Real Thing) and then closed the show with Joy for an oldtimy a cappella version of a song called A Mother's Smile that Joy says she sings to her children every night. Now, Joy's act was quite unique, in that some guy jumped up on stage after her first song and got down on a knee and brought out a little box and asked her to marry him -- and she said YES! This, I was assured, does not happen EVERY NIGHT! But it was so special - even better than the proposal being shown on TV that happened at the Trail of Lights!. Congrats to Joy and her man - and for a memory that will last as long as songs are sung.

Apparently, these Wednesday gigs (with who knows who dropping in) will continue into the new year. Crowds should swell to enormous proportions. Momo's should sell lots of beer and stuff.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Twas a Tom Stevens Christmas - at Maria's Taco X-Press to benefit the Christmas Bureau of Austin. Twas a chilly evening (even the Canadians were wearing warm coats), with Maria's outdoor heaters blaring and Christmas lights a blazing. Twas an evening of warm joy and great music. Opening the set (before we arrived) was Shelley King singing Silent Night with Carolyn Wonderland playing guitar. We arrived in time for short sets by Matt Williams (wearing a cool hat) and Peter Mazzetti on guitar - and got to see Matt Hubbard on trombone, Al Sato on dobro, Francie Meaux Jeaux on standup bass, and more. Then it was Eileen Alter doing two of her own songs solo and Eppy Epstein on harmonica, followed by Frank Meyer (also wearing a cool hat) who sang a few tunes that split our sides. After J. B. Henry showed us some of his harmonica tricks, and Al Sato let us know how Santa gets the blues and Rebecca Pitts did a Joni Mitchell sad Christmas song, Canadian import Andrew Walker (whose galpal Preeti was in the house, all the way from Ontario) sang one of his own songs and then an old carol his grandma had taught him years ago.

Then the place began to really heat up. Old Vermont Yankee Jon Emery sang a few carols, closing with Joy to the World, and then Hawaii emigre Jimi Lee (well, he did spend a few years there before coming back to Texas) brought up Carolyn Wonderland and Kole El-Salah for a delightful three-song set that featured his smooth harmonica and vocals and lots of keyboard and guitar licks from the mates. Somewhere in the mix was Matt Hubbard again - on keyboards and harmonica and some recorder-type instrument and later Matt and Kole joined Carolyn for another toasty set. We got cold and left just before Leeann Atherton and pals brought down the house to close the evening out.

So then we turn on the TV and there is Adam Sandler on Letterman - true, he and Dave had some banter, but what we want to report is Sandler's live rendering of Werewolves of London (complete with his hot guitar solo), from the new Warren Zevon tribute CD "Enjoy Every Sandwich" that also features Bob and Jakob Dylan, Springsteen, the Pixies, and Billy Bob Thornton and many more top stars. What a contrast to Operaman - perhaps my favorite Sandler routine of all time.

BIG BIG BIG BIG NEWS!!!!! Those awaiting with bated breath the sensational Sis Deville show at Antone's on Sunday night (December 19th, doors open at 8 pm) must now go out to the byways and backwoods to bring in all of their long-lost friends. Opening the evening will now be a special performance by ANN-MARIE AND HER CLOUD EIGHT EXPERIENCE featuring Ann-Marie Harrop on bass and lead vocals, Perry Drake on drums, and (Michael) Jackson on strange guitar and pimped-up threads. So Sunday night is a time to find appropriate clothing (suitable for dancing) and appropriate friends (anyone who likes to have a good time) and get on down to Antone's for the hottest show of this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ross' Old Austin is rockin'. Great comfort food and live music six nights a week way up on North Lamar (in the nosebleed section north of Braker Lane). Hungry folk that we are, we stopped by last Thursday to find transplanted Texas country singer Keith Kelso, whose song "Written in Stone" is high on the country charts in Europe. Next month the little diner will get a visit from songbird Pauline Reese! The Brennen Leigh Band will also visit in January, along with Turtle Creek and a bunch of other groups that keep Old Ross Sterzing and his boys tapping their toes. On warm nights the music goes outside under the trees - just good old-fashioned fun. Ross' son T. R. Sterzing is partly responsible for the influx of touring professionals stopping by their little stage. Miss Reese sings one of T. R.'s songs on her newest CD - and the friendly cowpoke promises his pals a great meal when they sing for their supper there. Family friendly - so bring the kids (especially if they like home-cut fries).

Wednesday evening I slipped on down to Artz' Rib House to catch some of the Sis DeVille set - that's Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King, and Floramay Holliday in acoustic mode. The gals - plus Ann-Marie and Lisa (we presume) - will be playing a HUGE gig at Antone's on Sunday, December 19th - a rare opportunity to see this glam rock women's band in action. There is HOPE that the gig will produce a live recording -- but for any real success on such a venture there has to be a BIG crowd. So get an early supper and truck on down to Fifth Street by 9 or 9:30 (pm) and get ready to dance, jump, jive, and whatever.

The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar opens on Saturday - always a gas and lots of good music. To be truthful, the royal "we" is having a hard time getting into the spirit this season, so it really helped to spend a day at the outlet mall in San Marcos with my daughter and grandson - shopping for other family members and scarfing some good eats along the way.

On the other hand, as I look around I see a lot of stuff happening - a new baby on the way in January for a couple we know whose lives have really turned around this year; a rekindling of true friendship between two young women with checkered high school years who have really turned on the afterburners during their college years; a new home for a family torn apart and left without amenities out in the deep country of North Texas; and maybe even a new venture that will keep the flanfire burning. Best possible news - my oldest daughter and her tribe might be headed back to Texas for a lengthy stay sometime in the spring.

One more note -- my neighbor Nathan is working with a friend on a new project - something called Baldmama - that aims to help women with breast cancer. Details to follow. And DO NOT MISS Tom Stevens' bonanza next Wednesday at Maria's Taco X-Press (or Alligator Grill if bad weather) that will benefit the Christmas Bureau. We are talking ALL STAR CAST here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Austin just HAS to welcome Tahni Handal. Just ask anyone who attended her CD release party on Sunday night at Ruta Maya. Tahni - a California emigre - is a guitar player-singer-songwriter and mother whom we got to know quite a while back while we were following Jessica Shepherd around to Ross' Old Austin (on far north Lamar). She just had this drive, this sense of searching for herself and her music, her place in the sun.

Two years and a lot of hard work later, Back Again is now out - in style. The CD cover is a photo (by Bowie sports photographer John Silvey) of a painting by Kim Lawrence of a photo by John Silvey .... it's a Japanimation style photo of Tahni herself. Way cool. The jacket has more photos of Tahni and her Emme Lou - plus one of coproducer Woody Russell, who contributes vocals to several of Tahni's songs - including the powerful Soldier on This Road. [Woody will have his own CD out in early 2005 - just in time for the Newport Folk Festival.]

All the songs are Tahni originals -- from poignant ballads like These Hands and My Little Dream to the funky Big Talker to the Western rock of Lonesome Cowboy to the bluesy Walk the Line to the psychedelic Give Me a Sign. Tahni plays most of the guitar leads, and Russell is all over the CD - with help from folks like drummer Paul Roraback of Gideon's Press and Kim Deschamps of the Charlie Robison Band.

At the CD release, Tahni was backed by the Glenn Rexach Trio, featuring Steve Zirkel on bass and two different drummers (one had to leave early for another gig), plus lap steel player Danny Bennett (who often plays with Russell) and two very fine very good harmony vocalists -- Tina Allen and Colleen Schoonmaker -- who sounded as though they had been singing together for years. The band really started SMOKIN' when Tahni picked up her electric guitar and sang her ode to her blown amplifier (a new song not on the CD). Tahni promises a return to Ruta Maya in early 2005 - to record a live CD with her band mates. Hopefully, she will be booking other gigs to promote Back Again - so that more people can hear this wonderful music.

I had just been at Ruta Maya three nights earlier for the Austin Daze First Thursday bash featuring two of Austin's very favorite women - Leeann Atherton and Toni Price. Not that the two dames are not worth the price of admission all by themselves, it only gets better when Leeann has Jackson and Sunny Coleman (plus a hot percussionist named Buffalo) and Toni has Country Matt Giles, Willie Pipkin of the South Austin Jug Band, and Warren Hood (whose new band will be playing Sunday nights at Momo's starting this week). It was a great night to dance one's socks off.

Nearly as much fun was spending Friday evening with the Brennen Leigh Band (with Lonnie Key on guitar and banjo), with Leo Rondeau and the Indian Cowboys opening. The food at Ross' Old Austin is always yummy and comforting ... and Ross and his sons are great good old boys. Brother Seth Hulbert is off to Florida for a month, with Brennen not far behind, so others may be showing up at their Evangeline Cafe residency for a few weeks.

Grandson duties kept us from getting out to a Hill Country winery to see Bonnie and Blythe on Saturday, but the news is that Jamie is back from her California vacation and the girls are better than ever. I also slept through Shelley King at Jovita's on Saturday night - but plan to catch her, Carolyn Wonderland, and Floramay Holliday on Wednesday at Artz' - before (hopefully) going to see Slaid Cleaves and Andrew Walker on Thursday at the Cactus.

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