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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

This is for Michael Weston King.

OOPS! After all that March 21 confusion over posts getting erased, I did not realize that I had erased my review of his performance at Troy Young Campbell's showcase at Threadgills on Wednesday during SXSW week and of his sparkling new (mostly live in Europe) CD, "Absent Friends." King, who was in town largely for the debut of the Townes Van Zandt documentary (as he had been a pal and tour mate of our legend), played several showcases and visited many old friends from Austin, where he once did a record for the long-dead Watermelon label.

Stop right now and find his website (www.michaelwestonking.com) and listen to some of his songs if you do not already know King's music. Better yet - just go out and buy Absent Friends! I would compare him (and his old band The Good Sons) to Eliza Gilkyson as a songwriter and to bands like the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo but better .... Why is this guy not in regular rotation on all of our really good radio stations? In my very humble opinion, his songs are at the top of the heap - Gram Parsons good! And there are strong hints of gospel influences in many - so I wonder if King is pals with my hero Steve Winwood.

The new CD - which has four new songs and new versions of 10 others previously recorded - begins with the hypnotic "I Fall Behind" and includes other amazing songs like "The Wooden Hill," "Angels in the End," and "Always the Bridesmaid." One of my personal favorites is the sad requiem "Tim Hardin '65," which has lines like this:

I wish that I could see my folks as newly weds, smiles and jokes long before life's disappointments took away their shine.
And I wish that I could show them their sweat and toil was worth it and I would grow to be such a fine upstanding boy.
Mostly I wish I could show my children how secure was the building before the walls came crashing down around them.

But by far the most intriguing song on this CD is "Mother Tongue," which touches deep into the hearts of anyone who has lost (via separation or death) a parent or child --

You and I speak the mother tongue
We don't know where, Daddy’s gone
Where he’s gone, or where he’s been
Or if we’ll see him again

He didn’t hate you, he just ignored you
I will describe his face for you
His face, for you, is ashen grey
Afraid of what you’ll say ...

He loved us once, he loves us now
You must hold onto this truth somehow
Sometimes it fades, and I can’t recall
The time he loved us all
And every time the phone rings, there’s a chance he could be calling
To tell us that he’s sorry and he was wrong for leaving
And I want so much to tell him
That we would all forgive him if he just came home.......
Oh Daddy are you coming home?

Perhaps King's songs are just too real for American radio. I will only say that my visit with Michael Weston King and the opportunity to learn more about his music was the single highest memory I will carry away from South by Southwest 2005.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A quiet week in Austin does not by any means suggest a dearth of music. Not in this town. Not even when it rains and hails. So Friday at supper time we trekked out to the County Line on the Lake to hear Steelbeam – P J Lyles on lead vocals, Eric Leikam on guitar and vocals, Kris Brown on lead guitar and vocals (Kyle Judd was out with Shelley King), the king of New Orleans Steve Gavigan on walking drums, and a drummer whose name I forget). This band is a living celebration of working America with songs like Engine 17, Boilermaker Blues, and Redneck Ways, written by Stevie "Guitar" Sparks, who recently lost a 3-year battle with Lou Gherig’s disease. Now Stevie Sparks was part of the circle in Washington, DC, that included the band GRIN which featured Nils Lofgren when he was still a teenager and drummer Bob Berberich, whom I particularly remember for buying an old Cadillac and taking us all for rides. We had some really good times with Nils’ other band, DOLPHIN, which included Paul Dowell and the younger brother of Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady.
I was too tired Thursday to get out to the Illustrated Band-Van Wilks show (which must have been super), but Wednesday was a big music day. Early on it was Jovita’s for the happy hour set by the Aaron Hamre Band, hot on the heels of its top 10 jam band finish in the Austin music poll. The band also blew away a packed house at Adam Brewer’s Heart of Texas showcase (which coincided with SXSW), thanks in part to new drummer Pete from Seattle and in part to bassist Upton (Uppie) Ethelbah, whose artwork won him a top 10 placing in the music poll for posters.
With Aaron and Uppie (and former drummer Miguel Velasquez) all hailing from Santa Fe, the band has been honored by the New Mexico Legislature and invited by the head of the state’s tourism department to play a showcase set for New Mexico musicians in town for SXSW. The guys are playing a lot at Jovita’s and will be at the Red Eyed Fly next week. They are working on beefing up their act with extra players in anticipation of playing larger venues.
Afterwards, we trekked over to Sholtz’s Bier Garten (oldest in all of Texas) to catch the inaugural KGSR music fest there. Missed Micky and the Motorcars, but caught the first hour or so of the Charlie Robison Band. The house was packed - and the weather great. Charlie’s band includes good friend Kim DesChamps (who had turned us on to the gig) on pedal and lap steel, dobro, mandolin, and whatever, Kevin Carroll (Mister K) on lead guitar - and I had never seen him play hotter licks than he did that night; Scott Esbeck on bass and harmony vocals, and Keith Robinson on drums - pushing the lead players to their best.
Charlie played a bunch of tunes from his fairly new CD, Good Times, including the title cut, hit single El Cerrito Place, and the double entendre cut Love Means Never Having To Say You’re Hungry, and a bunch of his classics, including Sunset Boulevard, The Wedding Song (with guest female vocalists from the audience), and one of my favorites, Desperate Times. Got to hang out with the lovely Karen D and Canadian super singer Andrew Walker, who introduced me to "Mrs." Robinson, the lovely Beth Black - and others of their friends. It was a lot of fun, though I had to leave early to pick up the wonderful Nancy at the airport.
Meanwhile, the buzz is HUGE for the forthcoming (April 16) Shaggy’s Reunion Party featuring a reunion of sorts for the great reggae band, The Killer Bees (minus of course the departed Michael E. Johnson, but with his Shreveport buddy and fellow founding member Malcolm Papa Mali Welbourne). As I said, it was a quiet week (with more yet to come, of course), but this IS Austin, the live music capital of the world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

South by South Slaughter Creek -- Dave and Cindy's little bit of heaven, complete with sheep, a creek with water enough to fish, swim, and even sink a boat. And Peter Rowan's magical mystery tour through his own Hobbit kingdom (someone at the barn dance said he looks like Bilbo Baggins) into pure joy. And to think - we were down there for only nine hours after getting there at four and missing some early music and fun.

I had been anticipating my first view of Billy Brent Malkus and the Sapphires (though I wonder about the resemblance to the 1950's rhythm and blues trio) and another dose of Sis DeVille. All good (later) but much much more. Of course, the barn dance is all about the joyous spirit of Leeann Atherton - the woman of whom it has been said, "In my seven years of playing with her, I have heard her miss - what - one note." But never a beat.

I strolled in about four, just in time to catch the end of Modern Agriculture and the startup of Jelly Jar - and all of Kim DesChamps' solo guitar set. The weather was PERFECT! Of course, it had rained on Saturday afternoon, and the sky broke wide open Monday morning - but we got to look up at the moon all night long. Those who do not know must also realize the entire place (also at the real barn) is being filled with the smells of beef, chicken, sausages and what all being BBQed (sometimes people even bring smoked salmon) and with all of the various potluck food that people are encouraged to bring along. There are also ample beverages covered in the suggested donation, but people bring extra to share or fortify themselves with over a long day. No one has ever left a barn dance hungry (except by choice) - or unhugged.

As I worked a stint at the gate, I missed much of Texas Hot Flash (except I could hear them from afar and they sounded GREAT!) and Tom Cobb, but I got back up front for Sis DeVille and was rewarded by perhaps their most powerful show EVER! Okay, all of these women have their OWN bands (only drummer Lisa Pankratz who is also a fine singer is not currently fronting one), and all of them are wonderful in their own way and Austin institutions to be sure (okay, Cloud 8, bassist AnnMarie Harrop's new band, is in this group only by projection), but not even Carolyn Wonderland or Shelley King (or the still newlywed Floramay Holliday) can all by herself bring such power and energy to the stage as these five women do when they dress up and flout their talent to the southern rock sounds that are unmatched anywhere. Not only can they play just about as well as the classics (the Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynard, 38 Special, and my old pal Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart), but each one of the quintet is far easier on the eyes (sorry gals) than both of the Allmans and both of the Van Zandts and all of their band mates.

Women like the power, and men like the energy -- and everyone likes the songs. So when Shelley King announced after one smokin' number that it was time for her BOYS to get on stage (plus bassist Bonnie Whitmore), there were cries of "MORE SIS DEVILLE" that did not die down until (out of courtesy) the folks welcomed twin leads Kyle Judd and Kris Brown plus Kim DesChamps sitting in on pedal steel (and the always on time Perry Drake on drums) for what had to be a 45-minute set packed into about 20 minutes. When will Austin City Limits wake up and put Sis DeVille on a big stage in September for all the world to see? I guarantee this band would light up the night and sell more product (even without CD's yet) than anyone else.

We cooled down to a nice acoustic set on the brand new acoustic stage that is Dave's own creation. In addition to being a physicians' assistant in heart surgery (and his surgeon was at the barn dance), Dave is an accomplished artist and craftsman, Harley rider, and all around wonderful guy to hang with. A real Renaissance Man. Wife Cindy (another Harley rider in her own right) is blessing us all by her own presence and his as well.

Back to hot music with the Keller Brothers - with Mike taking a break from touring with Doyle Bramhall I and Corey hustling back from another of his many gigs playing drums for Marcia Ball. The boys got a HUGE break when Leeann herself joined them onstage for the leadoff song. They could not miss afterwards. Then back to the acoustic stage to catch Warren Hood (fiddle in this group), Slim Richey, and two others playing acoustic jazzy stuff as Yo! Gadjo! Warren had to play and run to his 10 pm gig at MoMo's ... and we had to run back to the main stage to catch Billy Brent and the Sapphires.

It is hard to describe the joy of a band that honors my hero Gram Parsons with "proper" dress (not nudie suits yet, but all black outfits with all the proper metal) and a version of Ooh Las Vegas that might be better than Gram's. I am still learning the names of all the players (who are, to be sure, Austin pros), but Rebekah on co-lead vocals is awesome! Their next gig is "opening" for the Onion Creek Crawdaddies on April 1 at Hole in the Wall (starting at 10) - just do not ask questions and GO!

I was hanging out talking to friends and listening to great music when I got approached by a half-pint woman with what turned out to be a central California accent. Her name is Teresa, and she was telling me all about her new friends, Quincy Harper and his band, who in her view should have been playing on the main stage (and indeed they likely will be next time). So it was no surprise that somehow Quincy got an extended acoustic stage set with his all-electric band that smoked the house like the BBQ guys who had quit for the night. Quincy and his dad Boyd (rhythm guitar and vocals) are the songwriters in the group, and Boyd's father was a member of the Light Crust Doughboys (the greatest band in Texas half a century ago that was NOT headed by Bob Wills).

Quincy has this gravelly voice that belies his 23 years of age -- and he is apparently getting to be a pretty hot property for a boy from Fredericksburg (and oddly he has yet to play Bandera but has been focusing on college towns like San Marcos and College Station). Playing alongside these guys (with Ned Brown on bass and a drummer whose name escapes me) is a 16-year-old kid named Austin Roach who reminds me of a young Kenny Wayne or Jonny -- hot licks! This very unknown (to this audience) band won a lot of fans in half an hour or so.

But it was getting late - Peter Rowan did not start until 10:30 - the official ending time for his set. So what? He played - with Leeann's coaxing - until 12:30 am -- and we danced. And swayed and sighed and laughed and even cried a little on one or two of his songs. Pete had Jeff (forgot his last name, but he's from Blanco) on percussion and he was always tasteful and timely, and he had imported the flower of Santa Fe - Carolyn Gilchrist - on mandolin and vocals. She'll be touring with Bill and Bonnie Hearne later this spring - but we MUST get this woman back to Austin. Her spirit was gentle and her playing and her presence sent at least one of my younger pals into outer space -- as it did me!

Tish Hinojosa showed up to do a duet or two at the start of the set, and the venerable Billy Joe Shaver stayed until almost the very sweet end (out with US, not on stage). Billy Joe has been having an inner ear infection and he tripped and fell earlier in the day - but Saint Renee Fuqua - who is a wonderful massage therapist - came to his aid and enabled him to stick around. Word is that Cindy fed him something special too! It was a joy to watch him enjoy the music and the comfort and care of so many who were honored and overjoyed by his presence. Heck - he's even more special than Beatle Bob (who was NOT here this year).

I will not try to describe Peter Rowan's music other than to say the beauty is in the simplicity (a simplicity that is born of many years of practice and the zen of life). He is not trying to impress us with his technical proficiency (which is truly there) or his persona but rather to invite us on a journey not bound by space or time. The music was sooooo good that Clark Drake and his mom stayed until the very end......
Did YOU get "Shocked" over SXSW week? East Texas fireball Michelle (Johnston) Shocked must have played a dozen gigs during the week (if not more), none better than her stint at Maria's Taco X-Press on Friday afternoon (that is, after the sound man figured out which mike she was using and got it all right). Bouncing in with her new band led by Dusty Wakeman (see www.michelleshocked.com for details on her forthcoming triple CD release in June), and wearing cutoff jeans with Daisy (?) Duck on the right front leg and Q-U-A-C-K! on the posterior (yup, she was all quacked up and had a quack on her ......) , Michelle was rockin' and tellin' stories (her best schtick) about turning into a rabbit and other such stuff --- and having lots of mischievous fun (reminiscent of her Gladewater beer run days though in a very different genre). Word was she was later to be serenading the state legislature and all of its employees brave enough to be seen in her presence -- but is there any truth to the rumor she will be chairing Kinky Friedman's gubernatorial campaign? [Now there is some pure gossip!]

Also on board at Maria' s during my stay (with 4-year-old in tow) were the Be Good Tanyas, the trio of folkie, vintage clothing wearing women from British Columbia whose music is all about their harmonies, as the wooden instruments are merely backdrop. The gals (Frazey, Trish, and Sam plus a standup bassist and drummer) were on holiday with their extended families - Trish had her mom and daughter (about 2) along for the ride, and all were having a jolly good time. Later in the week I ran into fellow Canuck Wyckham Porteous, who says he is Frazey's neighbor and that the Tanyas are indeed "good" people. Wyckham, who has played and taught at Kerrville and is a pal of Jimmy LaFave, is working on a new CD of his own to be produced by (former Rolling Stones manager and legendary producer) Andrew Loog Oldham. A recent West Coast Musician of the Year in Canada, Wyckham says he rises early, has a cuppa joe, walks an hour or so, has a second cuppa joe, chills, works on his writing for a few hours, and is ready for whatever life brings him -- what a way to spark the creative muse. Me - I write at night when no one else in the house is awake other than the cat (Shadow the Magnificent).

This conversation with Wyckham came as the thunderstorm interrupted Penny Jo Pullus' own set during her TeXchromosome (women in Texas music) showcase at Opal Divine's. We took the whole family down for some free range burgers and some live music beginning with the Hummingbirds - Susanna Van Tassel, Karen Poston, and Jim Stringer - who are now promising a forthcoming CD they have yet to start real work on. Joyful harmonies that I first heard at that paragon of Austin bars - the Carousel. Susan Gibson had just finished her set when we got there, but she gave me her brand-new (not yet in stores) CD to review - and WOW THIS IS HER BEST WORK YET!!!!!

Now, the website has one name and one song order for the CD, but what I got is called Outer.Space and begins with the sardonic "Sheep in Wolves Clothing." She has co-writes with Jim Lauderdale (Happiest When I'm Moving), Randy Scruggs (Together Strong), producer Jack Saunders (Company Man), Billy Burnet (Upon Re-Entry), and Yvonne Peres and Delbi Smart (Too Big Love), but for me the best songs on the record are all Susan -- the haunting "First Sign of Spring," the even darker "Stop the Bleeding," "Sisterhood" which reminds us of galpal Terri Hendrix's "Sister Song," and - well - a new, live version of "Wide Open Spaces." I also missed another Susan gig - with Bonnie Whitmore and Kim DesChamps - that was doubtless ethereal! But I did wear my Susan shirt to the barn dance on Sunday (next installment).

Monday, March 21, 2005

This system has erased me twice today. I have spent 4 hours trying to write for you and all I have is this little bit of nothing. If this works, I will try again, but if not, I will post elsewhere and then send the news via e-mail to my regular subscribers and hopefully post the entire story later. Well, here goes.
Wednesday in the rain and very very cold!

Took my grandson and his pal to Threadgill's to munch lunch and catch some of Troy Young Campbell's showcase. Missed a bit, but got to hear Michael Fraccasso and Brian Keane (whose new CD is in his hands but his CD release is not till May and he is shy about selling them -- just beat him over the head until he forks over a copy -- produced by El Goins) and Gurf Morlix (backed by Jeff Plankenhorn, whose own set I had missed) and a little of Troy with Andrew Nafziger until Elizabeth McQueen showed up to finish her own set with Andrew. Later in the day, out in the cold at Gueros, it was Elizabeth, Andrew, and an enlarged bunch of Firebrands (bassist Lindsay Green with his lime green hat), including visiting keyboardist Austin de Lone, to play songs off her brand new CD, Happy Doing What We're Doing, which celebrates and re-creates 70's British pub band music. After zero minutes, no one cared how cold it was - the diva's warm smile and bouncy spirit warmed everyone up -- the gal has just gotten better and better and prettier too since her wedding a year or so ago. I must add that I saw Elizabeth a THIRD time on Saturday afternoon at Opal Divine's before the rains came - this time with just four pieces, but just as spunky and just as much fun. We stayed on (along with a large contingent of Austin's better musicians) to hear Nathan Hamilton and No Deal - with Billy Brent and a hot rhythm section belting out Nathan's classic songs. I ducked the evening shows - cold!

Thursday started off with me taking young pal Laura Lang to see her buds Brennen Leigh and brother Seth - backed by Lisa Pankratz and Brad Fordham PLUS the awesome Robbie Gersoe - outside in the sunshine at Threadgills' - site of the previous day's frozen chosen party. Later that evening (had to skip everything in between for family reasons) I snuck out to see the wonderful CLOUD 8 with AnnMarie Harrop, drummer Perry Drake, and Michael JACKSON on guitar doing things he has NEVER done with Leeann or his own band. Another of AnnMarie's projects, Lucid Dementia, just won best goth-industrial band in the music poll, and of course AnnMarie was a longtime player with Roots Rock winner the Shelley King Band. She's also a member of Sis DeVille (of which more later). CLOUD 8 reminds me of the Jimi Hendrix Experience -- a band I had the pleasure of working the light show for on four straight wonderful nights at the long-defunct Ambassador Theatre in Washington, DC, back in 1968 or 9. Not the vocals, but the energy -- AnnMarie's voice is clear and bright, and her lyrics must be heard. Visualize unicorns and another world of great light and peace, and also remember that this is (in the words of a major Austin guitar player who shall be nameless) is one "very sexy" woman. Words to the wise - catch Cloud 8 while you still can at an affordable price -- if this band keeps developing, they may be harder and more costly to find in town.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Momo's may just be the best musicians' club in Austin. I called up my friend El Goins today and he told me that Wendy Colonna has dropped her band in favor of a duo with Guy Forsyth at the 9:30 hour on Wednesdays (but not the next two weeks - more later). Knowing that Wendy was headed off to Italy with Ginger Leigh tomorrow, I felt I HAD to get down there. So i invited my pal Tahni Handal, who had never been to Momo's before yet will be playing there on April 10 as part of Chicks with Picks on that early Sunday evening. Turns out she got there first and hung out with Jade Day at the end of his 8 pm gig there.

So we settled in and listened to Guy and Wendy do songs like his Children of Jack and her Easy and a bunch of old gospel tunes and other stuff. Guy played the saw on one song and dobro and National Steel (or some similar guitar) on others. He broke out the harmonica only once. This was mostly a quiet set of reflective songs. Wendy's forthcoming CD is nearly done - Stephen Doster is producing - and she plans to finish it up once she returns from the land of her forefathers. Good for her that Ginger speaks fluent Italian and drives like an Italian there. Great for Ginger that she is taking her Austin buds to Italy to expand their horizons.

Next up was Brian Keane - whose new CD, produced by El Goins who also did all the artwork for the jacket and God only knows what all else, is done all except for the pressing. Brian has planned a BIG CD RELEASE at Momo's on May 20. Brian had Seth Whitney on bass and an amazing player - Colin Brooks, who won the top new folk artist at Kerrville in 2003, El tells me - on lap steel, dobro, and electric guitar. What a songwriter Brian is - songs like Another Piece of Me, Better Days, Concrete Sidewalk, Mexico, and a brand new as yet untitled song about a woman who thought she was forbidden to love the songwriter - plus on piano Paul Simon's Still Crazy after all these years. [Guy stuck around for one duet with Brian and even longer to help out Joy Davis on the Daniel Lanois tune The Messenger. ]

The joy of the evening was watching El Goins work -- the guy even admits to working out arrangements to other music while playing drums and singing backup vocals virtually flawlessly and with soul. I first met El when he was playing drums with Carolyn Wonderland, and began to really learn about his manifold skills when he produced the Chris McCarty inspired CD by the "loose collection of saints and sinners" recorded live at the Hotel San Jose.

Tonight, El, Brian, and Colin played as the impromptu band for singer Joy Davis, whose song choices and vocal style bring comfort to the weary soul late in the evening. Joy did a Brian Keane song and then did another duet with Brian on another of his songs that he did not do earlier in the evening. [The guy must have dozens ready to go for another CD.] The latter was a ballad about a Kentucky miner that for the unpteenth time during the evening reminded me that this guy is going to be HUGE once his new record is out. Joy sang "One Hand on the Bible and One Hand on the Gun," swilled whiskey and closed out with a song, "See Through Me" as the band (enhanced by musicians from the audience and even the sound board) played on. Then Colin did MOST of a brand new song of his, and finally we got El up to the mike with Brian's guitar to do a couple of his own marvelous compositions - One Brief Moment with You (from the aforesaid Hotel San Jose collection) and You Can't See Me, during which El directed the "band" on several loops and crescendos and more fun stuff and Joy sang harmonies as she learned the words and the few who had stayed until very late got a HUGE reward.

Talking afterward with Darren Fisher (who wears many hats about town and will soon have a website of his own poetry and stuff up and running), we were just amazed at what we had seen. Darren, by the way, works with Carolyn Wonderland on her Instruments for Orphans effort and is involved with the Austin Volunteer Orchestra (among other things). Even during Joy's set, Eldrige spoke up to let us all know that he was pretty happy about how the guys had convinced Joy not to cancel her show but to let them help her on stage and then how great a job the band guys were doing without ANY rehearsals... AND HE WAS RIGHT!!!

Well, it is VERY VERY LATE and past my bedtime.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?