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

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Carolyn Wonderland and Threadgill's Old No. 1 - it just feels right. Like Janis and Kenneth Threadgill, like apple pie and motherhood, like biscuits and gravy. Backed by the incomparable Cole El-Saleh on keyboard, Carolyn brought out the full ensemble - her Gibson electric guitar, of course, plus her old high school cornet, an accordian, and a lap steel - plus her own hands and mouth which become musical instruments in addition to her regular vocals. And when we say she had a full house, we mean full in number and in the comfort of their bellies.

What a mix of songs Carolyn provided last evening - from her second collaboration with Houston legend Jerry Lightfoot (off Texexistentialism, the product of a tour that included a show or two at The Vibe on Sixth Street), from her current CD Bloodless Revolution, from her head as she made it up on stage (Misunderstood, it might be called), and from an earlier in the day collaboration with Ruthie Foster (which must be called "Come Together," and this night was the first time the song was ever heard by a live audience). She closed the set with the gospel tune, "I Shall Not Be Moved" (which deeply moved everyone in the audience) and with a guitar solo driven version of "Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go Downtown".

The night before I got to hear a rising star in Austin, Rudolph LLanes, down at Natalie Zoe's songwriter showcase at Club One 15. Llanes, who hails from Corpus Christi, says his influences include the Beatles and the Who, nevertheless sounds more like the group Looking Glass from the 1970's (remember, Brandy, You're a Fine Girl?) with a little of Al Jarreau and Stevie Wonder (music he used to listen to as a child with his drummer dad). His songs are smooth as silk and sexy and romantic. Llanes plays every instrument on his current CD, "Into Focus," with very little extra help from side men.

On "Those Words," Llanes admits --

I lost more sleep than I care to say
The night for me is just darker day
It's when I think of times we'll share
I know you don't care
It's no crime
It just helps me see I'm losing my mind.

On "The Parent Song" (another title I did not guess), Llanes lets us in on this secret shame --

Fools don't come in millions
Just a few with their opinions
At somebody who would die to take your place
And the mistake that you're making
Is not giving while you're taking
And hiding from all who come to see
You shouldn't hide 'cause there's no need.

LLanes could easily fit in on KGSR's soft jazz program, and Dick Clark would agree that you can dance to his music. His current regular gig is at Habana on Sixth Street on Friday nights, but word is he may be back at Club One 15 next Monday. Sharing the stage with Rudolph were bassist Danny Beltran and Gene Pool keyboardist Stefano Intelisano.

Natalie had other guests as well, including guitarist and songwriter/singer Beth Garner and El Campo's Haydn Vitera, plus percussionist Juan Rodriguez (six years with Joe King Carrasco) and guitarist John Heagle. Garner, Vitera, and Zoe all swapped songs during two short sets, while Vitera moved from fiddle/violin to guitar and back. Dallas native Garner sounded very good on her jazzy guitar licks (no surprise - she was a jazz performance major in college), and her cool stage presence made me very sorry to have missed her shows last moonth at Ego's with the trio Queen of Spades. Vitera will soon be showcasing a new CD of his own, but meanwhile he's a great man to have on stage (especially if you are Natalie and singing your oldie but goodie, Texas Sunrise).

Club One 15 is having its grand opening on May 27, with Les and the Funk Mob. Mondays are singer-songwriter nights with Natalie Zoe and friends. Other nights will have jazz, DJ's, and live R&B and soul music ... in a bar that feels like your living room.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bonnie and Blythe made their debut at MoMo's tonight - in a 2-hour set before giving way to Warren Hood and his "hoodlums." Smart women, they took full advantage of the fact that Eddie Warren was at the club getting organized for his midnight show and live recording and persuaded him to join them on stage to play some tasteful lead guitar licks. Later, they got extra help from a bass player friend who jumped on stage for two of their songs.

Miss Bonnie Whitmore had been in New York City (playing at the legendary Bitter End and other such stuff) for several weeks, but the dynamic duo had already played one gig (at Freddie's) earlier in the day. The set started slowly, or rather, routinely, with well-known B&B fare (Jamie Blythe's "The Next Lonely Love Song" and Bonnie's "Girl of Seventeen" wrapped around their sexy version of Jenny Reynolds' "Was It You?" These women are both songwriters - but their forte is their powerful voices and the harmonies they are so good at.

That's precisely why the energy level jumped way up when Jamie reached back and laid down her rendition of the classic, "Stormy Monday," and Bonnie followed with "Summertime." Then it was "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and the Jamie original "Fireflies," and by that time the audience was wide awake and alert. Better yet, the crowd had about doubled at that very moment. Both women took on a Patti Griffin tune, each did another original or two, and it was clear that this debut would be a building block for future shows at which the gals promise to stretch themselves every week.

MoMo's is that kind of club - you just don't do your pat standard set and leave happy. Something about the room forces musicians to reach back and let it go and in the process grow out of their old clothes into brand new renditions of themselves. Don't be surprised if "special guests," both invited and drop-in, show up on upcoming Sundays - that's what makes MoMo's the kind of club it is (and of course there are other Austin venues equally known for the unexpected, too - it's what makes Austin the live music capital).

Saturday night we were over at a private party held to welcome Canadian singer-songwriter Heidi Little to Austin. Well, her aged vehicle had broken down here, and strangers (now good friends) took her in - along with dog and son - and got their own huge blessings in return. Long story short - we ran into this tribe at the grand opening of a new strip center in nosebleed country (MOPAC and Gracy Farms at Burnet) while listening to Chelle Murray's band and scarfing Mangia pizza and Ben and Jerry's ice cream and other goodies.

Heidi was joined on stage during the evening by four guy singer-songwriters - Jimmie Joe who runs the stage at the farmer's market on Saturdays, Steve Syxx, Ray O'Hara, and the amazing (Michael John) Jackson, who had already done a set at Alice's Restaurant on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. The makeshift stage was set up on a hillside on the property (you have to cross a creek to get there, and with the fullish moon it was like Kerrville without the drive but with amenities and an outdoor pool), and even after the officer came and the sound system was turned off the music was flowing through the night air into people's listening ears.

Jackson sat in a chair with folks leaning out of their seats to catch his every word, and he auditioned several songs from his forthcoming CD, "Grow Up To Be a Childhood Genius" plus the title track of his earlier CD, "Changes." The guy is Austin's version of Bob Dylan when he sings solo - both in the quality of his voice and the poetry of his lyrics. But Jackson's lyrics typically lift us and stretch us into looking in the mirror at ourselves and how we deal with our day to day encounters with others, while Dylan's focus at the time was typically more societal. Of course, he is also a better guitarist than the legend and has less hair.

Lyrics include "Blind - like a cat who's lost his eyes, like a bat that flies, like you and I," from a song that speaks of a relationship in which the author was "believing you would choose to be mine - in time." In another song, Jackson makes a tough commitment - "I have to clean my conscience like it's never been stained, Learn to trust again like I've never been betrayed, And my my dues no matter the cost so I can love you like I've never lost." And it's like that song after song - that is, unless Jackson is reaching into the cavernous vault of R&B and Rolling Stones covers he does so well and makes us smile and relax.

Heidi, now that's a different story. Like her Saskatchewan predecessor Joni Mitchell (in more ways than one), the tallish Ms. Little has a voice and her own poetry that gets people hooked on her music. Her own mission statement is simply "to promote beauty, love and truth to the masses," and she is systematically going about doing just that. Heidi had hoped to have copies of her brand-new CD, "Dreams of Grandeur" available for the show, but it could be that border guards held up the shipment just as they have held up Heidi (once locking her in a cage and her son in a separate cage for hours) on her way to gigs in the US and Mexico (including at Nashville's fabled Blue Bird Cafe).

Heidi will be playing soon at the Nashville Songwriters Festival, and her recording of the Judy Collins penned, Joni Mitchell hit "Both Sides Now," will be featured on a Saskatchewan Centennial celebration release later this year. This ambitious, lovely woman is also putting together a band here in Austin with plans to go on the road later this year with even newer music. Well, what else would one choose to do after landing here with a broken-down RV and meeting people who are making her feel super welcome and loved? Check out her earlier music at her website ' www.heidilittle.com ' and keep an eye out for her upcoming shows.

O'Hara's new CD is 45 South, on which he has help from the likes of Jimmy LaFave and Will Landin, Rachel Loy, Chris Maresh, and many others, is already getting airplay all over Europe. The Chicaco boy turned front man for jamband the Orange Hunters is putting out rooks rock that reminds one of the Jayhawks and Wilco at times. He's opening for the South Austin Jug Band at Threadgill's on June 18 and following Bob Schneider at the Saxon Pub on June 27 before leaving for a European tour to avoid the hot hot summer.

So what if it was hot during the day? After the sun went down, it cooled off a little, and those who had braved the heat got huge rewards - and a lot of love. That's Austin for you.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

As Arlo Fest nears, we gathered at Maria's Taco X-Press on Friday night to catch an unusual (that is, electric, full band) evening with Leeann Atherton. Our favorite diva was joined by the usual suspects - Sunny Coleman on a sweet little Gibson electric guitar and Michael John Jackson on his well-worn acoustic guitar - plus Speedy Sparks on bass (and some vocals) and a guy named Rusty on drums. Highlights included Sunny's rendition of the John Lee Hooker song, "Boom Boom" (which included extended solos by both guitarists), and Leeann's version of the old (Grammy nominated in 1958) Peggy Lee hit, "Fever." [Did you know that Peggy Lee wrote all the music for Disney's Lady and the Tramp?] As usual, Leeann and the boys left the audience crying for more, but Maria's has a stiff policy of not going after nine o'clock, so the still well satisfied crowd will have to wait till next Friday to get more of Leeann's soul food.

And what a lineup it will be on June 9 down in Niederwald - starting at noon and hosted by Ky Hote and Owl Morrison and featuring the likes of Carolyn Wonderland, Dana Cooper and Shake Russell, Guy Forsyth, Leeann herself, the Slaves of Utopia, Jelly Jar, the Back Porch Vipers, Moe Hansum Blues Band, Wade Barfield, and of course Sarah Guthrie and Johnny Irion and the irrepressible Arlo Guthrie himself. There is also an acoustic stage with a number of performers for those wanting to sit under a canopy and gorge down some of Alice's great food. But tickets are scarce - get em at www.starticketsplus.com or call 469-SHOW.

Earlier in the week we were blessed with an opportunity to munch some morsels, taste some Texas vintage from Marble Falls, and catch a special presentation of "Hank Williams - Lost Highway" at the Zachary Scott Theatre. When we arrived, I learned that my pal (and flanfire reader) Chris Rhoades was one of the stars of the show, playing Hank's bass player Hoss. Chris' band mate Kenneth Brian (a Florida Panhandle native now based in Nashville) had won the role as Hank after being seen at the Continental Club a few months back by the show's musical director and producer. Neither of these guys had ever acted on stage before - but both did quite credible jobs. They were joined on stage by two members of the Western Swing Hall of Fame -Austin's Herb Steiner on steel guitar and fiddler Walt Roberts, who is based in Branson with the Baldknobber Hillbilly Jamboree. Sara Kendrick (who may be from Dallas) played Hank's wife Audrey (and an anonymous waitress), and longtime Austin theatre performers Rick Perkins and Janis Stinton had dual roles as well and also lent their voices to the show.

Most folks know a little of Hank's story - that he died on New Year's Day in 1953 - the very month my fiddle-playing grandfather died at the age of 90. Hank was just 29, but he had lived a hard and fast life and never took care of his own health. Sorta like Jim Morrison and even Gram Parsons - two others who never saw their thirtieth birthday but made huge impressions in the music world. One major difference, of course, is that Hank left behind children (and now grandchildren) who followed him into the music business. Hank's second wife Billie Jean (to whom he was wed for only a few months) later married Johnny Horton, who made her a widow for the second time when he died on a Texas highway in 1960. That said, Lost Highway is a sad sad story that shows a little of the torment of a soul unable to hear the call of God even though he wrote such great gospel tunes as "I Saw the Light."

Later that evening, Kenneth, Chris, and Herb - plus a drummer named Steve - took the stage at the Hole in the Wall after Wednesday night favorites the WT Special, a band which proudly calls its music "drunkabilly" and proves the name over and over while selling a lot of beer for the club. In the house were members of the wildly popular Austin based drinking band The Weary Boys, two of whom got up on stage with the Kenneth Brian band to make quite a night of honky tonk glory. Kenneth is a fine lead guitarist who did not get to show that talent off while playing Hank, and Chris Roades is one of the better slap bass players anywhere. Parlay that with the legendary Herb Steiner and you have a really fine shew! Brian oddly does not cover Hank but does do some great renditions of Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow songs. Strangely, his new songs that he showed off (not on his current CD - check out www.kennethbrian.com) are all ballads, and did not work as well with the band or the audience which wanted the pure red meat and high energy stuff. Two of his best were "Something's Wrong with the Jukebox" and "Wide Open Spaces" (no, not THAT WOS). Catch the Hank show if you have the cash, but catch the Kenneth Brian band at the Continental, Ego's or wherever they are playing while he is still in town. The funny story here is that Chris (who had gigged with Wayne the Train Hancock and played on the latest Weary Boys CD) had left Austin and headed to Nashville to work with Kenneth and then got dragged back to A-town for this theatre gig, making more money than he probably ever had in any Austin club AND getting to hang out and play with old pals. A great reward for a fine player and real gentle soul.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Billy Brent Malkus is putting together a real jewel with his new band The Sapphires, whom you can now find out more about at a brand-new website - www.thesapphires.net . Tonight the band was at the Long Branch Inn for two sets of music that really needs a big dance floor to be fully appreciated. FOR THE RECORD, THIS BAND MOVES ME THE WAY GRAM PARSONS USED TO - AND FOR VERY VERY GOOD REASONS!!!!

There was an air of sadness in the air as Brent and the band memorialized the life of bluegrass legend Brother Jimmy Martin, who became bound for glory just hours earlier. But for most of the night, the unabashed joy of all five band members - especially fellow lead singer Rebecca Lucille Cannon (and her cannonball voice). The lineup now appears set with Beaumont native Paul Schroeder on mandolin, banjo and occasional guitar; Jackson, Mississippi's Jeff Joiner on bass fiddle; and the pride of Minneapolis, Ram Zimmerman, on drums (I first saw Ram with Kim DesChamps last year). Those with long memories recall Rebecca once fronted Sincola, a band which also featured drummer Terri Lord and guitarist Kris Patterson.

Honey, those days are long past, as are Brent's own punk-pop memories. Now the dynamic duo (who act and sound on stage as though they had grown up singing together) are serenading us with music that has that classic country and western with the punk edginess added in that reminds one of Buck Owens meets Gram Parsons meets Hank III - but the Sapphires are already making their own memories for their fans. Hawking T-shirts, giving away bumper stickers, and promoting a 3-song EP, the Sapphires are on the brink of becoming household names throughout Austin and parts far beyond.

On a forthcoming CD (no, not that soon!), we are likely to hear such original tunes as Ladyfest, Texas; Deep Gap Blue; and Cold Silver Ring plus Rebecca's sparkling rendition of the Hazel Dickens classic, "You'll Get No More of Me" (which in concert tonight was a joy to watch). Rebecca never stands still for a moment on stage, and Brent is the nearest thing to Gram Parsons in his "Full Western Dress" (thanks, Derailers) that Austin has seen for quite a while. Did I mention the Brent-Rebecca co-authored song, The Emerald Outlaw," which could soon become a classic country song. The energy this band displays on stage is phenomenal - and Brent's original idea was not to be a front man but to showcase his fellow players. We have seen the likes of Kris Brown, Kim DesChamps, and various others join the band on stage and the wonderful Eleanor Whitmore lends her ethereal fiddle to some of the songs that will soon (but not soon enough, truly!) be generally available. Tonight, just as at a recent barn dance, the band royally kicked butt with their pedal to the metal version of the Gram Parsons classic, "Ooh Las Vegas." I LOVE THIS BAND!

Opening for the Sapphires was Austin singer songwriter and published author Dao Strom. One might expect a wholly different kind of music from a woman born in wartime in Vietnam and fleeing to America to live in Placerville, California (yep, that's gold country in them thar hills), but what we get here is a pure country Americana soul with lyrics that one might expect from a real writer. Like her first novel, "Grass Roof, Tin Roof," her songs are literate and yet haunting as if she comes from a different century rather than a different country. Brent Malkus played dobro to support Dao's own guitar, and as one might expect doubled our pleasure.

Dao did several songs off her highly acclaimed debut CD, "Send Me Home," plus two new songs, one titled "The Girl on Your Star" and the other (well, it's so new it doesn't even have a name). Both were excellent, as was "Perfume River." Her friend Kate says Dao is perfect, and it would be hard to disagree - but we have to be honest, and the truth is that Dao still seems to be filtering our her loveliness through the narrow end of a funnel. The size of her talent far exceeds the size of her ego (a very good thing!) and (less fortunately) the size of her vision of just how much she truly has to give to her audience. As Dao grows as a performer (remember, she is hard at work on her second novel and is still learning who she is as a singer), we look for her to emerge as at least a young Mimi Farina if not a young Joan Baez (Mimi's better known sister). In short, if you like traditional music or just good songs, go out to Dao's gigs, sit up close and personal, smile a lot at her, and watch her grow right in front of your eyes and into your heart.

Okay, so I also spent an hour or so at the Mangia's grand opening way up in nosebleed country (North Austin - Gracy Farms and Burnet/MOPAC) chomping on free pizza and listening to Chelle Murray and her band - and meeting up with Jo Dean and Richard Aleksander of Aleksander Gallery, who introduced me to Canadian (from Saskatchewan) singer songwriter Heidi Little (www.heidilittle.com) , who just arrived in Austin with lots of stories to tell. Word is she's putting a band together with some notable central Texas musicians and hopes to be playing gigs in all the right places in the near future. We know she's booked at the Farmers Market in South Austin next Saturday and may be playing again at Geno's. Check out her website and especially her "Updates" section plus her downloads to get an idea of her sound.

Then it was off to Woofstock to celebrate dogdom and hear a set from local legend Jimmy LaFave (which was stopped three times by power outages). Friends tell me that Sis DeVille had smoked the house (did the dogs turn into sausages?) earlier in the afternoon, and Penny Jo Pullus not only played but adopted a cute little black and white puppy. Ginger Leigh hung around to catch Jimmy's set after following Sis DeVille with a set of her own. Tammy (Austin's own www.honkytonkangel.com) was in the house, filming Sis DeVille and lending her grace to the scene, and the security for the event was provided by Dee the singing policeman.

Way back on Tuesday I was privileged to be invited to a special airing of Wendy Lorraine Colonna's forthcoming CD, "Right Where I Belong." This CD, produced by Stephen Doster (as was Carolyn Wonderland's last release), will be highly sought after by anyone looking for top flight songs to cover, but Wendy (who is touring with Guy Forsyth as a duo until May 28) will surely get a wider audience for her own golden voice. Players on the CD include Eldridge Goins on drums (who has to love the jazzy sounds on so many of the songs) and Wayne Sutton on guitar plus Cole El Saleh on keyboards and Leslie McCurdy on bass (that's the basic band) with guest appearances from Guy Forsyth himself, Warren Hood on violin, Brian Standerfer on cello, Ephraim Owens on trumpet, Jon Blondel on French horn, Su Walenta Hunt on percussion, and the amazing Brad Hauser on baritone sax (it's hard to believe, hearing him play this instrument, that he's better known as a bassist). The music was recorded by James Stevens at The Bridge Studios here in town.

Word is a famous Austin singer is already wanting to record the final cut, "Nothin Gonna Take My Love," which contains the lines, "May I sow the seeds of generosity, May I dance and laugh in stride; May my mind be stilled with humility and surrender all my pride."

Reminds me that I first met Wendy while dancing all over Antone's during someone's set at some longtimeago benefit concert. Then she got up on stage and sang with Guy and I found out she could sing AND dance! She's a Lake Charles gal - with a big heart and a bigger smile - and an amazing ability to communicate with her song lyrics. Her earier ventures in recording (hard to find, but worth a listen) revealed her songwriting talent to this observer, who learned from hearing them that she had a lot to say in addition to being a fun-loving Louisiana Italian woman.

Now, I told Susan Cassels of KGSR that May Day and October may be the best songs on the record - but others would argue for the title cut, Sail On, Coffee Today, Vacancy, or just about any song on the record. Coffee Today is a pure ballad about a woman waiting for her lover while drinking coffee alone; Vacancy is what her heart has in case someone is looking.

October may be the finest jazzy ballad I have heard anywhere in years (note to Diana Krall or any of her peers - record this song tomorrow if not sooner and make Wendy RICH!). The song starts with these lines - "October she smells like a newborn child; soft like a lily while the ragweed's gone wild; And the roads are all dusty, dripping with tar, and the coyote serenades each falling star." Pure poetry. Then it's, "Would you come back home? I'm in love all alone" (surrounded by ooh ooh's that drip with honey - how could anyone stay away?).

"Does It Satisfy" opens with (and is permeated by) the haunting trumpet of Owens and segues into a sexy steamy soliloquy that asks, "Does it satisfy to have your finger in the pie and have your cake and eat it, too?"

May Day has these immortal lines -- "You live from day to day you love from hour to hour; you can't be satisfied, you fly from flower to flower; you say your days are numbered, they are few; nobody ever taught you to be true." This is pure pop top forty stuff that just has to get lots of radio airplay. Hear that, Shelly K.

On "Right Where I Belong" (and perhaps other songs as well) we get a chorus that includes Forsyth and McCurdy PLUS Brian Keane, Carolyn Wonderland, Cristin "Moxy" Castro, and Shannon Brackett -- this is yet another song that cries for the famous to jump on it.

"Vacancy" is this bluesy song with a wonderul hook, "If by chance you were waiting for someone to love and your heart needs a home to key, If by chance you were waiting for someone to love, my heart has a vacancy." I like this song almost as much as I like October and maybe a tad better than Coffee Today. Doster's work shows wonderfully on all three ballads, but then he has a lot to work with here.

It's too early to tell whether Wendy's songs will outpace her own singing career - but if she can rise in performance to the level of her songwriting, we may have found this generation's Lucinda Williams (but with a warmer heart).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Twas a Triple A evening - Amber, Ann Marie, and Adrian - and all three women got A-plusses for their performances at the Hole in the Wall - one of dozens of Austin venues that will now have to go smokeless as of September 1 (or else tear out the roof on the back half of the building and turn it into a patio). All of this after spending part of the afternoon at North Austin's Violet Crown Festival and catching a wonderful acoustic set by Patrice Pike.

Patrice, for the record, braved an imperfect sound system and threatening (but still dry) clouds and winds that seemed to add their own voice to her music. Iy may have felt like "Sweet November" for the "Jackknife Girl" given that temperatures were not springlike but more like autumn in Austin. My friend Sharon Dawkins has long told me that Patrice may even be better solo than with her very hot band, and now I know why. Solo, you get her clear, strong voice and better yet get up close with her gentle love even for those who upset her by letting their children wear the Stars and Bars on a T-shirt.

Got to the Hole about ten to find Amber and Love Buckit already on stage. Amber is a friend of my grandson (age 2), and I have known her a year or so, but this was my first chance to hear her melodic keyboards and haunting vocals. Wearing a sleeveless black dress, the diminuitive songbird cast a Rhiannon-like spell over her audience as she sang mostly her own compositions, including "Teardrops," "Oilstain" (which I really liked), "Laughing at You," and "Interstate." Sometimes she put on a few Freddie Mercury-type moves as her voice soared into the stratosphere, other times she was Bjork-like - but in the final analysis, the girl showed us she's all American rocker, singing loud and rough behind only her bassist Jimbo and drummer Sol (both of whom laid down a lot of good notes behind her all night long). Amber says she wants to take some time to regroup (every band member just got through moving) and write some new songs - but her fans would probably prefer that she just find bigger and better gigs so they can hear more of what she is already doing. In this guitar-crazy town, a band without a guitar is a rare thing - a breath of fresh air. Amber reminds me of a young Carolyn Wonderland in the sense that she always seems amazed that anyone likes what she is doing (even though it is so good and so much from deep down inside her soul).

What more can I say about Ann Marie and Cloud 8 than has already been said? Jackson is becoming a rock guitar god on stage - Ann Marie is Ann Marie - and Chris Stelly is learning what he needs to do as the drummer in a band that one old-timer said reminds him so much of The Doors (but with light at the end of the tunnel). A new song - Too Much - was just that, with lyrics that included "I just want my heart to sing, my soul to dance - Is that too much?" Ann Marie (Harrop, by the way) is shining her light into the darkness and urging others to wake up and live amazingly full lives.

Adrian Conner and the Sickness (Heather Webb and Ric Furley) topped off the evening with their genuine old fashioned rock and roll. The highlight of their set was Adrian remembering a recent gig in which they played for 19 and 20 year olds and the other "band" there was a rap group from Dallas that only brought their CD and "sang(?)" to the recorded music - not, mind you, a soundtrack, but the actual CD, so that the guys continued rapping on the record even if they quit rapping on stage. Strange as it seems, Adrian lamented that these kids actually liked the rappers better than real live rock and roll - a music that seemed foreign to them. Music that was brand new to "her generation" that grew up only a decade ago. More than one guy in the audience was absolutely stunned that a woman (girl, one said) was playing "Little Wing" so well (even after a shot or three).

Three three-piece bands -- three women who are all friends -- and three completely different sounds -- all made for one fun evening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Club One 15 is the realized vision of Austin R&B star Ter'ell Shahid (solo career and Les and the Funk Mob, for example) and his partners Brent, Calvin, and RJ ... who will have a grand opening of their new music venue on May 27 that will feature Ter'ell and lots of funky sounds. On Monday nights, though, the music will be smoother, as Austin songbird Natalie Zoe is hosting a songwriter's showcase. Tuesdays, there will be jazz with Ephraim Owens, Wednesdays will be "intelligent hip-hop soul with DJ LL (hosted by Ter'ell), Thursdays for now will be salsa and raggatone sounds, Fridays and Saturdays will have dance, top 40, R&B, funk and soul, and Sundays will have a DJ spinning "ole school" sounds.

Club One 15 - at 115 San Jacinto, a block from the Convention Center and several huge hotels plus eateries like P.F. Chang's and the Mongolian Grille - is also a wireless internet friendly environment. Speaking with two of the partners last evening, I learned their vision is of a bar for intelligent conversation and music, a place where class is "in," and a place where the music can be heard through a superior sound system in a building designed for good sounds. And no wonder - this is a music venue designed for and by musicians. The 12 x 12 foot stage has muted back lights, several spots, four or five monitors, and high quality speakers, and the club has a built in sound booth up front. My first impression (the bar and clean bathrooms are on the left side) is that the club reminds me of the Continental Club with an Extreme Makeover.

Miss Zoe (a lively one indeed!) had the honor of becoming the first performer on the Club One 15 stage -- she'll be there every Monday at 10 with special guests -- and she performed songs from her hot album "Seven Chords and the Truth," some with sideman Brad Tretola and others with Seldon Cole (who played bass and provided harmonies on the CD); she even got Ter'ell up to shout out "Broke Down Daddy" with the crowd. The only song NOT from Seven Chords was "School of Heartbreak."

Nat's special guest tonight was the aforesaid Brad Tretola, who just got back to Austin a month ago after seven years at the Hotel California (how he escaped is quite a tale!?). On his last pass through town, he played guitar for Lisa Tingle - not baaaaad! Brad admits he gets inspiration for many of his songs from lady friends - so after opening with a Stevie Wonder song, he did a couple of his own ballads (Another Day and On My Way, the kind of songs that make girls cry) that revealed his tender side. He also did some instrumentals that were also reflective and soulful. Future plans for Brad include a band with Megan Tubb (of THAT Tubb family). Yes, the guy can play melodic leads pretty fast.

The only down side to the entire experience was the DARKNESS of the downtown Austin streets. Do our city moms and pops (remember to vote out all incumbents!) actually believe darker downtown is better for the tourist trade? Are they trying to create a paradise for muggers who might prefer the serenity of the construction areas to ply their trade?

That aside, the Club One 15 is a great experience - comfortable cushy chairs and couches, an open front window (when the weather is right), lots of tables with high barstools, a clean line of sight to the stage, and a great sound system - plus owners who actually LIKE their customers. Musicians, line up to be Natalie's guests - the crowd will be coming soon.

As it was a night of new beginnings, I had earlier responded to a call to join my pal Jackson as he played his acoustic guitar in front of the new Ben and Jerry's at Fifth and Lamar. Jackson hopes to have the new CD available by Thursday, June 9, when he is opening for the legendary Arlo Guthrie at Alice's Restaurant in Niederwald (www.alicesrestauranttx.com) . Songs include Living Proof, I Can't Imagine, Standing There Laughing, Blind, and many more that reveal this Wisconsin native as one of the best songwriters about to break out anywhere. Jackson is also known for playing guitar for Leeann Atherton (Fridays at Maria's) and as the amazing lead guitarist for Ann Marie Harrop's band, Cloud 8 - and as a founding member of the Slacker City Players (and much more). All good stuff - but if you have not seen Jackson acoustic with his songs and stories, make sure you correct that omission from your life's experience. Jackson's songs provide what Stephen Bruton calls, "Nothing But the Truth."

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