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

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Watching the Indian Cowboys (with Jenny Obert on fiddle) at Threadgill's Old No. 1 last night, I thought I saw movement in that huge photo of old Kenneth Threadgill dancing at his club decades ago. He would have loved the show - 45 songs over 2-1/2 hours with lots of fiddle, guitar, dobro, and standup bass (provided by new Austinite and Ohio refugee Josh Hoag). Here's hoping chief Cowboys Leo Rondeau (who hails from North Dakota and can frequently be seen with the leggy Brennen Leigh) and Mike Cherry (the long tall dobro player who grew up everywhere in the US of A) can keep this lineup for a while - my wife loved the whole show!

Rondeau and Cherry are both singer songwriters - Leo's voice is somewhere between Jimmie Rodgers and Dwight Yoakum with a little of that George Strait smile, while Mike's resonates a little higher up the scale than his hero Johnny Cash but has that same cadence and tone. Both could use a little work on vocal consistency (hard to find time to do when working full-time jobs), and their playing is right up there - and if they can get Miss Jenny to sing more harmonies and lead vocals, we have the makings of a powerful combination.

Early on, Leo roused the crowd with Billy Joe Shaver's Omaha, and Mike followed with the classic Miller's Cave. Later, they shared lead lines on the Cash classic Delia, then Leo poured out his heart singing Townes Van Zandt's wonderul Tecumseh Valley. A highlight of the second set was a Mike and Jenny duet on Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud Loud Music, but perhaps the hottest cover of the night (other than a host of fiddle solos by Miss Obert) was Leo's rendition of Hank Williams' Long Gone Lonesome Blues.

Mike's originals included Bury Me, Stumblin' On, Take Away (about the wide lonesome plains), and the old Dark Holler favorite No Asphalt in Heaven. Leo's included Breaking My Back, Louann, Life and Times, and my personal favorite You'd Be Wrong. In the house for the evening was Flatlander Butch Hancock, the father of two of Miss Jenny's fiddle students. Hmmmmm! Oh, by the way, my sleeping grandson woke up for just one song the entire night - Jenny sining I'm On To You. The boy has taste - and an eye for beauty - at age 2.

In other big news, Maria's Taco X-Press has its construction permit, and the new place should be going up quickly, because Walgreen's cannot start building their own new store until the old Maria's (and the boot store next door) has been knocked down and hauled away. Sunday we stopped by for some of the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers' set and encouraged Jud Newcomb and pals to get to work on a CD that features (relatively new to the band) singers Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King -- a lineup sure to raise boxes of cash for local charities and thrill everyone lucky enough to obtain their own copy.

We're hoping to finally catch the Melody Mann band at the Alligator Grill on August 6, but there is a lot of music between here and then - including a benefit this Saturday out at Freedom Oaks featuring Toni Price, Shelley King, Leeann Atherton, Flounders Without Eyes, a host of others, and the fabulous BBQ of DT and the Club Chi-Wa-Wa team - all to help a woman whose children were taken from her by Kerr County in a heart-wrenching case that reminds me of the recent true story of a family whose children were taken away after police found a photo of the father giving his baby a raspberry kiss on the belly (and just got them back after a year-long ordeal).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Another MoMo's MoMent - with Bonnie Whitmore, Walt Wilkins, Brent Mitchell and special guests Brennen Leigh and Ryan James [Sam Baker, another Wilkins pal, was also in the house for the show]. Later (for those who had all night, it would be Warren and the Hoodlums (minus an ailing Seth Walker but plus drummer Corey Keller, who has joined the party and plus various members of the South Austin Jug Band just hanging out).

Bonnie had promised sister Eleanor - but, alas! The dreadlocked fiddler had stayed up all night looking for (and finding) her lost dog and could not travel down from Dallas. But no matter. Bonnie was radiant in the company of mentor (and first boss) Mitchell, who himself is somewhat a student of Bonnie's dad, folksinger Alex Whitmore. It was songwriters in the round all evening, and no one disappointed.

Wilkins, who just a few months ago moved back to Leander, is a well traveled songwriter (Ricky Scaggs, Ty Herndon, Kenny Rogers and Pam Tillis and especially Pat Green have recorded his songs) and an even better traveled movie man - writing music for half a dozen films and serving as location scout for the Texas Film Commission [for more, go to www.waltwilkins.com]. This night, Walt provided just one song from his newest CD, "Mustang Island," but it was a goodie - "Privileges of Youth" talks about a love affair on Padre Island and much much more. Another winner was "Love Dies Hard," but by far the most exciting song of the night was an oldie, "Ruby's 2 Sad Daughters," which dates back three CD's (Fire, Honey and Angels). Walt and Ryan James (who sang a co-written ditty about Texas during one of Walt's slots) plua Tina Mitchell Wilkins will be sharing a bill at Keller's Corner Grocery in Mason County on July 29, and on August 12 he's at Tavern on the Gruene with Chris Wall - now THAT will be a show!]. The wife especially liked Wilkins' humor and great songs - and is looking forward to our next visit to one of his gigs. One more note -- Walt's newest project, Highway 29 Records (that wonderful road that runs through Bertram and Burnet), is a joint venture with fiddler Tim Lorsch and songwriter Randy Wayne Sitzler. I believe James' new CD will be on the label.

Mitchell, who hired Bonnie for his band in Denton when she was 15, has been sharing living space in Oxford, England, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is back in Texas for just a few gigs. His debut (self-titled) CD is not yet backed by a website (though one is coming) includes several of the songs he exhibited Sunday night - "December, Texas," "The Wind," "Old Stone House," and "The Well" - a terrifying story he heard on NPR's All Things Considered. We know about Mitchell, though, because Bonnie had done his very powerful "The Hand of God" on her own CD last year. Mitchell is another of those songwriters with a killer voice and scar-tissue lyrics that you just cannot ignore. "Prodigal Son," for example (also on the CD), starts with a guy who has just paid for sex seeing the Star of Bethlehem, still buys a fifth of Jack, and then drives all the way out into the country till his car runs out of gas and finally he walks out into a pasture on the cold night and lies down and gazes at the star - and falls into his Father's arms. Just when you think you've figured him out, he throws in "Trust," which is about an unfaithful husband, and "Everclear," which is about, well, you know. Yet two other songs were about angels....

Bonnie did some of her old favorites (we have written about her songs a lot here) and lauded girlfriend songwriters Jill Knight ("Carolina") and Harmony McGill (who co-wrote the Lolita song "One Drum"). Brennen favored us with a new gospel tune, "It Won't Come Clean." The bigger Brennen news is that brother Seth Hulbert will be in town for gigs on Thursday (Y Bar & Grill), Friday (Ross' Old Austin), and Saturday (Continental Club).

On Saturday we spent the evening at a private party after stopping briefly by the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture to check in on the Aaron Hamre Band and check out the new exhibit by the legendary Sam Yeates (next to Planet K on South Lamar through August 14). Upcoming dates include August 4 - the Austin debut of the Heidi Little Band at MoMo's - and September 5 - the Labor Day unveiling of the new South Austin Jug Band CD.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The legendary Al Perkins joined hunky singer-songwriter Kevin Montgomery on stage at the Barn Dance on Sunday -- and with dobro and guitar, the duo put on quite a show. Of course, Leeann Atherton closed out the evening with some raucous rock - including a duet with Montgomery on the Buddy Holly song, "Not Fade Away" (whereas Kevin's prior Buddy Holly collaboration was with Mary Chapin Carpenter on "Wishin'" from the Holly tribute CD) that barn dancers will long remember (BTW - Kevin has clips of the barn dance on his website). Oh, by the way - Kevin's dad Bob Montgomery was Buddy Holley's (that's the original spelling!) first bandmate - way back in junior high!

Montgomery, who is probably better known in England than here in the States, has two CD's out right now - with many of the same songs (most of which are over a decade old). The studio CD, 2:30 AM, was first released in England in 2003, and only last year did it become available in the US of A; Live! from Glasgow was recorded in 2003 and released earlier this year. Both feature Tennessee Girl, Cherokee City and Melrose (penned in 1995) and Fear Nothing (which dates to 1992 and was the title track of his first CD over a decade ago). Both CD's feature Perkins on pedal steel, dobro, and guitar and Robert Reynolds (the Mavericks) on bass. The studio CD has the wonderful piano work of Matt Rollings (Lyle Lovett, Suzy Bogguss and half of Nashville). The live CD has Paul Deakin also of the Mavericks and Mike McAdam (Steve Earle, Radney Foster, et al.) on guitar - and a hot version of Ooh Las Vegas and an even hotter Crossroads featuring Perkins. There's a Springsteen cover on each CD - and the live CD has dad Bob's "Flower of My Heart," a song which predates the Crickets (which Bob did not join) but has that classic West Texas sound. [Perkins himself grew up near Odessa.]

Women (and music lovers of both sexes) of the world must know that Kevin Montgomery has one of THOSE voices -- think Vince Gill, Michael Martin Murphey, and few others. And he sings ballads -- and has HAIR! [Did I mention that both Tricia Yearwood and Lee Ann Womack and the lesser known Carter Wood lend their voices to 2:30 AM?] But best of all, his music is very listenable - soothes and makes you feel good at the same time. In person, Kevin was joyful and thrilled to be among friends, and Al was stoic and willing to share his vast repertoire with people who understand real music (including a hot version of Foggy Mountain Rock). Leeann noted that her very first recording, back in her Nashvegas daze, was "One Yellow Rose," with Al Perkins himself!

Also appearing at the Barn Dance was Austin singer-songwriter Cash Cooper whose three-piece band (with Ernie Buford and Dave Langhand) provided some rocking country moments while the sun was still high in the sky. I saw folks dancing in the heat! Cash's other hot talent is leather artwork (catch him at Capitol Saddlery). Cash is working with producer Terry Oubre on a forthcoming CD - but catch him live, hopefully at a club with a good dance floor.

Memories are also made of the reunion of the South Austin Gospel Choir (you can see Renee's yellow dress on Kevin Montgomery's website clips of the barn dance show) and the final appearance in Austin for a while of the wonderful Steve Ulrich. PLUS Jessica Shepherd belting out "Ethel's Purty Palace." Jessica, Eric Leikam, Shelly Knight, and a whole host of others graced the gospel choir, while chief songwriter PJ Lyles also brought out his newer gospel project for a fine set of music.

As befits the event, flyers were handed out announcing a "Free the Children" concert at Freedom Oaks on July 30 to support a local woman whose children are currently being held by Kerr County officials who want to permanently take them away from her. [It's a long story that we do not fully know, but apparently the 3-year-old was injured while "more than three feet" away from her mother.] Toni Price, Doak Short, Shelley King, and numerous others have already signed up to play at the potluck and BBQ (which you can get for a $15 donation).

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Kim DesChamps is proud of his new permanent resident (through 2015) green card. He showed it off last night during his first ever visit to the Carousel Lounge before going onstage with the Sapphires (filling in for vacationing Paul Schroeder). The band - Billy Brent Malkus, Rebecca Lucille Cannon, & Co. - will be headed to the studio on August 29 with the legendary Lloyd Maines (and that IS a good sign) - and is playing this weekend at John T. Floore's Country Store in Helotes (where Robert Earl Keen made 2 Live Dinner). Brent says he has more than enough new songs for the CD, and one of them will surely be the brand-new ditty written for Becca, "Dirty Tattered House Dress." Fans of the band should be sure to drop by the Viva Day Spa open house Sunday from 1 to 5 (it's on 35th Street near MOPAC a little west of the original Kerbey Lane Cafe).

While at the gig I was introduced to Bryce Clifford - half of the brothers Clifford, whose new CD will be unveiled at Ego's on July 16 (well, of course, Kim D. plays on the CD, but he will be off with Charlie Robison for this gig). Bryce (who plays guitar, keyboards, and harmonica on the record and writes most of the songs and also sings them) has opted to hang in Austin for the time being, while brother Brad (the band's regular drummer) had to go back to Ontario (yup - they're Canucks) for the foreseeable future. Being that they're from UP NORTH, I did hear a hint of Blue Rodeo (one of Kim's former gigs) in the songs ... I really like Bryce's piano riffs on some of the ballads, and Thomas van der Brook adds in some fine tenor sax and even plays violin on one or two cuts. The Clifford brothers used to have a band in Canada called Pedestrian Status. More later on the songs (perhaps after the CD release), but for now I will say I liked "Beautiful Is Never Alone" (a ballad) and "Last Call in the Northeast" - these for the most part are songs that read like journal entries set to music. And, yes, ladies, Bryce is a fine looking fellow who could probably use some home cooking. The CD jacket is really interesting, too.

Earlier in the week (Wednesday), the wife and I trekked out to LaGrange (which Charlie Robison - speak of the devil - said was too damn hot! - and it was!, but we were thankfully inside) to the Bugle Boy coffeehouse and music venue to hear Louisiana refugee and former Bostonian (though not a sports fan!) Mary Gauthier. I went because Gurf Morlix produced her last two CD's and Gurf does not waste his time with inferior talent. Mary had picked up a German guitarist (whom she ran into in Nashville) named Tom Jutz, and man was he good - some riffs reminded me of Buddy Miller! More storyteller than singer, Gauthier admitted her perplexity that conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham (who does have breast cancer) has featured Mary's new CD Mercy Now on her own website. Then she sang the song, and shugged her shoulders (I figure anyone with breast cancer needs a little mercy). But then Laura also plugs guys like Slaid Cleaves and Bob Schneider. She LIKES Austin music, and who knows - if she moved here she might have to change her politics.

I presume Mary's scheduled show at Shady Grove the next night may have been canceled due to the huge downpour that finally broke our 35-day drought. So we were very fortunate to get to hear her in what may be one of the finest music venues for acoustic music this side of Anderson Fair. Lane Gosnay and Christie Claxton (a singer-songwriter herself) run the place, serve good lattes, good wines, and even a little beer and other stuff for the folks, and one of their finest customers has just built a nice patio out back for the smoking society. Inside, I am reminded of the Carousel (similar roof lines), but with a huge difference. No one talks during the songs, everyone's eyes are glued on the performers, and you can hear every word and every note because you are in a room that seats 80 (some very comfortably in couches you may have to reserve early) and you are always close to the action. If folks can drive to Gruene Hall or Alice's Restaurant or even Poodies or (god forbid!) Johnny Nicholas' Hilltop Cafe, they can drive to LaGrange and be very very very satisfied. Patrice Pike is one of many who will perform there later this year, but I would recommend Eric Taylor on August 13!

One final note. The forthcoming Genuine Joe Coffees will not be open for another 10 days or so thanks to the wonderful, hard-working city of Austin employees who want a little more done to the place before the public can breathe in the wonderful smells of fresh brewed coffee and stuff.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vacations are fun - except when you are too worn out to do anything. So we have missed an entire month of reporting (so it seems). But not to quibble. We do have news to report.

First off, an opening of yet another new coffeehouse and music venue in NORTH Austin. Genuine Joe's Coffeehouse at 2001 West Anderson Lane is about a week away from serving coffee and stuff and encouraging folks to come and rest in their very comfortable couches and sit out on their wooden patio (across from Lack's Furniture and other scenic sites). Owners Victor Levi and David Swainston are eager to make your acquaintance. Genuine Joe's reminds one of Saradora's in Round Rock in its ambience and a little of Flightpath in its comfort level. Their fledgling website says it all (for now): As an Austin neighborhood coffeehouse, we reflect what makes us unique. Whether you're a boot, suit, hippie, or techie, or you defy all labels, there's a place for you here. We'll do our part to bring you quality espresso beverages, the freshest of roasts, and a cozy comfortable atmosphere; your part is to relax, feel happy, get inspired, and above all be yourself!

Speaking of coffeehouses, we were down on Oltorf Avenue on Sunday evening at the Green Muse and got to visit their absolutely beautiful amphitheatre out back that is one of the nicest music venues I have seen in all of Austin (complete with fountain and multi-level seating). The occasion was quite special -- Songwriters with Product, it was called, featuring three old pals --

Mark Ambrose (whose new CD we recently reviewed and who was in town in between his Chicago area tour and his Nashville to North Carolina tour that has 14 dates in 18 days).

Steve Ulrich (whose new CD, Leadbelly and Me, is currently being mixed and mastered); Steve is soon to be off to Oregon for a summer of gigs and a wedding (his own), and may be back through Austin to sign a few of the new CD's before heading back to Guatemala in the fall.

Jackson (whose new CD, Growing Up To Be a Childhood Genius, should be on the streets in time for this Friday's gig with Leeann Atherton - or not).

Sure, it was hot - but there are fans on this patio, and there was a breeze rolling through the shade trees that help make the Muse a place for meditation. But it got even hotter when Ulrich and Ambrose (separately) were joined by sidemen Richard Parks (violin and electric guitar) and Mike (World Wide) Webb on drums. Ambrose's second set blistered as he closed with a Jimmy Reed oldie that followed his own Going to New Orleans and Train Whistle Blues. Earlier, Jackson showcased half a dozen songs that are even newer than those on the new CD (which features Leeann Atherton, Perry Drake, and AnnMarie Harrop plus the golden girls of Jinx Avenue on harmony vocals). Folks were blown away by the likes of 'I Wish I Could Write Fiction,' 'Banks of New York City,' and a song so new it has two working titles - 'Black and White Are Colorful' and 'Confetti Stars.' Here's hoping the NEXT Jackson CD will have major backing, because the guy is emerging out of his own shadows into poet laureate stature.

Further back in time we skipped The Addictions big splash at the Red-Eyed Fly (of which we can duly report that Nick Ulrich and the Fabulous Amanda and others danced uproariously all evening) to go to Antone's to see the final performance of bassist David Kline [who is preparing to join the Peace Corps after finishing up at UT next year] with The Illustrated Band. This was especially sad, because it is not as though bassists in this group are easy to replace. The last time drummer Paul Roraback and guitarist/songwriter Michael Blake lost a bassist (the guy who moved here with them from Seattle and got homesick), it took nearly a year AND a band name change (well, that came later) and the addition of keyboardist Nic Whitworth to complete the transition from Gideon's Press to the (even) bigger sound and light show that makes The Illustrated Band one whose music you feel rather than just hear.

Watching Pink Floyd reunited (sadly, for what may be the only time) at Live 8, one gets some idea of The Illustrated Band, though anyone who knows about these guys has to also see the influence of Geddy Lee and Rush. [If you like Eric Johnson, for example, you ought to like The Illustrated Band - or these guys by whatever name they may one day go by.] The Forever of Now is a MUST GRAB for any fan of stadium rock - The title cut includes these lines:

All around me today, the world is falling into place, and like a flower in the sun, I unfold and become.
Through the seasons of change, And through the joys and mistakes, I'm defined, I have found In the Forever of Now.
And with my eyes off the ground, I start looking around, To see the beauty of the day, To try to love, come what may.

Blake says of his work - There is a moment that is happening, continuously, repeating itself over and over. I have the choice to see it is there [but .... ] And then, there is this sudden brief moment of clarity, when my eyes are opened, and the whole world just falls into place.... This is the eternal moment. The Forever of Now is the awareness of divinity intrinsic in every single instant ... To live in the Forever of Now is to kiss the face of God. It is pure, unconditional Love.

Roraback (who spent time earlier this year drum teching for Terry Bozzio) spent quite a while earlier in his Austin career drumming for Lisa Tingle. Finding a new bassist who fits with the band would be a great boost to this hard-working guy who is about to be a new father. So would a few more opportunities to showcase their music in appropriate (read, LARGE) venues. Anyone who doubts my words here that these guys are amazing should just check out their website - www.theillustratedband.com and watch both of the video downloads, Anna (a concept video) and Rain Down (all band).

Finally, I want to update on a couple other things -- Andiamo's at Burnet and Rutland has GREAT Italian food prepared by real Italian (Sicilian) chefs who came here from the Washington, DC area, because the owner's wife missed her Austin home too much. Drakula's (across from NTB on Research just northwest of Lamar) has Romanian food and tales of the Count himself (not the one on Sesame Street), and still there is nothing better than lounging around at the Magnolia Cafe chowing down and visiting with old old friends.

DO NOT MISS the upcoming Hope Arts Festival, which kicks off on July 14 with the Ragamuffin Film Festival at the Galaxy Highland Theatre (behind Highland Mall) with two feature-length documentaries:

Set in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, Beyond the Gates tells the story of the Waodani, a violent and isolated tribe—the most violent culture known to man with a homicide rate of 60%--and five North American families who contacted them. All five of the North American men (Jim Elliot among them) were killed by Waodani tribesmen. Following the killings, the wife of one of the men and the sister of another went to live with the Waodani.

Beyond the Gates juxtaposes interviews with the surviving principals in the 1956 drama—including the five widows of the slain missionaries, their children, rescue workers and the surviving killers—with vintage 16-mm film and still photos shot by the missionaries themselves in the Ecuador jungle.

The MPAA Rating is PG-13 for some violent content and thematic elements.

This will be the Austin premier of the film.

Controversial throughout his life and even after his death, the brief but dynamic life of evangelist Lonnie Frisbee is a powerful story of biblical proportions. Frisbee captures the dramatic life story of this spiritual seeker turned Jesus freak who thousands remember as the agent through whom they experienced spiritual transformation.
Two of the largest evangelical denominations sprang up in the wake of his ministry, Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard, and many of Southern California's most well-known spiritual leaders were compelled into their present ministries. Yet, because he died as a result of AIDS, his name has been all but removed from the history books.

This will be the Texas premier of the film.

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