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

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Dao Strom brought out her folk singer persona to Threadgill's Old No. 1 on Thursday night, along with a passel of friends, to celebrate (among other things) the fact that her second novel, "The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys," is off to the publisher and soon to be available in hardback. Billy Brent Malkus of The Texas Sapphires (who have been in studio with Lloyd Maines and will play a bunch of gigs next week) was there on dobro, along with Kevin Fox on bass and vocals, and Konrad (of Possessed by Paul James) on fiddle. A special treat was Austin newcomer (by way of Boston and New York City!) Christa Haxthausen on vocals and guitar. Once again, it is important to read Dao's debut novel, "Grass Roof, Tin Roof," to gain a real perspective on how Dao came to be a bluegrass gospel folk singer born in Vietnam and educated in rural hippieville Northern California. One highlight was Dao's rendition of "Blue Moon," and another was a song called "Sweetness." Truth be told, Dao can hold an audience just by standing there and talking about her life, her work, and her songs - and then singing and smiling at the same time. We are blessed to have her here.

Later on Thursday, it was down to Ruta Maya to catch Tahni and the Toneheads as the former LA heavy metal gunslinger (lead guitarist for the all-girl band Tantrum at age 17) shared songs from both of the CD's she has recorded since moving from the Lake Tahoe area a few years back. Backing Tahni this time were Danny Bennett on lap steel (a constant with her band), Rob Jewett on bass, and Timmy Campbell on drums. Woody Russell, who led off the evening with his trio, stepped up for one duet (a reprise of his work on Tahni's first CD), and Taste Buds Tina Allen and Colleen Schoonmaker both sang leads on one song (Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Please Mr. Postman, respectively). Once again, a rough mix and some glitches, but the songs, the arrangements, and the guitar playing - by Tahni, finally! - are all there.

Chelle Murray and her band closed out the night, but perhaps the hottest performer of the entire evening was little miss Emme Lou Handal -- all of age five -- who tore up the house with her well-spaced and on-key version of "You've Got a Friend!" Mom had better watch out, because Emme Lou is not only an on-time singer, she has all the moves on stage (a lot more than her mom) and will soon have young guitarists lining up to play for her.

Among the new songs that really stand out -- "Mister, Do You Have a Dime," "Got To Get Over You," and the absolutely fabulous "Keep Your Light On," which closed the show.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kim DesChamps promised me I would like the Mother Truckers - two transplanted Californians backed by three Austin stalwarts (Rob Jewett on bass, Kim on pedal steel, and recent transplant from San Diego Pete Langhans on drums). Teal Collins (daughter of DJ Al JazzbeauxCollins) and Josh Zee (formerly of the rock group Protein), who are also an off-stage couple, rocked the house with her strong vocals and his amazing guitar licks - from straight blues to the lighter side (even kazoos when Rob broke a string). The band started off with a song called, "It's Been Hot for Days," which might have been written shortly after Josh and Teal arrived from Marin County to be greeted by the 100-degree Texas heat. Then it was "Behind the Bleachers" for some steamy sex (fantasy?), and then Teal brought out her ukulele for "Poor Girl from Brazil." Then it was kazoo city while Kim unpacked and Rob restrung, and finally we got to the real heat -- Lone Gone Lonesome Blues done as Hank himself might have if he had been backed by Stevie Ray or Alvin Lee. Other highlights - "Save My Soul," "God's Good Sunshine," the super powerful "TNT," and "If I Die." By the time the set was over, we were all limp from the sheer energy of this music.

Earlier, we had a quiet time with songwriters Mark Ambrose and Mario Matteoli (of the Weary Boys, doing songs that don't fit that band). The duo swapped off songs and leads and harmonicas as we all watched the TV in the corner showing film of people smoking at the Hole in the Wall which was (as always) full of smoke despite the so-called smoking ban.

Still earlier in the evening, we had been at the Saxon Pub for a truly smoke-free (but smokin') set by Melody Mann - featuring mega-keyboardist Thomas Mann and his lovely songbird wife Kelly - plus their horn and rhythm sections. It was an Austin Songwriters showcase emceed by Brent Allen - and a very good time was being had by all. This band gets tighter every time I hear them -- and they seem to be having more fun each outing as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Matt Williams, Mark Ambrose, and the inimitable Jackson (plus Richard and Lynette Parks) serenaded a bunch of folks last Saturday down at the Green Muse -- a wonderful outdoor venue on Oltorf that is heavily underutilized, given the fact the place serves panini sandwiches, lots of potables (coffees, teas, adult beverages, and more) and tasty treats - and has a real laid-back environment. Matt is in town for a few days after spending the summer touring on the East Coast and Oklahoma (the Blue Door, etc.) and before heading BACK to South Carolina (where he spent his formative years) and New York City (back to the Bitter End and other gigs and his lady friend). He'll be in San Marcos on Thursday night (www.mattwilliams.com ) and gone on Friday. Good guy, good songwriter -- buddy Kevin Hennessy has been playing bass with him.

Mark Ambrose is in town for a while but wants to get back on the road to promote his amazing new CD (previously reviewed here, and more recently by No Depression magazine). He's at the Hole in the Wall tonight and back at the Green Muse later this month -- a wonderful flat picker and harmonica player, Mark sets a mood of old-time staring at the sky looking at the clouds and other such joys of the quiet life. Jackson is already at work on another CD of brand-new songs that are as good if not even better than those on "Grow Up to be a Childhood Genius."

Mark and Matt also played at Flipnotics on Sunday night (with Anthony de los Santos, who has a groovy new website that focuses on who's playing where and lets you hear some of their songs before you trek to the club and take pot luck -- the site is www.m343.com and everyone should bookmark this site if they like Austin music and want to try out new bands.
Then they were again booked at Tambaleo (the old Electric Lounge) on Monday - so I stopped by for a while. What a TREAT! A downtown bar with a huge parking lot all its own - and lots of room and comfy couches inside. A nice stage with a good sight line and even a brand-new smokers' patio outside.

Earlier on Sunday I was invited up to a church in Wells Branch to catch a set by Popstars - Dads Who Rock (aka Nathan Hamilton, Beaver Nelson and Matt the Electrician -- there are other members of this fraternity who show up on occasion as well). Nathan is working on a new CD he says will be very different from his prior works -- should be out this fall. The guys take turns on their own songs, often backing each other up with instruments and vocals. Kids get to dance and jump around -- check out the scene at its home base - Jovita's - some Sunday (check schedules).

Before our week in IV-land, we got out to the Iguana Grill in Lakeway to catch a swinging set by Kris Brown and Family Sauce - with horns and Rubin on harmonica -- lots of great fun. Kris says that producer Courtney Audain is about done with the new Family Sauce (white boy from Ohio reggae music that has a real authentic feel because Kris is really funky) CD, which features a bunch of KB originals (including Rub a Dub). Do not miss this if you like the genre.

On my birthday last month I got out to see Carolyn Wonderland and Cole El-Saleh at the Old No. 1 Threadgill's -- the woman keeps getting better as a songwriter and performer and is adding instruments to her already sizable collection of sounds. What's next? Fiddle? Do yourself a favor and catch as many of her shows as you can before she starts becoming in demand worldwide. You will kick yourself if you procrastinate.

Despite rumors to the contrary, there will NOT be a barn dance this Sunday (we are told). But next Wednesday (a week from tomorrow) I plan to be at the Saxon Pub to catch the Sapphires, who have been in studio, to see what benefits they have gained from sessions with Lloyd M.

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