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

Monday, September 25, 2006

Leeann: Austin's Brown-Eyed Soul!

Leeann up close and personal, and giving up the spotlight to harmonica player Clark Drake (assisted by his mom - the fabulous Shelley King) -- it is moments like this that make Friday Night Church with Leeann something not to be missed.

Many readers of this column may find it redundant to explain just how good a singer is the Queen of the Barn Dance, Miss Leeann Atherton. Sideman Jackson says in several years on stage at Maria's Tacos every Friday (and lots of other gigs, too) he has never heard her miss a note. Well, Leeann has FINALLY gotten her new CD -- Every Day Dream -- out on the street (with another, acoustic CD just waiting in the wings for its own release). Leeann wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 14 songs - the others are by Jackson, Mike Stevenson, and her other sideman Sunny Coleman (with collaborators) -- all of which can sometimes be heard live on Fridays as the dancers sweat the hard stuff and others swig Dos Equis and chomp down on the al carbon!

Superstar (on the way up) Papa Mali plays slide guitar on two of the first three cuts [with Jackson and Sunny Coleman on guitars, Courtney Audain on bass, and the legendary Frosty Smith on drums] to get the record off to a GREAT start -- Bored with the Blues and Coleman's "Hard Stuff." For years, everyone has known that the best song Leeann sings is Jackson's "These Brown Eyes," which he wrote especially for her -- and having Courtney Audain play bass and produce this track (and the other three he plays on) just makes this classic even better. Papa Mali and the gang also play on "Mambo John," a tribute to one of Austin's all-time most beloved heroes (who ought to have his own statue alongside that of Stevie Ray for all of the love - and great talent - he brought to our fair city). Many folks used to watching Mambo John play the washboard might never have realized that he was one of the most creative jazz drummers anywhere. [Rumor has it we get some Mambo on the upcoming acoustic recording.]

Johnny Mac plays guitar on several tracks, beginning with "If You Can't Love Me," a down and dirty blues that also features Riley Osbourn (who cowrote this tune) on the Hammond B3 organ, John Chipman on drums, and Robert Ramos on bass. It's Mac, Mike Roberts (bass), and Jeff Schunk (drums) backing Leeann on "Angels Singing the Blues," cowritten with the lake "Doc" Penridge [Doc also cowrote and played acoustic guitar on the outtake, "Tenderness."] It's Mac, Ramos, and Chipman on the absolutely SMOKIN' "Woman & Man," yet another funky blues tune.

Another group of songs features Larry Wilson on guitar, Marty Linville on bass, and Keith Robinson on drums -- "Just My Man," "Too Many Tears," "Something To Crow About," and "Change Your Mind," which also features Mike Cross on backing vocals. Stevenson's "I'm Not Responsible" features Matt Giles on electric guitar, Mike himself on acoustic guitar, Mark Utter on bass, and the died much much too young Kris Van Robbins on drums -- this cut was recorded live at KUT. Finally, "What's Your Situation" features coauthor Jay Patten on saxophone, Fred Tacket on guitar, John Hobbs on keyboards, Joe Chemay on bass, and some guy named Mark on drums [apparently Leeann does not know his last name, either]. Listen to this one and you will begin to BEG for horns on Fridays. Just for the record, that's SIX drummers -- plus Mambo John's great spirit.

Those who love Leeann as a songwriter as well as a singer have been waiting for what seems eternity for this collection -- the only thing that is absent here is a live recording on DVD of Leeann singing "Summertime" or just about anything else on the now-defunct original Maria's stage. Okay - I would LOVE to hear "Something to Crow About" with Alvin Crow and his band backing Leeann -- give her a little of Neal Flanz' pedal steel to play against -- but, then, again, THIS is a R&B record with a heavy emphasis on the B.

Now as you read this, just ask yourself, HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN since I sweated in the dust at Maria's and truly got to experience Friday Night Church with Leeann, Sunnyman, and Jackson - and a growing cast of characters in the floating rhythm section.

Blues Mafia with Sasha Zoe Coming to the Paramount!
Sasha Zoe (Max Frost on guitar); Blues Mafia - Max, Kai, Chris, and Patrick - won the
right to play the Paramount on Tuesday for the Young Director's Cut Awards Show.

Now on Sunday afternoon, I had the great privilege of rolling down to the Firehouse in Manchac for a benefit concert that featured some of the stars from this summer's Rock Camp -- specifically, Blues Mafia with special guest Sasha (Ortiz) Zoe. This same band will be playing on Tuesday at 7:00 sharp for the Third Annual Young Director's Cut Awards Show at the Paramount Theater (sponsored by Time Warner Austin). Louis Black of the Austin Chronicle will be the guest speaker at the show, which will unveil the winning public service announcements written and produced by elementary through high school students and highlighting their school, teacher or community organization.

Blues Mafia plays Tuesdays at the Troubadour Saloon on Sixth Street - a place they are five to seven years too young to frequent except as musicians. Bassist Kai Roach and drummer Chris Copeland provide the rhythm, while guitarists Max Frost (who just turned 14!) and Patrick Mertens show skills beyond their years (thanks in large part to summer rock camps). Mertens is also a gifted singer - able to keep up with the booming vocals provided for these two shows by Sasha Zoe (her new stage name - same as mama Natalie's), who is an "older woman" of nineteen. Five years of learning at the feet of Malford Milligan have given Sasha the inspiration and the "presence" on stage that led budding diva Wendy Colonna to call her "that ball of fire." [Kai and Chris have another band that plays Wednesdays at Baby Acapulco in Gateway.] With kids like these, there is no fear here that Austin will ever even come CLOSE to losing its well deserved title as the Live Music Capital of the World.

Finally - I hope folks will notice my "buddy" New -- that's New Song, a group that helps women leave the sex industry. Maybe you know someone - or (as Arlo would say) you ARE someone looking for a helping hand. Here 'tis.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Not Too Late for The Summer Wardrobe

John Leon on the psychedelic pedal steel; Jon Sanchez asks forgiveness on behalf of "all the lovers I've wronged." -- Ruta Maya, September 22!

On the first day of autumn, The Summer Wardrobe brightened the night at Ruta Maya as the band unveiled its brand-new collection of Jon Sanchez songs in fine style. The cooler weather would not come for another night (I was glad and yet surprised that Will Taylor and Strings Attached got in their White Album super show at the Nutty Brown Cafe on Saturday - but the rain and wind merely cooled the place off to the low 70's, perfect outdoor concert weather).

I only met Jon Sanchez a few weeks ago (at the Momo's anniversary party when he sat in with Rachel Loy), then caught him duded up with Robert Harrison's new project (Future Clouds and Radar TX) debut at Ego's when he was wearing a major 70's rockstar shirt and playing some psychedelic guitar riffs I really liked. I had been hearing about The Summer Wardrobe (not your typical Austin twang band, yet with pedal steel!) for quite a while, and it was my pleasure to hang with the sizable crowd for this CD release.

Mazzy Star meets Isaac Hayes, or perhaps Pink Floyd plays country-western -- that's how the band once described their own music. Yet while the Wardrobe does not quite "fade into blue," the combination of electric guitar and pedal steel may have never been used to create this kind of mood before (or at least not in Austin). Visualize lying down in "strawberry fields" having a "tangerine (day)dream" looking up at "future clouds and radar" in a restful sky while munching on raspberry lemonade and a bowl of Cherries Garcia and then a soft and warm gentle rain begins to fall but none of the drops hit your eyes and there you are, mellow yellow and gellin' like Magellan -- and then you realize your mind is also being massaged by lyrics that are way past bubble gum.

I also like to think back to that feeling I got the day we hopped into my old VW bug and drove to the Eastern Shore (Rehoboth and Ocean City) in the summer of 1969 (did you know that Bryan and Ryan Adams share the same birthday?) and drank coffee with 10 sugars (who was counting?) and pancakes at Sam-Bo's and managed not to get arrested despite being shall we say elsewhere and then on the way home the Bay Bridge was very very high and the sky was hazy blue and eternity was calling (fortunately I opted to roll down the window and stop looking through the windshield of fate). The Summer Wardrobe is also like (well) Narnia ... and on this night Jolly Jon was even wearing his boy and girl unicorn love shirt under his white sport coat (with no pink carnation for his lady friend, sadly!).

But back to last Friday. Well, Gosh - Jon is from Baton Rouge (my home away from home), and steel man John Leon is from Mobile, Alabama. The rhythm section for a while has been drummer George Duron (like Perry Drake and Clint Myers, an El Pasoan) and bassist Marty Hobratschk (though Zachary Firnhaber plays bass on the last half of the new CD - and lends his backing vocals, too). Mark Addison both produced and engineered the recording - which was done live, with keyboards, percussion, and vocals added later.

At the show, the band opened up with "Outcry in the Barrio" (thank you Freddie and Ninfa Garcia!), which for the first several minutes you think is an instrumental and then surprised by the tough images in the lyrics. The long intro is in reality a meditation to prepare you for the journey into the serenity and yet curiously active mind of our songwriter. "You don't know just how lucky you are, On a rooftop in the city looking out across the factories, wasting time ... flowers and drugs, an exceptional sadness, too .... Inside, just looking for contact, I'm hoping for something to find...." [Reminds me of what Poco was trying to tell us.]

Next up was "Sparkle and Fade," which asserts that "leaving this world would be the hardest thing you'll ever do." But is Jon really tired of "Crawling with Kings" (one of Zach's other bands)? Or is he saying something about choosing life over not life? This song has a real kick to it -- [I can't believe I am still hearing Poco here!] Then it was Ned Kelly, the song getting the most airplay on old radio and the myspace site -- now here we get back to the real Gene Clark -- MY favorite Byrd too! (but with Jim -- not Roger, as he is now known -- McGuinn laying down the 12-string riffs).

"Blind" - which also follows Ned Kelly on the CD - features Jon and John showing they listened to Link Wray as children of the deep South - but the vocals remind me a little of David Bowie (while I recall my bud Jackson's own song with the same title). Jon just calls this sound swamp rock -- and there is more of the same in "The Blackhouse," which on stage he dedicated to Baton Rouge. "Why did you leave this world with so many questions unanswered?" -- What an intriguing opening! I got so spaced out I forgot the names of the next two songs (maybe Underground, which opens with a harder, darker sound, and Starball Contribution, which brings back memories for me of the Byrds Mister Spaceman).

Next I looked up, Jon had re-donned his sport coat and stepped out into the audience to put his arm around a lovely lady while telilng what a heel he had been (at least in song) - a promise breaker whose woman had left him. This became sort of a medley with "All the Lovers I've Wronged" and the impassioned "One More Try," which (especially on the record, but also at the show) features a very lively guitar-pedal duet that once again takes us to the asteroid belt and beyond. The set ended with "Sixty-Eight," a song not on this recording but one that must be heard every time we enter the wardrobe on the way to Narnia.

Perhaps the most inscrutable song on the record (which by the way features a reprise of Ned Kelly that again reminds us of our opportunity for a "new life confirmation") is "Redbook," which opens with the words, "Jesus knows me when I'm praying, he don't see me when I fall, Looking always for my savior, I don't see no one at all. When I open up your Redbook, I can't see my name inside .. all the pages stick together, does that mean we're out of time?" This has that Mazzy Star feel. But later, "You don't need proof to see what's already there."

The band says on its myspace page that, "Our music is ambient and somewhat dark, though it's wrapped up in a pop shell. We play ambient southern psychedelic music for the endtimes. If you've ever cried on a rooftop, you might like this." And that is exactly what we get with "Daisy Cutter" [odd that Buttercup has a song, "Cutting Daisies," huh?] ... a real dirge musically, but one which emerges into a "dawn of excitement" and "exceptional life." It is almost as if the whole idea of the music is to put you to rest while you are having to deal with the heavier things of real life -- all the while looking up at the clouds and realizing that God created them for our pleasure and meditation - and the rain (and shade) they sometimes bring.

In closing, I have to give kudos to Will Taylor and Strings Attached (super WOW for Glenn Rexach and Eddy Hobizal for being such virtuosos) and to all of the great Austin musicians who put together the Beatles White Album Live outdoors at the Nutty Brown! From Mark Utter's energetic rendition of "Glass Onion" and John Pointer's "Obla di Obla da," to a spiffily dressed (tie and jeans?) Darin Murphy belting out "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and "Piggies" despite having only half (at best) of his voice, to Craig the crooner Marshall on "I Will" to newcomer Nakia just tearing up the Savoy Shuffle, and especially to the lovely Carolyn Wonderland, who drove all the way back from a gig in Houston to show her guitar chops on "Revolution 1" and then switch to diva par excellence on "Cry Baby Cry" (and then doing her patented curtsey as she surrendered the mike), to the final crescendoes of "Revolution Number 9" the show was fantastic! Best of all may have been the always relevant videos put together by Charles Beard -- and the super harmony vocals as performed by the trio of soon-to-be moms -- Libby Kirkpatrick, Sarah Sharp, and Monica Cravotta (all of whom have very shortly upcoming due dates less than a week apart). Kudos too to the Nutty Brown venue -- and to Ma Nature, who gave us an afternoon storm to hold down the dust and an evening breeze to cool us off from the daytime heat. And prayers for Governor Richards, the yodeler Don Walser (pure Texas hero that he was), and to Carolyn's longtime mentor Jerry Lightfoot, who taught her so many things (including how to sing without the guitar the way she did on Cry Baby Cry). [Yes, I left out a number of fine performances -- but you will just have to buy the live DVD that they were shooting of this show -- to match the "best of" CD from the debut show last spring.]

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Buttercup Comes Up Roses!

Sometimes it takes two guys to play one guitar (Joe and Erik); Erik, Marcus Rubio, and Odie making music together onstage.

What an evening at Ruta Maya (and I even missed The Onlys, who opened, so that I could catch up with Leeann Atherton and her hot band at Maria's -- and pick up her very hot new CD, which will be reviewed here very soon, along with the brand-new CD by The Summer Wardrobe). THIS entry, though, is reserved for San Antonio's gift to musical joy - Buttercup!

It has been quite a while since I have seen an area band with the whole package -- great songs, great performances and theater on stage, great artwork on their CD's and the coolest T-shirts too -- and that joyful care-free attitude that focuses heavily on making sure the audience has a good time. Best of all - the band plays loud only during breaks and makes sure that you catch every word they are singing - something that lots of other bands (and sound engineers) ought to learn to do. These guys - who have been playing or working at music for two decades in various ways - are indeed ready for bigger stages than Austin's Cactus Cafe and Continental Club or the ballrooms of suburban Seguin.

[Editor's note: Have you too noticed that some clubs have sound guys who must think people come to hear the taped music in between sets and not the bands because they often play stuff that does not fit the genre and at a volume that precludes conversation -- sometimes even louder than the live bands!]

Now I had already been highly entertained by the psychedelic gumbo from Baton Rouge born Jon Sanchez and The Summer Wardrobe - of which I will write much more in my next entry - but Jon had introduced me to guitarist Joe Reyes and lead singer Erik Sanden as I walked in the door and the guys offered me their new CD to review, so I thought it only proper to stick around. Then my pal Robyn stopped by, noting that SHE is a fan of Buttercup, and I admire HER taste in music .. and the guys had such winning personalities that I was actually looking forward to -- I knew not what.

I soon found out. Most bands with brand new product tend to focus on the new stuff - and indeed out of 11 songs, we did get "Egypt," "Hot Love," and "You and You Alone" (Joe's intense ballad that even makes him cry), and "Hello Goodbye" from HOT LOVE! The band also played "In Spain" and "Downslide" from Sick Yellow Flower (released in 2005 and still fresh!), some songs that are brand new, including bassist Odie's ode to his mother's home country of Japan "Flowers and Elephants" (which is about the bombing of Hiroshima) and another new Odie song, "Innocence," plus a rip-roaring, Texas-specific version of David Byrne's "Road to Nowhere" that featured lots of marching, jumping around, and pure mania on stage (and on the dance floor). On the final cut of the evening, Buttercup brought up 17-year-old San Antonio prodigy Marcus Rubio to play guitar so that Erik could totally destroy the stage with his adventurous acrobatics.

Erik had noted that the boys had been working very hard on cover songs for the past several days - and the four-part harmonies that opened the Talking Heads classic (yes, drummer Jamie Roadman not only drew praise from Austin percussionist extraordinaire Dony Wynn but also got kudos for his backing vocals) - showed the true depths of showmanship of this band from the city that Doug Sahm made famous. The boys put us through such a trippy time that sometimes we were laughing out loud only to realize the seriousness of the message of the song. This is pure pop music with sometimes biting lyrics that cut down deep -- and a lot of BOUNCE!

The story goes (as Erik told me) that Buttercup was just a bunch of guys fooling around a few years back, but that his longtime pool shark buddy Joe condescended to join the band on condition that they actually PRACTICE (imagine that!). Well, since Joe already had a Grammy in hand for co-producing Freddy Fender's 2002 CD La Musica de Baldemar Huerta and a Grammy nomination as half of the flamenco duo Lara & Reyes, what else could a bunch of slackers do but give in? The spontaneity is still there, the creativity seems to have grown exponentially, and now the band appears to be polishing its apple just a little bit more to get ready for places like Letterman and Leno and outdoor music festival stages.

Buttercup next visits Austin on October 6 - at Waterloo for a cameo and then at Cafe Mundi, and then has sets at the end of October at both Emo's and the Saxon Pub. As the old saying goes, catch 'em while you can!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ginn-ing Around at Rockhounds!

Clarinettist Michael Austin (with Ron Welch) joined the Ginn Sisters (Tiffani and Brit), guitarist Jim Stringer, and hosts Edge City (Jim Patton, Sherry Brokus) for the Third Coast Music Songwriter Showcase at its new location - Rockhounds on Barton Springs Road - Thursday night.

I remember my first time with the Ginn Sisters - a long time ago at Momo's - and thinking what an odd couple -- I mean, Brit is playing the flute in a country duo (am I hearing things?). But then the more I listened, the more I liked what I was hearing. Time passes, and now the sisters are touring America with their hot CD, "Blood Oranges," opening for the likes of Michael Fracasso and Fred Eaglesmith, and climbing up the Americana charts. Tiffani's all-out country vocals (Brit typically sings harmony) and Brit's instrumental work make for warm stuff -- and on this night, the duo inspired Michael Austin to add clarinet solos on top of the guitar solos by Austin's collaborator Ron Welch and the incomparable Jim Stringer (whom I know through his own AM Band but moreso for his work with the Hummingbirds -- Karen Poston and Susanna Van Tassel and Jim). Plus, of course, the harmonies (and guitar) from showcase hosts Edge City.

The gals are on the road for another week but will be BACK at Rockhound's (a nice place - with an upstairs patio and really good Mexican hot chocolate!) on September 28 for a Southwest Regional Folk Alliance showcase that will also include Abi Tapia, Karen Mal, Melissa Greener, and Anais Mitchell). The TCM showcase next month (October 19) features Will T. Massey, George Ensle, and Mark Viator; other upcoming shows will have Abi Tapia, Andrew Walker (the Canadian), and Adam Carroll (November 16) and Jon Dee Graham and Michael Fracasso (December 21) -- all with Edge City hosting. This is as good as - if not even better (how would I know, not having been here in 1994) - the old Chicago House showcases.

Okay - the Ginns were not on stage alone. I love Michael Austin (got to know him when he played with Kerry Polk at her CD release and KUT taping) - he is a funny man who also plays wonderful clarinet. Jim Stringer asked for prayers for Karen Poston (throat) and encouragement for Susanna (who is back in college and doing the wonderful supermom thing) ... and Edge City - what more can one say?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sigmund Fraud guitarist and vocalist Hector Ward and bassist Lance Duncan rocked the Hole in the Wall late Tuesday evening.

David Lazaroff and Lauren Gurgiolo jammin' with Neal Kassanoff at the Hole in the Wall on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Listen to Kassanoff "Over and Over"

Neal Kassanoff is a thinking man's songwriter. I knew that the first time I saw Carolyn Wonderland performing his "Heart" live and again on her "Bloodless Revolution" CD. I remember seeing Neal live on stage at the Shaggy's Reunion Concert at Freedom Oaks, backed by Lauren Gurgiolo, and hearing more of his songs for the first time. Then Neal was a vital part of one of the most creative exhibits I have seen in a long time - a multimedia experience last January at the Cathedral of Junk. Some folks may not know that Neal and Guy Forsyth wrote the score for the cult documentary film, "Hands on a Hard Body," which is of course all about people standing up and staying awake for days in hopes of winning a truck.

So it is no surprise that the new CD, "Over and Over," features Gurgiolo on backing vocals along with her mate David Lazaroff on guitars, keyboards, vocals, and pedal steel; other players are Shiben Battachatya on bass, Steve Sanders on drums, and Sarah Sharp and co-producer Luis Guerero also on vocals. Neal says of this collection of garage band-punkish songs that they have been "a pleasure to record and perform - emotionally direct, experimental and replete with happy accidents." These are songs, he says, "about the difficult spaces of alienation, disappointment and heartache, songs about internal conflict and deific struggle." They are "big drums and crunchy guitars that make you want to take a bite, primal screams and understated harmonies, pedal steel and solitary piano."

What I got from listening to the CD a couple or three times was that this music will sound ten times better LIVE (and replete with all the uncommon weirdness of outdoor theater sets) -- and with oddly painted dancers interpreting each song (or at least selected songs) through multicolored lights and occasional smoke and fog. Just imagine all of this in a space with children's imagination-filled minds and hearts ... perhaps in a space like that outdoor theater in Wimberley (whose name escapes me right now - but the stage there is HUGE and under the stars).

Kassanoff says of his music, "It's very important for me to veer, wander, seek inspiration and run with it, no matter where it might take me. I have written songs about preachers who minister in bars and find themselves tangled up in drug deals. I have written about a god who can only consummate his love by relinquishing his duty to hold the sky in place. I have written about stolen bicycles, bank heists, smashing the state, mythical floods, vampire temptresses, late night binges that decimate wine collections, and (of course) songs about every girl who has ever broken my heart and/or mended my soul. I flow, scream, croon or belt it out, depending on the song and the moment."

Neal puts a lot of his musical energy into the Groundwork Music Project, an organization that provides free and low-cost music education to preschool children. The program operates out of Austin, Texas, and educates children at Open Door Preschool and the APIRE Program. Groundwork operates under the premise that all people are musical and early childhood musical experiences are essential to developing basic musical skills. Neal put together the curriculum for Groundwork - which is aimed at helping children teach themselves music through play (even in Spanish). Look for a big blowout in December during Groundwork's annual fundraising drive.

Now to the songs, of which there are an even dozen. Maybe my favorite is "Black Balloon," which opens with a stiff drum beat, then squeezes out a lyric that admits the secret that, "when the wind revives you you'll remember where you've been the night before," and this information is hard to handle for our protagonist who "could float like a black balloon in the night", maybe get high, "and then go down down down."

I also like "Why" - the latter of which asks "why does your heart keep beating like a bass drum when I put my ear to it?" [And does it beat the same way for other guys?] I love the tinny guitar sound here. "End of the Day," the final cut, opens with a classic sounding keyboard but played softly (rather than like Eighties music) and switches to the pedal steel sound -- and yet the entire feel is like an old Hollies song (but sadder). The second cut, "Sky God," is pure grunge - would you leave behind your awesome responsibilities just for a girl? "Donna" opens with fonky guitar, then morphs into a punkish classic cut that just begs folks to jump into the mosh pit.

There is much more - but I suggest that, rather than read more here, just go out to Emo's on September 30 (where Lauren's band the Dialtones are also on the bill) or The Continental Club on November 5 (where Neal opens for Carolyn Wonderland -- a SUPER show!) and hear this music for yourself. And be prepared to have a VERY GOOD TIME!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Youngmond Grand? - You Bet!
Youngmond Grand guitarist Will Rhodes, lead
singer Clint Myers (middle), and bassplayinben!
Hidden in the dark at Trophy's: drummer Jonathan Humphrey and John Pfirman (keys, guitar).

Slowtrain drummer and vocalist Brett Staggs.

I first met Youngmond Grand songwriter-vocalist (and guitarist) Clint Myers several months ago at the Velvet Spade when he stopped by to hang with Bryce Clifford as we both enjoyed a set by Melody Mann. It has taken me this long to get out to see the band live -- Friday night at Trophy's -- and I was not disappointed. Clint writes some very good lyrics that are by no means buried by the band's psychedelic, keyboard-influenced sound (which includes various electronic noise as well). Indeed, Trophy's is hardly the venue to capture the whole drama (would that The Backroom - with its huge stage - was still around!).

The band has a debut EP available (The Sculptures, 2005) but has been in the studio and just finished laying down the tracks for their full-CD release (probably a while away) - done at Cacophony Recorders, produced by Erik Wofford. But drummer (and co-visionary) Jonathan Humphrey has relocated to Tucson, Arizona, leaving a gaping hole (he was in town for the ACL Fest!) that may be hard to fill [Note to drummers - audition!]

Check out the band at www.myspace.com/youngmondgrand - where you can hear some of their music - but NOT (as of now) some of the songs I really liked last night .. "Fairy Tales" and "Crashing Down" (?) and "Quiet Ghosts." This band is like "I don't know much about art but I know what I llike!" for me.

And speaking of new CD's on the way, I ran into producer David Eaton, a Dallas native who went to LA to make a name producing Texas bands back here (Polyphonic Spree, Dynamite Hack, Pushmonkey) through his 7-year-old "Gimme a Break!" package deal. He has been in town working with Slowtrain, which just happened to be also playing at Trophy's last night. Longtime buddies Adoniram Lipton and Brett Staggs - who met in college in Pennsylvania - are joined by bassist Matt Roth and guitarist Andy Keating in this band (which I reviewed recently very favorably).

With songs like "Beautiful Soul," "It Might Not Be That Bad," and the brand-new "I Feel Just Like John Cheever Tonight" (if that indeed is the title), stay-at-home dad Adoniram and his mates have a promising future -- we are waiting with bated breath to hear the outtakes from the studio.

On yet another note -- The Summer Wardrobe (featuring Jon Sanchez on guitar and John Leon on pedal steel) will have a CD release party at Ruta Maya on September 22 (also playing Buttercup and The Onlys) - and this will be their LAST Austin show for quite a while, as they are headed to New York City for some bigtime shows.

And - believe it or not - there is a strong rumor that the Round Rock coffeehouse Saradora's - which closed a while back after huffy politicians got upset with the wardrobes of some of the guests - will soon be reopening at the same location (but under different, yet sympathetic, management). STAY TUNED!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Late Night on the Town!

Thursday night - had to babysit (lots of fun) - but still got out late to catch a smidgen of a few great shows. First it was down to Threadgill's for a taste of Cyril Neville and Tribe 13 -- Nawlins fonky tonk -- and with an added saxophone! Ran into my good pal Malford Milligan who was hanging out looking kingly. Then it was off to the Cactus Cafe for my first glimpse at the amazing Kullen Fuchs as sole sideman (playing eighty-leben instruments AND singing harmonies) for super showman Ian Moore (who regaled the crowd with tales of rural life outside Lubbock and

Ian Moore and Kullen Fuchs harmonizing!

living on an island in the Puget Sound surrounded by gun-happy rednecks who shoot deer out of season and meth-snorting middle-aged liberal dames while trying to raise normal children in an abnormal world).

Ian and Kullen are in Lubbock tonight on the first leg of a two-week road trip (and what a trip it always is with Mister Moore) ... and if coming shows are anything like the segment of last night's late show that I got to watch (interactively, to be sure), folks are in for some good times. It is ordinary for Kullen to play marimbas with one hand and cymbals or another keyboard with the other -- but playing TRUMPET right-handed while playing keyboards with the left hand - now that is something (to quote Josh Zee). Best of show - Ian's patented unplug the guitar, get away from the mike and just sing to a hushed audience some of his softer tunes. Well, Kullen started playing marimbas, and after a while Ian stopped him and said, "Strap on YOUR guitar and join me among the folks." What ensued (see photo) was poetry (even though Ian almost fell into my lap) ... that brought the crowd to new levels of bliss. Ian's real brother was in the house as were many old old friends ... and the even better news is that Griff has agreed to bring the duo back in October!

Okay, so I only got to hear the last real song of Ricky Stein's set -- but hallelujah! The crowd demanded an encore, so Ricky opted for Nathaniel's Boogie (that's his keyboard player who was really tearing it up for the rowdy crowd at the Hole in the Wall). This is now an every Thursday event -- and next week Ricky's opener (after the fabulous Li'l Alice and Her Monkey Butlers) will be Black Water Gospel. After the music stopped, I headed out to the patio and was urged to get out to Trophy's tonight for Slow Train and Youngmond Grand (and company). But AFTER Maria's (so I gotta hurry!).

In OTHER news, on September 30 Austin legend Maryann Price will grace the Threadgill's stage with Francis McGrath and the Frequency Mode as her backing band. Francis is a student of the original Hickoid who moved on to be lead female singer with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel after they moved to Austin. My pal Steve Gavigan is on drums with the group, which also includes Brad Mock on bass, Chris La Cava on guitar, and McGrath on keyboards. There will be songs like "I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande" and a bunch of jazz standards and a lot of other fun and fabulous stuff!

Leeann Atherton has her new CD available at her shows -- reason No. 34 for getting outta here!

Jenny Reynolds will hug anyone who shows up on Monday at 8 for her Momo's show! And did I mention that Ricky Stein (see above) is headed to the studio with the legendary Freddy Steady Krc to record his debut CD? Probably did - but this is great stuff!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jenny and Jud Make Beautiful Music Together!

Jenny Reynolds - Boston's gift to Austin - is a busy woman these days - teaching guitar and playing gigs like the one on Wednesday at Threadgill's Old No. 1 on North Lamar. Scrappy Jud Newcomb - when he is not busy with the Resentments, Ian McLagan's Bump Band, the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers, or any of the other bands who rely on his skill with the guitar - is playing quite a few gigs with Jenny. Kinda like the David Rawlings to her Gillian Welch. And, yes, they do a Gillian cover plus lots of originals by Jenny and some by Jud.

Like her pal Kerry Polk, Jenny has been working on a bunch of new songs - some of which may be heard either at her Monday (September 18) gig at MOMO's CLUB (8 pm) with Jud, Glenn Fukanaga on bass, a drummer whose name escapes me right now, and maybe even Eric Hokkanen (who will definitely be joining the band for her September 29 show at city hall (live from the plaza - just one week after Natalie Zoe takes that stage). Jenny moved to Austin after racking up honors at Kerrville in 2003 after having quite a career in Boston, and was rated as the "best new local act" in 2005 by the Chronicle's Jim Caligiuri. This Renaissance Woman is also a Red Sox fan!!!!!

In a bit of other news, Cowboy Curtis - a Minneapolis band that sounds a lot like the Jayhawks - has just released its brand new CD "ThirtyFive Summers," and you can check out the band at www.cowboycurtis.com or www.myspace.com/cowboycurtismusic . The band features Nate and Neal Perbix on drums and guitars, respectively, Jake Hanson also on guitar (Jake and Neal are the principal songwriters), and MY NEPHEW Ethan Sutton on bass. Chris Riemenschneider of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has described the band as “...sounding like an emo band playing over ‘Reckoning’-era R.E.M.” Their debut CD, "Observations/Assumptions," is also available. For the record, new-dad Ethan also plays cello in the Minneapolis-based (and award winning) "Spaghetti Western String Co.," a quartet that writes and performs cinematic style music with acoustic instrumentation. Their music combines Classical, Bluegrass, Jazz and European folksong, ultimately producing a unique sound that is gentle yet chaotic at the same time. Check them out at www.myspace.com/spaghettiwestern or at www.spaghettiwesternmusic.com .

PS -- And let me know what you think of both groups!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Tribute to Johnny Cash!
Paul Pedroza has as as major passion keeping alive the memory of Johnny Cash. The Band in Black played a gig at the Mean-Eyed Cat - a bar absolutely sold out to Cash - on the third anniversary of Johnny's passing into heaven.

Pictured with Pedroza are drummer Phillip Owens and bassist Daniel Tucek - both 20-year veterans of the classic punk-metal Austin band known as One Bad Pig! On lead guitar (not shown) is Lee Haley - a pretty fair gunslinger who works to re-create Johnny's sound.

At the gig, Owens and Tucek presentd club owner Chris with a photo of One Bad Pig! with Johnny Cash himself that was taken a number of years back when The Man in Black joined up with One Bad Pig! for a recording session. No wonder these guys are Cash fans too! This was my first trip to the venue - but I intend to be back soon. What's not to like? They even have - gasp! - victuals! [That's vittles for country folk.]

Oh, and Pedroza? Let's just say that a town with multiple Beatles cover bands, visits by the Red Elvises, and hoot nights for the good, the bad, and the very ugly, it is high time we had a first-rate Johnny Cash tribute band led by a man whose soul pays homage to his hero every day of his life.

For the record, the Lonesome Heroes are playing the Mean-Eyed Cat on September 13!

And do not forget to stop by and grab some Cuban coffee, a snow cone, a praline and one of Mary and Smiley's famous "COOKIES" (just behind Maria's all-new Taco X-Press!).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gospel Music in Austin!

Maria Mabra joined Brennen Leigh on stage at Threadgill's Gospel Brunch; Papa Mali, Scrappy, and Sarah playing in the sunshine at Maria's grand opening!

Sunday is Gospel Music Day in Austin - and today, Flanfire went first to Threadgill's to catch Brennen Leigh (with special guest Maria Mabra) and then to the grand opening of the new Maria's Taco X-press to catch the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers - the very best band in town. Along the way, the Harmonizers' special guest, Stephen Bruton, announced that his lovely wife Mary and her pal Cindy Smiley will be opening up their snow cone and Cuban coffee stand (behind Maria's) during the coming week - the place, Mary and Smiley's Cubana, will also feature authentic Louisiana pralines and Mary and Smiley's very own secret recipe cookies - and perhaps other desserts (something that is NOT a Maria's specialty).

Brennen - fresh from her successful trips to France and Norway this summer - had brother Seth on guitar, Josh Hoag on upright bass, and Danny Curtis on fiddle. Just past her birthday (I will NOT disclose which one), she put on a commanding performance, but when longtime pal Maria (with whom she has recorded a soon to be released EP entitled, Shout Hallelujah!) ascended to the stage, magic began to happen. Maria, who is about to unleash her own band Corrine Rose's Austin debut CD, sings the high parts while Brennen handles the lower notes - and you would think they were sisters the way their harmonies mesh. [Well, maybe they ARE!] Fans should be aware that Brennen will be joined on stage on Tuesday at 6:00 pm at the Evangeline Cafe by one of the guys who backed her up in Norway this summer (he is here for the ACL Fest, of course!).

The new Maria's features nicer bathrooms, a much larger (and cooler) interior cafe area (with big windows that ends the claustrophobia of the old place) and a new covered patio that retains the dirt floor but still provides a side area for dancers and lots of seating that will be out of most rains. The stage is lower (building code issues kept the ceiling low) and the band has its back to South Lamar (with a small parking lot in between). What CAN one say about the Harmonizers - who (for newcomers here) raise money for local charities every Sunday and totally donate their time and talents and do not even use the venue to promote their own gigs. Today's lineup was Papa Mali (Malcolm Welbourne) and "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb on guitars, the incomparable Sarah Brown on bass, Paul "Bhudda" Mills on drums, and Nick Connelly on keyboards - plus Shelley King on vocals.

We, however, will promote a gig or two here and there -- and this time, it is the FUNK FEST this Friday through Sunday (Fri-Sat at Jovita's, Sun at the Parish). On Friday it is Big Sam's Funky Nation and Topaz. The Saturday show, billed as Papalactic AftaBlasta (starts at 10 pm), features Papa on guitar, Rob Mercurio on bass, Rich Vogel on keys, Stanton Moore on drums -- plus Cyril Neville and very surprise special guests on brass! The Sunday show features the Greyhounds and the Stanton Moore Trio (with Robert Walter and Will Bernard) and special guests Papa Mali and IVAN Neville. Advance tickets are going for $12 Friday, $18 Saturday, and $20 Sunday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ricky Stein; Lonesome Heroes Rich Russell and Landry McMeans.

Ricky Stein Down at the Hole!

Journalist-musician Ricky Stein asked me to come by early to catch The Lonesome Heroes before his midnight show at the Hole in the Wall - and what a nice surprise they were [more later]. But since it was also the first time I was getting to see the gravel-voiced kid whom I know as a bigtime supporter of his musician buddies, I had been looking forward to a long evening already.

The first thing you notice about Ricky Stein is his ENERGY -- and on stage, that gregarious outgoing nature seems to get magnifed twice over. My first impression of Ricky and his (still unnamed) band was -- WOW! These guys remind me of the first time I saw Jack Ingram and the Beat Up Ford Band (at a Robert Earl Keen extravaganza back in Houston a long, long time ago -- also the first time I saw Trish Murphy as a solo act and the first time I saw Ian Moore).

Now, Ricky plays a whole lot more Chuck Berry (and even Ray Charles) than Jack (who among other things overcame playing live in the movie "Hope Floats" but not being credited or even included on the movie sound track CD -- contract issues, I am told) -- but the honest Texas freshness and the respect for musicial forebears and the high energy on stage are very much a part of both musicians' repertoire. Who knows? Maybe Ricky will someday equal the output of another famous Texas journalist-songwriter who graduated from Klein High School more than a few years back.

Longtime mates Phil Morris (bass) and Nathaniel Klugman (Roland keyboard) were joined by drummer Josh Weinholt and guitar gunslinger Hunter St. Marie (a Galveston native now ensconced at Texas State - so thanks for the drive up the road), and the band did a fine job of filling in the spaces Ricky left for them to improvise. The songs ranged from full-tilt boogie woogie to Texas blues (Down and Out in Dallas, featuring Ricky on harp and Hunter on slide, was memorable) to oldies but goodies (Too Much Monkey Business, I Got a Woman, and - in quite a change of pace - I Shall Be Released) to a fine cover of Bill Davis' "Money on You."

My favorites, though, were a new original, "Every Step of the Way," which reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis (thanks, Nathaniel!) and also was the number on which Hunter started really getting loose on stage, and "DC Blues," which just plain rocks! Ricky has announced plans for a debut CD to be produced by Texas Music Hall of Famer Freddie Steady Krc (and that ain't bad!). Ricky is playing Thursdays at the Hole for the foreseeable future (next week with Slowtrain, two weeks from now with Black Water Gospel), and may also be seen on Tuesday at Momo's.

Now back to The Lonesome Heroes. Brooklyn born and raised (and California educated) Austin transplant (thanks to Kerrville) Rich Russell met up with native Austinite Landry McMeans shortly after arriving in Texas, and the two have been making music together ever since (sometimes with other players, but this summer they traveled over 8,000 miles together and played as a duo, winning friends wherever they went). Landry said she kept her dobro in the case last night, but photos tell the story that she is more than just a lap steel and occasional guitar player and sweet singer. This night the band included Andy Garsea on standup bass and Sarah Millenary (aka Stalek?) on a fuzztoned fiddle that had a unique sound.

Listening to these guys, I conjured up tumbling tumbleweeds - and wondered how a kid from Brooklyn could sound like he was from deep west Texas and an earlier time around the campfires. The band did songs from their recent release, "Don't Play To Lose," and lots of other songs that may be included in an upcoming live recording planned for September 30 at Flipnotics (a do not miss occasion, to be sure!).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Photo Gallery -- The Week That Was!

Shelley King gets flowers on her birthday (it was son Clark's, too!) at Artz Rib House; Natalie Zoe and newcomer to Austin Chad Pope (shown at Woody's South) are off to Athens, Texas, this weekend to play a gig at the Silver Spur with Chad's dad Randy Pope.

Mario Matteoli and Mark Ambrose -- plus Leo Rondeau and Joshua Hoag (bass) -- turned the Hole in the Wall into a singer-songwriter's palace on Wednesday night.

Kullen Fuchs (trumpet), Hollie Thomas (vibes), and Robert Harrison (acoustic guitar) -- plus Jon
Sanchez on electric guitar -- joined Darin Murphy and Josh Gravelin to thrill a lively
audience at Ego's -- as Future Clouds and Radar.
Cotton in the Clouds!

Robert Harrison went to Kon Tiki with Cotton Mather, but these daze Austin's own Sgt. Pepper has entered a new space -- Future Clouds and Radar - TX (apparently there is a band in New York City by the same name - go figure!) had a debut of sorts at Ego's on Thursday evening, and the sizable crowd was very enthusiastic in its response to this new phantasmagoria of audial and visual delights. The collage will convene next on September 7 at - ta da! - the illustrious Club de Ville (time uncertain, but who's counting?) for a longer and stronger (we are promised) set from the forthcoming (possibly two-disk?) CD, which (despite what you may read at www.myspace.com/futurecloudsandradartx is now planned for a January release (but then things could change once again!).

From the moment I walked through the subterranean parking lot at Ego's and ran into Darin Murphy [lately of the KTEL Hit Machine with sis Trish] unloading his drum kit to the moment I saw Jon Sanchez [The Summer Wardrobe, for example, which has a CD release set for September 19] sporting an early Seventies rockstar shirt to just noticing the BUZZ in the room, I knew (despite having never had the pleasure of being at a Cotton Mather event) that I was HOME (it was like being back at the very first ever Human Be-In at P Street Beach and listening to Dolphin, a band featuring the still in high school Nils Lofgren plus Paul Dowell, Bob Berberich, and I think Jack Casady's brother). So next Thursday I will try to bring beads and incense -- and wear appropriate clothing.

Overfilling the small stage at Ego's were Harrison (with a roadie/guitar tech assisting), Murphy, Sanchez (playing some very psychedelic guitar), Hollie Thomas on Korg, Josh Gravelin on bass, and Kullen Fuchs [Ian Moore, Zookeeper, Bryce Clifford, etc.] on trombone, trumpet, vibes (played with both mallets and fiddle bows), omnichord, another small keyboard, tambourine, and some little keyboard with a bellows attached that works by breathing into it -- and this was just for an eight-song set. I have no real idea of the song titles (except Robert identified "Drugstore Bust," which includes the lyric, "Every time I get dead I roll onto another bed.")

Maybe the first is "I Let You Go," which features an extended solo by Sanchez at the end. (Maybe) "In Your Garden" speaks of a woman who's "like an 80's vixen with a mouth full of cocaine ... I think she needs me again." Heck, there was one cool interlude with Kullen and Hollie playing the theme from Amelie. Robert ended the all-too-short set playing what looked like a small lute and Murphy bouncing around the stage with finger snaps while some sort of drum machine kept the rhythm going. This band makes Greezy Wheels seem suburban by comparison. Kullen had promised me a party -- and the band delivered!

Earlier on Thursday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Jody Denburg and the KGSR team eating free Mangia Pizza and catching Whaddya Want for Lunch with Tom Russell (and his new guitarist Michael Martin). Russell was playing (for the very first time) a brand-new black (with inlay) guitar made just for him in Austin by Steve McCreary and Bill Collings at Collings Guitars (and Mandolins). Russell, a one-time Austinite who has lived in El Paso for 15 years, recently played a July 3 gig for Dave Letterman with Gurf Morlix. It is always a joy to hear Russell, who played his new hit, "The Pugilist is 59," and mine and Jody's favorite, "Down the Rio Grande," along with three other songs -- a teaser for his Shady Grove show that evening.

Wednesday night we were at the Hole in the Wall -- checking out Junior's Hamburgers and other goodies and listening to Leo Rondeau and (the newly engaged) Mario Matteoli (with the Rosewood Saddles). Mario (whose new CD we earlier reviewed) was gracious enough (and wise enough) to give guitarist Mark Ambrose the mike for one of Mark's originals - and this may be a hint of bigger things to come. Leo is working on a new CD on which Mario and Cary from the Weary Boys provide harmony vocals along with the lively Brennen Leigh. He had Josha Hoag on standup bass and Joey Borja (who just came back to San Marcos from Nashville) on steel (for the first time with Leo).

Brennen was in the house with a bunch of her shape-note singing buddies, and Leo delivered a dozen songs -- check some of them out at www.myspace.com/leorondeau -- that were forged in eastern North Dakota where he comes from. "Breaking My Back," "Devil on My Shoulder," "Life and Times," and lots more -- delivered with his characteristic "here it is, deal with it" manner ... This is OLD country music ... that reminds us of the dust bowl and hard times.

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