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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gotta LOVE LZ!

So I was at the Papa Mali Christmas wing-ding for the Austin Food Bank and ran into LZ Love and she handed me her latest -- a collaboration with slide guitarist (and blues historian) Lightning Red simply called "Gut Bucket Blues." Said she and Red would be doing some gigs starting in January to promote the new CD (Artz Rib House on January 11th and at Dan Electro's in Houston on January 13th are among them). So I took it home and tossed it into the CD player .... and ..... well, you've got two LZ originals and five by Red, plus LZ's take on Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" and a cool duet on Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do."

If by chance you are one of those who has not heard either (or both) of these A-list artists, you could check them out on KBLJ-FM on Loris Lowe's late-night show on January 2 or hang out at Maria's Taco X-Press on any given Sunday (but not every Sunday) ...

LZ is beautiful inside and out and mysterious besides -- she has that aura of one who walks with the angels (maybe because, like soul sister Ruthie Foster, she too put down her career to take care of her late mother during a late-life illness). In her younger days in San Francisco, LZ was a backup singer to Mary Wells, Joan Armatrading, Billy Preston, Luther Vandross, and many others and is a longtime collaborator with Tommy Castro and Michael Fronti. God blessed Austin when LZ and a couple of her musical mates moved here in 2003 (just after she had restarted her solo career in San Fran with a BIG BANG!) .. and LZ blessed God and Austin by joining up with the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers on many occasions before starting up her own Hippie Gospel Sunday Extravaganza which will be at Maria's two Sundays in January.

Lightning Red is a homegrown Texas whiteboy blues man (well, he got here from Chicago as early as he could!) who has literally lived the blues -- complete with stolen guitars, burned-down clubs, and soured record deals -- and even moved to Maine a few years back to escape the insanity of a town with thousands of musicians and virtually no music business (which means record companies, publishers, and such). He has wowed audiences for decades both here and abroad -- and maybe it was the lack of good salsa that moved him back to Austin (or maybe it was just the vision of recording and playing with LZ Love). In HIS early days he was playing with Luther Allison and listening to Junior Wells (long before LZ was singing with Mary Wells but maybe about the time LZ was a 5-year-old gospel singer in her mother's church).

But back to Papa Mali and Ruta Maya. Now I totally missed Guy Forsyth (except for watching him cut a rug on the dance floor), but Papa had as special guests such notables as Cyril Neville and the lovely Meagan Tubb. The highlight of the evening, though, had to be when Papa got Leeann Atherton up to sing "Oh Happy Day," and up onto the stage jumped a couple of the Gospel Silvertones (who had been on earlier) PLUS LZ Love AND Ruthie Foster AND Shelley King .... and I think maybe half of the Angel Choir came down from heaven to join in on the action .... ONE reason it was NOT a night to be taking notes (my usual pattern) was the presence of some red-hot gumbo and red beans and rice that even Papa Mali was more than happy to munch on (he being quite a chef in his own right and no fan of feaux Louisiana food). The Harmonizers closed out the evening's festivities (man, that Nick Connelly can SING!) -- and while the music and fellowship were both great, the best part of the evening was recognizing that once again Austin's father of many years played a part in raising lots of money for those truly in need during this holiday season.

OKAY -- to finish off the week in preparation for the Day of JOY!, I could not resist a visit to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar on Christmas Eve. Not that I had any money to spend on the beautiful stuff up for sale (including stuff from my artist friends Daryl Howard and Terrell Powell) -- but it was the Hot Greezy Gonzo Posse show on the Dillo Stage and THAT was a once-in-a-lifetime event NOTTOBEMISSED!

Take a strong dose of Greezy Wheels -- Cleve and Sweet Mary plus sister Lissa and keyboardist David Roach (Kai's dad for you younger guys) -- add in Gonzo Bob Livingston on bass (and singing about the middle ages and I do NOT mean ancient history), Paul Pearcy on percussion, Tony Airoldi on guitar, and the amazing Mary Ann Price on percussion and vocals -- and THEN toss in the incredibly gorgeous Barbara Kooyman and the former Red Elvis Zhenya Rock (playing his little balalaika very very fast), and you have the makings of some rumble in the jungle music that does not even require mushrooms (or the equivalent thereof) to take you on a trip into, well, your inner childhood!

Whether it was the original Hot Lick gal (Mary Ann) singing old cowboy songs or stunning the crowd with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or Bob Livingston telling the story of "Good King Wencelas" and singing even the verses no one remembers or Barbara K and Lissa singing a duet or just the instrumental jam times with Zhenya, Sweet Mary on fiddle, David Roach on mouth harp or whatever, Tony on guitar, and even Cleve himself playing the slide guitar .... the huge crowd gathered round just beamed! Cleve told me that even the practices for this gig were a lot of fun -- improved, no doubt, by the homemade cookies he would pass around. And then, to one up his own practices, Cleve passed around a huge batch of homemade cookies (by one of the band's pals) to the entire audience!

Now for the BEST NEWS of all -- the Greezys have yet another new recording in the hopper -- will be out maybe February, maybe March (who knows where the time goes?) ... Word is it is to be called "String Theory."

Now to get ready for the New Year's Long Weekend!!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jonny Sanchez Rules! (But So Does Ricky Stein!)

Ricky Stein live at the Hole in the Wall -- Jon Sanchez at Ruta Maya (both during September 2006!)
Will wonders never cease? Flanfire at EMOS!!!!! (after Momo's earlier in the evening). What a price to pay (actually only seven dollars plus five dollars earlier) to see Jon Sanchez shine in two performances in one evening ... and to hang out with beautiful women like Hollie Thomas, Stefanie Fix, and (earlier at Momo's) Sasha Ortiz and her pal Gracia. And on top of all that getting the news that Ricky Stein (with full band) will be opening for Alejandro Escovedo next week (12-28) at Antone's AND that my pals Phil Brown and Will Taylor are hooking up for what may be the most widely covered Jimi Hendrix tribute in Austin history.

Just another night at the office -- after a scrumptious dinner at the Triumph Cafe (where you can Christmas shop, get great coffee, and fill your belly with great food all in one place). My wife reminds EVERYONE just how much fun the Triumph can be -- especially on days warm enough to sit out on the backyard patio.

I have known Ricky Stein as a journalist and band leader but had never seen his solo work until last night -- and after watching his strong set in which the only non-original was a tender cover of "Julia," John Lennon's paean to his mother, I am even more convinced that this young man has a bright future. Ricky (whose dad was in the audience) opened with "Two to Fall" and "Strange Sense of Humor," offered up a "Talking Music Industry Blues" which includes a fictional show in Seguin in which he opened for a band of 11-year-old's, and after several more songs for a small but enthralled audience, closed with "We're Gonna Make It," "Sunrise," and "Those Were My Crazy Days" -- songs we are used to hearing with his full band.

Our little group stuck around for about six or seven songs by the wonderful "Band of Heathens" that included a powerful tale of betrayal by Colin Brooks about a hanging tree and an unfaithful preacher's wife and Ed Jurdi trading off verses on Brian Keane's "I Ain't Even Lonely," the title cut from Brian's solo album. Okay -- I was enjoying the Heathens so much that I missed nearly all of the opening set at Emo's by Crawling with Kings -- but MAYBE I will be able to make that up on Friday by checking out their show at The MOHAWK with the Zookeeper (whose work ought not be ignored!!!!).

I had, however, missed last Friday's Parish show with Ian Moore and Future Clouds and Radar, so it was a thrill to get to see Robert Harrison's great new montage of musical mania in a full-length show [see my review of their debut show at Ego's a while back!]. Watching this band (and you HAVE TO WATCH! to get the full impact) is a little like a three-ring circus but much more like one of those baby toys with six or seven different activities all going on at once! Folks like Craig Marshall and Shane Bartell (and many others) were in the house to catch Robert's (remember his Cotton Mather daze!) rousing revue ... just imagine how this guy must entertain his (and anyone else's) kid if he can be this creative with an older, typically less awestruck generation.

But I digress. Future Clouds starts with Nina Singh and her John Bonham-like two-fisted pounding (and of course more sensitive chops as appropriate) of her drum kit (huffing and puffing to achieve maximum energy output to drive the band) ... and Josh Gravelin (sometimes Lurch-like but without the grimace) on bass. Robert shares guitar riffs with Jon Sanchez (who indeed dips into his bag of tricks to fuel this psychedelic Pepper-like dream band), while ethereal keyboardist Hollie Thomas and Renaissance Man Kullen Fuchs (who plays everything from trumpet to tambourine) add the color. Another image that comes to mind is the juggler who is spinning plates from one hand and a foot while throwing four bowling pins with his other hand and maybe even keeping his head and tongue busy with additional distractions (attractions). And yet this collage of craziness really works .. a tribute to Robert's zany creativity.

The ONLY band with which I can even try to compare Future Clouds and Radar is Tom Rapp's Pearls Before Swine ...and for those who do not remember or are just too young, it has been said of PBS's second album "Baklava" that it was "the psychedelic-political-folk-rock Alpha and Omega by which all others are measured." Songs include "Where's My Drink?," "Drugstore Bust," and "Our Time" -- but I will wait until the CD makes its debut sometime in March to even TRY to tell you details about them -- I'm still too much enjoying the ride! Oh, yeah -- the band will be at EGO's on New Year's Eve!

AND YET! AND YET! Not to be outdone, Jon Sanchez and John Leon (pedal steel) REALLY BROUGHT IT last night with the Summer Wardrobe set -- which featured their fog machine in full regalia, Jon and John's psychefifties full rich sounds (Jonny even threw in a little Shoo-bop Shoo-wop from "I Only Have Eyes for You" into the mix), and the rhythm section (George Duron on drums, Marty Hobratschk on bass) was full on as usual. For details on this show, see my review of the CD release a while back .. September 24, 2006 issue -- http://flanfire.blogspot.com has the story AND the amazing photo of Jonny apologizing to all women for "All the Lovers I Have Wronged."
ONE FINAL REMINDER!!!!! DECEMBER 21 AT 7 PM AT WOODY'S SOUTH -- NATALIE ZOE WITH PHIL BROWN, PAT MASTOLETTO, LAURA MORDECAI AND SELTON COLE!!!!!! And I do believe that Miss Zoe may be sporting a new toy this evening (not to mention a smile wider than EVER!). But you would, too, if you were having THIS MUCH FUN!!!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Strong Wind from North Dakota

Leo Rondeau hails from North Dakota -- so it is little wonder that his brand-new CD, "Bangs, Bullets and the Turtle Mountains" celebrates that state's beautiful home of the International Peace Gardens that stretch across the border into Manitoba. That rugged land was the inspiration for 10 original songs from this Native American songwriter who has made a bunch of friends since following pals Seth Hulbert and Brennen Leigh to Austin two or three years ago.

Some of those friends contribute their talents to this collection -- including Mario Matteoli and Cary Ozanian from the Weary Boys, bassist Josh Hoag (who recently joined the Asylum Street Spankers), Miss Leigh herself and her illustrious brother, David Sawelle (Marc Utter and much more) on banjo, fiddler Ricky Turpin (Asleep at the Wheel), Tommy Spurlock on pedal steel (do you have any IDEA how many people this guy has made sound better?), UH -- Cindy Cashdollar on dobro, and Cully Symington (1986) on drums and percussion.

And, oh yeah, the legendary Tom Pittman (Austin Lounge Lizards, but so much more!) plays banjo on "Border Town Blues" -- maybe the best song on the record. This spare story tells of our hero's love for Daisy the dancer -- who "swore like a sailor and drank like a fish" but "always wore the prettiest gown" and "was the queen" in this border town. But the ramblin' miner is no match for local ruffian Duke -- and his life ends in tragedy (as expected). This song could have been on any 1950's folk music collection of old shanty songs -- but then so do many of Leo's folk ballads (including "Mountainside," which is on Brennen's current CD).

The CD opens with "Cha Fille," a Cajun style tune with Turpin, Cashdollar and Leo on mandolin instead of guitar with Leo urging his long-gone gal to come home -- and ends with "Breaking My Back," a pedal steel driven tune that sounds a lot like the Flying Burrito Brothers (with whom Spurlock once played). This is a song guys can hoist a beer and sing along with (as has frequently happened at venues like the Hole in the Wall).

In between are songs like "Resistance Is My Blood," a banjo-driven tune that celebrates Leo's Native American roots and hardscrabble story; "Lou Ann," with Spurlock on pedal and Mario on electric guitar, that tells how our jailbird hero will not soon be home; "Stop Loving You," a waltz featuring Turpin and harmonies with Brennen (his real-life galpal); and the hard-driving "When My Time Comes," with both Cashdollar and Spurlock and some thumping bass by Hoag, that sounds like old-time Nashville country gospel.

Then there's "Land Loving Lad," which is just Leo backed by Debra Peters on accordian -- an old sea shanty song ... sung as usual in Leo's hearty twang, and Leo solo on "Life and Times," which has the feel of early Townes Van Zandt -- lonely and ominous but hauntingly beautiful. I really like Leo's songwriting -- which like Leo himself is self-deprecating and yet unpretentiously honest. Like the yet-unmentioned tune on this recording [which features Seth on flattop guitar], there's "No Way You Can Lose" by going to hear Leo live or picking up this classic collection.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Live at the Bugle Boy -- WOW!

Lane Gosnay is beaming all over at the release of "Live at the Bugle Boy, Volume 1" - which you can buy at Waterloo or online for about $15 -- or better yet, just drive on down to LaGrange for one of the weekend shows at this magical listening room that once was a World War II barracks and thus has wood floors, a great grand piano, lots of good coffee and beer and wine, and no talking during performances at all.

This 17-song collection -- which includes many songs never before recorded -- is a potpourri of great acoustic music from Austin's best and some of the nation's most interesting touring pros -- and there is even a little Aussie music thrown in for good measure.

We've got Carolyn Wonderland on slide guitar (well, maybe a dobro) with "Misunderstood" -- plus Carolyn backs up Shelley King on her "Stormin ' in the South." We've got Patrice Pike doing the very jazzy "Mystery Girl," which includes a lot of scat singing. The CD closes out with Ruthie Foster doing Sister Rosetta Tharp's "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)," and THAT cut follows the fabulous Dana Cooper with his own "Great Day in the Mornin'." So you end up in church.

Central Texas acoustic groups The Hudsons and the Sidehill Gougers BOTH lend unrecorded tunes -- "Wrong Direction," which features Phoebe Hunt's fiddle and Hudson Mueller (or is it Brian Hudson) on vocals, and "Everybody Knows," with the awesome Jamie Wilson taking the lead vocal. Then there's the cowboy poet Donnie Blanz (who has written songs for Chris Ledoux and other country stars), with "Old Stuff"; jazz-influenced Woody Russell, with "We May Never Know" from his Indie Record of the Year nominated "Salt"; and world-class harmonica player (and guitarist and singer) Jimi Lee with the bluesy "Ease Your Mind."

Traveling musicians performing here include Sloan Wainwright (Loudon's sister) doing Jimmy Cliff's "Sitting Here in Limbo,"; New York City's Amy Speace with her "Just to Get By,"; fellow New Yorker Natalia Zukerman playing bottleneck slide on "Fool's Gold" (she's the daughter of two classical musicians); the amazing Erica Luckett (who was born in Mexico and raised in Venezuela and Brazil but began her musical career in France) with "Besame" from her 2001 release, My Little Crime,"; and California based Taiwanese-American pianist-songwriter Vienna Teng, with "Soon Love Soon."

A special treat here is A. J. Croce's "Hung Up on You," which can also be found on his brand-new CD, "Adrian James Croce." The son of the late Jim Croce, A. J. lost his eyesight and later regained partial vision, and then lost his voice and had to learn how to sing all over again. Finally, from Australia comes The Bluehouse -- an (almost) all-female folk group who played the Bugle Boy back in June -- with "Crying (like you are)."

Not only are there great songs from a very diverse group of acoustic artists from all over the place, the songs flow well as they are placed on the recording. Just do me a favor -- if you go to the club to buy your copy, let Lane know you read about the music -- and the Bugle Boy itself -- right here. [And, yes, LaGrange does have some B&B's for those who want to sleep over.]

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