Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guy Forsyth - Balance Embraced

I intended to start this entry with an apology to Guy Forsyth. After hearing his new album and catching his CD release show last Saturday, I thought about what I wrote last year.  I felt I had viewed his show through harsh, shallow eyes and had missed the point entirely.  Upon reflection, that isn't true.  What I saw and wrote last year was exactly what I saw and felt.  But as Guy says in his new song, "Balance is a process of constant correction." And that's exactly right.  Guy walks a not so fine line between a vaudevillian caricature and seriously talented musician.  On Saturday night, he hadn't left his love of vaudeville wardrobes behind, but the balance between the act and the talent was clean.

This month Guy released his first studio album in seven years. The Freedom to Fail is Guy's acoustic roots rock at its finest, with plenty of the experimental sounds for which he is famous.  It's opener, Red Dirt, has almost gospel like harmonies. The Hard Way name checks the likes of Tom Waits and Bob Marley.  Econoline is an old Guy Forsyth staple reworked for this album.  Both are driving rock anthems. Sink 'Em Low puts you on a chain gang. Old Time Man is shades of bluegrass. Thank You For My HandsCan't Stop Dancing and Home to Me are new and interesting. Balance is profound, written by Guy and the record's producer, Matthew Smith. 

All that said, my favorite songs on this album are his collaborations with Brian Keane. Brian is a solidly talented, country-oriented performer; his songwriting is clean and often witty.  The Things That Matter is a beautiful ballad written when Brian and Guy happened to find themselves together as they received news of Steve Bruton's death a few years ago.  The newer Guy and Brian collaborations, It Should Have Been Raining (also written with Rachel Loy) and Played Again (also written with Wammo) take Guy's music and vocals into new territory - after a few listens I decided these two songs had an Elvis Costello vibe that I really like.

The CD release show opened with Guy, his harmonica, and 105, an oldie but goody.  Throughout the night he blended his oldies with selections from the new album.  The "saw" was back for Summertime.  I particularly enjoyed rediscovering Children of Jack.  His core band included Nina Singh on drums and Jeff Botta on bass. As the night progressed, he brought out Matthew Smith on guitar and assorted stringed instruments, his old Asylum Street Spanker alum Sick on the fiddle, and Adoniram Lipton on keys. 

Sitting in the front row and to the right side of the stage, my first easy views were of rhythm duo Nina and Jeff.  They were immensely entertaining to watch as they clearly felt free to cut loose with their craft. When Sick took the stage directly in front of me with his fiddle, I was irrevocably captivated.  Dressed as a vaudevillian bad boy, with a curled moustache and black eyes, he plied his fiddle in a maniacal fashion.  His villianous vibe eased with the shedding of first his coat, then his tie: ah so, it wasn't Spring-Heeled Jack come to steal my soul and virtue with his singing fiddle.  (Or was it? Neither have been seen since that night. Hmmm......)

Front and center was Guy, with those incrediby talented hands and his unbelievably versatile and facile vocals. Yes, watching him perform is still like watching a lost episode of Carnivale. But that's okay.   You see, these days Guy has found a balance of poetry and costuming, singing and acting, symbolism and sincerity.  And it's a beautiful thing for the listener.



Children of Jack

Charlie Mars - I Bet I'm Not The First Girl to Try Not To Think of Him

A little over a year ago, I discussed Charlie Mars in this blog. I sincerely enjoyed his music but found myself disdainful of his demographic and their starry-eyed worship.  Well, he came out with a new album in August, Blackberry Light, and I absolutely love it.  It's full of the sweet sentiment that I eschew daily, but so help me God, I'm caught, well and truly. 

Throughout the album, the rhythms are catchy and complex.  His songwriting is profound: I'm in awe of the many relationship facets he's managed to canvas.  The instrumentation is beautiful.  Charlie's voice is smooth and relaxing. The problem is this: Charlie is all breathy vocals. In fact, the entire album makes me feel as if he's standing right behind me which both hands on my shoulder. He's moved my hair to one side and he's whispering these lyrics into my ear. And I sway....

I caught him live at The Belmont the week after I downloaded the album.  While the opening act, Griffin House, was onstage, I snuck to the back to peruse the merchandise. As it happened, Charlie made his way to the table as I stood there. I took the chance to pick up a hard copy of Blackberry Light and get it signed before the throngs of women figured out he was there and began their attempts at meaningful eye contact. It was easy to tell him I loved Blackberry Light and not stare at his carefully dishevled hair.

When Charlie's turn came later, he was skilled and professional. He covered all the highlights from his previous works and the best of the new album.  My demographic represented, just as I knew they would.  Hayes Carll and his wife were standing a few feet away and I was immensely amused at the quizzical expression that never left Hayes' brow.  The beer was ice cold, the outdoor stage was September-In-Austin-Steamy and the music was firing on all 4. I let myself slip into the groove, cloaked in the near anonymity of the dark crowd.  Tell me something: why is it so easy for men to get such beautifully defined triceps?

You know, sometimes I'm just a silly girl. And no, that's not a CougarBeat Poster on my wall.

The first single on the new album. Oh, yes, love this one:

"I shouldn't have smoked so much weed, I shouldn't have done so much blow...." well, who hasn't been there?

"I bet I'm not the first boy to try not think of you...." This song is worth it for that lyric alone.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Michael Fracasso

I find myself sitting in my favorite chair at the bar tonight at The Continental Club. It's a balmy Wednesday night and Michael Fracasso is filling Jon Dee Graham's usual slot in the line-up. And that's why I'm here, staring at a crowd that's much older than I'm used to seeing. I'm excited to finally see Michael Fracasso.

Tonight I'm one of only two blondes in the club; the other blonde purchased her locks.
I'm sitting next to an interesting couple: the man is somewhat unattractive and lumpy, and the woman is wearing a white cocktail dress that looks like a Dress Barn sale special. All I can think is a high tech big earner has bought himself company for the evening.

A middle aged woman in a grocery store sundress and wearing a thick gold band on her left ring finger slaps a younger tattooed guy who is ringless on the ass and pulls him by the hand toward the back as Michael Fracasdo sings "one by one, one by one."

There's a girl in a long maxi dress is having a personal rave - complete with long straight hair whipping around in a orbit of her skull - down near the stage. It's drunk dancing girl on steroids. And the red glow of the Continental Club only enhances her mystique.

I'm loving Michael Fracasso's music: Michael is playing facile rhythm guitar on a beautiful acoustic. His lead player is rocking a beautiful Les Paul (swoon!), and his style is bluesy rocking Americana. It reminds me of the Blue Velvet soundtrack - if that soundtrack had been Americana. I keep looking for a naked Patty Griffin to walk in the door, and Jesse Dayton to cover her up.

And once again, the two best looking guys in the club are completely into each other.
It's Wednesday night in Austin, Texas my friends.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Change is Good

Last year I started this blog to chronicle the music I was hearing in and around Austin, Texas.  The feedback I have received has been mostly positive, with the primary critique being “post more often!” With this in mind, I have decided to expand the blog to include a review of each musical outing.  I still intend to review the music in detail, but an in depth review won’t be included in each post.  You asked for it, so here it comes. Hold on to your knickers!

And so, tomorrow night: The Continental Club and Michael Fracasso….

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dwight Yoakam: A Story of Country Music's Sally O'Malley and The Roadie Troll

On Thursday night I ventured to The Moody Theater in downtown Austin to catch Dwight Yoakam.  I have been ambivalent about shows at this venue, primarily because it’s so damn large. The views from the balcony take you so far away from the action on stage there is no real connection for me with the music experience.  Thursday, however, I had general admission to the floor.  And let’s face it; crowding the stage for hours while your feet ache and your ears buzz from the music is a universal experience, whether you’re at The Moody Theater, Gruene Hall, or anywhere else.

General admission to the floor turned out to be the right ticket for the Dwight experience. My friends and I arrived early so we could claim premium standing space for the show.  Our perseverance (and sensible footwear) paid off in spades when we claimed our space just left of center, directly against the barrier next to the stage.  We dutifully suffered through the wet towel that was the opening act and counted the minutes until Dwight could take the reins.

Dwight’s appearance didn’t disappoint.  He took the stage donning a white button down shirt (untucked), denim jacket (replete with rhinestone trim), and the ass-tightest jeans ever created by man for man. (For those who always wondered, my view gave me opportunity to deduce that Dwight in fact, dresses right.)  The ever-present hat topped the girl-candy confection standing stage center.

The music didn’t disappoint.  He ran through all the Dwight classics: Ain't That Lonely Yet; A Thousand Miles From Nowhere; Guitars, Cadillacs; It Only Hurts When I Cry; Streets of Bakersfield; I Sang Dixie; Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose; Little Sister; Little Ways; Fast as You; Honky Tonk Man; etc. - all done and enjoyed thoroughly.  I’ve always enjoyed his take on Suspicious Minds, and he delivered a killer reprise of Ring of Fire.

All of this music was delivered with the signature Dwight moves: pelvic thrust, rolling hips, twisting legs.  He’s the damn Sally O’Mally of country music: the dude may be 55, but he can still KICK, STRETCH, and KICK! all while rocking that boy camel toe.  He has just got to have a killer pelvic floor after all those years of Pilates for Rockabilly stars.

Dwight stood center, flanked by his hot, bad-boy bass player and his cute-if-oddly-effeminate lead guitar player.  All three had guitar picks lined up their mic-stands and the bass player made a point of tossing picks into the audience on occasion.  Desperate to wed bridesmaids coming to blows over a bridal bouquet had nothing on the ravenous women clamoring for those picks.  Unfortunately, the last pick caught the wind and blew back from a determined blonde.  Poor thing was millimeters from a firm finger-grasp on that treasure when it retreated mid-air and fell irretrievably on the wrong side of the solid barrier blocking the stage. 

After Dwight had taken his over-developed pelvic floor and his band backstage, the stagehands, herein after referred to as Roadie Trolls, swarmed on stage to tear down.  As they unplugged the guitars and mics, the sad, pickless blonde begged one of them to give her one of the picks from the mic-stands, since her treasure was lost.  I wish I could accurately convey the sickening contempt that radiated off this particular Roadie Troll as he looked at the sad creature before him.  As she very sweetly pleaded, “Please? Please?” he methodically extracted each of the about 30 remaining picks on stage from the mic-stands and placed them menacingly into his little bag.

Can someone please explain to me what the hell this dude’s problem was? They were guitar picks. Not Elvis’ sweat stained scarf, guitar picks. I found myself livid as I witnessed this disrespect of Dwight’s fans.  These people crowding the floor had paid about $60 dollars a ticket, paid $10 to park, stood for hours, and tolerated a moderately annoying opening act, just to spend 90 minutes listening to Dwight sing.  These are the people that give Dwight a job, and consequently give the Roadie Trolls a job.  I understand that there are mentally unstable fans that cross lines and give rise to the need for appropriate and strict boundaries.  But we are talking about a polite woman, standing on the right side of the barrier, asking for a damn guitar pick.

I left the show thinking that Dwight needs to look closer at who represents him once he takes himself off-stage.  Unfortunately, the lingering impression I have of his show is the sad woman, with a light pocketbook, sore feet, and buzzing ears, staring forlornly at a little piece of green plastic lying just out of reach. And the Roadie Troll looking down at her from his borrowed perch with misplaced contempt.
Sally O'Malley

Yes, This.

Classic Dwight

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Mavericks – Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered Am I

Anyone that has followed this blog knows how I feel about Raul Malo. I promised that I would cheerfully follow him, and his heart-melting tenor, over a cliff with nary a protest.  I came to eat those words a few months ago when news reached my ears that he was reuniting with his old band, The Mavericks.

I freely admit that my auditory love affair with Raul started during his tenure with The Mavericks.  I loved every piece of music he created with them.  When I heard that the band had broken up, I was deeply saddened. It was clear that the parting was not amicable and the chances of reunion were nil.  My consolation was Raul’s solo career. I soon realized that the magic of The Mavericks was alive and well as long as Raul was out there creating music.  I grew to love Raul as a solo artist. He was inventive. His songwriting was better than it had ever been.  His skill as a guitarist grew with each passing performance.  He surrounded himself with top-notch musicians. Before long, I didn’t miss The Mavericks at all.

When I heard that the band was reuniting, I found myself skeptical.  Correction, I found myself cynical and pissed.  Damnit, I had moved on. Why revisit the past?  I entered a state of mourning for the loss of Raul Malo, the solo artist. Like a petulant child, I stuck out my chin and said that I would not be a part of this.

The first week in May, I learned that The Mavericks were playing at La Zona Rosa on Friday, May, 18. My conscience needled me fiercely. Had Raul ever lead me astray musically?  Then, remembering my pledge of undying devotion, I secured tickets. When that Friday night arrived, I dutifully stood outside La Zona Rosa for over an hour so that I could take my place in front.

The band took the stage to the roaring approval of an adoring crowd.  As they moved through old favorites and new songs, I was quickly caught up in the thrill of the music. It was my first love, all grown up, and just as hot as ever.  Eddie Perez played scorching lead guitar and provided perfect harmonies while working some breathtaking Dwight Yoakum style moves. (I stood directly in front of Eddie – those moves continue to haunt my dreams, the very, very good dreams.)  Paul Deakin was back on drums with intimidating intensity and Jerry Dale McFadden covered the keys with infectious enthusiasm.  Robert Reynolds was there, too. Rounding out the mix was Elio Giordano on bass, Michael Guerra on accordion, and a horn section!  Watching the electric energy between Raul and Eddie is a memory I hope never to loose.  It was the party of the year with Raul and his guitar front and center.

Why did I ever doubt him? Clearly, anywhere Raul Malo goes is the place to be.  And so….

After one whole quart of vodka, like a daisy I’m awake.
With no plain club soda handy, I don’t even shake.
Music men aren’t a new sensation. I’ve told you what I think.
But this brand new iteration, put me on the blink.

I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.
My new obsession:

Seriously, you are warned.  If you watch this one, you may be haunted by Eddie's suave style. Oh yeah, and Raul too. Raul's great....

This was taken by the lovely young woman standing to my left - so hot!

Rob Baird – Not Dangerous, More Like a Convenience

I caught Rob Baird at the Saxon Pub a couple of weeks ago, where he was celebrating the release of his new CD, I Swear It’s the Truth.  I found his show entertaining and easy to enjoy.  He’s clearly a talented songwriter and vocalist.  Dreams and Gasoline is the opening track.  Both on the CD and live it moves along at a nice pace and has that country radio hook. This is true of Same Damn Thing and most of the other songs on the CD.

There really isn’t anything objectionable about Rob Baird, but I find myself wishing for a little more adventure.  In my view, country music is at it’s best when it takes a little risk, when it steps across a line now and then. You won’t find any risk taking on I Swear It’s the Truth, which is probably what makes him perfect for mainstream country radio.  In fact, he’ll probably be CMA Artist of the Year in another 4 years. 

The problem with mainstream country radio is this: one or two songs along, I find myself looking for another station.

Same damn thing...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Karl Morgan: The Nice Side of the Blues

Genuinely gifted blues guitarists are a rare find. If you’re like me, you get a little thrill when you discover one. I came across Karl Morgan last year, a musician who makes a Fender Strat sing with guileless grace.

I first saw Karl opening for Guy Forsyth at Sam’s Burger Joint. I had acquired the tickets prior to my Guy blog entry, but I had already written my post and almost didn’t go. My musical interest is often fickle - I had said what I needed to say about Guy. My ears had already a’wandered and were eagerly
awaiting Raul Malo’s arrival.  But when the night arrived, I found myself making my way south.  Fickle I may be, but the thought of unused tickets is anathema.

Karl took the stage as a 3-piece, with his bass player, Wilson Carr and drummer, John Duran. Within in minutes, I thought I had him pegged: yet another SRV clone, albeit a good one. As his set continued, however, I found myself reevaluating that first impression.  He was certainly a talented guitar player, entirely at ease with playing in the style of SRV, but there was much more to it.  45 minutes wasn’t enough: I knew by the end of his set that I would be revisiting him.  I bought his album, Talkin’ With The Hands, and promised myself I would get to know Karl Morgan better.

Karl found his way onto my iPod and onto several different playlists, but defied description in my head. Even as I write this, I feel inadequate to the challenge of doing his craft justice with my words. Yes, he’s a blues guitarist, but Karl manages to take the blues and blend in generous touches of soul, funk and jazz.  Where many blues guitarists fall into a pit of messy licks sloppily applied against a song of angst, Karl’s technique is immaculately clean and meticulous from note to note. Even on the dirty channel, his rich tone rings with musicality.  His vocals are only secondary because of the stunning beauty of his guitar work; his voice is smoothly twangy with a rich timbre and slightly rough edge. It blends perfectly with his instrumentals.

I always find myself categorizing musicians against a line-up of those who hold places near and dear to my heart.  In that spirit, Karl takes the best of Seth Walker’s amazing tone and musicality, his technique and finesse, and brings in bits of the raw and rough bluesy sounds of Tab Benoit. Blended together in perfect balance, Karl’s guitar work is a poignant work of art for the ears.

I’ve seen him a couple of times in downtown Austin the last few weeks. Watching his right hand pluck and work the strings up high close to the fret board, while his left moves deftly along the neck, is simply mesmerizing.  Wilson Carr on bass and John Duran on drums provide perfectly tight and rhythmically complex accompaniment to Karl’s guitar work.  Cherry on the top: Karl is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet gigging in Austin.

Burning Heart is Karl's new album, and I absolutely love it.  With music that holds the spotlight on guitar, it’s easy to fall into a rut where, a few licks in, it all tastes like beans.  Karl’s new album defies that analogy and incorporates several different styles and sounds, including some brilliant acoustic work. In fact, that is my next goal: to see Karl with his acoustic in hand, alone on stage.

He’s got a residency at The Dogwood every Tuesday at 7. You can walk up, order a drink, and listen for free. Better yet, order a couple of drinks and put money in his tip jar. Buy a CD. You won’t be sorry, you’ll realize how blessed we are to have such a jewel in our fair city.

Side note: Last Tuesday night, while I was catching Karl at the Dogwood, another Karl fan made his way over to my table and joined me for a set. This fellow confessed to me that he no longer brought chicks to see Karl, since he has lost two to Karl’s good looks and Australian accent. He found this somewhat baffling, since Karl was “…like REALLY old, like at least 30….” Needless to say, Betty sitting across from him, basking in her At-Least-40-Year Old glory found this somewhere between hysterically funny and slightly offensive.

Your Good Man quickly found its way onto my "angst cure" playlist:

This video of Two Words shows Karl's beautiful guitar artistry:

Two Strong Arms - this is beautiful acoustic work:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bob Schneider - The Madness of King Pancho

I’m picking up this blog again after an unintentional hiatus. It must be The Madness of King Pancho propelling me toward an entry on Austin musician Bob Schneider.

Let me say first, I’m not attempting to critique an entire opus of work on this guy. He’s been around too long, and like a musical Voldemort, he has killed and then split his soul too many times to me to run down all his damn horcruxes. (That’s a job for another woman – one that will smile as she cleans the toilet he never flushes.)

So, I’m talking about the Bob I’ve discovered on my limited journey. I’ve seen him live twice, and the only album I own is Lovely Creatures. (As I recall, it came with the house, like the garbage can and recycle bin. It’s filed under “Austin Pop” in my collection.) I follow him on Twitter, and he was on my Facebook friends list. (WAS… now I’ve got someone who looks like Bob but goes by the moniker King Pancho. Isn’t that soooo cute, just like a fuzzy kitten?)

I read Bob’s blog before I saw him live. It’s a voyeuristic view into a twisted reality, full of insightful poetry and disturbing images. Something tells me that if a cute fuzzy kitten appeared in Bob’s blog, it would have a giant red penis and large breasts, it would be an anal rapist. Reading lines like:

you are in your car
it is under the lake
at disneyworld and
sadness is filling
up the black inside
of your whole head

intrigued me immensely. It left me full of “Yes, I’ll have another thanks, as long as it’s not a kitten.”
I first saw him live at The Saxon Pub about two weeks ago with Lonelyland. I only caught about half the set, having completely failed to get into the music or feel connected to the experience. Unwilling to give up easily, I bought a ticket to his next StageIt event.

StageIt is a strange microcosm of a standard music venue. Bob seemed torn between the implied intimacy of performing in dark corners of someone’s abode, and the formality of a presumably recorded internet performance. It appeared from the comment feed that most of the participants were female, and it soon became apparent many were females of the “ridiculous” and “bat-shit crazy” variety. They made witless attempts at meaningful eye contact by text. Oh, the things, gaping with longing, people will type, secure in their belief the anonymity of the internet will cloak their public identities.

However, with a better view and a drink in hand, I fell easily into Bob’s groove. This was a much better picture of the guy behind the guitar, but like a twisted coin, it was also a view of Bob the Frat Boy. He made sophomoric attempts at humor by discussing the possibility of doing the show while taking a shit, and weren’t we glad we didn’t have smell-o-vision. Did you know his songs about his penis get airplay? Isn’t that funny? I was nonplussed by Bob the Frat Boy, but I was nothing but grateful at the lack of smell-o-vision as those virtual panties whizzed by my head.

The best moments of the show came in between the attempts at humor, when he looked away from the audience; as the curtain would ruffle in the breeze, I would catch small glimpses of a human operating the controls.

If your only experience with Bob Schneider is 40 Dogs, you miss the complex and unrepentant man behind the guitar. He sees the world with a sharpened focus, using eyes that pin the wings of your darkness to a wax mat. His art, poetry and music are the magnifying glass, showing the world your innermost secrets: your prejudice, your sentimentality, your lust, your venality, your violence, and his penis. Because we all know, at the heart of this universe where we wonder what the fuck it’s all about, the answer will somehow involve Bob’s penis.

I really like his music. He’s a very talented songwriter, poet and musician. Have I missed the point?

Here is Mainstream Bob, somewhere between his "humungoid giant star" phase and his "hanging out with Ravi Shankar" phase:

This was my favorite song of the StageIt performance:

This is Bob, somewhere between his "hanging out with Ravi Shankar phase" and his "carboydrate, sequined jumpsuit, young girls in white cotton panties, waking up in a pool of your own vomit, bloated purple dead on a toilet" holding his penis phase: