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Tag Archives: country music

Fin De Semana! 7-24-15

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Hard to believe that in the 21st Century we’re still doing this. Shame on you, John McCain.

Something I’ve been curious about: How the Iran deal might affect one of Texas’ signature industries.

With U.S.-Cuba relations normalizing, New Mexico would like to get their hands on a fugitive who has been living on the island.

What I’m Listening To/Drinking

Trying to dig up this Country/Exotica record from Biller and Horton for drinking mojitos on the back porch tonight with my wife. Have a good weekend!

Fin De Semana! 6-12-15

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A Colorado Sheriff’s department is changing their uniform to look less militaristic. This has been experimented with in the past, with middling results. Personally, I like this western-styled uniform. I think it makes a fine middle ground between being approachable and authoritative and it matches the style of the community. I think a lot of the current stormtrooper-ninja uniforms start every encounter off on the wrong foot for both officer and civilian.

The single most country headline you’ll ever read.

Drought might ruin the next jar of salsa or burrito you eat.

What I’m Listening To

Mike and the Moonpies played here Wednesday. Because I enjoy country music I was watching them be awesome and not watching the CMT Awards. They’ve got a new album out soon. Keep an eye out for it.

What I’m Drinking

A protein shake. It’s either work out harder or buy new jeans. My jeans are perfectly broken in right now, so off to the gym I go.

Fin De Semana! 6-5-15

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Back when El Paso was a rough town full of pistoleros and Juarez was calm.

Eh, it’s monsoon season anyway.

Whataburger soldiers through the egg shortage.

What I’m Listening To:

Man, is it good to have Dwight back.

What I’m Drinking

Shiner Light Blonde- It’s the light American lager from Texas’ favorite brewery! It tastes pretty much like “cheap beer!” Sometimes, when it’s really hot, that’s all you want! Listen! Whataburger cut back breakfast, Blue Bell is off the market, I was worried about Shiner! It’s going to be ok! It really is!

New Song from Crooks

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Crooks have a new album coming out soon and its one I’m really looking forward to. Something about that tejano-influenced outlaw country sound is infectious. I think the thing that I like most about Crooks is that they take what could be a pretty cut and dried formula, Tex-Mex Country, and make it much more interesting.

Take “Fork In The Road” for instance, which is pretty deceptively simple upfront. Listen carefully and you’ll hear them play around with the structure of the song, mixing elements, bringing sounds in and out of the foreground. This is more than some simple cantina band at work. This is a well-honed dancehall machine at work.

Anyway, the new album is called “Wildfire” and it drops this summer. We’ll wait with baited breath.

Honeysuckle Rose; or Willie is as Willie Does

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As a songwriter, he is without parallel. As a guitarist and vocalist his warmth and eccentricity are instantly recognized. As a public figure, he’s always used his fame to stand up for underdogs and regular folks of all stripes. If there’s one thing Willie Nelson isn’t known for, it’s his acting.

To be fair, expecting Willie Nelson to deliver credible acting performances is like expecting John Wayne to play a good Othello. Their strength as a performer is so rooted in their persona, they can really only add variations and shades of the same character over and over again.

Part of it also that, geez, it’s WILLIE NELSON. You don’t get to write a million timeless songs, record a million albums, tour a million miles and be the closest thing to an actual Uncle Sam AND get to be a good actor too. That’s just gilding the lily.

Willie excels in roles where he basically plays Willie. And he does it best in “Honeysuckle Rose.”

At it’s heart the movie is a Saturday Matinee western, the sort Willie’s heroes Gene Autry or Roy Rogers would star in. Willie is the singing cowboy with a very large and chemically active bunch of sidekicks, roaming the west song by song. The stakes are never particularly high, because we know Willie is the hero and he’s going to win. But it’s fun to watch the hero go through the motions. The villain isn’t particularly evil, because, well, Willie is basically the villain of this movie too.

Willie plays Buck Bonham, country singer, nomad, family man. His old buddy/guitar player Slim Pickens retires and Willie hires Slim’s daughter (Amy Irving) to take her place. Willie and Amy are musically sympatico, and that leads to other more intimate dalliances that shatter his marriage and friendship. Eventually though, Willie is able to make amends, save his marriage, get back on Slim’s good side and put on the big musical jamboree at the end. In Willie’s world, everything begins and ends with songs. Music sends him out on the road, complicates his life, mends it, brings everyone back together.

If you’re looking for something bigger and more complex from Willie, you’ll have to listen to one of his albums. If you wanted to show someone just why Willie is important, why he’s the beloved performer and icon he is today, you show them “Honeysuckle Rose.”

The movie isn’t without it’s faults. It’s soapy and melodramatic. It leans a little too heavily on performances. Willie, for such a laid back guy, is a wooden actor. It’s the joy of performing though, the love of playing music with and for people that sells the movie. Music, and the way Willie engages the world most directly through it, is the real focus of this movie. We get an idea of who Willie, or in this case Buck Bonham, is, but we don’t KNOW who he is until we’ve seen him sing his life to a crowd of strangers.

That’s the central paradox in many performers lives, though. Singers might be strangers to us, and they may guard their private lives or even mislead us with stories, when they’re singing their songs, they’re baring all their vulnerabilities for us. Few people have been doing this longer, or better than Willie Nelson.

(Trivia: “On The Road Again” was written as a throwaway song to accompany travel montages in this movie. Jerry Weintraub, the producer, didn’t think anything of the song. It’s one of the songs most closely identified with Willie Nelson now, and more well known than the movie that birthed it.)

Album Review- The Self Titled E.P. by Larry Hooper

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Regret is as native to the human soul as hope, it’s the leavings of will and choice. This is the dark and fertile soil Larry Hooper tills on his new e.p. Opening with “Rehearsed Alibis”, the sort of dirge Townes Van Zandt excelled at, this is an efficient recording that cuts right to the quick. “I Was Wrong” is steady, heartfelt number about plain spoken regret, a man bearing up to the mistakes he made and love he lost. “Daydreams” finds the singer plugging ahead through doubt and tough times.

Clean, sympathetic production aids Hooper in getting across his words without any distracting frippery, all that would be beside the point. These songs are about swimming upstream, and Hooper plays with the conviction of a man swimming upstream, or even better, of Matt Saracen pulling off another win for the Dillon Panthers with nothing but heart and hard work.

While the songs all touch on regret, doubt, and choice, there’s enough range in subject matter to keep this from becoming a monochrome affair. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy e.p.’s is that they afford an artist the perfect amount of space to explore all the facets of a mood or idea without getting draggy. Hooper has shown his range before in his full-length album “From Here To The Stars,” which includes some really nice love songs and perhaps the best rejoinder to the Westboro Baptist Church put to tape. Like Matt Saracen in the preceding paragraph though, this e.p. seems to be about focusing in on some fundamentals, and like Matt Saracen, it pulls in a win.

Available here.

Album Review-“High Plains Alchemy” by John Edward Baumann

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A lot of Texas music is only Texas music by virtue of name-dropping. “High Plains Alchemy”, the newest from John Edward Baumann is Texas music because it talks specifically about Texas and day to day life there in the second decade of the 21st century.

In a conversational tone close to that of Adam Carroll, Baumann explores the state’s economic boom, the possibilities in wind farming it’s plains and the burgeoning hipster scene in Marfa. It’s wry and observational, full of details about the economy and environment. It’s a tasty musical equivalent to your town’s alternative newspaper, the one that’s a little left leaning, but clever and clearly a crusade.

With solid country backings that are “laid-back” in the sense that they’re not chest-beating bar stompers, Baumann tells the tale of daily life full of little gems hewn from close observation. The Chihuahuan princess in “One Night In Marfa” probably fled the violence in Juarez. “Eagle Ford” finds the singer rushing to get in on the black gold rush and put low paying liberal arts degree jobs behind him. “Dogs” is a charming, scruffy tale about faithless pets and cheating women that seems like it was beamed in from the cosmic cowboy heyday of 70’s Austin.

While never once mentioning a book, or using a word you wouldn’t hear in your average bar, Baumann has created a literate, funny, and charming album that manages to come across as a both a breezy record and a short story collection of hummable literature. Some songs set out to be the song of the summer, this album feels more like a summer roadtrip, a quick hop, skip and jump across the Lone Star State in the hands of a musical Eagle Scout.

Album Review: “B4 84”-Joe Ely

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Joe Ely, like his late compadre Joe Strummer, has something of the eternal juvenile delinquent about him. It’s not just the pompadour or sly look plastered on his face, but a persistent desire to break rules and trespass outside his home turf.

“B4 84” isn’t a new album, but unearthed demos from a period in 1982-83 when Ely was without a band, out of sorts and looking for a new direction. The 8-bit cover art and liner notes from Apple Computer’s own Steve Wozniak bely the hook this album hangs upon; it was recorded with an Apple IIe using some new and experimental components way back when.

There’s a strong twinge of nostalgia for me here. The Apple IIe was the first computer I ever touched, way back in Kindergarten when we were all given “how the future will work lessons” on the big beige boxes. The production is also charming retro, even if it was cutting edge at the time. Lots of old rootsy types like Ely tried hard to adapt to the synthy landscape of the 80’s. Neil Young got sued for not sounding like himself precisely for putting out “Everybody’s Rockin'” and “Trans”, a rockabilly and a synth record, respectively. Ely, somehow, manages to split the difference between those two 80’s trends and come out with something that here in the far off future of 2014, still sounds and feels good.

Part of the reason for this success is that a lot 80’s pop is about reviving old style of music with new technology, like the Bangles sweetened up garage rock, Elvis Costello’s British Invasion updates, the Smiths nods to Elvis and yeah, the Stray Cats doing a hair-spray version of rockabilly. Ely is at home in all those styles because he grew up with them, they’re not sounds learned from records, but part of his musical DNA. His (relative) age was a benefit to him as he sat alone in Austin, plinking around with his computer. A juvenile delinquent programming himself a roadhouse band.

The songs on this album ended up being demos for the album “High Res,” which has never been released in the US. We may not know exactly what that album sounds like, but it’s hard to imagine big label interference improving “Imagine Houston” which uses drum machines, synthy sounds and lyrics about a chrome moon to approach something like down home cyber punk. This album might also have my favorite version of “Cool Rockin’ Loretta” on it, which is improved by the chilly silicon instrumentation contrasting the smoldering songwriting.

Contrast the electronic instrumentation here, which still sounds fresh and vital, with the cheesy synth horn sections of “Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch.” I’m inclined to make an argument that progress ain’t always progress, but I was a child in the 80’s and these sounds will always sound like the future to me; a future so hot and bright I was going to need mirrored shades and fingerless gloves to grasp it. In a certain respect, country music is all about nostalgia. Nostalgia for lost loves, faraway homes, and simpler times. By embracing the future and nostalgia at once, Joe Ely managed to presage Daft Punk by a few decades, without sacrificing humanity or grit.

Kelsey Waldon- Town Clown

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Kelsey Waldon just put out another stone cold killer of an album, The Gold Mine. I heartily recommend it.

Fin De Semana! 6-20-14

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An oral history of the Palomino, the cradle of West Coast country. Really, I don’t know what to say other than to read it.

George Strait’s last concert broke attendance and  box office records. Hunter Jobes has so far been unavailable for comment on this piece of information.

I have my hunches as to why country has never been as popular in England as other American roots music like R&B, Soul, and Blues. Apparently though, that might be changing. 

What I’m Listening To

Kathryn Legendre-Old Soul Kathryn Legendre has a double barreled voice to match her old soul. Whether on a folksy ode to Guy Clark or threatening to love her man, you never feel less than certain that she means every word coming out of her mouth. The words she writes are really good too. Aggressively, unabashedly traditional without sounding dated or winkingly retro, “Old Soul” is packed with honest, no fooling emotion and top notch playing that makes me look forward to her upcoming album. I get most of my leads on what’s new and good by following her recommendations on twitter and she’s never steered me wrong. She’s made it easier to find good music via her new blog, here.

What I’m Drinking

Summer in the desert means that water comes out of the tap hot. So I ain’t even gonna lie. Still on that Lone Star kick because it comes out of the fridge ICE COLD.