Board games are hot right now — whether it’s the new Euro-style games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders or Power Grid, or you’re kickin’ it old school with traditional games like the Trumpesque, land-grabbing Monopoly. For a great midweek diversion, head on over to the Mucky Duck for a pint and a little tabletop competition; they’ve been at it for almost 25 years. We checked in with Stevie Hazlewood, day manager for McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, and she says the club stocks a nice selection of titles for the Wednesday night Game Night and Irish Session.
“It runs the gamut from Connect Four, to Scrabble, Yahtzee, Risk, three different versions of Monopoly, Scattergories, Cards Against Humanity,” says Hazlewood. Play one of those games or bring your own, and scarf down pub snacks like fish and chips, Welsh rarebit and the club’s famous shepherd’s pie.
Best of all, there’s no cover. 7:30 p.m.
- Susie Tommaney - Houston Press
Bruce’s and Kelly’s holiday performance finds the husband-and-wife duo of singer-songwriters with a full band singing songs from their Christmas album Happy Holidays. But the show isn’t all about the holidays, it is also a showcase of the best of Kelly and Bruce’s solo careers which continue to flourish with their new CD.
Bruce says the shows each year are very special to the couple because of the way it brings back memories, “You think about the people you love, friends, family, how lucky you are to have known them.” He understands the wistfulness of the season and the dream of a Christmas that may have never been.
** Standing Room tickets do not include dinner.
“James writes like he's lived a lifetime.” —John Mellencamp
“The most vital lyricist in America today.” —Bob Harris, BBC 2 RADIO
“James McMurtry is a true Americana poet – actually he is a poet regardless of genre” —Michael Nesmith
“McMurtry might be the best topical writer performing right now and (Just Us Kids) finds him at his finest.”
—Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers
"America's fiercest songwriter" - CNN
“James McMurtry writes songs filled with characters so real that you're sure they're going to climb out of the speakers and look you in the eyes.” —VOICE OF AMERICA
“McMurtry aims for the jugular.” —DIRTY LINEN“A conservative,” Franklin Roosevelt said almost 70 years ago, “is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.” James McMurtry – work shirt tucked, fists clenched – turns those words into weapons on Just Us Kids. Think Steve Earle with an even more pointed – and sometimes sharper – vision. Essential listening at the height of election season.
– Brian T. Atkinson, RELIX
“The songwriting conscience of America,” —FOLK WAX
“As the years pile on, James McMurtry sings with ever more authority and deserved cynical grace...With each album, (he) finds more to say and a stubborn, uncompromising way to say it.” —iTUNES
“Music that's haunting but familiar, much like the struggles he depicts.” —WASHINGTON POST
“brave, smart, and pithy music that captures James McMurtry at the top of his game.” —ALL MUSIC
“more energized than ever.” —TEXAS MONTHLY
“His songwriting is clear and precise, and he proves once again that he is Not afraid to take on the powers that be.” —VINTAGE GUITAR
“McMurtry’s songwriting is in a class by itself.” —METROMIX
“Texastentialist panorama of gray-sky lucidity and neon highway jungles...” - THE VILLAGE VOICE
“The veteran Texas songwriter’s new album, Just Us Kids, features the slow burner ‘Cheney’s Toy,’ one of the sharpest musical indictments yet of George Bush.” —ROLLING STONE
“emboldened by the reception to 2004’s acerbic (and increasingly relevant) ‘We Can’t Make it Here,’ McMurtry ramps up the polemics on Just Us Kids.” —USA TODAY
“One of the best protest singers working today.” —TIME OUT CHICAGO
Enjoy folk, country and acoustic renditions by performers that spent their afternoon in classes at Rice or a long day at the office.
Although less common, other performers such as comedians, poets, jugglers and mimes are also welcome. - 365thingsinhouston.com
Sign up at 6pm. Music begins at 6:30
Annual Dinner Concert for the Holiday
Menu coming soon!
Austin singer-songwriter Trish Murphy and her brother Darin will flit between the kitchen and stage tonight.
She's assembled a menu to accompany the duo's Christmas show at McGonigel's Mucky Duck.
"We're sort of like executive chefs on the deal," she says. "We created and submitted a menu. We'll have some supervision and be puttering around the kitchen before we go onstage. But thank God we don't have to rip off our aprons and sing for our supper."
Murphy is no stranger to the kitchen. She keeps a well-maintained food blog on her Web site and she also teaches a cooking class at Austin's Whole Foods.
She and Darin — who grew up and cut their teeth as a duo in Houston — started cooking as kids. "We had a weird bohemian pace to our lives," she says. "Our parents were real young. But my mom was really traditional about family dinner every night. Everybody helped in the kitchen.
"It was a real egalitarian deal. She didn't serve anything off the stove. It had to be plated and on the right kind of dish. Glasses were filled with ice, tea poured, the ritual never varied. That gave us a kind of grounding in the kitchen that maybe other kids didn't get."
The cooking tonight will be well under way by the time Murphy and her brother show. But since the meal will be family recipes, they'll keep an eye on things in the kitchen.
"So much about cooking is tactile and you're using all of your senses," she says, "knowing by experience how things look or feel. We'll be able to get into there and give everybody a tactile frame of reference."
As for the songs, expect some originals, some holiday medleys and "some other things that are a little less worn out."
Tomato Basil Soup
A choice of
Roast Pork and Dressing
mashed potatoes, English peas, cinnamon apple
One each our signature pies:
Shepherd's, Chicken Pot, Steak & Mushroom
Fish and Chips
with fries and cole slaw
Bread Pudding with Jameson Irish Whiskey Sauce
For country music trio Sister C, music literally runs in the family. Made up of real-life sisters Cirby, Carli, and Celbi Manchaca, these three young women blend their love of traditional country with an edgy twist for a unique and alternative style that gives their music a signature sound.
Thanks to a musical upbringing inspired by their singer-songwriter father, Sister C became equally comfortable onstage as they were in the studio. After gaining a sizable following during their time on The X Factor, the sisters packed up everything and moved to Music City to chase their dreams. Three years later, Nashville has provided them the opportunity to expand the boundaries of their music, which is heavily influenced by country music greats like Dixie Chicks, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, George Strait, and Lee Ann Womack.
Sister C is a force to be reckoned with in country music. Each sister brings her individual talents, distinct voice, and personality to the group. Cirby’s natural energy and strong personality provides a perfect foil to Carli’s instinctive ability to push the limits lyrically and Celbi’s prowess on guitar. With all of their combined, organic talent, Sister C is a breath of fresh air. Regardless of whether they’re in the studio or onstage, when Cirby, Carli, and Celbi are together, magic is in the air.
Two of our favorite Texas artists, Carolyn Wonderland and Guy Forsyth, have teamed up to present the special irreverent magic of their annual holiday show at the Duck.
Featuring songs of the season in the style of blues, folk, rock, country and big band, all combined for a completely unique and engaging experience.
Two Tons and a Meal
Dinner and Beer tasting starts promply at at 6pm
Baked Brie Paired with Alamo Golden Ale
Red and Napa Cabbage Salad with Apples and spiced pecans
Paired with Alamo Pilsner
Steak and Mushroom Pie
Paired with Alamo Holiday IPA
Bonnie's Home Made Apple Pie
Paired with Alamo Amber Ale
Two Tons Performance begins at 7pm
Before there was Americana, before there was Texas Country, Two Tons of Steel front man Kevin Geil and his original band, “Dead Crickets,” rocked a sound that blended the best of musical worlds and pushed the envelope of “Texas” sound with a signature brand of high-energy country meets raw punk.
The San Antonio-based group packed the small bars and local hangouts and quickly became the Alamo City’s most-loved band, earning them a spot on the cover of Billboard Magazine in 1996. It was the beginning of a twenty year journey for Geil and the 4-piece ensemble.
Two Tons of Steel’s reach extends beyond their live gigs. In 2003, the band was filmed during a “Two Ton Tuesday” gig for the IMAX film, "Texas: The Big Picture," which can be seen daily at the IMAX Theatre in the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin and has been seen as far away as Japan.
Evans' life journey has revolved around performing, whether on the football fields of Texas in his younger years, or on stage at venues scattered across America. His journey began by earning his keep and his education through athletics, and later by entering the realm of Texas roots rock music as he took to the road. When he isn’t songwriting or touring with the John Evans Band, Emily Bell or El Trio Grande, Evans is an award-winning producer who creates albums with an untouchable southern elegance, ranging from bluesy rock-n-roll to rootsy country music.
He has produced albums for Jason James, folk pop singer Ashley Monical, Jesse Dayton and Emily Bell in the past year alone. His production with Corb Lund (Cabin Fever) went to #1 in Canada knocking Justin Bieber out of that position. Evans also has several album writes and co-writes with Hayes Carll including mainstays, Take Me Away and KMAG YOYO. He is a true virtuoso whose sound and musical style cannot be defined by one genre or one project.
His latest endeavor is his new album Polyester, which tells the story of the journey he has led ever since the day he decided the life of a songwriter was the only path for him. He hasn’t looked back since. John has written over 400 original songs that can touch the soul of music fans from all genres, across all spectrums.
His songs are delivered as an outpour of emotion rather than merely singing; songs that make you want to get up and dance, or rock out in your convertible in the heat of a Texas summer. But he also offers the listener lyrics that can be transparent and vulnerable, reflecting what is moving him in his everyday life. Each song speaks to his life experiences, every one having a unique sound and revealing the most important aspect of his music - staying true to his artistry. Whether it be a punk song that comes from a place of anger, a tear-bending country song that stems from sadness, or a song that was just inspired by a longneck bottle, John’s music has the ability to connect with his fans and cut to their hearts.
Morrow sings hard, proving his smooth, fiery drawl has only gotten better with age. The music revels in a life full of love and purpose, drawing on gritty rock, thumping gospel, and Morrow’s signature juke-joint country. Many of the songs address faith and relationships, both human and holy, with urgency, gratitude, and wonder. “I think there has always been a thread of spirituality in everything I’ve done––I’ve always been searching for something more,” he says.
“But in the last five or six years, I’ve started to actually find it. And in the last three or four years, I’ve begun to come into really deep contact with it––to walk in it.”
As a songwriter, Morrow has retained his token wit and self-deprecating humor, two traits that play well with the album’s loftier themes. His circle of collaborators continues to expand: Nashville aces Brian Keane and Mando Saenz, along with Texas troubadours such as Carter Beckworth, joined an existing cast of favorites that includes the sagacious Owen Temple.
“…a masterful approach to song craft reminiscent of John Hiatt and James Taylor… - NoDepression.com
“…an unforgettable album.” – SomethingElse.com
“Solid songwriting meets with soulful vocal delivery and a brilliant guitar tone…” -Roots Music Report
Schneider has been a recording artist for 25 years, putting out his first record (“Party Till You’re Dead”) in 1991 as frontman for Joe Rockhead, a funk-rock combo in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That band was followed by his best-known group, Ugly Americans, which toured with the Dave Matthews Band and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Ugly Americans was a kind of alt-rock supergroup, with former members of Cracker, Poi Dog Pondering and Mojo Nixon’s band.
…He has an almost Dylanesque reputation for keeping things fresh, with shows so different from one another that for years he [has] recorded every show and…[sold] copies for people to purchase right after the show.
Renowned songwriter, singer, true believer, Alejandro Escovedo releases Burn Something Beautiful October 28th, 2016 on Fantasy Records
The new album, Escovedo’s first solo endeavor since 2012’s highly acclaimed Big Station, is in actuality, a highly collaborative affair. Teaming with Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) to co-write the album’s songs, Escovedo also enlisted the pair to act as the project’s producers.
Escovedo and company take some mighty big swings here. At once a celebration of the rock and roll life, a contemplation on mortality, and the healing power of love, Burn Something Beautiful connects repeatedly with Escovedo’s soulful heart and voice at its core. Recorded in April at Portland’s Type Foundry studio, the project coalesced with the help of an esteemed group of musicians who give the album a genuine band feel. They include guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (The Decemberists), vocalists Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Kelly Hogan (Neko Case) as well as saxophonist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos).
In a trailblazing career that began with The Nuns, San Francisco’s famed punk innovators, to the Austin-based-based alt-country rock pioneers, Rank & File, to Texas bred darlings, True Believers, through countless all-star collaborations and tribute album appearances and finally a series of beloved solo albums beginning with 1992’s acclaimed Gravity, Escovedo has earned a surplus of distinctions: No Depression magazine’s Artist of the Decade Award in 1998 and the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing in 2006, just to name two.
“You just do your good work, and people care,” Alejandro says. “I always believed, when I was a kid, that if you worked hard, you would find fulfillment. I think I got a lot of that from my father and my brothers. A working musician is all I ever wanted to be. Hard work, stay true to what you want to do, and then eventually someone would notice for that very reason.”
Co-producer Peter Buck says, “I’ve been a fan of Alejandro’s music for over 30 years, and recording with him was as good as I expected it to be. I think he, Scott McCaughey and I really extended our vocabulary as writers and musicians, coming up with something that is unlike anything we have done individually in the past.”
“I felt a real kinship with Alejandro since we first met in 1986,” Scott McCaughey says. “We bonded over our mutual love of the rock & roll circus. Making this record really meant a lot to me, and I think people will get that when they hear it.”
Burn Something Beautiful is Alejandro Escovedo at his very best. His many gifts are revealed across a lifetime spent in dedication to and faith in the hard work of life and music…and its possibilities. Refusing to go unnoticed.
New Year's Eve Dinner Dance
Supperclub service beginning at 7:00pm.Four course dinner, party favors.
"Despite his success and sense of history, Mr. Paul remains an artist with his eye on the future and an interest in discovering the transformative potential in his music." - The New York Times
Some artists document their lives through their music. Others chronicle their times. It’s a rare artist who can do both, telling their own story through songs that also encapsulate the essence of people and places who have helped define their era overall. Woody Guthrie comes to mind, and so does Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen certainly as well. Yet few others, for whatever genius they may possess, can relate their own history to the history experienced by those who find that common bond, be it in a coming of age, living through the same realities or sharing similar experiences.
Ellis Paul is one of those gifted singer/songwriters.Though some may refer to him as a folksinger, he is more, for lack of a better word, a singular storyteller, a musician whose words reach out from inside and yet also express the feelings, thoughts and sensibilities that most people can relate to in one way or another, regardless of age or upbringing. The exhilaration of the open road. A celebration of heroes. The hope for redemption. Descriptions of those things that are both near and dear. The sharing of love..., intimate,
Matt the Electrician
Despite the name, Matt the Electrician is no longer an electrician, focusing instead on a music career that has spanned the course of two decades, a dozen records, and literally thousands of shows. It’s folk music for a modern age, rooted in lyrics that focus on the realities and challenges of the 21st century as opposed to, say, the old-school thrill of hopping trains.
“I don’t generally write mining disaster songs,”he explains. “I tried to write about things that have happened to me and my family. Songs about the small things in life, which, to me, are really the big things.”
I’ve heard tell of a legend among songwriters: John Elliott. J. Wagner, who regularly writes with Gregory Alan Isakov and has worked with Elliott before, describes him as “someone who has opened a different door.”
“He’s found the right room,” Wagner continues. “He’s bold and brave. He out tricked the trickster. He writes only the good parts of co-writes. He’s the real deal, an honest writer.”
Wagner also jokes: “He’ll sleep on your couch then leave you stranded at a train station. I have him on speed dial. He never answers.”
Amy Sue Berlin says “Elliott’s songs will take you on an emotional roller coaster. He brilliantly describes the raw realities of his unique perspectives of life. The passion behind his voice and his words makes you feel as if you are a character in his story.” - Austin Chronicle
“Austin’s got no shortage of indie blues musicians whose music sounds great from a coffeehouse stage, but it only has a few who can put together the total package of eclectic, soulful jams and a stridently powerful voice the way that Jackie Venson can.” (read the full article here) TEXAS MONTHLY
“With an astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace it was easy to believe that we were participating in the origin story of Austin’s next great export — a Gary Clark Jr. level talent who speaks boldly through her guitar while simultaneously entrancing with her gorgeous smoky voice.” (read the full article here) AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Kids From Nowhere is an international experiment in American music, based in Israel. Active since 2007, members include singer/songwriter Zach Wheat (Texas), drummer “Element” Yves Elisee Akowendo (Côte d’Ivoire), bassist Elad Avni (South Africa) and guitarist Babush (Israel).
The band is heavily influenced by Texas “outlaw” country music, the British Invasion, and the proto-punk songwriting of Lou Reed and Mark E. Smith.
Kids From Nowhere have played to Israeli and American audiences and are in the process of releasing their first LP, produced by Or Bahir (Eatliz, Amit Erez), “Kick It In” in October, 2012.
I was delighted to hear a preview of the album, “Kick It In” by Kids From Nowhere. While the music, driven and urgent, is solid, straightforward rock n’ roll, the lyrics and melody are what make this a truly enjoyable album. Together with Zach Wheat’s razor-wire Mick Jagger-ish voice which slices through the songs with a Machiavellian desire to be empowered.
This album is a rare achievement – usually rock revivalists are annoying, specifically those of the “Are you ready to rock?” variety.
So it is refreshing to find competent songwriters like Zach Wheat who can remind us of what was so great about straightforward, powerful rock n’ roll music to begin with. What is most refreshing, however, is how literate the whole thing is. Wheat is a smart guy who knows his subject, and the rest of his band-mates follow suit, to deliver what is needed to make this album work effectively.
Kids From Nowhere destroy all the stereotypes with this one record alone. A smart, intense, and easy listen, “Kick It In” both challenges and pays homage to rock n’ roll on every level possible.
This album stands up to repeated listening and delivers a continued gamut of emotions and moods throughout its eleven tracks. Standout songs include; “Biscuits,” “Don’t Forget You’re Lonely,” “Vegas Boogie,” “Millie’s Song” and “All The Things We Do.” While my personal favorite is the brilliant bittersweet ballad, “Bone Coast.”
This album is a must for those looking for modern-sounding, guitar-based, gut-level-yet-intelligent rock n’ roll with a modern twist. Kids From Nowhere have one foot firmly planted in the past and the other one wedged into the post-millennium music mire, where styles such as this is considered an endangered species.
They certainly show no fear in devoting eleven tracks to what is regarded, by the “hip crowd,” to be an outdated style of rock.
Our advice is, do yourself a favor and let, “Kick It In” grind out of your speakers, while you pull out the air guitar and crank up that stereo.
For more than three decades, Texas singer-songwriter Shake Russell has been entertaining audiences throughout the region with his unique, Americana style of folk-rock. A prolific songwriter, Shake has written or co-written hundreds of melodies.
Through the years, Shake’s songs and albums have frequented the Billboard charts, with many, including “Deep in the West,” “You’ve Got a Lover,” “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “One More Payment,” and “Our Kind of Love” being recorded by such distinguished artists as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Ricky Skagg’s hit recording of “You’ve Got a Lover” has appeared on three of Ricky’s albums.
Shake is a favorite at the Duck and his shows sell quickly so get your tickets soon.
Come early for dinner and enjoy and beautifully poured pint and some of the best fish and chips in Houston.
You can’t help but admire the tenacity of Lucas Jack, the old school, soulful piano man.
One day, something clicked in his head, and he decided to abandon a successful law practice — preferring instead to set up his piano on dusty Texas stages. From his perch in these smoky bars and ballrooms, Lucas Jack powers through ballads, while people enjoy the atmosphere he creates. He’s not just playing a piano anymore.
Lucas Jack is painting a room with the stories of his life.
More than anything else, Lucas Jack is a reflection of the man he is: A dad with two kids, and a wife he beams about. He leads a band that swaggers around stage like sailors, grinning and jamming. Make it Beautiful is filled to a surfeit with stories of fatherhood, loss, coping, and his struggle to navigate a music industry that doesn’t seem to “get” what he’s doing.
His second full length EP is like walking into an unfamiliar bar, and seeing some guy just wailing away in the corner, with a piano, for about a dozen people. It’s not a popular bar, but the music is fantastic, so you decide to order a beer. Four songs later, you’re into another beer, talking to the person next to you. The bouncy piano chords fill the room, and you get an idea for who Lucas Jack is. You ask the bartender who the piano player is.
“Oh, that’s Lucas. He hauls that old upright piano in here every time he plays. I heard he was like a lawyer or something? I don’t know. He just came in here and offered to play piano one day, so I gave him a shot. Now he’s in here every week. People just like his stuff.” You can feel the narrative of his gumption through his music, and that’s hard to find. People say they want something “authentic” — which is the most overused word in any press release. Lucas Jack is authentically himself, a guy who probably should have been on stages in the 1970s, jamming with a bygone era of piano pop artists, yet he relents into our era. Nothing on Make it Beautiful is a compromise, or a song that’s written for the sake of writing a song. He’s telling stories about his kids. He’s talking about moving. His marriage. A life filled with joy. It’s a happy album, but sometimes there are moments of self-doubt. It’s a story of a life well-lived.
An album should tell a story, and Make it Beautiful tells you exactly where Lucas Jack is, right now. You don’t have to be there to walk an hour in his shoes, and understand we share a universal need to tell our story.
Take one part bohemian and one part brass knuckles, stir in some wanderlust, simmer at 100° in Texas weather for 30 something years. Remove from heat and let chill. Serve Bekah Kelso with a folk-hop twist, relax and enjoy.
Country music’s Brandon Rhyder has undoubtedly established himself as a fixture in the Texas Country/Red Dirt scene. Rhyder has released seven albums and boasts an impressive four #1 singles on the Texas Music Charts, along with a plethora of other milestones.
He continues to push boundaries and deliver fresh material, all while maintaining his signature sound that fans across the country have grown to adore.
One year after releasing Soul Searching, his tribute to the musical histories of Memphis and Nashville, GRAMMY ® winner Jim Lauderdale draws influence from Texas for his 28th album, This Changes Everything.
Lauderdale has been an ambassador for the Americana genre for years, not only releasing more than two dozen albums of award-winning American roots music, but also emceeing the acclaimed radio show Music City Roots. Along the way, he's collaborated with legends like Buddy Miller, Ralph Stanley, and Robert Hunter. The WagonMaster award recognizes an Americana pioneer whose career continues to roll ahead, leaving a large legacy in its wake.
"I was already a fan of George Strait when he began recording my songs," says Lauderdale, "and his support really opened up a lot of doors for me. It helped allow me to make the kind of music I want to make, and release it the way I want to release it. It allowed me to create. This award is one of the most important things to happen to me, in my life and my career."
Lauderdale's latest creation, This Changes Everything, presents the songwriter's own version of the traditional Texas dancehall sound, filled with shuffles, rave-ups, plenty of sharp songwriting and appearances by a handful of genuine Texas legends. For a wagon master who's nowhere near the end of his journey, This Changes Everything marks the latest stop in a longer trek.
The Peterson Brothers possess a uniquely modern blend of blues, soul, and funk. Alex, 17, on bass and vocals, and Glenn Jr., 19, on guitar and lead vocals, have grown up playing together since they were young kids.
They have opened for the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Los Lonely Boys, the late B.B. King, Willie Nelson, and Lisa Marie Presley. They have also played with Buddy Guy, Michael Burks and many of Austin’s finest musicians. The Peterson Brothers have also gained the attention of the one and only Bootsy Collins, who has become a true mentor.
Glenn and Alex are honing their chops daily, and are dazzling audiences playing gigs throughout the United States.
“The only thing missing from the Peterson Brothers Band is the word "amazing" at the front of the name.” - San Antonio Express-News
James Hand is a Texas singer-songwriter who has been performing all over Texas since he was a teenager. When you see James perform, you are seeing a totally unique performer who is original yet has influences from Hank, Lefty, and Johnny Cash.
If you enjoy the old traditional country sound in totally new songs, then James Hand is what you have been searching county music for. James Hand ... enough said. - Austin Chronicle
As a young man from Meridian, Mississippi, Steve Forbert traveled to New York City and played guitar for spare change in Grand Central Station. He vaulted to international prominence with a folk-rock hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” during a time when rootsy rock was fading out and the Ramones, Talking Heads and other New Wave and punk acts were moving in to the public consciousness. Still, critics raved about Steve’s poetic lyrics and engaging melodies, and the crowds at CBGB’s club in New York accepted him alongside those acts. “I’ve never been interested in changing what I do to fit emerging trends,” Forbert observes. “Looking back on it, I was helping to keep a particular American songwriting tradition alive at a time when it wasn’t in the spotlight.”
After his first two records came a plethora of well-crafted, unforgettable songs on such albums as Little Stevie Orbit, Streets of This Town, The American in Me, Mission of the Crossroad Palms and Evergreen Boy. His tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Any Old Time, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004. In October 2012, 35 years after his first album, Steve has released an exciting new one, Over With You. Its ten fresh but mature songs pinpoint a wide range of emotions that color personal relationships — emotions that most listeners have undoubtedly felt and struggled to understand at some point in their lives. “This is an album that has taken a lifetime to make,” explains Forbert. “You don’t just pull these songs out of thin air — you have to live them.”
"Heard Market Junction for the first time about a year ago and since then have been a BIG fan". "Market Junction brings something different to the Texas scene and that's always a good thing."— Katie Key, Keymusicnews.com
"After all is said, or sung rather, and done, Market Junction leaves the listener with a sense of hope for the future and a feeling of freedom in the present." - The Daily Cougar
It’s not surprising to learn that artists from Steve Earle to Billy Bragg are Greg Trooper fans. Trooper, A New Jersey native now based in Brooklyn, excels at character studies, painting wonderful portraits of people living through good times and bad times.
His matter-of-fact delivery – as both a singer and a songwriter – bring a sense of realism to the tales that he tells. His music lives at the intersection of Memphis soul, Greenwich Village folk and Texas troubadour. As a live performer he’s been described as articulate, quick-witted, extremely musical, outrageous, compassionate and kind.
His songs have been recorded by numerous artists including: Vince Gill, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Robert Earl Keen, Maura O’Connell, Lucy Kaplansky, Tom Russell and Walt and Tina Wilkins. On previous albums he’s had help with harmony vocals by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash.
Greg Trooper’s thirteenth album, Live At The Rock Room, is a recording of a single performance in January 2015 in Austin, TX. It features standout Texas musicians Jack Saunders on upright bass and Chip Dolan on keyboards and accordion. This collection of 14 songs delivers a cross section of Trooper’s work over the years as well as the brand new heartbreaker “Broken Man”.
One of Houston's true roots-music icons, Jack Saunders can be described perfectly in one word: Integrity.
Saunders has been at this so long he cuts straight to the chase. This isn't some over-thought, let's-play-at-folk-rock schtick that numerous young bands have, this is a full-grown pro matching sounds and words -- "I say goodbye to gravity when you come around" -- with all the precision of someone who's been at his craft 40 years. This one is Houston proud. - Houston Press
Texas Jazz & NoLa Blues! Centerpiece Sharon Bourbonnais; pianist, songwriter and seductive vocalist ... take equal parts Diana Krall, Marcia Ball add splash of Bonnie Raitt and Peggy Lee for a soulful Texas-Louisiana style jazz.
“If you are looking to be blown away by raw talent, then look no further than Griffin House.” —American Songwriter
It is a true, and nowadays rare, musician who writes lyrics so vulnerable and authentic that an audience is irrevocably captured by the powerful experience of sharing the journey. An album that is essentially an autobiographical account of personal mistakes, change, and growth, offers listeners a chance to reflect on their own experiences and connect with another’s story.
With Griffin House’s upcoming album, So On and So Forth, it is clear the artist digs deep and offers up his narrative after much reflection. House is now a young family man and artist who is choosing sobriety and celebrating the path to his success, through songs which share his perspective on how people remember the past with rose-colored glasses, how we grow up and realize what we deeply need, and how we must find happiness in ourselves in the present.
“The record has a lot to do with recognizing the ego in one’s self and letting it die. It can feel like your whole identity is being wiped away, and you don’t even know who you are anymore. For the person singing these songs, holding on to one’s own individuality in order to remain special or important in the world has started to became far less important than being content with being a good, decent, and loving person. But old habits die hard,” adds House.
The project was tracked last summer at Lakehouse Recording Studios, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. House’s ties to Asbury Park go all the back to 2004, when he was invited to tour with Patti Scialfa. His first show in the boardwalk town was opening a show for Scialfa at the Paramount Theatre. It was there that Griffin met her husband, Bruce Springsteen, and all the wonderful characters in their crew and band. Those memories and experiences made returning to Asbury Park over a decade later to record So On and So Forth feel like a full circle moment in his career.
House recorded the essentially live project with no click track and very little overdubbing. Lakehouse owner, Jon Leidersdorff, helped assemble the band. Prior to walking into the studio, House had never met the musicians and had no idea how the songs would turn out. He adds, “The experience ended up being one of the most fun and positive of my career. The process was stress-free and freeing.” The resulting album reflects this journey — a leap of faith with triumphant results.
Recording and performing for over a decade, House has toured with Ron Sexsmith, Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries. He received early critical acclaim on the CBS Sunday Morning, and his songs have since been featured in countless films and television shows such asOne Tree Hill, Army Wives, and Brothers and Sisters. He has also appeared on Late Night with Craig Ferguson. Most recently, CNN Newsroom invited House to perform “Paris Calling,” from So On and So Forth, live on the air, and the song has been picked up by radio prior to being serviced. House has released ten albums and continues to headline his own national tours. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jane and their two daughters.
Bridging the gap between generations of music-lovers and redefining blues-based American music for a contemporary audience, Loomis created his own path and built a loyal following by blending myriad influences, clever songwriting, and an expressive voice into a sound that defies description.
Feeling his current style, layered onto his bluesy foundation, will attract a new generation of fans, Loomis looks forward to the appeal GIVE IT BACK will have on today’s young listeners.
Miranda Dawn and Chris Hawkes first met in 2010 when he crossed an Austin barroom floor and asked her to dance. A modest beginning became an undeniable attraction the first time they sang together.
“Undeniably intimate” - Texas Monthly
"Impeccable vocal harmonies and instrumentation” - Acoustic Guitar
“Outstanding musicians individually, they are absolutely magical together.” - Houston Press
"Transcendent alternative-folk - you will find yourself craving more from this amazing, dynamic duo" - Huffington Post
Linville is legendary regionally for his work in the now-defunct Burtschi Brothers and for his behind-the-scenes influence—including producing John Fullbright’s first album and teaching guitar lessons to a then nine-year-old Parker Millsap. The “Oklahoma Gazette” rightly called him a “godfather of modern Oklahoma folk” and noted that his success opened doors for a state teeming with talent: a mentor and contemporary for other Oklahoma acts like Fullbright, Millsap, Turnpike Troubadours and John Moreland.
His acclaimed solo releases include 2012’s “Sun or Moon” and 2014’s “Out on the Wire” EP, called “rich, soulful and beautiful” by Jimmy LaFave. A live audition of a track from the latter even netted him a role in aWilliam H. Macy film, in which he performed the song.
A gifted instrumentalist, Linville is also known for his work as a sideman with Texas songwriter Hayes Carll, who calls him “criminally underrated.” He’s also performed with Willie Nelson, Tommy Allsup and Ryan Binghamand shared billing with Merle Haggard, Other Lives and Billy Joe Shaver, among countless others.
Independently, Linville has sold 15,000 albums and played thousands of shows across his 20-plus year career, with an ever-evolving repertoire deeply rooted in songcraft, sly humor and subtlety.
"Travis Linville writes, plays and sings music the way it's supposed to be done,” Carll says. “With depth, heart and soul. One of my all-time favorite musicians."
“Somehow this exciting band manages to sound like they’ve been around since the early days of the Grand Ol’ Opry while sounding new and fresh at the same time. Gal Holiday is the cure for modern country music’s doldrums if commercial radio would just pay attention.” -Marvin O’Dell, Musikode Productions, The Country Campfire, Defenders of Freedom Radio, Albuquerque, NM and KKRN, Redding, CA
“A southside collective of songwriters modeled loosely on the template established by Saxon supergroup the Resentments a decade ago, the S.A.Moonlighters take a big step with “Burn & Shine,” their first studio album.
Former members of Mother Truckers, Stonehoney and Monte Montgomery’s touring band collaborate on an eclectic mix of rock, soul, funk, blues, country and more; whereas the previous live disc was highlighted by covers, they’re now bringing their own material to the fore. Highly Recommended.”
Andrew Duhon is a songwriter from New Orleans, a teller of stories with an undeniable voice, weighted and soulful. Duhon has released 3 recordings, the latest of which, ‘The Moorings’, was nominated for a Grammy in 2014 for ‘Best Engineered Album’.
He has toured solo for much of his career, and that troubadour element is certainly present, an usher of modern day folklore. His latest group, The Andrew Duhon Trio brings a new musicality to the tunes with upright bassist, Myles Weeks and drummer ,Maxwell Zemanovic.
Since recording ‘The Moorings’ together as their first project, the Trio has been crossing the American landscape, touring and creating together, the thoughtful colors of the trio breathing a new musicality and direction into Duhon’s songwriting traditions.
John Doe has worked as a roofer, an aluminum siding mechanic, a manager of poetry readings, a musician, and an actor. With Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake, he continues to tour with X, one of the last original punk rock bands standing, and as a solo artist.
He has recorded ten solo records with numerous renowned singers and musicians and as an actor has appeared in over fifty films and television productions. On this tour he will perform solo renditions of songs from his latest album, The Westerner, along with selections from his entire career.
Over the last 4 years, John Baumann has been steadily building a fan base that is all about the lyric.
Since quitting his day job at a non-profit in the fall of 2015, and going full-time as a singer-songwriter and front man, Baumann has been in a state of constant evolution, having racked up almost 140 shows in 12 short months while continuing to write songs that emphasize his earnest style of phrasing and vivid approach to storytelling.
Baumann has also bolstered his songwriting resume, having written with the likes of Pat Green, Wade Bowen, Cory Morrow and Waylon Payne, while also having his song “Gulf Moon” recorded by Nashville’s Kenny Chesney.
With the release of the 6 song EP ‘Departures’ in 2015, Baumann has generated a ton of buzz resulting in a featured artist slot at the 2016 and 2017 Steamboat Music Fest and as a performer on Jack Ingram’s Songwriter Spotlight Series on the Texas Music Scene.
Over the course of the past year, Baumann has been leading a 4 piece band around Texas, and in to the Midwest, honing his sound and garnering new fans in all types of venues. And having just finished a 10-day recording session in Austin, Baumann is looking forward to releasing his a brand new full length record.
Three chords and the truth.
That was Harlon Howard, the King of Music Row, deftly prescribing the formula of the perfect country song. It’s been a catch-cry for the folk musician ever since.
Before then, it was the psalmist’s motto. The Bible poets wrung it from every note. It was hallowed as the great expositor, the songwriter’s muse - wisdom’s bride, calling faint from heaven’s faraway home.
And it’s still the songwriter’s holy grail today. From the bluesman to the politico-punk poet, to the strung out folk prophet, truth is always the muse and the horizon. The volatile partner at the end of each verse.
Growing up on strains of Dylan and the rich mine of the old Christian folk troubadours, Strahan seemed always destined to seek the truth. His songs speak of that moment where “poetry kissed reality”, his modern Psalms wrestle with that same world that David did, the world that struggles to reconcile the face of heaven in this constant economic, political and spiritual upheaval.
His first foray into folk theology, 2011’s Water & Fire provided a refreshing salve of imagery and language. A free gift downloaded by fans in over 22 countries, the E.P’s track “Heaven” charted on radio in New Zealand and garnered radio play in Australia. He then embarked on an intimate nationwide living room tour in 2012, a pilgrimage which armed him with journals of stories and melodies. When it came to his debut full-length Strahan knew his new album Posters had to delve deeper.
And it does. Like the old psalmist, he reaches to nature to find the face of the divine, wrestling with truth as insistently as the tide claiming the shore. Like the old folk man, he stares through a dim glass and sees a broken world caught in that age old tension. Hallelujahs. Laments. Death. Life. All is beauty.
And that old familiar catch-cry. Chords and truth. These old worn songs that carry hints of the divine.
With his unique voice, more unique song writing, and even more unique double necked “Guit-Steel” guitar, there has absolutely never been ANYONE like Junior Brown. He’s the American Original. Born in 1952 in Cottonwood, Arizona, Junior Brown showed an affinity for music at an early age when the family moved to a rural area of Indiana near Kirksville.
In the following years, Junior began to experience Country music and remembers it as “growing up out of the ground like the crops – it was everywhere; coming out of cars, houses, gas stations and stores like the soundtrack of a story, but Country music programs on TV hadn’t really come along much yet; not until the late fifties.”
Discovering a guitar in his grandparent’s attic, he spent the next several years woodshedding with records and the radio. Junior was also able to tap into music he couldn’t hear at home which older, college aged kids were listening to. This was possible due to his father’s employment at small campuses throughout the next decade as the family moved twice again.
As a young boy he was able to experience the thrill of performing before live audiences, at parties, school functions even singing and playing guitar for five thousand Boy Scouts at an Andrews Air Force Base jamboree; then while still a teenager, getting the chance to sit in with Rock and Roll pioneer, Bo Diddley. Armed with this broad spectrum of influences, he began to develop a storehouse of musical chops.
Early on, Junior realized he had to keep his interest in Country music a secret; “it was like a secret friend I carried around, being careful not to tell anyone (especially girls) about my love for it because I thought they would laugh at me.” It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that Junior Brown would proudly explore the passion for the music he had loved since his early childhood in Indiana.
With many prominent figures as his inspiration (Country legends, some who he would work with years later), he spent his nights in small clubs across the southwest. “I played more nights in honkytonks during the Seventies and Eighties than most musicians will see in a lifetime… I did so many years of that, night after night, four sets a night, fifteen minute breaks; I mean after that, you’ve gotta get good or you gotta get out.
The early 1970’s California Country dance club scene was particularly competitive, but I learned professionalism and stage demeanor which has served me well to this day.” More recently however, Junior has shown himself to be equally adept at a wide variety of American music styles beyond Country. These include Rock and Roll, Blues, Hawaiian, Bluegrass and Western Swing.
There is a dependable consistency in Junior’s writing style (he writes nearly all his material) yet he’s always full of pleasant surprises. Though Junior always knew he could sing and play what he wanted, he had yet to explore his potential as a songwriter. “I realized no one was going to walk into a club and discover me…so I started hanging out with some songwriters who I’d played some jobs with, and they showed me how to support myself by writing and publishing.”
With his writing coming together by the mid-Eighties, Brown upgraded his gear in a way that no artist had ever done. Struggling through each show, going back and forth plugging and unplugging guitar to steel guitar while singing, he had a dream one night about the two instruments mysteriously melding into one. The result was Brown’s unique invention, the “Guit-Steel”, a double necked instrument combining standard guitar with steel guitar. Built by Michael Stevens of Stevens Electric Instruments, the Guit-Steel allows Junior to switch instruments quickly in mid song while singing.
According to Brown, his guitar and steel guitar playing became more his own around this time, with less imitation of others and more his own original ideas and licks. This maturation coincided with the development of a completely “Junior Brown” style of songwriting which employs subtle dry wit to some songs – others can be more overtly humorous, or just plain dead serious; like his playing, there is a wide range of styles that when combined can only spell Junior Brown.
In the early nineties Brown and his band (including wife Tanya Rae) relocated to Texas to the active Austin music scene and landed a weekly gig at the Continental club. Having worked as a sideman for many of the Austin-based acts over the years, Junior was already well familiar with the town. His unique and entertaining combination of singing, songwriting, instrumental and production skills led to a seven record deal with Curb Records that began with “Twelve Shades of Brown” in 1993.
He later released two albums on the TelArc label. There were several Grammy nods, a CMA (Country Music Association) award for “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”, movie and repeated TV appearances like Letterman, Conan, Saturday Night Live, Austin City Limits, SpongeBob, X Files, Dukes of Hazzard, Me Myself and Irene, Tresspass, Still Breathing, Blue Collar Comedy Tour 1 and 2, and more recently, Better Call Saul. And there were the Ad Campaigns; The Gap, Lee Jeans and Lipton Tea. As Junior became more well known, he began to collaborate on projects with some of his heroes.
These include a duet with Ralph Stanley for which Junior received a Bluegrass Music Association Award (IBMA), a duet and video with Hank Thompson, as well as duets with video and record collaborations with the Beach Boys, George Jones, Leon McAuliffe, Ray Price, Leona Williams, Lynn Morris, Lloyd Green and Doc Watson. He even played guitar for Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys in a radio commercial.
Junior is currently finishing up recording on his latest album, “The American Original”. Release date is slated for mid-summer 2016. Junior’s performance on the promotional song, “Better Call Saul” was recorded and released both as a video on AMC as well as a flexible 33 1/3rd vinyl record included in the show’s box set from Season One. Junior, Tanya Rae and the band continue to tear up the highways and no doubt will be appearing in concert near you one of these days. Seeing Junior live is a definite must, so GUIT WITH IT ’cause he’s THE AMERICAN ORIGINAL!
We've been asked repeatedly, "When is Robyn coming back to the Duck?" and finally the answer is "now!" Get your tickets, come early, have dinner and settle in for a real treat.
Robyn's 2014 Release Little Rain, produced by Gurf Morlix, crowned Robyn the “Queen of Modern Texas Country Soul” by No Depression and “The Best of Americana and The Best in Texas”.
“Packed with vivid lyrics, steel guitars, and hot licks, Jewell’s Americana-driven brand of country music sounds tailor-made for sweltering, stagnant summer nights.” – Eric Renner Brown, Entertainment Weekly
“Though her fifth album consists entirely of original songs, ‘Sundown Over Ghost Town’ feels like a welcome return to a set of classics you’ve known forever, gently touching on desire, loneliness, and the longing for home… Perfect for fans of Madeleine Peyroux.” – Jon Young, Mother Jones
“Evocative.” – Craig Shelburne, CMT Edge
“Eilen Jewell is an artist to keep your eyes on… Fans may also hear a bit of Kacey Musgraves in her laid-back and effortless sound.”- Christina Vinson, The Boot
“Tantalizing… Wonderful voice… this slightly restrained, beautifully crafted and enticing Eilen Jewell disc proves she remains one of American’s most intriguing, creative and idiosyncratic voices.” – American Songwriter, Hal Horowitz
“A revelatory journey rich with cinematic visions, elegant, sweet, and smoky vocals, and hauntingly autobiographical songs inspired by her return to the West.” Jeremy D. Bonfiglio, No Depression, May 28, 2015
Jimmie Dale Gilmore is a native of the Texas Panhandle, born in Amarillo, Texas and raised in Lubbock. Early musical influences were Hank Williams and the honkytonk brand of country music. In the 1950’s he was exposed to the emerging rock and roll of Texas greats Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, as well as to Johnny Cash. He was profoundly influenced by the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the folk and blues revival in the 1960’s. In the early 1970’s he founded The Flatlanders, who have been performing as a group off and on for more than four decades. He has also had a prolific career as a solo artist.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore is coming to the Duck with his son, singer/songwriter Colin Gilmore. They will perform the progressive, alternative country music that Jimmie Dale and fellow Flatlanders band members Butch Hancock and Joe Ely first introduced in 1973. As a solo artist, Rolling Stone named Jimmie Dale Gilmore “Country Artist of the Year” two years straight and he received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Artist of the Year.
Colin Gilmore is a fine songwriter in his own right. He has been a touring musician for 14 years, has several albums to his credit and has played venues all over this country and in Japan and Italy. He also enjoys the opportunity to perform with his dad from time to time.
“With an expressive voice and a way with words, Ely stands among the finest musical storytellers. You’ll be glad you embarked on musical travels with this rambler!” — Paul Freeman / Pop Culture Classics
“This Lubbock luminary ranks among the greatest songwriters of his generation.” — Julie Wenger Watson / No Depression
“Ely’s at his best when he’s playing the defining sounds of his home in the vast upper square. Panhandle Rambler will thrill Ely’s faithful, and damn, it ought to gain him plenty of of new converts.” — Tom Clarke / Elmore Magazine
"I can't breathe but I'm still smoking, I'm so high but I keep toking" is a hell of a way to start a song, but would you expect anything less from the cow punk revivalist granddaughter of Willie Nelson, Raelyn Nelson and her Sonic Youth-loving, flannel-shirt-sporting band?
Their new single, "Brother," is a high-energy threat to a philandering lover, that combines a quick-stepping country boogie with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am punk shred — all with Nelson in the center, strumming mischievously away on her ukulele.
"The song came about when I was watching a TV show and got inspired by the storyline of a girl getting her three older brothers to track down her unfaithful boyfriend," Nelson tells Rolling Stone Country. And for the video, she and her band went super DIY, shooting it all with one GoPro camera. "[Guitarist Jonathan Bright] and I got together and wrote it, and we were trying to come up with a video concept that we could do on our own.
The 'band side' was done with a tripod, some cheap workshop lights and a clear shower curtain as a light diffuser. The other side was just Jonathan running around with the GoPro strapped to his head. Then with some tips from friends, YouTube tutorials, and editing software we managed to pull it off. And we came in right on budget — which was zero!"
That scrappy nature is nicely reflective of Raelyn Nelson Band's overall mantra – which is to not really care if things look perfect or fit into current country convention. "It's not that we're against the Nashville music scene, it just seems like there is no place for us right now," says Nelson, who spends more time playing local rock clubs than honky-tonks — probably because their sound has much more in common with Social Distortion or LA punk outfit OFF! than, say, current chart-toppers Zac Brown Band or Darius Rucker."
Our music doesn’t fit into any playlist. The collaboration of old country and dirty garage rock is original in itself and kind of cool." Indeed, feedback, head-banging and fiery shouts of "one, two, three" aren't the most familiar sounds in the new incarnation of "Papa Willie's" genre, but they sure are welcome.
When it comes to releasing new music, Raelyn Nelson Band don't plan on doing that conventionally, either. "I think we've decided this year to skip the traditional 'CD release' and just release a single every month or so, with a video and new T-shirt to go along with it," Nelson says. "We have the songs, but it makes more sense to us to release them as singles and have something new to offer each month, instead of beating a record to death for a year."
And the Red Headed Stranger approves. "Before I do anything I text him," she says of her famous grandfather, whose famous Fourth of July Picnic she'll be playing this summer. "And he'll send me a big smiley face."
"I think there are plenty of guys in today's country music that are creating the same sound, and I'm a country girl with an actual rock band so I don't see how the sound doesn't fit in," she adds. "And I'm having a blast rocking out with those guys. I get to sing my country tunes louder."
- Marissa Moss
"Potenza is to the blues what Alele is to pop” - Rolling Stone
After Potenza's spellbinding blind audition yielded a four-chair turn on NBC's The Voice, a visibly moved Pharrell Williams told her she was "giving this generation something they've never seen before." Potenza is to the blues what Adele is to pop: a colossal-voiced singer who merges her old-school influences with a modernistic sound. Her new album, Monster, solidifies endless Janis Joplin vocal comparisons but also colors between the lines of Memphis blues, Nashville Americana, New Orleans funk and L.A. punk. Its lyrics are personal and personally therapeutic, as she empowers herself through tunes denouncing industry naysayers and embracing her fuller-figured, boisterous self.
“Sounding like no other singer of her generation” (Allmusic.com), Mary Fahl is an expressive, emotional singer/songwriter who first achieved fame as lead singer and co-founder of the mid-1990s NYC- based chamber-pop group October Project. The hallmark of their sound was Mary Fahl’s awe-inspiring power vocals over gorgeous melodies played with passion and sophistication.
As a solo artist, Mary has released several compelling albums, including the fantastic re-working of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” for V2 Records and her wonderful, original studio album “The Other Side of Time” on Sony Odyssey. She has also written and performed songs for several major motion pictures, including the lead song (“Going Home”) for the Civil War epic Gods and Generals.
Her most recent album “Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House”, winner of the Indie Acoustic “Album of the Year” award, is a collection of twenty-four tracks recorded live at one of America’s oldest vaudeville theaters that captures the soaring, soul-permeating vocals and musical breadth that makes the Mary Fahl concert experience what the Portland Press called “soul-permeating”.
The show was filmed for PBS and is currently airing on PBS affiliates around the country. Fahl’s elegant, cinematic songs draw on classical and world music sources, American art song, as well as thinking man’s folk-pop which she performs with an earthy, viscerally powerful contralto that Boston Globe critic Steve Morse calls “a voice for the gods that can transport listeners to other realms”. Her music appeals to a wide range of musical enthusiasts, including a large, loyal fan base of Mary Fahl evangelists.
Imagine you are Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison on any given Saturday night, and you might be forgiven for thinking life looks pretty good. You’re on your way to headline at one of the Texas Hill Country’s legendary dancehalls—the Broken Spoke, say, or Gruene Hall or Floore’s Country Store—when one of your songs comes on the radio. Maybe it’s Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s hit version of “Angry All the Time,” or George Strait’s cover of “Wrapped” or even the Dixie Chicks’ No. 1 hit, “Travelin’ Soldier.” It’s a pleasant interlude in what Dan Jenkins used to call “Life Its Ownself.”
As one of the most acclaimed tunesmiths to come out of Austin, Bruce has worked in the traditional musical model all his life: Sign with a label; Record an album; release single; tour to support same…and repeat.
But although his songwriting work ethic remains anchored to traditional values—strong storylines, compelling characters, hook-laden melodies—Robison is working hard to refit his business model to reflect new music industry realities.
For one thing, although he has an album’s worth of new songs (From the Top, produced by Rodney Crowell, for his own Premium Records label) ready to go, Robison is committed to recording and releasing a song or two at a time, as opposed to entire albums. By releasing singles directly to radio in chosen markets, and making them available online, he can use exposure to cultivate interest in his personal appearances.
As this is written, Bruce is giving away free “Song of the Month” downloads, via his website (www.brucerobison.com) and his Facebook page. By using radio, the web and old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground live shows, Robison wants to make it easy for fans to find his music without having to rely on the vagaries of traditional promotion outlets.
“My feeling is now, that everybody’s on their own,” he says of the current state of the industry. “There’s no labels, there’s hardly any management. It’s like the Fifties again; we don’t know how it’s all going to shake out. But I’m really excited about the future, and finding new ways to get the music directly to the fans. And I’m having fun doing it.”
In a similar spirit, he’s taken pains to revitalize his live sound. He has recruited Joey Sheffield from the Austin pop-rock band Fastball (their 1998 song, “The Way” was a massive radio hit) and Brian Becken and Bruce Hughes from the acoustic-music ensemble the South Austin Jug Band. In blending strains of acoustic roots music with pop melodicism and his own incisive sense of songcraft, Robison is injecting a new vigor and energy into his live shows.
“I’m the luckiest guy that I know, you know?” Bruce says rhetorically. “I just want to have a great time onstage, and I hope that comes across.”
“The best part of the whole deal is we’re really good friends and we were friends before we ever started collaborating, so that adds a nice foundation to the whole thing.”
At the same time, there are traditional avenues that Robison still pursues avidly. A working songwriter, he still goes to Nashville regularly to write songs and keep his hand in the mainstream country music market. But with a new band and a new blueprint for getting his music into folks’ hands and heads, Robison is not only confronting change, he is embracing it.
Robison has hit the musical trifecta as a songwriter, performer and go-to guy for hits. Though it is as a songwriter that Robison has always defined himself, it’s as a performer that he feels most alive.
“Man, it’s almost like foreplay and the other thing,” he says with a laugh, delineating the difference. “For me, writing a song--you might think that it’s good, and you record it.” But, he adds, there’s nothing like seeing the music take on a life of its own onstage in front of an audience. “I’m the luckiest guy that I know, you know? I just want to have a great time onstage, and I hope that comes across.”
Although he is about as far from a preening egotist as it is possible for an artist to be, Bruce Robison takes a fierce, unvarnished pride in what he has achieved in the field of songcraft.
"I always had very high goals and a very high opinion of myself as a songwriter," he said, adding, "and I don't say that in a conceited way. I just think everybody should feel good about what they do.
"And I really loved calling myself a songwriter, from the time I first started doing it through the first ten years, when I never made a dime.”
The hit versions of Robison compositions by Strait, McGraw and Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack and Allison Moorer helped change all that. "I've never not liked it anytime anybody's cut one of my songs. I'll always be amazed by that," he marvels.
Following in the footsteps of Texas icons Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, Bruce has remained fiercely independent by making a base for himself in Austin. With his own recording studio, record label and fan base that fills a dance floor whenever he plays - the Lone Star State is home. Always will be.