Tag Archives: Okkervil River

2010 Year In Review Part Deaux: Texas Music You Should Be Listening To!

As the saying goes, there must be something in the water!  There is something about the Texas music scene that defies typical musical conventions.  This, of course, comes as no surprise to the millions of Texas music fans.  The variety of music that hails from the great state is as expansive as the West Texas plains.  While Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital” of the world, there are plenty of fertile musical breeding grounds in Texas. 

 Today, I will WOW you with some of the musical greatness that came from or had ties to Texas in 2010. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, it is just a few of the albums that I have had in heavy rotation over the course of the last year. 

Artist Album Observations
Old 97’s The Grand Theatre Vol. 1 Dallas band gets back to their roots and write good music without trying to be anything more than they are.  After 17 years it is good to see them comfortable in their own skin.
Spoon Transference Not as much of gloss and a lot more rock is what make this album great.  Not shying away from the darker textures, Spoon creates a less poppy album and the laxity of Transference is the strength of the album.
Reckless Kelly Somewhere In Time A fine album of cover songs to their one time mentor Pinto Bennett. 
Roky Erickson & Okkervil River True Love Cast Out All Evil Concise production shapes the sorrow of the Austin icon Roky Erickson’s life and ultimately the optimism of his return.
Court Yard Hounds Court Yard Hounds 2/3 of the Dixie Chicks show that sometimes less is more.  Jakob Dylan adds his dusky dulcet tone for a quick duet.
Alejandro Escovedo Street Songs of Love The fierceness of the guitar and the bombastic instrumentation belie the emotional elements of the lyrics. 
Arcade Fire The Suburbs Currently Canadian, Butler boys do hail from the sterile Houston suburb known as the Woodlands.  This is a great album and also made my 2010 Year in review. 
Ryan Bingham Junky Star Former rodeo star hits the big time with Golden Globe and Oscar win and a current Grammy Nomination for his work on the “Crazy Heart’ soundtrack.  His 3rd album is no fluke either.  His whisky and cigarette vocals are the perfect vehicle for his forlorn tales. 
Randy Rogers Band Burning the Day One of the hardest working bands in the state.  Over 200 dates over the past years.  Still time to record and release their 5th album.
Norah Jones …Featuring Norah Jones The list of collaborators is what makes this album genius.  You have the rap community represented with Talib Kweli Q Tip, and Outkast, the rock genre is fortified by Foo Fighters, and Ryan Adams is a genre chameleon so several are covered with his efforts.  Also, Willie Nelson adds his own brand of greatness.
Walt Wilkins Agave A true Texas troubadour.  No one does it better then Walt.  The words of a poet delivered honey sweet with a calm, familiar feel.  Need to see him live if you ever have the chance.
Tommy Alverson Texas One More Time With a twinkle in his eye, and a beer in his hand, Tommy makes music that makes you feel fine.  When Tommy sings, it feels like a warm summer night and for that moment you are carefree.  Highly recommend you see him live, you won’t regret it.
Six Market Boulevard Running On Seven I caught these boys live one Sunday afternoon at a local barbeque joint.  Nice, strong debut album.
Mike Ryan The First One Great voice, laid back attitude, and interacts with his fans.  Ballsy covers of Lenny Kravitz and Conway Twitty.  Need to see him live to fully appreciate his brand of greatness.
Bruce Robison From the Top Amazing songwriting that has made many country artists famous.  This album finds him paired with Rodney Crowell and it is an effort steeped in simplicity.  When you write as well as Bruce, you don’t need to add a lot of fluff.

 Great music awaits!


Tune In Tuesday: 6/15/10

Welcome to another addition of Tune in Tuesday

Omni

Minus The Bear

Minus the Bear is a Seattle, Washington indie band that has been around since the early 00’s.  Omni is their fourth and most recent release.  The album was produced by Grammy Award winner Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket).  The album is easy to listen to and does not require a lot of thought as it has a certain background noise pop sensibility to it.  Each song was recorded in its entirety as opposed to piecing together recorded bits, which provides more of a live feel to the recording.

The name “Minus the Bear” comes from an inside joke among the band members, referring to the 70’s show B.J. and the Bear. “A friend of the band had gone on a date,” explains singer-guitarist Jake Snider, “and one of us asked him afterwards how the date went. Our friend said, ‘You know that TV show from the ’70s B.J. and The Bear? It was like that minus the bear.’ That’s the straight truth.”

Key Tracks:

Excuses, My Time By, Into the Mirror,

 Get Off On the Pain

Gary Allan

This is Allan’s eighth studio album and had two singles, Today, and the title track Get Off On the Pain, to land on the Billboard charts.  He is a solid singer and decent writer who co-wrote five of the ten tracks on the album.   With his voice and steadfast determination to keep a traditional country sound, Alan has managed to avoid the cookie cutter mold of a litany of current singers that plague the radio.

Key Tracks:

No Regrets, When You Give Yourself Away, Today, She Gets Me

To The Sea

Jack Johnson

To The Sea is the fifth studio album from the environmentally friendly musician and sold 243,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number one.  While Johnson does not navigate uncharted water, the album is solid with well crafted songs.  His voice has a bit more urgency as he sings and does not shy away from the electric guitar.  The vibe is still relatively mellow and the messages tend to be a bit more reflective but still positive.

Key Tracks:

You and Your Heart, No Good With Faces, Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology

Together

The New Pornographers

Together is the fifth release from this Canadian indie group.  The album is heavy on the guest list with the likes of Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Zach Condon (Beruit), and the horn section from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

The album has a powerful pop energy that is balanced by the varied vocal stylings of the group.  Lead vocals are shared between Neko Case, Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, and Kathryn Calder.  It is a fun album and might take a few spins if this is your first venture into the band.  Much like Canadian beer, you don’t realize how good it is until you try it.

Key Tracks:

Your hands (Together), My Shepherd, Valkyrie In the Roller Disco,

Great music awaits


Tune In Tuesday: 6/8/10

Welcome to Tune In Tuesday.  Today’s installment of Tune in Tuesday features six random albums with Texas roots.

If We Ever Make It Home

Wade Bowen 

If We Ever Make It Home is Bowen’s third studio   This album reveals the trials and tribulations of any relationships.  It speaks of love, loss, and the fallability of human spirit.  He is a solid writer that is able to convey his story with passion.  Daddy and the Devil is an amazing song that features Chris Knight and Bowen on vocals. 

Key Tracks: Daddy and the Devil, If We Ever Make It Home, You Had Me At My Best

Fire, Honey, & Angels

Walt Wilkins

 This is Walt’s debut album and some of his finest songwriting.  Walt’s music has a timeless feel to it with poignant lyrics about love, loss, and the varying stages of life.  His voice is comfortable and familiar with a hint of wisdom.  He has the ability to convey so many different thoughts and feelings through his lyrics and voice.  His strongest material is the songs that paint a picture of everyday life.  His eye for detail is uncanny as is his ability to take the mundane and make it memorable.  Ruby’s Two Sad Daughters is possibly the best country song ever written.

Key Tracks: Ruby’s Two Sad Daughters, Our Lady of the Avenue, Lessons Never Learned

Like It Used To Be

Randy Rogers Band

This is the debut studio album for the band and is a solid first venture.  Their sound is appealing in the fact that it does not stand out.  It is good music that could be heard in any number of bars in a college town in the great state of Texas.  Their music gives hope to all the other folks that are out on the road singing in dive bars and backyards.  Their studio work is not overly produced and crafted for radio friendly hooks.  Tommy Jackson is my favorite song from the band to date.

Key Tracks:  Tommy Jackson, Lost and Found, Like It Used To Be

11th Floor

Erin Ivey

Erin Ivey is Austin’s Folk music darling.  She was voted one of the city’s top 4 unsigned artists in 2007. 

Her voice is amazing, both haunting and angelic with a touch of sensuality.  Her single “Chocolate” is an infectious little number that has her voice dripping over her guitar. 

Erin Ivey is a new artist for me as I just heard her for the first time when she opened for Joe Purdy in Austin a few months back. 

Key Tracks:  Chocolate, Separational, Beautiful World

Picnic

Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen is a Texas born singer/songwriter who has built a cult following of both fans and musicians alike.  Keen’s music is bathed in humor, the hills and landscape of Texas as well as the cast of characters he has met along the way.  Picnic has several memorable (in pure Keen fashion) songs and the duet Then Came Lo Mein with Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins as well as his cover of James McMurtry’s Levelland

Key Tracks: Undone, Levelland, Shades of Gray

True Love Cast Out All Evil

Roky Erikson and Okkervil River

Roky Erikson is the former leader of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and one forefathers of the psychedelic music scene.  This of course is before his well documented breakdown and battles that led him to a lengthy stint in Rusk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane. 

Will Sheff is the leader of Okkervil River and is the reason this album came to fruition.  Some of the songs were penned while Erikson was incarcerated.  Sheff deftly produces the album without trying to replicate the sound of forty years ago when Erikson was blazing the music scene. 

Key Tracks: Good Bye Sweet Dream, Be and Bring Me Home, Bring Back the Past

Great music awaits!


Concerts

We hear a song, purchase/download some music; it raises our awareness of the band and then we become a fan.  The concert is the culmination of our musical inclinations.  It is the holy grail of the musical experience.  At least, in our mind, it is. 

The concert is the musical equivalent of craps (the game of chance, not Jack in the Box 2 for $1 greasy tacos passing through your bowels)

Some nights go like this:

You purchase your ticket with the expectation that it will be musical bliss and a night to remember.  You get there, fight the crowd, listen to the mediocre, at best, opening act, and wait impatiently for the headlining show.   After what seems like an eternity, out stumbles the drunk/high lead singer, forgets the words to your favorite song, becomes enraged at the crowds displeasure and walks of the stage giving you the double fisted one finger salute. 

While other nights go like this:

You show up at some little dive barbeque joint and begin to think the show has been canceled because there are only four cars in the parking lot.  You go in, order some food and a beer, take you pick of the abundantly available tables and notice two chairs on the stage and a couple of guitars.  You take a seat, sip your bear and out strolls the singer and his buddy and the play for several hours, come sit down and thank you for coming to the show and take your request and play it before the night is over.

I’ve regaled you with some stories of concerts from my past and touted the greatness of Austin City Limits Music Festival but today, I’m going to chronologically list the concerts, to the best of my recollection, I’ve attended over the years.

Year Band
1983 Quiet Riot
Interesting Facts
7th grade, first concert to attend and broke my ankle that afternoon after being chased by a large classmate who took off his belt and began swinging it at me.  I left the hospital on crutches and planned on going to concert while my mother drove along beside me screaming at me to get in the car.  Being 12 and disabled, mom won and I missed the concert.  I did, however, get the t shirt as a consolation prize from my buddy who I gave the ticket to.
1985 Def Leppard
Interesting Facts
My first official concert that I actually got to attend.  Reunion Arena in Dallas, TX.  Oddly enough, I do not remember much about the concert other than it kicked much 14 year old musical butt.
1985-1989 Tom Petty

Stevie Nicks

Elton John

Don Henley

White Snake

Tesla

The Cult

Metallica

Interesting Facts
This period was the high school years and while there are funny stories, time has blurred the lines a bit.

  • One concert I went to with a group of girls and as soon as we got to Starplex Amphitheater, they all had to go to the rest room.  So, they opened the passenger door and all took turns squatting in the parking lot under the shroud of secrecy that was the afore mentioned door.  Don’t worry ladies; your identity is safe with me.
  • Another concert had some of the above mentioned girls and on the way home we got lost and drove around through an amazing fog which we likened to the moors, a Sherlock Holmes reference at the time, and eventually made it home.  Some of attendees were really upset with the turn of events.
  • White Snake concert we bought tickets from scalpers and got totally ripped off but thought we were so cool because we were seeing White Snake.
  • Metallica was an amazing show and the first time I had seen mosh pits and thoroughly enjoyed the frantic pace of the music.  Some fans really enjoyed the show and started lighting the lawn on fire and once security came out, the fire just seemed to move to another location.

 

1989-1992 Travis Tritt

Shenandoah

Various country acts at Billy Bobs

Interesting Facts
Some of my buddies were really in to country music and I would often tag along because I had nothing else to do and wanted to make some new female acquaintances. The Shenandoah concert was particularly memorable, not because the concert was good, in fact, I never actually saw them.  I got kicked out of the bar because I was 18 and using a fake ID to buy beer.  My buddies, of course, stayed and watched the show.  The crushing event of the night was that the girl I took to the show also stayed inside and I sat alone in the back of my friend’s truck for several hours.  The night was not a total loss, because I drank all of the beer in the cooler while sitting in the parking lot of Billy Bob’s.
1993-1995 Lots of local acts in the musical mecca of Denton, TX

Rush

Interesting Facts
The Rush show stands out for two reasons:To procure the tickets for this concert, my buddy and I left Denton very, very early on a Saturday morning after a very, very, late Friday night to go to Lewisville Mall to get tickets.  We arrived way too early and drove to Braums and got a double order of biscuits and gravy.  While this might not read as funny as it was, we were way hung over and those biscuits and gravy were the magic elixir that restored our health. Night of the concert we pick up our dates, have dinner and head to Dallas.  There is mild drinking, as colleges kids are known to do, and before you know it, we are on the floor of Reunion Arena basking in the glory of Rush.  On the way home there is some conversation of the concert and the girl that I took begins to nod off a bit and then suddenly hurls into and on the door.  We stop and ask if she is ok and she looks at us as if nothing happened and denies what is clearly on her chin, clothes, seat, floor, and of course door.  We get home she gets out like nothing happened.
1995-2005 The Dave Matthews BandMetallica

Linkin Park

Beastie Boys

Pat Green

Willie Nelson

Jack Johnson

Bob Dylan

Bruce Springsteen

Beck

G. Love & Special Sauce

Merle Haggard

Tori Amos

Korn

Chevelle

Robert Earl Keen

Interesting Facts
All pretty good shows and some artist like Dave Matthews and Pat Green I’ve seen multiple times.  The one stand out concert story is this:A group of folks went to see Willie Nelson at Lone Star Park which is an outdoor horse track.  His stage was set back a bit and there were risers and bleachers that elevated the fans to better see the stage.  I am walking up, wearing loose cargo shorts and minding my own business, when I feel something moving up my leg and heading north central.  I look down and there is an older woman with her hand up my shorts grabbing my junk.  I jump up and swat at her as if she is some form of annoying insect and she looks up, smiles with what teeth she has left and says “Oh, excuse me” as if she had accidently bumped into me as were passing on a sidewalk.  She then turned and walked away as if nothing had happened.
2006-Present Pearl JamBen Harper

Foo Fighters

Tom Petty

Beck

G. Love & Special Sauce

Wilco

Son Volt

Drive-By Truckers

State Radio

Brett Dennen

Bruce Springsteen

B-52’s

Robert Plant & Allison Krause

Joe Purdy

Cross Canadian Ragweed

The Killers

The Tragically Hip

The Eli Young Band

Pete Yorn

Bob Schneider

James McMurtry

Kris Kristofferson

Merle Haggard

Damien RiceDonovan Frankenreiter

Arcade Fire

The Shins

Okkervil River

Mason Jennings

The Black Keys

Ray LaMontagne

Queens of the Stone Age

Bob Dylan

Willie Nelson

Van Morrison

The Toadies

The Killers

John Mayer

Steve Earle

Bjork

Iron & Wine

Walt Wilkins

The Dead Weather

The Raconteurs

Lucinda Williams

Erin Ivey

Amos Lee

Interesting Facts
The majority of these artists have been seen at the Austin City Limits Music Festival which is an annual pilgrimage for me.  Some artist I have seen both at ACL and their own headlining tour.

So, there you have it, a little stroll down concert memory lane.  Let me know about some of your favorite or at least memorable concert experiences and who is a must see when they roll through town.

Great music awaits!


You should partake in Austin City Limits Music Festival!

Austin City Limits Music Festival is a three day music festival that takes place in Austin, Texas at Zilker Park and unites 65,000 people (music lovers, drunks, stoners, hippies, college kids who don’t own shirts, middle aged men and their 20 something mid life crisis, middle aged women wearing their mid life crisis, etc…) and showcases 130 bands that range from established acts, up and coming artists, and cult bands.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am a huge fan of Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) and have attended each year since 2005.  In addition to being a fan of the event, Austin is my favorite city in Texas and ranks in the top five in the country.  Shout out to San Francisco and Chicago as well.

Each year is special and I recall fondly my time spent with the mass of people who endure a new environmental nemesis while responding to the siren sound of the multi staged musical extravaganza.  In five wonderful years, I have seen fire (burning trailers while Pete Yorn performed and burning speaker while Bjork performed) and I’ve seen rain (thanks James Taylor), I’ve seen dust (Foo Fighters were absolutely worth the 2 weeks of brown soot seeping from my nose) and I’ve seen what some thought was mud (Eddie Vedder became one with the crowd and slid in it) but smelled a bit more pungent and was actually some animal fecal matter. 

Over the course of my attendance, I have seen some pretty amazing shows.  Listed below are just some of the high lights: 

Ben Harper Tom Petty Foo Fighters Pearl Jam
Beck Robert Plant & Allison Krause The Raconteurs Drive-By Truckers
Son Volt Donavon Frankenreiter State Radio Brett Dennen
The Dead Weather Damien Rice Cross Canadian Ragweed Arcade Fire
Amos Lee Robert Earl Keen Iron & Wine Mason Jennings
Van Morrison John Mayer Ray LaMontagne Wilco
G Love & Special Sauce The Toadies The Shins B-52’s
Slightly Stoopid Eli Young Band The Black Keys Okkervil River
Queens of the Stone Age Bjork The Killers Steve Earle
Bob Dylan Lucinda Williams The Tragically Hip Willie Nelson

Over the last few years, it has become a tradition for me and my long term, heterosexual, significant other, life partner to attend.  We eagerly anticipate the sale of the early bird tickets and the unveiling of the lineup.  She too is a huge fan of the festival and city.  Which makes the trip all the better.  While our musical tastes are similar, with the variety of acts available at the festival, we have a ritual of mapping out the days and comparing our schedules and see how close they match.  There is usually some slight difference with the day shows but most of the evening shows are fairly in-line

Last year was particularly memorable because we took our oldest children (her daughter, my son). It was my son’s first concert, he is fifteen and we share a pretty strong bond over music.  Several of his favorite bands were playing and I surprised him by waking him up early Sunday morning and driving to Austin and living vicariously through him as he excitedly took in the whole seen.  His first concert consisted of Brett Dennen, The Toadies, State Radio (his favorite), Ben Harper, and Pearl Jam.  Not a bad first concert.  As if this were not enough, he got to meet State Radio, get a picture with the band and their brand new CD “Let It Go” signed. The look on his face was priceless as he posed for a picture and the band talked to him for a few minutes.   Add to this day, Home Slice Pizza, two concert shirts, and the use of port-a-pots on the last day of a three day festival.  It was indeed a day to remember.

All this, is to say, if you have not attended ACL, I strongly suggest you take the time and attend a day or two if the thought of three days is too grueling.  I am a fan of the three days and love every minute of the music and the experience.  However, I recognize it is not for everyone and as I have gotten older I have come to realize that the recovery time is just a bit longer with each passing year.  My days include less beer, more water, sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a chair.

So, if you have some time and disposable income, check out www.aclfestival.com.

Great music awaits!