Friday, December 4, 2020

The Best Gift...Live Music Through the Holidays!

Hey Folks!


December is truly brings the gift of music to New Braunfels to wrap up the year, and this is something to be very thankful for. I am going to focus on Gruene hall this month with their fantastic socially distanced  layout. There are tables of 6 set-up inside and in the beer garden that allow for a great live music experience, and all of the safety guidelines followed! They really have done a fantastic job! We even have a separate sound system and LED wall out side for all ticketed shows. So let's round out the year safely and in true Texas style! This weekend has 2 free shows that should be great. Friday Dec 4th brings the country sounds of the Jason James Band to the stage, and, When Jason James walks onstage, he declares his love of classic country before he even sings a note. His choice of attire — embroidered suits or pearl-snap shirts and sharply creased slacks — offers a visual tribute to his musical heroes and the traditions they established. But it’s not his looks or style that provide the most convincing evidence of his kinship with other giants of the genre. It’s his sound: the pure, honest voice of a singer who rediscovered his soul when he reawakened his early love of well-crooned waltzes and hook-filled honky-tonkers. 


On Seems Like Tears Ago, released worldwide Oct. 4, 2019 via his own Melodyville Records (Smith Music), James follows his self-titled 2015 debut with ten original odes that recall the work of his influences without resorting to mimicry. “Jason James may have a long way to go to forge a similar legacy to the greats of the Golden Era of country music,” noted Trigger in SavingCountryMusic.com, “but he doesn’t have to travel far at all to illustrate the same talent those legends did in putting sound behind the emotions of heartache and joy that the best of country music captures.” But even though AllMusic.com compared him to Sturgill Simpson and praised his first album’s “classy, decidedly retro feel,” James is hardly trying to live in the past. He’s building on the legacy left by those who helped create the genre, while perhaps reconnecting listeners with the vibe country had before it went pop (and beyond). And boy, does he nail it, with a well-modulated baritone that occasionally dips toward bass territory or glides into tenor range — it’s a voice born to be accompanied by a crying pedal steel or wailing fiddle. “I’m evolving into a true-blue country singer, in tune with the spirit of my idols but forging my own personal path,” James explains. He calls it an evolution because he didn’t always sing this way. When he started to record his previous album, for New West Records, he had more of a high-lonesome sound. By the time it was released, two producers and three years later, his voice had become a deeper croon. But it was also finally released when the label had re-staffed and re-located and in many ways orphaned the release. When asked to sound less traditional on his next effort, the writing was on the wall that he and the label would part ways. His last recording for them was a cover of Ernest Tubb’s “Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello”, which aired in a Shiner Beer Super Bowl commercial. For that, they let him be him. He wasn’t going to lose the pedal steel and add more electric guitar for his follow-up. He’d already been there, done that with a rock band. In fact, it was rock that got him to Austin — and to country.


James and a childhood friend had formed a band that played frequently in Houston. When they moved to Austin to start seeking gigs there, they made what James calls “the fatal decision” to room together. Meanwhile, he’d begun rebuilding his relationship with his father, who’d split from his mother years before. That rekindled his childhood obsession with Hank Williams. James wanted the band to do some Hank covers; it did not go over well. After a fight one night, James headed to an open mic try some Williams songs. “Here I am in long hair, probably resembling Gram Parsons more than anything, just playing Hank Williams stuff,” he recalls. “And they were leaving money in the tip jar, and I thought, ‘That’s more money than I make with the whole band.’ So I became really obsessed, possessed with writing [country songs]. It was an easy outlet for me — something fresh, and something I’d been searching for my whole life. “Country is just so sincere,” James continues. “You can’t lie to yourself and expect people to believe it. You’ve got to be honest. That’s what I always loved about country music. It wasn’t this facade of ‘We’re too cool for school.’”


The Seems Like Tears Ago sessions were the exact opposite experience of those for his previous album. Reconvening with his first producer, John Evans (Hayes Carll, Corb Lund), James tracked it in just three days at Signal Hill Recordings in Dripping Springs, outside of Austin, with Patrick Herzfeld engineering. Evans rounded up top talents for the sessions: Geoff Queen on electric and steel guitars; Reckless Kelly’s Cody Braun on fiddle; Rick Richards on drums; T Jarrod Bonta on piano; and Chris C Cook on rubboard (and no, neither uses a period). “It was fun to make this record,” James says. “It’s crazy seeing these guys come in and completely get it. I mean some of these songs were two takes. It was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s how you make a record.’” In fact, he says, “I went through a little bit of a postpartum because I was like, ‘That’s it?’ It was such an easy birth.” The writing came easily, too, particularly after James moved “back to the vortex” — of Texas City, on the Gulf Coast near Houston. Turns out there are fewer distractions in a town with a less active music scene. “They roll the carpets up here pretty early,” James says.


Any country songwriter worth his salt had better be able to navigate through heartbreak, and James spills enough lyrical tears in his songs. In addition to the title tune, he pours lovelorn pain into “I Miss You After All,” “Achin’ Takin’ Place,” “Cry on the Bayou,” “Foolish Heart” and “Ole Used To Be,” most of which are ballads. But “Cry on the Bayou” is a ZydeCajun waltz, and the happier “We’re Gonna Honky Tonk Tonight” is made for two-stepping. “I like to dance in between the light and the dark,” James notes. “I’d be a fool to just be dark and depressing all the time, pretending I’m some tortured artist. I’m just interested in life right now.” Oh, he battles his boogeymen, but tries to do it with humor. “I shine a light under the bed,” he says. “It’s there. It exists. But the survivor in me has to make a joke out of it.”


Another ballad, “Simply Divine,” is an actual love song (yes, happy songs are harder to write, but he’s got ’em). Then there’s “Move a Little Closer,” an ultimatum song (and the album’s first single) he describes as edgier than the others. A chicken-pickin’ honky-tonker, it traces a straight line from Texas City, TX., to Bakersfield, CA just like Buck Owens did. “I wasn’t reinventing the wheel on that song by any means, but I love that style with the train beat,” James says. 


Unlike his last album, which included some reconfigured earlier work (along with a song he and Jim Lauderdale co-wrote), the Seems Like Tears Ago tracks were all country from the get-go. He’d accumulated so many, he just had to decide which to use. But he didn’t sweat that part much. “It’s kind of about the songs helping one another,” he says; he just chooses whatever fits together, as long as it feels organic. “I felt like these would be cool and I wanted to hear ‘em with a band,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I guess it was for my own amusement.” Not hardly. Ever since he was a kid peddling his comic strips door-to-door, he’s been driven to tell stories. Back then, writing was an escape. Now, it’s his lifeblood. He’s even glad he went through the label mill. When he contemplated giving up, his family helped him realize the goal was worth the pain. “It makes me want what I love more, and it makes me work harder to obtain it,” he observes. For a guy who’s posting album updates using the hashtag #makecountrysadagain, James says, “I’m just happy, and I’m happy with the album. It’s the record I wanted to make all along.”


Saturday December 5th will be the always entertaining Dallas Moore Trio. Both shows will be free...and thats a great way to start of the holiday season.

Next up is Casey Donahew Friday Dec 11th, If you build it, they will come. This might be the mantra of one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, ‘”Field Of Dreams,” but it’s also a pretty accurate description of the career of Texas music sensation Casey Donahew. The Burleson native, (with the help of his wife Melinda,) has painstakingly carved out an impressive niche for himself on the country music scene, attracting a solid base of loyal fans who flock to his legendary live shows. Over the last 17 years, Casey has racked up 18 #1 singles, and become a national headliner, playing coast-to-coast and selling out venues such as Billy Bob’s and The Grizzly Rose multiple times. Donahew has over 120 MILLION on-demand digital music streams, and over 330 MILLION streams on Pandora. Donahew has released eight independent albums to critical and commercial acclaim. Donahew’s “Standoff,” quickly topped the iTunes Country Chart at #1, and his follow-up 2016 album “All Night Party”, hit #3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, and #13 on the Top Album Sales Chart and Top Current Album Sales Charts. In 2017, a 15th anniversary record titled, “15 Years, The Wild Ride”, was released. The collection featured updated recordings of Donahew’s most popular songs from the first part of his career, as well as a recording of Matchbox 20’s 3AM, a song Casey played for years live before finally recording the classic hit. Released in July 2019, Casey’s latest album, “One Light Town” was produced again by Josh Leo, “One Light Town” and features 15 new songs. And though his dream may soon grow much, much larger than a double wide, and reach heights even he couldn’t have imagined, Casey is quite content with all he’s accomplished thus far in this little career that could.


Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee Secret Santa Christmas will take the stage at the historic dance hall on Sat / Sun Dec. 12th & 13th! Come see what secrets Robert and his Band have in store this holiday season at this family-friendly night of music! “The road goes on forever…” It’s not always easy to sum up a career — let alone a life’s ambition — so succinctly, but those five words from Robert Earl Keen’s calling-card anthem just about do it. You can complete the lyric with the next five words — the ones routinely shouted back at Keen by thousands of fans a night (“and the party never ends!”) — just to punctuate the point with a flourish, but it’s the part about the journey that gets right to the heart of what makes Keen tick. Now three-decades on from the release of his debut album — with nineteen records to his name, thousands of shows under his belt and still no end in sight to the road ahead — Keen remains as committed to and inspired by his muse as ever. And as for accruing recognition, well, he’s done alright on that front, too; from his humble beginnings on the Texas folk scene, he’s blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trail that’s earned him living-legend (not to mention pioneer) status in the Americana music world. And though the Houston native has never worn his Texas heart on his sleeve, he’s long been regarded as one of the Lone Star State’s finest (not to mention top-drawing) true singer-songwriters. He was still a relative unknown in 1989 when his third studio album, West Textures, was released — especially on the triple bill he shared at the time touring with legends Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark — but once fellow Texas icon Joe Ely recorded both “The Road Goes on Forever” and “Whenever Kindness Fails” on his 1993 album, Love and Danger, the secret was out on Keen’s credentials as a songwriter’s songwriter. By the end of the decade, Keen was a veritable household name in Texas, headlining a millennial New Year’s Eve celebration in Austin that drew an estimated 200,000 people. A dozen years later, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame along with the late, great Van Zandt and his longtime friend from Texas A & M, Lyle Lovett. Troubadour Robert Earl Keen has made many meaningful contributions in both his surrounding Texas communities and in the music industry nationwide. As more projects and opportunities come down the pike, and as Keen continues to tour extensively with his band and in acoustic tours with Lyle Lovett, one thing remains the same: Robert Earl Keen loves what he does. “It’s just like, man, I’m lucky to still be hanging out here and doing this,” he says. “I feel like everything came full circle in a wonderful way.”



William Clark Green December 18th & 19th I first met William Clark Green in about 2010, at that time just emerging among Texas’ musical cast of characters as a young hopeful. Most clear in my memory, even amid the party that a live music backstage scene can tend to be, Will was the happiest guy in the place – clearly exactly where he wanted to be, and loving every second. This was a contagious vibe from the outset, one that Will had no trouble channeling into music that rings in the heart of the listener, and a live show as inspiring as it is entertaining. Between two acclaimed and successful albums, 2012’s Rose Queen and 2015’s Ringling Road, and what now clocks in at a near-decade’s worth of dogged road work, William Clark Green has established himself as one of the most important voices of his genre – a voice that now pipes up again on his anticipated new album, Hebert Island. Hebert Island is a stellar new batch of songs from a guy who has gone to great lengths to keep his energy focused, through all distraction, on quality song-crafting. Will’s desired contribution to the world is songs that change lives for the better, and he realizes that he’s conduit as much as creator for that change. And in spite of – or, perhaps, because of – the demands and pressures of the life he’s chosen, and the position of leadership he’s earned through a decade of determination, William Clark Green is a guy who takes none of this for granted. This show WILL sell out so get those tickets EARLY…

Stoney Larue will Play Gruene Hall on December 26th. Always a favorite and always a sell out...I'll let this video speak for itself....


And finally to kick 2020 to the curb and welcome in a hopeful 2021...The Flatland Calvery will make New Years Eve something special! A spirited country-folk and Americana outfit based out of Lubbock, Texas, Flatland Cavalry draw inspiration from Lone Star State contemporaries like Turnpike Troubadours, Wade Bowen, and Randy Rogers, as well as folk-pop artists like Avett Brothers and John Mayer. The group's music often puts fiddle and acoustic guitar up front to give the tunes a strong, rootsy influence tied to the past, but the melodies have a modern feel and are powered by a rock & roll backbeat. The group made a strong full-length debut with 2016's Humble Folks, while a few years of touring helped them achieve the tighter and more unified sound of 2019's Homeland Insecurity.




Founded in 2012 by longtime friends Cleto Cordero (guitar, vocals) and Jason Albers (drums), Flatland Cavalry eventually blossomed into a five-piece with the additions of Jonathan Saenz (bass), Laura Jane (fiddle), and Reid Dillion (guitar). After raising recording costs with a crowd-funding campaign, the band released its debut EP, Come May, independently in 2015; it was quickly scooped up by California-based booking agency Atomic Music Group. The following year saw Flatland Cavalry issue their first full-length outing, Humble Folks. The album fared well, rising to 38 on the nationwide Top Country Albums chart, and 17 on the Americana/Folk Albums survey. The group toured heavily in support of Humble Folks, and changed their management to the Texas-based firm DBL Music Group. By the time Flatland Cavalry issued their second album, 2019's Homeland Insecurity, Laura Jane had left the band, with Wesley Hall taking over on fiddle. This should be a very special night indeed...And I will be back, fresh and ready for better days ahead, happy holidays and see ya again in 2021!!!


UNTIL THEN CHEERS!!!





Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Thankful for some AMAZING music yet to come in November

 Hey Folks...Live music for November is looking mighty fine!! Great artists that have been cooped up for months are ready to let loose...and that means some really high energy shows...so let's get to it!


My first pick is this Friday the 13th...Freiheit Country Store presents Mike and the Moonpies.

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios with help from the London Symphony Orchestra,Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold is Mike and the Moonpies' most adventurous record to date — an album that diversifies the band's honky-tonk roots by adding lush strings, cinematic arrangements, and collaborative songwriting to the mix. Inspired in part by the classic "countrypolitan" music of the 1960s and early '70s, these songs find frontman Mike Harmeier channeling the smooth delivery of crooners like Glen Campbell and Frank Sinatra, backed by a band of road warriors who all played a major role in the songs' construction. The result is a modern record steeped in everything that made the old stuff so compelling: sharp storytelling; honest, dynamic performances; and a willingness to step far outside the box. 

 

Once celebrated as Austin's premiere dancehall band — with popular residencies at local institutions like The Hole In the Wall, Broken Spoke and the White Horse to match — the Moonpies have spent years expanding their reach far beyond the Lone Star State. Geographically, they'll always be a Texas band. Musically, they've grown into much more than that, having traded the two-steppin' twang of their earlier years for a diverse sound that's both fresh and familiar. That sound has earned the group an international following, and it was during a European tour that the bulk of Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold was created — in the same world-renowned, London-area recording studio where the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd tracked Dark Side of the Moon, no less.

 

"Every time we've taken a step forward, it's a result of us refusing to become stagnant," says Harmeier, who's joined by his longtime band — pedal steel player Zach Moulton, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassistOmar Oyoque, keyboardist John Carbone, drummer Kyle Ponder, and producer/collaborator Adam Odor — on Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold's eight tracks. "We left our dancehall residencies years ago because we wanted to expand our touring beyond Texas. We updated our approach withMockingbird, then went back to a more traditional sound — in a 1970s, Johnny Paycheck-inspired way — with [2018’s break-out album] Steak Night at the Prairie Rose. 10 years into our career, we're still finding our voice… and we're realizing that maybe it's not one voice, but a collection of voices."

 

A collection of voices, indeed. The album's lead single, "You Look Good in Neon," is a nostalgic toe-tapper that evokes Ronnie Milsap's golden years, while "Fast as Lightning" is a raucous road song that's every bit as electrifying as its title. On the nostalgic "Cheap Silver," Harmeier takes stock of his band's progress as an eight-piece string section swoons in the background, while on "Danger" — a hard-charging epic that's fit for a Hollywood western, with a cameo by Shooter Jennings to boot — he sings directly to his son. Also making guest appearances on the album are modern-day outlaw Nikki Lane, who contributes harmony vocals to "Miss Fortune," and fellow Texas native Season Ammons, who shows up during the album's elegant cover of Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues."

 

Although largely recorded in London, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold still owes its inception to Texas, where the bandmates spent a week co-writing and arranging songs at renowned yellow DOG Studios in Wimberley, TX. "Everyone had a hand in the creation process, from start to finish," says Harmeier, who shares co-writing credits with multiple Moonpies throughout the album. "I usually come to the table with all the songs already written, but this album is entirely different. We worked on everything together. It was the most collaborative thing we've ever done. It was truly the work of a band."

 

It's been more than a decade since Mike and the Moonpies launched their career, initially paying their dues as a versatile cover band with a catalog of 300 songs. Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold nods to those woodshedding days — not only in the album's title track, where Harmeier raises a drink and sings, "Here's to another night of paying our dues," but also in the album's handful of cover songs. The boys resurrect the twangy spirit of their dancehall days with "If You Want A Fool Around," written by Billy Troy and Bennie Boling, and also put their own stamp on Aaron Sinclair's "Young in Love." Those covers serve as a tip-of-the-hat to the band's roots, while also demonstrating that the Moonpies' own songs pack just as much punch as the songs of their heroes. Harmeier and company haven't forgotten about their bar-band beginnings, but these days, they're more interested in creating their own gold. 

 

Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold rewrites the definition of Mike and the Moonpies' music, turning vintage influences into a contemporary that's dark, reflective, and refined. These guys always give a high energy show that leaves you feeling up lifted and re-newed...get your tickets early!



Next up takes us to Gruene Hall...where this Saturday Nov. 14th AND Sunday Nov. 15th gives us the always amazing Pat Green! Pat Green has left a mark on the lives of countless fans and generations of artists, helping to solidify a cultural movement bringing artists from the Lonestar state to the national stage along the way.

The problem is, he’s always been too modest to admit it.


With the release of Dancehall Dreamin’: A Tribute to Pat Green, the legendary troubadour had no choice in the matter. He’s being saluted by those who know him best – artists like Jack Ingram, Randy Rogers Band and more – with a surprise album meant to highlight some of the icon’s best-loved songs.

“I certainly didn’t see it coming,” Green says of the honor. “For my friends to do this for me, I just immediately felt like ‘Wow, what an incredible thing.’ I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I know I would do this for each and every one of them.”


Conceived as a heartfelt gift for Green’s 46th birthday, Dancehall Dreamin’ looks back over a career which has put the star at the vanguard of Texas country. Since 1995, Green has released 13 albums (12 recorded in studio and one live), and sold more than two million records, racking up a staggering 12 Number Ones on the Texas Radio chart (including his most-recent single, “Drinkin’ Days”). Green has also released ten Billboard radio hits and has placed songs like “Wave on Wave” in the Top Five of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart.


He’s been nominated for three Grammy awards and is still regarded as one of the most electrifying entertainers on tour, covering millions of miles and filling venues like the historic Gruene Hall and the massive Houston Astrodome with equal ease. Even mainstream stars like Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and Dave Matthews have taken Green out on the road, recognizing the mass appeal of his everyday anthems, dedicated to the simple joys and inevitable heartbreaks of the American experience.


In short, Green has been instrumental in putting Texas country on the map, paving the way for scores of other artists who share his passion for authenticity. And now it’s time for them to say ‘thank you.’ 


“I’m really terrible at taking compliments,” Green admits, flattered by his first tribute project. “The funny thing is, all I did was lean as far forward over my skis and take as many chances as I could until something happened, and the end result is this almost 25-year-long career. But if my work made it easier for other people to do theirs, well then, it was my pleasure.”


Three years in the making, Dancehall Dreamin’ features 10 of Green’s trailblazing songs performed by peers and protégés alike. Ingram and Rogers are joined by Texas standard-bearers William Clark Green, John Baumann, Josh Abbott Band, Aaron Watson, Walt Wilkins, Cory Morrow, Drew Holcomb and Kevin Fowler.


Each artist chose a track to make their own, and with the help of producers Justin Pollard, Dwight Baker and Thomas Dulin, showcased the universal power of Green’s words – and the range of sounds he’s helped inspire.


“It’s overwhelming to listen to somebody else singing a song that you wrote,” Green explains. “But I think everybody was very tasty in their choices, and to hear Jack Ingram sing ‘Wave on Wave’ and to hear Randy Rogers sing ‘Three Days,’ I ain’t gonna lie – I got a little misty.”


Indeed, Ingram’s take on Green’s biggest hit transforms an anthemic, arena-sized singalong into a deeply personal reflection, with mellow guitars and poignant piano accents backing Ingram’s effortless vocal delivery.


“Jack Ingram is one of my favorite people who ever walked on two feet,” Green says. “I was on Twitter the other day and somebody said ‘Jack Ingram could sing the phone book and make it sound cool,’ and that’s the truth. He just oozes it.”


Likewise, Rogers and his band put their own, easy-rolling stamp on Green’s Grammy-nominated “Three Days,” joined by the song’s co-creator and acclaimed Texas artist, Radney Foster.


“I’m a big fan of Randy, and I love his style,” Green explains. “You’ve got to understand how intense I am. From being onstage to recording, everything is up, up, up. That’s why people who are the opposite of me – really calm and cool and collected – those are the people I admire. Randy’s throttle is different from mine. I dig it.”


More favorites like “Wrapped” (Clark Green), “Crazy” (Watson), “Adios Days” (Morrow) and “Southbound 35” (Fowler) are faithfully reimagined, while rising talent Baumann managed to surprise even Green with his connection to the vivid emotions coursing through “Nightmare.” Written on the day Green’s grandfather passed away, Baumann brings it to life in unmatched clarity.


“My grandfather was very important in my life,” says Green, who uses the album’s second half to offer behind-the-scenes insight for each song. “Baumann’s rendition of ‘Nightmare’ absolutely blew my doors off. He had a more gentle touch on it than I did, and he somehow seemed even more sensitive to the subject matter.”


Meanwhile, Green’s long and winding journey is placed in context by Holcomb, who delivers the gentle, acoustic strains of the album’s title track, “Dancehall Dreamer.”


“I'm just an old dancehall dreamer,” Holcomb sings. “Living my life in the past / Holding on to dreams and them slow moving trains / I don't know how long I can last.”


“Dancehall Dreamer” is the second song Green ever wrote, and back then he clearly couldn’t imagine where his dreams would lead. But now with a lifetime of music in the rearview and untold miles ahead, anything seems possible.


“No doubt it’s far from over, and I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of – that it’s lasted this long,” he says. “To get to almost 25 years of truly productive music making ... it’s pretty cool, and I’ll take it.


“I don’t think I’m in the autumn of my life or career, but I do feel like I’m in the late summer,” he goes on. “I’m still inspired, I still love to do it and I’m not quitting any time soon, but I’m enjoying this time. Everything is right where I want it to be.”



And now, one of my favorites of all the artists I have worked with at Gruene Hall...Mr Sean McConnell. This guy is the real deal!! He has easily one of the most soulful voices I have ever heard..period! On Friday and Saturday November 20th & 21st. As instant gratification becomes the norm and certainty is worn as armor, Sean McConnell is choosing patience and ambiguity––especially when it comes to himself. “I think embracing the blurry lines is a sign of getting older and just having more life experience,” he says. “It can be healthy to break your own boxes.” 


Sean is home in Nashville, reflecting on the path he’s taken to recording Secondhand Smoke, his 13th album. A cohesive collection of modern folk music, Secondhand Smoke asks provocative questions about how we become who we are, what and whom we love, and the growth, pain, and freedom that come with accepting that some answers might elude us forever. 

“The older I get, the more I find that is what it’s all about––that there is no way to answer it all,” Sean says. “Being comfortable with mystery is a positive thing in all aspects of our lives. I definitely explore that in these songs.” 

A grassroots following now hundreds of thousands deep has turned to Sean for that kind of musical exploration for almost 20 years. Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Meat Loaf, Jake Owen, Brothers Osborne, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Miller and more have all recorded his songs––a dizzying list that spans not just styles, but generations. Success shows no sign of slowing: Sean earned his first no. 1 single on country charts in early 2018 with breakout artist Brett Young’s delivery of “Mercy,” which the two co-wrote. As a performer, Sean packs listening rooms and quiets unruly bar crowds. His sound––a warm tenor painting vivid stories over acoustic guitar often cushioned by keys or other strings––has prompted a diverse range of music scenes from the storied Boston folk community to Texas’s defiantly self-sovereign camp to warmly claim Sean as one of their own. 

“My payoff is just making the music,” Sean says, then smiles. “Everything else is bonus.” 

At 34 years-old, Sean has the catalog of artists twice his age. He released his first album at just 15, and until his acclaimed eponymous record in 2015, he did it all independently. “Bootstrapping your own career, you get to build at an organic pace that allows you to grow with your music,” he says. “It teaches you how most musicians do it. Overnight success is not the rule––it’s the exception. Most of us are doing it the other way.” 

Sean’s first lessons in bootstrapping came from watching his parents, two professional musicians in Massachusetts. “I remember being obsessed with the smallest things, like the gig bag my dad would put all his gear in––his cables, his capos, and his strings,” Sean says. “Everything about music appealed to me. From an early age, I was just taken with it.” He picked up guitar and began writing about 10––around the same time his family moved from Massachusetts to Georgia. He still remembers the first song he wrote. “It was called ‘Paper People,’” he says, with a laugh. “I wrote it when we moved. It was about dealing with those feelings of leaving family and meeting all these people I didn’t know.” Typical 10-year-old song fodder. 

Secondhand Smoke is a stunning portrait of that Argus-eyed little boy, all grown up and grappling with what that entails. Recorded and produced by Sean over two months in his home studio, the album is a bona fide musical rarity: a 13-song set given time to marinate in its artist’s often isolated care. Excluding strings and synths, Sean played the instruments on the record. He co-wrote three songs and wrote the rest alone. The result is an intimate look not just at a moment in Sean’s life, but at unhurried creativity’s potential. “It was an amazingly intoxicating experience,” Sean says of the process. “This time around, there was no clock. I could create when the inspiration hit––it could be two or three in the morning. It felt amazing. Total creative freedom. No middle man, no reason for me not to see every thought through to completion.” 

Brooding track “I Could Have been an Angel” sets the album’s tone: a reimagined 40 days shared by Jesus and the devil, wherein Satan wistfully points to his own promising beginning, shattered. The two set a pattern that is played out between humans next. The song is achingly sad, punctuated by mournful strings and carried by Sean’s sublime vocals. “That image in the first verse with Jesus and the devil flows into this bigger picture of how any of us could be anybody else, and how our circumstances dictate who we are and why,” Sean says. 

Sean has a way of taking familiar stories––often with biblical roots––and revealing what they say about all of us now. In Sean’s hands, tales that once felt specific, or even narrow and unapproachably religious, unfold into universal longing and exchanges that feel like they were pulled yesterday from our own backyards. Clean and snarling electric guitar kicks off “Rest My Head,” as Sean explores compromise to haunting effect. He starts with Judas then turns relentlessly inward. “These are stories that people are familiar with, and they steer the ship in a certain direction, then leave you off at this ocean of possibilities that we didn’t plan on the story taking us to,” Sean says. 

With its easy intelligence, lyrical cadence, and clear vocals dotted by “woo-oohs,” “Here We Go” demands comparisons to Paul Simon. “Wrong Side of Town” occupies the same rarified air. Over moody keys, Sean describes unfulfilled hopes born in a place defined by rust. “Greetings from Niagara Falls” explores how lonely following a dream can be. Standout “Shaky Bridges” pokes holes in the illusion of perfection and black-and-white choices. Gospel-tinged harmony singers back Sean’s honeyed delivery to create a goosebumps-inducing message that comforts even as it undermines what we think we know. 

Distorted and brimming with desperation, “Say Goodbye” picks up on subtle changes that could foreshadow a relationship’s end. Featuring elaborate imagery, “The Devil’s Ball” reaches for love after rejection. Sweeping “I Don’t Want to Know” pleads for more of the same, whether it’s real or not, while empathetic “Another Song about a Broken Heart” recalls an ill-fated affair. 

Imbued with grace that winsome strings help convey, “Everything That’s Good” is a stunning love song, written for Sean’s daughter. He calls it out as a favorite, along with the album’s title track. Cigarettes lit during rides in a smoky sedan bring a relationship between father and son to life. The song is personal, painful, beautiful, and forgiving. 

“Music is a nuanced and multilevel experience,” Sean says. “Fewer and fewer people are taking the time to sit down and really listen to a song. I hope people give this record that space, and then just go on that journey––whatever that journey is, because it’s going to be different for everybody. I think that’s what music does best.” And this guy sings it the best. Get your tickets now..this will sell out!

More to come as we ramp into Winter....Until next time....

Cheers!




Friday, October 9, 2020

October Picks for Live Music, 'In New Braunfels'...

 Hey folks !

October continues to ramp up the live music scene here in New Braunfels. Here are my picks for the next two weeks...


This Saturday October 10th my buddies The Georges will be performing at krauses in downtown New Braunfels! The Georges started in 2008, being the brainchild of frontman and lead singer Jason George. An avid follower of the rockabilly and roots country bands that frequent dance halls in Texas, Jason decided to start a band that melded those country influences with his own love of pop music and a heavy dash of The Beatles. 

Having been in several bands with his cousins for years that ranged from straight power pop to 60's garage rock, The Georges were born in 2008 after the family band switched styles to perform music that people from around the world could dance to. After a rough first couple of years, The Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels, TX started booking the band in rotation, and by 2010 their high energy mix of musical styles as well as their energetic performances led to a strong following in Central Texas. Things kicked into high gear when, in October of 2010, legendary dance hall Gruene Hall gave The Georges a residency that has lasted for nearly ten years of two to three Wednesdays a month.

Some lineup changes occurred in 2013, but The Georges are stronger and tighter than ever with co-founder and former Two Tons of Steel lead guitarist Dennis Fallon, former Two Tons drummer Chris Dodds, and Memphis man Aaron Covington on upright and electric bass. Jason George still holds down the front on lead vocals and guitar while he is backed by these amazing musicians. They are hard at work on their new record. Come on out and catch 'em to see what the fuss is all about!

In 2019, The Georges released their best album to date, simply titled Los Jorges! Produced by Pat Manske and The Georges, the album was recorded in six days at legendary studio The Zone in Dripping Springs, TX. The album features original music as well as some inspired cover choices that reflect the band's Texas heritage. These guys are an absolute blast, I highly recommend this high energy show to get ya 'movin' on your Saturday night!!




Coming Thursday October 15th, Shane Smith & the Saints will take the stage at Freiheit Country Store!

On the opening track of Shane Smith & the Saints’ new Hail Mary LP, “Heaven Knows,” singer and guitarist Shane Smith lays bare the last four years of his band’s journey. “We set our sails for deeper seas, heaven knows what we will find,” he sings.

Since releasing their last prior album, 2015’s Geronimo, the Austin, Texas, five-piece have plunged ever deeper into their adventure as a touring band. Hundreds of shows a year in more than 40 different states and on three different continents, including visits to Ireland and Malaysia, have brought them to the 10 stormy tracks that make up Hail Mary, which will be released June 28th.

Now three albums and nearly 10 years into their career, Shane Smith & the Saints are ready to go for broke. “It pretty much summarizes where we are as a band and where I am as an individual after pursuing this for practically the last decade,” Smith says of Hail Mary. “We’re a scrappy group of guys and this is more or less one of those moments where we’re really trying to put it all out there. We’re trying to give it our best shot on this record.”


Recorded at the same hometown studio as Geronimo, Matt Noveskey (of Blue October)’s Orb Recording Studio, Hail Mary was produced by Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, The Killers), marking the first time the band has worked with an outside producer. Inspired by Shane Smith & the Saints’ reputation as a high-energy live act with stunning four-part harmonies, Needham focused on capturing that un-doctored chemistry in the studio.

“A lot of these songs he had us in there with Shure SM58 microphones, live, in front of each one of the guys. He’d be actually using it for the final song rather than going in and overdubbing every single voice, which is a very rare thing,” says Smith of the sessions, which were largely tracked live in the studio. “That gave us a little more confidence hearing him build us up on that whole thing.”

That extra self-assuredness comes through in each of Smith’s roaring vocals and in the band’s stampeding melodies. From the crunching title track to the slow burn of “Oklahoma City” to the triumphant blaze of glory that is “Parliament Smoke,” Hail Mary crosses the gritty, blue-collar storytelling of Bruce Springsteen with the singsong hooks of Mumford & Sons. Most of all, it’s an album with a lot of heart.

“I don’t like just throwing stuff out there. If I’m going to be singing about something every night, I try to make it personal, make it something I can really relate to,” says Smith, the band’s lyricist and primary songwriter. “I like to sing with conviction, an honest conviction.” Having first starting playing music while he attended college in Austin, Smith follows in the footsteps of such Lone Star songsmiths as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Hayes Carll, and Ryan Bingham.


A native of Terrell, Texas, about an hour outside of Dallas, Smith first headed to Tyler Junior College in East Texas, where he was part of the tennis program. But he was soon lured to the “Live Music Capital of the World,” where he attended St. Edwards University and soon connected with another group of players, those who now make up the Saints. Today that group includes Bennett Brown on fiddle, Dustin Schaefer on lead guitar, Chase Satterwhite on bass, and Zach Stover on drums.

Much like the care that Smith puts into his lyrics, the Saints have been deliberate in crafting their recorded material. Their first album, Coast, was released in 2013, and featured appearances by fellow Texas underdogs Aaron Watson and Ryan Engleman. Two years later came Geronimo, which Smith sees carrying a similar sort of double meaning to Hail Mary. “The title track did talk a lot about the historical figure, but it was a leap of faith thing as well, where we were as a band truly trying to find our sound,” he says of the band’s sophomore effort.

Shane Smith & the Saints’ busy touring schedule meant that almost three years elapsed after Geronimo‘s release before they had the time to start recording Hail Mary. Even when the album had been completed, now more than a year ago, they were careful not to rush its release. As in the past, that will be done through Geronimo West Records, the label Smith runs with his wife.


“It’s been such a long time coming. And honestly, for me, it’s such a personal album in terms of the lyrical content, what the band has gone through and the band’s families have gone through over the years,” Smith says. “It means a lot to me, I know it means a lot to the guys, and I wanted to make sure we gave it good legs to stand on.”

Though Smith and his bandmates have been the ones logging in the miles in their “Cousin Eddie-looking” RV, their friends, family, and other loved ones are the ties that bind together the songs on Hail Mary. “The last couple years of doing this stuff I’ve started to realize how much of a sacrifice it is for those outside characters. A lot of my lyrics are paying tribute to those people and the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for them,” says Smith. “A lot of people paint [the music business] as a glamorous thing, but it’s truly difficult to pull off if you have any intention of being a family man.”

Lucky for them, Shane Smith & the Saints’ family has only grown through their tireless touring in recent years. Having long been grouped in with the sprawling, grassroots genres of Texas Country and Red Dirt music, Smith says that fanbase is uniquely suited to their own single-minded approach.

“It’s a massive network of people that are music lovers, but they’re not like your standard music lover. They’re so passionate that they not only support the music, they show it to every one of their friends and promote it for you,” Smith marvels. “It’s a support system of people who want to hear really good music, but a lot of the time get frustrated with what they hear on the radio.”

With Hail Mary, those fans will have their best representation yet of the barnstorming concerts that likely drew them to Shane Smith & the Saints in the first place. “After four years of touring and sweat equity, it’s significantly helped and changed our sound,” Smith says. “But the really cool thing is that, as our sound has truly started going away even further from what the norm is in Texas Country and Red Dirt, that same group of people is jumping on board now more than ever before.”

Heaven knows Shane Smith & the Saints have earned that loyalty. Tickets will sell out, get yours NOW!



And my favorite pick of all, Blue Water Highway will also take the stage at Freiheit on Friday October 16th. Blue Water Highway comes from the working class, coastal town background that has informed the work of so many of rock’s greatest writers and artists. They take their name from the roadway that links their hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas to Galveston, where the cops, the teachers, the baristas, and the chemical plant workers travel to work hard and to play hard, blowing off steam, dancing to their favorite bands. Blue Water Highway’s music is the soundtrack for their lives.

“Best Friend” is the first single from their album Heartbreak City, which came out on Blue Water Highway Records/Thirty Tigers on June 8th, 2018. With a hook that’s a mile wide, it chronicles the lives, loves and friendships that sustain us. Said lead singer Zack Kibodeaux, “We wrote this as a band, and we wanted to tap into the feeling of that special friendship where you know you can count on one another. Even though I wrote characters that are not the band members, our relationship definitely informed the writing of the lyrics.”

Blue Water Highway was started by two best friends from high school- Kibodeaux (lead vocals/guitar) and Greg Essington (vocals/guitar). Zack then turned to Catherine Clarke (vocals/keyboard), to complete the three-part harmonies that the band would soon to be known for, and they were joined by Kyle Smith (bass), and Jared Wilson (drums). They are absolutely some of the finest musicians you will ever hear! Do yourself a favor and go have a listen.




 I'll be back here soon to finish out the month of October...

Until then...


Cheers!

D.






Friday, September 4, 2020

September Music Shines Through These Unusual Times...



Hey Folks, As we heard into September, out of summer and into the fall there is gradually more great live music coming to New Braunfels. So let's get to it,  I have had requests to continue a listing of 'Live Music Streams' here on this blog, to accommodate that, I am including this link to a really wonderful guide to all types of music streams from local stuff to nation wide! https://www.songkick.com/live-stream-concerts . I think you will find it up to date and chock full of everything you could want in live streams. Now as for some REAL LIVE MUSIC, here are my picks for must see shows... here, IN NEW BRAUNFELS!

Freiheit Country Store continues to be the leader these days with regard to bringing some real quality music to town during these strange times, but others are slowly waking up, and I will try and find them all for you. Sam Riggs will kick things off this Saturday at Freiheit.
"The only thing standing between you and what you want in life is air and opportunity. Take a deep breath and go get it."
His father’s words made a huge impression on Sam Riggs, and the Texas singer/songwriter is a relentless adventurer, a guy who pursues music, flying and mountain climbing with equal amounts of passion. They’re all unpredictable activities that require some level of risk for an adrenaline-infused reward, the same payoff he gets from Love & Panic, an album that explores the highs and lows of the ultimate gamble: romantic relationships.
The project also lays bare the musical identity of Riggs, as he draws more extensively from the rock edge of his country-based foundation.
Love & Panic is kind of an unfiltered, in-your-face record that came from that mindset of ‘This is me, like it or not,’” Riggs says.
There is indeed much to like. The seven-track album employs searing guitar licks and crisp drum tracks while borrowing from the muscular stance of some of his strongest rock influences: Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, I See Starsand Metallica. That’s balanced against contemporary country song structure and instrumentation, a heavy take on the unwavering attitudes espoused by Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean and Hank Williams Jr.
Traditionalists might shudder at the mix, but Riggs is merely exploring and asserting his influences in the same way that Patsy Cline mixed the country and traditional pop she heard as a young woman, or the same way that Charlie Daniels blended country and rock.
“I grew up with George Jones and Three Doors Down at the same time,” Riggs says with a shrug. “So many people did.”
Those foundations ring throughout Love & Panic. Aided by producer Andy Sheridan (Ben Rector, Hunter Hayes), Riggs grounds the project in dark textures and power chords that would make any arena-rock band proud. But he casts romance with all the mystery, treachery and possibility that informed one of the Possum’s classic honky-tonk romps. It’s that mix of fire and fragility that makes Love & Panic such a forward-moving package.
“Love and panic, I think, are two of the emotions that we experience most often in life, but they're most often joined together,” he suggests. “Love stirs up all kinds of deep emotions in the heart, but when you find something that you fall desperately in love with, you have this panic situation to get your shit together so you don't lose it.”
Riggs fell in love with music, thanks to the inspiration of both parents in a divided family in Florida. His mother put Sam and his older brother, Mike, to sleep at nights by singing folk and country songs while playing guitar. His father took Sam to his first Garth Brooks concert, an event that fed the thrill-seeker in young Riggs but also demonstrated the connective possibilities inherent on a live stage.
“That is the place where I feel closest to my true purpose in life,” Riggs says. “Music is great, but it doesn't mean a whole lot if it never gets heard and it doesn't affect people. Concerts are a way I connect with people. A live show is a way for people to feel special, to have those moments of joy and excitement and happiness. It's a losing-yourself-in-the-heat-of-the-moment type thing.”
Riggs took up the guitar early, though he moved into drums by high school. That snap of strong percussion is a core tenet in Love & Panic – “You can't have a great record without great drums and bass, in my personal opinion,” Riggs insists – and much of that viewpoint was cultivated in his teens. He played the drum kit in his room at home, and he ended up in the drum line in school, an experience that challenged his go-it-alone spirit.
“I got kicked off drum line in high school,” he recalls. “High school marching band was this weird, messed-up Revenge of the Nerds-hierarchy-gone-South thing. I didn't do well with it.”
But he didn’t give up music. Instead, Riggs moved to Texas, a state where freewheeling musical styles and experimental genre mashups are routinely celebrated. He self-released his first two albums, then partnered with independent firms for his third and fourth releases, including Breathless, which went to No. 12 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts.
A number of his singles hit the upper levels of the Texas charts, including the ultra-country “Hold On And Let Go,” the thumping concert re-creation “High On A Country Song” and his vulnerable “Second Hand Smoke.” To top it off, Riggs picked up the Texas Regional Radio Award in 2016 for Top New Male Vocalist.
As he toured behind Breathless, Riggs also started exploring his daredevil edge again. A hike with his brother through the beautiful-but-challenging Zion Narrows in Utah’s Zion National Park rejuvenated his sense of adventure.
“I came back from that trip feeling more alive than I could remember, and more happy and healthy,” Riggs says. “It’s a medication of sorts, and I like it. So I started seeking it out more and starting climbing more.”
He tackled Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere (Riggs candidly admits he did not reach the top after developing a rare illness, High Altitude Cerebral Edema), and he plans to attack Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“There's a misery and a struggle that happens on the mountain that is cleansing,” he says. “You kind of purge yourself of a lot of weakness and negativity on the mountain. And that's just become a big thing for me.”
As a result, Riggs founded the Air and Opportunity Adventure Company, a firm that oversees hikes, climbs, private flights and helicopter rides, all designed to challenge people’slimits and help them develop the tools and confidence to battle depression, anxiety and other issues.
Riggs’ extreme exploits also gave him the courage to dive into the relationship issues at the heart of Love & Panic. The scenic journey of “Until My Heart Stops Beating” captures the rush of a new physical bond, the boiling “Bulletproof Heart” highlights the power of commitment and perseverance, and the propulsive “Obsessed” embraces the danger of desire.
“I've always been a really reckless person,” he admits. “If there's a sign that says ‘Don't,’ I'm damn sure going to do it. And that's kind of childish at times but also at times, it's just living life.
“I’ve honed that a bit. I've learned how to calculate risk a lot more effectively, and I think that that comes with being loved by people and also having people in your life that you love very much. Some of the things that I did, I was seeking feeling. I was seeking some sort of dynamic emotion in my life.”
“Story Of You And Me” uses Riggs’ wide-ranging musical influences to explore the nostalgic elements in a long-lostrelationship. Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind,” Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” and even Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road establish both the bygone state of the romance and some of the tent poles of Riggs’artistic persona.
“Music is probably the strongest form of memory because it's one of the only things that's been known to bring people with Alzheimer's back from the point of no return, even for a moment,” Riggs observes. “Everybody in the world has that one song – probably more than one song – that takes them back to a time in their life that they'll never forget. That's kind of where the idea for the song came from.”
People never forget their foundational relationships or their most influential outings. That’s part of the reason that Love & Panic exists. It explores an unforgettable part of life, inspired by Riggs’ unquenchable willingness to challenge himself. And it furthers his undeniable desire to connect with the world through music.
“I don't play music to be famous,” he says. “I play music and I write songs because it comes naturally to me and it feels good to express emotion that way. But also because there's a torch to be carried.”
Sam has really started stirring the Texas music scene up, and I think this show will be packed.



Next up, on Friday Sept. 11th is the ever entertaining Aaron Watson. The end of 2019 saw the release of his latest album...Red Bandana “The symbolism of the bandana for me is like the American working-class heart: hustle, grit ... hard work. Anywhere you find those things, you find that red bandana. It's old-school but it's also timeless.”
Old-school but timeless: That’s how Aaron Watson characterizes his bold new full-length collection, Red Bandana, but he could also be describing himself. As a singer-songwriter, husband, father of three, and self-made musical success, the 41-year-old Texan has forged a slow and steady path to country stardom by both honoring tradition and embracing the unknown. He’s more comfortable than most walking the line.
Red Bandana not only reacquaints fans with an artist serious about song craft and sonic diversity; it also marks a career milestone for Watson. Twenty years after he released his debut studio album, 1999’s Singer/Songwriter, he’s found an imaginative way to commemorate his two-decade journey. The new record comprises 20 songs he wrote by himself, with tracks and musical moods that hit on every era of his life.
At Red Bandana’s heart is a couple of tunes that give the album its title. First,“Riding With Red” elevates the lessons and the example offered by older, wiser cowboys. The real-life inspiration for the touching ballad? Texas cowboy poet Red Steagall, whom Watson considers a friend and mentor.
“My boys love Red. They just gravitate towards him; he's a legend,”Watson says.“And in the song, you think that Red's passed away. But I wanted to write from that perspective so that people who have cowboys like that in their life will, after hearing that song, go hug them and know, ‘I don't need to take that person for granted.’”
Imagining the loss of such a large presence, “Riding With Red” seamlessly transitions into Red Bandana’s title track, an elegiac cowboy poetry benediction sure to leave a lump in anyone’s throat.
You’ll find equal parts sadness, joy, nostalgia, hope, familial love, and strength throughout the new album. That was the design of Watson, who wrote the bulk of the songs during reflective mornings on the ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas on his beat-up first guitar bought from a pawn shop.
Some of the sounds that set a tone or help tie Red Bandana’s tracks together were captured right there among the comforts of home and family. Consider the first thing you hear on the album —ambient chimes that lead into the mission-statement opener, “Ghost of Guy Clark.” Watson actually recorded the sounds of wind chimes handed down to him by both his grandmothers.
“I recorded their wind chimes in the closet at my house, and that's how the record starts off,” Watson says.“Because there's just an eeriness, a lonesome feeling when you hear those wind chimes.”
The eeriness is well-placed: “Ghost of Guy Clark” is a lyrical dream sequence in which Watson encounters and receives songwriting advice from a late legend. The song’s message is important enough that he follows it with a cathartic instrumental track, just to let the words sink in a little longer. And once the horn-tinged “El Comienzo Del Viaje” settles you, here come the driving beat and hard-lived lyrical message of “Dark Horse.”
It’s an ideal way to begin a new chapter following a period of greater awareness and chart success. The Underdog, Vaquero, and the hit country single “Outta Style” put a lot of new eyes and ears on Watson, from Texas and beyond. Yet the grassroots success didn’t translate to any traditional label deals, so he did what he does best: He worked harder and doubled down on his efforts.
“I wanted to show the industry that I'm like a one-man wrecking machine,” Watson says.“That I own my label, I own my publishing, I wrote all my songs. That country music is my only option. I have no Plan B; this is all I've got. So, for me, everything is on the line.”
Don’t mistake his urgency with a willingness to cut musical corners. Watson is flexing his songwriting muscles more than ever before, delivering thoughtful lyrical concepts through the filters and the styles that have captured his musical imagination over the years. “More than being known as an artist, I want to be known as a songwriter. I think that's the greatest title. All my heroes are songwriters.”
Those heroes are saluted substantially in many tracks on Red Bandana: “Country Radio” touches on a romance and nostalgia for simpler, sway-worthy childhood musical memories. “Legends” evokes the full-throated glory of Waylon Jennings with its irresistible hook of a line, “Just like my heroes/I’m as free as the wind.” “Am I Amarillo” would fit right into an’80s George Strait record. And you get visions of Johnny Cash when you hear the train sounds (recorded by Watson at his ranch) and the darker lyrical themes on “Trying Like the Devil.”
Of that last one, Watson says it might surprise some of his fans to know that he often faces and wrestles with personal demons. He’s felt misunderstood at times whenever he’s been portrayed as an infallible family man, nothing more.
“I can't handle the pressure of people thinking that I have it all together,” Watson says. “I want to be that guy that I'm like, ‘I'm screwed up, but I keep trying.’ And the first time I sang [‘Trying Like the Devil’]to my wife she was like, ‘Wow. Guess you're just going to air the dirty laundry.’ And I said, ‘It's what you got to do, girl.’”
Emotional truth defines any Aaron Watson record, but its especially urgent and raw in unexpected spots on Red Bandana. The record ends with a simple tribute to those who lost their lives in the 2017 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in Las Vegas(“58”), but shades of the same grief and empathy for humanity help to fuel the up-tempo, Tom-Petty-style anthem, “Old Friend.” Petty passed away a day after the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In his grief following the two events, Watson came to a realization:“Music is so healing and music is that one thing we share in common. And that's where I wrote ‘Old Friend.’I wanted it to have a Tom Petty vibe about it, but that song is about being kind to your neighbor and treating others the way that you want to be treated. You know, the golden rule.”
Watson fit so many ideas and sounds into one record seamlessly with the help of a new-to-him producer, rising Nashville starJordan Lehning. An expert arranger who has assisted the likes of Rodney Crowell and Kacey Musgraves, Lehning was able to help Watson balance the stunning, emotional songswith less serious moments that could serve as a kind of country-radio gateway. After all the heartstrings pulled in “Blood Brothers” and “Home Sweet Home,” there are sexy toe-tappers like first single “Kiss That Girl Goodbye,”“Burn Em Down,” and “Shake a Heartache” to lighten the mood. For advice and approval on the commercial appeal of a song, Watson turns to his precocious youngest child. “When my daughter likes a song and she forces me to put it on an album, what am I supposed to do? My hands are tied. I have no control over my wife or my daughter. I do as I'm told.”
Armed with 20 new songs, Watson feels more than ready to get out on the road and incorporate Red Bandana into his historically high-energy live concert dynamic. Even before the official tour begins, Watson says he’s already been having too much fun on stage.
“Our show right now is not even a fraction of what it's going to be, but I swear, we start, we're having fun, I look down at the clock and we've been playing for 75 minutes,” he says. “There's been shows where I'm exhausted, but the second I hit that stage and I see people are excited for me, oh man. That's the greatest high. Those fans are the reason I’m here and keep showing up night after night.”


Friday Sept 18th Cody Canada takes the stage at Freiheit Country Store. Now a local, Cody has been playing around this area for quite some time. I think this description sums him up best...“In the finite world of the beautiful human beings and first rate musicians, none is finer than Cody Canada.” -Robert Earl Keen Fourteen songs that blur the lines between hard-edged country, rock & roll, and all the gritty sounds in between. Cody Canada and the Departed’s new album 3, out June 29th, finds the band in a new head space, more confident than ever of who they are. The band's first record as a lean power trio, 3 shines a light on the core ingredients of The Departed’s sound. There's plenty of amplified crunch, Red Dirt twang, roadhouse-worthy guitar riffs, story-based songwriting, and the familiar rasp of Canada's voice — an instrument that's been sharpened by years of raw, redemptive shows. Working with producer Mike McClure, the band tracked their new material during breaks in an otherwise busy touring schedule, approaching the recording sessions the same way they'd approach a live show. "The idea was to get into the studio and simplify things, remaining as true to a three-piece as possible," says Canada, who pulls triple-duty as the lineup's frontman, songwriter, and lead guitarist. "If you really want to leave your mark, it's all about the songs, not how many people you can cram into the studio." It's been a quarter century since Canada kicked off his career. A road warrior and prolific songwriter, Canada was the frontman of Cross Canadian Ragweed, a wildly influential band that dominated the Red Dirt scene for more than a decade, and made music that reached far beyond the genre's borders, selling millions of albums and playing for huge audiences across the U.S. Canada formed the Departed in 2011. With 3, he nods to his former band's glory days, brewing up a sound that's inspired by outlaw country icons of the 1970s and rock bands of the 1990s. "This record sounds like Cross Canadian Ragweed between 2002 and 2006, and it goes back to the way I originally started writing songs," he says. "It's observational writing. I was inspired by the bad news on the television. The good news, too. I was inspired by falling in love all over again with my wife, by watching my kids go through life, by politics, and by the modern world." He also found inspiration in his bandmates: bass player Jeremy Plato (who's played alongside Canada for decades, beginning with Cross Canadian Ragweed's first album) and drummer Eric Hansen (a longtime friend currently celebrating his third year with the band). Also joining the Departed in the studio was McClure, an acclaimed songwriter and producer who helped oversee multiple albums for Cross Canadian Ragweed. 3 marks McClure's first collaboration with Canada since the Departed's formation. Songs like "Lipstick" — a heartland rocker, shot through with harmonica and thick harmonies — was partially written in the recording studio, with all musicians contributing to Canada's original idea. Others were written on the road, their compositions cobbled together from iPhone recordings and soundcheck jams. Also tracks like "Sam Hain" deliver a pissed-off, political punch, 3 represent the Departed's happiest album to date — a result of Cody Canada's own attitude toward his life and his band. "I'm a fan of love," he says unapologetically. "I love my wife, who I've been with for 20 years. I love my kids. I love my friends. These songs come out of the good times and the bad times, but the recurring theme of this thing is me finding my happy area. I've finally found comfort in who I am. My band's where it needs to be. I don't need to fight it." This show will sell out, so get your tickets early!



Wrapping up things this month at Freiheit will be on Saturday Sept 19th with Jon Wolfe. Country artist Jon Wolfe is part rebel and part traditionalist -- his songs are upbeat and tuneful enough to get crowds dancing, but his allegiance to classic honky tonk styles makes him something of an outsider as the increasingly polished and slickly produced sounds of bro-country make their stand on country radio. Nevertheless, due to hard work, Wolfe made some inroads over the course of the decade, with 2015's Natural Man and 2017's Any Night in Texas appearing in the Top Ten of Billboard's Heatseekers chart. 
Born and raised in Miami, Oklahoma, a small town 90 miles from Tulsa, Wolfe's first experience with singing came in church, and while he grew up with a taste for classic pop (most notably Frank Sinatra), he was introduced to country music by his stepfather, who played bass with the house band at a local country venue. (One of the other members of the band was Joe Don Rooney, who went on to play with the group Rascal Flatts.) The tremendous success of fellow Oklahoman Garth Brooks inspired Wolfe, and as he began digging deeper into classic country, he first considered making music his career. For a spell, he lived in Chicago, working as a commodities trader -- "I was the only guy on the trading floor in cowboy boots," Wolfe once told a reporter -- but in time he made his way to Texas, regularly playing in Houston before settling in the Austin/San Marcos area. As he became a regular on the Lone Star honky tonk circuit, he was soon sharing stages with the likes of Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Merle Haggard, and Asleep at the Wheel.
In 2005, Wolfe self-released his debut album, Almost Gone, and a 2006 show in Nashville led to a deal with the independent Midas label; he cut some material for the label, including a version of the song "She Won't Be Lonely Long," but Midas went out of business before releasing anything by Wolfe, while Clay Walker recorded "She Won't Be Lonely Long" and saw it become a hit. Despite his frustrations, Wolfe kept performing and writing songs, and he released the album It All Happened in a Honky Tonk, another self-distributed title, in 2010. The album became a regional success in the Southwest, and in 2013 it was reissued by Warner Bros.
Two years later, Wolfe returned with his third full-length release, Natural Man, another set that fused a traditional sound with contemporary energy and swagger. In 2017, Wolfe's single "Boots on a Dance Floor" rose to number one on the Texas Regional Radio Report. The tune also appeared on his fourth album, Any Night in Texas, which he released that year through his own Fool Hearted Productions label. Wolfe returned with the Feels Like Country Music EP in 2019. 


Other venues such as Billy's Ice and Pour Haus have begun free shows, and I am hearing rumblings that Gruene Hall and Krause's Cafe are set to open soon. I will update here as more information becomes available...Until next time...keep the music in your soul !!!

D.