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.”
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!!!