Fall is in the air and that means Gruene Music & Winefest, which this year will have a new twist...The Sunday Songwriter Shindig....But before I get to that, let's talk about a couple of shows I am so excited are coming to New Braunfels! First up, Mike & The Moonpies at Gruene Hall Saturday Oct 2nd.
Performing songs from the incredibly diverse sounding Cheap Silver and Solid Gold Country, these guys have amassed a following unlike any I have witnessed in recent years. 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 Harmeierchanneling 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 Bandand 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 onevoice, 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," Harmeiertakes 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 Harmeierraises 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 BennieBoling, 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. This show will sell out, so get you tickets TODAY!
Wednesday October 6th brings the ALWAYS amazing Raul Malo to The Brauntex Theater in downtown New Braunfels. First making his mark in the country music world and then slipping into the Latin and jazz arenas via roots rock, Raul Malo has proven to be an ever-expanding musical talent. Malo first rose to fame with the eclectic country group the Mavericks, scoring hits with the albums What a Crying Shame (1994) and Music for All Occasions (1995). The Mavericks' work in the '90s found them dabbling in Latin music and vintage pop, and Malo put the focus on those sides of his musical personality for his solo debut, 2001's Today. Malo showed he was a sure hand with old standards on two efforts steeped in pop and vocal jazz, 2006's You're Only Lonely and 2007's After Hours, and folded some country flavors back into his mix on 2009's Lucky One.
Raul Malo, born in Miami of Cuban parents on August 7, 1965, started playing bass guitar in high school and soon found his way into several small bands. In 1987, he made his first recording with the Basics, and one song, "Paperheart," appeared on the promotional collection Unsigned. While the album wasn't a success, the experience whet Malo's appetite for more. Later in the '80s, Malo and a high school friend, bassist Robert Reynolds, formed their own country band based on their mutual love for Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. Paul Deakin, with experience in several progressive rock bands, became the drummer, and the group chose the name the Mavericks.
Under Malo's leadership, the Mavericks independently released their self-titled debut album in the fall of 1990. The album managed to grab the attention of many big labels, and MCA Records signed the Mavericks in May of 1991, after they played their first gig in Nashville. David Lee Holt, who previously played with Carlene Carter, Joe Ely, and Rosie Flores, became the lead guitarist for the band, with Malo concentrating on the songwriting and vocals. MCA released From Hell to Paradise in 1992; it was critically acclaimed, but not a financial success. However, What a Crying Shame brought forth financial fortunes when it was released in 1994, with its title track reaching the Top 40; the album went platinum by spring 1995. Holt was replaced with Nick Kane as lead guitarist for the next release, 1995's Music for All Occasions. Many of the band's singles reached the Top 40, with "O What a Thrill" making number 18 in the summer of 1994 and "There Goes My Heart" reaching number 20. The Mavericks eventually won a Grammy, and the Country Music Association twice bestowed them with Top Vocal Group honors.
As Malo began to integrate Latin rhythms into his songwriting during the latter part of the '90s, the Mavericks' recordings picked up a stronger Havana influence, leaving the country rhythms in the shadows. The band became an eclectic mix of rockabilly, honky tonk, Tejano, native Cuban, and country, with their multi-faceted sound reaching its apex on 1998's Trampoline. The Mavericks quit playing gigs together in early 2001, but Malo continued to work with his bandmates.
During the latter years of the '90s, Malo began doing parallel solo work, sometimes accompanied by the Dennis Burnside Orchestra. In October 1999 he completed his first solo tour in the U.K., performing many of his new songs. By 2000 he had become a producer, supervising sessions with Ethan Allen and K.T. Oslin, and joined roots music supergroup Los Super Seven as a lead vocalist and songwriter, in addition to working with Latin singer Rick Trevino in his studios. Malo's first solo recording, "Bailare (El Merecumbe)," was self-penned in Spanish, and he also did a solo recording of "Downbound Train" by Bruce Springsteen. When the Country Music Association needed a voice that could handle singing all the different hits of those being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, they called on Malo because of his ability to handle a diverse range of styles.
Malo's first album as a solo artist, 2001's Today, reflected his Cuban heritage, but didn't entirely leave out the deep-twang guitar of country music as he mingled the pop sounds of the '60s with salsa, jazz, and country. Released by OmTown/Higher Octave Music in October 2001, the album also included Shelby Lynne on guest vocals and an 11-piece backup band that mimicked the big-band sounds Malo loved. Malo also covered "Black Is Black," a Latin rock hit, on Los Straitjackets' 2001 album Sing Along with Los Straitjackets, and sang "Thanks a Lot" on Country Goes Raffi, a 2001 compilation of country artists covering songs by the noted children's entertainer. The Nashville Acoustic Sessions, a pared-down collaboration with Music City session players Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, and Dave Pomeroy, was released in 2004. Malo returned to the studio for You're Only Lonely and After Hours in 2006 and 2007, respectively; the former was dominated by his interpretations of old standards, while the latter put a sophisticated spin on country classics. The country-accented Lucky One followed in 2009.
In late 2009, Malo signed to Concord's Fantasy imprint and began recording a slew of new tracks at his home studio in Nashville. He took them to Sam "Lightning" Seifert at Bismeaux Studio in Austin and enlisted the help of the legendary Vox Continental organist Augie Meyers; guitarist Shawn Sahm (son of the late Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet); accordionist Michael Guerra (known for his work with the Tex Mex Experience), and Austin's lauded vocal group the Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster, and Jamie Lin Wilson), who provided background vocals. The end result was Malo's debut for the label, Sinners & Saints, released in October of 2010. In 2012, he delivered Around the World, a set of classic love songs backed by Britain's 30-piece Northern Sinfonia Orchestra, including versions of "Let It Be Me," "Make the World Go Away," "Dance the Night Away," and "Around the World." After periodic reunions for live work, in 2013 the Mavericks returned with a fresh studio album, In Time, and Malo divided his time between solo projects and recording and touring with the group. In 2018, as the Mavericks released the album Hey! Merry Christmas!, Malo dropped a seasonal single; "I Don't Need Anything for Christmas" was a collaboration with David Colon of the group Small Town Fair. Raul Malo brings an energy and uniqueness to every performance I have worked with him, this show will be truly special. Tickets are still available at brauntex.org.
Now, to take us through the middle of October, Gruene Music & Wine Fest will have n incredible lineup on Sunday October 10th. The Sunday Songwriters Shindig will embrace some of the finest songwriters on the planet !! Songwriters such as Vincent Neil Emerson. Vincent is a torchbearer of the Texas songwriter tradition. He channels the straightforward truth-telling and resonance of his songwriting heroes in Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle into something fresh and distinctly his own. Where his 2019 debut Fried Chicken and Evil Women proved that he is one of the most reverent students of country and Western musical traditions, his follow-up LP, the masterful Rodney Crowell-produced Vincent Neil Emerson, which is out June 25 via La Honda Records/Thirty Tigers, is a brave step forward that solidifies his place as one of music's most compelling and emotionally clarifying storytellers. His songs are cathartic and bluntly honest, never mincing words or dancing around uncomfortable truths.
Raised in Van Zandt County in East Texas by a single mother of Choctaw-Apache descent, Emerson's world changed when he first heard Townes Van Zandt's music. "To hear a guy from Fort Worth say those kinds of things and make those songs was pretty eye opening," the now 29-year-old songwriter says. "I had never heard songwriting like that before." He's spent the better part of the past decade honing his songwriting and performance chops playing bars, honky-tonks, and BBQ joints across the Fort Worth area. His first album Fried Chicken and Evil Women, which he wrote in his mid-twenties and came out on La Honda Records—the label he co-founded that now includes a roster of Colter Wall, Local Honeys, and Riddy Arman—is a snapshot of his growth as a songwriter and stage-tested charm with songs like "Willie Nelson's Wall" and "25 and Wastin' Time" expertly combining humor and tragedy.
These marathon gigs and the undeniable songs on his debut introduced Emerson to Canadian songwriter Colter Wall, who quickly became a close friend and took him on tour. With Wall's audience, and sold out theater shows on runs with Charley Crockett, Turnpike Troubadours, and many others, Emerson found his niche. "It took a guy from Canada bringing me on tour for people to actually start paying attention," says Emerson. "Before that it was a grind like anything else, just trying to make a living." Crockett is another staunch early supporter of Emerson's and covered Fried Chicken highlight "7 Come 11" on his 2019 LP The Valley.
Like every working musician, 2020 pulled the rug out from under Emerson. With the pandemic shuttering live music venues and cancelling promising tours, he processed the upheaval the only way he knew how: by writing his ass off. "At the beginning of quarantine, I was really frustrated with everything else going on," says Emerson. "Everything was falling apart around me, and I didn't know what to do." He took to his writing shed and came up with the single "High On Gettin’ By," a gorgeous song full of self reflection and resilience: the most autobiographical thing he's ever written. He sings, "I got my first child on the way / And the bills are all unpaid / I should have finished high school / Got a job and learned to save / But the words keep on fallin’ / And the highway keeps on callin’ / To my pen."
That song proved to be a turning point for Emerson. "After I wrote it, the floodgates opened up for me in my songwriting and emotionally," he says. " Songwriting has always been a therapeutic thing for me. So I just started writing more from the heart." Allowing himself to be open and revealing some of the most intimate details of his life was a scary, yet freeing, prospect for Emerson, especially on the raw and devastating "Learnin' To Drown," which addresses his father's suicide. "I've been trying to write a song about my father's passing for a while," he says. "I was just having a hard time processing that emotionally. Before I was always trying to find a way to kind of dance around it and not really give too much away. But there's no beating around the bush here." He sings, "Well there ain’t much that lasts too long / All the rights that I took wrong / All the lefts that still ain’t gone / They will be here / Here in my sad bastard song."
Elsewhere, on "The Ballad of the Choctaw-Apache," he sings of how in the 1960s, the Choctaw-Apache tribe of Sabine Parish in Louisiana was forced to sell "180,000 acres of ancestral land" to the government, uprooting them from their home. Emerson pulls no punches in his narration of the historic injustice, channeling the essence of traditional folk songs. He sings, "Well you take away their home / And you claim what you don’t own/ Well I guess it’s just the American way." Emerson explains the track: "This happened not too long ago and it affected my grandparents and my family directly. I've always strayed away from trying to write political songs, but this is more about human rights. For those people who were stripped of their land like that, it's still tough."
His intense and productive writing sessions produced ten finished songs over the course of just a couple of months, a body of work so personal that he knew he would have to name the final product Vincent Neil Emerson. These demos caught the attention of Texas country and folk icon Rodney Crowell, who signed on to produce and record the LP. "Rodney is a hero of mine," says Emerson. "He wanted to make something that serves the songs, as opposed to making a record trying to put focus on production or the playing. It was an honor to work with him." Crowell had similar high praise for Emerson: "if he grows on the public the way he’s grown on me, it’s possible young Vincent will plant the flag of his [songwriting] forebears firmly in the consciousness of a whole new generation." At the studio, Emerson tracked the songs with a crack team of session players put together by Crowell. "Because of them, we were able to get those songs in one take," he says.
You can hear that no-frills approach on the barnstorming "High on the Mountain," a bluegrass tune that highlights Emerson's versatility as a performer and depth as a lyricist. On first listen, the track opens with upbeat fiddles and blistering guitar feels, but Emerson's voice achingly sings of heartbreak, loss, and irrevocable change: "I pulled into Austin‘ / Cause Fort Worth ain’t the same." Opener "Texas Moon" grapples with home after so many days away on tour: "I been missin’ home / But I just can’t ever stay / Well it don’t feel like ramblin’ / 'Til ya take it day by day." Emerson is never overly sentimental, and across this album, he makes a point to just say how he feels in the most straightforward and real way he can.
"I think I've always gravitated towards artists that are honest about what they're doing." says Emerson. "It's the most important thing because people have a chance to connect to a little more if you're telling the truth." I expect his set to be nothing short of amazing.
Another premier songwriter taking the stage that day is Kaitlen Butts. After listening to Kaitlin Butts’ pure and simple country music, it is obvious that she is not riding the fence where her music is concerned. With vocals that throw you back to the honesty of early female honky-tonkers, and with that nostalgia refreshingly uncontrived, this Oklahoman sings her songs with 50 years of heartbreak in her voice, though she is not even half that age.
In 2014, Kaitlin entered Red Dirt artist and producer, Mike McClure’s Boohatch Studio to begin recording her album, Same Hell, Different Devil. Kaitlin was able to have some of her favorite Oklahoma musicians on the album such as Whiskey Myers’ Jon Knudson, Alan Orebaugh, as well as Grammy-award winner, Lloyd Maines. The project was mixed and mastered by Joe Hardy who has worked with artists such as ZZ Top, Steve Earle and Turnpike Troubadours. The new album draws the listener into the stories of love and fun, as well as to the darker corners of life, like heartbreak, revenge, jealousy, and the inevitable whiskey drunk. Same Hell, Different Devil was released in late February, 2015, and a tour of regional radio and shows featuring Same Hell, Different Devil is underway.
This rebellious redhead has supported artists such as The Great Divide, John Fullbright, Mike McClure, Willaims Clark Green, Zane Williams, Wade Bowen, Cody Canada, and Charlie Worsham. She has performed at SXSW, Gypsy Café Music Festival, Norman Music Festival, and OKC Fest, where she was named an artist to watch by NewsOK. Kaitlin is also a frequent performer at the Centennial Rodeo Opry, Oklahoma’s “Official Country Music Show.”
Kaitlin’s music has recently received praise from Oklahoma/ Texas Music blog, Red Dirt/Blue Collar, who wrote that “in a short time, Kaitlin has managed to become one of the most promising, young Oklahoma songwriters to demand their due attention.” The article also stated that “Same Hell, Different Devil serves as a showcase to this young ladies incredible songwriting skill and powerful vocal prowess. Exhibiting a maturity in her lyrics well beyond the reach of her 21 years of age, so many of the songs on this album will certainly leave listeners wondering which of the ghosts of songwriters past this girl has tapped in to. The entire lineup is listed at gruenehall.com, and there will be a couple of surprise guests that will take the stage as well. I expect more than a few jams among several of the artists throughout the day. This will be one for the history books!
I will be back mid month to round out the rest of October! Until then, get out there and support our incredible live music scene, here...'In New Braunfels'...
Until next time...