Friday, May 14, 2021

The Music Keeps Flowing....

 Hey Folks!

With warm sunny days turning into beautiful nights here in New Braunfels, the great sounds of music can be heard throughout our community every night of the week from multiple venues. There is so much of it these days it makes it hard to 'pin down' exactly what to write about, but I've done it! These are my picks just up the hill from the beautiful Guadalupe River at Gruene Hall through Memorial Day Weekend...

Micky & The Motorcars will take the stage tonight at Gruene Hall playing tunes from all of their releases including the latest release...'Long Time Comin'. For a handful of summers about 30 years ago, tourists who wandered into a large dancehall in Stanley, Idaho, witnessed a family tradition finding new life. Young and old sat shoulder-to-shoulder, taking a break from the town’s mountain hikes and river campgrounds to take in Muzzie Braun and the Boys––a local family band who’d made it to the Grand Ole Opry, effortlessly spouted cowboy poetry and Western swing at gatherings around the country, and featured Muzzie’s four young sons––precocious boys with rock-and-roll futures.

“There were kids running around, people dancing,” says Micky Braun, the youngest brother who first climbed on stage to join the family when he was about five years-old. “Gary and I’d get up and play a couple of songs, then we’d get off and the older brothers would stay up and play a couple more. It’s pretty funny, looking back on it.” He laughs a little, then adds, still smiling, “That’s how we got started playing.”

The Braun brothers never stopped. Big brothers Cody and Willy started Reckless Kelly, and Micky and Gary left Idaho for Austin and started Micky and the Motorcars, a road-dogging favorite whose nonstop tour for the last 17 years has defined not just the lives of the brothers, but also shaped Austin’s roots-rock resurgence that has played out over the last two decades. With their anticipated new album Long Time Comin’, the Motorcars cement their place as elder statesmen of that alt-country scene who have managed to master that ever-elusive blend of artistic familiarity and surprise.

“I hope people take the time to hear the album as a whole, and I hope they like it,” Gary says from his home in Austin. “I think this one is a little bit better.” He pauses and laughs as he drawls, “So I hope they like it a little more.”

For the Motorcars, the question is never really whether to tour but where to play next. Gary––who handles guitar, mandolin, harmonica, harmonies, and occasionally lead vocals––and Micky, lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist, are joined in the Motorcars by Joe Fladger on bass, Bobby Paugh on drums and percussion, and new bandmate Pablo Trujillo on guitar. The combination of familiar and fresh players has reinvigorated the Motorcars’ live show, which buzzes through a low-key rock-and-roll rapture built on grooves and the Brauns’ signature harmonies.

A mix of new and old also shaped the Long Time Comin’ recording process. Produced by Keith Gattis, the 11-song album relied in part on Gattis’ go-to Nashville studio players––a first for the Motorcars. “It still sounds like Micky and the Motorcars, but it was fun working with different guys who we’d never worked with before,” Micky says. “They’ve been Keith’s band for 15 years. He can say, ‘Give me a shuffle with a boom-chuck,’ and they know what he’s talking about.”

The band isn’t the only change on Long Time Comin’. Gary, who has always contributed a song or two to Motorcar records, wrote or co-wrote six of the album’s tracks and sings every tune he penned. “I don’t think I decided to really write more––I think I just got better at it and worked a little harder at it the past couple of years,” Gary says. “In the past, I just let Micky do it because he was good at it. It was easy for me not to do it.”

Micky loves the shift. “It’s almost a split album between the two of us on lead vocal––very different from our normal,” he says. “I think our fans will enjoy it. They always love the songs Gary sings live. They always want him to sing more.”

The album kicks off with the ambling “Road to You.” Written by Micky and Courtney Patton, the rollicking singalong is classic Motorcars and an ideal welcome mat for the collection. Sauntering “Rodeo Girl” swings and punches up the pace, before “Alone Again Tonight”––a Gary track written with Gattis––watches loneliness with empathetic ache.

Several tracks take note of the universal search for comfort––even when it’s not the stuff of fairytales or even particularly dignified. Over crunchy guitars, “Stranger Tonight” captures an evening’s quest for no-strings companionship. “It was an idea I had just watching people at bars––that lonely girl I saw time and time again but with a different set of glasses, over and over,” Gary says. “It seems like everybody can relate to that––out looking for something new that doesn’t have to be love.”

Sweet and sad, “Break My Heart,” another track penned by Gary with Jeff Crosby, looks back after the end of a relationship. “You’re not mad anymore but you’re thankful of the good times,” Gary says. “It’s also about finding yourself again. It’s a moving-on song.” Quiet and sparse, the Gary-penned “Run into You” details a longing to cross paths with an ex-lover who’s moved on with heartbreaking clarity.

Anchored by crying B-3 organ, “Hold This Town Together” explores the struggle to enjoy what once was easy after the loss of someone who’ll never come back. After years of trying, Micky wrote the song for Mark, a friend and the Motorcars’ first bassist, who passed away. “Hold This Town,” written by Micky and Jeff Crosby, muses over the hometown faces and places that never change. “There are the same people at the same bars, the same people working at the grocery stores,” Micky says, then adds with a laugh, “It’s kind of a depressing party song.” Another Jeff Crosby-Micky collaboration, “Thank My Mother’s God” pays beautiful tribute to moms and their devotion to their black sheep, running wild.

Two album standouts stand tall: “Lions of Kandahar,” written by Gary alone, and the title track, which Micky penned with master songwriter Bruce Robison. Over instrumentation that evokes the tense hum of Middle Eastern military activity, “Lions of Kandahar” follows a deployment from a first-person perspective. The result is jarring, compelling, and deeply human––a breathtaking piece of songwriting that took five years to complete. Winsome “Long Time Comin’” is an ode to the satisfaction of patience and perseverance rewarded in different forms––a stunning tapestry that also reflects the road to the album itself.

Guitars and songs at the ready, Micky and Gary hope most of all that their sprawling cross-continental fanbase connect with Long Time Comin’, a collection four years in the making. “If you can put your heart on your sleeve and say it, it’s the best medicine for people,” Micky says, reflecting on the album. “They can lock into it and enjoy the ride.” Tickets still available...I'll leave you with a little incentive right here...

A relative newcomer to our neck of the woods, Brent Cobb makes his way to Gruene Hall for an intimate acoustic set. In 2017, This heartfelt songwriter has some amazing stories, and some great songs to back 'em up. Brent Cobb was in Arizona touring with fellow country troubadour Jamey Johnson. After his opening set, the relatively unknown Cobb was hanging outside in the dirt parking lot with his wife, Layne. Underneath desert stars lit up like a chandelier, the two ran into a priest who crafted rosaries, telling them he “doesn’t know who they’re for until God lets me know.” He gave one to Cobb, who then hung it from his truck’s rear-view mirror. 

Three years later, this past July, Cobb was in the same truck with his toddler son, Tuck, when they were T-boned on the driver’s side by a car that blew through an intersection near their home in South Georgia. Cobb broke his collarbone and tore a ligament in his back, but Tuck emerged unscathed. When Cobb went to fetch items from the truck, the rosary had broken, and the cross had landed just below Tuck’s car seat. “I mean, I don’t want to get too out there on you,” Cobb says in his molasses-thick drawl. “But the accident could have been a lot worse. I need to find Father Matthew and have him make me a new one.”

Cobb puts plenty of stock in the mystical and in the symbolism of life-changing events. This from a man who freely admits to eating a good amount of psychedelic mushrooms in the run-up to the release of his mesmerizing new album, Keep ’Em on They Toes. “I have had a couple of life-altering experiences after eating mushrooms,” he says. “That being said, I’ve had the same feelings praying to God when sober.” 

A South Georgia native, Cobb recently moved back to the area with his family after spending years in Los Angeles and Nashville, where he cowrote hits for the likes of Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert. He released his major-label debut, Shine On Rainy Day, in 2016, showcasing a knack for melody and vivid lyricism that earned him a Grammy nomination and took him to the upper echelons of Nashville songwriters. That album and Cobb’s fantastic 2018 swamp funk follow-up, Providence Canyon—both produced by top Nashville producer Dave Cobb, his cousin—are filled with evocative snapshots of things he missed from country life: hunting, fishing, and meeting the old-timers at the gas station for a cup of coffee. 

The new material gently but firmly stakes out more personal and topical terrain. But it’s never brash or confrontational. If anything, it sometimes lets the listener off easy. “Soap Box,” a shuffling piano duet with the Nashville singer Nikki Lane, asks people to “get along,” while the sparse, mournful “When You Go” digs deeper, with Cobb lamenting family members who pass the mashed potatoes around the table but take their differences to the grave.

The delicate title track is a message to his newborn son about walking to his own beat. And in the ironically titled, harmonica-fueled romp “Shut Up and Sing,” Cobb defiantly lays out his job as a songwriter. “Every album I do I have the mindset that if I died the day after it came out and it was the only thing my kids would ever have, who would I be to them?” he says. “The last two albums said, ‘This is where I came from’ and ‘This is what I care about.’ The new one is how Daddy feels about things.”

Cobb cowrote those two songs with his wife, who, before their son was born, worked as a pharmacist. Occasionally, when the couple can pawn off Tuck and his six-year-old sister, Lyla, onto their grandparents, they’ll relax on the porch trading lyrics. Family is paramount to Cobb, something that resonates even more deeply after the truck accident. He’s taken to waking up early with the kids, grabbing coffee, and walking down to a nearby lake, where his daughter has become obsessed with fishing. “She’s got the fever,” he says proudly. Afterward, they sometimes take long strolls in the woods. “I never wanted to leave Georgia in the first place, and I was gone for twelve years. All the things I had been missing I can now experience every day.”  Brent will take the stage at 9pm Saturday May 15th.

Next up, two artists that can each carry a headlining show on their own, team up for one night at Gruene Hall on  May 22nd. Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, who just happen to be married will take the stage together and performing sings from each of their solo careers as well as their latest release, Beautiful Lie. Bruce Robison has been making music professionally for decades. He still discusses his craft with so much enthusiasm he sounds almost like a kid raving about superheroes. That infectious energy is evident in every note of his new album, Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band, as well as his new project, The Next Waltz, a blossoming community of artists, fans and friends gathering both virtually and at his recording studio in Lockhart, just outside of Austin.

In both cases, the point is to celebrate country music’s rich traditions while giving creativity free rein to go where it might, as long as it’s somewhere worth traveling. It’s also about celebrating Robison’s “love of the craft of song.”

“Writing is where it all starts for me,” he explains. “Whether it’s my writing, or songs I want to do with somebody else. I love the mechanics of it; how simple it can be.”

Keeping it simple — and organic — was the guiding principle behind the latest album, a collection of Robison originals, co-writes and covers that capture country’s most beloved stylistic elements: good-time, lighthearted romps (“Rock and Roll Honky Tonk Ramblin’ Man”; “Paid My Dues”) and wistful, sometimes bittersweet ballads (“Long Time Coming”; “Still Doin’ Time”). But even the Who’s “Squeezebox” — which Robison calls “a great country song by some English dudes” — shows up, in a lively version dressed with cajun fiddle by Warren Hood and acoustic guitar and harmonies by Robison’s wife, Kelly Willis.

Hood is one of a hand-picked crew of regulars tapped for Next Waltz recording sessions with Jerry Jeff Walker, Randy Rogers, Jack Ingram, Rodney Crowell, Willis, Hayes Carll, Turnpike Troubadours, Sunny Sweeney, Reckless Kelly and others. They’ve re-imagined favorites, reinvigorated covers and even crafted new works, which Robison shares with audiences on the Next Waltz website and other platforms. Meanwhile, he’s cultivating a house band he hopes might one day be as revered as Stax Records’ Booker T. & the M.G.’s or Muscle Shoals’ Swampers. The Back Porch Band does it old-school, all analog, cutting songs together in one paneled room where “happy accidents and all kinds of things that just feel real,” including sound bleed, are allowed to occur.

“It really brings the players and their own voices, their own styles, into the music,” says Robison. “That’s the kind of vibe I’m trying to get back to.”

Their familiarity breeds an undeniable cohesiveness; a relaxed rapport that comes through not only in the music, but in the casual between-track chatter and laughter that further conveys the convivial atmosphere Robison envisioned for The Next Waltz.

“The music just ends up showing the way,” Robison says. “I always thought that the music coming together in the studio, and just the way a studio works, was the most fascinating part of recording. I want to let people see how cool this process is, and how much it has to do with country music, and how the kind of music that we make is tied to those traditions.”

Next Waltz sessions are documented on video, along with interviews in which Robison, speaking artist-to-artist, often draws out stories journalists don’t. The content is designed to let fans peek behind the curtain to witness the creative process, not only providing unique insights, but tightening their connection to the proverbial unbroken circle of country music.

The Country Cover Challenge, another Next Waltz facet in which fans help an artist select a cover tune to record, led to the final Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band track, the George Jones hit, “Still Doing Time.”

From the sparse arrangement of Robison’s weary voice over Marty Muse’s steel, Brian Beken’s fiddle and bass, Chip Dolan’s keyboards and Conrad Choucroun’s drums, it builds in intensity; as Dolan adds honky-tonk piano tickles, Robison’s voice climbs higher, till he drills the down- and-out drama deep into listeners’ souls.

Robison recruited his pal Jack Ingram for “Paid My Dues,” by Jason Eady and Micky Braun (of Micky & the Motorcars). They turn it into a hilarious honky-tonker in the vein of Jerry Jeff Walker, one of Robison’s (super) heroes.

“When we got Jack in there, it really was just a party,” But it’s balanced by more thoughtful tunes such as the Braun-Robison co-write “Long Time Coming,” a gentle ballad filled with the kind of poetic imagery he attributes to another major influence, Guy Clark.

That influence actually extends far beyond songwriting; Robison’s ultimate dream for The Next Waltz is to follow in the late Guy and Susanna Clark’s footsteps by providing a safe, welcoming place for artists, a haven where musicians can socialize, inspire one another artistically and find a creative, emotional and spiritual nourishment.

Whether they’re trading tales at a barbecue or putting them on tape in the studio, it’s all about true interaction. Musicians record live together, not shunted off into iso booths, and there’s not a computer screen in sight — in fact, there are no screens at all, except on the video cameras that capture the action. There’s also little attempt to clean up imperfections; even the squeak of rewinding tape heard before the “Long Shore” count-in is part of the charm.

“The song that I cut with Jack Ingram, there’s not one overdub on it,” Robison marvels. “That sounds like a simple thing, but I’ve never done that in my entire career, where we don’t even go in and fix anything.”

“It’s all about performing the song and seeing where it takes us,” says Robison, “and having great players in a real collaborative atmosphere.”

Those players also include bassists Andrew Pressman, Dom Fisher and George Reiff; acoustic and slide guitarist Geoff Queen; fiddler/vocalist Kimber Ludicker; and keyboardist Trevor Nealon. Robison also plays acoustic guitar, as does Willis on two tracks, and Hood adds mandolin to “Sweet Dreams.”

That particular track is populated with characters Robison actually grew up with in Bandera, Texas, “this weirdo little place that had such an effect on me.”

It’s where Robison, his brother, Charlie, and their sister, Robin Ludwick, fell in love with Willie, Waylon, Hank and other country luminaries, and started writing their own tunes. Eventually, Bruce’s songs turned into hits for George Strait (“Desperately”), Tim McGraw (“Angry All the Time”) and the Dixie Chicks (“Travelin’ Soldier”). He also has recorded on his own and collaborated with Charlie and others as a songwriter, singer, guitarist, harmonica player and producer/engineer. After doing his last two albums with Willis — as well as recording their annual Christmas performance — they’re back to creating separately. But Robison found the perfect love song to record for this album (he says he’s incapable of writing one of his own): Damon Bramblett’s “The Years,” a sweet, slow waltz.

Robison wrote “Long Shore,” a soft, lovely lullaby he sings with Ludiker, after finally catching the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou. The album reflects other influences as well; Christie Hayes’ “Lake of Fire” reflects his love of the ‘70s West Coast sound embodied by Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt.

“I’m always collecting songs,” he says. “That’s what The Next Waltz is about, too; I’m just a fan of songs, and I love the way they come alive in the hands of the right artist.”

One visit to The Next Waltz will provide you with Jerry Jeff Walker revelations about writing “Mr. Bojangles,” an exclusive recording of Randy Rogers singing Merle Haggard’s "Misery and Gin," the Turnpike Troubadours performing "Come As You Are,” or Rodney Crowell telling Robison and Willis about how he came to own one of John Lennon's suits. He will bring this passion to the stage on May 22nd, Get your tickets now before they sell out.

And to round pout the month AND Memorial Day Weekend, the worlds most fun band 'in my humble opinion' SHINYRIBS! Shinyribs is the continuation of Kevin Russell’s musical journey that began in Beaumont, TX when, at 14, he found his father’s guitar under his bed, along with a sewing machine, a billy club and a box of comic books. Luckily he chose the guitar. Following his family’s oil boom and bust migratory path he landed in Shreveport, LA where he formed his first band. Picket Line Coyotes were a Husker Du meets Elvis Costello hybrid that lived and died between the “Arklatexabamassippi” borders much like their unfortunate animal namesake. That’s what took him to Austin where The Gourds were born from those Coyote ashes. That storied band of pumpkins came to an end after 18 years of good times and hard travelin’. From that point on Russell, has been riding high on the Shinyribs river of country-soul, swamp-funk and tickle. A Shinyribs show is an exaltation of spirit. It’s a hip shaking, belly laughing, soul-singing, song-slinging, down-home house party. All styles of American music are likely to be touched on, squeezed on, kissed on by this world-class band featuring Winfield Cheek on Keyboards, Keith Langford on Drums, Jeff Brown on Bass, the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, and The Shiny Soul Sisters - Kelley Mickwee & Alice Spencer. Whether on his 6 string Uke or his Electric guitar or singing a cappella, Russell will entertain you like no one else. The freedom with which he moves, coupled with his incredible voice is an experience in and of itself. His original songs laced with magical-realism along with novel interpretations of popular songs old and new (George Jones, TLC, Leadbelly, T-Pain) are the true art that runs throughout. He’s Burl Ives meets Al Green; Hank, Jr. meets Teddy Pendergrass. Wendell Berry meets Chuck Berry. Always full of surprises and energy, this band is the perfect way to wind up the holiday weekend. 

So wherever you find yourself in New Braunfels this sure to make live music a part of the fun!

Until next time...CHEERS!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Big Time Acts Coming to New Braunfels

 Hey Folks,

As things open up, it would seem that EVERYONE is ready to get back to it...and regarding that, some big time acts are on the way to New Braunfels. Wynonna Judd, which has just sold out 3 nights at the legendary Gruene Hall leads the way, but following those iconic shows, a whole list of amazing artists will be descending on New Braunfels in the coming months! So let's get to it, here are my picks for the next few weeks!

Our areas largest outdoor venue, Whitewater Amphitheater is loading the calendar heavy these days and my first pick is there, this Sunday April 18th with the legendary Dwight Yoakam! Dwight Yoakam has country music cred. The pioneering artist spent his first year of life in a coal company house way up in the small southeastern Kentucky holler of Betsey Layne, just across the border from the Virginia homes of the original Carter family and the Stanley Brothers. After his family moved to Ohio, Yoakam made frequent trips back to the holler to visit his grandparents.

A holler is basically a creek that runs out of the veins of a mountainside. And on that front porch, when we’d travel back, I would sit out there and entertain my grandfather. My grandpa, he kept asking me if I knew “Cripple Creek.” Well, I came back and I was really thrilled – I was like nine or ten years old – to tell him I had learned “Cripple Creek.” I thought, “Wow, he’s really astute!” ‘Cause The Band had put out a song called “Cripple Creek” that I mistook for the song by Flatt and Scruggs that he was asking about.

Like most of the “new traditionalist” artists of the 1980s, Dwight had grown up listening to the The Band and other Top 40 radio hitmakers, in addition to the country and bluegrass his family loved. The stripped-down honky-tonk and Bakersfield sound for which Yoakam became known proved, historian Bill Malone writes, that country “could flourish with a strong admixture of rock and roll.”

Dwight Yoakam spent his formative years acting in theater productions and singing and playing guitar in local garage bands. In 1978, after a brief stint in Nashville, Yoakam relocated to Los Angeles. There, he formulated his own brand of honky-tonk – or, as he called it, “hillbilly” music – playing the same nightclubs as punk rock and “cowpunk” bands like X, Los Lobos, the Blasters, and the Butthole Surfers. In 1984, he released an independent EP, A Town South of Bakersfield, which received substantial airplay on L.A. college and alternative radio stations, and landed a contract with Reprise Records. Two years later, Dwight released his full-length debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. It was an instant sensation, garnering praise from country and rock critics and airplay on college stations nationwide, and made a splash on the country charts: its first single, a cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man,” reached No. 3, followed by No. 4 “Guitars, Cadillacs.” His next LP, Hillbilly Deluxe (1987), spawned four Top 10 hits. Yoakam had his first country No. 1 in 1988 with “Streets of Bakersfield,” a cover of a song by Yoakam’s longtime idol Buck Owens that featured the singing and playing of Owens himself. 

Yoakam has recorded more than twenty albums and compilations, charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 25 million records. Five of his albums were Billboard No. 1s, twelve went gold, and nine platinum, including the triple-platinum This Time. He pushed the boundaries of what was considered “country,” attracting roots rock fans and college audiences. In the ‘90s, he turned his attention to the big screen, notably in critically-acclaimed performances as “bad guys” in Sling Blade and Panic Room – both stretches for mellow Yoakam, who has been described as one of the industry’s true “good guys.” He continues to produce and write well-received albums and songs, and to act for television and film. This guy puts on an amazing show every time I have seen him. Tickets still available for this Sunday...go get ya some NOW!

Next up, Eli Young Band with two shows on the same day, Saturday April 24th at Gruene Hall.With momentum still high following their fourth career #1, MULTI-PLATINUM hitmakers ELI YOUNG BAND are releasing an introspective new single with “ Break It In ” via The Valory Music Co. Under producer Dann Huff, the tune explores lessons in life and love that are only learned over time well spent. As showcased through vivid Benjy Davis, Brandon Day, Daniel Ross, and Michael Whitworth-penned lyrics, EYB further delivers a booming chorus:

“Like these dusty boots that walked me through / The work that got me here / And these faded jeans with Skoal can rings / I’ve worn out all these years / When the shine wears off, when you lose that gloss / There’s so much more underneath it all / You think that good is good as it can get / Then you break it in.”

“We definitely didn't just start a band and have instant success. We’ve continued to build it up over the years — we broke it in,” shares EYB. "We’ve been blessed to have had our moments of being able to sit back and soak it all in. ‘Break It In’ carries a message you learn with time, and we’re so excited for these lyrics to be heard far and wide!”

“Break It In” closely follows THIS IS ELI YOUNG BAND: GREATEST HITS , which features chart-toppers – “Love Ain’t,” PLATINUM "Drunk Last Night,” 2X PLATINUM “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” and 3X PLATINUM “Crazy Girl.” EYB has always been unique in modern Country music as a true band of brothers who cling fast to their Texas roots and has maintained an impressive trajectory with singles earning Billboard 's #1 Country Song of the Year and ACM Awards Song of the Year . They have previously earned multiple nominations from GRAMMY, CMA, CMT, ACA and Teen Choice Awards.

While selling out venues as a headliner from coast-to-coast, EYB has toured with Jason Aldean, Dave Matthews Band, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Darius Rucker. They will continue to bring these fan-favorites and more on the road this summer with several festival appearances, and a mighty fine ‘tune up’ weekend at Gruene Hall, right here in New Braunfels!!

Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights are one of those bands that moved my soul the instant I first heard them. I worked with them several times before they dis-banded, so imagine my delight to hear they are coming back to Gruene Hall on Friday May 30th.

“Rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and country are the same thing, just wearing different clothes.” To define Jonathan Tyler’s music would be doing it a disservice. His music defies expectation or sonic categorization – his music is the purest expression of everything you feel but don’t know how to express. If there’s a single label that might be able to wrangle Tyler’s universal soul, it’s Gram Parson’s iconic classification of his own style: “Cosmic American Music.” A Texan since childhood, Jonathan Tyler has grown up enamored with the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll – and its ancestors. In 2007 he formed Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights, who released their debut full-length album Hot Trottin’ to widespread acclaim. At the 2009 Dallas Observer Music Awards, Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights walked away with “Best Group,” “Best Blues Act,” and “Best Male Vocalist.” Tyler would go on to win the latter award again the following year. The band was promptly signed to F-Stop/Atlantic Records and released Pardon Me in 2010, leading to television appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Gordon Keith Show, as well as tours supporting ZZ Top, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Black Crowes, and appearances at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and Austin City Limits. In 2015, he released his debut solo album Holy Smokes – a genre-bending opus celebrating perseverance in the face of life’s twists and turns. Along the way, he’s mastered the art of the sounds between the sounds – honing his role behind the boards as a producer for Nikki Lane, Desure, Jeff Crosby and others. At the moment he’s working on a follow-up to Holy Smokes, featuring hit singles like “Old Friend,” “Underground Forever,” and “Hustlin.” Get your tickets to this one, I know I'll be there!

Taking us into the beginning of May, Read Southall will bring his brand of country rock to Gruene Hall for 2 nights Saturday and Sunday May 1st and 2nd. Formed In Stillwater Oklahoma, The Read Southall Band is comprised of 4 native Oklahoman’s. Read Southall (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) Reid Barber (drums) Jeremee Knipp (Bass) JT Perry (Lead Guitar and harmonies). With all members having different influences in music, they have come together to create a unique red dirt/southern rock sound. With overdriven guitars and heavy drums the Read Southall Band delivers more of a rock and roll experience with a country vibe. They are hot on the heels of their latest release 'Where We Belong'. These shows WILL sell out, so if checking out something new sounds good to you, you better get those tickets now!

I'll leave you with a look at their latest video...until next time...CHEERS!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Spring Arrives With more GREAT Music On The Way

 I'm so excited to feel Spring finally arriving, and with it, some great shows lining up, so let's get to it!

This Saturday March 20th at Billy's Ice The Shaker Hymns are gonna bring it all to one of my favorite venues in town! So what are you in the mood for? A little country soul? Or how about some banging hardcore Southern rock, or earnest Americana? Well the Shaker Hymns are here to try and cover all that and more with a debut record called The Ties That Bind

Straight out of the Texas music heartland where they’ve sold who knows how much Lone Star and Shiner while holding court on the stage of the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos where folks like, I don’t know, George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan got their start, the Shaker Hymns behind frontman and songwriter Nyles Robakiewicz want to see if they can launch their own legacy by self-releasing ten songs that put on display some serious Southern musical chops. 

It’s probably best to consider the Shaker Hymns a Texas Southern Rock band to start. Envision Whiskey Myers, but maybe a little less serration in the tones, and a bit more soul and dedicated attention to songwriting. There’s not really a song on The Ties That Bind that if you pay attention to the lyrics specifically you won’t be impressed with. And some will outright tear at your heart. But how they come across keeps you on your toes for sure. 

Since we are talking about their latest release, let’s start with what might be the best track on the record in my humble opinion, which is the story of a lovesick man pining for a lost woman called “Not Alone.” The crying steel guitar will bring you to your knees if the words of this classic duet style country song don’t. But that’s about as traditional country as the Shaker Hymns get here folks. From there it’s the Muscle Shoals soul of “How To Love,” or the more familiar Texas country rock styles of “Just Fine” or “Rain in Fort Worth.”

This is one of those albums where you almost feel like the singer is spying on you in the way the songs and stories nestle right down in your personal little world, especially if you’re going through a breakup or just did, or like everyone else aside from those well-adjusted bastards, have gone through a breakup in the past. It’s not that Nyles Robakiewicz is a mind reader, it’s just that he knows how to frame emotions in music in a way that’s resonant and universal. The Shaker Hyms feel like the next great Texas music band, and Robakiewicz the next great songwriter and frontman in the scene. 

But be prepared as you pour yourself into The Ties That Bind to be blindsided by some full tilt hard rock, starting with “Dodging Bullets.” That’s possibly where these young men inch just out of their comfort zone and native sound, and leave the gift of great songwriting behind. The other hard rock song “What I’ve Become” is where they get it much closer to right, showcasing the power of Robakiewicz’s voice instead of resorting to screams.

As fun as the blazing rock songs may be, the melody of “As I Am” is where this band feels like they sit down in a pocket made for them and them alone, or when they let the songwriting rise above everything else, like in the acoustic track “Bloomfield,” this is what feels like should define the boundaries of their sound, instead of testing the limits of heavy metal. It’s one of a number of songs that has some calling Nyles Robakiewicz a burgeoning version of some of the top Americana songwriters. 

The Shaker Hymns are still forging and experimenting with their sound a bit after releasing an EP in 2017. Trying it all out to see what sticks and sells is not a bad thing, while they’re already pushing ahead of many of their peers in the nascent levels of Texas music with a record that is well-produced, will be well-received, and is an unexpected but welcome addition your heartbreak and good times arsenal during an otherwise shitty year. 

Turn it up the Shaker Hymns and The Ties That Bind, and enjoy, and get out to Billy’s Ice and take it all in LIVE. 

On Friday March 26th at Gruene Hall  Mike & The Moonpies drops in on the historic hall for a night of pure country soul, performing songs from the latest release Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold...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 findfrontman 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 your table early!

The following night Saturday March 27th at Gruene Hall, the long awaited return of Jason Boland & The Stragglers. Jason Boland was born in Harrah, Oklahoma, though his mother was originally from Arkansas and he still has family near Clinton. He was interested in music from his early childhood and began playing guitar inspired by rock and roll and country singers of the 50s. Jason attended a local school in Harrah. After he graduated from school he nearly joined the seminary, but instead chose to attend and study business at Oklahoma State University, North of his hometown in Stillwater. While he attended Oklahoma State University he was in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, where he found his future friend and bandmate Brad Rice.

The college town Stillwater was also known for being the center of the red dirt music scene, so it was a great place to begin a music career. Jason Boland and his friends founded their band in the 1998. As a lead vocalist Boland became one of the most successful artists in the red dirt music scene. The band released their first studio album in October of the 1999, it was titled “Pearl Snaps”. Jason Boland & The Stragglers continue to play in the local clubs and red dirt scenes. Jason along with his friends released their second album “Truckstop Diaries” in 2001. The next year Jason’s band played a concert in Fort Worth, Texas, where they recorded their first live album “Live and Lit at Billy Bob's Texas”.

In the 2004 Jason released the third album “Somewhere in the Middle”. The album sold enough copies to land them on the country charts. Jason Boland says “We pay homage, but we don't want to copy or be a throwback act. All you can do is try to take the music that inspires you and take it further. And make it personal”. However, work stopped for a few months in October 2005 when Jason entered the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona. He had tried to quit drinking “cold turkey”, and went through withdrawals, even having a seizure on the side of the road. But, he still wrote songs and waited for one more career jump. He made a comeback, and in 2006 released his album “The Bourbon Legend”. This album was produced by longtime Dwight Yoakam collaborator Pete Anderson, and landed even higher on the country charts than “Somewhere in the Middle”.

In 2008 Jason’s vocal cord ruptured during a show and he claimed it was due to “too much yelling and not enough singing”, he was forced to have surgery, then go through therapy and rest. In the same year, Jason and his band produced another album titled “Comal County Blue”, which landed at number 30 on the country charts. Despite almost non-stop touring, they managed two more studio albums from 2008 to 2010. Jason's second live album "High in the Rockies: A Live Album" was released in 2010. The shows were performed in Colorado and Wyoming. They produced their first music video "Tulsa time" that same year. The Stragglers released an album titled “Rancho Alto”, co-produced with Shooter Jennings in 2011 and “Dark & Dirty Mile” in 2013, also co-produced with Jennings. The last album was released in October of 2015 and was titled “Squelch”.

They tour quite a bit, anywhere from 180 to 220 days out of each year. Though they enjoy being on stage, Jason states they are “most at home among neon signs, crowds in cowboy boots, and cold, cheap beer.” They even founded The Medicine Stone music and camping festival about six and a half hours southwest of St. Louis, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with fellow red dirt band The Turnpike Troubadours in 2013. Thousands were in attendance it’s very first year. They created this three day event because they noticed that music festivals of this caliber were mainly held down in Texas and they wanted to bring a top notch music festival closer to home, and closer to their fans in the surrounding states where these kinds of artists tour regularly. It’s nothing fancy. You can camp in an RV, a trailer or in a tent, or you can stay at a hotel in town and be shuttled between the festival and motels. You can purchase beer at the festival, and their fanciest food is made in a hot dog truck.

The band is currently based in Austin, Texas. During his career Jason lived through alcoholism, a car accident, and ruptured his vocal cord, but continues to be inspired by music and tries to create something new. Jason’s band has been extremely successful for their genre, and have sold over a million records globally. Jason Boland is a person who represents honkytonk music in the best traditions of Texas and Oklahoma. 

Jason considers himself a “pretty spiritual man” and attributes his sobriety and ability to get through rehab, to God.  Claiming he almost became a preacher at one point in his life, he states the only reason he did not, was by chance. Thus, Jason Boland and The Stragglers were born.

Their latest album “Hard Times are Relative”, a mixture of new songs and some of their classics, was most certainly one of the best country releases in 2018. It’s easy to love, it’s interesting, yet it is still fashioned in their true style. It’s fun and makes you think, keeping you entertained by stirring up a range of emotions. Most importantly, it’s solid country. Tables are still available!

April will kick off with a world class show with Nikki Lane. One glorious day some years back, a teenage high school dropout Nikki Lane (nee Nicole Lane Frady) packed a trailer with her worldly possessions. With one hand firmly gripping a steering wheel and the other flipping the bird, she said so long to her home, Greenville, South Carolina, The South and any sort of life it had suggested she should live. Western bound, she was headed to Los Angeles for no other reason than just because.

Flash forward to today and we find Lane an empowered artist, having escaped any sweet and sour small town trappings for some serious see-my-name-in-lights grandeur and artistic fulfillment. Signed recently to the flourishing Los Angeles-based indie label, IAMSOUND Records, Lane's bold vocal chops and wildly infectious personality have been making a stir in circles spanning across country to rock to indie and back again. Working with producers David Cobb (Shooter Jennings, The Secret Sisters) and Lewis Pesacov of Fool's Gold, the first release of these efforts was the four-song EP, Gone, Gone, Gone, released July 19th and will be followed by the 11-track full length "Walk of Shame" out September 27th.

Throughout "Walk of Shame," Lane weaves in and out of ballads of heartache, one-night stands, leaving, lust and longing. She plays the rambler and sometimes drunkard with such an ardent aptitude she'd fit right in alongside classic country icons like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. On the title track she swears never again will she wake in a stranger's bed, "with a bass drum thumping in her head" as the music drives us out of that alien apartment and down the street into the break of dawn. In "Gone, Gone, Gone," while a blistering slide guitar cries on, she croons on the chorus her tale of leaving The South, promising, "And if I leave this town I'll be gone, gone, gone and I won't be back for far too long." Meanwhile, hitting a more delicate note, Lane shows off softer sentiments and solid song-writing skills on "Save You," crooning helplessly, "Well your bad habits they're all stacking up and it's plain to see you just can't get enough. And I'm trying to break through but I'm losing sight. Oh what can I do to make it all right? How can I save you from yourself?"

Sometimes the victim, sometimes the aggressor, always the Southern sweetheart, Lane rolls through song after song, belting out her earnest poetics with such warmth and tenderness to become entirely absorbed in this music is only natural. "They're all stories," she says. "That's the only way I know how to write. All my songs have a beginning middle and an end. I want to tell you what happened to this person and what the result was."

"You grow up in The South, you grow up in a small town, your expectations are a little bit limited," she continues. "People expect you to go to a four-year college, get married and follow that Southern way of life. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew it wasn't being offered to me."

And so we return to her story: Lane settled in L.A. and without clear direction she worked various day-to-day jobs and dabbled in fashion, getting shoes manufactured in China and painting them to sell under the Nikki Lane moniker. Five years passed and she started writing music but forsook that path after just two promising shows for a corporate job offer across the country in New York City.

"I'd always wanted to live in New York and somehow ended up talking my way into a really well paying job," she says. "That was an opportunity I couldn't say no to. And so I moved and for a year didn't even touch music. It was like something I'd just tried once. I'd written a couple songs and that was the end of it."

But like any good country singer, heartbreak brought her back to music when her boyfriend left her to record an album in Atlanta. "I was like, fuck that," she says, "Why does he get to make a record in Atlanta while I'm sitting in New York crying? So I just sat down with a guitar, I didn't have anything going on, I didn't have many friends in the city that weren't his friends, it's freezing in New York and I'd quit my job, so basically for three months I holed up in this apartment and I just wrote."

She started learning Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, John Prine and Merle Haggard tunes, the sort of classic country songs that have steeped her own writing now, trying her best to strum along and building her confidence along the way. "And all of a sudden it hit me and I started writing like crazy," she says, "I wrote a whole album in a month's time and just decided I was going to make a record in Nashville. It was like my revenge record."

Empowered, in February, 2009, Nikki went to Nashville, recorded an album she self-released titled No Room for Cowboys, and returned to New York a musician. That's essentially where IAMSOUND found her and signed her and set to build the material that would become "Walk of Shame." The album serves as a forceful farewell to The South, says Lane. "We sat down and wanted to write something about leaving a place and being like, you'll be fine, I'm not coming back."

And as if Lane's history wasn't enough evidence of her well-proven knack for leaving, on her arm rests a tattoo that reads, "Wanderlust calls again." "I feel like everyday I might be better off if I could get up and go," she says. "I've had a really hard time staying put because the different scenery is what's inspiring."

Lane now lives in Nashville where she also owns and operates a vintage boutique called High Class Hillbilly, selling pieces she has collected while touring the country. She will certainly be performing songs from her new release 'Highway Queen'. This will be a really special show taking place at the legendary Gruene Hall on Friday April 2nd.

I'll be back in April with a whole slew of great stuff as the weather warms up....stay tuned!

Until always...Support Live Music!!



Thursday, February 18, 2021


 Hey Folks,

After a brief 'Winter Storm Break' live music is back with ticketed shows at Gruene Hall beginning Thursday February 25th and Friday the 26th with Parker McCollum. Parker McCollum comes from a no-nonsense, hard-working family. His was the sort of upbringing where “if you’re going to do something and you’re not going to do it one-hundred percent; you shouldn’t do it all.” It’s why this 27-year-old treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, and — as he readily admits — even a bit of obsession.

Parker says when a particular melody, lyric or emotion tugs at him he might stay in his room for days working on it. He can’t help himself.

That’s because, for the Austin-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, the result is worth the painstaking process. Parker — who broke out with the revealing and critically adored 2013 debut The Limestone Kid and returned with the acclaimed, Probably Wrong — says, “its like the songwriting muse takes over. I don’t choose when it hits me, but when it does, I pay attention — and it’s always worth the focus it asks of me.“

His brand new song, “Pretty Heart” (Aug. 30, 2019) is out everywhere now. His first release after his last album, Probably Wrong. 

Probably Wrong (Nov. 10, 2017), pulls back the curtain to reveal Parker’s depth of artistry. The 10-track LP, written after the dissolution of a long-term relationship, is equal parts self-flagellating and transcendent. It is also the most honest he has ever been in song. There’s an inherent pain that bleeds through in the raw transparency of stunning songs including “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hell of a Year.” For Parker, putting his most intimate thoughts and feelings to song is more of a welcome relief than an act of bloodletting. “I don’t talk about my feelings very often,” he notes. “I keep a lot of things in most of the time, and I don’t want anybody else to have to deal with my stuff. So, I write songs instead.”

In the wake of The Limestone Kid’s release, and its lead single “Meet You in the Middle” finding success at regional radio, McCollum says “in the blink of an eye” his life drastically changed.” The then-22-year-old went from a life goofing off with his buddies and passing his days strumming the guitar to traveling from one gig to the next, not as a “nobody,” but rather a revered traveling musician with a fervent fan-base. McCollum always wanted to be a singer-songwriter, but he admits he was caught a bit off guard by the buzz around Limestone. “I felt like I was playing catch up for two years,” he says.

In speaking with McCollum, it’s easy to detect the sense of wonderment and romance he still attaches to the brutally honest songwriters he first revered during his teenage years. Men like Townes Van Zandt, Todd Snider, Steve Earle and James McMurtry — even as a wide-eyed and innocent young man, McCollum sensed these musicians were speaking to a more powerful truth.

“It would jerk my soul out of me,” he says of encountering and quickly becoming enamored with their music and subsequently dedicating his life to molding songs of a similarly revealing bent. “There’s nothing else I’ve ever encountered that has had as much influence on me,” he explains. “That’s all I wanted to listen to. It was my thing.”

To that end, when he began writing the songs that would ultimately comprise Probably Wrong, McCollum felt it necessary to be alone with little more than his emotions and a guitar. “I needed to write this record and be on my own,” he says of what led him to end a two-year relationship and retreat inward. “I felt very misunderstood throughout the entire situation,” he adds. “I broke my own heart for the first time just to write this record.” For six weeks, McCollum did nothing but stare at a piece of paper filled with soul-crushing lyrics and engage with his sadness. “And I’m not a sad person,” he says with a laugh. “But I had done it to myself … intentionally.”

The pain still lingers, but McCollum says accessing it to write his new album allowed him to pen some of his most poignant material to date. “Hell of a Year,” which he calls his “sleeper favorite of the record,” came from McCollum breaking down one night in his truck in a fast-food parking lot. “My heart’s out of love/I fell out of line/I swore I’d never leave again/And I lied,” he sings over a gentle acoustic guitar figure. “When I set out to write this record this was the type of song I was gunning for,” he says of “Hell of a Year.” “It was the hardest song I’ve ever written as far as being that honest. But after doing so, I could go back to being happy for a little bit.” On the slow-rolling “Misunderstood,” the singer throws his hands in the air and makes peace with what he can’t control. “You told me I was no good/It’s alright babe/I’m pretty used to being misunderstood.”

Singing such soul-baring songs is a decidedly therapeutic act for McCollum. “When the melody is so spot-on, and it hooks me, everything that I have been bottling up or not talking about comes out.” It’s why the singer says he lives to perform. “Next to songwriting my live show is most important,” he offers.

Though seeing as many of his gigs are rowdy, upbeat affairs, he says he searches for the right moments to pepper his set with more emotional numbers. “I’m constantly trying to find ways to make our live show better,” he says. “I take cues from the fans who show up night after night — I pay attention to what songs they sing along to, what makes them move, smile, holler or just dance. I work to meet them where they are and take them higher. I have the best job in the world.”

The goal going forward then, Parker insists, is to continue to invest in his craft; to grow. He reveres musicians like John Mayer — who Rolling Stone Country compared him to in its January “New Country Artists You Need To Know” list — whom he says are always redefining their creativity. He intends to do the same. “My goal is to evolve and step into a new version of myself with each record I make,” McCollum says. “It’s about challenging myself to dig deeper. As much as I do this for the fans, it’s also for me, and stepping up into the artist I know I can be.”

On Saturday February 27th the one and only JUNIOR BROWN will take the stage at Gruene Hall. 

With his unique voice, more unique song writing, and even more unique double necked “Guit-Steel” guitar, there has absolutely never been ANYONE like Junior Brown. He’s an American Original. Born in 1952 in Cottonwood, Arizona, Junior Brown showed an affinity for music at an early age when the family moved to a rural area of Indiana near Kirksville. In the following years, Junior began to experience Country music and remembers it as “growing up out of the ground like the crops – it was everywhere; coming out of cars, houses, gas stations and stores like the soundtrack of a story, but Country music programs on TV hadn’t really come along much yet; not until the late fifties.” Discovering a guitar in his grandparent’s attic, he spent the next several years woodshedding with records and the radio. Junior was also able to tap into music he couldn’t hear at home which older, college aged kids were listening to. This was possible due to his father’s employment at small campuses throughout the next decade as the family moved twice again. As a young boy he was able to experience the thrill of performing before live audiences, at parties, school functions even singing and playing guitar for five thousand Boy Scouts at an Andrews Air Force Base jamboree; then while still a teenager, getting the chance to sit in with Rock and Roll pioneer, Bo Diddley. Armed with this broad spectrum of influences, he began to develop a storehouse of musical chops.

Early on, Junior realized he had to keep his interest in Country music a secret; “it was like a secret friend I carried around, being careful not to tell anyone (especially girls) about my love for it because I thought they would laugh at me.” It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that Junior Brown would proudly explore the passion for the music he had loved since his early childhood in Indiana. With many prominent figures as his inspiration (Country legends, some who he would work with years later), he spent his nights in small clubs across the southwest. “I played more nights in honkytonks during the Seventies and Eighties than most musicians will see in a lifetime… I did so many years of that, night after night, four sets a night, fifteen minute breaks; I mean after that, you’ve gotta get good or you gotta get out. The early 1970’s California Country dance club scene was particularly competitive, but I learned professionalism and stage demeanor which has served me well to this day.” More recently however, Junior has shown himself to be equally adept at a wide variety of American music styles beyond Country. These include Rock and Roll, Blues, Hawaiian, Bluegrass and Western Swing.

There is a dependable consistency in Junior’s writing style (he writes nearly all his material) yet he’s always full of pleasant surprises. Though Junior always knew he could sing and play what he wanted, he had yet to explore his potential as a songwriter. “I realized no one was going to walk into a club and discover me…so I started hanging out with some songwriters who I’d played some jobs with, and they showed me how to support myself by writing and publishing.” With his writing coming together by the mid-Eighties, Brown upgraded his gear in a way that no artist had ever done. Struggling through each show, going back and forth plugging and unplugging guitar to steel guitar while singing, he had a dream one night about the two instruments mysteriously melding into one. The result was Brown’s unique invention, the “Guit-Steel”, a double necked instrument combining standard guitar with steel guitar. Built by Michael Stevens of Stevens Electric Instruments, the Guit-Steel allows Junior to switch instruments quickly in mid song while singing. According to Brown, his guitar and steel guitar playing became more his own around this time, with less imitation of others and more his own original ideas and licks. This maturation coincided with the development of a completely “Junior Brown” style of songwriting which employs subtle dry wit to some songs – others can be more overtly humorous, or just plain dead serious; like his playing, there is a wide range of styles that when combined can only spell Junior Brown.

In the early nineties Brown and his band (including wife Tanya Rae) relocated to Texas to the active Austin music scene and landed a weekly gig at the Continental club. Having worked as a sideman for many of the Austin-based acts over the years, Junior was already well familiar with the town. His unique and entertaining combination of singing, songwriting, instrumental and production skills led to a seven record deal with Curb Records that began with “Twelve Shades of Brown” in 1993. He later released two albums on the TelArc label. There were several Grammy nods, a CMA (Country Music Association) award for “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”, movie and repeated TV appearances like Letterman, Conan, Saturday Night Live, Austin City Limits, SpongeBob, X Files, Dukes of Hazzard, Me Myself and Irene, Tresspass, Still Breathing, Blue Collar Comedy Tour 1 and 2, and more recently, Better Call Saul. And there were the Ad Campaigns; The Gap, Lee Jeans and Lipton Tea. As Junior became more well known, he began to collaborate on projects with some of his heroes. These include a duet with Ralph Stanley for which Junior received a Bluegrass Music Association Award (IBMA), a duet and video with Hank Thompson, as well as duets with video and record collaborations with the Beach Boys, George Jones, Leon McAuliffe, Ray Price, Leona Williams, Lynn Morris, Lloyd Green and Doc Watson. He even played guitar for Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys in a radio commercial.

Junior’s performance on the promotional song, “Better Call Saul” was recorded and released both as a video on AMC as well as a flexible 33 1/3rd vinyl record included in the show’s box set from Season One. Junior, Tanya Rae and the band continue to tear up the highways and no doubt will be appearing in concert near you one of these days. Seeing Junior live is a definite must, so GUIT WITH IT ’cause he’s AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL!

Friday March 5th will bring the funk and soul back to the historic stage with SHINYRIBS!

Shinyribs is the continuation of Kevin Russell’s musical journey that began in Beaumont, TX when, at 14, he found his father’s guitar under his bed, along with a sewing machine, a billy club and a box of comic books. Luckily he chose the guitar. Following his family’s oil boom and bust migratory path he landed in Shreveport, LA where he formed his first band. Picket Line Coyotes were a Husker Du meets Elvis Costello hybrid that lived and died between the “Arklatexabamassippi” borders much like their unfortunate animal namesake. That’s what took him to Austin where The Gourds were born from those Coyote ashes. That storied band of pumpkins came to an end after 18 years of good times and hard travelin’. From that point on Russell, has been riding high on the Shinyribs river of country-soul, swamp-funk and tickle. A Shinyribs show is an exaltation of spirit. It’s a hip shaking, belly laughing, soul-singing, song-slinging, down-home house party. All styles of American music are likely to be touched on, squeezed on, kissed on by this world-class band featuring Winfield Cheek on Keyboards, Keith Langford on Drums, Jeff Brown on Bass, the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, and The Shiny Soul Sisters - Kelley Mickwee & Alice Spencer. Whether on his 6 string Uke or his Electric guitar or singing a cappella, Russell will entertain you like no one else. The freedom with which he moves, coupled with his incredible voice is an experience in and of itself. His original songs laced with magical-realism along with novel interpretations of popular songs old and new (George Jones, TLC, Leadbelly, T-Pain) are the true art that runs throughout. He’s Burl Ives meets Al Green; Hank, Jr. meets Teddy Pendergrass. Wendell Berry meets Chuck Berry. This is by far, one of my favorite groups we work with at Gruene Hall. Always a good time!!

March 12th will see the return of Blue Water Highway Band. Blue Water Highway comes from the working class, coastal town background that has formed the work of so many classic American musicians. They take their name from the roadway that links their hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas to Galveston, where the cops, the teachers, 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. 

Their upcoming album, Paper Airplanes, will be released in March 2021. Beautiful melodies and arrangements support lyrical themes of childhood wonder and re-enchantment on recent singles “All Will Be Well,” and “Dog Days.” This will be an album release for the band and will sell out. Get your tickets early!!

And on Saturday March 13th, a regular staple around here, Mr Cory Morrow will take the stage. Cory Morrow didn’t become a Texas legend by being quiet. He sings about strippers and Jesus with equal fervor. While this dichotomy may leave those on either side of the moral equator perplexed – the answer is actually very simple. Cory Morrow is beautifully and uncomfortably transparent. From the beer soaked, cocaine laden days of his early career, to today’s more sober and spiritual leg of the journey, one thing about Morrow has never changed – as goes Cory’s life, goes Cory’s songs – and that’s never been more evident than on his last studio release “Whiskey & Pride”.

The record which dropped in September 2018, is an aggressive blend of early Morrow sound with a current day perspective. Vintage feel from an evolving heart and mind. The title track, “Whiskey & Pride” features the age-old struggle of love versus ego and cleverly straddles the line of sermon and self-deprecation. The twist comes in the form of a mirror behind a bar that reveals the true identity of the accuser. The track, which is also the first single release, features the Texas Country-style instrumentation prevalent in Morrow’s early days, including steel guitar phenom and producer of “Whiskey & Pride”, Lloyd Maines.

“Whiskey” boasts twelve songs previously unrecorded, including two covers giving nod to mentors Rodney Crowell (Funny Feeling) and Jerry Jeff Walker (Hill Country Rain). Quite possibly, the jewel for fans is “Always and Forever”, an iconic Morrow ballad that has only appeared on live recordings. Cory is joined by the unforgettable Jamie Lin Wilson on the long awaited studio version of the classic.

“Whiskey and Pride” runs the gamut on subject matter from the daily grind (Restless, Blue Collar) to living in the moment (Breath, Let’s Take This Outside). Musically, it explores the spectrum from tender (Smile, Daisey) to raucous (One Foot, Revival), and includes spectacular moments from long time band-leader and coveted studio guitar player John Carroll. “Whiskey” seamlessly weaves its way through simple and sweet, moody and complex, and offers equal doses of introspection and fun.

If the new record, and this phase of Morrow’s career, had to be summed up in one word – the word would be “real”. As evidenced by his latest recordings, live shows, and online communication with fans, he’s not pandering, he’s simply doing what he knows. Pulling back the curtains, letting us in, and letting the chips fall where they may.

“Whiskey & Pride” is much more than a collection of songs. It’s another mile-marker in the journey of Cory Morrow, Always a sell out and raucous good time!

 I'll be back in March to pick it up after St Paddy's Day through the end of the month!

Until then, get out there and support all of the live music venues and bands that have suffered so much during these trying times!

Until Next Time!