It's starting to look like bands are making up for lost time. August has multiple big name artists and a slew of local talent filling all of our venues in New Braunfels . So let's get started with my picks through the rest of August. Hayes Carll, the prolific songwriter, story teller extrodinare will take the stage at Gruene Hall this weekend for two nights August 13th & 14th. Joshua Hayes Carll, is a singer-songwriter from The Woodlands, Texas. Carll has toured relentlessly in North America and abroad (performing over two hundred shows a year), founded a successful singer-songwriter music festival on the Gulf Coast of Texas, secured a record deal with Lost Highway Records, and has even seen his album Little Rock become the first self-released album to reach #1 on the Americana Music Chart.
"When I started, I moved down to this place called Crystal Beach, Texas where you need to take a ferry from Galveston across the bay to get to this little peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico," recalls Carll, who grew up just outside Houston. "It's this isolated coastal community with a wild assortment of people either hiding out, hanging on or getting lost– a lot of drugs and drinking, a fair amount of violence, but at the same time a lot of really interesting people with great stories to tell. Folks in the bars there weren't necessarily interested in what I had to say as a songwriter– they wanted to hear David Allan Coe and Merle Haggard, and other stuff they knew. So that's what I did six nights a week for four years. I haven't run into tougher crowds since. It was an initiation into becoming a performer."
Those experiences not only gave Carll a thick skin, they gave him plenty of material to spin into songs like the low-slung, finger-picked blues "I Got a Gig" – populated by characters like the "barefoot shrimper with a pistol up his sleeve" – and the tear-in-your-beer waltz "Beaumont," in which a suitor bearing a single white rose makes a fruitless trip to try to win over a lady love. Carll says of the latter tune. "I like to try to tackle a heavy topic but do it with a light touch. The more personal, weightier stuff doesn't come as easy, even though that's what I like to think about the most."
Carll has developed that touch over a long stretch that began when he was still in his teens, a stretch he spent writing poems, short stories and songs by the notebook-full. He eventually discovered that the last of those three flowed from him most easily, and while he dutifully headed off to college, he spent more time strumming and singing. To hear him tell it, "I sort of sabotaged my career options to the point where, by the time I was out of school, I was pretty much unemployable and had no choice but to be a musician."
After moving to the Gulf Coast, Carll honed his craft in the area bars and beer-joints as well as more serious folk clubs like the venerable Old Quarter in Galveston, where he opened for a wide array of respected songwriters such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willis Alan Ramsay and many others. By 2002, he was ready to unleash his recorded indie debut, Flowers and Liquor, which, while not widely distributed, garnered plenty of critical praise, including American Songwriter's claim that the disc "suggests the young Texan might be the next great songwriter from a state full of maestros."
He lived up to that praise on his next outing, Little Rock, an offering on which Carll showed off his stylistic breadth by steering his band from searing rock to jazz-tinged balladry – a scope that earned praise both at home and across the pond, where the Irish Times raved "This is the first mighty country record of the year, a bruised, bedraggled affair full of jagged memories and wry observations."
On his 2008 album Trouble In Mind, there's a much sharper focus to the material, thanks in part, to more time in the studio and some great players sure to be familiar to roots-rock aficionados, including, Dan Baird, Darrell Scott, Will Kimbrough and former Flying Burrito Brother Al Perkins.
“My first record I did in five days, and my second one we did in twelve," Carll explains. "This time around I had a solid month, so it was really a luxury. It was amazing to get all these talented people in the room and have them listen to me describe my vision and then go out and try to realize that and capture it on tape. My strength isn't that I have the world's most amazing voice or that I'm this incredible player – hopefully it's that there's some aspect of my personality and my lyrics that people can relate to."
Carll’s personality, emotional but never too sentimental, mischievous, funny, world-weary and sardonic, imbues every track of Trouble in Mind. He’s never afraid to be vulnerable and direct, as on one of the standout tracks, “Willing to Love Again” - “I feel too much, I protect too much, most times I probably expect too much. I spend my life on this broken crutch, and you believe I can fly.”
Carll's 2011 album KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) was The album includes "Another Like You," a duet with Cary Ann Hearst The L.A. Times described the album as "Carll is every bit as expressive a singer as he is a writer, drawling his trenchant observations with deceptive ease."
Carll’s live performances continue to win over fans everywhere. His clever, irreverent lyrics and sharp observations combined with his warm Texas drawl make his stories and anecdotes as compelling and entertaining as his songs. There’s that sweet taste of honey followed with the sharp sting of a wisecrack. Never is that tongue-in-cheek humor more obvious than on the red neck rant “She Left Me For Jesus”, where a clueless lover is upset and suspicious over the changes in his girlfriend. “Now she’s acting funny and I don’t understand. I think that she’s found her some other man. She’s left me for Jesus, and that just ain’t fair. She says that he’s perfect, how can I compare?” “You know I’m always a little nervous when I sing that song. Like Ray Wiley Hubbard says, the problem with irony is that people don’t always get it.”
His soon to be released album ‘You Get It All’ is already making waves in the singer songwriter world. I expect he will lay a couple of those tunes down this weekend as well. Tickets will sell out, so get yours NOW.
Next up, the final Two Ton Tuesday for this summer in Tuesday August 17th. Before there was Americana, before there was Texas Country, Two Tons of Steel front man Kevin Geil and his original band, “Dead Crickets,” rocked a sound that blended the best of musical worlds and pushed the envelope of “Texas” sound with a signature brand of country meets punk.
The San Antonio-based group packed the small bars and local hangouts and quickly became the Alamo City’s most-loved band, earning them a spot on the cover of Billboard Magazine in 1996. It was the beginning of a twenty year journey for Geil and the 4-piece ensemble.
Releasing “Two Tons Of Steel” in 1994 and “Crazy For My Baby” in 1995 on Blue Fire Records, a sponsorship deal with Lone Star Beer quickly followed. Dead Crickets, renamed Two Tons of Steel in 1996 began traveling outside of Texas, including stops at the Grand Ole’ Opry in Nashville, Tenn., the National Theater in Havana, Cuba, and European tours, to greet fans who had embraced their Texas-born sound. In 1996 they released “Oh No!” on their independent label, “Big Bellied Records.” They followed up the passion project with a live recording at the legendary Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas, taped during a Two Ton Tuesday Show 1998.
2018, will mark the bands 23rd year of “Two Ton Tuesday Live from Gruene Hall.” The summerlong event has drawn over 230,000 fans since it began its annual run in 1995. The popular concert series was captured in “Two Ton Tuesday Live,” a DVD-CD combo
released on Palo Duro Records in 2006. Also that year, the band’s first national release, “Vegas,” produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Lloyd Maines on the Palo Duro label, took them to No. 7 on the Americana Music Charts and was one of the top 20 releases of 2006.
Two Tons released “Not That Lucky” in 2009. The album peaked at No. 4 on the Americana Music Charts and has made Two Tons of Steel a band to watch in 2013. Along the way, the band has collected a number of awards. To date, Two Tons has cleaned up at home, winning "Band of the Year" on 12 separate occasions and "Album of the Year" for its self-titled debut. Two Tons has also been named "Best Country Band" by the San Antonio Current ten times. Geil also has nabbed 'Best Male Vocal' honors four times.
Two Tons of Steel’s reach extends beyond their live gigs. In 2003, the band was filmed during a “Two Ton Tuesday” gig for the IMAX film, "Texas: The Big Picture," which can be seen daily at the IMAX Theatre in the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin and has been seen as far away as Japan. The band also has been featured as supporting characters in award winning author Karen Kendall's romance novel, "First Date."
These guys know how to ‘bring the energy’ on a Tuesday, so get out there and support them for summer's last hoorah!
If more traditional country is your thing, and you wish someone ‘new’ would come along doing just that, then Jon Wolff performing at Gruene Hall on August 21st, is where you should be…
The best introduction to Jon Wolfe is the basic yet not so simple fact that he’s a country singer and songwriter. Country music, as it was, is and always should be, with boots firmly standing on the bedrock of tradition and an eye focused on taking it into the future. And that, as any fan of true country knows, is no simple proposition.
“At heart, it’s all about being a great singer and storyteller.”
Hence the other best introduction to Jon Wolfe is to hear him sing and share the stories in the songs he performs and writes. And to learn his life story — from small town Oklahoma to the bustling big city commodities trading floor to the dance halls and honky-tonks of Texas and Oklahoma to Music Row, to give the highlights — and witness his faith in the power of music and determination to touch the hearts of others with something that means so much to him.
It’s world-class country music from the American heartland, informed by the great singers that inspired Wolfe — like George Strait, Garth Brooks (a fellow Okie), Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam, to name a few — yet fired by his own contemporary energy and vision.
“A seasoned performer, Wolfe has opened for some of country’s biggest stars and has played more than 400 live shows over the past four years. ”
His 2010 release, It All Happened In A Honky Tonk, became such a regional success that it was re-released as a Deluxe Edition by Warner Music Nashville in 2013. The album debuted at #34 on the Billboard Album Chart and has collectively sold 25,000 units.
2015's Natural Man debuted #13 on iTunes, #25 on the Billboard chart, and #8 on the Nielsen SoundScan Top New Artist Albums Chart. The 13-track collection merges Wolfe's signature traditional sound, influenced by some of country music's greatest legends, with an edgy, modern energy.
The blend of rawness and accessibility of Natural Man gave Wolfe the undeniable identity of a torchbearer for country music. Any Night In Texas (2017) - Wolfe’s most recent and proudest collection of songs to date - landed at #3 on iTunes Country, #15 on Billboard Country, and continues to burn up the charts. With three highly-lauded studio albums in his repertoire, Wolfe’s garnered 12 consecutive Top Ten singles (7 have hit No.1), positioning him as a must-see act in Texas, Oklahoma, and well beyond.
Jon released his latest EP, Feels Like Country Music, in 2019 produced by Grammy nominated producer, Dave Brainard. So far, Feels Like Country Music has garnered two additional, consecutive number one singles in Texas with Some Ol’ Bar in the 90s and the title track, Feels Like Country Music.
Jon Wolfe recently created his own 100% Blue Agave tequila under the moniker of his name in Spanish: Juan Lobo. Juan Lobo Tequila is now available all over Texas, California, and Colorado. You can learn more about Juan Lobo Tequila here, attend the next Juan Lobo Tequila Fest, or simply sip on a Juan Lobo Tequila at the next Jon Wolfe show near you!
“Wolfe invites country music fans everywhere to dust off your boots, download or spin the single, and come see the electrifying live show that has everyone talking. The numbers don’t lie: Jon Wolfe is the torchbearer for country music.”
And finally, an old school band that's 'still got it' Sawyer Brown will make an appearance at The Brauntex Theater in downtown New Braunfels on Sunday August 29th. One of those rare acts who actually became stars directly from winning Star Search, country-rockers Sawyer Brown wound up enjoying a long, hit-filled career and remained commercially viable into the new millennium. The group originally grew out of country-pop singer Don King's touring band, with guitarist Bobby Randall and drummer Joe Smyth signing on in 1979, and bassist Jim Scholten, keyboardist Gregg "Hobie" Hubbard, and guitarist/future lead singer Mark Miller all arriving in 1980. King stopped touring in 1981, and the group decided to stay together, naming themselves after the Nashville street where they rehearsed. They spent the next two years on the road, and their agent landed them an audition for the popular syndicated talent show Star Search. Sawyer Brown won the grand prize of 100,000 dollars, and it wasn't long before Liberty/Capitol signed them up in 1984. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1985, and their debut single, "Leona," climbed into the Top 20; its follow-up, "Step That Step," went all the way to number one, and the album fell one spot short of that same position. Their sophomore album, Shakin', was another hit, producing the Top Five single "Betty's Bein' Bad."
The band endured a singles-chart slump over 1986-1987, likely a result of their increasingly slick country-pop production, but they rebounded when "This Missin' You Heart of Mine" went to number two at the end of 1987. Another commercially disappointing period followed, lasting into 1991, but it was interrupted by the Top Five single "The Race Is On," which helped its accompanying album, The Boys Are Back, climb into the Top Five. Following 1991's Buick album, Sawyer Brown parted ways with Liberty and signed with Curb; around the same time, guitarist Randall departed and was replaced by Duncan Cameron. Through it all, they never stopped touring, which helped them maintain a following, and it paid off when "The Walk" went to number two in late 1991. Their first Curb album, The Dirt Road, produced two big hits in the Top Five title track and the band's second number one hit, "Some Girls Do." Their follow-up, 1992's Cafe on the Corner, was acclaimed by many critics as their most consistent, fully realized album, and it gave them three Top Five hits in the title track, "All These Years," and "Trouble on the Line." 1993's Outskirts of Town continued their hot streak, producing two more Top Fives in "The Boys & Me" and "Hard to Say," plus their third number one in "Thank God for You." The band capped off their commercial resurgence with Greatest Hits 1990-1995, a Top Five-selling compilation whose two new tracks, "I Don't Believe in Goodbye" and "This Time," both made the Top Five themselves.
Released later in 1995, the Top Ten This Thing Called Wantin' and Havin' It All produced another Top Five smash in "Treat Her Right" and was followed by two albums in 1997: the live Six Days on the Road (another Top Ten seller) and the gospel/CCM record Hallelujah He Is Born. The Top Ten Drive Me Wild arrived in 1999, and its title cut was also a Top Ten hit. Following 2002's poppy Can You Hear Me Now, the group parted ways with Curb and signed a new deal with Disney's country subsidiary Lyric Street. The band continues to tour and write songs to this day. A liitle bit of music history takes the stage...here...'In New Braunfels'.
Until next time...