I don't think I can remember a September that has more live music planned than this year! So let's get to it shall we? These are my picks...
This weekend, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights will take the stage at Gruene Hall Saturday Sept 11th. An eclectic mix of Rock and Americana leaves me in awe every time I see these guys.
The band was formed in January 2007 in Dallas, Texas by Jonathan Tyler, Brandon Pinckard, along with Oklahoma natives Nick Jay, and Jordan Cain. The band immediately went into the studio with local producer Chris Bell to record their first independent record Hot Trottin'. After playing nearly every venue in Deep Ellum the band began to venture outside of Dallas into Austin, Houston, and other surrounding cities. Emotion Brown joined the band in May 2007.
By 2008, the band began garnering regional and national attention by supporting major national acts including Erykah Badu, Leon Russell, Deep Purple, The Black Crowes, Kool & the Gang, Chicago, Heart, Cross Canadian Ragweed, among others. The band was discovered at SXSW 2008 by an A&R representative from Atlantic Records, and was soon signed to F-Stop Music/Atlantic Records. The band was awarded "Best Blues Act" by the 2008 Dallas Observer Music Awards.
In 2009, JTNL continued touring extensively across the United States, most notably alongside Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, O.A.R., & AC/DC. The band also played the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Forecastle Festival, Summerfest, Wakarusa, and SXSW. In August, JTNL recorded their first album Pardon Me for F-Stop Music/Atlantic Records. Jay Joyce was selected by the band to produce the record from his Nashville studio. The band was awarded "Best Group", "Best Male Vocalist", and "Best Blues Act" by the 2009 Dallas Observer Music Awards. Rave reviews from outlets across the country began pouring in for the band and their live show, including praise from critics in USA Today, American Songwriter, Chicago Sun Times, Orlando Weekly, Austin American Statesman, Arizona Daily Star, Urban Tulsa Weekly, and Nuvo Weekly (Indianapolis) among numerous others.
On April 27, 2010, Pardon Me was released nationwide. It was awarded "Reader's Pick Best Local CD Release" in the Dallas Observer, the "fourth best release of 2010" by the Dallas Morning News, and received favorable reviews nationwide.
In 2010, JTNL most notably toured alongside ZZ Top,JJ Grey & MOFRO, American Bang, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and others. They played Bonnaroo Music Festival, Voodoo Fest, Summerfest, BamaJam, and Bonaroo Music Festival, just to name a few. Jonathan Tyler also went on to do some great solo material. I am sure you will get a taste of all of it during this show. Come feel this guys energy, you will not regret it.
On Friday September 17th, the great Lee Roy Parnell AND Seth James will bring the blues, R&B and rock to The Brauntex Theater in downtown New Braunfels. This show will be spectacular and I am excited I will personally be there.
Lee Roy Parnell is part of a long line of Texas roots-music eclectics and is among the elite few who can be identified as a triple threat. An ace guitarist, as well as a distinctive singer, and hit songwriter, his music runs the gamut of diversity. Combining the influences of Blue-Eyed Soul, Delta Blues, Road House Rock, Southern Boogie, Texas Swing, and Gospel, Parnell’s sound defies conventional classification. He draws from a broad range of musical sources and combines them with seamless dexterity and, unlike many other hard-to-pigeonhole artists, Parnell has enjoyed a run of success on the country and blues charts. He reflects, “I am a writer, guitarist, vocalist & a performer. Every skill set feeds the next. I’ve never been able to separate one from the other. It all starts with the song and when writing I’ve found that nothing is stronger than the truth. It is from that wellspring that my singing and playing are born…performing, too. My goal is to keep it honest and let the listener feel what I’m feeling. No matter our different walks in life I believe that most of us experience similar emotions. I’m tapping into you as much as you are tapping into me.”
From the start of his career through today, Parnell has approached all aspects of his life with a keen sense of protecting his integrity. He offers, “The people I most respect and relate to musically or in life have been people who stood up for what they believe in and stuck to their guns, no matter what.”
Midnight Believer, Parnell’s new album encompasses a realized vision that reflects the cumulative essence of who Lee Roy Parnell is today. He states, “One of the best things about gaining some maturity is you finally find out ‘Who You Is and Who You Ain’t.’ That said, I’d have to say that the song ‘Too Far Gone’ best describes me as an artist, now. It’s clearly a Blue-Eyed Soul ‘Beat Ballad’ as Barry Beckett (of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and my first producer) would call it. Barry really taught me how to make records. He taught me about groove, soul, vocal delivery and how to make every note count! The message here is in life and love we ebb and flow. We have good days and tough days. What counts is going the distance (or at least as far as you can.) I would be remiss not to give credit to ‘Sunny Days.’ That song is a real gift. The message is one of survival. ‘At least I lived long enough to know, that the rainy days, they make the flowers grow.’ It took me a long time to get that vocal…not because it was too ‘range-ey’ but because the lyric really hit home for me, and I’m not alone. I have countless people come to me after we’ve done a show with tears in their eyes saying, ‘Man…that song slayed me!’ I reply, ‘I know…me, too.’”
Musically, Parnell presents some of the best performances of his career on Midnight Believer. He approached this release with the intention of letting the music and performances speak. There is a level of organically-delivered emotion through his playing that took the path of not over-producing every track. He reflects, “Well, it’s funny…most folks think of me primarily as a slide guitarist, and to some degree that is true, but I played ‘regular lead guitar’ long before I played slide. On the song ‘Hours In Between’ what you’re hearing is one continuous lead guitar track from me…one pass going down with my band and no fixes. Not to say I didn’t want to, but they all threatened to walk out on me if I did! Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get the chance to fix anything.”
Along with Parnell will be the always entertaining Seth James, AT FIRST, SETH JAMES’ STORY READS LIKE PLOT LINES HAVE GOTTEN THEIR WIRES CROSSED OR TRANSLATIONS MUDDLED: COULD A WORKING COWBOY FROM DEEP WEST TEXAS REALLY BE A ROCK-AND-SOUL ROOTS FUNK MASTER, EDUCATED BY THE BLUES?
One listen to James’ new album Different Hat proves the answer is implicitly––resoundingly––yes.
“A lot of those songs sounded like they were from people who worked hard,” says James of the blues he found as a kid in the middle of the Texas plains. “I was just a long way from anything. But the language was simple and romantic in a way that I could understand.”
Music––especially the blues––has a history of jumping through generations, continents, and races thanks in large part to old roots that are gnarled, broad, and strong enough to bust through crowded city sidewalks––and lonely mesquite-pricked pastures. Working cattle on his family’s ranch in King County, James wasn’t inundated with pop culture like other 90s teenagers. He was isolated, and if he wanted music, he’d have to dig. “There’s not a radio on a horse,” James says with a soft laugh. “I was musical, but music didn’t seem like it was everywhere. I was always hunting for it.”
James found Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins––then Booker T. & the MGs, NRBQ, Delbert McClinton, and ultimately, a sound entirely his own. A couple of decades ago, he emerged with an easy voice that can croon and soul-shout, campfire storytelling chops, and moody, virtuosic electric guitar playing capable of blistering rides, New Orleans drama, and roadhouse funk. His new album, Different Hat, puts all of that and more on confident display. Produced by Kevin McKendree, the record runs wry country folk, organ-soused trios, and more Americana riches through an unapologetically blues filter. Recorded live with ace players, Different Hat also firmly cements James’ place as a preeminent torch bearer, still influenced by what shaped him as a kid. “There was nobody there to stifle me or tell me not to listen to this or that,” James remembers. “It was always just about the way it made me feel.”
A large grassroots following has been hip to James for years. His 2009 solo record That Kind of Man brought next-level acclaim. The next year, James co-founded roots rock group The Departed with friend Cody Canada. Three years and two albums later, James returned to his solo career, simply because he missed playing his own sound he’d worked so hard to find. The miles logged and music played have led James to an important place. “If you just sit and talk to some old cowboy in West Texas, he doesn’t change the way he talks from conversation to conversation,” James says. “It’s the same way with music.” James is who he is––no matter who else is around.
That self-assurance shapes Different Hat. Opening track “Mamarita” saunters with boozy Big Easy energy. Written by Al Anderson, Pat McLaughlin and Shawn Camp, the song is a buoyant welcome to the album that also sharpens our collective longing to hear music, live. James points excitedly to the track’s players. “You can take a song like that and just almost have it right––and it’s terrible,” he says. “It’s really important that the musicians understand the intricacies of that kind of music. There is a lot of stuff happening.”
Every one of the album’s covers reveals more of James’ quiet prowess as an interpreter. His "Ohoopee River Bottom Land" slinks all the way to country funk perfection, while his version of JJ Cale’s “Raising Cain”––a song that’s never been cut by anyone else, including Cale––features Lee Roy Parnell on slide guitar, as well as horns and plenty of swing. James recorded a second Cale song for the album: “Wish I Had Not Said,” enriched by sublime vocals from Jessica Murray––James’ wife––and a sultry groove that nods to Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
James has studied Delbert McClinton for years––and it shows. When McClinton, with whom James has also toured, suggested James cut his song, “Solid Gold Plated Fool,” James didn’t hesitate. “It’s been an anthem for me most of my life,” James says of the song. “I don’t run around seeking approval because I’ve learned that’s scary and just not a healthy thing to do, but when you get that kind of nod from him, it does mean a lot.”
Listeners won’t hear James’ signature guitar on the powerful closing track “Real Bad Deal”––only his smooth vocals, backed by sparse drums and keys. It is the first time James has ever not played guitar on one of his recordings. “Sometimes it’s all about space,” James says. “The space is huge, and it can be scary, especially if you’re a guitar player. If the song requires you to have a bombastic moment of, ‘Hey, I play guitar and you better look out,’ then that’s great. But if the space is more beneficial for the song, the space wins. This song is a prime example of that.”
“Gettin’ It On” takes a bad divorce and makes it funky, while “He Don’t Love You” channels Motown swagger. With crisp high-hat taps and a chorus of keys and horns, “Pleasing Linda Lou” is James’ addition to Fort Worth blues folklore, while “Burn It Down” takes a joy ride through a hard-driving beat with growling guitar.
Two standout tracks are intricate story songs penned by James. With horns and keys leading the supporting cast, “Big Trouble” is a mostly true tribute to an underground Texas guitar great. “Moonpies” is a stunning vocal showcase packed with clever lines and vivid pictures. James planned to finish the song with McClinton, and the two texted back and forth about it. “Finally, Delbert said, ‘You know, I think it’s done––I might change this one little line here,’” James remembers. “So when it came time to put the record out, I reached out to him about his publishing information, and he said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ So, according to Delbert, I wrote the song by myself.” James laughs, then adds, “It’s a fun song––and pretty bizarre, musically. It’s kind of half Howlin’ Wolf, half Burt Bacharach.”
In the trippy and forlorn “World Full of Strangers,” James tackles the isolation of the last year. Instead of burrowing into quarantine blues or pandemic fear, the song looks outside to acknowledge the shared experience of trying to find familiarity again. “You can see somebody that you know very well, but you haven’t seen them in nine months and all of a sudden, they feel like strangers,” James says. “It’s just felt like everybody got put in the corner. To me, that’s the most dangerous thing to come out of all this.”
James has spent his life discovering and proving what music can do, not just artistically, but when it comes to something as ordinary and universal as Saturday night. “I don’t want to do a good job so that I can be successful and sell more records,” James says. “Don’t get me wrong––that would be great, too. But that moment where everyone is together, their glasses cheers-ing while they shake off the blues a little bit––I want to be part of that.”
Get your tickets now for this show...I believe it will be the highlight of the month.
Staying at the Brauntex, on the 23rd, the one and only Jefferson Starship will bring the hits to New Braunfels!!
Formerly the Jefferson Airplane, the band evolved into the Jefferson Starship after Paul Kantner (17 March 1941, San Francisco, California, USA; guitar/vocals) had previously released Blows Against The Empire in 1970, billed as Paul Kantner with the Jefferson Starship. His fascination with science fiction no doubt led the Airplane to metamorphose into a Starship.
Jefferson Starship’s official debut was Dragonfly in 1974, which became an immediate success. Joining Kantner on this album were Jefferson Airplane colleagues Grace Slick (b. Grace Barnett Wing, 30 October 1939, Chicago, Illinois, USA; vocals) and Papa John Creach (b. John Henry Creach, 28 May 1917, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 22 February 1994, Los Angeles, California, USA; violin), along with former Quicksilver Messenger Service bass player David Freiberg (b. 24 August 1938, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; vocals, keyboards), Craig Chaquico (b. 26 September 1954, Sacramento, California, USA; lead guitar), John Barbata (drums, ex-Turtles), and the experienced ex-Sons Of Fred and Sam Gopal Dream member Pete Sears (b. Bromley, Kent, England; bass/keyboards). The tracks included ‘Ride The Tiger’, which was accompanied by an imaginatively graphic, early video and ‘Hyperdrive’, a Slick magnum opus featuring Chaquico’s frantic screaming guitar. Old Jefferson Airplane fans were delighted to hear Marty Balin guesting on one track with his own composition ‘Caroline’, and further cheered when he joined the band at the beginning of 1975. Red Octopus later that year became their most successful album and ended up selling several million copies and spending a month at the top of the US charts. The flagship track was Balin’s beautiful and seemingly innocent ‘Miracles’, including its oblique reference to cunnilingus with Balin singing ‘I had a taste of the real world, when I went down on you’ and Slick innocently responding in the background with ‘Mmm, don’t waste a drop of it, don’t ever stop it’.
Soon afterwards, Kantner and Slick separated; she moved in with Skip Johnson, the band’s lighting engineer, and eventually married him. Later that year Slick was regularly in the news when her drinking problems got out of control. Spitfire and Earth continued the Jefferson Starship’s success, although the band had now become a hard rock outfit. Balin’s lighter ‘Count On Me’ was a US Top 10 hit in 1978. That year, Slick was asked to leave the band, to be allowed to return when she dried out. She was eventually dismissed, closely followed by Balin, who left towards the end of a turbulent year. He was replaced by Mickey Thomas and further changes were afoot when stalwart drummer Aynsley Dunbar (b. 10 January 1946, Liverpool, England) joined in place of Barbata. Freedom From Point Zero and the US Top 20 hit ‘Jane’, at the end of 1979, bore no resemblance to the musical style towards which remaining original member Kantner had attempted to steer them. He suffered a stroke during 1980, but returned the following spring together with a sober Grace Slick.
Both Modern Times (1981) and Winds Of Change (1982), continued Jefferson Starship’s commercial success, although by now the formula was wearing thin. Kantner found his role had diminished and released a solo album later that year. He continued with them throughout the following year, although he was openly very unsettled. Towards the end of 1984 Kantner performed a nostalgic set of old Jefferson Airplane songs with Balin’s band, amid rumours of a reunion. The tension broke in 1985 when, following much acrimony over ownership of the band’s name, Kantner was paid off and took with him half of the group’s moniker. Kantner claimed the rights to the name, although he no longer wanted to use the title, as his reunion with Balin and Casady in the KBC Band demonstrated.
In defiance Kantner’s former band performed as Starship Jefferson, but shortly afterwards became Starship. Both Thomas and Freiberg left during these antagonistic times, leaving Slick the remaining original member after the incredible changes of the previous few years. The new line-up added Denny Baldwin on drums and recorded Knee Deep In The Hoopla in 1985, which became their most successful album since Red Octopus. Two singles from the album, ‘We Built This City’ (written by Bernie Taupin) and ‘Sara’, both reached number 1 in the USA. The following year they reached the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic with the theme from the movie Mannequin, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’. Their image was now of slick perpetrators of AOR, performing immaculate music for the MTV generation (on which China Kantner was a presenter). Now, having gone full circle, Grace Slick departed in 1989 to join Kaukonen, Casady, Balin and Kantner in... the Jefferson Airplane.
The current lineup will bring the history and all of the incredible hits right to the intimate setting that is The Brauntex Theater.
My final pick for the month is something a bit different. The Isaacs will bring country goaspel to The Brauntex on Thursday September 30th. , a multi-award winning family group who began singing 35 years ago are based out of Hendersonville, TN. The vocalists are mother Lily Isaacs and siblings Ben Isaacs, Sonya Isaacs Yeary and Rebecca Isaacs Bowman. Playing their own acoustic instruments and joined by other band members, The Isaacs have a unique style that blends tight family harmony with contemporary acoustic instrumentation that appeals to a variety of audiences. Their musical style has been influenced by many genres of music including bluegrass, rhythm and blues, folk, and country, contemporary, acoustic and southern gospel.
Whatever your musical tastes, there are a ton of live music venues and genres just waiting for you...IN NEW BRAUNFELS!!