Austin360 On The Record: Cotton Mather, Eric Tessmer

OUT THIS WEEK

CottonMatherAlbumCoverCotton Mather, “Death of the Cool” (Star Apple Kingdom). There are concept albums, and there is Cotton Mather leader Robert Harrison’s latest endeavor. This 11-song disc is actually just a small fraction of Harrison’s “Songs of the I Ching” mega-project, a collection of 64 songs from both his early band Cotton Mather and his subsequent outfit Future Clouds & Radar that are “reactions in song to illuminations from the I Ching about life unfolding,” to use Harrison’s own words about the ancient Chinese writings. “Some of the songs directly reference the text and others use the readings as a starting point.” He’s releasing them bit-by-bit on his ichingsongs.com website, along with extended ruminations about each track. That’s a deep dive, but the good news is that if you’re simply a fan of Harrison’s intriguing way with a melody from his three decades of indie-pop explorations, “Death of the Cool” also holds together well as a more traditional album. Top local musicians including George Reiff and Darin Murphy help color the songs with fascinating textures. In-store Sept. 8 at Waterloo Records. Here’s the leadoff track, “The Book of Too Late Changes”:

Eric Tessmer, “EP 1.” Four new songs from the longtime local blues-rock guitar slinger. Release show July 29 at Antone’s. Here’s a live acoustic version of the track “Ms. Fortune Teller”:

COMING SOON

AUG. 11: Kelsey Arianne, “Light Shines Through,” release show Aug. 11 at Strange Brew.

AUG. 12: Kim Simpson, “Songs and Sightings 1992-2014,” release show Aug. 12 at Good Shepherd on the Hill.

AUG. 19: Dale Watson, “Live At The Big T Roadhouse, Chicken S#!+ Bingo Sunday” (Red House/Ameripolitan).

AUG. 20: Eric Bee, self-titled, release show Aug. 20 at Stay Gold.

AUG. 22: Beaver Nelson, “Positive,” release show Sept. 16 at Strange Brew.

AUG. 26: Jack Ingram, “Midnight Motel” (Rounder).

AUG. 26: Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone, “Transatlanticana” (Red House), playing Oct. 28 at El Mercado Backstage.

AUG. 26: Fabulous Thunderbirds, “Strong Like That” (Severn).

AUG. 26: Wildfires, “Aguas Frescas (Part II)” EP.

SEPT. 9: Giulia Millanta, “Moonbeam Parade.”

SEPT. 16: Willie Nelson, “For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price” (Legacy).

SEPT. 16: Jesse Dayton, “The Revealer” (Blue Elan), playing Nov. 4 at Antone’s.

SEPT. 16: Elijah Ford & the Bloom, “As You Were” (Nine Mile).

SEPT. 17: Henry & the Invisibles, title TBA, release show Sept. 17 at Empire.

SEPT. 23: Reckless Kelly, “Sunset Motel” (Thirty Tigers).

SEPT. 23: Ruby & the Reckless, “In My Head.”

SEPT. 26: Thor & Friends, self-titled (LM Duplication).

SEPT. 30: Survive, “RR7349” (Relapse).

SEPTEMBER: Band of Heathens, title TBA.

OCTOBER: Eric Johnson, title TBA.

FALL: Terri Hendrix, “The Slaughterhouse Sessions” (Wilory).

FALL: Jamestown Revival, “The Education of a Wandering Man” (Republic), playing Nov. 4 at Emo’s.

Gone Country: Which presidential candidate does your favorite artist support?

“We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

DixieChickssjp24JPG
Staff Photo by Sung Park/AMERICAN-STATESMAN The Dixie Chicks perform at the Frank Erwin Center. Natalie Maines sings “There’s Your Trouble.” Note the F.U. T. K. (F U Toby Keith) shirt.

When Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines spoke those words to a London crowd in March 2003, right before the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq, she couldn’t have imagined the media firestorm she would ignite by voicing her political opinion.

“Bushgate,” as it came to be known, resulted in boycotts of the Chicks, death threats towards Maines and the reinforcement of a prominent attitude in country music: you don’t talk about your political beliefs, and you definitely don’t express your disapproval with the president. And you especially don’t make those statements if you’re a woman. (The fact that Maines got boycotted for voicing her political beliefs but Toby Keith made a career out of voicing his is enough fodder for another column, but I digress.)

That’s why, during the 2016 election cycle, Bushgate seems quaint. The Dixie Chicks routinely open up shows on their new tour with a photo of Donald Trump as The Devil, often brought out during their performance of “Goodbye Earl.”

In fact, country artists are still historically mum about who they support on the ballot, but many are still showing their approval (or disapproval) of the two party’s candidates in myriad ways.

Take Jason Isbell, for example. The Americana star hasn’t formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, but it also looks like he doesn’t support Donald Trump, either. He tweeted the following after his wife Amanda Shires gave birth to their first child:

Margo Price put her songwriting chops to good use back in December to decry the Donald:

And the latest rock star-cum-country outlaw Steven Tyler threatened legal action against Trump’s camp if he ever used Tyler’s music again, after “Dream On” was used during campaign rallies.

But there’s still many country artists and celebrities who support Donald Trump, including Ronnie Dunn, who counts “Whoopi [Goldberg] say[ing] she’ll leave the country” and “You will not be able to marry your pet” as benefits to a Trump presidency in a recent Facebook post.

Kid Rock (who previously supported Ben Carson), Lee Brice, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Chris Janson all performed at the Republican National Convention last week, which also saw an appearance from Willie Robertson. Janson somehow made the unbearable “Truck Yeah” even worse after changing the lyrics to “Trump Yeah.”

(Side-note: While not the most relevant artist, Kid Rock’s episode of Planet Money where he goes into his detailed plan to stop ticket scalping at his shows is a beautiful lesson in free-market capitalism.)

Loretta Lynn told Reuters that she thinks “Trump is the only one who’s going to turn this country around.”

Even part of the Oak Ridge Boys are riding the Trump Train, as evidenced by the following tweets from member Joe Bonsall:

https://twitter.com/Bikers4Trump/status/758006682538512384

So who is left in Hillary’s camp?

The Dixie Chicks, of course. And Willie Nelson, who supported both Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary race, and Cyndi Lauper, who expressed her confidence in Clinton in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone Country.

On the whole, many artists are honoring that time old tradition of keeping quiet, and some are even playfully deflecting political questions.

“I’ve been thinking about running for president myself — I have the hair for it. We need more boobs in the White House! You know me, I don’t get into political things, I just hope and pray we get somebody wonderful,” Dolly Parton said at a press conference earlier this summer.

Longtime Democrat Tim McGraw hasn’t said anything about the election yet, and the historically Obama-bashing Hank Williams, Jr. told Rolling Stone Country he “[doesn’t] give a s— about the election.”

But one thing’s for certain: nobody has called for any all-out boycotts of any country artist for expressing their views this election. And that’s truly something that Makes America Great.

Gone Country aims to thoughtfully explore the country music genre and where it’s headed, with a focus on national trends and buzzworthy news of the week. For info about album releases and concerts, check out this week’s Country Music Roundup.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or through email at jharris@statesman.com.

 

Local musician and producer George Reiff battling cancer

Carson McHone performs at the Austin Music Awards at SXSW on Wednesday March 18, 2015.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
George Reiff backing up singer-songwriter Carson McHone at the 2015 Austin Music Awards. Photo by Jay Janner/American-Statesman

Austin bassist and producer George Reiff has been diagnosed with cancer and is having brain surgery this week, according to details on a crowdfunding page that appeared Thursday afternoon.

“George has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer — in his brain, liver, adrenal gland and right lung.
He is going to have a tumor removed from his brain today or tomorrow,” the statement on the funding site reads. “At this time, the Reiff family is asking for privacy as they process. Please visit here for medical updates rather than calling, texting, or emailing.”

Reiff rose to prominence on the local scene in the 1980s as a member of new-wave Tex-Mex star Joe “King” Carrasco’s band. Since then, he’s toured and recorded with dozens of Austin artists over the years, including the Dixie Chicks offshoot Court Yard Hounds and longtime Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton.

In recent years, he’s also been one of the city’s most accomplished producers, helming widely acclaimed records for prominent Americana artists including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Shinyribs, the Mastersons, Uncle Lucius and the Band of Heathens.

Often in the house band for such marquee events as the Austin Music Awards, Reiff also is highly respected by fellow musicians well beyond the area. Legendary producer Daniel Lanois once referred to Reiff as “one of the world’s greatest bass players” from the stage of a South by Southwest show.

Sound on Sound Fest announces day-by-day lineup

Run the Jewels. Photo by Vic Michael
Run the Jewels will help open Sound on Sound Fest on Friday. Photo by Vic Michael

Sound on Sound Fest, the new event from former producers of Fun Fun Fun Fest set for November at Sherwood Forest 35 miles east of Austin in McDade, has announced the day-by-day lineup.

Highlights include Phantogram, Run the Jewels, the Descendents and Guided by Voices on Friday; Beach House, Purity Ring, Mac DeMarco and Big Boy on Saturday; and Explosions in the Sky, Courtney Barnett, Death Grips and Bob Mould on Sunday.

New additions include Clipping and Swmrs on Friday; Health, Small Black and Bleached on Saturday; and the Frights on Sunday.

Single-day passes are now on sale for $85 plus fees via the festival’s website. A three-day pass is $169 plus fees.

Also in the works are further details about shuttles to the event. Per today’s announcement: “The fleet of shuttles will be running continuously throughout the festival weekend, and will have one centrally located pickup/drop-off location with the exact location to be announced soon in the coming weeks. Round trip shuttle passes will cost $5 per day or $10 for the entire three-day weekend when purchased in advance. The shuttle ticket price will then jump to $10 per day and $20 for the three-day pass once the festival begins. All shuttle passes will be round-trip offerings.”

Here’s the full list of performers, with time schedules still to be announced:

FRIDAY, NOV. 4
Phantogram / Run The Jewels / Descendents / Guided By Voices / Cursive / FIDLAR / Thee Oh Sees / Car Seat Headrest / Thundercat / Empress Of / Hinds / Shannon and the Clams / Touché Amoré / Turnstile / The Range / Denzel Curry / Planes Mistaken For Stars / Good Riddance / Into It Over It / clipping. / SWMRS / Diet Cig / Calliope Musicals / Magna Carda / BOYRFRNDZ / War On Women / Pinata Protest / Protextor

SATURDAY, NOV. 5
Beach House  / Purity Ring / Mac DeMarco / Big Boi / FLAG / Boys Noize / Dead Milkmen / Jagwar Ma / Wild Nothing / Youth of Today (’88 line up) / Dillinger Escape Plan / HEALTH / Old Man Gloom / Aesop Rock / Alex G / Pouya / METZ / Girls Against Boys / Diarrhea Planet / Beach Slang / The Relationship (Feat. Brian Bell of Weezer) / Small Black / Bleached / American Sharks / Hardproof / Radioactivity / Orthy / Moving Panoramas / Anya / Us Weekly

SUNDAY, NOV. 6
Explosions In the Sky / Courtney Barnett / Death Grips / Young Thug / Thursday / A-Trak / Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires / STRKFR / Wale / Carcass / Bob Mould / The Monkeywrench / Protomartyr / Recover / Baroness / Baio / Bully / White Lung / Kero Kero Bonito / Youth Code / Open Mic Eagle / Night Drive / The Frights / Leopold and His Fiction / Illustrations / Die Young / Emily Wolfe / Boombaptist

 

Weekend music picks: Rockin’ for Izzy, rising star Sean McConnell and more

FRIDAY

Izzy Fest at Spider House Ballroom. Voodoobilly firebrand and steampunk romantic Izzy Cox’s bluesy bar busters and beguiling gypsy jazz draw on her colorful backstory of a renegade youth spent in traveling circuses, religious marching bands and mosh pits. Recently, Cox, a regular at Austin haunts like Beerland and the Carousel Lounge, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her musical friends are throwing this two-day extravaganza to benefit Cox and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, which is helping with her treatment. Rockabilly lifers Flametrick Subs headline a Friday bill that also includes Worm Suicide & the Devil Club; Saturday’s lineup features the Hickoids, the Hormones and Black Irish Texas. $10 suggested donation. 6:30 p.m. doors Friday, 9 p.m. doors Saturday. 2908 Fruth St. spiderhouseaustin.com. —D.S.S.

Ian Moore plays his first show at the new Antone's. Photo by Curtis W. Millard
Ian Moore plays an acoustic show at Strange Brew. Photo by Curtis W. Millard

Also: Experimental metal outfit Inter Arma brings sludgey riffs and guttural growls to Sidewinder. … Kay Odyssey, featuring dreamy vocals from Kristina Boswell and Kelsey Wickliffe and mean guitar licks from longtime scene standout Liz Herrera, play a tour kickoff at Hotel Vegas. …The Continental Club presents a night of hot Texas R&B and soul with San Benito’s Charley Crockett and Austin’s own Tomar & the FCs. … Vancouver producer Ekali, who has worked with Drake, plays Kingdom. … 1970s folk-rockers Firefall visit One World Theatre. … Texas-bred, Seattle-based blues-rocker Ian Moore does an acoustic show at Strange Brew, while Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ryan Beaver plays indoors at Stubb’s. … Enigmatic indie-pop outfit Magia Negra celebrates the release of a new video at Empire, and blues rocker Eric Tessmer introduces his new EP at Antone’s. … The two-night “Jerry Fest” at Threadgill’s features Grateful Dead covers from Deadeye. … Hole in the Wall presents one of its best nights of local rock ’n’ roll in a while with Wrenfro, Moonlight Towers and the Luminarios. … For home-cooked blues chops, it’s hard to beat the Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan, starting a two-night stand at C-Boy’s. Keyboardist Emily Gimble opens on Saturday. … Other top local options include the Bluebonnets with Denny Freeman at the Townsend, Rosie Flores and Kathryn Legendre at the White Horse and Graham Wilkinson at Geraldine’s.

SATURDAY

 

Sean McConnell at the Parish. McConnell’s self-titled Rounder Records debut, issued earlier this month, follows more than a decade of DIY releases. Early cuts on records by Texas country mainstays Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen helped lead the Boston-raised singer-songwriter toward greener pastures in Nashville, where major acts such as Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts recorded his tunes. Under his own name, McConnell is more folk-pop than commercial country, but the instant appeal of his singing and his instinctive songwriting chops make him a can’t-miss talent. Expect to find him at venues much larger than the Parish soon. Dallas upstart Troy Cartwright opens. $13. 8 p.m. 214 E. Sixth St. theparishaustin.com. — P.B.

Also: Electric blues guitarist and singer Jonny Lang plays ACL Live with Patrice Pike opening. … Southern-rock mainstay Edwin McCain visits One World Theatre. … Members of Austin bands Moving Panoramas, American Sharks and more pay tribute to art-rock queen Kate Bush at Barracuda. … Emotional indie-rocker Jonathan Fox and harmonious folk-rockers the Gents play Stubb’s indoors. … Vaden Todd Lewis, known for his long tenure with Fort Worth alt-rockers the Toadies, stops in at 3Ten. … Lamberts presents a solid bill of locals with Daniel Eyes & the Vibes, Harvest Thieves and Ruby & the Reckless. … Houston metal band Helstar tops a Grizzly Hall bill with Omen and Death of a Dream. … Get your honky-tonk fix with Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke and Aaron McDonnell at Geraldine’s, or go for the blues with W.C. Clark at Antone’s and Omar & the Howlers at the Saxon Pub. … Local group Torrejon plays songs from its new EP “The Art of Emptiness” at the Townsend.

SUNDAY

Shinedown at HEB Center. Hard rock outfit Shinedown has a knack for aggressive anthems with catchy hooks. The radio faves headline the Carnival of Madness at the venue formerly known as Cedar Park Center. The event is billed as a “celebration of rock” and includes the furious Pennsylvania brother/sister-led Pennsylvania metal act Halestorm alongside Black Stone Cherry and red dirt rockers Whiskey Myers. $35-$49.50. Parking is $15-$20 cash only. 5:30 p.m. doors. 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park. hebcenter.com. — D.S.S.

Also: New York roots-rocker Greg Trooper plays the 6 p.m. slot at Strange Brew. … Longtime Austin blues-rock guitarist David Holt continues his new Sunday residency at El Mercado Backstage. … Darius Jackson & the Mighty Texas Blues Band play songs from their upcoming debut album at Antone’s, which also features an early show with Miss Lavelle White. … Midafternoon on South Congress finds honky-tonker Dale Watson at C-Boy’s and guitar ace Casper Rawls at the Continental Club, both at 3:30 p.m.

Steven Tyler rocks ‘Out On A Limb’ with a dash of country at Bass Concert Hall

By David Glessner, Special to the American-Statesman

For a guy with the No.1 album on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (yes, believe it!), Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler showed very few signs of twang and drawl as he rocked Bass Concert Hall on Tuesday night.

Steven Tyler, seen in this file photo from an Aerosmith concert, is on a solo tour in support of his new country record.
Steven Tyler, seen in this file photo, is on a solo tour in support of his new country record.

 

Promoting his debut solo album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is billing his current tour as “Out on a Limb,” but said limb was pretty short — and that was just fine with an intentionally downsized audience of some 3,000 excited middle-age rockers (this writer included).

Backed by the deadly accurate six-piece Nashville band, Loving Mary (who played a not-so-secret, sold-out show at Strange Brew Coffee House the night before), 68-year-old Tyler hit the stage looking like a million-dollar ragamuffin. After a quickly shouted hello, the scarecrow-skinny singer tore into a faithful, straight-rock version of the Aerosmith classic, “Sweet Emotion” and the collective rumps of the audience rarely returned to their seats.

Next up was “Cryin,’” one of Aerosmith’s numerous 1990s’ comeback hits. A contagious sway-along and MTV staple, the song reached a fever pitch when Tyler blew a storm on harmonica and then tossed the now-priceless souvenir into the audience. Dang!

As far as new tunes, Tyler and Loving Mary offered “Love is Your Name,” “Red, White and You,” “Only Heaven,” “My Worst Enemy” and “I Make My Own Sunshine.” The songs, Tyler said, were inspired by his recent relocation to Nashville and his eternal love for the Everly Brothers. Collectively, they landed somewhere between Aerosmith balladry and pop-country.

Loving Mary, it must be said, was stupendously talented in musicianship, stage presence and especially vocal harmonies. Not surprising given their pedigree (look them up). The three guys/three gals sextet (including guitarist and smash-hit songwriter Marti Frederiksen) wore all the frocks and props of a hillbilly country band – banjo, acoustic guitars, pedal steel, bandannas and vests – but there was nothing Waylon or Willie about them. They weren’t Aerosmith loud, but they certainly would scare the coyotes away from a campfire. That’s not a complaint, mind you, just an observation for anyone thinking Tyler has mellowed his stage with age.

Speaking of age, Tyler was well aware that Tuesday also was Mick Jagger’s 73rd birthday.

“I heard he once called me his bastard son,” Tyler told the audience. “But he wasn’t the one …” He then launched into Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” featuring show-stopping duet vocals between himself and Loving Mary bassist Rebecca-Lynn Howard. Vocally, it was the night’s most memorable moment, which is saying a lot considering Tyler’s trademark chimp-yelp remains a jaw-dropping marvel. Not an ear in the house went home un-stunned.

The rest of the night was a near-even mix of Aerosmith (“Jaded,” the always breathtaking “Dream On” and “Walk This Way”) and classic rock cover tunes, including the Beatles’ “I’m Down” and “Come Together,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake” and Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rollin.”

The biggest twists were a “countrified” version of Aerosmith’s 1989 hit “What it Takes” (again, with Tyler in amazing vocal form) and a darker, swampier rendition of “Janie’s Got a Gun.” Both worked well in their newly tailored disguises.

Throughout the concert, themed video backdrops of sunsets, farm fields and small towns reminded the audience that Tyler was indulging his inner cowboy. In the end, however, his giddy-up got up and went, and there was no denying Tyler remains one of the most captivating rock-n-rollers to ever strut and shout.

Steve Miller Band brings the hits and the blues to the Skyline

The Steve Miller Band with guests Jimmie Vaughan and James Cotton at Statesman Skyline Theater on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Moore for American-Statesman
The Steve Miller Band with guests Jimmie Vaughan and James Cotton at Statesman Skyline Theater on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Moore for American-Statesman

They came to hear the hits, and they got them. But they also left with a lifelong lesson in the blues.

Blasting “Jungle Love,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra” right out of the gate, the Steve Miller Band quickly reminded the Statesman Skyline Theater crowd that they were ubiquitous on FM radio from the early 1970s to the early ’80s. And Miller, the Dallas-raised guitarist who struck gold and platinum when he moved to California, hasn’t lost a step as a player or a singer, even at age 72.

A-LIST GALLERY: Photos from the night at Statesman Skyline Theater

He also still loves the blues, as was evident by the late add of “special guest James Cotton” to the bill for this concert. The Chicago harmonica legend was just one of two blues greats who joined in for a few midset songs, as it turned out. Austin guitar great Jimmie Vaughan, who was part of Miller’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction band earlier this year, also joined in.

“They say the blues had a baby and they named it rock ‘n’ roll,” Miller declared as Cotton and Vaughan came aboard a few songs into the show. “We’re going to show you how that happened.”

 

They did just that, digging deep into classics such as “44 Blues” and “Cross Road Blues” (the latter with Vaughan singing lead). If Cotton, who was helped onstage with a cane and performed sitting down, is showing his 81 years, his harp tone was no less distinctive as he turned the open-air sunset scene into a beyond-midnight juke joint.

Steve_Miller_Band-34
Steve Miller at Statesman Skyline Theater on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Moore for American-

“People in most towns would called that an indulgence, but I know y’all don’t think that’s an indulgence,” Miller said as Vaughan and Cotton departed after about a half-dozen tunes. Indeed, this was an only-in-Austin moment, grown from a seed perhaps planted last year when Miller was part of an Antone’s 40th-anniversary celebration for KGSR’s “Blues on the Green” in Zilker Park.

Miller and his three-piece backing band — Austin guitarist Jacob Petersen, Minnesota drummer Gordy Knudtson and keyboardist Joseph Wooten (who did double duty, playing the bass notes on a separate board) — took it the rest of the way. Miller reached way back to 1968 for his first minor hit, “Living in the U.S.A.,” and forward to 1986 for “I Want to Make the World Turn Around,” which struck a social chord in this political season from its opening line: “I don’t want to live in a world of darkness/ I want to live in a world of light.”

Miller spoke briefly of his recent Rock Hall induction and his subsequent criticisms of the institution, saying that he hopes to use his status to help fight for such causes as intellectual property rights for songwriters. The show’s final half-hour brought the major smashes that got him into the Hall, from “The Joker” to “Rock’n Me” to “Fly Like an Eagle” to “Take the Money and Run.”

He also teased with a solo acoustic snippet of “Jet Airliner” near the end of the main set, before returning to it with the full band in the encore. Bringing Cotton and Vaughan out for a final bow at the end was a nice gesture, though it would’ve been even better to hear Vaughan on “Jet Airliner.” As much as Vaughan is a master blues hound, playing guitar on a big rock hit is certainly a role he’s filled before, in his Fabulous Thunderbirds days.

Opening act Big Head Todd & the Monsters took the stage a few minutes before the scheduled start time of 7 p.m. and played for nearly an hour to early arrivals. The Colorado group has been coming to Austin since showcasing at the second South by Southwest in 1988, and they clearly have some longtime fans here, many of whom sang along to their 1990s hits “Bittersweet” and “Broken Hearted Savior.”

Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & the Monsters at Statesman Skyline Theater on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Moore for American-Statesman
Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & the Monsters at Statesman Skyline Theater on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Country Music Roundup: R.I.P. Hastings

This Week’s News

The latest death blow for country music isn’t a person, but rather, a chain store. Hastings Entertainment (unsurprisingly) officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 13. Now, as the chain is officially going out of business, its entire inventory is currently sitting at 30 percent off store wide. Sales discounts will probably go higher in the coming weeks and months leading up to permanent closures.

HastingsGOOB

It may seem silly to mourn the loss of another chain store, especially when so many independent record stores are struggling to make ends meet or, in the case of Austin’s End of an Ear, dealing with relocation after the property it sat on was sold.

But for rural residents of the 30 cities in Texas where Hastings had a presence (including Bryan, Killeen, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Victoria and Waco), the store’s bankruptcy is another step closer to the end of an era where customers had quick access to a physical store that sold used and new records, music, books and other pop culture items. And that includes country music.

When I lived in Victoria, Hastings is where I was able to find physical CDs of Aaron Watson’s “The Underdog,” Turnpike Troubadours‘ most recent album, many up-and-coming artists and countless older albums on vinyl. (Also: movies. Lots and lots of movies.) Outside of going to shows (often hours away) to see the bands I enjoyed that weren’t on iTunes yet, Hastings was my only option. I’m not old enough to remember frequently going to a Tower Records to buy music (although Circuit City and Blockbuster are still flickering memories), but I did kill a lot of time and spend a lot of money at Hastings this past year.

When Hastings finally closes its doors, Victoria will have one other small bookstore in town. College towns like Waco and San Marcos have Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books, respectively, but for many rural Texas residents, Hastings was the best option to buy music that you can’t get at Walmart or Target, and oftentimes, for a cheaper price.

Sure, there’s always Amazon, but if you’re the type of person that still likes buying physical copies of music, you’re probably the type of person that still likes buying said physical music in a physical store.

And while I live in Austin now, home to more record stores and bookstores than I can spin a turntable at, I can still appreciate what the store did for country music’s rural fans.

So, Rest In Peace, Hastings. And if you live in a city that has one, go grab some stuff on sale. You might be able to find some good country music, too.

This Week’s Best New Song

Lori McKenna, whom you’ve heard and probably not known it (she wrote “Humble and Kind” and “Girl Crush”), has her new album dropping this Friday. The lead single “The Bird and the Rifle” (also the name of the album) is a master class in metaphor and personification.

This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin

Grady Spencer & the Work are playing the Saxon Pub again this Friday at 11 p.m. $10 cover charge. A friend recently described this group’s sound as “Tex-acana,” which sounds just about right. The four-piece band mixes deep songwriting themes with Texas country, rock n’ roll blues and Americana, but the proceedings are never dull. Their last show at Saxon was one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and certainly the best show I’ve seen performed in a bar. They also just released a music video for their new song “By Now.”

This is the Country Music Roundup, a weekly blog where we’ll give you the latest news in country music releases and local country shows. For a more in-depth analysis of the genre and where it’s headed, check back with our weekly Gone Country blog every week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or by email: jharris@statesman.com.

Ratatat, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down top Utopia Fest lineup

UtopiaFest2016PosterUtopia Fest has announced the lineup for this year’s event, with headliners including electronica duo Ratatat, adventurous bassist Victor Wooten and eclectic indie-rockers Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.

The Hill Country festival, held in the small town of Utopia about 150 miles southwest of Austin, this year goes up against the Austin City Limits Music Festival’s first weekend. Music runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 2; the $169 Friday-Sunday pass includes three days of camping, with tickets to Thursday’s pre-party an extra $49. The festival’s main website was down for much of Tuesday but its ticket-selling site remained active.

Austin acts on the bill include White Denim, Golden Dawn Arkestra, the Deer, Echocentrics and Warren Hood.

 

 

Cyndi Lauper to tape ‘Austin City Limits’ on Sept. 9

Cyndi Lauper will tape "Austin City Limits" at ACL Live on Sept. 9. Photo by Gavin Bond
Cyndi Lauper will tape “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live on Sept. 9. Photo by Gavin Bond

Cyndi Lauper fans who missed the chance for tickets to her sold-out Sept. 10 concert at ACL Live have another chance: “Austin City Limits” has announced that Lauper will tape an episode of the acclaimed TV show on Sept. 9.

Lauper’s two ACL Live appearances kick off a monthlong U.S. tour. As usual, ticket-giveaway details will be announced about a week before the performance via the ACL website and the show’s social media accounts. The taping coincides with the first night of the Austin City Limits Music Festival’s second weekend in Zilker Park. (Lauper isn’t playing either weekend of the fest.)

RELATED: Review of Cyndi Lauper’s 2013 show at Stubb’s

Sometimes even guys just wanna have fun singing Lauper’s songs, as we found out on this weekend’s “One Day in July” visit to several daytime shows in Austin. Check out local musician Mike Vincent Price covering her signature song at Sixth Street bar Thirsty Nickel on Sunday afternoon (it begins at the 1:03 mark).