The nasty cold/flu bug that’s going around? Willie Nelson apparently has it too. On the road out west this week after another triumphant run of New Year’s Eve shows in Austin, Nelson halted a show Saturday in San Diego during the first song and has decided to cancel his remaining January dates, according to his publicist.
A San Diego Union-Tribune report noted that Nelson didn’t finish his traditional opening tune “Whiskey River” and “was coughing and apparently experiencing some difficulty breathing as he left the stage.”
“He’s got a bad cold or the flu,” Nelson’s publicist Elaine Shock said Tuesday. “He wasn’t feeling well, and he decided it would be best to just go back to Maui,” where Nelson lives when he’s not at his ranch just west of Austin.
The canceled dates included two shows in Southern California this week and three in Nevada this weekend. Schock said Nelson expects to be back on track for a run of southeast U.S. shows beginning Feb. 7 in Georgia.
His next ticketed shows in the Austin area are April 20-21 at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels with Robert Earl Keen opening. He’s also scheduled to host and perform at the annual Luck Reunion on his ranch in Spicewood during South by Southwest.
Tuesday-Wednesday: James McMurtry at Continental Club & Gallery. The acclaimed songwriter is perhaps Austin’s highest-profile musician with a regular residency gig, and he has two of them, whenever he’s in town: Tuesdays upstairs at the Continental Gallery playing acoustic, and Wednesdays downstairs at the Continental Club with a full electric band. We say “whenever he’s in town” because he’ll be a bit scarce for the next few weeks: major-league Americana star Jason Isbell is taking McMurtry out on the road as his opening act for much of January and February, so catch him while you can. You’re likely to hear “State of the Union,” his new political song that’s likely to be much more profound than anything to be heard at the speech of the same name later this month. Tuesday at Continental Gallery: $10, 8:30 p.m. (Ephraim Owens Experience follows at 10:30 p.m.), 1313 S. Congress Ave. Wednesday at Continental Club: $8, 9:30 p.m. (Jon Dee Graham and William Harries Graham open), 1315 S. Congress Ave. continentalclub.com. — P.B.
Wednesday: John Mills Times Ten record release at Elephant Room. Of all the Austin jazz acts whose downtown home base is the Elephant Lounge, this one is probably the biggest. It’s called John Mills Times Ten because the longtime local saxophonist’s backing crew is 10 players strong. Everything about their new disc “Flying Blind” is big, from the fullness of the arrangements to the 75-minute run-time of its dozen tracks. Mills has a considerable resume, with impressive credits in jazz (Steve Swallow, Carla Bley) R&B (Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt), country (Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett) and beyond. Compositionally, this is sophisticated stuff, but then again, most anyone who enjoys instrumental music that puts the horns up front will probably dig the ensemble’s lively and wide-open sound. In the liner notes, Mills writes: “We are reaching for music that is simultaneously physical, cerebral and soulful, and my big influences, who cross every stylistic boundary, have always proved that to be not just possible, but irresistible.” Free. 9:30 p.m. 315 Congress Ave. elephantroom.com. — P.B.
Dale Watson & His Lonestars, Peterson Brothers at Continental Club
Friday’s sold-out show at 3Ten with 1980s alternative-rock band Camper Van Beethoven and its 1990s successor Cracker has been canceled because of illness of a key band member, the venue announced Thursday night.
“Under doctor’s orders due to illness, we regret to announce that this show has unfortunately been cancelled. Refunds will automatically be processed through point of purchase,” read a statement on the venue’s website.
It’s still a big month at 3Ten for acts with histories stretching back to the 1980s. Poi Dog Pondering plays Jan. 12-13, Dream Syndicate performs Jan. 20, and Robyn Hitchcock visits Jan. 26.
The Texas Music Office asked a handful of record stores across the state to send along their top Texas sellers in 2017, and this week they published the results as part of their official newsletter. It’s available here:
We’ve gone through the lists submitted by three local stores — Waterloo Records, Antone’s Records and Exploded Records — and highlighted only records released by Austin-area acts in 2017. We’re not the Recorded Music Capital of the World, but our city’s musicians release hundreds of records every year. Of those, here’s what sold best in these stores:
1. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
2. Various artists, “All ATX Vol. 5: Back to the Armadillo”
3. Shinyribs, “I Got Your Medicine”
4. Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child”
5. Black Angels, “Death Song”
6. Dale Watson & Ray Benson, “Dale & Ray”
7. Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There As Fast As I Can”
8. Milligan Vaughan Project, “MVP”
9. Gary Clark Jr. “Live North America 2016”
10. Robert Earl Keen, “Live Dinner Reunion”
11. Hayes Carll, “Lovers & Leavers”
12. Eric Johnson, “Collage”
13. Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band, self-titled
1. LeRoi Brothers, “Check This Action” (deluxe reissue)
2. Bluebonnets, “Tonewrecker”
3. Peacemakers, self-titled
4. Dylan Bishop, “The Exciting Sounds of Dylan Bishop”
5. Lost Counts, “Found!”
6. Mooks, “Side 2” EP
7. East Side Kings, self-titled
8. Heybale, “Play Me A Cheatin’ Song: The Songs of Wayne Kemp”
9. Colton Turner, self-titled
10. Boleys, self-titled
11. Milligan Vaughan Project, “MVP”
12. Soul Supporters, self-titled
13. Gary Clark Jr., “Live North America 2016”
14. Blaze Foley, “Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings” (archival release)
1. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein (of Survive), “Stranger Things” soundtrack
2. Exploded Drawing, “7 Years”
3. Gary Clark Jr., “Live in North America 2016”
4. Eliot Lipp, “Skywave”
5. Octopus Project, “Memory Mirror”
6. Walker Lukens, “Tell it to the Judge”
John Mills Times Ten, “Flying Blind” (Fable). Of all the Austin jazz acts whose downtown home base is the Elephant Room, this one is probably the biggest. It’s called John Mills Times Ten because the longtime local saxophonist’s backing crew is 10 players strong. Everything about “Flying Blind,” a follow-up to the 2010 debut “Caffeine Dreams,” is big, from the fullness of the arrangements to the 75-minute run-time of its dozen tracks. Mills has a considerable resume, with impressive credits in jazz (Steve Swallow, Carla Bley) R&B (Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt), country (Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett) and beyond. Compositionally, this is sophisticated stuff, but then again, most anyone who enjoys instrumental music that puts the horns up front will probably dig the ensemble’s lively and wide-open sound. In the liner notes, Mills writes: “We are reaching for music that is simultaneously physical, cerebral and soulful, and my big influences, who cross every stylistic boundary, have always proved that to be not just possible, but irresistible.” That’s as good a summary of “Flying Blind” as any. Mills’ mates are Rich Haering, Eric Johnson and Adrian Ruiz, trumpet; Jake Lampe and Joey Colarusso, saxophone; Michael Mordecai, trombone; Hank Hehmsoth, piano; Russell Scanlon, guitar; Kriss Afflerbaugh, bass; and Rob Kazenel, drums. Justin Vasquez (sax) and Jon Blondell (trombone) also appear as guests. “Flying Blind” was the final album project of studio engineer Spencer Starnes, who died last summer; the record is dedicated to him. Release show Jan. 10 at Elephant Room. Here’s video of the band in action at that venue a couple of years ago:
JAN. 12: Lolita Lynne, “Fool’s Moon,” release show Jan. 12 at Barracuda.
JAN. 12: Wide Open, “Long Road Home.”
JAN. 18: Summer Fires, “Without a Word” EP, release show Jan. 18 at Stubb’s indoor.
JAN. 19: Johnny Dango, “Dear Everybody, I Love You,” release show Jan. 20 at Blackheart.
JAN. 26: Lew Card, “Takeouts Vol. 1.”
FEB. 1: Good Field, “Surface Tension.”
FEB. 2: Mike & the Moonpies, “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose,” playing Jan. 27 at Sam’s Town Point.
FEB. 2: Various artists, “The Stacks: Songs from the Oasis.”
FEB. 9: Wild Child, “Expectations” (Dualtone), release show Feb. 10 at Empire.
FEB. 9: Wade Bowen, “Solid Ground.”
FEB. 9: Jerry David DeCicca, “Time the Teacher” (Impossible Ark), release show Feb. 10 at Beerland.
CANCELED: Friday: Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker at 3Ten. Friday’s sold-out show at 3Ten with 1980s alternative-rock band Camper Van Beethoven and its 1990s successor Cracker has been canceled because of illness of a key band member, the venue announced Thursday night. “Refunds will automatically be processed through point of purchase,” reads a statement on the venue’s website. — P.B.
Friday: Free Week: Los Coast, Emily Wolfe at Mohawk outdoor. After a year spent building a reputation as one of the hottest live acts in Austin, rock ‘n’ soul outfit Los Coast promises “a slew of album releases” in 2018. Emily Wolfe spent the year writing and plotting her debut full-length and in November, she teased us with “Holy Roller,” a blistering single with stormy melodies that swirl around muscular guitar riffs. This is a solid opportunity to catch a few winners before they blow up. With Otis the Destroyer. 8 p.m. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com — D.S.S.
Saturday: Free Week: Applied Pressure Orchestra at Empire. A one-off performance from the live band version of the excellent DJ/electronic music collective that includes Hobo D, Kid Slyce and Boombaptist. The evening will also include a performance from Vapor Caves, the new project from Keeper’s Yadira Brown and Boombaptist, and a rare return to the turntables by DJ Tats, best known these days as a local ramen kingpin. 9 p.m. 606 E. Seventh St. empireatx.com. — D.S.S.
Saturday: Free Week: Annabelle Chairlegs at Hotel Vegas. There is no Annabelle (as far as we know), but singer and guitarist Lindsey Mackin is one of Austin’s most captivating leads. The band spent a good portion of 2017 on the road, enchanting audiences across the country with their trippy garage rock, and we suspect 2018 will be a big year for them. Deep Time, Caroline Says and Why Bonnie also perform. 9 p.m. 1502 E. Sixth St. texashotelvegas.com. — D.S.S.
Sunday: Free Week: Tomar & the FCs, Honey Made at Stubb’s indoor. Close out Free Week with a double shot of soul. Former Austin360 Artists of the Month, Tomar and the FCs drop a thrilling mix of rafter-rattling shack shakers and heart-searing serenades. Honey Made is the new incarnation of the funky, soul project formerly known as Mama K & the Shades. Free. 8 p.m. doors. 801 Red River St. stubbsaustin.com. — D.S.S.
Holy Wave, Diamond Center at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Ringo Deathstarr, Reputations at Hotel Vegas
Folk Uke, Jaimee Harris, Cass Brostad at Belmont
Cloudchord, Sphynx at Stubb’s indoor
Mobley, Blastfamous USA, Trouble in the Streets, Fort Never at Empire outdoor
Netherfriends, Corduroi, Flavor Raid, Emme at Empire indoor
Marmalakes, Growl at Mohawk
Tinnarose, Abram Shook at Barracuda
Honey & Salt, Seafire 3 at Sidewinder
Roxy Roca, the Crack Pipes at Hotel Vegas
Blxpltn, Major Grizz, Como Las Movies at Sahara Lounge
Timberos del Norte, Zoumountchi at Flamingo
99 Crimes EP release at Dirty Dog
Watters, Memphis Strange at Blackheart
Belle Sounds, Sanco Loop at One-2-One Bar
Donovan Keith & the Funky Feet at Antone’s
Zapata, Lou Ann Barton at Continental Club
Dawn & Hawkes, Daisy O’Connor at Radio Coffee & Beer (free)
Western Youth, Buenos Diaz at ABGB (free)
Moving Panoramas, Lowin, Go Fever at Valhalla
Roadkill Ghost Choir, Calliope Musicals, Darkbird at Mohawk
Quiet Company, Dayshifters at Barracuda
A. Sinclair, Megafauna at Mohawk
Knife in the Water, Croy & the Boys at Hotel Vegas
Melat, Shy Beast, Scorpio Rising, Noelle Tannen at Empire outdoor
Lincoln Durham, Altamesa at Belmont
Knifight, Light Wheel at Stubb’s
Leche, High at Beerland
Andy, Starfruit at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Primo, Reagan Jones at Elysium
Crypt Trip, Transit Method at Sidewinder
Big News, Los Kurados at Flamingo
Canvas People, Matters at Blackheart
W.C. Clark Blues Revue, Kathy & the Kilowatts, South Austin Moonlighters at Antone’s
32nd annual Ted Roddy tribute to the King at Continental Club
Zoumountchi, Hail Marley, Afro Jazz at Sahara Lounge
Lost Counts, Emily Gimble at Continental Gallery
Jonathan Terrell, Tortilla Flats at ABGB (free)
FREE WEEK SHOWS:
Zoltars, Borzoi at Hotel Vegas
Zeale, Nght Hcklrs, Pat G at Empire outdoor
Wonderbitch, Darkbird, Built By Snow, Human Circuit at Empire indoor
Smiile, Batty Jr. at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Big Freedia, Boyfriend at the Mohawk
Hilary York, Aimee Bobruk, Dale Watson at C-Boy’s (free)
Willie Pipkin & Friends, Heybale at Continental Club
Dave Biller Trio, Lo Jinx Orchestra at Continental Gallery
Oh, to be in Austin when New Year’s Eve is here. There’s no more ideal way to spend it than with Willie Nelson, singing at the theater that hosts the TV show he launched, on the downtown block that bears his name, where he’s forever venerated in bronze out front.
Around 7,500 locals, Texans and visitors are taking part in the three-day ritual this year, as ACL Live was sold out for Friday’s opener and will be again for Sunday’s official 2018 ring-in. We attended on Saturday, another sold-out evening that featured not only the likes of Willie and his longtime band but also an extended family gathering, with sons Lukas and Micah opening the show.
Family describes so much of Willie’s musical realm that it feels heightened during the holidays. When he turns to cast the spotlight on the graceful piano runs of “sister Bobbie” Nelson — a January 1 baby who’ll turn 87 when the clock strikes midnight Sunday — or when he’s introducing his longtime drummer as “brother Paul” English (whose actual brother, Billy English, is alongside him helping him roll out the rhythm) — it’s a reminder of how close-knit Willie’s world onstage remains.
Harmonica sidekick Mickey Raphael was there too, as always. A ringer of a special guest on guitar for these three shows is Jamey Johnson, who kept his golden voice mostly under wraps, quite content to play the supporting role for the occasion. Kevin Smith, still the “newbie” of the bunch since taking over after longtime bassist Bee Spears’ passing in 2011, thumped along on electric and standup models, a sure and steady presence in the shadows behind Bobbie.
Daughter Amy (she of Folk Uke fame) came out to sing along on the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”/”I’ll Fly Away”/”I Saw the Light” finale, too. But much of the evening’s attention was focused on Willie’s two youngest sons. Micah, 27, opened (billed as the Particle Kid) with two exquisite acoustic songs (including one called “I’m in Love With the Ocean”) that suggested he may have something special in the works on an upcoming album. Lukas’s backing band, Promise of the Real, then came out and joined him for two full-on rockin’ electric songs that veered toward grunge territory and reminded that the kids will find their own way musically.
Indeed, Lukas — who turned 29 on Christmas Day — has done that impressively, especially during a banner year for him in 2017. A self-titled “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real” album released in August recently topped the Americana charts, and Saturday’s set focused on that record, with highlights such as the acoustic “Just Outside of Austin” and soulful country-blues-rock burners such as “Forget About Georgia” and “Find Yourself.”
A more histrionic singer and showman than his father, Lukas pushes his voice into the red on occasion, but he has the pipes to pull that off. The touring he and Micah have done with Neil Young in recent years clearly has sharpened their guitar-playing chops to a fine point; on this night, Lukas wisely forewent the over-the-top break in “Forget About Georgia” during ACL Fest in October, when he plucked guitar strings with his teeth, in favor of hard-driving solos that drew their passion simply from the playing.
It’s telling, too, that Lukas bookended his set with Tom Petty songs. He dedicated the solo acoustic opener “Breakdown,” played with exquisite bluesy deliberation, to the late rocker who clearly influenced his music in ways his father never could. And underscored the point at the end with his Promise of the Real mates driving “American Girl” home in a full-on fever. (Across downtown at Antone’s on this night, Austin band Reckless Kelly was paying tribute as well, playing a full night of Petty songs.)
Lukas’ love for the musics of both Petty and his father is a study in contrasts that reveals his character as a musician. Petty’s Heartbreakers were one of the tightest bands in rock ’n’ roll history, whereas playing with Willie calls much more on jazz-informed instincts; indeed, Willie’s family band may be the loosest country outfit ever. Petty’s vocals took their cue from the music, but with Willie, all the players work around the singer’s phrasing.
Two of the best numbers Willie’s show came mid-set when both Lukas and Micah stepped up front to sing with their dad on two tracks from their new “Willie and the Boys” album: Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” and Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep in Your Arms” (to the melody of “Red River Valley”). And Willie put Lukas in the spotlight for the Larry Davis blues classic “Texas Flood,” a Stevie Ray Vaughan staple that Willie performed with Bonnie Raitt and Jimmie Vaughan at an Erwin Center benefit for Hurricane Harvey victims earlier this year.
They’ll all reconvene Sunday night for the real-thing New Year’s Eve bash, with Georgia band Blackberry Smoke added to the bill.
Willie Nelson set list:
1. Whiskey River
2. Still Is Still Moving to Me
3. Beer for My Horses
4. Good Hearted Woman
5. Texas Flood
6. Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
7. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
8. On the Road Again
9. Always on My Mind
10. Move It On Over
11. Can I Sleep in Your Arms
12. Down Yonder
13. Shoeshine Man
15. Georgia on a Fast Train
16. Georgia on My Mind
17. It’s All Going to Pot
18. Still Not Dead
19. Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away/I Saw the Light
Starting Monday: Free Week in Red River Cultural District and beyond. This annual new-calendar kickoff has become a favorite of local clubgoers. Though Red River Street remains the core, some associated shows extend to East and West Sixth, Rainey Street and even the UT campus area. (It’s worth noting, too, that other shows around town on these days also are free, even if they’re not officially associated with Free Week; we’ve noted some of them below.) Here’s a top pick for each of the first four days: Monday, Duncan Fellows, Delmer Dennis and Poly Action at Hotel Vegas; Tuesday, Jeff Plankenhorn, Peterson Brothers, Nakia & the Blues Grifters and the Bluebonnets at Empire; Wednesday, Smiile, Thor & Friends and Kraken Quartet at Mohawk outdoor; Thursday, Jackie Venson, Mobley and Melat at Stubb’s indoor. Full listings are at freeweek.do512.com; check individual venue websites for addresses and times. — P.B.
Peelander-Z, Dead Music Capital Band, Drakulas at Empire
As the clock approaches midnight on Sunday, the New Year is set to bring freezing temperatures that may last for a couple of days. While there’s plenty to do if you’re willing to brave the cold for New Year’s Eve, here’s a good option for those who might opt to stay in: The fourth annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame show.
Taped Oct. 25 at ACL Live, this year’s gala event honored new inductees Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash and the Neville Brothers, with special guests including Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Ry Cooder, Brandi Carlile, Raul Malo, Trombone Shorty, Dr. John and host Chris Isaak. An hourlong program of highlights from that night will air at 10 p.m. on local PBS affiliate KLRU, and again at 11 p.m.
Not a physical place but simply an honorary designation, ACL’s Hall of Fame first honored Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan in 2014. Every year since, they’ve added a few more musicians who’ve played a significant role in helping the 43-year-old show become the longest-running music television program ever.
In January, episodes taped in the summer and fall of 2017 will begin airing as the 43rd season of “Austin City Limits” continues. The schedule through mid-February is as follows; click on the name of each band to see our review of that show.
For the inaugural Austin360 Awards, we asked dozens of local music community experts to nominate five finalists, and then choose a winner, for Album of the Year and other categories. You’ll find those results here:
Throughout the year, Austin360 On The Record reviewed or noted about 200 local releases, from high-profile artists who tour the country to little-known acts that play in clubs. Check our On The Record archive for more details about all of those releases. In the meantime, here’s a list of local highlights in 2017, from personal favorites to other high-profile releases to notable EPs, live albums and archival records.