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music reviews

Music Review: Dwight Yoakam and Opening Acts

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It’s the year of concerts for us! Two music events in one year! Last night we went to see Dwight Yoakam at the Nutty Brown Cafe. As with the last music review I posted, these places seem to cater to the young set, but attract an older crowd–you pay extra to sit in the one raised seating area or, for general admission, you stand from when the opening act starts at 6:30 until 11:00. The standing area is mostly a flat, broad concrete area that isn’t sloped enough so that people in the back areas see well around the heads in front of them. This place did sell food, so it would have been possible to eat before the show or during the opening acts. It’s too crowded for them to allow you to bring your own chairs–standing room only, especially once the bands get going.

Two Tons of Steel


The opening, opening act was Two Tons of Steel from San Antonio. This band was more heavy rock than I prefer, but their lead guitarist, Will Owen Gage, could play like nobody’s business. He’s the Blues Brothers looking dude with the guitar. He even had a few Blues Brothers type poses while he played. I do believe you could pit his playing against anyone–Including the devil in Georgia–and Will would come out the winner. The band did a good job of getting the crowd interested and focused. The songs were a bit rogue and hell raising. There wasn’t a lot of harmony and at times when the bass player was singing harmony (Jake Marchese), he was too far back from the mic for it to work well (the side mics didn’t seem to be set up that great for any of the acts, but we were in front so the mix of sounds was not going to be perfect!) All the guys did a good job–they knew the songs and played well. The drummer (Rich Alcorta) looked and played with the suave comfort of a mafia dude that belongs in One Good Eclair.



Derailers


The next opening act was more of a mix of swing, country, rockabilly–a nice mixture to keep my attention because it kept changing. Like the South Austin Moonlighters, The Derailers has more than one singer (Brian Hofeldt and Bracken Hale.) This sort of talent always makes things more interesting because the sound and style varies! Even better, The Derailers had both a steel player and a keyboard player. The keyboard (Basil McJagger) player was hilarious. I’ve never seen anyone bounce in their chair so much while playing. The guy was skilled enough to dance in his seat while playing, he did backup harmonies, a couple of rebel yells and played nicely complex parts to really give the songs an extra edge.

I have to admit that the steel player (Marty Muse) added a lot to the songs. Additional instruments can take an ordinary song and give it another layer and both the steel player and the keyboards lifted a typical honky tonk song into a great performance. The steel player was great at adding those extra little riffs, melodies, and extra touches. It was nice that he was positioned near the front–what a gorgeous bird’s eye wood!

The Derailers didn’t get enough stage time in comparison to the earlier group. I’d have liked to hear a few more of their songs. They had a nice, easy-to-listen to style that mixed it up enough I was never bored. I especially enjoyed All the Rage in Paris sung by Bracken Hale. Wonderful voice!

Dwight Yoakam
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Of course the shining star of the night was Dwight Yoakam and his band. Dwight performs with the most deadpan expression I’ve ever seen on a musician. He gets down to business without even a greeting, lofting out his fabulous signature tunes, one after the other. I thought he could have been more generous with his charming smile; but then, if I wore my pants that tight, I might not feel like smiling very often either!

His lead guitarist was Eugene Edwards–talent piled upon talent. He obviously didn’t do all of the original recordings, but he knew all the important riffs and worked like only a pro can to bring each song into its own. He had to sling his guitar around behind him on more than one occasion to play mandolin for the ever important sound in Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose (Great song!) and at least one other song. Kudos to him for a truly terrific performance.

Like Mark Knopfler, Dwight has recorded an inordinate amount of music, and he’s savvy and talented enough to have included a litany of instruments to bring out the perfect ambiance in those songs. That meant another musician had to play multi-talent–the guy in the back played more instruments than you’ll find in your average music store: he played keyboards, accordion, steel, fiddle, mandolin, tambourine and maracas. That man didn’t have time to breathe back there! Several times, like a magician with a bag of tricks, he played three instruments during one song! It was something to see. He’d be holding the violin with one hand, while pounding out melodies on the keyboard. Switching from steel to violin seemed a bit harder for him–he’d be sitting, have to stand, grab the violin and find his place in the music. I was dizzy just watching him! If Dwight had a guy for each of those instruments, they’d not fit on the stage (and the tickets would have cost 100 dollars or more instead of 35.)

Mitch Marine was on drums. We saw him on a Dwight Yoakum documentary. Well-spoken, nice guy and of course, he can play! You can’t have a performance without the drummer, and he never missed a beat! I don’t know the name of the bass player–if you know, please tell us in the comments! He worked hard all night, even when his equipment gave him problems! He just kept right on playing while someone came from the back to help him out. In fact, there was a lot of help from the crew–switching out instruments and keeping everything running as smoothly as possible.

You’ll be pleased to know that Dwight’s dancing has improved. I’ve only seen videos and older concert performances on tv before, but it always looked as though he was about to fall over while dancing. I think I’ve detected the problem. His pants are so long, they actually go down and under the heels of his boots. If I tried dancing with my pants wrapped around heels, I’d fall over too! I think the pants were worn and torn enough around the heels that he did a nice job with his signature dances. The crowd certainly cheered him on.

I’d have liked to have heard Dwight play longer too–start at 9 instead of 9:30 and play a few more of those great songs! He definitely played our favorites–thanks for that, Dwight!!!! (Thousand Miles from Nowhere, It Only Hurts When I Cry (BRILLIANT lyrics), and the aforementioned Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose. ) I own a lot of Dwight’s CDs, but I never realized that a lot of the guitar talent on the CDs is his own. He’s quite skilled on the guitar and it was very cool to watch him play.

It was a great performance by all three bands. I’m not so sure I liked the venue for it, but we had a great place to stand so no complaints there. The ground was not sloped though so those behind us were not going to have anywhere near as good a view. We were basically second row standing-room-only (yes, that was me waving at the steel player–Hi Marty! He doesn’t know me from Adam, but I’m weird that way.) There were no indoor toilets–port-a-potty all the way and it was reported by those near me that they ran out of toilet paper halfway through the night. They also charged for parking on top of the ticket prices (this should have been noted on the tickets so that people could be prepared). I wasn’t too pleased about that until the end when I forgave them partially because they hired several people to direct traffic and crowds. With the extra help, we were able to exit the parking lot quickly, rather than be stuck in a mass of honking horns and angry people.

To see more music reviews, click the music reviews tag in the lower right corner of this post.

Posted: October 1, 2017
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Late Nights and Changing Times

(As always, click for larger pictures).

So we found out at the last minute that Daryle Singletary was going to be playing in a local bar/dance hall near us last night. The tickets were cheap. The only info on them was that doors open at 8. We showed up at 8. While waiting in line to show our tickets, we overheard a lady in front of us ask about when the show started. Answer: 10:30. TEN-THIRTY??? TEN-THIRTY? I didn’t even know there was a 10:30 at night! My night ends about 9 or 9:30. Past that, I don’t know what happens until 5 or 6 in the morning. Who in the heck thought 10:30 was a valid time for a great show? And on a Thursday night, no less?

We had a lot of sitting to do waiting for the show to start. Our bar days are far, far behind us. I haven’t been in a bar in over twenty-five years. The crowd was generally our age, but times hadn’t changed much. There were still the same old stereotypes. Geek guy who should have showered in search of a friend, walking around with two drinks so people don’t think he’s alone, dude who drinks too much and then two-steps by himself around the dance floor, show-off couple who thinks they are dancing with the stars, and gropey family guys that hug all the women as they arrive with their ‘hands on” technique that would get them decked in my family. Well, at least by me.

The good news is that Daryle Singletary and his band was so talented, I immediately forgot it was 10:45 when he started playing. What a great show! The crowd was sparse (take a hint here, venue. Schedule these things at 7 and you’ll pack the place and blow the roof off) but we made a lot of noise. We were able to get very close to the stage so it was like the band came over and played just for us in our living room. πŸ™‚ Daryle has enough talent to carry the show himself, but luckily he brought along a band that brought out the best in every song. To show off the fiddle player’s talent (Andy Varner), they played “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” (and stuck a little “Orange Blossom Special” in the middle, just for fun) and man, the guy nearly burned off his strings. He could sing too–wonderful harmonies with every song. The drummer sang harmonies too. Very awesome.

Ricky Land was superb on lead guitar. Nice interactions back and forth with Daryle. Phil Frye was the bass player. I loved his natural finish guitar and the way he played. The drummer was introduced as Elmer Fudd. I’m pretty sure that isn’t his real name, so he must have been incognito for the night. He was quite brilliant on the drums, so no need to hide behind a pseudonym!

The band played for a couple of fun filled hours. Based on the songs, I decided my favorite album is That’s Why I Sing This Way. HIGHLY recommended. If you like music, you need this album.

But wait! There’s Still a Little Country Left is…even better. At least as good. The title song (There’s Still a Little Country Left) is full of hope, nostalgia and a little humor. LOVED it!!! Wanna Be That Feeling is one great romance. What a wonderful song.

Before the show started, we were able to sneak over and meet Tyler Hall, the steel player. He was a very cool and collected dude. When he played, he was so casual, it was like he didn’t even know he was on stage. He did a few solo parts and one was so good (in “I Never Go Around Mirrors“), Daryle stopped and said, “that is the best steel solo you’ll hear all night. It was so good, I’m going to ask him to play it again.” And, of course, he did! Wonderful stuff. Gets the feet tapping and the dancers out on the floor.

Daryle Singletary plays country music, but we all know that really means he plays music that touches the heart and soul. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, it’s worth staying up late!!!

Which artist that you love deserves more recognition??

(Click the “Music Reviews” tag in the lower right corner to see more music reviews on BearMountainBooks!)

Posted: September 22, 2017
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Best Album 2016 – Ghost of a Small Town

We’ve covered quite a few of the “Best of 2016” in books, but I also love music and often review it here at the blog. So, I’ve chosen the best of the best and my favorite album for 2016 is: Ghost of a Small Town! (Also available at Google Play).

I suppose it’s okay to do a couple of honorable mentions…just this once! The Gin Mill Hymns by Chris Beall wasn’t released in 2016, but that’s when I heard it. (Also at Google Play).

This Changes Everything by Jim Lauderdale is another favorite. Also on Google Play.

Posted: December 31, 2016
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Review: This Changes Everything – Jim Lauderdale

savingGREAT new album for you guys: This Changes Everything by Jim Lauderdale

Husband bought this last week and we’ve been listening to it since. This one is going straight into my car so I can put it on repeat. I will be that crazy lady in the car next to you bellowing out lyrics that I don’t even know yet. There’s a nice variety of styles on this one–country, swing, shuffle, western, and country rock with steel and fiddle. There’s only one sort of cheatin’ song. The album is nice and upbeat. I like it a lot.

Also on Google Play.

Posted: November 16, 2016
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Review: Chris Beall – The Gin Mill Hymns

chrisb2We went out to eat for my birthday and it just so happened that Chris Beall of The South Austin Moonlighters (also at Google Play) was playing at a little cafe up the road. Turns out the Dahlia Cafe in Liberty Hill has great food. What a perfect evening. Totally Texas menu and venue–outdoor swings for the kids (y’all could go ahead and put some w-d 40 on those squeaks) and a large patio with stage! Inside is bustling, but quaint. I think the place must specialize in chicken fried steak because LOTS of people were eating it. We both had fantastic burgers on fresh, homemade buns with all the trimmings.

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After Chris was done playing tunes, husband bought me one of Chris Beall’s albums: The Gin Mill Hymns. (Also at Google Play.) Love his music. It has a retro-pop feel, a bit of swing…some that reminded me of golden oldies, but contemporary. The story telling captures a sense of nostalgia…good stuff. Song seven–Road Less Traveled – Reminds me of the Moody Blues. It’s got a rock kind of thing going, good harmonies and…well, Moody Blues like. Beall has a beautiful voice, and his stories aren’t predictable. Even though there’s a bit of a country rock feel to some of the songs, he doesn’t bother with the typical cheatin’ or drinkin’ songs. There’s better and deeper story lines.

I think my favorite on the album is Make a Livin’ — story that draws you in, good harmonies, catchy tune. But I am also drawn to Laura Lynn, oh, probably for the same reasons. If you are looking for something that is just plain good, give this a listen.

If you’re in Texas, Dahlia Cafe AND Chris Beall are worth checking out!!! (He even played one of the tunes he does with The South Austin Moonlighters – LOVE that song (Year of Decembers from the Ghost of a Small Town album!)

Posted: October 15, 2016
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The South Austin Moonlighters: Youtube and Interview

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to The South Austin Moonlighter’s latest album (Ghost of a Small Town) (also at Google Play) you are in for a treat! The band was invited to play on 512 Studios Live –and the event is recorded for YouTube. You can listen to four of the songs on the album and watch them perform! (Sorry about the…”interesting” commercials between songs…the guy dressed as a turtle was okay, but the weather reporter and that guy shrieking in place of singing? Really???)

Because you know I go above and beyond to bring you the inside scoop, I wrote Phil Hurley, one of the band members, so that we could have an inside peek into the serious business of being an indie band. It’s more like being an indie writer than I would have imagined! Like us writers, it sounds like similar technical techniques are required in order to be in a great band: on the fly, by the seat of their pants and with a wing and a prayer.

1. Are those amps in the 512 Studio recording room with you live or are they props?

As far as amps, those were amps that live in 512 Studios. We did our best to get our tone out of them. It was different, but we made it work.

2. Did Lonnie and Chris purposely leave you out when they coordinated those nearly matching shirts or did you forget to wear plaid stripes?

Ha! We never coordinate our wardrobe choices. Pure coincidence.

3. How long ago did you do the 512 recording — I know that Ghost in a Small Town has been out for a while and this aired live on Aug 13, but how many months early was the preparation?

We filmed that on July 22 here in South Austin. Quick and dirty. One take of each song.

4. What studio do you use to record the album?

We recorded our new record at Chris Beall’s house, tracking live in the living room and overdubbing in his back shed.

saving5. Who did the artwork for the album cover?

The album photography was all done by our friend Christopher Durst. We brainstormed the idea of the ghostly image for the cover while traveling to a gig together. Lonnie (Trevino) was able to manipulate the photo on his iPad while we were driving and came up with the finished product.

Thanks Phil!

These guys work HARD. And I’d love to be talented enough to pull off a cover on a computer while someone else was driving (erm…we hope someone else was driving!)

Posted: August 22, 2016
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The South Austin Moonlighters

savingOver the fourth of July weekend we melted out into the heat to see a band. It takes a lot to get us out in the Texas summer, but a lifetime ago, Husband used to be in a band. He owned a Marshall amp that, one day last spring, he sold to a guy name Phil Hurley. Phil Hurley plays in a band called The South Austin Moonlighters.

We drove two hours south to a little town inside a town called Gruene, Texas (pronounced “green” for some reason). I was prepared to maybe like a song or two, but it turned out that The South Austin Moonlighters were really, REALLY good. The show was suitable for families; good music that wouldn’t insult anyone, but so good, it could turn a fly into a ballet dancer.

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Every single one of the guys could sing. They all RULED on their respective instruments. Phil Hurley was not just competent on the guitar, he loved the thing. It was quite obvious from his playing that nothing makes him more at peace with the universe than making that guitar do his bidding. Chris Beall–what a voice. My favorite song of the night was his “Suburban Avenue” a kind of country rock song that is on their brand new album Ghost of a Small Town. Songs have to be more than just music; they have to tell a story because I love a good story. Chris Beall tells good stories. The great thing about the band was that every guy writes music AND lyrics. This meant there was a great variety of songs from soul, blues and rock to a mix of folk songs/country rock.

Lonnie Trevino Jr. played bass, and he sang the way Phil played his guitar. It was like he had twelve or thirteen voices ranging from a screaming falsetto down to a voice that reminded me of the preacher songs of the South. He looks like a normal guy until he starts singing. Then you’re wondering where all that fantastic sound comes from! Check out: “I’ll Be Coming Home” on the new album — a bit reminiscent of “The Band.” Or this one that totally showcased Lonnie’s powerful voice, the band’s ability to harmonize AND had some awesome guitar licks: “Jesus (Make Up My Dying Bed)” – A deep southern soul song that is absolutely Stunning.

One favorite they played isn’t on any of the albums, not even the new one. Oh, I pity you not being able to hear it right now. Phil Hurley’s “Something About a Girl from Texas” was being talked about outside during one of the breaks before we even heard it. Wow. Now this is another of those songs that is a terrific story with great heart and a guy singing it with enough passion that you know he’s dedicating it to a very special girl. You want to sing along AND dance because this might be a love song but it’s got the kick of a big Texas hairdo. His voice fit the song perfectly with that sincerity that is integral to folk songs and country music. On the new album, you can get an idea of his talent by listening to “You Love & Me” or “Movin’ On.” TERRIFIC STUFF. YOU GUYS ROCK.

The drummer, Phil Bass, tended towards what I call bayou music. Yes, I know that isn’t a category, but there’s this sort of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” feel, only with more drums and a kind of haunting fast melody that makes you want to look over your shoulder. Bayou music–because you don’t know what might be lurking there. Check out: “Hold On” on the new album Ghost from a Small Town. AWESOME.

The band did mostly their own music, but they threw in a tribute to the late Merle Haggard and a generous hat tip to some early Fleetwood Mac–the Peter Green bluesy stuff, rather than the later pop/rock’n’roll. Chris Beall did lead singing on a James Taylor tune called “Machine Gun Kelly,” and I must say, the band took a kind of an ordinary croon by Taylor and turned it into a rocking out gem. Now THAT’S an outlaw song!

There was at least one song where the two lead guitars did harmony parts. Not all bands bother with the extra work or have the talent to play harmonies, but it was just another example of excellence by The South Austin Moonlighters. Shoot, not all bands can even sing harmony, but these guys layered the music perfectly.

If you visit Texas and have a chance to see them live–GET THERE! If not, check out their albums. If I could only buy one album this year, Ghost from a Small Town is it.

Album Retailers:
Google Play
Amazon – The South Austin Moonlighters (Their latest is: Ghost of a Small Town.).
At CD Baby
Apple iTunes: Live At the Saxon Pub – The South Austin Moonlighters and Ghost of a Small Town

Posted: July 12, 2016
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Mark Knopfler and Band 2015

saving Mark Knopfler in Austin – Sept 25, 2015 The Tracker Tour

The Moody Theatre is small enough that it felt like the band was playing in my living room. Mark Knopfler’s charisma could be felt all the way across that theatre. From the moment he stepped on the stage with his guitar, the air became charged with energy, warmth and soul. The band is at such ease, there is a personal feeling to every song. By all rights the place should now be roofless because the talent on that stage built into a near explosion. Knopfler and his band always take music to a whole new level.

I’m pretty sure John McCusker is either an elf or a leprechaun the way he dances and plays that fiddle. He can’t possibly be a mere human to play like that. His talent all by itself was enough to cause the entire theatre to hold its breath hoping to somehow cling to each flawless note.

And the Irish bagpipes!!! Is there anything Michael McGoldrick can’t do??? When he played the pipes on Father and Son it resonated like droplets of water against your skin. McCusker and McGoldrick together on various wind instruments just made those whistles scream.

It was wonderful to hear Guy Fletcher singing background and harmonies and see him play the guitar. I knew he played, but had never had the chance to witness it. Told husband I fully expected him to emulate Guy Fletcher and start playing guitar and then reach over to play the keyboard when needed. WOW. (Husband does not need to wear shirts like Guy. I mean, sure, they are colorful, but they look like Guy took them out of the bin from that lady at the end of the block, the one who wears housecoats out on the porch.)

Ian Thomas never missed a beat. Worked those drums like he was part of them. He played so fast and hard one of the sticks went flying–one-handed the guy can still outplay entire bands.

I didn’t know Jim Cox played accordion and wished I’d figured it out much sooner. And background singing too! His piano playing is the stuff of legends.

Who knew the sound of a sax could be so haunting? Nigel Hitchcock’s was simply divine with a sound that went right through you, came back, hit you again and left you on fire.

Glenn Worf and Mark play together like they’ve been playing together their entire lives. I couldn’t believe the size of that upright bass. I’ve never been that close to one. Glenn wears a cool facade as if he is an undercover agent on stage with instructions to make sure every single person stays in perfect rhythm. Nerves of steel; the coolest of the cool dudes. He and McCusker did a bass/violin duet during Marbletown that gave creativity a whole new name.

I thought the guy sitting next to me was going to cry during Romeo and Juliet. Left us completely slack-jawed. If we’d had socks on, the music would have blown them right off.

Richard Bennett on guitar and every other stringed instrument– he often refers to himself as a second banana, but the guy is an entire fruit salad doused in rich chocolate and caramel.

Mark Knopfler and the entire band didn’t just play, they wove a magic so special it is now permanently in our hearts. The soul of music came alive and danced. Mark writes great stories and then lets the music take over and become so much more every time he and his special band plays.

Thanks for a great night! Every man put on an incredibly amazing show.

Posted: September 27, 2015
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Remember the Banjo

I don’t hear much banjo music anymore. When I used to hear it, back on shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, I’m not even sure it registered as banjo music. When husband decided to learn to play the banjo, one of the sites he found was The Bix Mix Boys, a bluegrass band in Canada. I’m not even sure it’s legal to play bluegrass in Canada! Isn’t that something that is restricted to Southern States???? Do they first have to visit Alabama or Tennessee before getting a license to play banjo tunes???

Well, legal or not, these guys are pretty good. πŸ™‚ Like indie writers, many bands are taking their music indie. We bought one of The Bix Mix Boys CDs here. Some very fun stuff on this CD, bound to put a smile on your face. For some reason, banjo and fiddle music reminds me of old black and white TV shows, dancing and people laughing. At the first link above, there’s a you tube of the band performing. It’ll get your feet tapping!

Posted: August 12, 2015
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Knopfler – Getting Old Ain’t For Wimps

savingA LOVELY interview with Mark Knopfler out this weekend. In some of his older interviews, he didn’t take a lot of time to express himself or talk about where songs came from or what they meant. I found this one more revealing and awesome because of it. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse into how other writers create. The thought-process and the evolution are very compelling. Knopfler, to me, is one of the great storytellers out there; he just chose to write songs instead of novels. A formidable skill, indeed.

Getting Older Ain’t for Wimps

He does a few interviews each time a new album comes out. I reviewed his latest in a post below.

*It should be noted that in the interview, the interviewer has the name of the poem incorrect. The poem by Basil Bunting is ‘Briggflatts’ not Break Flats.

A few Knopfler songs on iTunes:

Posted: March 30, 2015
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