Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Jessie Frye Warms Up the Crowd for Kitten

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

The only local opener on the bill was Dentons’ own Jessie Frye and her band; and I got the feeling the fates were against me seeing their set.

A traffic back-up while leaving the suburbs and another near the Good-Latimer exit on Highway 75 added ten minutes or so onto the trip, and the construction that’s going on, on Elm Street doesn’t make it too easy to maneuver through Deep Ellum, either.

All of that put me there several minutes after the scheduled eight-o’clock start time, but luckily, as most concerts do, they weren’t adhering to a strict schedule.

The four-piece took the stage at 8:16, and after they all shared a glance with one another, guitarist Jordan Martin started them off on “Like a Light”. “…Let the magic in your heart set you apart…” Jessie crooned on the chorus; and immediately after the first one, she asked how everyone was doing, getting a good reaction from the thirty-to-forty or so people who were already there. They didn’t have much room on stage, because the second bands’ gear was all setup behind them, though it was still ample space to allow Jessie to jump around, something she did more and more of the deeper they got into the track.

Chad Fords’ final drum beats resonated in the room, while the bass died down and Andrew O’Hearn stood there for a moment as Jordan made a seamless segue into another song from the “Fireworks Child” EP: “Fortune Teller”. It’s slightly steamier than that opener, and that was reflected in the way Jessie conducted herself on stage, and also in the way she somewhat shouted the word “twist” on the line, “…Wish I might find a lover to twist and turn to the heat of summer…”.

“Thank you so much for being here!” Jessie exclaimed afterwards, saying what an honor it was to be sharing the stage with Kitten — whom she happens to be a fan of. They had some slight technical difficulties now, revolving around the track they needed to use. It took a minute or two, but then it kicked on, and they got to some stuff from the Obsidian album. Keeping up with the sultry mood from the previous song, Jessie was often seen shaking her hips to the beat of “White Heat”. I still really like those older songs from the EP(s) she has released, but you can tell the difference from them and this newer batch of music. They just sound better in all regards, from more complex sounds (the guitar tones sound excellent on this number), to the lyrics, and even Jessies’ voice has grown exponentially over the few years in between records.

There wasn’t much down time between it and “Never Been To Paris”, and Andrew and Chad sounded fantastic on it, creating an impeccably tight rhythm section. “..We just released a video for this one…” Jesse mentioned, as Chad counted them into “Shape of a Boy”. I’d say it was their best song of the night, and the slick, roaring guitar solo Jordan knocked out caused all eyes to focus solely on him.

“Thank you.” Jessie said in hushed, slightly raspy tone once the song ended. “Prepared” was another oldie but goodie that found its way into the set, and Jessie personified the role of frontwoman even better on it than she had at any other time this night. There was a certain fierceness that came over her, and it resulted in an overpowering demeanor that was all too fun and engaging to watch.

“Dear Boy is up next.” she mentioned, shouting out the second band, adding that, that was one of the best band names she had ever heard of. With that, they ended with the uplifting “Brave The Night”. The rhythm section was again blasting on that one, and I could feel the bass shaking not just my feet, but also my chest cavity. Not a bad way to end.

I did catch their set at Edgefest in Frisco a few months back, but this was the first lengthy set I’ve seen from them in the better part of two years.

It was great hearing a few of the newer songs live (some for the first time), with a nice mix of older material. The rhythm section has also changed since I last saw them (excluding that April show), which has made the band even better. Like I said, both Chad and Andrew were tight, and all of them had good chemistry together.

Basically, they’re a more outstanding band then they’ve even been; and this night they had a perfect mixture of having fun but also being quite professional.

For the last few years, Jessie has been hailed as one of the best vocalists in North Texas. Probably not all of the early birds at this show knew that, but I doubt any who did catch their performance would argue that praise she’s received as a songstress.

They’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas on August 2nd (the main room) and the 8th (the Cambridge Room, as part of Exit 380’s album release show). Catch one, or both. Be sure to check out their albums in iTUNES, too.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 – Alexander Webb Packs Out Opening Bell Coffee; Annalisse Nutt Amazes

It had been eleven days since I had last been out to a concert. The last time I went more than a week without seeing a show was probably about six months ago.

Yeah, I was kinda jonesing for a fix; and Opening Bell Coffee seemed like a good place to go to get it this night.

I may not often go to the cozy coffee shop located on south Lamar Street in Dallas, but I make sure to keep an eye on the calendar; and all the acts playing this night sounded good, based on what I previewed online, at least.

It was probably around 7:50 when I walked in, making me pretty late given the seven-o’clock start time. So late, I actually got one of the last available chairs.

Opening Bell was packed! More so than I’ve ever seen it (granted, I’ve only been here on weeknights).

Alexander Webb was on the small stage that takes up a corner of the room, and the Dallas native had a bunch of friends and supporters out to catch him while he was town.

He was in the midst of his set, finishing one original when I walked in, and afterwards told the crowd he was going to do something that might be familiar to most ears. He finished tuning his guitar, then unleashed a spectacular rendition of The Beatles “Come Together”. His voice had a smooth, even soothing quality to it at times, though he belted that track out with a fury, earning him rave applause from the entire room once the song was finished.

“I used to… Well, I still am pretty opinionated…” Alexander stated, setting up his next song, before mentioning this was the second show of a Mid-West tour he and Annalissa Nutt were doing. He also informed the audience that this next song, “All I’ve Come to Know”, was the last one he completed before hitting the road just days earlier, so it was still very fresh. He used a harmonica at times throughout what will surely be a highlight track on his next record; and afterwards invited Annalissa Nutt on stage to help in singing the next number.

It was another cover, specifically “Bloodline” by Matt Morris. It was the best song of his set (at least what I caught of it); and he sang the first little portion on his own, before Annalisse began to add her voice to it, harmonizing with him, and the result was jaw-dropping. It’s a great song in the first place, but the way they did it, it was astounding.

She left, and Alexander chatted with the crowd as he got ready for his next song, saying he hoped everyone was ready for a song that sounded kinda hopeless, but then got really hopeful at the end. He was quite for a moment, as got the capo just right, before he gave a heartfelt thank you. “A lot of years have gone into this music, and being able to share it with you is very valuable to me.” he remarked before “Enough” — the final track from the “Up Ahead” EP. He was clearly a great singer, but now he got a chance to let his skills as a guitarist shine, using both hands to pluck the strings up on the guitars neck in a very intricate manner.

That spiritual song was rather lengthy (lasting a little over five minutes), yet it passed by quickly, and then he wrapped up his time on stage with another song from that EP, which I believe was the title track, “Up Ahead”.

I’m glad I got to see at least a portion of Alexander Webbs’ set, as he is a very talented singer/songwriter.

Apart from his voice, the emotion that was poured into his songs was also striking, and depending on the content, you could tell they were born out of a deep personal experience or something that he strongly believed in.

He has released four albums so far, and the way he talked this night, another one should be coming sooner rather than later. But for now, check out his past ones in iTUNES. Also, if you live anywhere in the Mid-West, check out his current show SCHEDULE. This tour will be lasting through early August, so he just might be coming to a town near you.

The Arkansas born Annalisse Nutt was next, and it didn’t take her long to fill the space Alexander had just vacated. “I’m gonna play some music for y’all!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face. Her 50-minute long set was a mix of old and newer material, as well as some covers, and I’m guessing it was one of those newer songs she opened with. “If these walls could talk, they’d speak in tongues…” she softly crooned on the first line.

She may have been lacking the strong fan base that Alexander had, but many of them had stuck around, and Annalisse quickly won them over with that tune. Following it was what I think was her first cover of the night. I don’t listen to much Rihanna, but what Annalisse sang at the beginning matched up with “Drunk On Love”, albeit a retooled version that was better suited for an acoustic setting. Regardless of what it was, though, it was with that track that she firmly established herself as a vocal powerhouse, one who had completely captivated everyone in the room.

“I played here a couple years ago.” she remarked, adding, “I love this spot.”, before informing everyone this next song was more of a spiritual one. She talked about how it was about there being about a place with God where nothing else matters, and also pointed out it was on her “7 Song Sampler” album she released a couple years back. It was titled “There’s a Place”, and on it she was able to show off an even wider vocal range, nailing some terrific higher notes at times, while a certain forcefulness and intensity was heard throughout.

“I played this at a friend’s wedding last year…” she told everyone of her next cover, saying the way she does it gets a little darker at the end. No one really knew what she was talking about, but I don’t imagine anyone would have guessed it was The Turtles’ “Happy Together”. Some semi-dark vibes were incorporated, but nothing too bad; and it was still a song about being with the one you love. A fitting follow-up to that self-described darker song was “Lavender-Magenta Praise”. She again spoke of her faith, saying that no matter how dark things got, be it physically or spiritually, “…the color always comes back…”. She then said that Alexander happened to send her a video of himself harmonizing to the song. “…And I loved it!” she finished, as she brought him back on stage to help her out. She gently plucked the strings of the guitar she was using, better allowing her voice and his to be the main focal points of the track.

The stage was then given back to her, and Annalisse did what was arguably the best song of her set. She mentioned that when she got back to Nashville, she was going to start working on a new record, and this one, “My Storm”, would be on it. The chord structure was often soft and haunting, and there were several occasions she hit some utterly gorgeous notes that sounded like they were in the soprano range. Everything about it was absolutely amazing.

“You’ll probably recognize this one, too.” She said after the applause and cheers subsided. She showed off her pop side by putting her spin on “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, managing to make it sound very catchy with just an acoustic guitar, and also in the way she sang it. It was engrossing. “Thank you kindly.” she said, seeming a little taken aback by the warm reactions she was getting. “…Is everybody having fun?” she asked, following that with, “Is everybody ready to get sad with this one?” There were no objections to it, and “I’m Sorry” was indeed a very poignant number.

Earlier in the night, she had pointed out that her parents were in attendance, and while she noted this next song was one she doesn’t do often, she wanted to this night, and dedicated it to her “mama”. There were some very powerful moments during it, when her voice surged, being very compelling.

“That about does it.” she said smiling once the song came to an end, leaving everyone a bit saddened by the abrupt end. “No, I got one more…” she then added, checking on time to make sure she was good. She moved over to the keyboard that was on stage, only using it for maybe the first half of this final song, before stopping. The last bit was sung a cappella, and it was absolutely beautiful, even moving.

Annalisse Nutt is an exceptional singer/songwriter, and this night she proved to be a pure, refined talent.

Her breathtaking voice was certainly her biggest charm, but she’s equally as good in the field of songwriting, and not a bad on the guitar or keys, either.

I’d highly suggest you check out her “7 Song Sampler” record on BANDCAMP, and if you have the opportunity, go see her live. She’ll be on this tour with Alexander Webb for the next few weeks; and she will not disappoint.

Rounding out the show was an actual band. A newer one at that; at least new to the performing side of the business.

The three members of Northern National got their stuff setup, ran through the sound check, and then lead singer and guitarist (he used an acoustic for the first part of the set) Michael Rossi introduced himself, and then band mates Michael Allen Wilson on the electric guitar and keyboardist Michael Kanne.

Rossi later mentioned they did a lot of love songs, something that was evident from the get go, what with lyrics centered around love, while the music was softer, more relaxing, fitting the tone of the tracks. He earned some cheers after that first number, when he mentioned he had been with the same girl for nine years, a reaction that made him grin. “I actually just got her pregnant, so we’re having a baby.” he told the audience, which had dwindled to a dozen or so people.

He went on to say their next song, the title track from their debut album due out this fall, was one he wrote about her. It was called “Young and in Love”, a sweet love song about being completed by the person you’re with. Kanne used his mic to chat with the onlookers during the next break, saying they had spent two years writing stuff for their album, and “You’re the One” was one he seemed quite fond of, saying it was more of a soulful tune.

It made great use of the group vocals they were capable of, and the instruments even mostly cut out at one moment to highlight that. A more acoustic based song came next, and Rossi joked that it was as close to country as Northern National got, saying it was about leaving the Lone Star State, and then wondering why you did that in the first place. They did manage to capture a slight country sound — in the Nashville vein of the genre — and it had a low-key vibe to it, something I liked.

Rossi got a break from playing on their next one, and while he sit his guitar down, Kanne continued the storyteller like atmosphere they were giving this show, saying that “I’ll be Okay (Crazy World)” was one of the last songs they wrote.

That was the last one I stuck around for, and after hearing they only had two left for the night, I decided to go ahead and duck out.

Not that I wasn’t enjoying it, although the music was a little more sappy for my tastes. I just wanted to go ahead and get home.

They’re really good at what they do, though, and for anyone who likes pop music, then Northern National is one you must check out. All three of ‘em are equipped with some very good voices, and they mix very well together.

Their album will be dropping on September 2nd, and they’ll no doubt be doing at least a few more shows between now and then. Actually, they’ll be back at Opening Bell on Friday, July 18th.

It was good to get back out and catch some live music, especially from some touring acts. As anyone would, I do tend to stick with seeing the same bands I know I like, so it was good to get acquainted with some of the other talent out there. Another plus? I was home shortly before eleven.

Thursday, May 15th, 2014 – Sam Morrow Makes Magic at Opening Bell Coffee

Every now and then, you get an email informing you of a band or musician that is new to your ears. That was how I discovered Sam Morrow, and I must give a shout-out to the good people at 1888 Media for making me aware of him.

The folk singer/songwriter grew up in Texas, before eventually relocating to California, but with a new album just released; he had to come back to his home state for a string of shows.

The Dallas date was taking place at Opening Bell Coffee, which provides the perfect intimate setting to see a singer/songwriter. I was a little late to the show. It started at eight, and it was probably ten minutes after when I got there, walking in just as Sam finished what I’m guessing was probably the second song of the night.
imageAs I grabbed a seat in the crowded little room, he introduced everyone to Matt Bradford, who gave the songs a more fleshed out sound via a pedal steel guitar and a lap steel (which he alternated between).

I at least made it in time to hear one of my favorites from the “Ephemeral” album, “Old Soul”. There’s no way you can even equate the recorded version of it (or any of the songs) to how they sounded live. As soon as his rich and at times booming voice made its appearance, you were transfixed (the people who were there for the show were, at least.) That doleful song was one of the best this night, and while he’s still a relatively young musician, he’s already very in tune with everything, like the times he raised the level of his voice, gradually stepping back from the microphone the louder he got.

“This next song’s called Gone.” Sam told the crowd, as they did another melancholy track, on which the pedal steel added a great tone to it. “What’s up, everyone?” he asked, getting a mixed response from the spectators, some of whom where there to see him, and others were so involved in their conversations I don’t think they even knew a musician was on the stage. The duo did one of the more upbeat tracks from the album, just don’t confuse that with happy. “…That whiskey and that heroin helped me grow my new skin…” sang Sam near the start of “14”, which is just one of the songs that offers some insight into his past life, which is one of the best connections a musician can make with their fans.

The cover portion of the set followed, and first up was a song that surprised me a little, as Sam put his spin on “Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr. Indeed, it was his own spin, and while it lacked the bluesy sound of the original, it seemed to have even more energy in it, which is saying something, considering he had no full band. However, his acoustic guitar and the lap steel that Matt had now switched out to were more than enough for an excellent rendition, especially when Sam played a brief solo, followed by Matt soloing on his lap steel.

“We got a lively crowd… Don’t get too crazy.” Sam joked after that song. At least he saw the humor in it and could joke about the situation. That first cover may have been one some people knew and others might not have, but now they moved on to one that everyone should know, Springsteens’ “Dancing in the Dark”. The Boss is one of those musicians that while countless bands may cover his music, few, if any, could ever do anything to improve on it. I’m not saying Sam improved on it, either, though he has crafted a version that does it justice, and the little nuances make it his. Nuances like stretching out the word “shoulders” on the line “I’ll shake this world off my shoulders.”, then pausing after it, to the changing of a line from the final chorus to, “You can’t start a fire, sitting around trying to mend a broken heart.”

“I just released a record, uh… Two weeks ago.” Sam informed the crowd after that number, though he did have to think a moment on how long that record had been out. He pointed to where he had his merch setup, telling people they could buy it there. “We just started accepting credit cards… We’re fancy.” he cracked, before giving everyone another highlight moment of the night, this time in the form of “Run”. After all those originals they had done, it was hard to believe the mood could get anymore woeful, though it was about to.

“This one is extra sad. I mean, they’re all sad, but this one’s even more sad.” he told everyone, speaking of the subsequent track from his album, “December”. There is more of a somber tone on that one than any other, and it was conveyed well this night. “Give a hand for Matt, who keeps switching back and forth.” Sam asked of everyone afterwards. He had been going between the lap and pedal steel quite a bit over those last few songs, then Sam quipped that he tries to make him switch as often as he possibly can. That earned him a laugh from the audience and a grin from his band mate.

Even though I walked in slightly late, I still got to see 44-minutes of the show; and now, with that time almost up, they did what I’m guessing was another cover, but maybe not. Either way, it was one I didn’t recognize, but sounded quite good. I did know the closer, however, which was “Sure Thing”, and while it continued the gloomy mood, it managed to end the set on a sort of positive note.

I genuinely love the singer/songwriter genre, and from my experience, it’s rare that you find one who really takes your breath away with their talent, but that was just what Sam Morrow did this night. At least that was the feeling I got, and I’m sure a few others, too.

I was told that live, Sam was even better than how the album sounded, and that doesn’t begin to cover it. His voice was utterly astounding, and the integrity his music has (especially lyrically) further made this into a true experience.

He’s definitely better live, and that way, you can also chat with him and see what an easy to talk to and down-to-earth guy he is.

If you ever get the chance, go see a Sam Morrow concert. It would be a good investment of your time (and money).

He has no shows booked at this moment, but whenever some pop up, you’ll be able to find them HERE. Be sure to pick up a copy of “Ephemeral”, too.

What a great way to spend a Thursday evening, and I’m already looking forward to Sam’s next Dallas show, whenever that may be.

Album Review: “Ephemeral” by Sam Morrow

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The true troubadour musicians seem to be a gradually dying breed these days. If you look hard enough, you can find some truly exceptional ones, though, and one of those would have to be Sam Morrow.

The 23-year-old singer/songwriters debut album, “Ephemeral”, was recently released on Forty Below Records, and moments into starting the listening experience you find it hard to believe Morrow isn’t two or three times his age, due to the depth and honesty that’s conveyed in his songs.

“War” establishes an immediate somber mood, while a gentle playing of the violin accompanies the slower strumming of the guitar. Sam’s art as a storyteller instantly comes to light on this track and pulls you in, and if your interest hasn’t been piqued by about two-thirds of the way in, the sharp, sudden rise the song takes will hook you. “No, we’re not done.” belts Morrow, sounding almost a bit defiant.

The hushed vibe that’s found on that previous song carries over to the first bit of “Old Soul”, but it doesn’t last for long. His rich voice raises to the occasion on this track that’s a little more fleshed out, even rock sounding. “I’ve been told that you break when you’re old, but I’ve got an old soul, my dear.” he belts towards the end of this song about hanging on to a relationship.

Through those two tracks, you can hear the album building, and that pace continues with the harmonious “Sure Thing”. You may already have a preconceived notion about the content of Sams’ songs, and despite the upbeat (which is impossible not to get into), the tone of heartbreak is kept intact. It’s not just a simple re-wording of the past songs, though. In fact, lyrically, it’s almost like an original spin on the oldest subject matter in music.

The best part about “Run” has to be how it suddenly transitions form an acoustic song to one that has an orchestral tinge as the music jumps out of the speakers, assaulting you with an array of beautifully woven sounds.

The feeling of longing is found in nearly every second of “December”, which at times has the very nice addition of backing female vocals, though you have to have the volume up pretty loud to fully hear them. Then comes “Forever”, which evokes a real sense of calm. One that washes over you, and for this track, it’s really best to just close your eyes and give all of your attention to Sam Morrow’s storytelling, which is absolutely superb on this number, even a cut above the rest.

The album then gets turned on its head with “14”. Morrow has dabbled in rock elements before, but nothing to the point that things get taken to on this song. It’s a full-blown country/rock affair, complete with a pedal steel guitar, which lies in the shadows for parts of the song, but strikes at just the right moments to really impress. It’s set apart from every other song on the record; and just because it is more alt country and mentions whiskey and other drinks, doesn’t mean the song is cliché.

At not quite three minutes, “Midland” is the shortest tune on “Ephemeral”, though it’s another incredible song, and one that brings pretty and poignant together in just the right ways.

With the album coming to a close, “True North” is an appropriate way to start the end. It’s sort of about having that internal compass that will always lead you in the right direction, though not without some bumps along the way. The song quite possible stems from his battles with addiction, but the message it carries can be applied to anyone and everyone’s life.  “…One wrong turn and it defines who we are. But it’s the journey that writes the song…” Sam croons on the first verse of the song that is a testament to the fact while you might “screw up” in the eyes of the world, you haven’t necessarily gone off track, and you can always find your way.

“Gone” then closes out the album, and it ranks high on the list of Sam doing what he does best: writing songs that are wrought with emotion.

I’ll return to the word “honesty”. That’s what sticks out the most on this record comprised entirely of songs where Morrow lays his soul bear for the listener. That’s what he’s going for, and in his current bio, he talks about greats like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, how that’s a common thread in their music. “…They all have these heavy truths woven in their writing that you don’t want to believe, but have to…” he says.

In that regard, he’s right up there with those musicians who names will never be lost to time. Perhaps one day he’ll be as legendary as they are, too.

“Ephemeral” is a good title for the album. It’s one that sticks with you, though that’s not a word that would be used to describe Sam Morrow. Quite the contrary, this is a starting point of what should one day be a legacy career.

Purchase the album on: iTUNES or Bandcamp

Visit Sam Morrows’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Album Review: “Afternoon, and Early Evening” by Kevin Taylor Kendrick

imageThere’s a difference between being a singer/songwriter and a storyteller, and just because you’re the former, doesn’t necessarily make you the latter. It takes a special skill set to really convey a legitimate story to people through song, and while it’s hard to find (at least from my experience), Houston native Kevin Taylor Kendrick possess it.

That trait is prominently on display throughout his debut album, “Afternoon, and Early Evening”, and right from the very first track.

While 90% of the album is largely Kevin armed with his acoustic guitar, the lead track is much more fleshed out than that. The at times fanciful tale that is “Art of Ball and Chain” is complete with a harmonica, giving the song a bit of a southern sound when it’s played, to some rapid, simple percussion that truly is the songs backbone. Then you have the female vocals that can be heard on the chorus, which accentuate the song, without stealing any thunder away from Kevin. It’s easily the catchiest song “Afternoon, and Early Evening” has to offer, and will ensure the album hooks you from the start. And while the remainder of the tracks may be more stripped down, the most enticing thing about this song is the lyrics, revealing what a passionate story teller and incredible writer he is, and that’s the quality that binds all these songs together.

“Stolen by the Wind” is done in the true songwriter fashion, the lone instrument being the acoustic guitar, Kevin playing a series of chords that give the song a underlying melancholy vibe, which is behooving of the lyrics.  “…Oh it’s not that I’m jaded, I just can’t pretend to take part in your struggle or care who will win…” he sings during the first verse, later matching it with an equally blunt and honest line, “…It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just to preserve what’s left of my memory and my weathered nerves…” The first song on the record may be a great example of his ability as a story teller, but it’s this song that showcases his talent as a songwriter, as he takes a personal story from his life and lays it out for all to hear.

“…Can’t you see, a storm’s a brewin’, behind my eyes…” Kevin croons at one point in “Ain’t Got Nothin’”, a song that traverses several themes, the most prominent of which is loneliness. It paints a sadder picture, while the subsequent track, “Whistles”, is more of a folksy sounding tune, with a chipper melody that will stick with you for awhile, taking you through another small portion of Kevins’ life, allowing you as the listener to feel like you know him just a little bit better.

“The Rider” again slows things down, Kevins’ voice piercing the largely placid guitar notes he’s playing. A at times distant, even slightly soupy effect is applied to his voice at times on the track, making it stand apart from the rest of the songs on the record, as it aids the mood the song is trying to (and successfully does) create.

“The Road” is somewhat of a reflective song, as Kevin looks back on life, while preparing for what the world is like, and in that, it’s one of the most relatable songs this record offers up. It’s very tranquil, allowing the lyrics to carry even more weight, and the words of wisdom keep coming at you, for example, you have the line, “…You lose life much faster when money’s your master…”.

“I thought life had just begun, I was finally on my own. Twenty-two I thought was young, I’d just left my mothers’ home…” he sings at the start of “On My Own”, building upon the nature of the previous song, though this one is more introspective. It’s also more ominous and dark sounding, dealing with the trials of life and the real world, such as the passing of time. “…I’m scared the next ten years will be gone before they’re here…” he confesses with one line, conjuring an image of death as sings of how fleeting time is.

If you’re feeling glum after that track, “The Brook”, a gentle and sweet love song, will relieve that feeling, reminding you that it’s the simple things in life that are the most important and memorable. The record than takes you to “The River”, an appropriate follow-up song, at least title wise. It, too, deals with love, though it partly focuses on more of the heartbreaking aspects of it. In the end, though, it’s not a sad song, but more of a triumphant one.

This nearly 44-minute long record comes to a close with the second to longest track that’s found on it, “Here’s to Hoping”, which is a departure from how it all began. The full band (i.e. drums, and even what sounds to be a pedal steel guitar at times) is utilized, but not to the same degree as the opening track. Instead, “Here’s to Hoping” is another more folk sounding song, whose beauty lies in its subtlety. From tender side of his voice that Kevin taps into, to the often delicate notes of the guitar, blending together beautifully, and offering a perfect end to this record. Especially with the guitar solo outro, which occupies the final forty seconds or so, giving closure to this story.

“Afternoon, and Early Evening” is an album you – the listener – can really get lost in. It’s compelling, and with the songs being so raw, it offers great insight to who Kendrick is as a person, since his personal life, struggles and/or thoughts are often laid out for you to hear.

Quality music like these is hard to come by these days, when so many acts are more concerned with copying the latest pop sound in hopes they’ll fit the mold of the artists who currently dominate the radio. However, substance goes much further than that, because substance allows fans to really connect with the music and have it resonate with them. And this collection of songs definitely resonates with you.

Kevin Taylor Kendrick is:
Kevin Taylor Kendrick, Nathan Quick and Chris Tallman

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Kevins’ websites: Facebook / Reverbnation
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Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 – Hayes Carll’s Pub Crawl Tour Finishes its North Texas Run

I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.

Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)

There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.

He wasn’t.

Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.

After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.

Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).

The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.

That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.

I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.

As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”

He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.

“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.

Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.

“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.

Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.

Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.

That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”

His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.

To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.

One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”

Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.

I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.

If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.

With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.

It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.

Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.

It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.

“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.

“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.

“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”

A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.

“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.

He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”

He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.

Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.

“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.

It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”

The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.

He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”

There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”

The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.

“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.

The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”

Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.

I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.

“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)

So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.

Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.

I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.

Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.

“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.

Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.

As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure.  “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.

Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.

After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.

It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…”  Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”

“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.

“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.

“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.

By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.

Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.

Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”

That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.

For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.

“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.

“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.

Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.

Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.

The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.

He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.

He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.

He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.

He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.

Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.

“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.

After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.

How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.

Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.

He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.

“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.

“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.

Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.

It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.

He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.

I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I  think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.

They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”

This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.

Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed  with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”

The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.

That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.

He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.

He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.

Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.

It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.

“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.

It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.

So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.

Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.

Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.

“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.

If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.

His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.

Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.

I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.

If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)

By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.

It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)

Album Review: “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture” by Darrin Kobetich

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Darrin Kobetich has been active in the music scene for awhile; a few decades to be exact.

While he’s always been a solo instrumentalist; much of his time in real bands was spent playing hard rock and thrash metal music.

However, in more recent years his focus has shifted back to his solo material; and he’s gotten truly creative with it.

His most recent album is “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture”, which plays out exactly like the title suggests; as if it’s an accompanying soundtrack for a film. A film that doesn’t even exist.

The nearly eight and a half minute long track “The Order Within Chaos” starts you on this journey. It’s a semi-ambient sounding track; gradually intensifying the deeper you get into it, though there’s a certain level of serenity maintained throughout it. Some subtle yet thunderous percussion can also be heard in the latter half of the track; reminiscent of war drums from far off in the distance, before they die completely as the song recedes into “When the Rain Finally Came”.

A full-blown feeling of calmness washes over you while listening to the song, which is complete with the soothing sounds of raindrops mixed in, in the background. The tranquil guitar chords only accentuate the mood the song sets. It gets traded in for a banjo on the short “Banjer in the Bayou”. And while you would think that track would sound completely out of place given the previous songs; it doesn’t. In fact they go together quite well, and the transition into it is rather fluid.

The vast array of sounds continues with the low-key “Creeper”. It’s another song that’s worthy of the title it was given; and while it’s far from being ominous, it does just creep along, winding itself to an interesting end; an end that features good use of a theremin, which gives it a cool sci-fi like vibe.

Those first few songs manage to work together in ways you wouldn’t think possible until you actually hear it for yourself. However, they are but the calm before the storm.

With the acoustic intro, you might be thinking that “Giant Behemoth” isn’t going to live up to its name. Then you hear the shrill feedback, and Darrin brings forth the thrash metal sound of his earlier bands.  It’s as heavy as the album gets, with some mighty drumbeats joining the roaring and intense guitar lines. Then, it suddenly dies out: the song ending about as calmly as it began.

“Winging It” brings things into a more rock pace, still using the drums from the previous song. Gradually though, those are pulled back; setting the album up for a completely different sound.

“Counter Cultural Tribal Dance Theme” and “Percussion Concussion” go together perfectly. The former incorporates a nice use of some type of woodwind instrument at various moments, and it executes the tribal sound excellently. In fact, there’s some Indian flare to it; and while I’ve never watched a Bollywood film, it sounds like something that would fit in one of those style movies.

The latter of the two is more toned down, yet still aggressive and possess a certain hypnotic quality to it. That’s actually appropriate, seeing as “A Trance Harp Beach Party” is utterly mesmerizing. It may be somewhat simplistic in some regards, but it’s great.

The remaining five tracks on the album all play out as another segment of the story; a story that has reached the climax at this point and is now headed for the resolve.

“The Gift That Came Here” starts the still lengthy journey to the records close; and as uplifting as it is, you can’t help but feel good and know that the most tumultuous times (“The Giant Behemoth”) are far behind.

“An Air of Pall” takes that mellow mood to new heights, while “The August Moon” continues it; at least until a sharp rise pierces the tranquility. It’s by no means on the scale of previous songs and instead serves to show that there’s still some surprises to come on this album.

“In the Misty Forest On the Edge of Time” is more of an interlude than anything, and the 48-second track gives way to “The Man Who Came From Wales”, which is the ideal last song for this record. It oozes joy, creating one of those picture perfect endings in your head before the credits proceed to scroll by.

For those who frequent my blog at all, then you probably know I often mention that I’m not a fan of instrumental music. Yet that’s all “Sidetracked…” is.

I liked it the first listen through, and I must confess; subsequent listens made me downright love it.

This isn’t just instrumental music, though. It’s more like a composition and it plays out in an epic fashion.

It’s even more remarkable that just one person was able to put all this together, doing all the instruments – and of course, everything else - entirely on his own.

It was a big undertaking, no doubt; but in the end, it all came together perfectly. You can tell Darrin has a lot of natural talent as a musician, and that talent seeps out of the speakers, clearly noticeable.

In the end, “Sidetracked…” is an impressive piece of work, and even without any lyrics whatsoever, it still manages to make more of a connection with the listener than a lot of records these days do.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp / CDBaby

Visit Darrin Kobetichs’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation

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(Photo credit: Scott Carson Ausburn)


Album Review: “A Pig Eating Past Love” by Johnny Beauford

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Johnny Beauford may well be one of the hardest working and most diverse musicians in the North Texas music scene.

He’s probably best known for fronting the Dallas rock band Bravo, Max!, and an abundance of material (and apparently time, too) also led to the start of Johnny Beauford & the Jack Kerowax.

But aside from being a capable rock musician, Beauford is also an accomplished solo singer/songwriter, whose solo music mines a more Americana/folksy vein. And now, a few years after his first solo album was released, he’s gotten around to recording and releasing his sophomore effort, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, which is rooted deep in the lo-fi, minimalist sound of his first release, and was recorded almost entirely all on his own.

Each song on “A Pig Eating Past Love” brings something different to the table, and for “Little Dance”, it’s the way it highlights Beaufords’ voice. His soft plucking of the guitar is barely audible for parts of the song, making it at times sound as if he is singing a cappella on this ethereal track. His voice shines on every single word, and he may well have you hanging on it, as he walks a fine line of being strong, yet restrained with his vocal delivery.

“S Is For Schizophrenia” is the catchiest offering on the album, boasting a more fleshed out sound from the previous song. Though a drum kit is the only new instrument added to the mix, it gives a much fuller sound than you’d expect to this fairly rocking number.

That pace is quickly changed with “Ann Marie”, where the only percussion effect comes from some of the chords Johnny plays on his acoustic axe. Songwritingwise, Beauford’s at is best with this track, which is teeming with emotions, and despite the sad, even at times downtrodden lyrics, there are also some glimmers of hope to be found in it.

The embodiment of the lo-fi sound is, without question, “Huck Finn’s Hideout”. The short, two and a half minute long track has that grainy quality to the vocals, giving it a simple sound, like perhaps it’s a home recording. There’s beauty in simplicity like that though, you just have to be able to appreciate it. The song has grown on me with each listen, and the heavy use of the harmonica is another nice touch that sets this song apart from the others on the record.

The pinnacle song on the album hands down has to be “Fire Fly”. With only his guitar, Johnny Beauford has created a ravishing and haunting music bed. It’s simple enough you’ll be singing along with it after a few listens, and there’s an odd duality in the fact that the song is also somewhat complex in some regards. It’s one that will stick with you, and it stands as unequivocal proof for any doubters that a full band sound is not a necessity when it comes to crafting a solid, excellent song.

The title track, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, is the longest track from the album, coming in a little shy of four minutes. Some may consider it to be a brilliant song, mainly because it kind of is. It surges forth at times, then recedes back, with that ebb and flow being the best characteristic of the song. Lyrically, it’s another emotionally charged number, even raw, and you can even hear a subtle dose of contempt in Beaufords’ voice at times, like on the line, “…Look me in these eyes when you curse me with those lips…”, before it comes to a nice tranquil conclusion.

That gives an appropriate lead in to the final song, “You’re Evaporating Anyway”, which ends things on a pretty note. It’s a soothing song to listen to, and ends this listening experience in a lovely way.

Honestly, this is a perfect album for a singer/songwriter – any singer/songwriter – to release.

It’s to the point and at only 21-minutes, it’s digestible for anyone who chooses to listen to it. Fans can listen to the whole thing with ease, while any new comers this release draws in won’t have to invest much of their time in seeing what “A Pig Eating Past Love” is about (though it will surely earn subsequent spins).

In all, it’s just a well-rounded album that showcases who Johnny Beauford is as a musician, and he did a great job selecting the songs that would make the cut, as they all show a slightly different side to him, revealing what he’s capable of.

As I said at the start, he may be one of the hardest working musicians in North Texas, and after hearing this sophomore album of his, it’s clear he is one of the best.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Johnny Beaufords’ websites:
Official website / Facebook

Watch the official music video for “A Pig Eating Past Love” HERE.
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Photo credit:
Rhombi Survivor Photo Safaris

Friday, September 20th, 2013 – Paco Estrada

Trees had put together a rather last minute local rock show for this night, with it coming together only about two weeks before. I knew nothing about it, aside from that Paco Estrada was playing it, doing his first full band Dallas show in three months, and it had been even longer than that since I saw him last, so there was no way I could miss this one.

There were only two opening bands, and I never caught the name of the first, probably because they had so many friends/fans out they didn’t think to drop their name, assuming everyone already knew who they were.

They didn’t do a lot for me, and part of that was due to their singers’ voice. In fairness, he did note he had been sick, even saying himself, “…My voice sounds like a bag of dicks…”, but all the same, there was only one song they did where I thought he sounded good and it was enjoyable. Aside from that, their music seemed a bit generic, very of pop/rock, and in a tiresome way.

A trio took the stage next, known as Nine Left Dead who had made the trek from Oklahoma City.

They opened with an instrumental song, which made me curious if that was going to be all they were, but starting with their next song, one of the members began singing (I believe it was the bass player).

The further they got into their show the more I enjoyed it, and some of their songs I thought were pretty well crafted, having some excellent music beds that were even catchy at times.

The only bad thing was they never really got any momentum going, often taking lengthy pauses in between songs, and at one point near the end the singer apologized to everyone, citing they were currently in the studio working on some stuff and they didn’t have much planned.

They could definitely stand to polish and tighten things up, but they are on the right track.

Last minute like this, you can’t expect to get an all-star lineup, but at least they were able to get one all-star act, and Paco Estrada and his band were about to take the stage.

When it came time for Paco and his band to start, pianist Scotty Isaacs began, softly striking the keys as he created a heavenly intro to “American Girls”. That was just one of several songs they did from the upcoming “Bedtime Stories” record, and Paco led them in winding it into their next song with some licks on his acoustic guitar.

Afterwards was when Paco formally introduced himself to everyone, though most of the meager crowd was probably already familiar with him. After another one of their new jams, they launched into one of the true gems from Paco’s recent years, and one that is just starting to find a life in the live set, “The Girl with the Heart of Steel”. “…The love you gave that could never be returned. So you took the knife and you cut your hand. You swore by your blood they could never break your heart again…” Paco belted out before they reached the chorus, “And that’s when you became the girl who could never feel…”.

He has penned a number of excellent songs over the years, and that one is close to the top of my list for being one of his best, especially in terms of lyrics. The new stuff kept coming with another catchy song, after which Paco slightly joked about one of the cities he frequents. “…Austin’s a good place for music, Dallas is of course great… But there’s just something about Tyler…” he said, not meaning any disrespect to the town at all, rather just saying it had a different vibe to it.

Things got more lively when they busted out “She”, whose more rock sound allowed Joel Bailey and Ryan Thomas Holley to cut loose a little more on their bass and guitar, respectively. Still, no one seemed to take more advantage of that song than drummer AJ “Irish” Blackleaf. He went ballistic on his kit, having almost a robotic style of playing by keeping his arms fairly rigid, but he tore it up, all the while wearing a smile, quite obviously having the time of his life.

As they wound up most of the upcoming music, they started to tap some of Paco’s (more recent) back catalog, with the fan favorite “Whiskey Kisses”, which sounds so much better when fleshed out by the full band. It was followed by another song all about love, which Paco explained was about a fairytalesque love, where you’re more or less caught up in the moment. It was a beautiful track, with the line (which I think I got right), “…These are the moments that make the hard times worth it…” being one that really stuck out to me.

That flow kept going with “When We Were Made”, Ryan adding some excellent notes to the end of it, which, while somewhat subtle, were enough to take the song to a whole other level. “Breaking Down” then brought the night to a close, the song springing to life towards the end when Paco crooned parts of the chorus. I really don’t think I’ve ever heard that song sound so intense before, as they embarked on more of an instrumental portion. As it drug on, I started to wonder if they were going to tack a cover song onto the end of it, as is tradition, or if they had switched it up in their time off. Eventually, it was met with the one response I was hoping for, the music subsiding as Paco sang, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?” I still say the addition of U2’s “One” is the best cover they’ve mixed with that song yet, and it seemed to sound extra amazing this night.

Paco had stated that would be their final song of the night, so as soon as it was over, the house music started coming back up, while a handful of fans begged for an encore. Their request was met when Paco stepped back up to the mic and said they did have one more for everyone. That last song was “Haunting Me”, and it was a nice end to their 59-minute long set.

It was an excellent show, and after again hearing some of those new songs, it got me all the more excited for “Bedtime Stories”, which will no doubt be a great collection of songs.

Also, the full band serves Paco, well, and after years of having a rotating cast of musicians accompanying him, it’s good to finally see some starting to became mainstays, like Joel and Scotty. Hopefully Ryan will be able to make this permanent, too, because his voice and slick playing added some nice elements to things this night.

Next up, Paco will be doing a couple of Austin shows, one on September 26th at 219 West Rooftop on 6th Street. The following night he’ll also be playing Darwin’s Pub, with Ryan Holley helping him out on both shows. Also, check out his records, including the very new “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” EP on his BANDCAMP PAGE. (Also, check out this interview Paco did with DFW Undercover.)

Despite the low turnout (which was expected for a last minute show), it was good night, and Paco and his band were more than worth the cover price.


Friday, August 30th, 2013 – A DFW Undercover Showcase

This was a big night for the local music advocates that collectively make up DFW Undercover, who specialize in doing video interviews with bands, as well as live photography (via Piercing Photography). This night marked their first ever showcase, and it was a singer/songwriter showcase at that.

The Labb in Denton was the host venue, and while I had heard of it before, I had never actually been there.

It’s mainly a sports bar, and as far as sports bars go, it’d be one I’d frequent if I lived closer to Denton… And if I was an avid sports fan. It was a nice place inside, with several large TVs hanging above the bar, and of course some pool tables and dart boards were scattered around, as well as some tables. The patio was where the show was taking place, though, where a decent stage is built as a permanent fixture, with plenty of tables and chairs to accommodate onlookers.

Zach Smith was the first artist this night, but I got there a little later then I intended, which resulted in me missing most of his set.

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I really enjoyed what I heard, though, especially the song I walked in on, which featured a backing female vocalist along with him and his percussionist. “This next song’s about alchemy… But it’s about other stuff, too.” said Zach before beginning “The Stone Refined”, which was followed by a track titled “Waiting for the Sun”, which ended with a very long but very good sounding instrumental outro. They then did one last song to conclude their set, which Zach pointed out to his little section of fans was, who had been cheering him on, was one they had never heard before.

Even with only catching a glimpse of his performance, I thought he sounded great, and he has an excellent voice.

Aside from this solo stuff, he also plays in a band called Cloth’d in the Sun, so check them out, too.

Up next was Dallas based singer/songwriter Ashley Falgout, who, like the other acts on this bill, I had never heard of previously, but was interested to hear.

She played a large array or original material during her 52-minute long set, and after finishing her first song, she confessed/joked that she does “…a lot of songs that are half-ass written…” That may be true, but to me, I certainly never would have guessed that, let alone thought it.

After playing another tune, she mentioned how warm it was (the downside of a patio in the Texas summer), then proceeded to set up a cover song. “Sometimes I learn other people’s songs…” she said, then added, “Or two chords out of it…”, noting that she doesn’t feel it has to be precise. That led to do an amazing rendition of Ani DeFrancos’ “Not a Pretty Girl”, a song that she really turned into her own.

She did a nice job of conversing with the crowd, even if it was a one-sided conversation most of the time, it made it seem like she was really able to connect with everyone, and now talked turned to Spotify. She said she only recently learned what it was, and her album, Long Over Due”, could be streamed on it. “…Or if you want to give me money…” she said, pointing out it was also on iTUNES.
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She did another killer song about a past relationship, and followed it with a medley of one of her songs as well as a cover of what she said was her favorite song, but (not surprisingly) was one I didn’t recognize. Afterwards, she cranked out a few more numbers, before ending with what I think was “Just Another Lullaby”, and then that was only because the sound guy informed her she needed to wrap it up.

She wound up being my personal favorite act of the night, with her incredible and distinctive voice, which even sounded a bit sultry at times. She was also a very talented songwriter, with fantastic lyrics that often seemed pretty personal.

If you’re into the whole singer/songwriter genre, then Ashley Falgout is definitely one you need to listen to, and her record can be purchased HERE.

There was one last act up for the night, and it was more of a full acoustic band, led by Fred Rush. He’s probably best known as being the drummer for Ugly Mustard (who have been a fixture in the D/FW music scene since ’93), and as far as his new solo project went, this was only going to be their second show.

This acoustic trio, which also consisted of Jeff Michnal on the cajon and Johnny Pina on an acoustic bass, opened with “My Heart Screams”, which was a real knockout. “This is what I’ve been waiting for. I can’t believe I found it, finally…” Fred crooned at the start, shortly before the song kicked into high gear, given they were just using acoustic instruments, after all. Once they finished it, Fred took a moment to thank DFW Undercover for hosting this event, as well as the goal they have. “…I’ve been on a soapbox for twenty to thirty years…” said Fred, saying that the people behind DFW Undercover seemed to be on the exact same soapbox. That soapbox he was referring to was sharing the mentality that everyone in the scene needs to come together for the sake of making things better, rather than bands, venues and the ilk acting as if other bands and venues and such are their competition.

They then moved on to what was a pretty upbeat sounding song, “Insomnia”, with another tune sandwiched between it and “Marigold Lane”. They played several seconds of that latter one, before Fred suddenly brought things to a halt. “I started it in the wrong key.” he said, laughing, adding he thought about going with it, but then decided against it. It had sounded good before, but the key it was supposed to be played in served to make it an even more infectious song, and towards the end of it, Fred’s son, Trent, joined them on stage, adding a little extra percussion to the mix. He grabbed a guitar for the next song, though, and took a seat on a stool on stage right.

Fred stated that they were going to do a cover song, and they gave the crowd a little tropical taste by trying their hand at the Zac Brown Bands’ “Island Song”. Not quite what you’d expect from some guys who are typically in rock bands, but they pulled it off nicely, and despite the contrast between it and Fred’s original stuff, that cover meshed nicely with it all. They had another cover in store for everyone, and as Fred put it, it was in the “spirit of the singer/songwriter showcase”. “…I don’t know where he gets it from…” Fred cracked after informing everyone that his son played in a band, and now the father and son duo kind of co-sang on “Diary for Poets”, which Trent wrote for his group Welcome to Wednesday, though it was Trent who did a bulk of the singing on this one.

Trent, too, could certainly sing, and he and Fred created some awesome harmonies on that track. “…The band was called Fred, I think we’re going to rename it Trent.” Fred joked after they finished it. Apparently, Trent was supposed to leave after that, but he decided they should do an impromptu performance of “All Apologies” by Nirvana. Jeff, Johnny and Fred went with it, with Fred chiming in from time to time, and given the fact that this wasn’t planned, they nailed it. At least I thought they did.

Trent did exit the stage after that one, and they began wrapping up their 51-minute set with another original, before things got a little heartfelt with the last song. Fred dedicated it to his father, whom he said was like Superman to him growing up, and that currently he was experiencing some health issues. With that said, it was fitting that the song was called “Ordinary Superman”, and it brought their set to a wonderful end.
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You wouldn’t have guessed this was just their second show, ‘cause Fred seemed perfectly at home behind the microphone with a acoustic guitar in his hands, just like Jeff looked comfortable playing the cajon, yet both have little live experience with any of that.

Fred has a pretty unique sounding voice, too, so it’s hard to believe he’s been keeping that in for song. Oh, and he writes some really good lyrics as well. And for the record, Fred Rush and his band made a lot of noise for an acoustic group.

I know what I said about the artist before them, but I liked Fred Rush and his band just as much, in a different way.

That’s what was so cool about this night. All of these singer/songwriters covered different areas of the spectrum, which was just another reason why I loved the showcase so much, because I don’t see that many singer/songwriters, let alone a small handful on one night, so it was nice that it was all so eclectic, with each act having different styles.

Kudos to DFW Undercover for orchestrating such a cool event, and expect more from them. In fact, they have another show at Hailey’s in Denton on October 11th.


All photos courtesy of Piercing Photography. All rights belong exclusively to them.

Song Review: With “White Heat”, Jessie Frye Looks to Start a Fire

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In five years, the Denton based singer-songwriter Jessie Frye has released two EP’s, the most recent being very well received by fans and critics alike. However, in those five years one question has abounded; “When will you put out a full-length?”

Well, last week, everyone got the first glimpse of what her much anticipated debut full-length, titled “Obsidian”, will sound like, when the lead single “White Heat” was released.

It’s showcases a much different side to her music then ever heard before. Jessies’ piano is still an integral part to the song, but not in the more classical style of her past material, instead, this one’s more of an electronic track. The at times soupy sounds of the song are rounded out nicely by the thick drumbeats and subtle, low bass lines, while the guitar serves to enhance the dreamy quality the song creates.

It feels safe to say that this takes Jessie out of her comfort zone, but it’s nice to see an artist embrace something new and different, after all, that’s what sparks growth as a musician. There is one constant, though, and that’s Jessie’s enchanting, marvelous voice. It sounds even better than where the last record left off, and she’s able to create a plethora of textures with it, exerting complete control over it, at times singing in a more sultry tone, like on the line “White on white heat Perfect alchemy…”, and at other point it’s strong and forceful.

In listening to “White Heat”, you’ll understand exactly why Jessie Frye is a North Texas treasure, and while it may be several more months before the world can listen to the full “Obsidian” album, “White Heat” is the perfect song to whet peoples appetites while simultaneously making them even more excited for the record. It’s a gorgeous blend of indie and pop, and if this tune is any indicator, then “White Heat” is but only the kindling for a roaring fire.

The Jessie Frye band is:
Chad Ford- Drums
Jordan Martin- Guitar
Jessie Frye- Piano/Vocal
David Kellogg- Bass

Purchase the single “White Heat” as well as the previous two EP’s in Bandcamp.

Upcoming shows include:
September 13th at Pour Jons in Siloam Springs, AR / September 14th at Foam in St. Louis, MO / September 20th at Village Café in Bryan, TX / September 21st at Avant Garden in Houston, TX / September 28th at Flipnotics in Austin, TX / October 12th at The Poplar Lounge in Memphis, TN

Album Review: “Water in a Whale” by Jillette Johsnon

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It’s usually safe to say that most young musicians are still trying to find their niche in the business. From figuring out what style best suits them, to searching for their voice (literally and figuratively), and everything in between. However, that isn’t the case with twenty-four year old Jillette Johnson on her debut full-length album “Water in a Whale”.

A lot of that can probably be attributed to the fact that she has been performing live for around half her life, and while she may well still be finding her place (since that’s an ever evolving process for anyone), she’s certainly further along than most her age, and that becomes readily clear as you delve into “Water in a Whale”.

Torpedo” is the lead track of the album, and is quite an appropriate first song. Lyrically it perfectly capture Jillette’s determination and grit, like with the line from the chorus, “…But I will not lay down in the road, I will not make it easy…”, while musically, there’s a certain ethereal quality to it that will both enthrall and rouse you instantly, ensuring you’ll be listening intently to the remaining tracks.

The next song, “Cameron”, has a more bare bones sound, at least at first as the piano beautifully sets up this serious track, though there’s a nice build throughout the song that happens gradually before it erupts into an anthem of sorts. On the surface, the song is about a transgender friend of Jillette’s and the struggles faced in his youth. However, when you truly listen to the lyrics, they transcend that situation, applying to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, etc., who has ever just felt out of place, as if you don’t belong/fit in. The chorus, “…The world is full of aliens But you are a real, live human…”, is rather brilliant, and Jillette packs it full of emotion and meaning with her powerhouse voice.

A favorite song of mine on the record is “Flood the Ocean”, which is made abundantly cheery with its catchy melody, and it breeds positivity. While the following song, “When The Ship Goes Down”, breaks away from the semi-pop mold cast by the other songs, exhibiting a more classical vibe, which is quite behooving of the elegant mood the song creates, as Jillette croons about wanting to get the most out of her life.

I don’t know if pop is necessarily the best category to lump her music in, because there is a certain sophistication to it that is lacking in much of the pop music you hear on mainstream radio these days, but one song that certainly doesn’t fit that pop classification is “Last Bus Out”. It’s much more up-tempo than the other ten tracks that comprise the album, and is borderline rock, as the band cranks things up and cuts loose. There are some nice electronic elements (in the form of auto-tune) thrown in on a few words here and there, too, and along with the reverb, it adds some nice effects to the song. It’s one you’ll surely be hearing in your head long after you’ve hit the stop button (in a good way, of course.)

If you still have any traces of doubt about what a vocal dynamo Jillette truly is, then “Pauvre Coeur” will be sure to squash it. Her voice is the primary instrument on it, and the listener gets to hear her show off exactly what kind of vocal range she is capable of on this gorgeously sad song, and it may well leave you breathless. The heartache of the song is conveyed perfectly and in much detail, as she paints a very vivid picture for a song that is teeming with emotion, and could be best summed up by the final line, “…I am far too beautiful to be yours.”

Like you might infer from the title, “Peter Pan” is a short number about not wanting to grow up (or at least having a part of you that doesn’t want to.) This rocking little track begins with her (presumably) reminiscing about events from her adolescence, “We don’t get drunk on Tuesday nights anymore. We don’t have the stink from the weed with the towel on the bathroom floor anymore…” It’s yet another great (and infectious) tune this album has to offer, and one that many listeners could probably connect with, as it speaks of your friends growing up, going about their life, while you’re “…the only one left in Neverland…”

Another dazzling track is “Basset Hound”, which tells a tale of being infatuated with someone, and a splendid tale at that. One of the best things about the song, at least in my opinion, is one of its more subtle traits, specifically the way she enunciates “Basset”, putting a little extra emphasis on the “bass” portion of the word, which in turn makes the pronunciation of it completely unique. Sometimes it’s the little nuances like that, that are the difference between an already great song being an excellent one, and such as the case here.

“…Cut split ends to save our strands…”, that seems like the line that would best describe the breakup song “Butterfly Catcher”, which has a slightly more delicate sound than the songs that precede it, yet it manages to have a certain upbeat pop quality, while emanating a melancholy feeling. Sure, those sounds and moods may be a little contradictory, but weaving them together in the way she does is what makes it sound so fantastic.

“Heathen” is easily the most inspirational song on the album, and is another favorite of mine. Like the lead track, it has a certain piousness about it, probably because there are some not so subtle religious undertones to it, like on what strikes me as being a rather profound line, “Cinder blocks around my brain. Came to mock but I remain to pray…” The music bed also boasts a sort of orchestral sound, albeit a scaled back one, which is what really sets the song off.

Bringing this excursion to an end is “True North”, which is a fitting song to close with, and seems to bring the story the album tells full circle. As stated in Jillette’s current bio, it’s about “…coming home and accepting the failures that you endure…” And in the end, it’s the failures as much as the successes that make you into who you’re supposed to be.

All in all, “Water in a Whale” is an utterly flawless record from start to finish, including the two B-sides that are also a part of it (“17” and “Box of Crayons”), which are up to par with the eleven core tracks.

There’s not a song on it that sounds second-rate or inferior to the others, and because it’s so well rounded, I’d say this record is at a caliber that some artists could spend a decade’s long career trying to create and still not manage it.

It traverses between soft and sweet, raw and edgy, and at times, even a bit sultry. But through it all, it’s the passion that really makes “Water in a Whale” so outstanding. I mean, a lot of people can sing, but there’s a more limited number of singers that can squeeze so much emotion into their music, let alone capture that quality so well in a recording studio. That rare feat is something Jillette has accomplished, making each song seem incredibly significant to her, which allows the music to transcend to a whole other level.

She has no doubt set the bar high with “Water in a Whale”, but with such a plentiful amount of natural talent, when it comes time for a sophomore record, I don’t think either her or her fans will have to worry about the dreaded “sophomore slump”.

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon MP3 / Barnes & Noble / or physical copies from her Online Store

Visit Jillette Johnsons’ websites:
Official Site / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Current show schedule:
July 12th at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California / July 16 at Joe’s Pun in New York, New York / August 23rd at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio

imagePhoto Credit: Rebecca Miller

Saturday, May 11th, 2013 – The Homegrown Music Festival: Year 4

In three short years the Homegrown Music and Arts Festival has established itself as a Dallas institution, and is arguable the festival that takes place not only in Dallas, but even the entire North Texas area.

A large part of the appeal (well, besides the music) is that it takes place in the urban oasis that is the Main Street Garden Park, a vibrant park, which occupies a full city block, that is usually a good place for people to walk their dogs in or bring their children to play on the playground equipment. However, this one day out of the year two stages are set up, one on the East end and the other on the West, as the park is transformed into a music lovers paradise.

The first two years the festival focused exclusively on North Texas based bands, before expanding in their third year, allowing bands from all over Texas to play. Only a handful of North Texas bands performed during the 2012 installment, but now in its fourth year, Homegrown was getting back to basics, and out of the fifteen bands lined up to play, only four hailed from outside the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

Kicking off this glorious day was Ross Edman, who is better known by his stage name as the electronic act, Datahowler.

His start time was 11:30 that morning, which was about thirty minutes before I got there, making Datahowler the only act I missed this day. It was surely an interesting show, though, since he was supposed to be playing his music alongside a yoga instructor who was in turn leading some individuals in a yoga routine.

I imagine that took him out of his comfort zone a little, but he was one of a handful of musicians pulling double-duty this day, and in a few hours he’d get back to what he specializes in.

I can’t say I’m too upset that I missed his set, since what he does is a style of music I’m not really into. However, you can check out his “The Crystal Gazers” EP in iTunes, if you are into some more ambient, electronic stuff.

Some stop and go traffic resulted in me getting there a little later than I wanted to, arriving right at noon, which I knew meant I was cutting it close, as that was when Madison King and her band were scheduled to start.

Sure enough, as I hurried out of the parking garage, the music crept into earshot, revealing they were in the midst of their presumable opener, “Whiskey In the Morning”.

During my trek over to the other side of the park where the Chevy stage was located, I was surprised by all the people that were already here. Sure, it might not have been a ton, but considering the festivities were just getting underway, there were a lot. Perhaps it’s as simple as they just have excellent taste in music and didn’t want to miss even one of the many great bands playing this day.

But I digress…

Upon finishing that song, they did another from Madisons’ “Darlin’, Here’s to You” record, “Here In Arms”, which is still one of the best songs in their repertoire and tells a great story. Songs from that nearly two year old album were few and far between this day, though, like their next one, which she announced to everyone was titled “Me and You”. Chris Carmichael launched them into the song with some awesome beats in what was essentially a brief drum solo, before electric guitarist Michael Smith and bassist Wade Cofer jumped into it. It’s a love song, and a very good one at that, that had a great flow to it and out of handful of new songs they did during this around 30-minute long set, it was one of my favorites.

During a break after that song, Madison started talking about what a great day it looked like it was going to be, and briefly mentioned that she had already had to duct tape her high heels, laughing as she said, making it sound like at the very least it had been an interesting day for her thus far. They then moved things along with another new tune, “Ghost of the One that Got Away”, and then another song which she dedicated to someone, resulting in two women running up towards the stage and somewhat dancing along to the song.

My favorite song of their set ended up being the next song, which was a slower, hauntingly beautiful number, with one of the lines being, “…We make evil inventions from the best of intentions…” All of those offered a nice glimpse at what Madison has been writing, and they give the impression that her next record will in all likelihood outdo her first, which is saying a lot. Speaking of that first record, they next played the gorgeous, “Nazarene”, during which Madison intricately plucked the strings of her acoustic guitar with just her fingers. “…This next song is called Saved By a Son of a Gun…” Madison told everyone, but almost immediately after starting it, she brought it to a stop. She thought either something was off or that her capo was on the wrong fret, but upon realizing all was right, they started it again, and this time this catchy song went off without a hitch. That brought them to the final song of their set, which was “Darlin, Here’s To You” and it was a fantastic song to end on, especially with the fiery guitar notes and even solo, which Michael rocked by the way.

Okay, so technically Madison King and her band didn’t get the day started, but since they were the first act I saw, they got it started for me, and what a way to begin.

Madison is one of the best singer/songwriters in the D/FW, a fact that everyone who saw her this fine afternoon would surely attest to. And it’s not just that the music and lyrics are great, but it’s also the fact that she so obviously pours her heart into the performance.

If you haven’t seen her yet, you should, and luckily she has several shows coming up in Dallas in June, one of which will be on the 5th at Three Links, then the 14th at the Belmont Hotel and finally the 20th at Sundown at Granada. Also be sure to check out the “Darlin’, Here’s to You” album in iTunes.

The next band was getting ready to take the Shiner stage, but, like all the bands this day, they were introduced by the events MC. “…Have you ever seen a wolf play drums?” the MC asked everyone, then added, “You’re about to.” before introducing the another country band, J. Charles and the Trainrobbers.

I had seen the band once before, and that had been over a year ago, so I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

Steve Visneau was already sitting behind his drum kit, and after the three remaining members filed on stage, he and singer and guitarist Jeffrey Charles Saenz fired up the first song of their 40-minute set, “Mercy Killing”. They quickly commanded everyone’s attention, specifically when J. Charles’s voiced surged as he belted out, “There’s a bullet here for me, a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much it’s true…” It’s one hell of a song, and only got better when the sounds from Justin Youngs’ bass and Daniel Creamers’ keyboard became more prominent. They soon followed it with the subsequent track on their “Upon Leaving” record, the gritty, “Letter to a Thief”.

“This next song is called My Year.” J. Charles quickly told the crowd as they tore into another amazing song. Towards the end of that one there’s a little lull, during which both Jeffrey and Justin walked back by the drum riser. Then, as the music began to swell, the two marched back up to their respective microphones in perfect synch with each other, where they both sang, “My heart’s been on fire all year long…” I believe it was followed by a non-album track, after which J. Charles made some small talk with the audience, admitting he wasn’t “…good at talking…” That’s alright, not every band needs to have banter, especially when the music is as good as this was. He did use that time though to promote the merch they had for sale, which included their new album, and he used that as a segue into their next song.

It was the single from their debut album, the gripping, “Something Wrong”, which at times is almost a sing along, as the chorus is catchy enough it could easily have the fans shouting along to it. “Three Shades of Black” brought the noise level down slightly (at least for a bit), but not the intensity of their playing was still there, especially in Steve’s drumming.

They changed things up a bit for their final two songs, as Taylor Rea joined them, walking over to stage right. J. Charles grabbed his mic stand, moving it where he could face her, saying something to the effect that they were going to have a standoff, and she moved her mic stand to look at him. They did the lovely duet “Ain’t So Blue”, and they had a lot of chemistry going on as they sang back and forth to one another, even on occasion getting some amazing harmonies going. They had one final song planned after that, and that was their longest song yet, “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”, which often had Taylor singing some backing vocals, word-for-word with what J. Charles was singing.

I remembered them being a great band the first time I saw them, but nothing on the scale of what they were this afternoon.

They’ve tightened and polished things up a lot in the last sixteen months, and it shows in their performance. They were very coordinated in their stage performance and operated like a well-oiled machine.

It was quite the performance they put on, too, overflowing with energy. More than once during the instrumental breaks of some songs J. Charles worked his way up on the drum riser, shredding on his guitar while banging his head to the heavy beats Steve was laying down.

They may be a country band, but they have the perfect blend of a rock and country sound, and between that and J. Charles’s rich, distinctive voice, they are sure to reel you in. So, if you haven’t yet experienced J. Charles and the Trainrobbers, you are truly missing out.

You should give their “Upon Leaving” album a listen, and buy it in iTUNES if you like it. If you’d like to see them live, they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth on June 15th.

The next band of the day was one of the out-of-town bands, the Houston based, The Tontons.

They got another good introduction from the MC, who mentioned that last year Eisley played the festival, noting they used to be called Mos Eisley, before George Lucas asked them to change their name. So, after introducing The Tontons, he added, “…Or as George Lucas calls them, The Tons.”

The quartet, led by front woman Asli Omar, had several newer songs to play for the ever growing crowd, though to a lot of people I’m sure they all were new.

Their opener was one of those newer songs, and was a prime example of what the band is about, with a captivating music bed that could easily pull you in, and it made perfect use of Aslis’ soulful, rich and even at times slightly raspy voice. They may be a indie rock band, but with that song I think everyone knew they were in for one of the most unique and original performances of the day.

Asli aided drummer Justin Martinez in the percussion field on their next song, as she shook a tambourine throughout it. Afterwards, Adam Martinez started them on a fan favorite from the “Golden” EP, “Vietnam”, with the infectious guitar chords that at the very least should have you swaying along to the song, if not inciting some full on dancing. Once it was finished, Asli addressed the crowd, urging everyone to enjoy this day they had, before summer arrived making it so hot we wouldn’t even want to step outside. “…By the way, this hair is like a oven.” She added, referring to her afro.

They got back to business with one of the two songs from their recently released 7’’ vinyl record, “Bones”, and the song was simple named “Bones 1”. It carried a more rock sound with it, with some, at times, blistering riffs from Adam, and while Tom Nguyen’s bass lines were often more subtle on some of their other music, they were anything but during this song, creating a very cohesive and solid rhythm section. Yet another new song came next, which took them to the emotion filled title track of their most recent EP, “Golden”. “You’re shallow and silly and oh so conniving. I’d say you were stupid but that’d be denying you were ever smart enough to date me, ever strong enough to break me…” Asli sang on the chorus while dancing along to the song.

During another short break in between song, Asli encouraged everyone to check out their Austin friends Quiet Company, who were playing right after their set, as well as Zhora, who was set to be the next band playing here at the Chevy stage. “…That’s the best part of Texas…” she said, “…We are all family…”

Another barrage of new material followed, as they cranked out three more songs, one of which was another where Asli again played the tambourine. They had been up there for about half an hour at this point, and to wrap up their 34-minute long set, they did the lead track from their self-titled album, “Leon”.

Having only see them once before this (which had been over a year ago), I had forgotten how amazing The Tontons really were.

They are incredibly versatile, owning the more rock style of music they play, but also pulling off the slower, almost jazz like songs, which is reminiscent of something you would have often heard in a lounge setting in say the 60’s.

The interesting music and superb vocals made them one of the most unique bands of the entire day, which in turn made them one of the most memorable.

Between ITUNES and BANDCAMP, you can purchase every single one of the bands releases, even getting a few singles for free download over on their bandcamp page. As for shows, their schedule is currently empty, and word is they are going to be working on a new record.

Three bands in and it had already been an amazing day, and while there were plenty of bigger name bands yet to come, I was most looking forward to the next band on the Shiner stage, the Austin based rock outfit, Quiet Company.

Opening their set was “And You Said it Was Pretty Here”, a bonus track from their new/old record “A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited”, which is a re-recording of one of the bands first album. This cheery sounding tune found the band looking a little out of place, as Cody Ackors was playing one of the guitars, an instrument he’s actually quite great at, leaving the heavily bearded Thomas Blank to focus on his keyboard. It was the first time I’d heard them open with that song, and despite the drastic differences between it and some of their past openers, it worked every bit as well, as more and more people gathered around the stage to watch the spectacle that was starting to unfold.

Cody gave up the guitar to Thomas, while he assumed his spot on stage right, surrounded by his numerous instruments, which included the trombone, a floor tom and a keyboard. The sample track for “It’s Better to Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money” began to play while the band got ready for it. “…You better stop and smell the roses. You better love the life you live. You better take note of when it’s killing you…” sang singer and guitarist Taylor Muse on the chorus, and after the second one the music gave way to Thomas and his solo on the melodic. It wasn’t just the standard instrumental break, though.

“…We all have regrets.” Taylor said to the crowd, noting he regretted “eating at the Great Wall of China Buffet in Bryan, Texas.” “But one thing I’ve never regretted is dancing at a rock show…” he added, as he proceeded to encourage everyone to cut loose, have fun and dance to the rest of the song, to which some people did.

Those two songs got them off to a fierce and dynamic start, and it was only about to get better as they prepared to do a few songs from what is arguably their best record, 2011’s “We Are All Where We Belong”.

“So you say you got peace about it, I purpose you could live without it…” sang Taylor at the start of “Preaching to the Choir Invisible, Part I”, which had Cody, at least at first, accompanying drummer Jeff Weathers in the percussion field, as he tapped some drumsticks on the rim of the tom. The deep meaning, multilayered song culminated with the guitars, drums and bass, played by Matt Parmenter, soaring to life, as the four members at the forefront of the stage shouted in their singing voices, “We belong!” over and over again, a cry that even their fans who were in attendance joined in on.

Upon finishing it, Taylor again told everyone who they were. “…We’re Quiet Company, a metal band from Austin, Texas…” he said, which caused much of the crowd to laugh, because metal, they are not. He also took this time to point out their merch booth they had, telling anyone who wanted to buy something to go visit the guy in the purple shirt. There happened to be two guys wearing purple shirts, and the one who was not the merch guy said something like, “Who are you talking to?” in the spirit of being funny. Actually, it was funny, but Taylor has a quick and clever wit about him, and instantly had a comeback. He jokingly said he was talking to the guy who didn’t know he was selling the merch, telling everyone, “…But he does have that nice dog, go try to buy it from him.”

As they entered the tail end of their 32-minute long set they did another favorite from their 2011 album, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, which they then wound right into the single from the record, “You, Me, and the Boatman”, with some simple guitar feedback followed by Jeff tearing it up on the drums. That amazing rock song, which is really set off by the trombone, soon led them to the final song of their show, which was the more serene “On Modern Men”. That track grows on me each time I hear it, especially in the live setting, and it’s undoubtedly at its best when they all croon and then shout, “Make way for your modern man, we fought to exist. We crawled from the water to the dry land and our hands are the dirtiest.”

It may be an older song, but it fits well with the themes from the songs on “We Are All Where We Belong”, and offers the perfect way to cap off a show.

There may have many bigger name bands left to play this day, but Quiet Company was every bit as astounding as those others were. For the record, they were every bit as professional, too.

They are truly one of the best live bands I have ever experienced, putting on an energetic performance that never ceases to amaze, and their greatest quality, their musicianship, is constantly on display and always shining. If you haven’t seen them yet, you are truly missing out.

This little 32-minute performance instantly became the highlight of my day and was the moment to beat, and while a few bands came close, in my opinion, none surpassed what Quiet Company did.

As for their upcoming shows, on June 7th they’ll be in Chicago, IL at Schubas. They’ll also play the Horseshoe in Toronto on June 11th. And do be sure to check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. If you like straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll, you’ll love what they do.

So far, the genres played had included some country and a few varieties of rock, and now, it was time for the only electronic band of the festival, Zhora.

It was a different Zhora than had been seen before, though, because a little over a week before the show, half of the band split, leaving just vocalist Taylor Rea and drummer Ross Martinez. So, in order to do this show, they had enlisted the help of Michael Smith on guitar, while Ross Edman worked the electronic aspect of things, and there was also a musician playing a keyboard.

Right before starting their set, Taylor grabbed a futuristic looking visor (think something out of Star Trek), placing it over her eyes, and then they were off.

One of their newer tracks, which will presumably be on their forthcoming full-length, began their set as they started to take the crowd on an adventure through vivid, sonic soundscapes. “The Hold”, a song from their debut EP, came next, followed by “Futuristic Land”, a song where Taylor really put her vocal effects pad, which was mounted on her mic stand, to use. She changed it to where her voice had a distant sound to it, with just a hint of reverb while she sang, with one of my favorite lines of the song being, “…If I’m seeing stars, pull me to your constellation…”.

This short set consisted of another newer track, which had an excellent dreamy quality to it. It was also with that song where the bands show really seemed to take off. Taylor had been swaying and dancing about to the music thus far, but it was on that song where she got a little more forceful, moving about the stage as she really began to entrance, and even command the crowd. But no sooner had the behavior started, and then it was time to end their 26-minute long set. “Sunset”, which oozes with thick sounds from the synthesizer, was their closing number, and was undeniably the highlight of their show.

Zhora is another band I had only seen once before this day, and honestly, the show was kind of lacking from what I had experienced before.

I can’t really fault them, after all, three of the members on stage this day aren’t even official band members of Zhora. They made it work well, and considering they probably didn’t get much practice in, they came across as being pretty cohesive, bust still it was a little lackluster.

That doesn’t mean they’re not a great band, though, and they are one of Dallas’s best electronic bands, at least out of the ones that I’ve heard. Their songs have a nice texture to them, and their newer material is fantastic. But as far as the live show is concerned, while all the members obviously play a key role, it’s really all about Taylor Rea, who, even on what I felt was kind of an off day, still easily managed to make herself the main focal point of the show.

Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates, which they will no doubt have coming up in the future, once the band is reassembled. In the meantime, download their four song EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE, plus some other stuff.

Now, most times at concerts, things are always running behind, but oddly enough, they had actually gotten pretty ahead of schedule at this point. So, in order to get things back on track everyone had to wait for a bit, as The Burning Hotels set time wasn’t until 3:20.

Now, it had been quite some time since I last saw The Burning Hotels, and the few shows of theirs I had seen I had never managed to get into their music, so I was curious as to if they would change my opinion of them this day, or if it was going to be more of the same.

This indie rock bands 36-minute set focused largely on their 2011 self-titled record, as they kicked off their set with the infectious “Always”, and exerted a lot of energy throughout it. They quickly followed it with a song from the “Novels” album, “To Whom it May Concern”, which found the four-piece getting more into the performance, as lead guitarist Matt Mooty and the bands bass player moved about the stage, and even Chance cut loose when he didn’t have to be stationed in front of the microphone. They changed pace bit with their next song, the at times soupy sounding “Days Are Gone”, which also found Matt singing just as much of the song as Chance did.

They followed it with another track, which if memory serves correctly was one where Chance kind of put his keyboard to use, and next did a tune from the “Eighty Five Mirrors” record, “Lovely, Lovely Lady”. “Sound City” was another song they did, though the biggest crowd pleaser seemed to be their single “Beard”, which had Matt taking over the main vocal duties, and not only was this song the biggest crowd pleaser, it was also the one that had most of the audience dancing along to it while Matt sang the chorus, “…Why did I love you?… Why did I ever love you at all?” Afterwards, they had one more song planned for everyone, before getting to the slightly electronic inspired track, “To You with Love From Me”, which brought their show to a close.

Being objective, it was solid set. I believe I had only seen them twice before this, and I did enjoy the overall show much more this time around then my previous experiences. It’s a little inventive and very alluring. They’re also great musicians, especially Chance and Matt, and that’s evident in watching their live show.

However, on the subjective front, I still wasn’t won over as a fan. Chance sings the majority of their material and in the live setting, his voice is constantly on the verge of cracking. Mind you, it never did, but he has a rather high pitch to his voice, and it’s incredibly shaky and unsteady. And for someone like me, who basis if I like a band or not solely on the singer’s voice, I just can’t overlook nor get past that.

As of right now, the only show date on the bands calendar is their September 14th gig at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth, where they will be one of many bands playing the Toadies annual music festival, Dia de los Toadies. They will no doubt be playing some gigs between now and then, though, so keep an eye on their SHOW CALENDAR. And to purchase the bands records, go HERE and HERE (they have two different pages in iTunes, hence the two separate links.)

Now, it was time to get to the country music portion of the day. Sure, a few country bands had played earlier, but the next three bands were bigger names, with all three being routine headliners.

One of those acts was the Dallas duo, The O’s, ho received another memorable and noteworthy introduction from the MC’s, which now included Dallas musician Grant Jones.

The other MC said he recalled the days the band was a four-piece outfit, calling themselves “The Hoe’s”, but when they lost two of their band mates, so too did they lose a couple letters.

It made for a good joke, and before even starting their first song, multi-instrumentalist John Pedigo mentioned he was glad to know how they came up with their band name. That’s the thing with this duo, they’re pretty humorous, though they had little time to let that side show this day.

The O’s were still pretty fresh off the release of their third album, “Thunderdog”, and they began this set with the lead track from it “Outlaw”, as John started strumming his banjo, while Taylor Young supplied the beat with his bass drum while simultaneously playing his acoustic guitar. It was a surprisingly uplifting song, creating a pleasant, hopeful mood amongst the audience, but not only that it also seemed to summarize all the years of work and effort these two have put into the band, specifically with the line, “…We all fight the good fight, we all know what is right. We worked too hard to have nothing change…”, which was mainly sung by John, though Taylor added some backing vocals for most of the song.

Afterwards, John found a clever way to work in all the sponsors of the event, saying something along the lines of he had driven his Chevy truck down here and drank a Shiner Bock beer, but only after having a Red Bull to help him get going (the Red Bull ten was where the beverages were being sold at). Taylor was even impressed by it, but he quickly told John they needed to cut it, reminding him they only had a limited amount of time. “I’m sorry, we like to talk…” he told the crowd, before saying their next song was about the fine city they call home, which was appropriately titled “Dallas”. John plucked the strings of his pedal steel guitar for that one, while Taylor did the singing, essentially professing his love for the city, even saying “…This is where I’ll die…”

I’ve never considered myself a true fan of The O’s (at least not before this day), and even though their newest album at been out nearly a month now, this was the first time I had heard anything from it, and I loved those first two tracks from it they had played. It was a step (or two) above their previous material (which is saying a lot) and made it very clear they had outdone themselves on their newest effort.

This show wasn’t all about their new stuff, though, and next they ventured into their sophomore record, “Between the Two”, by doing a song about what else, but the city of Dallas. At least that was the subject matter according to John, who kind of laughed when saying something like it gets hard to find new things to write about. The song was “We’ll Go Walking”, which may be set in Dallas, but it’s more of a love song than anything.

“…This next song is called Kitty…” Taylor told everyone, as they tackled the final track from “Thunderdog”. That song took them almost completely out of their comfort zone, and was very atypical of them, as it had more of a rock sound and the way Taylors’ voice flowed on the song was superb. It was the banjo that really stole the show, though, as John often ran it through an effect via a pedal, and with the help of that, his banjo made a gritty, distorted sound that could rival that of any guitarist from the many rock bands that had played thus far.

It was an excellent departure from their roots, though they soon returned to their folk/country roots with a couple more tracks from their second album, one of which was the rather beautiful “Pushin’ Along”. That led them to the final song of this short 28-minute long set, which was the upbeat “Everything’s Alright”. In setting it up, John announced to everyone the song title, than added, “…Because it is…”, almost reassuring everyone that things were alright.

Each time I’ve seen this duo over the years I’ve become a little more of a fan, and the performance they gave this day, coupled with the brilliant setlist, solidified me as one. They were extraordinary and put forth a show that stands out as being another very memorable one from this amazing day.

You should definitely head over to iTunes and check out their three albums, particularly “Thunderdog”. As for upcoming shows, from June 7th through the 15th they’ll be over in the UK, so check out their REVERBNATION PAGE for their calendar and specifics on where they’ll be. Come July they have a couple dates in Arlington, TX, one at the Grease Monkey on the 5th and the other at Levitt Pavilion on the 12th. On the 13th they’ll play at Hank’s in McKinney and they have many other dates immediately beyond that, all throughout Texas.

That set seemed hard to follow, but one of the few bands that would have no trouble with that was Somebody’s Darling.

It had been several months since I last saw the band, but their opener hadn’t changed, and as soon singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris sang the first line of “Weight of the Fear”, you could tell the throng of people were entranced. As well they should have been, because her voice, which has an especially soulful quality to it on that song, was in rare form. Her voice certainly wasn’t the only gripping aspect to the song, though, and one of the others was lead guitarist David Ponder’s stellar solo.

Drummer Nate Wedan started them on their next song, doing a little bit of a solo at first, while keyboard player Mike Talley clapped along to the beat, before Amber eventually crooned the first line of “Back to the Bottle”, “Well, I believe God made a lover for me…” It was another stellar number, albeit in a different way than their first song, particularly at the end when Mike really got to show off his skills on the keys with some fiery notes. Next up, they had a little treat for all their fans, both the old and new ones alike. They usually have at least one cover song in their set, and now they did one that I had never heard them do before, and that was the classic from the band Faces, “Stay with Me”. They put a slight country twist on it, but Somebody’s Darling is still pretty close to a rock band, allowing them to pull the song off with ease and make it entirely their own.

The crowd definitely seemed to love it, and they followed it with a few more originals, as Amber informed everyone that the next song was “Cold Hands”, which is one of the singles and the lead track from their latest release, “Jank City Shakedown”. The guitars soared to life on this occasionally bluesy track, and were rounded out by a solid rhythm section, of course including bassist Wade Cofer, who effortless and methodically plucked the strings of his bass, with that certain swagger that most bass players seems to have.

“We’re gonna slow things down for a minute.” Amber told the crowd upon finishing the last song, saying it quite quickly, as they seemed in a hurry to finish their set to make sure they adhered to the allotted amount of time they had. The slower song she spoke of was “Pretty Leaves”, which is arguably the most beautiful song they currently do, and it tells a real story, with its lyrics packing a huge emotional punch. After Nate’s drum outro, Amber took a minute to banter with the audience, reminding everyone that the next day was going to be Mother’s Day. Her recommendation to anyone who was out here at Homegrown with their mom was simple; “…Get mom plastered today…”

After her sage advice, they did another cover song, and this one was my personal favorite that they do. It’s a rendition of Jack White’s “Love Interruption”, and not only to they own it completely, but it my opinion, they also upstage the original. They had one song left for everybody after that, and they had saved one of the best for last, finishing with the very well orchestrated and intense, “Wedding Clothes”. As it wound down, Amber had the idea to jump off the stage, which was probably about five feet off the ground, give or take a little, and she told everyone of this. Sure enough, after playing her final notes on the guitar, she leapt into the air, rolling onto her back after she hit the ground, and still clutching her axe. “I had to.” She could be heard saying, making it sound like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Their 35-minute long set was a sensational one, and out of all the bands that played this day, Somebody’s Darling is another one that comes to my mind first when I think back on it. Hell, this show they did this afternoon was almost every bit as good as their CD release show last October, which is hands down the best SD show I’ve personally seen.

They’re a band with an overabundance of talent, with David, Wade, Mike and Nate having phenomenal talent on their respective instruments, and Ambers’ voice alone is enough to leave you in complete awe. And no, she’s not too shabby on the guitar, either. However, the best part is they don’t wield any of that talent in a flashy way, and are instead pretty modest, simply doing their thing while they’re on stage.

They have two LP’s available, both of which can be bought via iTUNES, and they also have quite a few shows lined up. They’ll be at the Hunt County Fair in Greenville, TX on June 11th, then the next week, June 18th, at the Wherehouse in Fort Worth. June 20th will find them down in Austin at Stubb’s BBQ, and the 21st they will be in Tyler, TX at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. They’ll be stopping in Shreveport, LA at Bear’s on the 22nd, then on the 27th they have a free show going down at Sundown at Granada in Dallas. A couple Oklahoma gigs are lined up for late July, and then on August 31st they will be headlining the famous Granada Theater in Dallas for the first time ever.

Concluding the country music portion for the festival was another Austin band, The Band of Heathens.

I had listened to their music before, and while I didn’t hate, I didn’t love it either, and I was curious as to how it be conveyed live.

I was able to find a modicum of shade near the guardrail by the stage, but in taking it I was only able to see four of the five members of the band, and their bassist was not in my view, though I don’t think that made much of a difference in the long run.

The lead track from 2009’s “One Foot in the Ether”, “L. A. County Blues”, began their 42-minute long set, and what a way to start. Both Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi served as the guitarists, and the latter of those two did the singing on this song. Except on the chorus, when Gordy chimed in, creating some amazing harmonies as they crooned, “We’re burning down Las Vegas, half asleep by noon…”. At times they were even aided by pianist Trevor Nealon, who helped them achieve true vocal perfection. It was such a good opener because it highlighted exactly what the band was about, which is a nice blend of country and Americana music with some smooth, soulful and passionate singing.

Their next song, “Shake the Foundation”, also demonstrated those qualities exceedingly well. Gordy handled the lead vocals this time around, but Ed was often adding his deeper, more blues sounding voice to the mix, while Richard Millsap kept a steady and solid beat going throughout the song. “Right Here With Me” showed off a different side of the band, and I thought the song had more of a minimalist sound to it, at least in comparison to the previous songs. It was more simple, and Ed and Gordy, who each sang a few lines before passing things off to one another, often merely plucked the strings of their guitars, though they still put quite a bit effort into it, making it appear more complex than it really was.

It’s already been a couple years since the bands last studio record, and at this point in the show, they offered everyone a taste of their next album. At least hopefully it was a taste, because after finishing it Ed clarified that it might be on their next record, which he added would most likely be out later this year. I sure hope it makes the cut, because out of the seven songs they did, this one was my personal favorite. All I remember is the final line of the chorus, “…Riding shotgun through the past.”, and the song created somewhat of a solemn atmosphere as they recalled times that have come and gone. It was just a fantastic number, and while I can’t say I really can relate to it, it still stirred some type of emotion in me, and really, isn’t that what any great song should do?

They again slowed things down with “Jackson Station”, which was the only song they did off their first studio album, leaving them with just enough time to do a couple from their latest effort, “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son”. One of those was “Should Have Known”, which is catchy enough it could easily get people dancing along to it, and from what I saw this day, there were a small handful of couples who were doing just that. The best thing about this song, though, was when they proceeded to rock out. They had added some instrumental portions to a few of their previous songs, but they went into a full on instrumental breakdown during this one, which took up at least a couple minutes. I’ve said many times before that I’m not a real fan of instrumental music, and that does apply to breakdowns, but in this case I loved it, and not only did it add a nice layer to the song, it also showed off the chops that Trevor, Richard, Gordy and Ed have.

By this point, more than a few fans were shouting requests for a fan favorite song (“Cornbread”), and had this been a headlining set, they probably would have done it, but it wasn’t, and they brought things to a close with the single from their newest record, “Medicine Man”. Gordy’s voice had been nothing short of impressive before, but it was downright astounding during this song as he belted out some of the later lyrics.

I was hoping I’d like their music and show, and I ended up enjoying it all much more than I thought I would. The music they churn out is almost an homage of sorts to the classic country acts, though it’s certainly modernized. The best part of their show however, was the harmonies. It’s done on their records, but it doesn’t even come close to sounding the same as it does in the live environment. In my opinion, that’s a lot of what made their live show so incredible, because both Gordy and Ed are more than capable lead singers, and when their voices mix in the various ways they did this day, they sounded unbelievable.

I think that helps set them apart, because I don’t think there are many country bands like this that utilize two male vocalists, and I also think that is why you need to see The Band of Heathens live, so you can experience that for yourself.

They tour quite a bit, and on June 8th they’ll be in Pagosa Springs, CO for the Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival. The Tap Room in College Station will host them on June 27th, then the next night they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth and the night after that they’ll be in Bee Caves, TX at Hill Country Galleria Amphitheater. They have several more dates scheduled in July, including another North Texas show at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. As far as the bands records, you can purchase their stuff (which is a mix of live and studio records) in iTUNES, as well as get a free download of some of their stuff on NOISETRADE.

The next act up was a very big change of pace from the previous acts, as it was the hip-hop group A.Dd+.

I’ll admit, I was ready to write them off long before they even started, because I’m not a fan of hip-hop and rap in the least, but then again, the hip-hop act from last year’s Homegrown at surprised me, so there was a chance A.Dd+ could do the same.

The duo of Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy’s entire 32-minute set consisted of songs from their new album, “DiveHiFlyLo”. They did a CD release show for their hometown fans awhile back, but it has yet to drop on the national scale, so I can’t even attempt to run through what tracks they did.

The two men rushed onto the stage, announcing, “…We in the house…” during their first track. What really surprised me was the tremendous stage presence they had, and even my eyes were glued to the stage. They followed it up with a ton more tracks in quick succession, some of which were handled mainly by Slim Gravy and others by Paris Pershun, while of course others they both rapped on, and those were the tracks where they were nothing short of being a well-oiled machine.

Before one track, Paris Pershun asked everyone to put their middle fingers in the air. “Put your peace signs up.” Slim then instructed, creating a conflicting and rather funny moment. They did some more stuff from “DiveHiFlyLo”, which they said would be released soon, and at one point during the show Paris took time to address the band’s name to everyone who was unfamiliar with them. Basically, the “.” And the “+” sign are just in the written name and not said in their actual name. So basically, you just say each letter individually to get their name, and that seemingly lengthy explanation eventually led to a rap about their name.

As their set neared the end, Paris threw in some more humor as he asked everyone to them on Twitter, saying something to the effect of, “…You’ll see us and be like, ‘That’s those two black guys who wear backwards pants.” By this point in the show they had, had a friend of theirs come up and rap on one song with them, and now for their final track, he returned as Slim and Paris jumped off the stage into the area used by the photographers, pacing about as they really got the crowd riled up.

I might not have cared for it much personally, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and after experiencing this A.Dd+ show, I can see why a few years ago the Hip-Hop scene in Dallas was exploding, and why these guys were at the forefront of that.

They are exceedingly talented at what they do, and while I won’t be buying their records and probably won’t be seeing another one of theirs shows, for 32-minutes this day they had me enthralled, and even enjoying the music to an extent.

You can find their first release in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and in the not too distant future their sophomore release should be available in both of those outlets, too. As for shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for updates.

The day was getting closer to an end now, and it was time for another change in musical styling’s, as two soul acts would be the next performers.

The first of the two was Larry g(EE) and his rather large band, which was comprised of Beau Bedford and Daniel Creamer, both of whom played the keys, and Beau even dabbled with the guitar at times. There was also a choir, featuring three women and a man, and along with the bassist and drummer, there was also a saxophonist, trumpet player and another like instrument used.

This new age man of soul and his band kicked tings off with “Game”, a track from Larry’s debut EP, “Weekends”. If you were unfamiliar with Larry g(EE), then you were probably both surprised and impressed  by the powerful and soulful voice that came out of him, as they wove together a mix of soul, funk and even some R&B on that song. The crowd loved it, and they enjoyed the next song, which was one of Larry’s newer tracks, just is much, and a highlight of that song was the mini choir, who added quite a bit of backing vocals to the tune.

However, it was their next song that truly had everyone mesmerized, as Beau first told everyone they wanted to take them somewhere, and then Larry said essentially the same thing. The audience screamed with delight, obviously more than willing to go along for the ride. They wanted to take everyone “higher”, and to do that they did an amazing cover of the Sly and the Family Stone classic, “I Want to Take You Higher”. There probably aren’t many bands that can pull that song off, but Larrys’ band has all the right parts to do it, and I dare say his voice can give Sly Stone’s a run for its money. That one definitely seemed like the crowd favorite of the night, yet Larry and his group were still just getting warmed up, as they did another newer song, which was dedicated to the city of Dallas.

A couple more tracks from the EP came next, one of which was the more tender love song “I’m Your Fool”, which had Larry scaling back on his singing, showing off a softer side to his voice, and showing that he’s not all about belting out the lyrics with a fiery passion. For the record, though, the passion was still more than evident on that number. Larry set up the fan favorite “Camera Phone” by first saying he wanted his picture taken with the crowd, pulling his phone out and handing it to the drummer, who snapped a shot of him and the massive amounts of people in the background. It’s a bit more soulful than some of his other originals, and it also has a serious groove going on, making it one you can really get down to.

No question that Larry had been the main focal point thus far, even with all of his band members constantly doing something, they were almost more of an afterthought in a way, except on the next song, when Larry exited the stage, giving it all to his band mates. It was another cover song, and I’m fairly certain it was “Rock Me Baby” by B.B. King. There was a little more umph to their version, and the three female singers had a moment to shine, as they each sang one of the verses, working their way down the line, eventually reaching the guy, who also sang. By this point Larry was back on stage, completely consumed by the music, soon taking back over the vocal duties as they brought it to a close.

They had a couple songs left for everyone at this point, and one was another non-album song, “I Don’t Know” or rather, “IDK”, which he set up as being about “making bad decisions”. The horn section really got put to use on the final number of their 32-minute set, “Yo Mama”, which was nothing short of electrifying. Towards the end, Larry hopped off the stage running about the grassy area, before eventually racing back up onto the stage, bringing the show to an extraordinary end.

It was an incendiary set, plain and simple.

For the record, I’m not big on the soul genre of music, either, but it’s almost impossible to deny the talent that flows in and subsequently out of Larry. He’s a beast when it comes to singing and has an aura about him that pulls you in and will hold your interest for the entire time he and his band are on stage.

Go experience a show for yourself, either on July 6th at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI, or in Dallas on August 6th at The Belmont. You can also purchase his EP in ITUNES.

That new wave of soul was excellent, but now it was time for a classic taste of the genre, as The Relatives were getting ready to take the Shiner stage.

They were introduced by Jeffrey Liles, who works at the Kessler Theater, and a high-up at the Dallas Morning News, and both men piled on the praise about The Relatives. The gentleman from the DMN mentioned that the band had disappeared for awhile, “…But I often said they needed to save their voices so they could save the world…” he said, shortly before they left the stage.

Drummer Matthew Strmiska, bassist Scott Nelson and guitarist Zach Ernst were already on stage, and soon five older gentleman filed on stage, Head Deacon Earnest Tarkington, who took his spot on stage right behind some congas, Reverend Gean West, Tony Corbitt, Tyron Edwards and Reverend Tommie West, all of whom stood behind some microphones.

This gospel/soul ensemble played several songs from throughout their career, but the main focus was on their recently released record ”The Electric Word”, and they opened with a song from it called “Let Your Light Shine”. The Reverend Tommie West led them on it, doing a majority of the singing, though they all participated, creating all sorts of divine harmonies, with Tyron Edwards even employing the use of his insanely high falsetto voice, which definitely got your attention. That ended up being merely the start of a 47-minute long sermon of sorts, as the gospel aspect of their music radiated forth from every song, creating a very spiritual atmosphere.

They won a lot of the crowd over with that upbeat song, and next brought things down with the slower “Your Love is Real”, as they continued giving praise. Tommies’ voice flowed so smoothly throughout the song, soothing in a way, though it was the few lines that Gean sang that seemed to steal the show. “One of these mornings, it won’t be long, you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone…” he crooned in a rougher tone that was filled with character. They wound it seamlessly into their next song, and upon finishing it, Gean took a moment to promote their new album, encouraging everyone to go over to their merch table and pick up a copy. He mentioned that before this show a friend of his told him not to beg the crowd to buy their CD, and he then said to everyone, “…So y’all don’t tell him I begged…”, creating a rather comedic moment of their set.

“Speak to Me (What’s Wrong with America?)” was one of the songs they did from their initial run back in the 70’s. It dealt with racial discrimination, which was obviously a much bigger problem back when they wrote it, but while it may not carry the same weight now as it did then, at least in that regard, it’s message about acceptance I imagine was just as strong now as it must have been back then. At least that was what I took from it, and it further enforced that you shouldn’t judge anyone based on their looks (and not just skin color, but also tattoos, piercings, etc.)

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was another track from the groups early years, and while it may be a short song on the album, it was anything but live. They got the audience to interact with them on that song, from things as simple as clapping and singing along, the best, though, was when Tommie asked everyone to “drop it down”. He and many of his band mates formed a cradle of sorts with their arms, then lowered their arms down a little below their waist, and much of the crowd followed suit. That went on for several times, with the old and newly converted fans happily obliging the band. Right before it ended, Tommie told everyone they were going to do it one more time, “…And I want you to drop it down real low!” he exclaimed, as he lowered his arms so much they were almost scrapping against the floor of the stage. The fans again obeyed, and did so with a huge smile on each of their faces.

Beforehand, they made it seem like that would conclude their set, but thankfully, it did not, as Gean proceeded to tell everyone of a book he read from every morning, mentioning different things it said to do to praise God, “…You praise God to dance…” he said, sounding like a pastor as the stage became his pulpit. That last sentenced I mentioned he said was a fitting one, because the song they then did had even more people swaying and dancing along to it than their previous songs had. They were able to squeeze one more song in after that, to bring to a close what had, at least for me, been the most surprising set of the day, and I say that simply because I was not anticipating the action that ensued during their show.

As great as the act before them was, The Relatives proved that the classic brand of soul mixed with gospel and funk is far superior. Mainly because they just don’t make bands like The Relatives anymore.

Actually, I’ve never cared for a choir like group like this before, and while I’d stop short of saying I’m now a true fan of The Relatives, I am a true believer in what they do.

What really amazed me was the voices of the five of them. It’s clear just by looking at them they aren’t any spring chickens, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. When they just spoke and talked with the crowd, their voices matched their looks, sounding pretty worn and old, but when they sang, they sounded like a group of twenty something’s who were in the prime of their singing careers. It was mind boggling, but in the best possible way.

Aside from their heavenly voices that intertwined in the best ways imaginable, another standout quality to their show was their demeanor, and you could tell they were all just as happy as they could be being on that stage and performing for everyone.

They have a couple shows coming up over the next few months, beginning with one at the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA on June 21st. They’ll also be Albuquerque, NM on July 20th at the Route 66 Summerfest. As for their albums, visit their pages in iTUNES either HERE or HERE. One of those is their new album, while another is their older one.

The festival was now in its final hours, and as soon as The Relatives finished I headed over to the Chevy stage, where a ton of people had already gathered all around the stage.

Headlining this one was the mighty, The Polyphonic Spree. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them over the years, whit many people even saying the band puts on the best live show they’ve seen, but during my seven plus years of being active in the local music scene, I had never seen one of their shows, and was excited to finally experience one firsthand.

A large white banner stretched across the stage, and was tied to both sides of the stage, and while the band prepared, all you could see was some silhouettes as they walked back and forth across the stage, oh, and band members’ feet.

Finally a figure, who ended up being front man Tim DeLaughter, appeared, and spray painted several letters on the backside of the banner. “Yes It’s True” it read when things were all said and done, and that is the title for the bands upcoming album. He then cut the banner at the center with some scissors, revealing the massive, almost cult like looking group.

I say cult like simply because the whole band (which is twenty plus members strong) wear essentially the same attire, with the men sporting robes with bright pastel colors on them, while Tim wore a shirt of the same pattern, and the women in the band wore white robes with simple horizontal blue stripes on the top of them.

“Hi Homegrown, we’re Tripping Daisy!” Tim gleeful exclaimed, referencing his storied Dallas rock band that started over two decades before. It seemed like just a joke of sorts at the time, but by the end of their show that comment would make much more sense.

I was immediate awe, mainly in how twenty plus people were able to fit so well on the stage, still allowing enough room to move around. The band quickly launched into their first song, which was “Section 22 (Running Away)”, the lead track from their most recent original record, “The Fragile Army”. This upbeat, poppy love song was so chipper it was impossible for your mood not to be influenced by it. My mind was quickly taken off the fact that my legs were starting to feel like jelly as I took in the completely brilliance of that song and the band in general, and in those few short minutes they more than lived up to all the hype that has surrounded them.

They gave their show a very fluid quality, often transitioning one song flawlessly into the next, and such was the case here, as they wound things into a song from “Yes, It’s True”. Tim stated that afterwards, saying it was just “a taste” of what’s to come, and at one point later in the show he even pointed out it had been six years since their last release, as if to say this was long overdue. They then got back to some stuff all their fans would now, with Tim announcing their next song was “Two Thousand Places”, or as it appears on the “Together We’re Heavy” record, “Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)”.

Tim toned his energy down to fit the slower mood of the song, and instead of frantically running about, he more paced around, while singing, “You gotta be good, you gotta be strong, you gotta be two thousand places at once…”. Accompanying him on it, at least in parts, was the six-piece all female choir, who stood on some risers at the back of center stage. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted out a request to him, which was inaudible from where I stood. “What?” Tim said, as he leaned out towards the crowd to try to hear better. “Oh, you want some of this?” he said in a second, suddenly turning towards stage right and thrusting his arms out towards his bane members, conducting them. Right on cue the violinist, cello player and many of the other musicians made one quick pluck of the strings on their instruments. It happened another time or two, and they maintained perfect synch with Tim’s movements, before several of the musicians led the charge into the explosive “Section 23 (Get Up and Go)”.

They next did another new song, “Hold Yourself Up”, and out of the small batch they of new material they did this night, that one was by far my favorite. They followed it with what everyone thought would be their only cover of the night, doing a medley of Who songs, starting with “See Me, Feel Me”, which was so harmonious, it often sounded otherworldly. It soon grew into more of a rock song, though, as they moved along to “Pinball Wizard”, where their lively performance once again ensued. They didn’t let up with their next song, either, which Tim said was yet another new song, but not in a true sense, as they had already leaked it.

He was talking about “You Don’t Know Me”, which was slightly different from their other original songs, having a stronger rock vibe, where the guitar, bass and drums where much more prevalent, though the choir, French horn, trumpet and the rest of the plethora of instruments were still put to use.

Tim left the stage for their next song, getting up close to the guardrail as they did the first of two songs from their debut album “The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree”, “Section 8 (Soldier Girl)”. Everyone seemed truly saddened when he said the next song would be their last, but the curiosity was piqued when he noted they might have a surprise after it. They ended things similarly to how they began, with “Section 9 (Light and Day - Reach for the Sun)”, which is another incredibly glowing song that exuded happiness and positivity.

That may have been the end of The Polyphonic Spree’s music for the night, but they still had one spectacular trick up their sleeve, as Tim began to reminisce about Tripping Daisy. “…There’s not a day of my life that goes by that I don’t think about the band…” he said, adding those were some of the best days of his life.

“No, they’re not seriously about to cover a Tripping Daisy song, are they?!” I thought to myself, and I guarantee you anyone even remotely familiar with that legendary band was thinking the same thing.

Tim continued by recounting the band’s early days, from playing venues I had heard of, like Club Clearview, and more than a few that must have shut their doors long ago. He even recalled how the bands first gig was at an open mic night at Club Dada. Soon enough, he mentioned that Josh Florence, one of the masterminds behind Homegrown, was a big Tripping Daisy fan back in the day, and that this song was for him. “…I busted a nut on this song all over town …” said Tim.

I had never even heard a Tripping Daisy song before this, so no, I couldn’t appreciate this as much as I would have liked to, but that still didn’t mean I wasn’t anxious to hear what they had planned.

“My decision, your decision, there’s no common ground…” Tim suddenly belted out, as the instruments, including the harp, sprang to life. The song was the first track from their first album, “My Umbrella”. It was certainly different from Tripping Daisy’s original, but it was amazing all the same, and by the time they finished it their set clocked in right at 60-minutes.

The things that surprised me the most about The Polyphonic Spree was that, despite all the things going on, on stage, it never once seemed like a sensory overload. All the instruments worked in perfect harmony together, and while many of the instruments may typically be stereotyped as being used in classical orchestras, The Polyphonic Spree certainly broke that mold.

And while much of their music was very poppy, it was also very in-your-face, even downright vicious at times, and that was all thanks to Tim. His voice has one of the most unique sounds I’ve ever heard, and what you hear on the recordings is essentially what you get live. Probably even a little better. He’s also a sensational front man who had seemingly limitless supply of energy, constantly running about and doing everything he could to pull the audience in and get them engaged in the show, which wasn’t too hard for him. Just astonishing, and I’m pretty sure he could run circles around front men that are half his age.

First off, their new record will be released on August 6th, so just a few months away now. But in the meantime, check out their other records in iTUNES, and between live cuts, holiday records and such, there are plenty to choose from. They have several dates throughout the U.S. in June and July, hitting up the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and New York. They’ll also be doing shows in the countries of Australia, South Korea, France and the UK. For specifics on all of those, go to their TOUR PAGE.

Some people left after that. Actually, some even left before The Polyphonic Spree was finished, but there was one band left, and closing out the day over on the Shiner stage was a super group based out of Austin/Los Angeles, the Divine Fits.

Despite some people calling it a day, the band still had a very healthy sized crowd, all of whom were anxious to see what I believe was the bands first ever show in Dallas.

The four-piece rock outfit, which is made up of guitarist Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs), bassist and multi-instrumentalist Britt Daniel (Spoon) and drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), as well as Alex Fischel who worked several keyboards, took the stage a little after their 9:30 scheduled start time, and to much fanfare I might add.

The band is only barely into their second year as a group and only had one album to draw from, as they quickly got down to business, opening with “Neopolitans”, which is the final track from “A Thing Called the Divine Fits”. While repetitive, the key(s) Alex continuously struck were infectious, though the level of excitement spiked when the rest of the band ripped into the song and Britt began to fully sing the song. I don’t mean to undercut it, but it was simplistic in a lot of ways, which in turn made it somewhat of a haunting opener.

Dan took over on vocal duties as they kicked things up a few notches with one of their singles, “Baby Get Worse”. “…My heart was beating in, in and out of time…” he sang on the chorus, as the song seemed to burrow deeper into everyone’s head with each passing second, as a lot of people were moving around to it, which resulted is some loud cheers and applause when they finished it up. Britt handled the next song, and before starting their love song titled “Like Ice Cream”, Alex left his keyboard station, picking up a guitar, which he rocked on the song.

Upon finishing it, he returned to his original post, while Dan and Britt swapped out instruments, as Sam started them into “Would That Not Be Nice”, a song that really showcased their skilled musicianship, especially Britt, who had some more subtle, yet intricate riffs, which he cranked out like the pro he is. Upon finishing it, the two again switched out instruments, though this time Britt exchanged his bass for a guitar, as they did another album track, “Civilian Stripes”, which was one of my personal favorites of the night.

“We’re gonna do some Frank Ocean…” Dan informed the crowd, which got a nice reaction, as I heard some people start asking their friends what song they thought they would be covering. The song was “Lost”, but if you weren’t familiar with it and if they hadn’t just said who they were covering, you wouldn’t have known it. Obviously they made some changes to it to better fit the style of music they play, and in all fairness I’m personally not a fan of Frank Oceans’ music, so I thought their version of it was much better, mainly because it sounded much more lively. I think a lot of that was due to the full live band rounding out the sound and making it so lush, rather than the sterile sound the (I assume) drum machine gives the original song.

Britt got back to his trusty bass once that song was done, and while tuning it, he asked Dan to tell everyone about their next song, which was a new one they’ve worked up. Dan summed it up by saying, “…It’s about heartbreak and drinking…” Classic. It really was a killer song, though, and one of my favorites from their set. Next up they had another cover in store for everyone, and this time it was a more classic song, coming from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song was “You Got Lucky”, which Dan sang, with Britt adding the occasional backing vocals. It was another knockout cover, and one that really fit their style, both musically and lyrically, exceedingly well.

They were nearing the end of their 48-minute long set at this time, and next did “Flaggin a Ride”, which was followed by the subsequent song on their record, “What Gets You Alone”, which was the most intense song they did. Judging from it, they had saved the best for at least close to last, and to cap off this show, they had one last cover, one that can be found on their record. The song was “Shivers”, originally done by The Birthday Party, and for it Alex added the bass lines, leaving Britt to take up the rhythm guitar. The song teemed with emotion, particularly with the opening line, “I’ve been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn’t suit my style…” His singing gave it a very melancholy vibe, as well as sounding very apathetic.

The crowd somewhat dispersed after that, though droves hung around in hopes of an encore. It didn’t happen.

Surely no one was disappointed in that, though. After all, they had played almost everything from their record, and certainly hit the highlight tracks and then some.

They put on a great show that seemed to pass all too quickly, and I loved the dynamics they had going on. For instance, the vocals. Both Dan and Britt are amazing singers with very unique voices, and switching up who did the singing like they did ensured things never got stale (though I doubt that would have been a worry in the first place).

However, it’s really all about their musicianship. It’s clear each of them have spent many years doing what they do, damn near, perfecting it, as they each played their respective instruments with ease, making it appear so effortless that any non experienced person from the crowd could have joined them and been just fine. Their talent was a true thing of beauty, and something to marvel at.

Pick up their debut album in iTUNES, and they have several shows on the horizon too, which can be viewed HERE. They’ll be doing gigs in New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Oregon and Texas, as well as a few around Canada.

As the crowd lingered, hoping for one more song from the band, they instead saw Josh Florence rush onto the stage. His speech was short as he thanked everyone for coming out and also promised that the fifth annual Homegrown Music and Arts Festival would be even better.

That’s a bold statement, and one they’ll be hard pressed to accomplish. But then again, I didn’t think there would be any topping last years, yet they managed to.

I liked the fact that they returned to focusing predominantly on the Dallas music scene, while the few bands from out of the immediate area were a nice way to switch things up, especially since they were scattered about the lineup.

As far as I’m concerned, Homegrown IS the best music festival in the North Texas area, and this year solidified it as that. So, go ahead and make sure you keep your Saturday’s in May 2014 free, ‘cause most likely it will be one of those days when they do the sixth edition of the festival. At the very least it’s a fun way to spend the day, and you can be a very casual music lover and still enjoy it.

It didn’t seem it, but it had been a long day, and it wasn’t quite over yet as I made the very short journey to Deep Ellum for one of the Homegrown after parties…

Friday, May 10th, 2013 – Ronnie Fauss

The suburbs of the Dallas area don’t usually come to mind as a place to go see live music, and the few venues that I’ve known of over the years have never been able to make a real run out of it. However, the one venue that has lasted is one I had never been to before this night, and that Love and War in Texas, which is primarily a restaurant.

They get some pretty notable Country/Americana/Folk acts through, but since those typically aren’t the genres I go for, I had seldom had a real reason to go there, until this night, when Ronnie Fauss and his band were playing.

Opening up for him was a band out of Austin called Greg Mullen and the Cosmic Americans, who was starting their final song when my dad and I arrived and stepped out onto the nice and spacious patio where the stage is located.

It’s hard to get a feel for a band in just one song, but I liked what I heard in that one song. You can listen to and buy both of the bands records on their BANDCAMP site, so check that out, as well as their FACEBOOK PAGE to keep up-to-date on their goings on.

Ronnie Fauss and his band missed their 9:30 start time by a bit, due mainly to some guitar issues, which were finally fixed by Ronnie replacing the battery in his acoustic guitar.

“I’m Ronnie Fauss and this is my band The Chupacabras.” He told the crowd of a little over a dozen, as they then embarked on a 71-minute long set.

They played a majority of his newest album, “I Am the Man You Know I’m Not”, which is also his debut on New West Records, beginning with the song, “The Last”. “…I’ve seen your future, baby, and it looks a lot like your past. I was your first, oh let me be the last…” Ronnie sang on the chorus, while Chris Norwood plucked at the strings of a lap steel guitar, a traditional instrument in country music, that, oddly enough, wasn’t used much this night. Then again, it’s not like they really needed it.

They picked the pace up immensely as Ronnie belted out the opening line of their next song. “Well, I’m driving this rig up to Oklahoma City…” he sang, as drummer Bill Spellman, bassist Rocky Garza, and electric guitarist Chad Hannon ripped into “I Don’t See You”, which is one of my personal favorites song of his, and was one of the catchiest of this entire night.

Chris switched to keyboard/piano for the next few songs, as Ronnie announced to everyone that the next song was called “Tia Maria”, a song that was originally found on the “Mulligan” EP. It’s a true country tune, telling a story of a wife and her cheating husband, and by the end of it, Tia Maria” has “…shot herself right through the head…” It may sound sad, but there’s actually a certain amount of humor thrown into the song.

 “…This next song is called Pistols In the Air.” said Ronnie, leading them into another track from the new album.  There was a brief instrumental breakdown during that song, and Chad stole the spotlight for a moment with some nice riffs that comprised a guitar solo, which was his first, but far from last of the night. They then pulled out another older song of Ronnies’, and while Chris was readying his mandolin, Ronnie asked everyone if they enjoyed a “good revenge song”, as that was what their next song was about. It was “One Eye Open”, and while it appeared to go off without a hitch, Ronnie copped afterwards that he forgot to do his harmonica solo, mainly because he forgot to pick his neck rack up before the song in order to do it.

No harm, no foul is what I say, especially since Ronnie pointed out that Chad picked up the slack by doing another solo. Chris again switched instruments, going back to the keys this time, but mere seconds into the more melancholy “Answers You Already Know”, Ronnie brought things to a stop. “…I didn’t learn from my mistake…” Ronnie told everyone, before reaching down and picking up his harmonica, before starting the song again.

It’s a song that shows off what a truly brilliant songwriter Ronnie is, with a line from the first verse being, “…Children are nothing but grownups who have not had their hearts broken yet…”, which soon gives way to the chorus, “And the stars shine brighter in Texas than they do in Colorado…”

They followed it with what Ronnie said was mostly an autobiographical song. I got almost giddy at that, knowing it was my favorite song of his, “It’s a Long, Long Way”, which I had not heard live since the first time I saw Ronnie, when he was just a solo artist, about two years or so ago. The song does take you through his whole life, right from the opening line, “Well, I was born in the year that Nixon resigned…” The song came to a sudden end, though, which Ronnie noted, saying it was a “impromptu end”, and sadly that happened before the final verse, which includes the line, “…Said life is not about riches, but then Snoop said it’s nothing but money and bitches…” Regardless, excluding that certainly didn’t ruin the song, and it was still a standout.

Before doing the single and lead track from the newest album, “The Night Before the War”, Ronnie plugged local radio station 95.3 The Range, saying he was lucky enough to get some airplay from them, telling everyone that the song might sound familiar if they too listened to the station. Afterwards, they did a the final remaining tracks from the new record, which were “A Pretty Nice Night for Houston”, and “This Year”, during which the mandolin was again put into action, .before going back to the keys for another utterly outstanding song, “Good Enough”.

That left them with just a few more songs from Ronnie’s back catalog, all of which came from 2010’s “Mulligan” EP, but can now be found on the compilation album, “The Sun is Shining Somewhere, but Somewhere isn’t Here”.

One of those was “Just Another Tuesday”, while another was a song that finds Ronnie wishing that multiple characteristics were different, aptly titled “Wish”, and both of those songs again called on Chris to play the mandolin. “To Ease My Mind” seemed like the perfect song to end on, especially with the killer outro they gave it, where Bill, Rocky, Chad and even Ronnie rocked out. Actually, in most cases that probably would have been the end of it, but given the show and the longer set time they had to fill, they had worked in a couple of cover songs.

One of those covers was a much more up-tempo version of Merle Haggard’s “Swinging Doors”, but it was their next song that really captured my attention, almost as much as their original stuff had. Ronnie invited  Greg Mullen on stage with them, who brought his acoustic guitar with him, despite not knowing where to plug it in at, and the sound guy was unable to help them, since he was MIA at the moment.

Ronnie again thanked Greg and his band for playing the show with them, mentioning they crossed paths doing a show in Austin and also encouraging everyone to buy Gregg’s new album, “There are America’s Beyond This America.” “…And I thought my album titles were confusing…” said Ronnie.

The song they did to end it all was “Please Don’t Bury Me” by John Prine, and even though I hadn’t heard the song prior to their rendition of it, they still did an amazing job with it. Like their other cover, this one had a faster pace to it, but that’s what made it so good, as it was really catchy and offered a very fun way to end what had been an incredible set.

Both of those songs were really a fitting end to the show, because it is the more classic country music spirit, like that of Haggard and Prine, and Ronnie embodies.

He’s a storyteller through and through, a fact that is constantly radiating from his music, and his voice has a distinctive twang that sets his sound apart from anyone else’s.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other country musicians and bands taking some pages out of the original playbook like he does, but all the same, I always find it refreshing when a singer or band focuses on what country is (or was) about. Rather than going with the glitz and glamor sound of the pop influenced brand of country that Nashville currently breeds. You know, the stuff that populates (or rather pollutes) the airwaves of all major radio stations.

So, if you want to hear some good ol’ fashioned country music with a bit of a modern vibe to it, check out Ronnie Fauss and his extremely talented band and listen to/buy his records in ITUNES. Better yet, go see a live show. He’ll be back in Plano on June 6th at the Courtyard Theater, then the following night, the 7th, he’ll be opening for Gary P. Nunn at the Granada Theater in Dallas. He and his band will then return to Love and War on June 23rd to open for Micky and the Motorcars.

Very fun night, and I just might need to get out to Love and War a little more often.

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Saturday, May 4th, 2013 – Cinco de Mustache Cinco: In Memory of Clint Waycaster

I was familiar with the annual Cinco de Mustache event, which took place at various Dallas venues since 2009, even though I never attended any of the concerts that always took place close to Cinco de Mayo. However, I was not familiar with the man who orchestrated the event, Clint Waycaster.

Sadly, Clint passed away sometime last year, though his annual Cinco de Mustache party was continued, this year spearheaded by Roland Rangel, as a way to honor Mr. Waycaster.

The Curtain Club was the host venue for this, and several great bands had been tapped to play it, some of whom I knew, others I didn’t.

The first band up was called At Night, and despite arriving early (around 8:40), I had missed most of the bands set, hearing only a handful of their songs.

I loved what I heard, though, as this four-piece rock outfits music featured a lot of their keyboard player, giving it a more distinct sound than most bands.

This proved to be a rather eclectic night when the next band, Cord, got on stage, and one of the instruments they had set up was a pedal steel guitar. It’s not often you see one of those on that stage, a stage ruled predominantly by rock and hard rock bands.

Before beginning, the bands singer made a brief speech about Clint, reminiscing about how he used to play songs for his friend. He talked about how Clint was always honest with him, telling him if a song was either terrible or great, then added a third response. “…Sometimes, I’d play a song and he start crying, and I’d think, ‘That must be a great song.”

They then started what was an extraordinary set, and while their first song didn’t strike me as being too country sounding, they quickly eased into it with the next song in their 30+ minute long set. They weren’t just traditional country music, though. There was a real rock flare to their music, too, even on the few songs where the lead guitarist took a seat at his pedal steel guitar.

Their stuff was impressive, with great music and well-written lyrics, which helped their set pass rather quickly, leading to their final song which the bands singer said he had written as part of another band many years ago.

I wish I could be a little more detailed with their set, but I can’t seem to find much about the band. Nevertheless, if you ever see the name Cord on a venue’s website, make a point to try to see them.

The night got more rocking with the next band, Meridian, who hadn’t done a show in about two and a half months. Making things more special was the fact that this show marked the return of an old friend to the lineup, as Moe Martinez was returning to drum for the band.

Almost as a way to celebrate his return, they opened their 35-minute set with “Nights Like This”, a track that hasn’t kicked off one of their live shows in quite some time. If Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved’s roaring guitars didn’t get your attention, then Moe’s drumming should have, as he tore into his kit. He had an obvious renewed passion for it, and even though I couldn’t see much of him this night, you could tell his heart was fully in it and he was savoring every moment of being back on stage. All that resulted in the entire band clicking more than I’ve seen them click in a long time. Throughout each chorus, vocalist Tim Ziegler often made a ripping motion with his as he sang the line, “…On nights like this, people will be ripped apart…”

There was no pause or awkward silence between songs, as they quickly moved on to “All Hands”, which, coupled with the other song, made for a killer way to start things off, and together those songs packed quite a wallop. And just an interesting side note, that was another song where Tim slightly changed up the lyrics, instead of signing “…I’ve found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…” on the chorus, he switched the latter part to, “…She’s got the shape of you…”.

Things kept moving right along with one of their newer songs, and during an instrumental break while bassist Chris Gentry, Shannon, Mark and Moe were throwing down, Tim shouted out Moe, asking, “Does anyone recognize Moe Martinez?!” Afterwards, Mark started them in on another track from their self-titled debut EP, the poppy sounding “Starts & Ends”. That one is still my favorite Meridian tune, and the newer version of it (new from the original demo at least) grows on me more and more each time I hear it.

Another older gem of the bands came next, a song that they’ve been doing since their inception and whose chorus goes, “…This is war, the city is going to burn tonight…” Hopefully, it will make the cut for the next album (whenever that may happen) because it is one of their best, and I love how it’s even eerie in a way. “Lazy Eye” was their next song, and is another standout new one they’ve created, and after it, they slowed things down a bit, but first Tim shouted out to a fellow singer/songwriter who he said helped him out on writing the tune.

It was Paco Estrada, who was headlining this night, and Tim said while he was struggling writing lyrics for the song “Train”, he went to Paco for help, spending a few days with him to get it written. While he was praising the man who is one of the best singer/songwriters Dallas has, Tim realized Paco was nowhere to be seen. “…And I’m saying all this and he’s not even here, so fuck him.” He declared, in a joking manner, of course. “Train” is always is a sign that the bands set is almost over, but this softer song wasn’t the next to last tune like usual. Instead, they picked the pace right back up with a song I was afraid they weren’t going to play this show, “Redigress”.

Tim had been goofing off throughout the show, thrusting his pelvis around at one point earlier, but during this song, he turned his back to the crowd and preceded to shakes his ass. It offered a great deal of comic relief so to speak, especially on what’s more of a serious song that ended with Tim propping a leg up on the center monitor, surveying the crowd while singing the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say. Words only get in the way.” That then brought them to their final song, which, as any Meridian fan knows was of course, “Hey Lover”.

They almost got through their set without anything happening, but near the end of that song, and coincidentally right at the line, “…When everything is broken…”, Shannons’ guitar went out on him due to some technical issue. You could see it all on his face, as he suddenly realized his guitar wasn’t making any noise, and while tried to fix real quick, there was only about thirty seconds left of the song, so eventually he just gave up, laughing it off and watching his band mates as they thrashed about.

Really, that can’t be held against them, not just because it was a technical issue, but it was only for the final bit of their show.

Overall, this was the best Meridian show I’ve seen in a long time, like, probably over a year. I attribute a lot of that to the return of Moe, since he was one of the founding members of the band, and was the missing component that honestly, I never knew was missing into this night.

The drummer they had to fill his shoes was great, but in hindsight, he never truly meshed with the band. And after being gone from Meridian for around a year and a half to focus on family, you could tell Moe was not only glad to once again be following his passion, but also playing some great rock music with his friends.

It’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead of the band now that their original lineup is back intact, and with them firing on all cylinders like they were this night, there’s shows will be something you want to witness firsthand.

Currently, they don’t have any shows booked, but you can find their debut EP in ITUNES, and by all means, you should purchase it.

After them was another Dallas band who I had heard a lot of good things about recently, and that was Dead Flowers, who was fresh of the release of their debut album.

The band mixes several different genres together, including rock, with some country and blues undertones, all of which were on display in their first song, “No Tragedy”. I’d say it was more of a country song, but the rapid beats Ed Chaney was supplying, along with the with the heavy and fast paced guitar chords lead guitarist Vince Tuley and singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe were playing made it more of a rock song, and one that instantly pulled you in. The country flare, at least in my opinion, came through on the lyrics, with part of the chorus being, “…Oh, my darling, I hope you see, even though we’re fucked up, we’re meant to be…” Definitely a good an impressive opening number, and they continued on with the following song on their “For You” record, “You’re Wrong”, which has more of a loud, fiery blues vibe to it.

“Were any of you at our CD release show here a few weeks ago?” Corey asked as some of their fans cheered to say they were. “Not here…” he then said, correcting himself and mentioning the right venue. He also asked if anyone had bought their album then. “Well, this song isn’t on it.” He finished as he, bassist Evan Winston Johnson, Vince and Ed broke into this non-album track, which was one of the best of their set. Near the end of it a string on Coreys’ guitar broke, resulting in him having to change guitars after finishing the track.

While plugging the guitar in, he took a moment to say how bad the brand of strings were. “…But I bought ten of them, so…” he finished. That then led them to a wonderful that told a story, a story of murder, and was aptly called “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. “…Lay your hands on a woman be the greatest sin…” wailed Corey on one of the lines closer to the end of this explosive song, which ended up being my favorite of their set.

They did a few more songs, two of which I’m not sure of the titles, but sandwiched in-between those two was the soulful, bluesy track, “I’m A Man”. They then closed their 38-minute long set with the lead track and longest song from their album, “I Won’t Go”, which was just another one of their many great songs, and left me wishing they could play a little longer, because I was desperately wanting to hear more. And after all, isn’t that how a band should leave the crowd?

I don’t know why I hadn’t checked out Dead Flowers before this, even if it was as simple as listening to their music online, but I’m regretting not now, because they were amazing and lived up to all the positive stuff I had heard about them.

Corey has an amazing voice, that can even sound a little rough around the edges at times, which makes their sound that much better, given all the genres they roll together. He and his band mates also deliver a killer show on top of that, and even though they aren’t your traditional rock band, their show was every bit as intense as the band before them.

They’re a band you must check out, at the very least by previewing their music on ITUNES, and if you’d be interested in seeing a show, they have a couple coming up in Dallas, one of which will be on May 31st at Club Dada, the other at Three Links on June 14th.

You don’t often see nights like this where every band from start to finish is about the same caliber of talent, but so far they all had been, and there was never a moment where things seemed to dip, nor would there be as Paco Estrada and his band got ready to close out the show.

They embarked on their set with “American Girls”, which has become the new standard opener, and out of the newer music Paco is playing these days, this one is hands down the best of them all. It has a more simple rock sound to it, in the classic rock sense, though much softer, since Pacos’ acoustic guitar is the most prevalent instrument, despite being surrounded by a full band. “…From the Jersey girls to the Southern belles…” he crooned at one point in the song, in his soulful and rich sounding voice. They continued with another new song, which I believe is titled “The Way I Love You”, and it’s Paco’s specialty, a beautiful love song with great lyrics, while Scotty Isaacs piano playing and the softer, yet thick bass lines Joel Bailey was cranking out perfectly accented the song.

The songs about love continued, as the band tackled one of Paco’s more recent hits, “When We Were Made”, from the “Definite and Indefinite…” record. It had all of his fans caught up in it, some of whom were even swaying side to side while he sang the chorus, “…That’s when we were made for each other.” Another classic of his followed, and before starting it Paco joked, saying something to the effect of it being a cautionary tale of why not to play with shovels. He was setting up “Breaking Down”, which begins with the line, “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past…” However, that is not the message of one of Paco’s more personal songs, where he later sings, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight, I never thought that man was built to break…” Still, I find the best part of this song to be the latest cover he has mashed it up with.

After one of the last choruses, the band, which was rounded out by drummer AJ Blackleaf and an electric guitarist, continued the music bed, and after a musical break, Paco began singing the classic song from U2, “One”. He started at the line, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?”, however it was when he got to, “…And I can’t be holdin’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.” where it really sprang to life. You could see the emotion and passion Paco was putting into his singing bleeding out onto his face, then, and it was glorious.

Even if it is but a partial cover, he and his band own it, making it entirely their own. That wasn’t the only cover of this show, though, as next they did a song I had never heard Paco play before, and that was Modern English’s “I Melt with You”. It was slower than the original (or even the various covers that I’ve heard of it), transforming the song from a rock track to more along the lines of easy listening, so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and he was able to pull it off in a way that made it seem like one of his own songs.

Afterwards, the band started talking amongst themselves, and during that a female fan ran and jumped on stage, whispering into Paco’s ear. She then approached the mic and asked everyone to give it up for Paco. “It’s like I have my own personal cheerleaders.” Said Paco once she had left the stage and he retook the mic.

He informed everyone he had promised that woman he would play a song she had requested, and his band mates filed off stage, meaning this next song was going to be a stripped down acoustic.

I wondered what it would, because in his decade plus long career, he’s written countless songs that are fan favorites. I was anxiously awaiting the start of the song, when he suddenly sang, “New York down to Mexico, Seattle to the Oklahoma. Your ghost will always haunt my soul. Los Angeles to Baltimore…” That’s the opening lines of “I Will Follow”, a song I had not heard in years. It was wonderful getting to hear it again, though Paco did something he seldom did during this song, and that was stumble through the lyrics, at least at one line.

In his defense, his singing abruptly gets quicker as he sings, “…No I’m not telling you lies, I’m not telling you this so that you’ll be surprised. I’m just telling you this to get shit off my chest, it’s the only way that I have learned to survive…” Early on in that he said the wrong line, skipping ahead in the song a bit, which threw him completely off, as he shook his head like, “I can’t believe I did that.”, then giving himself a second before picking back up where he was supposed to be.

The slipup didn’t affect the song much, and is easily forgivable in my opinion, besides, it was just so fantastic hearing that oldie again.

That put them at the tail end of their 45-minute long set, and after the band rejoined Paco, they performed the gorgeous, “I Will Never Let You Go”, which really highlight Scotty’s talent as a pianist. That then took them to their final song of the night, which Paco dedicated to a friend and legend of the North Texas music scene, Matt Slider, best known as the singer of The FEDS, a band that had a nice thirteen plus year run. He happened to be in attendance, and earlier in the show, while talking to Slider, he told me he hoped Paco would play a certain song, and it was the song that usually ends his sets, “Haunting Me”.  It’s another song that is done as a mash-up, and after finishing it out, Paco tacked on some lines from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” to conclude the song.

This was a fine way to cap of an incredible night, and I’ll say it once again, Paco Estrada is one of the best singer/songwriter’s in the area, and this band he now has backing him is one of the best he’s had in some time.

If for some reason you haven’t heard of him yet, head over to his BANDCAMP PAGE to find, listen to and buy most of his releases. Also, keep a check on his FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates.

It was another incredible night at my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, especially since everything this night was done in memory of Clint Waycaster, and the money from the raffles and auctions they were doing went to benefit a charity. Fun was had by all, and even though I didn’t know Clint, I imagine he would like the fact that his event was being continued and that people were having fun at it, instead of being saddened by his early passing. So, here’s to hoping the Cinco de Mustache celebration continues next year with a sixth edition.

Lastly, I have a random piece of info. This show took place nearly seven years to the day that I first walked through the doors of the Curtain Club. Who was playing here the night of May back in 2006? Well, one band was SouthFM, and the other was Darby. The former was the rock band Paco used to front, while the latter act was led by Tim Ziegler. Point is, after all these years, I find it neat that those two singers are still sharing the stage with each other in their respective current projects.