Austin360 On The Record: Darden Smith, Sweet Spirit, Cotton Mather, more

Austin’s Sweet Spirit taping “Other Voices” at Arlyn Studios on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. Contributed by Richard Gilligan/Other Voices


Darden Smith, “Everything” (Compass). When Darden Smith puts a band together to make a record, he doesn’t mess around. Holed up at Austin’s Arlyn Studios last year, he brought aboard a cast full of aces: bassist Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen), drummer JJ Johnson (Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Michael Ramos (Patty Griffin), guitarist Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan) and multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield (too many to mention). It’s a testament to the respect in-demand musicians have for Smith that they all answered the call. The resulting dozen tracks deliver the smart, sophisticated folk-rock Smith has excelled at for three decades. On “Everything,” he’s frequently seeking out reasons for hope at a time when it seems hard to find, as on “Blessings,” “Soul Searching” and “Love Will Win the War.” Tunes written with fellow native Texans Bruce Robison and Radney Foster help Smith broaden his horizons, though the most fruitful co-write is with Matraca Berg on “Firefly,” an exquisitely melodic and instantly memorable charmer. The title track harkens back to “All I Want Is Everything,” Smith’s 1989 collaboration with Boo Hewerdine; but where Smith sounded like a young firebrand making demands then, he now sings as a wiser, gentler soul who wants everything “so I can give it all away.” In-store April 6 at Waterloo Records, release show April 8 at Stateside at the Paramount. Here’s the video for “Love Will Win The War”:


Sweet Spirit, “St. Mojo” (Nine Mile). This is the second release in less than a year from bands featuring the red-hot indie-rock duo of Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen, also of Merge Records group A Giant Dog. In an American-Statesman feature story, Deborah Sengupta Stith observes: “Of their two projects, Sweet Spirit is the newer band and, as evidenced by the exuberant mishmash of sounds on ‘St. Mojo,’ it’s also more adventurous stylistically. … “St. Mojo” covers a lot of musical ground. “Power” is a hard-driving rock ’n’ roll call to arms. “The Mighty” turns a wistful, power-ballad interpretation of a Beatitude into an underdog anthem. Ellis channels Dolly Parton on a sweet little country ditty, “Far From Home,” and the album also includes a pop ode to Pamela Anderson. Here’s a live version of the leadoff track “The Power”:

Cotton Mather, “Wild Kingdom.” Local indie-pop svengali Robert Harrison rolls out 11 more selections from his ambitious 64-track “Songs from the I Ching” set documented on his website. That project also includes tunes from his more recently formed outfit Future Clouds & Radar, but the first two CDs of “I Ching” material — this one follows last summer’s “Death of the Cool” — have sparked the revival of the band that first made waves in Austin in the early ’90s. Here’s “Hijinks Dad”:

Greg Vanderpool, “Pilot.” Ten songs from the former frontman of Milton Mapes and Monahans traverse some of the same spacious indie-Americana territory as fellow Austin songwriter Will Johnson — which is fitting, as the two will team up for a Waterloo Records in-store on April 13. Release show April 7 at Continental Gallery. Here’s the single “To Violet”:

Octopus Project, “Memory Mirror” (Robot High School). Though they spend much of their time composing music for films and video games, the quartet of Josh Lambert, Toto Miranda, Yvonne Lambert and recent addition Lauren Gurgiolo carved out time to make their sixth album, a 13-song set that veers all over the map of indie-rock and beyond. Here’s the track “Cuidate”:

Julia Lucille, “Chthonic” (Keeled Scales). Nine songs of ethereal, entrancing indie-folk from the singer-songwriter following up her 2012 release “Homing.” Release show April 7 at Mohawk indoor. Here’s the video for the track “Darkening”:

Walker Lukens, “Ain’t Got a Reason” EP (Modern Outsider). Quickly following up last fall’s four-song EP “Never Understood,” Lukens comes back with four more tracks recorded with Spoon’s Jim Eno that range from hard-boiled, horn-driven blues-rock to easy-breezy folk-pop. Here’s the track “Simple Man”:


  • APRIL 14: Xetas, “The Tower” (12XU), in-store April 14 at Waterloo Records.
  • APRIL 14: Digital Wild, “Tall As Trees” EP, release show April 14 at Empire.
  • APRIL 15: Bluebonnets, “Tonewrecker,” release show April 15 at the Townsend.
  • APRIL 19: Ulrich Ellison & Tribe, “America.”
  • APRIL 21: Kiko Villamizar, “Aguas Frias” (Peligrosa), release show April 21 at Empire.
  • APRIL 21: BoDeans, “Thirteen” (Free & Alive).
  • APRIL 21: Tara Williamson, “Evolution One” EP, release show April 25 at Saxon Pub.
  • APRIL 21: Emily Bell & the Talkbacks, “Kali” EP.
  • APRIL 28: Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child” (Legacy).
  • APRIL 28: Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band, self-titled, release show April 29 at Antone’s.
  • APRIL 28: Beth // James, “All in Life” EP.
  • MAY 12: Suzanna Choffel, “Hello Goodbye,” release show May 12 at 3Ten.
  • MAY 19: Jimmie Vaughan Trio featuring Mike Flanigin, “Live at C-Boy’s” (Proper).
  • MAY 19: Wild Now, “Afterglow” EP, release show May 19 at 3Ten.
  • MAY 19: Girling, “Side 1” EP, release show May 19 at Sidewinder.
  • MAY: Wendy Colonna, “No Moment But Now.”
  • MAY: Kay Odyssey, “What’s a Woman to Do” (Little Bit).

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