Austin360 On The Record: Russell Haight, Bob Livingston and more


Russell Haight, “Destination.” A saxophonist who plays with several local jazz acts and is an assistant professor with Texas State University’s jazz program, Haight steps out on his own for this hourlong, 10-track instrumental set that spotlights his fluid playing and his natural talent as a composer. Two tracks here are covers of classics (“Tenderly” and “Moonlight in Vermont”), but the rest are Haight originals, ranging from the upbeat and swinging “State Bird” to the exquisitely moody “Wind Through the Pines” to the sweetly lyrical “Song for A.” The quartet arrangements feature bassist Daniel Durham, drummer Wayne Salzmann II and keyboardist Sean Giddings. Release show Dec. 21 at Elephant Room. Here’s the opening track, “First Light”:


Bob Livingston, “Up The Flatland Stairs.” Livingston’s place in Austin’s left-of-center country history looms large, so much so that he was an obvious choice as emcee of the SIMS Foundation’s recent cosmic-cowboy-themed benefit gala. A key figure in the early-1970s bands of Michael Martin Murphey and Jerry Jeff Walker, Livingston makes a nod to the latter on this album’s opening track, “Shell Game,” a Walker composition from those halcyon days. Livingston also gives props to other fellow travelers, covering the title track to David Halley’s recent disc “A Month of Somedays” and the late Walter Hyatt’s “The Early Days” which fittingly features fiddler Warren Hood (son of Hyatt’s longtime bandmate Champ Hood). But the real story here is Livingston’s own material, 13 tracks (plus “Public Domain,” a co-write with Gary P. Nunn) that affirm his talent extends well beyond the supporting roles for which he’s long been known. Of particular note is “That’s the Way Things Go” (written with Laurie Turner), an instantly memorable country-folk-pop number that features backing vocals by Eliza Gilkyson. Other contributors include multi-instrumentalist/co-producer Don Richmond, vocalist Kelley Mickwee, guitarist Bradley Kopp, drummer John Michel and pianist Jimmy Stadler. “Up the Flatland Stairs” is set for release next month, but Livingston may have them for sale at when his trio plays the next two Fridays (Dec. 22 and Dec. 29) at the Luckenbach Dance Hall in Luckenbach.


Lisa Mednick, “Blue Book.” A keyboardist who toured with indie acts Juliana Hatfield, the Chills and others, Mednick lived in Austin for most of the 1990s. Writing about her 1994 debut album “Artifacts of Love,” former Statesman writer Don McLeese cited “some of the most gorgeously bittersweet piano I’ve heard since James Booker.” She’s since released one other record, 2002’s “Semaphore,” while spending time in upstate New York, New Mexico and, currently, the Joshua Tree desert in California. Along the way, she added the surname Powell — her husband Kip, who plays bass and co-wrote three songs here. On “Blue Book,” some familiar voices arise: The too-infrequently-heard Victoria Williams sings on a couple of tracks, while major-league multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (who produced “Artifacts of Love”) helps make both “Checkpoint” and “Smoke Over Carolina” shine. Echoes of her 1980s New Orleans days appear as well: Former Song Dogs bandmate Alison Young sings on two cuts, and Subdudes co-leader Tommy Malone is on three (two of which he co-wrote). The vulnerable quaver that lends emotional resonance to Mednick’s vocal delivery balances against the incisiveness of her lyrics, which hit close to the heart on “Pieces of Your Soul” and “I Am Not Gold.” Elsewhere, she pulls no punches on sociopolitical subjects: “Give the Guns to the Girls” is a 21st-century anthem waiting to happen: “Let them hunt down the hunter till he has nowhere to run.” But like most of Mednick’s material, that song can’t be easily pigeonholed. It’s a fascinatingly multilayered work that reveals the panoramic vision of her creative spirit:


  • JAN. 10: John Mills Times Ten, “Flying Blind,” release show Jan. 10 at Elephant Room.
  • JAN. 12: Wide Open, “Long Road Home.”
  • JAN. 18: Summer Fires, “Without a Word” EP, release show Jan. 18 at Stubb’s indoor.
  • JAN. 19: Johnny Dango, “Dear Everybody, I Love You.”
  • JAN. 26: Lew Card, “Takeouts Vol. 1.”
  • FEB. 1: Good Field, “Surface Tension.”
  • FEB. 2: Mike & the Moonpies, “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose,” playing Jan. 27 at Sam’s Town Point.
  • FEB. 9: Wild Child, “Expectations” (Dualtone), release show Feb. 10 at Empire.
  • FEB. 9: Jerry David DeCicca, “Time the Teacher” (Impossible Ark), release show Feb. 10 at Beerland.
  • FEBRUARY: Sharks in the Deep End, EP.

READ MORE: Check out our full Austin360 On The Record archive


Author: Peter Blackstock

Music writer for the Austin American-Statesman and Twitter: @Blackstock360

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