OUT THIS WEEK
Kelly Willis, “Back Being Blue” (Thirty Tigers). Hard to fathom that it’s been more than a decade since the last solo release from Willis, in part because she’s done plenty since then, including two duet projects with husband Bruce Robison and a reunion of her early band Radio Ranch to mark the silver anniversary of her debut album. “Back Being Blue” follows Willis’s long history of making great records that apply her instantly engaging voice to a blend of her own songs and well-chosen covers. The originals here are mostly up-front, and the title track may be the best, a heartbreak tale set to a soulful slow-burn groove. “Only You” and “Modern World” kick up the pace with country licks well-suited to a barroom dance floor, while “Freewheeling” floats along sweetly with graceful harmonies and fiddle runs from Eleanor Whitmore, a key contributor throughout. What would be side two on a vinyl release focuses on Willis’s interpretive side, including Austin ace Randy Weeks’ “Don’t Step Away,” the 1969 Skeeter Davis hit “I’m A Lover (Not a Fighter)” and “Afternoon’s Gone Blind,” a gem plucked from a little-known 2014 Erice Brace/Karl Straub record that Willis sang on. The clear standout among the covers is “We’ll Do It for Love Next Time,” a Rodney Crowell tune that exquisitely balances joy and regret and sounds just perfect in Willis’s hands. Robison produced “Back Being Blue” at his Bunker studio in Lockhart with a first-class supporting cast including multi-instrumentalists Whitmore and Geoff Queen, guitarist Mark Spencer, bassists John Michael Schoepf and John Ludwick, keyboardist Trevor Nealon and drummer Joshua Blue. This one’s a delightfully homemade affair, right down to daughter Abby taking the cover photograph. In-store May 17 at Waterloo Records, release show June 2 at Stateside at the Paramount. Here’s the title track:
Jason Boland & the Stragglers, “Hard Times Are Relative” (Thirty Tigers). The American-Statesman’s Jake Harris observes: “The album ebbs and flows, with the wilting notes of a steel guitar and the rousing piercings of a fiddle soundtracking songs about love, loss, and all the hard times in between. But while the stories some of these songs tell might end in sadness, the music never sounds morose. Boland’s signature baritone, always authoritative but accessible, never lets the proceedings get that dour. On ‘Going Going Gone,’ Boland’s wry enough to turn a baseball phrase into a leaving song. ‘Dee dee Od’d’ is a rollicking, hard-charging ode to the Ramones, complete with the rapid-fire structure of a punk song. ‘Tattoo of a Bruise’ is a meditation on how to learn from past mistakes.” Read the full interview with Boland about the new record here. Playing May 19 at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. Here’s the track “Right Where I Began”:
Chris Sensat, “Rye.” A mostly instrumental record from a drummer might seem like a hard sell on the surface, but in fact “Rye” is a refreshingly easy listen. Playing keyboards as well as drums, Sensat gets help from guitarist Mike Molnar (who produced) and upright bassist Nick Clark on 10 tracks that are musically adventurous yet focused enough to sound like songs rather than jams. A veteran of Austin bands including the Bellfuries and PigGie, Sensat proves to be a dynamic, versatile and creative musician on this first step into the spotlight. Here’s “Boom,” which features a guest spot from organ master Red Young:
Paper Moon Shiners, “Illusions of Composure.” Guitarist Frank Meyer wrote most of the dozen tracks on this release that features Elena Antinelli as primary vocalist (with Meyer taking the lead on a few cuts). They reach for dark, baroque, otherworldly moods, which makes Lucinda Williams’ “Something Wicked” a good fit amid their own tunes. The instrumentation is acoustic, with notable contributions from multi-instrumentalists Danny Levin and Oliver Steck, cellist John Hagen, fiddler Richard Bowden and others. Release show May 20 at Saxon Pub. Here’s the opening track, “King Midas”:
- MAY 23: Christina Cavazos, “Mile Marker” EP, release show May 23 at Sahara Lounge.
- MAY 25: Brownout, “Fear of a Brown Planet” (Fat Beats), release show June 2 at Mohawk outdoor.
- MAY 25: Patricia Vonne, “Top of the Mountain” (Bandolera), release show May 26 at Continental Club.
- JUNE 1: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “Downey to Lubbock,” release show June 2 at Antone’s.
- JUNE 1: Hooka Hey, “War Cry,” release show May 31 at Sidewinder.
- JUNE 1: Zack Varner, “Blues in the Nude.”
- JUNE 8: Jesse Dayton, “The Outsider” (Blue Elan).
- JUNE 15: Tish Hinojosa, “West,” playing June 8 at One World Theatre.
- JUNE 15: Half Man, “Room to Grow.”
- JUNE 22: Giulia Millanta, “Conversation With a Ghost” (Ugly Cat).
- JULY 13: Jimmy LaFave, “Peace Town.”
- JULY 20: Belle Sounds, “The Sea Within,” release show July 21 at One-2-One Bar.
- JULY 27: Israel Nash, “Lifted.”
- AUG. 3: Kevin Galloway, “The Change” (Nine Mile).
- AUG. 24: White Denim, “Performance” (City Slang).
- SEPT. 21: Western Youth, self-titled.
- SEPT. 21: Jonathon Zemek, “Hillcrest.”