Our Austin360 Artist of the Month for August is Kevin Galloway, the former Uncle Lucius leader whose first solo album, “The Change,” came out last week. He celebrated with record-release events on Friday at Waterloo Records and the Continental Club, playing both events with his band that features guitarist Doug Strahan and his Good Neighbors rhythm section plus Jonathan Grossman from the old Uncle Lucius lineup. Check out highlights from each show in our video above.
Galloway, a Texas Gulf Coast native who moved to Austin in 2002 after stints at a couple of junior colleges in East Texas, talked with us a bit about his early days in Austin. It was a long haul to get to where he is today.
“I almost went home quite a few times, because I couldn’t pay my rent,” he says, “I had so many jobs: I waited tables, sold oriental rugs, I delivered transmission parts, I’ve been a taxi driver, some I’m even forgetting. Just to be able to, on the weekends, play the open mics. So it was hard. But I got some lucky breaks. At a couple of those open mics, they were like, ‘We kind of like what you’re doing, do you want to have your own show?’
“I gave myself 10 years when I moved here: I said, ‘You have 10 years to mess with this, and if after that, you don’t do anything, THEN you think about going back.’ So that was in my mind. I pawned many guitars, I sold a truck I had… anything I could do to keep the ball rolling. And, you know, ate a lot of ramen, did that thing. But also was free to do that as a single man, and it didn’t really bother me that much.”
Also check out our Facebook Live acoustic session with Galloway at the American-Statesman studios:
Culminating a busy week of hometown performances before she spends most of the summer on tour, Austin360 Artist of the Month Jaimee Harris brought her band to Antone’s on Thursday night for a showcase performance that included many songs on her upcoming album “Red Rescue” plus quite a few new songs she’s written in the interim.
Harris also worked in a couple of curveballs, notably a solo acoustic version of “Get Out” by Frightened Rabbit, the Scottish band whose leader, Scott Hutchison, was found dead last month. She also played a song by fellow Austin singer-songwriter Bonnie Whitmore, who initially planned to tour with Harris in July before an opportunity to tour with James McMurtry arose. Austin’s Christina Cavazos, a recent high school graduate who’s released three EPs in the past couple of years, is now on board for that tour.
Along with performances on Sun Radio’s “Texas Radio Live” at Guero’s on Wednesday and a Mood Media showcase at Opal Divine’s Austin Grill on Tuesday, Harris also stopped by our American-Statesman studio on Monday for a live session and interview. Here’s the title track to “Red Rescue” from that session:
Harris has one more local appearance this week. She’ll joine the Laureattes, a band from Madison, Wis., participating in an exchange program between Austin and Madison artists, Friday at 6:45 p.m. at the Townsend.
Morales played most of the new record, backed by a four-piece band that included Austinites Chip Dolan on keyboards and Mike Penning on drums, plus Houston bassist Dante Ware and guitarist Paul Ramirez, who lit up several songs with fiery solos. Ramirez and Morales also stood out with an instrumental acoustic guitar duet that subsequently unfolded into a dramatic rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” with Ramirez shifting from acoustic to electric guitar mid-song.
Morales also touched on material from her first solo album, 2012’s “Beautiful Mistake,” most notably the leadoff track “I Am the Weakest,” which closed the night with a rousing full-band flourish. This was Morales’ last Austin show for a while, as she hits the road to promote the new record, though she’ll be appearing at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels on March 11.
We weren’t surprised. The 27-year-old electric blues sensation spent the year playing in Europe, rocking a crowd of thousands at KGSR’s Blues on the Green and touring the country with homegrown hero Gary Clark Jr.
Consequently, Venson was the obvious choice for the first Austin360 Artist of the Month for 2018. We’ll have a full feature later this week, but she’ll be joining us in the Austin360 studio for a live set Wednesday at noon. Tune in on our official Facebook page and prepare to have your mind blown by her blistering guitar licks.
We tend to think of musicians in terms of what immediate and obvious role they play in a band: singers, songwriters, guitarists, drummers, bassists, keyboardists, string and horn sections and the like. But sometimes the greatest value of a musical artist is something more foundational.
“Bandleader” was a common designation in the mid-20th century, when jazz orchestras rallied around the leadership of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and the like. Rock ‘n’ roll set forth a more egalitarian model: There might be a frontman (or woman), but the idea was that everyone contributed to the unit’s identity and creativity.
This was largely a positive development in popular music. But being a bandleader still remains a distinctive quality. You might not be the most talented instrumentalist onstage, or the most dazzling singer, perhaps not even the liveliest performer. But all great bandleaders share one vital virtue: They can get other musicians to follow their vision.
That’s Ray Prim, at his core. Never has this been more apparent than on Friday night at North Door, when he expanded his core seven-piece band to include guest musicians on electric guitar, saxophone, cello and viola, in addition to inviting a few featured vocalists to join him on several songs. (See our video above for excerpts from the show.) They all throw in because Prim knows how to draw upon their individual talents to create a grander sound that fills out the music he hears in his head.
In that respect, the artist Prim has most reminded me of since I first saw him and his group a year ago is Alejandro Escovedo, the longtime Austin performer who moved to Dallas last year. That’s not to say their music is anything alike, really: Prim is his own artist, in the same way indie-rock great Spoon is different than 1980s local alt-rockers the Reivers who preceded them, and Gary Clark Jr. is more than simply a modern blues-rock version of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
But it’s hard not to think of the early-’90s Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra when watching Prim with his extended crew. Like Escovedo, Prim is open to drawing upon the folk/classical elements of strings, the multicultural influences of rhythm, and occasionally the funk/jazz punch of horns. In addition, both men are masters of dynamics, both within a song and in the greater arc of constructing a set list.
They also can make their material thrive in a variety of formats. Escovedo’s “orchestra” ranged in size from three to more than a dozen musicians on any given night, and that worked because the songs, at their base, were strong. Witness Prim and singer Mexican Chocolate performing as an acoustic duo in our Statesman studio last week:
Mexican Chocolate is an immediate focal point at Prim’s live shows, with a voice full of personality that often soars dramatically above the surroundings. Each time I see Prim, though, I become more impressed with other elements of his core band. It’s hard to overemphasize the value of twin fiddlers April Stephens and Kristen Randolph, bookending Prim and Mexican Chocolate at stage front and bringing out the melodic strengths of his music. And the more I watch expressive keyboardist Marianna Tanguy, whose charisma beams from her back-row spot with the rhythm section, the more I’m inclined to think she may be Prim’s lurking secret weapon.
Both Prim and Escovedo were late bloomers as solo artists, hitting their stride in their 40s. In terms of “making it in the music business,” Prim has an uphill battle, and he knows it. He’s a few years older than Escovedo was when Escovedo’s solo debut “Gravity” came out in 1992. And back then, there was still a defined path to follow: Get a label behind you, sell a good chunk of records to support a tour, and gradually build a national audience. The demise of album sales has made the way forward much murkier, though there are now alternative avenues (such as local patron organization Black Fret, which helped make Prim’s new album possible and whose members turned out in force on Friday night).
When I interviewed Prim last month, he talked about how he takes the idea of “making it big” in stride, preferring to work his day job at IBM and let the music be its own reward. “What I didn’t like was me trying to push it along,” he said. I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of Escovedo telling me back in 1990, when he was working at Waterloo Records while playing out with his Orchestra at Hole in the Wall and the Continental Club, that the idea of a “career” simply wasn’t what it was all about for him.
Within a couple of years, Escovedo was on his way, even as a couple decades of hard but rewarding work awaited him. I don’t know if such a thing can happen with Prim, in this day and age. But I do believe he’s that good.
For the past two years, the local soul pop artist Mobley, has been touring non-stop, scorching stages around the country. With an uncanny knack for catchy, sing-along hooks, he creates irresistible earworms, well-crafted pop songs that instantly stick. His Spotify spins frequently top 100,000 and his immersive thrill ride of a live show has earned him looks from prominent national music media outlets. Now, with appearances at Austin City Limits Fest and Utopia Fest looming large this fall, the hometown buzz is beginning to catch up.
(Spoiler alert) We’ve tapped Mobley to be our Austin360 Artist of the Month for August. We’ll have a full feature coming next week, and we’re thrilled to announce that Mobley will drop by the Austin360 Studio next week for a midweek dance party, broadcast straight to your desktop via Facebook Live.
Drop by the official Austin360 Facebook page on Wednesday at noon to catch Mobley live. He’ll play a few songs and chat with us about his music.
And yes, we will ask for the backstory behind his powerful new video “Tell Me.”
A birthday cake with double-8 candles. Special serenades from Lazy Lester, Benny Turner and others. And most importantly, another Sunday night at Antone’s with Miss Lavelle White.
Austin’s longtime soulful singer of blues, funk, country and more celebrated with hometown friends and visiting luminaries on Sunday as Antone’s headed into the heart of its three-week 42nd-anniversary blowout. We captured a few of the highlights in the video above.
White, our Austin360 Artist of the Month for July 2017, performed her customary two sets, mixing up classic numbers from the likes of Merle Haggard and Janie Bradford/Berry Gordy with favorites from her own songbook. Typically she also has a guest performer at these Sunday shows, but with so many blues luminaries in town for the Antone’s anniversary, the talent level was kicked up several notches on this night.
Bassist Benny Turner, who’d played a great set the night before as part of a James Cotton/Muddy Waters tribute, kicked things off, with White joining him for a gospel tune at one point. White, backed by her L Men band, then blazed through a short set that ended when the evening’s emcee, Bobby Patterson, and Antone’s booker Zach Ernst presented her with a birthday cake onstage. “I’m not gonna be happy until the audience sings happy birthday,” she exhorted the crowd, who responded in kind.
There was a lot more to come. Chicago guitarist Jimmy D. Lane, son of the great Jimmy Rogers, tore it up in a tight trio format after Patterson performed a couple of songs. Then came 84-year-old Louisiana legend Lazy Lester, who took a cue from White’s earlier performance of Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” by offering up a spirited Hag double-shot of “Lonesome Fugitive” and “Sing Me Back Home.” Everyone in the audience appreciated it, but probably none more than Amy Nelson, daughter of Merle’s best bud Willie.
White, whose actual birthday was July 3, closed things out with one more set that wrapped up around 9 p.m., though the night was still just getting started at the home of the blues as B3 organ master Ike Stubblefield got ready to take the stage. (Yes, he’s a relative of barbecue icon C.B. Stubblefield; but, no, rumors appear to be untrue that he’s changing his name to Ike Liberty Lunch.)
In the meantime, you can still catch White at Antone’s most Sunday nights, as well as first Saturdays at the Skylark Lounge and third Saturday’s at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul. She’s not slowing down any time soon.
June Austin360 Artist of the Month Brownout, has been one of the fiercest instrumental attack squads in Austin for over a decade, but their new EP “Over the Covers,” showcases a new side of the band.
When their metal cover project, “Brown Sabbath,” became the sleeper hit of summer 2014, the band brought on their longtime homie, Alex Marrero to play Ozzy Osbourne on the extensive tours that followed. They kept him in the mix as they began to develop original work. It’s the first time the nine-person squad has employed a lead vocalist, and his presence adds a new focus and urgency to the music.
The band stopped by the Statesman Studio earlier this week to perform the fiery track “You Don’t Have to Fall.”
Guitarist Adrian Quesada came up with the idea for the hook. He was thinking of the political adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. “
“But then I also like the idea that “You Don’t Have to Fall” could be, you don’t have to fall for anything in life,” he said last month. “So I handed something as vague as that to Alex.”
“And I took it in a totally different direction,” Marrero said with a laugh.
“The story in my mind is just a relationship story. Not an autobiographical one just a general one,” he said.
Either way, the sharp lyricism has a powerful resonance, and we can expect more new heat from Brownout in the not-too-distant future. The band is currently working on a full length album produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
It’s fitting, then, that when they came to our studio to play the title track of their new EP “Tall As Trees,” they offered us a stripped-down version revealing the musical core of the song. With James Blair on keyboards and Chelsea Seth Woodward on acoustic guitar, singer Chantell Moody delivers the band’s uplifting message with great clarity.
“Stay out of our way, ’cause we’re coming with a vengeance,” she chants, over a mystical melody that strikes a balance between darkness and light. It’s an intimate look at the Digital Wild’s music, different from how you may have heard them if you’ve seen them in a club. (For a glimpse at how they perform the song onstage, check out our video from the band’s record-release show at Empire last month.)