Shakey Graves on new album ‘Can’t Wake Up,’ opening for Paul McCartney at ACL Fest

“Can’t Wake Up,” the first new full-length from Austin’s Shakey Graves since his 2014 breakthrough, “And the War Came,” drops on May 4, and sonically, it’s a departure for the Americana standout. The folksy sensibility and witty lyricism are still there, but the new songs emerge through a psychedelic haze. No longer the singer-songwriter with a one-man band who charmed audiences at the Hole in the Wall, he’s now making rich indie rock for a full ensemble.

Shakey Graves in Austin in May 2018. Deborah Sengupta Stith/American-Statesman

Austin fans who pre-purchase the album are invited to a special performance at GSD&M’s Back Lawn at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 3. You can pay for your copy of the album and pick up a wristband for the show across the street at Waterloo Records. Fans who already pre-purchased online should check their email for an invite.

After the release, the artist also known as Alejandro Rose-Garcia embarks on an extensive North American tour, playing large venues across the country including a Stubb’s show in Austin on June 16. Many of the dates are already sold out. He wraps the tour with a headlining gig at Denver’s magnificent Red Rocks Amphitheater in August. Then he’ll be back home for the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October.

We caught up with Rose-Garcia to talk about strange daydreams, the state of the world and what we can expect from his live shows this year.

Austin360: Talk to me about the title of the album, “Can’t Wake Up.” Where did that come from?

It kind of came naturally … really far on. I kind of waited until I had all the music and lyrics and kind of looked at it as a piece and tried to figure out what ties it all together. Something that I subconsciously did was talked about dreams a lot. Not dreams, like specifically dreaming, but fantasy and kind of irrational fears and regret. Just sort of like a bunch of head stuff, when you get trapped in your own head. I guess “Can’t Wake Up” is that. It’s when you get trapped in and you kind of can’t snap out of something.

There’s a hazy, dreamy quality to a lot of the songs.

I feel like there’s something zeitgeist-y that feels like that in the world right now. Not in a negative sense, but it feels like we’re kind of stuck in the middle of something, I’m not sure what. But as humanity we’re like, “We’ll go to other planets and Teslas and free thought and medical breakthroughs,” and also just like burning coal and hating each other … just destroying everything.

Shakey Graves performs for a small crowd of fans, friends, and contest winners at Geraldine’s on Rainey Street during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Your sound is very different on this album.

That’s funny too, because it’s still recorded in the same way that I’ve always made music. I made most of it in my house. A lot of the songs are me playing everything. It’s just that I’m into different stuff now. I seek different audio experiences. It’s very surreal.

Is part of it that you can afford to hire a band now? In the early days it was always just you.

That is true, but that also didn’t really affect my recording process, because I would just fake something. … There’s a lot more at my fingertips (now). I can play a piano or a mellotron or play drums or bass. I used to just have a guitar and so, of course, the music that comes out of me is going to be different. But it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t hearing this even when I just had a guitar. And it doesn’t mean that we have arrived at what I actually sound like. I hope to continue to just grow, I guess.

You say that the stuff you’re listening to is different. What kind of stuff are you into right now?

There was a time when I was only listening to prewar music or music from the ‘30s or Alan Lomax. There was something that I really liked about old music. And then also, I’ve always supplemented that with a really odd dosage of contemporary saccharine pop music. I’ve just always liked pop music and really loud aggressive noise music. Somewhere in between that is what I like.

That actually makes sense. I see you as somebody who’s approaching old-timey Americana with a very aggressive attitude.

Absolutely … I was one of those people who didn’t grow up liking the Beatles … kind of revolted against it. Now is the time I’m getting to actually experience the Beatles … and a bunch of the Kinks and stuff like that. A bunch of British pop music is now kind of in the forefront.

Shakey Graves performs for a small crowd of fans, friends, and contest winners during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

So you’ve moved from the ‘30s to the ‘60s is what you’re saying?

That’s exactly right … you nailed it.

Speaking of the Beatles, you’re on ACL Fest with Paul McCartney this year. How does that feel?

I’m really excited to check that out. ACL can be a tough festival to watch music at. Even when you play … you still have to fight your way in. I felt much less urge to fight my way to the front to see Deadmaus play. … But yeah, I’ll push my way forward to see Paul McCartney. I’ve never seen him and might not again.

David Byrne’s who I’m the most excited about. I’m reading his book right now and it’s saving my brain. … He put it out a little while ago. It’s called “How Music Works”… as I’m trying to design a new show … it’s helping me brainstorm ways to translate this record … and not have it seem alienating or inconsistent with other songs during the show. And also to make sure that even though there are going to be a lot of new soundscapes on the stage it still feels like you’re watching me do it.

What’s going to be different?

For instance, I play keys a lot on the record. … It’s all the questions. Do I want to stand and play a keyboard? Am I cool with sitting down? What does my stage look like? Can I make sitting down … feel like you’re in my house with me? Is there a way to make synthetic instruments feel homey? I’m going to try. … I have some tricks up my sleeve.

Shakey Graves poses for a portrait during SXSW 2018 in March. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

IT’S McCARTNEY: A deeper look at the 2018 ACL Fest lineup

Best of Austin Music, November 2016: Adele, Dan Penn and SOS Fest

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Much of the big news this month took place just outside of Austin rather than in the city limits. In McDade, east of Elgin, the first-ever Sound on Sound Fest got off to a strong start before torrential rains doused the final day with snafus. In New Braunfels, George Strait came out of retirement for a live-streamed concert at Gruene Hall. And in San Antonio, Black Sabbath played its last U.S. concert ever.

Heading inside the city limits, here’s our monthly look at Austin shows, records, songs and more that stood out for us in November:

ONE NIGHT IN NOVEMBER

In the eighth installment of our monthly series, we visited half-dozen local music hot spots on a single evening. For our first Saturday-night outing, we stayed entirely on the south side of town, below Ben White Boulevard, and came up with ample evidence that you need not go anywhere near downtown to sample a broad range of musical genres and interesting venues. — P.B.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Nov. 4-5: Adele at the Erwin Center. Beyond her powerful pipes, the British soul singer’s greatest gift is her ability to create a true connection with her audience even in a massive arena. She might be the most down to earth superstar on the planet and she somehow made Austin’s least intimate music venue feel like a living room concert with a few close friends. — D.S.S.

Nov. 16: Dan Penn at Stateside at the Paramount. The legendary Southern singer-songwriter celebrated his 75th birthday by giving Austinites a tour-de-force run through his best-known songs and many other hidden gems from his storied life as a master of American roots music. — P.B.

Also: Sia at the Erwin Center, Nov. 6: Guy Clark Tribute at the Paramount, Nov. 6; Parker Millsap “Austin City Limits” taping, Nov. 9; Ray Wylie Hubbard’s 70th birthday at the Paramount, Nov. 12.

BEST NEW RECORDS

Mélat, “MeVen.” The new release from the young Ethiopian-American R&B singer is a gorgeous collection of silky love songs, laced with lush atmospherics, discordant electronics and a persistent melancholy ache. Over the past couple years, she’s been rising through the alt-R&B underground in Texas and beyond. The album, which dropped earlier this week, debuted at number 24 on the iTunes R&B chart. We’re predicting 2017 will be a very big year for Mélat. — D.S.S.

The Wind & the Wave, “Happiness Is Not a Place” (Island). The pop duo of Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker have gone far in a short time, releasing a debut album on RCA in 2014 just a year after forming. They moved to another major label, Island, for this highly accessible record that sets Lynn’s melodic vocals to sophisticated but not overly slick arrangements. — P.B.

BEST NEW SONGS

Tomar and the FCs, “You’re Not Alone”.  Tomar Williams cut his musical teeth playing and singing with his family band as a child. In the late nineties, alongside brother Salih, he formed Carnival Beats, a hip-hop production powerhouse that helped define the Texas rap sound. “Heart Attack,” the debut full-length from his scorching soul project, is chock full of mean licks and head-whipping, hip-twitching grooves. But November 2016 was a very tough month, and the heavy helping of earnest heart he pours into this slow-burning soul stirrer helped ease the ache. — D.S.S.

Jonathan Terrell, “Faye.” Elements of both Terrell’s rock pursuits with Not in the Face and his more country-leaning solo material influence the material on his new EP, but this song and the others divine a balance that emphasizes the emotional pull of his vocals atop acoustic and pedal steel accents that are more about atmosphere than twang. — P.B.

AUSTIN360 ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Croy & the Boys. Frontman Corey Baum and his bandmates made their debut record with Adrian Quesada, one of Austin’s hottest producers. “Hey Come Back,” which the band released independently last week, is one of Austin’s best country records of the year, though it aims outside the center of the country target. — P.B.

ATX TOUR DIARY

Jordanian oud master player Tareq Al Jundi, gives Gina Chavez a test on her interpretation of Jordanian folk song, “Lamma Bada Yatathana.” Contributed by Kenneth Null
Jordanian oud master player Tareq Al Jundi, gives Gina Chavez a test on her interpretation of Jordanian folk song, “Lamma Bada Yatathana.” Contributed by Kenneth Null

Latin folk-pop artist Gina Chavez took us along for the ride as her band toured Jordan as cultural ambassadors as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.

SEASONAL SERENADES

Folk Uke in the Austin American-Statesman studio for our Holiday music series. The band performed their tune,"All I Christmas." Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Folk Uke in the Austin American-Statesman studio for our Holiday music series. The band performed their tune,”All I Christmas.”
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas artists Old 97’s, Jackie Venson, Folk Uke and Jeff Lofton stopped by our studio to play holiday songs for us.

Best of Austin Music, October 2016: ACL Fest, and the rest

ACL FEST TURNS 15

Willie Nelson performs to an adoring crowd at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)
Willie Nelson performs to an adoring crowd at The Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9, 2016. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

As usual, October was dominated by the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The 15th annual event sprawled across Zilker Park for the month’s first two weekends, with headliners Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Mumford & Sons helping to draw huge crowds every day. Great weather greeted festgoers all six days, but the final Sunday was something special, as hometown hero Willie Nelson made a rare ACL Fest appearance.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Oct. 12: “Austin City Limits” Hall of Fame Ceremony at ACL Live. It’s not part of the festival, but the seminal TV show’s big annual event was moved this year to a date right after the Fest. Inductions of Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and B.B. King drew an all-star cast including Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr. and Taj Mahal, but it was Bonnie herself who gave the night its most memorable musical moments. — P.B.

Oct. 22: Taylor Swift at Circuit of the Americas. The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, but that didn’t stop Taylor Swift from pulling record crowds at COTA. An estimated 80,000 people attended her performance on the Saturday night of this year’s Formula One event. She packed a good selection of current hits and old faves into a tightly structured set that clocked in at about 80 minutes. The most amazing part?  She somehow managed to make the massive event feel like a intimate party with her closest friends.  — D.S.S.

Also: Margo Price “Austin City Limits” taping, Oct. 3: Big Head Blues Club at the Belmont, Oct. 11; Insane Clown Posse at Empire, Oct. 14; Spooky Hoot benefit for George Reiff, Oct. 28.

BEST NEW RECORDS

Eric Johnson, “EJ.” Long renowned for his electric guitar prowess, Johnson turned toward a much more intimate means of expression on this 13-track mix of vocal and instrumental tunes that spotlight his acoustic guitar and piano playing. — P.B.

Brownout presents “Brown Sabbath, Vol. 2”With blistering horn blasts, searing guitar licks and an onslaught of polyrhythmic percussion, Brown Sabbath, the Black Sabbath tribute project from border funk outfit Brownout is back for a second go-round. This time the band digs into Sabbath’s mid-’70s era and includes “some of the more epic Sabbath stuff from ‘Masters of Reality.’” — D.S.S.

BEST NEW SONGS

“January 9” by Nina Diaz. Technically, Nina Diaz is from San Antonio, not Austin, and technically, this song was released as a single this summer. But the Girl in a Coma lead singer’s debut solo album “The Beat is Dead” dropped this month, and the haunting chorus in this real life ghost story, that recounts Diaz’ struggle to become sober after over a decade of drug and alcohol addiction is perfectly suited to the season. — D.S.S.

Croy & the Boys, “Hey Come Back.” We’ll have more in November on this up-and-coming country band, which released its first album over the weekend with a release party at Hotel Vegas. The title track to that record, produced by Adrian Quesada, is like a grand summation of everything they do well: leader Corey Baum’s passionate singing, creatively left-of-center arrangement, and a songwriting structure that throws out the rulebook in favor of simply chasing the emotion at the heart of the matter. — P.B.

AUSTIN360 ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Keeper and Applied Pressure perform a live rendition of Keeper’'s upcoming EP “'Corners'” at The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, on Sunday September 18, 2016. Erika Rich For American-Statesman
Keeper and Applied Pressure perform a live rendition of Keeper’’s upcoming EP “’Corners’” at The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, on Sunday September 18, 2016. Erika Rich For American-Statesman

Keeper. Downtempo and brooding, the new release from Austin’s synth soul trio has the ominous atmosphere of a fractured fairy tale. It’s a turbulent dreamscape where imminent heartbreak lurks in the shadows as slow moving chords linger over sparse beats. It’s an emotionally weighty release, a lost innocence tale, a lyrical meditation on separation and letting go. It’s also the strongest work yet from one of the most promising acts on Austin’s blossoming electronic music scene. — D.S.S.

 

 

 

 

 

Best of Austin Music, September 2016: HAAM Day, All ATX, Tameca Jones and more

AN AUSTINTATIOUS MONTH

If this weekend’s arrival of the Austin City Limits Music Festival primarily spotlights touring bands, the rest of September offered plenty of opportunities for locals to shine. On Oct. 13, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians’ 11th annual HAAM Benefit Day featured performances by hundreds of musicians at both likely and unlikely venues all over town. This week, HAAM executive director Reenie Collins confirmed that the event exceeded an ambitious $500,000 goal. Meanwhile, HAAM joins the Sims Foundation, the Austin Music Foundation and Black Fret as this year’s direct beneficiaries of All ATX, a musicians’ advocacy group that sold out an ACL Live concert featuring many of the musicians on their new local compilation CD “Low Down Violet Crown.” City government got in on the action as well: Mayor Steve Adler announced a new mini-bond program aimed at purchasing live music venues for preservation, a few days after taking part in a community panel discussion about the challenges facing musicians.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Sept. 19: Chris Gage 21st anniversary at Donn’s Depot. There’s no cooler piano-bar gig in town than this every-Monday hang with Gage, who’s toured with the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker and Jimmie Dale Gilmore over the years. Both of them showed up for this party full of special guests on a night that felt like a wholesale reminder of all that is good about old-school Austin music. — P.B.

Also: Cyndi Lauper at ACL Live, Sept. 10; Goo Goo Dolls at Statesman Skyline Theater, Sept. 11; Old 97’s at 3Ten, Sept. 20-21; Kanye West at Erwin Center, Sept. 21.

BEST NEW RECORDS

Katie Shore, “Fall Away.” This month brought a major bumper crop of local records, with notable releases from Willie Nelson, East Cameron Folkcore, Adam Torres and many others. But we’ve found ourselves most charmed by this little-train-that-could of a debut record from Asleep at the Wheel’s multitalented violinist. — P.B.

Tele Novella, “House of Souls.” This was an extremely tough call, in a month that included excellent EP releases from both our September Artist of the Month, Tameca Jones, and (spoiler alert) our October Artist of the Month, Keeper. But this is a fully rounded release that draws on Austin’s vaunted tradition of psychedelia to produce a perfect platter breezy of end of summer pop. — D.S.S.

BEST NEW SONGS

“Soul Force,” Third Root ft. Riders Against the Storm, Da’Shade Moonbeam, Vocab and Bavu Blakes.  If there was any doubt that 2016 was the year that ATX hip-hop artists would stand up, refuse to remain in the shadows and take their rightful place as the vital and necessary voice of the bleeding streets, let’s go ahead and put it to rest. Austin/San Antonio crew Third Root assembled a dream team of top Central Texas emcees for this explosive “posse cut,”an exhilarating three-minute lyrical blitz that soars with an irrepressible spirit of uprise. — D.S.S.

Gary Clark Jr., “Take Me Down.” This song on to the “Deepwater Horizon” film soundtrack might be a harbinger of where Austin’s hottest musician will turn next. We’re intrigued by its soulful-folk, acoustic-guitar-and-harmonica-based arrangement, spiked with slide runs and floating on Clark’s smooth-as-silk vocal delivery. — P.B.

BEST NATIONAL LOOK

Jackie Venson on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We’ve known for a minute that the electric blues upstart could easily be the next hot axe-slinger out of Austin. The rest of the country was let in on the secret this month when the 26-year-old guitarist sat with Jon Batiste and Stay Human on the Late Show. Oh yeah, and her debut appearance included a spot backing hot young hip-hop, R&B artist Anderson.Paak and rapper Mac Miller. — D.S.S.

AUSTIN360 ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Our choice for September was Tameca Jones, whose debut EP “Naked” captures the singer’s soulful style and captivating presence.

Read more: With searing soul, explosive heart, Tameca Jones gets ‘Naked’

Tameca Jones
Tameca Jones, our Austin360 Artist of the Month for September.

Best of Austin Music, August 2016: Dixie Chicks, RAS Day and more

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 01: Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines, and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks perform onstage during the DCX World Tour MMXVI Opener on June 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK)
From left: Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire brought the Dixie Chicks back on tour for the first time in a decade, including an Austin show on Aug. 7. Photo of Cincinnati tour-opening show by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK

RETURN OF THE DIXIE CHICKS

Fans of Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire had been waiting a decade for the Texas country trio to do a full tour again, and the shows ended up selling out everywhere. The Austin360 Amphitheater show on Aug. 7 was special because of the band’s close ties to Austin, and because Natalie’s father, Lloyd Maines, joined in on pedal steel. This was certainly the concert of the summer, with an opening set by the supercharged soul group Vintage Trouble as an added bonus. — P.B.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at ACL Live on Aug. 25, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at ACL Live on Aug. 25, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Aug. 25: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at ACL Live. Lovett turns up in Austin enough for various events and special appearances that we can sometimes take him for granted. But this two-and-a-half-hour show with the seemingly ever-expanding Large Band, which he brought back to town three-days later for a tour-closing encore, reminded that there is probably no better bandleader in all of contemporary music. — P.B.

Aug. 27: RAS Day at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard. The most remarkable thing about the husband/wife hip-hop team Riders Against the Storm is the transformative effect they’ve had on their community since they relocated to Austin six years ago. In an offhand conversation about a year ago, they recalled how friends warned them about the dwindling population of black folks in Austin when they were considering their move. “Oh, I’ll find the black people,” Qi Dada said.

When they arrived in town they entrenched themselves in Austin’s black arts and hip-hop scenes and, with their magnanimous energy and ceaseless drive, helped them grow.  RAS Day is the glorious fruit of that labor.

The act of throwing a successful outdoor music event in the deadly heat of Austin summer, is impressive in and off itself. The fact that it also showcased a veritable who’s who of Austin’s top hip-hop and soul talents, and every single one of them showed up and threw down, is magnificent. But the greatest achievement is the way this crew has embodied their larger mission. They’ve built a family-friendly, multi-cultural wellness festival very intentionally designed to bring love, light and healing to artists, activists and the community at large. And that’s a beautiful thing. — D.S.S.

Also: Culture Club at Statesman Skyline Theater, Aug. 2; Case Lang Veirs at Long Center, Aug. 3; Chris Stapleton and Hank Williams Jr. at Austin360 Amphitheater, Aug. 13; Gwen Stefani at Austin360 Amphitheater, Aug. 16; Cherubs at Beerland, Aug. 20; Ace Frehley at Batfest, Aug. 20.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

“Shia” Holiday Mountain. On the new album, front woman Laura Patiño abandons the odd vocal acrobatics that largely defined the group’s earlier sound. The flourishes were impressive, but jarring, and the more straight ahead melodic approach makes their music music about 3000 times more relatable. The group still experiments wildly, but it no longer feels deliberately weird. With the shift, they’re suddenly producing irresistible club bangers with massive festival rocking potential. — D.S.S.

Mood Illusion, “Strangers in the Night and Other Favorites.” Pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar takes the instrument way beyond the traditional bounds of country music in his Wednesday residency at Stay Gold, and this fascinating instrumental album documents some of those adventures. — P.B.

BEST NEW SONGS

WARNING: Contains explicit language

“M.G.M. Calm Down Verses” Crew 54.  Sure, this a stretch. It’s not any sort of official single. The crew developed the song, rhyming over the beat from Busta Rhymes “Calm Down,” as a new intro for their performances. The Wyld Gents shot this video in their garage, to build hype for a show this month and for their upcoming Slaprapz project. “It came out super fun as hell,” Eric Morgan, a.k.a. Master of Self, said.  It’s true.  You can’t call yourself an ATX hip-hop fan if it doesn’t get your hands up high. — D.S.S.

Jack Ingram, “Old Motel.” Long overdue for a new record, Ingram delivered with “Midnight Motel,” which finds him digging back into his Texas troubadour roots. We like this special acoustic take of the album’s leadoff track, written by Blu Sanders. — P.B.

MORE AUGUST HIGHLIGHTS

Check out our feature and video from August Austin360 Artist of the Month Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few. And see what six venues we visited for “One Night in August,” our monthly feature and video spotlighting what live music in Austin is like on any given night.

 

Best of Austin Music, July 2016: Willie’s Picnic, Antone’s anniversary and more

WILLIE AND ANTONE’S: AUSTIN ORIGINALS

Midsummer just feels right again now that Willie Nelson has brought his Fourth of July Picnic back to Austin. Its second straight year at Circuit of the Americas went smoothly despite scorching heat, with Nelson’s Family Band and a terrific team-up of Alison Krauss & Jamey Johnson shining on the main stage after an afternoon of longtime Picnic faves such as Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard on the plaza stage. Back in the center of town, Antone’s celebrated its 41st anniversary with a two-week run at its new downtown location. The party kicked of July 1 and hit a fever pitch when co-owner Gary Clark Jr. played a surprise set on July 14, then turned up the next night to jam with Jimmie Vaughan.  — P.B.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Austin, TX - Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter Drake performed live in concert at the Frank Erwin Center on July 20, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman.
Drake at the Erwin Center on July 20, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

July 20: Drake at Erwin Center. In a nearly two-hour extravaganza, marked by floating balloon lights and bombastic fireworks, Dreezy easily topped his 2015 Austin City Limits Festival headline sets with his Summer Sixteen tour kickoff in Austin. — D.S.S.

July 19-20: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ at Sahara Lounge. If Willie’s Picnic was Austin’s obvious nationally-recognized marquee event of July, this two-night stand by the long-running Atlanta foursome was perhaps the sleeper hit of the summer. Playing for two and a half hours with no opener in the sweltering-hot but funky-cool Sahara space on the east side, bandleader Kevn Kinney and his mates — including a ringer of a guitarist in Jason & the Scorchers alum Warner Hodges — testified that they’re still one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in America. — P.B.

Also: Gary Clark Jr. at Antone’s, July 14; “Baby Got Back to the ’90s Tour” at HEB Center, July 22; Steve Miller Band with James Cotton & Jimmie Vaughan at Statesman Skyline Theater, July 26.

BEST NEW SONGS/VIDEOS

Da’Shade Moonbeam “Power” In mid-July, as the country was reeling from the officer-involved shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philandro Castile in Minnesota plus a peaceful protest in Dallas that ended with deadly violence, local hip-hop artist, social worker and activist Da’Shade Moonbeam quietly released the video for “Power.” The song is a rallying cry for the modern battle against injustice that pays homage to the Public Enemy classic “Fight the Power.” The artist born Jeffrey Johnson recorded the track and the video over a year ago. It was sitting on a hard drive with no release date when he returned from an Austin Black Lives Matter demonstration. “I left the vigil at Givens Park feeling like almost every black man in America, feeling like I wasn’t safe anywhere,” Johnson said shortly after the video dropped. “I thought to myself if I’d died right then and there, that the art I had worked so hard on would never see the light of day. Since I felt powerless, I needed a reminder that we have all of the power.” — D.S.S.

Basketball Shorts, “Hot and Ready.” Even with the brief intro and outro on the video, the title track to this party-punk band’s new album still clocks in at less than two minutes; rare is the band that knows how to get in and out of a song with such perfect brevity. And the pizza-slinging footage might be the best use of cuisine in a band’s presentation since Southern Culture on the Skids started tossing fried chicken and banana pudding at audiences. — P.B.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

South Austin Moonlighters, “Ghost of a Small Town.” Following their 2014 studio debut “Burn & Shine,” this local supergroup of sorts, whose members marked many miles with the likes of Monte Montgomery, Stonehoney and the Whiskey Sisters, ups the ante on this 13-song set of  all-original material. — P.B.

Money Chicha, “Echo en Mexico” More than 15 years ago, a group of funk enthusiasts who migrated to Austin from Laredo began an experiment in cumbia that led to the birth of the mighty Grupo Fantasma. As the band grew into one of the finest Latin music ensembles in the world, they also became leaders of a rich and diverse Austin Latin music scene through the members’ many offshoot side projects. Chicha, a psychedelic cumbia hybrid that raged out of Peru in the ’60s and ’70s, is currently going through a resurgence.  It’s a no-brainer that these current and former Fantamites, living in the city that originated psychedelic music in America, would embrace it. While Grupo Fantasma’s latest album, resounds with the poise and polish of a band that plays posh concert halls, Money Chicha’s debut is darker and dirtier. “Echo en Mexico” is a beguiling instrumental collage, fueled by a turbulent undercurrent of vague unease. — D.S.S.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Our July artist of the month, hip-hop collective Mindz of a Different Kind is a homegrown hip-hop crew with furious rhyme skills and an explosive live show.

ONE DAY IN JULY

For the fourth installment of our new monthly series in which we visit a half-dozen local music hot spots in one outing, we traded the night for day. Sundays are the best day in Austin for catching music while it’s still light outside, and we found plenty of fine opportunities. — P.B.

Best of Austin Music, June 2016: Prince tribute, Liberty Lunch reunion and more

TRIPS DOWN MEMORY LANE

Austin looked back fondly at cultural touchstones, both local and universal, in June. The month began with a bang as hometown heroes Grupo Fantasma, once Prince’s backing band, led a cast of luminaries through the sold-out, two-night “Austin Salute 2 Prince,” a loving tribute to the late Twin Cities icon at Antone’s on June 1-2.

Austin salute 2 Prince at Antone’s on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Suzanna Choffel performs at the “Austin Salute 2 Prince” at Antone’s on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Photo by Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Two weeks later, ABGB presented a celebratory remembrance of Austin’s 1980s-90s musical heyday as “I Still Miss Liberty Lunch” drew a massive crowd to hear era-appropriate bands from the Wild Seeds to Joe King Carrasco to Pressure. The June 18 bash, benefiting Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, included a silent auction of Lunch memorabilia; all told, nearly $6,000 was raised for HAAM.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

June 22: James Taylor at Erwin Center. Though he’d been here last fall to tape “Austin City Limits,” the folk-pop icon got to play a longer set for more fans on this return visit. From his renditions of classics such as “Fire and Rain,” to new highlights including “Angels of Fenway,” to engaging stories about how tunes such as “Carolina in My Mind” came to be, it was a near-perfect night with one of the deans of American popular song. — P.B.

June 12: Andra Day “Austin City Limits” taping. The rapidly rising R&B talent took the stage at ACL Live than 24 hours after the shootings in an Orlando nightclub shocked the world. Day’s entire performance was marked by raw passion and boundless heart, but her decision to dedicate “Rise Up,” a powerful anthem of resilience, to the victims and their families was so moving and cathartic many in the audience wept openly. — D.S.S.

Also: Blink-182 at X Games, June 4; Refused at the Mohawk, June 6; Boston, Dennis DeYoung at Skyline Theater, June 11; Selena Gomez at Erwin Center, June 17; Echocentrics album release at the Parish, June 23; Flatlanders at Hogg Auditorium, June 24.

BEST NEW SONGS/VIDEOS

My Jerusalem, “No One Gonna Give You Love.” There’s plenty of depth and darkness to dig into on My Jerusalem’s new album, but the song that hits most immediately is this gorgeously melodic, richly arranged track that highlights Jeff Klein’s dramatic vocal delivery. — P.B.

 

Mobley, “Swoon.” Technically, we’re cheating here. The video was released in January and the song actually came out last year, but in June this gloriously catchy slice of poppy electro-soul topped 650,000 spins on Spotify. The rest of the country is clearly tuning in to this young Austin talent, so let’s not be late to the party. Mobley plays the Scoot Inn at 10:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday). — D.S.S.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

Mindz of Different Kind, “Foursight.” The full-length debut from our Austin360 July Artist of the Month, Mindz of a Different Kind, is probably my favorite release of the year thus far. It’s gritty and hard-edged, but also deftly lyrical and very positive. Each of the four emcees has a distinct voice and style and they stand together as a powerful team. Unflinchingly, they tackle the tough subjects — racism, violence, police brutality — over soulful boom-bap beats. The group of young emcees has been nurtured by the local hip-hop scene since they were teenagers and they’ve grown into the legitimate voice of the Austin streets. We’ll have much more on MDK tomorrow, but for now, check our video them performing the title track to their new release live in the Statesman studio. — D.S.S.

Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, self-titled. Faye’s previous records leaned toward sophisticated folk-pop, but this time she teamed with fellow Austin singers Betty Soo and Akina Adderley to revisit the girl-group heyday of the 1960s. Recorded in Los Angeles with noted producer/engineer Dave Way, the disc features an ace backing band that includes longtime Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, Jellyfish keyboardist Roger Manning and X/Lone Justice guitarist Tony Gilkyson, along with her husband Eric Holden on a variety of instruments. All 11 tracks, which Faye either wrote or co-wrote, go down smooth, from the upbeat opener “Green Light” to the slightly jazzy “Carelessly” to the horn-section-spiked strutter “Eastside.” — P.B.

ONE NIGHT IN JUNE

The third installement of our new monthly series honed in on Monday residencies, the every-week gigs that are essential to Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World. Check out the full recap, along with the video sampler of music from each of six stops:

Best of Austin Music, May 2016: Florence, Paul Simon and more

WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

Austin band A Giant Dog recently signed with Merge Records and releases "Pile" this week. From left: Danny Blanchard, Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low PHOTO BY SEAN DAIGLE
Austin band A Giant Dog recently signed with Merge Records and releases “Pile” this week.
From left: Danny Blanchard, Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low PHOTO BY SEAN DAIGLE

This month’s rain continued to wreak havoc on live events. Levitation organizers are still trying to sort out refunds from the cancelled festival at the top of the month and a couple weeks later the Austin edition of Dallas-based music and beer festival Untapped, also scheduled to happen at deluged Carson Creek Ranch, became another casualty of spring storms.

At the same time, Austin was awash in amazing music. A bevy of Best of 2016 contenders barreled in this month. Bawdy barroom bruisers A Giant Dog celebrated their Merge Records debut, the ecstatic cacophony, “Pile” and two-piece garage rock powerhouse Black Pistol Fire dropped the blistering hard rock piece “Don’t Wake the Riot” on local indie label Modern Outsider. Sometimes OVO producer Eric Dingus and rapper Dowrong teamed for “Stack or Starve,” a stormy production, exploding with street science that dropped on ATX hip-hop indie Dream Sequence and our June Artist of the Month Megafauna released “Welcome Home,” an ambitious platter that melds elements of prog, grunge and metal. (More on that later this week).

BEST NEW ALBUMS

The Deer, “Tempest & Rapture.” Initially assembled as a backing crew for sweet-toned singer Grace Park — their initial gigs had her name out front — this foursome featuring multi-instrumentalist Jesse Dalton, guitarist/producer Michael McLeod and drummer/keyboardist Alan Ecker is making music that stands out starkly amid the crowded Austin indie landscape. It’s telling that the band’s attempts at self-definition involve mishmash phrases such as “psych-folk surf-dream,” given that their collaborative family tree overlaps with the progressive bluegrass of MilkDrive, the electronica spells of Bayonne and the film soundscapes of Richard Linklater. “Tempest & Rapture” doubles down on their impressive 2014 album “On the Essence of the Indomitable,” marrying melodic-pop instincts to inventive arrangements and rhythms. The resulting songs go down easy even when the music is complicated. With 17 tracks that add up to nearly an hour, there’s a lot to explore here, and it’s consistently refreshing. — P.B.

Echocentrics, “Echo Hotel.” It’s been five years since Austin super-producer Adrian Quesada released an Echocentrics album, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Though songs are fleshed out with a live band and guest vocals from Alex Maas (Black Angels), James Petralli (White Denim), Jazz Mills, Tita Lima and Natalia Clavier, this is Quesada’s creative vehicle to stretch out and explore. The result is a richly textured scrapbook featuring the best of his signature sounds, from the psychedelic ramble of album opener “Canyon” to the dramatic passion that always sounds better in Spanish, “Muerto En Vida.” — D.S.S.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Florence and the Machine at Christopher House. The band was spectacular at their Austin360 Amphitheater performance, and with grandiose passion, lead singer Florence Welch reached for deep connections with at an ‘Austin City Limits’ taping, but no performance last month was more moving than a private concert Welch and crew played for Karinya “Yaya” Chen, a 15-year-old hospice patient at Christopher House. With a chorus of teen back up singers (Chen’s friends) Welch and Chen spent 45 minutes warmly harmonizing, laughing, crying and shaking it out. All the love and all the tears. — D.S.S.

Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall on May 10, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman
Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall on May 10, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall, ‘ACL’ taping. The songwriting icon enchanted fans with rhythm and words during a sold out two night stand at Bass Concert Hall. Then he stuck around to tape his debut appearance on ‘ACL,’ delivering a career-highlight moment for the famous Austin TV show. — P.B.

» Photos: Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall

BEST NEW SONGS

“Survive” by Austin360 May Artist of the Month, Jeremy Nail.  Like the majority of his new album, this song draws from Nail’s experience battling a rare form of cancer and facing the hard truths head on. — P.B.

Lady Shacklin, “Lonely World” With exuberant energy and powerful pipes the Killeen/Austin R&B, reggae soul artist fills us with the sturdy spirit we need to face these troubled times. — D.S.S.

Best of Austin Music: April 2016

A SOGGY START TO FESTIVAL SEASON

Austin was thoroughly showered in April, with the heavy rains and thunderstorms taking a toll on some events in this month’s packed calendar. The coup de grace was the cancellation of Levitation yesterday, on the eve of the three-day fest.

The 29th Old Settler’s Music Festival escaped most of the inclement weather, until more persistent precipitation finally took hold after sundown Saturday. Still, a sunny Friday and a weekend packed with high-quality roots music from the Jayhawks, Dawes, Rodney Crowell, the HillBenders and more on two stages, plus bonus intimate workshops from Sarah Jarosz, the Del McCoury Band and others, made this one of the fest’s best years.

While fans of dance music and jam bands were able to live in the moment at Euphoria Fest, heavy afternoon rain on the first day of Austin Urban Music Festival kept many Austinites away from the excellent set by ’90s R&B outfit Dru Hill. Austin Reggae Fest took an even harder hit when, for the second year in a row, the festival was forced to cancel Sunday’s show, headlined by Bunny Wailer. (Reggae Fest beneficiary Capital Area Food Bank estimates they lost $100,000, or 400,000 meals.)

BEST LIVE SHOWS

April 15: Slack Capital release party at Barracuda. The new ATX underground compilation from Austin Town Hall and Big Bill’s Eric Braden was also my favorite new album of the month, but their well-curated selection of local garage rock and punk is best experienced live. Gleefully obscene, all-female project Sailor Poon churned out unapologetic, post-riot grrrl art punk liberally littered with mean-spirited sax licks and Que Pasa?’s Liz Herrera is a beast on guitar.  Basketball Shorts delivered a bevy of hilarious two minute bruisers and Annabelle Chairlegs (a late add to Levitation this weekend) stir a cauldron of simmering emotion that frequently and furiously boils over into explosive, guitar screeching psych rock. — D.S.S.

April 27: Bonnie Raitt at ACL Live. Austin loves Bonnie, and the feeling is mutual, as she made clear in a terrific two-hour show that featured songs from her new album “Dig in Deep” plus show-stopping classics such as “Angel From Montgomery” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” She’ll be back at the same venue on Nov. 8. — P.B.

Also: Tony Bennett at Bass Concert Hall; M83 at Stubb’s; Princess at Moontower Comedy FestivalRhiannon Giddens ‘ACL’ tapingJames Bay ‘ACL’ taping; Beach House at ACL Live; Little Green Cars at the Parish.

BEST NEW SONGS/VIDEOS

“Slow Roll” by Global 74. One of Austin’s most talented emcees of the early aughts, Global, is back in this lyrical and aspirational street cruising banger produced by Adrian Quesada with a video directed by M.O.S. of Crew 54. — D.S.S.

Michael Fracasso, “Here Come the Savages.” It appears impossible to find in the digital realm so far — nothing on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and the like — but the title track to Fracasso’s new album might be the best song from an Austin artist I’ve heard all year. It’s worth seeking out the disc, which includes many other fine originals and covers. — P.B.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

“Slack Capital” compilation. See above, and also hereBuy it here. –D.S.S.

Hayes Carll, “Lovers and Leavers.” Carll’s first album in five years refocuses on his songwriting. Check out our full feature story. — P.B.

Taylor and the Wild Now, “Tides.” A solid selection of sophisticated summery pop. — D.S.S.

Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow, “From the Forest Came the Fire.” The first record Falconberry has released as a co-billed effort with her band. Check out our April Artist of the Month feature. — P.B.

ONE NIGHT IN APRIL

We launched a new feature this month: We visit at least six Austin music venues in a single night to get a sense of what the Live Music Capital of the World is like on a routine basis. Check out the “One Night in April” debut, along with the video recap:

Best of Austin Music: March 2016

Our new monthly roundup looks back at highlights from the last month of music in Austin venues, along with new albums and songs by local artists. (And in case you missed them, check out our Best of Austin Music posts for January and February.)

THE MAIN EVENT

Joey bada$$ performs at The Mohawk during SXSW on Sunday, March 20, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Joey Bada$$ performs at The Mohawk during SXSW. Erika Rich for American-Statesman

South by Southwest. Our attention in March inevitably gets gobbled up by SXSW, which marked its 30th year with a music festival that overall seemed less focused on major names (though unofficial shows brought cameos by George Strait at Ray Benson’s birthday party and Drake at the Fader Fort). Check out our American-Statesman SXSW wrap-up, or go in-depth with dozens of SXSW show reviews on austin360.com.

BEST NON-SXSW SHOWS

March 7: Townes Van Zandt birthday tribute at Cactus Cafe. Butch Hancock has been hosting these birthday tributes to the late, great Van Zandt ever since the legendary Texas troubadour’s death in 1997. Peers from Townes’ generation such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Mickey White and Richard Dobson teamed with younger artists including Graham Weber, Betty Soo and Jaimee Harris to keep such classic songs as “If I Needed You” and “Tecumseh Valley.” — P.B.

March 25: Greyhounds and Emily Gimble at C-Boy’s. A double bill featuring two of the city’s best singers in the Greyhounds’ Anthony Farrell and former Asleep at the Wheel pianist Emily Gimble, this show even drew in soul star Leon Bridges, who was spotted in the C-Boy’s crowd after his private PGA tournament-related show earlier in the evening. — P.B.

Also: Austin City Limits tapings by Robert Plant and Iggy Pop; local band Explosions in the Sky at the Paramount; Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins & Anais Mitchell at Bass Concert Hall; Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe at the Paramount; Paul Ray tribute at Antone’s.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

Jeff Plankenhorn, “SoulSlide.” An in-demand sideman with a rich, resonant singing voice, Plankenhorn steps out with a dozen tracks of rootsy material, mostly his own compositions. Guest-vocalist ringers Malford Milligan and Ruthie Foster turn up on a couple of tracks, but the spotlight stays on Plankenhorn’s own intuition for a good soul groove. — P.B.

Here’s the song “Trouble Find Me”:

Holy Wave, “Freaks of Nurture.” Opening track “She Put a Seed in My Ear” begins with a guitar riff that recalls the desert blues of Malian acts like Tinariwen, then opens into a surprisingly buoyant, expansive ramble. The wanderings continue through an album that unwinds like a Texas summer, heavy with hazy vibes to temper the emotional heat. — D.S.S.

CAKE, “CAKE.” Technically, this compilation was part of Austin’s end of February album blitz, but it didn’t hit our desks til the beginning of March. Rapper Anya, the best undersung emcee in the city, organized this collective of female hip-hop, R&B and reggae artists to create a fully realized platter loaded with powerful verses, catchy hooks and a through-line of raw emotional integrity driven by a mission to empower young women. — D.S.S.

BEST NEW SONGS

Migrant Kids, “Thread.” The video actually debuted in late February, but the EP that it’s on won’t be out till May. Whatever the timeline, we dig this track by the trio that draws ’80s new wave influences into its modern indie rock. — P.B.

Tameca Jones, “Head Over Heels.” Before the city was swept up in festival fury, local soul maven Jones, dropped this smoldering heart breaker. The song captures the universally relatable, desperate sensation of futilely fanning the flames of a dying love. — D.S.S.

 

Are you an Austin artist with new music we should hear and/or videos we should see? Hit us up at musicsource@statesman.com.