Eventually I am going to have a blog on this site, the kind that can be added to so easily. For now, I haven’t made that happen, but I still want to tell you where I’ve been and who I have seen in this past week. It reminds me why I am so thankful I am here in Austin, Texas, where you can see the most talented artists in little clubs and restaurants on a daily basis. And not “unknown” talents, although they are there, too. You can see artists that have recorded with Brad Paisley, toured with Merle Haggard, written for George Strait. It’s a town where an artist can find a home. And a fan can find heaven!
Last night I went to the beautiful and historic Paramount Theater to see the fabulous production of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison’s Holiday Show. This is their fourth year to put it together and they opened their short tour here in Austin this time. Kevin McKinney opened the night. I had never heard of him before I Googled him and found that he was a founding member of the old Austin rock band Soulhat, which I had heard of, but still wasn’t familiar with. He has a new 12 song Christmas CD Kevin McKinney’s 12 Holiday Hits. It is a CD of acoustic guitar recordings he made as a gift for his wife. You can hear a bit here or find more at Chocolate Records. I didn’t know what to expect at the live show, but it was just Kevin and John Brush, a guitar player from Fort Worth, playing Christmas songs on guitar. He was one of these artists that are as much fun between the songs as he was during the songs. His continuing commentary on Christmas, his music, the night, the crowd, was fun. He had never played, nor even BEEN, in the beautiful Paramount, so he was in awe.
Bruce and Kelly put on a wonderful, casual show, with their band Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and mandolin, Andrew Nafziger on guitar, John “Lunchmeat” Ludwick, Eddie Cantu on drums, and a fabulous keyboard player. Anyone know who that was? I haven’t been able to find out who it could have been. It is a “holiday” show, but they leaned heavy on their hits: hers from her latest album Translated from Love and his from It Came from San Antonio and the ones that George Strait has taken to the top. I talked to several people who weren’t really familiar with Bruce until he started reeling off the hits: Travelin’ Soldier, Angry All The Time, Desperately, and the latest number one, Wrapped. Bruce and Kelly have a Christmas CD and they did play Baby It’s Cold Outside and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but they seemed to have less of the Christmas tunes than previous years. They did add a new hilarious HOLIDAY tune to the repertoire, but I won’t tell you about it here in case you are going to see the show in Gruene or Dallas or Lubbock. The surprise I can tell you about, because it isn’t going to happen again, was when Jerry Jeff Walker came out and joined Bruce and Kelly onstage. What a wonderful holiday gift to the audience. Jerry Jeff sang Gettin’ By (which may become my new theme song), I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and Mr. Bojangles.
Friday night I went to the Evangeline Cafe on South Brodie. I have been there for the fabulous food before, but never for the late night music. It was really a treat. Curtis has a place to be proud of and if you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it. I highly recommend it for the food, first, so go when you can enjoy the fried shrimp and those little bread things they make, the gumbo and the Cajun specialties. But go for the music, too, because it is really the epitome of a neighborhood gathering place. I went to see Redd Voelkert and he was joined by Warren Hood on fiddle, Nate Rowe on bass, and Chris Gilson on drums. Redd entertained a full house with country classics, lots of Merle, and his amazing guitar playing. Warren and Nate also sang.
Tuesday night I spent in New Braunfels at Gruene Hall for the KNBT 92.1 Radio New Braunfels Thanks and Giving show with Adam Hood and Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. It was a night of thanksgiving and pure enjoyment. I got there late and didn’t get to hear much of Adam Hood, with Matt Powell on bass. But Adam is back at Gruene in December so I will try to be back. Walt and the Mystiqueros: Marcus Eldridge, Bill Small, Johnny “Gringo” Greenberg, and Raymond Rodriguez harmonize and find a way to not only entertain, but to uplift. I decided on the spot that if Walt Wilkins ever starts a church (or even a cult) I would be the first to join up. He was preaching to me when he said, “We are the luckiest people alive!” I sure felt that way among my friends in Gruene.
Monday night I made a night of the blues. My nephew Connor was in town for the music and we went to see Uncle Mark onstage. First, Mark’s band “Little Elmore Reed” played at Antone’s to open the night for Easy Monday, hosted each week by Lee Edwards and Claudia Voyles. A great performance there from Mike Keller (guitar and vocals), Dale Spalding (harmonica and vocals), Willie Pipkin (guitar), Pat Whitefield (bass) and my sweet husband, Mark Hays, on the drums. After their set, Lee and Claudia celebrated the release of Lee’s new CD Interesting World. Lee is the singer/songwriter in the vein of Townes Van Zandt. He knows how to make the right choice of word to evoke an emotion or paint a picture. Much more folk than country, he and Claudia still have a place on my music lists. We moved on from Antone’s to the east side of town for more blues with Little Elmore Reed at the secret clubhouse (don’t ask, I have been sworn to secrecy).
And, of course, last Saturday I was at the Nutty Brown Cafe for a great night with, first, the Sam Bentley Band, and then the Kevin Fowler Band. I had the immense pleasure of joining the Kevin Fowler Band on stage and playing accordion on Senorita Mas Fina. It is an absolute thrill to get to be onstage with those guys and see how adored they are by the throngs. They sure know how to hold them in the palm of their hand!
So, nine bands/performers in eight days. A pretty typical week in Austin, Texas.