Showing posts with label Album Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Album Review. Show all posts

Aug 21, 2019

Black Pumas Are The Next Great Import From Austin, Texas

By Robert Dean

Ask anyone in Austin who the best band in town right now is, and you’re likely to get the same answer each and every time: Black Pumas. 

While there’s no disrespect to the plethora of bands who are amazing in Texas’ capital city, what Black Pumas are doing is taking the state, and the world by the throat and demanding that we all pay close attention to them. And you know what? Those red marks are ok. 

Comprised of singer Eric Burton along with guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada, who also happens to be the man behind the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and the Black Sabbath worship act Brown Sabbath, the Black Pumas haven’t just dropped a new record that people can’t get enough of, the band is suddenly finding themselves in some strange, new places, too, namely at the top of plenty of tastemakers lists across the country. 

On their ATO Records self-titled debut, The Black Pumas aren’t just that little band from Austin any longer, but instead are now labelmates with groups like the Alabama Shakes, Old 97’s, and Lucero. 

The songs are dirty, funky and bluesy with a deep Texas groove that shares the same DNA with Gary Clark Jr, Leon Bridges, The Suffers, acts which cross barriers by not only race but sound, style, and pure fury. 

While singer Eric Burton isn’t a Texan, he was a California beach bum playing for change on the boardwalks, but once he got to Austin, dove into the scene, he’d realized he’d found a home in Texas’ capital city. When he hooked up with Quesada, everything changed. And now, thanks to their partnership we’ve got the Black Pumas. 


The record is lush, it’s old school. There’s some Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Al Green, Otis Redding, the soul of Black Pumas is on full display. If there’s any band you need to get on your radar, it’s these guys. There’s an unaffected cool about the songs, the vibe of the group, that despite their present-day existence, that they should be played on 45 in a jukebox in bars around the world. 

“Colors,” “Black Moon Rising,” and “Fire” all are slinky, night time tunes for rooms with low light, they’re moody, brooding and precisely what you want to put on over a Jameson neat or a glass of Merlot. Whatever your poison, the Black Pumas are the next big band out of Austin since Gary Clark. Believe that. 

Mar 17, 2017

Son Volt: Notes of Blue Review & Atlanta Road Dispatch


Son Volt: Notes of Blue review and Atlanta road dispatch

By Kevin Broughton


Don’t get down when the Cavalry doesn’t ride; doesn’t mean that Hollywood didn’t get it right.

So begins what may be the most Son Volt album ever.

We spent some time in this space six weeks ago mulling over an old Son Volt record, and how it should be judged against the band’s body of work. In the process of that look back -- which corresponded with the release of Notes of Blue, its eighth studio album not counting compilations – a thought occurs to the dedicated Son Volt fan. To wit: This band will always be whatever Jay Farrar finds compelling at any given moment.

If he finds something interesting that needs a new voice or interpretation, we’re gonna get a new Son Volt album.  If it resonates with the folks, great. If not, that’s okay too, because Jay’s gonna do his thing.  Case in point, 2013’s Honky Tonk, Farrar’s sublimely faithful send-up of the Bakersfield sound. Which itself was the first peep heard from him since 2009.

As the simply self-evident title suggests, Farrar decided he’d do a blues record. And he did, man, and put a stamp on it only he could. Notes of Blue, which Jay says is influenced heavily by Mississippi Fred McDowell and Skip James, certainly isn’t your conventional blues deal. It’s alternately rambling and driving, with the customary stop-go tempo changes that date back to Uncle Tupelo thrown in. There’s a cowboy ethos…as many Westerns as are coming out these days – remake and original – Notes of Blue should be a soundtrack to one of them.

And it’s a bunch of wonderfully different tunings (which made for frequent equipment changes live, see below), 30 minutes efficiently packed into 10 songs. There’s vitality, there’s brooding, and sheer badassery on “Threads and Steel.” But as the opening cut, “Promise the World,” passes the Bakersfield-to-blues baton between albums. 


And it was often the pedal steel-playing of [some dude] that got the crowd’s attention time again at Atlanta’s Terminal West on March 10. I’m sorry, but as we acknowledged earlier, “Son Volt” is Jay and whomever is behind him at the moment. The guy on steel was exceptional, and played keyboards really well, too. [That one guy] on bass sang competent harmonies. The band was tight. Oh, wait.

Opening act? Yeah, there was one at the sold-out (625, standing) venue.

Let me tell you about him for just a second. The advertised bill was SON VOLT WITH JOHNNY IRION. So I Googled the guy.

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Oh, good. The Google hit reveals some hippie-communist-douchebag who decided to prove his bona fides by doing an anti-Trump song.


Wow, guy. You must be legit! And courageous. It takes a lot of balls to write songs hating on a Republican. Is it lonely out there on that bastion? You know, I didn’t vote for president last year, my first time ever taking a pass at the top of the ticket. But, dude. Since you’re a musician, I’m starting to come around to your way of thinking. Tell me more.


Wait, what? Your wife is Woody Guthrie’s commie granddaughter? And y’all did a trio – no kidding – with Pete Seeger’s Bolshevik great grandson or some such?


Oh, wow, Johnny. You’ve swayed me. I’m a Democrat now. I demand that boys be allowed in girls’ bathrooms. Immediately, and anyone who objects is a bigot.


Good job, Johnny. I just wish I’d been born in time to march with an NVA flag and spit on Vietnam vets in airports.

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Sorry. Yeah, let’s keep politics out of music. He did some songs. I didn’t listen.

The show was great. Farrar – did his hair seem unnaturally dark, and did that question seem catty – led the band onstage and quickly into “Cherokee Street,” emphasizing the Cowboys-and-Indians vibe of the record. They played all but one of the cuts off the new album, and oddly, not a single one from the last. The balance of the 20-plus song set was a healthy sampler of Son Volt’s best work.

Trace, appropriately, was well represented, with “Tear Stained Eye,” “Catching On,” “10 Second News,” “Route,” “Drown,” and “Windfall” making the list. The highlight for a lot of folks was an encore that featured three Uncle Tupelo Cuts. I’d never heard the lovely “Still Be Around” live before, and it was awesome.

Trailer tells me Farrar’s on Twitter these days. That’s neat. He was more interactive March 10 than I’ve ever seen him. He said lots of words.

“How’s everybody doing tonight? You guys okay?”

“Hey, thanks a lot.”

“Thanks. I’d like to introduce the members of the band. [Proceeds to do so.]”
He’s never been that chatty. And he changed guitar about every 1.7 songs. Freaky tunings.

Know what he didn’t say? Anything about politics.

Yay. 

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Notes of Blue is available everywhere you can purchase music, except Walmart probably. 

Sep 29, 2016

Prodigal Kasey Anderson plays gig, rolls tape


By Kevin Broughton

“Good morning. My name’s Kasey Anderson,” says the erstwhile Federal prison inmate, one tune (“Transcendental Blues”) into an early evening gig. “For some of you these will be old and new songs, and for others they’ll be all new songs.” Displaying just a smidgen of the wit he was so known for before he went away, he adds, “That was a Steve Earle song, but the rest are all mine…I don’t know, I haven’t looked at the set list, but this one is for sure mine.”

Anderson’s at the Standing Sun Winery in Buellton, Calif., his first announced show since getting out of the joint. “I had quietly played one before,” he says, “at a tavern in Portland.” The result of this one, though, is Sideways, ten cuts covering 45 minutes, and named for the Paul Giamatti film of the same name shot at Standing Sun. The Steve Earle cover does justice to the original and happily – audibly at least – lacks the smug superiority on display with every word spoken by the writer these days. And it turns out there actually is one more cover, a great take on You Am I’s “Heavy Heart.”

The most poignant cut is “Sirens and Thunder,” from the Kasey Anderson and The Honkies’ Heart of a Dog album. He couldn’t have known at the time how prophetic one line he penned was, but probably grasps the irony, post-prison: “It’s been a hard winter for the rank and hopeless sinner.”

“I Was a Photograph” is also a keeper, and a fine – and importantly, apolitical – look at returning vets with PTSD.

If this is the beginning of Anderson’s musical comeback, it’s a solid first step, and worth every bit and more of the $10 you can pick it up for at his store.

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Sideways is available here: http://www.nowherenights.com/store/sideways


Kevin Broughton is a teacher, writer and former attorney living in Georgia. He tries not to get too snippy when other folks use his material as a template.


Photo from Music City Notes.

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