Showing posts with label Feature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feature. 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. 

Sep 24, 2018

How Howard Stern Taught Me To Love Paul McCartney

by Robert Dean

If there was ever a human who’s been written about ad-nauseam, it’s Paul McCartney. His life story has been told over and over, his every note has been picked apart, his lyrics have inspired college courses, and psychologists alike. He will remain immortal while the rest of us fade into the ether. 

What do you write about when a guy has been obsessed over so much? I’m not new to the Beatles game (one of my son’s middle names is Lennon). I’ve been a die-hard for as long as I can remember, and while John has some of the best stand-alone Beatles tracks, and the best Beatles song ever, in “Day In The Life,” Paul pound for pound had more songs that were better. 

But, once the Beatles broke up, Paul was left to his own devices; he had to make a career in the ashes of his former band. A band that wasn’t just big, but the band that literally changed the world. That’s a heavy burden to bear for any of the now former Beatles. Suddenly, this dude who wanted to write spinning epics, and operas, but also quirky barbershop tunes was out of his dynamic – he’d started playing within what would become the Beatles at 15 with John Lennon. 

What Paul McCartney came up with was light years better than any of the garbage John cranked out. Sorry, while John Lennon gets this cultural pass as this too cool for school autre, it was McCartney writing the solid records. Plastic Ono Band has, maybe a handful of solid tracks, while McCartney has cuts that rival any of the Beatles best work. 

Listen to those first two McCartney records, they pre-date a lot Jack White and Dan Auerbach's DNA. Those early solo records were created with one vision, a lot of elbow grease and hustle. There's an elemental funk there, a lapse of polish, which makes them all the more appealing today. McCartney showed loud and clear that the soul of the Beatles wasn't just John and his beard.

I wasn’t always high on Paul McCartney’s solo stuff. Honestly, I find a lot of his solo stuff corny. “Silly Love Songs,” “Lovely Linda,” “Wonderful Christmastime” – I hate all of them with the fire of a thousand suns. “That Would Be Something” is pure Beatles. In fact, those two first McCartney records feature a lot of tracks that reach far past his former bandmates, with no disrespect to George Harrison, because All Things Must Pass is a stellar record. 

But, it was an unlikely source that turned me onto Paul McCartney’s solo tunes: Howard Stern. Because I’m a regular Stern listener, I get to hear Howard rant and rave about all kinds of things I love, explicitly explaining how much country music, vinyl, and Halloween suck. But one thing Howard did turn me onto is how much Paul McCartney’s solo stuff is vastly underrated. 

Once while lecturing joke writer, and continuously homeless Benjy Bronk, Stern played McCartney’s “Too Many People” a song written about John Lennon and applied to Bronk’s tardiness and taking advantage of the system in place, considering the high pay and three day work week. 

It was after hearing that track and then digging deeper into RAM and McCartney that I’d realized I’d not given Paul his proper due. While, I’m not a massive Band on The Run fan, “Let Me Roll It” could be used in any lonely bar scene in a Tarantino flick. That’s an all-time banger, rivaling anything on Let It Be.

I appreciate that Howard is relentless in his adoration of McCartney’s music, it was sweet listening to him interview Paul recently because it was from such a genuine place of love and respect, he also tried to do the same with former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, but Plant was a condescending asshole the whole time. 

McCartney, on the other hand, did his best at navigating those waters of Beatles, and personal life talks that he’s done for so long, and with so much class. Paul McCartney knows his place in the history books, but still maintains an aura of cool. Plus, the dude did kill it with a cigar box guitar playing with the surviving members of Nirvana. 

I think as Paul McCartney gets older, it’s crucial for us to reflect upon his post-Beatles career with different eyes. He’s one of the last living legends of that era still kicking, and doing it well. I’ve grown to love a lot of his solo stuff, and for that, I have to thank the guy who played FartMan. 


Paul's latest album is Egypt Station and is available at Amazon and everywhere else.

Mar 26, 2018

Cruising The Lost Highway In Search Of A Ghost

by Robert Dean

Living in New Orleans is a pressure cooker. The drinking never stops, there’s always a bill due, and there’s never enough overtime. A constant threat of violence lurks omnipresent, and there’s never a night when you can’t stumble into trouble or the best time of your life.

I had to get out of the city. Every six months, I found an excuse to get away from the noise, Bourbon Street, and collect myself. I’d take long rides, going into the abyss on my days off. It didn’t matter where the destination was.
I’d recently broken up with an ex-girlfriend. I floated between trying to understand my place in the city, and also wondering where I’d land career-wise. I was stuck dancing around on Bourbon Street stages while pushing every scrap of writing I could. Everything internally was in a tailspin. I ached for resolve, for a plan. I drank like a fish and slept for days at a time. Drink, write, read, work, and repeat.

I kept a set schedule at work, which allowed me to make plans, I got in my 2004 Ford Mustang and floored it out of the city. I headed to Alabama. I drove endlessly shuffling through my book of cd’s, jamming Elvis, Johnny Cash, Hank, Waylon, JD McPherson, George Jones, to remember a few. I popped across Mississippi and cruised the back roads of Alabama, searching for the ghost of Hank Williams, a wild spirit who’d died too young.

At the time, I felt like we were kindred spirits, as I was known to wail on a bottle a time or two in the dark recesses of the French Quarter while Hank’s escapades were the basis for an entire music genre. Hank Williams has always made sense to me and why he’ll endure centuries after this one; he’s merely too human. His tragedies color many of our own, and because his deliverance was so pure, so tactile, it’s hard not to fall in love with.

Years later, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is still my favorite song of all time and it still haunts me no matter how many times I hear it. There’s a genuine sadness caught on tape that day and no matter how many artists cover it or try to crack its core, none ever will – that day Hank caught fire.

For hours I trucked through little towns and hillbilly outposts, burning rubber toward the trail of Hank Williams. I stopped in the center of Montgomery and stood near his statue at the center of town, sharing a secret with the man many passes by daily without a second glance. I peered into the window of the Hank Williams Museum, cursing myself for arriving in town on the one day it was closed.

I wolfed down hot dogs and a Coke at Chris’ Hot Dogs just like Hank used to do. I sat at the ancient counter feeling like I was partaking in a ritual. I paid my respects at Oakwood cemetery and took more than a few minutes to relish the silence and enjoy being utterly alone. No one else pulled up to join me in my tribute; this moment was between Hank and me.

I rolled up to Georgiana, AL and walked the floors of the Hank Williams boyhood home museum, where I managed to pick up an original program from Hank’s funeral. Everything I did, it felt like I was leading up to a moment, a feeling, but really, it was just me trying to understand my ghosts along with Hank’s.

I-65 between Georgiana and Montgomery is known as “The Lost Highway.” I likened it to a spiritual journey, a conquest only I could take along the way. I stopped and ate Chic-a-fila since it hadn’t spread nationwide yet. It was a Deep South delicacy I’d only heard was succulent and boy howdy were those first bites a communion.

I rolled through those 55 miles and back, trying to will something through his death and my living. By now it was the dead of night. Because I kept graveyard shift hours, the exercise and the return home wasn’t a big deal. But, I was out there searching for something. I’d wanted so much to resolve itself through the music, through the miles, but the dead keep their secrets. I wanted to know how I could harness that energy, which Hank emitted, how a guy blew fire at such a young age, while I was still blowing smoke, trying to get my wings as a writer.

What I realized there was I just needed to gnash my teeth, put my head down and do the fucking work. There was no mojo, no spell and no way to make my bones without some bumps and bruises. That trip was the first leg of self-realization and that maybe “Hank didn’t do it that way.”

I drove back to New Orleans and arrived sometime early morning. I fell into my bed nourished but still looking for fulfillment. I took my ride with Hank Williams but knew as soon as I arrived home, I had work to do, I had to get back to writing. A few months later, I tattooed Hank on my left wrist, reminding me that he’ll be with me for eternity, a ghost I don’t mind guiding me. 

Sep 29, 2014

Featured New Song: Willie & The Giant - Poor Boy

FTM is loving the revivalist soul movement lately. Willie and the Giant are yet another knockout new band from... you guessed it, Alabama, and are highly recommended to fans of smooth southern soul, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Al Green, Ryan Adams, and Josh Rouse. This is sitting on the front porch on a Saturday afternoon with a sweaty beer music. Here's a featured new song from Willie and the Giant called "Poor Boy." Stream below the photo.

It's available at iTunes!


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