Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello with their take on “Wild Horses” by Jagger and Richards.

Dusty and distant. Love in the rear view mirror.




“Journeyman” usually refers to a seasoned and reliable guitarist or drummer, but what does it mean for a songwriter? In the case of Walt Wilkins, it means an everyman master who has portrayed, with passion and wisdom, all of the high hills and deep creases of our lives. A native of San Antonio and an Austinite for years, Wilkins is one of those artists who can only be fully understood through a grasp of his entire body of work, which is substantial. He emerges as a man of wisdom, a beacon for the rest of us, maybe even a healer.

Working quietly in the “next big thing” hustle of the Austin music scene, Wilkins has steadily gathered converts and friends, even a few disciples. His pieces resonate over time, simple in the beginning but becoming profound observations of universal truths.

Michael had the opportunity to visit with Walt in the condo recently…




The late Jesse Winchester with some beautiful wisdom.




Another musical luminary from the Lubbock area, Butch Hancock is best known for his on and off collaboration with Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore known as The Flatlanders, but he has been gracing us with fines songs and storied solo performances for more than four decades now. Raised on a dry-land cotton farm in the big empty, he lived in Austin for a number of years before moving to Terlingua, Texas, a Big Bend “ghost town” perched above the Rio Grande and home to an ex-patriate community of artists and other rugged individualists.

Like Ely and Gilmore, as well as folks like Terry Allen and Jo Carol Pierce, Hancock is a wandering intellectual with little respect for appearances, social norms or cultural institutions. He looks out at the world and calls it like he sees it, and he sees it pretty clearly. Good or bad. False or true.

He sings in a dusty, far-away voice that is grounded in experience and a little regret, but all in all you get the sense that he has things pretty well figured out. He has a habit of penning absolute classics that find the grace in life’s moments of beauty, discovery and contradiction. Songs like “Boxcars”, “She Never Spoke Spanish to Me”, “West Texas Waltz” and “If I Were a Bluebird”. Existentialism and romanticism, loss and gain…songs that speak to the possibilities up ahead, just beyond the horizon.

Three things to know about Butch Hancock: (1) he is a charter member of the “Lubbock Mafia”, a cadre of talented musicians from the Hub City, many of which ended up in Austin, (2) he is as talented a photographer as he is a musician, (3) he is known for this quote about his hometown: “Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things. One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, dirty thing on the face of the earth and you should save it for someone you love.”

If you love Butch Hancock, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Joe Ely, Amanda Shires and Vince Bell.




Mary Chapin Carpenter is a songwriter of uncommon depth and sensitivity who came of age in the seventies as a folksinger in the clubs of Washington, D.C. She began enjoying significant commercial success in the eighties, when Columbia Records began promoting her as a “country” artist, but never allowed her work to be processed, categorized or compromised, and has always spoken directly from a kind mind and a full heart.

She is especially revered for her consideration of the changing lives of women, perhaps most famously for the brilliantly caustic “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” from 1992, and her name is spoken in the same breath as that of Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier and Shawn Colvin. Carpenter has focused on other social and political issues that are close to her heart, often speaking for those on the wrong end of social power structures. Consider “John Doe No. 24”, her stunning portrayal of a child born without sight or hearing in long-ago New Orleans. Abandoned to the orphanages and institutions of the south, no link to the outside but his memory of the scent of blooming crepe jasmine.

Mary’s work is literary and profound, often evoking the gothic south of William Faulkner or Willa Cather’s vast Midwest. She recalls the strength and majesty of young love, or the dusty regret of passion that wasn’t quite strong enough to last. Like so many of our favorite artists, we smile through tears at the memories she pulls to the surface.

Carpenter’s songs have been covered by the varied likes of Joan BaezTony RiceWynona JuddTrisha Yearwood, and has recorded with folks like Colvin, Radney FosterDolly Parton and the Indigo Girls. Over her career she has won five Grammy Awards and a host of other formal accolades in the course of releasing fourteen albums of mostly original work.

Three things to know about Mary Chapin Carpenter: (1) she is distantly related to the late, great songwriter Harry Chapin, (2) in 2014, she released an orchestral album and performed it live at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and (3) she has coped with periodic bouts of depression with what she calls “the learning curve of gratitude”.

If you love Mary Chahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azsSkWyxvu8pin Carpenter, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Ana Egge, Will T. Massey and Mary Gauthier.




A little Newbury to calm your morning.




David Ramirez and Summer Ames team up on his gorgeous tune about faith. He vows to carry on, to “breathe deep, love strong, and hold on forever”.




Oklahoma is sort of the Bermuda Triangle of the Great Plains. We know there’s some magical stuff going on within those dusty borders, but we’re a little scared to head on in and check it out.

The musical magic is referred to as the “Red Dirt” scene, and a rich vein of that fertile ground runs right to Travis County. Some of our favorite artists carried a little of that dirt with them, folks like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmy LaFave, Kevin Welch, Travis Linville, even Michael Fracasso, and Austin music is certainly the better for it. In truth, the rambling red dirt of Oklahoma is a close geological cousin to the cotton fields and caliche flats of West Texas. It spawns poets of uncommon insight.

There’s a new kid out on there on the airwaves, name of John Fullbright, and he seems destined to take us a little further into the dust bowl frame of mind. Pause a little before you venture into the world of Fullbright, because he will grab hold of you with a steely grip. Every song will take you somewhere you’ve never been before, and in every song you will learn something more about yourself. Woody Guthrie would be quite proud.

A child of Okemah, like Guthrie, Fullbright cut his teeth with formidable Red Dirt artist Mike McClure. His breakthrough year came in 2012. A stunning performance at SXSW in March, the main stage at Kerrville Folk Festival in June and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in July. In the middle of all that he released his debut album, From the Ground Up, to much acclaim, and the boy from Oklahoma was on his way.

He storms the stage with piano, acoustic guitar and harmonica, his voice weathered and high. His appearance is earnest and rosy-cheeked, somewhere between high school history teacher and a budding televangelist. He exhibits the wisdom of a thinking man twice his age, channeling a jailhouse full of old souls. He navigates the killing fields of love and bites down on the eternal social issues. His words will cause you to pause, maybe even change your own tune a little.

John Fullbright is a troubadour in the best sense, spreading an enriching gospel of finding what’s right in each of life’s precious moments, and railing against the rest like an angry archangel…a foe to hypocrisy and a friend to what’s right. Expect much more in the years to come.

Three things to know about John Fullbright: (1) Townes Van Zandt was an important and early influence, (2) his first significant public performance was at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah in 2005, and (3) in 2009, he released Live at the Blue Door, a great live album recorded by Travis Linville at the Oklahoma City club.

If you love John Fullbright, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Patty Griffin, Kevin Welch, and K Phillips.




Bob the Man with a little magical realism.




Mr. Bingham with “The Weary Kind”, the song he wrote with T Bone Burnett for the film Crazy Heart. You can hear a little Stephen Bruton in there too.




Walt’s tribute to wooden walls full of memories and dimpled windows that still let in the sunshine.




The genius of Kevin Russell. See his Austin Songwriter profile here.




Eric Taylor performs his pensive “Dean Moriarty”, with wife Susan, in The Netherlands.




“In the summertime, the graveyard is the coolest place to be”.




The empty spaces of West Texas have proven a petri dish for the fashioning of powerful but unorthodox art. Music, of course, but also literature, theater and the visual arts pour from the souls of a few brave thinkers driven exiled out on the endless prairie. Outsider pioneers like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, David Halley, Amanda Shires, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore…and, maybe most of all, a heretical spitfire by the name of Jo Carol Pierce.

If ever there was an artist immune to categorization, it is Pierce. Raised in and around Lubbock, where she met Ely and Hancock, and was briefly married to Gilmore, she moved to Austin in the seventies and began a life-long exploration of her endless creativity. Ultimately she would wear the hats of novelist, playwright, screenwriter and songwriter all equally well.

There are the plays: Falling, Papergirls, New World Tango, Bad Girls Upset by the Truth, and In the West, which was performed at the Kennedy Center in 1991.

Encouraged by Ely and Halley, Pierce took up songwriting in the eighties and began performing around Austin. In 1993, adoring local musicians cut Across the Great Divide: Songs of Jo Carol Pierce, a tribute to her work featuring interpretations by Ely, Gilmore, Allen, Halley, Darden Smith, Troy Campbell and the Loose Diamonds, Kathy McCarty, Gretchen Phillips, Rich and Kathy Brotherton, and others.

It is certainly plausible that plainness and desolation give rise to existential quandaries and soul-searching art. But then where are the profound messengers from, say, Las Vegas or Scottsdale?

Three things to know about Jo Carol Pierce: (1) she is life-long friends with Sharon Ely, wife of Joe, and Jo Harvey Allen, wife of Terry, (2) she and Terry wrote a play, Chippy, which resulted in the album of songs recorded by Terry, Ely, Jo Harvey Allen, Hancock, Robert Earl Keen and Jo Carol, and (3) she has more than a passing interest in the history of the Jacksboro Highway, the storied Fort Worth home of out in the open gambling, bootlegging and prostitution.

If you love Jo Carol Pierce, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Terry Allen, Butch Hancock and Blaze Foley.




Jim Lauderdale’s baritone twang is booming and earnest and sketches a roadmap of the roots and pedigree of real American country music. The journey began in his North Carolina birthplace, headed west through his current home of Nashville, on to Oklahoma and through the whole state of Texas. It ended up at a truck stop in Bakersfield, California.

Lauderdale has been preaching the honest gospel since 1986, putting out twenty-seven albums of original work and collaborating along the way with the likes of Ralph Stanley, Buddy Miller, Nick Lowe, Robert Hunter and others. His songwriting evokes times past. Some have called him a “preservationist” or “revivalist” of old country, and he is certainly a chronicler of folk history. But while history is his canvas and his songs are steeped in the familiar country themes of struggle and loss, he also paints with a musical brush dipped in the colors of joy, hope and wonder.

On stage he is a sight to behold, holding his ground in a tastefully understated Nudie suit, graying main blowing and flowing like some kind of Fayetteville Fabio. His music lilts and swings in a kind of uplifting spiritual celebration, almost like a rural North Carolina Baptist church on Sunday morning. This is music that soothes the soul and shines a warm light on the days ahead.

Jim’s latest record, This Changes Everything, is a Lone Star state affair, recorded in Austin with help from folks like Chris Masterson, Brennen LeighNoel McKaySunny Sweeney, Kevin Smith and Bobby Flores. A number of Texas songwriters, including Bruce Robison and Hayes Carll, contributed to the songs.

A 2013 film, Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts, documents Lauderdale’s long and storied career.

Three things to know about Jim Lauderdale: (1) as a youngster in New York City he worked in the mailroom at Rolling Stone magazine, (2) when he first moved to Nashville he lived on the second floor of Buddy and Julie Miller’s house, and (3) in 2016, he received the “WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Americana Music Association.

If you love Jim Lauderdale, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell and John Hiatt.




Pretty memories from the very beginning of the Texas scene. We miss you, Buckwheat.




Jeff wishes America a happy and thoughtful birthday. Onward and upward, people.




Bruce Robison hales from the storied Texas town of Bandera, way out on the western edge of the paradise they call the Hill Country. One of the self-appointed ‘Cowboy Capitals of the World”, Bandera is a rollicking little town on the banks of the Medina River, famous for errant behavior, barbeque, the aforementioned cowboys, and great live music. Willie Nelson once wrote a lovely instrumental about the goings-on in Bandera County.

There are great old Texas families out there, the Potters, the Buckalews and most especially the Robisons. Bruce and musician siblings Charlie Robison and Robyn Ludwick grew up tossing hay, drinking beer and rope-swinging down on the deep part of the Medina. They all held the gift of song.

Bruce moved to Austin to make a name for himself and married the fabulous Kelly Willis in 1996. In recent years they have increasingly recorded and toured as The Bruce and Kelly Show, and the sum of their parts is something to behold. This writer swears he’s witnessed, in the course of a single live set, Kelly and Bruce tiff, sulk and then make up while duet-ing one of their gorgeous love songs. That’s drama worth the while, a marriage to admire.

Bruce is a worker and a craftsman. Each of his songs feels like he started with a novel and distilled it down to twenty lines that rhyme. The lyrics feel like a thrown rock dancing across deep waters, each skip pulling common feelings and memories to the surface. Take, for example, Travelin’ Soldier, an arid but moving journey through young love, leaving, longing, war and loss. Or Angry All The Time, an aching chronicle of good love lost to the darkness of our lesser selves.

Three things to know about Bruce Robison (1) he stands about 6’7”, which is pretty tall even in Texas, (2) his spent much of his childhood in the music bars of Bandera like The Cabaret, Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar and the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, and (3) he and Kelley now have a passel of children.

If you love Bruce Robison, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out James McMurtry, Mary Gauthier and Robert Earl Keen.




Wistful Lucinda for a Saturday morning.




Emmylou Harris with a wistful version of her old compadre’s song. Buddy Miller on lead guitar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Erly67xfdfc

 

 




>Janis Joplin‘s short life illuminated many hard truths. The isolation of a social outsider, the perils that lay in wait for a willful and hard spoken woman and the deadly mix of insecurity, hard fame and unbridled self medication. Her life also stood for the ferocious cultural collision of black blues, poor white soul and the driving and newfound rock and roll of the sixties, and the resulting impacts on America, good and bad.

Born in the petroleum wilderness of the Texas Gulf Coast, Joplin hit Austin in the early sixties and immediately made her mark on the burgeoning folk scene. Soon she was hanging out and singing with the legendary >Kenneth Threadgill and igniting the sparks of what would become the Live Music Capital of the World.

From there she traveled an arc of genius and loss that ended in her overdose death in 1970 at the age of twenty-seven. Her memory continues to sear at the collective American consciousness. She reminds us of how we often mistreat those that seem different, of  the repression of raw female sexuality, of how fame and adoration sometimes lead to abject loneliness. She also reminds us of the visceral celebration of love and life that was her art.

Janis didn’t sing, she stomped and wiggled and wailed her way through a song. She was rock and roll at its finest and most elemental. Pure energy, pure abandon, pure love. But off stage was a different matter…constant battles with self worth in a world that was often less than kind. Everyone was mesmerized by the spectacle of Janis Joplin, but the world kept her at arm’s length, and destroyed her in the process.

Janis was regarded as a singer, but she also wrote songs, alone and with others. Great songs like “I Need a Man to Love”, “Kozmic Blues”, “One Good Man”, “Women Is Losers” and the unforgettable “Mercedes Benz”.

Three things to know about Janis Joplin: (1) in 1962, the campus newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin portrayed her as a very early hippie; (2) for a while she wheeled around San Francisco in a psychedelic Porsche, and (3) she was romantically linked to Kris Kristofferson when she died.

If you love Janis Joplin, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Carolyn Wonderland, Freddie King and Lucinda Williams.







Guitars sizzle in Austin every night. Here are some of our favorites.

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Kevin Higgins visits the busy intersection of first love and hard reality. The magic is gone, but the memories stick around forever.

 




John Hiatt paints lost love in pastel regret. Ry Cooder soars on slide guitar.

 




If you’re a two-stepper, find Justin Trevino in a Hill Country beer joint and travel back a few decades. Born in Brownsville, raised in Austin and now living in Brady, Trevino delivers impeccable “pure country” originals in the footsteps of yesterday’s Ray PriceFaron Young and Floyd Tillman. Look for Trevino with the wonderful Amber Digby at the Broken Spoke, or at a beer joint or VFW Post in Fredericksburg, Brady, Bandera, Possum Kingdom, Colorado City, Navasota or Marathon. Slick back your hair, put on your boots and hit the floor!

Michael caught up with Justin recently at the condo…




Early on a Sunday morning. A young father kisses his children, still in their beds, holds his wife for a long moment, then climbs into his truck and drives into the dawn. He won’t be back till Friday night.

Josh Grider and Kelley Mickwee paint the picture of a family struggling to get by. Men trying to find work, any work, anywhere. Women holding down two or three jobs. Kids asking questions that have no answers.




What can be said about this man that hasn’t already been debated, cussed and discussed? Not much, given his iconic status in country music and progressive culture, but maybe there is perspective to be gained about the larger than life existence of Willie Hugh Nelson, the favorite son of Abbott, Texas.

First, the voice. An natural instrument so extraordinary that it is instantly recognizable in every corner of the world. In the abstract it might be dismissed as a nasally Texas honk, but to listen is to bear witness to perfection: confident, controlled, welcoming and wise, a portal to other places, places of warmth, comfort and beauty. A voice unparalleled in popular American music, with the possible exception of Sinatra himself.

The guitar work is equally perfect, but understated, punctuating, almost hidden behind the voice. “Trigger”, he calls his instrument. Maybe the only classical guitar in American country music, and when he throws in a little lead the room goes quiet.

Then there is the writing. Willie has been performing for so long, often covering the work of others, that his songwriting prowess is sometimes overlooked. He started off in the fifties as a contract songwriter in Nashville. When the dust settles he will be remembered as a songwriter, having written or co-written over 2500 songs, including masterpieces like “Crazy”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Whiskey River”, “Night Life” and “Hello Walls”.

But Willie’s highest purpose is not the writing or the voice or the guitar. It is, rather, his status as an icon of decency and unabashed humanity, a fine soul tossed around by the storms of life. But Willie has always come up smiling, caring more about us than about himself.

He was the engine of the “outlaw” movement of the seventies, and the course of that bloodless revolution tells us much about the strength and character of Mr. Nelson. Certainly the cause, resistance to the commercialization of the American folk idiom by Nashville corporatists, was noble, and the leaders of the movement, Willie and Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser and others, were certainly principled and courageous. But for Willie Nelson the movement was a natural and inevitable extension of his very being: a man who has lived his life with strength and conviction, with a personal and unerring sense of right and wrong, without a whit of concern for the opinions of others.

He has lived a generous life based completely on this notion of personal integrity and responsibility, and is universally loved by fans of all political persuasions. He has been an active proponent of LGBT rights, the ethical treatment of animals, the development of bio-fuels, and support for farmers through “Farm Aid”, which he began in 1985 with Neil Young and John Mellencamp.

Willie Nelson, one of the very tallest Texans.

Three more things to know about Willie Nelson: (1) he moved back to Texas in 1970 when his Tennessee home burned down after a long night of songwriting with his friend Hank Cochran, (2) he has appeared on screen over thirty times, including in movies like The Electric Horseman, Songwriter, The Red Headed Stranger, Barbarosa and Honeysuckle Rose, and (3) in 1980, he sang Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” at the White House with First Lady Rosalyn Carter.

If you love Willie Nelson, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams and Roy Orbison.




Mary Chapin Carpenter with an almost impossibly beautiful story about an impossibly beautiful soul.




Feed the dog and grab the keys. Vince is taking us to Mexico!




Houston native Jack Ingram is one of those worthy songwriters who have flown a little under the radar. Maybe he’s just too pretty, or maybe his reputation is tainted by that time he spent as a fraternity boy at SMU. Either way, he is owed a fresh and diligent listen, particularly in light of his newest release, Midnight Motel.

Check out this pretty duet with Patty Griffin, “Seeing Stars”.

 

 




Vince Bell was born in Dallas in 1951 and the road has since taken him to homes in Venezuela, Houston, Austin, California, Fredericksburg, Nashville and Santa Fe. He cut his teeth in the Houston songwriter scene of the seventies, in old places like Sand Mountain Coffeehouse and Anderson Fair, hanging out with the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark when they were in town, as well as folks like Ray Wylie Hubbard and Stephen Bruton when he got to Austin.

Bell adopted the artist’s life when he graduated high school in 1970. A writer’s writer, Bell is a master of imagery, each of his songs a literary journey into the seams of a deep and rich imagination. He takes you to places on the map and in the heart, painting vivid pictures, splashing your emotional landscape with new colors, new ideas, new questions. Try as you might, you will not find the bottom of these deep waters.

In December of 1982, Vince was recording an album in Austin when his car was broad sided by a drunk driver. The recording, which included guitar work by no less than Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson, would never be released. Bell was so severely injured that he was mistakenly reported as dead by local press in Austin. He woke from a month-long coma with grievous injuries to his brain, spine and right arm, and began a tortuous, decade-long journey to recovery of his life and the ability to make and play music.

Vince had to learn to handle the guitar again, creating new ways to pick and strum with his changed right hand, and his playing is the better for it. The great voice is still there, all sugar and rust, seeming to get better with age.

Bell weathered his tragedy and came out the other end swinging, first with Phoenix in 1999, a profound ode to damage and redemption, followed over the years by Texas Plates, Recado, One Man’s Music, and Live in Texas.

Bell’s music often has an ethereal, lilting quality, like in “Mirror, Mirror”, or can be gorgeously melodic, like in “Woman of the Phoenix” or “I’ve Had Enough”. Cerebral, evocative, mysterious, satisfying.

Three things to know about Vince Bell: (1) he was a star quarterback in high school in Houston (gotta play that football in Texas), (2) a ballet was set to his music and staged at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theater, and (3) he has written a book, One Man’s Music, about his struggle to recover from his accident.

If you love Vince Bell, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Kevin Welch, Eliza Gilkyson, and Michael Fracasso.




Mr. Earle‘s tribute to a home in a very tough world. Sanctuary.




This photo or Guy and Susanna Clark means something more to folks of a certain vintage. It’s the semi-hippie attire, for sure, and the old school VW, but something more. It’s the look in their eyes. The look of confident dreamers in love, looking out to a limitless horizon.

Yours truly is of that vintage, and remembers that feeling. It was the early seventies, the tail end of the sixties awakening. We had it all figured out. We had identified all the mistakes of the past, greed and war and hate and fear, and we were building a world of love that would soar into the ages like a dove above a field of wildflowers. We intended to march forward in peace, heal the wounds of history and live as one.

It all seemed so simple. You can see it in their eyes. It wasn’t that simple.




Some artists channel a calm wisdom that is as comforting as a father’s voice. We listen because their words feel right and true, gifts that might help us through our own dark nights. Chip Taylor is such an artist.

The quality of Taylor’s music, and his kinship to the great Texas songwriters, was best expressed when critic Anthony DeCurtis said “if names like Willie Nelson, Guy ClarkKris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt mean anything to you, you should make a point of discovering Chip Taylor.”

Born James Wesley Voight to a Yonkers, New York family of diverse movers and shakers, Taylor has been a performing songwriter for over fifty years now. But that’s only part of this illustrious family story. Brother Jon became a renowned actor (and the father of Angelina Jolie), and Barry is a noted academic and volcanologist. Father Elmer was an ace golfer, and Chip initially intended to follow in his footsteps.

Michael had the opportunity to visit with Chip in a phone interview recently…




Sir Doug and the boys pushing back on the British Invasion, circa 1965, mas o menos, with She’s About a Mover. Introduction by fellow Texas Trini Lopez. Surreal, but definitely groovy.




Jimmie Vaughan learned to play the guitar while growing up in Dallas, and headed south in the late sixties to help create the emerging Austin rhythm and blues scene. In the seventies he teamed up with California vocalist and harpist Kim Wilson, uber-bassman Keith Ferguson, and drummer Mike Buck to form The Fabulous Thunderbirds, arguably the coolest cadre of musicians ever to rise from the River City.

And when we say cool, we mean a swamp full of original, theatrical, gritty cool…an ongoing ode to the real rhythm and blues that had been forged over the decades by (mostly) black men and women in Memphis, Detroit, Houston and Fort Worth. The Continental Club and the old Soap Creek Saloon were haunts for the T-Birds, who were a sharp contrast to the doe-eyed cosmic cowboys that were building the other parts of the Austin music scene during the same period. Jimmie curled over his Stratocaster in blustery pachuco pants, jet black hair held steady in a pompadour with some shiny petroleum product. Kim was fond of all black outfits and black Ray-Bans, sleeves all rolled up high, topped off by a glittering turban worthy of Joan Crawford. Ferguson played bass with heavy lids and a scary stare, early tattoos visible through a translucent bowling shirt, while Buck was on drums, stoically keeping the whole rocking’ shebang on track.

Vaughan began a solo career in 1994, and has been tearing it up with a succession of friends ever since. He is inevitably compared to his beloved younger brother, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, but their creative styles were quite different.

Stevie looked at the sky and let her rip, a classic blues seer channeling something from beyond, but Jimmie’s approach is more studied and cerebral. Each of his songs is built upon a completely original and intricately constructed riff, a backbone to hold up a load of swinging soul and shouting joy. The result is real mastery, a completely authentic urban folk journey.

Vaughan plays the blues guitar as well as any white boy, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Duane Allman and his brother Stevie. His rhythm and blues will pull you out on the floor, whether you can dance or not, and his slow blues are impeccable, entirely original but reminiscent of the best of Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor or Gatemouth Brown. In recent years he’s been incorporating jazz undercurrents, performing regularly at C-Boys Heart & Soul on South Congress. Backed up by Mike Flanigin’s throbbing B-3 organ, Jimmie sits while he plays, surveying the crowd with a sharp eye, trying to figure out just who really gets it.

Three things to know about Jimmie Vaughan: (1) Fender guitars makes a Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Stratocaster, (2) Jimmie appeared with B. B. King in the film Blues Brothers 2000, and (3) he prowls the streets of Austin in his custom hot rods.

If you love Jimmie Vaughan, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Freddie King, Carolyn Wonderland and Jeff Plankenhorn.




  A lotta love, a little lust. Joe Ely slow dances his truck stop girl into highway heaven.




Sisters Allison and Shelby breathe new life into this Dylan classic. A little different edge sung in the feminine voice, particularly in these days of renewed focus on gender inequality.




Let’s take a ride out west, where the trees bend with the wind. Strong people, big sky, great music.




Certain artists serve as engines for the songwriting scene. Their talents go beyond writing and performing their own work into catalyzing and shaping the work of others, carrying forward the torch in productive and enriching cooperation. Folks like Stephen Bruton, Steve Earle and Chip Taylor, names like Lauderdale and LaFave. Forces of nature like Buddy Miller.

Miller, who lives in Nashville with his musician wife Julie Miller, is a consummate artist who wields a fine voice, a soaring guitar and an impeccable ear for the heart and soul of country music. In a long career of creation and collaboration with an extraordinary array of artists, he has worked as a songwriter, producer, session or touring instrumentalist and vocalist, recording engineer and trusted friend. He has worked with folks like Emmylou HarrisPatty GriffinLucinda WilliamsWillie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Rodney CrowellShawn Colvin, Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss, Robert Plant, Solomon Burke, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Allison Moorer, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Earle, Lauderdale and many more. His fingerprints are all over the record of good country music, and he’s not done yet.

If Buddy Miller is an engine of the songwriting world, he is damn sure a Rocket 88.

The litmus test is, of course, his own work, mostly honed in partnership with the very talented Julie. Appalachian-scented harmonies delivering visceral and universal truths. Stuff that will always make your heart beat and sometimes make your eyes water. Stuff about love, mostly, the good kind and the bad.

Three things to know about Buddy Miller, all of which attest to his standing in the industry: (1) he has won at least twelve Americana Music Honors & Awards in various categories; (2) in 2008, No Depression named him “Artist of the Decade”; and (3) he co-produced the television hit Nashville.

If you love Buddy Miller, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out John HiattJim Lauderdale and Steve Earle.




A rare instrumental from Alejandro Escovedo, a real wordsmith and rocker. Spare, lovely, distant. A tribute to the great Stephen BrutonYou’ll imagine your own lyrics.




“Sass” is a revered quality in Texas, a blend of joy, spunk and casual fearlessness. If you’ve got it, you’ll have friends aplenty in the Lone Star State.

Leeann Atherton is sass on wheels. Born and raised in South Carolina, she took a turn in Nashville before becoming the resident Queen of the South Austin scene. Compared to everyone from Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, Leeann is a cultural treasure and a damn fine citizen. Check her out every Friday night at Maria’s Taco Xpress, or sneak in to her annual Full Moon Barn Dance.




Van the Man says search your heart for the lion.




Ramirez lays it down on a twilight tour of the beautiful Texas countryside.  




Hailing from Tyler, the rose capital of Texas, Adam Carroll is revered by listeners and other artists alike as a prolific and authentic chronicler of lives of folks in the Lone Star State, and pretty much everywhere else.

Carroll’s hopeful drawl soars above the human landscape, observing and recording the snippets of joy, irony and wit that bless and inflict us all. A simple turn of phrase is just the top layer of love, joy and loss stacked miles deep. What at first strikes as funny, even frivolous, quickly turns to irony and barely disguised pain, then circles back around to his one lesson: this is life, it’s what we’ve got. Stop bitching and start living.

He work will remind you of poets like Sam Baker and Walt Wilkins, even Bob Dylan…sometimes a hint of Daniel Johnston. A Texcentric version of the immortal John Prine.

Carroll has released seven albums of original work to date, and he has collaborated with the likes of Lloyd Maines, Michael O’Connor, even the late Kent Finlay. Many great writers, folks like Hayes Carll, Terri Hendrix and Slaid Cleaves, have been guided and inspired by his work.

At a young age he received the ultimate compliment of a tribute album, Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll, which features loving renditions of his songs by the likes of James McMurtry, Tim Easton, Jamie Lin Wilson, Verlon Thompson, Matt the Electrician, Wilkins, Carll, Hendrix, Cleaves and others. A fitting honor to a songwriter’s songwriter.

Keep preaching your gospel, Adam. We need it. We need you.

Three things to know about Adam Carroll: (1) he now makes his home in San Marcos, Texas (a lovely version of seventies Austin); (2) Lloyd Maines has produced five of his records to date; and (3) he cites the great Butch Hancock as one of his most significant influences.

If you love Adam Carroll, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Sam Baker, Jessie Winchester and Eric Taylor.







The Mean Eyed Cat Bar, named after the Johnny Cash song, is one cool bar…located close to downtown Austin and blessed with towering Texas Live Oak trees. Reportedly over 300 years old, this bar is a true Austin establishment. The interior rooms celebrate the life and times of the late, great Johnny Cash, while the bar serves up a great selection of Texas craft beers and innovative cocktails to keep things interesting. A stop worth making when you are prowling the streets of downtown Austin. Be sure to like them on Facebook.

1621 W. 5th Street, Austin 78703
512-920-6645

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In the way back, Freddie King took Europe by storm, Introduced with a dose of Groover’s Paradise by the legendary Jim Franklin. “Have You Ever Loved a Woman”, indeed.




If you grew up in small town Texas, or loved your grandmother, or ever chased the DDT truck down the street, you need to hear this one. McMurtry at his finest.




Down in the Trans-Pecos this weekend for Viva Big Bend, the phenomenal music festival put on annually by Texas Music magazine. Great artists at various venues in Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis and Marathon. Slice of West Texas heaven!

 




Mr. Sahm called Austin his “Groover’s Paradise”. Enough said.