For a brand new parent, Carrie Elkin looked remarkably when we recently sat down with her in an East Austin coffee joint to catch up. Energetic, gracious and happy, much more so than yours truly, who arrived disheveled and a little late.

The recent birth of Maizy, daughter of Elkin and songwriter husband Danny Schmidt, is one bookend of the inspiration for her new album, The Penny Collector, to be introduced at a Cactus Cafe release party on March 10th at 8:00 p.m.

At the other bookend of life’s emotional spectrum, Carrie’s father Richard Elkin died in 2015 after an extended illness. The end of one life and the birth of another, the departing of a loved one and the arrival of another, is the fragile thread of life explored in The Penny Collector.

Carrie’s songs trade in gorgeous introspection punctuated by insistent joy. Her music is heartening, unafraid, unwilling to let life’s twists and turns pull her down. It gives us strength for the road ahead.

We discussed Carrie’s journey from her roots in Ohio, to the time spent in upstate New York and tiny Talpa, New Mexico, and ultimately to her career as a singer-songwriter operating out of Austin. Like most artists, Carrie’s message comes from deep curiosity and consequent experience, lessons learned and wisdom earned.

The new album is a return to her own writing after a period of touring with Danny and their friend and collaborator, the great Sam Baker. Over the years she has performed with many of the great ones, including Baker, Jesse Winchester and Greg Brown. Danny and Maizy will ride along with Carrie for her upcoming tour this spring and summer in support of The Penny Collector, when they will head to the east and midwest, then across the pond to The Netherlands, Scotland and England. Check her website for a full schedule, and get yourself out to a performance. Maizy will be watching!

 




A cool dip is just around the corner.




K with a slowed-down version of his soulful “What I Can’t Have”. Have some tears with you cheerios!




Ray Wylie’s simplest ode to love. Enough said.

See his austinsongwriter profile here.

 




Smither, who ranks with the great Jimmy LaFave in interpreting Dylan’s work, with an early classic.




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.




Kevin Welch explores the layers of regret that can settle over long time love. He asks his lover to forget the pain, if only for a little while, and follow him down to where love still lives.

 




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




Michael Fracasso’s voice is high, pure and lonesome, but full of hope and strength, and his delicate songs beg us to feel a little deeper. On-stage he is a cultural chameleon, Italian-American, Ohioan,Texan, maybe even Oklahoman. An Austinite since 1990, he is one of the city’s near secrets, hard to catch but held dear by those in the know. He has recorded with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin, and has released a number of albums that ache with insight and gentle beauty.

Fracasso stopped by the condo to visit with Michael Allison the other day…




A meandering journey into the soul of Ana Egge, courtesy of her Scandinavian co-conspirators. These guys are vikings?




Freddie gets torn down to the ground when his baby can’t be found.

We know the feeling.




Thank you, Lord.




With help from Carrie Elkin and Chip Dolan, Sam paints the eternal beauty of fifty years of marriage. Performed live at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, Missouri.




A grizzly song by a grizzly man. Jon Dee and the Purgatory Players. Warren Hood sits in on fiddle.




Wistful Lucinda for a quiet morning.




Ryan Bingham is the real thing. A real Texan, a real rodeo cowboy, a real songwriter. An old friend once remarked, after listening to a young Bingham play on a front porch in Marfa, Texas, “I don’t know exactly what it is, but whatever it is, this kid’s got it.”

Born in Hobbs, New Mexico, Ryan was raised mostly in Texas. Laredo, Stephenville, Houston and Fort Worth. Along the way he did a little time on the bull riding circuit.

Bingham came out of the chute in 2007 with Mescalito and has followed with an additional four albums to date. In 2011, he collaborated with T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton on the soundtrack for the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart. Ryan and Burnett wrote the theme song, “The Weary Kind”, earning each an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. The score included “Fallin’ & Flyin'”, written by Bruton and Austin Songwriter favorite Gary Nicholson. Bingham also made a brief appearance in the film as Tony, the leader of a small town band backing Bridges as a broken country singer trying to get by.

Bingham’s work is completely original, remote and strong, bearing the traces of long roads, flat horizons and dusty arenas. Hard years and tough circumstances…his mother drank herself to death, and his father took his life. The songs range from bitter introspections to hard-edged rockers. All hold both anger and gratitude and come from a place of secret darkness and lessons learned. The graveled voice, the dry places between the lines, the wary reserve of a man who can never quite tell friend from foe. Bingham squints in the newfound glare of fame, but he still looks straight ahead.

Three things to know about Ryan Bingham: (1) he now makes his home in Los Angeles, (2) his wife, Anna Axter, has directed a number of his music videos, and (3) some folks remember him as a baby, diapered and perched on the juke box of the Halfway Bar between Hobbs and Carlsbad, New Mexico.

If you love Ryan Bingham, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Guy Clark, Kevin Higgins and Kevin Welch.




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…




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

mean-eyed-cat-2

 

mean-eyed-cat-3

 

mean-eyed-cat-4




Robert Earl with his cowboy cross-border nuptial fantasy. We can see the milk green color of the Rio Grande and taste the cold crispness of that first Carta Blanca.

Lyle Lovett looks on.




Eliza considers the cost of love.




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




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.




Jimmie V, Kim Wilson and the T-Birds bringing the soul to supper! Happy Saturday, ya’ll.




The love of a mother, the love for a mother. Beautiful.




Shinyribs says go get you some milk and mash potatoes!




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.




Bob the Man with a little magical realism.




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

 




Gene Clark helped facilitate the inevitable union between American folk and American country. Known primarily for his work with the Byrds, including Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Bernie Leadon, and Dillard & Clark, he also produced a significant body of solo work. Over the years he wrote or co-wrote such songs as “Eight Miles High”, “She Don’t Care About Time”, “Set You Free This Time”, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “The World Turns All Around Her”, “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, “She Darked the Sun”, “Polly”, “Tried So Hard”, “Here Tonight”, “You Showed Me”, “With Tomorrow”, “Because of You”, “Where My Love Lies Asleep”, “For a Spanish Guitar”, “Silver Raven”, “Some Misunderstanding” and “Lady of the North”.

He can be praised, or cursed, for paving the way for the commercial juggernaut they called The Eagles.

Clark died in 1991, due in part to a life of excess, but you can still hear his influence in many of the finest songwriters of our day.




The squeezebox has a special place in Texas musical history. A mainstay of polka, conjunto and zydeco, the “button accordion”, as it is more properly called, has done much to define and unite the diverse peoples that built the post-Columbian version of the Lone Star State.

Ponty Bone grew up in San Antonio, also home to the famed accordionist Flaco Jimenez, and started squeezing at a young age. He played with Joe Ely in Lubbock for a number of years before assembling Ponty Bone & the Squeezetones in the eighties. Since then he’s played with pretty much everybody on the Texas scene, including Ely, Terry Allen, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Robert Earl KeenBruce Robison, Terri Hendrix, Omar & the Howlers, Tommy Hancock, Jesse Taylor, John X. Reed, Angela Strehli, The Texana Dames and even Timbuk 3. Bone has also appeared with luminaries like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Clash, Linda Ronstadt and Ronnie Lane. Like they say, a sober accordion player is hard to find.

In 2001, Ponty and the band released Fantasize, a primer on the music and mischief that can be loosed by a squeezebox in the hands of a talented Texan.

 

 

 







 

 

 




The great Stephen Bruton teaches us to say goodbye.




Few songwriters have achieved Eliza Gilkyson’s poetic soup of inventiveness, gravitas and sheer emotion. Her songs are a flowing literature of joy, regret and feminine wisdom, infused with stubborn morality and deep conscience.

The entertainment industry was always a part of Glikyson’s life, and music was always in her blood. The daughter of singer and songwriter Terry Gilkyson, perhaps best known for his sixties work with Disney, and sister of Tony Gilkyson, who played guitar for Lone Justice and X, Eliza grew up in the hustle and bustle of Hollywood.

Tragedy struck when her mother was killed in an automobile accident. Still in her teens, Eliza sought refuge from the pain in the rural southwest. Trading cosmopolitan for communal, worlds away from all she had known in urban California, she began to hone her life’s vision in the wilds of New Mexico.

Michael had the privilege of visiting with Eliza recently…




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

;




A young Steve Earle reminds us of the angst of the Vietnam Era.







Heartworn Highways, James Szalapski’s gritty and lovely documentary about the country songwriting scene of the seventies, features mostly Texas musicians in Austin and Nashville. Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and of course Townes Van Zandt, are portrayed as rugged (and often addled) cowboy poets giving birth to the “outlaw” scene. This take features Van Zandt and the legendary Uncle Seymour Washington at his home in the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin.

 




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.




 




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




It is no secret that West Texas produces musicians of uncommon creativity and grit, likely the result of too much flat land and steady wind. Insightful artists with on-stage mojo…indelible characters with plenty of that old Texas don’t-give-a-damn, contemptuous of white lies, cow pies and pigeonholes. Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely and David Halley, to name a few. Butch Hancock, Amanda Shires, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Jo Carol Pierce and Tommy Hancock, to name a few more.

Then there’s Terry Allen, perhaps the most madcap of them all. A true renaissance man of letters, visual and recorded art, carrying more intellect, talent and taste than was meant to fit in the saddlebags of one dusty cowboy.

A son of Lubbock, self-exiled like so many luminaries of the high plains, Allen has lived in Santa Fe with his wife, Jo Harvey Allen, for decades, where they raised their musician son, Bukka Allen, who has since relocated to the green fields of Austin. Terry and Jo frequently dip down into Texas like a Comanche raiding party to spread their artistic seed, pillage a little and chew the fat with old friends.

Terry is a noted painter, songwriter, performer and playwright, while Jo is a similarly respected actress, writer and painter. His music could be described as the love child of Friedrich Nietzsche and William Burroughs singing in a nasally West Texas lilt. A cowboy with serious mental horsepower and artistic vision, he has produced ten albums of original and critically acclaimed work. Of particular note are 1975’s Juarez, 1979’s Lubbock (On Everything), and 1996’s Human Remains.

Three things to know about Terry Allen: (1) his father “Sled” played catcher for the St. Louis Browns in 1910, (2) another son, Bale Creek Allen, is a noted visual artist living in Austin, and (3) his visual art hangs in places like the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

If you love Terry Allen, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out James McMurtry, Vince Bell and Kevin Higgins.




The late Jesse Winchester performed his signature ballad at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, circa 2010. We miss Jesse. We even miss Mississippi a little bit.




Ted Hawkins lived a hard life, but his journey was a gift to us all. Born black and poor in Mississippi, he did time in reform school and prison before trying his hand at music after hearing the work of Sam Cooke. The talent was obviously there all along.

While Hawkins traveled the rocky road of a hard-core bluesman, his music is rooted more in folk than traditional blues. The delivery is spare, unadorned rhythm guitar utilizing innovative open tunings. You can hear the strains of the Delta in his corncob voice, dripping with soulful joy and steeped in hard lessons learned. He was the musical poster boy of the “outsider” artist, big and raw-boned and completely oblivious to the etiquette and expectations of those around him.

He made his name as a busker on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, California, and his recorded output is sparse. A few dedicated admirers worked hard to corral Ted in the studio, attempting to navigate his addictions and tendency to disappear for extended periods of time. By his death in 1995, he had produced several albums of original work and magical takes on the songs of others. Like so many other great American artists, Hawkins found more respect and appreciation on the other side of the Atlantic. His dedicated European following was primarily the result of the admiration and efforts of British disc jockey Andy Kershaw.

2015 saw the release of a tribute album, Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins, an Austin salute to the work of this great artist. Produced by our own Kevin Russell, Jenni Finlay and Brian T. Atkinson, the disc features Hawkins’ originals interpreted by Austin Songwriter favorites Shinyribs, Mary Gauthier, James McMurtry, Jon Dee Graham, Gurf Morlix, Danny Barnes, Ramsay Midwood and Randy Weeks.

Three things to know about Ted Hawkins: (1) he claimed that damaged fingers preventing him from bending notes in the blues tradition, (2) a documentary of his life and art, Ted Hawkins: Amazing Grace, was released in 1996, and (3) he died at about the time of the release of what would be his most famous album, The Next Hundred Years.

If you love Ted Hawkins, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Blaze Foley, Jesse Winchester and John Hiatt.




Kevin’s ode to the perils of young love. Barbara Maltese helps out.




I guess we’ve all had our “Rosalie”. Or wish we did.




Butch Hancock‘s beautiful meditation on love in the borderlands. True passion complicated by cultural distance, a common story in the annals of Texas history. John Fullbright lends an able hand.

 




Lyle Lovett with a tribute to the great Blaze Foley. John Hiatt grins along.




Nanci Griffith was born to musical parents in Seguin, Texas, and was playing clubs down the road in Austin by the age of fourteen. She continued to write and perform while in college at the University of Texas, and became an important member of the seventies Texas songwriting scene, releasing three fine albums of mostly original material before moving to Nashville in 1986 to pursue her songwriting dreams.

Griffith has dabbled in numerous genres over the years, including country, folk, pop and torch. She calls her work “folkabilly”, but her best songs are sketches of the joy, loss and reflection that punctuate the tough paths of ordinary people. In other words, Griffith is yet another great Texas songwriter trading in real country music.

Others have mined her songs for their quality and the promise of commercial success, but you must hear these songs in her voice, lilting and childlike and completely original, evoking past lives lived simply and well.

Griffith has released some twenty albums in her career, winning a Grammy in 1994 for Other Voices, Other Rooms, a cover album of songs written by special songwriters. She has toured and recorded with the likes of John Prine, Iris DeMent, Tom Russell, Emmylou Harris, Phil Everly, Mary Black, Don McLean, Willie Nelson, Adam Duritz, Bernie Leadon, The Chieftains and others.

Three things to know about Nanci Griffith, (1) she was once married to the great Eric Taylor, and flew to Vietnam and Cambodia to honor his service during the Vietnam War, (2) as a young woman she worked as a kindergarten teacher, and (3) she performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 2003.

If you love Nanci Griffith, Austin Songwriter suggests you check out Amanda Shires, Michael Fracasso and Shawn Colvin.




Every January, high in the snowy mountains of northern New Mexico, Austin songster Drew Kennedy holds a gathering of poets and dreamers called Red River Songwriters’ Festival. In year’s past I’ve witnessed standout performances from the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Max Gomez and Walt Wilkins. This year the line-up includes Jim Lauderdale, Steve Poltz, Walt Wilkins, Susan Gibson, Kelley Mickwee and others, as well as Mr. Kennedy. This year, the mighty Jack Ingram will also be there.

The folks that travel to this intimate event are of common minds and hearts, and the players feel the love. This year’s festival takes place in Red River, New Mexico on January 24-26.




“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.




Lane Gosnay opened the doors to The Bugle Boy in 2005, promising a small town listening room dedicated to the songwriters of Texas and elsewhere. She had repurposed an old military barrack into an intimate, theater style hall which creates a lovely and respectful space for the artists and their followers. Located in LaGrange, Texas, a lovely burg about midway between Austin and Houston.

Check out their calendar and head out to the green countryside for some fine music in a special place.

 




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.




Miles performs “You Can’t Break My Heart” for Austin Songwriter.

If only that were true.