Sunday, October 22, 2006

Music in Austin, Texas this week

On our visit to Austin, Keelin and I met some great folks, ate good food, and, of course, heard some great music.

The first night, we ate barbecue at Ruby's near the university, and watched a fantastic thunder and rainstorm from the covered patio. As we we walked toward our hotel, looking for a cab, we stumbled onto a nice dive and one of the oldest music bars in Austin---the Hole In The Wall on Guadalupe. We were lucky enough to catch part of Roger Wallace's set. He played solo--just him, his guitar and cowboy hat. The songs were all impressive, and I was especially moved by one that detailed the last 1/2 hour of a convict's life before they sprung the trap door. It details the horror of execution in a rollicking, and sometimes funny tune that propels you toward the climax of what we sometimes call a necktie party.

Billy Block, on Western Beat Radio in Nashville said: "Roger Wallace stands hat and shoulders above the throng of ‘would-be’ Texas country stars emerging from the Lone Star State."

His web site (link above) includes a series of very interesting rants on music, politics, and social issues...

On Thursday, we were able to score tickets just before Dwight Yoakam's show at the Stubb's BBQ amphitheatre. Amphitheatre may be a bit grand sounding. It is a raked dirt lot with a big covered stage and about ten bars and barbecue stands. The theatre holds about 1,500 people (standing, ala Seattle's showbox, etc.). Dwight was riveting and played over two hours--new stuff, old stuff, tributes to Merle and Buck and the Bakersfield sound. He was often funny and his voice was in fine fettle. The band included some facile multi-instrumentalists--the piano player doubled on harmony, organ, percussion, accordian and banjo. The guitar player doubled on mandolin. The bass player switched between an electric and string bass. The audience was a fascinating mix of honky tonkers, college students, tourists like us, music fans, and traditional C & W folk in full regalia. The one thing most had in common was an abiding and deep thirst for Lone Star Beer and Shiner's Bock.

I'd always liked Yoakam's voice and music (and weird character actor parts in movies). I hadn't realized how good the music is--a melange of the Bakersfield sound with the best of honky tonk, bluegrass, roots music, and even a whiff of rockabilly. He covered a few Buck Owens tunes, a Bonnie Owens tune (who died recently), Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and a Presley tune or two.

On Friday, we went out with Mark Yeend to Guero's for some of their fantastic margaritas (and Mexican food in their restaurant) and to hear the Sisters Morales play in the great outdoor venue I always like to hit when I am in Austin. I've never seen a bad show there, or had a bad margarita.

The Sisters were fine players and singers, and their band rocked. One of the sisters looked like she is about to have a baby tomorrow. David Spencer is one of the tastiest guitarists I have ever heard live. Other people agree: "David Spencer is one of Texas' finest guitar players." He scores high in polls of top electric guitar players. And we just stumbled onto them. Spencer also plays pedal steel guitar, a moving and fluid slide guitar, and he some sweet mariachi leads on acoustic.

If you ever have the chance, go to this wonderful town ("The live music capitol of the world"), where you'll encounter good music, drink, and food, but especially the Texas friendliness and hospitality you always hear about. That friendliness permeates everything you do and everyone you meet.