Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Friday

The 10th Anniversary of the Austin City Limits Festival brought together a diversified lineup from dubstep deejay Skrillex to bluegrass angel Alison Krauss to motown king Stevie Wonder to west Texas songsmith Ryan Bingham. As always I began my first day with the western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel. They opened with “Miles and Miles of Texas.” Ray Benson and his band of accomplished musicians played Bob Wills standards like “New San Antonio Rose” and songs about Bob like the Waylon Jennings classic “Bob Wills Is Still The King.” The Wheel played their hit “Hot Rod Lincoln” and a new song originally performed with Willie Nelson called “Hesitation Blues.” On the set list appeared “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” “Bump Bounce Boogie,” and “Boogie Back to Texas.” The Wheel brought the sounds of western swing alive.

I caught the end of the Theophilus London set. Banging beats, fresh rhymes, and creative samples impressed this particular listener. For example, London looped a sample of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” over a fat beat dropping science in the rain. London also played his hit “Love Is Real.” The juxtaposition of hip hop with the sweet sounds of the Secret Sisters, in my opinion, is the beauty of a good festival. Diversity is essential.

The Secret Sisters played their hit song “Tennessee Me,” but it was their song selections from past country legends Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, the Everly Brothers, and Patsy Cline that really hit the spot. Take for example, their cover of “Why Baby Why,” which was soft and pure sweetness. These sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama strike a sentimental chord in me. The Southern ladies also played the Rufus Wainwright tune “Do You Love An Apple.”

We followed Secret Sisters with the electronic soul man James Blake. The Englishman opened with “Unluck” and “Give Me My Month.” For the most part the talented composer form London stuck with songs from his debut album James Blake, including the tracksI Never Learnt To Share,” “Lindisfarne I,”and “Lindisfarne II.” I especially liked his Fiest cover Limit To Your Love.” And, he spaced out “The Wilhelm Scream,” which concluded a nice set.

Big Boi from the Outkast crew brought Dirty South bounce and swagger into Zilker Park. Unlike many of the recent hip hop shows I’ve seen lately, Big Boi’s flow was exquisite and the sound clear. The set included tracks “General Patton” and “Follow Us” from the new album Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty. But the afternoon also saw a fair share of classics like the “cooler than a polar bear’s toenail” track “ATLiens” and the harmonica banger “Rosa Parks.” Big Boi proved he had a deep catalog with crowd pleasers “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson.” He also brought rock and roll rap fusion with the protest song “B.O.B.” And, I was very pleased that the Atlanta native unleashed my personal favorite Outkast gem “The Way You Move.”  Nas & Damian Marley followed the Atlanta native rapper making this a lively stage.

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley entered the stage as the flag bearing the red, gold, and green and the Lion of Judah flew. “As We Enter” kicked off the set. One of my favorite things to do is to see a Marley brother in Austin. Mr. Marley brought the reggae magic while the rhyme-smith Nas dropped serious science. In reality both of these cats are amazing lyricists and when done in tag-team fashion over dope beats booties commence to shake. “As We Enter” the lead track off the excellent Distant Relatives album is a great example of the combination of danceable sounds spiced with tangling hip hop and patois rhymes. The hard-hitting “Nah Mean” kept the vibe alive displaying the perfect marriage of reggae dancehall, African culture, and American rap.

Then Nas unleashed one of my favorite old school rap gems “If I Ruled The World (imagine that).” Following on the heels of the rap standard the Africanized “Dispear” brought down the house. Rebellion drips from this tune. I love it. The fevered pitch of the pounding “Dispear” was cooled off nicely by the roots reggae jam “Land Of Promise.” This Dennis Brown infused track is modern reggae at its best. Positive messages entwined with earth crushing roots reggae sounds made for a perfect evening. Jr. Gong’s “More Justice” from 2001’s Halfway Tree kept the show on this track.

Marley played several songs from his popular album Welcome to Jamrock. “Move!” sampled Bob Marley’s “Exodus” merging classic reggae and new ragamuffin styles and phrasings. Similarly the title track “Welcome To Jamrock” mixes Ini Kamoze’s “out in the street they call it murder” sample and a riddim straight from Kamoze’s “World A Music” into the biggest reggae hit of the 2000s. Marley and Nas then displayed their skills on the “Road To Zion,” which I believe  set the original mood for the Distant Relatives collaboration. They closed with the Bob Marley smash hit “Could You Be Loved.”

Mavis Staples performed under the tent producing a revivalist feeling in the middle of Zilker Park. Civil Rights, spiritualism, and good music swirled under the tent, take for example, the songs “Freedom Highway” and “Creep Along Moses.” Staples made everyone dance and sing to the soul classic “I’ll Take You There.” To experience the best of soul music and to get a taste of what soul music was like in the 1970s go see Mavis Staples. The energy is extraordinary! We concluded the evening with the English rock group Coldplay. “The Scientist” and “Clocks” made the set list, while an Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” set up a very nice “Fix You.”

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Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011 – Friday

Austin City Limits Festival – DAY ONE

I went to ACL yesterday and saw some great bands, including Sahara Smith, Asleep at the Wheel, Blues Traveler, Kings Go Forth, the Black Keys, Pat GreenSlightly Stoopid, Vampire Weekend, and Phish. Wimberly, Texas-based Sahara Smith opened on the Austin Ventures stage and I liked the song “Are You Lonely.” But, it was Asleep at the Wheel that set the mood for the rest of my ACL experience. Ray Benson and his friends rocked. With steel guitar, fiddles, piano, guitars, bass, and drums The Wheel blazed through a hot set of western swing and classic country. The band opened with “Miles and Miles of Texas” and “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”

Bob Wills Is Still The King

Asleep at the Wheel has been an institution in Texas since the 1970s. The band paid tribute to their heroes Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys with a Waylon Jennings song “Bob Wills Is Still The King.” From there they played the Bob Wills super-hit  “New San Antonio Rose.” Often Asleep at the Wheel teams up with a famous artist. For example, Leon Rausch recorded a new album with the Wheel called It’s A Good Day. At ACL Asleep at the Wheel played the title track from the album. The swinging musicians also played tracks from the Willie And The Wheel album recorded with Texas icon Willie Nelson, including “Hesitation Blues,” “Sweet Jennie Lee,” “Oh! You Pretty Woman,” and “I’m Sittin’ on Top of the World.”

I'm Sittin' on Top of the World

The rollicking Asleep at the Wheel set got even better with the hilariously titled song “Big Balls in Cowtown.” Followed by one of my favorite tunes of all time: “Hot Rod Lincoln.” I am a big fan of the post-1960s western swing revivalists. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen are another fine band that fits into the mold–a band that also played a wild version of “Hot Rod Lincoln,” as well as a great version of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” Commander Cody appealed to the west coast hippies paying homage to the Cowboy Code. Long haired Ray Benson fits in with these western swing revivialists, but Asleep at the Wheel is more than all that. They have become an institution in Texas keeping musical traditions alive. Plus Texas music history owes a debt of gratitude to the band. The excellent theatre production A Ride with Bob featured Asleep at the Wheel and the amazing Ruby Jane playing a young Bob Wills. From pure western swing to boogie woogie the Wheel wrapped up their set with “Boogie Back to Texas” and “Bump Bounce Boogie.”

Free

Donavon Frankenreiter followed the Wheel with a fun set including “Move By Yourself” and “Free.” Frankenreiter played a sweet song written for his son titled “Call Me Papa.” He then covered Tom Petty’sAmerican Girl,” putting a chill twist on the Classic Rock gem. The mustached singer played his hit single “Glow” and the catchy “It Don’t Matter.”

Blues Travelerkilled with their old school single “But Anyway” and a cover version of Radiohead‘sCreep.” The hit singles “Run-Around and “The Mountains Win Again” were followed by an amazing jam with the 15-year-old fiddle player Ruby Jane. Jon Popper and his tight jam band also covered the Sublime song “What I Got” ending with the mega-hit “Hook.”

The Outsiders Are Back

The Kings Go Forthwere the great surprise band for me on Friday. Their 1970s funky disco sounds were groovy. This 10-piece American soul band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin has an incredible stage presence to accompany jams like “One Day,” “I Don’t Love You No More,” and “Don’t Take My Shadow.”  We all know what made Milwaukee famous, but now we know why it is funky!

The Black Keys powered through a garage rock and blues set that included “Thickfreakness,” Strange Times,”Tighten Up,” “Your Touch,” and “Everlasting Light.” While Texas country artist Pat Green transitioned from the anthem  “Wave on Wave” into a nice cover of U2‘sAll I Want Is You.”

Chronchitis

I have seen Slightly Stoopid at ACL at least three times now. And I have liked every show. The dubby grooves are infectious. The reggae-punk rock formula originally perfected by Long Beach’s Sublime works well. Plus the lads from San Diego have mastered their vocals and guitar playing and their brand of stoner rock is always welcome in Austin. Among the songs played at the festival were “I Would Do For You” and “Till It Gets Wet” and the extremely danceable “Somebody.” Slightly Stoopid plays party songs interlaced by the occasional punk rock explosion like “Punk Rock Billy.” But don’t think there is not a message in the music. Just take a close listen to the politically charged “Runnin’ With A Gun.” 

Vampire Weekend provided a nice segue between the dub of Slightly Stoopid and the jam rock of Phish. The Columbia graduates sound like Paul Simon’s Graceland with strong hints of The Clash and various other world music sounds mashed together into a refreshing pop sound. The set list included: “Horchata,” “Cousins,” “Oxford Comma,” “White Sky,” “Holiday,” “California English,” “I Think Ur A Contra,” and “Walcott.”

Phish played a classic set opening with a rocking “Down With Disease.” They followed up that original song with a cover of the Talking Heads track “Cities.” Phish is Mike Gordon on bass, Trey Anastasio on guitar, Jon Fishman on drums, and Page McConnellon keys. But at times it seems like there might be twenty people on stage. The sound is full and lush and really meant to be listened to at a venue like Zilker Park. Following the Talking Heads cover, Phish geared up for a funky-driving “Possum.”

Wolfman’s Brother” brought people to their dancing feet while a jammed out version of “Chalk Dust Torture” awed the crowd. My favorite moment was an unexpected Velvet Underground cover. I dig Lou Reedand the Velvet Underground, so a bad ass version of “Rock And Roll” is alright with me. From this foray into the underground  Phish smoothly transitioned into an almost symphonic spaced out “2001.” I am also a big fan of the newest album Joy, from which Phish played the excellent track “Backwards Down The Number Line .”

Joy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version)

After a reggafied “Harry Hood” the boys played another one from Joy called “Light.” I am not as familiar with this song, but it provided a nice pallet cleanser for a rockin’ “Suzy Greenberg.” The set concluded with an extended “You Enjoy Myself.”  The encore rocked with a killer version of “Cavern” and a crowd-pleasing “First Tube.”

Quite frankly, Phish put on a hell of a show. It was nice to see Phish in Texas again. I hadn’t seen Phish in Austin since they played at South Park Meadows in the late 1990s. Hopefully, Phish will return to Texas in the near future. People forget Trey Anastasio was born in Fort Worth, Texas. So come on boys, bring it on back to Texas sometime. Why not? I guarantee a sold out crowd at the Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth. Come rip our faces off with a howling version of The Edgar Winter Group‘sFrankenstein.”

Austin City Limits Festival – DAY ONE

The Best of Albums of August 2010

Lazers Never Die [Explicit]

The Best of August 2010

  1. Busy SignalD.O.B. [VP Records 2010]
  2. John Prine In Person & On Stage [Oh Boy 2010]
  3. Pokey LaFarge and the South City ThreeRiverboat Soul [Free Dirt Records 2010]
  4. Major LazerLazers Never Die [Explicit] [Mad Decent 2010]
  5. Gappy Ranks Put The Stereo On [Greensleeves 2010]
  6. The Black Crowes Croweology [Silver Arrow 2010]
  7. Dennis Brown Reggae Sensation! [Delta 2010]
  8. Asleep at the Wheel & Leon Rausch It’s A Good Day [Bismeaux Records 2010]
  9. Die Antwoord5 – EP [Explicit] [Cherrytree/Interscope 2010]
  10. Lee “Scratch” Perry Sipple Out Deh: Best Of The Black Ark [Trojan 2010]
  11. Peter Case Wig! [Yep Roc 2010]
  12. April Smith & The Great Picture Show Songs For A Sinking Ship [Little Roscoe 2010]
  13. Los Lobos Tin Can Trust [Shout! Factory 2010]
  14. Inna De Yard All Stars Live in France [Makasound 2010]
  15. Various Artists Stand & Give Praise: Roots Reggae [Trojan 2010]
  16. The Sadies Darker Circles [Yep Roc 2010]
  17. Gov’t Mule By a Thread [Evil Teen 2010]
  18. Red Horse Red Horse [Red House 2010]
  19. Midnite Momentum [Fifth Son Records 2010]
  20. Various Artists – Neccesary Mayhem Presents Sess Retro & Electro Agony Riddim [Necessary Mayhem 2010]
  21. Pinteop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith Joined at the Hip [Telarc Records 2010]
  22. Dangermuffin Moonscapes [Dangermuffin 2010]
  23. John Hartford Stringband Memories of John [Red Clay 2010]
  24. Jackie Greene Till the Light Comes [429 Records 2010]
  25. John Mellencamp No Better Than This [Rounder 2010]
  26. Irie Maffia What’s My Name?! [Shiftin Gears 2010]
  27. Various Artists Melody Life: Trojan Sisters [Trojan 2010]
  28. Sting Symphonicities [Deutsche Grammaphon 2010]
  29. Cornadoor Without Restrictions [SoundQuake 2010]
  30. Tim O’Brien – Chicken and Egg [Howdy Sky 2010]
  31. Markscheider Kunst Utopia [Eastblok 2010]
  32. Wavves King of the Beach [Fat Possum Records 2010]
  33. Maikal X Genesis [Rock N’ Vibes 2010]
  34. Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiBefore Today [4AD 2010]
  35. Turbulence The Journey [Sajay Production 2010]

D.O.B.

Riverboat Soul

Croweology

Sipple Out Deh: Best Of The Black Ark

The Best of Albums of August 2010

Asleep at the Wheel and the Quebe Sisters go on A Ride with Bob

Today I took my parents and wife to see Asleep at the Wheel and the Quebe Sisters perform A Ride with Bob. Ray Benson, the tall and lanky long-haired guitarist, took us on a bus ride. We travelled the highway from Texas to Tulsa. We accompanied Benson and the mythical Bob Wills on a bus tour through Wills’s extraordinary life. On the road, the two icons of Texas music joked, sang, picked guitars, played fiddles, and recalled the history of the legendary western swing band Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Asleep at the Wheel and the Quebe Sisters go on A Ride with Bob

Top 10 Albums of 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2009

Here are the selector’s top 10 favorite albums for 2009…

  1. Daweh Congo Ghetto Skyline [MK-Zwo Records 2009] 
  2. Willie Neslon & Asleep at the WheelWillie And The Wheel [Bismeaux Records 2009]
  3. Easy Star All Stars Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band [Easy Star Records 2009]
  4. Michael Franti and Spearhead All Rebel Rockers [Anti 2009]
  5. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You [American Recordings 2009]
  6. Julian MarleyAwake [Tuff Gong Records 2009]
  7. K’NaanTroubadour [A&M/Octone Records 2009]
  8. Courtney JohnMade In Jamaica [Jamaica Music/FiWi Records 2009]
  9. Chali 2naFish Outta Water [Decon 2009]
  10. Major Lazer Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do [Downtown Records 2009]
Top 10 Albums of 2009

Reporting from Austin City Limits 2009!!!

Zilker Park in Austin, Texas swirls with activity as the park prepares for the Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009. I will be attending the festival for the next three days and will cover the music at the festival. This year’s show promises to be an eventful weekend with a diversity of bands on the lineup, including Pearl Jam, Eek-A-Mouse, Michael Franti and Spearhead, K’naan, Asleep at the Wheel, Citizen Cope, Dave Matthews Band, Bassnectar, the B-52’s, Kings of Leon, Thievery Corporation, Raul Malo, the Levon Helm Band, and the Decembersists.

Reporting from Austin City Limits 2009!!!

Come and Take It!

I travelled to Texas Revolutionary sites this week. In Gonzales, Texas, home of the “Come and Take It” cannon, the Guadalupe River meets the San Marcos River and here is where Mexican soldados met Texan settlers for the first significant fight in the Texian War for Independence. In 1835 the Mexican authorities came to the tiny settlement to reclaim the cannon that had been left to defend the village from Indian attacks. The Texians refused to be left defenseless and determined not to hand over the cannon. The conflict over the cannon eventually forced a violent confrontation between the armed Anglos and the Mexican army. The recalcitrant Texan rebels taunted the Mexican soldados to “Come and Take it.” The Texans repulsed the Mexican assault and  forced the soldados to retreat. Perhaps the moral of the story is don’t try to take a Texan’s gun away–just try to “Come and Take It.” But more likely the story is about natural resources, geography, and environment. Here at Gonzales, Texas two beautiful spring fed rivers come together cooling the hot dry land and giving life to South Texas. And this is where the two opposing forces of colonialism met on the banks of the cold clear river. Texans hungry for land had settled at a veritable oasis in South Texas and the Mexican authorities were not willing to give up that land to the Anglos.

One of my favorite albums about Texas revolutionary history is Asleep at the Wheel’s Asleep At The Wheel Remembers The Alamo. The Wheel even plays the hauntingly beautiful tune of “Deguello,” which is the song General Santa Ana played to indicate no quarter to the Alamo renegades.

Come and Take It!