Graham Wilkinson & Kimya Dawson jam at the Mean Eyed Cat in Austin

This weekend I caught some music in Austin. I got in to the live music capital of the world at the tail end of the South By Southwest (SXSW) festivities, which features official and unofficial showcases that bring together bands from across the globe. I went to an unofficial show at the Mean Eyed Cat. This old saw sharpening workshop turned club and living tribute to Johnny Cash rocked Friday night as Kimya Dawsonand Graham Wilkinson & the Underground Township played some great tunes.

Graham played some of my favorites including “Boys & Girls,” “Let It Go,” and “Polvo’s Martinis.” Christopher Denny joined Graham for a rollicking Bob Dylan cover with shredding guitar solos and wailing harmonica. “The Man in Black” himself would have loved this night of music. The sounds were as eclectic as Johnny’s tastes. From Dylan folk ballads to protest songs to country and reggae to rock and roll, Kimya and Graham kept Austin weird for another night!

Graham Wilkinson & Kimya Dawson jam at the Mean Eyed Cat in Austin

TOP 10!!! September 2008

September 2008

1. Michael Franti & SpearheadAll Rebel Rockers [Anti 2008]
2. Graham WilkinsonGraham Wilkinson [Township Records 2008]
3. Burning SpearJah Is Real [Burning Music 2008]
4. John Brown’s BodyAmplify [MRI Associated 2008]
5. Busy Signal Loaded [VP Records 2008]
6. James Levy Blood Red Rose [Township Records 2008]
7. Beres Hammond A Moment in Time [VP Records 2008]
8. Queen IfricaFyah Muma [Flames 2008]
9. Kimya DawsonAlphabutt [K Records 2008]
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings 1000 Days, 1000 Nights [Daptone 2007]

Michael Franti & Spearhead have released an excellent reggae and pop album. The addition of the strong voice of reggae seductress Cherine Anderson over the heavy bass riddims of Sly & Robbie make this album a head nodder. “The Rude Boys Back in Town” and “Soundsystem” display Spearhead’s block rocking ability while two versions of “Hey World” encapsulate Franti’s ability to say something meaningful over good music.

The 2008 Austin City Limit’s Music Festival introduced the world to some of the best local music coming out of Austin, Texas. Christopher Denny an Arkansas native and presently an Austin-based singer-songwriter crooner and backed by Austin’s Underground Township rocked the Austin Ventures stage. Furthermore Graham Wilkinson of the Underground Township released an excellent compilation of solo acoustic gems this month. Many organic grooves are coming out of Austin. Wayne Dalchau’s Township Records released several great albums in the last month, including Wilkinson’s new album and James Levy’s Blood Red Rose. Wayne is also working on a much anticipated Township Records compilation that will include Chris Denny, Graham Wilkinson, and other Township Records artists.

Burning Spear’s new album Jah Is Real flows smoothly and feels refreshingly natural and original. One can see the party and imagery that emerges from the single “Jam Cruise.” It is amazing that the Spear can drop tunes like this over four decades. Rather live or in the studio Burning Spear embodies roots reggae music.

Plus a mention of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and their phenomenal performance at Austin City Limits is needed here. The soulful group dropped funk and love on Austin, bringing the audience alive on a hot Saturday afternoon. Much dancing ensued and these soul players deserve their props. John Fogerty kicked ass and took names, playing “Down on the Corner,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”

TOP 10!!! September 2008