Welcome to Day 16 of the Indiegogo Campaign for The Shopkeeper: A Documentary about Mark Hallman and the Congress House. Every day during the campaign I am featuring a few artists who have recorded at the Congress House.
Robert Earl Keen
Among the large contingent of talented songwriters who emerged in Texas in the 1980s and ’90s, Robert Earl Keen struck an unusual balance between sensitive story-portraits (“Corpus Christi Bay”) and raucous barroom fun (“That Buckin’ Song”). These two song types in Keen’s output were unified by a mordant sense of humor that strongly influenced the early practitioners of what would become known as alternative country music.
I sing his amazing song “Then Came Lo Mein” with Mark Hallman on my album Men.
Born in Slaton, Texas, some 15 miles southeast of Lubbock on U.S. 84, Bobby’s life has been a sort of rock ‘n’ roll folk tale—in his early teens he bribed his way into his aunt’s neighbor Buddy Holly’s garage band rehearsals; he took up the saxophone as a high school freshman because it was the only instrument left unclaimed in the school band; he convinced his grandfather to sign his guardianship over to Crickets drummer J.I. Allison so he could go on tour as a teenager. In fact, Bobby’s experiences reflect the coming of age of rock ‘n’ roll itself. From years on the road during the waning days of early rock ‘n’ roll with hitmakers like Bobby Vee and the various acts on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars Tour through decades as top touring and session sax man for the likes of Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnie, Joe Cocker, B.B. King, Keith Moon, Sheryl Crow and countless others, and onto, perhaps most famously, an ongoing gig as a de facto Rolling Stone from 1970 onward, Bobby’s raw talent and outsized personality have elevated him from sideman to something closer to a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo was founded by Joseph Shabalala in 1974. They’ve cut well over 30 albums since, but the group did not become well known outside of South Africa until Paul Simon asked them to perform on “Graceland.” The group consists of seven bass voices, an alto, a tenor, and Shabalala singing lead.
“In Zulu singing there are three major sounds,” Shabalala explains. “A high keening ululation; a grunting, puffing sound that we make when we stomp our feet; and a certain way of singing melody. Before Black Mambazo you didn’t hear these three sounds in the same songs. So it is new to combine them, although it is still done in a traditional style. We are just asking God to allow us to polish it, to help keep our voices in order so we can praise Him and uplift the people.”
I will ask Mark, but all I can find under this name is “Kimbo Creative and Educational Music and Movement.” Hmm!