It’s Day 21 of the Indiegogo Campaign for The Shopkeeper: A Documentary about Mark Hallman and the Congress House. I’m thrilled to report that we are currently at 62% of our goal!
Now it’s time to meet a few more artists who have recorded at the Congress House!
Lise Liddell’s pure, silvery voice serves well the sweet and insightful melancholy of her lyrics.
Liddell’s comfortable Memorial-area upbringing prepared her for life as a Junior Leaguer, a high-profile businesswoman or both. But as a drama geek at the Kinkaid School, Liddell enjoyed the fantasy world of musical theater, playing Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and dancing and singing in dozens of high school variety shows.
She majored in theater her first year at college then switched to English before dutifully earning an MBA (and Phi Beta Kappa honors) at the University of Texas. She landed a job in banking, but soon realized it wasn’t for her.
“One day,” she says, “I just went into my office, closed the door, and started bawling my eyes out.” A colleague came in and said “It’s time for you to quit this job.” Ten years, two CDs and hundreds of shows later, Liddell feels like she made the right choice.
Here’s Lise on Wide Open Spaces with Roark:
The Low Anthem
The Low Anthem’s unique brand of Americana makes room for gospel, folk, and blues, a blend that began taking shape in their hometown of Providence, RI. Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky — both students at Brown University, as well as late-night DJs at the school’s radio station — formed The Low Anthem in 2006, drawing upon their background as classical composers to help mold the group’s eclectic music. Jocie Adams joined one year later, and the group began widening its arsenal of instruments accordingly, utilizing everything from World War I pump organs to crotales in the process. After making its independent debut with 2007’s What the Crow Brings, the band rang in 2008 by temporarily relocating to Block Island — a remote location 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast — to record an album with producer Jesse Lauter. The stark, serene environment proved to be appropriate for the music, which the band initially self-released under the title Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.
As their buzz continued to build, The Low Anthem signed a contract with Nonesuch Recordings and reissued Oh My God in 2009, supporting the release with a string of performances at summer festivals. Multi-instrumentalist Mat Davidson was added to the lineup later that year, joining The Low Anthem’s ranks one month before they headed to Central Falls, RI, to record a third album. Setting up a makeshift studio inside an abandoned pasta sauce factory, the group recorded Smart Flesh over a period of three months, making good use of the building’s carvernous, resonant spaces. The album was released in February 2011.
Long before Dixie Chicks were even full-grown, Lloyd Maines (father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines) had established himself as a country music giant, both as a legendary steel guitarist and a producer. Maines studied forestry while attending college at Texas Tech and hoped to join the parks department. Nevertheless, after landing a job at a local studio, his future was set.
Maines’ pedal steel work seems to crop up everywhere, from work by earlier non-mainstream country artists such as Joe Ely and Terry Allen to ’90s efforts by alt-country upstarts as Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Richard Buckner, and Wagon. Perhaps more importantly, he has carved out a career as a sought-after producer. He started his producing career in 1978 in a big way: with Terry Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything), an album that has gathered immense critical momentum as time has passed, and which stands as a seminal work by the Lubbock songwriter crowd. Over the years, he has helmed albums by sometime Flatlanders Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. He has also produced for such artists as Andy Wilkinson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Will T. Massey, George Ensle, Jimmy Collins, Lost Gonzo Band, Charlie Robison, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Richard Buckner, Wayne Hancock, and Robert Earl Keen.
In the meantime, he has also laid down steel for folks such as Guy Clark, David Byrne, Dixie Chicks, and Radney Foster. He also remained involved with the Maines Brothers Band, a band with his siblings Kenny, Donnie, and Steve. The group released eight albums between 1978 and 1991.
Roots formed in old standards, a juvenile heart, and his mother’s Ray Charles albums, Austin’s Ben Mallott uses his grainy timbre to remove the punctuation between singer and songwriter.
For his first solo release, Look Good, Feel Good, Mallott’s songs range from sentimental to sad to what he calls “unpredictably genuine”. A songwriter who admits his journeys have taken him from window seats to bathroom floors, he sticks to what works and in turn churns out his distinctive brand of Americana confession.
“I’m strange about where and when I write,” Mallott explains. “I try not to move my residence too often, because it usually takes a couple of months for me to find the place in the house that sounds and feels right. Where I live now, I stand about six inches from the back door and sing into it. It didn’t take me long to have a glass door installed.”
Planting himself at Congress House Studio, a converted house on a bit of land in South Austin, Mallott was able to let the laid-back setting of a non-traditional recording space ease him into creating his music. “Our producer, Mark Hallman, and I hit it off pretty well. He owns the studio, so the arrangement unfolded somewhat naturally. Instead of taking me on a grand tour and trying to impress me, he just kind of said ‘This is it. Any questions?’ It helps to work with people who get my jokes, or at least pretend to.”