Six Days to Go!
Welcome to Day 26 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.
BTW, I will be stopping in El Paso on my way to Austin in October to interview Tom. I cannot WAIT, because he’s going to have a lot to say about the music business.
Tom Russell songs have been recorded by such icons as Johnny Cash, Dave Van Ronk, Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Nanci Griffith, Iris Dement, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, among others. No less than Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the legendary poet, has said that he shares “a great affinity with Tom Russell’s songs, for he is writing out of the wounded heart of America.”
For Mesabi, Russell invited along several prominent friends to assist him in bringing to fruition his newest compositions, among them Lucinda Williams, Van Dyke Parks, Sir Douglas Quintet keyboardist Augie Meyers and Calexico, the band with which Russell previously collaborated on Blood and Candle Smoke. The result is a collection that may be Russell’s most cinematic and global to date, a work that instantly grips the listener and holds on as its vivid scenarios unfold from tune to tune. The consummate renegade, Tom Russell makes the music he wants to make, without intervention, and he does so without a care for trends and expectations.
“My career seems to have gone in the opposite direction from a lot of people whose notoriety came over their first half dozen records,” says Russell. “Mine didn’t. My career built very slowly, and then I moved to El Paso in ’97, further outside than anybody could imagine. By not plugging into the machine, the records I’ve made in the past 10 years have been my strongest and most outside records, especially the past two. It seems that the older I get, the more I’ve been able to keep on the outside.”
Tom Russell has appeared on the David Letterman TV show five times in the last few years, and his songs have appeared in a dozen movies and television series including: The new Monte Hellman movie The Road To Nowhere, Tremors, Songcatcher and Northern Exposure.
Tom Russell has published three books: a detective novel (in Scandinavia), a compendium of songwriting quotes with Sylvia Tyson (And Then I Wrote – Arsenal Press), and a book of letters with Charles Bukowski: (Tough Company: Mystery Island Press).
Russell is also an established painter represented by Yard Dog Folk Art in Austin(www.yarddog.com) and Rainbow Man in Santa Fe (www.rainbowman.com)
A book of Tom Russell`s art: Blue Horse/Red Desert was published by Bangtail Press in September 2011.
Although a youngster compared to most of his Austin friends, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Charlie Sexton has already had several phases to his career. Sexton, raised in Austin, TX, made his debut with Pictures for Pleasure in 1985 at age 16. He followed that up with a self-titled second album when he was 20. Because word of his reputation as a prodigy guitar player spread far and wide, he found himself an in-demand session player while still in his late teens, and he had the opportunity to record with Ron Wood, Keith Richards, and Bob Dylan.
Born to a mother who was just 16, Sexton and his mother moved to Austin when he was just four. His mother would get him out to clubs like the Armadillo World Headquarters and the Soap Creek Saloon. Places like the Split Rail and Antone’s blues club became his classrooms. After living outside of Austin for a while, he moved back to Austin on his own when he was 12, and the musicians around Austin, his heroes, people like Jimmie Vaughan and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely, and others, took him in and put him up until he could earn more of a living on his own.
From 1992 to 1994, he was a member of Austin’s Arc Angels, along with Doyle Bramhall II, Tommy Shannon, and Chris “Whipper” Layton. That group recorded one self-titled album, released in 1992 on Geffen Records. By the time the Arc Angels decided to disband, Sexton was 24 years old and already pegged as a blues musician. Not only did Sexton play gutsy, fluid blues guitar, he also played a spirited rock & roll guitar.
In 1994 and 1995, he formed and recorded with his new group, the Charlie Sexton Sextet, and his debut for MCA Records, Under The Wishing Tree, was released in 1995. Sexton’s album was well-received by the critics. Under The Wishing Tree presents Sexton in an array of musical genres, touching on Celtic-flavored rock, folk-rock, and blues. There is a lot of interplay between guitars, violins, cellos, Dobros, and mandolins on the recording, and Sexton’s vocals ride high on top of the melodies. On his 1995 tour to support the album, he was accompanied by Susan Boelz (violin), Michael Ramos (organ), George Reiff (bass), and Rafael Gayol (drums).
As a songwriter, Sexton writes about what he knows, so Texas themes permeate his songs. He considers Bob Dylan his strongest songwriting influence, while he counts Austin legends Jimmie Vaughan and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan among his prime influences for guitar playing. His lyrics mix autobiographical experiences with images that are open to interpretation. More great things are in the offing for this young guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
Will Sexton, whose writing credits range from work with Waylon Jennings and Stephen Stills to Joe Ely and Bill Carter, is shaped by the unique diversity of the Austin music scene. Fate and his own sheer talent placed him on stage with local legends before he’d lived out his first decade. Will and his big brother, Charlie, started playing together at the Continental Club when Will was 9 and Charlie was 11. Many of the sounds of his childhood still resonate in his current work. Will received early success in Austin and was signed by MCA at age 16. He has survived in the tough Austin music scene by playing gigs with a variety of notable artists. It is never unusual to go out to catch a show featuring an Austin singer/songwriter and see Will onstage.
Will’s credits as producer and songwriter range from collaborations with Waylon Jennings to psychedelic pioneer Roky Erikson to Steve Earle and punk legend Johnny Thunders. Will has written for MCA and Almo Irving and recorded for MCA, A&M, and Zoo Entertainment. Will was in the New Folk Underground with David Baerwald, which resulted in the co-produced (w/ David Kitay) Lost Highway release Here Comes the New Folk Underground. Will names Terry Allen and Sheryl Crow hitmaker David Baerwald among his favorite writing partners. 2009 marked the completion of new production credits, including Randy Weeks’ Going My Way, and Ruby James’ CD, Happy Now, co-produced with his brother Charlie Sexton. Will also enjoys performing with Charlie Faye, Sahara Smith, and Shannon McNally.
Will has amassed an impressive collection of songs over the years, releasing his first independent album, Scenes From Nowhere, in 2001, which received a four-star review and was honored in the Top 5 Releases of 2001 by the Austin American-Statesman. Bus Stop Gossip, a previously unreleased recording from 2004, was unearthed and released in 2009 and was followed up by Move the Balance in 2010.
Things came to a temporary halt in December 2009 when Will suffered a mild stroke. Though he had a remarkable recovery, he was unable to remember much of the music he had written and played almost daily as a working musician. For him to be unable to connect with those songs mentally since the stroke was a setback few musicians could even imagine. The Austin music community has always been known for taking care of its own and came out in full force for a music benefit in honor of one of Austin’s golden sons to raise money for Will’s living expenses and medical bills.
While Will was working through the recovery process, Move The Balance was released two months later without much notice and to very little fanfare. This is an album not to be overlooked. It includes eleven new songs recorded by Mark Hallman and Andre Moran in twenty-two hours at Congress House studios in South Austin. Musicians on the CD include Will Sexton on vocals, guitar and bass, Mike Thompson on piano, guitar and trombone, Bukka Allen on B3 and accordion, Dony Wynn on drums and percussion, Ray Bonneville on harmonica, and Bill Carter on additional bass. Additional guest vocals were provided by Mark Hallman, Ruby “Red” James, Charlie Faye and Nöelle Hampton.
Named to the Chicago Tribune’s 50 Most Significant Songwriters in the Last 50 Years, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt has been rapidly ascending from underground cult hero to being widely recognized as an artist of generational significance. With lyrical depth drawing comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, and Dave Carter, Danny is considered a preeminent writer, an artist whose earthy poetry manages to somehow conjure magic from the mundane, leading Sing Out Magazine to tag him “Perhaps the best new songwriter we’ve heard in the last 15 years.”
Performing solo almost exclusively, armed with just his voice, his words, and his acoustic guitar, Danny’s an authentic timeless troubadour, one man sharing his truth in the form of songs, unadorned and intimate. The uderstated effect can be startlingly powerful. As songwriter Jeffrey Foucault put it: “Everything about the man is gentle, except for his capacity for insight, which is crushing.”
After garnering unanimous critical praise for his self-released Parables & Primes album in 2005, Danny’s follow up release, Little Grey Sheep in 2007 began an unbroken streak of albums that have charted at #1 on the Folk Radio Charts, internationally. After also winning the prestigeous Kerrville New Folk award in 2007, Danny won the notice of venerable Americana roots label, Red House Records, who began releasing his albums in 2009, starting with the critically acclaimed album, Instead The Forest Rose To Sing, thus exposing a much broader audience to Danny’s music, alongside such notable artists as Greg Brown, Eliza Gilkyson, Jorma Kaukonen, and John Gorka.