Singer, Songwriter slash Mom
27th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 24 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.

Oasis

Wonderwall.

Oh, there’s more? Ok:

Oasis shot from obscurity to stardom in 1994, becoming one of Britain’s most popular and critically acclaimed bands of the decade in the process. Along with Blur and Suede, they were responsible for returning British guitar pop to the top of the charts. Led by guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher, the Manchester quintet adopted the rough, thuggish image of the Stones and the Who, crossed it with “Beatlesque” melodies and hooks, injected distinctly British lyrical themes and song structures like the Jam and the Kinks, and tied it all together with a massive guitar roar, as well as a defiant sneer that drew equally from the Sex Pistols’ rebelliousness and the Stone Roses’ cocksure arrogance. Gallagher’s songs frequently reworked previous hits from T. Rex (“Cigarettes and Alcohol” borrows the riff from “Bang a Gong”) to Wham! (“Fade Away” takes the melody from “Freedom”), yet the group always put the hooks in different settings, updating past hits for a new era.

Omar and the Howlers

The European blues fans all adore Austin, TX-based guitarist and singer/songwriter Omar Kent Dykes. That’s because he fits the stereotypical image many of them have of the American musician: he’s tall, wears cowboy boots and has a deep voice with a Southern accent. However, Dykes does not carry a gun, and though he looks rough and tough, he’s actually an incredibly peaceful and intelligent musician, and a veteran at working a crowd in a blues club or a festival. While Dykes still has a sizeable American audience owing to his albums for Columbia Records, he still spends a good portion of his touring year at festivals and clubs around Europe. Omar Kent Dykes was born in 1950, in McComb, MS, the same town from which Bo Diddley hails. He first set foot into neighborhood juke joints at age 12 and after he’d been playing guitar for a while, he went back into the juke joint. After graduating from high school, Dykes lived in Hattiesburg and Jackson, MS, for a few years before relocating to Austin in 1976. He’d heard the blues scene in Texas was heating up. At that time, Stevie Ray Vaughan was still playing with Paul Ray & the Cobras. By the early ’80s, Omar & the Howlers had gained a solid reputation for their invigorating live shows. They also released two albums on independent labels, Big Leg Beat (1980), followed four years later by I Told You So. Among white blues musicians, Dykes is truly one of a kind, a fact Columbia Records recognized in the mid-’80s when they signed Omar & the Howlers. Unfortunately, it was a fleeting relationship at best. After releasing Hard Times in the Land of Plenty (1987) and Wall of Pride (1988) the band was dropped when the company was bought by Sony. While it was inconvenient, it didn’t stop Dykes. His post-1990 output has been nothing short of extraordinary. Starting in 1991, Omar & the Howlers recorded three discs for Rounder/Bullseye Blues: Live at Paradiso (1991), followed by Blues Bag and Courts of Lulu (both in 1992). In 1995, they switched to the Austin, TX-based Watermelon Records and released Muddy Springs Road (1995), World Wide Open (1996), and Southern Style (1997). After 15 years of dealing with record contracts, Dykes needed a break from being tied down to one particular label for any length of time. Since then, he and the Howlers have released excellent discs on Discovery (Monkey Land) (1997) Black Top (Swing Land) (1999), Blind Pig (Big Delta) (2002), and Ruf Records (Boogie Man) (2004). A live set recorded in Germany, Bamboozled, appeared from Ruf Records in 2006.

Patrice Pike

Austin, Texas is known for its laid back, bohemian yet ultra committed music scene–something Austin native Patrice Pike immediately conveys. She’s been a professional musician and songwriter since she was sixteen, but has maintained such a raw, down-to-earth quality and irrepressible talent that Billboard magazine proclaimed her “one of the finest up and coming contemporary rock singers in America”. On the surface you may hear about these things but there’s more than meets the eye and the music biz spins…
Pike is known to many as the electric front woman for the seminal Austin jam band Sister Seven which she co-founded when she was barely out of The High School for the performing and visual arts at Booker T. Washington in Dallas Texas. Their first major label album was a rare and unique live recording which at that time was unheard of in the music industry for a new breaking band. Patrice wrote and sang Sister Seven’s top 10 Billboard hit “Know What You Mean’. She was the USA Songwriting Competition Grand Prize Winner overall for the song “My Three Wishes”, co-written with her Sister Seven band members. In this contest she also garnered top prize for Pop category for “Nobody Knows” written with famed songwriter/producer John Shanks. And then, before stardom ever fully materialized, it evaporated. The band lost its label affiliation in the much publicized Arista shakeup that culminated in the firing of music industry legend Clive Davis. Patrice’s band mates needed to be with their families after being on the road incessantly for 9 years. They disbanded in 2000.  Even as the band was flaming out, Pike was already in the process of being reenergized as a songwriter.
Her solo material has taken an increasingly narrative turn. Over the past decade, she has independently released four acclaimed solo records, showcasing her socially astute, literate lyrics alongside her powerful vocals. She has toured relentlessly, both in the U.S. and overseas, building an impressive grassroots fan base. She has co-created numerous records and musical groups, toured all over the United States and Western Europe and just plain impressed those who’ve seen, heard and watched her. The resilient Pike has been able to adapt repeatedly to a rapidly changing music landscape that bears no resemblance to the one she entered as a 16 year old. Patrice was the youngest musician inducted into the Austin/Texas Music Hall of Fame. Along with that honor she was also named Musician of the Year, Best Female Vocalist, and Song of the year in Austin for her song Beautiful Thing, which she debuted on CBS in the Summer of 2006
She has continued to grow and evolve as both a songwriter and a performer, and is currently producing arguably the finest work of her music career even as she confronts the uncertainty of an industry in steep decline. She has performed in every possible live scenario from shed tours of traveling festivals like Lilith and HORDE tour to music festival institutions like Austin City Limit’s, High Sierra, Strawberry, and Kerrville festivals as well as community theaters, clubs and house concerts. She is known to her dedicated fans from diverse communities as a phenomenal and sincere live performer who is willing and grateful to play for them wherever they need and want her to be. Long a respected social and environmental activist, she is also the co-founder and now executive director of the Grace Foundation of Texas, an organization that provides services for young adult survivors of homelessness. An accomplished snowboarder and avid runner and surfer, she continues to travel the globe extensively. She has a disciplined meditation and Yoga practice.
In short, she leads a rich, full, varied life that looks absolutely nothing like what she was aiming for when she embarked on her journey in music at 16. If you listen well, you will hear it in her voice and her music. She is as passionate as they come and in one of her own fans words, “Patrice is truly unforgettable. I listen to her as much as I can. I love the love she sings. I know it’s real.”

 

Plainsong

Plainsong was originally a British country rock/folk rock band, formed in early 1972 by Ian (later Iain) Matthews, formerly of Fairport Convention; Andy Roberts, previously of The Liverpool Scene; Dave Richards; and Bob Ronga. The original group split up before the end of 1972 but, since the early 1990s, Matthews and Roberts intermittently performed and recorded together, with other musicians, as Plainsong.


26th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 23 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.

Micky & The Motorcars

Micky & the Motorcars is an Alternative Texas Country band formed in Stanley, Idaho before moving to Austin, Texas.

The band has released five mainstream albums, including a live album.

The band consists of Micky Braun (acoustic guitar, lead vocals), Gary Braun (lead & harmony vocals, guitars, mandolin, harmonica), Dustin Schaefer (lead guitar), Joe Fladger (bass), and Bobby Paugh (drums & percussion).

Micky and Gary Braun are the younger brothers of Willy and Cody Braun of the Austin-based band, Reckless Kelly. Micky and the Motorcars perform yearly at the Braun brothers Reunion, held in Challis, Idaho.

Ian Moore

Ian Moore (born August 8, 1968 in Berkeley, California, USA) is a guitarist and singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas. He studied fiddle as a child, but switched to guitar when wrist problems interfered. His music contains elements of folk, rock and roll, world music, and blues. After playing guitar in Joe Ely’s touring band and appearing on one studio album, he spent time in Austin with his own group, first Ian Moore and Moment’s Notice, then The Ian Moore Band. He attended The University of Texas at Austin but when given the opportunity for a nation wide tour, he dropped out with the intention of finishing later but, never did. Prior to Luminaria’s release, he moved to Vashon Island, located in Puget Sound near Seattle in the State of Washington, where portions of “To Be Loved” were recorded in his home studio.

Covers from “Green Grass”, which was his first non-Capricorn based album, include Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross”, the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog,” and Bob Dylan’s “You’re a Big Girl Now.” He has played with such musicians as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and ZZ Top, and appeared in Billy Bob Thornton’s movie Sling Blade.

Ian recently played guitar with Jason Mraz on his 2010 fall tour.

 

Bob Mould

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Bob Mould was initially a member of Hüsker Dü, one of the most influential American bands of the ’80s. Hüsker Dü was a post-hardcore punk band that helped define the sound and ideals of alternative rock. After Hüsker Dü broke up, Mould signed a solo contract with Virgin Records in 1988. The following year he released his first solo album, Workbook, which represented a major shift in sonic direction.

Frustrated with the business operations of major record labels, Mould left Virgin after the release of Black Sheets of Rain; they would later release a compilation of the two albums, Poison Years. Mould then formed an independent record company, SOL (Singles Only Label), which released 45s from new, developing bands as well as cult bands. In 1992, he formed a new trio, Sugar, with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis; the band signed with Rykodisc in the U.S. and Creation in the U.K. Sugar’s first album, Copper Blue, was released in the fall of 1992 to enthusiastic reviews and became Mould’s most successful project to date. Copper Blue nearly went gold and spawned several alternative radio and MTV hits, including “Helpless” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.” In the spring of 1993, Sugar released the mini-LP Beaster, a more abrasive collection than Copper Blue that was recorded at the same sessions. Around the time of the release of Beaster, Mould was forced out of the closet by various gay publications, with hopes that he would embrace their political cause; he rejected their requests.

Mould wrote the material for the second Sugar album during 1993. The band began recording in the spring of 1994, but the sessions ground to a halt and the tapes were erased. Mould decided to give the album one more try, and it was recorded quickly late that spring. The album, File Under: Easy Listening, appeared in the fall of 1994. Although it received good reviews and was moderately successful commercially, it didn’t match the performance of Copper Blue. In the spring of 1995, it was announced that Sugar was on hiatus. Besides, a collection of rarities and B-sides, was released that summer. By the fall, Mould had broken up the band and begun to work on a third album entirely by himself. Mould played all of the instruments on his self-titled third album, which was released in the spring of 1996. The Last Dog and Pony Show followed in 1998. In 2002, after a long period of musical inactivity, Mould returned with the electronics-heavy Modulate, followed by the more conventional Body of Song in 2005. After Blowoff, a dance project with Richard Morel, Mould returned to his guitar roots and paired up with Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty to record District Line in 2008.

Mould inched back to alt-rock on 2009′s Life and Times, then devoted himself to writing his autobiography with the assistance of Michael Azerrad. See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody was published in the summer of 2011. The following year, Mould returned to the sound of Sugar, playing the band’s 1992 debut in its entirety while on tour, reissuing the band’s catalog as deluxe editions, and, finally, reviving its sound on Silver Age, his first album for Merge Records. Silver Age was greeted by strong reviews, as was its 2014 successor, Beauty & Ruin, which also appeared on Merge.

Trish Murphy

For Austin’s Trish Murphy it’s been a stormy ride between records. But sometimes the pain makes you stronger and that is certainly the case with her splendid new release, Girls Get In Free. With a new found confidence, Murphy unleashes ten new songs filled with passion and charm as well as a tantalizing and rowdy duet with Austin heart throb Bob Schneider on Lyle Lovett’s “Cowboy Man.”

The Austin Chronicle has summed up the album and Trish’s talents best: “A striking tableau of empowerment, whimsicality, and longing set to rich, rootsy textures, Girls firmly secures Murphy’s place in the upper echelon of Austin singer-songwriters.” And it’s the songs on Girls Get In Free that are the real stars. From the first notes of the jangly set opener “All I Want” to the defiant “The Trouble With Trouble” to the impassioned country rocker “Crying As Fast As I Can” to the bittersweet atmospheric “I Don’t Want To Believe,” this is easily Trish’s best work to date.

Murphy has been a musician most of her life. A Houston native, her father, a struggling musician and songwriter, taught his three children to sing background harmonies for him when they were preschoolers. Although he eventually had to take jobs in construction to make a living, the family kept its bohemian values. While she was working her way through school, her dad encouraged her to get gigs to support herself, rather than pursue the proverbial something-to-fall-back-on. After receiving a BA in philosophy, she decided to fall back on music full-time. She formed a duo with her younger brother and Trish & Darin became one of the biggest-drawing acts in Houston for several years in the early 1990′s.

In 1996, she moved to Austin to nurture a solo career and became one of the fastest rising musical stars in Texas. Her discography now includes three solo albums, two of which she recorded and released on her own label. Crooked Mile was released independently in April 1997 to widespreadTrishimagestree.jpg (9129 bytes) critical raves. National distribution soon followed, along with constant touring throughout the U.S. and Europe. Tour highlights included a week with Lilith Fair and appearances on Mountain Stage and World Cafe. Her follow-up CD, Rubies on the Lawn (Doolittle/Mercury 1999), garnered national press, mainstream radio airplay and more international touring, including a return to the Lilith Fair in its final season. Captured, independently released in late 2001, found Trish returning to her Texas roots in a stripped-down, live acoustic setting, doing what she does best: telling stories and shooting from the hip.

Equally important to Murphy is her work as a volunteer board member of GenAustin, a non-profit outreach program that helps middle school-aged girls develop strong self-esteem. “In a way,” she explains, “it ties in with the concept of ‘girls get in free.’ They establish big sister, little sister programs to teach girls moral integrity at time in their lives when things change seemingly overnight.” Murphy’s dedication to the program is so deep seated that the CD release party for Girls Get In Free was a benefit for GenAustin.

 


26th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 8

Alrighty, folks, here are your choices for Cover Song #4. Please vote for two (2)! The voting closes tonight at midnight.

Black Coffee
3 Chords and the Truth
One More Cup of Coffee
No Banker Left Behind
Call Any Vegetable
Wild Heart of the Young
Killing the Blues

As of today, we are at 65%, with eight days to go. Thank you for sharing and commenting and all your enthusiasm for the project. It’s been a heartening, slightly overwhelming month. Let’s push this over the top!

Love, Rain


25th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 22 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.

Iain Matthews

Iain Matthews began his recording career in 1966 with the surf group Pyramid. The band recorded one single for Deram Records, but never really went any further and Matthews (then still known as Ian MacDonald) left after he was brought to the attention of Ashley Hutchings, who happened to be looking for a male singer for his new band Fairport Convention. He remained with Fairport for two albums, including the folk-rock classic What We Did on Our Holidays, before leaving during the recording of 1969′s Unhalfbricking (his backing vocal can be heard on “Percy’s Song”) due to creative differences. Matthews soon signed with MCA Records for his first solo effort, Matthews Southern Comfort (1970), which featured former Fairport bandmates Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. He eventually formed a band of the same name, recording two albums for MCA and scoring a number one U.K. hit with their version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

Artistically restless, Matthews formed another band, Plainsong, with Dave Richards, Andy Roberts, and Bob Ronga. From the mid-’70s on into the ’80s, Matthews dabbled in a number of different styles, from jazz-inflected pop to new wave. In the 80s, Matthews decided to call it quits after 18 years as a recording artist. This consequently led to work as an A&R man for Island Music and then Windham Hill Records, but a 1986 appearance at Fairport Convention’s annual reunion festival rekindled Matthews’ interest in performing. His retirement turned into merely a five-year hiatus, culminating with Walking a Changing Line (1988), an album dedicated solely to the songs of singer/songwriter Jules Shear.

The late ’80s saw another move for Matthews, this time to Austin, Texas, where he worked on and off with Walking a Changing Line co-producer Mark Hallman. The next decade would be Matthews’ most productive stretch since the late ’60s/early ’70s, with the release of five solo studio albums, as well as three with the re-formed Plainsong, one with the band Hamilton Pool, and a handful of live recordings. It also proved to be his most fruitful period as a writer. The ’90s also saw the release of various collections of odds and ends, including three volumes of rarities and unreleased material entitled Orphans & Outcasts.

As the ’90s came to an end, Matthews continued to stay busy, floating from project to project, recording on his own, as well as with others. Tiniest Wham was issued in early 2000, as was the Sandy Denny tribute Secrets All Told with the one-off band No Grey Faith. A collaboration with singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy (La Terre Commune) followed in 2001.

Throughout the 2000s Matthews stayed active, releasing a handful of live albums while also stretching out into unfamiliar territory and collaborations. With the Searing Quartet, he explored jazz on the 2008 album Joy Mining. He made duet albums with Egbert Derix and Ad Van Der Veen, as well as two records with the Nick Vernier Band, including a 2010 LP called Time Will Show the Wiser that also showcased Emitt Rhodes. He also cut a record with Plainsong in 2003 and one with Matthews Southern Comfort in 2010. In the early days of 2014, he released The Art of Obscurity, which he called his final solo album; he wasn’t planning to retire but rather to cease making solo records.

Mother Truckers

The Mother Truckers are a kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll band from Austin, Texas! Their music is high-octane Americana, blending elements of Country and Blues with loud guitars, big choruses and powerhouse vocals. Their creative songwriting and high energy live performances lift you up to a place that’s somewhere between a honky-tonk and a mosh-pit!

The core of the group is the singing songwriting team of Josh Zee and Teal Collins.

Josh Zee (vocals/lead guitar) has recorded 2 major label records on the SONY/Work label as the singer/guitarist and songwriter for the Rock group “Protein”. They toured extensively throughout the U.S. on “The Warped Tour” and also toured Europe and Japan as part of MTV Asia Summer Fest.

Teal Collins (vocals/ukulele/guitar) Teal’s early introduction to music was through her dad, famous Jazz disc jockey Al, “Jazzbeaux” Collins. Teal has recorded sessions for Grammy award winning producers Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston) and Stephen Bray (Madonna). Teal has also received Gold and Platinum albums for her work on Shanice (Motown records) and Third Eye Blind’s album Blue.

Josh and Teal formed the Mother Truckers in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002 after meeting at a local open mic night. The Band recorded several self-released albums including fan favorite “Something Worth Dying for”.

In 2005, Josh and Teal moved their music to Texas, and set up shop in Austin, “The Live Music Capitol of the World”. There, they met local music scene veterans, Danny G (Bass) and Pete The Beat (Drums) who form The Mother Truckers powerhouse rhythm section. The band got a residency at the legendary Continental Club and quickly started drawing a large number of fans to their shows.

In 2007 they recorded their album “Broke, Not Broken” (Funzalo Records) at Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios in South Austin. The album was met with critical acclaim and received airplay nationwide. The Austin American Statesman’s Michael Corcoran placed the album on his top 10 list of the year as did the Village Voice’s Chuck Eddy. At SXSW The Austin Music Awards named The Mother Truckers “Best Roots Rock Band Of The Year”.

In 2008, The Mother Truckers released “Let’s All Go To Bed” (Funzalo Records) which was responded to immediately by the fans, the press, and multiple XM/Sirius satellite stations, Including “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” where the Truckers’ single “Streets of Atlanta” was picked as one of the “Coolest Songs in The World” . They also had many TV and film placements including HBO’s “True Blood” Series, feature film “Touching Home” with Ed Harris, and feature film “Wake” with Jane Seymour.

Now, in 2010, the band has a brand-new album “Van Tour”. An instant classic of in-your-face, touring band, rock and roll imagination!LITTLE STEVEN’S UNDERGROUND GARAGE

*the Mother Truckers song “SUMMER OF LOVE” has been chosen as one of the “Coolest Songs in the World” on the “Little Steven’s Underground Garage ” SIRIUS Satellite radio show.  2008’s “STREETS OF ATLANTA” was also chosen for this same distinction. Once again, Michael Corcoran from The Austin American Statesman has responded with high praise~ “… The Mother Truckers have penned an instant pop classic with ‘Keep It Simple’ from their new ‘Van Tour’ CD. The Tune, featuring Teal Collins’ sensational soaring vocals, has a nostalgic top 40 radio feel. Zee and Collins are probably the most talented guitarist/vocals tandem in Austin”.

The Mother Truckers will continue their “Van Tour” this Summer in the U.S., with a European tour in September!

Kris McKay

Following the dissolution of Austin roots rockers the Wild Seeds, co-lead vocalist Kris McKay struck out on her own for an intermittent recording career as a rootsy acoustic troubadour. A onetime drama student at the University of Texas, McKay had joined Michael Hall’s Wild Seeds — essentially an Americana band before the term came into vogue — in late 1987, just as the group was wrapping up work on their first full-length album, Brave, Clean & Reverent. She served primarily as a backing vocalist on the follow-up, 1988′s Mud, Lies & Shame, but was showcased as a lead singer on the album closer “All This Time.” When the Wild Seeds disbanded in 1989, McKay scored a solo deal with Arista, and released her debut album What Love Endures in 1990. Filled primarily with covers, the album failed to find an audience, hurt in part by the fact that adult alternative radio was not yet a widespread format. Arista dropped her, and McKay endured some long, lean years, working sporadically as a session singer while continuing to perform in the Austin area. Finally, in 1996, she resurfaced on the Shanachie label with her second album, Things That Show. A mix of seven covers and four originals, Things That Show featured a duet with Matthew Sweet on “How Cool,” as well as a distinctive reading of the English Beat’s new wave classic “Save It for Later.” McKay continued to work as a session singer and remained active around Austin until moving to Los Angeles; still, she played at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival in 1998 and 2000.

Dave McNair

Dave McNair is listed online as a mastering professional, so I’m not sure what he did at the CH. However, since he’s listed there, here’s a video about that!


25th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

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

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:

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2066525857529

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.

Lloyd Maines

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.

Ben Mallott

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.”