Singer, Songwriter slash Mom
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.”


22nd Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

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.

Bobby Keys

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.”

Kimbo

I will ask Mark, but all I can find under this name is “Kimbo Creative and Educational Music and Movement.” Hmm!

 


21st Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 19 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.

Janis Ian

When she was just 15, Janis Ian recorded her self-titled debut; the LP contained “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),” a meditation on interracial romance written by Ian while waiting to meet with her school guidance counselor. While banned by a few radio stations, the single failed to attract much notice until conductor Leonard Bernstein invited its writer to perform the song on his television special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The ensuing publicity and furor over its subject matter pushed “Society’s Child” into the upper rungs of the pop charts, and made Ian an overnight sensation.

Success did not agree with her, however, and she soon dropped out of high school. In rapid succession, Ian recorded three more LPs — 1967′s For All the Seasons of Your Mind, 1968′s The Secret Life of J. Eddy Fink, and 1969′s Who Really Cares — but gave away the money she earned to friends and charities. After meeting photojournalist Peter Cunningham at a peace rally, the couple married, and at age 20, she announced her retirement from the music business. The marriage failed, however, and she returned in 1971 with the poorly received Present Company. After moving to California to hone her writing skills in seclusion, Ian resurfaced three years later with Stars, which featured the song “Jesse,” later a Top 30 hit for Roberta Flack.

With 1975′s Between the Lines, Ian eclipsed all of her previous success; not only did the LP achieve platinum status, but the delicate single “At Seventeen” reached the Top Three and won a Grammy. While subsequent releases like 1977′s Latin-influenced Miracle Row, 1979′s Night Rains, and 1981′s Restless Eyes earned acclaim, they sold poorly. Ian was dropped by her label and spent 12 years without a contract before emerging in 1993 with Breaking Silence (the title a reference to her recent admission of homosexuality), which pulled no punches in tackling material like domestic violence, frank eroticism, and the Holocaust. Similarly, 1995′s Revenge explored prostitution and homelessness. Two years later Ian returned with Hunger; God & the FBI followed in the spring of 2000. A live set, Working Without a Net, appeared from Rude Girl Records in 2003, and a DVD, Live at Club Cafe, saw release in 2005. Folk Is the New Black appeared as a joint release from Rude Girl and Cooking Vinyl in 2006.

And (Rain speaking here) here’s the really mind-blowing thing – Janis Ian is, today, one of the most successful and sought after of mainstream Nashville songwriters. How ’bout them apples?

Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston has spent the last 20 or so years exposing his heartrending tales of unrequited love, cosmic mishaps, and existential torment to an ever-growing international cult audience. Initiates, including a healthy number of discerning musicians and critics, have hailed him as an American original in the style of bluesman Robert Johnson and country legend Hank Williams. A number of artists — among them the Dead Milkmen, Yo La Tengo, the Velvet Underground’s songs. And he as collaborated with the likes of Jad Fair (a founding member of Half Japanese, who’ve also done Daniel’s songs), the Butthole Surfers, Bongwater/Shimmydisc guru Kramer, and members of Sonic Youth. Daniel gained his widest public exposure to date when, at the 1992 MTV Music Awards, Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain (who constantly touted Daniel in interviews) wore a Johnston T-shirt.

Surprisingly, the bulk of his considerable acclaim snowballed from a series of homemade, lo-fi cassettes which Daniel started recording and handing out to fans and friends alike in the early 80s. Eventually, the independent label Homestead re-issued some of these tapes on CD, and Johnston recorded a few new albums in almost-proper studios.

Daniel was born in 1961 in Sacramento, California, the youngest of five children in a Christian fundamentalist household. He and his family soon moved to New Cumberland, West Virginia, where his father, an engineer and World War II fighter pilot, landed a job with Quaker State. Drawing for a long time before he took up music, Daniel grew to appreciate such artists John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, Queen, Neil Young, the Sex Pistols, and especially The Beatles. “When I was 19, I wanted to be The Beatles. I was disappointed when I found out I couldn’t sing.” That Liverpudlian quartet continues to inspire Daniel today, who sings, “My heart looked to art and I found The Beatles / Oh God I was and am a true disciple on Rock ‘n’ roll/EGA.”

While it would be years before Daniel committed his first songs to tape, he began composing at an early age. “When I was a kid, probably nine, I used to bang around on the piano, making up horror movie themes. When I got a bit older, I’d be mowing my lawn and I’d make up songs and sing them. No one could hear me ’cause of the lawn mower.” As a teenager, Daniel and his friends began to record their own tapes and trade them among themselves. After high school, he attended an art program at a branch of Kent State near his family’s home. This was a prolific period of his life. Unemployed, and attending classes sporadically, he began to spend most of his time in his family’s cellar, writing and recording. The tapes he made there included “Songs of Pain” and “More Songs of Pain,” which both centered around his unrequited love for a woman named Laurie who ended up marrying an undertaker.

The aspiring cartoonist — whose playful, symbol-heavy sketches have graced the covers of may of his releases, including “Fun” — moved to Texas in 1983. First he went to Houston, living with his brother and working at Astro World, while also recording the seminal tapes “Yip/Jump Music” and “Hi, How Are You?” on a $59.00 Sanyo mono boom box. These recordings featured such classics as “Speeding Motorcycle,” “Sorry Entertainer,” and odes to everyone from “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “King Kong” to “The Beatles.” From there he moved to San Marcos, TX, and even joined a traveling carnival show for a spell, selling corndogs. “It was like a movie all the time. Everybody around me was a great story that never stopped, and for the first time, I realized how much freedom you have to do what you want.”

Throughout his career, Daniel’s songs and drawings have been informed to some degree by his ongoing struggle with manic depression — lending an added poignancy to his soul-searching times. His five-month stint with the carney left him in Austin, where he decided to stay. In the midst of that city’s mid-eighties music scene, Johnston was a definite iconoclast. While he continued to hand out his tapes for free, Austin record stores started selling them; in fact, the became best-selling local releases. Soon, a camera crew from MTV’s seminal “Cutting Edge” show came to town and all the Austin bands suggested they feature Daniel.

BTW, you can see his work on the northbound side of the bridge over Lamar, just south of the Whole Foods mothership.

Tonio K.

Tonio K. (born Steven M. Krikorian, July 4, 1950[1]) is an American singer/songwriter who has released eight albums. His songs have been recorded by Al Green, Aaron Neville, Burt Bacharach, Bonnie Raitt, Chicago, Wynonna Judd and Vanessa Williams, among many others.{Warner-Chappell Music Publishing, 1991-2000} His song, “16 Tons Of Monkeys,” co-written with guitarist Steve Schiff, was the featured tune in the 1992 Academy Award winning Short Film, Session Man. He worked with Bacharach and Hip-Hop impresario Dr. Dre on Bacharach’s At This Time, which won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Recording in 2005.

 Donna Lynn Kay

Donna Lynn Kay is a Canadian singer and slide guitarist whose musical influences draw from the American Deep South and the Mississippi Delta. Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, she has lived in Canada, Europe, and most recently in Austin, Texas.

In Austin, Donna was a regular on the local Blues Scene – appearing on stage at such hallowed venues as Antone’s and Threadgill’s – and has shared the stage with such noted players as Hubert Sumlin, Buckwheat Zydeco and Kim Wilson. She is equally comfortable playing electric guitar at the bigger venues, or playing more laid back and intimate clubs where her instrument of choice is her National Guitar.

Musically, Donna draws from the early slide masters like Son House and Blind Willie Johnson. You will also hear the influences of Muddy Waters, Robert Petway and of course, Robert Johnson – the most famous of the early bluesmen. In a recent interview, Donna said, “This music has an honesty and a soulfulness that reaches down inside of you. With every listen I seem to take away something new.” She continued, “The first time I ever heard slide live was back many years ago when R.L. Burnside played the Horseshoe in Toronto. I don’t think anyone can ever really replicate the playing of the great masters, but that’s not the point. The secret is to find something of your own within the Music.”


20th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 18 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.

Ray Wylie Hubbard Elana James

The Hoyle Brothers

The Hoyle Brothers approach their music the way a preacher might prepare for a sermon: Reference the good Book, find a theme that resonates and deliver it with fire and passion.

That’s what makes The Hoyle Brothers so special. Their brand of genuine country music draws from the genre’s deepest traditions–lyrics that speak universal truths, melody lines that melt your heart and two-step rhythms that make your boots scoot.

Since the start of weekly residencies at Chicago’s The Hideout and The Empty Bottle in 2002, The Hoyle Brothers have earned respect and recognition from a growing number of fans and music critics who find the boys’ purity of purpose and first-rate musicianship irresistible. Some go a step further, predicting The Hoyle Brothers will eventually show Nashville that its current roster of pop-minded, new country stars needs a little of The Hoyle Brothers’ battered boot leather and real country soul.

Sara Hickman

Sara Hickman has garnered recognition as a captivating singer/songwriter, vocalist and musician, with artists such as Shawn Colvin, the Flatlanders, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson and many others covering her songs. On her Kirtland Records debut release Shine, Hickman delivers another memorable collection of 10 songs that will take the listener on an intense journey destined to evoke a broad spectrum of emotions.

As Rolling Stone puts it, “Tuneful, clever and carefully observed, Sara Hickman’s material has all the strengths expected of a contemporary Texas songwriter, plus one more – whimsy.”

Since she started performing at the age of seven, Hickman has been embraced by both followers and critics. The Associated Press proclaims, “Seek out her albums and club shows for her melodic sense, excellent guitar playing, rich voice and mix of sunny optimism with heartache.” Hickman’s home state of Texas loves her too, naming her the 2010-2011 “Official State Musician of Texas,” joining luminaries such as Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.

A guest performer on at least 25 albums by other recording artists, Hickman has toured with Billy Bragg, Dan Fogelberg and Nanci Griffith, and has opened for other artists including the Decemberists, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams. She has also appeared in and sung on national ad campaigns for Walmart, Popeye’s, Daisy Sour Cream, Southwest Airlines, Fannie Mae and numerous others.

Well! Those are the cold, hard facts. But the other fact is that Sara is my friend and she rocks and I love her!

This video captures the essence of a Sara Show:

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Hubbard wrote “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1973 recording. Hubbard recorded for various labels but struggled with sales; his mix of country, folk and blues elements didn’t find an audience. After leaving the scene and struggling with personal problems, he returned to recording with Lost Train of Thought in 1992 and Loco Gringo’s Lament in 1994.

Today Ray Wylie Hubbard is an elder statesman of the Texas music scene. From New Braunfels, Texas, Hubbard hosts a Tuesday night radio show called “Roots & Branches”. This program promotes new and established Americana artists. Like some other performers in his genre, he is perhaps as popular in Europe as in the US—Hubbard has been invited by record companies in the Netherlands to produce albums.

And I got to be in the audience when he sang “Screw You, We’re From Texas” in the post-taping segment of the David Letterman show.

I can’t embed the video, but here’s the link!

Elana James

We met Elana yesterday in her band the Hot Club of Cowtown. She is a really interesting person. This is from her Wikipedia page:

James grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas and began playing Suzuki violin at age four. Her mother is a professional violinist who used to play in the Kansas City Symphony.

James graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York while studying violin and viola at the Manhattan School of Music as a student of Lucie Robert and Karen Ritscher. She studied improvisation and swing fiddle with Marty Laster in New York City and studied Dhrupad, an early form of North Indian Classical music, with Pandit Vidhur Malik in Vrindavan, India.

James is a former Managing Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. In the early 1990s she worked as a horse packer and wrangler at the Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado and played fiddle in the ranch’s cowboy band. James is an alumnus of the Meadowmount School of Music, the New York Youth Symphony, the Columbia University Chamber Music Program, the New York String Orchestra Seminar with Alexander Schneider and the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France.

And here she is on “Orange Blossom Special”:


 


19th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 0

Welcome to Day 17 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.

Juliana Hatfield

Juliana Hatfield is from Boston and fronted Blake Babies and Some Girls. She now performs as a solo artist, and as one half of Minor Alps, alongside Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.

In 2010, Hatfield reached out to her fans, crowdsourcing the funding of her new album through the website Pledge Music and giving a portion of the money donated by fans to a pair of animal shelters. The album, Speeches Delivers to Animals and Plants, arrived in 2011. She did it again last year!

Tish Hinojosa

Tish Hinojosa has drawn numerous critical accolades for her borderless approach to music, blending Mexican folk and country music with a modern singer/songwriter sensibility and touches of pop. In 1988, she moved to Austin and hit the city’s thriving roots music scene.

In 2005 Hinojosa released Heart Wide Open, her first studio album in five years, and the following year Retrospective, on Varese, came out. Another new set, Our Little Planet, appeared in 2009.

Rich Hopkins

Known for his work in the ’80s with the Sidewinders and in the ’90s with the Sand Rubies, guitarist and songwriter Rich Hopkins formed his own band Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios in the early ’90s. His former side project became his full-time passion, combining the talents of many of the musicians he had been working with in the Tuscon, AZ, area. Their independent debut Personality Crisis was followed by Dirt Town in 1994, Dumpster of Love in 1995, and a solo album entitled Paraguay. The band’s 1996 release, El Paso, was followed by one of many European tours and 1997′s The Glorious Sounds of the Luminarios was the first to feature bassist Mike Davis from the MC5 and a reunion with Bruce Halper from the Sand Rubies. The subsequent tour produced the live album 3000 Germans Can’t Be Wrong and 2000 brought about their sixth studio album Devolver.

 

 

Hot Club of Cowtown

The band’s name comes from two sources: “Hot Club” from the hot jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club of France, and “Cowtown” from the western influence of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys and the band’s love of fiddle tunes, hoedowns, and songs of the American west.

Whit Smith and Elana James originally met through an ad in the classified music section of The Village Voice in 1994, and played together in New York City before relocating to San Diego in 1997, where they spent a year playing for tips and building up their repertoire. By 1998, they relocated to Austin, Texas, and in 2000 added Jake Erwin (originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma) on bass.

The band split in 2005, though they reunited for occasional shows in 2006-07, including the Fuji Rock Festival and a tour of Australia as Elana James & The Hot Club of Cowtown, in 2007. Whit Smith performed as Whit Smith’s Hot Jazz Caravan, based in Austin, Texas. Smith and James resumed playing together full time in 2006. By early 2008 the Hot Club of Cowtown had officially re-formed.

I would like to add that Elana James played fiddle on my song “Red Green White Blue,” from the album Cinderblock Bookshelves.