Singer, Songwriter slash Mom
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10th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper 2

It’s Day 9 of the Congress House All Stars! Time to meet three more amazing artists who have brought their work to Mark Hallman.


“Modern Alternative” Austin band led by brothers Beaux and Zak Loy on guitars and vocals, Damesviolet recalls Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations with Coldplay and Goo Goo Dolls dynamics. Austin’s Damesviolet might have what it takes to join their ranks.



The Derailers

Beloved Austin country band formed by Portland natives Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt in 1994, who were signed by Sony Records and poised for mainstream success with their album Here Come The Derailers set to be released September 11, 2001. You can imagine what happened. Still, they charted on Billboard with that release and their next, Genuine. Founder Villanueava left the band in 2003 to become a youth pastor and spend more time with his family but the Derailers are still rocking Austin and in fact have a show coming up on August 16 at the Broken Spoke!

Rick Droit

Rick Droit, from Deadwood, TX, values good-sounding music. He says this, about his new album Return of the Firehorse:

“In this day of downloads and inferior quality mp3s, Droit has crafted an album that combines the best of old school and cutting edge technology to arrive at one of the best produced recordings of 2013.  Drawing on the engineering talents of gold-record award winning Mark Hallman and a host of talented friends (Sara Hickman, Warren Hood, Kristin Dewitt etc) Return of the Firehorse is an exciting sound journey through a rich landscape.”


8th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper Comments Off on Congress House All Stars (Day 8)

It’s Day 8 and we are one week into 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 26% of our goal and will be featured tomorrow in Indiegogo’s newsletter!

Now it’s time to meet a few more artists who have recorded at the Congress House!

Donna Lynn Caskey

Donna Lynn Caskey (aka “Jangles”) (aka the “Banjo Gal”) recorded her debut album Nameless Heart at the Congress House last year. (I’m proud to say I’m the one who introduced Donna Lynn to Mark Hallman.) It’s a beautiful album, which you can check out here.

Donna Lynn will be singing with me on tomorrow’s Cover Song #2, so watch for that.

Here’s her song “Slot Machine,” which the great Julie Christensen recorded on her album Weeds Like Us.


Christy Claxton

Christy Claxton is a Texas music promoter, Austin writer, and Austin community activist.

Here she is!

Shawn Colvin

Another who really needs no introduction, but Wikipedia has some facts I didn’t know. Before the Grammys, before “Nothing On Me” was the theme song for Suddenly Susan, here’s what Shawn Colvin was up to:

“Colvin moved to Austin, Texas and joined a Western swing band called the Dixie Diesels. She then entered “the folk circuit in Illinois and Berkeley”, California[6] before she “strained her voice” singing rock songs and took a sabbatical from singing at the age of 24.[1]

Colvin later moved to New York City, joining the Buddy Miller Band in 1980.[2] When Buddy Miller left the band it became The Shawn Colvin Band.[7] With Buddy gone the band needed a lead guitarist and this led to her meeting John Leventhal.[2] She later becoming involved in the Fast Folk cooperative of Greenwich Village.[8] Over time she became progressively more popular on the new folk circuit and while participating in off-Broadway shows such as Diamond Studs, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and Lie of the Mind.[1] She was featured in Fast Folk magazine, and in 1987, producer Steve Addabbo hired her to sing backup vocals on the song “Luka” by Suzanne Vega.[1][6]

After touring with Suzanne Vega,[6] Colvin was brought to the attention of Columbia Records by Addabbo and signed a recording contract with the label.[1][6] Colvin released her debut album Steady On with her fellow songwriter and co-producer, John Leventhal in 1989. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and featured backing vocals by Vega.[1] Colvin’s second album Fat City was released in 1992 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. The song “I Don’t Know Why” was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Female Pop Vocal category.[1] In 1993 she moved back to the city of Austin and in 1994 released the album Cover Girl, a collection of cover songs.[6][9] In 1995 Colvin released her album Live 88 which consisted of live recordings she had made in 1988.[10]”

Here she is on her current tour with Steve Earle:


And here are the names of the lovely people who have pledged so far:

Sasha Stone
Robin Jacober
JB White
Sonia Nordenson 
Charlie Faye
Tamara Bearheart West
Christopher Land
Steve Bennett & Leslie Ogden
Carol Cohen
Michael Shapiro
Len Klaif and Linda Harmon
Jerry Jaz
Anuj Timblo
Laura Timblo
Rachel Luna
Tara Jeffery
Bill Small
Donna Lynn Caskey
Kit Stolz
Jacqueline Hampton
Sue Olson & Michael Jauregui
Robbie Sheppard 
Lynne Dobson
Sally Hackel
Loren Knight
Wendy Lockwood
Caryn & Charlie Bosson
Craig Moreau
Bill Giles
John (Prine) Brooks
Leslie Paxton
Jim Churchill
Diana & Tony Luboff
Mike Takahara
Daniel Matthews
Traci David
Tim & Teresa Carpenter
Jennifer Phelps & Richard Niles
Jill and Christopher Borgeson
Charles Field
Patrick Lashly
Vicki Hafer
Rosa Jones
Julie Christensen
Greg & Kim Kolanowski
Steve Nicolaides
Debra Cummings
Amanda Johnson
Ira Heilveil
Steve Meador
Justine Wynn
Sarah Otterstrom
Kim Stroud
Marcela K. Ibenez
Olivia Slaughter
Elissa Kline
Philip Jackson & Tinisha Stone
Carol Stonesifer
Jackie Clark
Sasha Heslip
Ulf Edlund
Robert Watts
Ryan White
Carla Desantis Black
Willow Van Den Hoek
Christine Denney
Roslyn Demaria
Jim Lashly
Barbara Bartok
Carl Thelander
Linda Livingston


7th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper Comments Off on Congress House All Stars (Day 7)

Welcome to Day 7 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.


Buzzie is an Austin band fronted by John McElhenney, the former lead vocalist of Blue Cartoon who have been called “rootsy and emotional.” According to FUFKIN, also very affecting: “Love songs are just so much more effective when the singer sounds like he’s in love (or just had his heart broken).”

And by the way, their blog has so much interesting information about music and Austin in particular, you really ought to check it out.


David Byrne

Um, David Byrne? Do I need to introduce him?  After the Talking Heads, Byrne’s solo career has been diverse and fascinating. I got to see his powerpoint presentation at SXSW about the music business. He came to the Congress House to record the horns for his album Grown Backwards.

Here’s “Glad,” from that album, but what’s weird is that even though the horns are credited, I don’t hear them. Hats off to him for crediting who he hired even if he made a different final choice:

 Brandi Carlile & Susanna Choffel

Okay, I have scoured the internet to try to figure out what project these two worked on together at the Congress House, but it’s too late to email Mark, so I’m just going to talk about them separately.

Brandi Carlile: country music based, alternative artist who caught the attention of T Bone Burnett at a young age – songs on a GM commercial & Grey’s Anatomy, Rolling Stone’s 10 Artists to Watch in 2005, produced by Rick Rubin, dueted with Elton John. She names as her influences  Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Thom Yorke, k.d. lang, Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison – came out in 2005 and married in Massachusetts in 2012. Whew.

Brandi Carlile:

Susanna Choffel – I don’t even know how to describe her career. You have to read this.  But Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis wrote, at SXSW, that Choffel “impressed me more than any I’ve heard here with a unique sound equal parts Beat poetry, smoky soul grooves and indie-pop eccentricity. Think Feist meets Erykah Badu, with a hint of Tex-Mex seasoning.”[3]

Susannah Choffel – here she is on The Voice:



6th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper Comments Off on Congress House All Stars Day 6

Welcome to Day 6 of the Indiegogo Campaign for The Shopkeeper: A Documentary about Mark Hallman and the Congress House. I am going to link to everyone on Mark’s extensive client list before this is through1

(And don’t forget: your free download of my version of “Angel From Montgomery” is here.)

Doyle Bramhall II

Doyle Bramhall II is a native Austinite whose father, Doyle Bramhall Senior, was the drummer for blues legend Lightning Hopkins and a regular collaborator with Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When Doyle was 16 years old, he toured as second guitarist with Jimmy Vaughan’s band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Shortly thereafter he and fellow Texan, Charlie Sexton, co-founded the rock band Arc Angels. Doyle and Charlie enlisted the rhythm section from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band, Double Trouble, to complete the lineup.

Here he is with John Mayer at Crossroads 2013:

 Junior Brown

Inventor of the double necked “Guit-Steel” guitar, recipient of CMA, Grammy and Bluegrass Association Awards with appearances in movies (Me, Myself & Irene, Dukes of Hazzard) and TV (X-Files, Spongebob Squarepants), there is nobody like Junior Brown. Here’s “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead”:


Stephan Bruton

Stephan Bruton, who passed away in 2009, played guitar with Kris Kristofferson for nearly 40 years. His songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Buffett and more. He produced the music for the film Crazy Heart.

Here’s a link to a beautiful reminiscence in the Austin Chronicle.

Here he is performing with The Resentments (an Austin all-star band which features our friend Scrappy Jud Newcomb):

This series is coming to you as part of the campaign for the film The Shopkeeper.


5th Aug 2014 Posted in: Blog, shopkeeper Comments Off on Congress House All Stars (Day 5)

It’s Day 5 of the Indiegogo Campaign for The Shopkeeper.  Here we go with a few more artists who have recorded at the Congress House.


Steve Berlin

Steve Berlin is best known as the saxophonist for Los Lobos (who I’ve seen about 20 times, btw – they are the greatest rock and roll band in the world). But did you know he was originally in The Blasters? And did you know that as a session musician or producer, Berlin has worked with the Crash Test Dummies, Backyard Tire Fire, Beat Farmers, John Lee Hooker, The Paladins, Faith No More, Dave Alvin, R.E.M., The Go-Go’s, The Smithereens, The Replacements, Leo Kottke, Sheryl Crow, The Act, Los Super Seven, Rickie Lee Jones, String Cheese Incident, Alec Ounsworth (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Raul Malo, Rick Trevino, Jackie Greene, The Tragically Hip, Great Big Sea, The Bridge, Nathan Wiley, The Dandy Warhols, Making Movies and Deer Tick

Here he is sitting in the Leftover Salmon:

 Dan Bern

Dan Bern is a super-talented, politically minded folk singer. He’s written a lot of very clever, funny songs like “Talking Woody Bob Bruce Dan Blues,” but this beautiful song is my favorite:

Jane Bond

Hailing from Lexington, Mass. but an Austinite since 1995, Jane Bond’s music is rooted in old-time country and blues fused with jazz and rock & roll. She enjoyed a 20-month residency at the Continental Club. Here she is at Antone’s: