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Staci Gray Kids Show (10:00am); Jenifer Jackson, A.J. Croce, Painted Redstarts & Curtis McMurtry, the Hard Pans

Sat., July 5, 5pm

Strange Brew Lounge Side
5326 Manchaca Rd., 512/828-7636

http://www.strangebrewaustin.com

A.J. Croce returns to a city he knows all too well, this time bearing February’s Twelve Tales. His father, radio staple Jim Croce (“Time in a Bottle,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”), died in a plane crash in 1973, when A.J. was almost 2. Historically reluctant to talk about the author of “I Got a Name” and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” Croce allows the obvious connection.

“My father’s legacy is a beautiful thing, yet we’re very different people. Some people think children of celebrities will invoke their parent’s spirit, and I get that, but my identity is separate.”

Croce released his first album at 18, opening for B.B. King to promote it. Now 42, he’s enjoyed a long, sustaining career as a musician and songwriter of his own renown, spinning tales deep, intricate, and knowing. That journey’s included myriad trips to and collaborations in the Texas state capital.

“I love Austin,” he affirms. “I’ve worked with many music industry people from Austin. I’ve played with Willie Nelson, performed on Austin City Limits, and written with friends like Tony Scalzo [of Fastball and Strange Brew Monday night regulars Wrenfro].”

He plays favorites, too.

“My Austin favorite is Folk Uke. My close friends Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie live in Austin. I always try to see them when I come to town.”

Twelve Tales took a year to record with six different producers, including “Cowboy” Jack Clement (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash), Allen Toussaint (Dr. John, Paul McCartney), and Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Los Lobos). Croce penned “Rollin’ On” with Leon Russell, whom he calls “one of my heroes.” It’s a good life.

“I wake up having to do music. Every day I feel like I need to be writing or playing. Music makes my life better,” says Croce, musing. “And I’m looking forward to playing Austin. Hearing the next story that might turn into a song, standing in line at Jo’s [Coffee].”

– William Harries Graham

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