Off the Record
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Since the South by Southwest grid went public late last week, rumors have been swirling about some kind of Bay Area monster filling the unlisted Friday night at Stubb's. "There is going to be a Guitar Hero event at South by Southwest," affirms Creative Director Brent Grulke. "Some of Metallica's band members may make an appearance at the event." It makes perfect sense. In past years, the gaming behemoth has flown in artists such as Slash to promote its new releases at the Festival, and Guitar Hero: Metallica is slated for national release March 29. To boot, the Four Horsemen (see "Seek and Destroy," Jan. 9) release the band's entire catalog as a digital box set through iTunes at the end of March. Silversun Pickups are confirmed to appear at the promotion along with a "special guest" DJ.
Funny How Time Slips Away
"We did the first one, and I'll come back and do as many as they want us to," Willie Nelson once told OTR about the pilot episode of Austin City Limits. "I was fortunate to be there in the beginning when they were one of the first to make music sound good on television. That was a tricky thing back in those days." According to longtime producer Terry Lickona, that part hasn't changed much. "If anything, it's gotten more complicated," he says from ACL's vaults, citing the PBS staple's transition to high-definition quality. Of late, ACL has also revamped its efforts to digitally preserve its back catalog – hundreds of 2-inch tape reels stacked nine rows high in an isolated room near the studio. The vault is a heavily air-conditioned gold mine, filled with footage of artists such as Ray Charles, Townes Van Zandt, and Leonard Cohen that hasn't been viewed, much less properly released, since its original airdate. "We have to act quickly, as some of this stuff is starting to deteriorate," Lickona adds. The Red Headed Stranger made good on his promise Monday night, returning with Asleep at the Wheel – the first group to ever appear on the program – for the historic opening of ACL's 35th anniversary season. Over the course of more than two hours, Willie and the Wheel dusted off both their respective greatest hits and the vintage Western swing baubles from their recent album together. Nelson's acoustic guitar inflections and a Dixieland horn section jolted the new disc to life. "I don't know where this one came from or where it's going," Willie prefaced "Preservation Blues." That's exactly what made the evening so damn memorable.
Paul Skelton (1953-2009)
If the late Danny Roy Young's rubboard waltzes with the Cornell Hurd Band gave South Austin a beat to shuffle to, Telecaster master Paul Skelton peppered its steps. The local guitarist died Sunday morning of lung cancer. He was 55. An El Paso native, Skelton also performed regularly with Libbi Bosworth, Wayne "the Train" Hancock, and the Texana Dames, along with working for 13 years for Collings Guitars. "Some nights onstage, the stars would align just right, and Paul and his guitar would go to Mars," remembers Bosworth. "Not in a selfish, guitar-hero-type way but in a beautiful, fearless way in which the rest of us waited for his return from space."
Girl of the Century
Austin's Rosie Flores (see "Gypsy Rose," Aug. 10, 2007) is finally getting the backing she deserves. The rockabilly filly recently finished an album with Jon Langford & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, fittingly titled Girl of the Century after a painting by Tony Fitzpatrick of the same name. Previously collaborating on the Cosmonauts' The Executioner's Last Songs, Volume 1, the two camps met up at Chicago's Engine Music Studios for a session back in November. The resulting LP, due this summer on Bloodshot Records, tips its hat to the Everly Brothers ("You're the One I Love"), Johnny Cash ("Get Rhythm"), and, of course, Janis Martin ("Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll") but also boasts a tune Flores co-wrote with Patricia Vonne ("This Cat's in the Dog House") and three original songs from Langford. "I never once thought about if this could be on country radio," says Flores, who graces the Driskill on Friday. "The freedom of that was really rewarding. It's a bit looser with a bit more of a rocking edge."
Future's so Bright
Jenny Wolfe is clearly avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump. At Antone's Record Shop on Sunday afternoon, commemorating the release of her second album, After School, the 16-year-old sophomore entertained an audience many times her age for close to an hour with teen crushes such as the Shirelles' "Baby It's You" and the Zombies' "I Love You." With half-laced Converse high-tops and blue-tipped hair, Wolfe proved quite the precocious punk with her bewitching snarl in mentor Freddie Steady Krc's "I Wanna See You Cry" and "Twisted Smile," one original the two have co-written. The Explosives' Cam King saved his guitar pyrotechnics for the end, closing with the rockabilly romp of "Johnny B. Goode."
• Austin's youth gone wild takes over the Parish on Saturday with the finals for the National Association of Music Merchants-sponsored SchoolJam Texas battle of the bands. The winner gets a gig next April in Frankfurt, Germany. OTR emcees the free showdown, while freewheeling local boys White Denim bat cleanup for the grand finale.
• Rust never sleeps: Details are still forthcoming, but suddenly confirmed for SXSW Film is Jonathan Demme's Neil Young Trunk Show, a live concert follow-up to his 2006 film, Neil Young: Heart of Gold.
• South by Southwest is still looking for volunteers to help with Music Festival production. Volunteers need to be Austin residents, at least 21 years old, and able to commit to working at least three nights between March 18 and 22. Contact James Shinault (firstname.lastname@example.org), and fill out the online volunteer application at www.volunteer.sxsw.com.