Shane Bartell and Michele Solberg

Texas Platters

Record Reviews

Shane Bartell


Michele Solberg

Beyond the Blue (Chocolate)

Summer minus great pop music is like no air conditioning. Everyone's blood is up, and in Texas especially, crazy from the heat is more of a lifestyle than an expression. It's hard to blame Shane Bartell for wanting to lie around listening to the Red House Painters in "Harris Park," for example, or not mowing the yard because The Simpsons is on during "My Dad." His seven-song Reference is one of those cool nocturnal breezes off Town Lake, all too brief and yet profoundly refreshing. Bartell has a natural gift with melodies, polished to a high gloss by producer Lars Goransson. The lush "Water," jazzy "I Should Have Known," and frenetic "Desperate" all fill the room with radiant, supple reasons to smile. Besides, how can you not love a songwriter who tosses off observations like "I know it's wrong to be in my parents' house alone"? Michele Solberg's new Beyond the Blue is similarly dedicated to the prospect of keeping oneself cool, which given the amount of emotional and geographical upheaval present, is quite an accomplishment. Solberg's airy, hand-knitted vignettes contain more rootsy elements than her previous work, though it's the kind of rootsy associated with the lonely desert highways she considers traveling down in the whispery "Muleshoe." Elsewhere, chamber pieces like "Small Symphony" and "Beyond the Blue" bask in Solberg's wistful purr, while "Rainy Season" has enough sultry sexuality lurking just beneath its deceptively quiet surface to make Lucinda Willams nervous. Even so, the unlikely show-stopper is "Waking Place," a piquant diary of insomnia featuring a stunning turn on lap steel by Louis Meyers. Neither one of these albums will make it any cooler outdoors, but they'll make fine soundtracks, whiling away a lazy afternoon, and in that way, helping make the summer that much more bearable. Or almost, anyway.

(Both) ***

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Christopher Gray
Margaret Moser Tribute: Alvin Crow
Alvin Crow
Summer camp with the kids

June 30, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
That Margaret Moser, she’s a rainbow

June 30, 2017

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle