Music news

Complicated man: Isaac Hayes
Complicated man: Isaac Hayes

The Long March

Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's badges all about? Damn right. Isaac Hayes will host the 50th anniversary Stax Records Revue at SXSW, now scheduled for 7:30pm Thursday, March 15 at Antone's. Also one of the first artists signed to the resurrected label (with Angie Stone and Soulive), Hayes joins Booker T & the MGs – with original members Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" DunnWilliam Bell, Eddie Floyd, and the inevitable special guests. In SXSW Film music news, mom-rock heartthrob James Blunt will appear at March 10's world premiere of James Blunt: Return to Kosovo, a look at the former Royal Navy officer revisiting his late-Nineties duty with a UN peacekeeping force. Mamas & the Papas offspring Michelle Phillips will be on hand for March 17's 40th anniversary screening of D.A. Pennebaker's Monterey Pop, while Hole in the Wall salutes the festival at its March 18 Monterey Hoot with Brothers & Sisters, Trish & Darin Murphy, Cat Scientist, and many more. The festival's "24 Beats per Second" music-doc series features, among others, profiles of ill-fated Pharcyde producer J-Swift, the first all-female mariachi band, Seattle punks the Gits, and the last month of TLC rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez's life. Finally, 4,000 SXSW wristbands went on sale noon Monday at Waterloo Records and sold out within 24 hours. Tuesday's going rate on Craigslist was around $250, but more may be released March 14.

New West Moan

New West Records invoked some ancient showbiz mojo to land the soundtrack rights to Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer's blues-and-bondage picture Black Snake Moan, which opens Friday. A mutual friend – named Dub, no less – introduced Brewer and Snake composer Scott Bomar to New West President Cameron Strang and, relays Austin VP Jay Woods, "they hit it off." In stores now, the soundtrack features Son House, R.L. Burnside, Black Keys, North Mississippi Allstars, and four songs sung by star Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a Delta bluesman determined to rid Christina Ricci of her "wickedness" by chaining her to a radiator. (Best. Movie. Ever. Made.) "He's actually really good," says Woods. "He doesn't have a great voice, but he plays this blues character really well." The soundtrack is only part of a busy 2007 for New West, with albums from Rickie Lee Jones, Ben Lee, Dwight Yoakam (a Buck Owens tribute), and John Hiatt either out now or on the way. Steve Earle appearing at the label's March 16 SXSW showcase at the Parish is no coincidence, either. "There hasn't been a press release or anything, but we're making a Steve Earle record," says Woods, "a rumor is the Dust Brothers are going to produce." Several new volumes in New West's Live From Austin, TX CD/DVD series culled from the Austin City Limits archives, are likewise on the way. "It's like instant catalog," says Woods. "Those do really well." The first, due next month in an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart (genius!), should excite Southerners and air guitarists everywhere: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Still Roaring

Few decades in American history have been as dynamic or influential as the 1920s, when jazz, blues, country, and Tin Pan Alley tunes all eclipsed European waltzes and operettas as the nation's popular music. "The Twenties marks the beginning of the American century in a lot of ways," says Harry Ransom Center curator Oliver Franklin. "It was the decade America found its place in the world as we know it today, for good or bad." Part of the HRC's 50th Anniversary, its multimedia "American Twenties" exhibition includes art, literature, and artifacts from the HRC's vast archives on display through July 29, with several music tie-ins scattered around local clubs with era-appropriate artists like Asylum Street Spankers, Guy Forsyth, Glovertango (Friday at the Continental Club), and White Ghost Shivers (Saturday at Emo's, plus a Twenties fashion show). Museums don't usually sponsor club gigs, but Franklin emphasizes how crucial Prohibition and speakeasies were to the decade's musical culture. "When Prohibition happened, people who wanted to have fun and wanted to drink and were creative people were forced to congregate in these sequestered locations and encounter things they'd never heard before," he says. "That was quite liberating. It created a soup where all these things were born."
Roky Erickson at his SXSW Ice Cream Social, Threadgill's 2006
Roky Erickson at his SXSW Ice Cream Social, Threadgill's 2006 (Photo By John Anderson)

Roky Unfettered

Roky Erickson is once again a free man, in a manner of speaking. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators frontman and all-around music legend had all his legal rights restored in an Austin court last Friday, ending more than five years of guardianship by younger brother Sumner Erickson. "We've both been freed," says Sumner. "This points to the miracle of what he and I were able to do: get him to make choices that would restore his wellness." To that end, Sumner says Roky is completely medication-free and has hired a manager, publicist, and U.S. and European booking agents. Although nothing is planned at the moment, an eventual new album is at least a possibility. "It's just a natural part of his coming back," Sumner says. For now, Erickson hits San Francisco's sold-out Great American Music Hall tonight (Thursday) for the Noise Pop festival, with Coachella, New Orleans' Ponderosa Stomp, and several U.S. and European festivals on the horizon. "He's really excited," says Sumner, himself looking forward to accompanying Roky in a nonlegal capacity. "I'm just his brother," he says. "He invited me on these trips, and it's my responsibility to find good, homemade ice cream."

Bullet the Blue Sky

• Sound Team sent the Chronicle a preemptive e-mail last Friday announcing that they've officially been dropped from Capitol Records and "couldn't be happier," according to singer Matt Oliver. "Labels have already started sniffing around, but we're in no rush," he adds. The band is working on a new album ("a real doozy") at their Big Orange studio on the Eastside and should have limited-edition 12-inch and CD single "Empty Room"/"Ashes" in stores next month. Fulfilling Newton's Third Law of indie rock, Matador Records has signed Austin folksmiths Shearwater and will re-release a two-disc edition of last year's Palo Santo April 10.

Happy fifth birthday to the Austin Music Foundation, which celebrates 7pm tonight (Thursday) at Antone's with Stasis, Pink Nasty, and the Jungle Rockers, part of AMF and ME Television's Emerging Artist Series. Free dinner will be given for the first 100 people to show up. And cake! ME's cameras will stick around to film the release party for The Greatest Thing I've Ever Learned, the debut by former Endochine singer Casey McPherson's new group Alpha Rev.

Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer recently bought the circa-1933 Avenue Barber-shop on South Congress a few blocks south of the club and hired former Continental employee Big Kev, just back from five years on Green Day's road crew, as lead barber. Meanwhile, the upstairs Continental Club Gallery, featuring artwork from musicians Bob Schneider, Ethan Azarian, and soon Joe Ely, is now open seven nights a week, with David Garza settling into three-month weekly residency there Monday.

Mark Seliger, who grew up in Amarillo and went to UT before becoming one of Rolling Stone's signature photographers, opens "In My Stairwell" in person at Austin's Fielding Lecht Gallery, 708 Congress, next Thursday. Drawn from Seliger's eponymous 2005 book, "Stairwell" features portraits of friends (Matthew Barney, Susan Sarandon, Willie Nelson) taken in his NYC apartment and runs through May 11.

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Roky Erickson, Sumner Erickson, New West Records, Black Snake Moan, Steve Earle, Harry Ransom Center, 1920s, Stax Records, SXSW Film, Sound Team, Shearwater, Austin Music Foundation, Continental Club, Mark Seliger

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