Off the Record
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss raise sand in Dallas, Lick Lick goes big in Japan, Dutch hip-hop sprouts in Austin, and a homecoming for Doyle Bramhall II
Doyle Bramhall II has never had a problem standing on the shoulders of or alongside giants. The former Fabulous Thunderbird and annual Arc Angel has ridden with the King (B.B.), written and toured with Eric Clapton, and torn down The Wall with Roger Waters (see "Welcome Wagon," May 25, 2001). For his new, self-financed solo effort, the guitarist is interpreting the secular spirituals and prison songs archived by Alan Lomax. "Most of the original recordings are really deep and painful," says Bramhall, who's recorded the album piecemeal over the past year with Charlie Sexton and the Roots' production team, ?uestlove and James Poyser. "It's been a pretty amazing journey that's taking me back historically to the beginning of blues." The trek isn't merely metaphorical either. Bramhall plans to visit Africa after his next round of dates with Clapton in August. "Now that I've gotten into the Delta blues, it's like I've stepped into this expansive room that extends forever," Bramhall concludes. "I want to hear where it all starts." Expect something old, new, borrowed, and blue when Bramhall returns home for a two-night stand at Antone's on Friday and Saturday.
For the Love of the Game
Perhaps even stranger than the notion of Dutch hip-hop is that it made its American debut here in Austin via local imprint Beats Broke Records with last year's release of Kapabel & Inf's De Avonturen van. "The Dutch don't get so bogged down with the commercialism of it all," prefaces label head and Nebraska transplant Ryan Goeller, who discovered the little-known genre through his association with rapper Max Fischer. "It reminds me of the golden era of hip-hop in the Eighties, before all of the skits and shout-outs started coming in." On Tuesday the label extends its global reach with the release of Progressions, a DJ Shadow-esque 7-inch EP from the Utrecht, Netherlands-based Arts the Beatdoctor. "Dutch is kind of a bastard language, very harsh and guttural, but a little bit romantic like French," offers Goeller. "There's a feeling to it that's just as interesting as the music itself."
Field of Dreams
There are no field of dreams guarantees when hosting a music festival. Last Saturday, the inaugural Exit Music Festival failed to register on the local radar, leaving many of the local bands uncompensated for their efforts. "We didn't see the type of promotion that would make for a successful event," says Landon Thompson of headliner the Black & White Years, who pulled off the bill, along with Gary Clark Jr., when the band didn't receive its contracted advance. "I thought the festival was an amazing show," counters Exit Music Group President Will Matthews. "I was really happy with how it all looked and sounded, but for whatever reason, people just didn't show up. ... There's no intention to not compensate the bands involved. We plan on moving forward and growing from this." In other festival news, entries are being accepted for Dell Lounge's second annual Sound and the Jury competition, wherein one unsigned band earns a coveted spot at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2008. The deadline for submission is Aug. 22, with voting commencing July 11.
• South Congress staple the Continental Club, now in its 51st year of operation, is one step closer to being recognized as a historical landmark after receiving unanimous approval from the Historic Landmark Commission last week. The initiative goes before the City Planning Commission on July 22 and City Council on July 24.
• Session wizard and scene veteran David Grissom offers a free tutorial in musicology at Guitar Center North Austin (2525 W. Anderson #200) on Wednesday, 7pm, as part of the shop's new GS Sessions series. For a review of his latest, see "Texas Platters."
• Waterloo Records is closing its Video Annex store on Aug. 16. The music emporium plans to remodel its storefront on Lamar this summer to increase floor space and incorporate the annex's selections but will no longer operate a video-rental service. The fire sale is already raging.
• Local indie rock tributary Dead Oceans further indulges its nostalgia for Californian AM pop with its latest roster addition, San Diego's the Donkeys. The quartet's sophomore outing, Living on the Other Side, arrives Sept. 9.
• Following in the footsteps of Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, ZZ Top has been tapped as Rick Rubin's latest comeback project, inking a new record deal with the producer's Columbia imprint, American Recordings.
Lost in Translation
Lick Lick is officially coining a new genre: prunk. "It's progressive punk," explains guitarist Eric Roach. "All of us have been playing for 25 years, so there's a lot of influences crammed in there, but all of the parts are really short." Prunk doesn't even begin to describe the sensory overload found on the local quintet's eponymous debut late last year. With the group's ties to Les Saucy Pants, Sprawl, and Brown Whörnet, the album belches like the culmination of Austin's avant-noise rock scene of the last decade, absurd math-metal flushed with psychedelic organ. Imagine the Butthole Surfers covering X. The band recently welcomed composer Peter Stopschinski and the Jazzus Lizard's Snoopy Melvin into the fold, and departs this week for a weeklong tour of Japan. "We're looking forward to the culture shock," says Roach, who plans on documenting the experience for Lick Lick's website. "I don't think we'll have a problem fitting in."
The Odd Couple
"Can you feel it?" beckoned Robert Plant before the levee officially broke, two hours into his Raising Sand revue with Alison Krauss at the Nokia Theatre in Dallas on Monday. There was no escaping it, the evocative restraint and subtle seduction between the Mighty Rearranger and the bluegrass belle. Harmonizing halfway between his Delta blues and her Appalachian folk, the two reimagined the American songbook with gospel selections ("You Don't Knock," "Down to the River to Pray"), Byrdsian country ("Through the Morning, Through the Night"), and New Orleans R&B ("Fortune Teller"), not to mention Led Zeppelin's "Black Country Woman," "The Battle of Evermore," and "Black Dog," which was slowed to sensual call-and-response duet that dripped honey. The sexual strut of Plant's "In the Mood" from 1983's The Principle of Moments enveloped the Krauss-led traditional "Matty Grove," while hometown hero and producer T Bone Burnett took center stage for Doug Sahm's "Dynamite Woman" and the Cajun classic "Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler," with help from the band's lead guitarist, Buddy Miller. "I don't know how someone could sum up so much human grief and still make a song about it," classic rock's golden god prefaced Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'," crediting Burnett for turning him on to the Americana nugget. "And it wasn't even Morrissey." P&K headline Austin City Limits 2008 Saturday, Sept. 27.