Off the Record

Music News

For Whom the Bells Toll

James Hetfield
James Hetfield (Photo by Gary Miller)

The Sword's medieval epics beckon for grandiose settings, and spread across a 360-degree stage inside Houston's sold-out Toyota Center last Thursday, Austin's metallurgists unfurled chariot races of galloping guitar that drew first blood on "Barael's Blade" and closed with "Freya." After the enormous coffin lighting rigs descended from overhead, headliner Metallica taunted death for two straight hours with metal standards "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Fade to Black" that made the band's appearance in Dallas for August's Ozzfest pale in comparison. "How does it feel to be alive?" beseeched James Hetfield, before instigating "Fight Fire With Fire" from 1984's Ride the Lightning. The Bay Area behemoth demonstrated a rejuvenation that rippled through well-received new cuts such as "The Day That Never Comes" and opener "That Was Just Your Life." If anything, Metallica should've axed Down's Neanderthal NOLA sludge and danced with death for an hour longer.

The Sword's J.D. Cronise (r)
The Sword's J.D. Cronise (r) (Photo by Gary Miller)

Through the Looking Glass

Off the Record
Photo by Sandy Carson

An obscure, one-man recording project, Silent Land Time Machine thrives in the realm of escapism. The local artist crafts deeply affecting dream narratives, weaving layers of violin, acoustic guitar, and found sound into warm, ambient instrumentals that slowly accumulate force. Self-recorded over the past year and pressed on limited edition, 180-gram vinyl, SLTM's debut, & Hope Still, which was released in partnership with Maine's Time-Lag Records, recalls the hazy bedroom folk of Benoit Pioulard, the Books' looped electro-acoustic pieces, and the minimalist drone of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. "It's all very vague," concedes Silent Land Time Machine, who speaks only on the condition of anonymity but emerges from the shadows at the Parish on Dec. 4 with classically minded contemporaries Balmorhea. "I want to remove myself from the picture as much as possible to help create a really personal listening experience."

Deck the Halls

Julian Koster
Julian Koster (Photo by Doug Freeman)

Capping off his caroling tour of Austin, Elephant 6 savant and Music Tapes founder Julian Koster (and his dog Rudolph) delivered some early holiday cheer at the Eastside home of Matt King last Friday. More than 40 fans gathered around the fireplace to witness the wassailing, including a handful of tots rapt at Koster's soft-voiced storytelling and original banjo carols. The former Neutral Milk Hotel resident bowed and bent his saw for versions of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "The First Noel," both of which appear on his latest, The Singing Saw at Christmastime (Merge). The highlight of the evening, though, came from Koster's magic-trick encore, which left the room wrapped in a hypnotic, sugarplum nostalgia. Santa has a tough act to follow.

New Kid on the Block

The backstory always reads the same – veteran songwriter moves to Austin for fresh perspective – but rarely has it worked as well as it has for Randy Weeks. Founder of 1980s roots purveyors the Lonesome Strangers, Weeks penned Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road highlight "Can't Let Go" and transplanted locally in 2006, hooking up with producer Will Sexton for his fourth and strongest solo outing, Going My Way (Certifiable), due in February. The album continues Weeks' solid streak of exuberant, roots-pop but swings with the eccentric flair of South Congress, thanks in part to contributions from new acquaintances Tony and Eliza Gilkyson and Cindy Cashdollar. "It was a spontaneous decision, but I don't regret it," maintains Weeks, who settles into the Saxon Pub on Dec. 4. "I immediately seemed to be able to write more songs. I felt refreshed just to hang around town and meet new people."

The Big Come Up

Having landed on Rolling Stone's hot list, San Antonio Beach Boys enthusiasts and local favorites Hacienda back the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach for a two-week tour beginning in late February, promoting his self-recorded solo debut, Keep It Hid. "I'm not really sure how we'll fit into the picture," admits pianist/vocalist Abraham Villanueva, "but it'll be nice to be in the background and concentrate on being a solid rhythm section." Hacienda plans on spending the rest of the year working on a follow-up to its stellar Auerbach-produced debut, Loud Is the Night (Alive), which is being pressed for vinyl in January.

Rolling Stone From Texas

Don Walser at 
the Broken Spoke
Don Walser at the Broken Spoke (Photo by John Carrico)

Facing charges of fraud and breaches of contract and fiduciary duty by the estate of beloved yodeler Don Walser, who died in 2006, three local music corporations – Texas Music Group, Antone's Records, and Texas Clef Entertainment – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 18, but the individuals sued in the case – Heinz Geissler, Randy Clendenen, and James Heldt – have not. In what has become a legal battle on par with the legacy of Townes Van Zandt, the Walser estate seeks past due royalties from Geissler's Watermelon Records, which declared bankruptcy in December 1998 (see "Going for Broke," June 18, 1999), and, in lieu of the royalties from Texas Music Group (see "Texas Music Group," Sept. 29, 2000), the right to the master recordings and the disgorge of TMG's net profits. The dispute is estimated at $300,000.

The case was due in state court on Dec. 1. Now that the three entities have declared bankruptcy, it will be more difficult for the Walser estate to efficiently acquire the masters, as the companies' assets will likely be frozen as part of their reorganization strategy.

Elsewhere on the legal front, New York's Lorito Management, on behalf of Frank Carillo & the Bandoleros and special guest Augie Meyers, filed criminal charges with the San Marcos Police Depart-ment against executive producer Jerry Payne of World United Music Festival after being issued a bad check for $3,000 in lieu of the band's contractual cash payment. The poorly attended three-day festival and radio conference pulled its own plug on Nov. 15, shortly after the Bandoleros' performance, reportedly due to weather conditions and production conflicts. Payne left OTR a message last week saying he was still assessing the situation and has since been unavailable for comment after repeated requests from the Chronicle.

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Don Walser, Texas Music Group, Hacienda, Metallica, the Sword, Silent Land Time Machine, Julian Koster, Randy Weeks, Antone's Records, Live Music Task Force

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