Off the Record
The Recording Academy made a legitimate bid for street cred this year with its nominations for the 51st annual Grammys, taking place Feb. 8 at Los Angeles' Staples Center. Rapper Lil Wayne leads the way with eight nods, including Album of the Year (Tha Carter III), while M.I.A.'s Pineapple Express blockbuster "Paper Planes" is up for Record of the Year. Even noise duo No Age got noticed, albeit for Best Recording Package. Most surprising is Grupo Fantasma's nomination for its 2008 LP, Sonidos Gold, in the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. "We feel like the Cinderella story," admits guitarist Adrian Quesada, who rings in the new year at the Parish with Grupo and waxes the Scoot Inn this Saturday in his psych-funk side project, Brownout. "Most [nominees] have a big machine behind them, whereas we've done everything with grassroots, from the ground up. We're definitely the underdogs." All together, 26 Texas-born or -based artists wrangled a total of 30 nominations. Continental Club mainstay Redd Volkaert is among the performers nominated for Best Country Instrumental Performance as part of Brad Paisley's six-string shoot-out "Cluster Pluck." Local pianist Marcia Ball – appearing next at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar on Tuesday, Dec. 16 – received her fourth nomination to date for Best Contemporary Blues Album (Peace, Love & BBQ), and 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pinetop Perkins, who gets his mojo cookin' at Antone's on Friday, Dec. 26, chalks up another bid for Best Traditional Blues Album with his latest, Pinetop Perkins and Friends. See www.grammy.com for the complete list of nominations.
The Bright Shinies
Those that only know multi-instrumentalist Toto Miranda from his work with local electronic wizards the Octopus Project (see "Silver Lining," Oct. 5, 2007) might not be ready for the absurdist onslaught of Woozyhelmet. Formed in 1997 and rounded out by bassist Brandi DiPietro of the Sour Notes and guitarist Jay Blazek Crossley, all of whom share instruments and vocal duties, the trio cranks out sweaty basement jams with neurotic tendencies, teetering between contagious twee pop and the abrasive guitar noise of Trance Syndicate Records. "Fast and loud seems to be our stock and trade," says Miranda, who's in the process of booking a series of local shows while the Octopus Project finishes a new EP and begins writing a full-length follow-up to last year's Hello, Avalanche. "Woozyhelmet tends to be a bit looser, where a missed note or forgotten lyric is less of a screwup and more of a charm." Following an unsteady stream of self-recorded CD-Rs, Woozyhelmet recently released its hand-crafted and individually numbered sophomore album, Get Down, featuring such slanted and enchanted lullabies as "We Support the Italian Stewardesses" and "What Was Dad Talking to Daniel About?" Getting down won't be a problem, but good luck picking yourself back up.
For the Sake of the Song
Griff Luneburg can no longer be considered the unsung hero of the Cactus Cafe. On Monday night, more than 25 local singer-songwriters, including Bruce Robison and Jon Dee Graham, paid tribute to the longtime club booker and manager at a surprise open-mic alumni gathering, offering personal reflections nearly as memorable as the songs performed. "Griff's gone so far out of his way to open doors and help people with their careers," reflected co-emcee and organizer Matt the Electrician. "He's constantly working to better the folk and acoustic community and always remains focused on the new generation, making sure that it continues to thrive." The four-hour engagement proved a soundtrack to Luneburg's legacy at the venue, which celebrates its 30-year anniversary in February, with appearances from elder statesmen Slaid Cleaves ("Broke Down") and Beaver Nelson ("Pyramids") and a stark round-robin from Ray Bonneville, Gurf Morlix, and Sam Baker, alongside a fresh crop of emerging songwriters such as Leatherbag ("It's Over") and current open-mic-night host Graham Weber. The generational divide was bridged through a few notable collaborations, including Jimmy LaFave and Warren Hood combining for Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," while Jimmie Dale Gilmore and son Colin offered a masterful rendition of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freight Liner Blues" that was nearly matched by David Garza and Abra Moore's duet on TVZ's "Marie." Luneburg appeared characteristically laid-back throughout the evening, at one point joking, "We should've charged a cover."
• Founder and Director Mike Murphy nearly closed her Natural Ear Music Camp in light of exceedingly high overhead costs. "The parents wouldn't let me," she laughs. Instead, the long-running local institution is temporarily moving its operations to Music Lab's St. Elmo location beginning in January and is hosting an end-of-semester showcase at Jovita's on Sunday.
• Mayor Will Wynn is officially proclaiming today (Thursday) to be Girls Rock Camp Day at 5:30pm. The local nonprofit celebrates at City Hall with a free performance by the Velvet Pretzels, succeeded by Follow That Bird! and camp graduate Fabi Reyna at Jo's Coffee. A benefit follows next Friday, Dec. 19, at Red 7, with Cruiserweight and Adrian & the Sickness.
• Meanwhile, the Paul Green School of Rock Music Austin hosts Rock Against Hunger at Stubb's on Sunday, with tributes to Hendrix, progressive rock, and something called Freedom Rock, for the benefit of the Capital Area Food Bank. Admission is two nonperishable food items or $5.
• Local bluesman Jake Andrews recently wrapped up recording sessions with former Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones, contributing lead guitar and his own single "Lover to Cry" for Paul Jones 2009, due in February on Collectors' Choice. The comeback was co-produced by former Austinite Carla Olson and also features contributions from Jones' Powerhouse cohort Eric Clapton. "He kind of copped one of my guitar parts," confides Andrews, who returns to the Continental Club on Saturday with Guitar Shorty. "I had to go back and record around Clapton, which was quite an honor really."
• After less than four years of operation, the Oaks near Manor closed its doors on Nov. 30, due primarily to financial difficulties. Say it ain't so.
• Attn. Postal Service: The Recording Conservatory of Austin is hosting a free, advanced seminar on Pro Tools-based digital collaborations on Monday. For reservations and directions, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.