Tell Me True
2009-10 Austin Music Awards
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., March 26, 2010
Austin Music Hall, Saturday, March 20
Gov. Rick Perry set a dangerous precedent signing honors to Austin Music Awards doyenne Margaret Moser, who was presented with such to open the annual scene preserver Saturday night at the Austin Music Hall. The Chronicle's senior Music writer and A&R inadvertently took it a step further in kicking off the night by thanking her mother – who was in attendance. Virtually every AMA recipient that followed gave thanks to she-who-carried-them-for-nine-months. In fact, just prior to Musician of the Year Bob Schneider walking away with a full stack of awards under his arm at the end of a night emcee Andy Langer dubbed "The Bob Schneider Music Awards," best Hip-Hop/DJ act Tee Double finally thanked both God and his father. It was a first. The former also got a shout-out from Geoff Muldaur in the first musical set of the show, the head Texas Sheik exiting the stage with "God bless Stephen Bruton" after his octet of mostly locals, including jug band progenitor Jim Kweskin, granulated old-timey acoustic folk blues into a fine sand of silky roots. Hall of Fame inductee Denny Freeman choked up more than once in thanking Austin's original blues crowd, as well as Margaret Moser, while Will Sexton brimmed with emotion in acknowledging his stroke last year and channeled his thanks to the local scene's professional health care network and personal DIY outreach with a warm songwriterly performance approaching 1970s oracles Don McLean and Jackson Browne and starring Sahara Smith, whose tremulous "1,000 Secrets Wide" recalled Patty Griffin in both its title and the young singer's delicate voice and beauty. Ponty Bone thanked his "parents for all those accordion lessons they forced me to take when I was 5 years old" in another Hall of Fame entry, and continued best Instrumental band McLemore Avenue thanked Stax Records foundation Booker T. Best female vocalist, Country/Bluegrass, and Folk artist Sarah Jarosz pulled off what Sahara Smith can't quite yet – hushing the Music Hall with her voice, which continues to grow in Joan Baez-like gravity and purity. Solo, first on acoustic guitar, then on banjo and mandolin, Jarosz demonstrated a musical poise and grace on the title cut from last year's Grammy-nominated bow Song Up in Her Head and "Tell Me True" far older than her college freshman years. Dedicating "Mansinneedof" to Moser, Jarosz deemed her AMA trifecta a "coming home." Cactus Cafe proprietor Griff Luneburg, instrumental in Jarosz's already long career by virtue of the endangered UT club's roots prescence, followed her in accepting best Acoustic Venue and promised to "see you next year." Former KGSR mainstay Jody Denberg presented a very large check, literally – five feet long at least and for $152,844.41 – to musicians' mental health pioneer SIMS prior to New Wave therapists the Explosives doing for Moby Grape whaler Peter Lewis what they did for another 1960s psych pioneer, Roky Erickson – banging out a sonic net to fall back on. Starting on a twanging tiki beat, the 1980s quartet rang out hot-rod licks before bringing out Lewis and Creedence Clearwater Revivalist Stu Cook for three songs, including celebrated Moby Grape LP staples "Sitting by the Window" and "Fall on Me," which recalled San Francisco's tie-dye guitar juggernauts. Golden oldies gave glorious way to a titanium coming-out in Mother Falcon ("There's a shitload of them," announced Langer in awarding 17 bandmembers assembled onstage earlier for their None of the Above plaque) lifting off its orchestral chamber folk like Star Wars' Millennium Falcon. Only ASO conductor Peter Bay wasn't onstage when the assemblage's front line of cellos met its six violinists, sax and trumpet swooping in to goose both. Band leader Nick Gregg and his vocal foil Claire Puckett piloted the Falcon's sweeping movements like big-top acrobats flying above a Polyphonic Spree, the group's feral chorus swimming Okkervil River. "Faint Green Light," from Mother Falcon's new EP, Still Life, gave way to the evening's only standing ovation. Austin, meet your newest musical sweethearts. That left only the closing jam, 45 minutes worth of gritty Fort Worth-style R&B as led by Austin's Wilson Pickett, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. Guesting Eastside monument/guitarist Henry "Blues Boy" Hubbard, plus the next best thing to Texas Tornado Freddy Fender – 1950s-style crooner Johnny Hernandez – BJL's septet muscled out songs from debut star turn Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! ("Sugarfoot," "I'm Broke") while delving into Texicana, including Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby" and Bobby Blue Bland's "Further On Up the Road." Thanks God the Father, Mother, and Margaret Moser.