Off the Record
Not Fade Away
"As much as it's really, truly an honor to be considered for a Grammy," says Will Sheff, the day after being nominated for Best Album Notes for Roky Erickson with Okkervil River's True Love Cast Out All Evil, "it feels misplaced. The record is a tribute to Roky, his incredible songs, and his incredible performances. It should be all about him." Even so, it was Sheff's scholarly apprenticeship and patient, respectful guidance that made the Rokkervil collaboration such a rousing success (see "Please Judge," April 16). All told, 43 Texas-born or -based acts received a total of 54 Grammy nominations, a generous sum that includes nods to Miranda Lambert (five), the Arcade Fire (three), and Beyoncé (two). The usual suspects will also be accounted for at the 53rd annual award ceremony in February: Willie Nelson (Best Americana Album, Country Music), Jimmie Vaughan (Best Traditional Blues Album, Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites), former Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Pinetop Perkins (Best Traditional Blues Album, the Willie "Big Eyes" Smith-assisted Joined at the Hip), and Patty Griffin, who has two chances to win – Best Traditional Gospel Album for Downtown Church and Best Americana Album, as a part of Robert Plant's Band of Joy. On a more DIY front, local studio wizard Erik Wofford bolsters his résumé as mastering engineer for Grupo Fantasma's El Existential, which is up for Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album, while Sara Hickman contributed two selections to Healthy Food for Thought: Good Enough To Eat (Best Spoken Word Album for Children), and the Black Angels were featured on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack. Aside from cross-cultural Tejano act Tortilla Factory, perhaps the most surprising nod went to Wolfgang Gartner, a local DJ who's worked with the Black Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, and Deadmau5. He's up for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, via his treatment of Andy Caldwell's "Funk Nasty," a house single from a few years back that was edited and re-released for Grammy eligibility. "That's a really good example of my old electro-style," says Gartner, born Joey Youngman, "but I've moved on from that sound." www.grammy.com.
Double Trouble bruiser Chris Layton joined Jonny Lang and Band of Gypsys' Billy Cox on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on Monday for an all-star version of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." The event served as a capstone to the recent Experience Hendrix tour, for which Austin's Eric Johnson had the rare honor of playing the white Stratocaster the iconic guitarist used for his decade-defining Woodstock set. "It was a really nice guitar, but it was more about the mystique of playing it," relays Johnson, whose nightly five-song set included a duet with Susan Tedeschi on Axis: Bold as Love's "One Rainy Wish." "You could see and feel all of the pick scratches on the underside because Jimi played left-handed." The local guitar hero just released his first new studio album in five years, Up Close, a more personal collection of space-age Texas blues and progressive clairvoyance, a small step removed from his infamous studio perfectionism. "I'm trying to strike a new balance, to use the part of the music that serves me and let go of the rest," he says. "There's a bit more spontaneity to the recording. Tracks are being performed rather than pieced together." Just in time for the holidays, Johnson also recently released Live From Austin TX '84, his first Austin City Limits appearance, recorded shortly before the sessions for his 1986 breakthrough, Tones. He's already started working on an acoustic album in preparation for a solo tour next year. "It's just a different side of me that's really started to emerge more from me in recent years."
At the Drive-In
The East Side Drive-In resembled a private planetarium Friday for the Octopus Project's Hexadecagon, a big-tent visual spectacle and pan-stereo experience. The local visionaries performed in the round, surrounded by an eight-channel speaker system, with Yvonne Lambert's theremin serving as the calming eye of the electronic whirlpool. Though the quartet never lost its gleeful, we-can-pull-this-off charm, the event yielded more icing than cake, with the long, minimalist pieces never quite reaching their full potential, especially in contrast to the urgency displayed in the encore of Hello, Avalanche's "Truck" and "I Saw the Bright Shinies." The following, unseasonably warm night, DJ Cutmaster Swiff pinpointed the Achilles' heel of the new fenced-in, bilevel venue. "We on some curfew shit," he noted around 9:30pm, a half-hour into Big Boi's set. "We only got 12 minutes." Thankfully, the OutKast originator had already proven just how many greatest hits he could walk through in that time frame, opening with a ghetto blaster medley of "ATLiens," "Skew It on the Bar-B," and "Rosa Parks." From the up-in-smoke chimney sweep of "Fo Yo Sorrows" to the militant charge of "B.O.B." and artillery-clip a cappella on "Daddy Fat Sax," "General Patton" proved he's still one of the coolest motherfunkers on the planet.
On the Road Again
Inspired by John Steinbeck's 1960 book, Travels With Charley: In Search of America, Charlie Faye trekked across the Great Divide and back again to make her third album. Beginning last New Year's Eve, the Austin songstress spent one month in 10 different cities, working with local musicians and recording a new song in each location. "There were definitely setbacks and some hard times, but somehow it pulled itself up and out of it every time," says Faye, a Wilson Street resident and community activist (see "Suspended in Time," News, Aug. 13). "A lot of this stuff wasn't organized beforehand, but when you go somewhere and actually meet people and let things be, a lot can happen in a month." In creating the soundtrack to her road trip, Faye ended up collaborating with Ian Moore (Portland, Ore.), members of Calexico (Tuscon, Ariz.), the Eagles (Los Angeles), and Violent Femmes (Milwaukee). She finally returns home to Momo's on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and has started a Kickstarter campaign (www.kck.st/cB5EH2) to help complete the album, offering incentives that range from digital downloads and tour consulting to house concerts. "I don't think there's any place better to live than Austin," Faye observes, "unless you have really bad allergies or a tendency towards alcoholism."
Local punk progenitor Tim Kerr has re-pressed Your Name Here, his collection of tempura portraits and social commentary, with local multimedia experts Monofonus Press. The new edition boasts a cassette mixtape of Kerr's greatest hits, including cuts from the Big Boys, Poison 13, Lord High Fixers, and the Monkeywrench. Browse it at the Indie Lit Roadshow at ND at 501 Studios on Sunday, Dec. 12, noon-9pm.
Nick Curran & the Lowlifes, Alejandro Escovedo, and the Mother Truckers have tunes under consideration for Little Steven's Underground Garage competition to champion the Coolest Song in the World 2010. Vote at www.littlestevensundergroundgarage.com/csw.
Friday, Dec. 10, at Yard Dog Gallery, Ian McLagan opens his first exhibit, "Paint From Pain," a collection of paintings that attempts to capture the numb frustration of migraines. "I find it quite challenging," offers McLagan, who appears next at the SIMS Benefit Bash at the Austin Music Hall on Saturday. He hasn't given up on his quest to bring the Faces to Austin. "As long as we have Ronnie [Wood] we're all right. Keith [Richards] should write another book, keep them off the road."
Once dubbed "The Pied Piper of the Keys," Ernie Mae Crafton Miller passed away in local hospice care Wednesday morning. She was 83. A pianist who got her start in the 1940s with the Prairie View Co-eds, Miller was a fixture of East Austin's Chitlin Circuit and held a 16-year residency at Red River's infamous New Orleans Club (see "The Miller's Tale," July 6, 2007). Services are pending.