New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Raoul Hernandez, Rachel Rascoe, Derek Udensi, Michael Toland, Kevin Curtin, Doug Freeman, and Derek Udensi, Fri., Dec. 25, 2020
Sad Songs Holiday Special
Facebook Live, Saturday 26, 8pm
Ten months of social distancing hardly lends itself to hands-on community volunteerism, but even after the last four years of narcissism and division – and especially in 2020 – Austin recognizes a musical milestone. Meal program and publication from Jazz Mills, Carrie Fussell Bickley, and Jade Skye Hammer, Free Lunch outreaches into Austin to those experiencing homelessness via maximum nourishment. Indie rock firebrand Lolita Carroll (aka Lolita Lynne) and synth-pop peer Dena Hope now take up the standard in a fundraiser matching local ladies of sound with blue holiday cheer.
"Basically, it's an all lady/nonbinary bill of covers chosen by the artist and written by women!" explains Carroll. "Our goal is to raise money for Free Lunch and promote their 'lunch monitor' program of regular monthly donations. Free Lunch is very small, but making a big impact on a local level! Jazz is sort of a superstar in the music scene. She's an amazing musician and also began this amazing org out of her own home!
"We are working on a raffle with some cool sponsors, Desert Door [Distillery]. Kinda Tropical is putting together a discounted meal package for the 26th. And obviously the lineup is nuts!
"It should be a great time. We are beyond excited and grateful!"
2020 local music hero Jackie Venson, word sorceress Caroline Rose, Sweet Spirit/A Giant Dog leader Sabrina Ellis, and Texan roots scion/keyboardist Emily Gimble lead the deep bill. Meanwhile, mashups including modern funksters the Vapor Caves covering Portishead ("Sour Times"), indie rockers Annabelle Chairlegs attending the "End of the World" (Skeeter Davis), and Löwin cooking up Joni Mitchell's "River" tease a righteous hootenanny. Says Mills via Carroll's press release for the event:
"Three girls, who have no prior professional experience working with the homeless or doing large scale food production, are now running a meal service program that produces 2,500 meals a month. I want people to know that they don't have to change who they are to have a profound impact on their community. They can make an impact now."
Donate: www.freelunchatx.com/contribute. – Raoul Hernandez
KUT and KUTX Virtual Holiday Sing-Along 2020
In the Eighties, renaissance radio host John Aielli and friends began caroling at the Capitol. Since then, the tradition expanded into an official KUTX event co-hosted by Elizabeth McQueen. This year, a 30-minute YouTube special substitutes with yuletide covers by local standards. Shinyribs enlivens "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with a ukulele and purple suit. Gina Chavez brightens "Silent Night" with Spanish verses, while Eimaral Sol's timeless voice pinpoints holiday glow. Molly Burch has plenty of practice off her 2019 LP of underrecognized Christmas anthems. Watch anytime before Jan. 1 for a special performance by Aielli himself, who retired earlier this year from Eklektikos. – Rachel Rascoe
Black Pumas, "Christmas Will Really Be Christmas"
Exclusively on Spotify
Ah, Christmas! That time of year now starting in mid-November when anything with a rhythmic pulse contains jingling bells and overly synchronized singing. Led by Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada, Austin's Black Pumas joins in on the jolly cheer with its cover of Lou Rawls' 1967 holiday track "Christmas Will Really Be Christmas." Unlike most saturated holiday songs, this gem warns that Christmas can't proceed merrily if everyone's not enjoying warmth and peace: "When hearts are filled with joy, instead of worry and fear/ That's when the words 'Merry Christmas!' will be so much more sincere." Quesada replaces the grand, punctuating horns of the original with choral ad-libs and an array of elegant, joyous sounds. The production, coupled with Burton's well-timed high notes, create a dazzling, bewitching take on the late Chicago native's message. The locals' Christmas debut is featured in the "Spotify Singles: Holiday Collection" playlist and exclusive to the service. – Derek Udensi
Kyle Shutt, "Christmas Just Ain't Gonna Be the Same This Year (Without You)"
Guitarist for the Sword and purveyor of Doom Side of the Moon, Kyle Shutt turns solo attention away from his self-titled LP and toward this week with "Christmas Just Ain't Gonna Be the Same (Without You)." Dedicated to everything the novel coronavirus so rudely shut down in Austin, the clip switches between a poignant tour of empty streets and shuttered buildings, and scenes of the auteur joyfully performing next to a Christmas tree. Alternating a nifty synth riff with warm 'n' crunchy axework straight from the oven, the devilishly catchy pop/punk tune may well lodge itself in your head for the duration of your seasonal vacation. Premiered Dec. 22 via Detroit act Electric Six's online special It's the Most Wonderful Time... of the Least Wonderful Year, the video now streams and you can download the track. – Michael Toland
Crawford Smith, "Santa Got Furloughed"
Recently, "furlough" came in as a runner-up to "unprecedented" in Collins English Dictionary's annual Word of the Year selection. In fact, few of us were familiar with the term, meaning a temporary layoff from work, until April when all our jobs stopped jobbin'. Austin's Crawford Smith may be the first to have inserted the expression into a holiday song with his recent "Santa Got Furloughed," in which he wackily portrays Christmas as a small business getting slammed by the pandemic economy. Sounding like a scrappy Jonathan Richman, the deep-singing Smith recounts Saint Nick getting his sleigh repossessed, accepting paycheck protection loans, and considering a future in Bitcoin mining. – Kevin Curtin
Dave Madden & the Stocking Stuffers: "COVID Christmas"
Some of the most iconic holiday songs were written in times of crisis, such as the yearning of World War II's "I'll Be Home Home for Christmas" or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Dave Madden's "COVID Christmas" is not one of those songs. The songwriter and über-producer makes a preemptive strike on bad pandemic holiday takes with his hilariously self-conscious (and dangerously earworming) swinging rock throwback, regretting the reality that someone will write this song so he might as well get on with it. BettySoo, Akina Adderley, and Erin Ivey cast judgment as background chorus, while Madden upends holiday tropes to meet our moment. – Doug Freeman
Half Dream, "Christmas All Alone"
If you've ever watched those movies the Hallmark Channel churns out every December, you know Christmas exists as a day of romantic destiny where only a holiday miracle can bring together the overworked career woman in the red blouse and hunky dog-dad in a green sweater to snog beneath the mistletoe. Half Dream presents the counterpoint with new seasonal single "Christmas All Alone." Over minor-key acoustic dream-folk, Paige Berry uses her candlelit vocals to emote lyrically vivid misery of a post-breakup holiday: "I wrote your name on every package underneath the tree/ Every pen stroke like a prayer to bring you home to me." A yule log of burning loneliness. – Kevin Curtin
Honky Tonk Holidaze: The Movie
Twitch.com/wildbillatx, Thursday 24, 1pm & 7pm
It's not Christmas in South Austin until Wild Bill Ogden hosts his annual Honky Tonk Holidaze musical and charity benefit at Sam's Town Point. Although the songwriter and manic music promoter canceled this year's ninth annual stage performance, which normally features a slew of notable artists taking up the homespun tale of Santa, Krampus, and Swervin' Irvin the Elf, he immediately set to work in his garage creating a claymation version of the show. The result unveils Christmas Eve, with Wild Bill presenting the film live and performing on Twitch. Because you're a responsible human and won't be visiting with friends and family, spark up the yule log and enter into Wild Bill's winter wonderland instead. – Doug Freeman
Black Live Music Fund presents "Thankful"
Empire Control Room, Thursday 31
One-half of husband/wife duo Riders Against the Storm, Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone teams up with Empire to wrap 2020 with an unexpected bang. "Thankful," set for New Year's Eve at 7:30pm, will feature a diverse mix of premier Black Austin musicians performing live for over five hours. The Black Live Music Fund, which received heavy pushing by Mahone as early as June, received private funding last month with the goal of soon raising $50,000 for Black Austin musicians. Artists on the bill include Bastrop spitter Deezie Brown, spiritual soulstress Eimaral Sol, East Austin torch raiser J Soulja, R&B soul Jake Lloyd, and RAS themselves. Tickets for the event will be sold in pods to enforce social distancing. Entrants get their temperature checked before receiving entrance into the venue. – Derek Udensi
The Jungle Show
Jungleshow.tv, Thursday 31
Blues Mafia? Probably not, but the photograph of the The Jungle Show's five principals – ZZ Top guitar pick and throat Billy Gibbons, Strat tamer Jimmie Vaughan, axe murderess Sue Foley, Double Trouble drum constant Chris "Whipper" Layton, and organ grinder Mike Flanigin – looks like it got snapped at the wedding of Don Corleone's daughter! Must be the shades and Southwestern formal duds. Indeed, when these five (four of them local) begin burning up the stage at Antone's, a Fifties-era razor's edge of R&B glows neon red: long, loose, and grooving. A virtual pivot five years into the annual shred fest, no problem: "We took inspiration for calling what we do The Jungle Show from B.B. King's song 'The Jungle,'" explains Vaughan in a press release. "There's a lyric in there that truly relates to what's going on these days: 'I think I'll move to the jungle, people, move way out in the woods/ Yes, because the way things are here now, well, I ain't doin' myself no good.'" – Raoul Hernandez