New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week

What we’re listening to

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
Cover photo by John Anderson

Celebrity Austin Music Pollster: BettySoo


Band of the Year: Black Pumas

Musician of the Year: Jackie Venson

Songwriter of the Year: Eliza Gilkyson

Hip-Hop Artist of the Year: Blackillac


Album of the Year: Eliza Gilkyson, 2020

Song of the Year: Adrian Quesada and various artists, "Walk With Me Austin"

Video of the Year: Caroline Rose, "Feel the Way I Want"


Local Label: Chicken Ranch

Radio Station: Sun Radio 100.1FM

Radio Personality: Suzanna Choffel

Record Store: Antone's Records

Recording Studio: Arlyn


Best Virtual Event: Blues on the Screen

Best Livestreaming Artist: Jackie Venson

BEST 2020

Best Nonprofit: SIMS Foundation

Best Fundraising Effort: Free Lunch for the homeless from Carrie Fussell Bickley, Jade Skye Hammer, Jazz Mills

Best 2020-Themed Song: Akina Adderley, "Broke"

Best Innovation/Business Pivot: Emo's election polling station

Musician Who Went Above & Beyond: Jonathan "Chaka" Mahone


James Hand

Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy


In October, Austin's brooding balladeer Bill Callahan teamed with equally enigmatic auteur Bonnie Prince Billy to release a surprise cover of Cat Stevens' "Blackness of the Night," with arrangements by Drag City labelmate Azita Youssefi. The singles have continued weekly since, each a new cover and collaboration, ranging from pop busters (Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues" with Bill MacKay; Billie Eilish's "Wish You Were Gay" with Sean O'Hagan) to more obscure (Johnnie Frierson's "Miracles" filtered through Ty Segall; Lowell George's "I've Been the One" with Meg Baird). Amid Lou Reed's "Rooftop Garden" and Hank Williams Jr.'s "OD'd in Denver," the duo also rolls out a deep Jerry Jeff Walker fascination with takes on "Little Bird," "Letter Sung to Friends," "I Love You," and "Night Rider's Lament." The arrangements spiral eclectic and provocative, hung across the balancing act of Callahan's low, methodical intonations and Oldham's creaking high lonesome. – Doug Freeman

Invincible Czars Tease Van Halen EP

Eruptive axe killer Josh Robbins shares at least two attributes with the late Edward Van Halen: a birthday, and a stringed instrument. When the Dutch guitar fiend died on Oct. 6, 2020, of cancer, the Invincible Czar took it hard: "I cried on and off all day that day," he emails. ATX's avant-instrumental avatars thus marked what would have been EVH's 66th birthday this week with a stab at "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love," one of three covers of the Pasadena hair metal greats' due on 4/20. "This is slowed down," writes in Robbins about the EP's advance song/video, "played an octave down and has flute, violin, and organ with much distortion." Consider it the codeine mix! Visuals range from the Continental Club and Sixth Street to a Lost Well performance, singer Chris Wright (aka Skunk Manhattan) expertly crossing David Lee Roth with a latter day Elvis, while Katie O'Neil and Phil Davidson bear down on flute 'n' fiddle, respectively. Happy birthday, Josh: "In 2018, I performed solo guitar at the graveside of the co-founding chef of Second, playing Van Halen tunes for the family," he shares. "I even did 'Eruption' as best I could!"  – Raoul Hernandez

Black Pistol Fire: Look Alive

Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify

Long-player No. 6 from this transplanted Canadian garage blues band finally follows up 2017's smooth stomping Deadbeat Graffiti. Singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer/bass synth operator Eric Owen co-produced with engineer Jacob Sciba, who numbers Gary Clark Jr. and Gov't Mule among past clients, and White Stripes/Raconteurs mixer Vance Powell. Look Alive thus slicks up widescreen and radio-friendly. "Pick Your Poison" and "Holdin' Up" could've ripped it up in the basic distorted fashion of vintage BPF records like 2014's Hush or Howl, but they layer in the gloss including massed falsetto background vox and McKeown deploying seemingly every effects pedal in a guitar shop display case. That renders Look Alive their most commercial effort to date, spotlighting "Level" as a near-AOR rocker. In a home-recorded video McKeown renders it a downbeat synth-and-beatbox R&B ballad recalling Spoon's more Prince-influenced material. – Tim Stegall

The Years: A MusicFest Tribute to Cody Canada


The 36th annual MusicFest in Colorado's Steamboat Springs snuck under the wire last January before COVID hit. Although this year's fest postponed, organizers keep the red dirt on white slopes alive with their salute to Cody Canada. As with past tributes at the fest to Joe Ely, Doug Sahm, Billy Joe Shaver, and Lee Ann Womack, the Cross Canadian Ragweed frontman's fête serves less as a passing of the torch than a collective appreciation from both artists and audience. Among 17 live cuts capturing due enthusiasm for the New Braunfels songwriter, Reckless Kelly roars early with "Fightin' For," while Jamie Lin Wilson wrings a bitter grit from "17" and adds a soaring kick to Wade Bowen's "Sick and Tired." Bruce Robison's touching "Breakdown," Courtney Patton's yearning "Alabama," and William Clark Green's gorgeous "Johnny's Song" anchor the album's emotional core. Canada contributes both sides of his musical spectrum, rocking out "Bang My Head" with Copper Chief and pulling poignant on "Broken" alongside Stoney LaRue.  – Doug Freeman

Thee Conductor: Spirit of a Ghost


Now, more than ever, check in on your friends. Musicians should also do so with listeners. Spirit of a Ghost, a collaborative album helmed by visionary Jason Butler and executioner Justin Douglas, commences with the bouncy 90-second rocker "Hey, We OK?" inquiring "What's all in your mind?" Later, on fitting bookend "We're Not So OK," guest vocalist Will Johnson ruminates in sustained uncertainty amid shimmering string arrangements from Tosca. In between, the sublimely iced voice of Jana Horn leads multiple moving tracks including bass heavy burner "The Gentle Ones," which ascends into an invigorating horn liftoff. Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham) takes two turns: loss-stricken yet hopeful acoustic strummer "Night Light" and subtly orchestrated folk highlight "Tsk Tsk," the latter evidencing Thee Conductor's proclivity toward wise lyricism. Ultimately, 22 minutes condense the reflective power of a full album. – Kevin Curtin

Join Tyson Swindell On L'Aventure


Boasting a résumé that includes co-ownership of Red 7 and GM of Mohawk, Tyson Swindell knows how to execute a vision, typically involving masses enjoying live music. Gigs stalled, the longtime musician offers a vulnerable, inventive look at the inner workings of his creative practice. The resulting box set, L'Aventure, follows his stairway to a song: 65 poems in a bound book, six demo tracks stemmed from the verses, and the culminating single, "Binary Stars." As he explains, "Creativity is a process of distillation for me." The final airy, lovesick, electronically adorned pop piece is available on Spotify, but, as the creator proves, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  – Rachel Rascoe

Monks Jazz Club livestreams: Kirk Covington Trio & Greg Clifford Quartet


In its continued quest to showcase every jazz musician in Austin, Monks Jazz Club kicks off February with a pair of percussive entries. Drummer Kirk Covington leads his Trio on Feb. 2 in support of the Austin Jazz Society's Project Safety Net. Trained at, unsurprisingly, the University of North Texas, the Midland native went on to anchor fusion superstar axeman Scott Henderson's Tribal Tech and its bass-driven outgrowth Slaughterhouse 3, picking up work with Allan Holdsworth and Weather Report's Joe Zawinul along the way. His trio with keyboardist Scott Tibbs and bassist Rufus Philpot keeps the fusion tradition alive. Young drummer and teacher Greg Clifford, who leads his Quartet on Feb. 4, went from playing in the UT Jazz Orchestra to keeping the beat for White Denim and Heartless Bastards. His own music leans toward hard bop, with a sleek blend of modern technique and classic swing, originals, and standards. – Michael Toland

Kydd Jones, "Harpoon"

Apple Music, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify

Randell Jones follows up his active 2020 highlighted by social justice track "Goblin" with a sub-150-second offering bulging with contemplation. "Harpoon" finds the East Austin rapper pulling a trademark double on production and flow, offering some of his slickest of both as he rattles off a melodic hook and lines over a vibey beat. The LNS Crew founder reminisces about less fortunate times ("Grew up stressing/ I had way less/ Money on my mind/ No one else to talk to") prior to admitting enjoyment gained from infiltrating a neighborhood or two out of necessity. These sentiments intensify during nights under the street lights. After roaming the streets, he asserts to a romantic partner her position as his "down down down" woman as he heads out for yet another endeavor. – Derek Udensi

Mirror's Sophomore 7-inch

Austin hardcore punks Mirror released their sophomore 7-inch last week, the first recordings from the band since 2016. A regional punk supergroup, the quartet counts among its ranks vocalist Adam Cahoon (Institute, Wiccans, Bad Faith), guitarist Dru Molina (Criaturas, Mujeres Podridas, Kurrakä), bassist Eddie Leal (Bastard Sons of the Apocalypse, Deskonocidos, Vaaska), and drummer/synthesist Mike Sharp (Hatred Surge, Impalers, Uniform). In a five-song, 10-minute blast of Eighties-style hardcore recalling Japanese rippers of the time, "Metamorphosis" and "Control Group" barely break the minute mark, while three-and-a-half minute closer "Cadaver Dogs" reels in the tempo but can't touch the intensity. This belt notch in Austin's fertile DIY punk canon is available for mail order through Leal and Molina's Todo Destruido and Texas-based Esos Malditos Punks.  – Greg Stitt

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