New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Kevin Curtin, Raoul Hernandez, Abby Johnston, Michael Toland, Doug Freeman, Tim Stegall, and Derek Udensi, Fri., June 4, 2021
It's Been Here Changing for a Long Time (PorchFire)
There's an unassuming brilliance to William Maxwell's songwriting. Lyrically, he's thoughtfully lost in life. As a guitarist, he's wily and uncareful. Still, he possesses a profound way of laying out all the little pieces and letting the listener put them together into something big.
That talent emerged after the Austinite clocked considerable hours in the homey front room of the Hole in the Wall, where his solo performances garnered attentive audiences in recent years. Following several EPs by his rock trio the Oysters and 2019 solo bow Calm a Painter and Subject, April's It's Been Here Changing for a Long Time captures the potent intimacy of those gigs down on the Drag.
The historic venue even nabs a mention in "Hole Again," a day-in-the-life narrative culminating in the song's subject standing in the rain and pumping enough gas to make it home. "I'm quittin' my job, just to get a new job," sings Maxwell softly, dealing yet another existential anecdote. It could well soundtrack a second-act sequence in an indie romantic comedy.
The twentysomething's fingerstyle guitar burns like an unattended cigarette on "Indifferent," resembling an Elliott Smith-like melancholy yet owning clever contrast in repeating how he's "soooooooo ... indifferent." Meanwhile, the nylon-plucked "Bad Things," reflecting on old wounds, finds a beautiful indie folk campfire chorus assisted by Mireille Blond, whose paintings grace the accompanying art book.
The home-recorded effort thrives on bare-bones orchestration, one exception being "Drifted," which might spin Austin's best rock single of 2021. With a "Marquee Moon"-style riff and a crafty writing technique wherein each line's final two syllables serve as the hook, Maxwell celebrates a bit of personal growth while wishing his partner knew him previously so that they could see the change. It affirms a theme: a directionless soul, now anchored by love. – Kevin Curtin
I Am Here All Day Book Release & Benefit Show
Far Out Lounge, Saturday 5
"Faced with dimmed stages and quiet, concert photographer Ismael Quintanilla III checks in with his community in I Am Here All Day," wrote the Chronicle in April. "Comprising 118 portraits of Austin musicians taken between March and August 2020, the book documents the initial turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic in the city's music scene." Now, combine live sets from local scene stars Pleasure Venom, Riders Against the Storm, Calliope Musicals, Ali Holder, Jeff Hortillosa, Benjamin Violet of Pelvis Wrestley, and more that benefit essential Austin health organizations HAAM, SIMS, DAWA Fund, Free Lunch, etc., and the reopening of the live music capital continues in grand style. – Raoul Hernandez
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Haute Spot, Saturday 5
When the pandemic disrupted Austin's live music scene, local show bookers Lightstream brought drive-in shows to Cedar Park's Haute Spot, offering COVID-friendly ways to inject some normalcy into worldwide chaos. Fitting, then, that for the next iteration of socially distanced gigs – open-air concerts with reserved tables and safety precautions – Lightstream would bring back ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, local prog gods whose tour supporting 10th studio album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories was canceled alongside everyone else's plans. TOD's grandiose but tastefully pared down soundscapes will be matched by the gritty expanse of ATX fire-breathers Greenbeard. – Abby Johnston
Monks Jazz Club, Sunday 6
You know the pandemic is on the run when you look up an artist's tour schedule and actually see dates. Fusion quartet Forq concludes a Lone Star mini tour with its debut Monks show before heading off to Europe for a couple of weeks. Originally formed by bassist/guitarist Michael League of Denton Grammy-eaters Snarky Puppy and keyboardist Henry Hey, co-leader of dormant fusion quartet Rudder and music director/sessioneer for acts as wide-ranging as David Bowie, Rod Stewart, and George Michael, Forq settled into its current lineup with Hey, Puppy axeman Chris McQueen; Roy Hargrove's RH Factor drummer Jason "JT" Thomas; and jam band/fusion bassist Kevin Scott after League left. More cosmic and rock-oriented than its funky-butt parents, Forq spreads its psych-jazz gospel across four LPs. As is its custom, Monks livestreams the performance on YouTube and Facebook, but limited seating remains available for those who prefer melodic instrumental opulence in person. – Michael Toland
Robert Allan Caldwell, Armadillo Road, Golden Roses
Sagebrush, Tuesday 8
Robert Allan Caldwell writes rough and tumbling country, the kind of burnt out and beat-down ballads perfect for his whiskey-scalded howl. The local troubadour growls diesel-dusted blues like Scott Biram and raw outlaw love songs in the line of David Allan Coe. His Tuesday night residency at Denis O'Donnell's new South Austin outpost picks up where his past Hole in the Wall stands left off, bringing onboard Armadillo Road to load up the Lone Star country and Southern rocking flair. The Golden Roses populate the dance floor by laying out the quartet's new sophomore LP, Devil's in the Details, which saws fiddle-swooning trad country with a ripping impulse. – Doug Freeman
Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol, Transit Method, MugDog
Valhalla, Thursday 10
Valhalla reopens its doors to the Red River strip after nearly a year and a half with a brace of loud, hard bands. Blasting into the 9pm slot is MugDog, a ferocious hardcore outfit from Olympia, Wash. Next up: Transit Method, a classic ATX power trio that traverses from vintage punk to prog rhythmic complexity and molten old-school metal, often within the same song. Headliners Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol work similar musical circuits, but with loads more Sabbathoid fuzz and a stoner's sense of humor. An eardrum-destroying good time! – Tim Stegall
Ifé Neuro & N.F.T.I, "Tears of Heaven"
Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal
Greenville, South Carolina, native Ifé Neuro remains a stashed treasure in an Austin hip-hop scene swelling with talent. He adds another diamond to his collection of lyrical jewels with the soulful, N.F.T.I-produced track "Tears of Heaven." The latter lays down a scenic beat for his Sunday Dinner Records comrade to pose thoughtful questions about deceased loved ones: "I just wanna know how was your first day/ Did you miss Earth in the worst way/ Or did you realize that Earth wasn't your home in the first place?" Despite residing at a point where "heavy hearts" and "heavy eyes" are all he knows, Neuro stands tall by reaching a point where he can perform noble acts such as buying a house and new Mercedes-Benz for his mother. N.F.T.I's next project is set for release on Juneteenth (June 19). – Derek Udensi
Asleep at the Wheel: Better Times
Ray Benson had big plans to celebrate his band's 50th anniversary last year. Good thing Asleep at the Wheel remains a timeless Texas institution. On the heels of an Austin City Limits special last fall, the Austin outfit officially gets back into the swing with a taste of new music on three-song EP Better Times. "All I'm Asking" boogies behind fiddler Katie Shore's lead vocals, the Band of Heathens' song given a dance floor flair, while "Columbus Stockade Blues" glides behind a Western swing arrangement. Between them, the centerpiece title track calls crowds back to the dance hall with a soft, wistful waltz written by Benson during the pandemic. – Doug Freeman
Danny Barnes Vinyl Reissues
Banjo demigod and native Lone Star – Temple > Belton > Austin – Danny Barnes now inhabits the Olympic Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Not a bad locale to hole up during a pandemic, nor an inconvenient juncture for 2020's Man on Fire to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Its "Hey Man" video starred the LP's co-producer as a homeless man seeking shelter, none other than a plaintive Dave Matthews.
Intimate and ambling – tickling, persistent, at times Band-like ("Juke," "Enemy Factory") – Man on Fire forged Barnes' best work outside Austin's Bad Livers, about whom he recently told The Bluegrass Standard, "We're kinda working on a record." To tide over fans until then, Atlanta imprint Terminus Records reissued a pair of Barnes' early post-Livers solo releases, Things I Done Wrong (2001) and Dirt on the Angel (2003). Debut of both records on wax, the latter flaps double-colored vinyl – translucent orange – and a band including jazz mystic Bill Frisell on guitar and onetime Allman Brother and Stones sideman Chuck Leavell on keys.
Dedicated to his muse John Hartford and Faces flame-keeper and onetime Austinite Ronnie Lane, who Barnes mentions in the liners via one of the record's two covers ("'Ooh La La' was co-written by my friend Ronnie Lane who taught me how to play the tune"), Dirt on the Angel flaps blue-collar bluegrass, a cornucopia of pickin', grinnin', and fiddlin'. Banjo plucking in one ear and violin (Darol Anger), harmonica (Barnes), accordion (Dirk Powell), and more in the other, this modern mountain music evinces the spirit of one mic, but the sonics of many. Witty simplicity of the Bad Livers, "Bluegrass Suicide" rollicks emblematic.
Feasting on the A-side, pace-setter "Get It While You Can," riverboat piano paddler "I Likes My Chicken Hot," and the juicy "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy" align with the third side's midnight rider "Popcorn and Wine" and its jaunty rejoinder "Peanut Butter Is a Man's Best Friend." Barnes recalls the Faces spry and inventive, but double that for an avant-ambient inversion of Beck's "Loser," which closes the albums by sweeping jaws off the floor.
Things I Done Wrong details Thee Old Codgers' trio of Barnes, violin/viola whisperer Jon Parry, and bassist Keith Lowe, who welcome Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, dobroist/singer Orville Johnson, and more. Guitar, banjo, fiddle weave into a twining whine counterbalanced by Barnes' twang, all of which plucks with the intimacy of a private session, as if the listener were the sole audience. Calming and reassuring, it sings irreverence with a twinkle in its bright blue eyes ("My baby's fingers taste like RC Cola/ She stuck her titty in my root beer soda").
Steam train clackety-clack driving fun house opener "Funtime," Things I Done Wrong reels off mountain blues ("Broken Hearted Blues"), backwoods ballads ("Hey Baby I'm Falling," "Delilah"), and country soul ("Barnyard Soul") amongst the cautionary meditations ("Things I Done Wrong," "Everything Fades," "Love Your Neighbor"). Let's not forget flat-out roots races either ("Devil on the Mountain"). Danny Barnes abides. – Raoul Hernandez