All posts by oliver@sxsc.org

Jesse Dayton Band pLus guests, JULY 23, RAilway

“A lot of this stuff was what I liked as a kid,” says modern-day outlaw country icon Jesse Dayton of his new album of cover songs, Mixtape Volume 1. “Some of it is from super-early on, before I was even thinking about playing music. They’re just songs I would hear on the radio in my sister’s old ’62 Rambler she would take me to school in. I’m hearing Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, stuff like that. Of course, when I got a little older, I saw The Clash in San Antonio at the Egyptian Theater. Joe Ely opened that show. That changed my life.”

The dichotomy inherent in that Clash/Ely bill has ruled the Beaumont, TX native’s career, either with his own rockin’ country music or playing guitar for everyone from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to punk standard-bearers X. He grew up, went through punk rock after that eye-opening Clash gig and the obligatory late-’70s/early-’80s suburban American teenage heavy metal phase. He apprenticed in zydeco bands and honky-tonk outfits, and played on a session for zydeco legend Rockin’ Dopsey produced by Texas music legend Huey Meaux. He moved from Beaumont to Austin, to play rockabilly. He eventually realized the stuff he grew up with – the vintage country music infusing his Beaumont childhood, from Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings – had an honesty, a passion and a rawness that modern country music didn’t have, a spirit the best punk rock shared. He started relating to his roots again.

But to understand how Jesse Dayton arrived at Mixtape Volume 1, you have to look to the five years he spent being Thursday’s entertainment at Austin honkytonk institution The Broken Spoke. No matter how many strong LPs you’ve issued of your own material, when you are in that situation, having to play five sets-per-night? You can’t rely on your original output.

“I was a human jukebox,” Dayton groans now. “But it’s where I learned how to pace my sets. It’s where I learned how to be a band leader. It’s about watching the dancers – knowing where to play a polka, knowing where to play a waltz. Quite a bit of work and study went into that gig. It was packed every time. But I started having Groundhog’s Day flashbacks. I wanted to kill some of those goofy dancers, after awhile.” Thankfully, X’s John Doe stepped in and asked Dayton to be his touring guitarist, showing him another way to play music. Otherwise, he might have been recording Mixtape in prison!

Here and there, Dayton stays faithful to the original versions of his Mixtape entries. For instance, Dr. Feelgood’s revved-up pub rocker “She Does It Right” remains in the same neighborhood, with little renovation. It’s when Dayton indulges his imagination that things get interesting. He retrofits The Clash’s reggae homage “Bankrobber” with a Bobby Fuller Four arrangement, the way The Clash converted “I Fought The Law” into a furious punk anthem. AC/DCs “Whole Lotta Rosie” morphs into something akin to ZZ Top playing Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips.” Speaking of ZZ Top, their “She’s A Heartbreaker” wouldn’t have been out of place on a Flying Burrito Brothers record. The Cars’ midtempo chug “Just What I Needed” becomes the sorta two-step, buckle-polishing Texas honky-tonk shuffle Dayton would’ve whipped out on those Broken Spoke Thursdays. Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” becomes a Cramps-style punkabilly stomp.

“The world is filled with people aping Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings songs,” he says. “It’s so unoriginal. I had to make it sound like me, no matter where it came from.”

But it’s when he’s lifting material from his older sister’s ’70s singer-songwriter records – Jackson Browne’s “Redneck Friend,” Neil Young’s “Harvest,” Elton John’s “Country Comfort” – and making pure, achin’ country music out of it that Dayton’s redemptive powers really shine. It’s especially evident when he gives Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” the sort of arrangement Waylon Jennings applied to “MacArthur Park,” or to Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” as he did when Dayton played with him. It works.

“People think Waylon rode around in a pickup truck listening to Hank Sr. Waylon was cruising around in a Mercedes, listening to singer-songwriters,” Dayton snorts. “He had a hit with ‘Are You Ready For The Country?’ by Neil Young.  George Jones had a hit with ‘Bartender Blues’ by James Taylor. It might be his greatest vocal performance ever!”

“But now I look at the records my sister had – the Jackson Brownes, the Elton Johns – and I think, ‘Okay, now I get it.’ There’s a lot of great material there. It’s all about interpretation.”

And interpret, he does. Quite brilliantly, too. It was something Jesse Dayton’s been needing.

“I’d done almost five years on tour,” he sighs, “doing two original records back-to-back. I played on a lotta other people’s records. I just needed to take the pressure off, just have some fun. And that’s why this is Volume 1 – what if I need to do this again?”

Dan Mangan plus guests, September 30, Railway

More or Less is about witnessing birth, and in some ways rebirth. It’s about feeling disconnected from a popular identity and becoming acclimated to a new one. It’s about raising kids in a turbulent world. It’s about unanswerable questions and kindness and friendship and fear.

This is my fifth album. I worked with some incredible people who have made many of my favorite albums. It was an important lesson in minimalism, and while their consolidated stamp on the album is vast, it’s a credit to their creative generosity that the result feels more like ‘me’ than ever.

More sparse. Less meticulous. More kids. Less time. More direct. Less metaphor. More discovery. Less youth. More warmth. Less chaos.

In between recording sessions, I’d listen to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Nick Drake’s Pink Moon . I’d think about how sometimes, what seems unfinished at genesis can feel more final when given a moment to settle.

In my twenties, I boxed my way from the corners of every noisy bar that would let me bring in my guitar. I was stubbornly optimistic.

When things began to click, it felt like I had the benefit of the doubt from every direction. I signed with my dream label. I even won some JUNO Awards and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize a couple of times. I performed for Will and Kate.

My girlfriend Kirsten somehow tolerated these years of relentless touring and we got married in 2012. I remember having a lengthy and heated long distance call about our wedding guest-list while laying on an airport floor in Croatia.

I’d been touring non-stop for six consecutive years and the phone just kept ringing, but I felt my mind and body start to fail. When we learned that we were going to have a baby, I told my manager that I wanted to take a year away from touring. I felt I’d earned it. That “one year” away from the grind sort of slowly became six.

We had another kid. We nested. I swept the floor ten thousand times. I scored a film, and then some television shows.

As the fog of domestic obligations shifted, I began to regain a sense of myself as an artist. But things were different. I wasn’t a part of the new generation anymore. I knew how to keep racoons from tearing up my lawn, but not so much about youth culture (and the music industry is, uhhhh… all tied up in youth culture).

Moreover, politics were different. Dystopic forebodings I’d previously written about seemed to be coming true. Had I manifested them? I was re-entering the world but the rules had changed, and

I was a different person.

So I wrote about warmth. I wrote about the feeling of building something when I was young, and the fear of losing it as an adult. I wrote about feeling overwhelmed.

I wrote about being in love with someone with whom I spend a lot of time figuring out who is more deserving of a nap. I wrote about the power of what goes unsaid. More or less, I wrote about myself.

The recording process was piecemeal over several years and full of eye-opening experiences. Paul McCartney even wandered into the studio as we were listening back to a take of “Lay Low . We ended up scrapping what he heard, but… well… he heard something I wrote. Let that be an omen.

Drew Brown was a collaborator and mentor, forever changing my understanding of studio recording. His impact on this work is vital. He brought Joey Waronker, Jason Falkner and Darrell Thorp into the fold, whose collective creativity and instincts helped discover nuances in the songs I could never have dreamed of.

Two songs were recorded with Simone Felice who introduced me to Ryan Hewitt and Matt Johnson. Along with my longtime pals Gordon Grdina and John Walsh, this team found a vibrant subtlety that helped me rethink my identity as a singer. I cannot thank them enough.

Everyone who touched this album did so with wholehearted dedication and love. I am grateful that they would trust this work and approach it with such care and ownership. I am ready to share these songs.

I don’t know where the gig is. I don’t know if it’s cool. But I still get lost in it, and I’ve got more to lose.

– Dan Mangan, August, 2018

ERIN RAE – Full band show plus guests. November 5

Gifted with a unique ability to fuse musical genres and influences to craft songs that feel fresh and wholly her own, with her new album Putting On Airs (2018, Single Lock Records), Erin Rae has thrown down a direct challenge to the stereotype of what a Southern singer should be. Both lyrically and sonically, she strikes a fiercely independent chord, proudly releasing a deeply personal record that reflects her own upbringing in Tennessee, including the prejudices and injustices that she witnessed as a child that continue to impact her life to this day. According to Rae, “this album was born out of a need to do some healing work in my personal life, in order to address some fears and patterns of mine and to allow my true feelings to come to the surface.”

Recorded in the dead of winter in an old Franciscan monastery on Wisconsin’s Fox River, the isolated environment created the perfect setting for Rae and her bandmates to track these genre-busting songs, using the chapel and other unique spaces within the cavernous building to explore new sonic boundaries, all while continuing to showcase the hypnotic vocals and song-serving restraint that have become her trademark.

TICKETS: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/469224

MARK MULCAHY plus support, September 10

Mark Mulcahy is the former singer of the well regarded and influential Miracle Legion. He also formed the band Polaris and wrote the music for the Nickelodeon show ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’.

Mark’s solo career began with Fathering, an album that received universal praise including Album Of The Month in Uncut and Album Of The Week in The Guardian and featured the track “Hey Self Defeater” which was featured in Nick Hornby’s book 31 Songs.

From there followed the albums Smilesunset and In Pursuit Of Your Happiness, several tours of the UK and Europe, countless radio sessions and huge critical acclaim for both his songwriting prowess and his remarkable voice. In 2008 he quit everything to look after his children following the tragic death of his wife. To assist him through these troubled times many of his long-time friends and fans banded together to record an album of his songs as a tribute to his wife and the result was 2009’s Ciao My Shining Star, featuring the likes of Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke, Frank Black, Mercury Rev, Dinosaur Jr, The National, and many others. Mulcahy’s most recent album, ‘The Possum in the Driveway’ received stellar reviews and in 2017 he appeared on the Marc Maron WTF podcast.
The Possum in the Driveway is out now on the Mezzotint Label

**** RECORD COLLECTOR “A rare gift”

**** UNCUT Americana album of the month (June 2017) “Like most everything here, it’s a beautifully weighted moment.”

**** The Arts Desk “It’s musical theatre, but with the jazzhands cut off”

**** PASTE “Something memorable and unexpected lurking around every corner.”

*** MOJO “A rare and wise treat from an underrated songwriter.”

“Sublime.” – The New Yorker

 

Tickets on sale here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/464625

PETER BRUNTNELL BAND plus support Sophia Marshall, September 12

Featuring Mick Clews, Peter Noone, Dave Little and BJ Cole

KING OF MADRID is Peter Bruntnell’s tenth studio album, and it’s one that focuses on his unique songwriting talents. It also sees him returning to his roots, featuring beautiful, sometimes sixties-flavoured songs with his signature hints of psychedelia. Bruntnell’s warm voice helps create a yearning atmosphere that gives the album a consistent and organic feel.

The self-effacing Devonian is the ultimate musician’s musician, gaining respect from his peers all over the world for the atmospheric works that he creates with his long-distance songwriting partner Bill Ritchie. Kathleen Edwards, when planning her first album, gave the producer Bruntnell’s Normal For Bridgewater album and asked him to “make it sound like this”. Willy Vlautin simply says, “Peter Bruntnell is my favourite singer in the world”. KING OF MADRID was recorded in the Kiln, King’s Langley with Bruntnell’s long-term band Mick Clews (drums), Peter Noone (bass) and Dave Little (guitar) and their familiarity and comfortable interaction makes for a confident interpretation of the new songs. It was Bruntnell who wrote the inspirational anti-Trump song Mr Sunshine on 2016’s Nos Da Comrade and politics are never far from KING OF MADRID either. National Library and Thief Of Joy are both articulate takes on Brexit, with the writer commenting on the latter: “Of course the thief of joy is Pride, but as far as Brexit and May and the Bullingdon Boys go, obviously everybody already knows that”.

In the Bruntnell live favourite London Clay (reprised here from its original version on 2012’s unofficial release Ringo Woz ’Ere), a man daydreams about ways he could possibly be together with his unrequited love, but even in the dreams it never quite works out. Typically of this songwriting team, odd and mysterious topics are tackled too: Lucan muses whether the elusive lord is fish food or living in Libreville, Africa, while in Dinosaur, Mark Zuckerberg gets hit by a meteor. The title track is a lilting, reflective waltz, while the stunning Broken Wing, arguably the album’s standout track, is a song concerning a young person growing up in an evangelical cult. The song allows the band to hit a groove and stretch out instrumentally.

Helping to underline the luscious sound (synthesiser, electric twelve-string and pedal steel abound) are guests BJ Cole, Iain Sloan and the Pretenders’ James Walbourne, who provides synth flourishes.

KING OF MADRID showcases a classic English songwriter at the top of his game.

 

Tickets on sale here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/464498

 

ROBYN HITCHCOCK, Twyford Parish Hall, 25 July 2019

“Maybe there’s no one there at all, maybe there’s no one there but Paul, living in Shawford after all these years”. The ultimate home-coming gig.

Robyn Hitchcock is one of England’s most enduring contemporary singer/songwriters and live performers. A surrealist poet, talented guitarist, cult artist and musician’s musician, Hitchcock is among alternative rock’s father figures and is the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan (not coincidentally his biggest musical inspiration).

Since founding the art-rock band The Soft Boys in 1976, Robyn has recorded more than 20 albums as well as starred in ‘Storefront Hitchcock’ an in concert film recorded in New York and directed by Jonathan Demme.

Blending folk and psychedelia with a wry British nihilism, Robyn describes his songs as ‘paintings you can listen to’. His most recent album is self-titled and marks his 21st release as a solo artist. Out on April 21 2017, the album is produced by Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). Hitchcock describes it as a “ecstatic work of negativity with nary a dreary groove.”

It has received rave reviews from UNCUT, Rolling Stone, Paste, Tidal and more.

“A gifted melodist, Hitchcock nests engaging lyrics in some of the most bracing, rainbow-hued pop this side of Revolver. He wrests inspiration not from ordinary life but from extraordinary imaginings…” – Rolling Stone

“These 10 gems slither, rock, roll, glide and shapeshift, coalescing around Hitchcock’s typically anxious, strained but striking and immediately identifiable vocals.” – American Songwriter

“Beloved of everyone from Led Zeppelin to REM, Hitchcock has only enhanced his status with this wonderful outing.” – Hot Press

“Witty, moving and seriously catchy, Robyn Hitchcock is a glorious return for a man who wasn’t really gone in the first place.” – Paste Magazine

Tickets on sale now. http://www.wegottickets.com/event/458935

ZANDER out now!

Oliver Gray’s day job is writing school text books and non-fiction items, but his hobby is promoting live shows by visiting roots artists from the US and Canada. When contemplating his first foray into fiction, he was advised to “write about what you know about”. It’s therefore no surprise that “Zander” is set in the world of small-time music promotion.

When American roots musician Corey Zander sets out on his first UK tour, things start badly and rapidly get worse. Not even his drug-strewn rock and roll past could prepare him for the violence of his reception in provincial England.

We hope you will enjoy it.

BUY NOW FROM AMAZON! Or download the Kindle version.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zander-Oliver-Gray/dp/1897609086

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