Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sarah Jarosz

Her MySpace page identifies her from Austin, but as a real local, I'm proud to point out 17 year old high school senior Sarah Jarosz (pronounced Jah-Rose)whose debut album has just been released on Sugar Hill Records, is actually from the small hamlet of Wimberley, where I've had the pleasure of watching a community raise a great musician.

Kris remembered she showed initiative at kindergarten age when she volunteered to lead the assembly at St. Stephens School in singing "It's A Grand Old Flag." My memories are a sweet kid with supportive parents hanging around the edge of the Friday Night Picking Sessions at Catfish Charlie's, strumming her guitar or mandolin along with everyone else in a large picking circle led by Mike Bond. By the end of junior high, she was leading picking circles on her mandolin and clawhammer banjo at parties that our neighbors Alan Munde and Kitty Ledbetter throw, fingers blazing, but always in an understated manner. Then came standout performances at the Old Settler's Music Festival, gigs with the Austin Symphony, national appearances, numerous YouTube vids, a jam with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Uncle Earl, and European tours. Now comes her recorded debut, supported by the likes of Tim O'Brien and Chris Thiele of Nickel Creek.

So what's inside Song Inside My Head ? An album's worth of wonderfully atmospheric acoustic music, most of them originals that sound ancient, along with a few smart covers, such as the Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" and Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennen "Come On Up To The House" that sound equally timeless. Collectively, they show an exceptional instrumentalist and a distinctive, still developing voice on the cusp of greatness. Her foundation may be bluegrass but no way does she fit into that box. Rather, Jarosz is a voice (and a stylist) who is already fully-developed, but young enough to be fun keeping up with over the years. Since she's headed to the New England Conservatory of Music after she graduates from WHS this spring, I'm looking forward to what comes next almost as much as I'm enjoying her engaging sound in the here and now.

Way to go, girl.

Ronny Elliott, Tampa's King O' Cool

The music scene of Tampa, FLA is so under the radar, most folks don't even know it has a scene. But it does, as I've witnessed at annual Florida Bandango at Yard Dog during SXSW when a Tampa brigade usually shows up to play and hand out cigars. Ronny Elliott is the heart and soul of that scene, a cat too old to be discovered and too young to be a mystic legend, yet one of the best songwriters I enjoy listening to. OK, he caught my ear a few years ago with his sordid, droll ballad "Valentino's Dream," based on an article I'd written about the sordid record producer from Houston Huey P. Meaux, the Crazy Cajun. The song led an album's worth of sordid rock and roll tales based on true events involving rock and rollers and some kinda downfall. titled Valentine Roadkill. Ronny not only told good stories, he did in a laconic, quasi-hillbilly twang style that made you want to listen to him around the campfire. He was just as compelling live and in person behind Yard Dog, partnering up with long, tall Tampa Queen Rebekah Pulley, his Tammy to her George Jones. Kris went home after the show to play "Your Cheatin' Heart" in minor key on the piano like Ronny and Rebekah did.

So now comes Tales of Lust & Longing (BAAMO Records) a compilation featuring Tampa's leading musical lights in a totally cool kinda way. It's got psychedelic bands, kid singers, rockabilly, and other crazy ass shit but most of all it's got Ronny & Rebekah teamed up on a Ronny original, "Lust Never Sleeps" that had me cracking up over the repartee just when things are really heating up.

Click on the headline to check out the album details. And do visit to get the haps on Ronny Elliott & the Nationals and listen to "Valentino's Dream" and cuts from his other albums including "The Twist Came From Tampa" and "St. Petersburg Jail."

Mr. CEE LIVES Well, at least he knows how much he's loved

from Cutter Brandenburg's friend Susie Kleiner:

This was a cruel joke - he is alive and well, I just got an email from him took a while to confirm it, but he asked that people know he is alive and breathing.

Yes, I am totally serious, I just got several emails just in the last 1/2 hour from him. I also got a confirmation from someone who spoke to him this morning.

Pass the word that he is okay, he said he has gotten several calls and many, many emails.


Cutter's website is Click on the headline to go directly there. Visit him often.

Cutter Brandenburg

Craig Lee Hopkins, keeper of the SRV fan club, sent this message on Saturday morning:

Robert "Cutter" Brandenburg passed away early this morning, reportedly of a heart attack while sleeping. RIP Mr. Cee.

Cutter was Stevie's rock when he was getting his act together, as well as his roadie and right-hand man. When times got tough, he lived in a storage locker with Stevie's gear. He ran a club in Killeen in the 1990s and early 2000s and was working on a variety of projects, but life was never the same post-Stevie.

When Bill Crawford and I were researching the book Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, Cutter was the one who brought Stevie back to life in his tellings. He gladly shared his memories for which Bill and I will be forever indebted to him. More importantly, if Cutter hadn't been Cutter and taken care of Stevie and his Strat, no one would give a whit about Stevie Ray Vaughan today.

Godspeed, my friend.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Accordion As the National Instrument of Texas

The story's in the new No Depression bookazine, published by University of Texas Press and available at better bookstores, mag racks, and record shops nationally.

For most of its thirteen-year history as a print magazine, No Depression sought to be an instrument of change: to draw attention to the deep well of American musical traditions; to shine a light on performers whose gifts far exceed the size of their audiences or their pocketbooks; to provide a safe harbor for the best long-form writing about music on the newsstand.

These traditions continue through No Depression's twice-annual bookazine, a joint venture with University of Texas Press. ND #77, due out the spring of 2009, centers around the phrase "instruments of change," and the various ways in which those words may be interpreted: from actual musical instruments (a tale about the personal history Dock Boggs' banjo, an overview of Texas accordion culture) to renowned instrumentalists (profiles of virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile and A-Team bassist Bob Moore) to artists who played instrumental roles in changing music (country-rock pioneer Chris Hillman, country-punk innovators Jason & the Nashville Scorchers).

As with ND #76 (which kicked off the series in the fall of 2008), the new bookazine – edited by ND co-founders Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock – also includes a photo essay (this one a series of shots from Santa Monica's Fabled guitar store/music venue McCabe's), and an appendix featuring reviews of some of the higher-profile roots-oriented records of recent months.

Here's the full Table of Contents for ND #77:

• Dock Boggs' Banjo (by Jesse Fox Mayshark)

• The Voices of Como Now (by Edd Hurt)

• The Accordions of Texas (by Joe Nick Patoski)

• Bob Moore's Bass (by Rich Kienzle)

• The Words of Bob Martin (by Bill Friskics-Warren)

• Photographs from McCabe's (by Roman Cho)

• Chris Thile's Mandolin (by Seth Mnookin)

• Chris Hillman's Country-Rock (by Barry Mazor)

• Jason & the Nashville Scorchers' Country-Punk (by Don McLeese)

• Jeffrey Hatcher's Songs Of Healing (by Paul Cantin)

. The Words of Phil Ochs (by Kenneth J. Bernstein)

• Appendix: Reviews of albums by Buddy & Julie Miller, Neko Case, Madeleine Peyroux, David Byrne & Brian Eno, and Bruce Robison, plus a Doug Sahm tribute disc.