Grifters & Shills – amplifyin’ and testifyin’ for your soul. His was hard rock and heavy metal. Hers was the classic sound of the East Texas piney woods. Theirs was a fiery collision, bearing forth a sound that was at once novel and instantly familiar–nodding to roots seated deep in high lonesome harmonies and back porch blues, while peering out at a scorched path bound by modern assertions and contemporary commentary.
Behind Grifters & Shills is John and Rebecca Stoll, native Texans who met in a classic rock/blues jam band in 2008. Between them they discovered a magnetic chemistry that manifested not only in music, but in all aspects of their relationship. When they began playing as a two-piece band, they found a unique voice in the combination of Rebecca’s East Texas vocal stylings and John’s formidable guitar work. They immediately began writing their own songs, while testing the waters of vocal harmonies and adding an array of instrumentation to their arsenal. A typical show will feature a delightful range of electric instruments, including John’s archtop guitar, Rebecca’s bass, a driving stomp board, a couple of cigar box guitars, a handful of harmonicas, and an occasional kazoo.
They call it high lonesome heavy metal, and together, this two-person, dozen-instrument act provides a show full of sound a fury, punctuated with raw, quiet vulnerability, forging new trails and shining new light on familiar ground.
“Come Together” in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album, we are presenting a special photo opportunity to Beatles fans in Houston. Don’t miss this chance to have your photo taken on our, almost life-size, Abbey Road crosswalk display. Round up your friends and fellow Beatles fans to recreate the classic album cover on the Cactus Music stage.
While you’re in pick up one of the brand new 50th anniversary editions of Abbey Road. There are six special editions of this legendary album to be released this Friday 9/27.
Come into Cactus and listen to Baroness “Gold & Grey” before it’s Friday, 6/14/19 release date. You’ll be able to purchase the album before street date (during the event), enter to win cool prizes like a t-shirt or an LP test pressing. We’ll have special prints available as a purchase added bonus.
BARONESS Gold & Grey, produced by Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mogwai, MGMT) is Baroness’ fifth studio album.
Baroness is John Baizley (vocals/guitar), Gina Gleason (guitar), Nick Jost (bass) and Sebastian Thomson (drums). Baroness received a GRAMMY® Award nomination for the song “Shock Me” (from the 2015 album, Purple) in the “Best Metal Performance” category.
Purple saw worldwide praise with Pitchfork saying it features “some of the biggest, strongest songs Baroness has ever written” and Mojo proclaiming “Baroness have delivered their masterpiece.”
Come into Cactus Music and purchase your copy of Steve Earle & The Duke’s new album, “Guy” on CD [$11.98] or LP [$22.98] and receive a wristband to Steve’s ONLY Houston performance that evening. One wristband per CD/LP.
Steve Earle, a man who doesn’t mind telling a story, was talking about the first thing Guy Clark ever said to him.
“It was 1974, I was 19 and I had just hitch-hiked from San Antonio to Nashville,” Earle said in mid-Texas-cum-Greenwich Village drawl. “Back then if you wanted to be where the best songwriters were, you had to go to Nashville. There were a couple of places where you could get on stage, play your songs. They let you have two drafts, or pass the hat, but you couldn’t do both.
“If you were from Texas, and serious, Guy Clark was a king. Everyone knew his songs, ‘Desperados Waiting For A Train,’ ‘LA Freeway,’ he’d been singing them before they came out on Old No. 1 in 1975.”
“So I was pretty excited when I went into the club and the bartender, a friend of mine says, ‘Guy’s here.’ I wanted him to hear me play. I was doing some of my earliest songs, ‘Ben McCullough’ and ‘The Mercenary Song.’ But he was in the pool room and when I go in there the first thing he says to me is `I like your hat.’”
While it was a pretty cool hat, Earle remembers, “worn in just right with some beads I fixed up around it,” Clark did eventually hear his songs. A few months later he was playing bass in Guy’s band.
“Now, I am a terrible bass player…but I was the kid, and that was what the kid did. I took over for Rodney Crowell. At that time Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was a top ten hit, which was amazing, a six and half minute story song on the radio. So Guy said, ‘we’re story song writers, why not us?’ So we went out to cash in on the big wave.”
The success of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ was not replicated, but Earle reports that being the 19-year-old bass player in Guy Clark’s band was “a gas.” At least until Earle went into a bar and left the bass in the back seat of his VW bug, from which it was promptly stolen. “It was a nice Fender Precision bass that belonged to Guy, the kind of thing that would be worth ten grand now. He wasn’t so happy about that.”
More than forty years later, Steve Earle, just turned 64, no longer wears a cowboy hat. “It was more than all the hat acts,” Steve contended. “My grandmother told me it was impolite to wear a hat indoors.” As for Guy Clark, he’s dead, passed away in 2016 after a decade long stare-down with lymphoma. But Earle wasn’t ready to stop thinking about his friend and mentor.
“No way I could get out of doing this record,” Steve said when we talked over the phone from Charlotte, North Carolina, that night’s stop on Earle’s ever peripatetic road dog itinerary. “When I get to the other side, I didn’t want to run into Guy having made the TOWNES record and not one about him.”
Townes van Zandt (subject of Earle’s 2009 Townes) and Guy Clark were “like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to me,” Steve said. The mercurial Van Zandt (1944-1997) who once ordered his teenage disciple to chain him to a tree in hopes that it would keep him from drinking, was the On The Road quicksilver of youth. Clark, 33 at the time Earle met him, was a longer lasting, more mellow burn.
“When it comes to mentors, I’m glad I had both,” Earle said. “If you asked Townes what’s it all about, he’d hand you a copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. If you asked Guy the same question, he’d take out a piece of paper and teach you how to diagram a song, what goes where. Townes was one of the all-time great writers, but he only finished three songs during the last fifteen years of his life. Guy had cancer and wrote songs until the day he died…He painted, he built instruments, he owned a guitar shop in the Bay Area where the young Bobby Weir hung out. He was older and wiser. You hung around with him and knew why they call what artists do disciplines. Because he was disciplined.”
“GUY wasn’t really a hard record to make,” Earle said. “We did it fast, five or six days with almost no overdubbing. I wanted it to sound live…When you’ve got a catalog like Guy’s and you’re only doing sixteen tracks, you know each one is going to be strong.”
When he was making TOWNES, Earle recorded “Pancho and Lefty” first; it was a big record, covered over by no less than Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan. “You had to go into the bar and right away knock out the biggest guy in the room,” Earle recalled.
With GUY it was a different process. Clark didn’t have that one career-defining hit, but he wasn’t exactly unknown. “Desperados,” “LA Freeway” were pre-“Americana” style hits. “New Cut Road” charted for Bobby Bare and was recorded by Johnny Cash. “Heartbroke” was a # 1 country record for Ricky Skaggs in 1982. But when you added it up, Clark’s songs wove together into variegated life tapestry, far more than the sum of the parts.
Earle and his current, perhaps best ever, bunch of Dukes take on these songs with a spirit of reverent glee and invention. The tunes are all over the place and so is the band, offering max energy on such disparate entries as the bluegrass rave-up “Sis Draper” and talking blues memoir of “Texas 1947.” Earle’s raw vocal on the sweet, sad “That Old Time Feeling” is heartbreaking, sounding close enough to the grave as to be doing a duet with his dead friend.
You can hear little hints of where Earle came from. The stark “Randall Knife” has the line “a better blade that was ever made was probably forged in Hell,” which wouldn’t be out of place in a Steve Earle song. Also hard to beat is “The Last Gunfighter,” a sardonic western saga to which Earle offers a bravura reading of the chorus: “the smell of the black powder smoke and the stand in the street at the turn of joke.”
But in the end GUY leads the listener back to its beginning, namely Guy Clark, which is what any good “tribute” should do.
Indeed, it was a revelation to dial up a video of Guy Clark singing “Desperados Waiting For A Train” on Austin City Limits sometime in the 1980’s. Looking as handsome as any man ever was in his bluegrass suit and still brown, flowing hair, Clark sings of a relationship between a young man and an older friend. Saying how the elder man “taught me how to drive his car when he was too drunk to,” the young narrator describes a halcyon fantasy in which he and friend were always “desperados waiting for a train.” As time passes, however, the young man despairs. To him, his friend is “one on the heroes of this country.” So why is he “dressed up like some old man?”
Steve Earle delivers these lines well, as he always does. But the author of “Guitar Town,” “Copperhead Road,” “Transcendental Blues” and a hundred more masterpiece songs, would be the first to tell you it is one thing to perform “Desperados Waiting For Train” and another to be its creator. There are plenty of covers better than the original. But “Desperados…” will forever reside with Guy Clark, the songwriter singing his song, just him and his guitar. That is the main thing GUY has to tell you: to remember the cornerstone, never forget where you came from.
There was another reason, Earle said, he couldn’t “get out of” making GUY. “You know,” he said, “as you live your life, you pile up these regrets. I’ve done a lot of things that might be regrettable, but most of them I don’t regret because I realize I couldn’t have done anything else at the time.”
“With GUY, however, there was this thing. When he was sick—he was dying really for the last ten years of his life—he asked me if we could write a song together. We should do it ‘for the grandkids,’ he said. Well, I don’t know…at the time, I still didn’t co-write much, then I got busy. Then Guy died and it was too late. That, I regret.”
Earle didn’t think making GUY paid off some debt, as if it really could. Like the Townes record, Guy is a saga of friendship, its ups and downs, what endures. It is lucky for us that Earle remembers and honors these things, because like old friends, GUY is a diamond.
Come into Cactus Music and get a sneak peek into the new album “Tip of The Spere” from Cass McCombs! You’ll be able to purchase the album during the listening party!
Over the past decade, Cass McCombs has established himself as one of our premier songwriters. It’s a ca- reer that’s twisted and turned, from style to subject, both between records and within them. McCombs has never made two albums that sound the same. His new one, Tip of the Sphere, is particularly unique. Tip of the Sphere is McCombs’ 9th studio album and while many of his records have been comprised of songs recorded in different studios and pieced togeth- er over time, this one was recorded quickly in one lo- cation with a strong sense of purpose, resulting in his most consistent record to date. This approach brings a raw immediacy to his songs, which are some of his best yet as he finds the perfect balance of compassion and experimentation. The rock songs rock harder, the ballads are more beautiful, the experiments more confident; with the sounds of jazz and latin music creeping in through the back window. This is an artist trying to make sense of it all through a relentless, ever searching creative process.
Beginning Friday, 2/8/19, you can come into Cactus Music and purchase Robert Ellis’ new album “Texas Piano Man” on CD ($10.98) or LP ($19.98) and you’ll receive a wristband for his ONLY Houston performance. You MUST come to the store to get your wristband and CD and/or LP. One wristband per CD/LP.
“Dressed head to heels in a white tuxedo, Robert Ellis has now fully embraced his role as Texas troubadour, putting a little Gram Parsons-style honky-tonk into the bedazzled piano-pop of Elton John” NPR Music
“Only the truly exceptional artists, with the right mix of confidence and wit – Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tom Waits—dare to scrap the template that first won them acclaim and basically start over, with a new, often sideways approach to their craft. That’s exactly what Texas native Robert Ellis has done with his latest album, Texas Piano Man.” Men’s Journal
“In an arrangement filled with oohs and ahhs that cross both Abbey and Yellow Brick roads, Ellis posits our hearts’ toil in the everyday insanity of the world, so that maybe the only sane approach to life is recklessly falling in love.” NPR Music
“…on his forthcoming album, Texas Piano Man, he dives deeply into a new persona: a white-suited, blue bonnet Elton John determined to challenge expectations of what it means to be a musician residing in the Lone Star State.” Rolling Stone Country
“Ellis can do shit kicking honky-tonk just as well as he can inhabit an ivory-tickling Lone Star State of Mind.” Rolling Stone Country
“Texas Piano Man…is pure raucous fun, eleven tunes that demand to be played at full volume while dancing around the shuffleboard table at your favorite dive.” Texas Monthly
“On Texas Piano Man, Ellis displays his mastery by blending the barrelhouse stylings of pioneering Texas musician Moon Mullican with the staccato rhythms of Elton John. The resulting sound feels like it would be at home in both a West Texas saloon and a Long Island piano bar.” Texas Monthly
Pre-buy The Suffers “Everything Here” from Cactus Music on CD or LP and receive a wristband for their CActus Music performance on Saturday, 7/14/18 @ 1:00pm. One wristband per CD or LP purchase. CD is $15.98 and LP is $23.98. The vinyl version comes with a download card.
*BONUS* Every person that pre-buys the album will be automatically entered to win an autographed LP test press.
In early 2017 the Astros were beginning a remarkable run. Polish Pete and the Polka I Hardly Know Her Band were set on watching every game from spring training on. Knowing the strengths of The ASTROS’ fearless, fun-loving leader JOSE ALTUVE, this was to be the Astros’ year! As the season progressed, the excitement level in Houston rose to an all-time high. Polish Pete crafted THE ALTUVE POLKA while watching his favorite Astro play baseball with such joy and enthusiasm. The band went directly into the studio to record and video the now infamous hit single THE ALTUVE POLKA. It was released via YouTube during the Astros historic playoff run and quickly spread across the internet and local Houston media amassing over a quarter of a million views through the various websites. The single was certified a hit when, after seeing the video again on the MLB Network, JOSE ALTUVE exclaimed on national TV, “I LOVE IT!”
The Astros organization was so thrilled by the power and positivity of THE ALTUVE POLKA they invited Polish Pete to sit behind home plate for the now legendary World Series game 5, where he sat next to Larry King. Larry revealed that although he was a Dodger fan, he loved THE ALTUVE POLKA.
Polish Pete got word through the organization that some of the Astros were feeling a little left out by not having a song about them. Polish Pete loves the Astros so much, he wrote another song entitled, I LOVE THOSE HOUSTON ASTROS. This follow-up smash names all the members of the Houston Astros World Series Championship team and was released in the middle of the World Series to give the rest of the team that lift they needed to complete the victory and brings the World Series Championship Trophy home to Houston.
When the Astros caught the final out of game seven to win the World Series, the call was made to Polish Pete and the Polka, I Hardly Know Her Band to lead the World Series Championship Parade through the streets of downtown Houston. A float was built for Polish Pete, complete with a gigantic Astros baseball and booming PA system, to spread cheer throughout the city with the two hit songs, THE ALTUVE POLKA and I LOVE THOSE HOUSTON ASTROS. Nolan Ryan, Reid Ryan, Jeff Luhnow, and Jim Crane, along with their families, all joined Polish Pete on the Polka Float to ride through the streets of downtown Houston. One million Astros loving polka fans lined the streets to sing along with THE ALTUVE POLKA and I LOVE THOSE HOUSTON ASTROS, as Polish Pete and The Houston Astros rolled by.
A limited pressing of these two legendary songs is now available on Collectors Orange 45rpm, with THE ALTUVE POLKA on side A and I LOVE THOSE HOUSTON ASTROS on side B. The release date for the single is MLB Astros Opening Day Thursday, March 29th 2:05 PM to coincide with the first ASTROS pitch of the 2018 season. Polish Pete and the Polka, I Hardly Know Her Band, right alongside the returning Astros Championship Team are together again, set to make another magical run towards back to back World Series Championships for Houston! Go STROS ! Go POLKA!
Come into Cactus to on Thursday, 3/1, and Pre-Buy your copy of “American Utopia” on CD or LP and receive a special edition 12″ x 12″ lithograph. While Supplies Last.
American Utopia fits hand-in-hand with Byrne’s vision for his series “Reasons To Be Cheerful,” named for the song by the late Ian Dury. Over the last year, Byrne has been collecting stories, news, ideas, and other items that all either embody or identify examples of things that inspire optimism, such as a tech breakthrough, a musical act, a new idea in urban planning or transportation-something seen, heard, or tasted. Just as the album questions the current state of society while offering solace through song, the content of the series recognizes the darkness and complexity of today while showcasing alternatives to the despair that threatens us.
While David Byrne has collaborated on joint releases with Eno, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), and most recently St. Vincent over the past decade, American Utopia is Byrne’s first solo album since, 2004’s Grown Backwards, also on Nonesuch. American Utopia morphed during the writing and recording process, beginning with longtime collaborator Eno, and eventually growing to include collaboration with producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, King Krule, Sampha, Savages) alongside a diverse cast of creative contributors including Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Jam City, Thomas Bartlett (St. Vincent producer, aka Doveman), Jack Peñate, and others. The album was recorded in New York City at David’s home studio, Reservoir Studios, Oscilloscope, XL Studios, and Crowdspacer Studio and in London at Livingston Studio 1.
The artist will be signing copies of the brand new “Don’t Mess with Texas” 2-LP re-issue on limited edition colored vinyl.