Here’s what folks have had to say about The Broken Spokes….
“Some of the leading lights of Texas retro-country have split or faded, and the enduring diehards (Eleven Hundred Springs, Dale Watson, Two Tons of Steel, etc.) are hitting the point where their tributes to generations past are at least a generation old themselves. As long as there are bar bands the torch never really drops, but if it ever does, Houston’s The Broken Spokes would be solid candidates to pick it up and run with it. There’s something transcendent about frontman Brent McLennan’s clear tenor twang and off-handedly detailed songwriting approach riding atop the timeless honky-tonk chops of his bandmates (Willy Golden on steel guitar and Josh Artall on lead guitar/piano particularly jump out of the mix): it’s a bit like if Bruce Robison borrowed Wayne “The Train” Hancock’s band to rub some pilsner-soaked sawdust on his studied songcraft” – Mike Ethan Messick, Lone Star Music Magazine
“It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when country music was actually palatable. Growing up in the seventies, when a tug of war began between traditional country music, and the beginning of this new flashy crap we’re stuck with today; my favorite memories were catching small time country acts play honky-tonk with my parents. For the longest time, it’s felt like those traditional country tunes and the style in which they were crafted would never return. Then, I listened to the new album from Houston’s The Broken Spokes and realized—-it’s back and this five piece is bringing it back in a big way. Throughout eight tracks, “The Broken Spokes” brings back traditional country music like it was meant to be played without copying anyone in the process.” – David Garrick, Free Press Houston
“Named after the South Austin dance hall that has drawn two-steppers like flies for a half-century — and successfully fought back hungry developers for the past decade — the Broken Spokes could have easily been plucked straight off that hallowed honky-tonk’s hardwood dance floor. These Spokes have been bringing their hardcore trad-country — served with generous sides of Texas swing and savory steel guitar — to local joints like Rudz and the Big Top for a couple of years, but have only recently released their first recording, a nifty little eight-song self-titled debut. It’s all worth a spin around the floor, but best of all are tunes like “Moved Into a Bottle,” where the wordplay is as sharp as the guitar licks.” Chris Gray, Houston Press
“Now, if you know me, you’ve probably heard me rant about my general dislike of country music. As with anything like that, though, there’s always exceptions to the rule, and in this case, the rule is less “I hate all country music and want it to die” and more “I hate all crappy, meat-headed pop-country music and want that to die”. I dearly love old-school country; Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, and Hank Williams, those guys, I like. Most of the big hit makers of the past three decades, not so much. With that said, The Broken Spokes fall on the non-crappy side of the line, at least for me. They’ve got a nice warmth to their sound and a genuine, heartfelt vibe that makes it clear they’re no dilettantes jumping on the roots-country bandwagon. It helps, too, that their songwriting is smart and well-honed, bringing to mind both Cory Branan and Steve Earle. (Oh, and I love the sight of a country band front man wearing a Sub Pop t-shirt.)” Space City Rock, Houston, Tx
“The Broken Spokes play “REAL” Country Music at Lynn’s Longbranch Saloon! It’s been a LONG…..time since I’ve heard the “old school” style of Country Music. The Broken Spokes proved to perform country as it was intended. These guys are good! I am a fan of country with a little bit of rock added myself, but I enjoy genuine Country music when I can get it.” – Houston Music News
On the seventh day of a ten-day retreat at a Vipassana meditation center outside the historic Indian city of Kolhapur, Phoebe Hunt intrinsically felt the life leave her namesake’s body on the other side of the world.
The story of how she came to be known as Phoebe — a tale woven subtly into the whimsical threads and spiritual contradictions of Shanti’s Shadow, her new record — has the humor and richness of a Vedic myth. Her parents met at a yoga ashram in the Lower West Side of Manhattan in the Seventies, where they spent seven years as disciples of Guru Swami Satchidananda, famous in America for having been the opening speaker at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Years later, near the end of her pregnancy with Phoebe, her mother felt a strong compulsion to name her child Shanti, a Hindi word meaning peace. There was only one minor complication — she had already promised the child’s paternal grandmother, Phoebe, that she would be named after her. In a compromise, Hunt’s parents named their child Shanti Phoebe Hunt, but out of deference to the grandmother, she would grow up being called Phoebe.
Years later, on the 2016 trip that would inspire the creation of Shanti’s Shadow, Hunt and her husband (and mandolin-playing bandmate) Dominick Leslie entered the meditation retreat in India, surrendered their possessions, and, with only a wool blanket given to them upon arrival, committed to a sequestered ten-day vow of silence. It was during that stint at the retreat that Grandma Phoebe passed away. Hunt remained in India with Leslie and a team of musicians who had joined the couple to study with master violinist and vocalist Kala Ramnath at an ashram outside the city of Pune. While there they found themselves spending as many as ten hours a day honing ragas, melodic structures that, in the Indian classical tradition, are believed to have the capacity to color the mind of an audience. The entire experience, ripe with creative efflorescence, formed the core of a bittersweet irony for Hunt. While in pursuit of her spiritual namesake — the shanti of peace, tranquility, creativity, and bliss — her familial namesake passed away.
The generative idea at the heart of Shanti’s Shadow lies in the double sense of its title — it refers, on the one hand, to the obverse of peace and tranquility, to the entangled ego at play in a world of knotty contradictions and selfish desires. In that sense, Shanti’s Shadow refers quite literally to the ego and the inescapable necessity of confronting it and claiming it as one’s own.
It is also, in a literal sense, a reference to Shanti Phoebe Hunt the artist, to her music’s quest to transcend creative limitations and give flight to her innermost voice.
“Each of us, no matter who we are, has a shadow side, a realm of our being associated in many traditions with the ego or the self,” Phoebe says. “Though what I create may have its roots in my soul, it first has to pass through the filter of my body and ego before it finds a place in the world. Knowing that, my goal for this album was to be as vulnerable and raw as possible in order to share my shadow.”
That vulnerability is apparent throughout the record on tracks like “Pink and Blue,” a song Hunt wrote while traveling through India. During the daily ten-hour meditations at the Vipassana center outside Kolhapur, the song’s mystical celestial images and lyrics continually sought refuge in her mind, when she was supposed to be clearing it of all thoughts. At the end of the retreat, after meeting up with her friends and fellow musicians to learn about Indian classical music under the tutelage of Kala Ramnath, she wrote the instrumental part of the song and incorporated her lyrics with the rhythmic and melodic concepts she was studying. “I like to pick at my wounds until they bleed / Take in the moon on a bended knee” she sings in the song’s opening verse, a tender declaration of purpose for the album. On “Just for Tonight,” an elegiac waltz about the nature of forgiveness, Hunt’s luminous vocals melt away the song’s carapace of doubt and regret: “Let the stillness in you / Clear the shadows in me / Let me look through your eyes / And see nothing but peace.” Written beside a river at RockyGrass Festival in Lyons, CO the song sprang from a painful personal experience, a wound that the song’s creation helped to heal.
On “Frolic of the Bees,” the album’s shimmering lead track, the notion of vulnerability is reimagined as a blissed-out invitation to community. The song begins with the hypnotically enticing mandolin of Dominick Leslie, followed by Hunt’s crystalline call to whomever has ears to hear: “Come, all the wild ones / Come, all the thieves / Come, all you furry feathered friends / Where we are headed, no one can harm you / Anyone can stay until the end.” Depicting an ethereal gathering in the woods where all are welcome, the song is an uncanny love letter to inclusion and openness, to the wonder and spontaneous joy that are possible when we allow ourselves to encounter each other lovingly, free from shame or judgment. “To me,” Hunt says of the song, “it’s an expression of transformation and dynamic change, a kind of ceremony or transcendent event that’s only possible when people are free to be together authentically.” Hunt’s gorgeous fiddling entwines itself with Leslie’s virtuosic mandolin in a sublime encounter that amplifies the song’s central premise of communion. “You in the flames there / Burn through the night now,” Hunt sings, sounding out a shamanic command to the music, imploring it to sustain the joy.
On an album that opens with the joyous incantation of “Frolic of the Bees,” it’s only fitting that the final track is a kind of quiet exhalation and reflective summation of the record’s major ideas. “I Really Love” opens with just that – Hunt’s soft exhalation – and proceeds as a slow recitation of a few concrete joys that make life worth living: “I really love putting the phone down and spacing out for an hour / Feeling the water touching my brow in the shower / Hearing the sound of piano downstairs / Watching the smoke disappear into the air / And singing…” The song is heartbreakingly beautiful in its specificity, and, rather than coming off like a hyper-personalized update of “My Favorite Things”, “I Really Love” sounds like a confession of the most profound sort. The song is so evocative because of the pathos inherent in Hunt’s voice, which she uses to sublimate the most everyday experiences into deeply personal, spiritual rites. That process, the sanctification of Hunt’s most private self, is what Shanti’s Shadow seeks to articulate.
Comprised of four members: lead singer David Kapsner; lead guitarist Michael Jekot; bass player Tyler Rush; and percussionist Tim Durand, The Mammoths have found their sweet spot in blending elements of blues, rock and psych into their songwriting. With face-melting guitar licks, hard-hitting drum beats and soulful vocals, this motley crew has found their home in Austin, Texas. Kapsner, Rush and Jekot started their collective musical journey at the young age of 13. The trio was dispersed across Texas before reconnecting as a group in the Live Music Capitol of the World. There they stumbled upon Durand, a seasoned percussionist with eighteen years of experience. After a jam session at SXSW, the four never looked back – and The Mammoths were born.
“The Mammoths are an up-and-coming Austin band to watch fueled by their fiery unapologetic live shows reminiscent of a young Led Zeppelin. In meeting with these guys at AMF on their future plans, this band is clearly driven on playing hard and using the old school work ethic of making fans one sweaty show at a time.”
-Alex Vallejo (Vallejo Music Group/Austin Music Foundation).
“Crisp and catchy songwriting and performances make The Mammoths new recordings jump through the speakers.”
– Kevin Wommack (Los Lonely Boys Manager)
Max Flinn was born and raised in Houston, TX. Other than a short year spent in East Texas pursuing his college football dreams that were cut short by injury, he has spent his entire life in the big city. He began teaching himself to play the guitar at the age of 10 after he became bored playing air guitar with his mother’s broomsticks. His love for Texas country music started in Junior High and was heavily influenced by Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Cory Morrow, Roger Creager, and other local greats. Nonetheless, from his late teens to early twenties, music took a backseat to drugs and alcohol. He can recall at least two years of his life where his favorite guitars were living in local pawn shops so that he could finance his habit. Those years were characterized by run-ins with law enforcement, countless attempts to sober up, lost relationships, hopelessness and despair. He finally threw in the towel in December of 2012 and turned his life around. He has been sober since that day and is enjoying life in ways he could have never imagined. He fulfilled his goal of graduating from the University of Houston and took a job as a financial analyst for a leading midstream energy company. He credits God, a loving family, supportive friends and playing music to his recovery. Aside from music, one of his biggest passions is utilizing his story to help others recover from the disease of addiction.
Having found new freedom, he made the leap into pursuing his passion for music professionally in the summer of 2015. He made his start by attending a weekly Western Swing jam session at Rudyard’s that he found advertised in the Houston Press. It was there he met some great local musicians that openly welcomed him on stage and would ultimately back his first recorded demo in November of 2015. With CDs in hand, he began distributing them to almost every live music venue in the Houston area. Before he knew it, he was getting asked to play around town and never turned down a gig. While still balancing his 8 to 5 job in the energy industry, he is out performing 2 to 3 nights per week and is working on his first EP at Stormy Cooper Media in Houston, TX. Max has been fortunate to land some great venues in Houston in just a year’s time including House of Blues, Redneck Country Club, Dosey Doe, Armadillo Palace, Rockefellers, Discovery Green and the Rodeo Houston Championship Wine Garden.
While still partial to the Texas Country he grew up on, he has found his greatest affinity for the classic country legends such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Jonny Paycheck, Ernest Tubb and others alike. “I really identify with the raw vulnerability and grit of the classic country folks. They delivered honest lyrics in the most simplest of ways,” says Max. In addition to his original material, he always sprinkles in a variety of cover tunes ranging from Bob Wills to Alan Jackson during his sets and rarely hits the stage without fiddle and steel guitar accompaniment.
Employed full-time by the desire to create good music, Hayden Jones is an up-and-coming artist from Sugar Land, Texas. For the last seven years Jones’ has been playing between bars and on the streets of Houston, TX, to the small hill country towns throughout central Texas. Complemented by his girlfriend and a fluctuating entourage of musicians, Hayden plays a strange and charming blend of gypsy jazz, blues, western swing, folk ballads, and even waltzes.
Driving a cream and wood panel ’85 LTD Station Wagon, Hayden strides to perform anywhere he can. “I mean, I know what I want to do and so I do it,” Hayden said. “I’m always promoting my CD’s and putting myself out there. Persistent action is what it’s about.” His mindset compels him to spend almost all of his waking hours writing, practicing, and performing his music. He refuses the idea of working a ‘conventional’ job for the sake of financial security, saying simply that it’s not what he wants to do – he wants to do music.
“Any feeling can be profound, even just sitting outside – you can take that for granted or really capture it,” Hayden said, talking about what motivates his songwriting. “Music captures the essence and beauty that you miss in life’s every day hustle and bustle. We try and bring that to the audience.”
Hayden released his first album in February of 2016, consisting of twenty-one original songs and one cover. “The Back Room”, being an exceptional listen, was recorded over the course of three years most of which by Jones’ himself. His second album, “The Roosevelt House”, will soon be released in late April of 2017. “These are by far my best recordings yet” says Jones’.
Heavy, heady and hypnotic, All Them Witches concoct a powerful and potent psychedelic sound that fuses bluesy soul, Southern swagger and thunderous hard rock. With their transfixing releases, 2012’s Our Mother Electricity and 2014’s Lightning At The Door, and a jam-filled live show where no two shows are the same, the band has amassed a devoted following and have become something of a sensation in the underground rock scene. “The band seemingly channels the churn of the universe and connects with a big, bad, uncaring cosmos,” wrote the Boston Globe, adding, “There is a primal ebb and flow at the core… The band’s mystic atmosphere, dark but not brutal, is the result of a tireless work ethic, a grueling tour schedule, and a tape trader’s compulsion for documenting every show.”
The Bluebonnets play glam/garage/blues/rock complimented with layered girl-group harmonies. Tight and tough, their songs are energetic and genre-defying arrangements held together by guitar interplay and hooks you remember long after the show.The band formed in 2007, as a restructuring of a former line-up that began in LA several years before.
The band formed in 2007, as a restructuring of a former line-up that began in LA several years before. When Valentine returned to her hometown of Austin, Texas, it was the right time and place to revive a band that she and lead singer/bassist Dominique Davalos had started once before in LA. Dominique made Austin her home and the pair recruited Eve Monsees, a sensational guitarist, and singer whom the acclaimed Gary Clark Jr. credits with inspiring him to become a guitar slinger himself. Eve added a new dimension and the Bluebonnets began to play shows and compile tunes for recording. The group is completed and driven by Los Angeles drummer Kristy McInnis’ solid groove beats.The Bluebonnets put a feminine slant on blues-based
The Bluebonnets put a feminine slant on blues based rock n’ roll, yet don’t fall neatly into any musical category: traces of pop, roots, country, and punk are all interwoven into the music. Building a base with regular gigs in Austin, the band makes mini-tour trips to the East and West coasts and has recruited a steady following in harder to reach places with online live-streamed shows via StageIt.
The band’s second self-released and co-produced CD “Play Loud” has been out only a few months and has received local airplay and reviews. The CD features 11 songs, most of them recorded “old school,” –that is, live—capturing the energy that the band generates at their gigs.When Waterboys leader and singer Mike Scott saw the Bluebonnets one SXSW, he wrote this about them, leading to an invitation to open for his band in select cities on their major 2015 American tour. #Update: the tour was a smash! The ‘Bonnets made new fans in seven new cities they’d never gotten to play.
When Waterboys leader and singer Mike Scott saw the Bluebonnets one SXSW, he wrote this about them, leading to an invitation to open for his band in select cities on their major 2015 American tour. #Update: the tour was a smash! The ‘Bonnets made new fans in seven new cities they’d never gotten to play.
With instrumental abilities that made him a key member of Dwight Yoakam’s band, a voice reminiscent of Jackson Browne and a Top 10 lyrical streak that makes him seem like he’s been writing hook-laden hits for years – Brian Whelan is poised to attract a much wider audience with the release of his second solo album Sugarland.
Whelan, who majored in music at USC, plays almost anything with keys or strings — steel guitar, accordion, piano. On Sugarland, he truly puts his skills to the test, playing just about every musical instrument possible on these crisp, clean, streamlined, mostly mid-tempo pop rock tunes that go straight to the heart with a sonic sense that recalls the heyday of great radio.
Co-Produced by fellow Yoakamite, drummer Mitch Marine, alongside bassist Lee Pardini, Sugarland boldly throws Whelan’s hat into a ring crowded with the likes of John Fullbright, Sturgill Simpson, Mike Stinson, and Jason Isbell. His jangling, straight-ahead tunes like “Sugarland”, “Talk To Me” and “We Got It All,” serve notice, right out of the box, that Whelan’s grown as a songwriter, arranger, and vocalist.
After the summery, top-down lilt of the pop tunes, Whelan takes it to another level with a wry, you-lookin’-at-me, back-hand slap at a genre that he believes is mostly bloated milquetoast these days. “Americana” is his jet-blast of defiance, a withering critique of a genre overrun with Civil War outfits, mountain man beards, Deliverance-style overalls, vintage dresses, cowgirl boots, and de rigeur phoney hillbilly nasal intonation. Whelan lays bare all the calculated looks and half-hearted music with a blistering guitar behind his hell-fire-and-brimstone sarcasm: “C’mon, man, you gotta make the scene / with your big bass drum and your tambourine / You can sell it for a million dollars.” Whelan’s lyrics take a sharper turn when he tells the ultimate truth: “You’re a pretty nice guy but you sound like shit.”
Whelan adds to the sarcasm with a blistering Scruggs-inspired banjo solo by veteran LA picker Herb Pedersen over the punkish rock that makes the song and the sentiment come full circle. Even so, Americana radio is going to have a hard time ignoring this unstoppable and instantly likeable blazer.
But for all the fun of his rockers, Whelan frequently displays a rare gift for capturing the serious, the lyrical epitaph of the flailing relationship. On the brooding track, “Sucker Punch”, he warns, “I’ve got a sick sense of humor and I’m sure you know / I’m a sucker puncher when I get this low.” The fatalistic “bombs away, bombs away” chorus is pure California country rock of the highest order.
On “The Only Thing,” Whelan locates a cool, Buddy Holly-fronting-The-Clash urgency in this radio-friendly rocker. The track’s narrator laments how he “tried to run with a different crowd but I just kept falling down / A change of clothes and a new routine / Wound up right right back here at the beginning” It’s a perfect example of a rocker love song. Jackson Browne should be charting with this tune.
Another Sugarland highlight is the lazy country rocker, “Number One Fan”. Whelan sketches the borderline-rabid superfans that guys like Yoakam contend with everywhere they go – One must balance an artists desire to please his fans with maintaining some degree of privacy. Judging from the lyrics, Whelan has heard just about every variation on this theme in his own tenure with Yoakam and others.
The album is a natural extension of Whelan’s way under-appreciated debut, Decider, and with its radio-friendliness, Sugarland should go far in spreading the word about Whelan and his ever growing importance on the Los Angeles scene and across the country as well. The world will soon know that Whelan and Sugarland are the real deal.
William Michael Smith, Houston, TX
© 2017 Brian Whelan. All Rights Reserved. Design by TrevNet Media
Once compared to a man who wears many suits, in thirty-two short years Justin Townes Earle has experienced more than most, both personally and professionally. Between releasing four full-length-critically-acclaimed albums, constant touring, multiple stints in rehab, a new found sobriety, being born Steve Earle’s son, amicable and not-so-amicable break-ups with record labels, and facing the trials and tribulations of everyday life, it’s safe to say JTE has quite the story to tell. His fifth album (and first ever on Vagrant Records) serves as the perfect platform for such narrations.
Entitled Single Mothers, the album is comprised of ten tracks that showcase exactly why Justin Townes Earle is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana. As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we’ve not seen before on past records. “One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30,” Justin states as he reflects on a life past and his newly found clarity. What he’s created is an album that’s raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn’t touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma.
Co-produced along side longtime engineer Adam Bednarik, Single Mothers shines in a world of pop-culture driven Ameri- cana records. “I don’t really know what Americana means anymore,” Justin laughs. “That’s not a slant on Americana, it’s just become a very unclassifiable genre. It’s gone seemingly pop. There are good parts to that, but it’s getting to a point where it won’t be able to redeem itself if it doesn’t slow down. Just like everything that gets popular.” With his heart and soul still rooted in Nashville, Single Mothers shows Justin’s continued combination of catchy songs and authenticity.
The album was recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players – just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment. In fact, his songs “Picture in a Drawer’ and ‘It’s Cold in This House’ are only Justin, his guitar and his pedal steel player Paul Niehaus.
Earle’s new perspective is clear on Single Mothers as it opens with the track ‘Worried Bout The Weather,’ where we see the intimate, sensitive side of JTE. Here Justin rehashes feelings of trouble on the horizon singing “it don’t take a twister to wreck a home, don’t take a night to feel like you’re in the dark and all alone” – a theme that has surfaced before in his lyrics, but this time with a personal honesty and openness. Justin’s mood switches gears on the upbeat track ‘My Baby Drives.’ “My baby drives me to church on Sundays, take me to see my Momma on every
other Monday. Some might say I’m the luckiest man alive,” Justin croons light heartedly. On the title track ‘Single Mothers’ we hear feelings of resentment as JTE growls, “absent father, never offer even a dollar, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he’s forfeited his rights to his own. Absent father is long gone.”
“As I’ve gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It’s more rational and mature. I guess that comes along with clarity,” JTE reflects. Single Mothers finds Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country record.