Sparky Parker is a blues/rock/soul guitarist and vocalist from Houston, Texas with the grit, drive, and talent needed to stand tall in the eternally-competitive Texas music scene. Houston fans knew him as a young blues guitar prodigy but Parker has grown far beyond that kind of simple label. Parker is now a triple threat who writes quality songs, sings with a feeling, and plays with ferocity. His latest release with his power trio The Sparky Parker Band, In The Dark, will see daylight in the Fall of 2019 and those close to Parker feel that the record will break him to a larger, national audience.
Parker began playing professionally straight out of high school, cutting his teeth as a frontman with the rock band Bayou Monster and playing guitar in the blues band Mojofromopolis. He also joined the Houston rock band Funky Mustard, who he still plays with to this day. Parker went on to log road miles with Blues Music Award-winning artists Diunna Greenleaf and Vanessa Collier, playing important shows around the USA and Europe, including The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, The Blues Music Awards show, and The Chicago Blues Festival among dozens of other major music festivals.
Parker launched the Sparky Parker Band in 2012 with Kevin Berry (drums) and “Fender” Phil Lock (bass). The band is a high-energy outfit whose debut album, Live In Houston, was captured live in the band’s hometown at Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar. The trio format lets Parker dig deeply into his influences, which include Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Texas and Chicago Blues, Classic Soul, R&B, and Classic Rock. The band is amped up to take the seven originals and three covers from the new record to the people and knows what it has to offer is tested and true.
Parker has been compared to Gary Clark Jr, Stevie Ray Vaughan,and Jonny Lang but creates intensely original music that never falls into the shadows of imitation. A shy and reserved person offstage, music has always been the best way for him to forge connections with other people. It’s how he tells his story and speaks his mind. That story will get a vital new chapter added onto it with the release of In The Dark and the road and the crowds will finish the tale. Anyone interested in where the blues is heading in the modern era should discover Sparky Parker today.
Record a remarkable single “Makin’ Love”. Play up & down Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the mid ‘60s. Break up before recording an album. Find out the single resurfaced 20 years later on a garage compilation appropriately titled “Back from the Grave.”
The guitarist hires a private detective to find surviving members. Re-emerge in 2012, perform local shows and tour to wide acclaim. Then, as a climax, record the band’s first full-length album—a full half century after the original 45 touched a record player.
No longer just a footnote in the history of garage rock, The Sloths have embarked on something more than a victory lap reunion tour with their Burger/Lolipop release “Back From The Grave,” music video “One Way Out,” a new single on Outro Records (w/The Dwarves) and now a Euro release of “Back From The Grave” on Germany’s Eternal Sound Records.
Jason James’ self-titled debut on New West introduced a charismatic young artist whose effortless mastery of his chosen style serves as a deeply compelling vehicle for his vibrant creative spirit. The talented Texan writes rousing honky-tonk anthems, heart-tugging ballads and smart, sly-humored country-rock tunes that echo the vintage classics that are his touchstones, and sings them with a level of emotional urgency that makes it clear that he means every word. The 13 original compositions that comprise Jason James make it clear that the artist is interested in making music that’s timeless rather than retro, reflecting his interest in adding to country tradition rather than merely emulating it. Although he’s fully aware that the country mainstream is currently dominated by gimmicky, contrived commercial product, James has no interest in diluting his music for mass consumption. “I really think that what I’m doing is pretty universal and that people can recognize honesty and passion when they hear it,’ he says. “It’s worth remembering that at one time, the stuff that was popular on the country chart were the guys who influenced me. So I know that it can work. I think people still hear music the same way they always have, and they’re looking for the same things in music that they’ve always looked for. They just want to hear something that’s honest and catchy, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”. Jason & his band (their band name changes every show to suit the venue/event) are building nicely in Texas (recently headlining The Broken Spoke in Austin for the first time, and will expand their reach with the next album cycle to the rest of North America and Europe. The new single, “Here Comes The Heartache is being worked at Texas/Red Dirt radio. Another song, “Let’s Say Goodbye, Like We Said Hello” (a cool Ernest Tubb cover) is featured in a new Shiner Beer commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl on Feb 4th, it will run in select markets (mostly during other sporting events for the rest of the year. Jason is recording his second album tentatively titled, Seems Like Tears Ago now for a February 1, 2019 release.
Ragin Americana, scorching, gritty and ethereal. Reviewers say “Pretty brilliant all around”; “reminds me of a Springsteen lyric, it is just as good as Bruce”; “The vocals are INSANE. I love it”; “makes me want to dance”; “feels like it has a deep hidden meaning, that needs to be uncovered by listening closely”; “a mix of awesome and uniqueness, every song so far I truly love and have become a fan”
For over twenty years, THE LAZY COWGIRLS were the undisputed kings of Los Angeles underground Rock ‘n’ Roll, releasing countless singles and albums for labels such as Sympathy For the Record Industry, Crypt, Bomp!, and Gearhead. Wayne Coyne, of The Flaming Lips, called them an “American Institution”. The Cowgirls may be no more, but their founder, vocalist and songwriter, Pat Todd, has released a two CD set with his new band, Pat Todd & The Rankoutsiders entitled “The Outskirts of Your Heart”. The album is nothing less than the culmination of two years of hard work, love and determination…
Produced and engineered by former Sparks guitarist, Earle Mankey (The Cramps, Concrete Blonde, The Beach Boys, Possum Dixon), at his home studio, “Earle’s Rankoutsider Wreckroom” (whom some have called the “modern Sun studios”), the album reflects the diversity of American Rock ‘n’ Roll, from raunchy rockers like “Alive as Yesterday” to heartfelt laments like “Christmas Day”. As a live band they are a powerhouse- playing one song after another, with everything they have to give. On any given night, they seem to stop time.
Young Mammals is a noisy power pop band operating from their home base of Houston, Texas. On new full length record “Lost In Lima”, their fourth, the band drives through eleven songs in thirty minutes, stripping back the lush production tendencies of their past to focus on primal, direct songwriting.
The Rotten Mangos are nostalgic and so fresh all at once. Not one milligram shy of being pure magic, they encapsulate the psychedelic era in today’s watered down world.
Flower Graves take the normal wash of guitar pedals and garage rock touches and throw them out in favor of a more organic sound. Drawing their name from a Human Beinz song, the Texas based foursome feels like you took the blue pill and stayed in a dream like neverland where sixties pop culture and free love reign supreme. Flower Graves’ debut album “Living In Disguise” delivers old and new inspirations to the masses with mesmerizing vocals, washed out guitars and groovy organ tones.
Making Room 41 nearly killed Paul Cauthen. Ironically enough, it’s also the very thing that saved him.
“Finishing this record was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever been a part of,” reflects Cauthen, the larger-than-life Texas troubadour nicknamed Big Velvet for his impossibly smooth, baritone voice. “I’m honestly glad it’s done because I don’t think I’d survive if I had to do it all over again. No way.”
Written during a roughly two-year stint spent living out of a suitcase in Dallas’ Belmont Hotel, Room 41 chronicles Cauthen’s white-knuckle journey to the brink and back, a harrowing experience that landed him in and out of the hospital as he careened between ecstasy and misery more times than he could count. Cauthen has long been a pusher of boundaries (musical and otherwise), and Room 41 is no exception, with electrifying performances that blend old-school country and gritty soul with 70’s funk and stirring gospel. His lyrics take on biblical proportions as they tackle lust and envy, pride and despair, destruction and redemption, but these songs are no parables.
Cauthen lived every single line of this record, and he’s survived to tell the tale.
“I’ve always been the kind of artist that can’t write something unless I feel it and I mean it.” says Cauthen, “This record is as real as it gets for me. I am these songs.”
Cauthen first earned his reputation as a fire-breathing truth-teller with the acclaimed roots rock band Sons of Fathers, but it wasn’t until the 2016 release of his solo debut, My Gospel, that he truly tapped into the full depth of his prodigious talents. Vice Noisey dubbed it “a somber reminder of how lucky we are to be alive,” while Texas Monthly raved that Cauthen “sound[s] like the Highwaymen all rolled into one: he’s got Willie’s phrasing, Johnny’s haggard quiver, Kristofferson’s knack for storytelling, and Waylon’s baritone.” The album landed on a slew of Best Of lists at the year’s end and earned festival appearances from Austin City Limits and Pickathon to Stagecoach and Tumbleweed along with dates opening for Elle King, Margo Price, Midland, Cody Jinks, Social Distortion and more. He followed it up two years later with Have Mercy, an album that prompted Rolling Stone to dub him “one of the most fascinating, and eccentric, new voices in country music” and NPR’s Ann Powers to proclaim 2019 as “the year of Paul Cauthen.”
As his professional life reached new heights, though, Cauthen’s personal life hit new lows, and he soon found himself drifting without a home. Checked in to room 41 at the Belmont, he began escalating his self-destructive tendencies, medicating heartbreak and anxiety with alcohol and drugs as he ground himself into oblivion.
“I’d drink like a fish all night and stay up writing or recording from about 4am until noon,” Cauthen explains. “Then I’d sleep away the rest of the day until it was time to start over again. The only thing that kept me ticking was the songs.”
Cauthen’s routine may have left him with plenty to write about, but it was taking a heavy toll on both his physical and mental health.
“The whole ‘ripping your heart of our chest and pouring it into your art’ thing might be good for songwriting for a little while,” says Cauthen, “but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I worked myself up into such a frenzy that I couldn’t keep going on without getting some real medical help.”
Cauthen credits his survival in no small part to his collaborators on the album, a wide range of writers, musicians, and producers who rallied around him and believed in his work enough to help him see it through. The production credits alone read like a who’s who of modern Texas music, including Niles City Sound (Leon Bridges, Nicole Atkins), Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, Nikki Lane), and Beau Bedford and Jason Burt, Cauthen’s longtime creative foils at Dallas’ Modern Electric studio.
“Modern Electric is always going to be my home,” says Cauthen, “but after we started working on this album there, I felt like I hit a wall and needed a change of scenery, so I brought the band with me over to Fort Worth to work with Austin Jenkins and Josh Block and Chris Vivion at Niles City. Nobody had brought the Dallas sound to Fort Worth like that before, and it turned out to be a recipe for something really special.”
The mix of producers and recording environments helped Cauthen walk the line between retro and modern, with bold, adventurous arrangements informed by country tradition but completely untethered from its strictures. The introduction of album opener “Holy Ghost Fire” sounds more like Gnarls Barkley than Merle Haggard, and the ultra-funky “Cocaine Country Dancing” flirts with Prince, but the arrival of Cauthen’s unmistakable voice gives each song a singular life of its own. As with much of the album, tracks like “Holy Ghost Fire” and the “Cocaine Country Dancing” find themselves taking good hard looks in the mirror, and while they’re not exactly thrilled with what they see, the experiences are ultimately cathartic ones. The sweeping “Prayed For Rain,” for instance, serves as a reminder to be selfless in the face of our more egotistical instincts, while the heartrending “Slow Down” is a plea to treat ourselves with patience and kindness, and the R&B-influenced “Freak” recognizes that, deep down, we all want and deserve the same things out of life.
“I wrote that song about my experience in the Smith County Jail,” says Cauthen. “I met a lot of crazy characters there, but everybody in this world deserves a chance. At the end of the day, we’re all freaks, and we all just want to love and be loved.”
Cauthen’s never had a problem when it comes to loving those around him, but learning to love himself has been a different story altogether. He comes to terms with the person behind the persona on “Big Velvet,” grapples with his faith on the rousing “Give ‘em Peace,” and channels Roy Orbison on the gorgeous “Can’t Be Alone.”
“I started writing that song on the piano in the lobby of The Belmont at 4am,” says Cauthen. “I probably woke some guests up, but at the time, I didn’t really care. I just didn’t think I could take feeling alone like that any more.”
In the end, writing and recording Room 41 showed Cauthen that he wasn’t alone, and in that sense, maybe these songs are parables after all. As richly detailed and firmly rooted in Cauthen’s lived experiences as they are, the stories here are universal, with the kind of deeply layered meanings and insights that continue to reveal themselves slowly over time. These days, Cauthen is out of the hotel, but he still carries the lessons he learned in room 41 everywhere he goes, approaching life with a newfound gratefulness and living in the moment with an appreciation for the present that might have seemed impossible even just a year ago.
“I’m making a living with my music and paying the bills,” says Cauthen. “I’ve already made it in my eyes. I’m here. I’ve arrived.”