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ASHBURY KEYS – 12/27 @ 3:00PM

Ashbury Keys is a Texas-based alternative rock band centered around brothers David and Darwin Keys. David Keys acts as the band’s principal songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist. Darwin Keys provides stand-up (!) drums and vocals. Bassist and vocalist Bill Walter rounds out the band’s core lineup.

Ashbury Keys features its own “Brit-Tex” brand of rock that reflects early Brit-Pop influences (such as the Smiths, Oasis, Candy Skins, and the Wonder Stuff), but as displayed through a distinctly Texas filter. The band recently completed its second year of successful shows in the United Kingdom, playing shows in London, Liverpool and Manchester, which has served to grow the band’s affinity for the UK.

PUP SQUAD ANIMAL RESCUE DONATION GRAB BAG – SATURDAY, 12/13 & SUNDAY, 12/14 – ALL DAY!

Rufus wants you guys to help raise holiday funds for Pup Squad Animal Rescue this weekend Sat 12/13-Sun 12/14! Come by Cactus Music DONATE $5 or a bag of dog food and get a grab bag with 3 full length promo CDs as a thank you! Rufus is a proud Pup Squad alumni!

DJ SESSION WITH DAVID ENSMINGER & DJ BLACK SLACKS – SUNDAY, 12/21 @ 2:00PM

In addition to spinning records, David will be signing copies of his very successful books, Left of the Dial, Mojo Hand, Mavericks and others.

DJ Black Slacks set will feature a tribute to Johnny Ace (who died on Dec 25th, 1954) along with my usual unusual Christmas offerings.

SERGIO TREVINO – SUNDAY, 12/14 @ 4:00PM

Sergio performs several tunes from “A Very Sergio Christmas Album” to help himself and others work through the confusion and the complications that come with Christmas as you get older and more removed from the wonder of childhood. He confessed that he’d grown up enjoying Christmas and the spirit of the holiday like most people but as he’s grown older, he‘s become more confused about how Christmas is supposed to feel. He said writing the songs for “A Very Sergio Christmas Album” has brought him back a little bit to what Christmas is supposed to mean. -Bob Langham

LEE FIELDS – MEET & GREET – FRIDAY, 12/19 @ 4:00PM

At a time when many new artists are trying to emulate the soul and swagger of the 1960s, Lee Fields just has to record a new record. This authenticity is on full blast, once again, with Emma Jean, the new offering from Lee Fields and The Expressions on Brooklyn’s own Truth & Soul Records.

Having been on the road touring for the better part of the last decade, it’s evident that Lee Fields has hit an elevated stride with this album. There’s a sharper wisdom in the songwriting–from the having loved, lost, and learned vibe of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” backed by crooning guitar and wailing horns, to the sophisticated arrangements and studio acumen that’s pared with Lee’s straightforward sincerity in “Just Can’t Win.” And then there’s “Magnolia,” a cover of a JJ Cale song that embodies the late, great American singer-songwriter and the Tulsa Sound he helped create, that’s refreshed with the Lee Fields approach.

Like past releases from this matchless pairing of Fields’ warm-and-raw growl and The Expressions’ switched-on and sharp musicianship, Emma Jean takes soul music in a familiar, but updated, direction. Mixed and partially recorded at Dan Auerbach’s Nashville studio–country soul and bluesy rock are immediately noticeable. It brings a different kind of strut to Emma Jean, but Fields–born and raised in North Carolina–is right at home with the Southern soul sound. In fact, it feels like a natural progression; an organic, refreshingly pure next step.

You’d be forgiven a few years ago if you heard a Lee Fields song and thought it was somebody else: O.V. Wright, The Delfonics, or–of course–James Brown. But now, with the release of Emma Jean, there is no mistaking a Lee Fields track. A distinct soulful sound and a grown style has been forged between him and The Expressions. His 45 years of recording this music, 5 years deep now with Truth & Soul–something has clarified. “He’s 65 years old,” says Leon Michels, co-owner of Truth & Soul and the man with the production credit on Emma Jean. “he’s so focused, and has been working non-stop–he’s singing the best he ever has.” Emma Jean shows this progression and may prove that Fields, The Expressions, and Truth & Soul may be no longer interested in being contemporary soul music royalty. Instead, they seem more motivated to push this music in new directions and explore it’s next steps.

CHRIS DUARTE – SATURDAY, 12/13 @ 3:00PM

An artist’s lifetime is sometimes dictated by the heights they reach, the reaction they register or the body of work compiled during their working years. Chris Duarte is certainly making a case for his body of work he’s producing, this being number eleven of releases, but is he achieving the right reaction for his efforts? With the release of Chris Duarte’s latest opus, ‘My Soul Alone’, Chris Duarte is still reaching for new ground while also throwing out some of his best blues work to date. The maturity in the phrasing and melodic statements are a far cry from the early raw days of his first few releases. This could only be achieved through relentless roadwork that allows Chris to ply his trade and to work and rework melodic ideas. “I can practice all day in my basement but it’s a totally different ballgame when I get on stage. More of a physical dynamic is the currency I trade in when I’m playing live.” Even though Chris is in the studio, I can hear him getting more physical while there.
The album starts off with a swinging type of blues with a vocal more akin to 40’s big band style. The rough and course voice is still there rather than a crooner’s touch but he’s swinging the lines. The guitar solos are full bodied with just a touch of frenetic moments that Chris is known for. ‘Show Me That You Want It’ sets a good tone for the opening salvo.
Next up is another example of Chris taking clues from his early years growing up and mixing it with these pseudo county leanings on the guitar. ‘Yes It’s You’ is a nod towards the Beatles and other ‘Pop’ efforts Chris has been penning and with each release I can hear the improvement. Time will only tell if this song is a winner but it makes me hopeful that one day that hit will come. It will be long overdue.
‘Take Me Now’ is more of the ‘naff’ pop Chris is exploring like his previous release of ‘Summer’s Child’. “I keep hearing these retro-like grooves with a Steely Dan like vocal line over it. I’m probably going to go to my grave taking chances like this song.” Jazzy guitar work over a bluesy mode wins out on this song. This one always perks my ears up for new things every time I hear it.
Almost every album that Chris has put out with Mike Varney, there’s always been a minor blues and a slow major blues on the album. Normally I would really grow tired of the repetition but Chris challenges himself to tweak and twist the songs arrangement so that no two are going to sound like the last. His latest minor offering, “A Dollar Down and Feeling Low’, stays low and evocative with what I think is his best minor work to date. The phrasing is more moving and flowing with its subtle nuances achingly played. Chris’s touch on the guitar is definitely much improved and the notes actually touch the inner core. Then on the flip-side there’s ‘Lazy Afternoon’ with its true reach at a crooner standard style. The lyrics are lyrical and time dated and the guitar work is first rate jazzy with a touch of BB here and there. If we were to stop here with the album I would consider it a success.
We can’t deny Hendrix is a big muse for Chris and it’s plainly stated in this album. ‘Outta My Way’ is a spot on Hendrixian nod but obviously with Chris’s style thrown in the mix. Starting off with a hard driving riff but then it opens up with the patented Hendrix 7th chord accents that propel this rocket of a song on its way. The guitar accents are vocal like and at times a frenzy. The quirky lead in to the middle solo is typical of the twists and turns for originality and lends to it that ‘turn-on-a-dime’ wildness that should be present in songs like this; Hendrixian. The next Jimi offering is ‘Can’t Shut Me Out’. First the riff at the top and in comes the effects drenched guitar. With an almost vocal like quality to the guitar the phrasing is no doubt from Jimi and the driving rhythm underneath enables all the elements to come together when the vocals start. The interlude at the top of the chorus is the only departure from the Hendrix mode but it plays well with the chorus hook shouted out. Another adrenalin driving guitar vehicle and I wouldn’t expect anything less on this album. This is the CDG we’ve come to know and love.
Jumping back on the blues side of the album, because if there’s one thing that put Chris Duarte on the international stage; it is his blues playing. ‘Being known and referred to as a blues player is not a hindrance to me. If there’s anything that makes it easier for people to relate to me or if it’s easier to gain access to me than it’s all for the better’, Chris remarks. “I don’t shrink behind it or cringe from it because I love playing the blues.” I agree. It’s Chris’s prowess and originality in the blues field that has always made him an interest to me. So when I heard ‘Sweet Little Girl’ I knew Chris was drawing from one of his favorite blues masters; Howling Wolf. Back in the day when Chris was just a sideman in Bobby Mack and Night Train, Howling for My Darling was in every day rotation with the band when they played. It’s no surprise that the infectious rhythm and drive the song has would be inspiration down the years in his career. Written for his daughter, the vocal phrasing isn’t the same as Wolf but the ‘sweet’ sentiments he gives to his little girl is heartwarming. Then Chris quickly takes over when the solo romps and rolls along this jumping number. “Keeping this rhythm going isn’t as easy as it sounds” quips Duarte, “You always find out your studio limitations when you’ve got to track your rhythm tracks.” On the heels of Sweet Little Girl you’ve also got the Party swing song, ‘Bucked It Up’. “The male anthem for some of us” as Duarte claims as he has not been without his foibles in life. Why not poke fun with it and put your troubles in song. This song is just classic with the Hubert Summlin like tone on the lead and the rhythm guitar borrowing from piano phrasing and horn section kicks on the chorus. Later the solo tone turns towards a Buddy Guy styling and this party just rocks and rolls. Not to be forgotten is the ‘Stripper’ like tom-tom beats on the verses. Really like this song.
The title cut, ‘Leave My Soul Alone’ is Chris giving a nod towards the Black Keys. “I was first exposed to those guys when I did the Romp album.” “Our producer at the time, Dennis Herring, brought that song in, the Romp that is, and it was the Black Keys version of it.” It definitely has that stripped down sound with the classic vocal and guitar unison lines in it. With the verse rolling along like a tire with a bump on it, the song then blows wide open with the chorus and a rock and roll scream to “Leave My Soul Alone!” The guitars thicken up and the drums pound out the booms and the solo is an all-out assault on the instrument itself. Bending and twisting through sonic blasts and high vertical bends it settles back for another verse and then blows up again. Emotionally stirring this song deserves to be the title cut for its shear ferocity that it wields.
The last two cuts are more experimental and artistic reaches. “I just wanted to tell a story in one of the songs and this western motif I settled on was a lot of fun.” Telling the story of a young man that takes up and life of crime to feed his family is scattered among this country’s western lore. “I just wish I could write like Dylan” The guitar is playing this almost hypnotic folk type melody and the solo comes in mirroring the vocal line and then soaring on high as if it’s flying in the vast open Big Sky of the Midwestern plains. This song kind of hung with me after it was over. Then we have the most different of all the songs; Carelessness. “This is the name of a lodge that I met the violin player at during a jam we did in Northern California; Careless. The first song we jammed on was Freedom Jazz Dance and it was a blast.” Then when Mike Varney thought the collaboration between the two; violin and guitar, could yield some potential fireworks, Mike wanted to get Madz Tolling on one song with the upcoming album. So it was up to Chris to write one for the occasion and with that he drew on their first time together as inspiration. “Since it was Freedom Jazz Dance that brought us together then why not come up with a melody that’s angular and quirky like Jazz Dance.” Add a bit more spice with the solo section being in 7/8 time and then give a nod to one of Chris’s favorites John McGlaughlin and you’ve got the vehicle for a fusion tour de force. Madz violin just soars throughout the song with the agility and ease of a master conjuring up the voice of Jean Luc Ponty. Chris then answers in his unbounded energetic style that you can’t help but bop your head and smile while the drums lay down a furious barrage and the bass acts as the glue that brings it all together. One of the most adventurous songs Chris has put down so far in his career. I hope there are more like this one in the future
My opinion is that this is a level up in Chris’s all around skills. His songwriting is getting better, vocals phrasing and lyrics are better and his tone is still a marvel at how dexterous he can be with the varying styles he continues to display time and time again. Watching Chris grow has not been meteoric but it’s been steady and he’s still getting better on the guitar. In a time when most of our legends have been content to rest on their laurels and continue to mine familiar ground, it’s both a pleasure and refreshing to see that Chris always wants to expand and grow even after over 20 years of being on the road. Not many have the energy in them to do that and not many have the soul to pull it off.
– Robert Holman
– Independent Music Writer

SOUTH AUSTIN MOONLIGHTERS – FRIDAY, 11/28 @ 3:00PM

The South Austin Moonlighters (SAM) play an eclectic mix of songs, from heartfelt soul to “sh*t-kickin’ country,” and from funky New Orleans funk to raucous rock-n-roll. Somehow it all comes together; creating a magical essence that has earned the band a loyal following.

Some of The Moonlighters have known each other for longer than others. Lonnie Trevino Jr. (Bass) and Phil Bass (Drums) toured together extensively with Monte Montgomery from 2001 to 2003. Josh Zee (Lead Guitar) was Phil Hurley’s (Lead Guitar) first real Austin guitar hero after discovering the Mother Truckers soon after his arrival in town. Hurley made a strong mental note to try to get to play with Lonnie upon witnessing him perform with Deadman for the first time.

The exceptional musicianship and chemistry the band shares were immediately apparent and they began adding original songs to their repertoire of deep cuts and classic covers. The Moonlighters’ collective musical experience (with artists as diverse as Gatemouth Brown, Stephen Bruton, Bo Diddley, Jimmy LaFave, Fastball, Papa Mali, Mike Zitto, Tracy Bonham, Joe Ely, John Popper, and Lisa Loeb) allows them to segue from Memphis blues, to classic Americana, to straight up rock-and-roll, effortlessly…and it insures that no two Moonlighters’ shows are alike.

Aaron Beavers from Shurman was a big part of bringing this group together. All of their groups–Shurman, Deadman, Mother Truckers and Stonehoney–were performing together at Shilah Morrow’s Sin City SXSW 2011 showcase at Maria’s Taco Express. They were all fans of each other’s bands and a part of a unique community, when Lonnie and Aaron had the idea of putting together a side group (where they could all “moonlight” on their steady gigs-thus the band’s name), just for the pure joy of playing music. Lonnie had the guts and connections to book a series of Tuesday evening happy hour gigs at The Saxon Pub and things took off from there.

The joy of music making the band shares is a tangible and contagious part of Moonlighters’ shows, allowing them to quickly build a solid fan base through their Austin residencies. During SxSW 2012, buyers from as far away as Europe were anxious to catch a bit of the South Austin Moonlighters’ “magic”!

Since The Moonlighters first put this idea into motion, Phil Hurley’s group Stonehoney has called it quits, the Mother Truckers are on hiatus and Lonnie has left Deadman. Phil Bass is still rocking periodically with Monte Montgomery, The Whiskey Sisters and other bands.

The inspiration of SAM stems from the band members’ mutual respect and admiration for each other’s skill and mastery of their instrument. Musicians are always seeking out others who inspire them and challenge them to improve. This group is an amazing example of what can happen when you put a bunch of talented guys in one room with an emphasis on joy and no egos involved.

– See more at: http://www.thesouthaustinmoonlighters.com/band/#sthash.QwyOh3ni.dpuf

TRUDY LYNN WITH STEVE KRASE – SATURDAY, 12/20 @ 3:00PM

Trudy Lynn: International Blues Vocalist
Blues singer Trudy Lynn remembers her parents’ collection of 78 rpm records being both fragile and durable. She recalls their brittle quality: “You got a whupping back in those days if you’d break one of them,” she says. “They were like glass.” Yet the songs that spilled forth from those recordings have remained with her for decades.
Several years ago a friend gave Lynn a collection of songs by women blues singers from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. “That’s where I’ve been the past few years,” Lynn says. “I started listening to what they were singing, and it’s like they knew my life before I even came here.
“Like my mother says, ‘There’s nothing new. It’s just new to you.’ That’s where this baby started.”
This baby is “Royal Oaks Blues Cafe,” the defining recording of Lynn’s career thus far. The Houston native has been performing for more than 50 years, but never before has the dynamic range of her voice been so sympathetically captured and brilliantly projected on record. She purrs, growls, whispers and blares the blues, with exquisite backing, particularly by collaborators Steve Krase on harmonica and John Del Toro Richardson on guitar. Producer Rock Romano expertly bottled their interactions.
Krase, who has shared stages with Lynn for more than 20 years, says he “had no idea she had that range. Some songs she’ll start with a growl and all of the sudden bring it up and hit a high note. I’m sure she’s done that before, but I hadn’t noticed it. I hear some different nuance in her voice on every single song.”
Lynn’s goal for the album was simple: to reinvent those timeless songs and, in doing so, restore the legacy of some performers who had been forgotten during the years as the blues steered toward a format dominated by men with guitars. Lynn and Krase’s song selection was smart and sympathetic to her voice, which updates songs originally made by artists like Clara Smith, Eloise Bennett, Bea Booze and Viviane Greene.
“Women used to rule back in the day,” she says. “A lot of great artists – even guys like Louis Armstrong – they played in these ladies’ bands when they were young, blues bands and minstrel shows. It’s a lot like now, days where you have a lot of great singers who don’t get enough recognition. So many great singers.”
Lynn sometimes treats conversation like a refrain in a song. She strings together a series of thoughts and emphasizes them with a succinct summarizing sentence, which she then repeats a few times, her voice growing quieter with each repetition. She calls this “echoing myself.”
She has put her voice to a lot of different music during the years, having sung soul, R&B and country music. But, she says, “There’s just one of them that you master. I chose the blues. I love the blues. I love the blues. Love the blues.”
Lynn, 66, was born Lee Audrey Nelms in the Fifth Ward. In addition to her parents’ 78s, she had a lot of casual contact with blues and R&B performers because her mother ran a beauty shop by the Club Matinee. Lynn would walk there from school trying to catch a glimpse of acts like Joe Hinton or Bobby “Blue” Bland, who would play the venue. She wasn’t able to get closer to the music than the club’s door. “There wasn’t any going in there,” she says. “The way we were raised, everybody could whup your butt in the neighborhood. The neighborhood raised all the children where I grew up, not just your parents.”
Lynn’s parents didn’t push music on her, nor were they discouraging. She sang in a vocal ensemble at Wheatley High School. Her first break came as a teen when late blues great Albert Collins – playing with Big Tiny and the Thunderbirds – invited her onto the bandstand at Walter’s Lounge on Lockwood. She sang “Night Time Is the Right Time.”
“I was in, baby,” she says. “I said, ‘Oh yes, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to do.’ ”
After high school, Lynn went to visit her aunt in Lufkin, where a club called the Cinderella needed a singer. She decided Lee Audrey Nelms wasn’t going to cut it as a stage name. The club had a bunch of cartoon character names painted on the wall and she noticed “Trudy,” which she quickly paired with Lynn. “Lynn was something in those days,” she says. “Gloria Lynne, Barbara Lynn. I thought, ‘I’m going to be one of those Lynns, too, baby.’ ”
Her repertoire was limited: “Stormy Weather,” an Etta James song called “Tell Mama” and a third song she can’t recall. But Lynn set about expanding her song book.
She found some work singing in big bands that would play military bases around the state and also sang soul music for a time. The great guitarist I.J. Gosey took notice and recommended Lynn to Clarence Green, a blues guitarist and bandleader. Lynn spent five years as vocalist in his band.
Green was a stern mentor, but Lynn credits him with helping her become a professional. “He molded me well,” she says. “He’s still in me because of what he taught me. It takes that. It takes that. It takes that.”
After leaving Green’s band, Lynn began performing on her own. She made a fine single “What a Waste/Long Live the Blues” in the early ’70s, which helped her with some bookings, but Lynn recorded only sporadically. For years she struggled to get recorded in a manner deserving of her talent.
A British fan who moved to Atlanta started an independent label there in the 1980s and provided the best platform for Lynn to that point. Lynn’s time in Ichiban Records likely peaked in 1993 with “I’ll Run Your Hurt Away.”
But often, producers had a strong hand in directing her recordings. With “Royal Oaks Blues Cafe,” Lynn played curator for herself. She wrote two strong tracks – “Every Side of Lonesome” and “Down in Memphis” – that blend nicely with the vintage songs. The record opens vibrantly with “Confessin’ the Blues” and concludes on a bawdy note with “Whip It to a Jelly.”
Between are songs about good times and bad men. “Each one of these songs means something to me,” she says. “I truly understand something about each one of them.”
Lynn says the recording “is just the beginning,” as she plans to continue researching decades-old blues songs for future use.
But prior to returning to a recording studio, Lynn plans to take the record on the road. The market for blues isn’t what it was during the ’60s, but she says many viable places remain for a classic blues singer in the 21st century.
“People say this place or that place ain’t got no blues, well, so go to where the blues is,” she says. “Go to Europe, find the American festivals. You don’t do it because there are places to play. In order to do it, you’ve got to love it.
“Musicians want to work with me, they say, ‘I can play some blues.’ Yes, but are you a blues musician? There’s no jamming. You’ve got to play your part. Play it until it gets monotonous. You’ve got to feel it. You’ve got to feel it. I’m just echoing myself. I do it all the time.
“But you’ve got to feel it.”
—By Andrew Dansby
December 13, 2013

LARRY COOPER – SATURDAY, 12/20 @ 1:00PM

6 Nominations, Houston Press Music Awards, 2007-09 including “Best Songwriter”, “Best Roots-Rock”, and “Best New Act”./// “Reminiscent of The Bottle Rockets, Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt, and Alejandro Escovedo, Cooper’s not kidding around on lyrics like ‘When the bottle’s your only friend, you’re coughing up the blood, and your lungs will start to flood'” – Chris Gray, Houston Press///

“LL Cooper’s Old Hardin Store Road plays like a sparkling amalgamation or world-weary, road tested genres…Cooper’s balance of humor and heartache make it an engaging expression of lyrical emotion.” – Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle///

JEFF BLACK – SATURDAY, 12/6 @ 1:00PM

Jeff Black 2014

“His words and voice hold down center stage with a craft so deeply in the artistic pocket that it obscures anything outside”
– No Depression

It’s the truth behind what an artist does and the way they choose to do it that defines their art. And while the ways in which audiences get their music has changed, the reasons why a certain kind of artist makes music have remained the same. Call it an uncompromising commitment, an inspired motivation, or just the need to share with and connect to those who listen. For Jeff Black, it is his life’s work that has driven him to build a career like few other singer/songwriters in the business. Boston’s WUMB listeners voted Jeff Black as one of the top 100 most important Folk artists of the last 25 years.

Black’s songs have earned GRAMMY recognition, radio chart-topping stats and numerous BMI awards. Although flying below the radar as a performer himself, he has been recognized by NPR as a musical pioneer in the digital age and his catalogue of critically acclaimed albums continues to grow. Composing music for film and television, his credits include numerous indie-film soundtracks and a repertoire of songs cut by artists as diverse as Alison Krauss & Union Station, Waylon Jennings, BlackHawk, Dierks Bentley, Jon Randall, John Oates, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush. Black has forged a reputation as a true folk troubadour entertaining audiences globally for over three decades. A master songwriter and performer in the tradition of the great storytellers, his passionate, soul driven live performances of songs from his vast catalog are not to be missed.

Folklore is the 10th release from the prolific songwriter. Recorded over a 2 day period in Nashville, Tennessee at Arcana Studios, Jeff Black arms himself with a guitar, harmonica and a banjo to traverse the clay-dust roads that trace the cutting edge of pop culture, delivering a collection of modern folk and acoustic classics.

“The tradition of an artist delivering songs that are damn near perfectly crafted and filled with the wisdom of the ages.”

Jedd Beaudoin | PopMatters

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