Drawing inspiration from the Texas psychedelic music scene past & present, Cactus Flowers formed in 2016 and began gigging locally in 2017.
In 2018 Cactus Flowers Live at Steamboat Ampworks, was recorded and released independently. With a full arsenal of rock, dream pop, shoegaze, and psych, Cactus Flowers delivers the hypnotic sounds of ecstasy in slow motion.
Incantations – Cactus Flower’s first full-length release, was recorded and mixed by John Griffin (Wild Moccasins, The Ton Tons, Flower Graves) and mastered by Chris Longwood (Sugarhill Studios). Set for September 2019 release, Cactus Flowers wants to take you on a journey into the mystic and spiritual world, outside & within.
Keeper of Atlantis is a simple repository of solo recordings from Ramon LP4 Medina of The Linus Pauling Quartet and The Cryptographers. While there may be a few limited releases over time, the point is never to draw away attention from the bands but just to find a home for some songs. Think of it as Pete Townsend’s “Who Came First” except with a guy who can’t sing or play guitar that well.
Houston’s queer synth-pop duo Space Kiddettes are proud to present their brand new compilation DEADSPACE. This release was mixed and mastered by Houston artist and producer John Allen Stephens (J. Balvin, The Suffers, Rose Ette, The Ton Tons) at Third Coast Recording Studio. The first collaborative single from this release was P.S.A. featuring STOO in spring 2019. By the end of 2019, Space Kiddettes have released 3 more singles including Square (Kirrrby Remix), Scary Boy, and the upcoming final single “Shine a Light” featuring Kam Franklin of The Suffers (available now!) DEADSPACE is a full-length musical release featuring collaborations with local, regional, and national artists, new original tracks, and remix/remasters of previously released tracks. The tracklist of collaborations include Kam Franklin of The Suffers, Tee Vee, Hank Honey, and STOO. This release sees Space Kiddettes working in the realm of the synth-pop/new wave sound heard on their last project “DOMESTIC ADVENTURES,” but the buzzy synthesizers, beat switches, and collaborative tracks expand on that sound and explore new territory and textures in their sonic universe.
The first thing that registers about Bonnie Bishop’s stirring album The Walk is that the seasoned Grammy winner is no longer trying to outrun herself; she owns whatever has come her way, good wind or ill. It’s an uplifting confessional that she dedicates ‘to all who wander’ – laying down searing, emotionally-charged variations to award-winning producer Steve Jordan’s (Robert Cray, John Mayer, Buddy Guy) powerhouse production. She does so in a voice that aches and arches and grabs and never lets go.
Blessed with an authentically resounding range, a blistering lyrical gift, and OK – she admits it – a couple of inherent vices that any God-fearing Americana/country/soul artist must wrestle with after years of bringing it live and in-color, Bishop has now broken free from the bust-boom mentality of Nashville to walk a line of her own making. The recipe may sound oversimplified, but it’s a frank, funny, ferocious, insightful Bonnie Bishop we encounter on this path; a recharged singer/songwriter full of grace. Her determination to put one foot in front of the other and find the road to reclamation shifted into overdrive when she left Nashville for her native Texas in 2017. Since then, she’s never looked back. The Walk soars as her most honest effort to date. It’s a groove-laden, lyrical lightning bolt from which the tonic of self-revelation pours forth on songs such as the grateful “Every Happiness Under The Sun” and the gut-wrenching “I Don’t Like To Be Alone.” The album’s euphoric closer, “Song Don’t Fail Me Now,” is Bonnie’s most heartfelt testament to date that music absolutely can still heal the spirit.
She framed the seven-song masterpiece in one word definitions as she was recording the album, such as PURPOSE for the album’s opening salvo “Love Revolution” and DOUBT for the moving title track “The Walk.” She captures the frailty of life’s contradictions and conflicts via her effortless vocal reach in bold strokes, bold, yet fragile enough to walk that razor-edge. It’s Bonnie’s desire that fans and critics listen to The Walk from start to finish, “like albums were intended to be listened to,” she says. After returning from a therapeutic retreat that helped her get “un-blocked,” the album was kick-started in a frenzy of writing-collaborations. “The retreat helped create a space of reflection and introspection so that I could deal with things in my past, things that we all eventually have to deal with. I came out of there and immediately made all these song-writing appointments. Most of the album came from that burst of creativity. I didn’t even know I was writing an album, I just knew that the music was coming through me and that I wanted to write honest songs.”
Her reset also included an exit strategy out of a Nashville, a place that had nurtured her, yes, but where she also sometimes felt creatively confined. Her career began in Texas via the road of hard-knocks, playing original music in dive bars and honky tonks across her home state. She came to Nashville in 2008 after signing a publishing deal. There she sharpened her acclaimed songwriting chops by writing with people like Mike Reid, Jimmy Wallace, Al Anderson and others who challenged and inspired her to dig deeper. Her big break would come when Bonnie Raitt recorded a song she and Anderson wrote, “Not Cause I Wanted To,” which would go on to net Bonnie Bishop her first Grammy.
In all, she recorded five very well-received albums, rising though the country/Americana ranks, but finding herself forever on the road. At one point, she even decided to take a hiatus from the stress of the business and enroll in Sewanee University of the South, where she began working toward a masters in creative writing. In 2016, Thirty Tigers convinced her to record a new album with producer David Cobb. The universally acclaimed Ain’t Who I Was brought Bonnie back with a splash, showcasing the more soulful side of the dynamic singer and peeling off some of the Nashville veneer. She also began to steady her aim with what Pop Matters called a ‘slow burning self-reflection,’ armed with a voice and lyrical finesse that Rolling Stone quipped leveled ‘both barrels.’
But it’s more than a trigger-finger twitching on The Walk. Bonnie provocatively shines a light on her inner-self with this album, baring her soul and her love for groove while she digs deeper than she ever has before. “Ain’t Who I Was was successful, and it had some depth, but that album was more about getting me back into the game. The last couple of years I have really started asking myself the more difficult questions,” she says. “Why am I here? Who am I serving? What purpose am I fulfilling with my life?”
She decided to meet those queries head-on with a list of personal challenges which would move her even further out of her comfort zone. She logged a revelatory trip into to the desert, dedicated a year to sobriety, and dove head-and-heart-first into songwriting sessions that revealed even more about her creative process and what fueled it. “I was searching,” Bonnie says, “because I’d lost my sense of meaning. Hell, I even began to doubt my faith.” She even fesses up to a chronic disappointment in the trajectory of her own career – which by any measurable standard has been a damn fine one – with her most recent album drawing rave reviews from not only Rolling Stone, but The New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, and so many others.
“When I was 20, all I wanted was to be a star. I knew I had to let go of those unrealistic goals I set for myself back then because all around me, I saw a world that was also struggling for meaning. I felt like my life in Nashville had been very shallow and I had spent a long time trying to fit in with what I thought people in the music industry wanted me to be. I’d always felt like there was a much higher purpose to my musical message and I wanted to recapture that connection.”
Bishop chose Steve Jordan to produce this project because she had always loved the sound of his drums. “The lyrics on this album were very deep. I wanted Steve to create beats that would help the music move and groove, make it easy for people to listen to.” One of the most riveting songs on the album, the powerful “Women At The Well,” touches on questions of faith and the corrosive human emotion of shame, but has one of the funkiest beats on the album. “Shame is a bitch. It is one of the things that really trips us up,” she says. “When you don’t feel like you’re good enough or you don’t think you have what it takes to go after something you really want, usually it’s shame that is actually holding you back. ‘Women at the Well’ is based on the story in the Bible about the woman who met Jesus while she was drawing water from the well. She was there at the hottest time of day because she was not considered to be a good woman by the townspeople, and she was too ashamed to go to the well in the early morning hours when all the other women would be there. This song speaks for all the girls out who are feeling shamed about something in their past: ‘My name’s Mary and I’m here to say/All my sins have been washed away/I am the one that Jesus saved from Hell/This song’s for the women at the well.’”
“The Walk takes the listener on a journey through my own soul,” she says. “There’s a whole narrative that I hope my audience can follow, starting with the first song on the album, ‘Love Revolution,’ a tune about pursuing a higher purpose, and ending with ‘Song Don’t Fail Me Now,’ about the power of music to heal. Those are the bookends that tie the record together and they kind of sum up why I’m making another album. This music is my gift to the world. I hope that these songs will make the world a better place, that they will help people wherever they are in their life. That’s why the record ends with those “la-la-las” at the end, because I want people to sing along and know that they aren’t alone. We are all in this things called ‘life’ together.”
Bonnie knows something about battling loneliness. In the middle of the album stands the unvarnished gem, ‘I Don’t Like To Be Alone,’ one of the most gripping songs on the The Walk. It’s the only track Bonnie wrote completely by herself. “I felt very vulnerable right after moving back to Texas,” she says. “I was spending alot of time alone in my apartment and there was a night where I kind of had this breakthrough, just facing the fact that I didn’t feel ok being by myself.”
She credits Jordan for insisting that song even go on the album. “It was such a personal song, I hadn’t really played it for anybody. I was reluctant to let Steve hear it because it wasn’t a message I was comfortable putting out there. It made me feel very naked. Of course, that ended up being his favorite song and he insisted we put it on the record. Then he came up with that sick groove and that’s when I knew I had picked the right producer. Steve was pushing me out of my comfort zone and creating the right kind of beats that made deep songs like that one danceable.”
“The journey I took to make this album is personal but it’s really one that we all take. It’s the journey of life. It’s full of ups and downs. There are good times and bad times, times when you’re struggling with the unknown, struggling to understand what it all means. And then there are times when you learn to be thankful and make music amidst the chaos and strife. To me, that’s the hardest part of being human, the not knowing. These days I hear it as a mid-tempo beat. It’s the song that never ends, like the heartbeat of humanity. Steve created the soundtrack for that feeling. Every track on this album ties in with the notion that with life, you have to just take it one day at a time. This album is the sound of me learning to be OK with that.”
Fea is the continued ferocity of Girl In A Coma’s Phanie Diaz and Jenn Alva, joined by lead vocalist Letty Martinez and guitarist Sofi. Their melodic brand of Riot Grrrl Chicana Punk immediately caught the attention of Joan Jett who signed them to her label Blackheart, and Iggy Pop who sang their praises to Rolling Stone which has since been echoed by many! Producers on their debut LP (self-titled) include Lori Barbero (Babes In Toyland), Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), and Alice Bag (The Bags), all of whom perfectly compliment the band’s fierce exploration of societal, cultural and gender-related issues. Mixing humor with agency, English with Spanish, Fea empowers listeners and inspires dissidence. Resistance has never sounded so infectious!
Multi-time Independent Radio charting, Tex Smith is a singer songwriter who from his eponymously titled first album in 2009, has continued to write and perform songs that will become central to the modern day Folk & Americana catalog. In a genre that is alive and growing he continues to accrue a devoted following and positive praises in the press. As an independent artist however, his biggest fans and praises have come from within the songwriter circles themselves. “I’m especially fond of Tex’s train songs, they have a certain lonely feel to them that I’m very drawn to. While he’s never dour, Tex can be quite sentimental; he has the ability to make you almost as chilly as the characters of which he sings about.” writes Murry Hammond (Old 97’s). “Honest, sweet and playful lyrics delivered in, but not contained by traditional Honky Tonk style, Tex Smith is a unique and thankfully, prolific singer songwriter!” says Whit Smith (Hot Club of Cowtown).
Over the years based in the thriving music scene of Austin TX, Tex has worked & recorded with many local greats including Seth Gibbs (Brother Machine, Bobby Jealousy, The Reputations), Steven Collins (Deadman), The Archibalds, Ramsay Midwood, Jake Erwin & Whit Smith (Hot Club of Cowtown), Sabrina Ellis (Bobby Jealousy, Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit), HalleyAnna, Josh Buckley, Union Specific, Gladys & Maybelle, Ranch\House, and most recently Earl Poole Ball (Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons, Wynn Stewart). He’s shared the bill with Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s The Zombies, Bobby Whitlock (Derek & The Dominos) and Grammy award winning Leon Bridges, along with Texas legend James Hand, and rising local stars Mike and The Moonpies, Paul Cauthen, & Colin Gilmore.
Tex Smith was born and raised in Texas, but the roots of his sound spread far beyond his home state. He likes to say that his music “blends country, roots rock, singer-songwriter style and folk into one big flavorful pot of stew.” Indeed, it’s this eclectic mix of styles that marks his artistry. The middle of 5 kids a Spanish mother and an estranged 3rd generation Texan father he grew up in an average suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. He never received any formal musical training while growing up, however, during his early developmental years of the 1970’s The Monkees TV show was in full syndication. It was this along with the influence of his elder siblings and neighborhood friends Beatles and British Invasion record collections that planted the seeds. A few years later in the early 1990’s while attending the University of North Texas in Denton, TX fueled by his oldest brothers psychedelic garage rock band Terrapin, the music of Deep Ellum, and a key discovery of a Johnny Cash Sun Records cassette tape, he began writing and recording his own songs. After graduating with a bachelors degree in Geography he moved to Dallas, TX, where he began co-hosting a popular Roots/Americana radio show on KNON 89.3FM for multiple years. In 2006, Tex left Dallas,TX and his radio gig and moved to the Hill Country outside Austin, TX and began making music in earnest.
For Tex Smith, music has been the pathway to personal growth and recovery. “I try to write about the journey,” he says. “Music has helped me through so much, brought so much joy in my life. I want to try to just give a little back.”
Tex lives in Austin, TX with his wife Maybelle (of duo Gladys & Maybelle), and enjoys spending time with their son.
This year Tony received a grant from the city of Houston to develop a series of songs based on interviews with people who have been deported from the U.S. Merel and Tony will be performing selections from this project.
“A Record Of Deported Persons” is a collection of songs adapted from interviews with people who have been deported from the United States. A year in the making, “A Record” was created by Anthony Barilla in collaboration with Merel van Dijk, and will be performed with special guests. This is one of only two performances of these songs. The entire project – including the interview process, writing, recording and performance – is supported by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. Houston Arts Alliance Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
“Merel and Tony make some of the most intriguing and interesting music coming out of our city today.”
– Free Press Houston
MEREL & TONY met in 2013 while working on an art installation in a small Dutch village. Since then, they have released several EPs of songs, written music for THIS AMERICAN LIFE and other podcasts, been commissioned to compose a musical for a Houston-based theater company, recorded an album of protest songs funded by a grant from the Houston Arts Alliance, and toured Texas with their band, THE WOE WOE WOES. Merel & Tony divide their time between Rome and Houston.
“Life is never going to go exactly the way you think it will,” says Eric Tessmer, “but I’ve come to appreciate that fact. Good things take time.”
Tessmer’s stellar new release, ‘EP II,’ is proof of that. Three years in the making, the collection was recorded in Los Angeles with acclaimed producer Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses), and it finds the incendiary Austin guitarist matching his technical flash with new heights of lyrical craftsmanship and studio sophistication. The performances here represent Tessmer’s most raw, powerful work to date, tackling sobriety, commitment, and redemption with both deep insight and fearless vulnerability. It’s a remarkable step in an already remarkable career, one that showcases a virtuosic instrumentalist boldly stretching his limits and embracing his artful evolution as a singer and songwriter.
“I wanted to go deeper than I ever have before with this EP,” says Tessmer. “I still love ripping things up on the guitar, but this time around, I wanted to save that more for the live show and really focus on concision in the studio.”
A Wisconsin native, Tessmer developed his love affair with music through a kind of familial osmosis. Both his grandmother and father played guitar, and Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Cream were all staples around the house growing up. Inspired in part by watching reruns of Austin City Limits on his local PBS station, Tessmer moved to Texas straight out of high school, and he quickly garnered a formidable reputation there for his fierce fretwork and explosive live performances. He cut his teeth playing residencies in clubs and bars, shared stages with everyone from Gary Clark, Jr. to Tab Benoit, and released a series of live and studio albums that earned widespread critical acclaim, with the Austin Chronicle dubbing him an “SRV-fast firebrand” and the Austin American Statesman hailing him as a “working class guitar hero.”
‘EP II’ reflects the loose, energetic freedom that’s become Tessmer’s trademark, with searing rocker “The Treatment” kicking things off with an infectious guitar riff that at once calls to mind AC/DC and ZZ Top. It’s a love song, no doubt, but in typical Tessmer fashion it comes with a dark edge, a hint of danger that flows just beneath the surface. The slow-burning “Good So Bad” grapples with the rollercoaster of addiction and recovery, while the eerie “Early Early Morning” mixes romance and film noir, and the swampy “Po’ Boy” is a funky instrumental fireworks show. Though the collection prizes economy, Tessmer’s sprawling cover of friend and collaborator Anders Osborne’s “Love Is Taking Its Toll” is a notable exception, clocking in at ten minutes of blistering guitar work and smoldering vocals. Of all the standout moments on the EP, though, it’s perhaps the soulful “Simple Solution,” an anthemic ode to music itself, that captures Tessmer’s spirit best.
“I must have had ten different sets of lyrics for that song,” he remembers. “I felt this pressure to be ‘profound,’ but then I realized that the most profound thing I could do was to stop taking myself too seriously, crank the music up, and do what I love to do.”
It may have taken a while to get there, but the finished product is everything Tessmer hoped it would be and more. Good things take time, after all, and a collection as strong as ‘EP II’ is undoubtedly worth the wait.
On October 25th, acclaimed singer/songwriter Allison Moorer will release Blood(Autotelic Records / Thirty Tigers) the first solo album in four years from the Academy, Grammy, Americana and Academy of Country Music award nominated artist. Blood is not only Moorer’s most personal and revealing work to date, but also her finest and most important. Blood stands on its own as a complete work, but the album serves as a companion piece to her anticipated autobiography, Blood: A Memoir, being released on October 29th through Da Capo Press, an imprint of Hachette Books.
Blood: A Memoir is a detailed account of Moorer and her sister’s (Grammy Award winner Shelby Lynne) childhood growing up in a troubled home in Southern Alabama, which ended with the well-documented murder-suicide of her parents in 1986. Much of what the public has known about the tragic event begins and ends there. For years Moorer had avoided going into the traumatic details of the abuse,alcoholism, intimidation, poverty and neglect, that existed prior to the deaths, and for good reasons which she addresses in the memoir. Moorer also addresses the fact that there was so much more to her family than tragedy, darkness and what people thought they knew. There was love, there was a protective mother, there was the bond of sisterhood and there was music. There was always music.
The album Blood serves as a song cycle featuring ten tracks that directly connect to the people, emotions, trauma, and state of mind that are all detailed so eloquently in the memoir.
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.