The Ugly Beats have been making a glorious, 60s garage-fueled racket for 16 years in their hometown of Austin,
Texas and throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Spain. The band wound the clock all the way back to 1966
before striking their first note in 2003 and has left it there ever since. A force to be reckoned with live, they have also released five terrific records on Get Hip Recordings, “Bring on the Beats,” “Take a Stand with the Ugly Beats,”
“MOTOR,” “Brand New Day” and “Stars Align.” You MUST obey the Beats!
Music refracts darkness as light. Through a kaleidoscope of lush guitars, ethereal orchestration, and heavenly delivery, City and Colour alchemically transforms life’s turbulence into waves of blissful, bold, and brilliant alternative anthems. Under this banner, singer, songwriter Dallas Green siphons serenity from stress on his sixth full-length studio album, A Pill for Loneliness. Ultimately, these eleven tracks illuminate an entrancing and engaging emotional expanse, balancing two extremes with eloquence and energy. “I wrote a lot of dark songs and wrapped them in the most beautiful sounds we could find,” he explains.
“Almost everything changed for us in these last two years,” says Andy Baxter, one half of the acclaimed duo Penny & Sparrow. “It was a painful experience in a lot of ways, but it was also a joyful one.”
Joy and pain walk hand in hand on ‘Finch,’ Penny & Sparrow’s magnificent sixth album. Written during their first major break from the road in years, the record finds the band reckoning with a prolonged period of intense personal transformation, a profound awakening that altered their perceptions of masculinity, sex, religion, divorce, friendship, vanity, purpose, and, perhaps most importantly, self. Deeply vulnerable and boldly cinematic, the resulting songs blur the lines between indie-folk and alt-pop, with dense string arrangements and atmospheric production underpinning soaring melodies and airtight harmonies from Baxter and his longtime musical partner, Kyle Jahnke. It’s a revelatory collection, both for the listener and the performers, one that’s been a lifetime in the making.
“We were both brought up in the conservative South, where you’re instilled with the notion that the straight white Evangelical Christian male perspective is, if not the only, then the most correct view,” Baxter explains. “We didn’t understand how wrong that was until we went out and experienced the world for ourselves.”
“Touring was what really got us outside of that bubble we grew up in,” adds Jahnke. “We met so many people on the road whose lives were so different from ours, and that led to conversation after conversation in the van about the beliefs we’d grown up around and whether they were the sorts of things we wanted to carry with us.”
Texas natives, Baxter and Jahnke first crossed paths at UT Austin, where they developed both a fast friendship and a deeply symbiotic musical connection. Jahnke was a gifted guitarist with an ear for melody, Baxter an erudite lyricist with a mesmerizing voice and crystalline falsetto, and the duo quickly found that their vocals blended together as if they’d been singing in harmony their whole lives. Beginning with 2013’s ‘Tenboom,’ the staunchly DIY pair released a series of critically lauded records that garnered comparisons to the hushed intimacy of Iron & Wine and the adventurous beauty of James Blake, building up a devoted fanbase along the way through relentless touring and word-of-mouth buzz. NPR praised the band’s songwriting as a “delicate dance between heartache and resolve,” while The World Café raved that they’ve “steadily built a sound as attentive to detail as Simon & Garfunkel and as open to the present day as Bon Iver,” and Rolling Stone hailed their catalog as “folk music for Sunday mornings, quiet evenings, and all the fragile moments in between.” In addition to the mountain of glowing reviews, the band also earned high profile fans—including The Civil Wars’ John Paul White, who produced 2015’s ‘Let A Lover Drown You’—and extensive tour dates with everyone from Josh Ritter and Johnnyswim to Drew Holcomb and Delta Rae.
“We toured really hard for a long time, and when we finally decided to take a break, it felt like a chance for the dust to settle and for us to process the evolution we’d been through,” explains Baxter. “It was our first opportunity to experience life in a new skin and explore what happens to your relationship with the people you love when change is introduced.”
Writing the songs that would become ‘Finch,’ Baxter and Jahnke often found themselves grappling with simultaneous feelings of discovery and loss, strength and weakness, birth and death.
“It was difficult to realize that what you grew up believing doesn’t have anything concrete to back it up,” Baxter continues, “but on the other hand, there’s this sense of peace that comes from finding something to believe in that feels genuinely solid in your chest. I’ve learned to love myself more than ever before because of it, and that’s in turn made me a better person to myself and to my wife and my community.”
For the first time in their career, the band decided to write and record the new album remotely in order to spend as much time with their families as possible. Jahnke, who lives in Austin, would capture melodic and harmonic ideas in voice memos and send them off for lyrics to Baxter, who now resides in Florence, AL. When it came time to record, Jahnke laid down his instrumental work in San Antonio with frequent production collaborator Chris Jacobie, while Baxter cut his main vocals at a studio just a mile down the road from his house.
“It was a totally freeing way to make an album,” says Jahnke. “It allowed us to take our time and work when we felt most comfortable, and it also made it easier to trust our instincts. We were each hearing everything the other recorded with fresh ears and no preconceptions, so there wasn’t any second-guessing or deferring to other people in the room. We knew instantly when we got it right and when a song was finished.”
The record opens with the stunning “Long Gone,” a heavyhearted, melancholic gem that the band actually reverse engineered, recording the vocals first and writing a musical bed to go underneath it after. As unusual as the approach was, it exemplified the duo’s willingness to take chances on the album and their desire to push themselves to places they hadn’t yet explored. The waltzing “Bishop,” for instance, finds Baxter pulling lyrical influence equally from Shakespeare and Ray Bradbury, while the stirring “Eloise” doesn’t introduce a single instrument until nearly a minute into the song.
“We weren’t in a rush writing this music, and I think that sense carried over into our willingness to try new things in the studio,” says Jahnke. “At the end of the sessions, we got together in San Antonio to put the finishing touches on everything, and we ended up recording the vocals for that song totally a capella with just a room mic.”
Adventurous as it may be, ‘Finch’ still nails many of the quirky, playful trademarks Penny & Sparrow have come to be loved for. The infectious “Don’t Wanna Be Without Ya” imagines reincarnation as a way to make romance last forever, while the sultry “Recuerda” uses learning a language as a metaphor for falling in love, and the stirring “Gumshoe” aims to see life with the analytical mind of a detective and the childlike wonder of a magician. Perhaps it’s the dreamy “Stockholm,” though, that best captures the heart and soul of the record.
“That song to me feels like the first challenging conversation you have with someone very different than you,” says Baxter. “It’s about recognizing the systems of thought that can trap you and being open to self examination and change.”
In the end, that’s what music offered for Penny & Sparrow, a chance to see things from a new perspective, a chance to open their eyes and their minds and their hearts, a chance to put themselves in the shoes of others and walk through this world with more love and acceptance than they’d ever thought possible. They titled the album ‘Finch’ as a nod to Charles Darwin, who developed his theory of evolution in part by studying the changes that manifested over time in groups of birds that moved to different islands across the Galapagos, and it’s easy to see the connection.
“We changed islands,” reflects Baxter, “and that in turn changed us and our relationships with the people we care about most in some truly beautiful ways.”
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.