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.”
Most people know Aaron Lee Tasjan as one of the wittiest, most offbeat, brilliant, weed-smokin’ & LSD microdosin’ Americana troubadours writing and singing songs today. And the New York Times, NPR and Rolling Stone will all gladly corroborate. But steel yourselves, folk fans, because he’s about to follow his restless muse straight out from under the weight of everyone’s expectations into the kind of glammy, jingle-jangle power-pop- and- psych-tinged sounds he hasn’t dabbled in since his younger days playing lead guitar for a late-period incarnation of The New York Dolls.
Really, the roots of Tasjan’s new record, Karma for Cheap, stretch even deeper, drinking up the sounds of a Southern California childhood spent listening to The Beatles while riding around with his mom at the wheel of their navy blue Volvo station wagon—back to the very first pre-teen year he picked up a six-string and started figuring out all the pretty little chords in those Lennon-McCartney tunes. Back to the pure, blissful unfiltered innocence of falling in love with music for the first time. But more on that later. First, let’s ponder the brutish realities of the American Swamp.
Aaron Lee Tasjan says he aims to use his music for good, but he’s no protest singer. And Karma for Cheap isn’t some heavy-handed, didactic political record cramming a set of talking points down anyone’s throat. It’s a finely tuned rock & roll seismograph measuring the dark and uncertain vibrations of the time in which it was created. A cracked mirror reflecting back the American zeitgeist in this foul year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eighteen.
“When you’re a songwriter,” Tasjan says, you’re dealing in truths and untruths—that’s part of your commerce as a citizen of the world. And anything coming along that’s threatening to blur that line is a threat to your livelihood as a working American.”
Take it from Tasjan and Karma for Cheap, being a songwriter in the post-truth world of Trump’s America ain’t easy. Tasjan valiantly wrestles with this new normal in songs like “Set You Free” (“it’s a smokescreen scene and nobody knows what’s real”—fake news!) and “The Truth Is So Hard to Believe.” What will we do when we can no longer map the line between fact and fiction? When we exist in a world where the truth is unknowable and we’re at the mercy of liars and charlatans? “Hearts in chains and hands are off the wheel,” Tasjan sings in hypnotic staccato, tapping the collective cultural anxiety of all the rattled millions drifting off each night to a new American dream, one in which we’re all in a big red, white and blue camaro fishtailing down some winding tree-lined road in the bible-black dark, white-knuckle-clutching the oh-shit bar, accelerator glued to the floor and not a soul in the driver’s seat.
“The sound of this new record is a little more rough and ready, more raw than anything I’ve done before,” Tasjan says. “Seems like a good time for it. We’re living in a pretty raw feed right now, and a lot of these new songs reflect that. They deal with with being stuck in the deluge of horseshit every day. On social media, you see people suckered into getting all irate over some post that, in the end, turns out to be completely fake. We have to be aware of these mindsets, these traps and emotional pitfalls that send us spinning. Music for me is a comfort thing. And I’m trying to sing about all this to remind myself not to get caught up in the game. There are a lot of people out there carrying the burden of this weird, twisted world we’re living in at the moment on their shoulders. So I tried to write a record that offers some comfort, encouragement and hope to those people, as much as it’s possible to be hopeful right now.”
Karma for Cheap is Tasjan’s third LP and second for his label New West Records, based in his current hometown of Nashville. The record was co-produced by ALT and his friends Jeff Trott (Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Meiko, Joshua Radin) and Gregory Lattimer (Albert Hammond Jr.) and features Aaron Lee’s road band—guitarist Brian Wright, bassist Tommy Scifres and drummer Seth Earnest—with whom he’s been touring heavily for the last two years.
While the stylistic shift from Tasjan’s palpably stoned ‘70s-country-channeling 2015 debut, In the Blazes, to his more sophisticated, introspective and lushly produced 2016 follow-up, Silver Tears, was relatively incremental, Karma’s rocked-up Brit-pop-influenced Beatles-Bowie-Badfinger vibes underscore a significant departure. The album boldly reminagines these vintage sounds, pushing the boundary of what can be considered Americana. With Karma, Tasjan establishes himself as an artist who not only evolves over time, but isn’t afraid to risk reinventing himself completely from one record to the next.
“It’s always a goal for me to be able to not listen to the part of my brain that cares what other people think, and just do something really pure and from the heart,” he says. “I needed this album to have a sense of adventure and mystery, to feel a little shaky and dangerous at times—something that wasn’t the obvious choice in terms of what people already like about what I do. I’ve come to realize that I’m a searcher, which means I’m going to be searching forever.” Aaron Lee pauses and laughs at the notion, and what’s in store for the rest of his life—ticket bought, ride in progress. “Yep, this is never going to end,” he says. “No oasis, no safe harbor to stop and say, ‘Well, I’ve gotten here, and now I’m good.’ In some ways it’s a harsh realization—living in that type of headspace can cause a lot of turmoil. But if you can find beauty in the mundane… well, there you go. I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to enjoy the journey.”
For all the album’s wrestling with social and political discord and the stresses of modern life due to the grand experiment of social media and the unforgiving tractor beam of the world-wired-web, Karma for Cheap finds its silver lining in the innocence of a wide-eyed kid’s maiden voyage into the electrifying thrall of rock & roll. The heaviness of the lyrical content is tempered by the joy and wonder of an artist reconnecting with what made him fall in love with playing music in the first place. The sound of it, the way it made him feel when he was 11 years old and it was all still as new as a fresh coat of spray paint from the can of some smug delinquent. That was 1997—the year Tasjan moved from Ohio to California, and scored his first guitar and a stack of iconic CDs by The Beatles, Oasis and Tom Petty.
A huge sonic touchstone for ALT’s new record is The Beatles Anthology, one of his childhood favorites. In songs like “If Not Now When,” “Song Bird” and “The Rest Is Yet to Come,” you can hear echoes of George Harrison’s vibrant guitar riffs and Jeff Lynne’s lavish production on those lo-fi John Lennon demos the surviving Beatles dug up and polished off in the mid ‘90s. “‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’—those were my jams when I first started playing guitar,” Tasjan says. “I was learning those and a lot of other Beatles songs. And then Oasis came out with ‘Wonderwall’ and I was like, oh that’s The Beatles for my generation, and I became obsessed with them, too.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment on Karma for Cheap is the anthemic, hypnotic “Heart Slows Down,” a tune rife with musical and lyrical references to the Beatles and Tom Petty, anchored by an unforgettable chorus with a Traveling Wilburys vibe that finds the sweet spot between Tasjan’s two earliest musical heroes. “When I was a kid, my favorite CD to fall asleep to was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits, and the last song is a cover of that Thunderclap Newman song ‘Something in the Air.’ From the time I was a little kid to when I was teenager, I used to listen to that song on headphones almost every night—I heard it in that space between wake and sleep so many times. And Tom’s passing—he was a really big hero of mine, so it hit me pretty hard. We were in Seattle playing a show when I heard, and it was a heavy thing to process. But all of those elements are there in ‘Heart Slows Down.’ The chorus, ‘I will always be around,’ is a reminder that all the good you ever got out of listening to this music is still around you. You’ll always have that.”
Rich Layton & Tough Town are keepers of the flame for American roots music. It’s high octane swamp rock, country, rockabilly and the honky tonk blues echoing from an East Texas roadhouse. The band has a signature sound that sits right alongside such eclectic artists as Marty Stuart, Dave Alvin and Lukas Nelson. Each set takes audiences for a ride from Sun Studios to Chess Records, and Muscle Shoals to Bakersfield. Rich’s original songs fit seamlessly into the mix, weaving his Gulf Coast roots through tales of rock and roll redemption, harmonica-fueled and swampified.
Rich Layton – vocals & harmonica | Larry McCoy – guitar & back-up vocals
Haus (Eric Krabbenhoft) – bass | Charles Pike – drums & back-up vocals
Together over a decade now, the band has released three albums and performs at major festivals and showcase clubs throughout the Northwest. Each year, Rich joins Lyle Lovett as a special guest when Lyle tours the NW. Rich also has played on Portland tour stops by long-time friends Lucinda Williams, Dale Watson, Buckwheat Zydeco (R.I.P.) and more.
Growing up with 2 parents who grew up in the 60’s, Erin Bowman has been listening to and loving amazing
music her entire life. Whether it was “Let it Be” by The Beatles, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (a fellow
New Jersey native), or “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore she was into it. A 90’s baby herself, Bowman’s
knowledge and love for music spans decades. Inspired by pop acts and bands of the 90’s in particular she
knew she wanted to pursue music at an early age. After graduating high school, not having a clue how to
pursue a career in music, she started going into New York City looking to meet with producers and songwriters who might want to work with her. After several failed auditions, several unreturned phone calls, and a little bit of heartbreak she met a producer who saw something in her. Bowman, only a singer at the time began recording songs written by the producer. Suggesting she start writing herself, with the melody and concept already started Bowman
alongside her producer finished writing what would be her first single “Problem.” “Problem” was added to Sirius XM 20 on 20 and in 2 weeks was a top 5 requested song. Her next single “King Boy” trumped her first becoming the 5th most played song of the year on Sirius XM 20 on 20 while also selling over 20,000 copies, a major feat for an independent artist.
With the success of her first 2 releases Bowman found herself writing with more and more producers/
songwriters. She had been working on new music with a writer at Warner Chappell Publishing when the synch
team there received a request for a song about staying warm. Alongside the producer Bowman wrote “Keep
Me Warm,” a release that would play in a national McDonald’s ad campaign for over a month, as well as
receive airplay on 3 different radio formats: Top 40, Hot AC, and AC.
Continuing to work alongside different writers/producers she caught the attention of Kobalt Music. A
publishing company who’s rosters includes the likes of Max Martin, Mumford and Sons, Simon and Garfunkel,
Lionel Richie, Dixie Chicks, Beck, and countless other successful artists and songwriters. Eventually signed to
a Kobalt publishing deal herself Bowman released “Good Time Good Life,” through AWAL, Kobalt’s global
artist services company. “Good Time Good Life” debuted on NBC’s This Is Us, ran in a national Target ad, a
national Beaches Resort ad, and was chosen by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to drive
The Oscar’s 2017 promo aired on ABC for over 2 months. The Oscar promo lead to Bowman’s national TV
debut on Good Morning America where she performed “Good Time Good Life,” followed up with a
performance at the Radio Disney Music Awards, and Live with Kelly and Ryan.
With the success of “Good Time Good Life,” and a move out west (a NJ native now in Los Angeles) Bowman
found herself working on music going in a slightly different direction. She was doing less co-writes and found
herself writing everyday on her own. Songs started pouring out of her. Her life was changing and the music
she was writing was some of the realest she had ever written. In March of 2018 Bowman found herself
traveling to London to explore a new city and work on new music. A NJ native, now based in Los Angeles,
traveling to London. It was on a whim that she decided to attend an open mic night where she’d perform a
couple of her new songs for the first time. It was at that open mic night that she would meet the 2 cowriters/
producers that would bring this new direction of music, this new project, to life. Bowman traveled back to
London for over a month in the summer and in the fall to work on what will be her first ever EP. A lyrically
driven, wearing her heart on her sleeve, completely open and honest EP titled Apartment 101. Scheduled to
be released Summer 2019.
Eric Woodring currently resides in Houston, Texas and is a performing songwriter. He is as Texan as they come and classifies as a traditional country musician. Woodring writes true Texas music and delivers it with a voice that will knock your boots off.
Woodring started playing music professionally in 1996 after moving to Lubbock, TX, becoming a young frosh at Texas Tech University. He quickly became entrenched in the Lubbock music scene and began frequenting multiple venues throughout the Hub City. In the late 90s, he formed and fronted the Texas Speedbump Band. The band became quite popular regionally, frequently performing in the West Texas and Texas Panhandle region. After leaving Lubbock, post-graduation, he settled in New Braunfels, TX where he focused solely on songwriting and performing, often with friend and former Speedbumps fiddler, Tommy Sheen. After relocating to Austin to pursue an attractive day job, he met local Austin music producer and engineer, Ron Flynt and began recording a full-length record. In 2004, he released his first album titled “Lifemiles”. Following the release, he launched the Lifemiles tour of the Southwest US, and received regional radio play.
In 2006, he settled in Houston and reunited with Kyle Wright, his long-time friend and former bandmate from Lubbock’s Texas Speedbump Band. After a few rehearsals, they were at it again – playing local Houston venues. In 2012 he began fronting the successful Houston cover band, Retroburn. The band frequented top Houston-area venues such as House of Blues, Pleasure Pier and the Kemah Boardwalk. It was during this time that he developed a working relationship with Retroburn’s lead guitarist, Gerald Thurmond. Thurmond, Woodring and Wright would go on to form the group that grew into the popular Houston-based Texas string-band, The Recollection. The project stayed true to its Texas roots, with Thurmond and Woodring writing songs mostly on Texas themes, about everything from Willie Nelson to Bluebonnets. Performing their original songs, using traditional bluegrass instruments makes for a high energy, foot stomping, good-ole Texas time. In 2017, they released their first recording project, an EP titled “This Is Texgrass!”. In 2018, thanks to the direction of Grammy Award winning Producer, Lloyd Maines, they started working with Houston music icon, Jack Saunders on another recording project. In early 2019, they released a follow-up EP titled “True Texas True” which included guests such as Lloyd Maines, Tina Wilkins and Jack Saunders.
Thru the recording process for The Recollection’s project, Jack Saunders took Woodring under his wing and began to help him develop his solo-artist career. Saunders recognized his ability to write honest and relatable songs and became a fan of Woodring’s pure, powerful voice, suggesting it slots between the Georges – Strait and Jones.
2019 has quickly become a big year for Woodring, releasing albums both as a solo artist as well as with The Recollection. With a Full-Length album due out in the Fall, he continues to perform regularly, both locally and regionally, earning respect as a true Texas songwriter, and showcasing his voice that is as big as the state he calls home.