Fronted by the extraordinary Chloe Chaidez, Kitten has drawn ecstatic praise for their rejuvenation of classic post punk and New Wave pop. “While most hyper-young artists are working at the bleeding edges of dance music, Kitten’s rich and atmospheric rock is surprisingly ageless,” applauded the Los Angeles Times in a recent live review.
Many a green song writer has squeezed callow lyric from near-empty diaries, hoping that one day life might catch up with their words. Robyn Ludwick entered the world of song primed by years of life lived. When pen did come to paper, it teemed with ink–and was driven by a hand softened by love and strengthened by life.
Her earliest nights found her sprawled across the folding chairs of many a Hill Country dancehall, eyelids closing on her grandparents, as they twirled each other over creaky wooden floors. Her older brothers would grow to be Two of Texas’ favorite sons, Bruce and Charlie Robison.
While her schoolmates were embracing the rituals of small-town Texas; Robyn was teaching herself guitar and sneaking off to Austin, immersing herself in the city’s wealth of live music. Eventually she’d settle there, where rent was paid working the door at the world famous Continental Club. Robyn shared many a lean meal with her brothers in those South Austin days. From their Goodwill couch, she plotted a stable future for her and the family she hoped to one day have. She shelved dreams of a career in music and enrolled in The University of Texas School of Engineering and eventually took work in that field. Just after she and husband John “Lunchmeat” Ludwick had their first child, and felt their road had been paved, Robyn was laid off. The intensity of such life changes woke Robyn’s sleeping songwriter.
“It just pretty much poured out at that point. I guess it was time, you know.” Robyn cashed in her pension, and dove headlong into her craft.
The critics agreed that it was time, as 2005’s For So Long , Produced by the legendary Danny Barnes of Bad Livers, was named a top 10 album of the year by both the Austin Chronicle, and renowned Austin public radio station KUT-FM. It went to No. 1 on the Euro-Americana Music Chart and earned her a raved-about SXSW 2006 showcase (sponsored by No Depression, the Americana magazine), and a slot at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival.
After many acclaimed performances for American and European audiences, Robyn got to work on her second album. Too Much Desire, another set of soulful originals. Released in 2008 to many a stunning review, contributions from Grammy nominee Eliza Gilkyson, Rich Brotherton, Mike Hardwick and more, coalesce with a timeless execution on Robyn’s part, the effect of which is, as AllMusic puts it: “…elegant and graceful as a straight razor; it takes no prisoners, makes no apologies. In other words, it’s just drop-dead gorgeous.”
Out of These Blues, features a dizzying cast, including Producer/Multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Blaze Foley), Ian “Mac” MacLagan (Small Faces, Faces, Rolling Stones), John Ludwick, Eddie Cantu, Gene Elders (George Strait, Lyle Lovett), Trish Murphy and Slaid Cleaves.
Look for Robyn’s latest set of orignals, (Producer/Multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix) when it hits the rack July 2014.
Left of the Dial and The Record Ranch Present: Gary Floyd Meet and Greet and DJ set!
Writer, musician, and educator David Ensminger proudly announces the imminent arrival of bona fide Texas punk icon
Gary Floyd, the irreverent, howling, blues-voiced agitator-slash-front man of the Dicks (Alternative Tentacles, SST), Sister Double Happiness (SST, Warner Bros., Sub Pop),
and Black Kali Ma (Alternative Tentacles) to a meet and greet at Cactus Records to celebrate the book Left of the Dial, which features
a lengthy, detail-rich interview with Floyd. Plus, both men will discuss the upcoming biography of Floyd while also spinning some of
their favorite records culled from the store’s massive selection.
Left of the Dial features interviews by musical journalist, folklorist, educator, and musician David Ensminger with leading figures of the punk underground: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Dave Dictor (MDC), and many more. Ensminger probes the legacy of punk’s sometimes fuzzy political ideology, its ongoing DIY traditions, its rupture of cultural and social norms, its progressive media ecology, its transgenerational and transnational appeal, its pursuit of social justice, its hybrid musical nuances, and its sometimes ambivalent responses to queer identities, race relations, and its own history. Passionate, far-reaching, and fresh, these conversations illuminate punk’s oral history with candor and humor.
Rather than focus on discographies and rehashed gig memories, the interviews aim to unveil the secret history of punk and hardcore ideologies and values, as understood by the performers. In addition, Ensminger has culled key graphics from his massive punk flyer collection to celebrate the visual history of the bands represented. The book also features rare photographs shot by Houston-based photographer Ben DeSoto during the heyday of punk and hardcore, which capture the movement’s raw gusto, gritty physicality, and resilient determination.
Interviews include Peter Case (Nerves, Plimsouls), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Tony Kinman (The Dils), El Vez, Charlie Harper (UK Subs), The Deaf Club (an oral history of the landmark San Francisco club), Mike Palm (Agent Orange), Gregg Turner (Angry Samoans), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Gary Floyd (Dicks, Sister Double Happiness), Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE), Shawn Stern (Youth Brigade), Kira Roessler (Black Flag, Dos), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Off!) Fred “Freak” Smith (Beefeater), U-Ron Bondage (Really Red), Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), Dave Dictor (MDC), and Thomas Barnett (Strike Anywhere).
Brad Boyer is a singer/songwriter from Houston, TX who has honed his craft in the beer joints, ice houses, and road side honky tonks as well as the finer listening rooms of the big city. He tells his stories with honesty and clarity wrapped in a genuine Americana feel. As a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Finalist, his debut album of original material (produced by Rich Brotherton) was well received and earned him the Texas Music Awards “Rising Star” award in 2012. Keep your ears open for a new release in 2014!
Grifters & Shills writes and performs timeless music with deep ties to the past and a very assertive outlook on the present. They pay homage to the paths long taken, but continue forging the trail using their own voice and style.
A number of hybrid genres have emerged as enchanted listeners try to find a name for what they have seen and heard at a Grifters & Shills performance. Featuring tight vocal harmonies, guitar, banjo, percussion, harmonica, mandolin, and bass, they’ve been called everything from bluegrass to blues, from Americana to outlaw.
But the best one by far, is roots music. Because at the heart of it all is a deep appreciation for where all of this music comes from. And, by extension, where all of us have come from.
They are releasing their newest album ‘Watershed’ on July 12th, 2014. Previously, they released two albums under the name Westbound—Now & Then (2012) and Blackjack Road (2010), and one album as Grifters & Shills – Trainwreck Junkard (2013). Music from these albums is playing on left-end-of-the-dial radio stations all across the country.
Their instrumentation and vocals have also been featured on albums from other artists, including Texas favorites Myrna Sanders (Big Head Diva; 2012) and Zach Tate (End of Time; 2012). The band has also appeared in Musician’s Friend advertisements in Guitar World, Mix, Electronic Musician and Modern Drummer magazines.
Grifter [grif – ter]: A practitioner of confidence tricks; a person who operates a side show at a circus, fair, especially pertaining to slight of hand tricks
Shill [shil]: one who acts as a decoy (as for a pitchman or gambler); one who poses as a customer in order to entice others to participate, as at a gambling house, auction, or confidence game
Husband and wife, singing and playing together.
And they’re each deft instrumentalists, and they’ve spent years playing in others’ bands before coming together as a unit. They’re bound by music and an uncommon depth of companionship, they’re good enough to make Steve Earle swoon, and all of that sounds quite nice.
Until 16 and a half seconds into track one, when Eleanor Whitmore begins singing, “The twitch in my left eye came back today.” “Yeah, we’re not exactly gazing lovingly at each other while we’re playing these songs,” says guitarist Chris Masterson. “Sometimes the ‘couple’ thing can seem a bit schmaltzy. We’re more a band than a duo, and we’re not going to be George and Tammy. We might not even be John and Exene.”
That’s not to say that these folks don’t love each other, or that they aren’t of a piece. It’s just that listening to The Mastersons – either live or on their immediately engaging, musically expansive debut album, Birds Fly South (due out April 10 on New West Records) – isn’t akin to eavesdropping on two soulmates’ impossibly intimate conversation. This is more fun than that, with bright melodies that lead to dark lyrics, inventive harmonies and enough sparkle and twang to fashion a Porter Wagoner suit. Together, Whitmore (who plays guitar, violin, mandolin and most anything else with strings) and Masterson arrive at a singular blend that Emmylou Harris speaks of as “the third voice,” one distinct from its individual elements.
“Eleanor on her own has a beautiful voice, far better than mine,” Masterson says. “But when we come together, something bigger happens.”
That “something bigger” is captured in full on Birds Fly South, an album with soul and groove and teeth and not an ounce of schmaltz. Like the Jayhawks or Buddy & Julie Miller, it exists in an expansive territory that encompasses rock, pop, blues and country, but this is not an “If you like x, then you’ll like y” kind of record. It’s an unexpected and frequently astonishing melding of sensibilities, from two unique yet perfectly-matched artists.
Both the Denton, Texas-born Whitmore and Houston-reared Masterson have been musicians for as long as they can recall. Whitmore’s parents were both musicians, her mother an opera singer and her dad a folksinger who piloted Delta airplanes for a living. She began playing fiddle at age four, and she and sister Bonnie (now a touring songwriter) played in the family band as kids, and she studied fiddle with Texas swing master Johnny Gimble. Masterson was playing searing blues in Houston clubs at age 13, and he spent his adolescence as a disciple of blues greats Big Walter Price and T-Bone Walker.
“We were both doomed from the start,” Whitmore laughs. “Actually, we were lucky. It’s rare to have supportive parents that believed and expected we would play music and be successful. Most people that have a passion for music aren’t that fortunate.”
Whitmore and Masterson apprenticed for years with other musicians, she with Regina Spektor, Susan Gibson, Kelly Willis, Diana Ross, Will Hoge and others, he in the bands of Jack Ingram, Son Volt, Bobby Bare Jr. and more. They met in 2005 and each released solo debuts (hers was 2008’s Airplanes and his was an EP called The Late Great Chris Masterson), but found themselves compelled to write and sing together.
“It all started coming together organically,” Whitmore says. “And the songs started to sound like a band, not like a song swap.”
To capture that sound, The Mastersons headed from their Brooklyn home back down to Texas, where they worked with a core group of close friends (Grammy-winning engineer Steve Chrisensen, bass man George Reiff and drummer Falcon Valdez) to co-produce Birds Fly South. To capture the harmonies, Whitmore and Masterson sang together, into one microphone. That didn’t mean the proceedings were free from arguments or eye-twitching.
“It’s weird working with someone you love,” Masterson says. “The highs are higher, and the lows are lower. The way Eleanor and I treat each other, you’d never treat someone else on a session or gig. There’s a candor there that’s insane sometimes, and we both believe in what we’re doing so much and neither is willing to back down.”
With the album complete, Whitmore and Masterson headed back to New York, and in May of 2011 they joined Earle’s group, The Dukes and Duchesses. Each night on the world tour, Earle moved aside to let his spotlight shine on The Mastersons, whose efforts were met with reviews like “scintillating” (London’s The Telegraph). Whitmore and Masterson remain integral players in Earle’s band.
“Playing with Steve has been so great for us,” Masterson says. “We’ve both learned so much from working with other people. We’ve learned to have something succinct to say onstage and learned a whole lot about work ethic. And we’ve learned to handle so many many different scenarios.”
The release of Birds Fly South should provide for some more of those scenarios, though The Mastersons aren’t making any predictions.
“I’m not in the outcomes business,” says Masterson. He and Whitmore are more concerned with the action than the consequence, more about the offering than the reception.
Eye-twitching or no, Birds Fly South is a lovely offering.
Husband and wife, singing and playing together.
There’s room for a little bit of everything in HOA, yet the music never feels like a kitchen-sink contrivance. Superb songcraft and a delicate touch allow Mlee to create music that is at once astonishingly heavy and gossamer-light; under her spell, seemingly disparate concepts and styles play nicely with one another. Dense noise provides the perfect foil for power-pop sugar; cheaply effective Casio beats underscore stabbing waves of pseudo-shoegaze psychedelia. This is musical magical realism to turn Gabriel García Márquez green-eyed with envy.— Nicholas L. Hall
Steven Higginbotham – Vocals, Guitar, Ukelele
Jason Williams – Bass Guitar
Craig Wilkins – Guitar, Keyboard
Allison Wilkins McPhail – Keyboard, Vocals, Theremin
Since late 2010, The Wheel Workers’ crisp sound and intelligent lyrics have earned them growing recognition in Houston’s active indie rock scene. Signing to ZenHill Records in late 2011 just before the national release of their debut album Unite, The Wheel Workers enjoyed substantial success, earning airplay on more than 200 radio stations across the US and charting on over 20 CMJ reporting stations.
The Wheel Workers have played regularly around Texas, performing at SXSW in Austin, enjoying the honor of playing on the same stage as The Flaming Lips at Free Press Summerfest in Houston, and opening for national touring acts such as Miniature Tigers, Elf Power and The Coathangers.
The band is currently promoting its second full-length album, Past to Present, recorded at SugarHill Studios with producer Dan Workman and released by ZenHill Records. Looking towards a busy 2013, The Wheel Workers will be touring throughout the summer to support the release of Past to Present.
Improvisational jazz performance with some of the city’s best artists:
Sandy Ewen Projects
Damon Smith-Double bass, Improviser.
There’s nothing better than some jazz on a Saturday afternoon.
“Fresh Hell, the latest offering from Houston grind squadron Omotai, breaks from the assault pattern of 2012’s Terrestrial Grief on a number of fronts. The hulking snow-mountain trudge of opener “Get Your Dead Straight” pointedly establishes that the band is just as at-home pounding out molten, doom-laden jams as any of the hyperspeed sludge on which they’ve established their name. The relentless drive of “Leglifter” oscillates between indie sophistication and crude stoner metal, the lyrics betraying an uncharacteristically political bent (though the ultimate intent remains elusive). Closing track “We Don’t Have to Be Strangers” echoes Shellac with its stabbing stutter-riff before launching into a dirge centered on social isolation and substance abuse.
The vocals are manifestly evolving, as well, with Ryan’s pixieish wail climbing to the lead on several tracks. Waters and Vallejo still gleefully indulge in the wolfpack howls that made for some of the eeriest listening on Terrestrial Grief, though it’s clear that each has become more acclimatized in his role as co-vocalist.
All told, Fresh Hell should not be taken as Omotai’s masterpiece. What’s clear, however, is that it’s an exploratory outing on the way there, pushing boundaries and expectations set by the band’s previous two efforts, and I’m willing to bet cash that we can expect some pretty stellar accomplishments from the trio in the years ahead.”