Formed in 2011 The Mercy Brothers blend the spiritual fervor of an old-time tent revival with the rambunctious feel of a rural roadhouse — combining the best elements of celestial and honky-tonk heaven. This unique holy hubbub hybrid, and a reputation for electrifying live shows that inspire impassioned sing-alongs, has won the band a loyal — dare we day devout — following. In 2012 they tore it up at both the Festival International de Louisiane and Festivals Acadiens et Créole in Lafayette, and at New Orleans’ coolest new club, Chickie Wah-Wah, garnering glowing press from the Times of Acadiana and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and starting a buzz in music circles around the nation.
Perhaps Houston Press writer Nicholas L. Hall summed it up best when he wrote, “Listening to multi-instrumentalist Lee Alexander is a lot like taking a leisurely stroll through about a century of American popular music…Alexander has earned a reputation as both a strikingly original voice and an able torch-bearer for a broad handful of American musical idioms, layering Nilsson-esque pop-standard fare, dusty country ballads, the occasional bluesy stomp, touches of jazz classicism and damn near anything else he wants.”
“I’m always trying to find a little piece of the truth,” says Texas singer-songwriter Radney Foster. With Everything I Should Have Said, the truth is laid bare. His first collection of new songs in 5 years opens with “Whose Heart You Wreck,” a stormy lament to a fickle muse and closes with the title track, an unflinching apology for things done and left undone.
In between, Foster uncovers the smaller truths in life, whether in the confessional “The Man You Want,” the frustration behind “Lie About Loving Me” or the playful frankness of “Unh, Unh, Unh.”
“My challenge is, how do you have another take on a love song? How do you keep it interesting?” For Foster, it meant leaving Nashville behind, and bringing a suitcase full of songs and like-minded musical friends to Louisiana.
“I wanted the album to have a band feel, and to do that I knew we needed to get away from schedules and cell phones.” They landed at Dockside Studios, a little pocket of soul alongside the Louisiana bayou. The space is the site of a long-forgotten brothel, and far from the sterile studios of Nashville.
Considered an elder statesman of Texas singer-songwriters, Foster has been a friend and mentor to many younger artists on the Texas scene. He’s written and produced songs for Randy Rogers, Jack Ingram, Kacey Musgraves, Wade Bowen, Josh Abbott, Pat Green, Cory Morrow and many others. His songs are regularly mined by superstar acts like Keith Urban (“Raining on Sunday,” “I’m In,”), Sara Evans (“Real Fine Place,” “Revival”) and the Dixie Chicks (“Godspeed”).
Foster grew up in two worlds – herding cattle on horseback at his grandfather’s East Texas ranch in the summers and hunkering over a transistor radio in West Texas hometown, listening to border radio. “My house in Del Rio was a mile from Mexico, so I heard everything growing up – from country to conjunto.” That hybrid of influences may be why Foster’s always been tough to categorize; his first success was with the seminal country/cowpunk duo Foster & Lloyd, whose first single, “Crazy Over You,” went straight to #1. His subsequent solo albums told tales through a honky tonk lens and yielded enduring hits “Just Call Me Lonesome” and “Nobody Wins.”
In the mid-90s, Foster went through another turning point. In the midst of a divorce, remarriage and custody crisis of his young son moving overseas, he gave up trying to please Country radio and recorded a CD that brought him to a whole other audience. “See What You Want To See changed the way I make records,” Foster muses. “It was such a tumultuous period in my life, but it made me realize that when you are that close to the bone honest, you make great music.”
“I think this is one of the most emotional records I’ve made since then.”
Throughout his 30 year career, Foster has continuously stretched the boundaries. “I strive to challenge myself as a writer, a musician and a singer everyday.” As his voice has deepened and grown richer, so, it seems, has his focus. These are the songs of a full-grown man, who long ago left fear by the side of the road.
After 5 years of contributing songs to the monstrous dark folk miscreation listenlisten, B.E. Godfrey has branched off into a more careful quieter sound. Focusing on lyrical content and sparse arrangements, these songs highlight a personal exploration of foggy memories and strange fantasies.
Grew up in Spring, TX. Moved to Austin to attend UT (hook ’em horns). Lived a pretty normal life, bought a house, worked a job, and got married. Then decided to become a singer…and by default, a songwriter.
Now with 3 solo albums, a solo EP, two duo covers albums, plenty of guest vocals on other great albums, and a slew of songwriting awards under her belt, BettySoo’s life looks pretty different from how it did six years ago, when she was a newlywed in graduate school (she dropped out to be a musician).
BettySoo’s shows are ever-changing and entertaining – as much for what is said off the cuff between songs as for the songwriting and her breathtaking delivery. Backed by her band in Austin, Texas (including Will Sexton, Jeff Plankenhorn, Todd Wilson, Paul Prestridge, and husband Mail Man Dave Terry), she’s garnered her share of great show reviews on top of the critical success her albums have achieved.
Her newest project, an acoustic duo with Canadian dobro master Doug Cox, has seen plenty of miles in its first year: BettySoo and Doug have played in the States, Canada, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
BettySoo’s songwriting awards include: Kerrville New Folk Award, Mountain Stage NewSong Winner, Wildflower! Festival Songwriting Competition Winner, Sisters Folk Festival Songwriting Competition Winner, and Big Top Chautauqua Songwriter of the Year. She has been a featured performer at SXSW, International Folk Alliance, Tin Pan South, Kerrville Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, Vancouver Island Folk Festival, Old Settlers Music Festival, Wilderness Songs Festival (Netherlands), and many revered listening rooms.
Her style? There’s a little gospel, some straight-ahead folk, a bit of twang, a bit of pop, and maybe even a familiar oldie with a new twist. If you’re planning to see her live, be ready for a surprise.
Then again, not much about BettySoo isn’t surprising. People are surprised just to see her take the stage. Plain-faced, petite (clocking in at exactly 5 feet), and freckly, people don’t have any idea what to expect – they certainly don’t expect such a large voice and moving songs. “I guess Asian-American singer-songwriters aren’t that common,” she comments, “at least, not in Texas.”
And, of course, there’s the whole issue of her name. How did a second-generation Korean end up with such a classic southern name? Is it a stage name? “No,” she answers, laughing, “I guess I’m just lucky that way. It’s right there on my birth certificate. Soo is my dad’s middle name, too. Yep, he’s a boy named Soo.”
The Black Keys 2014 album, Turn Blue, released on Nonesuch Records, was produced by Danger Mouse, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, and features 11 tracks including the first single, “Fever. ”
Turn Blue was recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood during the summer of 2013 with additional recording done at the Key Club in Benton Harbor, MI and Auerbach s Easy Eye Sound in Nashville in early 2014. Of the new album, the band says Turn Blue could refer to:
C: Numbness from extreme cold
D: A Cleveland late night TV host from the 1960s named Ghoulardi
E: All of the above
Moreover, Carney comments, “We are always trying to push ourselves when we make a record not repeat our previous work but not abandon it either. On this record, we let the songs breathe and explored moods, textures and sounds. We’re excited for the world to hear Turn Blue.” This is the eighth full-length album from the duo and follows 2011’s critically and commercially acclaimed El Camino, which is now certified RIAA Platinum.
After becoming a regular all over the Austin scene and venues across the country from 2006-2011, Graham took somewhat of a hiatus in touring the past few years to focus on raising his now three year old twin daughters. Though it might seem that it was time off, Wilkinson never stopped writing, painting, recording and playing shows. With that being said, 2014 holds many exciting things from rock n’ roll side projects like Mother Teresa to his regular Wednesday song-swap with fellow Austin-ite, Shawn Nelson, calling themselves “2 fer 1″. He will also re-release a few records never available before directly to his website as well as many new recordings in a number of various outfits, forms and impressions. Also, keep a look a look out for his growing business Until Life Makes Sense inspired by his song “Let It Go” with the line “laugh until life makes sense”.
Born in Chicago, raised in Houston, Vega began cutting his teeth on the Blues after an inspirational chance meeting with Albert Collins in an Austin guitar shop. Some years and woodshedding later Tony Vega Band was founded in 1997. This appealing Texas act have forged a unique brand of red hot bone shakin’ blues. Countless tours, several Houston Press Music Awards, glowing international press recognition, and five Cd’s later, TVB continue to burn up the Texas Gulf coast and Europe alike. Like a raven rising from a black southern swamp, the Gulf coast’s “best kept secret” takes the listener from the backwoods to the smoky juke joint, drenched in blues and soaked in a Houston meets New Orleans American roots ‘n roll gumbo.
Houston’s Songwriter Assoc.’s songwriter of the year, Leslie Krafka has been called an excellent songstress with an outstanding voice.
As I watched Leslie Krafka perform her original songs from the café table of a coffee house she frequently plays, I sensed she might come from a long line of story tellers. Listening to the assenting “All The Luck”, a ballad about bad breaks in life, and “Wandering Troubadour”, an expression of ephemeral love, from her debut CD The White Cat Sessions, I concluded her passion for her art must be in her blood.
As I later discovered, indeed Leslie inherited her love for storytelling. “My grandfather told the best stories”, she recalls. “They were better than anything on television. I admired the way he could keep all us grandkids spellbound for hours. I really wanted to have the gift.” Yet she took that gift one step further and putting her words to music. “I also had a grandmother who was a marvelous singer. She was a high soprano and I remember her favorite song was Ave Maria.” Those influences, along with a household vinyl collection that ranged from Donny Osmond to Charlie Parker gave Leslie an appreciation for a multitude of music. “My brother introduced alt-country to our family, but I listened to Top 40 for the most part, and my little sister loved 80’s glam rock. Looking back there was always a weird mix of albums stashed around the stereo in the family room.”
However, being a music lover didn’t translate right away to becoming a music maker. “I always thought writing songs, playing out, or recording…that’s what other people did, you know, famous people. It was a long time before I actually embarked into the world of songwriting, and even longer for me to envision myself as a performer.”
Call it destiny or call it luck, Leslie did find that passion at a songwriter’s workshop hosted by Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, who also co-produced Leslie’s sophomore CD due out in May 2014. “Looking back on that first workshop, I was so naïve. I was taking it all in and something clicked, and I knew this songwriting thing was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” Coincidentally that workshop was the first time Leslie ever performed in front of a live audience. “It was one of those moments in life where you say ‘yes’ and it changes everything. I mean I stood in front of 100 people and sang a song I’d written only days before with Lloyd playing guitar. Can you believe? It all seems so surreal now.”
Since that first workshop Leslie has worked hard at her craft. In 2010 she was rewarded by the Houston Songwriter’s Association who named her Songwriter of the Year, as well as naming her song “Wondering Troubadour” Song of the Year. Other recognitions followed, being named a Regional Finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival; as well as having her CD The White Cat Sessions nominated by the Academy of Texas Music for the Academy Award of Distinction. “Awards are fine’ Leslie reflected, “but the best reward is knowing that my music connects with someone. That’s satisfying.”
With the release of a new record on the horizon, Leslie lit up when the topic was broached. “I’m very excited about the new record. I’m working with my dream team and my songs are sounding so amazing, I can’t wait to get it finished.” After hearing some of the new material, like the energetic Wine, Women and Song, or Stay with Me, a love song with a dash of angst, it’s clear Leslie has continued in her quest to craft ever better songs. With this recording Leslie Krafka is primed to venture outside of Texas and take her music into other parts of the country.
Battleme is the inner psyche and stage moniker of songwriter Matt Drenik. He is also a contributing member to LA’s The Forest Rangers featuring Katey Sagal and Bob Thiele.
On his debut EP, the predominately lo-fi folk record Big Score, Drenik played, recorded and produced everything on his own. The record’s success allowed him to share the stage with the likes of Joe Ely and Joe Pug as a solo artist, in addition to having songs included on FX’s Sons of Anarchy.
For his debut LP, Drenik signed to Austin, TX label Trashy Moped Recordings. The label was mostly known for putting out the works of Austin’s Ghostland Observatory, an electro duo. Drenik worked with Ghostland’s Thomas Turner who produced and mixed the 11 track record. On its release in early 2012, the record was received to positive reviews, with Battleme sharing the stage with Walk the Moon, Neon Trees and landing slots at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party and SXSW 2013. The record was a departure from the initial lo-fi material, with Drenik and Turner combining elements of concrete folk, garage, sludge and electro to create a record combing through a wide variety of musical landscapes.
In the winter of 2012, Drenik started writing songs for what would become his 2nd full length album under the Battleme moniker, Future Runs Magnetic. He signed with LA’s El Camino and enlisted producer Doug Boehm (Girls, Guided by Voices) to capture a bigger, broader sound that developed with the band that Drenik had put together to support the last release. Portland’s Zach Richards and Eric Johnston joined Drenik in the studio to form a bombastic rhythm section that lead the newly written songs into a more sustained, thrashy, organic sound. It was tracked mostly live in the spring of 2012 in Portland, OR and LA, CA.
On Oct 8, 2013 Battleme released a 4 song EP titled “Weight on the Brain” via El Camino that comprised of tracks from the upcoming full length, Future Runs Magnetic, due out March 11, 2014.