July 7, 2006

CD Dump... some reviews

I was looking at my personal stack of CDs I've been trying to get to, and I thought I'd write a few words on some of the discs I won't end up getting to for a full review. I'll publish it as a blog so hopefully some music-loving folks will give it a read and take some time to check these artists/CDs out for themselves.

Mexico to Texas
I met the lead-singer of Alteza, Jonas Alvarez, at a Los Lobos concert at La Zona Rosa in February and he handed me the band's debut album -Mexico to Texas.
I have been listening to the CD off and on again ever since.
I'm torn on this one. When they sing in Spanish, like on the album opener "SueƱos de Alegria" or the classic "El Pescador" they sound superb both vocally and musically. But when attempting a song in English, like "The Curse" or "Fred Mendoza" it comes off like the song was written in Spanish and Alvarez just translated the words. It's not bad, but it doesn't sound right.
That said, they rock on the Santana-infused "Curandera Woman" which is an English sung song.
I think Alteza will get better in time, and I look forward to seeing the English lyrics catch up with the musicianship. Once they do, perhaps they can step up to the Los Lobos or Santana plate for Austin.

The Dog Waggers
Chasin' Tales
I've had this CD for a long time. I'd say over a year. This is a really good acoustic guitar/americana/rock album -really good music for this Hill Country area. They remind me a lot of the Austin Lounge Lizards in their style. I remember wondering why I'd not seen them playing Old Settler's Music Festival or out at Gruene Hall on a Sunday... then I saw why... they are from Virginia.
The music is a mix of serious songs ("Hey There Jack," "Graveyard Shift") and songs that have a little humor to them ("Know Your Limitations," "The Family's Reuniting"). Good Texas Hill Country music from Virginia. The picture that says a thousand words within the CD booklet says it all... it's a Virginia license plate that reads GRUENE.
Look them up - http://www.thedogwaggers.com

Jenny Hollub
Kyle, Texas musician Jenny Hollub is a music teacher, choir director and all-around good person. She's also a neighbor of mine. When I put on a music festival in my neighborhood in June, she was one of the performers.
Before the performance she gave me a CD to enjoy. I really did like it. She's got a kind of voice that is soft cozy but has that edgy attitude.
"Whole Wide World To See" has an acoustic guitar groove that is infectious. It also has the best line of the album "You can do the thinking / I'll do the drinking / she'll do the driving / we'll be surviving / here we are for the whole wide world to see."
The only reason I didn't review this one was it was a 2005 release...and I somehow cracked the CD and can't play it anymore.

Plane of Existence
The only reason I didn't review this four-track EP (released in February) before this is, I don't like to review EPs. It's a thing to me, I have so many full-length CDs to review that EPs take the backburner.
That said, this EP from Austin's Plane of Existence is damn good. It's got great musicianship and the vocals are spot-on. I was surprised to find out that the band is all under 21. A very mature sound that fits nicely into the Austin scene beside folks like Wideawake and Vallejo (whom they've opened for recently).
All of the songs on Kinetic are well done. My personal favorite is "Eternity Tonight." It seems to be a song about being in that moment in a doomed relationship where it's make-it-or-break-up.
You can hear all of the tracks on Plane of Existence's MySpace, I'd recommend you check that out (http://www.myspace.com/planeofexistence)

Smile and Nod
The Ties
This four track EP is a nice introduction to the Austin band who have a sound that is perfect for radio. They are kind of like a metal-free Alice in Chains. Lead singer Sean Maxey seems to channel Layne Staley on "Place Setting." David Butler's guitars create a great soft undercurrent on "Breeze." I'm looking forward to hearing more from this group.

Various Artists
Texas Unplugged Volume 2
Palo Duro
If you are a fan of acoustic guitar-driven Texas music, you've already bought this one. Palo Duro Records is a great provider of good Texas music, and this record, released in February is no exception.
Some of my personal favorite acts in the genre like The Derailers, Walt Wilkins, and Johnny Bush sit alongside Max Stalling, Two Tons of Steel and Dale Watson on this 12 track sampler of great tunes.
It's just as good as Volume 1.. and that is a good thing.

Various Artists
Cow Hear This 3
CBUJ Recordings
Another in the great number of compilation CDs of Texas music. I hate to say that, but there are so many out there, and so many are so good. Cow Hear This 3 presents classic hits like Willie Nelson's "Crazy" alongside notables like Gary P. Nunn ("Perfectly Normal"), Robert Earl Keen ("Out Here In The Middle"), and Jason Allen ("Your Heart Turned Left") and eleven others.
While most of the artists I'd heard of, I was pleasantly pleased with one I hadn't heard before -Zona Jones has a comical song about a ghost-hooker called "The House of Negotiable Affestions."
Like with Texas Unplugged Volume 2, you can't go wrong with this one.

Various Artists
Blues Guitar Women
Ruf Records
This double CD set is a great introduction to some of the best guitar slingers in blues who happen to be women.
The first CD is full of contemporary blues players and standouts are Sue Foley's "Mediterranean Breakfast," Ruthie Foster's "Woke Up This Mornin,'" and Ana Popovic's "Navajo Moon" is amazing.
The second CD is Traditional players and between Etta Baker, Memphis Minnie, and Precious Bryant it'd be an injustice to pick a favorite.
You can't go wrong with the blues, and this CD is a nice addition to any CD collection.

Hank Williams III
Straight To Hell
Bruc Records
If you've never heard Hank Williams III, you should go out and buy this CD right now. Straight To Hell is a 2 CD set that was released in February 2006. It's country, but it's nothing like you'll hear on the radio. This is pure outlaw country the kind I'd imagine Hank Williams Sr. would be making had he lived in 2006.
Disc one is the country album. It's a big leap forward from his 2002 Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin in terms of a true representation of who Hank III is. He channels his Grandfather on "Country Heroes," "Low Down," and the disturbing "Angel of Sin." And he interjects a little outlaw into tracks like "Dick in Dixie," "Pills I Took," and "Not Everybody Likes Us."
Disc two is a demented ride through the mind of Williams. A little eerie, but when you take into account that Williams was the bassist for Superjoint Ritual, has a punk band by the name of Assjack, and has a huge pot leaf on each of his speakers...it's easier to understand.
Hank III is awesome on disc, but to really get a picture of who he is, check him out live. You'll be blown away.

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