December 31, 2009

Week 17 - The Belleville Outfit - Time To Stand

The Belleville Outfit
Time To Stand

The Belleville Outfit has a really cool sound to them. Some of their tracks have a Squirrel Nut Zippers (without the Zoot Suit) vibe while others have a piano-driven rock ballad feel. It’s like ragtime babies were playing with the folk and rock kiddos together in the same sandbox and they decided to pick up instruments.

Confused now? Well… pick up Time To Stand. It’s a good 13-song introduction to The Belleville Outfit.

The songs all flow well together but each have a very different vibe. Vocal duties are traded off between the folksy vibe of Rob Teter and the timeless beauty of Phoebe Hunt. Separate they sound good... in harmony it’s exquisite.

The musicianship that this band shows is also amazing. These guys aren’t just going through the motions of being in a band; they all have a very good grasp on their instruments and know how to play together very well.

On to the songs. “Once and for All” is a classic folksy ballad. “Let Me Go” has a Steve Miller BandAbracadabra” vibe to it. The fun cover of Louis Prima’s “Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby” is a great addition.

On songs like “Fly On” the violin is amazing while she plays a mean fiddle on “Outside Looking In. Hunt’s ability to jump from the classic violin sound to the country fiddle vibe reminded me of a little joke Buddy Huthmaker once told me. Q: Do you know the difference between a violin and a fiddle? A: The nut holding it.

All jokes aside, it’s hard to choose a song that rises above the rest on Time To Stand, as they really are all very good. But... if pressed I’d have to choose “Two Days of Darkness.”  The piano and violin melt together as well as the pairing of Teter and Hunt’s voices.  “Two days of darkness since you went away / I feel the same for you now as I did then / Heart in a prison won’t you let me escape / Come on home it’s been two days of darkness.”

I’ve not had the chance to see them live yet but I hope to rectify that one today. They play Gruene Hall today between 1-5p. Hopefully I can talk my wife into a little road trip.

The Belleville Outfit is Teter (guitar, vocals), Hunt  (violin, vocals), Connor Forsyth (keys), Jeff Brown  (bass), Marshall Hood (guitar), and Jonathan Konya (percussion)

December 24, 2009

Week 16 - The Jeremy Miller Band - Way Too Fast

Cut from the same cloth as Red Dirt rockers like Reckless Kelley and Cory Morrow, The Jeremy Miller Band comes out of the gate like seasoned veterans with Way Too Fast. It really is amazing to know this is their self-released freshman effort.

The tunes kick off with the driving title track. It’s a half-ballad, half-rocker that sets the pace and the theme. These are songs about losing, loving, and leaving. Typical country fodder, but these guys have a little different twist. Lyrically and musically this album is on par with the guys in the big leagues.

“Sorry” is a powerful ballad about the end of a relationship. The unapologetic “Life I Lead” is a snapshot into Miller’s world. “Little Bit” is a beautiful duet with Beverly Hensley.

The Chuck Berry infused rocker “No More” is a funny little ditty about being on the deserving end of the cold shoulder. With lyrics like “I probably never meant it when I said, your best girlfriend was better in bed. Baby don’t you love me no more?”

But to me the standout track on this album is the final one. “17 Wheels” is the story of a trucker who was a part of a horrific accident caused by a flat tire. “You can’t stop 17 wheels from rolling, when the 18th is on the ground”

I really dug this CD. There isn’t a song I don’t like between the 10 tracks. They’ve got that Red Dirt sound down well, Miller’s voice is just the right tinge of whiskey stained and his lyrics are framed within the country/rock/jam music played by guitarist Sonny Bihl and bassist Seth Tobin.

Take a listen to it for yourself at You can also see where to catch them live from there as well.

Note: This CD review originally ran in the October 2009 issue of INsite Magazine. I'm in Boston right now with the family for Christmas.

December 17, 2009

Week 15 The Soldier Thread - Shapes

The Soldier Thread
Sea Change Records

This week’s CD review comes from the files of “better late than never.” You see, Shapes was actually released in April and last I talked with The Soldier Thread it sounded like their next album was going to drop very soon.  But, ever since the band played an INsite Night at Antone’s a few months back, I’ve been digging this, their debut full length album, so here we are.

For those who have never heard this band, they’ve got a beautifully delicate sound that I’ve not really heard in an Austin band before. The songs are piano and viola driven and Patricia Lynn (vocals/viola) has the kind of voice that reminds me of Evanescence’s Amy Lee.  In fact, if you’re familiar with Evanescence, picture their sound but instead of coupling the dainty female voice with hard rock, it’s paired with the Austin indie sound. Justin McHugh plays some great keyboard and when he sings alongside Lynn it makes for a pretty fantastic pairing and some stunning music.

Their bio begins with “There is a fragility coating the sweeping songs of The Soldier Thread.”  The more I look at that statement and listen to their sound and think about it, the more I believe that I just need to quote that line instead of making a similar statement. That pretty much sums The Soldier Thread up.  There’s something fragile, something that touches the heart and something frighteningly beautiful about The Soldier Thread.

Shapes kicks off with the epic heart wrenching track “Run, Run” that sets the stage for the almost 80’s sounding (in a good way) “Cannons” and “Criminals.”   The viola comes to the forefront for the beautiful “Northeastern.” The keys of “Cherish Me” really stand out. “Rock and Roll” is the crawling ballad that completes the album. It seems like a fitting closer to Shapes and a pretty love song. 

For me, the standout track on Shapes is “So In Love.”  Lynn and McHugh’s voices dance through the track as if they share a heartbeat. It’s a very simple song lyrically, but for some reason it’s the one that gets stuck in my head. “Make it look so clear / There’s more to be seen / You’re tearing down your walls / But you’re so so so in love.”

The band is made up of Lynn (vola/vocals), McHugh (keyboard/guitars/vocals), Todd Abels (guitar), Chance Gilmore (bass), and Drew Van Diver (drums). 

I recommend checking them out live sometime, they have been known to put a room in a trance.  I think they are actually in the studio right now…so you’ll have to wait a few months. I’m sure they will be ready with a new release in time for their SXSW showcase in March. Yes they got an invitation to the show.  In the meantime check them out on 

December 16, 2009

Giftwrap & Childcare - KUMC Fundraiser 12/19

This Saturday at Kyle United Methodist Church in Kyle, Texas.

 Everyone is invited to a United Methodist Woman's fundraiser. It's Childcare and Giftwrap. See the flier below for information.

December 19 - Fundraiser in Kyle

December 10, 2009

Week 14 - Flatcar Rattlers - Which Side Are You On

Flatcar Rattlers

Which Side Are You On

Austin’s Flatcar Rattlers have quickly earned a name for themselves among music lovers based on their amazing live shows.  I was a bit concerned with that fact when I popped their debut CD into for a listen. You see, many times bands that are phenomenal live seem to fall flat when recording their sound in the studio.

With Which Side Are You On the six-members-from-six-state band has actually released a disc that stands on it’s own.  It may not be as raucous as their live show but they released a solid effort.  For those who don’t know, their music is classic bluegrass played with an upright bass and banjo but the music and lyrics pay heed to the devil-may-care punk themes.

I’d probably compare them to Hank Williams III or American Graveyard.  If I hadn’t read their bio, I’d have called the sound “Hellbilly”…but apparently their music falls under a term I’ve never heard.  It’s “Guerilla Grass.”  I think they just made that up.  At the same time…it does fit.  It crosses the line…and dances on people’s perceptions that  bluegrass can marry punk with great results.

The 13-song debut of all original material is a quick 40 minutes.  I called it quick because time flies by while listening.  “Barnroof” is a fast-paced jam about going through a flood. “River of Sin” makes no attempt to repent from a lifestyle of sin and it’s prefaced by an actual voice mail message from the Travis County Constable Office detailing an arrest warrant.  “Cannon Fodder” depicts being on the losing end of the battlefield in the Civil War era.

There are two tracks that jumped to my attention.  “Redneck/Hippie,” written by guitarist Phil King, pretty much tells the story about why the band is in Austin now.  As the song goes…
“Too Redneck for Asheville / to hippy for the coast.” 
Guys… I’ve been to Asheville. And I’ll concur…Austin IS the place for you.

“How Many Beers” is the classic drinking a break-up away song. It’s probably my favorite track on Which Side Are You On.
“I try to tell myself I’m over you / Just the way I’m so sure you’re over me / Drinking with my friends again / it’s helping me to kill my pain / How many beers will help me pass the time.”

The Flatcar Rattlers are Daniel Stokes (vocals), Brian Durkin (upright bass), Phil King (guitar), Okie Andy Bays (banjo), Mark Maughmer (fiddle), and Luther Zielsdorf (mandolin).

They released Which Side Are You On in late November and it looks like they’re taking a little break from playing, but you can check out for more information.

December 9, 2009

Two INsite Nights this week.

Hope you can make these shows. Both shows are INsite Nights. Both shows will have giveaways of items featured in the 2009 Totally Austin Gift Guide as seen in the December 2009 INsite Magazine.

Here's a rundown...

An Eposide Phive Production (he's one of INsite's photogs who's getting knack for booking some really good reggae music.) Join Greg "Phive" Cooper at Ruta Maya for a Reggae INsite Night featuring The Bandulus w/McPullish & DJ Remedios. This show is also sponsored by Romman (, and Charlies Records.

A night of great metal music at Red Eyed Fly. Five great bands including Trashy and the Kid, Snake Skin Prison, Butcherwhite, Shotgun Rebels, Louder Shrine. And if you click that last link, you may be able to win a pair of tix to the show. Join INsite owner Sean Claes (that's me) and get ready for a good time at the Fly.

December 3, 2009

Week 13 - Butcherwhite - Sex & Poison

Sex & Poison

If you like your rock with chugga-chugga guitars or your metal with understandable lyrics you’ll get into Sex & Poison by Austin’s Butcherwhite. Their sound is that old school rock with a little punk thrown in for good measure…kind of like Social Distortion or The Offspring.

The eleven-song 45 minute CD kicks off with “Find A Way” which is a straight-up rocker about coming to terms with the rock and roll lifestyle choice. “Hittin’ The Jester” is both a nod to drummer Kique Garcia’s former band by the same name and to Black Sabbath. The closest thing to a “ballad” would be “Nothing Like My Baby” but it’s not your classic slow song. They take on the subject of suicide with “Why Do You Wanna Die.” There’s a really old-school Metallica feel to “Betrayed.” A ToadiesPossum Kingdom” like tale is told in “Something In The Water.”

The song that struck a chord with me on Sex & Poison is “Blood War.” Not sure if this is what Butcherwhite intended with the fist-in-the-air jam, but here’s my interpretation of what this song means. Ever been so angry at an adult family member that you are driven to physical violence but couldn’t bring yourself to it because you don’t hit family?
“Something isn’t making sense / punishment outweighs the offense. / Don’t allow the bar to crack / Don’t back down but don’t fight back. / I was always a fighter (x3) / But my arms are down.”
Yes, some of the themes are pretty dark and serious. They seem to take a positive spin on the subject though and that is what, to me, sets Sex & Poison apart from many of the hate-filled bands out there.

The album concludes with the all-out metal-begging-for-a-mosh-pit track “World Go Black.” Well it actually concludes with a great one-liner from Pulp Fiction but I’ll let you buy the album and hear that one for yourself.

Butcherwhite is Billy Perkins (vocals), Nill Ables (guitar), Garcia (drums) and Rob Hacker (bass). You can find out more about them on MySpace ( Come out and see them in Austin at an INsite Night on December 11 at Red Eyed Fly. You can click “I Like It” on for your chance at Free Tickets. <---That's a link to it (FYI).


I didn’t find any videos of Butcherwhite on YouTube…so here’s a shot of me and lead singer Billy Perkins in 2007. This was after a show at The Parish Room… and the last time I saw them live. Looking forward to 12/11.

0921 Sean Claes and Billy Perkins (Butcherwhite)

And... here's a photo by Austin's "Photography By Maurice" of the band playing Headhunters this year.

And... Billy Perkins is also a fantastic artist. Here's a couple of his posters... (Click the photo to see bigger)

Butcherwhite (For the Sex & Poison CD Release last month)

Blue October's April 2009 gig @ Stubbs.

and BB King @ Austin Music Hall.

December 2, 2009

The Business of Music – The Problems of Promotion

Here's a column I wrote for the fine folks of Sparrowheart Music and Media. It should appear there soon.

The Business of Music – The Problems of Promotion

By Sean Claes

I began writing entertainment around 1996 when I moved from Laredo to San Marcos, Texas to finish up college. Since then I’ve written for several magazines, Websites, and newspapers. I began contributing to INsite Magazine in 2003, became Managing Editor in 2005 and together with my wife bought it in 2008.

Why the bio? Well, lets just say I’ve been approached by more musicians than a Roppolo's Pizzeria on a Sixth Street Saturday night. Some have their stuff together, some don’t. And others just think they are the stuff.

I’ve put together a column talking about some of the problems I’ve seen bands go through when they are in their promotional gear. I separated it into three topics – Promoting your music, live show, and your band. Hope you get some benefit from this.

CD-less CD Release Show
This one is simple, but it seems many bands have had this happen to them. DO NOT SCHEDULE YOUR CD RELEASE SHOT UNTIL YOUR CDS ARE IN YOUR HANDS. I learned this one the hard way. INsite put a CD out in 2007 called This Is INsite Austin Music. The night before the show, the 1,000 CDs came back from being printed and the design firm that was personally assembling them one by one spent an entire night putting ‘em together. We just made it. We were lucky. I’ve been at a CD release show where there was no actual CD yet. Don’t be that band. Have the CD in your hands before booking the show.

It’s Not Personal, But It Should Be
OK, your CD came in. Now you’ve got a list of media folks you need to send it to. When you send a CD in the mail to someone hoping on a review, how about putting a little personal note in there? Media folks get buckets of CDs in the mail. If you knew how many CD’s I sort through each week to pick the ones I decide to actually put in my CD player, you may be stunned. I know for me, when I get something from the band that is actually hand written, I’ll give the CD a spin. I wont always like what I hear, but I’ll take a chance. That’s the entire reason to send a CD to media folks... so they give you a listen.

At Least They Spelled Your Name Right
So you finally got the CD into the hands of someone who is willing to review it. When that review is printed they compare your music to the sounds of two dogs have sex and then falling into a meat grinder. Ouch (on many levels). You march right over and want to give that reviewer a piece of your mind. DON’T. Consider this. If what they said was so wrong, people will see through it. There are a bunch of CD reviewers who think they need to bash something in order to make it in print. The other side is, perhaps the person just flat didn’t like it. He/she is entitled to his/her opinion. All I know is, YOU will come out looking like a whiny little baby if you try and put the reviewer in their place. Suck it up and move on.

How Do They Know?
Tell people when you have a gig. Make sure you use all of the electronic medias (Website, e-mail, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace...etc) to get the word out. But, don’t underestimate the power of “traditional” media. Print (newspaper, magazine), Radio, and Television are three options. These will cost money, but you can likely work deals with someone. For instance my magazine, INsite, has a special rate for local bands. I don’t want to turn this into a promo for the magazine, so if you want to know more, hit me up.

Then there’s always good old-fashioned posters and flyers. I like to tell the story of one of my favorite cock-rock bands, SINIS. They promoted their first show at Flamingo Cantina by handing out ten thousand flyers. They figured if they handed out that many flyers, they could get a couple hundred through the door. It worked. It was a sell out.

The point is, your efforts will be rewarded. The more people who know about you, the more chances that you’ll have more butts through the door next time you play.

Bring your merch to the show - Getting people to a show is the hardest part, but only half the effort. Now you want them to remember you in the morning. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a show where a band I know has a CD/T-shirts/swag decided not to bring their merchandise. This is foolish on two levels.
1. Chances are, you’re not going to make much money at the door... so selling merch is where its it.
2. Every time you miss an opportunity to have someone walk away from a show with something of yours they can listen to, share, or wear, it’s a good thing.

Thank You Austin!
NEVER piss off the sound guy and ALWAYS thank the venue and bands who have played before you and who will be playing after. You earn your reputation as a live band. Austin is a HUGE music town. People learn quickly which bands are cocky little pricks who don’t draw a crowd and get into fights... and which bands rip it up onstage and know how to conduct themselves. But most of all, NEVER piss off the sound guy. He has the job to make you sound good. If you sound good, people might like your tunes... if they like your tunes, they might buy a CD... and come to another show... with more friends. Get it?

The Next Stevie Ray Vaughan?
In the last 10 or so years that I’ve been a entertainment writer I’ve come across no less than 25 guitarists that were touted as the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. You can play grooves that would make the entire fanbase of the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughan smile... but you’ll never be him... nor should you want to be. It’s got to the point that I won’t listen to a CD that claims that anymore.

It’s almost as bad as calling a band the “best kept secret” in town. You aren’t the next anyone... and if your band is a secret, you aren’t promoting well enough. Get on it.

Never Underestimate Who Your Audience May Be.
So you work at a deli to make ends meet before you hit it big with music. Mention your band to as many people as possible every day. The lady picking up a tuna sandwich might just be your future biggest fan, or the owner of a big club, or a magazine for that matter. Don’t judge a book by its cover either. She may not look like she’d be into your music, but if I walked into a room, nobody would peg me as a fan of New York’s Every Time I Die or Austin’s Grupo Fantasma but they are two of my top choices in those genres.

Another example? My wife walked into a UPS Store in San Marcos a few years back and Randy Rogers happened to be working there (This is a year or so before the Randy Rogers Band signed a major record deal and he was just beginning to play regularly at Cheatham Street Warehouse). He casually mentioned to her that he was in a band. She mentioned her husband was a music writer. I ended up reviewing his 2003 release ( for INsite Magazine as I was a contributor.

Being a genuine nice guy net him two lifelong fans and a CD review in an Austin magazine. Be that guy for your band.

Following Up
When you promote your band, make sure to hold every part of it accountable. What efforts resulted in paid tickets through the door? Did the $3 off at the door cards get used? Did the radio personality you tried to get the CD to actually receive it? Did the Marketing Director? Follow up.

There have been entirely too many bands that I’ve never even heard of and I’ve gotten a CD in the mail. No pre-contact. No follow up. Usually I don’t listen to them. Same is the case of the bands I see when I’m out at clubs. A lot of bands have a CD they’d love for me to review. Smart bands hand me a CD at the club. Smarter bands hand me a CD, and ask for my contact information. The smartest bands, get me a CD, get my contact information and follow up to see how I liked the CD.

If you are trying to make it in the music business, you need to treat it like a business. Make a plan. Make some goals. Give yourself a deadline. Make it happen. When you hit the stage or write the music or practice.. that’s all about the music. Don’t let business mess with that. But in the same breath, don’t let the stereotype of being a “musician” keep you from being in business.

Music + business = Music Business.

Sean Claes rocks like Slayer. Questions? Compliments? Free t-shirts (he wears XL)? Contact him at

November 26, 2009

Week 12- Sam Baker - Cotton

Sam Baker
C o t t o n

When I opened the tri-fold CD case of Sam Baker’s 2009 release C o t t o n I was struck with three words. On the inside the only thing that is printed on the case is “Talk about forgiveness.”

If you are familiar with Baker these words take special meaning. It’s a miracle he’s even here today. In 1986, while in Peru, he was a passenger on a train that was bombed by terrorists. Several were killed, including a family that was sitting next to him. Baker sustained mental and physical injuries including hearing loss, loss of words, and major damage to his left arm.

I mention this because C o t t o n is the final chapter of his amazing trilogy about dealing with life and death, pain and suffering. Part one, Baker’s debut album, released in 2004 when he was 50 is Mercy and part two to the trilogy is 2007’s Pretty World.

C o t t o n is a 13-song forty-five minute journey that will make you smile, cry, and most of all...think. Baker paints an image so vivid that you can completely picture the bitter life of a cotton farmer in the title track, the struggle with the world of your parents and the world of your own in “Mennonite,” and the inner conflict of an unwed pregnant woman in “Not Another Mary.”

There are three tracks on this CD that, in my mind, have risen above the other stunning songs.

“Angel Hair” is an amazing ballad lamenting a lost love. The simple powerful line that repeats itself throughout the song is “Not a day goes by I don’t think of you.”

I find myself listening to “Signs” over and over. Partly because I am moved by it and partly because my 5 year-old daughter keeps asking me to play it when we’re listening to the CD while driving. It’s a testament to the houseless population. “One sign says I am pregnant / One sign is upside down / One sign says I lost my husband / One sign says I lost my crown / One sign says I love Jesus / One sign says the end is near.”

The album and trilogy closes with “Snow.” It’s a song of morning and rebirth set in Boston. “First light on the streets are white and pristine / Waiting on the tracks of the city machines / This city is so pretty when the snow falls just at dawn.”

Baker uses his voice like an instrument, punctuating the point. He sounds somewhere between Robert Earl Keen, Adam Carroll and Todd Snider. The music is beautifully assembled with violin, cello, and mandolin playing nicely with slide guitar and electric bass. Kind of like if classical music went Americana. The combination is epic.

I mentioned my 5 year old earlier. Her take on Baker’s music is probably as good as what I could come up with. “The songs are memories.”

C o t t o n is a memory that should be shared with everyone. It’s a fitting conclusion to the spiritual and emotional trilogy penned by this amazing poet, wordsmith, and survivor.

If you’ve not heard of Sam Baker please do yourself a favor and go to and familiarize yourself.

November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks... Great Austin Music during INsite Nights

Austin is blessed to have some amazing bands and it's part of INsite Magazine's mission to showcase the great music of this town. I thought I'd take a minute to post a few of the videos that Ajay Miranda (Nites ATX) has shot over the last year.

Please enjoy these videos. You can find the whole list of videos thus far on the INsite Vimeo site.

The next INsite Nights will be 12/4 - Full Service @ Stubbs12/10 - The Bandulus w/McPullish & DJ Remedios and 12/11 - Trashy and the Kid, Butcherwhite, and Snake Skin Prison @ Red Eyed Fly

Here's some videos:

The Will Evans Project @ The Belmont

Mike Truth and the Replacement Killers @ Red Eyed Fly

Built By Snow @ The Parish

Full Service @ Ruta Maya

Zlam Dunk @ The Dirty Dog Bar

The Ars Supernova @ Stubb's

November 19, 2009

Week 11 - Dertybird - Pure Analog

Pure Analog

When Dertybird went into the studio to record Pure Analog, they could have used all of the high-tech equipment that surrounded them but then they wouldn’t have come out with such a gem of an album.

They chose to record live to tape, almost a lost art in recording today. But by kicking it “old school” they did both a nice nod to their southern rock predecessors and brought their live sound to a studio album. Sometimes it’s better to listen to your musical elders.

The band kicks through nine tracks in about 36 minutes. The songs are a nice mix of guitar jams and ballads. “Edna” gets things going nicely with a classic “she done me wrong” jam. I could listen to the Black Crowesesque “People Change” all day long.  They slow it down for tracks like “All I Ever,” “Feels Like Money,” and the rebound relationship themed “Laura Lee.”

I’ve got two favorite tracks on Pure Analog and they happen to be the last two songs on the CD.

“She Likes It” is a poppy little groove that caught me with the line “They say a woman has the right to change her mind / She likes to exercise it.” Although “People Change” is the single, this is the track I’d pick for radio release, as it’s the one that sticks in my head.

The last track on the album is “Hurricane.” It’s a beautiful ballad that has that introspective feel to it. It’s a good closer for the album. “I don’t want to be alone forever / I just want to be alone for now / Just give me some time to be alone / you know we’ll work it out.”

The recording is raw, the vocals falter a little but that adds to the overall sound. I’d hate to hear it more polished. Dertybird subscribes to the old “be for what is” standard and it works for them. It’s great to hear the new batch of Austin blues-infused southern rock bands like Dertybird, Noble Dog, and Uncle Lucius. They prove that great music is still out there.

Dertybird plays with a couple of amazing performers, the legendary Pinetop Perkins and the amazing Carolyn Wonderland, on November 25 at Antone’s. You’d do well to make it to that show. Visit for more information.

November 12, 2009

Week 10- john Arthur martinez - Purgatory Road

john Arthur martinez
Purgatory Road
Apache Ranch Records

I’ll admit. I didn’t give john Arthur martinez (jAm) a fair shake after I heard he was the runner-up of the first season of Nashville Star in 2003. I had that “Reality TV” chip on my shoulder. I thought he was going to be just another corporate-made middle of the road country musician.

My mind and attitude changed around 2005 when I caught him playing a show in San Marcos. He is a genuine nice guy and the kind of singer-songwriter who can paint a beautiful picture with words and melody.

His 2009 release Purgatory Road is no exception. It’s just over 40 minutes of wonderful Americana music.

I may be completely wrong but I put a lot of stock in the order of an album. Purgatory Road seems to tell a story. First up is “Utopia,” a wonderfully written track about a man’s sad circumstances from birth including being born to “a mamma who wouldn’t want me once my daddy disappeared.” The title track is about losing just about everything due to bad personal choices and the Walt Wilkins cover “You Can’t Outdrink The Truth” fulfills this tri-fecta by introducing the realization that you are in charge of your own fate.

I think the fourth track, “Thunder and Lightning,” is my favorite on the disk. The music sounds like a classic Garth Brooks song and the lyrics have a Stoney LaRue feel to them.
“I need the rain to wash the salt from my eyes / I need the rain to wash away all the lies / thunder and lightning only drive me insane / You are thunder and lightning / but you bring me no rain.”

But it’s not all songs about loss. “Que No Puede Ver” he shows a talent for penning and delivering a Spanish/English love song. The story of a young songwriter chasing his future is detailed out in the letter-to-mom-song “Closer To My Dreams.” The classic 60s sounding ballad “When You Whisper In My Ear” is a pretty sweet closing song for the album.

Perhaps songs like “Thunder and Lightning” are what happens when a talented singer-songwriter like jAm gets a taste of Nashville but keeps his Texas hat on. Whatever it is, it works for him. If you are a fan of good music with a twang give Purgatory Road a listen.

The next show he has in the area is December 5 at Cheatham Street Warehouse opening for Radney Foster. That’s will be an amazing night of music.

Side note. No it’s not a typo. He spells his name john Arthur martinez as a nod to famed poet e.e. cummings.

November 9, 2009

Literal Video - Something to make you laugh.

A few months ago a friend sent me a link to a literal video of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"
on Youtube. It was one of the funniest things I'd seen in a LONG time. Literal Video is when the lyrics of a song are changed to actually describe the action that goes on in the video. I've decided to show some of my favorites. If you've got a few minutes and need a good laugh check these out.

Here's the original one that I was sent - "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

The Beatles "Penny Lane"

Journey "Seperate Ways"

Tears for Fears "Head Over Heals"

A-Ha's "Take On Me"

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Under The Bridge"

They've even got a Facebook Group

Here's a couple more on this site -

November 5, 2009

Week 9 - Jeff Lofton Quartet - Jazz To The People

Jeff Lofton Quartet
Jazz To The People

Do you remember what you were doing on January 15, 2009? Jazz trumpeter Jeff Lofton does. He was at a City Council meeting in Austin having that day officially named “Jeff Lofton Day.” Pretty cool when you consider Lofton arrived in Austin in 2007 with trumpet in hand and little to no fan base. He proceeded to play his straight-ahead jazz in dive bars on the East Side and little by little he garnered an audience. In short order he was playing the room in Austin known for jazz – The Elephant Room and earning a residency at the swanky hangout The Belmont. Then he has a day named after him. Not a bad two years.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been listening to the new release by the Jeff Lofton Quartet, Jazz To The People. I’ve got to say, it’s a great jazz record. From the kick-down-the-door first notes of “Headless Blues” to the slow burn fade of album closer “Rose,” it’s hits on just about everything I like about horn-driven jazz music. It’s loose and free form at points and strictly methodical at others.

It’s mostly instrumental, except for a beautiful rendition of “Crazy” with Danielle Howle on vocals. He follows that up with a six-and-a-half minute instrumental version of “Crazy” and it’s equally stunning. You may recognize “Shana’s Song” from the Austin Visitor Center’s 2009 release Austin Music Volume Eight.

My favorite track on this album has got to be the seemingly free-form jam of “Mouth of Gabriel.” It’s the longest track on the album as well, coming in at just over 8 minutes. It builds to epic heights and then breaks down to an awesome minimalist bass beat. Surely the most entrancing song on the album.

Now the small print. I have to admit, I have never studied jazz and I’m not the most knowledgeable person on the musical genre. My learning has been limited to a few CDs, The Cosby Show song, and a few nights of having some drinks at The Elephant Room. But, I know good music and Jazz To The People qualifies as some great music.

Of course, Lofton doesn’t do this all by himself. Players on this disc include Alex Coke on sax, Red Young on piano, Chris Jones on bass and Masumi Jones on drums.

Catch him live this Saturday as he’s releasing Jazz To The People at 8:00p.m. with a show at the amazing Mexic-Arte Museum (419 Congress). It’s $15 at the door but if you buy tickets online its $10.

October 29, 2009

Week 8 - Darling New Neighbors - Rocket

This is Week 8 of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks Project. Follow the link to see weeks 1-7 and learn about the project. - Sean Claes



Darling New Neighbors

When the hand-crafted packaging of Darling New Neighbors latest CD, Rocket hit my hands I thought it looked pretty neat, but it sent me to the same road I’ve been down lately... bands who have great looking CD packaging and a sub-par sound. So I was a little pensive when I popped the CD into the player. Thank you, Darling New Neighbors, for busting down that stereotype.

The eleven-track forty-one minute album is full of some great indie-rock that isn’t afraid to utilize an accordion or violin to supplement the guitar/bass/drums of this three-piece. By all means this could be categorized as art-rock. The handmade CD packaging is not misleading. This is a total DIY band with a unique sound.

Now, I’d be the first to tell you and (you’ve probably gathered this from reading above) that I’m not the biggest fan of art rock. There’s an exception for every rule. Rocket is the exception. Yes, it took a few songs to settle in and get used to the effortless-sounding Chrissie Hynde vocal stylings of lead vocalist Elizabeth Jackson, but once I did I was enamored by it.

The tracks are pretty diverse. You’ve got the outright sex-soaked rocker “Take It.” The could-be theme song for a Drew Barrymore movie “Boys in Cars.” Even a song written for a dog belonging to an addict in “Sydney.” The radio-friendly “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is short and sweet. “Gasonline” is a fantastic track that compares love to the fuel... and not really in the best light. Then there’s the Buddy Holly-esque sound of “Stars.” All unique and yet somehow they all fit together.

My favorite track on Rocket has got to be “Tango.” You really need to go to their MySpace page - right now and listen to this one. Musically, it’s a sexy sounding Spanish ditty. Lyrically, it’s a stalker-meets-self-mutilation-meets-serial-killer... um... love song. Example? Well.. here’s a lyric: “I’d gladly run over all of your exes / and anyone at all attractive / if it narrowed the odds even slightly / that you’d take my hand.”

The hauntingly beautiful “Indian Mounds” plays like a history lesson meets The Doors’ “The End.” I don’t know what to make of it but I can’t help but be moved by the emotions. I could listen to this song over and over.

Darling New Neighbors is: Jackson (vocals/violin/accordion/bass), Amy Moreland (guitar/vocals/bass), and Karl Lundin (drums/vocals). Their next Austin gig is November 11 @ Lambert’s. It’s worth your while to catch them live. Find out more about them at

Rocket was released nationally in mid-October. If you're in Austin,, you can pick it up at Waterloo Records, and if you can't wait to see it in national chains... pick up your copy today at CD Baby.



This is Week 8 of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks Project. Follow the link to see weeks 1-7 and learn about the project. - Sean Claes

October 22, 2009

Riverboat Gamblers Repost - Help Ian MacDougall

(This is the body of an e-mail sent from The Riverboat Gamblers)

Gamblers Logo

Help Ian MacDougall

Hello all,
It’s definitely been a trying few days. On the night of Saturday
October 17th, while riding his bike home, a car hit Ian Mcdougall,
guitarist of our band Riverboat Gamblers. He sustained some pretty
heavy injuries including a broken hip, a broken wrist and hemmoraging
under the skull along with many lacerations, torn ligaments, bruises
and and scrapes.

He was rushed by ambulance to Brackenridge hospital in Austin and
stayed in the ICU for 2 days before being moved into his own room where
he is undergoing physical therapy while awaiting the results on X-rays
and MRIs as well as a deluge of other various tests.
That being said, the prognosis is better than we had first thought.
We are happy that he is going to be ok and that he is alive and with
us. Unfortunately, not only is he in for a long recovery and is in a
lot of pain, but he will be celebrating his birthday in bed with
hospital food.

On another unfortunate note, there are a pile of bills currently
gaining a Mt. Everest-like summit from all his hospital expenses. We
set up a PayPal account for our band mate and friend to try and help
him get on top of the debt and focus on his recovery. His PayPal
account email is Anything you can
afford to give will be greatly appreciated by Ian and his family.
Thank you all for your support and we wish Ian the speediest of

-Riverboat Gamblers


Week 7 - David Ducharme-Jones - Weeds

David Ducharme-Jones

What do you get when you have extraordinary guitar chops, a home studio, and a desire to cut an album? For Austin’s David Ducharme-Jones, you get Weeds. You may recognize his name as one of the founding members of Austin’s Rainravens, but Weeds is much more than a solo-version of his former band.

Ducharme-Jones showcases a mastery of guitar, a good vocal performance, and a love for multiple genres with Weeds. This CD is kind of like putting all your favorite Funk, R&B, Blues, Americana, and country-rock CDs released between 1970 and 1990 on and hitting shuffle. He finds a way to mix some really nicely done original tracks with some lesser known but great covers.

Right off the bat, “Golden” separates his solo effort from his work with the Rainravens. The track boasts a 1970s wa-wa groove with an infectious chorus that will get stuck in your head all day when you hear it.

Then he changes gears and genres and brings out the full-tilt boogie blues of “Talk To Your Daughter.” Next up is the instrumental Joe Satriani-esque “Goodnight Roy B” then the funky horns of “Say What You Want.” This genre-jumping theme carries on throughout the forty-five minute 10-track album.

The Eagles-meets-Rolling Stones jam of “Left Undone” is a classic country-tinged rocker. If you are a Rainravens fan, this song was previously released in 2006 as part of the 2 Disc The Best of the Rainravens.

One of the standout tracks is the spot-on Tommy Bolin cover “Savannah Woman.” It’s got a sweet climbing dirty ballad feel to it. “Snow white and with desire / That vamp from the magazine. / Cold and distant as the moon / Why can't she burn like fire?”

Overall, Weeds is an entertaining laid-back jazzy blues album that had me tapping my toes to the beat on each listen. I look forward to catching him live soon.

Speaking of live, Ducharme-Jones is playing the Texas Book Festival at 11:00am on 10/31, then playing that evening at The Amsterdam. If you’re staying away from public places on Halloween, he’s also playing on November 6 at 8p.m. in Austin at the One 2 One bar. Check for more information

October 18, 2009

Alzheimers Memory Walk. A Call for donations.

October 3, 2009 marked three years since my Grandma Soja passed away. She was an amazing woman and I have fantastic memories of her. Unfortunately, towards the end of her life she developed dementia, a condition that is very similar to Alzheimer’s.


In 2007 My sister decided to participate in the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk in Boston. She walked in memory of our Grandmother, who passed away the year before. I remember being really proud of her for just getting out there and doing something. But, it wasn't until last year when she walked again when I thought... hey... I should do that too. So in 2008 my family and I took part in the first ever Hays County Memory Walk.

On October 24, I'm doing it again. And...Yes, I'm asking you to visit my page and donate money for Alzheimer's research. I chose $500 as my goal to collect... with a team goal of $1,000. I'd love to shatter both goals if possible and with your help.

The Alzheimer’s Memory Walk is quite a powerful experience. If your life has been touched by Alzheimer’s I’d highly recommend participating in a walk. This year I’m walking with members of my family and my church family. I’m a proud member of Team Kyle United Methodist Church.

If you’re in the Hays County area... please feel free to join us -

San Marcos, Texas
The City of San Marcos: Old Fish Hatchery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009 - Registration and Check In at 8:00am. Walk begins at 8:30am

If you’d like to make a donation… please follow this link to my personal fund-raising page -

Thanks for your time.

Harper represents!

October 15, 2009

Week 6 - Love at War - Love at War

This is part of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks project.

Love At War
Love At War
LAT Entertainment

A few years ago there was a band called Anagen that was getting some buzz in the Texas scene. I reviewed their debut album and then they disappeared. That is, until I walked into the Will Evans Project CD release show in June and saw the opening band, Love At War.

Love At War features former Anagen lead singer Lance Kotara and guitarist Tyler McCollum along with guitarist Zach Baker, bassist Joe Fladger, and drummer Mike Hall.

Although Kotara’s voice is unmistakable, I’ve got to admit Love at War brings a whole different sound to the table. Whereas Anagen took a page from the Velvet Revolver playbook, Love At War brings a pop groove.

The name comes from the idea that all relationships have their ins and outs – Love at War. And the half-hour long debut CD is made up of nine radio friendly songs that run on the relationship theme.

The album kicks off with the guitar-driven “Sideways,” a track about being in a love stalemate. Forging forward, tracks like “Treading Water,” “In This Skin,” and “Motionless” are ballads that seem perfect for the backing music on a show like “One Tee Hill” or “The Vampire Diaries.”

My favorite has to be “Hurricane,” that likens love to a storm. “Like a hurricane / crashing through my head / you spin me around / and you leave me for dead / And you don’t make a sound / still I’m pulled back in / and I trapped in the heart of the storm.”

The final track, “Right Here,” is how I’d imagine Blue October would sound if Justin Furstenfeld didn’t have the inner torment that drives their sound. Listen to it and tell me if you can’t hear “Hate Me” in an alternate universe.

The music is great, each track holds it’s own as a three-and-a-half minute nugget of gold. Love At War worked with writer/producer Dwight Baker, (Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Collective Soul, Bob Schneider and Alpha Rev) on this album, which explains why they kind of sound like the Austin version of the Jonas Brothers. I mean that in a good way.

Like the photo negative of Blue October, Love at War focuses on love, relationships, coming of age, and losing yourself. Do yourself a favor to check this band out.

If you’d like to check them out live, they play the next two Thursday’s at Momo’s in Austin, then a Halloween show with Bob Schneider at Antone’s. If you can’t make those, check out to find out more.

October 12, 2009

2009 Alzheimer's Memory Walk - Hays County

October 3, 2009 marks three years since my Grandma Helen Soja passed away. I am going to walk in the 2nd Annual Hays County Alzheimer's Memory Walk in her honor on October 24.

I would be honored if you would help me honor my Grandma's memory AND raise money for Alzheimer's research. Simply follow this link -
Memories of my Grandma are many... here are a few that float to the top of my mind:

- Growing up and visiting her at the cottage in Michigan where we would go swimming in Coldwater Lake and drink from shiny purple and green aluminum cups...and visitng Coldwater Lake in 2003 with her (with my wife) and reconnecting with old memories and friends.

- Visiting her at her home in Ohio where we'd talk about the world while she meticulously cleaned up after making her "Egg Beaters" eggs and eating at the Orchard Tree for dinner... her favorite restaurant,

- Taking her to have her cheese enchiladas at Tio Hut in Laredo where my parents live.

- Going on the Duck Tour, playing solitare, and getting to know her as a person other than a Grandma that summer of 2002.

- Introducing her to my first daughter (Mar Mar) who will hopefully remember the greatness that is her Great Grandma Soja.

- Walking with my whole family and my mother to remember Grandma Soja in 2008. I am doing this walk again this year to honor my Grandma.

I am determined to make a difference in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. By participating in the 2009 Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk®, I'm committed to raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support.

October 8, 2009

Week 5 - Del Castillo - Del Castillo

Del Castillo
Del Castillo
Smilin’ Castle Records

From Del Castillo, Austin’s version of the Gipsy Kings, comes a self-titled album full of the latin-flaminco-rock groove you’ve come to expect. This was a hard CD to listen to while sitting down. It belongs at a club being played at a high volume.

Del Castillo kicks off nicely with the dare-you-to-dance “Boricua Del Cielo.” It’s a straight-up Latin dance jam sung entirely in Spanish. They pull a language switch up in the following track “Everlasting” where lead vocalist Alex Ruiz poetically begins with “It’s time for me to rise up / and greet the coming day / Sing for tomorrow / You are on your way.”

Noticeably, the lyrics aren’t earth-shattering laments on life and politics. They are straight-ahead songs about love and dancing. Tracks like “Castles,” “Entre Flores y la Luna,” and “Light” are pure passion. You see, In Del Castillo’s world, people just want to dance. People want to feel the rhythm of the music and move their soul to the beat. They don’t need a lyrical head-trip, they need to have a good time.

Del Castillo delivers. This is evidenced by one of the strongest songs on the album, “Anybody Wanna.” It’s one of the Spanish/English offerings on the disc. It’s also their first single and the song lent to a fantastic video (featured at the end of this review).

One thing I really like about this album is, it gives me 12 tracks and almost an hour of music. In these times when CDs are coming in at about 35 minutes and people are releasing EPs that run at 20 minutes, it’s reassuring that there are still bands out there that can fill out an album with great stuff.

Another thing I like is the conjunto tune, “Corazon Loco.” This may be just me.. but I grew up in Laredo, Texas and this track takes me back there so much that I can almost smell the leg quarters on the grill and feel a cold beer in my hand. Nice.

If the sounds of the Gipsy Kings, Grupo Fantasma, or Los Super Seven fall into your category of good music, pick this one up. It’s definitely for you.

Del Castillo is: Ruiz (vocals), Mark del Castillo and Rick del Castillo (guitar/vocals), Albert Besteiro (bass), and Mike Zeoli (drums).

If you’d like to check them out live, they play Antone’s on October 25. Check their Website for other dates and to learn more about Del Castillo:

October 2, 2009

Feature on Whitman in October 2009 INsite

I did a feature on local indie-rockers Whitman for the October issue of INsite. They play an INsite Night at The Parish on October 9. Click on that link for a chance to win a pair of passes for the show.

As for the story... you can read it by visiting the INsite MySpace Page or by clicking on the photo below

October 2009 INsite - Cover

October 1, 2009

Week 4 - porterdavis - porterdavis


From the opening jam “Smack You Back” to the last groove of the Muddy Waters cover “Can’t Be Satisfied,” porterdavis’ self-titled 2009 release is forty-one minutes of fantastic harmonica-driven blues-infused roots music.

The three-piece band, consisting of Daniel Barrett (vocal/guitar), Mike Meadows (percussion) and Simon Wallace (harmonica), have created a sound that is both unique and familiar, full and simple, blues and rock, toe-tapping and meaningful. It’s a fine line, but they seem to dance it with style and grace.

If you’ve not figured it out yet, I’m really digging this release. In fact, I’ve been playing this CD so much that my five year-old daughter knows the words and sings along to the third song, “Jaynie.”

If pressed to choose, two tracks stand out above the others. The lamenting “Strange Way To Grieve” both taunts losing a loved one and the trials and tribulations of a working musician. “Heaven help me when I think I’m not enough / Heaven help me when I think I am.”

Then there’s the juxtaposition of the happy-go-lucky ”Sunshine.” It’s a fun little ditty that explains life in one verse: “I learned my legs are made for walking, learned my eyes are made to smile, learned my arms are made to hold you, learned that quiet times are wise.”

Favorites aside, there’s really not a bad song in the bunch. Weather it’s the realistic love song “That Way,” the anger-infused “Jack,” or the funky beat of “Take The Fall” they all are really strong songs. There’s even a ballad, “Carter’s Song” where Eliza Gilkyson does some beautiful guest vocals.

Listening to this Gurf Morlix-produced release, it’s easy to see why this band took top honors in three categories - Best Roots Rock, Best Drums and Best Instrument Miscellaneous (harmonica) - in this year’s Austin Music Awards.

I’ve also had the chance to check these guys out live a few times and they are even more impressive in person than they are on this stellar release. The album was released on September 1 but they’ve got a couple of CD release shows coming up this weekend in Houston (Anderson Fair 10/2-3) and New Braunfels (Gruene Hall 10/4). If you can’t make those dates, check for upcoming releases and to hear a few tracks.