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 - http://www.myspace.com/darlingnewneighbors 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 http://darlingnewneighbors.com/.

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 ian.gambler@gmail.com. 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 http://davidducharmejones.com/ 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 - http://www.memorywalk.kintera.org/hays09/kumc.

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 - http://www.memorywalk.kintera.org/hays09/seanclaes

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 http://www.myspace.com/loveatwarus 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 - http://www.memorywalk.kintera.org/hays09/seanclaes
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: http://www.delcastillomusic.com

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 loveporterdavis.com for upcoming releases and to hear a few tracks.