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.