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