Jeff McCord

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Articles by Jeff McCord

Robert Earl Keen

Aug 31, 2011 By Jeff McCord

The country singer-songwriter on sequestering himself in his scriptorium, learning how to write songs on the road, and answering Toby Keith in a song.

Local Customs: Lone Star Lowlands

Jul 31, 2010 By Jeff McCord

If you think your knowledge of musical arcana is peerless, spending some time with the compilations from Chicago’s Numero Group label might take you down a notch. To put together LOCAL CUSTOMS: LONE STAR LOWLANDS, obsessed collectors wore face masks to ward off the toxic fumes emanating from the mold-encrusted…

Letters in the Deep

Jun 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

It’s a neat trick, creating something both slavishly retro and distinctly modern. Dan Auerbach manages just that with his blues-based rock duo, the Black Keys. While he stays true to the essence of the music, he’s not hesitant to scoff at tradition. In the producer’s chair for the third album…

Ten

Jun 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

Too many jazz pianists have surrendered to the unyielding bulk of the instrument, relying on standards with flourished chording, tranquilly delivered. They fashion themselves heirs to greats like Bill Evans but sometimes end up closer to Liberace. It takes real gumption to push that hunk of wood and wire around.

Street Songs of Love

Jun 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

How do you like your Alejandro Escovedo? One of the reasons this talented Austin rocker has never escaped critical-favorite status is that he’s an encyclopedia of musical genres; it’s hard for fans to reconcile his confessional, string-laden ballads with his riff-heavy punk. Yet those two styles have always been…

Carrie Rodriguez

Apr 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

The Austin-born, Oberlin-trained musician—and daughter of the hard-living Texas songwriter-activist David Rodriguez—at one time aspired to be a great fiddler. Then she went on tour with Chip Taylor (who wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning”) and, under his wing, blossomed into a singer and a songwriter. The pair…

Country Music

Apr 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

On paper, the pairing of WILLIE NELSON and producer T Bone Burnett seems like a potential train wreck. Though both can get amazing results, their working methods couldn’t be more different. Burnett’s a painstaking micromanager, while Willie’s the master of the offhand; you won’t find him hanging around for multiple…

Americano

Apr 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

San Antonio’s KRAYOLAS arrived on the scene with matching suits and catchy Kinks-like material that already seemed retro in the new-wave eighties era. After some regional success, they hung it up, and that would have been that, had not an effort to preserve their original master tapes led to a…

Court Yard Hounds

Apr 30, 2010 By Jeff McCord

Divide and conquer? That was the hope of Dixie Chick siblings Martie Maguire and Emily Robison when singer Natalie Maines’s extended hiatus made the prospect of the band’s relaunch an if-and-when proposition. Itching to make another record—Emily’s divorce from country singer Charlie Robison left her with plenty of song material—the…

Rhett Miller

Jun 30, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The Austin-born, Dallas-raised lead singer for the Old 97’s has led a fruitful double life as a solo artist with the albums Mythologies (1989), The Instigator (2002), and The Believer (2006). He has just released his fourth album, Rhett Miller (Shout! Factory). You actually began as a solo artist, making…

Townes

May 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

“I stood in line and left my name / Took about six hours or so / Well, the man just grinned like it was all a game / Said they’d let me know.” These lines, from the new Steve Earle album, have just the sort of populist, humanistic slant…

St.Vincent

May 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The 26-year-old Dallas-raised chanteuse (real name: Annie Clark), a former member of the Polyphonic Spree, received universal adulation for her independently made, far-reaching 2007 pop debut, Marry Me. Now she’s back with the even more ambitious ACTOR (4AD). How did you get the music bug? My uncle is an…

Sewn Together

May 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

When the Meat Puppets emerged from the Arizona desert in the early eighties, no one knew what to make of their raw, hyperaccelerated blend of country and psychedelic rock. The Kirkwood brothers (bassist Cris, singer-guitarist-songwriter Curt) had gone beyond a hardcore-punk style to adopt this new sound, and while…

Ryan Bingham

Apr 30, 2009 By Jeff McCord

At first, it’s difficult to take the 28-year-old Bingham’s tales of traveling a long, hard road seriously. Yet the bull-rider-turned-country-rocker endured a tough West Texas upbringing and then spent many lean years on the rodeo circuit. His rough-hewn 2007 album, Mescalito, brought him much public acclaim, and he’s just released…

Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away . . .

Apr 30, 2009 By Jeff McCord

He’s not exactly upbeat, but Slaid Cleaves is a natural talent who records all too infrequently. Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away . . . (Music Road) is his first collection of new material since his acclaimed 2004 release, Wishbones, which itself took four years to come…

Little White Lies

Apr 30, 2009 By Jeff McCord

In the realm of harmony-rich pop, no one has ever come close to riding the Beatles’ wave of success. For a moment, though, Fastball looked as if it might. In a matter of months, the band moved from Austin dives to the Tonight Show; its breakout 1998 hit “The…

Down the Line: Rarities and Memorial Collection

Mar 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Like many “best of” compilations, the Buddy Holly double-disc Down the Line: Rarities and the Holly triple-disc Memorial Collection (both Geffen/Decca) possess an air of unreality. Listen to a select body of an artist’s mature work—no album filler, no learning curve detectable in the songs—and you get…

Instead the Forest Rose to Sing

Mar 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

While many folksingers drape their work in mysticism, Austin’s Danny Schmidt is first and foremost a storyteller. He employs allegory, but more often than not his tales are just what they appear to be. The ten new songs on Instead the Forest Rose to Sing (Red House) nestle…

Hills and Valleys

Mar 31, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Supergroups are best viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Nearly all, from Blind Faith to Little Village to the New York Yankees, are cynically conceived: They’re groups in name only; they reek of artifice. Yet the Flatlanders get a pass on such judgment. They were an actual band…

Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton

Mar 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

In 1990 Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton proposed a casual session with Sexton, Bramhall, and Double Trouble’s other half, bassist Tommy Shannon. The venue was the Austin Rehearsal Complex, and the collaboration produced instant results: chemistry, friction, and record-company interest. The Arc Angels were born. Widespread and enthusiastic acclaim soon…

Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!

Mar 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Put on “Gunpowder,” the lead track from Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears’ Tell ’Em What Your Name Is! (Lost Highway), and the easy, horn-driven groove of the seventies classic “Soul Finger” instantly comes to mind. Yet seconds later it sounds like you’re listening to Nuggets. So it…

Willie and the Wheel

Mar 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The latest installment in Willie Nelson’s once-a-month release schedule finds him fronting Ray Benson’s band, Asleep at the Wheel. The genesis of Willie and the Wheel (Bismeaux) dates back 36 years, when famed Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler signed Nelson and helped launch his outlaw-country career. Wexler…

Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton 

Mar 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

In 1990 Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton proposed a casual session with Sexton, Bramhall, and Double Trouble’s other half, bassist Tommy Shannon. The venue was the Austin Rehearsal Complex, and the collaboration produced instant results: chemistry, friction, and record-company interest. The Arc Angels were born. Widespread and enthusiastic acclaim soon…

Gurf Morlix

Feb 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The acclaimed Austin guitarist and producer (Blaze Foley, Lucinda Williams, Slaid Cleaves, Ray Wylie Hubbard) is also fast becoming known—on the basis of his 2007 album, Diamonds to Dust (Blue Corn), and this month’s LAST EXIT TO HAPPYLAND (Rootball)—as a songwriter. You spent eleven years playing with and producing for…

Changing Horses

Feb 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Hearing Ben Kweller cite Garth Brooks as a childhood influence may not be welcome news to his fans, who have already followed the young songwriter through one abrupt stylistic shift. His Greenville grunge band, Radish, was as well-known for being at the center of a Nirvana-fueled major-label bidding war…

The Tiffany Transcriptions

Feb 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys took the fiddle-country-cawing influences of Wills’s Kosse youth and infused them with the popular music of the time—swing—for a combination that would inspire generations. Despite the band’s numerous albums over the years, it’s The Tiffany Transcriptions (Collectors’ Choice), a loose set of…

The Truth According to Ruthie Foster

Feb 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

It took a few tries, but Ruthie Foster’s 2007 The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster was a stone- soul triumph for the Austin singer, with an unprecedented laser focus on her strengths. To a large degree, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn) follows suit. Working at Memphis’s famed…