Jeff McCord

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Articles by Jeff McCord

Seasoned Wood

Jan 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

In jazz, those lacking a distinctive style can often go unnoticed. Dallas-born Cedar Walton is neither a barrelhouse-blues roller nor an edgy avant-gardist, but the pianist-composer, who turns 75 this month, possesses workmanlike skills and an innate musicality that has never dimmed. If that sounds, well, boring, his evolution…

Erika Wennerstrom

Jan 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The 31-year-old leader of the Ohio-based band the Heartless Bastards—which earned critical praise for the albums Stairs and Elevators and All This Time and toured with Wilco and Lucinda Williams—disbanded her three-member group and relocated to Austin in 2007. The vocalist and guitarist has now assembled a new lineup (bassist…

Erika Wennerstrom

Jan 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

The 31-year-old leader of the Ohio-based band the Heartless Bastards—which earned critical praise for the albums Stairs and Elevators< and All This Time and toured with Wilco and Lucinda Williams—disbanded her three-member group and relocated to Austin in 2007. The vocalist and guitarist has now assembled a new lineup (bassist…

Matter and Light

Jan 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Everywhere in indie rock, from the hushed voice of Dripping Springs’ Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) to the arranged pop of Denton’s Robert Gomez, or even beyond our borders to Midwest wunderkind Sufjan Stevens, it has become cool to turn it down. There have always been practitioners of what was…

Haymaker!

Jan 1, 2009 By Jeff McCord

Their country roots music is as welcoming as a pair of old slippers, but on closer inspection, you find the slippers are full of boiled squash. If that imagery is strange, it’s at least in keeping with the Gourds, who have spent the past fifteen years mining such weird…

Artist Interview
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis

Dec 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Austin’s favorite musical couple have separate careers: He’s just released The New World, and after recording Translated From Love, in 2007, she’s now taking a hiatus to focus on their four children. Yet they join forces every year to play a series of holiday shows in cities across…

Music Review
Hommage á Nesuhi

Dec 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

In 1955 Nesuhi Ertegun joined his brother, Ahmet, and producer Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records to form one of the greatest triumvirates the music business has ever seen. Ahmet and Wexler were already known for their R&B successes; Nesuhi was brought on to give jazz a real foothold at…

Music Review
The Soul of Rock and Roll

Dec 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The Soul of Rock and Roll (Monument/Orbison/Legacy) marks the first comprehensive collection of Roy Orbison’s career, and hearing the Vernon native’s work in sequence over four CDs is eye-opening. His operatic High Plains voice shines through the early bare-bones, amphetamine-paced sessions with Norman Petty and Sam Phillips.

Warren Hood

Oct 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

With a natural, beguiling style, the 25-year-old songwriter and violinist has been a fixture on the Austin roots scene for nearly a decade, carrying on the legacy of his late father, Champ, of Uncle Walt’s Band. He has just released his eponymous solo debut. Why a solo album now?…

Peoria

Oct 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Austin’s Cotton Mather ended its nine-year run in 2003. The group’s Beatles-esque power pop had garnered praise from NME and bands like Oasis in the UK and inspired a following in Asia, but in this country, not so much. Still, everyone wondered what leader Robert Harrison would do next. The…

Exposion

Oct 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Lots of indie-rock bands wear their influences on their sleeve. Austin’s White Denim betrays elements of the visceral rock of the Stooges, the minimalism of the Velvet Underground, and even the weird fusion of groups like the Minutemen or the Meat Puppets. But what White Denim possesses, unlike so…

Little Honey

Oct 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Lucinda Williams’s West, in 2007, was a stunning effort, her strongest in nearly a decade. Yet it was an emotional downslide, and its cathartic declarations of unrequited love no doubt took their toll in the ensuing months onstage. At some point, she must have longed for a way to…

The Stand Ins

Sep 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Cut Will Sheff and he bleeds words: big, lofty, expository words—and more than enough of them in the case of the 2007 recording sessions with his Austin band Okkervil River, which resulted in an extra album of songs. The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar) is billed as a sequel to…

Earfood

Sep 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Waco-born trumpeter Roy Hargrove began recording as a bandleader back in 1990, though as a sideman his forceful yet crystalline tones had caught jazz fans’ ears even earlier. When he signed with Verve Records, in 1993, he became a bit of a dabbler: He did an all-star tenor saxophone…

Oh Skies of Grey

Sep 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Dana Falconberry came to Austin from Michigan by way of Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas, but you’d be hard-pressed to detect any geographic traces in her music. Like other new singers with an old-world charm (Jolie Holland, Jenny Owen Youngs), Falconberry makes music that seems to spring from an…

Hayes Carll

Sep 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The 32-year-old singer-songwriter grew up in the Woodlands. His third album, Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway), was released to rave reviews in April, and he has been working nonstop ever since. He just filmed a video of his hit “She Left Me for Jesus.” You started out playing covers…

Roky Erickson

Aug 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

His 13th Floor Elevators spearheaded the sixties psychedelic rock movement, but drugs and mental illness would later keep him out of the limelight. An appearance at the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival marked his first full-length concert in decades, and since then he has played steadily. He’s set to…

Fortunately

Aug 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

One of the last things you might expect to burst the cynical bubble of indie rock would be Austin’s Brothers and Sisters. Yet this hippieish seven-piece, led by siblings Lily and Will Courtney, has found itself wowing black-clad teens and sharing the stage with bands like . . .

You Are All My People

Aug 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

After two decades as a fan of the Silos, acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem finally approached the group’s front man, Walter Salas-Humara, at a show. They made small talk about co-writing, but it was only after Salas-Humara read (and was blown away by) Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude that the partnership…

Sex & Gasoline

Aug 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Few would dispute that after a long career of starts and stops, Rodney Crowell is again firing on all cylinders. After early success with a string of remarkable hits, the Houston songwriter settled in for a champion slump. Yet beginning with 2001’s The Houston Kid, he released a trio…

She Ain’t Me

Jul 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Austin violinist-turned-fiddler-turned-singer Carrie Rodriguez capped her multiyear tutelage with songwriter Chip Taylor in her 2006 debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. While the album featured several Taylor compositions, it was a folksy and soulful stunner that was clearly a step up for the theretofore reserved Rodriguez. Now She…

Carl Finch

Jul 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Since 1979 the guitarist, key-boardist, and accordionist (center) has led Denton’s famed “nuclear polka” outfit Brave Combo, whose latest project has been to score the sound track for As the Wrench Turns, a PBS animated series based on the NPR program Car Talk. The show debuted July 9.

Rook

Jul 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Menacing, grandiose, romantic, apocalyptic: The music of Shearwater is no summertime fling. The four-piece band is the brainchild of ornithologist and Austin transplant Jonathan Meiburg, who delivers his strange, arresting imagery in a voice—part crooning, part ghostly falsetto—that evokes an anguished Bryan Ferry. Shearwater’s music is typified by a…

Kat Edmonson

Jun 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The 24-year-old Austin singer created a grassroots phenomenon with her song and video “Be the Change” (written and produced with collaborator Kevin Lovejoy), which has garnered radio and television play, become a top local seller, and received more than 60,000 hits on YouTube. “Be The Change” YouTube video.

Pinetop Perkins and Friends

Jun 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Over the years, the ancestral line of prewar American bluesmen has just about vanished. Mississippi-born pianist Pinetop Perkins, who relocated to Austin in 2004, is one of the few survivors. A sideman for the majority of his career—most famously with Muddy Waters—Perkins turns 95 this month. Though much has…

La Conquistadora

Jun 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Cash-in reunions from chart-topping warhorses aren’t tough to predict: Few could feign surprise at, say, the Police returning to arenas for ticket prices equivalent to the average family vacation. But foreseeing a new collaboration by the members of San Antonio’s Krayolas—and their first full-length studio album in 21 years—was…

Jeff McCord with Frankie Miller

May 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The Victoria-born country star, now 77, had a stellar career in the fifties and sixties that is all but forgotten—but his emergence from retirement, along with a deluxe box set, Blackland Farmer: The Complete Starday Recordings, and More (Bear Family) may just change that. Jeff McCord: You were born…

Frankie Miller

May 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The Victoria-born country star, now 77, had a stellar career in the fifties and sixties that is all but forgotten. His emergence from retirement, along with the newly released deluxe box set Blackland Farmer: The Complete Starday Recordings, and More (Bear Family), may just change that. You landed your…

Sonidos Gold

May 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

As big years go, Grupo Fantasma has had one of the biggest: Austin’s eleven-piece combo played festivals across the country, appeared on national TV, and even struck up an alliance with Prince. Now comes a fourth CD, Sonidos Gold (Aire Sol/High Wire). Though the album scores appearances from…

Beautiful World

May 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Her lilting voice is a half whisper, her words evocative. At the top of her game, Austinite Eliza Gilkyson adds to her remarkable string of successes with Beautiful World (Red House). Musically, Gilkyson is expanding her palate beyond the usual singer-songwriter fare, leading musicians Mike Hardwick, Cindy Cashdollar,…

Real Animal

May 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Can the Alejandro Escovedo who couched his earlier songs in a fog of romantic imagery be the same one spelling things out on the autobiographical Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan)? The San Antonio–born singer, an inveterate rocker who writes tender ballads like “Slow Down,” has always been a study…

Music Review
Directions to See a Ghost

Apr 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

In case you haven’t been paying much attention, psychedelic rock is once again coming on like an acid flashback. Most new bands mining this bygone era do so with a painful degree of transparency and come off sounding silly. Not Austin’s Black Angels. This coed outfit’s 2006 debut album,…

Music Review
Troubadour

Apr 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

He’s dominated the field for so long that it’s easy to forget there was a time in country music before George Strait. He has more number one singles than George Jones, Hank Williams, or Ray Price—in fact, he has more than any artist in any genre. So on album…

Music Review
One Hell of a Ride

Apr 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Not bad for 75 years. It would take most artists two lifetimes to catch up to the output of wildly prolific Willie Nelson, and even then it’s inconceivable that anyone would leave a greater legacy. At first glance, the aptly titled box set One Hell of a Ride…

Ed Jurdi & Gordy Quist

Apr 30, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Together with Colin Brooks, they make up the triumvirate of songwriters who front Austin’s Band of Heathens. What began as a loose collaboration of jam buddies has led to two live releases, Best New Band honors at the 2007 Austin Music Awards, and finally, a self-titled debut studio album.

Artist Interview
Gavin Tabone

Mar 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

He writes their songs, records their music, and gets the fifty-plus kids from Austin’s Palm School Choir onto high-profile stages such as NBC’s Today show and the South by Southwest music festival. Needless to say, this is not your typical school choir. The group has just released its sixth album,…

Dog of Love

Mar 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Like Joe Ely, Jo Carol Pierce grew up in the dusty vacuum of Lubbock, and though she was part of the town’s famed clique of talent, only in her late forties did she begin to take her writing seriously. She penned and performed Bad Girls Upset by the Truth,…

Just Us Kids

Mar 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The title track may lament the fact that even arrested adolescents grow old, but, if anything, James McMurtry sounds more energized than ever. On Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod), he and his longtime rhythm section—Daren Hess, Ronnie Johnson—have solidified their sound into a low, tribal rock growl, with…

Live Cactus!

Mar 31, 2008 By Jeff McCord

There’s a short roster of rock and roll performers (Jagger, Springsteen) who can rivet your attention every time they step onstage. If you grew up in Texas, here’s a name on that list: Joe Ely. Those who have seen Ely give his all, particularly with his early Jesse Taylor/Ponty…

Robotique Majestique

Mar 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Thomas Turner stands at a keyboard flanked by a stack of knobs and buttons resembling a cheesy set from TV’s Lost in Space. Donning a high-collared sequined cape, he produces a numbing series of New Wave drum machine beats and electronics. Aaron Behrens, alongside in tight jeans and long pigtails,…

What Doesn’t Kill Us

Mar 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Guitar muscle, ferocious drumming, commanding vocals, and hook-laden tunes: no sophomore slump here. Austin’s What Made Milwaukee Famous took its time with the follow-up to its 2004 debut, and it was a wise move. The hardworking foursome has sculpted its sound on the road. What Doesn’t Kill Us…

Moment of Forever

Mar 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Though he’d likely prefer a live afternoon session with his Family Band, Willie Nelson, to his credit, occasionally loosens his laissez-faire hegemony enough to let a producer take charge in the studio. The results, a far cry from his more casual recordings, are sometimes real successes (1993’s Across the…

Jesse Dayton

Jan 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The talented Beaumont-born singer has just released Holdin’ Our Own and Other Country Gold Duets (Stag), a joint album with Austin’s Brennen Leigh. Though it recalls a Nashville of yesteryear, it comprises mostly new material. He also recently scored big as the creative force behind a fictional country band,…

Live From Austin TX

Jan 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

Now on DVD: Ghostland Observatory Maybe you love sequencers and robotic electronic dance beats. Maybe you don’t. Yet how you feel about this Austin electro-rock duo, a budding national phenomenon whose ferocious energy explodes on Live From Austin TX (New West)—originally a July 2007 Austin City Limits taping—really comes…

Little Grey Sheep

Jan 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

There’s a quality—an easygoing, lyrical storytelling manner that eschews stridency or pretension—that all folksingers strive for and few attain. But Danny Schmidt has it in abundance: With seductive simplicity, his music demands your attention. Schmidt is a native Austinite who honed his craft amid the music scene in Charlottesville,…