Jeff McCord

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Articles by Jeff McCord

The Struggle Continues

Jan 1, 2008 By Jeff McCord

The best music has always been made by those who defy easy categorization, as exemplified by not one but two posthumous releases from Texas jazz giants. Fort Worth’s Dewey Redman was a glass-half-empty kind of guy who saw his career accomplishments as merely wins in a long battle—so the…

Solos, Sessions & Encores

Dec 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

If the conceit of Solos, Sessions & Encores (Epic Legacy)—a collection of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s drop-ins on others’ sessions—is somewhat silly, from a marketing standpoint, no one’s laughing. Does an SRV fanatic really need his 45-second contribution to a Marcia Ball song? Apparently. So we get tracks (some…

Patty Griffin: Live From the Artists Den

Dec 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Austin’s Patty Griffin has always branded her work with a certain melancholic restraint, but Children Running Through, released earlier this year, changed that: She loosened up, let the music flow, and scored a real triumph. On the bitterly cold February night of the album’s release in New York, Griffin…

Live From Austin TX

Dec 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

For a San Antonio–born musician who once pretended to be British, Doug Sahm made music remarkably devoid of pretense. Because of this, the late Texas Tornado’s genre-bending explorations have only grown richer over time. As part of Austin City Limits’ Live From Austin TX CD/DVD series (New West),…

Atlantic Blues (1949-1970)

Dec 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Ahmet Ertegun co-founded Atlantic Records in 1947 and, by virtue of his taste and big ears, turned it into one of the most influential independent labels in history. Don’t expect the down-and-dirty stuff on Atlantic Blues (1949–1970) (Rhino Handmade), a four-CD collection displaying the breadth of Atlantic’s reach; Ertegun’s…

Mescalito

Oct 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Few have heard of, much less heard, Wishbone Saloon, the 2003 debut from West Texan Ryan Bingham. But those who have, including Terry Allen and Joe Ely, have fostered enough praise to help land Bingham on a major label. Mescalito (Lost Highway) arrives with a bushel of expectations,…

In the City of Lost Things

Oct 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Even by the most conservative estimates, there are thousands of piano trio CDs in release. And while each tries to distinguish itself, many fail to do so. Play it quiet, and you might stray into New Age or smooth jazz territory. Play it loose and edgy, and you’re assigned to…

Home

Oct 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

In 1997 newspaper reporter Mike Rosenthal left rural Maine for Austin carrying dreams of rock and roll stardom. Despite two albums, and some notoriety for his running skills (he has regularly placed high in the Austin Marathon), it hasn’t exactly worked out that way: His releases, though stylistic opposites—one…

Carrie Rodriguez

Oct 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

In 2005, after three studio albums with songwriting legend Chip Taylor, the Austin-born singer and fiddler wowed audiences with him for two nights in Germany. Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez Live From the RuhrTriennale (Train Wreck) captures the duo’s much-storied chemistry. So how exactly did the live…

Billy Joe Shaver

Sep 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

For his first all-gospel release, Everybody’s Brother, the 68-year-old outlaw country legend assembled a cast that includes Tanya Tucker, Kris Kristofferson, and John Carter Cash. Why a gospel album now? It was time. It’s strong-medicine gospel, like “If you don’t love Jesus, go…

Combinations

Sep 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

By now, the novelty of the small-town family band Eisley has worn off; it’s not enough that the five youngsters learned to play because they had little else to do or that they went from their parents’ Tyler coffee-house to Madison Square Garden in 2003. Combinations (Reprise) is…

Washington Square Serenade

Sep 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Don’t expect to pick right up on the acrid leftist dogma of 2004’s The Revolution Starts . . . Now. The new Steve Earle album, Washington Square Serenade (New West), finds the singer’s head in a completely different place. Relocated to NYC and happily wed to singer Allison…

Eliza Gilkyson

Aug 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The folksinger, a third-generation musician from California who put down roots in Texas long ago, has just released Your Town Tonight (RedHouse), a live album recorded over two nights at Austin’s Cactus Cafe. Why release a live album now? Well, I’d never done it. At shows, there isn’t…

Noble Creatures

Aug 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Well into their second decade with only the slightest of personnel changes, the Gourds are already beyond the life span of the average band. Their earthy eclecticism has produced an extensive list of classics, and if their albums haven’t always been long on consistency, (Yep Roc) has…

It’s Not Big It’s Large

Aug 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

These days, listening to a new album is like hovering above a city in a helicopter: The experience might be spectacular, but eventually you want to feel as if you’re headed somewhere. It’s easy to forget how fresh Lovett’s gospelized country-swing sounded when he first burst upon the…

The Stage Names

Aug 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Will Sheff, the force behind Austin’s Okkervil River, is not one to take baby steps. He conceives the band’s music in broad, ambitious strokes, and if what he hears in his head is beyond his vocal range, no matter. He goes for it. At first his yelping had a…

James Cotton

Jul 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The blues harmonica giant, who is now 72, reunited with his former boss Muddy Waters in 1977 for the Grammy-winning Hard Again, which was spearheaded and produced by Beaumont’s Johnny Winter. After the success of the album, the three went on the road, but until the tapes that make up…

Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965–1970

Jul 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the fabled Summer of Love, and the four-CD Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965—1970 (Rhino) commemorates the occasion with a thrilling showcase of the Bay Area sounds that defined a generation. These sounds weren’t just Californian, however. “Everybody…

Twilight on Sometimes Island

Jul 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The members of Austin’s Li’l Cap’n Travis are an unlikely bunch: With multiple writers and singers in place of a front man and a bevy of backing musicians, this is a real band—and they’ve been that way from the beginning. They aren’t conventional (no hitting the road in a…

New Moon

Jul 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Before “Miss Misery” took the Duncanville-raised singer Elliott Smith from indie cult to mainstream pop status, Smith fronted a band called Heatmiser, one of a hundred acts looking to be the next Nirvana. With his fragile voice and persona, Smith made an even more unlikely grunge rocker than Kurt…

Ramesh Srivastava

Jun 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

From the moment Voxtrot first put its driving Europop on the Internet, the Austin band—and its frontman—became a sensation. After a series of EPs, the group has finally, five years after forming, released its first full-length album, Voxtrot (PlayLouder). The band started as a hobby, something for you to do…

Translated From Love

Jun 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

For Austin chanteuse Kelly Willis, it’s been five years and three children since she last released a solo album. Trading Dobros for diapers didn’t dull her instincts; Willis’ sump- tuous voice retains a hunger that elevates even the most pedestrian works. And she has certainly encountered her share of…

There’s No Home

Jun 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Warming up to the new breed of “freak folk” takes practice. Spearheaded by the likes of Will Oldham and Houston-born Devendra Banhart, the movement—made up of young acoustic artists—is inward-focused, solipsistic, and unabashedly psychedelic; you’d have to go back to old Donovan records to find a historical antecedent. (Played “Hurdy…

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Jun 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

If you’re one of the suits in the music biz, you’re telling the members of Austin’s Spoon, reigning kings of the indie rock world, that it’s time to reach for the fabled brass ring of pop stardom. You know, the big radio hit. Crossover. Platinum city. But if the…

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

May 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

So she’s only 23. Lindale’s MIRANDA LAMBERT may not be ready to impart any life lessons, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t already a damn good storyteller. Here’s how CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (Sony BMG Nashville), the follow-up to her hit debut, opens: “I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun/Wait by the…

Jonathan Meiburg

May 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The Austin ornithologist and rocker has enchanted audiences with the lush, intense music of his band Shearwater. Thanks to the group’s recent signing with the independent label Matador, its 2006 album, Palo Santo, is getting the reissue treatment (with previously unreleased tracks). How did the band end up…

You Are Beautiful at All Times

May 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Artists like Dallas’s MC 900 Ft. Jesus (all the rage in the early nineties) and current acts like Austin’s D:Fuse have always dotted the state, yet Texas has barely had a foot in the door of the electronic music scene. While superbly envisioned and created, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AT ALL…

Exciting Opportunity

May 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The backstory attached to Austin singer-songwriter BEAVER NELSON used to be his fruitless early-nineties run through the major-label wringer. But now that he’s released albums more or less consistently since 1998, the question is this: Why isn’t the world beating a path to Nelson’s door to record his songs? As…

Robert Gomez

Apr 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

With the worldly pop of his Brand New Towns, the singer-songwriter becomes the fifth Denton act to be signed by the British label Bella Union. The label, headed by Simon Raymonde, has found a treasure trove in the small college town, most recently with the psychedelic folk sounds of the…

Red Dog Blues

Apr 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

He’s blessed with a tenor voice of extraordinary range, which often earns him comparisons to Gene Pitney or Roy Orbison. MICHAEL FRACASSO is a disciplined singer-songwriter who has flirted with pop, rock, folk, country, and blues, dragging them all into his casserole of American music. As a soft-spoken man, he’s…

From the Cradle to the Grave

Apr 30, 2007 By Jeff McCord

For the many disparate artists working to revive the golden era of country, one thing tends to set them apart from their role models: They approach this vintage music with a hip, modern sensibility. Not DALE WATSON. Though he didn’t start recording until 1990, he seems to have a direct…

Robert Harrison

Mar 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The former front man of the long-running, traditional Austin pop combo Cotton Mather has brought together a sprawling and ambitious ensemble with a self-titled new project, Future Clouds and Radar (The Star Apple Kingdom). Why this different direction? After Cotton Mather, I was laid up for some time with a…

Dial T for This

Mar 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

As has proved popular in rock and roll, if you’re going to pretend you don’t really care about your music, the stage is the place to act this out. Bands like the Replacements carried this to extremes; their drunken train wrecks in the eighties convinced a lot of people they…

Life

Mar 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

At 74, DAVID “FATHEAD” NEWMAN may no longer raise the hair on the back of your neck when he tears off a tenor sax solo, but the force of his tone—comfortable, assured, sturdy, Texan—remains undiminished. LIFE (HighNote) is of a piece with the Corsicana-born reedman’s other recent work: It is…

Diamonds to Dust

Mar 31, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Having built a solid career as a sideman’s sideman and an A-list roots-rock producer hasn’t made Austin’s GURF MORLIX any more market- able. Not that that’s an easy task. Morlix is a serious musician with matchless taste, but his name says it all: He’s got a silly side. You wouldn’t…

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Sly Stone

Mar 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Sly Stone Even in the insane creativity of 1967’s Summer of Love, they were peerless: Sly (Sylvester Stewart) and his multiracial, multigendered Family Stone band electrified the world, rolling everything from doo-wop to acid rock into upbeat soul. Yet by 1974, the group was in splinters,…

Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame

Mar 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

What’s improv comedy got to do with country music? Not much, it turns out, which is why when SUNNY SWEENEY sang in a few skits as an aspiring comedian in New York, her fellow actors—walloped by her voice—sent her packing back to Texas. She had learned guitar only a few…

In My Element

Mar 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Houston’s ROBERT GLASPER is a formidable piano talent with a penchant for lush harmony and mainstream jazz uncommon for a player in his twenties. Were that the whole story, you might lump him into the Wynton Marsalis tradition: fastidiously devoted to jazz history and short on innovation. Yet Glasper has…

Booker T. Jones

Mar 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Known for his magic in the Stax Records studio in the sixties, the Tennessee keyboardist—whose career comprises performances with not only his group, the MGs, but also such artists as Neil Young and Willie Nelson—is a special guest at this month’s South by Southwest Music Festival, in Austin. What’s…

Patty Griffin

Feb 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Austin chanteuse Patty Griffin is known for her deeply introspective music, yet her new album, Children Running Through (ATO), is joyous and fun. You seem to change moods from album to album. Are you easily bored? Yeah, I can’t stand the songs anymore [laughs]. You get exhausted on the road…

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster

Feb 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Those lucky enough to have caught RUTHIE FOSTER live, particularly years back when she sat in with the Austin gospel act the Imperial Golden Crown Harmonizers, know something her albums have never fully betrayed: She’s a stone soul singer who’s been masquerading as a folk act. No longer. THE PHENOMENAL…

West

Feb 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

LUCINDA WILLIAMS’s music is evocative in a way others can’t touch. It’s not only the fragility and ache in her voice but also her economy of language, with its declarative simplicity that cuts to the heart. A perfect album is a rarity, yet Williams has made two, her 1988 self-titled…

Andrew Shapter & Joel Rasmussen

Jan 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

The Austin filmmakers traveled the country to explore the state of today’s popular music for their documentary Before the Music Dies, which features interviews with Doyle Bramhall, Elvis Costello, Branford Marsalis, and Eric Clapton, among others. How is today’s hand-wringing different from just another generation’s complaining that music is no…

Cold, Cold World

Jan 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Much has been written about BLAZE FOLEY over the yearsmaybe too much. His outsized reputation has overshadowed his recordings, which by comparison seem enigmatic, unfocused, and devoid of ambition. But this could actually describe Foley, who in his short lifetime (he was murdered in 1989 at age 39) never made…

Snowbyrd

Jan 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

Looking to feed your indie-rock jones? San Antonio’s SNOWBYRD may be just what you’re seeking. Hard-driving, chugging guitar rhythms, melodic songs with off-kilter Phish/Meat Puppets/Grateful Dead (pick your generation) harmonies, a flair for weird turns, and, of course, a proud lo-fi aesthetic are all combined on the band’s self-titled debut…

Your Biggest Fan

Jan 1, 2007 By Jeff McCord

There may be a wait for Austin’s next big thing. In what has to be one of the longest teases in rock history, VOXTROT has released its third consecutive EP. As in, just a measly three more songs. The group’s previous two EPs met with the kind of acclaim that…

The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions and Fearless Leader

Dec 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Detractors of Dallas’s RED GARLAND disdained him as a “cocktail pianist” and claimed he made it into Miles Davis’s first classic quintet (from 1955 to 1957) only because of a stylistic similarity to Davis obsession Ahmad Jamal. Yet he proved the perfect accompanist for not just the legendary trumpeter but…

Nashville Rebel

Dec 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Like his compatriot “outlaw” Willie Nelson, WAYLON JENNINGS had already done a lot of solid work in Music City before reaching his breaking point, one set off by an accumulation of road dates, divorces, unpaid bills, and pep pills. So NASHVILLE REBEL (RCA/Legacy), a beautifully annotated four-CD retrospective, is a…

Rockin’ Bones: 1950s Punk & Rockabilly

Dec 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

ROCKIN’ BONES: 1950S PUNK & ROCKABILLY (Rhino), a reverb-drenched four-CD set of blistering guitar abandon, establishes this Eisenhower-era crew of JDs as the original punk rockers. Assembled with the same fanaticism as Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets, 101 (!) tracks roll by, many rescued from undeserved obscurity. You’ve heard Texans Buddy Holly,…

The Complete Atlantic Sessions

Dec 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

The liner notes pin it down to a single moment: a 1972 George McGovern rally in Austin’s Zilker Park, when new-to-town country singer WILLIE NELSON found himself on the bill with a lot of hippie rock bands. Unintimidated, Nelson forged ahead with the show, and a movement was born. This…