Jeff McCord

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Articles by Jeff McCord

Barbara Orbison

Nov 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Barbara and Roy Orbison were married nineteen years before his death, in 1988. Just released are three of the legendary rocker’s classics, Crying, In Dreams, and Sings Lonely and Blue (Monument/Legacy), along with the new DVD documentary, In Dreams, which Barbara helmed as executive producer. The DVD is fascinating. It…

Trying to Never Catch Up

Nov 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Your band can’t get going? Here’s some advice: Take a look at your singer. If his or her vocals lack character, there’s little chance of moving beyond the odd house party. There are many reasons the self-released debut from Austin’s WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS, Trying to Never Catch Up (Barsuk),…

The Californian

Nov 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Being Sandra Bullock’s onetime boy toy as well as the leader of a scatological frat band known as the Scabs is not the résumé from which instant respectability springs. He’s no critic’s darling, yet Austin rocker BOB SCHNEIDER seems utterly unconcerned with such things (he once had the cheek to…

War and Peace

Nov 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

“Civilizations wearin’ thin/Like an old sad shirt.” BUTCH HANCOCK pulls no punches on his latest diatribe, WAR AND PEACE (Two Roads). Hancock emerges from his Terlingua exile with his first solo album in six years, and he’s obviously been brooding out in the desert. Those reticent to have another singer…

Sound Grammar

Sep 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Living in an age where the “genius” label is as common as pocket change leaves a breathtakingly original artist like Fort Worth’s ORNETTE COLEMAN out in the critical cold. Coleman calls his music—marked by brittle melody, propulsive rhythms, and a lack of sonic density—“harmolodics,” a term that doesn’t convey much…

Dewey Redman(1931-2006)

Sep 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

I MET DEWEY REDMAN in Fort Worth on a gray day in 2000. He was cleaning out the home of his recently deceased mother, and he welcomed our interview as an excuse for a much-needed break. The iconic saxophonist, who passed away on September 2 at age 75, talked engagingly…

Meadow

Sep 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

His air is somber, his words obtuse, and his arrangements formless, yet there’s something irresistible about the nomadic malcontent RICHARD BUCKNER. Buckner sings as though he’s trying to explain something to you without being overheard; his focus is laserlike. He’s no slave to structure either: His songs, like him, make…

Texas Thunder Soul

Sep 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

High school band albums, which proliferate in every community that has a music program, are usually so tedious that even the parents who buy them can’t bear to listen. On awful recordings packed with bad tunings and missed cues, the student musicians muddle through some stock big-band arrangement about as…

Grupo Fantasma

Aug 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

This eleven-piece Austin band has been captured onstage at Antone’s nightclub for its third album, Grupo Fantasma Comes Alive (Aire Sol). We caught up with Adrian Quesada, one of Grupo’s two guitarists, in the middle of a summer Canadian tour. Why a live album now? People have been asking…

Workbench Songs

Aug 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

One of the revelations of the recent Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here to Love Me was seeing GUY CLARK in full bloom, undiminished by age. Everything about him—the irascible wit, drunken smile, and back-slapping demeanor—spelled trouble with a capital T. Yet since the filming, he’s found his own trouble,…

These Four Walls

Aug 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

With her penchant for storytelling, SHAWN COLVIN delivers songs of subtle simplicity, directness, and universal appeal. Despite the fact that she composes virtually none of her music (her longtime collaborator John Leventhal does that), her backing tracks always seem permanently fused to her words. ON THESE FOUR WALLS…

Artist in Residence

Aug 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

“Heady stuff.” If only by dropping references to painters Basquiat and Rauschenberg into his work, Houston-born jazz pianist JASON MORAN undoubtedly hears that a lot. His latest, ARTIST IN RESIDENCE (Blue Note), based on his compositions for three commissions in the past year—for Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center and New York’s…

George Jones

Jul 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

You’re about to be 75. Anything you’d do over? I never dreamed I would have the life that I’ve had. I’m in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I have loyal fans. It tears me up when people tell me they went to see me and I didn’t show. I…

Sound Team

Jul 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

SOUND TEAM initially gained notoriety with their DIY work ethic: They gigged constantly, hawked cassettes, built their own studio. Like many young bands, their early music lunged from one direction to another, finally coalescing in their recently released major-label debut, MOVIE MONSTER (Capitol). The irony of a fiercely independent Austin…

Legends of Country Music: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

Jul 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Texas without BOB WILLS? If you can even conceive of such a thing, you need to spend some serious time with the four-CD LEGENDS OF COUNTRY MUSIC: BOB WILLS AND HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS (Columbia Legacy). Crowing his trademark “a-haaaa!” over this weird, ofttimes hokey music, Wills—bandleader, master fiddler, drunk, innovator,…

Graveyard Shift

Jun 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Is Scott H. Biram for real? His death-rattle blues crash around like a cat trapped in a squirrel cage; this self-proclaimed “dirty old one-man band” has made enough ruckus to send more than one listener fleeing toward the exit. Rough and ornery, the Austin singer, with his drooping mustache and…

Seven Angels On A Bicycle

Jun 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Here’s a surprise. Austin’s CARRIE RODRIGUEZ, who never set out to be a singer, has crafted a charming, almost meditative solo debut. Rodriguez initially studied classical violin at Oberlin and Berklee and on occasion sat in with her songwriter dad (David Rodriguez). Then New Yorker Chip Taylor (best known for…

The Black Angels

May 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

The best rock and roll stirs up a maelstrom, a surging wall of sound you can almost reach out and touch. It’s not about craft, chords, equipment, or even how many tickets or albums you sell. It’s underlying motion, propulsion; it’s finding the sweet spot and giving yourself over. Don’t…

T Bone Burnett

May 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

It’s years back, in a rowdy Jersey roadhouse, where a lanky performer peeks over his shades to see if anyone is listening. Most aren’t. Abruptly, he strides out the door. The curious follow him to the parking lot, where, perched on a station wagon, he finishes the show. T BONE…

An Interview with Ian McLagan

May 31, 2006 By Jeff McCord

An Interview with Ian McLagan Ian McLagan and Ronnie Lane, the keyboardist and the bassist of the famed UK groups the Small Faces and the Faces, eventually made Austin their home—Lane in the mid-eighties, McLagan about a decade later. Lane passed away in 1997, and McLagan pays tribute to his…

Springtime Can Kill You

Apr 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Those who fancy JOLIE HOLLAND a bit of an odd ducklet’s just say she doesn’t exactly ooze onstage charisma—won’t change their minds with her third album, SPRINGTIME CAN KILL YOU (Anti). The Houston-born vocalist warbles in a slurry vibrato that can tend to grate. Or enchant. There’s something about the…

“Nothing Serious” and “Distractions”

Apr 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

One album just wasn’t enough. NOTHING SERIOUS (Verve), the first of two simultaneous releases from trumpeter Roy Hargrove, is his finest straight-up jazz outing in years. Shedding the strained concepts of his recent recordings (strings, Cuban music), Hargrove and his no-star quintet lay down occasionally ferocious hard bop. He contributes…

The Boxing Mirror

Apr 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

It all came to a halt one Arizona night in 2002. ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO had led an impressive, if messy, rock and roll life, with a résumé that included Rank and File, the True Believers, and a respected solo career. Yet years of ignoring a hepatitis C diagnosis finally caught up…

An interview with Jon Dee Graham

Apr 30, 2006 By Jeff McCord

An interview with Jon Dee Graham After being in Austin’s spotlight last year, when his son was diagnosed with a rare degenerative hip disease (as with Escovedo, the city’s music community rolled out in support), Graham has just released his fifth album, FULL (Freedom). Where do things stand with your…

Margaret Brown

Apr 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Austin director Margaret Brown, 34, has just seen her acclaimed film about legendary songwriter Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me, released on DVD. Was there a specific moment that sold you on making this film? The music struck me first. When I first heard the song…

Hurts to Purr

Apr 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

» BREAKUP WATCH: Hurts to Purr After three years and the recent release of its eponymously titled full-length debut (self-released; available through cdbaby.com), this Austin band is calling it quits. It’s a shame, as these relative newcomers have made an album so confident and assuredly cool that it…

Red Garland Trio at the Prelude

Apr 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

For reluctant pianist RED GARLAND (he had really wanted to be a boxer), there was only one question: Was there life after Miles Davis? Garland, who was also leading his own sessions, had just finished four years in the mercurial trumpeter’s employ when he recorded his live At the Prelude.

You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker

Apr 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

I know what you’re thinking. You need a new WILLIE NELSON CD like Mack Brown needs a $400,000 raise. Well …… maybe. Don’t imagine another Red Headed Stranger, but YOU DON’T KNOW ME: THE SONGS OF CINDY WALKER (Lost Highway) does have a sound concept in mind. Though it seems…

The Truth Will Set You Free

Mar 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Besides working as a horse trainer, James Hand, from the tiny town of Tokio near Waco, has been haunting honky-tonks with his hard-won tales for more than thirty years. Suddenly, at 53, his on-and-off music career is decidedly on. The Truth Will Set You Free (Rounder), his first national release,…

Sleep Inside This Wheel

Mar 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Since the punk era, rock music has been mostly attitude. But attitudes have shifted, the ambient electronics of DJ culture have seeped in, and the music now seems just as much about mood. Austin newcomers The Glass Family are a prime example. Sleep Inside This Wheel (i eat records, available…

The Believer

Mar 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Rhett Miller’s innate talent and charisma have shone through the blazing cowpunk of the Old 97’s for more than a decade. His life seems a charmed one: He has kept his boyish good looks into his thirties; he’s married to a model. Clearly, it ain’t enough. The Dallas singer’s latest…

Heavy Ornamentals

Feb 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Like other bands that have managed to hang around almost intact for more than a decade, The Gourds have seen a certain predictability set in. The same consistency we see in their lineup is even more apparent in their work. Often compared to the unclassifiable roots music of Doug Sahm…

Different Folks

Feb 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Most, though not all, remix albums fall flat. But Different Strokes by Different Folks (Epic/Legacy) avoids this fate for two reasons: a reverence for the source material (the album is credited simply to Sly and the Family Stone) and the resilience of the songs themselves. Dallas-born Sly (Sylvester Stewart) is…

It’s a Game

Feb 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

There’s a seeping, winterlike melancholy to the slender songs of It’s a Game (Drag City), the first album in four years from San Antonio native Edith Frost. Her music betrays a quiet sadness devoid of self-pity but full of heartache; she has hinted that upheaval in her personal life led…

Big Sweet Life: The Songs of Jon Dee Graham

Jan 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Unfortunately, bad luck is often followed by more of the same. Take songwriter–guitar slinger Jon Dee Graham, whose son Willie was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating disease at the same time the family’s insurance company declared bankruptcy. Fortunately, Graham lives in Austin and has many talented friends, who contributed…

TexBook Tenor

Jan 1, 2006 By Jeff McCord

Only being born too late kept Booker Ervin from becoming one of the original Texas Tenors. No one embodied the braggadocio of the Texas jazz sound like the Denison native; he cut into each piece with his sawtoothed tone, improvising with ferocity. Unexplained is how Ervin, who soared during his…

Lost Horizon

Dec 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

Musicians have been exploring the majesty of the electric-guitar sound almost since the instrument’s invention, but it’s only recently that a spate of instrumental rock bands has sprung forth in dedication to it. Friends of Dean Martinez (the “ez” was added at the behest of the Dean Martin estate) was…

Live in Austin, TX DVD/CD

Dec 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

The long-running PBS show Austin City Limits has begun to loosen its grip on decades of peerless archives with a series of original broadcasts on DVD and companion CDs. Notable in the latest batch is Live From Austin TX (New West), a 1990 session with the short-lived supergrouping of Freddy…

The Funk Anthology

Dec 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

It’s hard to pinpoint why time has not built the reputation of Houston’s Johnny “Guitar” Watson. It’s not that Watson wasn’t influential—artists from Jimi Hendrix to Etta James gave him his due—and it wasn’t for a lack of hits. His seventies funk period, now collected in The Funk Anthology (Shout…

Snow

Nov 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

The Meat Puppets flowered in the Arizona desert with a style so unique that it seemed as if no one in the band had ever heard music of any kind. In fact, behind their weird psycho-country-rock was a group with enormous appeal that quickly became an eighties cult favorite. Led…

Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings

Nov 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

The call came in 1954: Dallas saxophonist DAVID “FATHEAD” NEWMAN was being asked to join a band. On the phone, a young RAY CHARLES, who had befriended Newman on the road years earlier. Newman took the gig. It was work. It also became a career. PURE GENIUS: THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC…

Dos Amigos

Nov 1, 2005 By Jeff McCord

If only by virtue of being crossover artists, FREDDY FENDER and FLACO JIMENEZ have each secured a rarified place in Hispanic music. Fender’s earthy Rio Grande Valley hits, like “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” got him there, while Jimenez’s San Antonio–style conjunto attracted Anglo ears as varied as Glen Campbell’s…

Canvas

Sep 30, 2005 By Jeff McCord

If there were a downside to ROBERT GLASPER’s inking a deal with Blue Note Records, it would be that he is the second Houston jazz pianist to be signed to the label, forced to follow the widely acclaimed Jason Moran. Glasper is a few years younger than Moran, and both…

The Real Deal

Sep 30, 2005 By Jeff McCord

With BILLY JOE SHAVER, it’s a package deal. Along with the amiable stylings and songwriting genius that have attracted everyone from Tom T. Hall to Elvis Presley, you get the foibles: odd musical choices, a sincere but heavy-handed Christian didacticism, and substandard songs that play like a parody of, well,…

Cripple Crow

Sep 30, 2005 By Jeff McCord

By now it’s a familiar story: A street musician makes a series of low-fi cassette recordings, which somehow find their way to a label owner and on to a sea of adulation. Cliché or no, this happened to Houston-born DEVENDRA BANHART, who, three years down the road from his debut,…

Cruel and Gentle Things

Aug 31, 2005 By Jeff McCord

To those accustomed to catching bluesman “Little Charlie” alongside the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, it was a surprise in 1985 when the seventeen-year-old CHARLIE SEXTON turned up on MTV (mascara, cheekbones, and all) belting out his synth-pop hit “Beat’s So Lonely.” Sexton has come far since those moments of…

Pajo

Aug 31, 2005 By Jeff McCord

Were there such a thing as alt-rock royalty, DAVID PAJO would be swimming in blue blood. Not only was he a member of the influential post-rock deconstructionists Slint, but he also played with Chicago’s jazz-rock champs Tortoise, then lent a hand in Will Oldham’s fabled Palace projects and released a…

Paradise Hotel

Aug 31, 2005 By Jeff McCord

Like all the best folksingers, ELIZA GILKYSON draws from anger at the way things are. It wasn’t always so; the daughter of songwriter Terry Gilkyson did dabble in the bliss of new-age music. But times change, and Eliza found her way to her folk roots and, eventually, to Austin. PARADISE…

Funky Funky Houston

Jul 31, 2005 By Jeff McCord

If you were of the first to latch on to Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up” back in 1968, you probably bought the 45 on the tiny Ovide label. When the single took off, Atlantic Records stepped in, and thanks in no small part to the sale of Archie…

Cost of Living

Jul 31, 2005 By Jeff McCord

“Dependable” is a good word for DELBERT MCCLINTON’s music. After thirty years and eighteen albums, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises; few artists have stuck so tenaciously to their guns. Here’s why: Mc-Clinton’s seamless splicing of blues, rock and roll, and country, driven by a fixation with roadhouse R&B,…