Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finally, my SXSW blog

I had to clear my desk for some other writing before I could get to this, but here is the beginning of my episodic account of SXSW 2009:

Every SXSW takes on its own contour, but for me as the years go by
the center has drifted inexorably southward as I've concentrated my
stays more and more in South Austin. The joy of arriving in Austin on
an 82 degree day and being able to wear shorts and a light shirt was
mitigated by the sense of encroaching development that is slowly
choking this beautiful city to death. It sure didn't look like there
was a housing crisis in Austin as both commercial skyscrapers and
condos were getting being built left and right, but for the flora and
nonhuman fauna it's looking tough. Nice to see that the scores of
creekbeds running through town are now not only dried up from
overdevelopment but being used as dump sites for trash and who knows
what other kind of waste.

It was hard not to think about all this because this year's SXSW had
a kind of subtext, at least for some of us, in that it marks the
tenth year of Doug Sahm's passing. Sahm, from just about two hours
down the road in San Antonio, lived in Austin when even though it was
the state capitol it was still a sleepy college town, a place where
you could swim in some of those now dry creeks and music mattered
more than just about anything else. Sahm called it "Groover's
Paradise," wrote an album by the same name with the Creedence
Clearwater Revival rhythm section backing him up, and pretty much set
the template for Austin as a musician's enclave. More than one
person described him during the week as a kind of psychological
centerpiece for Austin life back in the late 20th century.

SXSW had a number of special events geared up to remember Sahm
including a panel discussion on the 40th anniversary of the Mendocino
album by the band Doug led with sidekick Augie Myers on organ, the
Sir Douglas Quintet. Author Bill Bentley, who moderated the panel and
who edits the great website sonicboomers.com, produced a Doug Sahm
tribute album for Vanguard records that was released during SXSW and
Vanguard sponsored a listening party for the release. Then there was
a multi-band tribute to Doug's music at Antone's, and several
performances by Augie Myers and Doug's son Shawn Sahm.

I arrived in Austin on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, with the melody
from Joe Hurley's great song "Amsterdam Mistress" still running
through my head after his epochal Irish music revue at Le Poisson
Rouge in New York the Saturday before. My main objective was to see
Ian McLagan play the St. Patrick's Day party at the Dog and Duck.
Last year McLagan's awesome set, totally in the spirit of his magic
days with the Faces, was one of the highlights of my SXSW, and Ian
has just released a great new album to boot. This free show was as I
say my main objective but first I had to stop by the annual BMI
"Howdy Texas" party and get my first plateful of Texas barbecue at
Stubbs. Within seven days I would not want to see another slice of
brisket or anything resembling Mexican food either until the next
SXSW but that first smoky, tender, greasy bite was a piece of heaven.

There's always good music at that BMI bash as well and Those Darlins
fit the bill this year, a trio of cowgirl Tennessee country punk rockers
backed by a guy drummer. Their singing was just imperfect enough to
be great and they slammed away on a nifty combination of originals
and deep country/hillbilly covers.

Though I walked out of Stubbs thinking I'd be going to the Dog and Duck SXSW was ready with one of its eternal cosmic twists and I was redirected to a rare opportunity to catch the great Jimmie Vaughan at Antone's. Though I regretted passing on Mac I knew I had to see Jimmie and boy was I not disappointed. He played a lengthy set backed by a band which included old favorite George Rains on drums, a three piece horn section including Kaz Kazanoff and Greg Piccolo, but
mostly Jimmie playing dirty, slightly distorted blues guitar and
singing in a natural, relaxed voice. Vaughan played blues
instrumentals, T Bone Walker shuffles, San Antonio treasures and
debuted the song he contributed to the Doug Sahm tribute album, "Why
Why Why." Later in the set Lou Ann Barton joined in and sang several
great numbers, including a sensational, smouldering "In the Middle of
the Night." Well, that was the end of the night for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stars over Texas

Sifting through the jumble of impressions after SXSW I'm left with a couple of overriding images -- Jimmie Vaughan playing better than I've ever heard him, both fronting a Texas R&B combo with a three piece horn section at Antone's and a jazz organ combo upstairs at the Continental Club; an astonishingly terse and riveting set on a scale with the Otis Redding Stax Revue from Andre Williams backed by the amazing Allen Oldies Band; and the sensuous, monumental artistic purity of Theresa Andersson, who has arrived as the next big New Orleans star.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eddie Bo joins his buddies

I'm sitting in an outdoor patio in Austin, Texas during SXSW and an old friend asked me who was left among the great New Orleans musicians. Eddie Bo was the first name off my lips, but I didn't realize he had passed away that very day. What a joy it was to see and hear him perform!

Here's the New Orleans Times Picayune obit by Keith Spera:

Eddie Bo, a potent, eclectic New Orleans pianist, singer, songwriter and producer who inspired a dance craze with his 1962 hit "Check Mr. Popeye" and later directed fans to "Check Your Bucket," died Wednesday, March 18, of a heart attack. He was 79.

A prolific artist, Mr. Bo adroitly distilled an excitable synthesis of rock 'n roll, rhythm & blues, jazz and funk.

"He was one of the last great New Orleans piano professors, kind of a bridge between Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint," said New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis. "Everyone now has to remember to check their bucket on their own, without Eddie to tell us."

Born Edwin Joseph Bocage, Mr. Bo grew up in Algiers and the 9th Ward. He was heavily influenced by the piano style of Professor Longhair; he also gravitated to the jazz phrasing of George Shearing, Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum.

After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he served in the Army. Upon his return to New Orleans, he studied arranging and composing at the Grunewald School of Music, a training ground for scores of professional musicians.

He fronted various bands and wrote and released singles for the Ace, Ric, Apollo and Chess labels. In addition to "Check Mr. Popeye," which was inspired by the cartoon character, his hits included 1969's "Hook and Sling," which reached No. 13 on Billboard's R&B chart.

Other artists fared well with his songs. Little Richard adapted Mr. Bo's "I'm Wise" as "Slippin' and Slidin." Etta James scored a 1959 hit with his "Dearest Darling." He is credited with writing Oliver Morgan's signature "Who Shot the La La."

In 1975, Mr. Bo semi-retired from music and left New Orleans after the failure of both his marriage and a North Rampart Street club, El Grande, in which he had invested heavily. He said he "couldn't make ends meet spiritually" as a carpenter.

Neither his retirement nor exile were permanent. By 1989 he was back in New Orleans following seven years in Miami, where he studied at the Yahweh Institute. The institute, he said, "teaches men that we should seek love and distribute love, and seek to be moral." It was around that time that Mr. Bo started wearing a turban-like diadem on his head.

By the early 1990s, he was touring Japan and Europe, appearing on albums with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and George Porter Jr., and holding down an evening solo piano gig at Margaritaville. A German label issued his funk album "Shoot From the Root" in 1996. In 1998, he released "Nine Yards of Funk" on his own label.

He also busied himself with non-musical pursuits. He briefly operated a club, the Check Your Bucket Cafe, and ran a health food store with his sisters.

In 1999, an electrical fire destroyed the Tulane Avenue building that housed the health food store. Mr. Bo also lived in the building. The fire claimed his two keyboards, along with master tapes of unreleased and previously released recordings, musical charts he had painstakingly written over the years, and a collection of his own classic 45s.

Scores of musicians -- contemporaries as well as younger musicians influenced by him -- volunteered to perform at a benefit concert in the wake of the fire. "It gives me a deep, deep feeling of not really knowing how people care, until you have to experience something like this," he said. "Then you really know who your friends are."

His most pressing need, he said at the time, was to replace his keyboards. "I'll try everything I can to get another keyboard," he said, "because I'm lost without something to play."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't Miss Joe Hurley's 10th annual Paddy's Day bash

Joe Hurley is one the greatest singer/songwriters to emerge on the
New York scene in the last 20 years. The Irish American Hurley is
equally adept on traditional material and contemporary rockers,
having gotten his start covering Pogues material as leader of the
Hurley has written the sing-along anthems "Shut Up and Drink,"
"Amsterdam Mistress" and "Irish Breakfast in a Greek diner." The
versatile entertainer also has an excellent backing band called the
One of Hurley's best runs comes each year around St. Patrick's Day
when he mounts his All-Star Irish Rock Revue.
This year Hurley will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this event
with shows at Le Poisson Rouge on March 14th and 17th.
Hurley got what amounts to the papal blessing for New York based
Irish musicians when the Chieftains requested him to sit in with them
March 12 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey.
At Le Poisson Rouge Hurley and friends will also be celebrating the
80th Birthday of the fabled weekly newspaper for Irish culture in
America, the Irish Echo.
Hurley gathers a host of friends and musical celebrities each year
to make up The All-Star Irish Rock Revue, from punk-rock legends to
Broadway stars, best-selling novelists and star comedians.
2008's All-Star Irish Rock Revue included Fountains of Wayne singer
Chris Collingwood, cabaret Star Maude Maggart, Stew and his band from
Broadway's 'Passing Strange,' UK comic Star Stephen Frost, and
Ireland's The High Kings.
Performers at previous Revues have included R&R Hall of Famer
Ronnie Spector, Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello), Martha
Wainwright, producer Tony Visconti, Kristeen Young, members of The New York Dolls, The Dictators, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Television's Richard Lloyd, Laura Cantrell, Ellen Foley, Patti Smith Band's Lenny Kaye & Tony Shanahan, James Mastro (Ian Hunter) and Nada Surf's frontman Matthew Caws. Broadway Stars Annie Golden and Tony-winner Michael Cerveris have also participated along with film star Antonique Smith. Irish guests have included the chart-topping
Republic of Loose, Susan McKeown, and international best-selling
novelist Colum McCann. Hurley has also called on indie cult artists
Steve Wynn, Joey Ramone co-writer/producer Daniel Rey, King Missile's
John S. Hall and SNL band's frontwoman Christine Ohlman, not to
mention downtown legends like James Chance and Willie Nile.
2009's Rock Revue band features Music Director, Jon Spurney (MD of
Kenny Margolis (CRACKER); Megan Weeder (MELLENCAMP); downtown's Tish
and Snooky, Christian Cassan (Passing Strange) and more.
Joe Hurley's band will play at 8 pm. That group will include TONY
(Rosanne Cash); and KENNY MARGOLIS (Cracker).
The Irish Rock Revue will also feature an opening act at 7 pm, The Mercantillers. In between acts, dancing to Irish rock classics will be courtesy of EVR Radio DJ Gaz Thomas. GUINNESS will be the 'drink special' all night long with a cheaper pint than anywhere in town!
This 10th anniversary show is not to be missed!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trombone Shorty documentary wins award

The Beverly Hills Shorts Fest has honored Eric Alan Donaldson and L. Lonnie Peralta with the award for Best Documentary for the film they co-directed, produced and edited, “Trombone Shorty.” Associate producer on the project was Joan Myers, of Myers Media who brought the project to them.
The filmmaking duo own and operate production and post-production studio FXF Productions in Venice, CA. Los Angeles natives and friends since seventh grade, the partners teamed up in high school to shoot their first music video. Since then they have gone on to work on a variety of projects together that include action sports films, music videos, commercials and documentaries.
“Trombone Shorty” is an after-the-storm-look at New Orleans' next generation musical prodigy, Troy (Trombone Shorty) Andrews. From the historic, yet troubled Treme neighborhood, where brass bands, jazz and the tradition of second line is a way of life, this 22-year-old has worked tirelessly to beat the odds so he can do what he loves most – play his horn.
Even before he had an instrument, Andrews would emulate the great jazz musicians of New Orleans’ past by using a cardboard box as a snare drum or his Big Wheel as a tuba.
Donaldson and Peralta spent five days in New Orleans with Andrews, capturing his everyday life and getting a first-hand look at the post Katrina devastation.
“Troy Andrews is blessed with the gift of musical ear play and performance,” says Donaldson, “The hardest part of capturing the true brilliance of who he is in a short, is deciding what to cut.”
Andrews played for Bo Diddley at the age of five. After finishing eighth grade, he was admitted a year early to the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, where alumni include Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr.
Troy Andrews says, “There’s only 5% of the world, or 10% at most of people that really get a chance to do what they really want to do, and I happen to be a part of that. That’s the ultimate blessing right there.”