folk

Israel Nash: “Canyonheart” (Social Distancing Pop-Up)

A firm believer in the bucolic lifestyle, Missouri-born Israel Nash champions a contemporary brand of folk-Americana, dubbed “cosmic country”. With a voice that gives Neil Young a run for his money, plus mouth harp and six-string skills to boot, our September 2014 Artist of the Month has an innate ability to transport listeners straight out of city mindset and smack dab into an intergalactic pasture.

The Studio 1A veteran shares the wealth of his latest, Topaz, with a release show this Friday at Empire Control Room. So if your bond to nature could use some re-lashing, take a few minutes to breath in a passionate performance of “Canyonheart”, filmed last May on Nash’s own Dripping Springs property.

American Dreamer: “Redwood”

If there’s one group who champions the true foundations of folk here in Austin, be it basic concepts like renewing ties to nature and always aiding your fellow human, it’s undeniably American Dreamer. After bonding over their respective graduate degrees at UT’s Butler School of Music, the four began developing their brand of acoustic indie-folk, one that bridges between twentieth-century traditional and modern elements to keep the sound fresh.

As with any real folk act, American Dreamer’s already taken their style across the country and performed throughout their home state, playing everywhere from schools and hospitals to major venues and music festivals. And today American Dreamer was kind enough to let us unfurl their newest single, “Redwood”, whose soothing vocal harmonies and gorgeous guitar/cello/violin/bass arrangement make it as timeless as the eponymous sequoia.

Michael Hays: “Flashback Moonlight”

Having moved from Mississippi to Austin in the ’90s, then to L.A. in 2004, and finally back to our auspicious city limits about halfway through the last decade, singer-guitarist Michael Hays has become a trustworthy transplant in the Austin music experience. By the time Hays released his solo debut in 2014, he’d already worked in a wind chime factory, apprenticed as an accordion technician, professionally taught guitar, and become a must-have session player, not to mention performing with his fair share of rock and fusion bands. Between the birth of his daughter in 2015 and the current year, a little under a dozen song ideas evolved into Michael Hays’ sophomore LP, Red Willow, which drops next month.

Red Willow reintroduces listeners to Hays’ brand of Americana-folk-psych with sounds that bridge David Gilmour to Elliott Smith, waterfowl-centric album artwork that picks up where Christopher Cross’ 1979 debut left off, and surreal cinematic visuals that further enhance already-stimulating sonics, as seen and heard in “Flashback Moonlight”!

No-No Boy: “Imperial Twist”

Without getting too much into politics, I think we can all agree that the Asian-American experience has recently been catapulted into the national spotlight. And in concern to the historical context of that experience, nobody’s captured it in recent music as comprehensively as Nashville-born songwriter Julian Saporiti.

Appropriating the moniker No-No Boy from John Okada’s 1957 novel of the same name, Saporiti’s Ph.D. dissertation took him across the country to several Asian-American landmarks, often wrought with troubled history, to develop his concept album 1975. Saporiti’s dissection of what constitutes American folk isn’t obscured by his outspoken societal observations; rather the two march hand-in-hand across 1975’s dozen, sonically channeling the likes of Okkervil River, Shearwater, Grateful Dead, and The Avett Brothers while lyrically rising to the challenge of telling American folk tales from a different perspectives, perhaps heard best on “Imperial Twist”.

Miss Miranda: “Daniel”

In a world of constant motion, it can be get tricky trying not to get caught up in the rhythm of things when you just want to breath in melody and chords. Thankfully we’ve got artists like Baltimore-born songwriter Miranda Haney who bare it all lyrically but keep their arrangements sparse enough to let listeners soak it all up. After settling here in Austin, Haney subtly shared a collection of quarantine demos, Under My Nose, last September and is now repackaging her blend of finger-picked guitar, storytelling, and folk-infused phrasing under the moniker Miss Miranda.

With its delicate vocal delivery and meditative strumming, Haney’s debut single under the new handle, “Daniel”, is as much a sincere show of force for Miss Miranda as it is a graceful first step.

Mia Doi Todd: “If I Don’t Have You”

Dating back to 1997’s The Ewe and the Eye, L.A. songwriter Mia Doi Todd has permeated an evolving world of parallels; a personality that’s sensuous but stern, curt but existential, and packing a philosophy based on her experiences that still manages universal appropriateness.

Mia Doi Todd’s been challenging the bards of antiquity with her own modern mythologies ever since, and expanded on her jazz-folk sound last week with Music Life. Pairing originals with covers of classics, Music Life breathes effortlessly with Mia Doi Todd’s airy aesthetic, especially on her acoustic rendition of Gregory Isaacs’ “If I Don’t Have You”!

Chris Pierce: “It’s Been Burning for a While”

L.A. multi-instrumentalist Chris Pierce began losing his hearing at the formative age of fifteen. But instead of hindering his progress, Pierce let it push him to new levels of awareness and musicianship. Fast forward to 2021, where Pierce’s performance passport has grown to include supporting spots for the likes of Aaron Neville, B.B. King, Seal, Al Green, Blind Boys of Alabama and more.

The latest expansion on Pierce’s folksy brand of acoustic soul came with last Friday’s American Silence LP, ten tracks of poignant political observations and reactions drawn together by Pierce’s guitar, harmonica, and vocals. It’s a powerful full-length to say the least, and has all the elements of prime-era Bob Dylan and Richie Havens, especially on “It’s Been Burning for a While”!

Erin Ivey: “Where Have You Been All My Life” [PREMIERE]

Longtime listeners of KUTX aren’t likely to gloss over certain Austin songwriters based on remarkable talent, perhaps most notably six-time Studio 1A veteran Erin Ivey. Whether she’s teamed up with Tosca String Quartet, The Finest Kind, David Ramirez, or just going solo acoustic, Ivey’s made countless jaws drop and eyes water with her luminous vocal presence and impressive range dating back to her 2007 debut.

But with seven years having passed since her last studio album, Whisper of the Moon, Ivey’s fans have been in dire need of an update. And they’re in luck! Next Friday Erin Ivey shares her ten-track full-length Solace in the Wild, leaning on her classic indie folk sound with sprinkles of Americana and psychedelia and other powerful nuances throughout. And though another premiere of sorts may understandably be taking up most of the spotlight today, take your mind off the news and enter Solace in the Wild with its lead single, “Where Have You Been All My Life”!

This Song: John Prine (Rerun)

Beloved American singer-songwriter John Prine is on many people’s minds right now. He is currently in stable condition on a ventilator due to symptoms from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to him and his family.  This episode, recorded live in 2018 at Waterloo records, is a testament to Prine’s creativity,  kindness and generosity of spirit. In it, he explains how Bob Dylan’s “The Lonsesome Death of Hattie Carroll” changed his life and goes in-depth on his own songwriting process for his album “The Tree of Forgiveness.

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This Song: Patty Griffin on “Secret World” by Peter Gabriel

Patty Griffin’s latest record “Patty Griffin” is a gorgeous acoustic exercise in vulnerability.  The album was borne out of a period in her life where she stepped back from music to undergo treatment for breast cancer.

Listen as she explores all the ways that Peter Gabriel’s  “Secret World,” from his epic breakup record up US, impacted her life and her songwriting. Griffin also explores how her friendship with George Reif inspired the song “Luminous Places,” and how important it is for her to allow herself to be vulnerable in her work.

That’s what I would always like to try to arrive at. Something that’s deeply true and that I learn from. Then I’ve really got something to give”

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Hear Patty Griffin’s new self-titled record “Patty Griffin”

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This Song: Warren Hood on “High Hill” by Uncle Walt’s Band

In the early 70’s Uncle Walt’s Band, the acoustic trio made up of Champ Hood, Walter Hyatt and David Ball came to Austin, TX from Spartanburg, SC. The band brought with them a unique acoustic sound that melded folk, jazz, blues and pop.  Though the music of Uncle Walt’s Band never caught on nationally, it continues to inspire countless Texas musicians like Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin.

Listen as Warren Hood, Champ Hood’s son, describes how hearing the song “High Hill” gave him a deep appreciation for the music of Uncle Walt’s Band while helping him process his grief around the loss of his father.

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Check out the re-release of “Uncle Walt’s Band”

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See Warren Hood’s Tour Dates Here

 

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This Song: John Prine

Songwriting legend John Prine  just released, “The Tree of Forgiveness,” his first record of original material in 13 years. He sat down with host Elizabeth McQueen at a live taping of  This Song at Waterloo Records to talk about Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” songwriting, empathy, and why he had to sequester himself in a hotel to write for the new record.

📸 Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

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Listen to John Prine’s new record “The Tree of Forgiveness”

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Watch to the full interview of John Prine’s This Song episode from KUTX’s Facebook page

 

Listen to Songs from this episode of This Song

 

Homesick for Texas: Songs & Tributes to the Lone Star State

To my mind, the signature song about longing for Texas is this one:

I wanna go home with the Armadillo;
Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene;
The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen.

That’s “London Homesick Blues” sung by Jerry Jeff Walker and written by Gary P. Nunn.

But there are dozens of songs that make Texpatriates (Texans forced to live outside of Texas a
while) a little misty eyed. Like “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait:

Amarillo by morning, up from San Antone.
Everything that I’ve got is just what I’ve got on.
When that sun is high in that Texas sky
I’ll be bucking it to county fair.
Amarillo by morning, Amarillo I’ll be there.

And what Texan isn’t moved by these immortal words?

Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys

The theme of Texas homesickness is a common theme in our music, our folklore, and our literature.

Did you ever hear the story about the Montana cowboy who died and went to heaven? St. Peter was giving him a tour when the Montanan looked up to see a bunch of cowboys in jail, struggling to get out. The Montanan said to St. Peter: “I’m a little surprised to see a jail in heaven!”

St. Peter said, “Oh that’s not a jail. That’s the Texas Detention Center.”

Montanan said, “Oh I understand. I did some drovin’ with those ole boys. When they get to a new town they can do some damage.”

“That’s not the problem,” said St. Peter. “The problem is they get so homesick they keep tryin’ to sneak out the Pearly Gates to go back to Texas. So we have to keep ‘em locked up a while till they learn to like it here.”

We find the theme in Larry McMurtry’s work, too. In his little masterpiece of a novel, “All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers,” the central character, Danny Deck, is leaving Texas for the first time in his life. He is driving just west of El Paso and about to cross the border when he says:

“It was strange, leaving Texas… It was all behind me, north to south, not lying there exactly, but more like looming there over the car… some genie, some god, towering over the road. I really felt it… I had left without asking permission or earning my freedom. Texas let me go, ominously quiet. It hadn’t gone away. It was there behind me.”

When he returned to Texas after several months, Danny realized what many a traveler has realized – that there is no place like home. He says:

“It was the sky that was Texas, the sky that welcomed me back… The sky was what I had been missing, and seeing it again in its morning brightness made me realize suddenly why I hadn’t been myself for many months. It had such depth and such spaciousness and such incredible compass, it took so much in and circled one with such a tremendous generous space that it was impossible not to feel more intensely with it above you.”

Reminds me of what my brother Redneck Dave once told me. He said, “I reckon everybody everywhere misses their home, but if there was a way to measure the mightiness of missin’, I’d betcha big that Texans would come out pretty much on top.”

I can’t argue with that.

W.F. Strong is a Fulbright Scholar and professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he’s the resident expert on Texas literature, Texas legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese) and mesquite smoked brisket.