Monday, May 31, 2010

Sean McConnell & Cory Morrow @ Lucky Maggies.

So it was time for me to leave Texas and head back home but it didn't mean that i had to refrain from seeing some good shows along the way. Unfortunately i didn't have the time to stop in Oklahoma City to visit the Wormy Dog Saloon or to stop in Tulsa and check out Cains Ballroom, two of the most famous venues in the state but i did have a plan to stop almost halfway home at a little place a talented photographer friend of mine named Kandi Mefford (I wish i could take photos as good as hers) started with her husband almost a year ago called Lucky Maggies located in Diamond Missouri near Joplin. Lucky Maggies is a roadhouse style of bar that is also a diner in one half during the day and a live music venue mostly on weekends. I was looking forward to seeing Kandi again and a few other friends that were going to be there and a couple of them i didn't even realize were sitting one table over but i was wearing my hat and they didn't recognize me right away. The world of Red Dirt music is small so its not hard to run into people you know or have seen at other shows and this venue has been booking the best. Sean McConnell and his band casually walked in through the back door where their gear was loaded in from and took the stage without anyone announcing who he was. Sean's music has yet to catch on nearly everywhere but parts of Texas and those who know about him know just how powerful his voice and his songs are and that power wouldn't be that mesmerizing without the great lyrics Sean writes. Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers and even Tim McGraw can attest to that, and Wade and Randy are not shy about promoting his talents and if there is a better male singer out there i don't know of him. Sean was on the road with Cory Morrow promoting his current "Saints. Thieves. Liars." Cd and i was also looking forward to seeing Cory Morrow again since i haven't seen him since his last show at Joe's and since he has gone through some changes with his band lately. Cory had virtuoso Rodney Pyeatt on lead guitar for a few months before current and past guitarist John Caroll returned. John certainly is no slouch on the guitar either and he plays the songs like he never left. Plus with Clint Litton rocking on the drums with long time bassist Steve Cargill and Jeff Bryant on keyboards Cory's band is as good as it ever was. Cory has a new EP out right now called "Ramblin Man" which is also the first single. I think Sean left a good impression on everyone and some of us were joking and wondering if it would hurt Cory's feelings if we asked Sean for an encore but it didn't take long before Sean was out talking to fans and selling copies of his CD and Cory and his band did the job of taking the good times up a notch.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Austin to Fort Worth Texas.

After Baton Rouge i really wanted to head back down to New Braunfels for a few more days but going up to Fort Worth was a better idea since it was also heading North towards home. I also wanted to check out Fort Worth anyway since it was one of the places in my mind that i thought about moving to. So after one more night in Austin i left for Cowtown and Merel had some recording to do and i had to stop by the Capitol services building and claim my lost iPod Touch that someone thankfully turned in after i had lost it during the Lonestar State Jam.
I slowly headed up I-35 making a few stops here and there like in Carl's Corner to check out Willie's Place which is a truck stop souvenir store and small museum complete with live music venue that i guess Willie plays in once and a while. Kept on going and made it to the little town of Crandall Texas around 3pm. Crandall is known as an area where the infamous Bonnie & Clyde hungout for a short time and i guess Bonnie worked in the bank but never robbed it. In fact some of the 1967 film "Bonnie & Clyde" was filmed in Crandall.
"A little known fact about the movie. Several of the movie's
scenes were shot in the small town of Crandall.
Crandall is a city located in Kaufman County, Texas
about 23 miles from Dallas on Hwy 175.
The reason i stopped in Crandall was not for historical significance but because one of the Texas music photographers that inspired me recently opened his studio there in a one hundred year old building on Main street. Todd Purifoy refurbished what is now his photography studio with the help of friends and family and the store front and interior walls are decorated with Todd's work. After having lunch at the Cotton Gin which is an old cotton gin turned restaurant (which is located in a dry, meaning no alcohol county, which they have a way of getting around) and music venue i just hung out and caught up on some photo editing and talked with Todd trying to learn what i could.
The next day i got on I-20 and headed to Fort Worth which is still close to sixty miles from Crandall. I really didn't know where i was going or what to do so i drove straight to the North side of town going directly to the famed Fort Worth Stockyards. The Stockyards is a historic area of Fort Worth which was one of the last places of rest along the Chisholm Trail during Longhorn Cattle drives. Nowadays it is part museum tourist attraction and nightlife hotspot. Besides the world famous Billy Bob's Texas there are many more and much more historic Honky Tonks in the area. My favorite (which we visited later the next night) was a building that was once a brothel started by Buffalo Bill Cody, Pearls Dance hall is an authentic virtually untouched Honky Tonk and i was told the upstairs floors still have the original room layout. Well on this first time visit i went to the White Elephant Saloon and looked around at all the hats on the walls and ceiling, went to Billy Bob's and paid the dollar to get in and look around at the site where so many live recordings have been made in the "Live at Billy Bob's" series with the most recent one being released by Wade Bowen. I also walked through a few western clothing stores before leaving to go meet up with my friend Rob and his wife Julie. Rob is also a Texas music photographer although not professionally for a living he still has some photos on CD covers and web sites he can lay claim too. Rob works for an affiliate of a national television station and he and his wife Julie share a passion for the classic sounds of Texas music and can often be spotted around town supporting local music and musicians like Tommy Alverson, Sunny Sweeney, Chad Rueffer and Randy Brown or Johnny Bush. I already was a fan of Sunny's and i had heard some of Tommy's music but the others were new to me. After looking to see what our choices were for the evenings entertainment we decided on going to the Overtime Sportsbar in Burleson to see Tommy Alverson. I was thinking ok, a sportbar, why would Tommy play a sports bar but it turned out to be a venue that is just as much about sports as it is music except that they could do a little work on the sound system (too gymnasium like) but other than that i enjoyed the place, they get a great steady line up of great music and i liked our server sporting a Steve Rice autographed No Justice T-shirt which is just one of the bands that passes through.
I had a great time hearing Tommy and his very talented band and could have stayed all night but Rob had to work in the morning and later i found out we missed a surprise appearance by Mike Mancy too. The next day Julie, her daughter and i went to a cool little Mexican restaurant called Fuzzy's which was started in the area where they live and has expanded to other areas and then we decided on Pearls and Filthy McNasty's for my last night in Texas. Chad and Randy were scheduled to play and when we walked in i expected to see them on stage. Instead they were sitting at a table with just their acoustic guitars trading songs back and forth performing everything from Marty Robbins to the Band. Chad has a classic country voice that booms out into the room doing justice to many of the old classic Honky Tonk songs of the 60's and 70's and Randy can sing a good harmony and take lead on guitar. After that wound down we stopped into Filthy McNasty's a block down where the Cody Robbins Band was having a CD release party. I was much more into Pearls than Filthy's, they are two different types of places and i was really feeling the old school vibe of Fort Worth that night. I need to spend more time in Fort Worth before i decide where i want to live, i can be busy there or in the New Braunfels area and both have a completely different style to them i like. New Braunfels is all about the outdoors and Americana music and Fort Worth is laid back old school honky tonk but both have a real appreciation for their respective histories.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baton Rouge Fest For All, The Second Day.

After a smooth well run first day we celebrated a little with some of Merel's good friends at one of their houses, a small old plantation house (not the kind you envision from movies but just a common type found around Baton Rouge) that they were restoring. Rob (a talented and multi faceted artist) and his wife invited us in, it was hot and humid, old classic Cajun music was coming out over some beautiful handmade speakers and the smell of fresh cooked crawfish, shrimp and boudin balls wafted through the air. Now living up here in Michigan and this being my first trip to Louisiana, i wasn't given the tourist treatment, instead i was immersed in it like anyone who lives there. Pounds of shrimp and crawfish were plentiful and were not talking about seafood how it is prepared restaurant style up here, here in Cajun country you have to know how to eat it like a local. Sunday the second and last day of the Fest For All 2010 started out with a forecast calling for an 80 percent probability for rain and thunderstorms and although we only experienced 10 minutes of light rain the whole weekend we were prepared for more. The threat of bad weather did not keep the people away or dampen their spirits and the day started off with members of the LSU Jazz Ensemble assembled as a Sextet. Louisiana State University has a great music program teaching a variety of genre's of music on its beautiful campus.
If you are someone who lives in another part of the country as i do, and have ever listened to Cajun music, then when you think Cajun music the music of BeauSoleil may come to mind. I used to listen to a huge variety of music and i went through a Cajun (world music) phase so i knew who these guys were, plus i had seen them live when i lived in Denver in the mid nineties at the Taste of Colorado in Larimer Square.BeauSoleil Avec Michael Doucet as they are known now are known as the best Cajun band in the world and just like Terrance Simien they have Grammy Awards to prove it. Based in the mecca for Cajun music Lafayette Louisiana (maybe you thought i was going to say New Orleans?) BeauSoleil play mostly Cajun music whereas Terrance is primarily known as a Zydeco artist.
Next on stage was the piano based Chicago blues music via Louisiana born and bred veteran bluesman Henry Gray with his band Henry Gray & The Cats Henry Gray is a National treasure as far as Blues artists are concerned, he has played with the greats such as Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters and is the man behind the piano on countless recordings by greats such as Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley He recorded on the legendary Chess Records label for a while and was a key figure in establishing the Chicago Blues style eventually returning to his Louisiana roots. Henry Gray also received a Grammy nomination, recorded with the Rolling Stones and played for Mick Jagger during his 55th birthday celebration in Paris. Henry was joined on stage later by Carol Fran who also has quite a legacy in the world wide Blues scene.

Rounding out the festival as the last act was the funk music of Big Sam's Funky Nation based out of New Orleans. Big Sam Williams is a trombone player formerly in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and is one of the best in the business garnering a big Easy Award as the best funk group of 2008.
In between slide trombone notes he "Second-Lines" which is a New Orleans style of street dancing he does with his fellow horn player Andrew Baham who are backed by a solid band. They have shared the stage with Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and have been featured on VH-1, Regis & Kelly and the Travel Channel as well as having played Bonnaroo, SXSW and more. Its impossible to sit still while these guys entertain you with all they've got.
So foregoing Fort Worth that weekend and going to Baton Rouge turned out to be a welcome change from the Texas music i usually surround myself with, i got to meet some good people, experience a different culture, one rich in culinary and musical heritage and expand my horizons of the great American South. View more photos here. Copyright Jeff Dykhuis.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Austin and Back.

I returned a call to Merel Bregante and took him up on his offer to go to Baton Rouge. I felt like it was an interesting opportunity to hear music from and photograph blues artists and Cajun/Zydeco musicians for a change. Fest For All is a street fair style event with artists and live music sponsored by the Baton Rouge Arts Council and celebrates the people of Baton Rouge. Merel Bregante is a drummer and producer who has worked as a drummer with Loggins & Messina, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Pure Prairie League and many more. Merel has also produced the first three Reckless Kelly records and currently works with his wife, Austin singer and songwriter Sarah Pierce and owns Little Bear Records.
On this trip Merel was working as a stage manager and he often travels doing annual jobs in that field as well. The trip to Baton Rouge from Austin is interesting, you drive on the outskirts of Houston through little towns near Beaumont like Orange and then cross into Louisiana. Soon you are crossing the Sabine river and then crossing the Atchafalaya (which is the largest swamp in the U.S) basin bridge which is around 18 miles long and crosses over swamp land the entire time. Its really a beautiful sight to see but i would not want to be stranded out there with car trouble or get lost looking for help. Not long after that we drove over what is now known as the world most dangerous bridge located over Lake Charles. Its a rusted tangled and twisted hunk of metal that seriously could collapse and it has been rated a 2.4 on a scale of 10 as far as safety is concerned. We made it over just fine although we did have to sit in traffic on the bridge for a few minutes. Soon you arrive in Baton Rouge where we met up with some of Merel's friends for coffee. Later that night we met up with everyone who was working the festival and they shared stories over some fantastic home made crawfish stew. I got introduced to some very interesting people like Gary "Paw Paw" Dickerson who has worked for years as a stage manager with some of the biggest bands in the business like the Rolling Stones. The next day we went to the Galvan Street stage to prepare for the day. There really wasn't anything for me to do except tour the area and view the artwork on display and take in all the appetizing smells coming from the large variety of local food until the music started. There is a sort of "School of Rock" in Baton Rouge helping kids put groups together as musicians and they were first to take the stage with all their families supporting them and taking pictures. It was refreshing to know there are still programs like this available in some areas as many of them have fallen by the wayside due to the economy. Baton Rouge has had its share of catastrophe yet the people are strong and weather these set backs well and music will always be there as a solid structure to anchor too. People were understandably upset by the recent disaster in the Gulf but they refused to let the obvious threat dissipate the spirit of their festival.
The second act to take stage was comprised of three talented singers called Group 1 Crew. Sharing a message of positivity in their lyrics and stage presence they are signed to Warner Brothers records and female lead singer Blanca once auditioned for American Idol but now the group shares the honor of winning a Dove Award and have had their songs on television shows such as "One Tree Hill" and more. Local musician Jake Smith performed next singing his acoustic songs with a band member accompanying him on electric guitar. Jake is set to release his debut CD entitled "Everyone Comes From Somewhere" soon if it hasn't already been done so. With a style akin to John Mayer or maybe Jack Johnson his music is easy to take in. Rockabilly roots purists The Roebucks were on next.Hailing all the way from Baton Rouge and having played the festival before, i heard good things about these guys. The Roebucks are more my style compared to the other acts playing the festival although i do like Cajun & Zydeco i really liked them. They dig deep into the roots of rock & roll with covers by Ronnie Hawkins and Eddie Cochran and many more plus their own 50's and 60's inspired originals. Click here to view a video i found that someone took of them at the festival (this person has videos from each band i am writing about.) become a fan on Facebook with any of these groups. New Orleans resident by way of San Mateo California musician Eric Lindell was on next, Eric is a self professed skate punk raised on the music of bands like Blackflag and Fishbone, Eric now plays a smooth mix of blues, soul and funk. Eric made his television debut on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in 2008 and releases records on the Alligator label as well as his own label, Sparco Records. Eric had his latest album for sale at the festival and when i say album, this time i am talking about sweet ole vinyl and orange vinyl at that. It is self funded and self produced and titled "Between Motion and Rest" on Sparco Records.Lafayette resident Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience were next and also the days last act. Terrance has been making his style of traditionally correct and authentic Cajun Zydeco music for over twenty years but Terrance is also very versatile and along with his smooth soulful voice that can approach the likes of Aaron Neville, he is able to transcend boundaries by making music that falls under the genres of Reggae, R&B and blues. He and his wife and manager Cynthia helped establish a Grammy category for Cajun and Zydeco music and went on to win one in 2008. Terrance is a great entertainer and finds ways to interact with his audience and makes you want to dance even if you can't understand the lyrics as he is able to sing in Spanish, Cajun French as well as English Click here to view more photos from Saturday May first. Copyright Jeff Dykhuis 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waco to Austin and on to Baton Rouge.

After the Turn the Paige Benefit i returned to Austin and stayed with a friend, went to Robert Earl Keen's tour manager's birthday party. It was a star studded event and watching the birthday boy try to smash open the pinata was a darn good time. I got to see my friend Arielle Nicole play some songs and got to hear some music by Ben Danaher and Mike Kelly for the first time.
I originally planned on going down to New Braunfels for a few days and then up to Fort Worth to shoot Wade Bowen's CD/DVD release party for "Best in Texas" magazine but after having dinner with my friend Merel and his wife Sarah Pierce i had to think about taking him up on his offer to take me along to Baton Rouge for a festival he was stage managing all weekend. I did end up going to New Braunfels for a couple days where my friend Jim took me around to all the cool places i had only heard of through the music or through my favorite radio station KNBT like Riley's Tavern (mentioned in the Jason Boland & The Stragglers song Comal County Blue) which is the oldest continuously operating bar in Texas with liquor license 001. We also checked out Lonestar Music in the Gruene historic district, Dirty's Bar & Q, Whitewater Amphitheater and Cheatham Street Warehouse and more. Cheatham Street looks like an old tool shed that's about to fall apart but its a cool place, hell, George Strait got his start there!
Later that night i went to Gruene hall to look around, Tom Gillam and Lincoln Durham were playing an acoustic set upfront and i just walked around taking the history of the place all in. Its a run down place with license plates patching the holes in the floor but that's what gives it so much character. The next day i got on my mountain bike and just rode around town, you see things a little more when you slow down and i loved New Braunfels. I went to Lonestar Music again and really looked around, went to Gruene hall again in daylight, and went down to the Guadalupe river which has got to be one of the most beautiful rivers I've seen that is not in a rocky mountain state. Later that day i got in touch with Kristen Kelly of the Modern Day Drifters because she was playing a show at the beautiful Whitewater Amphitheater with The Trishas and i really wanted to shoot photos there even though they were not on the main stage it was still a great time and i loved the show. Jamie Wilson has a solo EP out right now and used to be in the band The Gougers. Savannah Welch is Kevin Welch's daughter.
Kelly Mickawee, Liz Foster and together they are The Trishas. They have been going into the studio and are working on their first album together as the Trishas

I also knew that Wade Bowen was playing a CD release party at Cheatham Street so the timing was perfect, after the Trishas i headed to San Marcos to see Wade. The place was packed and i couldn't get close until i was told to come around back and go through the side entrance which is right by the stage. Its really cool to see these bands and musicians on their home turf, its a little different than in Chicago or somewhere else.
Seems you have your fans that are a little jaded and just go for the party and then you have the diehards that are into the music and its a weird mix. In Texas, these guys are rock stars. In Chicago it seems like the majority of the people show up for the music because we don't get this music up here often enough.The next day i decided to go back to Austin to take Merel up on his offer to go to Baton Rouge.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Turn the Paige Foundation benefit @ The Hogcreek Icehouse.

Sunday morning i was still asleep when Jason Boland's bus fired up and headed up the road from Austin to Waco but i woke up to have some coffee and look out the window. We arrived at the Hogcreek Icehouse around 10:30 am and crews were in the process of setting up the stage and the Hogcreek staff were making sure things would run smoothly. I went inside and uploaded photos from the Lonestar State Jam so i could continue shooting and introduced myself to Keli Pierce who is the driving force behind the Turn the Paige foundation which has been started in her daughter Paige's name after her untimely passing last October. The Turn the Paige foundations goal is to bring about awareness and promote becoming an organ donor. Paige was an organ donor who ultimately saved the lives of seven other people who were in need of transplants. Through a series of concerts and festivals they hope to sign up as many organ donors as possible.
The music started around 12:30 with the Chad Hammock Band based out of Bryan Texas and for most of the day i got to hear some music by bands that i have either only heard of by name or never heard of at all. I liked the Chad Hammock band and their manager known as Parmer was a hoot. The Scooter Brown band came on next, these guys tour all over Texas as do most of these bands opening for some of the biggest acts in Texas music. Scott Brown is a former Marine who spent some time in Iraq and spent some of that time performing music for fellow soldiers before starting the Scooter Brown Band with his best friend who has since left for a career as a fireman in Houston. One of the guys i hear a lot of good things about was on next, Josh Langston. Originally slated to play the indoor stage at Hogcreek he was moved to the outside stage for a few songs. Josh played a few acoustic songs with T-Ray accompanying him on guitar. Josh is based out of College Station Texas. Huntsville Texas band the Cody Johnson band took the stage next, i really liked these guys. The Cody Johnson band is more straight forward Texas country which was a nice change during the day from the Red Dirt sound of the previous bands. Cody and his band played a fantastic version of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" that had everyone impressed.
One of Paige's close friends took the stage next, Aubrey England played some acoustic songs that she wrote including one naughty song about a float trip on the river with Paige that turned into quite the party. The Zach Edwards Band was on next and maybe it was his reputation that preceded him or just the mediocre music but i just didn't get into it. Later i heard that he had been talking crap about Keli and Lane some of the festivals organizers and that Zach was offered a guest list like all the other bands but that Zach was the only one to turn it in (late) with 19 people on it! remember this is a benefit, Johnny Cooper and Jason Boland could have friends on the guest list and so could the other bands but they chose to respect the reason the whole festival was about.
Johnny Cooper and his band was up next as the sun was beginning to go down. I haven't seen Johnny since last June in Pryor Oklahoma so i was looking forward to hearing how the songs on "Follow" his latest record translated into a live show. Johnny knows how to entertain and his band is well rehearsed and offer a sound that is far from your typical Red Dirt sound that lately has a hard time doing anything original. Johnny beat boxes, he has a DJ scratching and mixing in effects and a good funky rhythm section. Click on this link to my other site to see a video of Johnny Cooper performing "Can't Hold Onto You/Nothing at All" at the Hogcreek Icehouse. Johnny Cooper will be up this way soon playing a show at joe's bar in Chicago and his respect for what the Turn the Paige Foundation is doing was evident all day long as i saw him direct quite a few people from his own merchandise table over to the Foundations displays.
Jason Boland & The Stragglers were the nights final act to hit the stage and even though the crowd was not nearly what we had hoped for Jason and the Stragglers still put on a show just like they did the night before in Austin. Jason also had respect for what the Turn the Paige Foundation is doing and could have easily chose to play somewhere else but instead took the time to help promote this cause. All in all it was a very successful day, "Rita" showed up and took photos of the Red Dirt Hurricane girls and blogged on her iPhone all day, new friends were made, caught up with old friends, heard some new music and i was really impressed with the look and feel of the venue that is the Hogcreek Icehouse and their staff. Become a friend of the Turn the Paige foundation on Facebook and keep up to date with what is going on as its going to get bigger and better with lots of good things coming up. Click here to view more photos.