Saturday, April 14, 2012

LORI MCKENNA at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio 4-12-12

It's been 2 days.  Can't get this show out of my mind and I am happy about that.  Nights like these can keep you going for quite a long time.
I guess I'll start by saying when I saw Lori McKenna was coming to Blue Rock, I reserved  tickets immediately and decided I'd figure out a way to make it happen that we could attend.  That was much harder than anticipated and it did end up that Linda gave up her ticket to stay back with my mom so I could go to the concert.  I owe her big time for making that sacrifice.
I'm probably going to go off on several different tangents regarding this show and we'll see if I can pull it all together.
First off, I'd never seen Lori before.  Have been a huge fan ever since I heard "Bittertown" for the first time and that was 8 years ago.  That album is in my Top 10.  My Top 10 may have 50 records in it but that one is in the Top 10.  I have played that cd to death.  None of it ever gets tiring.
For years, since 2004, I've wanted to see her but she seemed to never leave the East Coast.  Even when I lived in Illinois, she didn't make it that far west!  Once I moved to Austin, thought it would take a small miracle to see her live.  So what happened?  A couple of years ago she blew into Texas to open for Walt Wilkins at Gruene Dancehall!  Turned out that same day I was flying back to Illinois to move my mom down here so I did not get to see her!  I was crushed.  Talk about timing.
Then, last year she came out with "Lorraine."  While I liked "Unglamorous," her record in between, I believe "Lorraine" is right up there with "Bittertown."  Again, great from beginning to end.
And I was still sitting around thinking man, I'd give anything to see her live, just once!
Blue Rock!  This place is by far the best live music experience you could ever have, I think.  At least for me it is.  And I've only been there once before.  That was 2 years ago and it was the great Jimmy Webb, a musical hero of mine!  It's really weird that I haven't been back. I always look at their series, most are folks I love, the venue is spectacular but I hadn't made it back.  I think Lori may have finally broken that bad deal.  I hope.
Instead of me raving about Blue Rock, go take a look yourself.  It's hard to describe the vibe but you are in a different world once you get there and it's one you'd just as soon stay in.
This brings us to this past Thursday evening.  Not only do I get to finally see her but it's at Blue Rock!
No need to worry about not living up to expectations as the concert was far better than I could have imagined.  It's one thing to write great songs and a whole different deal presenting them.  She sings very personal, often intense, songs and in between lightens the load with hilarious commentary.  She reminds me of Shawn Colvin that way.  I think live is what sets apart really great artists.  I've seen my share of singer/songwriters.  You can like the music a lot but if they don't grab you live and take you away for however long they're on stage, they usually fall into that big group called struggling singer/songwriter.  Lori puts you in a trance.  The lyrics are so strong and then she sings with such emotion.  There were times I thought her heart was gonna come right out of her chest she sang with such feeling.  I was sitting there, each song, mind blown, it would end, she'd say something funny, clear the air and off we'd go to the next killer song.
I would love to sit here and tell you every story she told but I don't have that kind of time.  In general, we heard much about her husband Gene, their kids and town.
She also talked about songwriting and co-writing with others, which she does a lot.  I always love when they talk shop like that.  Always fun for me to get a peek inside that place as it's so foreign to us common folk.
She talked about a co-write that happened quite recently and then proceeds to play us a song that came out of it called "Sober."  Who knows if she will record it but all I know is, it's a great song.  It came about from one of the other writers saying falling in love is like getting drunk so the song has all kinds of witty analogies based on drinking with the refrain "when I die I don't want to go sober."  It starts out "I wanna walk that line a little crooked.  Live my life a little on the rocks."  It just grabbed you immediately.  She mentioned going into the studio in the fall so I hope that little gem pops up on her next album.
I've gone far too long without mentioning she had Mark Erelli with her.  Talk about cool.  When I got there and saw his name on the chalkboard it brought a big smile to my face.  He's great in his own right and luckily for us, we did get to hear him do 3 of his own songs.  He started the 2nd set by himself.
Together, they sound great and he plays mandolin besides guitar.  You can easily see and feel their connection and it comes out in the songs.
Nuts and bolts.  $25 ticket cost, bargain in my opinion.  The show was made up of 2 sets with the 1st lasting close to an hour and the 2nd probably not much over 30 minutes.
Here is a sampling of some of the songs we got.  She opened with "The Luxury of Knowing," the 1st song on "Lorraine."  We also got the title track, "You Get A Love Song," "Buy This Town," "Sweet Disposition," "Ladders and Parachutes," and 2 of the most powerful songs I think I've ever heard live, "That's How You Know" and "Still Down Here."  Off of  "Bittertown"  we got the great "Stealing Kisses" and from "Unglamorous" she played "Your Next Love."
Their encore consisted of a very neat off mic cover, Tom Petty's "Room At The Top" with audience participation on the chorus.  She said it fit with how she felt being at Blue Rock and I'm pretty sure everyone in that room felt the same way.
I drove back to Austin in the clouds and I'm still there.
PS  No photo or video.  They don't allow it.  Blue Rock will eventually post some.  I will put that link up once it happens.  Any tiny bit you can get of Lori and Mark from that show is well worth your time.  And I know you're out there as they said they had over 100 on the waiting list!
Update 5-11-12  Here is the link to see a video of Lori's time at Blue Rock:
Just look to the right where there is a video link on the page.

Friday, April 13, 2012

DANNY BRITT, Merle Haggard 75th Birthday Bash along with RED VOLKAERT, JOE MANUEL and LEE DUFFY at Threadgill's

TRACIE LYNN, Merle Haggard 75th Birthday Bash at Threadgill's, RED VOLKLAERT on the left, JOE MANUEL on the right

CHARLIE FAYE and WILL SEXTON along with JOE MANUEL on guitar, Merle Haggard 75th Birthday, Threadgill's

MERLE HAGGARD 75TH BIRTHDAY BASH at Threadgill's 4-6-12

I've been to a few of these roundups that ASG, Austin Songwriters Group, puts on occasionally.  They are always a ton of fun.
They get a house band together and invite various local musicians to perform a Merle Haggard song.  Since we're in Austin, that house band and those musicians are first class.  The 2 lead guitarists in this group, Red Volkaert and Joe Manuel, both played in Merle's band as did the pianist, Floyd Domino.  They had Marvin Dykhuis on acoustic guitar and he is one of my favorites around here.  Don't ask me who the drummer or bass player was.  They were there but I don't remember the names.  They are always overlooked, aren't they?
It was a gorgeous night to be sitting outside listening to music so we took my mom and stayed for the first set.  By then, my mom's butt had had enough of the hard seat.
We got to hear probably 10 different artists come up and play/sing a song.  Charlie Faye and Will Sexton did a song together and really sounded great.  Another person who came up, Tracie Lynn, while I'd heard the name, I hadn't heard her sing.  Liked her a lot and will try to get to one of her shows.  Also heard Danny Britt for the first time and he was real good.
Would've loved to stay for the 2nd set but still, it was nice to be out listening to that great group of musicians wing it and hear all those terrific Merle Haggard songs for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
There was no cover, believe it or not.  Had a tip jar out.  Sure hope all ponied up.  They sure deserved it.