They’ve been called “more a legend than a band,” but author John T. Davis shines a new light on the legendary Texas group the Flatlanders in his book The Flatlanders: Now It’s Now Again. Ahead of his appearance at the Texas Book Festival (Sunday, October 26, 2 p.m. in the Music Tent), Davis sits down with Austin Music Experience host Jody Denberg to talk about the Flatlanders’ roots, their influence, and their path from the dusty Lubbock plains to Carnegie Hall. Listen to the interview below!
In the early ’90s, alt-country had its moment in the sun with Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, and the Jayhawks leading the vanguard. Only the Jayhawks are still carrying on, a tremendous achievement given the turnover in the band’s lineup. The co-frontmen Gary Louris and Mark Olson first teamed up in Minneapolis in 1985, intent on writing classic country/pop songs in the vein of the Byrds and the Sir Douglas Quintet. The group’s third album, Hollywood Town Hall, was a minor hit in 1995, but the modest chart success has been a blessing in disguise for the Jayhawks. Nearly thirty years later, the Jayhawks are still going strong while many of their contemporaries have faded away. “When we started out, our main goal was just to get a Friday night gig,” Louris told KUTX’s Jody Denberg in 2011.
Reissues of their first few records came a few years ago, and now the Jayhawks are touring behind reissues of Sound of Lies (1997), Smile (2000), and Rainy Day Music (2003). The tour is an opportunity to put a fresh spin on their back catalog and bring their golden, jangly pop sound to a new generation. Minus original member Mark Olson, the Jayhawks stopped by our Studio 1A for an intimate live performance, and they dusted off the Smile cut “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”–today’s song of the day.
Photo by Denny Renshaw
For Shara Worden, her musical education is never complete. The vocalist behind My Brightest Diamond was classically-trained at the University of North Texas, but she’s equally adept in more pop-oriented ensembles. She’s toured as a part of Sufjan Stevens’ band; featured on the Decemberists’ 2009 record The Hazards Of Love; and collaborated with David Byrne. Her own work as My Brightest Diamond shape-shifts from album to album, incorporating both her opera background and more modern sounds. This year’s This Is My Hand might be her most direct effort yet. While the songs still follow unusual paths, Worden is adept as a full-on rock singer, smuggling dance and industrial elements into the orchestration.
It was interesting to hear My Brightest Diamond strip these elements down backstage at ACL Fest 2014. With just a three-piece setup, Worden filled in the spaces with her percussive guitar-playing and otherworldly voice. Download a live version of “I Am Not The Bad Guy” below!
It’s been a slow but steady rise for the Jayhawks, who formed nearly thirty years ago in Minneapolis. This week on the Austin Music Experience, the alt-country band is in our Studio 1A, and we also go back to a vintage conversation to hear about the Jayhawks’ roots and influences. Also, author John T. Davis has a new biography about one of the bands that paved the way for alt-country: the Flatlanders. In an interview, we follow the Flatlanders from dusty Lubbock all the way to Carnegie Hall. Plus, an ACL Fest encore—the Preatures, Nikki Lane, My Brightest Diamond, and more. Listen below!
In 2011, Houston’s Robert Ellis made a sizable splash with his New West Records debut Photographs. The long-haired singer got a write-up in The New York Times and headlined tours across the country, and it’s easy to understand why. Photographs is a remarkably mature record for a man in his early twenties. Split between an acoustic first half and a more raucous second half, the album showcased Ellis’ obvious gifts as a country songwriter.
Flash-forward a few years: Ellis has cut his hair and moved to Nashville, two acts that are tantamount to treason here in the land of Willie Nelson. During a 2013 live session in Studio 1A, Ellis got a chance to explain himself. Speaking about his hair, he claimed he got tired of “looking like a dirtbag,” and the move to Nashville offered an opportunity to get more professional about his music. Being in the thick of the country establishment has been a real boon to Ellis, inspiring him to up his songwriting game. This year’s The Lights From The Chemical Plant incorporates his life-long love of jazz into his honky-tonk ramblings, just like Willie Nelson did before him, and Bob Wills did before Willie. We caught up with Ellis backstage at ACL Fest 2014 for a stripped-down performance. Check out “Good Intentions” below!