Photo by Shervin Lainez
Kopecky Family Band formed in 2007 around Kelsey Kopecky and Gabe Simon, two students at Nashville’s Belmont University. The group soon bloomed to six members, incorporating everything from orchestral pop to folk on their first few releases. But late last year, the band decided to streamline their name and sound. Kopecky’s new album, Drug For The Modern Age, is a rebirth of sorts, pushing the band further into the kind of sleek pop-rock territory they hinted at earlier in their career. Download “Talk To Me” below.
Photo by Ebru Yildiz
Shilpa Ray delivers her dark torch songs with a grin on her face. After all, the New York singer named her old band Her Happy Hookers–what else can you do but laugh in the face of oblivion? A quick listen would point you towards kindred souls like Patti Smith or Nick Cave, both of whom have shared the stage with Ray. Her music is punk-adjacent, but with some special touches. Ray grew up in a household that forbade Western music, so the Indian harmonium became her instrument. The wheezing, organ-like tones make her songs sound out-of-time, like something so old it’s completely new again.
Ray’s tornado of a voice is her true charm. With Her Happy Hookers, Ray belted out songs at full octane, but on her new solo album, Last Year’s Savage, she conjures the notes instead. “Burning Bride” is menacing and dreamy, threading the old Hindu practice of bride-burning with her own feminism. “You’ll be lucky when she runs out of desire,” Ray warns us, with a grin. Download the song below.
Delta Spirit has roots in Southern California and New York, but they’ve always put a little country twang into their songs. Lead singer Matt Vasquez actually grew up here in Austin, and the band comes back to town Saturday, June 6 at the Parish. It’s billed as an “Evening With Delta Spirit and Friends”—they’ll be playing deep cuts, maybe a cover or two, and you can also expect some special guest appearances. In anticipation, Vasquez is our guest DJ this week on My KUTX. Tune into his hour-long mix Saturday at 6 p.m., or listen anytime below the playlist.
Matt Vasquez’s playlist:
1. Nirvana – “School”
2. Metallica – “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
3. Sublime – “Badfish”
4. Neil Young – “Harvest Moon”
5. Big Brother & The Holding Company – “Summertime”
6. Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Life By The Drop”
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Into My Arms”
8. Tom Waits – “Just The Right Bullets”
9. Bob Dylan – “To Ramona”
10. Led Zeppelin – “Dancing Days”
11. Bonnie Raitt – “Not Cause I Wanted To”
12. Can – “Little Star Of Bethlehem”
Photo by Bryan C. Parker
Sweet Spirit is the KUTX Artist of the Month for May. You can find more features here.
A Giant Dog might be one of the best live acts in town, but Sweet Spirit is quickly gaining steam. Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen stand tall in both groups, earning their punk rock bonafides with A Giant Dog while playing up their soul/pop side in Sweet Spirit. An early demo had the Austin Chronicle salivating last year, but the (relatively) cleaned up self-titled EP does better justice to the band.
Sweet Spirit snared local producer extraordinaire Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Heartless Bastards, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead) for the EP plus a forthcoming LP. On Sweet Spirit, the group whips through a fiery combination of garage rock, doo-wop, country, and ska, all anchored by Ellis’s commanding voice. The band’s strength is still the stage, where an added horn section blasts these songs to another level. Recent tours (and collaborations) with Spoon show they’re not just a local concern anymore, but you could tell that just from a few listens to their EP. “I’ve Made Up My Mind” stands out by perfectly demonstrating Sweet Spirit’s appeal: it’s loud, it’s fun, and it’s catchy as hell. Download the song below.
Catch Sweet Spirit at the ABGB on Saturday, June 6 and at the Continental Club on Thursday, June 18.
Though his earlier albums under the Phosphorescent name are good, Matthew Houck really found himself through Willie Nelson. In 2009, Houck released an all-Willie covers album called To Willie (echoing Nelson’s own 1977 ode to Lefty Frizzell, To Lefty From Willie). Houck’s cracked voice seems especially suited to Nelson’s own perfectly imperfect tunes, and Houck sounded radiant for the first time in his career. For the next few albums, he ditched the downer folk of his early days in favor of an idiosyncratic blend of country and psychedelia. On Here’s To Taking It Easy and Muchacho, Houck sounds energized and masterful, using country music’s past to blaze a new trail.
I’ve been lucky to catch Phosphorescent on tour a few times, and I’m struck by Houck’s presence. He turns into a fiery preacher onstage, delivering his sermons on love and loss while the band follows his every move. Just like Nelson, Phosphorescent also play around with their songs and provide interesting live renditions (captured perfectly on this year’s Live At The Music Hall album). The band recently stopped by Studio 1A and did the same for “Song For Zula,” playing down the electronic elements in favor of the country ballad at the song’s heart. Download the song below.