Photo by Alexandra Valenti
Every month we turn the spotlight on a new release from a Texas artist with a series of weekly features that give you a sneak peek at the new music and some insight into the artist behind it.
Ever since Willie first united the hippies and the rednecks in 1972, his spirit has reverberated through Austin. From Doug Sahm to the Gourds, local country music has been spiked with different flavors, and Crooks are the latest outfit to carry that peculiar flame. Formed by Josh Mazour in 2007, Crooks started as a two-piece dive bar staple, but over the years the band has grown in size and sound. 2012’s The Rain Will Come put the band on the map with a hard-charging set of murder ballads and honky-tonk heroism. With their new album Wildfire, Crooks’ blend of Tex-Mex, country, and rock sounds even bigger and more self-assured. And as anyone who’s ever seen them live can attest, “wildfire” might be the perfect descriptor. Catch Crooks at the Scoot Inn on July 11, and find our full feature run-down below.
Artist of the Month Features:
*Studio 1A: Crooks live set on Wednesday, July 8 at 1 p.m.
*Song of the Day: Free download of a Crooks song on Monday, July 13
*My KUTX: Guest DJ set with frontman Josh Mazour on Saturday, July 18 at 6 p.m.
25 miles west of Nashville sits Kingston Springs, a tiny town born in the 1830s around mineral springs that bubbled up from the Harpeth River Valley. Like a lot of rural Southern towns, not a lot has changed, but for a brief moment in the early 1970s, Kingston Springs found itself at the center of the country music world. A wild songwriter named Vince Matthews moved there in the late ’60s with his wife Melva, and the pair dragged the conservative town into the outlaw zeitgeist by hosting drug-fueled, long-haired parties. But the Springs community grew to accept them. Despite his rebellious spirit, Matthews’ natural charm and affinity for country music helped bridge the cultural gap.
Soon Nashville’s insurgency came calling. Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Shel Silverstein, and others did for Kingston Springs what Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Jerry Jeff Walker would soon do for Luckenbach. Fellow raconteur Jim Casey also linked up with Matthews, and the pair started an ambitious project: a country opera about Kingston Springs. As Nashville went big, Matthews and Casey went small, focusing on the interesting characters in their own town. At the same time, they envisioned not just an album but a film and elaborate live productions around the country.
The dream fell apart. Recorded in 1972, The Kingston Springs Suite sat on a shelf rather than turntables or the Billboard charts. Matthews and Casey consoled themselves with fleeting flickers of fame: there was a nervous performance by Matthews on The Johnny Cash Show; and Cash, Jennings, and–most recently–Father John Misty all covered Suite songs over the years. Delmore Recordings has rescued the album from oblivion with a recent reissue, featuring personal photographs and extensive liner notes.
Listening to the Suite more than forty years later, it’s amazing how of the time it sounds–the twang is cut with hazy, laid-back grooves that personify the outlaw country movement–while simultaneously sounding ahead of its time. Matthews and Casey mix in interviews with Kingston Springs citizens, making for an album that’s as important as a historic American document as it is as a work of art. Even with the grinning country harmonies, there’s a tinge of sadness as the record unspools. As Matthews wrote simply in Country Music magazine in 1975, “Anyway, the era passed. We moved out of our house. Melva and I separated. The factory moved in.”
But Matthews and Casey kept Kingston Springs from dying on the cultural vine. On “Bessie That’s A Lie,” they call foul on ambivalence. Almost a half-century has passed through Kingston Springs since then, but that world is born again anytime you hit play.
In the wake of bassist Chris Squire’s death, this morning John Aielli aired a conversation between KUTX’s Jacquie Fuller and Art Levy about the band Yes. Jacquie admitted to not “getting” the band, and Art countered with what he loved about them. The conversation spurred strong feelings from some Yes fans, as you’d expect. In case you missed it, here is the audio. We realize that this topic can be a Thunderdome of opinions and we thought we’d open it up a little more. We wanna know what you think, so go ahead and chime in at our Facebook page. Please remember though: be cool about it. Moderators are standing by.
Photo by Chad Kamenshine
Like a lot of musicians, Ellen Kempner started out writing songs in her bedroom, aiming barbs at her parents. That teen angst paid off: by the time she got to college, Kempner was an accomplished songwriter with her own idiosyncratic voice. With her band Palehound, she captures the insanity of young adulthood better than most, but there’s still a fun, I-came-up-with-this-in-my-bedroom vibe.
Kempner originally intended Palehound as a revolving cast for her own solo recordings, but the quartet has developed into a deeply-bonded group. On August 14, Palehound releases its debut album Dry Food, buoyed by the knockout leadoff track “Molly.” A twisting, surf-rock riff propels the song, punctuated by Kempner’s sharp guitar and laconic voice. Download the song below.
A few years ago, Taylor Baker won our Stage To Studio feature on the strength of her budding solo career. The Austinite appeared in our Studio 1A with a backing band that included guitarist/trumpeter Drew Walker, and soon Baker dropped the solo moniker. She teamed up with Walker as Taylor & The Wild Now, putting out a self-titled EP in 2014. The EP fleshed out Baker’s folk roots, but the band is back with a new single and something of a new sound. “Salt” dances around rippling guitar lines and a stuttering beat. Download the song below and catch the band at Stubb’s inside stage on July 9th.