Louisiana native Dylan LeBlanc grew up surrounded by some of his area’s finest musicians–among them was his father, James LeBlanc, who was a longtime Muscle Shoals session player. Even considering his pedigree and the fertile musical soil he was raised upon, Dylan got an early start, writing his own songs by eleven, performing them by fifteen, and signed by U.K. label Rough Trade by nineteen. But coming up fast has its traps, and LeBlanc’s latest album, Cautionary Tale, is about exactly that.
From early on LeBlanc was described as “the new Neil Young,” and its an understandable comparison–the first guitar lick on his new album brings immediate thoughts of Harvest. However, the expectations that come with comparisons to a juggernaut like Neil Young would surely take its toll on any burgeoning musician, especially one as young as LeBlanc. Furthermore, the Louisiana native is clearly his own artist despite the occasional Neil Young-y sounding moments. LeBlanc never travels into the abrasively weird territories that Young frequented, and Dylan’s voice and delivery is much softer than the Canadian’s pained tenor. If there’s anyone to compare his voice to it’d be his label mate, Jim James, of My Morning Jacket–but that comparison falls short as well. LeBlanc has been haunted by overwhelming expectations from a young age, but Cautionary Tale is clear evidence that he is rockin’ his own path in the free world.
Los TexManiacs founder and bajo sexto wizard, Max Baca, was once asked by a curious fan, “Why are you playing a pregnant guitar?” Sometimes called the grizzly bear of all guitars, the bajo sexto is the latin cousin of the 12-string acoustic guitar and an irreplaceable part of the Tex-Mex sound that Los TexManiacs embody. However, Baca and his band put a new spin on the roots, adding jazz, rock & roll, and country to the mix. It’s a little bit of a risk messing with traditional music even just a little bit (look at what happened to Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival). But Los TexManiacs brand of Tex-Mex have been met with nothing but praise since the beginning, they even won a grammy for best Tejano album for Borders y Bailes in 2010.
Although Max Baca was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he has more than established his Texas cred at this point. If the grammy isn’t proof enough, consider how he got his start: playing with Texas legend Flaco Jiménez with arguably the greatest Tex-Mex band of all time, the Texas Tornados. Baca has also earned the respect of other Texas luminaries like Alejandro Escovedo, Rick Trevino, and Kevin Fowler, all of whom appear with Los TexManiacs on their last record Americano Groove. We could keep raining much deserved praise on the San Antonio crew, but the music more than speaks for itself–check it out at the bottom of the page.
If someone wrote the lyric “I need a man, not a tumbleweed” directed at the long dead Townes Van Zandt you’d think they would no longer be allowed to step foot in Austin. Sure she may have worked with local darling Shakey Graves in the past, but Esmé Patterson’s “Tumbleweed” could still be considered by some a sacrilegious retelling of Townes’ classic “Loretta.” Personally though, her version makes me feel ashamed for never considering the “bar room girl’s” side of the story, and I’m glad someone breathed new life into the narrative that Townes left nearly forty years ago. It takes moxie to mess with songs like that, and Patterson’s Woman to Woman is an entire album dedicated to the revision of similarly untouchable songs like Elvis Costello’s “Allison” and the Beach Boy’s “Caroline, No.” They’re not covers, but responses written from the perspective of the women those songs were about. It might make some music geeks squirm (I did when I heard someone challenged my beloved “Loretta”), but nothing is sacred, especially when it comes to pop music. Nothing and nobody is perfect anyways, and the things that are thought of as such are probably the ones ripe for new conversations.
Esmé Patterson is now out with a new record titled We Were Wild, but don’t worry your sensitive music snob soul, Patterson turned inward for her inspiration this time around. What hasn’t changed are Patterson’s sharp lyrics, confident vocal stylings, and folk n’ roll sound. Like Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, Patterson’s lyrics parse the minutiae of everyday experience and the inner-workings of decision, memory, and love–taking the listener on a turbulent ride through her own mind. We Were Wild is certainly emotionally chaotic, but it’d be a lie if someone spoke of their lives otherwise. Check out some of the songs off the album from her Studio 1A session below.
Evan Charles is a man of many talents and many bands. However, it was one night alongside Jonas Wilson that he decided to make a record of his own songs, with his own unique take on Americana music. His album, The Long Ride Home, is the product of that meeting and it is a stunner.
Altamesa takes you across the desert and leaves you staring at the open sky. The music is delicate, steady and centered around Charles’ voice and strumming guitar. With a similar feel of a Ryan Adams, it still has its own flavor. And it seems like there’s only good news on the horizon as they have just started their second batch of recordings.
It was surely a treat to have Altamesa come by Studio 1A to share a few old and new tunes. Enjoy the tracks below, but also be sure to catch Altamesa on Friday, July 15th at Cactus Cafe or down in Marfa only July 28th for Viva Big Bend.
Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez
With already two albums under their belt, and a steady stream of shows, Vermillionaire has got it going on. This bluesy-rock quartet from right here in Austin is one of those special groups that’s able to perfectly balance catchy vocal melodies, long instrumental jams and unexpected prog transitions. Sometimes it’s easy to think that musicians no longer can really play their instruments, but they prove otherwise. Each player clearly knows how to improvise and jam, but even more importantly, everyone is listening and giving space for one another, which allows each part to be essential and insanely groovy. I’m going to go ahead and say if you like the Grateful Dead, who…. I love, then Vermillionaire is going to knock your socks off.
Vermillionaire stopped by Studio 1A to have a visit with Laurie and share a few tracks off their latest release, Vermillionaire II. If you want to catch them live, make sure to be at B.D. Riley’s on Friday or Darwin’s Pub this Saturday night (and every Thursday night). Since three of the Vermillionaires just finished high school, they’re going to be in different places for a while (hopefully, not forever), so make sure to catch them before the summer ends.