Photo by Courtney Chavanell
There’s a niche fascination to remaking old songs with a different genre, but credit goes to Austin’s Brownout for transcending kitschiness on Planet Caravan, their full-on Black Sabbath reimagining earlier this year. As Brown Sabbath, the Brownout members show off their obvious love for the original source material while also showcasing their own formidable musical skills. They bring a different kind of heaviness to Sabbath’s heavy metal, born from Latin funk and R&B.
The group is donning the Brown Sabbath costume again tonight with a special Halloween show at the Belmont, and we got a preview of the experience when they stopped by Studio 1A earlier this year. Frontman Alex Marrero prowled the stage like vintage Ozzy, and the horn section turned Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” into something Ennio Morricone might have written. Halloween or not, Brown Sabbath is something more than just a costume party.
When last we checked in with Saintseneca, the Ohio four-piece was riding high on the tail of Dark Arc. The band’s second album found them incorporating rousing melodies with their electric folk, sounding like a (much) darker version of the Lumineers. They stopped by our Studio 1A for a fiery live performance, perfectly showing off their roots as a house-party DIY band.
Fast-forward a few months and Saintseneca is still on the road, but they’re showing off a new side of their sound. It’s easy to hear the folk/rock influences of Bright Eyes or Nick Cave, but on a new single, Saintseneca points their arrow to one of our hometown favorites: Lucinda Williams. Their cover of “Passionate Kisses” highlights the original’s romanticism, proving its a song worthy of any generation.
The appeal in power-pop is its underdog status. For every Tom Petty or Cheap Trick, there are thousands of also-rans that never made the big time, from loveable losers like Big Star to just-too-weird-for-radio like Shoes. That sadness underscores power-pop and arguably heightens the songs to a different, more romantic place. You could make an entire alternate history of rock-and-roll filled with these three-minute near-misses.
And that’s exactly what Nude Beach does on ’77, the Brooklyn band’s third album. It’s a big record, spreading nearly seventy minutes over eighteen songs that draws a straight line from the Byrds through Weezer. All the jangling melodies and bar-band guitar solos show how interconnected this music is, a fact further solidified through Nude Beach’s recent tour with Austin’s own Roky Erickson. What’s old is new again on songs like “For You,” which matches a glam-rock beat to a sugar-sweet hook. It’s casually brilliant–just like much of the original source material.
Punk rock, cattle ranching, visual arts, and rockabilly: pretty different backgrounds, but Oklahoma’s JD McPherson can claim them all as a part of his own. The singer lived a rural existence for most of his life, yet he was originally drawn to the power of punk. But as he conceded to NPR a few years ago, it’s hard to be a ’70s British punk rocker growing up in Buffalo Valley, Oklahoma in 1995. A chance encounter with the music of Buddy Holly soon had McPherson diving further back to the original rock-and-roll sources, like Little Richard and Fats Domino, all while teaching middle school art.
Soon, McPherson was rockabilly-obsessed. It certainly helps when you have a voice like his, which jumps off the recordings like a rocket. Credit also goes to Jimmy Sutton, a Chicago-area bassist and producer who took McPherson under his wing and showed him how to truly sound like his idols. Sutton captured McPherson’s performances the old-fashioned way: with beat-up microphones, an analog tape machine, and plenty of live takes. The result is Signs & Signifiers, a roaring debut first released in 2010 before getting a wider push in 2012 via Rounder Records. And thanks to constant touring and can’t-miss live shows, McPherson is now spreading the rockabilly gospel across the country. Songs like “Fire Bug” charm with banged-out pianos, steady beats, and screamed vocals, and it sounded even better live in our Studio 1A. For McPherson, rock-and-roll is more than just an outfit.
Mike Doughty is probably best known as the former frontman and main songwriter for Soul Coughing, though he’s now spent more time as a solo artist than he did with the ’90s hitmakers. Since Soul Coughing’s demise in 2000, Doughty has had an up-and-down career: he’s released dozens of albums and live recordings, but he also fell into drug addiction. In 2012, he chronicled his struggle in a critically-acclaimed memoir, The Book Of Drugs.
He’s now pouring this energy into intimate solo tours. Last year, he took a set of reworked Soul Coughing songs on the road, and he recently stopped by Studio 1A and the Cactus Cafe in support of his new album, Stellar Motel. He visited us in the midst of our fall membership, and Doughty is no stranger to public funding himself. He’s successfully released two fan-funded records, including Stellar Motel. The album finds Doughty still exploring his unique blend of blues and hip-hop, but in the live setting, he strips the songs down into atmospheric, almost psychedelic dirges. Download “Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating In The Future” below.