Photo courtesy of Little Feat.
By Jeff McCord
Like the band Little Feat where he spent most of his adult life, Paul Barrere was a bit of a chameleon. The son of Hollywood actors, Barrere’s California upbringing did little to explain his affinity for Southern-fried funk. He played and recorded with everyone from pop singer Nicolette Larson to Bob Dylan to jazz composer Chico Hamilton, almost invisibly enhancing their sound. Yet it was in Little Feat where Barrere, who passed away in late October at age 71, found a home.
Like Barerre, Little Feat’s founder, Lowell George, was a Hollywood native. His upbringing couldn’t have been further removed from his gritty, hard blues ethos. George’s parents raised chinchillas and provided furs to movie stars. An early band of his, The Factory, actually performed on F Troop and Gomer Pyle. George would end up in Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, whose wriggly fusion was to many the antithesis of anything soulful.
Yet the band George formed, with keyboardist Bill Payne and fellow Zappa alum Roy Estrada (who beat out Barrere for the bass player slot) found unique alchemy. George’s guttural baritone and earthy slide guitar betrayed his love for the blues, and churning third-line funk. Instead of raw power, though, the band – particularly in 1972 when they expanded to a six-piece including Barrere on second guitar and vocals – were mind-blowing in their chops and dexterity. Little Feat became a band without peer.
It wouldn’t last long. Never prolific, George’s songwriting would drop to almost nothing, while his appetites for binge eating, alcohol and speedballs grew exponentially. He both enabled and resented Payne and Barrere’s rise in the band. The pair made Little Feat sound the kind of the same, but different – songs were longer, jazzier, hinting at fusion that George openly despised. By the time of their 1977 release Time Love A Hero, Barrere was singing the bulk of the material. Two years later, the band split. George released a solo album, went on tour, and in Arlington VA, died of a cocaine overdose. He was just 34 years old.
In 1987, the surviving members of Little Feat reformed, and some version of the band has been performing ever since.
Barrere used to claim he was “right behind George” in terms of his excesses. His health decline backed this up. He contracted Hepatitis C in 1994, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2015. Last year, when he dropped out of Little Feat’s 50th anniversary tour, his bandmates feared the worst.
Many of the band’s loyalists paid scant attention to Little Feat in the post-George era, but they continued to make new fans, and throughout, Barrere’s mixture of funky and slick remained an inseparable part of their sound. “Skin It Back”, “Old Folk’s Boogie”, “Time Loves A Hero” – all his songs, and the way he connected with George on guitar gave the band much of their unrelenting drive. Captured just past their prime in 1978, Waiting For Columbus –one of rock’s finest live albums- stands as evidence of how good this band could be, Attempting to describe their weird, unclassifiable soup to an interviewer back in the day, Barrere eventually gave up. “It’s been described as a musician’s band,” he said. He seemed to be just fine with that.
Photo by Julia Reihs/KUTX.
Hovvdy – Heavy Lifter
by Jeff McCord
The self- described “pillow-core” made by Austin’s Charlie Martin and Will Taylor feels a lot fuller on Heavy Lifter, stuffed with overdubs of ear candy and actual beats. Those accustomed to the dead slow, gauzy and open-ended music of their previous two albums would be hard-pressed to identify Lifter’s buoyant single, “Mr. Lee”, as even the same duo. Yet they haven’t fully escaped the minimalist label. Both originally drummers, Martin and Taylor feel too tentative on their strummed guitars and other instruments to seem fully rounded. And it doesn’t seem to be their intent; there are still a good number of downcast school zone tempos. “Lee” seems sunny, it dwells on a very lonely man. Still, the new album is a conscious move toward songs more directional and pointed. Producer/musician Ben Lttlejohn has brought Hovvdy’s vocals out of the soup, and their lyrics present them as ambiguous observers, finding a sort of detached childhood nostalgia. There’s something uncanny about the pair’s synchronicity – it’s hard to determine who writes what. They weave their voices and build emotion with the simplest of devices – a harmony echo, a syrupy slow bass, a three-note synthesizer riff. Their early material seemed influenced by bands like Bedhead, who wore their badge of mystery proudly. But with their soft voices now amplified, they can sound an awful lot like Iron & Wine. Yet overall, Heavy Lifter represents a step forward. When the beats surface, they animate Martin and Taylor’s already intriguing sound.
Buy Heavy Lifter here.
Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX
The 2010s are about to be history, so we managed to track down some Austin music makers. We thought it would be a lot of fun to find out one of their absolute favorite albums of the decade. Um, wrong. We churn out these kinds of lists regularly here at KUTX, so it seemed to us that artists would have a great time chiming in. Apparently, we underestimated the difficulty of picking ONE album from an entire decade. Imagine that! Those willing to take this daunting mission on made comments that ranged from “this is really hard” to “HOLY CRAP! THIS IS REALLY HARD!!”. Others gave in and sent us multiple picks. We commend the fortitude of those who saw this through, getting back to us from as far away as Europe, in the recording studio, asleep on the couch… Your efforts are appreciated. Our unscientific survey reveals picks that range from Pulitzer prize-winners to cool obscurities and everything in between. If we made your lives difficult, sorry, but thanks for playing! The end result is definitely fun!
– Jeff McCord, Music Editor
ABHI THE NOMAD
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Bandana (2019)
My favorite album of the year / in the last decade or so. The production on the entire project was incredible, Freddie spills his guts over dusty loops and dirty samples that accompany his adventures as a drug dealer and musician. Coming off his recent legal stint, Bandana is the raw, unadulterated black American experience.
Solange – A Seat at the Table (2016) / When I Get Home (2019)
If there is any album(s) that shifted my perception of musicianship and inspired me to be my true self as an artist and a human being, it would be these albums. They painted a picture of black culture in a way that a lot of us could relate to, especially as Southerners. She broke boundaries, even on architectural levels and with her being from Texas, it just pushed me to become the male artist that could resemble that level of artistry, heartfelt creativity and provide a view from the South that could create national attention. In a way, these albums made a noise like what OutKast did in 1994 for the South in the hip-hop world.
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass (2015)
I listened to this constantly around the time I was working on my first record. I was so attracted to Natalie’s voice and the production of the album — it inspired me so much while I was navigating recording for the first time. I felt like she was my friend! So cheesy but true Anytime I listen to it now I get nostalgic for that time in my life where I was entering a whole new chapter.
ERIC BURTON (BLACK PUMAS)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
(Eric just sent a list of albums. Pimp topped the list but he also listed Good Kid m.A.A.d City by Kendrick, Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth and The Epic, Alabama Shakes’ Sound In Color, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories).
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)
Brilliant songwriting. So many great songs that have a depth and substance to them that few artists can match. It’s also catchy as hell. This record moved me as much as anything I’ve heard this decade. “If It Takes a Lifetime” sums up the quest to keep moving forward as a human being. “24 Frames” is smart and undeniable. “Teach Me How To Forget” is heartbreaking and relatable.
ANDREW CASHEN (A GIANT DOG / SWEET SPIRIT)
Ty Segall – Melted (2010)
This came out a year or so after I watched him open for Thee Oh Sees as a one-man band on the floor of Beerland. I knew he was talented but did not expect the 17 or 18 albums he would put out in the coming decade, and the thousands of bands he would inspire. This album is no longer listenable due to the wear and tear of constant plays it got at the house A Giant Dog shared in the early aughts (if that is what we are calling this era).
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)
This record broke the sonic mold. It’s everything that I love about music. It dances and takes you on a hella good ride. Nile Rodgers is a guitar funk master disco God too. ⚡️⚡️⚡️
Father John Misty – Fear Fun (2012)
While coming into my own as a songwriter, I stumbled across Fear Fun and my brain was instantly struck with his storytelling and vulnerability.This album has heavy influence on my views of how wordplay, melody and production should snatch a listener’s soul, thus making it one my favorite albums of the 2010’s.
BRITT DANIEL (SPOON / DIVINE FITS)
A Giant Dog – Pile (2016)
This has got to be one of my favorite LPs of the decade. It’s a record made by pure hearts playing pure rock and roll. To me, this record summed up Austin when it came out — trouble, euphoria, rock and roll, love, consequences, boom, and decay. And yes, I sing a little on the second to last song but that’s got nothing to do with it.
JOHN DOE (X / JOHN DOE THING)
Skating Polly – New Trick (2017)
The first track, “Louder in Outer Space” is HIT song that carries on punk rock’s legacy. This record was produced by Louise Post & Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. They’re celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band & the two sisters Kelli Mayo & Peyton Bighorse are 19 & 24 respectively. If this is the future, count me in.
Tom Waits – Bad As Me (2011)
This was the first Tom Waits album that I anticipated the release of- as an adult, I’d previously always been catching up on old Tom Waits music. The afternoon it came out, I sat down at the kitchen table and listened to all of it. Tom Waits in real time! (Sort of.) After I listened to the whole album, I went back to track #8, “Back In The Crowd” (my new favorite song!) and kept it on repeat until I learned it entirely. The writing of that song is perfectly heartbreaking, the production feels amazing, and to me, it’s the quintessence of perfect pop arranging. It sounds like a lost Roy Orbison song complete with the odd arrangement.
David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)
David Bowie meant so much to me. His career was prodigious, prolific. It was courageous. Just like Bowie.
SABRINA ELLIS (A GIANT DOG / SWEET SPIRIT / HEART BONES)
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus (2018)
My favorite album of the decade came out last year. It’s a thematic album about a society in which some people transform into angels. The transformed angels are outlawed and hunted by the government. Within the album, Furman threads her coming-out story. The production is awesome. The lyrics inspire envy in me. The first song rhymes “Pasadena” with “Deus ex Machina”. Emotional intensity is turned up to 11 throughout.
JIM ENO (SPOON)
D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
Broke the mold for innovative production, sonics, and vibe. This record has been one of the most referenced by any band I have worked with. “Sugah Daddy” with the great James Gadson drumming on his lap is a highlight.
GREG GONZALEZ (GRUPO FANTASMA / BROWNOUT)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
I heard a lot of good music this decade, but this one stands out to me as an album which both redefined a genre and embraced its history. As a fan of hip hop from the golden era I was discouraged to see so many young popular rap artists abandoning the lyrical delivery and style of their predecessors to embrace auto-tune “singing” or more staccato trap style rapping without showcasing a diverse or profound vocabulary that for me exemplified the art of hip hop rapping/lyricism. This album truly bridged the gap for me, showcasing a wide range of styles from party-anthems (“King Kunta”) to spoken word (“For Free”) and social-commentary (“Blacker the Berry” “Alright”) as well as experimental and poetic personal statements. Combine that with a diverse sound palette and production that embraced modern techniques as well as orchestration and moments of musical genius from Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and co. The result was an album both timeless and timely. To me, the album is like a Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on?” type statement.
Tweedy – Sukierae (2014)
A solo record that turns into a father-son record? Soft and hard all at the same time? Catchy and challenging? New and old? This record has it all; a mood and quality that hasn’t stopped inspiring me since my first listen.
Mavis Staples – We Get By (2019)
Maybe it’s just because it’s fresh, but I’m going to say Mavis Staples last record… I mean first…she’s 80!!!!! Beyond that, it is truly a gift – and I’m amazed how she’s stayed on message all these years. Wow. She really goes for it on this record. It’s truly deep and there’s no messing about. You’re getting the real thing. It’s just got great performances and songs. Ben Harper did a great job on the production – super minimal – play great and get out of the way kind of stuff. Sounds like her touring band, but I’m not sure. It makes me cry and I’m so grateful for Mavis!
Rihanna – Anti (2016)
It took me some time to think about. What album do I still play to this day? This album introduced me to the vocal and pen talent of Sza (Consideration). It was the “anti” pop album for Rihanna and ushered in her international domination as a makeup, lingerie, and high fashion mogul. Will we get another album from Rihanna? Who knows. One thing I do know is that this was the last piece of musical work before Rihanna chose to be more than a pop icon. My favorite tracks on this album are “Consideration,” “Same Ol Mistakes,” and “Kiss It Better.”
MEGZ KELLI (MAGNA CARDA)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Probably the most perfect album of this decade, at least in my opinion. I don’t know any other album that gets you a Pulitzer Prize. TPAB is important to me because it’s one of the few albums that beautifully explores the state of politics in this country, racial issues, and Kendrick’s own personal problems. On top of it all, it’s entirely influenced by a whole spectrum of black music genres/sub-genres aided by some of the greatest musicians of our generation (Sounwave, Terrace Martin, and Robert Glasper – just to name a few). The discussion is already there, but I think in a year or so people will really start to consider where this album falls in the top 10 Hip-Hop/Rap albums of all time.
Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)
The lyrics, the production and vibe all the way thru this album is so organic and inspiring. Definitely would be a dream to be a fly on a wall during their creative process!
Yelawolf – Love Story (2015)
This is a tough one as so much music from 2010 to now has helped mold me. This decade is when I really started listening outside my comfort zone of familiar genres I grew up on. But I think my pick for this decade is going to be Yelawolf. Up to that point the Alabama native who resided on the Shady Records imprint had been known for southern beats with equally southern lyrics, but on this LP, he mixed in sounds of outlaw country, and even experimented with folk. It was exactly what I was looking for in 2015 when I was at a pivotal point in my artistry.
ALEX MAAS (BLACK ANGELS)
Clinic – Free Reign II (2013)
I chose this record because I feel like Clinic channeled cyborgs looking for understanding freedom and emotional stability in the near future. They are trying to understand love and human connection, with only images of jungles, the animal life and the planet earth that once was through a time capsule they found somewhere in space. I’m always left standing hypnotized until the record needle stops and I’m brought back to reality. Time travel is real.
BETO MARTINEZ (GRUPO FANTASMA / BROWNOUT)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II (2013)
This record has been a constant for me since it came out in 2013. Great sounds and overall vibe. Really inspired me as a sort of bedroom recording. And no cymbals! (Beto also listed runner-up’s: Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Altin Gün – Gece).
TOPAZ McGARRIGLE (GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA)
Khruangbin – The Universe Smiles Upon You (2015)
One of my favorite records of the decade. I love how they blend world music, funk and psychedelic grooves. Interestingly it really borders on easy listening which I think says a lot about how noisy our world has become, sometimes it’s just really nice to breathe and get into some stripped-down mellow vibrations. Also, they’re from Texas!!!
TREY PRIVOTT (LOS COAST)
D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
The timeliness of his message seemed so urgent as a comment on police brutality, while he still managed to make a super accessible and danceable record. The musicianship is top-notch and his voice is near perfect. It is and will always be a go to for me.
ADRIAN QUESADA (BLACK PUMAS / BROWNOUT)
Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate (2016)
It’s hard to pick just one but one album of the last decade but this is the one that impacted me the most in recent memory. I didn’t fully digest it until a year or so after it came out but it has remained in steady rotation for me. I had been a fan of his previous releases but this felt like a statement/concept rather than just a collection of songs, his sound was the record felt grand and cinematic, and had some poignant themes throughout. He spent a few months living in Austin, so bonus points for the ATX connection too.
Teho Teardo – Music for Wilder Mann (2013)
Teho Teardo first came to my attention as a film composer. I listened to his score for Diaz on the way to Marfa when I was working on a commission out there in the desert. It was inspirational. Digging deeper into his catalog I discovered Music for Wilder Mann, based on the photographic book by Charles Freger. The main instrument featured on the opening track is the spring reverb! That got me hooked. Then come the strings, guitars, keyboards, and various electronic and other miscellanies. This is an album I wish I had made.
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016)
I would have to say Cohen’s You Want It Darker – his last record released just days before he died. It’s clear he was aware of his impending departure from the world. And he made this his final farewell. Then stuck around just long enough to make sure it was properly realized. The weight of the songs is not without humor and love. Truly a collection of wisdom and reassurance to those of us who follow behind. His music and poetry will live forever.
LESLIE SISSON (MOVING PANORAMAS)
Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentleman (2011)
Josh is a longtime close friend since we were teenagers in DFW and has been like a brother to me through the years. He even starred in the first Moving Panoramas music video. This album was released days before my mother’s death. I have vivid memories of seeing Josh perform at SXSW that year and spending time with him and our friends after one of his shows when my mom called me asking if we were still meeting up for lunch that day, which I totally spaced on and felt massive guilt for, wishing I’d spent that entire visit with her nonstop in retrospect. I’m immensely grateful for what I didn’t know at the time would be my last days with my mom the month this record came out and every time I hear it now, I think of her…. and how proud I am of my brother from another mother, Josh Pearson.
STEVE TEREBECKI (WHITE DENIM)
Cass McCombs – Mangy Love (2016)
My selection for best record of the 2010’s. I think that Cass is the best songwriter of our time. Today’s Bob Dylan. His lyrics are thoughtful, humorous and filled with deeper meaning, which is getting incredibly hard to come by lately. His music is rooted mainly in rock n roll, but it’s more art rock, with carefully considered arrangements and instrumentation. It was hard to pick my favorite of his 6 records that came out in the 2010’s.
Photo courtesy of Suzanna Choffel.
When Suzanna Choffel wrote the parental-like ballad, “Go Forth,” the singer-songwriter thought the only thing she was trying to birth was her album, Hello Goodbye. But a week later, she learned she was pregnant with her first child. Not only does the record predate this momentous event, but also includes an accurate prediction of her brush with morality after leaving her child for the first time to perform in France. Choffel’s intuition coupled with her trademark lush folk-funk sound serve as a vehicle for Choffel’s detailed illustrations of her life, while her experiences illustrate the album’s central theme: how to reconcile the push-pull of opposing desires, which in Choffel’s case, manifests as a struggle to balance family life and music.
The Voice contestant and Austinite stopped by Eklektikos to show KUTX what’s in store for her concert on December 14th to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Check out the live performance below!
– Written by Emily Gruner/KUTX
Host: John Aielli
Audio: Cliff Hargrove
Producer: Deidre Gott
Photo by Karla Bruciaga/KUTX
“I hope it’s a Christmas album for people who love Christmas music and people who don’t love Christmas music. May these songs welcome in a fresh new year and many warm, happy nights.” Austin indie darling Molly Burch achieves her goal to reach the Christmas music lovers and Christmas music skeptics with the pure joy she emits on The Molly Burch Christmas Album. Featuring tracks such as ABBA’s “Happy New Year” and a playful cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, Burch enlists comedians John Early (Search Party, Wet Hot American Summer) and Kate Berlant (Sorry to Bother You, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) for striking intros and backing vocals throughout. Not to mention, the album also features two originals penned by Burch to add to your holiday discography.
The Texas singer-songwriter spread the holiday cheer in Studio 1A in anticipation of The Molly Burch Holiday Party at Scholz Garten on December 13th. There will be special holiday drinks, a photo booth, and a performance from the chanteuse herself! Can’t make it out? Check out the live performance below!
– Written by Emily Gruner/KUTX
Host: Susan Castle
Audio: Cliff Hargrove, Jake Perlman
Cameras: Gabriel C. Pérez, Karla Bruciaga, Amarachi Ngwakwe
Edit: Karla Bruciaga
Producer: Deidre Gott