by Jeff McCord, Music Director, KUTX
Welcome to December of 2014, a year that seemed to go by in a blur. Did we lose a few months somewhere, sort of like the way UT lost track of Charles Whitman’s brain? Maybe they’ll both turn up.
Since it’s the year’s end, it’s time everyone begins to take stock. What were your favorite albums of the year? Show us yours and we’ll show you ours. Send them to us on our Facebook page. And you can find our KUTX staff picks here.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH
It’s a new month, which means it’s time for a new Artist Of the Month here at KUTX, and this month it’s The Deer, who are about to release their new album, On The Essence of the Indomitable Spirit. The title might be a mouthful, but the album is full of smart, concise pop/folk/rock that goes down easy – surprising for an album born from tragedy.
After her former band the Blue Hit disbanded, singer/songwriter Grace Park got together with three fellow students at Texas State’s School of Music (joined later by another from North Texas University) to record an album of her songs titled An Argument for Observation, released in 2011. They called themselves Grace Park & The Deer, and joining them on background vocals in the studio and on tour was Grace’s longtime friend Stephanie Bledsoe. Being together on the road bonded them like never before, so they were all grief-stricken when Stephanie lost her life to a farm accident in 2013. She was just 27.
Stunned, and not knowing where else to turn, they found new comfort in playing music, and composing and arranging more collectively. The end result was such a different animal that they gave it a new name; The Deer was born. While haunted by the loss of their friend, the band’s exact musicianship, Grace’s rich voice, their meticulous arrangements and a hopeful spirit also buoy Spirit’s sessions. Grace calls it the most “personally-invested project we’ve ever taken on”.
You can catch The Deer live on KUTX (and in person by signing up here to be the audience) in a special nighttime Studio 1A appearance on Wednesday 12/10, and archived on kutx.org after it takes place. Grace will also take over the airwaves on My KUTX, Saturday 12/20 at 6pm.
The Austin music scene was dealt a hard blow with the death of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ian McLagan yesterday. He was found collapsed in his home from a stroke, was rushed to the hospital, but he never recovered. He was 69. Mac (everyone called him Mac) arrived in Austin two decades ago with a heady resume. From his beginnings in the Small Faces and the Faces, his session work with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and many others, all the way through his work in Austin with the Bump Band, his musical talent was obvious. But he possessed another talent, one even more rare. Lots of famous people have made Austin home over the years, but with the possible exception of his former band mate Ronnie Lane, none were as visibly a part of Austin. Mac was there for al kind of benefits, played for free for a decade at the Lucky Lounge, and most importantly, had the gift of making everyone who ever met him feel like his new best friend. None of us knew anyone, famous or not, as open, joyous and full of life as Mac. He lit up every room he occupied, and that is why it’s been so hard to say goodbye to our friend. There will never be another like him.
Since it gift-giving time, record labels are more than happy to give us elaborate box set collections meant just for that purpose. This year, two exceptional releases really stand out from the pack:
Paramount No. 2 The Rise and Fall Of Paramount 1928-1932
Thanks to the collectors who have scoured the earth for these impossible to find ‘race record’ 78’s, and to local label Revenant (founded by the late John Fahey and local music fiend Dean Blackwood), with considerable help from Jack White and his equally eccentric operation, Third Man Records, we have the second volume of this vital, neglected slice of American music, 800 songs from a label that, almost by accident, recorded some of the greatest musicians of their time, including Texan Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charly Patton. Beautifully packaged in a replica of Paramount’s gramophones and elaborately annotated, this one of a kind set of essential music is a limited edition $400 set, worth every penny. More info at thirdmanrecords.com
Bob Dylan and the Band: Bootleg Series Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete
It took him ten previous tries with his Bootleg Series, but Bob has finally unlocked the door of the treasure trove everyone has been waiting for. Imagine if you could have been a fly on the wall watching Dylan and the Band in their heyday, 1967, having fun with covers and occasionally coming up with masterpieces, all in a relaxed but intensely creative environment. It’s the Austin equivalent of seeing Dylan play a hoot night at Hole in the Wall. Their Woodstock basement has become the stuff of history and while us diehard Dylan fans have had bootlegs of this material for a long time, the sound on them was horrible. Dylan did officially release a few of the tapes, weirdly overdubbed by Robbie Robertson, in 1975, but finally, this 6 CD has them all, their sound cleaned up. And the results are truly amazing. The best album Dylan never intended to release, but finally, he has.
See you next time. Happy Holidays!