Anyone who knows me knows how much love I have for Willie Nelson. I’ve read every book he’s written, so when I had a chance to read his upcoming release via NetGalley I jumped at the chance.
Paul English was Willie’s long-time friend and drummer. For sixty-five years they shared a friendship that went beyond the bounds of friends and crossed over into brotherhood. I loved every facet of this story, from their first meeting until Paul drew his last breath. He was a steady force behind Willie Nelson and a fearless supporter of his talent as a songwriter and performer. He believed in Willie when Willie lost faith in himself. He understood Willie’s off-sync timing and had no trouble following him. That alone was enough to endear Paul to Willie, but as their lives intertwined and the story unfolded, it was only the beginning. The stories shared between the pages of this book took me on a journey from Fort Worth’s rough and rowdy side to New York Times Square and all points in between. Paul had a history of, and habit of, walking just a little outside the law. But despite his shady background, he proved to be a driving force. He loved numbers and was the accountant for the band. He never hesitated to take whatever action necessary when a shifty promoter tried to stiff them. “Paul knew everyone and everyone knew Paul,” said Willie. Paul took on the persona of the devil, dressing in all black, wearing a black cape lined with red silk, black Stetson, and red cowboy boots. But in Willie’s words, “that persona couldn’t have been farther from the truth.’ With a heart of gold, Paul never hesitated to step in and intercede for the underdog. So many stories are told in this book that I’d love to relate to you, but I won’t. I will simply tell you that behind every successful man, there is a true supporter. In the case of Willie Nelson, that was Paul English. Willie said they fit perfectly together like a pistol and a holster. Paul was steady while Willie could be unsteady. Paul was a genius with numbers and a sure shot with a .45. Everyone who knew him respected and admired him. He passed away on February 11, 2020, at the age of 87. He had been Willie’s closest confidant for over sixty-five years. This book is a fitting tribute to the man, sharing the highs and lows of his life. If you follow Willie Nelson’s music, this book is a must-read for you. I highly recommend it. It is told in Willie’s easy style of communicating, simple with no frills, but filled with heart and soul.
This book is set to release on September 20, 2022. And even though I’ve read it, I will have a hardcover copy on my bookshelf. It is priceless!
I had the opportunity to meet Paul and to spend time listening to him and my late husband talk on several occasions. His sense of humor and love for Willie Nelson came through in the stories he shared.
What a great month of reading I had! I am super excited to share my thoughts on the books I devoured!
I am a huge fan of Mae Clair’s writing and thought I had read everything she’d written until I ran across this book. And I’m glad I did!
Caithelden Breckwood is a tortured soul, carrying the weight of guilt for the death of his best friend. But they were only kids and all because of his family wealth and family name. Now he’s an adult with a set of steel bars around his heart and a new last name leaving behind all association to the Breckwood family. The only one he lets in is his young son, Derrick. He’s fiercely protective, determined that what happened to him will not ever happen to his son.
However, when he is hired as a Private Investigator to get to the bottom of who and what is sabotaging Stone Willow Lodge, he comes face-to-face with his past including the one woman he has always loved. Veronica is not prepared to face Caith again. The wound he left on her heart is permanent. As the events that occur at the lodge escalate into an all-out attack, Caith and Veronica are swept into a nail-biting journey that also finds them still deeply attracted to each other and often winding up in each other’s beds. The child, Derrick, plays a big part in helping each of the adults in this story heal and forgive.
I loved all of the characters, but especially Caithelden’s mother, Morgana, who is fascinated by myth and magic. The family drama that unfolds is believable as personalities clash and old issues arise. I rooted for Caith and Veronica all the way. That kind of love cannot be denied. The book came to a more than satisfactory conclusion. If you love a good mystery mixed with a steamy romance, you will love this book. I highly recommend it!
I enjoyed catching back up with the characters I met in other Wounded Hearts books. It was like visiting old friends. The always tough SAC agent, Amanda Rhinehart, is seven months pregnant as a result of an illicit affair with a previous member of her team, Adam O’Connor. Adam has no idea she is pregnant or even where she is. At the end of the last book, she left Texas. But as circumstances arise that force Amanda to seek out Adam and other team members, for their own safety, there is no avoiding the fact that she is pregnant with his child.
The author did a great job of layering this story with high-profile drug cases as well as the complex personalities of the characters. No doubt this pregnancy has softened Amanda and cracked her hard exterior, yet she refuses to let Adam in or even admit to him the baby is his. They are both denying their love and it takes some pretty drastic measures to get past the barriers they’ve put in place. The other characters in the story, Maggie, Frank, Cameron, Emily, and a new character, Brianne, all play important roles. The jury is still out on Cameron. One minute he seems like a good guy and the next he’s evasive and hard to read. I look forward to more with him. To me, the story came to an abrupt end. I would like to have seen the reunion with Adam and Amanda rather than being told about it. But that is my only critique. If you like layered characters and plots, you will enjoy this book! It’s a quick easy read.
If I could give this book ten stars, I would. I loved Willie before I read this book, but I love and respect him even more after reading it. As the title suggests, this is a compilation of letters from Willie – Letters were written not only to people living but many who have passed on. He even wrote a letter to his famous guitar, Trigger, to his audiences, his children, and to his heroes. The book is like a chronological recap of his life from early childhood in Abbott, Texas to today, dealing with the pandemic, politics, climate change, and a plethora of other immediate issues. But through it all, he is positive and upbeat. He lists Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code in a letter to Gene Autry (a boyhood hero). This code is one we would all benefit from if we lived by it.
One of my favorite passages in the book is in the chapter he wrote about all the frequent rumors that circulate about his death. He says: “The question is not: Which one of us is going to die tomorrow? The question is: What am I going to do today? Remember my song, “Three Days,” which helped kick off this book? There are only three days – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And there’s only one of those we can do anything about. So let’s go earn our day. Let’s do our best to enjoy life on this side of the dirt.” Such words of wisdom.
There is also a chapter on the Power of Positive Thinking that I found uplifting. Visualization and positive thinking are the keys to a happy productive life. I believe it! Included with these letters and chapters are many song lyrics scattered throughout the book. I highly recommend this for anyone seeking self-improvement or if you just love Willie!
With a hexed small town named Knotty, a sexy neighbor named Jason, and an inherited haunted house, I knew I was in for a real treat with this story. Remington never planned to return to the place where she grew up in an orphanage, but when her best friend, Beth, dies and she inherits a house, how can she stay away?
It mattered not that the two friends hadn’t spoken in years. The bond remained. And when Beth makes herself visible to Remington, the story ramps up. Armed with a book of spells, Remington embarks on the journey to becoming a full-fledged spell-casting witch. Ever seen a dog that meows? Perhaps some of the spells need a little tweaking.
This author has such a knack for writing quirky, steamy stories, and this one is the best I’ve read so far. The characters are charming, if not a bit eccentric. The ghosts that roam about are entertaining at the least. But the sparks that fly between Remington and Jason literally turn into visible streams. The story takes a dizzying array of twists and turns, with a surprise ending that I could not have predicted. There is a good bit of humor in this story and I laughed out loud more than once. If you want a sexy easy read that will entertain and distract you, this story is for you.
This was such a realistic story. The author obviously has some first-hand insight into the ruthless cutthroat world of the music business.
Krystal King has grown up on the stage and in the spotlight, with a father who was a country music giant. She, her sister, and her brother make up The Three Kings and produce hit after hit. But Krystal is broken inside, while outwardly, she’s tough as leather. And when a newcomer is brought in after winning a talent show, she is not happy about being forced to allow him to record a song (her song) that means the world to her. But the record label insists. And not only insists that she give him the song to record, but that her sister will sing the duet with him, not her. The hurt and betrayal go deep. But Emmy Lou, Krystal’s twin sister understands and fakes a sore throat, forcing them to let Krystal sing with Jace Black. Krystal wants to hate him and tries to find every reason to do so.
But Jace is a gentleman through and through. And he’s overwhelmed at the opportunity he’s been given to work with his idols, having signed a contract to open shows for them. He’s finally out of the oilfields and living his dream. Now he can make a better life for himself and his little sister whom he takes care of. Neither Krystal nor Jace are prepared for the intensity of the chemistry between them.
Krystal suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a man whom everyone thought was a family friend (even called him uncle). And although it’s been years, the deep scars have never healed. Krystal is convinced she is so flawed no one can ever love her. Jace is determined to prove her wrong. Her resistance is strong, but he is stronger.
This is such a good story with a realistic view into the world of stardom, life on the road, and a family that survives whatever is thrown at them. The characters are believable and the world-building is great. If you love a highly charged romance with lots of obstacles, this book is for you, and especially if you are also a music fan!
This book is the first installment in a series of monthly novelettes from this author and I found myself immediately drawn into Emlyn’s world. The author did a great job of setting the scene. Emlyn is gifted but must keep her gift hidden or face banishment from a strict religious community ruled by the brethren. Women have no value except for childbearing and serving. Only her mentor knows of Emlyn’s gift and is helping her develop and grow under the ruse of teaching her to read and cipher numbers. This segment of the story is told from Emlyn’s point of view so we see her encounter with a large white wolf through her eyes, as well as the ghosts that appear before her. The author leaves lots of teasers and foreboding of things to come. “Winter is coming,” is a phrase that echos in Emlyn’s mind. Preparations must be made. I look forward to the next segment of Emlyn’s journey.
The world-building in this segment of this series is fantastic. The way the author describes the village, the inn, the characters, and the landscape, I am there. I could smell the biscuit the cook gave to Emlyn while her father bartered for her. And what a shock for the child to realize he wanted to get rid of her. At first, I hated him for that, but given the restrictive and zealous religion they are bound under, he actually wanted to protect her. After all, she must be a witch if she can see spirits. Emlyn’s home life is torturous with a sister who is hateful and spiteful and a brother-in-law she is terrified to be alone with. This segment of the story gave us a deeper look at the fantasy world and its inhabitants. I particularly loved seeing more of Zasha and her companion, Tajin. Emlyn is a mere child, but she is an open channel to the spirit world. I have no idea what will become of her, but I will keep reading to find out! This story is addicting. Each segment is a quick easy read and well-written.
Welcome to another Sunday Spotlight! I am super excited to introduce today’s artist! He has released two new albums in 2020 and the one I am going to let him tell you about today is Under A Texas Sky.
The album cover alone conjures up all sorts of musical visuals! But just wait until his voice and delivery of these tribute songs! I love to listen to couples make music together and Jarrod’s wife, Claire, can be heard on each of the songs along with him.
But I’ll let Jarrod tell you about it in his own words!
Texas. The word alone conjures up images of larger than life characters, and a vast and sprawling landscape. The lines between reality and myth are often blurred when it comes to The Lone Star State, and the truth is you can’t truly have one without the other. Texas is a world unto itself, and its inhabitants are as unique as the state they call home.
I grew up in a medium-sized city in Texas called Waco, which is situated equidistant between Dallas and Austin along Interstate 35. As a native Texan, I’ve always been aware of the rich musical heritage of my home state, but as one often does with the place they’re from, I took it for granted. It wasn’t really until I moved away from Texas that the music that grew out of that same soil from which I came truly started to grab a hold of me. For quite a while now I’ve wanted to pay tribute to the many great artists from The Lone Star State, and thus Under A Texas Sky was born.
Under A Texas Sky is a collection of songs by classic, fellow Texas-born artists that have inspired me and my own musical journey. Choosing just five artists from the state of Texas was a feat in itself, and one can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the incredible music that has come out of Texas in just five songs. That said, I wanted to show the diversity of the music that has come from my home state, and I wanted to choose artists and songs that maybe weren’t immediately obvious to the listener. With that in mind, this EP features my own renditions of songs by Roy Orbison, Esther Phillips, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. Each of these artists, along with so many others, have made an enormous impact on my own musical path.
1. Uptown – (Roy Orbison)
Roy Orbison, born in Vernon, TX, is one of the early pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, and the epitome of cool. He had an unmistakable sound and a golden, crooner-like voice that most singers would give their right arm for. With artists like Roy, I wanted to be careful not to choose a song that was too obvious, or too big a hit, but rather dig a little deeper into their catalogs to find hidden gems. ‘Uptown’ was originally released as a single by Roy Orbison in 1959, and later made another appearance on his ‘A Black & White Night’ concert special from 1988. The song itself is a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, with big, roomy drums by Josh Hunt, a driving bass line by Ted Pecchio and call-and-response backing vocals by Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean, who became affectionately known as “The Ward Sisters” during this session. This was the first song we recorded for the Under A Texas Sky project, and it set the mood for the rest of the session.
2. Try Me – (Esther Phillips)
When thinking of artists born in Texas, Esther Phillips is likely not one of the first names that would jump to mind, but this native of Galveston, TX was a powerhouse R&B singer who heavily influenced many artists who came after her. “Try Me” is a song written by Jimmy Radcliffe and Buddy Scott that she released as a single in 1966, and which featured the horn of King Curtis on the recording. Esther Phillips’ voice is haunting and full of yearning. This minor blues song knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. I wanted to try to capture the energy and longing and tension that her original version featured, while also putting my own spin on the tune. I played a warbling, staccato Leslie guitar part on this song that provided the bed that everything else sat atop. JP Ruggieri played a blistering guitar solo, while my wife Claire and Stephanie Jean, of the duo Ida Mae (known together as “The Ward Sisters”) provided hypnotizing backing vocals that glue the entire track together.
3. Seven Spanish Angels – (Willie Nelson + Ray Charles)
Any collection of Texas music, no matter how big or small, would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of The Red Headed Stranger. Willie Nelson, born in Abbott, TX, has never been one to simply go with the grain, and do what’s expected. He has spent his entire career effortlessly weaving in and out of countless genres while always staying true to his unique voice and style. Willie was another artist with whom I was careful not to choose the most obvious song for this project. In fact, the song we recorded was originally a duet between Willie Nelson and Ray Charles for Ray’s 1984 album “Friendship”. Now, obviously Ray Charles was not born in Texas, so you may ask why he’s included in a collection of songs by Texas-born artists? To that I would say that Ray Charles is an American treasure who should be celebrated at every possible opportunity, and also that it’s my EP, so I make the rules! We wanted this song to be a big, gospel singalong, with foot stomps and hand claps and big Hammond organ swells. Chris Turpin, one half of the husband-wife duo Ida Mae, plays a beautifully musical resonator solo on this track, while Stephanie Jean, who makes up the other half of the bluesy duo holds down a throbbing Wurlitzer groove, and joins the chorus of voices.
4. I’m Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine) – (Doug Sahm)
Doug Sahm is hardly a household name these days, but those in the know are devout followers of this San Antonio native’s music. Sahm was a young musical prodigy, being offered a permanent spot on The Grand Ole Opry at the age of thirteen. Sahm, however, chose a different musical path, and with his bands The Sir Douglas Quintet and later the Texas Tornados, he became a trailblazer for what we now call “Americana music”. Sahm was one of the first to mix genres like Blues, Jazz, Country, Tejano and Rock ‘N’ Roll together to form an entirely new and unique sound. He was also among the first white artists to form a band with Hispanic musicians at a time when the American south was still a fairly segregated place. The song “I’m Glad For Your Sake” was originally recorded by Ray Charles in 1952, but it’s the Sir Douglas Quintet version from their 1968 Honkey Blues album that first really turned me on to the music of Doug Sahm. It had everything; Texas Blues at its finest. It swung, Sahm’s vocal was soulful and strong and the horns were out of this world. For our version, we didn’t have the brass, but we had a grooving rhythm section, a big Hammond organ and ‘50s Doo-Wop style backing vocals laid down by The Ward Sisters.
5. Dublin Blues – (Guy Clark)
When I had the initial idea of the Under A Texas Sky project, Guy Clark was the first artist that I knew I had to include. I discovered Guy’s music later than perhaps I should have since I grew up in Texas. It was until I had moved to Nashville (for the first time) in 2010 that my roommate at the time got me hip to his music. His songs stopped me in my tracks, much like John Steinbeck’s novels had stopped me in my tracks when I first discovered them. Guy Clark changed the way I thought about writing songs and telling stories. He was an absolute master of the craft, and remains a giant inspiration to me to this day. Clark grew up in Monahans, TX, which he described as being “between Pecos and nowhere”. His song “Dublin Blues” has been a song that my wife, Claire and I have sung together for several years now, and it’s always been a favorite in our live sets. This is the most stripped back song on the EP. We recorded it live, all in a circle with myself on acoustic guitar, Claire and I singing together, JP Ruggieri on pedal steel, Ted Pecchio on bass and Chris Turpin on his National resonator. It was a magical moment in the studio, and a fitting closer to the EP.
Under A Texas Sky was recorded live alongside good friends and musical cohorts in our current home of Nashville, TN at Johnny Duke’s Spirit Radio Studio. I tried to inject myself and put my own spin on these classic songs that have meant so much to me over the years. I hope you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I enjoyed recording them.
As most of you know, I am a staff-writer for Buddy Magazine, The Original Texas Music Magazine. Because of that, I review lots of newly released music CDs throughout the year. This is a look back on some of the best of the best from Texas! The Albums are not listed in any particular order, so this is not a Top Ten list. It’s a recap of music that moved me!
An Indie artist that broke all the rules this year and came out on top was Cody Jinks!
He released an album on October 11 that premiered on the iTunes all-genre chart at #1. Then one week later, on October 18, he released a second album that did the same thing. The most impressive part of this is that, as an indie artist, he has no record label backing him and pouring tons of money into promo. He did it all on his own. So, it is my pleasure to honor these two albums.
“Each album has a theme,” Jinks said. “The Wanting is about the road life and going deeper into your art, while After The Fireis more about the home life, the settling and coming down period.”
Another album that touched me deeply was RIDE ME BACK HOMEby the incomparable, Willie Nelson!
Part of this album’s appeal is that the title track, “Ride Me Back Home,” was written by a good friend of mine, Sonny Throckmorton. But, aside from that fact, it’s possibly one of Willie’s best!
Native Texan Bianca DeLeon writes about what she knows, her life growing up in the Texas-Mexico borderland. She’s lived through a lot, and it shows in her music. Her byline is “Texas Songwriter and Troubadour.” I absolutely loved reviewing her album, DANGEROUS ENDEAVOR. The first thing that struck me about this album is DeLeon’s voice. She’s gritty and gutsy with her delivery of the lyrics.
Pint-sized Jack Barksdale is making quite a name for himself in every music circle from the local DFW area to songwriter’s events across the United States. He’s twelve. Not only is he writing original material, but he also releases podcasts where he interviews other artists. Check out his YouTube page. He is one of the most amazing young artists I’ve ever seen! He released a new EP this year, Live From Niles City and it deserves to be on this list!
Here’s a YouTube video. You’ve gotta hear this kid!
Another incredibly diverse album that crossed my desk this year was FOG AND BLINGBy Shinyribs! It’s difficult to categorize this Austin-based band’s music. I’d say Shinyribs is an eclectic blend between New Orleans Jazz, R&B, Funk, Rock, and Psychedelic Country. It could aptly be called Swampadelic R&B.
Tom McElvain is known far and wide for his vocal prowess. But he is also fast rising to the top of the songwriting spectrum with songs like the ones found on his EP, DRIFTER. As he says, “This time it’s for the music, not the man.”
On a side note, I am working with Tom McElvain on a book, “Lady In Red,” that will be released in May 2020! Believe me, I will be promoting it here on my blog!
Smile Into Life from Austin-based Blues-Funk Rocker, Hector Ward and his eight-piece Big Time band, is one of the most dynamic I heard all year.From start to finish, it’s solid with not one track that I wanted to skip. Ward is quoted as saying, “Listen to music…it will change your reality.”
I want to share a picture with you because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Let me just say this man is inspiring. That is Hector Ward in the wheelchair. Listen to his music and see if you find one spec of self-pity. You won’t!
The Walkis singer/songwriter, Bonnie Bishop’s eighth album. Produced by Grammy-winner, Steve Jordan, the music connects listeners to the Texas vocal powerhouse in an intimate and personal way. I am a huge fan of her music and her honesty. She is an inspiration to women artists!
I love these two people, Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Kerrie Lepai Jones! They are perfect ambassadors of the Dallas Blues scene and it was an honor to not only review their new CD, but to interview them for a feature in Buddy Magazine. You can read it here. Jr. Boy has been playing the blues for over five decades and no one does it better! Their new album, Jr. Boy & Kerrie’s Blues is nothing short of stellar! If you love the blues, give them a listen! Kerrie proves that a white girl CAN sing the blues!
I’ll close this post with a single off Cody Johnson’s 2019 Album, Ain’t Nothing To It. In my humble opinion this is the most sensual and sexy song I’ve heard since Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.” Here’s Cody Johnson with “Nothin’ On.”
Maybe you are already familiar with some of this music but if you aren’t I do hope you’ll take a minute to discover something new! Thank you!
Myself and another Buddy staffer attended the event, at first thinking we were getting Press Passes, then finding out we only had general admission tickets. Considering the cost of those, it was still a good deal.
I had taken my book, “The Convict and the Rose” to gift to Willie. But, it became obvious, there was going to be no personal contact with him.
Why that book in particular? Because the artwork on the cover was done by Rick Sikes in the late seventies, commissioned by Willie for an album he wanted to release by the same title. But, as fate will sometimes do, around the time they were getting to release the project, IRS started looking at Willie and his attorneys advised him against having any contact with a convict. Therefore, the project was shelved.
In 2004, Rick and Willie reunited and Rick gave him all the original artwork.
Since Willie never used the artwork, when I wrote “The Convict and the Rose,” I decided to utilize it. And that is why I wanted to get the book into his hands last night.
After lots of dead ends, I reached out by text to Willie’s ex-wife, Connie. At her suggestion, I found Willie’s bus driver, known simply as Gates.
What a kind and sweet gentleman he turned out to be. When I told him Connie had told me to ask for him and he would get me what I needed he just grinned.
“So, what is it that you want to give Willie?”
I reached into my purse and pulled out the book. He took it and while I stood and watched, he went directly onto the bus and came back out empty-handed. He gave me a thumbs-up and a grin.
So, in a round-about way, a copy of “The Convict and the Rose” is now on Willie Nelson’s bus! Whether he’ll pick it up and read it is another story, but at least I accomplished what I set out to.
The show was sold-out. No surprise there. The Bomb Factory, which holds just under 5,000 people, had removed all tables and chairs and people were packed in elbow-to-elbow like sardines.
Willie played for 70 minutes. He did most of his classics and never faltered.
I am in amazement that at 84, soon to be 85, he is still going strong.
The lighting was terrible, so these pictures are very poor quality, but I was there and had a wonderful time!
And the best part…Willie now has a copy of my book! It was worth the cold misting rain and aching feet to accomplish it.
I very recently had the pleasure of interviewing the ever-enigmatic Kinky Friedman for a magazine feature. He has released an album after a forty-year hiatus, CIRCUS OF LIFE. I want to share two stories with you.
First, he talked about a phone call he got from Willie Nelson at 3 am. Kinky was in Texas and Willie in Hawaii. The conversation went like this according to Kinky.
Willie: “Hi, Kinky. What are you doing?”
Kinky: “Watching Matlock.”
Willie: “Kinky, that’s a sure sign of depression Turn it off. Turn off Matlock and get busy writing.”
And, so he did.
On this album, I found a tribute song to Willie, “Autographs in the Rain.” Kinky stated that he’d seen this happen many times. People would be lined up for autographs and when the rain started. the fans didn’t leave and neither did Willie. And, while I couldn’t find a photo of Willie signing in the rain, I did find one of him signing a woman’s boob. 🙂
Everyone loves Willie. And the main reason for that is he has always taken time to connect with his fans. He understood that if those people didn’t pay their money and spend their time to come and see him, he wouldn’t have much of a career. And, he’s always been sincere about it. Many of today’s artists have forgotten that or they are just paranoid to get too close to their fans.
I have met Willie personally on three occasions. Once, Rick and I even had dinner with the band backstage. I was awestruck!
I love Willie Nelson. He is now 85 years young and eventually, his journey here will end. That day will break my heart. Here are a few personal photos of the graciousness of Willie Nelson.
And, then last, but certainly not least, I want to share a pen and ink drawing Rick did of Willie. I thought he captured the essence of Willie Nelson perfectly!
I can’t say why I was particularly drawn to share this with you. Perhaps it was the conversation with Kinky that sparked it. The feature article will appear in the July issue of Buddy Magazine.
Most of you know that I am a staff writer for Buddy Magazine (The Original Texas Music Magazine). Part of my job is to review new music as it is released throughout the year. This list is the best of what I heard and is based on my opinion. I hope you’ll find something new that you haven’t heard before and that you’ll check it out.
Just when you think Willie Nelson cannot do anything new under the sun, he does. I loved everything about this CD, from the cover to the liner notes, to the songs and production. But, what struck me the most about the project was the blending of voices and guitars that can only come from a family connection. Willie’s two sons, Lukas and Micah join him on this CD.
This CD accompanies a compilation of short stories from Radney Foster, which made #1 on my Top Ten books for 2017. This entire project from start to finish a perfect example of what storytelling should be. I loved every song on this CD but one that stands out is “Belmont and Sixth,” about a homeless veteran.
If aging has done anything for this timeless Americana troubadour, it has only enhanced his powerful songwriting prowess. Close Ties, is beyond a doubt the most intimate as he weaves deep personal stories that expose vulnerabilities and regrets. It is quite possibly Rodney Crowell’s best work to date with wry, straight-as-an-arrow stories about his life.
There is no singular word that describes Lili Blessing’s voice…Pure, rich, subtle, smooth as silk, yet powerful and edgy are words that come close but fall short. She is like a young Norah Jones or Adele. Seamless transitions into falsetto and powerful dynamic delivery set this Indie Alternative artist apart from anything I’ve heard.
I get excited when I discover a new artist that has been around for decades making original creative music. Such is the case with Bill Carter. He writes the kind of songs other artists turn to for inspiration and their own material. For over three decades, Carter has been turning out songs that legends of rock, blues, and country have recorded. On this self-titled album, Carter’s unique style and skillful musicianship is the mark of a man who has spent a lifetime honing his craft. Carter plays all the instruments, sings the songs and he also produced the album. Wow!!
Whoever said white girls couldn’t sing the blues have never heard Kerrie Lepai. With her powerhouse voice and undeniable range, she is a force to reckoned with. While Kerrie Lepai may be a new name to you, it’s one you won’t soon forget. If you love the blues and all that it embodies, along with the smoking hot guitar of Andrew Jr. Boy Jones, this album is for you.
Houston-based blues harmonica ace, Steve Krase released his fourth album, Should’ve Seen It Coming, for Connor Ray Music. Most of this album was recorded live over two nights, at the Red Shack in Houston. The spotlight tune of the album is unequivocally “Repo Man,” written by brother David. It allows everyone to show off musically and vocally. “I won’t knock on your door/I won’t bang your wife/But I’ll take your car in the middle of the night/Cuz I’m a repo man…” The lyrics are catchy and humorous, but the arrangement is seriously incredible.
This album is different in many ways, but mostly in the unique interpretation of lyrics and melodies done only the way Jerrod Medulla can. It is is fresh, sexy, sultry and diverse. It is hard to classify Jerrod’s music. It is a mix between Americana, Rock and Blues with a little Jazz thrown in.
Nothing describes Mike Blakely’s vocal and songwriting style better than straightforward and genuine. Listening to his new CD, Keepsake, is like going on an easy rambling trail ride. Mike’s “no frills” music touches something deep inside. If you enjoy listening to lyrics that have meaning, tell a story or carry a message while the melody flows like a cool mountain stream, you will enjoy Keepsake.
What you’ll hear on Land of Doubt is stunning beautifully arranged strains of chords and melodies with lyrics deeper than the roots of an old oak tree. Baker is well-known for surviving a violent terrorist attack in Peru in 1986. He suffered some hearing loss in the explosion but has defeated all obstacles to emerge as a respected songwriter and performer. Land of Doubt opens with simplistic yet complex guitar chords from Will Kimbrough on “Summer Wind.” I am immediately reminded of Willie Nelson’s style of intermingling guitar licks with meaningful lyrics.
I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting new artists, perhaps finding new music that touches you or simply been entertained. Thank you for taking a look at a big part of what I do in life.
This is part of a series of posts I’ve entitled, “Stories From the Road.” Each week I will post a new story from Rick Sikes, a Texas musician who traveled the roads of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and out to California for well over twenty years. With hours to pass in a van full of sweaty musicians, they found ways to entertain themselves. These stories are told in Rick Sikes’ words. I’ll do my best to correct grammar, but I want to keep them in his own voice.
“Sometime, long about 1964, I had gotten hoooked up with booking agents in the bigger cities. One of them was out of Waco, Texas.
Willie Nelson and his ex-wife, Shirley Collie, had come from California around this same time. Willie was pretty much unknown then. He was known more as a writer and not a lot as a performer. He had one record going for him called “Touch Me” and he didn’t have a band at the time. So, my agent from Waco asked me and my band to back Willie and Shirley on a little tour through Texas, and we did. These were mostly stage shows.
We did a stadium show in Austin or San Antonio and the acoustics were hellish. You’d speak a word and just as you finished, it would echo back – or as we used to say back then, slap you in the face. Instruments (especially drums) were really a pain.
Another incident I remember took place in Brady, Texas. We were scheduled to do a stage show at the high school auditorium from 7 ’til 8:30, and then we were to play at the Brady Country Club from 9 or 9:30 until midnight. We set up at the high school auditorium and a little after 7, there were only five or six people who had shown up. So, the promoter decided we should go ahead and tear it down and go out to the country club to set up for that dance.
We did, and it was getting on towards 9 o’clock but still, there was not hardly anyone showing up there either. I had a van with a P.A. system and horn on top, so the promoter asked me to head into town and advertise that there was a dance with Willie Nelson at the country club and invite people out on the P.A.
We were cruising the streets and I was plugging the dance hard. A policeman pulled us over and asked to see our permit to use the P.A. I told him we didn’t have one and he said, “Even if you did, it wouldn’t allow you to use that P.A. this late in the day.”
I felt it was time for an alibi so I told him, “The mayor is out at the Country Club and he told us to come in and plug the dance.” The cop said, “Well, I think that’s enough for tonight, so turn it off.” I said, “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” We hauled it back to the Country Club and started playing.
Willie and Shirley put on a great show and I think we may have had around 25 for 30 people show up. We didn’t get paid that night and I doubt if Willie and Shirley did. Willie wore suits and neckties back then and had a businessman’s haircut and was clean-shaven.
We didn’t know it at the time, but in a few short years, Willie would be well-known everywhere. It was truly an honor and privilege to back him and a friendship formed that lasted over the years.”
**A side note** When Rick saw Willie again in 2003, he asked him if he remembered the Brady shows and Willie did. Then he asked him if he ever got paid for them and Willie said he didn’t. They had a good laugh over it.
a person who has broken the law and who is hiding or running away to avoid punishment
1: a person excluded from the benefit or protection of the law
2a: a lawless person or a fugitive from the lawb: a person or organization under a ban or restrictionc: one that is unconventional or rebellious
3: an animal (as a horse) that is wild and unmanageable
Hmmmmmmm…gives pause to really consider the meaning of the word.
Merriam Webster’s Definition of Music:
sounds that are sung by voices or played on musical instruments
written or printed symbols showing how music should be played or sung
the art or skill of creating or performing music
Put the two words together and you get a definition of music that is outside the law, unconventional, rebellious, wild or unmanageable.
The first picture that comes to mind when I think of Outlaw Music, is Waylon Jennings. He dared to buck the Nashville suits and make a stand to play the kind of music he heard in his own soul, not what they expected
Texas music artist, Tommy Alverson, depicts the outlaw attitude in the lyrics of his song, My Way or The Highway. “Well he told ‘em just what he thought. Didn’t give a damn if they bought.” That says it all. This song is recorded on Tommy’s Heroes and Friends CD.
Then there’s that famous picture of Johnny Cash shooting Nashville the bird, although he recorded on some of the biggest labels in Nashville through the 90s.
They dared to speak out – dared to be different. I won’t attempt to list all of the music artists associated with the Outlaw Music movement. Instead, I want to go back farther; back before anyone ever heard of Waylon or Willie other than a few scattered songs here and there.
I’m going to get personal with this and tell you about a man most of you have never heard of who was a true and original pioneer in the Outlaw Music movement in Texas starting back in the early 60s. That man was Rick Sikes.
He drew hippies out of Georgetown and cowboys out of Round Rock together in one place with no fights and no problems, to hear his brand of music. Why? Because it was outside the law of how music was supposed to be played at the time. And folks were attracted to it, partially due to the social climate of the time and partially due to the value of the music itself.
Rick had been a rebel and walked to the beat of his own drum his entire life. So, when it came to making music, he saw no reason to change.
He often performed at Big G’s club in Round Rock, and commented often on how each time, he had requests for the old Fred Rose song, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, which was originally recorded in 1945. It was not uncommon to be asked to play it several times in the course of a night.
In 1971, Rick was sentenced to a total of seventy-five years behind bars for alleged bank robbery. That ended his rising music career, at the same time when Tillman Franks promised to promote him.
By 1972, Willie Nelson, left Nashville and moved back to Texas. He began regularly performing at Big G’s where Rick had been a regular. Rick wondered if Nelson’s decision to record Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain in 1975 came from his time of playing there. Even though he visited with Nelson a few times after he’d been released from prison, he never remembered to ask him.
We often assume the stars we associate to a certain genre of music were its originators. But, I dare to say that events way before they ever turned down a certain road helped pave the way and give them vision to see things in a different light.
I spent last weekend in Austin, Texas. Why? Two reasons…music and friends. And, friends who wanted books and friends of friends who purchased books. So, I guess that actually makes three reasons.
It is always fun when I can share a road trip with my best friend, Kay. She is the most awesome traveling companion. Knowing we were going into the heart of the Texas Hill Country, we had hoped to find Bluebonnets still blooming. And we did. This field was located on the banks of what used to be Lake Travis. I say ‘used to be’ simply because the lake is dry. It is heartbreaking to see a dry riverbed where a huge lake used to sit. But, perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way and water will once again flow.
The first event of the weekend was held at Strange Brew, an eclectic coffee house/lounge on Manchaca Road in Austin. My friend, Van Wilks performed there Saturday night.
Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure of listening to and watching Van Wilks play guitar, I can only tell you that you are missing out on a musical experience. The way he uses every string, every note to the fullest is beyond comparison. He is a first-class guitar player and my words are falling short in describing him. So, here’s a short video clip. Let the music speak for itself!
Sunday found us back at Strange Brew for another day of music that could not be more opposite from Van Wilks.
My long time friend, Richard Dobson performed in a songwriter swap with George Ensle and Greg Whitfield. I love these acoustic settings where you feel like you’re sitting in your living room with them. Richard (or Ricardo, as he is known by many) is a folk singer/songwriter. He’s had songs cut by Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, Guy Clark, Lacy J. Dalton and well the list is too long but they are all listed on his website.
Richard currently resides in Switzerland, so when he makes trips to the U.S., I try to catch up. Not only is Richard a prolific songwriter, but is also an author himself, with three published titles and working on a fourth.
For your listening pleasure, here is a short clip!
Then a highlight of Sunday afternoon was a visit from the most beautiful and gracious, Connie Nelson. Yes, she is Willie’s ex-wife and a sweet beautiful soul.
Heading back to Dallas, my heart and head was filled with words, music and friends.
A huge thanks to our host and hostess for the weekend, George and Donna Garcie! Moments like these are what fills our lives and gives us rocking chair memories.
And today is Willie Nelson’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Willie and here’s to another twenty!!