I didn't get to attend the Americana Music Festival, but there was some equally good music being played here in Austin. Here's a recap of a few of the shows Brady and I attended.
Guy Clark - 9/18/08 at the Texas Union Ballroom in Austin, TX
Ramblin' Jack Elliott kicked off the show with a, uh, little rambling and talked so much he only played about three songs during his set. The last one was around ten minutes long and featured a little improvising in the lyrics. He had several humorous stories that required a little straining on my part to hear since he's getting pretty old. He asked anyone in attendance with a camera to put it away, or take it back to their car since they were attending a music show that was meant to be heard. He further explained that he has a neurotic affliction to the sight of cameras that causes him to forget songs he's been learning his whole life.
Guy Clark took the stage with guitar virtuoso Verlon Thompson and played a killer set that included most of his better-known songs. "Texas 1947" was, as he explained, about the mesmerizing effect that a train rolling through his hometown of Monohans, TX had on the community when he was a young boy. He performed an extended version of "L.A. Freeway" that included a story about a landlord he had in L.A. who cut down a beautiful, decade-old grapefruit tree because the roots were cracking his concrete patio, and the crowd favorite "Dublin Blues," which kicks off with the line "well I wish I was in Austin, mm-hmm." The common thread present in so many of the songs was about life and how it should be lived, from the piss and vinegar of "The Cape" to the reliability of "Stuff That Works," a song he co-wrote with Rodney Crowell, and the aging in "Desperadoes Waiting For a Train." Life is not sugar-coated in a Guy Clark world.
The set also included "Magdalene," "Tornado Time In Texas" and "Out In The Parking Lot" from his newest album along with two brand new songs that he'll release on his next album. Before the night came to a close he left the stage to let Thomspon show off on guitar and perform a few songs he had written. After lights had gone down, the audience coaxed both to come back for an encore (undoubtedly planned beforehand) of the kickass recitiation of "The Randall Knife.)
6th Annual Cattlelacs Calfry Cookoff - 9/20/08 at Cattlelacs Chainsaw Art Gallery in Manchaca, TX
For those of you who don't know what calf-fries are, they're nuts. Not like pecans or walnuts, but actual cow balls dipped in batter and fried like corn dogs. It made for a plethora gonad jokes and set the tone for a good time. I arrived right as Matt Skinner was about to take the stage outside of Cattlelacs Chainsaw Art Gallery, in what Doug Moreland described as his grandmother's yard. He and his band tuck their jeans into their boots and don't seem to take themselves too seriously, which is an apt way to describe Moreland (the host of the event) as well.
Doug's dad, Glenn Moreland, played a few cowboy songs in the vein of Chris LeDoux and Michael Martin Murphey to hold things over until the first main act, Eleven Hundred Springs. Things didn't heat up, aside from the setting sun, until they took the stage to play some blistering honky-tonk swing music. Matt Hilyer was in a jovial mood as they rolled through older songs like "Texas Afternoon," "Long Haired Tattooed Hippie Freaks," and "Thunderbird Will Do Just Fine," as well as covers of Mickey Newbury's "Why You Been Gone So Long" and Johnny Cash's "Rock Island Line."
Ryan Bingham kept the evening headed in a blistering pace with standouts from Mescalito that included "Southside of Heaven," "Dollar A Day," and "Hard Times." He also played a tune from his upcoming album that can be described as sort of a protest song sans substance, about the current administration. It was fairly mind-numbing with how little it said, but I'll reserve further judgment until I hear the actual recording.
The majority of the crowd began to spill out before Doug Moreland took the stage, despite the fact that he was one of the better entertainers. He smiled most of the time, interacted with the crowd, and looked like he was having a ball (no pun intended). He switched between the acoustic guitar and fiddle for different songs and Matt Hillyer and Dub Miller appeared on stage to trade verses on "Take Me Back to Tulsa." It was awesome.
Bruce Robison - 9/21/08 at Threadgill's In Austin, TX
The crowd was surprisingly small, but they applauded and cheered like an audience three times their size since the show was being taped for XM Satellite Radio. Robison only played for an hour, but managed to sneak in most of his big hits plus a few from his new album. The highlights were "Travelin' Soldier," which he wrote leading up to the first Gulf War and a song he described as the fastest descending single in country chart history, and the affecting "My Brother and Me." Both started off acoustically before the band joined in. He challenged the audience to not be addicted to the chorus in "Lifeline" and closed the night down with "12 Bar Blues," a rollicking song about his hometown of Bandera.