Friday Free For All: James McMurtry, Jazz 4 Dat Azz, Blues On the Back Porch, etc.
Photo by Scott McCaulay/Courtesy of Conqueroo
The Friday Free For All relays albums, artists, videos and vibes the Houston Press Music staff has been grooving to over the past week.
Caught up in the obsession that music should always mean something, many critics prefer James McMurtry's overtly political songs like “We Can't Make It Here,” or sorta-political songs like “Out Here In the Middle,” but for me it's all about “Choctaw Bingo.” His epic tale of a family reunion in southern Oklahoma deserves to be an AMC original series a la Preacher or Breaking Bad, but settles for a wayward piano line that seems to wander in and out from a completely different song. It stars meth-dealing, bingo-playing patriarch Uncle Slayton, who “had to leave Texas but he don't say why”; Bob and Mae, a football coach and his wife packing enough guns and ammo for a subscription to the magazine; and cousin Roscoe, who tragically misses the reunion after some unpleasantness on the Shawnee bypass. But best of all are the twins from southeastern Kansas that bring out McMurtry premature dirty old man:
Ruth Ann and Lynn, they wear them cutoff britches
And those skinny little halters, and they're second cousins to me
Man I don't care, I want to get between 'em
With a great big ol' hard on like an old Bois D' Arc fence post
You could hang a pipe rail gate from
Do some sister twisters 'til the cows come home
And we'd be havin' us a time
Even Urban Dictionary doesn't recognize "sister twisters" ("flying sister twisters" comes closest), but Texans and Oklahomans have recognized themselves in McMurtry's song since it was released on his 2002 album Saint Mary of the Woods. Ron Rosenbaum, writing for Slate in March 2009, went so far as to propose “Bingo” as a “new national anthem.” By linking the song with the subprime mortgage crisis (then still fresh in everyone's minds), The Great Gatsby, Thelma and Louise, and the Robert Lowell poem “Children of Light,” Rosenbaum comes off like a blue-state blueblood with a serious hard-on for Middle-American lowbrow culture. But he's so danged puppy-dog earnest in his hyperbolic adoration/explication of “Bingo” — “Whoa, careless slaughter on the Shawnee Bypass!” — it's totally excusable, because he's totally right; thing is, this song has been a sort of national anthem around these parts for years. McMurtry, who actually played the Mucky Duck last night, next visits our area August 20 at Tomball's Main Street Crossing. He's worth waiting for. CHRIS GRAY
MY FIRST FPSF
Having been a Houstonian for six years now, I'm somewhat ashamed that this weekend will mark my first time attending Free Press Summer Fest. Is the lineup particularly great? Not especially. Am I bummed the rain washed the festival out of Tinsley Park? Of course. Is the weather going to be one big thorn in our collective side this weekend? Without question. That said, as Free Press has drawn nearer, I've found myself growing more excited for the event. This is what festivals do - lineups are announced, people react one way or the other, they kinda forget about it until the week of the event, then most folks come around and join in the fun. You'll see the same thing with ACL Fest in the fall. But for now, Free Press has the stage this weekend, and, for one, am looking forward to seeing how our fair city's biggest music festival stacks up. Also, a tip: Gogol Bordello (who plays Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Neptune stage) is a thing best experienced live. CLINT HALE
Gorgon Sound are a dub production team from Bristol, home to some of the UK’s all-time greatest speaker-punishers; namely, Flying Saucer Attack, Third Eye Foundation and Massive Attack. I see “Jah” written all over various recordings that pass before me, and while I have no idea what it means, I’m usually sure that it connects the recording in question to the dub and reggae rhythm spectrum. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that I know what a gorgon is, and that it’s something you don’t want to be looking at directly, which is also how I feel about my monthly bank statements. The music in my bank is never near as good as this, no matter how loud they turn it up, nor however much mary jane the tellers are smoking behind the glass. TEX KERSCHEN
MICK BOOGIE/LEON BRIDGES
With Free Press Summer Fest going down this weekend, I'm revisiting a mixtape that was released last year on my birthday. I definitely listened to this tape every day for a month, several times a day. DJ/Producer MICK (formally Mick Boogie) mashed up a few of our favorite country rap tunes with the debut studio album Coming Home by Fort Worth's Leon Bridges, who is playing the festival. With the aid from HTown producers Jett I. Masstyr, Chris Rockaway, and Donnie Houston, MICK really created a gem that deserves multiple rotations a day. You can download the tape at cominghometotexas.com and hear it above. MARCO TORRES
EAT MORE BUTTS
It doesn’t take long for this two year-old episode of The Chris Gethard Show to embrace the punk rock spirit. The show is announced by a loud guy in a Mikey Erg T-shirt (side note: The Ergs reunited for the first time since 2010 on a recent episode), then only a minute in the audience starts chanting “Eat more butts!” for way, way longer than any respectable show would allow. Around 5:30, elements of Wu-Tang are incorporated, then at 8:40 the “Greatest House Band in the History of Public Access," The LLC, transforms it into a full-fledged jam.
At 10 minutes the great Jeff Rosenstock kicks in with his band and jam on the same theme until 13:10, when they transition into “Teenager," the song they were scheduled to play. Finally, after 15 and a half minutes of that, Chris Gethard, the host and voluntary surrogate for The Man, is able to start the show. When Rosenstock transitions back into the chant to close the show, Gethard ends up defeated and sitting on the floor, his DIY three-ring circus of a talk show morphed into something entirely beyond his control. Watching the show, it becomes clear that he understands his role as a foil to the chaos; without someone setting rules to break, there is no meaningful rebellion. It’s beautiful. ERIC SMITH
I'm not sure that I'm ready to call Good Times! the best Monkees album of all time, but I do feel sure in saying that it's one of the best albums of the year, even if it ends up being one of the more underappreciated ones as well. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, really, given that the Monkees are both beloved and scorned by many. Still, you'd be wise to give this album a spin on a sunny afternoon. It just works: these are catchy, upbeat tunes that hit on the different styles of the Monkees, including the very trippy “Birth of an Accidental Hipster.” With no bad songs in the bunch, it's one of the easiest listens of the year, almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Good Times!, indeed. CORY GARCIA
JAZZ 4 DAT AZZ
The week’s overcast skies had me tuned into Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score on Spotify for the abbreviated work week. It was a cool throwback at first, but by yesterday morning I was beginning to see the Log Lady on the MetroRail and ordering damn fine cups of coffee from dubious baristas all over town. But, just in time for the afternoon, Jazz 4 Dat Azz dropped. The first edition of the Killem Collective’s Kollective Crates Mix Series is a half-hour of Afro-soul power you need in your life today. The mix was curated by Ichikara Valdez, or, DJ I.V. True to his moniker, he delivers an infusion of fusion jazz and a slow drip of funky stuff that will rejuvenate one’s mind and body. The whole thing is arresting, but the mix opens with an amazing spoken-word think-piece that my search engine still can’t locate. Good, rare stuff 4 dat azz. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
On the heels of the announcement of his upcoming tour, Mexican composer/singer Juan Gabriel released this amazing and nostalgic cover of "Have You Seen the Rain? (Gracias Al Sol)." The track will be part of the soon to be released #QuieroCreedence, the Latin tribute album to Creedence Clearwater Revival, featuring Gabriel as well as Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli, Juanes and more. MARCO TORRES
BLUES ON THE BACK PORCH
Houston's KPFT (90.1 FM) is perpetually in need of money; it's not like it's got a bunch of advertising to fall back on, just a staff who can come up with some pretty creative ways to raise a little extra cash. Already home to 11 solid hours of blues programming on Sundays, the station – which recently ended its latest on-air fundraising campaign – will open up its studios in deepest Montrose (419 Lovett), or rather the backyard, this Sunday for “Blues On the Back Porch” from 3-7 p.m. Performing will be H-Town mandolin maestro Rich DelGrosso; reigning HPMA Best Blues winner (and 2016 International Blues Challenge finalist) The Mighty Orq, plugging his new album Love In a Hurricane; and New Orleans guitarist “Burnin'” Ron Hacker. Sounds like a great way to chill out, enjoy some righteously mellow live music (except perhaps the "burnin'" part), and help out Houston's coolest radio station in one fell swoop. In the event of rain, which seems likely, the party will move to Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights (1031 E. 24th St.). CHRIS GRAY
WHAT HAPPENED TO PLAYING MUSIC FOR FUN?
Our music scene is brighter than it has ever been, oozing of new talent and hungry artists eager to share their work. But I feel in a lot of ways we have fallen away from why we play music in the first place: simply because we enjoy it. Not all music needs to be played to get somewhere or to achieve something. There is a certain hustle here in town, and the climb to the top is a never-ending road for many local musicians. We are on the rise, Houston, that is for certain. This is a place where you can truly make a name for yourself by crafting and creating in the most honest of ways, the way you want to. But this can get in the way of the essence of being an artist and being creative, clouding why we all make music with financial gain or recognition. I miss the days of multiple open mics or cyphers on any given day of the week; folks meeting up JUST to play music, not necessarily to push their own brand or musical endeavors. There is no financial or promotional element in these kinds of shows or events, just creativity and artistry. We have said it before and we will say it again: if you’re trying to be a musician in Houston, now is the time. But please, have fun with it. BRANDON CLEMENTS
The Barrio God Doeman (DYNA) takes his talents to sunny California to celebrate his 22nd birthday and perform for the first time in the City of Angels. Above is his newest video "Plottin' x $chemin'." MARCO TORRES
This week marked the thirtieth anniversary of Webb Wilder's It Came From Nashville. A seminal cowpunk recording, Wilder, R.S. Field (a.k.a. The Ionizer), Donny Roberts, Jimmy Lester, and Billy Prince stood the Nashville straights on their ears with this snarling blast of rock and roll thunder. Steve Earle, whose "The Devil's Right Hand" was included, was such a fan of the Beatnecks he had to be barred from the green room prior to gigs. This was Field's first album as a producer and it opened the floodgates for him; he would go on to produce Billy Joe Shaver, Mark Germino, Sonny Landreth, Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle, Los Straitjackets, Scott Miller, Uncle Lucius, Omar and the Howlers and John Mayall, as well as local boys Hayes Carll, Mando Saenz, and Mike Stinson.
Wilder continues to tour hard and last year released the well-received Mississippi Moderne. While he and Field put the basics of their collaboration together in Austin in the mid-'70s, when Wilder worked at Margo's LaMode selling ladies shoes in Highland Mall; it was only after relocating to Nashville that the parts and pieces finally made a whole and the Johnny Cash meets a '50s sci-fi movie persona took shape. Wilder and Field went on to collaborate on two other monumental cowpunk albums, Hybrid Vigor (1989) and Doo Dad (1991) with Houston's Denny Dale Blakely (a.k.a. Cletus Wollensack) on bass. Field, Wilder and Lester still live in Nashville, while Roberts is an architect in Bremerton, Washington; Blakely has returned to Houston, where he gigs and teaches. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.