UPDATED: The Rocks Off 100: Kimberly M'Carver, Missouri City's Nightingale
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Photos courtesy of Kimberly M'Carver
UPDATED (Thursday, 6:30 p.m.) Corrects the spelling M'Carver's last name and the songbird she was compared to by Jimmy LaFave. Our apologies to Ms. M'Carver.
Who? Sometimes a hunch will pay off. Kimberly M'Carver's -- not McCarver -- latest CD, Hard Waltz, showed up in the mail here at the Press a week or two ago. Rocks Off did not recognize her name (forgive us), but knew enough names on the one-sheet bio to raise an eyebrow. The muscians who appear on Hard Waltz have also worked with Little Big Town, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant and Austin acoustic sprites the Greencards, among others.
Once we had a listen to Hard Waltz, those names made a little more sense. M'Carver's fourth album, it's a no-frills, perfectly produced, largely acoustic set that should fit comfortably on your trad-country shelf next to the Dolly Parton, Kendalls and Sweethearts of the Rodeo records. Absent of any pickup trucks, shotguns, or crossover-pop ambitions, Hard Waltz requires little more than M'Carver's pristine soprano to carry it home. (Veteran Austin folksinger Jimmy LaFave once likened her voice to a
meadowlark nightingale, which fits pretty well.)
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Turns out M'Carver has quite the resume. The native of Mesquite near Dallas says she's been singing and dancing since childhood. After college at UT-Austin -- she was a voice major, and puts her training to good use on Hard Waltz -- M'Carver began fronting Houston-area cover bands and in the early and mid-'90s was a regular name in the Houston Press and Public News Music Awards nominations. Eventually a homemade tape of her songs wound its way to Rounder Records; when the reps went to see her at Last Concert Cafe (when it was 27 degrees out, she says), they offered her a contract on the spot.
That led to the well-received albums Breathe the Moonlight and Inherited Road, which stirred up some activity on the Americana charts. Jim Lauderdale and Grammy-nominated bluegrass singer Claire Lynch appeared on M'Carver's next album Cross the Danger Line, which she co-produced herself alongside Scott Neubert. He and Lynch are back for Hard Waltz.
Home Base: M'Carver now lives in Missouri City ("Fort Bend's proudest"), and plays monthly at Heights Boulevard barbecue joint Hickory Hollow besides gigs at other local venues such as Anderson Fair and the Mucky Duck. Non-music-wise, she's partial to Sprinkles Cupcakes (4014 Westheimer in Highland Village) and visits often: "Blatant plug for a free cupcake."
Good War Story: "I've had a guy try to break into my hotel room, lost a guitar pick inside my guitar while playing solo to a large sold-out crowd in D.C. (and I didn't have another one handy) had my guitar misplaced on numerous flights, but the craziest would have to be the driving of our hosts in the UK," M'Carver says.
I was doing some shows with Jim Lauderdale in Britain and Scotland, and we stayed in a old picturesque country home, but the drives to and from the airport/train stations, and back and forth from the gigs were a nightmare!Jim, me and my guitarist Wayne would literally fight over who was going to get to sit in the back seat in hopes of making it back alive.
They were lovely people, very hospitable and the wine flowed, but man -- it was like NASCAR.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I've lived here longer than anywhere else now and so I have roots I'm not willing to give up easily, personally or musically," she says. "I've also noticed over the years that Houston doesn't have a natural tendency to get too full of itself... and that's a good thing."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "I think this goes with any city, but it seems like people get complacent (including myself) with regards to getting out and hearing music, local or touring," M'Carver offers. "But I'm personally trying to do better!"
Five Desert Island Discs:
"Impossible question - and it truly would depend on the day -- but here goes!"
Jack White, Blunderbuss
Emmylou Harris, ("my musical girl-crush"), Stumble Into Grace or Wrecking Ball
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
Elvis Presley, Blue Hawaii
Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu
Best Concert You Ever Saw: "You'd think it'd be a big concert, but ages ago Robert Earl Keen was at Anderson Fair, and it was an empty house except for me and two other people," she says. "He stepped off the stage, away from the sound, sat on a table by us and played. I learned a big lesson that night.
I was thrilled when, a few years later Robert graciously opened for me at my very first CD release at Anderson Fair," continues M'Carver, "as a favor to Tim Leatherwood who runs it, because Tim knew what a big fan I was of Robert's."
First Song You Fell In Love With: "Another impossible question!" sighs M'Carver. "As a kid my dad sang [Marty Robbins'] 'El Paso' to me a lot. He even had his own lyrics that probably told me a little bit more about his personal history than I needed to know, and I didn't learn the correct ones until I was MUCH older.
"I also had all the classic Disney LPs, Peter Pan, Pinocchio and Cinderella)," she adds. "Around 11 or 12, I remember playing 'Something' by the Beatles about a billion times; after that I remember listening to Led Zeppelin [and] James Taylor a lot -- and my parents played opera singer Mario Lanza often -- so it was quite an eclectic music-listening household."
M'Carver plays Hickory Hollow, 101 Heights Blvd., Friday with Eric Korb (guitar/harmony), Wayne Wilkerson (guitar) and Richard Dickie (bass).
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
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