Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 2010 CD Reviews

D.C. Bloom
Cinco De Star O EP

This Texas-based singer-songwriter is a gem. I’ve known of him since his time in the Ohio-based band The Dog Waggers, and ever since DC Bloom moved to the area a few years ago I’ve gotten to know him. He’s even written for INsite. He’s got a bent view on life and a way with words both unconventional and entertaining (which is why he interviewed Kathy Griffin for INsite). His one-liner updates on Facebook are enough to keep you in stitches, and his songs are both a hoot and make you think. With his second solo release, the EP Cinco de Star-oh! He serves up five tracks of tongue-in-cheek Americana music.

The album begins with the been-there-done-that song about being downsized “I Used To Live In Comfort in Comfort.” It then kicks into a Elizabeth Wills duet “Luby’s Sweet Tease” about an interesting flirtation exchange between a plumber and a waitress. In “Crew Cabbin’ Fever” Bloom mentioned just about every type of truck in the world.

Of course, a Texas-based country CD wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the women of the Lone Star State. In “A Texas Woman Like You” he covers that, while taking you on a little tour of the US. “California’s got the starlets, it’s Hollywood and Vine / Take a drive along the coast, stop at vineyards, drink the wine / It’s silicon and silicone in valleys, yes, it’s true / But I prefer those natural Texas women, with Lone Star flag tattoos”

Most of the CD is comical, but the last track, a lost-love track entitled “Abilene Blues,” gets serious. It’s a live offering that comes off good but not polished.

In fact, none of these songs are perfectly polished, but it’s a nice taste of what DC Bloom offers. Some good-ol humor-infused Americana country music. It reminds me of the stuff that I’ve heard from Al Barlow (“Peanut Butter Jar”) and some of Terri Hendrix’s early tracks (“Dana Blues”). You should do youself a favor and take a listen to Bloom sometime. Check him out online at – Sean Claes

Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice


The title to HIM’s newest release pretty much sums up its basis. Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice. Enough said. BUT, since this is a music review, why not delve in a little deeper. Practice is one thing these Finnish rockers do not have to worry about. As with their previous six releases, Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice is just as solid. It is a great ensemble of HIM’s collective sounds. This seventh studio release is not the deep dark seeded monster that Venus Doom was, and not bubblegum pop rock for the girlies at the mall either. It is more of a balanced combination of HIM’s frolicking through different rock genres. This offering is melodic rock driven, blending more use of electric keyboards and synths with elements of 80s retro rock. It is also very catchy and musically upbeat (under dark vocals), but not mainstream. If anything, Screamworks provides a fresh energy to the group’s music repertoire.

Part of this “fresh energy” may be illuminating from frontman Ville Valo, having written this album being sober, and providing some of his greatest lyrics to date. And for vocals, Valo is spot on; nailing it! Add the grandiose guitar work of Mikko “Linde” Lindstrom for another interesting angle. Linde is no slouch fretwork for sure, and once again provides a solid and soulful performance. Guitar shredding is fun, but limited in emotional and audio capacity; thankfully Linde does not indulge in such acts, but instead delivers life giving energy and touching melodies to Valo’s heartfelt lyrics.

Another refreshing change is the subject material of the songs. The previous releases were usual dark toned landscape for tragic tales of love and death. With Screamworks and to keep up with “change”, it does not stop with the music. The lyrics and subject matter have also advanced forward in the band’s maturity. The “Love” element still remains, but gone is the “Death”. This time around the idea is of love and suffering; heartbreak, but going forward with life after lessons learned. It is like a breakup and the feeling that follows it. The songs Heartkiller, Dying Song, Love the Hardest Way and In the Arms of Rain display HIM’s updated lyrical content and musical diversity united as one. The CD as a whole shows the band’s maturity in song and in life together; this really elevates the emotional level to new heights.

That height would be where life and love are gifts, and it finally is recognized. – Kenneth Deville

The Banner Year
What You Won’t Get

Rock Army Records

“I need a new direction / I need to find which way to go” is how What You Won’t Get, the third offering from Austin’s The Banner Year begins. But I’d have to say, they’ve not gone a new direction on this offering. They’ve stayed the same course they’ve been on since their inception in 2004. It’s just gotten better with time.

These guys have been one of my favorite bands coming out of Austin for the last few years. They’ve got that sound that is kind of a Green Day thing. Brilliant lyrics and music that is too rock to be punk and too punk to be rock. Plus, a vocalist who has a unique and quality voice.

What You Won’t Get offers up Jason Small’s jaded view on life in 14-tracks. Songs about losing love, leaving, about truing to find direction in life, and songs exploring his inability or lack of desire to care. The clincher is, this isn’t full of simplistic lyrics over predictable music.

“Godsend” is a ballad that turns angry. “Where’s the Donut Palace” is one of my favorite new tracks to hear live and they capture is well for this album. “Instrumental” has audio from a November 1998 X-Files episode. It leads nicely into the not-ready-to-settle-down track “Misfire.” The epic track “The Barrier” could be a shoe-in for radio play… if radio stations were tipped off to it.

My favorite track on What You Won’t Get is “Phase 3.” I think this could be the calling card of the band as well. It’s kind of a 3-part song that begins slow… speeds up… and then gets heavy. It’s the type of track that gets stuck in your head… in a good way. “Living it up in the same old guise / and we’re letting our lives just pass us by / we’ll have a beer and sleep away the winter.”

“At A Loss” completes the album on a high note with all the screaming and energy that encompasses the band.

The Banner Year released What You Won’t Get in April at an INsite Night at Red Eyed Fly. You can purchase the album online ( or at a show. They are one of the few local bands that are bent on making sure their performance on stage is as good as the music they produce. I’d highly recommend catching them live. To check where to see them live visit

The Banner Year includes Small (vocals), Josh Smith (Bass), Facundo LaRocca – (Drums), Michael Murray (Guitar), and Charlie Fisher (Guitar). - SC

Righteous Brisket
Butcher’s Brew

Big Beard Records

If you prefer your beer from a can, your music southern-fried, and your Skynyrd and ZZ Top cranked up to eleven, you’re going to enjoy Righteous Brisket’s debut release Butcher’s Brew.

The album kicks off with the pop-top of a beer opening… and then goes into the mullet-and-Skoal anthem “Redneck SOB” which showcases lead singer Aaron Seymour’s imperfect-but-fitting outlaw country voice.

The ablum continues though 40 minutes of southern rock spanning 10 tracks. There’s the yeah-she’s-basically-a-bitch-but –I-love-her song “Christine.” Bassist John Duer takes the lead vocal duties on the road-warrior track, “White Lines,” that scores big points by mentioning my hometown of Laredo. “Tennessee Wiskey” is a rock driven blues track that would get Billy Gibbons to smile approvingly. If you’ve ever been in that position where you’re not sure if the relationship is over or not, “It’s 3a.m.” will speak to you.

Other than “Redneck SOB” my favorite track on Butcher’s Brew has got to be “Rusty and Bent.” It’s one of those songs about embracing the negatives and hoping love will still prevail. “Maybe she’ll see, I’m not the best she’s had / I’m not so bad / need a chance / to prove to her / that I can be / better than / the worst man she knows.”

A bonus on the album is the closer. Their cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” that is pretty darn awesome.

These four guys aren’t looking to make it big, they all seem pretty happy with their lives. They’ve all run the gamut of bands throughout their career thus far from The Men From Nantucket to Nooner to Shelli Coe to bySaturday. They’ve pretty much settled down but when there’s an itch it needs to be scratched.

And singer/guitarist Aaron Seymour, bassist John Duer, lead guitarist Waco Jake Spelman, and drummer Tim Brown chose to scratch that itch by jamming together which led to the formation of Righteous Brisket (named after Seymour’s claim to make amazing brisket… and I only say “claim” because he’s not invited ME to a BBQ) and that led to the recording of Butcher’s Brew.

Check them out online at their Myspace ( page or their Facebook ( page. – SC

Terri Hendrix
Cry Till You Laugh

Wilory Records

Since 1996 Terri Hendrix has been releasing independent music via her own label Wilory Records. I’ve been a fan about that long as well. She’s got a way to get you to lose yourself in her music, smile, reflect, and feel good. A few times a year my wife and I try catch one of her shows to recharge our batteries and rediscover our love for music and fellow man. That may be stretching it a bit but it’s pretty close to the truth. So, when Hendrix’s new album, Cry Till You Laugh (CTYL) hit my hands, I was understandably excited.

Those who have been “lifers” to Terri’s sound are going to be very pleased with this recording (which will be released June 22, 2010). It showcases both where she’s been and where she is currently in her musical career. Hendrix is a folk singer with a jazz influence who writes and records on her own terms.

The music on CTYL is stellar, with a great mixture of horns, mandolin, piano, and strings. Joining the core band of Hendrix, Lloyd Maines (who also produced this release), and Glenn Fukunaga are an impressive gang of guest players that include Stanley Smith, Drew Womack, Richard Bowden, John Mills, Riley Osbourn, Mark Gonzalez, and John Silva Pat Manske, and others. It’s the most “full” I’ve ever heard a Terri Hendrix album, and the music elevates the lyrics.

The album kicks off with the harmonica-driven “Wail Theory” where she combines two poems by Dorothy Parker into a stunning two-minute ditty. Her stop-and-smell-the-roses track “Slow Down” follows. An uppity blues track called “Hand Me Down Blues” is a great edition. As is the wonderful word-play of “Berlin Wall.” The harmony vocals of Womack are fantastic on the road-warrior track “Roll On.”

A restructured version of “Take Me Places,” an Ike Eichenberg cover, is an early live staple that originally appeared on her 1999 release Terri Hendrix Live. It really gives you a taste of the past, while another Eichenberg song “You Belong In New Orleans” is a fantastic jazzy new edition to her repertoire.

The best thing about being an independent musician is you don’t have to have a “single” for radio, but if I had to choose one, the beautiful ballad “1000 Times” would be my pick. “If you could see inside my soul / you’d find your name in stone. The world may take you far away / but you are not alone.”

But, as far as favorites on the album, I’ve got to say “Hula Mary” does it for me. It’s reminiscent of Places In Between’s “Goodtime Van.” It’s the track about Celebrating and embracing those who make life interesting. It also encompasses the fun and original lyrics that make Hendrix’s music such a treat album after album. “Hula Mary / She got nothin’ to hide / She’s tie-dyed on the inside.” Plus, Hula Mary is a real person. Check this out. -

While I didn’t get a chance to see it yet, Hendrix has also created a memoir/book to accompany the album. It’s a gathering of essays about the business of music, her plights with health issues, family, stories of being on the road and ultimately about finding a purpose in life. I’m guessing the book will be as uplifting as her catalog of music.

Terri Hendrix’s recordings are among the most cherished in my personal collection, and this one is a wonderful addition. And I’ve got to say, some of her older albums I wasn’t thrilled with upon first listen, but they grew on me and became favorites. This one was instantly great to me. Pick it up, you’ll agree.

Learn more about Terri Hendrix at - SC

Allison Thrash

Head On Records

What’s in a name? When I first got this album in my hands I thought, what an interesting stage name for a metal/punk singer. Well, I was wrong on every level with that assumption. Allison Thrash is her ACTUAL name, and her brand of music is decidedly blues-driven. With her November 2009 release Solitude, Thrash and company serve up just under an hour of guitar-and-whiskey-soaked hardcore blues.

What sets this album apart from others is the wonderfully unique voice of Thrash herself. It’s akin to some of the big-voiced blues women like Big Mama Thornton, Lavelle White and Nina Samone. If I had to place it alongside some Austin-based singers I’d have to say her voice has the power displayed by folks like Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King. Thrash’s voice is raw, feminine (without being girly), and powerful.

The album kicks off with the age-old blues line “My man says he loves me” in the classic crawling blues track “Thrash and Moan.”

But she’s not the sit-there-and-take-it kind of songwriter. In fact, the track where the title of the CD came from “Gimme Some Solitude” begins by asking her man to leave her alone (“Gimme some solitude, baby / Tonight don’t come home”).

She invites you to come to the party in “Open House” and wants to know “Do You Come With A Drink?” She takes a call from the devil himself in “Fight Dirty” and recounts some interesting life choices in “Rubies of Foolishness.”

The ballad “Mother” is a really heartfelt and beautiful tribute to Patricia Francis Thrash, who passed away in April 2010 after a long Alzheimer’s-type illness called Lowy Body Dementia. “Mother, I put some of your roses in my yard / I look at them and things are a little less hard / I still wear your sweater when it gets cold / I still look at your picture when I'm losing my hold.”

The album concludes with another somber take-me-Home track, “Lord, I’m Ready.”

Allison Thrash’s band is made up of Thrash (vocals), David Love (guitar), Jes Sproat (bass), and Jason Hurt (drums).

If you’re a fan of the blues, Solitude is for you. Check out for more information. – SC

The Standouts
The Standouts

The Standouts come out of San Marcos/Austin with a sound that I have heard few attempt. Their sound is a combination Roy Orbison-meets-Jellyfish-meets-Jason Mraz. It forms a southern rock with a twist of 70s doo-wop groove and it comes together really good and on their debut self-titled six-song EP.

The fun “Let Love Lead” kicks things off and gets your toes tapping straight away. “Your Love Carries Me” gives a modern twist to a Grease-esque love song. The feel good jam “Good Thing Goin’ On” follows. Then, if you’ve ever taken a “hindsight is 20/20” trip into a past relationship, “Rewrite” will speak to you.

Coming off like a heartfelt gospel tune, “I Will Be There” is probably my favorite on the release. It’s got a sweet sax solo to lend to the vibe too. “I will be there / whenever you call me. I will be there / whenever you need. Yes, I will be.”

The album ends nicely with the funky lyrical head trip of “What It Does To You.”

The last local band that I heard that had this kind of groove was This Life Electric who kind of disappeared from my radar sometime in 2008. Let’s hope The Standouts don’t disappear because based off this EP, it sounds like they’ve got a good thing going.

The band is made up of Andrew Howard (vocals/guitar), Junior Scott (vocals/bass), Johnny Ballistic (drums), Philip Prasek (vocals/guitar), Noel "Doc" Vickers (saxophone), David "Rudeboy" Bowman (trombone)

They’re playing July 6 and 20th at Cedar Street Courtyard. If you’d like to learn more about them, visit their MySpace page -

Dave Madden
Open Eyed / Broken Wide

When many bands are quickly releasing EPs and getting their mp3s on iTunes in order to get ahead of the music curve and to satisfy the need-it-now demands of fans, Dave Madden has done something both amazing and amazingly impressive. He’s assembled a cast of phenomenal Austin musicians (Will Taylor, Suzanna Choffel, Wendy Colonna, and John Pointer to name a few) and released a double album – 24 individual tracks (18 songs with 6 alternate-version tracks).

That alone is pretty impressive. As they say… “wait.. there’s more.” He’s abandoned the physical compact disc and instead released a beautiful lyric book with an access code to get to the albums in digital format, giving you access to a higher quality than has been offered in the past, the 96k audio (Madden explains it’s better than 2x CD quality and 35x mp3 quality).

It’s a statement, for sure. And a bold one. But, all is for naught if the music suffers or is not fully realized. Well, it took me about 3 weeks of listening to Open Eyed / Broken Wide to feel like I could write about it. Not for any other reason than, it’s packed full of really, really good music and some of the most heartfelt and genius lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.

This collection gave me the same feeling I got the first time I listened to Guy Forsyth’s Love Songs: For and Against, Ruthie Foster’s Runaway Soul, or Edwin McCain’s Honor Among Thieves. That is to say… it’s really good.

The album is a journey. It’s about life, it’s about love, about finding your way in this world’s sea of confusion. Madden marries his music and words with other things that have inspired him. He uses an Ariele Danea triptych poem across three songs. He quotes the likes of T.S. Eliot and Alan Ginsberg and draws inspiration from diverse folks like Leonard Cohen and a WWII retailing analyst by the name of Victor LeBow.

The music on Open Eyed / Broken Wide is really not genre specific enough for me to label it. It’s piano ballads (“A Beautiful Night,” “Someday,” “This is Love”), alternative rock (“Dirty Feet” [on Open Eyed], “Music is a Whore”), acoustic guitar (“Dirty Feet” [on Broken Wide], “Broken Wide”), adult contemporary (“Aware,” “Probably Why”), and gospel (“Believe,” “The New New Testament”).

Several of the songs on Open Eyed have alternate versions on Broken Wide (which was recorded live in Austin at the KUT 90.5 Studio). It’s a really interesting thing to get the same song in two musical versions. “When You Say No” is a stunning full production on Open Eyed and a beautiful stripped down guitar ballad on Broken Wide. Similarly the epic “This Is Love” from Open Eyed becomes a single instrument (piano) ballad on Broken Wide. I’d venture to say the songs on Broken Wide are more in tune to the creation process when writing and the Open Eyed versions are what can be done when adding amazing instrumentation.

The common denominator to these songs is the lyrics. Madden knows how to string words together to make a compelling and meaningful song no matter the musical genre.

“Tomorrow Today” is probably my favorite track on the album. It is most outright rock-anthem as well… complete with an AC/DC “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” type break down. “It’s the next big thing didn’t you hear? It’s not new unless it comes from next year.”

Open Eyes / Broken Wide is full of great lyrics. I feel the review wouldn’t be complete without listing a few.

- She laughs / The fun is never over / and never fully sober / and everything’s a blur. – “Open Eyed / Broken Wide”

- I feed on the fire my feet on the wire / Try as you might to follow the light / you can’t get it right. Believe. - “Believe”

- I could freak out and lose my cool / and put you next to 9/11 and heaven on a pedestal / freak out and make it into a fight / and send you sneaky ninja messages into the night. – “Probably Why”

- Yeah… well no one’s perfect… but imperfection has never looked so good. – “A Beautiful Night”

- And everybody’s water is a different shade of blue / and we all take pride in some kind of food / and everyone’s a Me, but mostly / everyone’s a You. – “Drive Across America”

I’m not sure if this should be billed as a double album, two single albums, or a studio album with a live record. For $20 you get 24 really good songs. If you strip away all of the interesting side stories and format issues and just concentrate on the music itself... it’s still one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard in the last few years.

For more information about Dave Madden or to buy Open Eyed / Broken Wide, visit his homepage at - SC

2x Broken

Nonprofit Boozer

Fresh from a trip to the Wakarusa Festival in Ozark, Arkansas, the guys in Indofin are gearing up for the release of their second full-length studio release 2x Broken. If you are a fan of the dirty-reggae-punk sound that Sublime’s live shows were chock full of, you’ll be a fan of this Austin three-piece.

The 12 tracks that make up this record combined come in at just over 30 minutes of what I would term as throwback reggae-punk music. Leading off with the distortion-driven “Honey,” the album’s sound is established early. The crawling reggae sound continues on such tracks as “Whatever,” “Nonprofit,” and “Riverside.” And songs like “Blue Light,” “Princess,” and “Missing Me” operate at a nice reggae-jam speed.

The vocals of T.J. Huerta are decidedly imperfect, but it’s very fitting for the tracks that comprise the album. The songs are full of regret and hearbreak. Apparently someone broke his heart good. But, the album is also a celebration of coming out the other side, in personal relationships and as a band. I think “Sunshine” is the key track to prove this point.

My favorite track on 2x Broken is a track called “Fingerfight.” The two minute jam is led by the crisp guitarwork of Huerta. The bass-line of Albert Huang keeps the song flowing while the percussion of Donny Mann brings it all together. “Enough with all this posturing, fingerfighting fist a cuffs I got myself an ex girlfriend, enough with all the apologizing, If you don't so I'm probably gonna do the same, I'm feeling like a bird in a cage when you come by to say hi you take this pain away I pray, and I pray.”

The album ends with “2x Broken” that begins as a classic country song before it leads into a punk rock jam that would make the Dropkick Murphys proud.

If you’ve been through a rough break-up this album may serve as therapy, and as I stated at the beginning of this review if you are/were a Sublime fan, you’ll ikely find yourself at home with Indofin.

They are releasing 2x Broken on July 13, and will have a hometown release party at an INsite Night on Friday July 16 at Encore (611 Red River) with The Buzzkillers, Under The Gun and Root Dimension. If you’re an early bird, they will be on your television between 7-9a playing Fox 7 Music in the Morning on July 16 as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

INstant Hindsite - Jaime Cullum (Gin Wigmore opens)

INstant Hindsite: Jaime Cullum and Gin Wigmore
July 13, 2010 @ Stubb's BBQ
Photos by: Jay West

Gin Wigmore

Jaime Cullum

Art: Eric Verret

The Point of Art

The Ink and Acrylic Paintings of Eric Verret

By JoAnna Ordonez

Millions of little dots, that’s how Austin artist, Eric Verret describes his work, ink and the technique of pointillism. What is pointillism you ask? It’s the art of producing a painting with many little dots of color all layered over and again to produce a bright and intriguing work of art. Verret explained “it’s my favorite way of bringing my world to paper”.

Eric, a Navasota native, soon found his way to Austin and worked as a stonemason for over 20 years. It was about 5 years ago that Verret left his job in stone to pursue his artwork fulltime. I’ve always painted and drawn and mom was an artist too, and then one day I gravitated to the ink and markers,” added Verret.

When you first see one of his paintings, the colors are bright and vibrant and really draw you in. It’s amazing how 3 to 6 colors can have such a rich and full effect that gives you the look of a fine art painting evocative of Monet or Van Gogh. I asked Eric what people thought of his paintings

and he added “when people see my paintings they smile really big, the colors are bright and subject matter is very light hearted and 3d glasses works with my pieces too. “

Verrets subject matter focuses on the quiet spaces in our world, from Texas landscapes to the world under the sea, he finds those special places we all long for. I love the ocean, so I take that world and make it more imaginary and then translate it to paper. I also love to take walks in the woods, deep back where no human influence has been, to really quiet places that actually exist and make them into a more cartoon world as Dr. Seuss did.” adds Eric.

Eric takes 20 to 40 hours to complete one painting and finds that it can be very relaxing, meditative and rewarding. Starting with a blank piece of paper, he begins an outline of his drawing with the lightest color and then slowly adds more colors from lightest to darkest until the full effect is achieved. Layer by layer the depth grows until the colors jump off the paper and the image is complete.

“I’d like to bring a little bit of light into everybody’s world, some what like a song” adds Eric. His work is bright and cheery, inspiring and fun. His paintings are doing just that and showing how a self-taught artist can bring color and inspiration to light.

Visit Verret online at and look for him at Austin Art Shows this fall including the Art on the Square in Georgetown.

JoAnna Ordóñez is a local glass artisan and owner of Vidriosa Glassworks. Her work can be found at The Lucky Lizard (412 East 6th Street), and The Oasis Gift Shop (Comanche lane) and Local Art Shows. Visit her online at

Local Music - Boombox ATX

Boombox ATX Moves To Highball

By Thomas Yoo

Over the years, Boombox ATX’s weekly gigs at the Lucky Lounge garnered a reputation for their high-energy, improvisational jam sessions. The weekly affairs became a favorite gathering place among local and touring musicians of varying genres and occasionally guest starred the likes of John Popper, Charlie Sexton, Cee-Lo, and Bushwick Bill.

The Boombox shows featured a group of Austin musicians, each locally renown in their own right, freestyling and fusing elements of hip hop, funk, jazz, latin, blues, and rock. Comprised of artists from various musical backgrounds, the members of Boombox have performed with such diverse musical acts as Jason Mraz, Willie Nelson, Kelly Clarkson, Rob Thomas, Blues Traveler, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, Bob Schneider, Chaka Khan, and Chamillionaire.

After roughly five years at the Lucky Lounge, however, Boombox will take its unique blend of hip-hop ladened funk and jazz to the stage at the Highball (1120 S. Lamar Blvd) on Tuesday nights starting July 13th. Carlos Sosa, the band’s saxophonist and mastermind, took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the evolution of his brainchild, Boombox.

Thomas Yoo: For those that aren't familiar with Boombox, how would you describe your sound?

Carlos Sosa: It’s weird. It is kind of an acid-jazz, hip hop thing. The closest thing I can think of to describe it would be the Roots, but, because there's the horn section, maybe Earth, Wind, and Fire meets the Roots? The original idea for Boombox was that, in any city where there is a pool of talented musicians like New York or Los Angeles, there is usually a place where a bunch of bad-ass musicians get together and just play. We wanted to pick an off night where a bunch of great musicians get together and have a blast, and people know great music is going to happen on that night.

Yoo: What has been going on with Boombox?

Sosa: We actually stopped playing Lucky Lounge about a month ago. We had been doing that for about five years every Tuesday. It had just been a long time, and we wanted a change and to take a little break and reorganize and find another venue that was more suitable to what we wanted to do. We had a lot of offers. We wanted to get away from downtown, so we found a really great place, The Highball. We've been talking to those guys for a while, and we are really excited and ready to get started again.

Yoo: How do you think the change in venue will affect the show?

Sosa: I don't know. I know all the guys in the band are looking forward to it. They've got a bigger stage, and it's a real music venue. It'll be a little different crowd. It's South Austin, and it's not downtown. You don't know until those things happen. The band will definitely be able to hear each other better. It's a big stage with a great P.A. system, and we feel we can be more creative. We are all definitely excited.

Yoo: It’s been a few years since the first Boombox release, Feel the Boombox. Do you have plans for a new Boombox album?

Sosa: We do. We have enough material. We just need to get in one place and record it. We've got a ton of material. A lot of the songs happen organically, because we improvise on stage, and then all of a sudden you play something you like and it is really fun and cool and the crowd gets it and the vibe is good and then it becomes something -- a new song. We've probably got thirty new songs. We just need to sort through them and find fifteen that will be suitable for a record. I'm sure by the end of the year, we could crank one out.

Yoo: How has the Boombox sound evolved over the years?

Sosa: We are all doing so many different projects. We write stuff for ourselves and for other musicians, and then we bring it in to Boombox. We've been writing a lot lately, especially the last couple of years, for Jason [Mraz] and others. We do a lot of records every year, so we write a lot of stuff and just start playing with it and the guys rap over it. I think it's kind of become more musical -- definitely not the standard kind of hip hop show where you've got a couple of guys and a DJ. It is a very good live band with really, really talented MCs.

Yoo: With each of the members of Boombox involved with multiple projects at all times, how do you manage to stay in sync?

Sosa: We just know that we are going to get together every Tuesday and have a blast. We get together and communicate musically and create. We just set it, and that's our meeting spot for the week.

Yoo: Your shows are reknown for their energy. How do you keep things fresh?

Sosa: We make up stuff. We just make it up. Sometimes we'll play two one-hour sets. The first hour, we'll say, nobody play anything that you've ever played before. Then the next hour, we'll play songs that we've done before. It's cool, because everybody is just constantly creating. It just kind of inspires us. Some stuff is kind of lame and doesn't work, but most of the stuff works and is awesome. We have a blast. Everybody is coming up with stuff on the spot.

Yoo: How has the crowd changed over the past couple years?

Sosa: It's hard to say. We kind of created a scene. That was our goal: to get a club that has an off night that doesn't do so well, so we in turn help out that club by bringing in a new influx of people by creating a scene where people want to go and hang and listen to really great music. You can't really know every night. You've got different world touring musicians that come in, like Charlie Sexton, who plays with Bob Dylan, or Bushwick Bill or John Popper, and play with us, and then that becomes the cool thing. It's weird. You have your die-hards that are there all the time, but then sometimes it looks like you're in one of those clubs like Pure or something -- or one of those trendy, fashion-y clubs with silicon and steroids everywhere. Then sometimes, it's like you're at a hip-hop show. It's weird, but it's awesome, because sometimes people are there to drink and have a good time, and other times people are there to listen to music. It's a good feeling that we created that.

Yoo: In the past few years, you've been busy touring the world with the likes of Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson, and Rob Thomas. How does playing the weekly Boombox shows compare to that?

Sosa: Musically, I've grown up here in Austin. I've been here for about fifteen years. I started with Bob Schneider and the Scabs, so I've played pretty much every club in Austin. I love what I do. I love performing. If you're playing in front of 50,000 people, sometimes there is a disconnect between the energy between that many people and the energy that you get back. Whereas, personally I'd rather play in small club that is packed and sold out, where the energy is just constantly back and forth between the audience and the band.

Yoo: How does the Austin music scene compare to what you’ve experienced globally?

Sosa: The musicians here are all like a big family. Everyone knows each other and supports each other. It's great. There are so many great musicians here. When new musicians come to town, they hear about Boombox, so they come out. It's great to inspire people and be inspired by people. I love it here. There's no where else in the country that you can find that quality of music on a daily basis.

I'm convinced that there are the most amazing musicians in the world here in Austin. Hands down. I've always kind of thought that, but now I know that for a fact. It's weird, because a lot of Austin musicians are struggling, but it is such a beautiful community of amazingly talented musicians. I learned my craft here. I don't think I'd be as good at what I do if I hadn't done it here in Austin. There are just so many opportunities to play. As a musician in Austin, you just play constantly and you refine your craft. There are just not those opportunities elsewhere. You'd be hard pressed to go to L.A. and find a good band any night of the week. Here in Austin, you can go out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday ... there's always a good band somewhere.

Yoo: It has been a busy year for the Grooveline Horns (a three-piece horn section led by Sosa that is the backbone of the Boombox music): recording with Willie Nelson, touring South America, attending the Grammy's, releasing an EP, Grooveline Horns, and hosting the Grooveline horn section clinics. How do you juggle all your different endeavors?

Sosa: Not sleeping much [laughs]. We had a vision about fifteen years ago. We just figured that if we stuck together, we'd be more successful as a team than as individuals. Basically, it's just what we love to do. We just kept coming up with all these creative ways to do it. It's great. We're a team. We're like brothers. We're constantly working together. We basically live together, and it's a good formula.

Yoo: What can we expect from Boombox in the near future?

Sosa: We are just going to keep playing and try to create a great music scene in South Austin. All the people at Highball have been really supportive, very excited, and very cool. I think that will give us even more inspiration. We'll try to pound out another record and see if we can't do a couple more ... and just keep going.

Food: Chicken Fried Steak

Six Real Austin Chicken Fried Steaks

By Mike Truth and Sean Claes
Mike Truth: What kind of situation have I gotten myself into? That's the first question that enters my mind as I set off onto an excursion with which I truly have no experience. Who am I to think that I'm some kind of connoisseur when it comes to fine dining? I'm not a food expert. I'm too picky of an eater born with a very limited palate when it came to the finer
things in culinary arts. I don't eat very many vegetables, very little healthy things, so who am I to think that I'm some kind of expert when it comes to certain foods?

I was born into restaurant business with delicious subtleties of southern comfort food provided by the delicious "fixins" of Mr. Arthur Boudreau. The proprietor and namesake of the now defunct Art's Coffee Shop was known for his Chicken Fried Steak delight. With the passing of that wonderful man, came to an end of one of the greatest recipes of a Southern delicacy, which seems to be a dying art form. Some years ago, I found somewhat the equivalent of my father's concoction in the "big as a plate serving" that was dolled out by Buda’s 221 Truck Stop better known as Dorsett's. This wonderful spot suffered the strain of progress when Cabala’s superstore opened in 2005 across the way and forced the closure of the major fairway to the famous truck stop. Since then, I have been on a mission to find a delectable breaded taste of heaven.

I put it out there that I had been to several chains and to no avail. The Iron Cactus, Hyde Park Grill, Hills Cafe, and Threadgill’s all fell short as well to live up to their reputations to me as what I felt was an outstanding Chicken Fried Steak. So I put it out there, on the web, for the people to deliver me from the dull drums of over breaded, thin gravies, yellow or brown, over cooked, under cooked, travesties of what I look for in a Chicken Fried Steak.

When I posted my dilemma on Facebook, I was met with more suggestions than I could fathom. Enter Sean Claes.

Sean Claes:
I saw Truth’s post about Chicken Fried Steak and I instantly knew we had to embark on a mission together. Like he, I’ve been trying to find the best Chicken Fried Steak in existence. I compare my memories to the Unicorn Restaurant in Laredo (where I grew up) that closed in the mid 90s and the Triple C Steakhouse in Devine (where we always stopped on the way to San Antonio) who changed cooks and their amazing CFS became a shriveled and over-breaded version of its former self.

So, when I found that Mike Truth was as passionate about CFS as I was, it made sense to join forces to find the best one in Austin. We began with 30 restaurants tha
t came highly suggested by our friends and foodies. We chose or top 12 picks (eliminating chain-restaurants and ones we’d tried and not been impressed by in the past) and then called on Food Editor Marsha Mann to help bring it down to a manageable six. The six that made the final cut were (in alphabetical order) Arkie’s Grill, Evangeline Café, Freddie’s Place, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, Hoover's Cooking, and Stallion Grill. And so the adventure began…

Mike Truth:
Two Men, Six Diners, and One Elite Chicken Fried Steak....

(Presented in the order in which we sampled them. The rating is on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best)
Arkie's Grill
4827 East Cesar Chavez Street

Austin, TX 78702-5137
(512) 385-2986

Mike Truth: My mouth waters in anticipation of this first excursion. Arkie's, unlike the trendy right-next-to-downtown spots, this establishment is down a ways, a lot closer to 183 than to IH35 or the downtown district. Sorry scenesters, you actually have to go to the real East Austin to enjoy this delight. As I pull up, I'm reminded of a truck stop that could only serve the culinary delights of southern comfort food. As we walk through the front door, the general manager of the establishment, Steve Jones, greets us both. After a firm handshake and a hearty welcome, we are both seated in a booth that is a little too small for my waistline. Sitting under a picture of a Miss Texas from 2001, the very polite and attentive waitress Phyllis brings us our salad, and a delectable looking Chicken Fried Steak with a side of fries. Something else was brought to us as well.... homemade corn sticks. Now, unlike most cornbread, which is crusty on the outside and flaky on the in, these Corn Sticks were fluffy on the inside, more like a yeast base. DELICIOUS. The steak itself was not bad. The proportions were sizeable, especially for the price, and filling. The steak itself was a little thinner cut then I normally like it but it was almost perfectly breaded. It was cooked a medium to medium rare which is just the way a steak should be done in this matter. The gravy, was a milk based, was a little thin but not watery and had a nice peppery taste. The service was perfect as our glasses never went empty and we were offered plenty of bread. I could definitely see myself coming back to this little slice of heaven on the far east side.

Sean Claes:
On the journey to the first stop of our Chicken Fried Steak adventure was really in
teresting. You pretty much drive East down Cesar Chavez until you think you’ve gone too far and then you’ll see Arkie’s Grill. After picking our booth, we were greeted by a waitress that reminded me of Flo from Mel’s Diner. In fact, the whole place reminded me of the 1950s style greasy spoon. The kind of place that could either be really good or really bad. And once we received our Chicken Fried Steak the question was answered. It’s really good. The breading was the correct amount of crispy, the size was perfect, the gravy was the star of the dish, and even though the steak itself was a bit on the thin side it was quite tasty. It’s almost exactly what I look for in a CFS, and it began our adventure on a high point.
Mike Truth rating = 8.0 , Sean Claes Rating = 8.5

Stallion Grill
5201 Airport Boulevard
Austin, TX 78751-2218
(866) 435-1184

Sean Claes: Parking in the lot in front of Stallion Grill, I immediately got the feeling that I was going back in time. This place doesn’t is decidedly not high end, it’s a diner that is nestled along a busy North Austin street. Walking through the front door, I was ushered along the ordering line, kind of like a Bill Miller’s.

We ordered or meals and took our seats. The manager came over and he chatted us up for a while. He mentioned they have been playing with recipes since he took over a few months ago and he’s really proud of their hamburgers and invited us back to try them. A few minutes later two beautiful Chicken Fried Steaks arrived. I ordered mine with fried okra, one of my favorite “southern comfort sides” in the world. The cream gravy was the classic style, with a nice peppery flavor. The crust-to-meat ratio was pretty dead-on, and the size was perfect for a hungry man like myself. While the taste was good, there was a little lacking in the flavor of the meat itself. That said the manager assured us they were working on it and really seemed to have a passion to get a stellar dish going. I’m going to head back there soon.

Mike Truth: Walking into The Stallion Grill brought back memories of my father's old establishment. The set up was almost the same. You could see the cook preparing your food so that you know it was fresh. You paid for it up front and then you took your seat. Have to admit, the ambiance took me back to my youth.

Needless to say my high expectations were met with some disappointment as I took my first bite into the steak. Now before I go on, I must tell you that the meat itself was tender but the crust itself stuck to the meat much like it was prepared ahead of time that way. I personally like a little separation between the crust and the meat. The crust itself was very black peppery blend but it was a little too moist. I'm more of a flaky crust kind of guy. However, the size of the steak was very sizeable and the steak to crust breading was a very good ratio.

The side dish on mine was french fries and they were truly unique. I normally like a very crispy fries but these were actually kind of moist but the way they were cut and seasoned were very enticing to say the least. Not a bad CFS, but I'm on a mission to find "the one" and this just didn't quite cut it.
Claes = 7.5, Truth = 7.0

Evangeline Café
8106 Brodie Lane
Austin, TX 78745-7468
(512) 282-2586

Sean Claes: Evangeline Café is one of the more interesting places we visited on our trip. It looks like it’s been there for 30 years, so I was surprised that it has only been open since 2003. I talked with owner Curtis Clarke about his including a CFS at a Cajun restaurant. “I don't have a Chicken Fried Steak at Evangeline Cafe just because we're in the Capitol of Texas,” he said “It's always been one of my favorite meals. Ours is never battered till it's ordered, & topped with homemade cream gravy, made fresh daily.”

While most CFS are served with fried sides, theirs comes with salad and rice. The Cajun-ness both comes out in the choice of sides and the cayenne flavor to the cream gravy. Not spicy, just a little palate lifter. The crust was light and airy and had that fish batter look to it. When our CFS arrived it was piping hot and extremely flavorful. I left there happy, full, and wanting to go back again. Oh, they brought out a Chicken Fried Alligator for us to sample as well. Not being a fan of the fishy stuff I couldn’t recommend it, but my Arkansas-based neighbor thought it was the bees knees.

Mike Truth: When I was given a list of places to try, this one really struck a chord in my mind. A Cajun restaurant that served CFS. Being a fan of both I figured either this was going to be incredible or an incredible disappointment. As we sat down at our beer bottle capped covered table, I started setting into the mood of the far South Austin haven. Between the LSU sports gear and the everything-Louisiana decor of the place I knew I had stepped into the right place for a guy with the last name Boudreau. When we received our CFS, I noticed a few things. The crust was fluffy and the gravy had a light red hue topped with chives. As I took my first bite into this savory dish, I tasted the ingredient that made that red-hue....Cayenne.

It was awesome. Spiced perfectly in traditional milk based gravy. The meat was tender, a nice thick cut cooked to perfection. The separation was perfect and the portions were incredible for a lunch price of $7.99. The crust itself was interesting, more of a fish batter than the tradition flour batter. The crust to meat ratio was near perfection and the Sweet Tea that was served with it made it Southern to the tee. The best place so far on our excursion. I will 100 percent come back again to this little slice of Creole Heaven in South Austin.
Claes = 9.5, Truth = 9.5

Freddie’s Place
1703 South 1st Street
Austin, TX 78704-4249
(512) 445-9197

Mike Truth: Freddy's Place, nestled in the heart of South Austin is a truly an awesome setting. Sean and I decided to have our meal outside in their huge courtyard dining area. As the waiter walked up and served us our plates I noticed this was the largest CFS we had been served so far.

Unfortunately, as I took my first bite into the steak, I was disappointed by the lack of flavor that this steak had to offer. It wasn't that the meat itself was overcooked, it was just dry. Come to find out that instead of using milk to coat the meat they use Lone Star Beer. Now, as Texan as that may sound, unfortunately, I have a tendency to think that it also may be the reason that it was so dry and lacked the flavor that it deserves. The gravy once again was a milk-based gravy but not very flavorful. The best part of the meal was the sides. Real Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cornbread, while both excellent, could not quite save this meal.

Sean Claes: I really like Freddie’s Place. The feel of the place is like you’re walking into a family get-together. I actually brought my daughters with me so they could play on the playground while we enjoyed our CFS. Freddie’s Place uses a double-batter of Lone Star (we ARE in Texas y’all) and serves up a ginormous plate-filling entrée.

I really wanted to love it… but I have to say it’s really just an average CFS. It is not bad in and sense, the breading was standard and the gravy seemed to add most of the flavor to the dish. It satisfies every requirement for being a chicken fried steak, but it kind of lacks. Now, I ate every bite and didn’t miss a drop of gravy, but I’m going to stick to the fantastic burgers on future trips.

Truth = 6.0, Claes = 6.5

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
303 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78701-4130
(512) 236-9599

Sean Claes: This is a beautiful restaurant located in downtown Austin. It’s definitely the type of place that your well-to-do businesspeople choose to eat. We walked through a sea of suits and slacks as we took our seat on the patio. We ordered the lunch special CFS, which was the first one we’d visited that was over the $10 mark. When it arrived it was a large serving, but we quickly learned that the largeness was mostly due to the half-inch breading overhang all the way around. One of my CFS pet peeves. But, once I cut into it and started eating, I quickly forgot about the breading issue. It has a beautiful peppery-chipotle flavor. A note to the spice-intolerant: If you can’t handle something spicy, don’t order this CFS. The meat itself seemed to have a chipotle seasoning and it came with beautiful chipotle-cream gravy. Now, I’m a big fan of spice, and this was bordering on too much even for me. I was very happy to have the “house special” macaroni and cheese to cool my mouth down. And the moist and crisp squash and zucchini veggies added a flavorful touch as well. If I were judging overall experience, Moonshine would get extra points for having my favorite desert, Peanut Butter Pie, on the menu. Yum-O.

Mike Truth:
Now, for the better part of some six years now, I have worked in the downtown Austin area and I have passed by Moonshine several times. I have been told of the delectable delights of this wonderful place but I was told to bring your pocketbook. As we were once again sat outside I realized that this place just might live up to it's billing.

The moderately priced CFS, $11.95 lunch special, was not bad at all. First of all, our drinks were served in mason jars which is a big plus for me because it takes me back to my childhood when I would stay with my grandmother in Lake McQueeney, Texas and that was we always drank out of when staying at her place. Moving on, the portion itself looked huge until I made my first cut and realized that there was a lot of breading. The meat itself was a little thinner than I normally like but it was very flavorful. Once again a spiced up gravy, this time using Chipotle, served it right, however the best part of it was that the meat itself also tasted like it had been seasoned with Chipotle as well, that's a huge plus from me.

And just in case that's not enough spice for you...Jalapeno Cornbread. I wasn't too crazy about the huge cut French Fries but I did try some of Sean's Peanut Butter pie and I have to say, I'm a fan. Once again, a very good dining experience I plan on visiting again.

Claes = 8, Truth = 8.5

Hoover’s Cooking
2002 Manor Rd
Austin, TX 78722 (512) 479-5006

Mike Truth: Of all the places that I had been, I have to admit, this is the only one that I was making a repeat trip to. I came to Hoovers a little less than a year previous and I have to admit, I was not that impressed with the CFS before. But I received so many recommendations about the place (and Sean had never been there for CFS before) that I decided to give it a second chance.

Boy, was I glad I did. No sooner than we sat down to the butcher papered covered tables and had placed our orders and my dinner salad had been delivered, then our lunch plates were delivered right before our eyes. Man that was quick. Sitting in front of me was a very good size Chicken Fried Steak. The first thing I noticed was the gravy had a brown hew to it. As I took a bite I noticed that the gravy tasted as if they mixed brown gravy with thick cream gravy. It was the richest and thickest gravy of all the places we tried with no pepper needed to add. Very good combo.
Also, the crust seemed to be a nice mixture of a flour base with a corn meal mix. Once again, a very good combo.

The meat itself was prepared perfectly but I have to admit my favorite part still was the mashed potatoes. A slight hint of garlic mixed into the perfectly mashed potato. The presentation was nice and I have to say that it was well worth the reunion.

Sean Claes: I admit, 75% of the time the classic restaurants that have earned a reputation for having a stellar CFS earned it so long ago that the current product is a huge letdown. As Mike said, I’d never actually ordered a CFS here, and I’d only eaten at Hoover’s once or twice in my time in this area. So, we decided that we’d throw caution to the wind and make it our last stop on this journey. We walked into the restaurant and it was packed on a Thursday lunch, the hostess quickly cleaned off the only available table, which was vacated by the couple that left as we walked in, and sat us down. This place is known for comfort food, and we were not let down when our CFS hit the table. It was a big portion, the meat was a good thickness, the breading had some love fried into it and the gravy was an interesting brown/cream combo. This is the only place that seemed to spend time perfecting each ingredient. I didn’t have to add ANY seasoning and this is the only one I felt a bit guilty dipping in catsup. The sides of fried okra and the jalapeño-creamed spinach were a perfect addition. In my experience on this trip, Hoover’s has served up the closest thing to an authentic CFS that we were searching out. It was the perfect ending.
Truth = 8.5, Claes = 9.5

Sean Claes: I’m very happy with all six places we profile. But judging on Chicken Fried Steak alone, I’d have to put Hoover’s and Evangeline at the same level. Hoover’s is the authentic comfort food CFS I’ve been searching for and Evangeline creates a stellar CFS with their special Cajun twist.

Mike Truth: All six places had different things that were very desirable. I have to say that Evangeline's was the closest CFS to perfection with Moonshine edging out Hoover's and Arkie's. But I can definitely see myself making my way back to all four of these establishment's again. This was an adventure well worth the trip.

Sean Claes: We’re not “professional” foodies, we’re just two friends who found an excuse to have lunch together and sample some fine local food. At the end of it all, I’ve got to say, local restaurants have some spectacular cuisine. Just like I say about music, support local… you never know when you’ll find something amazing.