Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 2010 CD Reviews


Time To Stand

The Belleville Outfit has a really cool sound to them. Some of their tracks have a Squirrel Nut Zippers (without the Zoot Suit) vibe while others have a piano-driven rock ballad feel. It’s like ragtime babies were playing with the folk and rock kiddos together in the same sandbox and they decided to pick up instruments.

Confused now? Well… pick up Time To Stand. It’s a good 13-song introduction to The Belleville Outfit.

The songs all flow well together but each have a very different vibe. Vocal duties are traded off between the folksy vibe of Rob Teter and the timeless beauty of Phoebe Hunt. Separate they sound good... in harmony it’s exquisite.

The musicianship that this band shows is also amazing. These guys aren’t just going through the motions of being in a band; they all have a very good grasp on their instruments and know how to play together very well.

On to the songs. “Once and for All” is a classic folksy ballad. “Let Me Go” has a Steve Miller Band “Abracadabra” vibe to it. The fun cover of Louis Prima’s “Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby” is a great addition.

On songs like “Fly On” the violin is amazing while she plays a mean fiddle on “Outside Looking In. Hunt’s ability to jump from the classic violin sound to the country fiddle vibe reminded me of a little joke Buddy Huthmaker ( once told me. Do you know the difference between a violin and a fiddle? The nut holding it.

All jokes aside, it’s hard to choose a song that rises above the rest on Time To Stand, as they really are all very good. But... if pressed I’d have to choose “Two Days of Darkness.” The piano and violin melt together as well as the pairing of Teter and Hunt’s voices. “Two days of darkness since you went away / I feel the same for you now as I did then / Heart in a prison won’t you let me escape / Come on home it’s been two days of darkness.”

The Belleville Outfit ( is Teter (guitar, vocals), Hunt (violin, vocals), Connor Forsyth (keys), Jeff Brown (bass), Marshall Hood (guitar), and Jonathan Konya (percussion). – Sean Claes



Some people seem born to be farmers, teachers, engineers, and yes, even politicians. But some are born to be musicians…guitar slingers to be more precise, and Andy MacIntyre is one of those people. It’s a real challenge to sit down and write a review of his latest project Revolution because no matter what I come up with in the form of carefully considered criticism (and there’s several things that deserve mentioning, to be sure), the fact remains, I just can’t get enough of this guy’s guitar playing. He may not be the best songwriter (but he’s getting better all the time…), and he may not have the most distinctive voice (but he really moved me with the front porch-style acoustic cut, ‘109’, and actually made me cry with his tender ‘4th of July’ tune). It’s also obvious this guy practices…a lot. He’s fluid, versatile, and gutsy - he never lets technique trump what he wants to express. And did I forget to mention, Andy can play really fast as well (listen to his searing cover of Freddie King’s ‘In the Open’). But he’s not just showing off - every note has a purpose and comes straight from the heart. Its more like his guitar has so much to say that he wants to fit it all in before the song ends…and we get to go along for the ride! WOW.

Focusing on some bothersome details: the title of the album doesn’t work – there’s nothing ‘revolutionary’ about the style of the music (rockin’ Texas blues w/ some impressive finger-picking), and there’s certainly no sign of politics either. Since the record does a great job of showcasing Andy’s wide- ranging talents within the genre he’s chosen, ‘In the Open’ might have served better and tied into the cover art more effectively (another provocative design by Andrew Stearns).

The first track, ‘Makayla’ is beautifully complex and compelling (a little too compelling as an introduction to an artist you may have never heard), and it’s poorly mixed – the drums sound compressed and thin. The up-tempo, straight ahead ‘Sing Like A Bird’, or the catchy and heartfelt ‘Call My Name’ (which needs to be on the radio, pronto!), would have worked better as openers. There’s a real art to ordering an album and this one seems to have gotten jumbled up somehow. Since I’ve listened to it dozens of times now, I came up with another order: 4, 2, 7, 3, 1, 5, 9, 6, 8, and burned a copy…it’s awesome!

The song ‘Revolution’ is actually one of my favorites - a grinding, swampy, downbeat blues that gets under your skin with some unexpected chord changes, rhythmic stutters and change-ups, a soulful vocal performance, and tasteful guitar embellishments. Song for song, this dynamic second effort by Andy MacIntyre is heads and shoulders above his first record, Set Me Free. There’s much more thoughtfulness and maturity on display here and I can only imagine where his guitar will take him in the next few years…I plan on being front and center to see it! - Marsha Mann

The Jeremy Miller Band

Way Too Fast

Cut from the same cloth as Red Dirt rockers like Reckless Kelley and Cory Morrow, The Jeremy Miller Band comes out of the gate like seasoned veterans with Way Too Fast. It really is amazing to know this is their self-released freshman effort.

The tunes kick off with the driving title track. It’s a half-ballad, half-rocker that sets the pace and the theme. These are songs about losing, loving, and leaving. Typical country fodder, but these guys have a little different twist. Lyrically and musically this album is on par with the guys in the big leagues.

“Sorry” is a powerful ballad about the end of a relationship. The unapologetic “Life I Lead” is a snapshot into Miller’s world. “Little Bit” is a beautiful duet with Beverly Hensley.

The Chuck Berry infused rocker “No More” is a funny little ditty about being on the deserving end of the cold shoulder. With lyrics like “I probably never meant it when I said, your best girlfriend was better in bed. Baby don’t you love me no more?”

But to me the standout track on this album is the final one. “17 Wheels” is the story of a trucker who was a part of a horrific accident caused by a flat tire. “You can’t stop 17 wheels from rolling, when the 18th is on the ground”

I really dug this CD. There isn’t a song I don’t like between the 10 tracks. They’ve got that Red Dirt sound down well, Miller’s voice is just the right tinge of whiskey stained and his lyrics are framed within the country/rock/jam music played by guitarist Sonny Bihl and bassist Seth Tobin.

Take a listen to it for yourself at You can also see where to catch them live from there as well. – Sean Claes

Adrian and the Sickness


Fantom Records

From second one of “Modern Freedom,” the first track of B.F.D., by Austin’s Adrian and the Sickness, they musically kick down the door and throw you up against the wall.

Led by the dreadlocked Adrian Conner, this all-female power trio has been trudging through the muck and the mire of the Austin scene for a half a decade. Somewhere along the line the band caught the ear of a member of one of the most famous all-female bands - Kathy Valentine of The Go Go’s. Valentine produced B.F.D. and it does not disappoint.

On this release the band easily walks the line from an in-your-face punk sound with shredding guitars (“Rice and Beans,” “Not Sure”) to a friendly and fun pop feel (“Listening,” “Talk To Me”). The Valentine influence is very apparent in the latter.

I like the Adrian-A-Go-Go’s sound of the lighter stuff, but I’ve got to say, they shine the brightest when Conner’s guitar work is able to be at the forefront. Songs like “What Ya Do To Me” and “Turn It Up” should be played at high volume. Preferably in a residential area (Yes.. that’s a Dr. Dre line. It just fit here). And if you can’t get into their cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” you should just turn the radio to the talk station and give up on music altogether.

My favorite track on B.F.D. is the Led Zeppelin-esque “Loser.” Musically it’s a great jam and lyrically it’s the classic tell-off song. “Did I tell you that I really don't give a care? / Your game is old / come and yell at me if you dare. / You will it’s your way / I cannot wait / until I never ever see your face.”

Obviously I’m digging B.F.D. The vocal harmonies rock, the musicianship is great, and the songs meld well together. I’m actually kicking myself for not catching them live yet. I hear their show is amazing. If it’s half as enjoyable at this CD, it’ll totally be worth the cover.

Adrian and the Sickness is Conner (Vocals/Guitar), Heather Webb (Bass), and Melodie Zapata (Drums). Check out their website to find out more about them and see where they play next - – Sean Claes

George Palmer Macias


I’d never heard of George Palmer Macias when I this CD arrived a few months back. Then I got busy and it got lost in the shuffle of life. I was looking for a new CD to review for my 52 CD reviews in 52 weeks project and I came across Firefly in a stack of other CDs. I decided to pop it into my player.

I don’t know what I expected to hear, but Macias’ smooth Americana tone was a nice surprise - his voice has a very soothing Roy Orbison feel to it. Much more than this, the lyrics, all penned by Macias (save for 2 sentences in “Ringtail”) are inspired.

The musical journey that is Firefly takes a path down several different musical genres. Songs like “Break This Bottle” and “The Way The River Flows” could have been recorded by Orbison himself. “Don’t Touch The Money” has a Latin Texas Tornados flair to it. “Where in the World” is a Do-Wop Carmen Sandiego treat that tests your geography knowledge. Firefly even has a biographical song about Texas founding father Martin Parmer in “Ringtail.”

Musically, my favorite track on Firefly is “Take This Town.” It’s an up-tempo Los Lobos-meets-Neil Young jam. Lyrically, “Milky Way” holds top billing for me. “Slow down this planet is spinning to fast. / I reach for the stars but they slip my grasp. / Just some matter, some blood, some clay. / Ball of dust in the cosmic fray. / Spinning around in the Milky Way.”

And to think… I almost didn’t give this one a chance. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. If you’re a fan of the Roy Orbison rock-meets-country sound, you’ll like Firefly.

Although this is his first solo album, Macias was a member of The Regulars, which was a group who played the happy hour slot every Friday at The Saxon Pub for about five years.

For more information about Macias or to hear a few tracks off Firefly visit his website - or check him out on Facebook - – Sean Claes

Tom Gillam

Had Enough

Smith Entertainment

The first time I saw Tom Gillam live, it was at Gruene Hall in the summer of 2006. He had just died. Really. In March 2006 he died on the operating table of a heart attack. Of course, the doctors were able to bring him back and he resumed his music career… eventually moving to Austin.

Gillam wasted no time in getting friendly with the locals when he arrived in town. Guest musicians on Had Enough? include the likes of Guy Forsyth, Ed Jurdiÿ (Band of Heathens), and Micky Braun. His backing band, Tractor Pull, is nothing to sneeze at either. Regular member include producer Joe Carroll (guitars), Alejandro Escovedo alum Al Durham (guitar), Tim McMaster (bass), Craig Simon, and Dave Latimer.

That said, Had Enough? continues the progression of Gillams sound, which is decidedly roots-rock with an Americana twang to it. It’s got that Eagles feel to it with Gillam’s vocals sounding like a cross between Tom Petty, Todd Snider and Ian Moore.

On Had Enough? Gillam is able to easily jump from rocking roadhouse jams like “Had Enough” or “Ride” to ballads like “Million Miles Away” and “Tear In The Rain.”

How do you choose standouts on an album with 11 really well crafted songs? How about I choose a rocker and a ballad?

“She Was A Dancer…” is a toe-tapping jam seemingly about a stripper that includes the line “I’d spend a fortune just to get her to turn around.” On the flip side “Ready To Begin” is probably the song I took most to heart. Everyone deserves a second chance (in Gillam’s case he literally got one) and this track is about making the change in your life to become…well... who you actually are. “Time to be allright in my own skin. “The road behind has finally led me here / The road ahead you never know / I was blind once now I see things oh so clear / I think I know the way to go.”

Gillam has lived in Austin for about a year now and we’re glad he’s here. But, as he said when I saw him on stage in 2006, I’ll bet he’s just happy to be anywhere.

He’s playing several shows in Austin this month. check him out at – Sean Claes


Odd Augmentation, Inc.

This freshman effort from seasoned emcee Ratarue (A member of Austin’s Spin Alley) is a solid throwback hip-hop effort. I say throwback because his sound doesn’t subscribe to the current trend in the rap/hip hop scene. He doesn’t swear every three words. He doesn’t form tracks around objectifying women or spit meaningless self-masturbatory lyrics. It’s not mindless repetition backed by a heavy bassline. More Tribe Called Quest and less Lil Wayne. More Del The Funky Homosapien and less Soulja Boy.

The 18 song album (15 + 3 bonus tracks) is chock full of great tracks. He tips his hat to Jimi Hedrix in “Jimi’s Warning,” talks about lost love in “Time Heals A Broken Heart,” and calls out someone with a girl who has “stink breath like Frodo Baggins” in the battle-rap “Opiates and Flatbeds.”

Yes, there are songs about making money (“Maintain Scrilla”), sex (“Mad Eps”), and fame (“Radio”) but they are done with complex lyrics layered with some impressive scratches, mostly by Austin’s DJ Trouble. Ratarue seems set on elevating hip-hop and Odd Augmentation, Inc is his calling card.

“800 Pound Gorilla” is a standout on Odd Augmentation. It’s got a really nice acoustic guitar loop overlaid by drums and scratches. But, the lyrics are the most impressive. “Invigorating, elaborate, conscious is my approach / To put him in denial is to get your body broke.”

I also really dug “One Bite At A Time,” a track about making it in life. “The ego is an ugly troll that lives under a bridge between your heart and your mind. A rabbit’s foot is a sad substitute for horse’s sense. How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Odd Augmentation was released on January 25 at an INsite Night in Austin. It can be found at Waterloo Records. If you’re a fan of hip-hop with meaning, you should pick this one up. For more information about Ratarue, visit his MySpace ( – Sean Claes

A Good Rogering

Long Overdue

Suffering Dog Records

I first met Skunk Manhattan a few years back when he was playing with Austin’s Quartershackle (he still does). I never actually got his real name. Just “Skunk.” Of course the name was personified by his Mohawk w/blond stripe running down the middle. At that time I thought, he’d stand out in any band with that.

I ran into him again last March and he introduced me to his other band – A Good Rogering where Manhattan is the lead vocalist and guitarist. In this outfit he is joined by bassist “Chef Bull R.D.” who wears a plaid red oversized chef’s hat and a drummer that goes by the name Mr. Nub. So much for Skunk being the standout in the band.

Last week I got their debut CD Long Overdue in the mail. It’s going to be released this month. Coming in at just under 30 minutes, this seven-track debut album by A Good Rogering is really riding the cusp of EP vs. LP. It also begins with “Pilot” - a 40 second introduction to the band done in a 1970’s television theme-song manner. Pretty funny, and just what I was expecting from a band in costume.

When I didn’t expect was what came next. “Born To Follow” kicks in and it’s a fantastic Rob Zombie-meets-Metallica-meets Pantera rock anthem. The guitar-rock continues through “Never Miss” and “Salt & Rust” before slowing up for the 007-esque Bjork cover “Isobel.” Yes, they cover a Bork song. Well, I might ad. Once the Bjork-break is over the album ends on a brutal note with “Survey The Remains” and “Stop Scratching.”

You know.. sometimes a band has a gimmick to draw a crowd and can’t back it up with the music. I’ve got to say, A Good Rogering has something special. They may get your attention with the skunk stripe and chef hat, but once they have your attention, they’ll likely keep it with their talent. They can do in-your-face hard rock as well as pull off a technical and beautiful ballad. Heck.. I found a video on YouTube where they do a darn nice rendition of Digital Underground’s “Freaks of the Industry.”

Visit them online at to see where they play during Texas Rockfest. I know I’m going to try and catch them soon. – Sean Claes


One Fix

If you’ve been around the hard rock / metal scene in Austin for a bit you’ve heard of or seen Powderburn. They’re a love/hate band. If you have an opinion about them it’s usually a pretty strong one. Kind of like Vallejo or Bob Schneider. For the record, I fall in the “love” category for all three. So, it makes sense that I choose Powderburn’s One Fix to review for the review that will be posted during Valentine’s Day.

Released late last year, Powderburn has really matured on this CD. It’s their first release since 2007’s Echoed In Red EP. One Fix has Powderburn coming off less like a metal club band and more like someone that could hold down a stage at bigger venues. They’ve got that Metallica-meets-Alice In Chains –meets- Breaking Benjamin sound that is too soft for Ozzfest but too hard for Austin City Limits Music Fest. Which is, perhaps, why they are still rocking the smaller clubs.

But don’t get me wrong, this band is sponsored by Jagermeister and does a show up right. This isn’t just four guys with instruments that stare at the ground. A Powderburn concert is an event with lights, shots, and many times scantily clad women giving away schwag.

But… on to the CD. One Fix is a good ten-track 45-minute ride full of sweet hard rock. The album kicks off with the five minute “Black Untold” that gets your blood pumping before going into the title track. “Slowly Divide” could be a Metallica ballad. “One By One” will have people in the crowd at a live show chanting.

My favorite track on One Fix is “Break Away” a jam that seems to be about a blackout and waking up not sure where you are. Growing up on the border, I can appreciate this song. “Then you wake up famished / and your friends have vanished / the girl speaks Spanish / and you can’t understand a thing.”

The epic seven minute “A Small Victory” ends the album nicely. I’d complain that they’ve only put out 4 albums in 10 years, but it seems Powderburn is doing things on their pace in order to turn in an album full of well structured and well thought out songs. As the old school saying goes “all killer and no filler.”

If you’d like to get the album, there are a few packages available on their MySpace Page ( and if you scroll down, you can get the whole thing as a download for free by signing up to their mailing list. – Sean Claes

Ray Wylie Hubbard

A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C)

Bordello Records

Ray Wylie Hubbard is the only person I know that can put as much passion into singing about the Apocalypse as singing about a wasp nest on his back porch. He takes a song about baptism as serious as one about banging pots and pans. With A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C) he explores these subjects and much more.

The title track is the classic song about life being a choice, this time in a very Edgar Allen Poe manner with a black sparrow coming to him in a dream. In “Drunken Poet’s Dream” Hubbard rhymes “gasoline” with “mescaline” “scream” and “dream” and you can’t help but sing along. “Tornado Ripe” tells the story of a natural disaster. “Wasp’s Nest” is a crawling blues song about… well… wasps. “Pots and Pans” is simplistic and amazing. “Every Day Is The Day Of The Dead” is one of the tracks he wrote for the upcoming movie he wrote called Last Rites of Ransom Pride (

It amazes me how Hubbard can grasp and sing about deeply religious themes in such a moving way. Between his raspy voice, the hauntingly beautiful music, and the words he chooses to paint the picture it’s an amazing listen. On A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C) he gives us two such tracks – the revival inspired “Whoop and Hollar” and “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” the song taken from the pages of Revelation. “Black and Red, White and Pale. Death and War, Famine and Pestilence. The end will begin with the sound of approaching hoof beats of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The rock and roll song akin to his “Live and Die Rock and Roll.” “Rock and Roll’s A Vicious Game” is the killer “Loose.” It’s actually a post-death memory of someone who never stopped living the “rock and roll” lifestyle. “Now the girl walked like she was on Bourbon Street. In those days she had grown men kneeling at her feet. She took to an old profession as a source of revenue. Now all she’s taking with her is a dress from Sacks Fifth Avenue.”

A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C) was released in mid-January. For more about Ray Wylie Hubbard, visit his website - – Sean Claes

Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom

Me So Twangy (20th Anniversary Edition)

Folks that lived in Austin in 1989-1990 probably have heard of the eclectic acoustic jam band Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom. Others who are dedicated Davíd (Dah-Veed) Garza Fans possibly know this band as the band he was in before he embarked on his own impressive and quirky solo career.

In late 2009 the boys of Twang Twang re-released their 1990 Me So Twangy on CD it’s the 20th Anniversary Edition. It was originally only on tape. They did it in style with four sold-out shows at Austin’s soon-to-be gone Cactus Café in December.

Me So Twangy is not only a great timestamp of Austin music (I hear their busking in the West Mall was a thing of legend) but I believe it stand up to today’s music. The real music with people actually playing instruments, not the electronically playback dance grooves. I’d align it with the Matt The Electrician, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Southpaw Jones, and Todd Snider.

Me So Twangy is a highly danceable music… the acoustic flamenco-meets-1960s rock-kind of dance music. Forget your cares for about 40 minutes and let your body and mind be taken on a ride. Release your mind and your legs will follow. The album gets your feet moving with “Always Give Your Love Away,” and keeps that high-energy throughout the disc. Other jams include “Blue,” “It’s No Secret,” and “Nicotine Queen.” It’s not all dance jams, they slow it down for “While My Hair Grows Long” and “Quiet.” Of course there’s the obligatory why-can’t-we-all-get-along song “My Wish” (it’s a college student thing).

The most fun track on Me So Twangy and my favorite has to be “Fishsticks.” It’s the epitome of strange and fantastic. “If I were going to a jewelry store / I’d buy you a big diamond ring / If I were going to a candy store I’d make sure to get you some gum and a pair of Shrinky Dinks / But I’m not going anywhere, at least, at least not yet / I may be going to a grocery store, but if I do I won’t forget my fish sticks.”

The CD ends with “Bigstick,” a stream of consciousness spit where Garza proclaims his love for chunky peanut butter among other things.

The disc can only be found at Austin’s Waterloo Records (where it sat at the top of their “Local Top Ten” list for seven weeks). Follow them on Facebook – http://www.tinyurl/twangfacebook for more information and to reconnect. – Sean Claes

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