SXSW Ripples: We’ve Heard Some Of This Before
We had a great time at the SXSW event this past March in Austin, we got to meet some fine folks and experience some truly strange times. The coolest thing, though, is all of the music out now that we got a preview of at the conference. Let’s go through some of it:
Jimmy Cliff, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, gave us a taste of his new album Rebirth. It’s his first album in eight years, and certainly a return to form for the reggae master. Produced by Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, songs like “One More” and “Ship Is Sailing” embraces Cliff’s classic sound while snapping it right up to date. This album is just one great moment after another: from the righteous “World Upside Down,” to the scathing “Children’s Bread,” to the soulful “Cry No More.” Jimmy hits a peak on his cover of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” which name checks Jimmy Cliff’s own masterpiece The Harder They Come.
YouTube: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff at Waterloo Records
We kinda fell in love with Norah Jones (again) at SXSW, when we saw her play with her roots-country band The Little Willies. We didn’t get to see her solo showcase, which previewed her new pop album Little Broken Hearts. While the songs explore the hurt and confusion of a fractured relationship, the sound is dark but very rich. Thank Norah’s co-producer/co-writer Danger Mouse and Norah’s own adventurousness for push-the-envelope gems like “Miriam” and “Happy Pills.”
Let’s call out a fresh talent now: Cory Chisel fronted a band he calls the Wandering Sons at a show for the Gram Parsons Foundation, but most of the players were apparently on loan from Cory’s musician friend Brendan Benson. We did like backup singer-keyboardist Adriel Denae, and she’s prominent on Chisel’s new Old Believers. Hailing from Minnesota, Cory has a winning roots-country sound that isn’t afraid to ride rough and rock out. “Times Won’t Change” was a crowd favorite, and “This Is How It Goes,” which kicks off the album, has a lovely vocal turn from Adriel. Best of the lot are “I’ve Been Accused” and the rousing come-to-meeting stomper “Over Jordan.” Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons are on tour right now, opening for Norah Jones – we strongly suggest you get out and catch this killer ticket.
YouTube: Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons “This Is How It Goes/I’ve Been Accused” on “Late Night With David Letterman”
We took some of Austin’s awesome Hey Cupcake! pastries to PUJOL because they are so cool, they are great rockers and frontman Daniel Pujol helped us get in to see Jack White’s showcase. Be that as it may, PUJOL’s first full-length LP United States of Being is a fine effort, front-loaded with rockers like “DIY2K” and “Providence.” Don’t miss “Black Rabbit,” Daniel’s tribute to his real-life pet, and “Each And Every Day,” which would be a radio hit if such a thing still existed.
YouTube: “Black Rabbit” by PUJOL
We gotta give some love to our friend and SXSW regular Alejandro Escovedo, for his rockin’ new album Big Station. Al played some of the most popular gigs at SXSW this year, nearly shutting down traffic on South Congress when he played in the parking lot of the San Jose Hotel and opening a show at ACL Live for some guy named Springsteen. Also, a shout out to Hacienda, who we saw at the San Jose in 2011; they have a new out too. It’s called Shakedown, and it’s produced by Black Keys guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach.
YouTube: Hacienda sizzle reel for Shakedown
Finally, a couple of faves from past years at SXSW … We caught The Gaslight Anthem under a tent in a parking lot in 2007, and since then they’ve carved out a great rock and roll niche for themselves. Their new album is Handwritten and it’s chock full of rockers (the great “Howl”) and passion (the title cut).
And if you missed our interview with rock royalty Michael Des Barres, you should not pass up on Carnaby Street, his new album. It’s our favorite album of the summer – with the blistering title track, the soul rockin’ “Forgive Me,” and Texas steamy “Hot And Sticky” you can’t go wrong. Mike and his expert band sound a bit like Rod Stewart fronting the Rolling Stones, and on “My Baby Saved My Ass” they manage to out-rock even those geriatric superstars. If you like your rock and roll old school and below the belt, Des Barres is the man for you.
YouTube: “Obsession” by Michael Des Barres at SXSW 2010