Archive for Al Staehely

SXSW Day One: The Class, and the Craziness

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by 30daysout

Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Burdon!

AUSTIN – There is nothing gradual or tentative about the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference; you jump in and either start swimming madly or you just drown. We tried to make a schedule for Wednesday, the first full day of the music madness, but it stayed folded in a pocket for the duration. We saw more than one couple frantically flipping through the Austin Chronicle or an official SXSW book (like a large catalog, really) for guidance, and looking more and more drowned by the minute.

Polly Parsons

Just get the sneakers workin’, and we did – to discover a swell group, A Classic Education. With a swirling and darting style reminiscent of the Smiths, this unit charmed a small crowd in a small bar. People came in for the free booze, and they left with sweet melodies ringing in their ears.

We flitted from venue to venue until we decided to make a stand in the parking lot of the colorful San Jose Hotel, to enjoy a musical lineup and help launch the Gram Parsons Foundation. Organized by Gram’s daughter Polly, who is now an Austin resident, the Foundation aims to support musicians and artists worldwide with addiction and recovery services. Wednesday’s party at the ever-popular South by San Jose event was a swell way to announce the Foundation’s good work.

Gram, who envisioned a mix of rock, folk, blues and country as “Cosmic American Music,” surely smiled on the offerings of Poor Moon, comprising Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls) and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards). While certainly adept instrumentally – Wescott and one of the Murrays bounced continuously between xylophone, guitar, keyboards and various percussion – and vocally, Poor Moon’s songs lacked a bit of focus and foundation. While the Fleet Foxes’-styled harmonies were beautiful, we wanted a hook or two to hang our hats on.

Cory Chisel, left, and Brendan Benson

Ask, and ye shall receive: in the form of Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who came out blistering with a sweet blend of country and rock. Cory has it all: great songs, an engaging style and, in his own words, “the best-looking band anywhere.” From Wisconsin, Chisel’s heartland rock is best spotlighted on his debut album Death Won’t Send A Letter, which he recorded with members of the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather and My Morning Jacket. Cory promises a sophomore release this summer, but in the meantime he and his crack touring unit have captured many hearts early on at SXSW.

Brendan Benson, himself a part-time Raconteur, stepped up next and he delivered with some deft heartland rock. At one point he said “I can’t believe I’m saying this but, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Eric Burdon!” And there he was – former lead singer of the Animals, resplendent in black and white (hair), electrifying the crowd with “When I Was Young.” Burdon’s appearance was like a thumb in a light socket, but at two songs, all too brief.

Eric Burdon

We plunged ahead into the dark, and downtown Austin, only to stumble upon our old buddy and Houston homie Al Staehely and his band the Explosives. Staehely and his brother John (also present in the Explosives) were replacement members of the 1970s version of the seminal California prog/psychedelic rockers Spirit. At age 66, Al is in fine voice and John squeezed out some fiery leads on guitar. After working the crowd into a lather, Al said “let’s do a couple from Spirit” and launched into a rockin’ cover of Randy California’s “I Got A Line On You.”

Al Staehely, who in the daytime is an entertainment lawyer in Houston, told us he had virtually retired from performing in 1985 when his son Christian was born. “I figured I should be a full-time lawyer, and only played at home,” he said. “Really, it was Freddie Krc (former drummer for Jerry Jeff Walker and leader of the Freddie Steady 5) who got me started again. We would do a gig here and there and finally I just jumped back in all the way … it’s a lot of fun.”

What a way to rock us out of the evening. Today, we’re headed over to catch a keynote address by one Mr. Bruce Springsteen, who made his presence known Wednesday by jumping onstage with Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely and Garland Jeffreys for four songs. Later on this evening, Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform at the spankin’ new ACL Live venue, just across the river from the hallowed ground of the old Armadillo World Headquarters where Bruce made his first Austin splash back in 1974.

Nice shoes Al. Wait, are those really shoes?

SXSW Interview: Al Staehely (formerly of Spirit)

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by 30daysout

Al Staehely, right, and the Explosives - featuring John Staehely (left) on lead guitar.

AUSTIN – Walking down Lavaca St. last night, we stumbled upon The Ginger Man, a cool club that houses yuppies in the front and live music in the back. We checked out the list and saw that former Spirit bassist Al Staehely was playing the 8 p.m. slot. We had planned on seeing Al tonight at the Saxon Pub (although he plays at midnight and after sleeping on air mattress last night, we’ll see), but we figured since we weren’t doing anything else we would pop in since his set just started.

To be honest, we were not expecting much, but man were we pleasantly surprised. Along with his guitarist brother, John, Staehely delivered a rockin’ 45 minute set that featured a blistering version of the Spirit classic “Got A Line On You.”

Replacing Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes and as Randy California took a break, the Staehely brothers played on Spirit’s 1972 album, Feedback, and put out an album on Epic under the name the “Staehely Bros,” a couple of years later. Since the mid-80s Staehely has played infrequently spending his time as an entertainment attorney dealing with the music and film industry. We caught up with him after the show to ask him how he balances being a lawyer by day and a rocker by night.

30 Days Out: I understand you didn’t play out for a long time. What made you want to get back on stage?

Al Staehely: When my son was born in 1985, I figured I needed to be a full-time lawyer. I kept playing around the house and for friends and family, and I would occasionally sit in with some people. What really got me playing again was Freddie (Krc, owner of Steady Boy Records and leader of Freddie Steady 5). He told me to come and be a guest on the Freddie Steady 5 show and that they would back me up. So I said OK. Then he invited me to a writer’s in the round acoustic deal. He made it real easy. I didn’t have to think about getting a gig or getting a band.

30 Days Out: I understand Freddie was instrumental in bringing the out-of-print Staehely’s Comet back to life?

Al Staehely

Al Staehely: Yes, he started bugging me for a couple of years. He kept saying “it was released in Europe, but it’s never been released on CD in the states.” I owned it, and he said he wanted to release it on Steady Boy. He put it out under the name “Al Staehely and 10,000 Hours” last year. I have to credit Freddie with bringing my music career back to life. I’ve got some serious musicians behind me (brother John and drummer Mark Singer) and these are the same guys that played with me on the album.

30 Days Out: Many people know you from the band Spirit. Do you get a lot of request to play that stuff?

Al Staehely: We normally play longer sets than the 45 minute one we played tonight, so we do play those songs from time-to-time. We’ve been playing “Nature’s Way” lately. I like that one. It’s a Randy California song.

30 Days Out: Are you having fun doing this again?

Al Staehely: Yes. Playing with the band is great and I also do a lot of acoustic shows. When I play acoustic I do some other songs I wrote that are a little different. Now my son, Christian, is playing with me and opening some shows. He’s 26 now and graduated from Princeton in 2008. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners as a pitcher where he played for a couple of years before he was let go. He played in Australia for a year then Italy. He’s been a musician since middle school, and a songwriter since high school, so he decided to hang up his spikes and get back to the music.

30 Days Out: How do you balance being a lawyer and a musician?

Al Staehely: Being a lawyer pays the bills.

Al Staehely official website

Steady Boy Records