Sunday, June 19, 2016

Damn Quails Don't Fly Anymore

Gabe Marshall and Bryon White from the Damn Quails start looking into different directions.

In a surprise move, their performing calendar is stacked throughout the whole summer, including a headlining slot at the Woody (Guthrie) folk festival on July 14th, the Oklahoma Red Dirt singer/songwriting duo plus their current band members - Harmonica player Adam Rittenberry, Drummer Walton McMurry and original bassist Dillon Sampson - stalled in flight and call it quits. Gabriel and Byron announced their decision on the Quails facebook page on Sunday morning (6/18/16) out of the blue and stunned critics and their "Convey" of fans alike.

Nested out of a jam session, where different musicians would sit in and join Gabe and Bryon, the duo took to flight with their 2011 release "Down the Hatch" (produced by Mike McClure and Joe Hardy) and found an immediate connection to fans and critics. Three singles of their debut album, "Fool's Gold," "So So Long" and "Me and the Whiskey" got radio airplay and TV time on Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson's "The Texas Music Scene." (See two video's of the TV music series featuring the "birds" below.)

But as soon as the band took flight, there were legal issues with their management company and record label. Unsolvable lawsuits were filed and the band had to fight to even keep the rights of their own name, music, likeness. Basically everything associated with The Damn Quails was in question. Not giving up and taking off every night with engaging live shows, this was the only way the band was able to survive for the next two years, till the lawsuit was finally settled and the band was given the ownership of the name.

Broke and without a record label, the band turned to their flock or "Convey" as they called it and started a Kickstarter Campaign January a year ago. They raised according to their website, where a lot of information is coming from, almost $55'000 dollars to record a new record and take to flight again.
Reckless Kelly guitarist David Abeyta was enlisted to be the producer of what became "Out Of The Birdcage" which was recorded at 12th Street Sound in Austin, Texas and released in September of last year on their own "Swamp Fyst Records" label.

Fool's Gold - Texas Music Scene

A request to the Quail's publicist about the breakup was not immediately returned. All of Gabe Marshall's social media accounts are closed down. Hundreds of fans have by now commented on the split up, most of them surprised and dumbfounded. Well, I guess all we can say is - "So, So Long" and all the best to Gabe and Byron and their current band members for whatever endeavors they will tackle next. For more of their music, look below the video to "So, so long" and visit the band's soundcloud account.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

He Ain't Going Nowhere - Guy Clark's Just Leaving

Texas singer/songwriter legend Guy Clark passed away today, he was 74 and was in ill health for some of the last years. 

I will not even try to attempt to write an obit on this master of words, there are only a few in this world, who have (had) that craft of writing. Hank Williams comes to mind, a big influence for Guy, whom he celebrated in his composition "Hank Williams Said It Best," his old friend the late Townes Van Zandt as well as John Prine and Leonard Cohen. 

The only thing I would love to share here, are a couple of personal memories. An after hours night of pickin' and grinnin' at the Singer/Songwriter Festival in Frutigen in 1989. After a great night of fabulous live performances, we (a radio friend of mine, the promoter's daughter, Billy Joe Shafer and his son Eddy as well as Johnny Rodriguez) all landed in one of the hotel rooms. Being in a mountain valley, "far" from any major city we weren't able to score any party accessories, so we had to pass the night by listening to songs, which was as a natural high as they seldom come. 

Fast forward several years to 1997 - attending Jack Ingram's record release party for "Livin' Or Dyin'" for Rising Tide Records (by then an MCA imprint) at Iron Works Barbecue in Austin during SXSW -Guy Clark was attending, because Ingram had covered "Rita Ballou" for his third studio album. Enjoying the lovely spring sun, my ex-wife and I joined by Guy were standing outside, smoking. At one point we were all considering to go inside to rub elbows with some of the producers, label-head Tony Brown and other people being present, but Guy insisting to just have another smoke. In the end all of the label royalty showed up on the terrace to say hello and pay homage to Clark. After some pleasantries, they all went back inside, while we kept smoking, laughing and exchanging old stories.  

You may wonder what that old defunct motel sign is doing here, two years ago on a working trip I actually visited Guy Clark's hometown Monahans in West Texas. The Sunset Motel has definitely seen better days and even though the town was booming, there was not a room to be found, because of the oil price surge, it had a forlorn feel to it. 

As the quintessential Texas tune smith, there are several obits out there worth reading - the main one in my honest opinion "He Ain't Going Nowhere," published by Texas Monthly magazine four years ago. It's an intimate read, perfectly showing Guy's personality. Rolling Stone magazine offers: Guy Clark: 12 Essential Songs, which is worth visiting as well. 

Two of my favorite Guy Clark songs need to be added here, as a European transplant in Texas an ode to the culinary values of the Lonestar State, "Texas Cooking" and a song Guy wrote with his late wife Susanna and another Texas master poet, with Richard Dobson, "Old Friends"

Texas Cooking

Old Friends

Emilio Navaira - "Garth Brooks" of Tejano - Passes

According to news reports, a massive heart attack - an autopsy was ordered - ended the live of Tejano singer Emilio Navaira. The 2003 Grammy winner for "Acuerdate" as "Tejano Album of the Year" was 53 years old and lived in New Braunfels, Texas. If murdered Selena was the Queen, Emilio was the undisputed king of Tejano, an amalgam of Texas and Hispanic music. His popularity was so huge, that he often got nicknamed the "Garth Brooks" of Tejano.

Born and raised in Southern San Antonio, he not only grew up with the typical Mexican-American background listening to Little Joe & La Familia or Mexican crooner Ramon Ayala, he also listened to Texas country music greats: Bob Wills, Willie Nelson and George Strait. After high school in San Antonio, he got a musical degree at Southwest Texas University in San Marcos (now Texas State) and in 1983 he joined "Los Musicales" and started singing with David Lee Garza.

By the end of the 80s, Navaira formed his own band Rio, got a major record deal, where he recorded more than a dozen albums under his full name and then from the mid-90's simply by his first name Emilio. One of his songs "Como Le Hare" (How Will I Do It) became so popular, even though it never charted as a single, that the title is now used as a catch phrase in Texas. His albums regularly started to show up in the US Latin (album) and his singles in the US Hot Latin (singles) charts.

His popularity was so big, that he started to get sponsored by Wrangler Jeans, Coca Cola & Miller Beer and was signed to Capitol Nashville, adroitly naming his first album "Life Is Good" after the beer slogan. A Larry Boone/Paul Nelson/Earl Clark penned ballad, "It's Not The End Of The World" got recorded in English and Spanish and charted in the top twenty of both the US Country and Hot Latin charts respectively.

His voice and distinctive style also convinced the prestigious "Country Night Gstaad" festival in Switzerland to have him perform there among other headliners, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kathy Mattea and Paul Brand, in 1997. So before his trip to Switzerland I had a chance to interview him at Austin's (now long gone Aqua Fest). The energy coming from that stage put the largely Tejano audience on fire, this was their king and he was celebrated that night with people hanging on Emilio's lips and singing with him during the whole set.

After two country inspired albums for Capitol and changing times in Nashville, Emilio went back to the Tejano market, but still including Spanish tracks, that could have been sung by country great George Strait. His mixture from love ballads to modern Tejano, from traditional Rancheras (story songs) to dance-able Cumbias, established him as one of the most diverse artists in the Texas music scene.

In March of 2008 Emilio almost lost his life, after having a tour bus accident in Bellaire outside of Houston. He was ejected through the windshield of the bus after he collided with traffic barrels. He was later being charged with "intoxication" and not having a license to drive the bus. Miraculously he had an impressive recovery after severe cranial damage and brain injuries and was able to come back onto the stage two years later.

With "El Regreso del Rey" (Return of the King) he released a fulminante Live-Album as a comeback. Even though not on major labels anymore, Emilio continued to release albums. Last year's "Juntos" and a biggest hit album "Siempre Grande" this year were released by Mexican imprint Apodaca. He also continued to tour in South Texas and Mexico, now with his own kids in his band Rio, his brother Raulito formed his own band "Remdio" with his kids, Destiny and Rigo.