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.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Radiohead's Ninth, "A Moon Shaped Pool," Drops

Radiohead dropped their ninth album "A Moon Shaped Pool" on Sunday evening (5/8/16) only as digital downloads on iTunes ($ 10.99), Amazon ($ 9.49) and streaming services Apple Music and Tidal, as well as their own e-commerce site, named after the album title. ($ 13 as well as in a special edition package $ 86.50) Physical copies (CDs $ 14.50 & LPs $ 29) won't be available till June, 17th.

According to British newspaper The Guardian, a download was also available from Google Play for a short while, but was then removed from the platform. The 11-song, alphabetically sequenced album, their first since 2011's "The King Of Limbs" was announced 2 days ago, when Radiohead released the second video of their new album, "Daydreaming" directed by PT Anderson. After their last release, the band took a break, either with solo releases "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" (Thom Yorke) and "Weatherhouse" (Phil Selway) while guitarist Jonny Greenwood worked on several movie projects. Yorke and Nigel Goodrick also released an album under their side moniker "Atoms For Peace."
In April, the band erased its Internet presence with "Dead Air Space," sent embossed cards out containing the lyrics to "Burn The Witch" and released this, the opener 5 days ago as an animated video on YouTube. The first video garnered more than 10 million views in less than a week.

The song list
1. Burn The Witch
2. Daydreaming
3. Decks Dark
4. Desert Island Disk
5. Ful Stop
6. Glass Eyes
7. Identikit
8. The Numbers
9. Present Tense
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
11. True Love Waits

Burn The Witch


Sources: The Guardian, Radiohead, AMoonShapedPool.com, itunes, Amazon