A regular artist here at TME.fm Radio John Prine released a new album this year, here is the best review I could find. It’s followed up by an excellent biography and some tracks to listen to.
On his first album of new songs in over 13 years, John Prine baits you but good.
The opening tunes to “The Tree of Forgiveness” are presented with ragged simplicity and homey cheer. Then the veteran songsmith, from an emotive standpoint, tosses you off the cliff with works full of stark, devastating resolve. Then, just as you think his world (and, perhaps, yours) has fallen into ruin, he winds the record up with a reverie of mortality that makes the hereafter sound like a street parade.
To perhaps no one’s surprise, “The Tree of Forgiveness” enlists the help of Dave Cobb, who became the Americana producer of choice during Prine’s prolonged writing absence.
Wisely, Cobb keeps things simple, even when he invites a few friends and clients – Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile, among them – to the sessions. Their contributions provide attractive color, but Prine’s best music has never involved fuss. He tells stories succinctly, keeping his songs focused on lyrics of Mark Twain-ish worldliness with melodies dressed by the lightest and most open of folk melodies.
So it’s business as usual to hear a back porch reverie like “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” with its sleepy summertime candor and references to sweet potato wine and George Jones 8 track tapes masking a sheepish sense of loneliness at the record’s onset. Three songs later, though, the album heads into the abyss with “Summer’s End,” a tune whose delicacy doesn’t even pretend to hide its sense of loss. “You never know how far from home you’re feeling until you watch the shadows cross the ceiling.” The song’s resulting sadness takes hold so immediately that it’s easy to overlook how graceful and gorgeous the melodic structure is.
But there has also been a mischievous slant to some of Prine’s music that regularly runs hand in hand with homespun, but very pointed social commentary. Case in point is “Lonesome Friends of Science.” It’s partly a slow-poke country rebuke of fact-denying politicos, but it’s mostly another worldly washing of hands, much in the way the classic “Fish and Whistle” was four decades ago. “The lonesome friends of science say the world will end most any day. Well, if it does, then that’s okay, ‘cause I don’t live here anyway.”
The mood is gloriously reprised for the album closing “When I Get to Heaven,” a view of the afterlife both affirmative in its abounding sense of forgiveness but ripe with show biz panache. “As God is my witness, I’m getting back into show business, open up a nightclub called The Tree of Forgiveness and forgive everybody who ever done me any harm.” But Prine saves his prime agenda for the pearly gates to the end as a chorus of laughing children and kazoos ring out. “This old man is going to town.” Sounds like heaven to me.
Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny
One of the most celebrated singer/songwriters of his generation, John Prine is a master storyteller whose work is often witty and always heartfelt, frequently offering a sly but sincere reflection of his Midwestern roots. While Prine‘s songs are often rooted in folk and country flavors, he’s no stranger to rock & roll, R&B, and rockabilly, and he readily adapts his rough but expressive voice to his musical surroundings. And though Prine has never scored a major hit of his own, his songs have been recorded by a long list of well-respected artists, including Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, George Strait, Bette Midler, Paul Westerberg, and Dwight Yoakam.
John Prine was born October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois. Raised by parents firmly rooted in their rural Kentucky background, at age 14 Prine began learning to play the guitar from his older brother while taking inspiration from his grandfather, who had played with Merle Travis. After a two-year tenure in the U.S. Army, Prine became a fixture on the Chicago folk music scene in the late ’60s, befriending another young performer named Steve Goodman.
Prine‘s compositions caught the ear of Kris Kristofferson, who was instrumental in helping him win a recording contract. In 1971, he went to Memphis to record his eponymously titled debut album; though not a commercial success, songs like “Sam Stone,” the harsh tale of a drug-addled Vietnam veteran, won critical approval. Neither 1972’s Diamonds in the Rough nor 1973’s Sweet Revenge fared any better on the charts, but Prine‘s work won great renown among his fellow performers; the Everly Brothers covered his song “Paradise,” while both Bette Midler and Joan Baezoffered renditions of “Hello in There.”
For 1975’s Common Sense, Prine turned to producer Steve Cropper, the highly influential house guitarist for the Stax label; while the album’s sound shocked the folk community with its reliance on husky vocals and booming drums, it served notice that Prine was not an artist whose work could be pigeonholed, and was his only LP to reach the U.S. Top 100. Steve Goodman took over the reins for 1978’s folky Bruised Orange, but on 1979’s Pink Cadillac, Prine took another left turn and recorded an electric rockabilly workout produced at Sun Studios by the label’s legendary founder Sam Phillips, and his son Knox.
In 1998, while Prine was working on an album of male/female country duets, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, with the cancer forming on the right side of his neck. Prine underwent surgery and radiation treatment for the cancer, and in 1999 was well enough to complete the album, which was released as In Spite of Ourselves and featured contributions from Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Connie Smith, and more. In 2000, Prine re-recorded 15 of his best-known songs (partly to give his voice a workout following his treatment, but primarily so Oh Boy would own recordings of his earlier hits) for an album called Souvenirs, originally issued in Germany but later released in the United States. In 2005, he released Fair & Square, a collection of new songs, followed by a concert tour. Two years later, alongside singer and guitarist Mac Wiseman, Prine issued Standard Songs for Average People, a collection of the two musicians’ interpretations of 14 folk and country classics. In Person & on Stage, a collection of performances from various concert tours, appeared in 2010.
Arkansas Dave’s debut album features a variety of influences including blues, rock and indie and features 13 tracks. The self-taught musician recorded the album in only eight days at Muscle Shoals’ infamous Fame Studios where legendary musicians such as Will McFarlane, Clayton Ivey and Bob Wray all recorded music.
Arkansas Dave may be releasing his debut record but he’s no stranger to the performing scene, having performed on several stages ranging from Austin to overseas in Hamburg, Germany. He’ll be hitting the road again in support of his newest effort, starting out in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 6. His late winter tour with several spring and early summer tour dates will conclude on June 22 in Switzerland. Top festivals he’s billed on include the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, Miss.
It’s a romantic cliché to find an escape in music and the blues, but living that life is a different matter. Ask Arkansas Dave about growing up in a broken home, with fundamental Christianity on one side, and crippling drug-addiction on the other, and you can see in his eyes that this is no easy ride, and that at times music really was his only friend.
Chasing his dream of music, Dave played in bands, funding his music with a succession of jobs where he had to find his feet quickly – from busboy to assembly-worker in a trash-bag factory.
His wake up call came at the edge of a breakdown with a cataclysmic weekend epiphany. He headed home for a rare visit, and was persuaded to play a few songs to his family. The response he got from his grandfather sent his mind racing, only for him to find out the next week that his grandfather had died 24 hours later.
Determined to clean himself up, and sort his life, Arkansas Dave enrolled on an audio engineering course at Media Tech in Austin Texas, driving into town with a trailer loaded with all his possessions, ‘like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies’. And that’s where everything changed – the college was housed at that time in the famous Arlyn Studios, home to sessions from Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Ray Charles. Dave with his musical co-horts took the night shift at the studios – laying down tracks and learning the ropes.
A succession of bands followed, picking up a strong local following around Austin. The final part of his musical education saw Dave touring North America as a member of old bluesman Guitar Shorty’s band, where he learned ‘what it took to be a professional musician’
Fast forward to 2016 and Dave has written the album he’s always wanted to create – a wide ranging blues-rock based record that tells the story of his life, but resonates with all of us.
The project just needed one more ingredient, so enter the Swampers, the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. In a blistering eight-day recording session at Fame Studios the band laid down the backing tracks, and Dave returned to Arlyn to complete the vocals.
So the next chapter of Dave’s life is about to be written as he pulls his band together and takes his album out on the road – this time on a road that he’s building….
“A compact collection of cool, airy but caring songs about relationships in different stages of development or deterioration.” – Associated Press
“…intoxicating in an un-bummed-out Beck’s Sea Change sort of way.” – Paste
Today, singer-songwriter Josh Rouse releases Love In The Modern Age via Yep Roc Records.
Similar to his work on his album 1972 where he captured the aesthetics of a specific moment in time, Josh’s new album Love in the Modern Age takes inspiration from the sound and production of early 1980’s releases by The Blue Nile, The Style Council and Prefab Sprout. Also serving as inspiration were Roxy Music’s Avalon, Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions and I’m Your Man. Non-ironic touches like sax, handclaps, reverbed guitar, backing vocals and keyboards give the moody but infectious songs a New Romantic flair.
Brooklyn Vegan premiered the album track “Salton Sea,” along with an early demo of the song. Forbes premiered “Businessman,” calling the album “a sterling collection that is joyous, upbeat and, most importantly, feels completely authentic. …There is no retro gimmick to Love in the Modern Age. This is a masterful storyteller celebrating the nostalgia of his youth with his own feel.”
Josh Rouse has solidified his status as one of his generation’s most acclaimed songwriters in both the US and Europe, where he’s lived on and off since 2004. Spending the better part of a year touring behind his critically acclaimed eleventh album, The Embers of Time, Rouse was ready for a change. “Coming off such a heavy record, I wanted to try something different,” he explains. “I wanted to explore new sounds and write with a fresh backdrop.” Trading in his trusty acoustic guitar for a synthesizer, Love in the Modern Age still bears Rouse’s distinct fingerprints even as it pushes his limits and forges a bold new chapter more than twenty years into his celebrated career.
Josh Rouse will kick off his tour in Europe in April, followed by North America in May. Click HERE for a full list of European/North American dates.
This September, Elise Davis returns with her sophomore album Cactus, the follow up to her 2016 critically-acclaimed debut The Token. With Cactus, Elise moves between lush alt-country and stripped-down folk confessionals, gluing everything together with story-driven songs about independence, liberation, and resilience as an adult woman.
Today, Davis shares “Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” the first single from Cactus that was co-written with Maren Morris and Frank Romano. NPR Music‘s Brittney McKenna said, “‘Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ is downright buoyant, flirting with pop melodies and allowing more room for Davis to go big with her formidable voice.”
“On my new record Cactusthere is a heavy theme of feeling like a lone wolf, independent, and sexually liberated,” explains Davis. “‘Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ ties into that theme being a song simply about the desire to be involved with someone but keep it light, casual, and sexy.”
For Cactus, Davis tappedproducer Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Andrew Combs, Birdcloud’s Jasmin Kaset) to helm her most personal work to date. The two worked together for six months straight, holed up in Lehning’s home studio, looking to albums like Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness for inspiration. Davis’ melodies remain at the forefront of every mix, her voice honest and unflinching, stripped free of the reverb that had swirled its way throughout The Token.
“Cacti are independent plants that sustain themselves,” explains Davis about the new album. “They can be beautiful with bright-colored flowers on them, but if you touch them, they will hurt you. I see a lot of parallels with the way I have felt most of my life. It felt like the perfect album title for these songs.”
Opening Dates for Jack Johnson and Playing Summer Camp, Mountain Jam, and Pickathon Festivals this Summer
“The lovechild of Mitch Hedberg and John Prine…”
– The Stranger
Portland, OR-based singer-songwriter John Craigie shared “Scarlet,” the lead single from his new full length Scarecrow. The completely analog album, out 4/21, was recorded live to a 2 inch tape, mastered to tape, and cut straight to be pressed to vinyl.
“These are songs written for last year’s No Rain, No Rose, but were cut from the album because they’re slower and softer in feel than the rest of that album,” Craigie explains. “They are sort of homeless songs, which is one reason why I used the name Scarecrow. They are songs that are out alone in a field.”
The Vinyl District shared “Scarlet,” along with an essay from Craigie about his love for vinyl. “I have always loved records as a whole,” he writes. “Even when I was a kid it was very important for me to hear the whole record, in order, from start to finish. I liked going through the journey, some songs good, some songs bad. Seeing where the artist would place the ‘hits’ vs. where they would place the deep cuts. What songs they would open with, and which songs they would close with.”
Craigie’s music is connecting with both audiences and various famous folks. Fellow troubadour Todd Snider notably hand-delivered a gift on-stage, and action hero Chuck Norris remarkably sent Craigie fan mail. Most notably, Craigie caught the attention of Jack Johnson, when his 2016 live LP Capricorn in Retrograde… Just Kidding… Live in Portland landed in Johnson’s car stereo during a California coastal road trip. Immediately becoming a fan, Jack reached out and Craigie soon found himself opening for him. This spring Craigie will play three amphitheater shows with Johnson. Other upcoming tour stops for Craigie include headlining shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and festival performances at Summer Camp, Mountain Jam, and Pickathon.
Craigie truly has a unique live performance; between nearly each song of the set, there’s a “bit” he’s written that thematically leads into the next track. This moved Seattle weekly The Stranger to dub him “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg.”
Craigie recently released his second live album LIVE – Opening for Steinbeck, a perfect example of his craft. Featuring his wry observational humor interwoven in both story and song, The Bootcalls the album “a prime example of how Craigie mixes comedic tales and his musical storytelling in his live shows.” Stream Live – Opening For Steinbeck on Spotify and Apple Music, or purchase the CD here.
Wood & Wire North of Despair
released April 13, 2018 on Blue Corn Music
“…they find their stride in stories not about your standard, romanticized American west, but instead about the honest labor that raises up the state on a consistent basis.”
“For Wood & Wire, part of that “Texas sound” emerges from the inspiration they get from songwriters before them, and the band’s refusal to romanticize anything about the Lone Star State’s culture or history.”
“Kamel’s songs are loquacious and gritty. Keeping things just above the haze of right and wrong but aimed straight at no frills. The stories carry the music as the music perpetuates the stories. Tastefully placated on interplay and improvisation, the meat of this record is the messages and characters”
The Texas songwriter tradition casts a long shadow today, and Austin-based Americana roots juggernauts Wood & Wire can easily rattle off a list of songwriters that inspire them, from Willie Nelson to James McMurtry and everyone in between. But ask them about what it is about Texas that brought us so many great songwriters, and they stop cold. That’s because they don’t romanticize Texas’ culture or its past; they’re too busy working their asses off making new music, writing new songs. This isn’t a land made for quiet reflection, it’s a land made for hard work. Respect for honest labor is a central theme in Wood & Wire’s new album, North of Despair (out April 13, 2018 on Blue Corn Music), with songs populated by people like songwriter Tony Kamel’s own grandfather, who built the family’s hunting lodge in Llano, Texas with his own two hands. The characters on the album live large, and aren’t afraid to share their opinions about the modern world. This kind of vivid, haunting songwriting focused on lives spent deep in the countryside is a hallmark of Texas songwriting. But it’s the melding of this hard country songwriting with high-octane bluegrass instrumentation that makes for Wood & Wire’s signature sound. Artists like John Hartford have trod this ground before, blending great songs, bluegrass virtuosity, and a strong sense of place, and Wood & Wire aim to pave the way for Austin’s roots scene, bursting out of the giant expanses of the state with a fully-fledged vision for a new Texan sound. On North of Despair, they bring the ferocity of their live shows to the studio, whipping through barn-burning anthems about hard people in hard times.
Wood & Wire could have returned to Nashville to record North of Despair, but the pull of home was too strong, so they headed out to Dripping Springs, just outside Austin in the Texas Hill Country. Holing up at renowned studio The Zone, they cut the tracks mostly live to tape, with minimal editing. Touring hard for the past three years helped solidify the songs, and you can feel the impromptu joy in each track. Bassist Dom Fisher lends a buoyancy to the music that mixes racing bluegrass bass lines with the backbeat of a great country bass player. A highlight of the group is the interplay between mandolinist Billy Bright and banjo player Trevor Smith, both of whom seem to delight in pugilistic bouts that romp through the songs, as much country-funk as it is Monroe & Scruggs. Though Kamel is the lead singer and songwriter, each band member contributes compositions and songwriting to the new album, a key feature of Wood & Wire’s democratic nature. Bright’s “Summertime Rolls” propels a fire-breathing mandolin line, but he takes a more philosophical stance on “As Good As It Gets.” Fisher’s co-write with Texas songwriter Robin Bernard’s “Texas” has all the balletic grace of a Western à la Townes Van Zandt. Kamel taps not only into his family’s history in Texas, but also his love for the beautiful natural environments of the state; in “Awake in the Wake” he references the sound of cypress trees breaking apart during a thousand year flood.
A life in music can be full of extremes, both high and low, but Wood & Wire have learned to take it all in stride. With the support of loved ones, they persevere along the middle path, “south of rich, north of despair,” as they sing on the title track. Never ones to shy away from hard work, Wood & Wire rely on their humble acoustic instruments and their own hands to make music meant to last. As Kamel sings “I ain’t trying to be the kingpin, I’m just trying to make a living.”
Most people who know Phil Madeira know him as one of the most seasoned players in Nashville. Since his arrival in 1983, Madeira has seen success in a plethora of different ways. He has quietly released five solo critically-acclaimed records and has shared the stage with Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Leon Russell, and Jack White. If you can think of it, Phil Madeira has probably lived it; but that’s what most people don’t know about Phil Madeira – his own story – and he’s finally ready to tell it.Released on April 6, Providence is a rare look at the man behind the music, a chance for listeners to get to know Madeira’s own stories, after having spent decades helping other songwriters and musicians tell theirs. Click here to read Madeira’s interview with Rolling Stone Country + watch the video for “Gothenburg,” a song that celebrates his family’s immigrant experience.
Comprised of 10 songs, Providence gives listeners a closer look at Madeira’s life and the inner conflict of being raised in New England, yet feeling an undeniable attraction to the music of the South, “It’s an album full of love songs to where I’m from and where I’ve come to.” Songs like “Rich Man’s Town” reflect on his childhood in Barrington, a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island. Others, like “Dearest Companion” with the words “We’re Dixon and Mason, lost in translation. If love ain’t frustration, I don’t know what is,” make the connection between where he was raised and Nashville, his home of over 30 years.
Independently produced, the album is a complete change from anything he’s ever done, “I don’t know what happened, but I fell in love with piano again.” The record straddles his iconic Americana style and jazz, more specifically, a sixties jazz piano style. Made at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, the live album features “three quarters” of The Red Dirt Boys, with Chris Donahue on bass, Brian Owens on drums, and Madeira providing lead vocals and piano. Will Kimbrough (also a Red Dirt Boy) lends guitar work on one songs, and jazz icon John Scofield adds guitar to another. Touches of brass and reeds round out the sound, but it all hinges on the trio of Madeira, Donohue, and Owens.
If Madeira has proven anything to the world, it’s his ability to bring people together in whatever capacity he’s working in. Though he didn’t intend on the “feel good” record having one overarching theme, he says the most important message is evident in the last track, “Gothenburg”, the Swedish city from which his maternal grandparents immigrated to America from. “It’s a reminder that most of us are immigrants. Most of us picked out a city and trusted that the community was going to embrace us, which is what Nashville has been to me.” Just like Nashville embraced Phil Madeira, Providence embraces the ultimate universal truth – we all have our differences but are, inherently, the same.<
As an instrumentalist, playing electric guitar, lap steel, accordion, dobro, or a Hammond B-3 with icons like Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Sixpence Pence None the Richer, Mavis Staples, and Garth Brooks — to name a few. As a producer, producing tracks for Keb’ Mo’, Emmylou, The Civil Wars, Humming People, The Band Perry, and the 2012 release of Americana Paul McCartney covers, Let Us In: Americana. As a songwriter, with a cut list that includes Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, Toby Keith, and The Civil Wars’ 2014 Grammy-winning single, “From This Valley.”
About Phil Madeira:
The last of three children, Madeira was born in Rhode Island to a Baptist minister and a church pianist. He’s lived and breathed music since he can remember, but that didn’t always coincide with his religious family. By high school, he had joined the school band and eventually began to write songs and dabble in piano. From then on, Madeira continued on his own path. He left Rhode Island for Taylor University, a conservative, religious school in small town Indiana, to study art. He continued to write and play songs in his free time, but everything changed when he met popular Christian guitar player Phil Keaggy. “When I met Phil, he said, ‘I think you’re gonna be in my band someday,’ and sure enough, three years later, I was playing with this guy.” He joined Keaggy’s band in 1976, but after recording just one record, the band broke up. Five years later, he made the move to Nashville and was immediately embraced by the Christian world, but always knew that he belonged elsewhere. In the early nineties, Buddy Miller hired him for studio work, which eventually led to him joining Miller’s band and finding his place in Americana.
In 2008, Madeira joined Emmylou’s famed band “The Red Dirt Boys”, a group with alumnus like Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Al Perkins, and Buddy Miller himself. During the first campaign for Barack Obama, he became disheartened with the political climate and approached Emmylou with an idea. “I went to Emmylou and said, “You know? I want to do kind of a Gospel record. I want to do a record that says God loves everybody.” Shortly after, the two began working on what would become Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. The critically-acclaimed album, released in 2012, featured an all-star track listing – beginning with The Civil Wars’ “From This Valley”. The album featured songs from the likes of Shawn Mullins, Buddy Miller, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mat Kearney, Amy Stroup, John Scofield, Emmylou, and Madeira himself. The same year, the Americana Association asked Madeira to perform Mercyland at the legendary Downtown Presbyterian Church, as part of the AmericanaFest. A second volume was released in January 2016, that included Americana staples Will Kimborough, The Wood Brothers, John Paul White, and The McCrary Sisters; as well as newcomers like The Lone Bellow and Humming People, among others.
Texas blues queen Kathy Murray and her band, The Kilowatts return with their fourth album, Premonition Of Love, in a new partnership with Nola Blue Records. The ten original tracks and three inspired covers, mixed and mastered by multi-award-winning Jack Miele, explore the range of blues and roots music that their home of Austin, Texas is famous for. Fellow Nola Blue recording artist, Benny Turner, Freddie King’s younger brother and bass player, makes a special guest appearance on four tracks to help launch their label debut with extra flair.
Kathy wastes no time kicking off the album with the horn infused Boogaloo ‘First Do No Harm,’ and preaches the virtues of peace and love, while her long-time partner Bill “Monster” Jones rips a jagged lead guitar. The title track, ’Premonition Of Love,’ is a burning chunk of Texas Funk inspired by legend of the Lone Star state Freddie King. Turner leads the bump and grind blues for the smoking ‘Beggars Can’t Be Choosers,’ and spars with Kathy on the slinky horn funk ‘Always Fooling Me.’ The dance floor fills up for the jump blues ‘Grow Some,’ featuring great walking bass and honky-tonk piano from Matt Ferrell.
Kathy lays it on thick, pouring out her sex appeal, drawing comparisons to Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker on the Lowell Fulson 1965 classic ‘Black Nights,’ a brassy and sassy feel-good tune despite the sorrowful lyrics, featuring a horn section that moans and wails. The reverb soaked take of Magic Sam’s bone-cutting blues ‘What Have I Done Wrong,’ highlights more hot leads from Jones and showcases the core sound of the Kilowatts. Turner returns along with Kim Field on scorching blues harp for down and dirty, gritty blues ‘Final Verdict.’ Jones dons the accordion for a side trip to the bayou for the joyful Cajun romp, ‘Sugar Bee,’ then drummer Nina Singh delivers the authentic Bo Diddley beat for ‘Answer Yes.’ Piano man Floyd Domino jumps in on the roadhouse blues rocker ‘All These Questions,’ as Kathy plays the part of a women scorned and ready to fight for her man. The Texas-styled shuffle of ‘I Got This’ swings with a dose of boot-scootin’ boogie. Kathy concludes her sermon of empowerment, encouraging us all to embrace the freedom to love deeply and keep our eyes on the prize, on album closer ‘The Bigger Picture,’ an easy-going rhumba that sweetly sails off into the sunset.
Rick J Bowen
With their recent signing to Nola Blue Records and their successful 2017 release of Let’s Do This Thing that was the Austin Blues Society’s entry for Best Self-Produced CD at 2018 IBC, Kathy Murray and her band, the electrifying Kilowatts, reassert their place in the blues pantheon that helps Austin, TX keep its reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World.
This is far from Murray’s first time at the rodeo. For decades she has helped keep a spotlight on the Texas capital’s blues scene. She cut her teeth during the golden era of Austin’s blues and R&B scene in the 1980s and early 90s, sharing the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and blues godfather W.C. Clark. In addition, she also took her rightful place among a veritable Murderer’s Row of formidable Austin blues women, including Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli. Along with the Kilowatts, she has shared the stage with headliners of the caliber of Albert Collins, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, Koko Taylor and others.
“The first night I saw a live band in Austin, I was 16,” Murray told the Austin Chronicle. “David (her brother, guitarist David Murray) was 14 and we snuck into the Armadillo World Headquarters where there was a triple bill of Storm, with Jimmie Vaughan, the Nightcrawlers with Stevie Ray, and Paul Ray & the Cobras. My little teen self was totally blown away!”
Throughout her professional evolution, the blues has been the foundation of Murray’s music and songwriting, but she’s never been just a one-trick pony. “My sound encompasses the influences of all of Texas’ rootsy regional music styles that I’ve been exposed to throughout my life: blues, swamp pop, rock, zydeco, soul, rockabilly and conjunto,” says Murray.
Born to a service family, Murray moved all over the country before her father settled the family in Austin upon his retirement in 1968. At the time, the city was experiencing the first stirrings of what would become a vibrant live music scene. Murray cut her musical teeth on her older sister’s Elvis 45s, later graduating to the blues-tinged country of George Jones and Hank Williams. But it was experiencing the blues in person, at legendary clubs like Antone’s and the Armadillo that was a life-changing experience for Murray. Local talents like Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Blues Boy Hubbard and national acts like Freddie King and Muddy Waters found a rabid fan in Murray. At the same time, she took a deep dive into the classic recorded blues canon, devouring records by Magic Sam, Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Memphis Minnie and myriad others.
One critic described Murray’s soulful, emphatic vocals as “the love child of Jimmy Reed and Wanda Jackson.” Another noted that her music “oozes Texas’ low-down smooth and sexy blues.” Murray describes herself as “both a big-voiced blues singer and a prolific songwriter with a strong modern voice. I feel I’m taking the blues into the future by writing new songs in the styles that influenced me.” Alluding to contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, Murray says, “We all have a foundation in common in our passion for blues music, but we stepped out of the box and incorporated aspects of rock, soul and other styles into our music.”
The new Premonition of Love will join a Kathy & the Kilowatts catalog that also includes Let’s Do This Thing,Relatively Blue and Groovin’ With Big D (dedicated to the late drummer, SRV songwriter and musical mentor, Doyle Bramhall, Sr.). The latter project has a long pedigree, dating back to sessions that Murray, along with longtime musical partner (and husband) Bill “Monster” Jones, cut with Bramhall in the 90s.
2018 sees not only the release of Premonition of Love, but also forthcoming tours of the US, Scandinavia and Spain. Kathy Murray believes, not without justification, that even after a lifetime onstage and on record, the best days for Kathy & the Kilowatts are still ahead.