Saturday, May 01, 2010

Cinco de Mayo: music

Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of a historic battle in the Mexican state of Puebla which has transformed, over the years, to a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage that’s marked especially in the United States.

Tish Hinojosa is first generation Mexican American. Her album Aquella Noche was recorded one Cinco de Mayo several years back at the Waterloo Ice House in Austin, Texas.

It makes a fine soundtrack for marking the holiday, although if you’re expecting raucous Tejano style songs, you’ll not find them here. Hinojosa does not follow that pop culture and rock infused style, but rather is a Texan who sings in both English and Spanish, writing her own songs and sometimes, as on the this recording, mixing in her favorite border and Mexican classics as well. There’ll be more on Hinojosa and her music when the Great American Road Trip: Music travels the southwest, and there’s more to explore at the links below as well.

Meanwhile, take a listen to the dance song Cumbia, Polka, y Mas, the classic Reloj, and the intriguing title song as you prepare your Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

you may also wish to see

Music Road: Tish Hinojosa: Our Little Planet
Music Road: music for mothers and children
Music Road: ten songs
a selection of recommended songwriter cds

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Austin Holiday stroll coming up

Downtown Austin Alliance's Holiday Stroll is a really lovely and very musical event. Carol singing at the Capitol steps, loads of shops and people and all sorts of music along the way, and by the time you get as far as La Pena and Mexic Arte, a bit more of the Hispanic tradition kicking in. Anywhere you join in along Congress, though, it's a fine holiday evening.

Here's this year's plan, courtesy of the Austin Music Alliance.

Saturday, December 5

6:00-7:00 pm: Holiday Sing-Along
south steps of the Capitol

7:00 pm: Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
south gates of the Capitol

7:00 - 9:00 pm: Holiday Stroll on Congress Avenue

Congress Avenue will be buzzing with holiday cheer during the Congress Avenue Stroll. Shops, restaurants, galleries and museums will be open late and will feature special activities, offers or refreshments to visitors.

photo of the Capitol in Austin and the Texas Tree all in lights by Kerry Dexter

music to go along with these ideas

Music Road: Jeff Talmadge : At Least That Much Was True

Music Road: A Tejano Country Christmas

Music Road: Albert & Gage: One More Christmas

for a range of interesting posts, visit
Delicious Baby's Photo Friday

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday Sessions: Karen Mal on writing songs

"I was a late bloomer, as a songwriter. I never thought I had it in me, to be a songwriter. Sometimes I think part of that is because I had a classical music training. You’re examining these unbelievably wonderful pieces of music, and what can I possibly say that can compare, that hasn’t already been said? What I’ve learned about that is, it’s a little bit like the way DNA works. How is it possible that there are all these billions of people in the world, and nobody really looks exactly alike? The DNA code is not very big. There are thirteen tones in our musical scale,” Mal continued, “but when I started to realize that nobody else has seen the stories, the adventures, the experiences, the love, the losses, the friends, the tragedies, the visions -- just the stories that make up my life as I’m walking on this earth -- nobody has seen and experienced those things in the order that I have, at the time that I have, with the people around them that I have -- when you start to think about how many variables there are in just that, it starts to make sense that I might have a perspective that’s unique.

“I’ll never forget when I started coming around to that It’s about finding poetic, compelling, exciting ways to show people things that they are already thinking about. It’s really just about showing people’s humanity back to themselves, the love stories, the navigating through obstacles, the stories where people have difficulties and things to reconcile. We never get tired of that, of hearing those stories.” And, Karen Mal said, “songwriting is the hardest thing in the world I’ve ever done. But the best feeling in the world when it’s right and you know it. And then you’re sure you’ll never again write another song,” she added, laughing

Kaen Mal's website

you may also want to see

Music Road: Voices: Carrie Newcomer: faith and laughter

Music Road: Saturday Sessions: Emily Smith on songwriting

Music Road: Dakota Lullaby: Albert & Gage

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Monday, July 14, 2008

now playing: eliza gilkyson: beautiful world

Beautiful World

Political events, and opinions about them, occur in the midst of other parts of life, death, falling in love, stopping by the grocery store, seeing old friends -- and so it is, in a sense, with the songs on Eliza Gilkyson’s latest album. Great Correction was the first song Gilkyson wrote, inspired in part community conversation she hosted each weekend in Austin, Texas, with minister Jim Rigby and Professor Robert Jensen. “We wanted to provide a place to discuss, grieve, and mull over our future without having need for an immediate solution other that the comfort of each other’s presence,” Gilkyson says. Through her musical career, Gilkyson has explored the tensions and the gifts that exist when poetry and politic meet, and here she offers some of her best lyrics and most adventurous melodies yet. Not to mention, she’s a top class singer. The snazzy, jazzy almost tongue in cheek Unsustainable , the raw look behind what the world may see in someone and who that person really is in Dream Lover, love, joy and celebration of nature in Wildewood Spring -- this is perhaps a gentler Gilkyson that has been apparent in her more recent albums, one who’s drawn by passion and commitment more than fueled by anger. No less outspoken, though, and still deeply poetic and musical.

Down at the corner of ruin and grace
I’m growing weary of the human race
Hold my lamp up to everyone’s face
Looking for an honest man...

are the opening lines of The Great Correction.

Chris Maresh, Elana James, Cisco Ryder, Cindy Cashdollar, and Glenn Fukanaga are among those who back up Gilkyson on the recording.

you may also want to see this post

Music Road: now playing: Jeff Talmadge : At Least That Much Was True

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

now playing: Karen Mal:The Space Between

The Space Between

When I was Three: that might, you'd think from the title, be a sentimental or perhaps funny song about childhood. In singer and songwriter Karen Mal’s hands, it’s instead a reflection of change, growing up and growing older, and looking back, that’s at once bittersweet and warm. Mal has a gift for that sort of duality: Suitcase Full of Memories adds a touch of humour to that sort mix as well.

This is the Austin based musician's third solo album. Her first was songwriter material and her second reflected her deep interest in Celtic music. Originals, both solo and co written, are the substance here, with a few covers and a traditional melody with Spanish lyric from Mal, called Te Acuerdo en Mis Suenos. There’s a nice snap of humor and a heat of sensuality in several of the songs, including Beaneath My Quit, A Sailor Returns to the Sea, and Everything About You. The title track found its start in a river rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, clearly a welcome ground for considering change, transition, and the space between all that. Mal sings in a light, crisp soprano, neither too sweet nor too dramatic, always in service of the song and always sharing the song with her listeners.

It took Mal a few career twists to find her home in folk music; among other things she spent a number of as an actor, and worked as a music director for theatrical productions. It’s all served her well on her way. “I hope I’m picking up some momentum now,” she says of her musical career. It’s well deserved.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

now playing: The Greencards


Talk about people following a dream -- Kym Warner and Carol Young, two thirds of the hot bluegrass and country trio The Greencards, packed up from home, sold their goods, and set out in pursuit of careers in the music they loved. That's a familiar tale, except that this pair set out from Australia to the United States. Not that they had to leave home to seek their fortunes, either: both were doing well in the Australian country music scene. Bluegrass, however was what drew them on. In an Austin studio, they met another expat, British fiddler Eamon McLoughlin. Working with players including the Asylum Street Spankers, Robert Earl Keen, and Caroline Herring, they made their livings, and on the side began developing their own unique sound, traditional yet with a twist -- make that several twists. Young is the lead singer and plays electric bass, Warner plays mandolin, and he and McLoughlin both take occasional leads as well as joining in for two and three part harmonies. Are they good? Bob Dylan hired them on to open for a run of tour dates, and an instrumental from their latest album, Viridian, was nominated for a Grammy. At the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Scotland, they brought down the house opening for the The Alison Brown Quartet [quite an inspired pairing, that].

What you'll hear on Viridian is a collection of roots Americana that is as classy as it is earthy, as original as it it grounded in acoustic tradition. Young’s singing haunts on River of Sand, while there are bluegrass chops aplenty in Kym’s writing and the band’s playing on Lonesome Side of Town. McLoughlin describes his piece When I Was in Love with You as English folk song meets punk.

Whatever they might be playing. whether it be a Bill Monroe song or a newly minted one of their own, count on The Greencards for outstanding harmonies, thoughtful singing, and instrumental collaboration which will leave you wanting more. Another thing: go see them live if you can. You’ll not soon forget the experience.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

now playing: caroline herring: lantana

Caroline Herring sees her native ground of the American south with a poet’s eye and a seeker’s heart. Through ten cuts on her latest release, Lantana, she draws her listeners into reflections on marriage, family, faith, and finding one’s place in an ever shifting and changing world, a world that is framed as much in the dust of red clay roads as it is in the sometimes strange and powerful paths of the people who travel them. As gifted a singer as she a writer, Herring knows how to tell these stories and when to get out of their way. She grew up in Mississippi, and that experience infuses her work, as does the time she’s spent living in Austin, the Washington DC area, and her current home, Georgia.

In the tradition of folk murder ballads, Herring takes on the story of Susan Smith, who drowned her children in search of other loves. Lay My Burden down is a contemporary yet timeless take on the southern gospel sound. In Heartbreak Tonight Herring tells of a woman that any who’ve grown up in the south will know, as will any who’ve seen their dreams change and reflected on that. In a very different view of that journey, there’s States of Grace. Herring also shines on the well chosen covers she’s included, especially Midnight on the Water.

She’s been compared to Joni Mitchell. That comparison stands, both for the quality of her writing and singing, and her ability to convey a unique perspective.

you may also want to see this post which has comment on one of Herring’s songs from an earlier album

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Friday, November 30, 2007

now playing: Albert & Gage: One More Christmas

The first song on this recording, the title cut, came about when Christine Albert learned that her parents were planning to sell their home in New York State and move somewhere to the south. That’s a not so uncommon situation, but the emotions of it are not often spoken of in song. Here, Albert and Chris Gage have made a graceful original Christmas tale out of reflecting on that transition. These two, who are married, each had a thriving independent career before they got together a bit over a decade ago. Together, they make one of the most interesting musical collaborations to come out Texas -- or anywhere, for that matter. The dozen tracks on One more Christmas find them reverent with Must Be Tonight and Un Flambeau Jeanette Isabella, playing with the kids on Little Toy Trains, swingin’ with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, thoughtful with River, and sharing a joyous celebration on Go Tell It on the Mountain. Together they make One More Christmas an evergreen presentation of familiar and less well known holiday music. It’s on the couple’s Moonhouse Records label.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

now playing: texas honky tonks and donegal fiddles

not on the same record, actually -- though I can hear how that might work:

Jason Arnold and the Stepsiders offer very tasty Texas dance hall country on their twelve track debut CD, With Friends Like These. The lyrics are mostly of a man trying to come to terms with a woman who leaves, but in the spirit and in the moment enough to make you believe and dance along. Not quite the barn burning intensity of Jack Ingram or the laid back poetry of Bruce Robison -- at least not yet -- but worth the listen. Think Chris Wall with maybe a touch of George Strait.

From the western part of Ireland comes Traditional Fiddle Music of Donegal, an extensive collection of the work of master fiddle player Con Cassidy. The liner notes will help you set Cassidy in historical context; the music needs only that you listen. Not some stuffy bit of history, this, but vibrant fiddling which would, under certain circumstances, be right at home in Gruene Hall or Scholtz Bier Garten in the Texas hill country.

Keep your eye out for more on Con Cassidy’s disc, along with lots of other great musical stuff, in a forthcoming issue of the folk music magazine Dirty Linen..

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Friday, August 10, 2007

now playing: Terri Hendrix

Terri Hendrix has a direct and unique voice in folk music -- a combination of beat poet, political commentator, and insighful musician. She's been spreading the musical gospel for a good few years now, running her own record company and building a dedicated fan base that spans generations and countries. Along the way she's written a Grammy winning instrumental for the Dixie Chicks and created an award winning children's album, among other accomplishments . Her latest release, The Spiritual Kind, talks of friendship, change, love, acceptance, and connection in songs such as Acre of Land, If I Had a Daughter, and What Is the Color of the Soul, along with a right on cover of Pasures of Plenty.

The photograph over here to the right shows her with frequent band mates Paul Pearcy and Lloyd Maines one Austin summer night.

The Spiritual Kind

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

remembering Mrs. Johnson

Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson died yesterday, at the age of 94. A woman who listened and observed with attention and grace, and who loved wildflowers.

Cathie Ryan has a fine version of John Spillane's song Wildflowers on her album The Farthest Wave. Tish Hinojosa has written a very different but equally fine song also called Wildflowers, which she has recorded on her album called Sign of Truth.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tish Hinojosa: Best of the Sandia

Best of the Sandia: the Watermelon Years

Tish Hinojosa is a major talent, an artist of real substance, a first generation Mexican American who makes that experience the substance of her musical ideas on love, loss, change, connection, and trust. These tracks are taken from projects recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and include a heretofore unreleased duet with Kris Kristofferson. She’s still a major talent a decade an half on from these songs, and these are still worth repeated listening. Taos to Tennessee, Eres Tu, and Prairie Moon are three of my favorites.
tish hinojosa armadillo bazaar copyright kerry dexter

read about Hinojosa's latest project Our Little Planet

photograph of Tish Hinojosa and Marvin Dykhuis at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar in Austin, Texas. it is copyrighted. thank you for respecting that.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

now playing: will taylor & strings attached

Will Taylor and Strings Attached


Take a handful of songs from a singer songwriter known for a distinctive style, strip that music down to its essence, write arrangements for the songs that support a jazz/world music flavored backing ensemble, and what do you get? Several years ago, composer and violinist Will Taylor ran with this idea came up with the Strings Attached concert series, held each month at Saint David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin, Texas. The dozen collaborations (and two bonus video tracks) gathered on this disc represent s slice of the best shows of this inventive series. Musicians love doing the series because it allows them to see their creations through the eyes of other players, in ways they may not have imagined, and to share them with their audiences in new ways. The audiences love that energy of creation and discovery as well, and a bit of that has been translated to this recorded collection, which was put together to benefit CASA, a Texas organization which focuses on the rights of abused and neglected children. Each of the tracks is worth listening to more than once, and especially outstanding tracks include Eliza Gilkyson's with Easy Rider, Jimmy LaFave’s Never is a Moment, Shawn Colvin’s Set the Prairie on Fire, and Ruthie Foster with Ocean of Tears. Guy Forsyth, Patrice Pike, Ian Moore, Libby Kirkpatrick, Barbara K, Slaid Cleaves, and Sara Hickman are the other artists represented, and there is an original instrumental from Taylor as well. It’s a well presented introduction to an original way of musical collaboration.

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