The Cairo Gang // Take Your Time
Barely a year after releasing the hushed, slightly-frayed folk of The Corner Man, the Cairo Gang are back with Tiny Rebels, a “mini-album” out July 23 via Empty Cellar Records. Being Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s backing band requires a wide range of skills, and on "Take Your Time," Emmett Kelly and the Gang show off their jangly psychedelic side. Kelly’s new twelve-string guitar gets a droning workout, splitting the difference between the band’s folk and pop sides.
Alex Chilton // Waltz Across Texas, Live on KUT 1978
It’s the stuff of rock-and-roll legend: a band releases a career’s-worth of era-defining music, only to see label and distribution woes prevent their music from the reaching the millions of ears it was shooting for. But over the next thirty years, the band is reappraised, taken up by a new generation as perfection personified.
This is the ballad of Big Star, and the group is the subject of a fantastic new documentary called Nothing Can Hurt Me. That title—taken from Big Star’s aching "Big Black Car"—is something of a misnomer. The film chronicles the band’s dissolution and self-destruction in intimate detail, and it opens with a particularly bleak interview from Alex Chilton recorded live at Austin’s KUT in 1978.
This week, the team at Texas Music Matters got to chat with drummer Jody Stephens about the band and the film, and I was also lucky enough to dig up that Chilton interview out of our archives while producing the piece. There’s a performance included, finding Chilton working through some heart-worn songs on a beat-up acoustic. None are more effective—to this Texas boy’s ears, at least—than this cover of Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas.”
Joe Cocker/Leon Russell // The Letter, 1970
Joe Cocker and Leon Russell doing their thang, live at the Filmore East, March 1970. The Box Tops’/Alex Chilton’s "The Letter" re-imagined as swamp pop.
Jesse Woods // From The Gridiron To The Guitar
Perhaps the only thing bigger than music in Texas is football—specifically, college football. Jesse Woods has a boot in both worlds—he’s a former wide receiver for the Texas A&M Aggies, and his debut album Get Your Burdens Lifted is out August 6. It’s a stunning document, mixing lonesome folk with a dreamy, “minimalist Americana” (as he describes it). I got a chance to sit down with him for Texas Music Matters (broadcast on KUTX 98.9 in Austin) and found out that he fell into both worlds almost by accident.
Royal Forest // Spillway
The recording studio cannot contain Royal Forest. The Austin group—formerly known as Loxly—loves to incorporate found sounds and field recordings into their own music; alternately, they’ll venture to unusual places—a WWII submarine, a single prop airplane, a “lightning-strewn sand dune”—to capture a feeling.
For all the drama, though, Royal Forest’s songs are still pop creations, albeit with all manner of sonic detritus bubbling around. It all comes together on their fourth album, Spillway, out this week via King Electric Record Company. It’s a dense thing of beauty, complex and puzzling in places, while immediately pleasurable in others. If anything, the album answers the question, “so what if the Flaming Lips were a bunch of Texans?”
Royal Forest // Goldwallpaper