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Good Premonitions

Cody Canada, Dan Johnson, DocFell, Flatland Cavalry, Jeremy Plato, Johnny Chops, Randy Rogers Band, Red Dirt, Red Shahan, The Departed, The Texas Music Scene, Wade Bowen By January 22, 2018 No Comments

January’s kick off to 2018 is about over and music-wise, I’m pumped about what’s in store for the year. My personal trifecta of favorites – the Randy Rogers Band, Cody Canada and The Departed, and Wade Bowen are all putting out records this year. Past those heavy hitters, we have many a big name giving us new music in 2018. The spring in particular looks to be chock-full of great stuff to keep our ears busy. So here’s a rundown:

  • Of the aforementioned, Wade Bowen’s Solid Ground drops first (February 9th) and based on the tracks out there thus far, looks to be an homage to Texas life in both subject and sound.
  • The last word at Christmas was The Departed’s new offering is a slated for spring. In 2017 the band pared down to a three-piece outfit of Cody Canada, long time partner-in-crime Jeremy Plato (bass) and Eric Hansen (drums). I have no idea what Cody and company have in store, but I’m hoping we get a sneak peek at Mile 0 Fest.
  • The back-fence talk on the Dave Cobb produced RRB record is that it’s thick in Tom Petty influence. I know the guys in the band are pumped and let’s hope we see a single or two in the summer months. Expect the record to arrive in the fall.
  • If you were at Steamboat you got to hear William Clark Green’s new Hebert Island in its entirety, the rest will see it this spring.
  • Red Shahan finished Culberson County months ago and he we heard some of those new tunes back in July at River Jam. Can’t wait to see if Shahan follows up strong to Men and Coyotes, which as good of an initial offering as we’ve seen around here in recent years. This also hits everyone’s ears in the spring.
  • Mike and the Moon Pies Steak Night at the Prairie Rose will be a big winner this year. I can’t think of anybody who has mastered the steel heavy honky-tonk sound better than this Austin based group. The Adam Odor produced record is nostalgic and genuine, complete with boot burners, beer criers, waltzes and swing that might cause Jerry Reed and Don Williams to pay us a visit from the grave. You’ll be able to get your hands on it February 2nd.
  • Cody Jinks’ new record is out “very soon” and all we know is the cryptic title: _ _ _ _ R _
  • Johnny Chops and The Razors’ has a self-titled album arriving at the end of March. It’s the Chops’ brand of rockin’ blues he introduced us to with 2013’s Stick and Stones, but with a heavy nod to his Delta Blues influences.  We’ve got an extensive interview with Chops in the bag so you’ll be hearing all about this one in the coming weeks.
  • Dan Johnson – Hemingway. The writing and ambiance of Dan Johnson’s new project could propel him to the next level in this scene. It’s indeed a project, with a full narrative that envelopes the music. There are Quentin Tarantino-esqe scenes to the Hemingway story, giving us characters who have to make some soul-selling decisions that have lifelong repercussions on them and their loved ones. Check it out in early April.
  • American Aquarium – Things Change: BJ Barham has retooled his band after it disbanded in April last year and apparently we are going to see lots of harmonies on this new record which is slated for late spring.

Rounding out the release rumor mill, scene darlings Flatland Cavalry, 2017 phenom Koe Wetzel, and Cody Johnson all have new stuff expected to see light in 2018.

So there you go, keep in mind the list isn’t exhaustive and we’ll likely hear about many more as the year progresses. 2018 is looking good!

Quick Riffs:

    • Dierks Canada looks to have had a pretty good 2017. The oldest son of Cody and Shannon Canada continues to hone his chops on the axe and capped off 2017 playing with Ray Wylie Hubbard on the Gruene Hall stage in front of a packed house. Gruene Hall at age 12? Not bad kid.
    • I all but checked out of the NFL once the Cowboys got eliminated and I got my butt handed to me in my fantasy football playoffs. The “Minneapolis Miracle” was something to see even though I didn’t catch the replay until later in the evening after Twitter blew up. I have a love/hate relationship with SuperBowl Sunday. Love the game, the parties, and the commercials but it’s the final nail in the coffin of the holiday season. It’s the low point in the sports calendar and next to the frying heat of August, probably my least favorite time of year. To steal from Junior Miller’s Top 5/Bottom 5 – February sits behind August and July as my least favorite months. The good news is that this year I’m going to Key Westand soon after, pitchers and catcher report for spring training.
    • Speaking of Key West, Mile 0 Fest is just a couple of weeks away and I’m looking forward some beach time R&R and a ton of great music. If the OhWook! Productions team do a good job of pulling this thing off I’m thinking Steamboat could take a hit. I’m not predicting its demise, but if I’m an artist would I rather be breaking my fingers off in subzero weather or nursing margaritas on a 75-degree beach? Same goes for the festival goers. These trips aren’t cheap and if I had to budget for one festival, the argument of comfortably watching my favorite artist on a Duval street pub crawl versus freezing my junk off in a crowded tent (or worse, breaking my collarbone on a mountain) is pretty compelling.
    • In October I got to sit in on some sessions with Tahlequah based red dirt outfit, DocFell & Co. who were working on their latest album Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma. I’ve finally heard some early mixes and it’s cool to hear Dave Percefull work his magic at the production helm. These guys haven’t bled into Texas quite yet but they may make a push with this one in 2018.
    • For Christmas, my awesome brother bought us tickets to see The Eagles and Chris Stapleton in Dallas this June. That’s a bucket list worthy show for sure.

 

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Visiting yellow DOG Studios with DocFell & Co.

DocFell, Road Trips By November 13, 2017 No Comments

The studio is a place where art and tech cross paths. Taking a song birthed from raw creativity and figuring out how to best capture its essence and onto a medium, whether it be vinyl or digital bits to be streamed over the ether, is an art form in and of itself.

To most of us looking from the outside, our minds equate the recording process to a band jam session in a padded room with somebody hitting the record button to catch it all.  And while that does happen on occasion, it’s only of one of many ways the sausage is made. In reality, it’s indeed sausage, a confluence of meaty bits – instruments, vocals, effects, ambient noises all processed and combined; and if done well, it tastes pretty damn good. It’s also organic and messy, we usually never know which parts made it in one take or were meticulous combined from ten different takes. Happy accidents are mistaken for conscious brilliance and sometimes the person you think is playing on the record isn’t playing at all.

I was pretty excited to get an unsolicited invite to yellow DOG Studios to sit in with Tahlequah, Oklahoma’s own DocFell & Co. as they began production on their latest project, “Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma”.  I’ll get to the band and their album in a minute, but let’s first set the scene.

You may have heard of yellow DOG, owned by the longtime producer, engineer, and musician Dave Percefull. Dave, who started his studio in Tulsa in 1996, was right in the middle of the Texas/Red Dirt explosion. Back then he was no stranger to The Farm or The Yellow House, working with legends like Tom Skinner, Bob Childers, and even some bar recordings with Garth. In 2007 he journeyed south to Austin where he could attract a wider variety of artists and projects. And while Austin did help amass some impressive clientele, it got prohibitively expensive not only for yellow DOG, (who occupied a building in downtown on Congress) but also for the artists. Bands were devouring 30%-40% of their recording budget on food and lodging, not to mention the distractions that accompany a town like Austin that can derail projects in a hurry.

So in 2014 Percefull got out of the rat race and simplified. He and fellow resident producer Adam Odor (BadTruth podcast anyone?) found 30+ acres with Blanco River frontage just 45 minutes south in the artsy small town of Wimberley. The 100-year-old farmhouse sitting on the property was converted to a working studio with views of the river. There are complimentary bunkhouses on premises and even full-sized cabins at a neighboring guest ranch. It’s a musician’s retreat, allowing bands to save some coin and disconnect so they can put their energy towards creating the best record possible.

Percefull and Odor were successful, pulling up to the yellow DOG house feels very unassuming in that weekend Texas lakehouse kind of way. Lucy Jean, the unofficial mascot, was quick to welcome me. It was late and everyone was on the back porch around the firepit, decompressing from the day, wine flowing and philosophy commencing. Through the front door, a piano sits in the middle of what used to be the living room, now a gathering place with all sorts of vintage instruments. Your eyes scan the room, trying to take inventory of it all but eventually failing to organize it. Off the living room are the control room and one of two studio spaces; one is set up for recording drums and the other pretty much everything else.

That leads us to the purpose of my trip, to see DocFell & Co. at work on “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma”. Percefull is producing and engineering the project. By the time I got there, the band had already been at work for a couple of days laying down drum, vocal, and rhythm guitar tracks. My day was spent largely with Adam Miller composing and putting down bass lines. It’s a meticulous and at times mechanical process, taking what’s created by the right brain and converting it into a left brain activity. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter how it’s done if the music feeds your soul.

Obviously, it’s all still coming together but the album dabbles in the existential themes of life, death and beyond the grave. Talking with John Fell, several of the tracks were written just after attending funerals, which sounds morbid but it’s those types of events that often get us thinking about the big picture. There are other songs inspired by family members, like “Mean Marie”, loosely based on tales about his grandmother-in-law and “Radio is Dead”, inspired by his son. Fell also pays tribute to Willie Nelson with his song “Three Chords”, but my favorite track thus far is “Beulah Land”. It’s inspired by an old pilgrim hymnal about heaven and marches along as if you are approaching the Pearly Gates.  As with their previous albums, Scissor Tail and Dust Bowl Heart, Fell and the band intend to stay true to their established folk-country sound. However, I expect Percefull will likely add a touch of 70’s Waylon Jennings to give the project a voice of its own.

Overall, it was really cool to watch it all happen and I even got in a little jam session with Adam, Kyle Brown (guitar), and Phillip Tijerina (yellow DOG Studios, 2nd engineer).

Expect “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma” to hit during the first half of 2018. For more on DocFell & Co. check the usual outlets:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/docfellmusic/

Twitter – @drfeljo

Website: www.docfellmusic.com

yellow DOG Studios website: www.yellowdogstudios.com

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