Facebook Twitter RSS

Stevie Ray at 60

1_1

Few artists are transcendent.  There are those that make a mark so indelible that even a tragic, untimely death can’t lessen the tight grip they have on our collective consciousness.  Such was the case with Texas guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan.  The man cut his teeth in the dives of Dallas, helped break open the Austin scene and slummed at Cheatham Street before becoming an international superstar.  Tales of SRV’s talent and excess are commonplace and we won’t rehash them here.  Just know that he was more than the sum of those narratives.  He was a talented singer, songwriter and producer as well.  He had the artistic abilities to stretch beyond 1-4-5 blues and did so on occasion, but he always knew where home was.  He was an old soul with a Texas spirit that embodied all he did.  After beating around throughout the 70s, Stevie Ray shot to fame and infamy in the early 80s on the strength of his live shows.  He was a throwback bluesman with Hendrix-esque intensity and mystique, all in an original Texan package.  Stevie Ray Vaughan climbed mountains that seemed impossible both personally and musically.  He overcame many obstacles, including a great number of self-inflicted ones, to become the preeminent post-Hendrix guitar player.

Had Stevie Ray Vaughan lived he’d have turned 60 today.  He was robbed from us nearly 25 years ago at the age of just 35.  His life made him a legend, his death escalated that notion and his music confirms it each time its played.  His influence is undeniable on the modern Texas/Americana scene even if it’s not as noticeable as Willie Nelson’s.  It was in his attitude, vibe, style and independent nature.  He played his music, his way and has been copied relentlessly ever since.  Thanks for the music SRV and happy birthday.

SRV and Double Trouble blow the roof off the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 and become notorious.  This leads to many major breaks for the band.

The mid 80’s found Stevie Ray with major buzz and videos on MTV.

By 1989, Stevie Ray was on top of the world.  He’d conquered his demons and was achieving his greatest artistic success.

SRV and Double Trouble peaking Live in New Orleans with their “Superstition” cover circa 1987

Perhaps the best to ever strap a guitar on. Here he had just woken up and strolled into sound check.  He’s blistering moments after rolling out of bed.

 

 

Ketchum’s Cure

hal_ketchum-med-res

Hal Ketchum was a mainstay on country radio in the 90’s.  Huge hits like “Small Town Saturday Night”, “Past the Point of Rescue” and “I Know Where Love Lives” resonated with audiences far and wide.  Ketchum’s songs also embodied certain trends that would later escape Nashville and flourish in Texas.  Specific, heartfelt, smart, melodic and distinct. Ketchum cut his teeth in the burgeoning Texas troubadour scene of the 1980’s that blossomed on the shoulders of Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett.  A regular gig at Gruene Hall and an independent record release led to Nashville, which led to his grand successes.

As the years wore on, Ketchum’s musical muse wore out.  He found making music less enjoyable and lacking the fulfillment to which he’d originally been attracted.  As this inspirational fade began, a health issue paralleled this.  Ketchum was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called acute transverse myelitis, a companion disease to multiple sclerosis.  Ketchum was achingly familiar with the hell that living with an MS disease can be, as he lost his mother at a young age to the affliction.  Touring became more of a challenge and less frequent.  Studio time became less enticing and more of a hassle.

And so it went for the next decade or so.  Then, something funny happened.  Music seduced Hal Ketchum again.  In a most unlikely place.  Ketchum had removed himself from many of the trappings of modern life, decamped to a secluded cabin in Wimberley and worked on treating his MS ailments which sometimes led to paralysis and blindness.  This dark despair and challenging existence caused him to overcome more than he ever though possible and fall back in love with his gifts.  As he mentioned in an interview with Billboard, “One day I just said, ‘This is a gift that God has given me, so I better get back to it.'”

On October 7th, Hal Ketchum will drop his latest album, the aptly titled I’m the Troubadour. Songs from an impassioned artist fighting back from the depths of despair to deliver an artistic triumph.  It’s a special record and is already and deservingly receiving critical praise.

That story would strike me as interesting on its own.  However, MS has a very personal connection to me.  My mother lives with MS.  I’ve watched it turn her from a physically vibrant and active woman into an immobile person dependent on others for many things the rest of us take for granted.  Yet, her spirit is always positive and happy.  I’m confident that’s the same spirit that was at the root of Hal Ketchum’s revitilazation. MS can rob people of their physical gifts, but the soul remains unchanged.  Perhaps it is even stronger. In the infamous words of Jim Valvano regarding cancer, “It cannot touch my mind…it cannot touch my heart…it cannot touch my spirit.”

Hal Ketchum is the troubadour and he’s also the inspiration.

Hal Ketchum – “I’m The Troubadour” on The Drop

**Ed. note – I’m participating in MS Walk Waco on October 18 and am currently raising funds.  To read my mom’s story, learn about our fundraising efforts and learn more about MS, please CLICK HERE.

 

 

{Brad's Corner} September 2014: Brick and Mortar Soul

{Brad�s Corner}

I live in central Texas and one of the most exciting recent developments has been the construction of the new Baylor facility McLane Stadium.  Baylor fan or not, the modestly sized but aesthetically outstanding football stadium is a splendid point of pride for all locals who drive by it on 35.  Up the road in Arlington, Jerry Jones constructed the world’s preeminent multi-event facility with AT&T Stadium.  It is a true wonder of the world. Two new palatial venues at different levels in different towns to ostensibly host the same types of events.  Yet, they couldn’t be more different.

Music venues can be like that too.  I’ve been in new ones that click right away and new ones that falter.  I’ve been in some that are over 100 years old and I wouldn’t change a thing.  While other older venues need a complete renovation.  I’m far from an expert, but I’ve been attached to venues in all sorts of capacities: performer, road manager, booking agent, talent buyer, concert promoter and even bartender/bouncer.  What makes a nice venue isn’t the brick, wood or concrete.  It’s the people.  The staff.  The musicians.  The fans. The soul.

Our own Jon Paul “Hogleg” Long is now venturing into the venue business with a very cool space down in New Braunfels.  I have all the confidence that JP’s space will be one of the coolest venues in the state.  Don’t think he can’t, as he would say.  He’s been around the block too and he … Keep Reading

Like It Used To Be

Ten years ago in one of our first 20 Questions features, Randy Rogers talked about the stories behind some of his songs.  The tale of “Like It Used To Be” sums up how many of us were feeling in the days after 9/11.

-“Like It Used to Be” – I wrote it on my buddies couch in Ft. Worth. I used to stay there for days after we played a gig in Ft. Worth. He never complained. I really didn’t have anywhere else to go. The girl I was dating lived in Dallas and so it was closer to her than San Marcos. I wrote it during those crazy few months after 9/11 when you didn’t know what was going to happen next. I just wanted to go out and forget about the world around us.

Keep Reading

American Aquarium – Hard To Quit

By: Justin Dean | @TXDean23

AAquarium

It was hot. Inside and outside. The smell of Lone Star Beer and Jameson was the only thing that could mask the body odor that permeated through every single inch of surrounding air space. Yet no one cared. Not the hipster kid with the rimmed glasses and too tight pants or the guy in the cowboy hat on my opposite side that definitely wasn’t going to be getting on a horse anytime soon in his bedazzled designer jeans. Normally these guys stay miles apart and don’t even frequent the same sides of town- let alone the same bar- but this was American Aquarium on a Saturday night and no one cared.

Not many bands these days can take a demographic “label” and throw it out the window of a moving Econoline, but American Aquarium has done that. They have split the seams of the independent music world and transformed themselves from a band that played small shows in dive bars in Raleigh, NC to travelling across the country playing music for anyone who will listen.

American Aquarium put out their first two records- Antique Hearts and The Bible and the Bottle- in 2006 and 2008, respectively. They signed with Last Chance Records and put out Dances With the Lonely in 2009 and Small Town Hymns in 2010. In 2012 the band released their Live in Raleigh CD before putting out the Jason Isbell produced Burn. Flicker. Die, their most popular and praised album to date, … Keep Reading