March 15, 2007 – Red House Records Night at SXSW

In the mornings there are music industry panels and workshops. We went to see an interview/performance by Emmy Lou Harris.

Buddy Miller joined her to play some songs – she played six songs and shared some of her musical and personal history. A great musical career, spanning many genres of music and collaborations.

When she was just starting out, she was “discovered” with the help of her babysitter. The babysitter was a groupie backstage at all the concerts at in Washington D.C. and when the late Gram Parsons came to town and was looking for a female backup singer, the babysitter connected Gram and Emmy Lou and that was her entry into music. She toured and collaborated with Gram until his death. (His wish was to be cremated in the desert, but his family was not going to honor that request, so one of his friends stole the casket and secretly took it out to the desert and fulfilled Parson’s wish. The only thing they could charge him with at the time was theft of the casket.) She played some songs from her old days “Love Hurts” and some newer songs from Wrecking Ball like “Orphan Girl.” It was a surprisingly good venue since everybody was quiet when she sang!

First that night we saw Alejandro Escovedo with his string quartet. Alejandro started out in a punk band in LA, moved to Austin and started a roots/alt country career, became sick with Hepatitis C and although a highly esteemed artist among musicians, never had commercial success or a lot of money. To pay his medical bills, artists such as Lucinda Williams, Son Volt, and Steve Earle helped fundraise to pay off his bills. He recovered and was named No Depression magazine’s Artist of the Decade.

His string quartet, pictured above, recently played Carnegie Hall and it was also recently reported that his songs were on George Bush’s iPod list, reportedly much to the chagrin of the artist!

Then we moved to the venue on the 18th story of the Hilton Hotel. The room was nearly surrounded by windows. Just behind the performers was downtown and the State Capital dome peeked just over the performer’s shoulders. The night was sponsored by Red House records from the Twin Cities. The first performer was a female vocalist (not part of Red House) who was a shy and depressed version of Margo Timmons of the Cowboy Junkies. She was so shy and nervous, it was hard to watch her.

Ray Bonneville was next up, a blues player with Canadian and American citizenship who splits his time between Montreal and Austin. He spent an inordinate amount of time on sound check, carefully wrapping his cords, and working with the sound guy – all for just one performer.
He carefully had a table full of his harmonicas and other equipment. We joked that we wouldn’t probably like to live with him as his perfection would drive the less particular amongst us crazy! He was also the guy standing next to me during most of the Americana show the night before. He was an accomplished player and my favorite was a rather obscure Woody Guthrie tune called “New York.” He had an amplified piece of plywood under his foot for a percussive addition to his guitar and harmonica.

The Pines were the only band from Iowa that we were able to see. The photo police were out, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of them. Unfortunately, the set suffered from sound problems, but they handled it well. The Pines consist of the son of Greg Brown sidekick and Blues player in his own right, Bo Ramsey. I didn’t catch the other guy, but he looked and sang a lot like a young Greg Brown. The younger Ramsey had a haunting Dylan-esque voice and carries on the sparse, heartfelt playing of his father.

Next up was Lynn Miles, is a brash, witty bluesy-folk act from Canada.

Like the act before them, their act too suffered from a bad sound mix. She handled it very well. At this point, we thought Ray should get back on stage and make everything right! It didn’t seem fair to have the musician’s short time on stage disrupted by the problems. If Linda was a singer this would be her – honest, witty, and quick-thinking on her feet. Billboard Magazine has listed her album as one of the top 10 of the year.

Storyhill is a Montana duo with stunning harmonies and guitar playing. Again, the picture police were out, so no photo of them.

The evening ended with Jimmy Lafave, another bluesy-folk act with a big band and a great sound.

Jimmy has played Austin City Limits and twice won the Austin Best singer/songwriter award.

one year ago…

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