Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lisa Tingle

So On Friday night, April 16th, I rode my bike over to Strange Brew to check out some music.  I know that a lot of the reviews on this blog have been coming from Strange Brew, but what can I say?  It's really close to my house, it has great sound (some of the best live sound engineering of any venue in Austin, in my opinion), and it has reasonable prices on a pretty decent beer selection.  I can also ride my bike there, which is really cool.  It's great to have a nice place to see music in the neighborhood.
Anyway, I didn't really know who I was going to see, but it was Friday night at Strange Brew, so I figured there was a pretty good chance that there would be a good show.  As it turned out, I was right.
The act that night was Lisa Tingle and her extremely capable band.  I'd seen Tingle's name pop up in various articles and blurbs about the Austin music scene over the years, so I knew she had some respect on the local music scene, but I didn't know much about her.
I went into the listening room, got in line to buy a beer, and realized I was waiting in line behind Malford Milligan.  It's probably a good sign when you don't know a lot about an artist, but Malford Milligan is spending his Friday night to come out and hear her sing.
So I got a beer, grabbed a seat, and looked Tingle up on my iPhone.  Apparently she's picked up prizes for Best Female Vocalist of the Year, Musician of the Year, and Album of the Year over the last decade at the Austin Music Awards.

Her set was really good.  Her music was sort of funky, bluesy, rock.  It made you want to dance, or at least tap your feet, but it didn't blast out the audience in the little room at Strange Brew.  Tingle has a voice which is, by turns, powerful, soulful, and sometimes delicate.  She sings with passion, unapologetically putting herself into her songs.  You really get the sense that she loves to perform.
Her band was great.  She had Dave Sebree playing guitar for her.  I really enjoyed his style.  He's an extremely talented guitarist in a technical sense, but he didn't just try to constantly overhwelm the audience with flurries of rapid fire notes.  Instead, he played rich, textured melodies and solos.  At times his style reminded me of Andy Summers, employing lush, rhythmic chords and arpeggios as opposed to the guitar pyrotechnics that you get with a lot of rock and blues guitar players.
Yoggie Musgrove played bass.  I've seen Yoggie play before with The Apostles of Manchaca and possibly another band or two, and as usual, he was good.  He just sits back there and lays down a solid bass groove that cements the songs together while keeping them moving.  Every once in a while he'll throw in a little run or lick just to remind people that he's got some serious chops, but most of the time he's more subtle.  Not boring, but subtle.
I don't know how to spell the name of her drummer.  It was pronounced something along the line of Justin Heights(?).  He was good!  He played some interesting parts without making the songs sound cluttered with superfluous drum trickery.  But he was a good drummer.  I hope he pops up again in some other local bands.  Ms. Tingle said he was new to the Austin scene.

So it was a really good show!  This town never fails to amaze me when it comes to music.  Lisa tingle is a pretty amazing talent, and I happened to just stumble upon her show by randomly biking over to Strange Brew on a Friday night.
Love that venue.
Long live South Austin music.  Long live Strange Brew.

Ray Bonneville CD Release Party

On Saturday I went to see Ray Bonneville with Amy and Ryan and Jamie.  Bonneville has a new album out called Easy Gone.  It's really good, and Bonneville tends to be away from Austin and on the road a lot, so I was determined to see him perform live at this Strange Brew show.  I posted about the show on Facebook, and some longtime family friends showed up (Tom, Marlene, Judy, and Don) to enjoy it with us.  It was great to see them!

I've posted about Ray Bonneville before, but I think it bears repeating that in my opinion he's one of the best acts in Austin right now.  I don't say this lightly.  I know there are some really exceptional songwriters and performers in this town.
Bonneville hits the trifecta, though.  He's a really good guitar player, a captivating singer, and a great songwriter.
His guitar playing, typically accompanied by rhythmic foot tapping amplified through an electric footboard, is unusual and really interesting.  It sort of reminds me of an old blues style, strumming and plucking with the the right thumb while fingerpicking and rolling the other notes.  He employs this technique while playing all kinds of different styles of music, though.  He hammers his left hand fingers on and off and bends strings.  He frequently makes his guitar fill more space than you would expect out of a single instrument with minimal effects.
His voice is sort of low- sometimes gravelly and sometimes smooth.  On the warmer songs it can sound comforting and soothing.  On the darker songs it can convey a sort of menace and threat.  And sometimes it just sounds world weary, tired, and a little mournful.  Bonneville is good at that sort of thing.
And I really like his songwriting.  I've seen quite a few songwriters over the last couple of years, and many of them these days seem to feel bound to writing about only their own, direct, personal experiences.  I guess this is meant to legitimize their music, granting it a sense of sincerity and authenticity.  Just as often, though, it sort of ends up making me feel like the performer might be the sort of person who's just a little overly dramatic.  More importantly, I feel that narrowing the songwriter's perspective to strictly personal subject matter limits the available topics of the songs and narrows the worldview of the artist.  I don't need to hear a million songs about the romantic break ups of various musicians or their struggles with their personal demons (usually drugs or alcohol).  Sometimes it's more interesting to hear about an artist's take on larger, or at least different, events that are going on in the world.
Bonneville is good at that.  He's written songs about murderers and ne'er-do-wells, about New Orleans and its struggle with recovery, about love gone horribly wrong, and about varous people just struggling to get through hard times.  I like the fact that Bonneville is willing to compose stories and write songs that reflect his personal perspective without limiting his subject matter to himself.

Ray Bonneville was joined by Gurf Morlix on bass and Richie Lawrence on keyboard.  They were both really good.  Richie Lawrence played a sort of Wurlitzer piano, and he had some really cool piano parts and solos.  Such a cool instrument, and Lawrence played it very well.  Gurf Morlix did a solid job of holding down the bass lines, and added some nice backing vocals that lent some songs a sort of haunted, country vibe.

It was a really good show.  Whenever I hear Bonneville I'm always surprised that he's not playing at ACL Live or other much larger venues.  It's sort of selfish on my part, but, of course, part of is sort of glad.  I mean, I want success for the guy, but it's really cool to hear someone with so much obvious talent play to a smaller venue.  I hope he makes it really big, but maybe not until I get to hear him in these smaller clubs a couple more times... 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Patricia Vonne

Last Saturday night I went to see Patricia Vonne with Amy over at Strange Brew.  Vonne is from San Antonio, and I still tend to associate her with that city, although she's recently been doing an awful lot of performing (and might even be living) here in Austin.
Patricia Vonne has been on the scene for a while now.  Her newest album, Rattle My Cage, was her fifth full length album, and she cites her music career as beginning while she was living in New York sometime between 1990 and 2000.
Her songs have sort of a traditional sound, but vary across a number of styles, including some barroom rock and folk, as well as some Spanish ballads and folk songs.
It's probably no coincidence that her performances often remind me of the four years that I spent in San Antonio during college.  As with many aspects of San Antonio's culture, Vonne seems to easily blend mainstream American pop culture with Mexican and Latin artistic styles.  She effortlessly switches between classic American rock and Mexican/Spanish tunes that contain elements of flamenco, folk, and mariachi.    
Vonne's stage presence is charming and warm.  She dances, sings, and plays the castanets with the energy and confidence of someone who relishes the opportunity to entertain. 
The lyrics to her songs (at least the ones in English that I can understand) are pretty straightforward.  She doesn't hide mean behind layers of cryptic symbolism or overwrought metaphor.  She's a poet, but she typically wears her heart on her shirtsleeve, pouring herself into her music.
It's kind of refreshing to watch someone who's putting some personal emotion into their music, but who also seems to understand that ultimately, for the audience, the music is mostly about entertainment, regardless of how personal the subject might be for the artist.  Vonne might be there to share a bit of herself, but first and foremost, she's there to put on a show.  She's not afraid to let you know that she wants to win you over.  She works hard at it.
I'm a fan.