- By Peter Blackstock American-Statesman Staff
September often finds new albums falling from the trees like autumn leaves, and this month is no exception among Austin artists. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent new releases from local acts:
Willie Nelson, “For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price” (Legacy). Following February’s album of George and Ira Gershwin songs with this collection of Ray Price classics might suggest that Nelson is in a looking-back frame of mind these days. That’s understandable for an artist who has 80-odd years of musical memories to revisit.
Price, who died in 2013, looms as large as anyone in Willie’s legacy, having hired Nelson to play bass with his Cherokee Cowboys in 1961. Recording in Nashville with producers Fred Foster and Bergen White — who also helmed Price’s posthumously-released final album “Beauty Is…” — Willie went all out with this one, leaving behind his Family Band (save for harmonica ace Mickey Raphael) to work with the Time Jumpers, a superb country-jazz-swing ensemble that includes Vince Gill.
An expansive string section swells up on several of these tunes, providing a rich and full studio sound that harkens back to the way great records used to be made in the heyday of 20th-century popular music. The songs are all familiar: “Faded Love,” “Make the World Go Away,” “Crazy Arms,” even Willie’s own “Night Life” — a neat trick to pay tribute to another artist with a song your wrote yourself. But Nelson and his producers make them worth hearing again, because of the care they take and the way that they invoke the towering influence of Price’s personality and style. Nelson plays Oct. 9 at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Folk Uke, “Star(expletive).” Speaking of Willie: The credits here include the note, “Special thanks to our Executive Producer, Willie Nelson.” Folk Uke’s Amy Nelson also calls him dad. Her partner in ukulele crime, Cathy Guthrie, calls Arlo Guthrie dad, and Arlo turns up on three tracks here too. More Nelsons are involved: Amy’s brothers Micah and Lukas, who play in Neil Young’s band, also appear, along with Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman and local fixtures Randy Weeks and Mike Stinson.
But the main attraction is the risque lyricism that follows in suit of the duo’s recent “Orange Is the New Black” TV-placement hit. Still, as much as foul-mouthed humor is Folk Uke’s calling card, there’s beauty here, too. Check out their rendition of “California Stars,” a song featuring lyrics by Cathy’s grandfather, Woody Guthrie, set to music by the late Jay Bennett and Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy back in 1998. Folk Uke plays the Nobelity Project’s 4x4 showcase Oct. 5 at Gibson Guitar Showroom and also appears Oct. 8 at 3Ten.
Jesse Dayton, “The Revealer” (Blue Elan). The interconnectedness continues with the ninth album from roots-rocker Dayton, who played guitar on a Ray Price record and joined Folk Uke for a duet at Willie’s July Fourth Picnic last year. Dayton has had an adventurous run of late, subbing for sidelined Billy Zoom in the legendary punk band X as well as playing in X leader John Doe’s own band.
Recorded in Houston with a cast that included his El Trio Grande side-band partners John Evans and Mike Stinson, Dayton’s first album of new material in five years bristles with barroom rock ’n’ roll energy. Highlights include “Daddy Was a Badass,” a pedal-to-the-floor tribute to his father’s hell-bent spirit; “Match Made in Heaven,” a country-twangin’ two-stepper with harmonies from Austin singer Brennen Leigh; and “Never Started Livin’,” a ballad that reveals the songwriter’s more sensitive side. Dayton plays a Waterloo Records in-store at 5 p.m. Monday.
The L, “I Will Find You No Matter What: The Songs of Luc and Bob Schneider” (Shockorama). The locally omnipresent Schneider wrote and recorded these 14 songs with his son, who’s now 11 years old, over the span of many years. The album is available for download exclusively to Amazon Prime customers. Bob Schneider plays Sept. 29 at the annual All ATX benefit concert at ACL Live, and most Mondays with Lonelyland at the Saxon Pub.
Meat Loaf, “Braver Than We Are” (429). Wait, what’s Meat Loaf doing in a roundup about local albums? Turns out the mega-melodramatic rocker moved to the area a few years ago. Another collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman, responsible for the material that made Meat Loaf huge in the 1970s with “Bat Out of Hell,” this new collection seems unlikely to have similar impact, if only because the nature of music consumption has changed so much since then. (Two “Bat Out of Hell” sequels in 1993 and 2006 sold respectably but showed a distinct decline.) Still, “Braver Than We Are” retains the ambition and drama that are the hallmark of the Steinman/Meat Loaf partnership, especially on the 11-minute epic “Going All the Way Is Just the Start.”
East Cameron Folkcore, “Better Off.” Sharpening their focus a bit after last year’s hourlong, multi-tiered opus “Kingdom of Fear,” the folk-punk band hits hard with an eight-song set that’s afire with apocalyptic fervor. The titles alone give a pretty good indication of the record’s dramatic agenda: “Einstein’s Nightmare,” “Dreams Deferred,” “Wilderness of War.” Perhaps the best of the bunch is “Who Do We Think We Are,” a referendum for self-examination set to steady sonic flows and bursts of horns and guitars. There’s also an accompanying separate EP, “Fossils,” being issued simultaneously with “Better Off.” Release show Saturday at Empire.
More new local releases: Tritonal, “Painting With Dreams” (see our feature on the electronica duo at austin360.com); Elijah Ford & the Bloom, “As You Were” (Nine Mile); Henry + the Invisibles, “Musaic”; Wild Bill & the Lost Knobs, “Scumbags of the Rodeo”; Flyin’ A’s, “You Drive Me Crazy”; Golden Bear, “Dimensional Place”; Jackie Venson, “Live” (catch her sitting in with Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” band this month); Keeper, “Corners” EP; Street Sects, “End Position” (Flenser). Check out “On The Record, our weekly roundup of local releases, on austin360.com.