Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You Can't Change It

Doyle Bramhall 1949-2011
by Sarah Rucker

We’ve lost a lot of legendary blues artists in the past year: Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eye” Smith, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Hubert Sumlin, and just last week – the great Etta James and the producer who discovered her, Johnny Otis. The blues is something that is near and dear to my heart, so with every one of these losses comes an indescribable pain as the living history of this music seems to be fading away.

I started writing this blog last November when I got the news about the passing of blues drummer Doyle Bramhall. This shocked and saddened me, most of all, because he was not at the age at which one might expect this to happen – the same age as my parents. I’ve been a Doyle Bramhall fan since childhood, as Family Style by the Vaughan Brothers’ and many of the Antone’s Anniversary anthology records were constantly playing around my house. The crack of the snare drum and beautiful Texas drawl in his singing were unmistakable. I grew up hearing my father’s stories about watching Doyle play at the Studio Club in Dallas and then in the late ‘60s at the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin. In 2003, I met Clifford Antone, who quickly became my good friend (as he did with anyone he met) and collaborator. No one spoke more highly of Doyle Bramhall than Clifford. He owed a lot of his club’s success to people like Doyle, Jimmie and Stevie Vaughan who were with him since 1970 – 5 years before the opening of Antone’s Night Club.

Photo by Sarah Rucker; Antone's November 21, 2011
On November 21, Antone’s Night Club hosted a tribute to Bramhall. If anyone thinks it is strange to go listen to live music or visit a night club as part of the mourning process – think again. As a fan, this was very therapeutic to hear and see his closest friends playing together in his honor.  The band was lead by legendary guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and included Denny Freeman, Paul Ray and many others. It was the history of Austin music and Dallas music, for that matter, all on one stage. It made me realize how lucky we are in this city, state and country to have such quality music being created all around us.

On a personal note, I’ve also been privileged to become friends with Bramhall’s daughter, Georgia, owner of Honeycomb Hair Boutique in Austin. The last time I visited Georgia at her salon, an interesting thing happened both when I arrived and left the building. As I was pulling into the parking spot at 501 Studios, “The House is Rockin’” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of Vaughan's biggest songs which was co-written by Bramhall, came on the radio. When I left a couple hours later, “Georgia” by Ray Charles came on my car radio, the song it has been said gave Georgia her namesake. Call me crazy, but that’s all I need to believe in angels.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Manuel "Cowboy" Donley's New Release

by guest blogger Luis Zapata
I met Manuel in a jukebox at Cafe Hernandez 15 years ago.  I played a song and it was this huge orchestration with probably 12 horns (his arrangements) backing up his beautiful voice in a ‘50s bolero - the ones you only hear in cantinas and dives. I asked Leon Hernandez if he was still alive. He said yes - he eats lunch on Sundays at my restaurant with his family after church. That's how I met him in person and invited him to record at the defunct Lone Star studios. His album got a few cover magazines and the Austin Chronicle and re-established his career.

During our long friendship, a guitar player myself, have asked him many times to teach me how to play Latin acoustic guitar in the style of his favorite trios such as Los Panchos, Trio Latino, Los Tres Aces. Because , though a highly regarded orchestra arranger and director (buzz is he had 16 horns at some performances back in the day), his love is the honesty of bare guitars and straight to the heart romantic declamation. And he is a Master at it.

Over 10 years later, Manuel comes up with a new release - "The Brown Recluse Sessions" - recorded at Michael Ramos’ studio. A collection of songs that you can imagine songs he and his friends would take in serenade to pretty girls a many in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the barrio.
Perfidia, Me voy pal pueblo, Maria Isabel, Sin ti, El reloj. They say there is no perfect music. Well, this is as perfect as it gets. As romantic, as sincere, as pure, as straight, as real as it gets. This will certainly spin in the air at my next date.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Southmost Taco Tales: Part 1

by: Michelle Mejia

It's hard to think sometimes that I grew up with flautas-

Si las enrolladas…

I remember being at my grandma Tocha's house, my mom's mom, and watching Bozo the Clown on her fancy brown couch in the living room. Back then she was still La DOÑA Teodiosa--her fierce and scary name that only became cuter as she got older. 

In the background, I could clearly hear the jingle de la XEMS, a border radio station that was too powerful, even for Bozo, for it would blast "radio mexicana. . .matamorense. . .XEMS"

a reminder of the division

 Since then I knew I was (an)other person from Brownsville, frontera with Matamoros. Side by side. Bien enrollados en la cultura. Rolled up in culture-- en la onda--the wave. 

I would occasionally walk to the dining room and join the cluster of adults working--enrollando flautas. Tocha or my mom would hand me a fresh corn-rolled tortilla, that I would then take back to the sofa. 

Siempre. Always. The words I heard on a daily basis before the age of 5: Flautas, pollo, carne, tortillas, paquetes, changarro

My grandma was still the head of the business by the time I came into existence. My mom, dad and I were just spectators--or occasional helping hands--occasional hungry stomachs. This would not last forever, since she decided to sell her business to a goddaughter--I believe this was in the early nineties. 
                                                                       Easy to Go Tacos, 2344 Southmost Blvd. 2010

Almost a year ago--Texas Folklife gave me the opportunity to delve into my deepest cravings - -tacos-

con cebolla, 
sin queso. . . 
with onion
without cheese--
no cilantro--
de bistek porfavor! bistek please!

I was to do some research about Southmost taquerias . . . 

which led to the unlocking of some of my deepest childhood memories. 

I was discovering and creating an "antojo" with every question I asked and every answer that was given to me--not just about the literal food, but a craving for a family history, to a greater extent--the history of my neighborhood--of a communidad that creates stories through the food they make--either for pleasure or survival.

This is just a probada, a ration of what is to come. 

I got the tail end of "el changarro" my parents would tell me, for I wasn't there for the height or the hype--only for the spinoffs.