Ken and Lise are off home today. They have decided to catch a taxi to the airport, a decision that seemed to come hot on the heels of my story about how I backed into a metal pole. They decline my offer of a ride.
Rob has discovered Dominican Joe’s coffee place on Congress at the foot of the hill not far from the Homestead Suites. Or maybe Ken discovered it the other day. Whatever. It is indoors, pleasant and with very good coffee.
Afterwards, I head off to Maria’s Taqueria Express on South Lamar. This is where the Hippie Church is assembled. Ruth Ellsworth, Bill Carter’s partner – songwriter to Stevie Ray and friend of Johnny Depp – suggested we meet there. Ruth is selling hand decorated recipe books. I have bought along some Normie Rowe CDs for her and she is thrilled (or at least pretends to be). In the ‘60s she lived in Canberra for a while and saw Normie in concert. I told him about this and suggested that he might have inspired some of the songs that Stevie Ray performed.
I am not sure about the religious aspect of the Taqueria – it appeared to be mainly people eating and drinking – but there were a lot of hippies there, including the band. It was a little bit frightening to a young fellow like myself.
I meet English musician Chris Cuthbertson and his American wife. He has never spent a summer here and he asks if it ever gets any hotter. Everyone bursts out laughing. His house in Middlesborough has been flooded by an errant hot water service bit he cannot go back until he gets his visa extended.
Ruth tells us that Bill is playing up at Red’s Porch with Stephen Doestra so we go there, get a table outside and continue the conversation. Chris was a punk musician. You can check him out on You Tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7iy4flYNlk
He has a number of interesting projects on the go, some of which he is threatening to unleash this year. As I understand it he has gospel, punk, soul and country songs ready to release as singles.
Bill Carter is cool with a capital ‘C.’ He and Ruth are close friends of Johnny Depp and Bill was once in a band with Johnny recorded an album with him. They also know Greg Roberts who wrote Shantaram, who also just happened to go to school with me and is now living in Europe married to a Princess. He was once Australia’s most wanted criminal. Depp has bought the movie rights to the book. When I found out this last year I felt that it also made me a close friend of J Depp.
It is a pleasant afternoon at Red’s listening to the music and chilling out. I order some Huevos Rancheros for brunch but the eggs are buried under a small hill of sauce and cheese. I nibble.
I meet Rob and Jenny at Threadgill’s for dinner and we are treat ourselves to the Sunday special – turkey. This is buried under a mound of sauce that appears to have the consistency of grits (really Clag heated up).
Jenny complains because she only has one slice of turkey and briefly, for a millisecond, I think of offering her one of my three slices. I decide that this would be rude and keep quiet.
Jenny is the first person I have heard complain about the size of a meal here. Mostly the servings are enormous. In a few days, when I go on a diet, my theory is that I will just have the appetisers and this will be plenty.
We stroll up to the Junior Brown Sunday evening residency at The Continental Club and find him in fine form, with his double necked guitar and the ‘lovely Tanya Rae’ (that is how she is billed) assisting on guitar. With a $15 cover this is the most expensive residency at the club but worth it.
I seem to recall seeing Junior backstage at Byron some years ago wearing a disguise. He moved to Nashville for a while and I am not sure if he is back in Austin but his profile these days certainly would not require him to hide out. I thought that he would have been much more successful with his brand of genuine country, but then again I thought that of Dale Watson too. Rob asks, ‘Is Junior’s son called Junior Junior Brown?’ Good question.
Heybale! closes the evening for another $8 and what a fantastic combination of musicians. Earle Pool Ball, who played with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and the Byrds is on keyboards and vocals. Red Volkaert who also played with Merle as well as Dale Watson is on lead guitar and vocals. Former Nashville musician/singer Dallas Wayne, who also has a radio program on Sirius, is the rhythm guitarist and third vocalist. Bassist Kevin Smith worked with Junior and Brian Setzer while drummer Tom Lewis has also worked with Junior and The Wagoneers.
The set list of songs such as ‘Hang Your Head In Shame,’ ‘Another Day, Another Dollar,’ ‘The Honky-Tonk Downstairs,’ ‘I Forget You Everyday,’ Wynn Stewart’s ‘I’m Not The Man I Used To Be,’ Chuck Berry’s ‘The Promised Land,’ ‘Home In San Antonio,’ ‘California Wine’ ( a Volkaert co-write) and many more classics.
I am reminded that 40 years ago a young Gram Parsons sang much the same sort of music and brought it to a rock audience. Steve Earle has done it too though he came from country first. I’m wondering if this will ever happen again. What would happen these days if you could meld this great musicianship with a cool, young singer? Or will Ryan Bingham and Jamey Johnson assume Gram’s mantle?