6 Months at a Glance

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I know it has been a long time since I have posted news, but a lot really has happened since we last sat down for a chat. Performing at the ACL Moody Theater downtown opening for legendary songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker (a true songwriting hero of mine) was a total thrill. Then I was off to Nashville to attend the Americana conference and had the greatest time performing at the Bluebird Cafe with my friends Noelle Hampton, Andre Moran, Amy Speace, and Charlie Faye.

October took the boys and me to Arkansas to play at the Denny West / Wildwood Festival, and I scored some serious bargains at the thrift shops in Little Rock. I shared the stage swapping songs back in Texas with the always entertaining Butch Hancock, and then I hit the studio to record with my friend (and cellist extraordinaire) Brian Standefer at his gorgeous studio in Buda, TX. We worked together like peanut butter and chocolate (unless you are allergic to nuts or cocoa – I just mean to say it was a match meant to be)!

We got twelve songs recorded, and I have been excited about the album ever since. Straight out of the studio, I left the flooded – yet still suffering from drought – hills of central Texas and ventured back north to Canada for another super-fun (but snowy as heck) tour with my pal Doug Cox through November. Why do I always go to Canada in November?

imageI guess it was the autumn of heroes, as I  met and shared the stage with the great poet Nikki Giovanni when I got back to the States. What a hilarious, irreverent, amazing woman she is! I was thrilled to hang out with her backstage, joking around and snapping selfies with Ms. Giovanni!

December and January was a lot of good quality family time and gigs around Texas – and the birth of a new side project Short People: Michael Fracasso, Kacy Crowley, Charlie Faye, and me. I gotta tell you, this band is FUN, and we have been having a blast writing together and rehearsing. It may be a while for us to get gigging, since we all have a lot going on, but I promise to let you know when we launch onto a stage.

imageFebruary and March…hmm. ah – more shows, including with my friend Sam Baker, the International Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City where I got to show off my new band and new sound to my folk family across North America, and then back to Austin for SXSW madness. I volunteered for one of my favorite stations in the universe (KUT/KUTX), flitted back to Nashville for a week of writing and showcasing at Tin Pan South, came back to Texas to start taking a screenwriting workshop, get my braces off, and buy a bunch more stones for my new jewelry business, and that pretty much brings us current!

What’s new with you?

City of Angels

I have always had mixed feelings about Los Angeles. The weather is perfect. The air quality is…not trustworthy. The Pacific is to die for. The traffic is also murderous. Fruit grows everywhere. The Korean food is amazing. Amazing. So good. And the people…?

The people are pretty great, too. I had such a blast this July sharing a night with friends: one of my closest friends, Charlie Faye, performed solo – along with her Califone spinning a vinyl copy of her rhythm tracks from her newest album You Were Fine, You Weren’t Even Lonely, and then a newer friend of mine, Steve Postell, played a set of his songs with local friends of his. I got to do one of my favorite things ever – learn someone else’s songs and sing some harmony. It was very sweet of Steve to trust me not to wreck his set, and I think it sounded great. I did the late night honors, closing out the night with Steve on guitar…and a surprise guest joining in as well.

A couple friends I haven’t seen in a while surprised me completely by popping in for the night – and one of them joined me on stage. Yes, that is Laurence Juber hiding in the background of that photo. He and Hope sweetly made the trek over to that tiny corner of the Cinema Bar, and I was so overjoyed to see their very missed faces. It was really, really amazing to hear him play (I twisted his arm to play a few instrumentals) again, and I was having such a blast when he and Steve took turns taking incredible solos on my songs.

Oh, and the photo? It’s taken by my high school and college friend Edith Hwang, who has moved from Texas to L.A. to learn more about film and photography. She’s always had a knack and an eye, but she’s honing her skills among the best now (Want to know a secret about Edith? She played a ripping Strat in college, and all of us called her BluesMama).

I realize this post probably sounds like a name-dropping bazaar, but really, what I want to say is just how thankful I am for friends who take the time and energy to make me feel loved, even when I am 1400 miles from home.

Chillin’ with Dylan

Okay, not actually with Dylan, in person…but this winter, I was very honored to be part of a month-long production of Long Time Gone, Words and Music by Bob Dylan in the great town of New Haven, Conn. I was joined onstage by Guy Davis, the respected blues musician from New York and Peter Landecker, the producer and creator of the show.

The best way to describe the show is that it is (in Peter’s words) a theatrical biography of Dylan in two acts. Two-thirds of the show is his music, performed mostly by Guy Davis and myself, and the remaining third was in the form of monologues and interviews, performed by Landecker. We had an incredible time, with many unforgettable and special nights, surrounded by a truly great community in New Haven. I feel like I have a new family and a little like I have a new hometown.

Dylan has long been a hero of mine (duh), but it was such a luxury to be immersed in his material night after night, discovering new metaphors and allusions in songs that were already so familiar. For example, “Idiot Wind” has always been a powerful song to me, but before having to sing it a thousand times to learn it, I never fully recognized the sentimental unwinding at the close of the song — how the singer stops pointing the finger and shares the responsibility of the failed relationship.

Also luxurious was the experience of becoming friends with the incredible community that gathers around the hearth of Lyric Hall in Westville. John Cavaliere, our incredible host each night, teaches everyone he meets the meaning of hospitality and making one’s daily work a work of art – and most importantly, he doesn’t teach this with words. Muffy, JoAnne, Thea, Anne, Frank, Gar, Matthew – I am so grateful to you and your artistic souls. Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and your homes and for making New Haven feel very much like home while I was there. I can’t wait to return – as long as there are no more blizzards!

Oh, Nashville

I had a charmed week in Nashville this February, where I flew straight from a month in New Haven, Connecticut – which I realize I haven’t written about here yet. Well, one thing at a time. I spent time staying with cherished, generous friends, recording new songs with new friends, and singing with some of my favorite voices anywhere.

Left to right, first row: Neilson Hubbard, who produced four tunes for me at Mr. Lemons Studio in Nashville, TN. He is pictured with Liberace, a white bedazzled capo who has graced the necks of many guitars. BTW, I did the “bedazzling.” With a name like Liberace, that capo needed some jewels! Pictured to the right of Neilson are Evan Hutchings, who played incredible drums and percussion on the session, and Kris Donegan, who laid down lush, ambient, textural guitar parts and a spritely banjo part.

Second row: Jill Phillips who, on her birthday, came to sing PERFECT harmony parts. Can you say One Take Wonder? Robby Hecht who, while in the middle of moving, came to sing on what is quite possibly the hardest duet ever written (okay, not really, but he is a CHAMP). A half-eaten quiche, which I very much enjoyed, from Sweet 16 Bakery.

have boots, will travel

These are by far my favorite boots. They are not the flashiest I’ve seen or the most colorful I own, but they are the most meaningful. They came to me with so much love soaked into every stitch and breathed over them. They were hand-made in Texas then traveled across the ocean to Belgium, where they lived for a while and roamed free on the back of a Harley, then finally they journeyed north to Friesland, where I met them in the home of people I truly love.