Monthly Archives: December 2010

Texas Country singer Kevin Fowler rocks Coupland Dancehall

Finally got around to posting this… I did indeed go to the Kevin Fowler show in Coupland on Dec. 11 and had a hell of a time. Country isn’t my main music, but I have a lot of respect for this Amarillo native. He has a gift for writing great country songs and really knows how to put on a show.

Fowler definitely has a following. The crowd knew and could sing along with all but his newest songs. Catchy and funny, they had that in-your-face brashness that you find in the best country music, songs with a message: yeah I’m a redneck and this is what I like, I’m having fun and who cares what you think?

His songs and between-song banter cracked me up. “Don’t Touch My Willie” (about a guy who won’t let a girl play his Willie Nelson on the first date) is the song that won me over years ago. “I heard they arrested ol’ Willie for smokin’ pot the other day,” he said before the song. “That’s like arresting the Pope for prayin’.” Amen, Brother.

“Knocked Up” is only a year old, but it already has the ring of a Kevin Fowler classic. “You got knocked up, I got locked up. I guess we both got screwed. Well you got locked out, And I got knocked out. And I guess you’re gonna miss a lot of school.” Haha. Not an ounce of PC in this guy.

I loved when they got creative. A cover of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” segued into “Loose, Loud & Crazy.” They did an extended, funky version of “Deck the Halls,” featuring a very impressive solo by bassist Gary Herman. Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” got a nice country twist.

“Beer, Bait & Ammo” and “Beer Season” were other clever redneck lifestyle songs that made me chuckle.

I only wish he had started a bit earlier. He didn’t go on till after 11 p.m. The opening act, Jeremy Steding, a baby-faced singer from Austin with a voice that reminded me of Johnny Cash – was OK, but he played for going on two hours and I was definitely ready for the main act after one hour.

One thing that really struck me was how cosmopolitan the crowd was. If you have the idea that country fans are all a bunch of backwoods hicks you are way off. Nice cars in the parking lot, plenty of expensive iPhones on display, plenty of college T-shirts. Also, while the DJ put on a lot of well-received country music, some of the most popular tunes were rock ‘n’ roll – AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and Billy Squier’s “Stroke Dance” went over very well, but the one that had everyone rushing to the dance floor was a hip hop/dance number called “Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid.

On the other hand, I knew I was in the country by the fact that I got into the show at all. They somehow forgot to leave the tickets I was promised at the front. But the guy at the door actually believed my (true) story and let us in. If that had happened in Austin, they would’ve sent us packing. “I’m on the guest list.” Yeah, that’s what they all say. I guess he figured the dancehall would make some money selling us beer, which they did.

When you get down to it, Fowler isn’t just country. He makes Texas Country. I went to the show with a friend who is a bigger country fan than I am. She describes Texas Country as a bit rawer and rougher than the regular stuff and it tends not to get played that much nationwide. Judging from Kevin Fowler, a tendency to rock might be a part of it — Fowler has a definite sense of rock ‘n’ roll, having played in a metal band for a short time. But I think in a way it’s actually more country than country.

I remember reading a piece about the music industry where a country singer complained that he couldn’t get signed in Nashville because he was told he was “too country.” Too country for country? Apparently that’s a problem in mainstream country. They’re always looking for a crossover hit that will make everyone tons of money. Strip away the steel guitar and Southern accent and you often get a typical American pop song.

Guys like Kevin Fowler don’t appear to be concerned with that. They’re the musical offspring of folks like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe. They are who they are, like it or lump it. And their fans love them for it.


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Christmas songs for people who hate Christmas music

Christmas was a wonderful time when I was little: waiting for Santa Claus, helping Dad string up lights, the dog chasing the cat up the Christmas tree, traveling to see kin folks, and of course, getting presents. I have a little image from some long ago Christmas Eve, the living room lit up with different colors, music on the stereo, everyone in the family just enjoying one another’s company. The night just radiated happiness. I can recall plenty of other images like that if I try.

Over the years, the holiday has become less joyful. Getting older and having to worry about things like earning a living, persevering through a few painful Christmases where people were ill, watching the holiday become more and more commercialized, and probably worst of all: Christmas music. Countless renditions of the same old carols, year after year after year, generic-sounding Muzak versions, out-of-tune church choir versions, piecemeal bits in TV commercials. Try as you might, you can’t avoid it. You have to go to the grocery store, stop in a convenience store now and again.

Yet I do sometimes stumble on some Christmas-themed music I actually enjoy. Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I put together a little playlist of songs that I’ve been enjoying for the last several days. Some celebrate the holiday, some lampoon it, some just touch on it, all are great music. That’s a must for me.

Big Star – Jesus Christ — lovely song from a ’70s band that influenced a lot of people. You could take it as a pastiche or a straight up carol. Either way it’s really pretty.

Michael Doucet – Bonne Annee — actually a New Year’s song, taken from Alligator Stomp Vol. 4 – a Cajun Christmas.

Colin Meloy – Cherry Tree Carol — from the lead singer of the Decemberists, covering a song by Shirley Collins. It contains a lovely image of cherry trees bowing down to the virgin Mary.

Legendary Pink Dots – Rainbows Too? Really good Dots song from Plutonium Blonde. Contains the line, “It’s Christmas on the Moon.”

May Blitz – The 25th of December  1969 — a sort of jazzy number from one of those bands at the crossroads of hard rock, prog and metal.

Built to Spill – Linus and Lucy — live instrumental rock ‘n’ roll version of the song I associate with the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Fountains of Wayne – I Want an Alien for Christmas — I Fight Dragons did an awesome cover of this. I love both versions just about equally.

Robyn Hitchcock – Winter Love

Jim White – Christmas Day — sad song about reuniting after a breakup.

We Were Pirates – Merry Christmas 3 — great breakup song.

Inspiral Carpets – Commercial Rain — a song about commercialism. Go figure.

Robert Earl Keene – Merry Christmas from the Family — really fun song about a white trash Christmas gathering.

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Respect for the Queen of Soul – may she beat the odds

Just found out Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer, which is one of the worst ones you can get. Here’s hoping she beats the odds. No one sings like her, no one ever will.

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Amarillo native Kevin Fowler rocks the country wordplay

Country music isn’t my main music, but it’s definitely in the mix. Amarillo native Kevin Fowler is one of the reasons. He writes songs with an awesome twist that all the best country songs have. Great wordplay, stories and humor. “Don’t Touch My Willie,” a song about not letting a girl play his Willie Nelson CD on the first date, is just classic. I have heard he also puts on a great, high energy show. I’m about to find out for myself on Saturday. I interviewed him for an article in the Dec. 8 Elgin Courier, and he comped me a couple of tickets. I can’t wait. Details on the blog afterward of course.

Courier article is posted below:

Country singer Kevin Fowler to rock Coupland Dance Hall, Dec. 11

Country singer Kevin Fowler has played his share of big venues, but it was the small dance hall that kickstarted his career. Fowler will perform at the Old Coupland Dancehall on Saturday, Dec. 11 as part of his Deck the Dance Halls holiday tour. Doors open at 8 p.m.

“That’s one of the bars we started out at,” he said in a Friday interview. “Coupland was one of the first places to give me a chance. For the holidays, we wanted to go to all the dance halls where we started.

“When I was a kid growing up in Amarillo, my dad  listened to Buck Owens and we watched Hee Haw on Saturday nights on TV,” Fowler said. “I grew up in a country household.”

Fowler, who played with the Austin-based heavy metal band Dangerous Toys for a while in the ’90s, is known for his rockin’ attitude as well as his knack for a clever turn of a phrase, with such hits as “Don’t Touch My Willie,” “Ain’t Drinkin’ Anymore,” and “Cheaper to Keep Her.”

As he grew up, Kevin started playing in bands and began looking for his own music. He was drawn to rock bands like AC/DC and Van Halen.

He still loves rock ‘n’ roll and says he went to see Judas Priest perform twice in recent years. “When I go to a concert, I want to see a show,” he said. “Rock bands know how to put on a live show.”

For that reason, Fowler wanted his country band “to have a really rockin’ edge to it. Into that soup, throw a little country.”

At the same time, he can’t resist the urge to write songs with stories and wordplay — the kind of songs country is known for. “Country music is really about the lyrics,” he said. “Rock is more about the melody. A lot of times you can’t really understand the words.”

As he started out his career, Fowler became a guitar player for hire and performed both country and rock. “I became dedicated to becoming a songwriter,” he said. “It was a slow evolution to try and find my own thing.” Fowler said the high energy country that he became known for “just turned out to be the songs I wrote.” Fowler likes the diversity he finds in today’s country music scene.

“Nowadays, country is kind of a catch-all for different kinds of music. It’s changed. You don’t have to be Merle Haggard. Anything goes in country music nowadays. That’s kind of cool.”Fowler said he loves the Texas music scene. “It’s all about the fans in Texas. Going to a show, it’s a very one-on-one relationship with the fans and musicians. The fans get to hang around and get autographs,” he said. “You don’t really do that with a lot of the national country artists.”

Texas also lets him put out the kind of music he wants to make. “You can do your own thing down here,” he said. “Anything goes as long as it’s good.”

Fowler released a collection called Best of… So Far on Dec. 7. It features 18 tracks, including four previously unreleased songs. He also has a studio album in the can, which will be released sometime next spring.

Edit: I see a lot of people searching their way into this article and they might want to know how the show was. Here’s my follow-up from after the show.

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Great indie rock from Iran (you didn’t think Iran had any of that did you?)

Rappers dissing each other and showing off their bling… Lady Gaga wearing a dress made out of meat… Americans have forgotten what musical rebellion is. What if simply getting up on stage and performing at a rock ‘n’ roll concert could get you thrown in jail? There are places in the world where that happens. Yet there are people who love music so much, they will take that risk.

Members of The Plastic Wave went to jail for rock ‘n’ roll, literally, after participating in a concert in Teheran, Iran in 2007. Police arrested 230 members of the crowd and a number of musicians, accusing them of numerous crimes against the state and Islam, and jailing them for 21 days. Saeid Nadjafi (aka Natch) and a gifted female vocalist named Maral Afsharian were among those jailed for daring to perform music the regime didn’t like (having a female vocalist is also a big no no). Not deterred, they and a friend, Shayan Amini, formed The Plastic Wave.

The group was supposed to perform at the 2009 South By Southwest music festival in Austin, but got turned down for a visa for some inexplicable reason. Austin Dacey and his foundation, Impossible Music arranged for an American group, Cruel Black Dove to learn Plastic Wave’s songs, so they could be performed live as intended.

The Plastic Wave is no more, but Natch is carrying the torch with his electronic rock project, The Casualty Process. And in case you’re wondering, the music is very good, influenced by such acts as Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. Listen for yourself:

The Casualty Process – Code

The Plastic Wave – My Clothes on Other Bodies

Also check out Natch’s laser midi controller. Pretty cool sounds:

American music fans have become rather jaded. We might complain that there’s nothing good on the radio and think what a shame it is that the kids are growing up on bad commercial pop and rap. But the fact is, you can get on the Internet and find almost anything you want without a whole lot of effort. You just have to know where to look.

That doesn’t mean music is no longer important. Far from it. There are people in the world willing to risk jail or worse to make it. I think it would be good for us to remember that.

I read on Austin Dacey’s blog The Ethical Ear that Natch and Shayan have received permission to travel to the U.S. and perform. Hopefully they’ll get that trip to Austin, Texas that they should’ve made in 2009 and I’ll have a chance to see them play.

Natch has a bunch of other good songs up on his Soundcloud page. Give them a listen and let him know what you think. You can also find The Casualty Process on Facebook. Dative, an alternative rock group featuring Shayan and Natch, can also be found on Facebook.

Impossible Music is helping other restricted/persecuted musicians around the world get their songs out to the public. The Wall Street Journal has a pretty good article about it. Seems like a very worthy cause.


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