Tag Archives: Tom Waits

Joe Peña and Greyhound Soul bring rootsy ‘Desert Rock’ to Central Texas festival

A few days back I interviewed a really cool guy named Joe Peña, who has an Arizona-based group called Greyhound Soul. He’s about to come back to his home town of Elgin, Texas for the annual Hogeye Festival on Saturday, Oct. 23 and I can’t wait to see him.

I expect Hogeye to be a blast, by the way. If you’re going to be in the Austin area this weekend, you should make a short drive out to Elgin and check it out. Maybe you’ll see me, snapping pics of everything for the local newspaper, the Elgin Courier. There’s all kinds of stuff planned, including a lot of other bands and lots of food, games, a parade, etc. This town is famous for its barbecue, especially sausage. In fact, people call Elgin the Sausage Capital of Texas. You really can’t beat these little small town festivals.

The following interview is pretty close to the one I ran in the Elgin Courier‘s Oct. 20 edition, except I put the cuss words back in. I love the way he talks, all laid back and hip, but I toned it down for the paper – it was a bit too rock ‘n’ roll for a small town. I interviewed him via text message. First time I ever did that. Worked out pretty well I think. What I really find interesting is the family aspect. He’s the third generation in his family to play music professionally – his father did it (still does) and his grandfather. And they’re all named “Joe.” Also, Joe IV’s brother Jeremy Peña is a reggae artist who plays around Austin.


Talk about family tradition. Guitarist and singer/songwriter Joe Peña IV, who will perform at Hogeye Festival with his band Greyhound Soul, grew up surrounded by music. His father and grandfather (both also named Joe) were both professional musicians. His father still plays keyboards with a band. Joe grew up in Elgin. He left Texas around the ninth grade and wound up in Arizona, where he got a band together and developed a following for the rootsy brand of music he calls desert rock.

“I guess we sound like a Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Sonny Boy Williamson wannabe band, cuz that’s what I dig,” he said. Growing up, he cut his teeth on the music being served up in Elgin night clubs, including his grandfather’s club, Dos Amigos. “I was fortunate enough to be around in the Kung Fu Inn days. Ol’ Charlie Brown’s Place on Ave. C [Kung Fu Inn] and across the street was my grandpa’s place. Between the two you had blues and R&B, soul, country & western, jazz and Tejano bands having some of the best moments of their lives. Being 12, 13, 14 years old in and out of bars was my life. Hell, still is. And being witness to that shit is solid gold bro.”

Having professional musicians in the family was tough, but it also made him who he is today. “Growin’ up with music going on day and night, Dad playing his stuff, Gramps puttin’ in his two cents and then me getting it from both sides wasn’t easy. They were always tryin’ to teach the right way to do stuff. Always the right way, all ol’ school, all these chords gettin’ me dizzy. I’d be like screw this, I’m gonna play football. Well, never played football. Now I’m ol’ school and diggin’ it. Somewhere down the line I guess it just stuck and I just can’t seem to get it off my shoe, haha.”

Even after touring around the U.S. and in Europe, Joe is excited to come back to Elgin for Hogeye. “Coming back to play in my home town is fuckin’ awesome,” he said. He’s also excited to see Malford Milligan on the bill, performing with Chloe and the Crossroads band. “That’s just too cool man. We used to pass each other on our way to school back in the day,” he said. “I’m sure he doesn’t know who the hell I am, but he will goddamn it.”

Joe Peña III has played in blues and Tejano bands all his life, learning the trade from his father, who performed Spanish big band music. Although Joe III will be performing in Fort Worth during Hogeye, he encourages Elgin to turn out and watch his son play. “He has five CDs out. He tours Europe. He writes his own material and he will be playing the electric guitar my dad got for me,” he said. “He’s influenced by everything from country music to Paul McCartney. You have to play a little of everything to entertain people nowadays.”

Check out Greyhound Soul’s “Layin’ Down Lost.” Sounds kinda like  good alt-country to me…

And in case you decide to check out Hogeye Festival, here’s a schedule:

Hamtastic Events

Lindsy Kay Wing Memorial Children’s Costume Contest and Pet Parade

Registration 8:30 a.m., judging 9 a.m. followed by parade
Hogalicious Dessert Contest

9 a.m. turn in entries–Awards 12:30pm

El Maguey Restaurant
Pearls Before Swine Art ShowJewell Arts Photography – 119 2nd Street @ Avenue C10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Road Hog Car Show

Awards 2:45 p.m. at Nofsinger House City Hall

Gordon Swenson Memorial BBQ Pork Cook-off

Awards 4:30 p.m. at the Chamber

In a Pig’s Eye Dart Contest

Regulator’s Sports Bar and Grill 12 p.m.-4 p.m.

Celebrating 20 years of Main Street

Union Depot Museum 10 a.m.-5p.m.

Acme Brick Toss

Depot Plaza 10 a.m.-5p.m.

Cow Patty Bingo

4 p.m. on Depot Street

Bands and live entertainment

2nd Street Stage

10:30 a.m.  Monty Thomas Family Band

11:45 a.m.  Soulphonics

1 p.m.  Chloe & the Crossroads Band

2 p.m.  The Sowpremes

2:45 p.m. Grupo Agresivo

4 p.m.  Greyhound Soul

5:15 p.m. Mark Winston Kirk

Depot Stage at Veterans’ Park

10 a.m.  Jungle Jill & the Jaybirds (interactive children’s show)

11 a.m.  Royal Coronation with the Sowpremes

11:55 a.m. Lost Pines Cowboy Church Band

1 p.m. December’s End

2:45 p.m.  Tje Austin and The Experience

4 p.m. Lucretia Alvarez & the Dance Studio

4:30 p.m.  Golden Bear


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Daniel Knox’s strange, beautiful songs could be future American standards

Daniel Knox in the shadows next to a carousel. Captures something about his music I think.... (John Atwood photo)

The first time I heard Daniel Knox’s “Ghostsong” I was stunned. It was like nothing I had ever heard, but at the same time it sounded so classic, full of beauty, sadness and mean-spirited humor.

I streamed it over the Internet for a few days, growing more and more addicted and finally I couldn’t take it any more. I went to his website and ordered his whole discography.

That’s something I rarely do — I’m not made out of money. But I could tell right away that I had to get my hands on this man’s music and keep it close, on the off chance it could turn out to be a dream, or something the Internet washed onto my shore that it might sweep away again.

There was more where “Ghostsong” came from. Much more. I now think of Knox as an American treasure, right up there with Tom Waits.

Knox taught himself to play the piano by regularly sneaking into the Hilton Tower’s Grand Ballroom; he took a job as a projectionist at the historic Music Box Theater just so he could play its massive pipe organ. He accompanied director David Lynch in that theater for the 2007 Chicago premiere of Inland Empire.

Much of the time he sings in a deep, masculine voice. Then he breaks into a beautiful, sweet falsetto. His songs range from heartbreaking ballads (often with wicked twists), to brash, New Orleans-influenced pieces that put me in mind of Dr. John.

His songs don’t really sound like anything else. And yet i get the distinct feeling they might’ve been around forever — American standards.

Here’s a taste of what Daniel Knox can do:

I currently have the albums Disaster, Evryman for Himself (technically not released yet, but I was able to get hold of it – send DK a message and he will probably hook you up) and two E.P.s: A Poison Tree and Window Music (Instrumentals 2001-2007).

At this point I have a hard time deciding which I like better, Disaster or Evryman. Disaster is a bit more minimalistic, with those lovely dark ballads, often just Knox and a piano or organ. Those songs really get to me — “What Have They Done to You Now” and “Be Afraid” being particular favorites.

Evryman has some of those — “Ghostsong” being a huge standout — but it also features more New Orleans style songs, with bandmates Paul Parts (bass), Jason Toth (drums), Ralph Carney (horns) and Chris Hefner (auxiliary instruments). “I Make Enemies” and “Debt Collector” are excellent as is “Armageddonsong.” I got to love those too. They might be the ones with the biggest hit potential after all.

The E.P. A Poison Tree is also definitely worth having for the two very different treatments of John Donne’s famous poem.

It’s not all about the music either. Knox’s lyrics have a big impact — sad and misanthropic, resigned and fatalistic, wry and witty, vulnerable to warm feelings — which are seen as a distraction and an imposition…

They might not work for everyone, but I find them brilliant and moving.

Just check out some of the lines:

From “Armageddonsong”: “Armageddon’s comin’ soon. The sun will crash into the moon, but we will still have breakfast…”

From “Lovescene”: “Groping for more than I can hold, sulking like a 12-year-old, and suddenly I find myself dancing. Oh how I hate dancing…”

From “Ghostsong”: “If you die tomorrow or a hundred years from now, there won’t be an article or a furrowed brow. Yours is like the spirit of a breeze that blows through town. No one remembers unless it knocks something down…”

Truly brilliant. I think this guy is going places. If I have anything to do with he will. I haven’t been so excited about a newly discovered artist in a long time. He’s already made it to the top of my own musical Olympus.

If you’re anywhere close to as impressed as I am, check out his website and buy some of his albums. Then find him on Facebook. He just might go on tour one of these days and you’ll want to be ready in case he comes to your town.


Filed under indie, indie pop, music, one to watch, review, Uncategorized, video