Boozoo Chavis – Dog Hill

If you need your spirits lifted, the music of Boozoo Chavis is one remedy.  This is zydeco music at its best.  Zydeco music is regional music that originally came out of Louisiana.  The song Dog Hill has always been one of my favorites that Boozoo recorded.  I first heard of Boozoo from Kevin Russell, who grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border.  I’ve always been interested in groove oriented music that is still really melodic.  For whatever reason, it just seems to speak to me.  A lot of South African music is like this, music that has a groove with a deep pocket, but is structured around major chords melodically.  Anyway, if you like what you hear above, the history of Zydeco is worth reading about, as it gives you another look into the endlessly fascinating complexity of our culture here in the United States.

Old School Austin Groove Premiere

Today the video for Old School Austin Groove premiered.  It’s a song that is part of the soundtrack for the movie Crazy Carl And His Man-Boobs: An Austin Love Story.  Both were filmed by Beef & Pie Productions and you can stream the movie in full for free here.  The song was written and performed by Shawn Sahm and Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell.  That is Keith Langford, of Shinyribs and the Gourds, holding down the rhythm with myself.  The Crazy Carl movie is actually a really great documentary about Austin, despite its seemingly bizarre subject matter, though the title character himself is an interesting character study with a lot of heart for anyone interested in the strange thing we call humanity in general.  A must see for anyone that has any interest in the city of Austin past, present, or future.

The recording session and the filming of the video were great fun.  If I said any more someone would kill me…

Shinyribs New Album Release

Shinyribs Album Cover

The new Shinyribs album Okra Candy is now officially coming out April 14th.  I played bass on 7 of the 10 tracks and cowrote one of them.  I think this is the best Shinyribs album yet, due to Kev’s writing, great performances, and production that makes the most out of each track.  Stay tuned!

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays – Couch By Couchwest

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays

I just got back from Florida at around 5am this morning from tour.  In the meanwhile here is a clip of myself performing a song called Night of a Thousand Tuesdays for Couch By Couchwest in a Florida hotel room.  Shot by Mr. Kevin Russell.  Just having some fun kids…

Night of a Thousand Tuesdays

No longer scared of ghosts or witches
Of the latter I’ve known a few

No longer scared of death or dying
It comes no matter what you do
No longer root for teenagers
In horror movies on TV
The serial killer in his mask
Is now the only one that speaks to me

I’ve spent too much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

When we’re young and innocent
We fear what’s hiding under the bed
Now if I met a monster
I’d embrace it and my end

I’ve spent too much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

Busy work and cold calls
Have stolen my youth
Cubicles and their walls
Have blinded me to the truth
The worst is when you pretend
That we’re a family
It’s turning me into an animal
That wants to see you bleed
That wants to see you bleed…

Spent to much time in the office
Hearing your senseless voice

It’s the night of a thousand Tuesdays
I could kill without remorse

The idea is that when you are an adult, no horror movie is near as scary as working endless days at a meaningless job…

Make it Shiny


Make it Shiny

Above is a profile of Shinyribs band leader Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell in Texas Highways Magazine.  I play bass with this project.    I can neither confirm or deny any pertinent information in the above article.  The owls are watching.  For those of you that are interested, this article will give you some idea as where a good deal of the Shinyribs sound comes from.  It’s definitely music that has a regional flavor, although that being said it is extremely varied and largely accessible.

Kev has kept me gainfully employed these last several years for which I am grateful for.  Just in this last year I got to record with Shawn Sahm and the family of Ted Hawkins.  I also got to sing on stage with Eric Burdon, Ian McLagan, among others.  None of these things would have happened for me if Kev hadn’t decided a couple of years ago to work with me.  Hell, one of the only reasons I can work on this blog as much as I do is that it fits in nicely with a musicians schedule.

I should mention that we will be playing the State Theater in Austin, Texas on New Years Eve.  If you are in the area get tickets soon as they are going fast.

Filming a Video, Going On Tour, and Man-Boobs


Beef & Pie Trailers

Today I was over at Shawn Sahm’s house with Kevin Russell and Keith Langford filming a video for a song called Old School Austin Groove.  It appeared in the movie Crazy Carl and His Man-Boobs.  The movie and the video were directed by Mike Woolf.  The Crazy Carl movie is a documentary about an Austin eccentric.  However, it uses his story as a jumping off point to tell the history of the counter culture movie of the last few decades.  If you are at all interested in this city it is definitely worth checking out.  I saw it at its premier at Esther’s Follies and was really taken aback by it.  I have been living here now for a number of years and there was so much I didn’t know about the city in the movie.  And besides, who can turn down a movie that features man-boobs?

The Shinyribs band is hitting the road for the next couple days.  We will be in East Texas.  You can get the details at:

Shinyribs Tour Schedule

Some Thoughts On Recording

I was in the studio all day cutting a track for the upcoming tribute album to the late great Ted Hawkins.  There is no place I would rather be then the studio.  Today it was a crack commando unit backing up the singer of the Turnpike Troubadours, Evan Felker.  We knew the song we were going to do, and the key, but aside from that the arrangement was born in the studio.  It was pretty old school in that for basic tracks we just jammed until something sounded right, with Kevin Russell, who is producing, guiding our ship when we would get too far out.  It also never hurts to have an engineer like Stuart Sullivan running the technical side of things.  It was a good mix of thought and feeling today.  Never allowing the conscious mind to get in the way, but just enough thought so that the song ebbed and flowed in just the right way.

I like to do my homework before recording.  I like to know the chord changes so I’m not learning the song on the spot and wasting other people’s time.  I like to have a couple ideas stockpiled in my back pocket in case things hit a rut.  However, I am always happy to go another direction and land somewhere unexpected.    A song is like a frame.  There are certain boundaries that it dictates.  However, in that frame there are a lot of different ways that you can color it.  It is good to have a place to start from, but to not be afraid to throw everything out the window as new ideas present themselves.

When I am doing a session where I am just the bass player, I try to listen to the other musicians and be complimentary to what is going on.  I try to find that balance between giving someone what they want and making sure what I do is unique and interesting in some way.  I never want to take the focus off what is most important in the song, yet I don’t want to just deliver meat and potatoes, unless that is what is called for.  Sometimes you will find that the stock thing is what works, but I usually feel that arrangements are helped when everyone is adding a little bit of their personality to them.  The way that session players in places like Nashville play is just atrocious to me.  They may be technically amazing, but there is no soul.  I’d literally rather hear an electronic dance record by someone that knows how to make them than that shit.

So that’s what I did today, and what I’m thinking about.  I’m about to dive back into Ken Burns’s Civil War series.  Now for something completely different…

Media Diet and Rambling Thoughts

Huffington Post is still promoting the missing plane mystery as their headline.  How many days will this go on?!!!  I bet the cable news is having a field day with that too, though I don’t know for certain, as I don’t watch that shit!

I’ve been going on a media diet in recent years.  I cut out cable TV and I cut out radio.  These are two outdated forms that offer little if any value to one’s life.  When I listen or watch one of these formats I almost start believing my conspiracy theory friends that the media is manipulating us to make us dumber.  Songs riddled with clichés and Ken and Barbie dolls reading Teleprompters are running ramped over a demoralized public.

Did you see the singer form Hootie and the Blowfish has a country career now?  Who buys that stuff?  Who bought his Blowfish albums?  Kevin Russell calls this stuff golf rock.  Did anyone notice how metrosexual a lot of the male country stars are now?  I find that funny as their base is partially composed of redneck males who think they are tougher than the rest and are often homophobic.

I wish Hunter Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut and George Carlin were still alive.  They were of the rarified few that knew how to expose the great contradictions in our society.  This is an absurd country in many ways.  Our comedians have become our truth tellers and our newscasters have become our mindless entertainers.  Remember in a capitalist democracy we vote with our dollar a good deal of the time.  Support those things that bring value to your life and cut out on the fat!

The Making of A Manual for Defeat: Part 1

No Show Ponies new album, A Manual for Defeat, will be released tomorrow exclusively through  This is an album that was forged out of necessity.  That is both the necessity of expression and the necessity of circumstances that lead to the way this album was made.  This is a rock album about hard times, which was made by and for people that are going through them. 

My brother Ben and I moved to Austin about 8 years ago from Central Pennsylvania.  Although we had always played rock music, we started out in the Austin scene as an acoustic duo.  We slowly climbed up the Austin ladder, found band mates, and recorded the album The End of Feel Good Music.  We recorded that album with Kevin Russell and Keith Langford of Shinyribs and the Gourds.  We had cameos by such Austin luminaries as Jon Dee Graham and Jimmy Smith of the Gourds.  We had a successful CD release party and then a residency at the Saxon Pub.  Everything seemed to be going right, but then as often happens, trouble found us.  Our live band imploded. 

Suddenly we found ourselves without a steady band.  Although Ben and I never quit working, we found that we were lacking a distinct sound and direction.  Out of the blue, or possibly through an internet ad, the drummer Alex Morales walked into our lives.  He is a drummer with an encyclopedic knowledge of drumming.  His apartment looks like a drum museum.  He not only could play whatever crazy idea we had in our heads, but also could inspire us and push us in new directions.  He is the perfect drummer for the songs Ben and I write.  He has rock solid timing, a deep pocket, and more importantly he intuitively understands the kind of music we play, shares many key influences, and writes unique and distinctive parts for each song.  A band is only as good as their drummer and suddenly we had a great one. 

However, we were still lacking a distinctive sound.  I was on bass at the time and Ben was on acoustic.  At one practice, when Ben and I found ourselves alone with Alex, Ben decided to pick up the electric guitar.  All of a sudden, in about three songs, that sound that we were always looking for, but weren’t sure where to find it, came to life right in front of us.  My brother could jump with ease from beautiful chimy arpeggiations to blood thirsty noise solos.  We decided right then and there that we would remain a three piece.  We were limited in what we could do, but as often the case in art, limitation is the mother of invention.  While we always believed we could write and sing together, we suddenly, for the first time in a long time, had a “sound”. 

The next step that we knew we had to make was recording an album.  We asked each other how we could make a record that would do justice to the sound that we were hearing for the budget we had.  And the truth of the matter is that we had no budget.  The Great Recession had come through like a hurricane and wiped out whatever financial stability that we had.  Luckily I had the experience of recording with Ramsay Midwood on his quarter inch tape machine.  Shinyribs had recorded a song called Dollar Bill Blues for an English Townes Van Zandt tribute record.  In one day of working we had the song recorded, mixed, and ready for action.  There wasn’t the fussing about that plagues most recording sessions.  Most importantly the recording we did had a vibrancy and life that is missing in most modern recordings. 

I knew that if we had any chance of making a good record for a nonexistent budget, then this is the route that we had to go.  If we were well rehearsed we could knock out basic tracks within a couple days and end up with something we believed in.  For the next several months Ben, Al, and myself rehearsed like mad.  We got every song that we had into a definitive three piece arrangement.  Anything that didn’t work with only three instruments was thrown out the window. 

When it came time to record we picked the best songs we had given the arrangements that we had.  We also had our eye on the whole and picked songs whose meanings would be enhanced by the songs around them.  We wanted to make an album and not just a collection of songs.  Once we had the material where we wanted it, we contacted Ramsay, who picked engineer Seth Gibbs, and headed out for his house, where the first batch of songs were to be recorded…

To Be Continued…