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…

No Show Ponies Live Performance

I usually don’t like the way YouTube videos of shows turn out.  The lighting is usually bad, the sound worse, the way it’s filmed makes you want to crawl into a cave and die.  However, this one turned out pretty good.  This is my former band, No Show Ponies, playing at Strange Brew in Austin, Texas.  We played the small listening room in Austin earlier this year.  It is one of the best sounding rooms in Austin.  My brother Ben is on guitar and vocals.  Alex Moralez, who is also playing with me in my current solo project, is on drums.  The set is a mix of original songs and covers, but it is only part of the set.  On that day we covered Joe Strummer, Lou Reed, John Hiatt, and Jackson Browne.  The rest of the songs are ours.  Some of them our from our album A Manual for Defeat, and some are newer.  If you are bored at work today, plug in your headphones, pretend to look busy, and have a listen…

Shows This Week

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I wanted to remind anyone in the Austin area that I’ll be playing a solo show along side Kacy Crowley at Strange Brew this Wednesday.

Jefferson Brown and Kacy Crowley
Song swap
Strange Brew
Austin, Texas
Wednesday November 5th at 6pm

More info at:
Strange Brew Website

My partner in crime Alex Moralez will be joining me on percussion.  Both of us will also be backing up Kacy. Strange Brew is one of the best sounding rooms in Austin.   Tickets are only $6.

The Shinyribs band will also be up in McKinney and Huffman this weekend.  You can get more info at:

Shinyribs Tour

In the future when all’s well…

Jefferson Brown

Prop 1 In Austin and Public Transportation

I apologize in advance for those of you outside of Austin, although I do think what I’m about to write pertains to people outside of Austin.  In Austin we are debating public transportation right now.  There is a proposition on the ballot that will fund 9.5 miles of rail and improvements to our roads.  It is called Prop 1 on the ballot.  If you want to support it, vote yes on Prop 1.  Even at a conservative estimate the rail is supposed to take 10,000 cars a day off of the roads.  Why is this a conservative estimate?  Because they want to pass more rail in the future.  In order to do this the first one has to work as promised.  They would prefer it to work better than they said, and not worse, so they are estimating that it will take 10,000 cars off the road each weekday, but in reality the numbers will actually probably be higher.

Here are some things that a lot of people don’t know:

1.  The federal government is matching the City of Austin dollar for dollar.  So those that are worried about price, which seems to be why most people are worried, should know that if we pass it now, we will only have to pay for half of it.

2.  Taxes will not be increased fully until 2020 and then it will be on average of $20 dollars a month per household.

3.  Many people don’t understand why the city is starting with one line.  This is because the last time the city tried to pass rail, they tried a comprehensive plan and it was voted down by a small margin.  This time they are trying to do it a little bit at a time so it has a better chance of passing.  They are addressing I-35, which is the worst road in Austin.  This 9.5 miles of rail also hits a lot of the main parts of Austin including downtown, UT, ACC campus at the Highland Mall, East Riverside, and the med center.

4.  Some people are concerned that it doesn’t go to the airport.  If it went to the airport they would have to deal with Federal Aviation and the price tag would be even higher.  Again, this plan was put into place because they were trying to get something that would pass, based on the defeat of last time, while still addressing a wide number of concerns in the city.

Now those are just a couple answers to people’s concerns that I have heard.  There are things I didn’t bring up, like it will be more environmentally friendly than having all those people drive, It’s the kind of project that Americans need to be doing to get off of fossil fuels, it will provide convenient and affordable transportation for those that owning a car isn’t a reality, and it will make the city more livable.  If you were to ask most people what the worst thing about Austin is, most people would probably say the traffic.

But this proposition is also the moral thing to do.  This is where those of you that are not from Austin should be interested.  Both because of climate change and because of conflicts that arise over oil, we need to be finding ways to diminish our use of gas.  Getting 10,000 people a day, and hopefully more in the future, won’t change the world in and of itself, but it is the start of a lifestyle change that we need to be making.

Those that only think of their own pocketbook are missing the larger picture.  We spend money on all kinds of wasteful stuff in this country.  I’m sure that anyone that complains about taxes probably has some kind of TV or other thing in their house that they could do without if they really needed to.  No one is even asking you to go without such things.  I’m just trying to make the connection that $20 dollars a month towards something that is a public good, that will benefit people at large that don’t even live in Austin, although the citizens of Austin will see the most benefit, isn’t really that much to ask.  This is your chance to do something to make the world slightly better.

I have been all over Europe and Japan and most Americans have no idea how amazing good public transportation is.  It is so much less stressful than driving in bumper to bumper traffic.  You can actually enjoy yourself by reading a book, playing a game, or taking a nap.  When I used to work a day job I worked 12 miles from my home.  It would take me over an hour to get home some days.  I don’t care how good of a day I had, by the time I got home I wanted to dismember people.  Imagine if you could get on a train and read instead of do that drive.  It would make day to day life so much better.  In Japan and Europe public transportation is clean, efficient, and enjoyable.  Sitting in your car for an hour every afternoon inching your way forward is not efficient or enjoyable.  It is also ridiculously bad for our environment.

I criticize the GOP a lot on here.  I am largely criticizing the modern ultra-conservative GOP.  It is totally a fair argument to have to make sure that taxes are not spent on wasteful projects.  Even though I rarely agreed with the more moderate conservatives, I understood where they were coming from and felt that those arguments served a purpose.  The questions that conservatives and liberals should be asking is not should taxes be higher or lower, but are we getting something that makes our lives better through taxes.  If we are not then it is not worth spending money on.  If we are than it is.

The public good is always something worth spending money on.  Public transportation and parks and things of that nature, that make life more enjoyable, are worth committing resources to.  Spending billions of dollars on foreign wars in countries that are of no threat to our security are not.  Can we not see that we often spend money on all the wrong things?

I love this city and I love this country.  But we must admit that as a people we are often wasteful.  Things like Prop 1 are our chance to not only make our lives better, but to be better citizens in the world.  On one hand Prop 1 is about the kind of city we want to live in here in Austin.  But really, it is about so much more.

The Meaningless Struggle of Greg Abbott

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Greg Abbott made a commercial with him wheeling himself up to the top of a parking garage.  The way it was filmed was to make him look courageous as someone that has struggled and never given up.  He is trying to pull on heart strings, while hiding the fact that his politics are lights years from being empathetic to people that struggle.  This is a time when the image that people see is as far from the truth as possible.  He has made his disability part of his campaign so I feel that it is fair game.  When I saw this picture of him on the cover of Texas Monthly I asked myself this question:  Is there any picture that quite captures the modern GOP better than an impotent old white man clinging to a rifle as a symbol of power?  Sadly, they may win on Tuesday, but if the GOP doesn’t learn to be more empathetic to groups other than rich white people, their days of power are numbered.

If there is any point to struggling in this world it is so that we may learn to be empathetic to the struggles of others.  Abbott is using his struggle to ascend to power, while ignoring the struggles of the less fortunate.  I find this cynical and vile.  Whether knowingly or not, Abbott is negating the meaning of his own struggle.  There is nothing worse in this world than suffering without meaning.  

Thoughts On The Walking Dead and Texas Politics

My allergies have been really bad the last few days, on top of other things, so I haven’t been as productive as usual.  Also, to create anything, be it a blog or a song, you need to take in a large amount of material.  Other than listening to records, which I never stop doing, about the most I have been able to concentrate on is watching The Walking Dead.  I am finally caught up with the newest episode.

Zombies have typically been used as metaphors for different political situations.  George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which takes place in a mall, has been seen as commenting on consumer culture.  I feel like because of the complexity of the storytelling, and the density of the imagery, the politics of The Walking Dead are complicated, and it can’t be simplified down to a left or right thing.  There are different scenes and story lines and images that feel like part of red and blue America.

One of the things I really like about it is the fact that the cast is racially diverse in a way that most mainstream entertainment is not.  I also feel that, for the most part, the characters are sufficiently complicated and are represented as human beings.  While the characters, such as Tyreese and Glen, are not stripped of racial characteristics, they are never defined by them either.

All art is political at some level.  Sometimes you just have to read between the lines.  Even pieces of work that are expressly non-political are political.  Things that are just escapism, which can perform the altruistic function of allowing you to disconnect from the stress of daily life, is essentially saying that everything is OK.   In not challenging the dominant narrative of society you are you are making a political statement by abstaining from the discourse.  Again, I do believe that escapist entertainment can have an altruistic purpose, but one shouldn’t say that it is non-political.

However, in the realm of escapism I think there are different levels of worth.  Some escapism champions materialistic values.  Something like American Idol is not only not asking you to not think about the real world, it is also full of the kind of shallow materialistic values that are a burden on our society.  A great deal of mainstream country and mainstream rap, whether singing about trucks or bling, communicate the message, that is hidden under the guise of fun, that you are what you own.

I do think that The Walking Dead, while being entertainment largely, manages to ask questions about human nature.  How far can people go and still retain their humanity?  Even though the killings in Episode 3 of Season 5 seemed to be justified, they were filmed in such a way that was meant to make the viewer feel uneasy.  In Season 4, especially, you see the damage that a society structured on violence starts to psychologically damage the children that grow up in it.  The show is still asking you to think even while it creates a narrative entertaining enough that it whisks you out of real life at the same time.  It is an interesting balancing act.

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Today I have also been doing some reading on the current political races in Texas.  If you want to see the definition of despicable, google Dan Patrick, who is running for lieutenant governor in Texas.  He is a former radio shock-jock that has now gone into politics.  If you are not from Texas, and want to learn about who this man is you can read the following article:

Man Who Believes God Speaks to Us Through “Duck Dynasty”

If you are in Texas, then I hope very much you will do whatever you can in your power to make sure this man loses the election.  Even Rick Perry looks respectable next to this moron, and that is saying something.

Abbott Has Voter Information Destroyed

Greg Abbott Has Voter Information Destroyed

In Texas Greg Abbott, candidate for governor, has a history of trying to suppress the vote.  In the above article from Dallas News Abbott, while he was Attorney General, had an organization that was trying to register people to vote raided and then, after the charges were dropped, had the raided materials destroyed.  This is a prime example of how low the Republicans will go to suppress the vote.