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Austin360 On The Record: Joe King Carrasco, James Steinle, Scott H. Biram, more

Joe King Carrasco's new album is titled "Mariachi Blues."

Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.

NEW RELEASE

Joe King Carrasco y Colectivo Chihuahua, “Mariachi Blues” (Anaconda). The latest from the onetime nuevo-wavo MTV star is his first album since 2015’s “Chiliando,” and it’s an intriguing change of pace. There’s less Tex-Mex synthesis here, and more straight-ahead bluesy, guitar-based rock & roll. Recorded at studios in France, Mexico and Central Texas, “Mariachi Blues” features Carrasco on guitar, bass and keyboards, with engineer Luis Murillo on drums and percussion throughout. Carrasco co-produced with Murillo and Rick Del Castillo, who handled bass and keyboards on a couple of tracks.

Highlights include the deep blues groover “Dallas (Seen the Last of Me)”; the rhythmic reggae accents of “John Dillinger”; the sociopolitical overtones of the pre-release single “King King”; the 1970s-Latin-rock tones of the title track and “Jesus Malverde”; and the cool Los Lobos-styled blues-rock album closer “Watch My Smoke.”

Many 21st-century Austinites might not be aware that Carrasco was big enough in the early 1980s to have scored a musical guest slot on “Saturday Night Live.” Those days are gone, but Carrasco, now 67, deserves his due: He’s still turning out quality new music that’s quintessentially Austin-centric. 

RECENTLY RELEASED

James Steinle, “Cold German Mornings” (Shotgun House). Steinle’s third release of 2020 (following February’s “What I Came Here For” and March’s “The Man From the Mountain”) features a dozen songs that significantly broaden the Americana focus of his previous work by delving into his family’s German heritage. Raised mainly in South Texas, Steinle also lived in both Germany and Saudi Arabia for a stretch of his youth.

He draws upon the former’s culture on “Cold German Mornings,” occasionally spiking his rootsy country-folk with jazzy accent overtones; it’s notable that the small handful of contributing musicians include a clarinetist (Jordan Kiener) as well as a pedal steel guitarist (Sam Kossler). Most of the instrumental support comes from producer Scott Davis, formerly with Band of Heathens, whose drummer Richard Millsap also appears here. Backing vocals by Juliet McConkey add emotional weight on several tunes, most notably the piano waltz “Drunken Moon.”

Lyrically, the album mixes Texas and German cultures, with song titles such as “Ein Schnapps, Ein Beer” plus a ballad about the Lusitania, a British ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat in World War I. The only actual German language on the record comes on the bilingual closing track, “Steinle Jamboree,” a joyous recollection of family festivities in Deutschland. 

Scott Biram, “Fever Dreams” (Bloodshot). A surprise late-November release from the Austin folk-blues-punk mainstay, “Fever Dreams” was recorded over the past couple of years at Biram’s home studio. The music is dark and emotional throughout, ranging from evocatively spare arrangements to countrified rambles to down-and-dirty rockers. Lyrically, Biram traverses territory that, according to press materials accompanying the album, covers “road-worn renegades to motel room wanderers, drunken demons to haunted-hearted soul-searchers. These are stories of human suffering and revelry that portray the best of us, and in turn, the worst of us.” Of special note are a couple of tracks featuring Texas roadhouse rocker Jesse Dayton, and a moving cover of Townes Van Zandt's "The Highway Kind." 

Michael Zapruder, “Latecomers.” Zapruder relocated to Austin from the Bay Area a few years ago for graduate school at the University of Texas, all the while working on the material that eventually became this eight-song release. “Latecomers” is a singer-songwriter album at its core, but a remarkably creative and sophisticated one, both musically and lyrically. On his Bandcamp page, Zapruder writes that the album “delves inward to domestic intimacy and outward to the wasteland of modern American life.” His backing musicians include members of Tune-Yards, Father John Misty and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Recording was done mostly in the Bay Area, with later work at Austin’s Public Hi-Fi and Small Room studios.

ARCHIVAL RELEASE

Christopher Cross, “The Complete Works.” Cross’s 40th-anniversary tour for his Grammy-winning first album got scuttled by the pandemic, but here’s another look back at his career — not just that spectacular debut, but all the records which followed. “The Complete Works,” available only through Cross’s website, is limited (just 1,000 copies, all signed) and pricey ($400), but it looks impressive, with CDs of all 12 of his albums and a bonus disc of rarities, plus a pink vinyl disc featuring one song from each album as selected by Cross. (To end the suspense: “Sailing” got the nod from his debut.) Gary Dorsey of Austin’s Pixel Peach studio designed the artwork-intensive packaging. 

COMING SOON

JAN. 8: Various artists, “The Years: A MusicFest Tribute to Cody Canada & The Music of Cross Canadian Ragweed”

JAN. 15: William Harries Graham, “St. Claire” EP

FEB. 5: Curtis McMurtry, “Toothless Messiah”

FEB. 5: Sun June, “Somewhere” (Run for Cover)

FEB. 12: Cari Hutson, “Salvation & Soul Restoration” EP

FEB. 19: Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “Hunter & the Dog Star” (Thirty Tigers)

FEB. 26: Willie Nelson, "That's Life" (Legacy)

APRIL 2: Zach Person, self-titled.