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Austin360 On The Record: Curtis McMurtry, Sun June, Black Pistol Fire, more

Curtis McMurtry's new album is titled "Toothless Messiah."

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

OUT THIS WEEK

Curtis McMurtry, “Toothless Messiah.” McMurtry’s first full-length release in four years begins with a spoken-word track titled “1/27/17,” a clear sign that he’s writing at least partly about the past four years of the American condition. “Toothless Messiah” arrives just a couple of weeks after the end of the Trump presidency. What unfolds after the stark and brief spoken-word first track is a record that explores “different perspectives on the same situation,” McMurtry tells us in our Austin360 Artist of the Month feature for February. “Some people want to resist, some people want to go along with it, some people want to run, and some people want to keep their heads down and pretend nothing's happening.” In track two, “Food on the Table,” the narrator asks: “Why should we fight if we can still run and hide?” The chorus of “You Need Me to Betray You” captures a character who’s less fearful and more skeptical: “My teachers taught me not to trust my teachers.” Then there’s “The Cavalry Is Here,” which immediately dashes the optimism of its title in the song’s second line: “But they have already surrendered.” Much of the music revolves around interaction between McMurtry’s banjo and the cello playing of Diana Burgess, a member of classical-indie crossover band Mother Falcon. Others who help to flesh out the noir-ish, often theatrical sonic template of “Toothless Messiah” include ace percussionist Mike Meadows; pedal steel player Evan Kaspar, who recorded and mixed the album at Austin studio Estuary; bassist Taylor Turner, who’s been playing with McMurtry since their high school years; and horn players Daniel Fears, Roy Thomas, Sterling Steffen and Nathan Calzada. Here’s the track “Praise Caesar”:

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Sun June, “Somewhere” (Run for Cover). Formed after singer-keyboardist Laura Colwell and guitarist Stephen Salisbury met on the set of Terrence Malick’s 2017 film “Song to Song,” Sun June also features lead guitarist Michael Bain, bassist Justin Harris and drummer Sarah Schultz. “Somewhere,” which follows their 2018 full-length debut “Years” and the 2019 EP “Younger,” pulls in elements of indie-folk and dream-pop to create an enchanting and richly melodic sound. Local producer Danny Reisch recorded the album at his Good Danny’s studio. Here’s the track “Bad Girl”:

Scott Ballew, “Talking to Mountains.” A native Austinite who spent time doing film work in Southern California, Ballew recently directed a documentary about renowned Texas songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen. Recorded at a house in Lockhart, “Talking to Mountains” features 11 original tracks that are based in the Texas singer-songwriter tradition but are steeped in a lonely lo-fi vibe. Here’s the title track:

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Parker Woodland, “The World’s on Fire (and We Still Fall in Love”) EP. If you’ve driven past the intersection of Parker and Woodland streets in near-south Austin, you’ve seen the origin point of this propulsive indie-rock trio, whose members all lived nearby when they started jamming together. Bassist Erin Walter, who’s occasionally written freelance articles for the American-Statesman, teamed with guitarist Dan McMonigle and drummer Ralph Cutler on this four-song debut recorded with producer Jonas Wilson at his Pink Room studio. Here’s the title track:

Kevin McKeown of Black Pistol Fire performs in concert on Oct. 11, 2019, during week two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park.

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RECENTLY RELEASED

Black Pistol Fire, “Look Alive” (Black Hill). The sixth album from Canadian transplants Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen was a long time coming, delayed like many other releases by the pandemic after the duo had begun releasing its singles in 2019. They played the Austin City Limits Music Festival that year, riding a wave that had been building since 2017’s “Deadbeat Graffiti” and the previous year’s “Hush or Howl.” Their new album extends the down-and-dirty blues-garage-rock sensibility they established on those records. Guitarist and songwriter McKeown co-produced “Look Alive” with Jacob Sciba (renowned for his work with Gary Clark Jr.), Nick Joswick and Vance Powell. Here’s the lyric video for the track “Hope in Hell”:

Anna Larson, “Cocoon.” The local singer-songwriter calls her new release a “visual EP time capsule: seven original songs with a short film, found sound and archival footage, captured and created by me at home during 2020.” Larson worked with drummer Mikey Best and engineer Britton Beisenherz of local studio Ramble Creek to finish production of these seven songs after she recorded vocal, piano, acoustic guitar, vibraphone and sound effects in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. She’ll release a video for each song every Thursday through March 25 via streams from her Facebook page. Those who buy the record via Larson's Bandcamp page receive the full-length visual version as well. Here’s the lyric video for the opening track, “American Dream”:

ARCHIVAL RELEASE

Uncle Walt’s Band, “Recorded Live at Waterloo Ice House” (Omnivore). The beloved 1970s-’80s Austin trio that featured the late Walter Hyatt and Champ Hood plus country hitmaker-to-be David Ball has been the source of two recent reissues plus an anthology. Now comes this collection of early-1980s live recordings from a long-gone Congress Avenue hot spot. “Recorded Live” got limited vinyl release on the band’s own label in 1982, but it appears on CD for the first time here, with seven tracks added from the original album. (Full disclosure: I contributed liner notes to the reissue.) Here’s “Honest Papas Love Their Mamas Better,” shot live at the venue:

COMING SOON

FEB. 12: Paul Leary, “Born Stupid” (Shimmy Disc/Joyful Noise)

FEB. 12: Beth Lee, “Waiting on You Tonight”

FEB. 12: Los Sundowns, self-titled (Lechehouse/Fatbeats)

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

FEB. 16: Deezie Brown & Jake Lloyd, “Ghetto Gala” EP

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

FEB. 19: Geoff Bradford, “Texas Psychedelic” EP

FEB. 19: Mobley, “Young & Dying in the Occident Supreme” EP

FEB. 22: Riders Against the Storm, “Flowers for the Living”

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

FEB. 26: These Fine Moments, “Season 10”

MARCH 12: Blue Water Highway, “Paper Airplanes”

MARCH 19: Nuevo, self-titled (Nine Mile)

MARCH 24: Leti Garza, “Borderland” EP

APRIL 2: Zach Person, self-titled (Blackdenim).

APRIL 9: Balmorhea, “The Wind” (Deutsche Grammophon)

OTHER RECENT AUSTIN360 ON THE RECORD ROUNDUPS:

JAN. 29:Erin Ivey, Watters

JAN. 22:Singles spotlight with Dayglow, Pat Byrne, Balmorhea, more

JAN. 15:Hardened and Tempered, William Harries Graham, more

Parker Woodland's debut EP is titled "The World’s on Fire (and We Still Fall in Love)."