New Roky Erickson tribute record features Jeff Tweedy, Neko Case, Gary Clark Jr., more
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
“A Tribute to Roky Erickson: May the Circle Remain Unbroken” (Light in the Attic). When former Austinite Bill Bentley traveled to San Francisco to see Erickson perform in 2019 just a few weeks before Erickson’s death, he knew he had to assemble a second tribute album to his old friend. Bentley was a teenager in Houston when Erickson’s band, the 13th Floor Elevators, formed in the mid-1960s. The psychedelic songs Erickson wrote became a lifelong inspiration.
Bentley produced his first Roky tribute, “Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye,” in 1990 for Warner Bros. Records, where Bentley worked at the time. It was an impressive 19-song set, mixing big names such as ZZ Top and R.E.M. with lesser-known acts like Thin White Rope and the Judybats.
At 12 tracks, “May the Circle Be Unbroken” is a slightly less ambitious affair, with a more outsider/underground vibe. Star power comes from indie mainstays such as Neko Case and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, plus ZZ Top leader Billy Gibbons, the only artist to appear on both collections.
Released on Light in the Attic, a renowned reissue label based partly in Austin, “Circle” feels more underground than its comparatively flashier predecessor. That makes it perhaps a harder sell for a broad audience, but it may resonate more deeply with hardcore Erickson fans who appreciate the participants’ willingness to immerse themselves in Roky’s otherworldly realm.
Some of the artists pushed themselves out-of-character to the point that even their fans might not recognize them at first. On “(I’ve Got) Levitation,” Gibbons distorts his guitar to make it sound like Elevators cohort Tommy Hall’s electric jug, while his vocal is far more emotionally charged than his typical ZZ Top cool. And Lucinda Williams sounds downright possessed on “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” leaving Americana behind for wild-eyed garage-rock.
Williams’ track, delivered by Doug Sahm on the 1990 tribute, is one of three songs repeated from that first set. Adventurous Nashville country-rocker Margo Price is a great fit for “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog),” done by Sister Double Happiness on the “Pyramid” tribute. And Chelsea Wolfe gives an eerie, contemplative vibe to “If You Have Ghosts,” different from John Wesley Harding’s more rock-based take in 1990.
Austin acts had a significant presence on the first tribute (Sahm, Poi Dog Pondering, Lou Ann Barton, Butthole Surfers, Chris Thomas), and that’s true this time around too. Charlie Sexton teams with Kills/Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart on a spooky version of “Starry Eyes,” while psych-rockers the Black Angels pay their eternal debt to Erickson with a brilliantly atavistic “Don’t Fall Down.” And guitar star Gary Clark Jr. turns the lead vocals over to his childhood friend Eve Monsees on “Roller Coaster.”
Other contributions come from Lynn Castle and Mark Lanegan (“Clear Night”) and Ty Segall (“Night of the Vampire”). The biggest surprise, though, is the album-closing title track, a pedal steel-drenched benediction by Bentley’s son, Brogan Bentley, that washes away all the psychic damage of the previous 11 tracks, letting a flood of light and beauty stream in.
Waterloo Records will host an album-signing event at 4 p.m. July 18, with Sexton, Monsees, the Black Angels, Bentley and Light in the Attic’s Matt Sullivan. Here’s Margo Price’s rendition of “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)”:
Pocket FishRmen, “We Are Masters of These Levels” (Saustex). One of Austin’s longest-tenured bands (they formed in 1987), the FishRmen use both goofball humor and raging anger to get the messages of their old-school garage-punk song across. “Four and One Half Rolls” examines the inanity of hoarding toilet paper, while “I Believe the Woman” takes direct aim at controversial Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. On their Bandcamp page, they describe the track “Humans” thusly: “Dwarves, gnomes and elves live in harmony with the earth but humans do not, hence they are slated for destruction.” That’s par for the course with Pocket FishRmen. Release show Saturday, July 17, at Kick Butt Coffee. Here’s the track “Smash the Fascists”:
Midland, “The Last Resort” EP (Big Machine). The Grammy-nominated Dripping Springs country band released a live album just before the pandemic began, followed by a documentary-film soundtrack earlier this year, but these five songs are their first new studio cuts in two years. They’re right in the sweet spot of the richly melodic honky-tonk sound that has been the band’s calling card, further grounding them in territory that’s more traditional than mainstream country while also more commercial-radio-friendly than most Americana fare. Mark Wystrach’s lead vocals are particularly strong here; catch him this fall as an actor in the Searchlight Pictures film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Here’s the track “Sunrise Tells the Story”:
Danilo, “All I Want” EP. The five-song debut release from this Brazilian-born singer-songwriter who grew up in Austin highlights the impressively smooth and fluid tone of his voice, which reaches into falsetto range with natural ease. The music is primarily pop-leaning R&B; lyrically, Danilo focuses on uplifting themes. “I hoped to create an album that inspires people to let go of things that are heavy, to dance, respect themselves, and most importantly to love,” he says in press materials accompanying the EP. “All I Want” was recorded at local studios Folsur, Church House and Modern Electric with producer-engineers Jason Burt, Lang Freeman and Jacob Gonzales. Release show July 17 at Far Out Lounge. Here’s the track “Bringing It Back”:
Christine Renner, “Heartbreaker” EP. A 21-year-old native Austinite, Renner got started playing music earlier, as “Heartbreaker” is already her fourth release. Its indie-rock/pop songs benefit from the experienced production hand of Bubble Studios’ Chris “Frenchie” Smith, with multi-instrumentalist Einar Pedersen helping to flesh out the songs with contributions on drums, bass, keyboards and guitar. Renner’s sharp-cutting vocals are her most distinctive asset; she also plays electric guitar and keyboards. Release show July 17 at Empire Control Room. Here’s the track “Sweet”:
JULY 23: Robert Harrison, “Watching the Kid Come Back,” release show July 30 at 3Ten
JULY 23: Molly Burch, “Romantic Images” (Captured Tracks), playing Sept. 21 at Mohawk
JULY 23: Dallas Burrow, self-titled, release show July 23 at Sagebrush
JULY 30: Nobody’s Girl, self-titled (Lucky Hound), release show July 29 at Long Center Terrace
JULY 30: Paul Oakenfold, “Shine On”
JULY 30: Jesse Daniel, “Beyond These Walls”
AUG. 10: Mike & the Moonpies, “One to Grow On,” playing Oct. 2 at Gruene Hall
AUG. 13: Jade Bird, “Different Kinds of Light” (Glassnote)
AUG. 20: James McMurtry, “The Horses and the Hounds” (New West)
AUG. 20: Belle Sounds, “All About Love” EP, release show Aug. 20 at Captain Quackenbush's
AUG. 27: Shinyribs, “Late Night TV Gold,” release show Aug. 27 at Paramount Theatre
AUG. 27: Alejandro Escovedo, “La Cruzada”
AUG. 27: Blk Odyssy, “Blk Vintage,” playing Oct. 10 at ACL Fest
AUG. 27: Bob Schneider, “In a Room Full of Blood With a Sleeping Tiger”
AUG. 27: Altin Sencalar, “Reconnected” (Next Level), release show Aug. 27 at East Austin Piano Shop
AUG. 27: Suzanne Santo, “Yard Sale,” release show Aug. 26 at Antone’s
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