These days, there are a good many websites that aim to go beyond the normal boundaries of the standard, mp3 sharing music blog. Popular sites like Daytrotter and HearYa.com are both great examples of sites that find unique ways to create art based upon the musicians they are covering. There’s a close-to-home site on the scene and it covers predominantly Texas-based acts (Sarah Jaffe, Doug Burr) with the occasional national act (Waters, Pterodactyl) thrown in for good measure. Denton based Violitionist.com (aka The Violitionist Sessions) has been great about picking some great acts and getting some great performances out of them. Who can go wrong with getting some (Texas-based act of the year?) True Widow on film?

It would be a sin for us to keep from making sure that you all know about this weekend’s celebration of north Texas’ best music. The 22nd edition of the Dallas Observer Music Awards are nigh upon us, and a few years ago, that meant a pretty nifty awards ceremony and a great special issue of the free alt-weekly would be awaiting us. But now, so much more is meant when the time for these awards roll around.

For the last few years, a massive majority of the nominated acts get together and jam within a few blocks of each other. Last year, the showcase was held in the historic Deep Ellum district. While there were 50 or so bands playing in several clubs, the highlight was the positively communal vibe that a bustling night of music fostered.

This year, Deep Ellum will once again hold the showcase and a main stage line-up will join the festivities. It’s tough to think of a more appropriate bill for a main stage at a festival full of Dallas, Denton and Ft. Worth’s finest acts. The Toadies, The Old 97s, Centro-matic and Sarah Jaffe will ring in the night that will see nominated bands rocking until 2 am.

Of course, it would also be sinister to forget about the awards show itself, now wouldn’t it? On Tuesday, the 18th at the House of Blues in Dallas, Erykah Badu will headline the festivities as the best of the regions music stars are revealed.

I hope you checked out the video above already. If not, go ahead and do it now. You probably won’t even need to read anything below this once you have. It’s a great film made of footage from a CD release show featuring one of the state’s great rising talents. Jessie Frye.

The quality of female talent that has been gracing the stages of North texas in recent years continues to grow. Not that it’s even been a wasteland for the fairer sex, musically speaking. It’s just that people beyond our state’s borders are taking notice too.

Sarah Jaffe and former Dallasite Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) are easily the most notable names to be bandied about these days. But one would be missing a ton if they were to forget about Amber Farris (the powerfully doulful lead singer of Somebody’s Darling) and relative newcomer Madison King, who might be the indie-heir to Miranda Lambert’s tough, Texas country throne.

While the list could continue for a while, for now, we’ll stop with Denton’s Jessie Frye. Having just released her second EP, Fireworks Child, Frye’s sweet voice seems to suit any style, but especially the eclectic indie-pop that her and super-producer John Congleton have dreamed up for this release. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Congleton has produced the much-lauded recent works of two ladies we previously mentioned, St. Vincent and Sarah Jaffe. Either way, the EP is a pleasing listen that impresses with each track.

Male or female, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the way in which you’ll find yourself either leaving the disc in your CD player, or how you’ll likely be smashing the repeat button time after time, once the record ends.

For years now, Centro-matic, a band that began in Denton well over a decade ago, has been known as a prolific group that has risen to a rather lofty status in the world of American Indie-rock. Led by Will Johnson, now an Austinite, the band hasn’t yet put out a record that one would consider anything less than stellar.

The band members themselves are highly sought after when it comes to contributing their individual talents to other’s projects, even. Johnson was the touring drummer for the massive Monsters of Folk project, and he also played guitar on Patterson Hood’s (Drive by Truckers) last solo album. Of course, that’s aside from his many producing projects. Drummer and sound engineer extraordinaire Matt Pence has toured with Jason Isbell while multi-instrumentalist Scott Danbom has played with Slobberbone and Sarah Jaffe. See? In-demand!

Their new album, Candidate Waltz, has reawakened many to the greatness of this band and has already began earning more than its fair share of rave reviews and predictions of the album finding its way onto a solid amount of year-end-best-of lists (Hint: There’s no way it’ll avoid landing on this blog’s list of 2011′s Best Texas Albums. Not a chance).

Enough of me blabbing. Since it’s always nice to see fellow Lone Star dwellers win praise from outside of our own borders, I’ll just let you see for yourself, OK?





So, there. Centro-matic might be a band from our state, but it’s clear that their appeal lies beyond the Red River. Still not sure? Check out the tour schedule for the guys. There aren’t many corners of the great 48 they wont be hitting soon, if not later…

For us in the Dallas area, this past Saturday presented a few options for National Record Store Day festivities, but for anyone really looking to make a party of it, or to make a neighborhood event out of their day, Good Records on  lower Greenville Ave was the only real option. With an in-store performance line-up including Denton buzz-queen Sarah Jaffe and also her buds from the north, Midlake (who would be backing up Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle), it was little wonder that the aisles were so packed. Below is a few pics from the event that I enjoyed with my son, this past Saturday…

We showed up with a list of special releases we couldnt wait to get our hands on, but by 11am, pretty much all of our top choices were gone, except for this limited edition Foo Fighters LP, which my son wanted, you know, "cuz it's got a steak on it."

Denton's darling, Sarah Jaffe sounded great. By this point in time, however, it was hard to tell which group was larger inside of the store: the people specifically watching Jaffe or the people in-line to purchase albums. I suppose many were doing both, too. It was nice to see the early sets of the day be as attractive as this day's were.

See what I mean? PACKED! It's of little wonder that the special 7-inch singles from Husker Du, Built To Spill, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, or the others that were on my list were no longer available. This pic was taken around noon. Word has it that eager vinyl-lovers started lining up at the store's doors around 5:30am! Note to self for next year: Man up and get there early next year. Record Store Day is the new Black Friday.

For the last two years, the festival/conference/musical extravaganza in Denton, the week before SXSW, has been known as NX35, but that has changed, presumably for legal reasons and trademark issues or whatever. What hasn’t changed is the quality of talent that will make a point to swing by Denton’s walkable square before they go to Austin. Check that – that has changed, also, but in the sense that the talent pool is deeper this year than even the last two years where a full four days of awesome talent has been had.

In 2009, the main knock on the line-up was how many Denton acts seemed to be featured. For some (not me), the four day “conferette” seemed to be little more than a mashing together of a months worth of shows that would’ve occurred in the college-town to begin with, rather than a legitimate national showcase for the so-called “little d.” Those concerns were certainly addressed last year with the Flaming Lips and others, like Health, Carrie Rodriguez and The Walkmen taking NX35 stages.

That brings us to this year’s insane line-up. Big Boi, Local Natives, Mavis Staples, Dr. Dog, !!!, Gayngs and Dan Deacon are but a few of the names that have been among the bigger names in music over the last couple of years, for those paying attention, of course, that will be rocking the crowds this year. Up and comers The Civil Wars, A Place to Bury Strangers, O’ Death and Jessica Lee Mayfield add diversity and intrigue to the mix, along with the local and regional talent. As for the locals, most notably Sarah Jaffe and Slobberbone, thank you very much, there are still plenty, but they’re more evenly mixed in with the names that will likely bring in folks who might not make a point to hit the local shows as often.

I’m going to be there, no doubt about it. The line-up and schedule (not the times, but the dates of when the bands will perform) have been released, so do what you got to do to get there!

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly.

Way too often, music fans and writers confuse hazy for lazy, when it comes to describing the sonic texture of a record. An album can be sleepy without being stagnant, and indeed, a record can produce an atmospheric haze without coming across as lazy. In fact, properly pulling off such a feat requires a focus and a specific vision that is anything but loose and cavalier.

Todd Gatreau’s project, Crushed Stars, is a great example of the above equation. The Smiths-meets-Mark Kozelek vibe of his latest album, Convalescing in Braille, further establishes the sonic signature that has been honed over the course of several albums since the group’s inception in 2005. Crushed Stars have been successful in getting the word out, over the past few years. Along with appearances at the all-encompassing SXSW and CMJ festivals, many radio stations have added songs from their catalog to their playlists. Recently, their genius cover of the campy 1980′s classic, “99 Red Balloons,” made noise on airwaves outside of North Texas.

Having worked with an impressive group of producers including Stuart Sikes (White Stripes, Cat Power) and North Texas native John Congleton (Walkmen, St. Vincent, Sarah Jaffe), calling Crushed Stars a band might be a bit of a stretch, given that for this latest album, Gautreau played all of the instruments himself, with drums bing the lone exception. In this instance, it seems as the dedicated multi-tasking paid off, as the album flows evenly and effortlessly. Even with numbers like “Technicolor” and “Spark” boasting a bit more percussive pounding and quickened pace than many of the other softer tunes, the collection’s moody cohesion is never disturbed.

While we’re always a bit reluctant to quote anything from Pitchfork, we’d be lying if we said that they didn’t sum up our general feelings as it pertains to the work of Gautreau when they reported that Crushed Stars music makes “you wish it were night all day long.”

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

Can this "unofficial release" from the Toadies make it into the Top Albums list for our state in 2010?

Don’t look now, everyone, but it’s really freaking close to becoming 2011. One way to know that the calendar will soon be turning is the slow cropping end-of-year lists that have been showing themselves in recent days and weeks.

Some become annoyed with such lists after reading a couple, but me on the other hand, I get downright ravenous. I’ll admit to getting a massive kick out of seeing what other bloggers, writers and publications – ones I trust and ones I don’t so much – have to say about the year in music as they see it and if it matches up with my views in any way, shape or form.

I’ll go ahead and admit it: The title to this post is a bit misleading. Sorry. I’m not actually going to divulge my final list of the best this state has produced musically in 2010. I’m sure you’re all waiting anxiously, however (or not!).

Honestly, I don’t have a problem disclosing a few records that I feel certain will make my list of this year’s best Texas records. I don’t see any need to be so secretive, so I wont. However, for those keeping score at home, please know that this is a random, thinking-out-loud kind of deal here, and nothing definitive. If anything, I hope that this post might direct a few of you to some bands or records that you might have missed earlier. Don’t worry, though. I’m entirely too narcissistic to let the year go by without presenting a more formal listing of what I feel are this years best records, so keep an eye out!

A few of the records that come to mind are ones that I’ve discussed in some form, here on The Squawker, even. The recently discussed Thrift Store Cowboys Light-Fighter album, along with the new Possessed By Paul James record and Austin’s American Graveyard are some rootsy acts that should find their way onto plenty of year end lists.

For records that don’t fit into the country realm; Sarah Jaffe’s much celebrated album, fellow North Texas folk artist Doug Burr’s gorgeous O Ye Devastator and the metal-riffic shredding of The Sword and their excellent album, Warp Riders, will also surely cause a cyber-stir come the end of the year.

Oh, by the way, a few Lone Star heavyweights also released albums that were beyond solid: Austin Kingpin Alejandro Escovedo, The Old 97′s and even The Toadies produced records that absolutely stood out.

So, the end of the year should be good for more than mistletoe-induced desperation and turkey-intensive nightmares, no?

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

For those that live in the North Eastern region of our great state, there is a solid chance that you are familiar with Denton’s Sarah Jaffe. For those of you who find yourselves living in other environs, you’re going to be hearing a lot about her real soon.

With the physical release of her Kirtland Records debut, Suburban Nature, nigh upon us (May 18th), Jaffe is poised to make an indelible mark on not only the music scene of her hometown, but that of the entire country. Positive buzz from national outlets, as well as appearances on some considerable stages have helped spread the word.

After releasing a well-recieved E.P. a couple of years back, Jaffe says, “I was playing with all the same players I play with live, so I wanted to stay true to what I do in a live setting. I knew what direction I wanted to steer and to bring more layers in this time. The E.P. was kind of a minimal, very raw introduction.”

Given the fact that Jaffe has been writing and performing for several years now, it’s no surprise to learn that she had plenty of material ready to be placed onto a full length record. “I’ve never written for a specific record. They’re mainly just songs i’ve written over the span of five years ago to even two years ago. Ironically, when the songs come together, they actually kind of tell a story.”

As with the bounty of musicians in the Dallas/Denton area, there seem to be many capable producers as well. One such person who has made quite the name for himself as both a musician and a producer, is John Congleton. “John Congleton is amazing at what he does. He’s very good at letting me get an idea out there and experimenting and letting me move about the room, and he’s also very good at directing – doing what a producer is supposed to do.” says Jaffe.

Letting Jaffe do her thing has not only aided in creating a supremely produced album, but it has also produced a very personal and transparent collection of self-penned tunes that are ripped straight from the joy and pain of her own memories. Jaffe, with perhaps a bit of blushing, admits that, “I’ve always wanted to be one of those writers that can just make up something elaborate in my own head. Unfortunately, I’m kind of a self-centered writer where I have to write from my own experience. I exaggerate some of the emotions, but fortunately or unfortunately, they’re all first hand accounts.”

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

Earlier in the week, I showed you fine folks a few pics from my trip to this year’s SXSW Music Conference. As I said then, I really only grabbed pictures from my adventures on Thursday. After starting the day at the New West Records party for some Buddy Miller, among others, I caught a few other great acts like Sarah Jaffe at some cool venues like Red Eyed Fly. Below are some more pictures and thoughts on how I ended my SXSW Thursday…

Hey, how else would I wash down some Frito Pie from Stubb's BBQ as I awaited the evening's sets to begin, but with a cold Lone Star? Robert Francis from L.A. came on shortly after this and really impressed with his straight-forward brand of good ol' American rock.

Canada's Besnard Lakes simply tore the place up with their epic brand of anthemic rock. Just before their set began, an older gentleman with a Canadian accent asked me, "Who are these guys coming on next?". After I told him, he started laughing and explained to me that he was the uncle of The Besnard Lakes' lead singer and I passed the test he had given me. Those wily neighbors to the north.

Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas can't stop tearing it up...

Even though I have now seen Georgia's Drive by Truckers a few times, this set was special as it featured, almost exclusively, material from the just released "The Big To-Do", which is an album that just kicks you in the throat and then laughs at you for even thinking of wincing from the pain.

Kicking off their set a little after 11:00pm, Tim Bluhm, of San Francisco's The Mother Hips makes the shoddy stage on Encore's patio seem not as shoddy. Also mainly belting out tunes from an excellent recent release, the crowd ate up every last bit of the tunes from the Pacific Dust LP.

After, soaking in the greatness of The Mother Hips, I actually ended that night with a set from the heavy metal band, Solace, then did a bit of nameless showcase hopping, as I made my way back to the car in the wee hours of Thursday night/Friday morning.

Well, there you have it. I wish I was able to share photos from the rest of the time I spent at SXSW 2010, but that would require me to have a clue when it comes to various electronic-type items, and I just dont have that. Rest assured, many great sets were enjoyed and I’m sure that I’ll bring a few of those artists to your attention, soon enough.

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob