Maybe it’s the beard, maybe it’s the globe trotting ways that he has adopted over the past few years, maybe it’s the mercurial way in which his last band, Lift to Experience from Denton, stormed onto the scene a decade ago, but then popped out of it so quickly. Maybe it’s the beard (I know I’ve mentioned that one already, but I really think that has something to do with it.) 

Regardless of the actual reason, Josh T. Pearson has developed quite the mystique around himself, whether he realizes it, or not, or even if he cares, or not.

Pearson, who is now living primarily in Europe, is absolutely back into the musical spotlight, thanks to his fine new album, Last of the Country Gentlemen. Among the many compelling factors at play with this release is how sonically opposite these slow folk tunes are from his reverb-heavy and wall-rattling sounds of the shoegaze-y Lift to Experience. Adding to the about-face overall sound is the religious imagery and lyrical themes that are simply, well, confounding. Titles such as “Thou Art Loosed,” “Woman, I’ve Rasied Hell,” and especially, “Sweetheart, I Aint Your Christ” really seem to let the listener behind the door of what Pearson has experienced in the past few years, but still, the tales are quietly epic and never reach a melancholy, self-indulgent tone.

Who knows if Pearson will ever return to the eardrum-splitting tones of his earlier band, but it’s not like this rather somber album doesnt speak volumes on it’s own, either.

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.

Some loyal readers may remember that we hit last year’s edition of South By Southwest in Austin. Fun was had, cans of Lone Star were drained and music revelry was had in a very serious dose. This year, we’re only making the trip for some of the laid-back Day Party good times over the weekend of march 19th.

Let’s face it: For those living outside of Austin and working outside of the musical realm, it can be tough to make it down for multiple days of uninhibited, song-driven debauchery. That’s why it’s a good thing you are reading this, because below is a listing of some of the best, free parties that are going on in Austin on March 19th.

The Nine Bullets.net Day Party: For the second year, one of the internet’s best musical blogs will be making the trip from Florida to host not one, but two days worth of festivities. The first one is Friday, but on Saturday, you can catch Two Cow Garage, Glossary and several other cow-punk greats at the Revolution Bar.

Twangfest at Jovita’s: When SXSW rolls around, there are only two legitimate culinary companions to the music being heard and the beers being had: BBQ and/or Tex-Mex. Thankfully, that is capably covered with this party. Two stages and insane acts. The Waco Brothers, Kasey Anderson and Freedy Johnston are but a few of the acts that will be present, and again, FREE!

Brooklyn Country Cookout: Taking the “cookout” theme literally, this find collection of twangy bands from both Texas and New York will be held in an actual private yard, just off of South Congress St. It’s open to the public however. Bands in both the front and back yard will make for some frantic fence-jumping, don’t you think?

Mess With Texas 2011: Taking the “Day Party” idea and stretching it into the night-time for those who aren’t rocking SXSW badges or wristbands is the annual Mess With Texas party. Taking place this year at the Eastside Drive-In, off of 6th and San Marcos St., this all-day line-up is kind of insane, especially for free. Headlined by punk legends The Dead Milkmen, there are plenty of buzzed-about and out of starters supporting the bill. Deer Tick, the Dodos, Esben the Witch, Surfer Blood and many more ensure that this will be the most indie-riffic day party all week.

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.

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.

The 5th Annual HAAM Benefit Day, held on Tuesday, September 21, brought in the largest amount of funds ever raised for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, its member-musicians and the healthcare service programs they participate in: $195,000, the organization reported today.

It was a record-breaking day all around, with the largest number of Austin area businesses making a donation or pledging a portion of the day’s proceeds — more than 200 — and the most musical performances (more than 140) heard on any HAAM Benefit Day.

“We at HAAM are incredibly pleased with the response to the fifth HAAM Benefit Day,” said Keith Carmichael, HAAM Benefit Day 2010 Committee chairman. “The number of businesses and the number of entertainers participating — not to mention the amount of funds raised, the largest ever — shows us how much this city and the people in it appreciate live music and what this organization is doing to make sure it flourishes.”

In addition to acknowledging Whole Foods Market for its generosity in serving for five consecutive years as HAAM Benefit Day presenting sponsor, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians is grateful for the tens of thousands of dollars donated not only by Whole Foods Market but also by C3 Presents and South by Southwest over the years of HAAM Benefit Day.

It also recognizes Texas Heritage Songwriters Association for its donation that matched the contribution of the Austin community as a whole on September 21 as residents ate out, shopped and donated on behalf of their favorite music-makers.

Health Alliance for Austin Musicians also announced today the date for the 6th Annual HAAM Benefit Day: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, when business, the music community and residents will again unite to keep music alive and well in Austin.

Health Alliance for Austin Musicians provides access to affordable healthcare services to Austin’s low-income, uninsured working musicians with a focus on prevention and wellness. Since HAAM’s 2005 start, more than 2,200 of the city’s battalion of hard-working musicians have joined and gained access to regular, cost-effective healthcare services. Medical, dental, mental, hearing and vision health services are provided by Seton Family of Hospitals, St. David’s Foundation, The SIMS Foundation, Estes Audiology and Prevent Blindness Texas. HAAM’s annual Corporate Battle of the Bands and HAAM Benefit Day have become signature events behind a great cause: maintaining the health of the musicians who help make Austin such an enviable place to live and work.

For more information, to join or to make a donation, visit HAAM online.