A few follow-ups on last week’s visit to the Lone Star City:
The guest-appearance by Nashville’s Gwil Owen at Toni Price’s Tuesday Happy Hour was a nice note to go out on. Owen’s relationship to Price’s music is something akin to that of Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell’s biggest hits; he writes these masterfully crafted emotional songs, she knocks them outta the park. Been that way since her very first record, which included, among other things, the sublime ballad “Doubt If It Does To You”, which they performed in the encore last Tuesday.
(Here’s video of that song from last year at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, with longtime guitar sidekick Rich Brotherton, who was also up there with Toni and Gwil last week:)
“I’d-a wrote that one if I could,” Toni remarked after they finished playing the song last Tuesday. “I was thinkin’ about it.” More than that: She was feeling it…she was living it. And that’s the key to what clicks between Owen’s songs and Price’s voice; he has a way of putting into language the peaks and valleys of her heart — without even knowing that he’s doing it, sitting in a room several states away.
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One nice thing about the Continental’s Happy Hour shows is that there’s still plenty of time to catch something at another venue afterward if you’re so inclined, without even staying out all that late. The week prior, that became a first-ever (if long-overdue) visit to Donn’s Depot, an old train-depot/railroad-car venue just west of downtown that has been around for decades. For most of the ’70s it was known as McNeil Depot, and was briefly owned by the late Billy Cowsill, about whom Paul Cantin wrote an extended piece in our Spring 2009 bookazine published by University of Texas Press.
I’d spoken briefly by phone with present owner Donn Adelman last year about how he’d ended up taking over the place after Cowsill left, and finally had a chance to say hello to Donn in this visit, just before he and his band the Stationmasters took the stage. The depot is a unique room and well-suited for the relatively straightforward but quite enjoyable sets of mostly country music that Donn and his bandmates crank out, week after week, year after year. In an Austin that has changed dramatically over the decades, Donn’s is a reassuring holdout of the old guard; walk through those doors and you get the sense that not much has changed since the late ’70s, even as condo towers are sprouting up all around the Depot.
This past Tuesday post-Toni allowed time for a brief trek over to the Mohawk Lounge to see a young band called English Teeth, for which an old friend plays drums. (I’d been introduced to their singer earlier in the day when, in a quintessential Austin moment, that old friend and I were having coffee and he mentioned he was in a new band with — pause — “oh, THAT guy!”, he continued, the singer having just walked in to the coffee shop. Straight outta Slacker.) English Teeth might have something there, but probably has a ways to go; they could benefit from a little more melody and a little less noise, though the racket did remind me in a sort of comforting way of many late-’80s nights spent a few blocks down and around the corner at the old Cannibal Club.
Across the way on the walk back to the car, the crowd was beginning to filter out of Stubb’s where the Black Crowes had been holding court. Walking down Red River, headed toward Sixth, on a cool mid-autumn night, I thought of Michael Fracasso’s “Streets Of October”: “The streets of October were all spilling over with cold, dead leaves / How many lives have come and gone by these big oak trees….”
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Finally, a perfect little nugget of a conversation overheard in the men’s room of the Continental Club, on one of those Toni Tuesday shows:
Dude #1: “You started one of the first online music magazines in Austin, right? You were a pioneer!”
Dude #2: “Yeah, I lost a lot of money in that….”