Jean Caffeine’s CD Release Party – Roadhouse Rags (Austin, TX 9/4/11)
by Kimberly Caterino for Live Music Capital Radio
I don’t know if it can get more South Austin than this. I attended Jean Caffeine’s CD release party at Roadhouse Rags, a shop that by day offers men’s vintage western shirts, cowboy boots, women’s party wear, and vintage sleepwear. By night Roadhouse Rags can turn into a backyard venue and/or recording studio. There’s a wooden covered stage with a crafty blackboard behind it—and a hand-drawn poster of Doug Sahm.
Jean recently released her 4th solo album, and in addition to celebrating the release of Geckos in the Elevator, we were also celebrating the first Austin evening, in several weeks’ time, under 100 degrees. Sitting in one of the many lawn chairs amidst the many BYOB coolers, I was perfectly comfortable to settle my feet in the gravelly dust and take in the changing sunset sky.
Jean opened her set with the first tune on Geckos, “Lucky Penny”, reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s anthem “Rock and Roll”— different rhythm, but similar swagger and attitude. The song works perfectly as both a set and CD opener, because although Jean has musical roots in a few different genres (folk, pop, indie, honky tonk—a self-proclaimed “huge Buck Owens fan and honky-tonk-wanna-be”), “Lucky Penny” is a declaration that this musician is a rootsy rocker with an ear-catching alto voice. Backing up Jean was Ned Dogherty (Mushroom) on bass, John Kovach (Eggmen) and Paul Martinez (Chelle Murrey band) on guitars, and Rob Gaines on drums.
Jean’s songwriting has the charm of pure authenticity— part poetry, part politics, and part quirky insights and details of life—you never quite know where the lyrics, or story, will turn next. Geckos is what she calls a collection of “travel logs and girls names”. We heard a handful from the new release, appropriately: including “Hey Austin”, a song she wrote upon moving away from Austin to the Great White North (Dundas, Ontario) a few years ago, “Sadie Saturday Night”, one teenager’s weekend adventures pursuing punk rock– yet the song is musically structured as a waltz, and “Mary O’Shea”, an urban legend ghost story that has the flair of a slightly Celtic rock ballad.
Some of my favorites (also from the new CD) are “Jane Rearranged”, a self-conscious and sweet, pop-rock nod to Suzanne Vega’s “Luka”, and the psychedelic nod to The Doors in “Love Letters from Laos”. Local songwriter Chelle Murrey stepped up to join Jean in singing another of my favorites, “Baby I’m Wrong”, the chorus of which has the backup vocal style from 1950’s rock. Jean also lashed out with one cover: “Rock, Salt, and Nails” by Joan Baez but also covered by Utah Philips.
Jean’s an original songwriter who smoothly draws from different artists and genres—her recent release hints of coffee-shop intellect, but more enjoyably marches forth with the poetry of an artist who belongs here in Austin– we’re so glad to have her back! And this just in: you can catch Jean Caffeine and Friends at the Front Porch (patio) at Jovita’s the first and third Saturdays over the next few months – if you missed the CD release, you can still see her in the South Austin in a folksy, scaled-down atmosphere. Cheers!