THROUGH THE LENS: X, Los Lobos, Asleep at the Wheel, and More Photos of the Week
David Hidalgo of Los Lobos - Photo by Peter Dervin
The ND photographers have caught some pretty sweet shows recently, and we have the proof this week. Most notable are the shots of three legendary bands: Los Lobos, X, and Asleep at the Wheel. Those bands also represent three very distinct sounds among the many that make up the wide world of roots music. We also get a last look for a while at a newer Americana band, The Black Lillies, who recently announced that after playing over 2,ooo shows in 11 years, they were going on a hiatus. A lot of us hope it is just a long vacation. (See ND’s Spotlight story on the Black Lillies here.)
C. Elliott caught the badass Elizabeth Cook. In addition to her considerable talent, Cook has played a significant role in the rise of Americana music. One can easily see her as the inspiration — the blueprint, even — for many young women who are taking back country music. Other ND photographers caught Kelly Hunt (ND recently reviewed her album), Jaime Wyatt, Nikki Hill, and Andrea von Kampen, all of whom are also in the midst of redefining their respective genres. And we’re also featuring some duos, who often don’t get the respect they deserve, this week.
As with many seminal bands, X’s influence was far greater than its mainstream popularity. Not that they weren’t popular within certain circles, and they garnered widespread critical acclaim; they just never attracted a wider audience. My take is that John Doe and Exene Cervenka were just too intelligent, and perhaps just not extreme enough, for the crowd that was drunk on punk.
Thematically, they were literary in nature, influenced more by Raymond Chandler than, say, The Sex Pistols. It’s as if they saw themselves as part of a larger whole, the deep well of Los Angeles’ underbelly. With their early ’80s albums they presaged alt-country. This became even more apparent on their 1985 side project, The Knitters’ Poor Little Critter on the Road. For the past dozen years or so, they’ve regularly played around the country. Peter Dervin recently captured the energy of one of their shows.
Demonstrating how vibrant the L.A. scene was in the early ’80s, Los Lobos mixed their Mexican roots music with just about everything, from the Tex-Mex that had gained popularity the decade before to zydeco, folk, and rock, and they made quite a splash with 1984’s How Will the Wolf Survive.
Unlike X, they have never disbanded and have released albums every few years, including 2019’s Llego Navidad, Christmas music from South and Central America. They are not just another band from East L.A. Peter caught a recent show, which featured some special guests.
Asleep at the Wheel
On the other side of the country, and of roots music as well, comes Asleep at the Wheel. Even though they’ve called Austin home for many years, in 1969 Ray Benson and Lucky Oceans (Reuben Gosfield) formed the band in Paw Paw, West Virginia.
While they have pretty much single-handedly kept Western swing alive, Benson has also brought others into the mix, such as The Dixie Chicks, Shawn Colvin, and Dwight Yoakam. By virtue of Willie Nelson, they were integral to the vibrant Austin scene of the 1970s. C. Elliott caught their Christmas show in Arizona in all its splendor.
Duos: Sugarcane Jane, Over the Rhine, and The Wild Ponies
The Wild Ponies, who usually hold fort on Friday nights at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge outside of Nashville, recently did a bit of touring in the East. Brenda Rosser caught them in Atlanta with special guest Rod Picott.
If there is a more joyous couple in Americana than Sugarcane Jane, then I have to see them. Photographer Larry John Fowler caught them in all their mischievous glory.
Over the Rhine is, of course, a neighborhood in Cincinnati, and it was pretty run down when I went to school there, but now it’s much more hip. And Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, whose duo is named for the neighborhood, is one of the hippest couples you’ll ever see on stage. I can’t think of another couple who seem to so completely inhabit their own separate worlds and yet bring them together in a way in which you don’t where one begins and the other ends. C. Elliott was there to capture the magic.
Now the gallery. Remember, individual photos can be enlarged by clicking on any image. Once any photo is enlarged, you may view them via a slideshow by clicking on the arrow, forward or backward.