Written by James Killen
Mar 11, 2012 at 02:00 PM
ImageI have had Sunday March 11th set aside for months in anticipation of what has proven to be one of the best music values of the Houston entertainment calendar year after year. I even dragged an old friend in from San Antonio, promising him a great show. When we woke up Sunday morning to some of the most extreme weather so far this year, I was hoping that I hadn’t over promised. We drove down to the Mucky Duck though blinding rain and a little hail and slipped through the pub into the tent, where volunteers were using push brooms and huge squeegees to push up the tent roof to drain where it was sagging under the pooling rain. The volunteers had to keep this up through most of the morning as if bailing water from a leaky boat. Throughout the dreary picture, the soundtrack had already started with the energetic vintage blues licks of the Leo Trio.

The Leo Trio is Leo Astin (guitar and vocals), Bella Adella (bass) and George Nunez (drums) and they play in the power trio style of Cream and the original Fleetwood Mac (with Peter Green). The Trio visited many classic favorites like “I Just Can’t Keep from Crying” and “It Hurts Me Too” along with several of their own original tunes. They even courageously redid Dylan’s often covered “All Along the Watchtower” to an Eastern European beat. The whole band kept up a high level of energy throughout the set, rocking the tent. The level of energy is especially amazing when you consider that Leo Astin is battling pancreatic cancer. Leo (originally from Great Britain) is facing this serious affliction with great courage and mentioned not a word of it during the show. He had produced a 30 minute open journal for KPFT on cancer and being proactive with it. It’s still available in the KPFT archives from March 8th at 9:30AM. There will be a benefit for Leo held at Rockefeller’s on March 25th from 2-7PM featuring the Leo Trio and some supportive friends. It would be a great opportunity to see this high energy blues act in great form.

Patrice Pike opened her set by announcing that the sun had just come out as they were leaving Austin and that they had come to Houston on Noah’s ark. Patrice has become a regular Wednesday evening performer at the Duck, delivering a quality pop/rock performance of her well honed tunes for a “pay what its worth” ticket price. She was accompanied by her highly animated bass player, Glenn McGregor, who is always guaranteed to entertain. The set list included the now familiar “What’s the Trouble with You”, “Jack Knife Girl”, “Swimming”, “Rufus” and “Chico”. She has such a great voice and writes such great tunes, could anyone ask for more? Well, many of us are looking forward to the next studio disc of new songs that she must be working on. We can’t wait, Patrice!

Sarah Hickman, 2010’s Texas State Musician, has somehow eluded me over the years that she has been performing and I have been hanging around music venues, but after this show, I’m a fan. She came on stage with an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a generous smile and a winning sense of humor. Her set list included her song “Shadowboxing” that had been covered by Edie Brickell and “I Know What it Means” which was inspired by a phrase scrawled inside the door of an airport bathroom stall. She also did a rousing version of an anthem for those of us in long relationships, called “Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?”, which ended in a very convincing vocalization of an orgasm. Sarah showed off her guitar talents on the rocking “Train Song” which featured some prominent sliding bar chords, before ending the set with “Kayaking”. Sarah Hickman will be back performing at the Duck on April 5th. Put it on your calendar if you haven’t seen her yet.

People say that good things come in small packages and in the case of Lisa Morales they would be correct. I haven’t seen Lisa since the suspension of the Sisters Morales Band’s activities and it becomes quickly apparent that she has been remaking herself and her band into her solo incarnation. Eddie Ferranti caught Michael Cornbread Traylor on the way to the stage and found out that the former Sisters’ bassist would be playing lead guitar for this gig. When Eddie asked him if this meant that the band would be headed in an edgier direction, Cornbread replied, “I don’t know what direction we’re headed in.” His reply is a great expression for the creativity that Lisa and the band are generating now. Last year they put out the critically acclaimed “Beautiful Mistake” that featured many great session musicians in addition to Morales and Traylor. The set for the day included a number of songs from that disc including the title track and “I Wanna Be in Love”. The performance certainly had an edge, sometimes reminding me of old Buffalo Springfield or ZZ Top, but most often of their own unique sound. Lisa debuted not one, but two new songs in the performance titled “No Other Kiss Quite Like This” and “Rubies in the Dust”. Lisa will be one to watch in the months coming up as she seems to be just catching fire.

Marley’s Ghost put the volunteer soundman to work as they took over the stage having six band members with instruments ranging from the pedal steel guitar to the bagpipes. They play in the style of Irish folk music, country gospel, Texas swing, reggae, bluegrass, honky-tonk, Mardi-Gras jazz style and even a little Jerry Garcia duck-walking guitar. You could roll it all up as Americana, yet they seem to remain true to each style on it’s own as opposed to mixing it up as most Americana artists do. The vocal harmonies stand out in all of their songs whether they are singing “Shenandoah” or a truck driving song. Marley’s Ghost got tied in to KPFT’s birthday benefit through their local Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles. They were a welcome addition to the bill of talent for the day.

ImageThe rain had slowed to an occasional drizzle by the time that Hayes Carll took the stage, accompanied by Travis Linneville on guitar. Carll seemed road weary as he announced that he hadn’t been aware that Dallas was in a different time zone (Daylight Savings Time had taken effect the night before) and that they set a new land speed record in his Honda Accord in order to arrive on time. Carll opened up his characteristic honky-tonk slurring set with “A Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. He reminded the crowd what a gem we have in KPFT as he gave Rick Heysquierdo credit for being the first one to play one of his songs on the radio. Carll worked his way through his witty song book, performing favorites like “I Wanna Spend the Night with You” and “I Wonder What my Chances Are”. Hayes left the stage while Travis Linneville performed a song from his latest solo album, but returned to perform Merle Haggard’s “Rainbow Stew”. He finished up his set with “All the Way From Beaumont” and a version of “I Ain’t Never Seen Another Like You” in which he sang both the man’s and woman’s parts. Carll makes it look deceptively easy to endure the hard touring life that he’s chosen and we fans can’t wait to see what he puts out next.

You have to hand it to Ray Wylie Hubbard for his ability to take control of a stage and the crowd, which hit its peak during Hubbard’s performance. He turned “Snake Farm” into a rousing sing along with almost 100per cent of the libation soaked crowd in participation. Hayes Carll was invited up to join Hubbard on their collaboration, “Drunken Poet’s Dream”, but Carll was suffering from Honda Accord jet lag, so Ray did it on his own. He wrangled a commitment from the audience en masse, to buy his new record “Grifter’s Hymnal” that is due out March 27th. He rolled directly into a couple of tunes that will be appearing on that disc, one of which, “Train Yard”, co-written with Liz Foster of the Trishas featured some blistering slide guitar. After that came something that I never thought that I would hear again, Ray Wylie Hubbard performed “Redneck Mother” live.He dresses it up a little different each time he plays it, and this time “T” was for a Ford Truck with a little plastic statue of Hayes Carll on the dashboard. The crowd was invited to finish off the last refrain. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t seem to hold it together. Ray released us from our former commitment to buy his new record, if we would spend the money on pitch pipes and metronomes. Hubbard finished off his lovingly crass performance with an encore version of James McMurtrey’s “Choctaw Bingo”.

The crowd thinned out dramatically after Ray Wylie left the stage, leaving the last die hard fans to soak up the Sideshow Tramps, which this evening consisted of Craig Kinsey, Travis Linneville and a drummer. Kinsey can generate a lot of energy on stage, pleasing the crowd with songs like “Texas Girls” and “What Is It That You Want?”. He even took a request for “Lady Vodka”. Linneville was improvising lead right alongside Kinsey and the party sounded like it was starting all over again as my san Antonio friend and I dragged ourselves back to the car, with the live music yen sated once again.

The single consistent theme throughout the day was how lucky we are to have a noncommercial radio station like KPFT in our fair city. I personally support it as a major source of new music and new ideas and strongly urge you all to throw some spare change their direction at pledge time and, by all means, get out to KPFT sponsored music events. They are some of the best entertainment in town.