Written by Eddie Ferranti
Nov 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Image2012 has been a year of “firsts” for Rose and myself in the folk music arena. It started in February in Memphis at the Folk Alliance International and then continued in May at the 40th Annual Kerrville Folk Fest.

September spawned yet another gem in the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance in Austin, Texas. It began on a Thursday, pool side at the Holiday Inn, for an Open Mic hosted by San Antonio legend Butch Morgan. The format was laid back and it served as a ‘meet and greet’ type deal between all the registrants, musicians and the people representing the musicians. It was sponsored by Berkalin Records and was top notch with a nice food spread, wines and bottled beer of many varieties, too. Sweet.

From the get go Rose and I noticed the difference between the big conference in Memphis compared to one of the six regional conferences that are held thoughout the USA spanning the twelve months until the next FAI-the ability to actually chat WITH the musicians and reps themselves!  I was not even one bite into my sandwich when I was engaged in conversation with Charlie Stewart of Handshake Management and several of the musicians he represents. Matt Harlan is in his stable and is a good bud of mine, which peeked my interest and got the experience headed in the right direction pronto!

Image69 musicians in all cruised up to the mic and gave it their best shot in a one song belt out. The evening breeze was beyond comfortable and the gig went smooth as silk until around 10pm or so leading to a new wrinkle for SWRFA this year, which was the Official Showcase Alternates Showcase hosted by emcee Charlie Stewart. It was held in Room 915 and held a nice amount of folks which filled at least 3/4’s. The showcase format was each of 8 bands doing three songs.  Out of this evening’s acts we liked these:

PAPER MOON SHINERS
-This quirky cool duo of Frank Meyer and Elena Antinelli got our attention major.  Her low down funky blues rasp can move to honey smooth altos effortlessly and Meyer was making noises in harmony that were hilarious yet spot on.  ‘Raining Outdoors’ stood out with slick steel guitar on this one.  Their sound sounds like thee only thing missing is the tick sounds of thee old 78rpm record playing ‘Minnie the Moocher’ or something similar, which by the way can been seen on YouTube by these folks!  We followed them the next 2 nights and we’re treated like family by Elena.  We were bummed when we held on for their 1:40am gig on Saturday and they no-showed, but hey no worries here.  This Austin duo will be sought out again by HMR.

ImageMOORS & McCUMBER
-These two jumped right on it with a smokin’ tune called ‘Gravity’ and this 3 song set grabbed ya and threw ya off the ride at the end!  ‘Quick As I Can’ was a showcase for the killer talents of James Moors.  This guy was playing fiddle for the only about a year running and excelled on mandolin and guitar, too.  The duo knocked this ‘youngster’ back to a rockin’ type version of Seals & Croft.  Kort & James’ vocals are clear and enjoyable surrounded by full volume jammin’ of a blues, celtic, upbeat acoustic thang goin’ on.  We followed these cats 2 more times and also had the pleasure to share dinner at a table with them.  How Superior,Wisconsin, where Kort’s from and Boulder,Colorado, where James lives, keeps this thing runnin’ is beyond me, but I want to see more.  They say they’ll be heading to Texas in January so be on the lookout.

MICHAEL JEROME BROWNE
-Another product of north of the border in Canada this guy specialized in the steel guitar wizardry.  Coming across as a business man type fellow with a tie on and jacket he tore it up on ditties like “Better Watch Your Drinking”, “Sister Be Careful Where You Walk”and “G-20Rag”.  His album ‘This Beautiful Mess’ must be added to my collection after catching him.  Too bad he was the last one on the card when eyes were beginning to close after a long day.

The next two days followed a similar killer format. At 7:30 in a nice sized ballroom setting eight showcase artists were given the stage for three tunes each. After 10pm or so the action was on floors 7, 8 and 9 for private room showcases that were intimate and neato! Each room had its particular ‘feel’ and munchies and beverages of all shapes and sizes were to be found. In recap mode here’s what grabbed Rose & I over the next 48 hours or so:

MICHAEL JOHNSON
-This guy was a perfect table setter for the Showcase set-up with his animated presence and quick wit.  His comment about the 3 song format of: “I’d like to open with my last number!” was epic. He stated before playing his 1978 pop hit ‘Bluer Than Blue’ that it helped pay the house note on the home he no longer lives in!  MJ dispalyed fast fingered brilliance on the killer gem ‘Roller Coaster Run’.  His outlook on the music biz was refreshing and appreciated by this reviewer for sure. www.mjblue.com

ImageBARBARA NESBITT
-This pop tart of a lady has had voice comparisons to June Carter Cash and Emmy Lou Harris and that’s no small feat.  Accompanied on stage by talented and smart witted Tom Corbett was a real treat especially on his amazing mandolin playing. ‘Dancing on a Trap Door’ sparkled and BN’s country twinged strong voice was impressive. She made you feel at ease to listen to her stories and to make her world part of yours……….Good job! www.barbaranesbitt.com

DANA COOPER
-Hard to believe I’ve been seeing this gent for thirty years or so.  He has become a spokesman for thee art of songwriting and held some workshops doing just that over the weekend! Dude can still play a mean guitar and his tender and heart felt dedication to “all the people who put him up, fed him and supported his music all over the world” was touching.  You could not pick a better artist as a ‘role model’ than Mr. Cooper. www.danacoopermusic.com

SUZIE VINNICK
-This Canadian lady caught our fancy and was definitely one of the standouts of the SWRFA for us. Recent accolades included the Great Canadian Blues Award(CBC), Blues Artist of the Year(Sirius/XM) and Contemporary Singer of the Year(CFMA).  Plus she’s won eight Maple Blues Awards to boot.  Her killer stage presence oozed into ya especially on numbers like “Save Me For Later” and “Honey I Want Ain’t No Honey To Me”!  Her bellowing voice along with badass guitar work was spellbounding.  Her funky funny attitude was refreshing-like a lot of Canadian artists-and it had us follow her to room showcaes playing with the likes of Tom Prasada-Rao and Brian Ashley Jones.  Copped her CD which you can grab at http://www.suzievinnick.com/.  You’ll be glad ya did!

BATDORF & STANLEY-ALL WOOD & STONES
-James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf took the stage and did something I would of thought would be nuts-recreate Rolling Stones classics.  You’d have to see it to believe it, but what they did to “Lets Spend the Night Together”, “Satisfaction” and “19th Nervous Breakdown” was awesome.  The brimming harmonies and stirring acoustic work made those tunes their own.  Their sense of humor nailed me also when they said:
“You’re free to record our gigs and if you sell a lot of the recordings please contact Beachwood Records because they surely aren’t doing a good job!” www.allwoodandstones.com

JAIME MICHAELS
-A true crooner in every sense of the word.  This fellow appeared at the first SWRFA in 2000 and has cranked out his 8th solo album,”The Man with the Time Machine”. Slick set included gems like “If It Means Anything at All”, “Call Me a Fool” and “Alice Dances”.  Dude has been doing it since the 70’s from front man in a southern cult rocker band the Truly Dangerous Swamp Band to being a 3 time Kerrville New Folk finalist.  A true gentleman and it was a joy to see him perform in tight showcase performance also. www.jaimemichaels.com

ImageTHE FLYIN’ A’S
-Without a doubt thee best act I caught over the three days at SWRFA!   Their rockin’ set-aided by guest badass Colin Brooks- brought the house down.  High energy doesn’t quite describe this powerhouse duos blend of blues, rock and gospel tossed in for the hell of it. Hilary Adamson just has a nasty disposition that revs up the stage and hubbie Stuart can flat out mash on guitar when called upon. He was seen in many a showcase room lending his rockin’ prowess to other artists. Title cut to sweet EP “Faith and Gasoline” and “Two Wrongs”, and in another room “So Long”were powerful as hell.  We were fortunate to see them 2 more times in intimate blow- the- walls- down peformances over the 2 days!  ON HMR’s radar big time in the future!  http://www.theflyinas.com/

GLENY RAE VIRUS & HER TAMWORTH PLAYBOYS
-This act came thee farthest (Australia) to perform at SWRFA and the pleasure was ours.  The stand up bass work was captivating and her soulful roots/country pipes blended well bringing Western Swing into country music if you will. “You Can’t Ride a Carrot to Work” and “When the Cows Come Home” were both tongue-in-cheek goodies that delivered. GRV has been a stalwart in her homeland for a number of years and I see no reason why she can’t make a dent in the USA folk scene.  http://www.glenyrae.com/

BRAD COLERICK
-This gentleman started his career in the mid-80’s doing commercials for a living.  He then had the pleasure of working with the likes of Johnny Cash and BB King which landed his poppy/country type sound to land in Top 5 territory in both Folk DJ and Euro-Americana charts!  He was joined by the versitle bad dude Tom Corbett and his clear deep voice ruled on latest CD title cut “Lines in the Dirt”.  “Take A Lady By The Hand” was a bittersweet moment and the duo mesmorized the crowd with “Juarez” which was delivered in Joe Ely-ish style .  Sweet stuff.  http://www.bradcolerick.com/

ImageTHE HEMS
-This duo is a hook-up of Dusty McClellan from Houston and Jamie Zanelatti from Maryland via Austin, Texas.  They met in a roots rock band, but veered off to play more folksey country sound.  “Bury Me Under a Dogwood Tree” was good and “Twist Twist Honey Twist” stepped it up big time !  DM doesn’t quite look the part, but can lay out some strong pickin’ grooves on lead guitar. I could only imagine what this team would sound like with a fast paced full band sound………….www.facebook.com/thehemsmusic

ERNEST TROOST
-This cat came out of the box with “Resurrection Blues” and it was worth the set.  His sound which embodies a ragtime country blues mix had a nice Steve Earle type thing goin’ on. “Come On Baby Let’s Dance” rocked and “Travelin’ Shoes” topped it off.  Very colorful stories about things past and present were refreshing and worth a repeat down the road for HMR.  http://www.earnesttroost.com/

THE SEA TO SEA
-This cool duo just garnered the 2012 Kerville Newfolk Winner Award and we could see why.  Hailing from West Virginia is Mira Stanley paired with Connecticut fellow Chuck E. Costa to produce a sound that is both mesmurizing and infectious. Using a borrowed banjo on “Reborn” CEC ruled the house on a tale of regaining faith when all seems lost.  Their simple and true sound is a pleasure to witness for sure.  www.facebook.com/theseatheseamusic

TOM PRASADA-RAO
-This gentleman easily got the award with HMR of artist that we wish we’d seen more of throughout the weekend!   His bold use of a violin as a guitar on “Out of the Darkness Into the Light” was strikingly awesome.  Then his use of a guitar to produce the timeless sound of Ravi Shankar on “In the Garden” was like nothing I’ve been able to witness in that venacular. It was ‘goose bump city’ for sure. His music is smooth jazzy melodic and done with a touch of reverance.  He easily got thee loudest and longest ovation and he’s starting to tour again and is currently featured on the syncicated TV show Troubadour Texas.  http://www.tomprasadarao.com/

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

-In no particular order I’d like to give a shout out to these folks who also made the grade to entertain us in their hotel showcases, pool side or Sunday Brunch Ballroom Open Mics, hallways or casual meet-and-greets during the weekend!

-MICHAEL McGARRAH   This Phoenix area fellow had a gruff down to earth thing goin’ on and his set with Butch Morgan in BatKat’s Whodat? Room 709 was flat out badass!

-TOM TRANCHILLA had a rockin’ edgey sound-acoustic with a chip- and this guy works for KPFT in Houston which is a good thing for sure!  HAAM  room ruled!

-BYRD AND STREET

Image-FRICTION FARM from South Carolina had a ‘Sonny & Cher’ rockin’ demeanor that we dug big time and their version of “Over the Rainbow” was cool!

-PARKER AINSWORTH displayed a very mature voice beyond his years and he reminded me of a Todd Snider type fellow in the making.

-BRIAN ASHLEY JONES is one cool cucumber who showed up in many rooms and is a Nashville talent on the rise.  Dude has a way around a guitar as has the goods to be around for awhile……A shining moment of the weekend was when I got to chat with him about life and music and he hit me with a windmill from down under hand slap while stating; “Why did I know I’d like you?!”  Cool cat.

I know this has been a long feature on a super good event, but believe it or not I really did not even scratch the surface of what SWRFA is about. It offers countless other things to partake in like concurrent morning and afternoon seminars, one on ones, massages, acupunture treatments, exhibit halls, showcases for 1ST timers, yet another Open Mic by Butch Morgan on Saturday and Sunday, ‘Songwriting 101’ lessons and do NOT forget the superb meals provided IN the fee that they charge for the whole weekend! Whew!

It both puzzles me and makes me feel proud of the crowd that we’ve seen at the three events in 2012 in that the age range is easily 35 and over.  HOW us “youngsters” can weather the storm and stay up until the wee hours for 3 days on end is amazing. Considering a lot of the musicians are on the younger side WHERE is the younger generation to fill the seats and catch this killer music?! Baffles me to no end and is a bit of a testimony to the sad state of music that most of USA ‘thinks’ is good or is told by American Idol, The Voice, etc. that these are the folks to follow…Their loss in our book.

ImageIn closing, I’d like to tell ya if you liked Kerrville, this event is Kerrville in a hotel! Period. AND this marathon feature would not be complete without a huge shout out to the driving force of both events, Dalis Allen.

The lady simply amazes me with her stamina and friendly demeanor at all times. She never seems tired and is always there for anybody at the events non-stop. The woman even helped me at like 1:10 am to verify I was heading to the right room to catch Parker Ainsworth by stating: “Wanted to make sure because you know there are two performers with the first name Parker here this weekend!” Classic.

We’ve known the woman for less than a year, yet feel cut from the same musical cloth. Caring and being passionate for the folk/Americana/whatever you wanna call it music scene rocks with HMR and so does she!  God Bless ya girl and all of the countless cool people that make it all worth it for us media types.  As it said in the program, SWRFA is mainly something to take home a feeling of the greatness of connecting…SEE ya 9/26-29/13 baby!!!

http://www.folk.org/
http://www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org/