Written by Eddie Ferranti
Oct 18, 2013 at 02:00 AM
ImageRose and I were very excited to make our second visit to the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance in the great musical hot bed of Austin, Texas. The location was the same, Holiday Inn in Midtown, but the big difference for us was to actually stay on the grounds for the entire 4 days.

Last year was awesome, but being able to hang all the time at what we dub the “Folk Family Reunion” was beyond heartwarming and cool! Check-in was a breeze and the treatment by the staff was nothing but first class. This year was the 14th annual and the format was pretty much the same as the 13th. Thanks to the killer folks at Berkalin Records, we were treated to ample grub, cold beer and wine out by the pool listening to the unique format hosted by legend Butch Morgan where a total of 63 singer songwriters belted out one number a piece.

Morgan laid down the ground rules by saying: “I know you’ve probably written about nine good songs in your lifetime so deliver your best one without any fan fare please!” What a classic dude he is and having him jump in whenever the mood felt right only helped to enhance the experience.

The weather was a tad warm, but not as warm as the “feeling” amongst all involved. Out of the shoot dudes like Brian Kalinec, Roy Schneider and Brian Ashley Jones set the bar very high for all the participants. It really is hard to imagine how this machine gun format works without being there to witness it, but it really laid the foundation for folks to get an earful of somebody they could persue over the next 3 days.

In fact, on Saturday, they did the same thing, except due to prior obligatins for BM, it was hosted by John & Jimmie Whipple in the Elm Room due to weather outdoors. Plus for good measure, the same format in the dinner hall happened before it ended on Sunday. The finale of talented Libby Koch, Kalinec and Morgan smoked down the pool with a tune called “Galveston”! The SWRFA did their best to give all a fair shot to at least play once and that’s all you can ask.

On Thursday in the Elm Room also they had what they called the 6 bands that just missed the major showcase room gigs. As host Charlie Stewart said: “These performers were too good to be ignored!” Being held at 10:30pm after 4 hours by the pool the show was packed to SRO level. Impressive. Easiest way to proceed on HMR’s takes will be to do a snapshot if you will of the artists who grabbed us!

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EMILY HERRING

This lady not only grabbed our attention but kept us searching her out wherever we could find her. Her honky tonk cool voice on “My Heart is Waiting” was beyond sincere and a lyric she laid out of ‘A fine line between a drunk and a good time” on “Turquoise Earrings” hit a home run!  Plus “Austin (Ain’t got no) City Limits” couldn’t be a better testimony to the killer city where we were.  “Austin makes the whole world smile!” Amen sister. “Terlingua” was also a touching tune we caught “somewhere” over the blur of SWRFA… Her infectious and honest straight forward personality captivated us and having a chance to visit with her in the nooks and crannies of SWRFA really was a treat. Girl is based out of San Marcos these days and we will run her down with what she says is a swingin’ three piece band in tow!

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BETHEL STEELE

This lady was one who got our ear at the pool one song deal and then enhanced her presence during her 3 song follow-up. Her rawness comes across in a genuine coolness in more ways than one. Seeing her do “The Farm” and especially “Blue Skies” displayed how can she deliver both driving guiatar sound or softer finger pickin’ gospel like texture to her delivery. Her 2012 release “Of Love & Whiskey” got as high as #16 on the Roots Music Report’s top folk album chart and her latest EP “Broken Record” adds a 5-string banjo sound to her resume! The thing I’ll fondly remember about this Boston based pepper pot was her love of hugging folks. We shared tales how Texas is a big hugging state and the Northeast and Midwest are not…Neato!

Friday and Saturday followed the exact same set up as 2012 with major showcases being held in the ballroom from 7:30pm-10pm followed by in room “mini-gigs” on the 7th thru 9th floors into the wee hours of the night. The sound was impeccable at the major showcases and framed the artists wonderfully. The in room presentations were first class with niblets of all delicious varieties coupled with beverages-both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Sweet!  Again you can not really convey what it is like to enjoy killer artists giving it their all up-close-and personal in a hotel room! In no particular order I’d like to pay homage to the ones who rocked our world over those 2 killer days…

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STEVE BROOKS

This sod buster of a dude had an Arlo Guthrie kind of thing goin’ on and his rapport with the audience was great.  Tunes that stuck were “Lost & Found”, “One Good Year” and a quaint tune about the Maple Leaf Bar in Nawlins “That’s What Poets Do”. Slaid Cleves is a bud of his and has done several of his songs. “I’ll Take You Home” was a touching tale of a young couple growing old and taking care of one another.

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PAPER MOON SHINERS

This classic duo won us over in 2012 at the Thursday night showcase and we’ve been on their trail ever since.  They scored a major showcase this year and were received very well by the packed house. Good for them! Their old style of music has become the “new” one capturing the 20’s thru 40’s timeless stuff right off an old 78 style LP that nobody is doing at all these days. Off the wall does not quite describe some of their stuff, but tunes like “Flying Head”, hilarious “Devil Up There”, “Now Git” and “Stickerbush” are one of a kind to say the least. Elena Antinelli’s growly sexy delivery coupled with Frank Meyer’s deep baritone and awesome guitar playing-of all shapes and sizes- work hand in hand marvelously. LOVED the flower in her hair, too. And when they dipped into the Robert Johnson tune “Come On In My Kitchen” it just made ya want to yell hell yeah! “Carolina Moon” is another goodie and my hat’s off to their approach to do something both different and refreshing at the same time. These two a major keepers for the HMR team and y’all should support their willingness to hang it all out and be different.

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LIBBY KOCH

Been on this talented lady’s trail since I caught her at Spring Crawfish Fest last Spring. Hard to pigeon hole her style since she borrows from a wonderful blend of Americana, country, folk and especially rock. She says her main goal is to make honest music that resonates with people and to that end she is doing quite well. She pairs quite well with her sidekick Brian Kalinec who cleaned up on guitar solos on gems like “All That Love” and “The Other Side”. Whether we were catching her in showcase rooms or the tight hotel rooms, this woman has the goods to make you stop and take notice. HMR sees big time star things on the horizon for LK and you can bet we’re on her like white on rice. Not a nicer more down to earth person either folks! What you see is what you get and that is a boat load of good…

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ELLIS

The SWRFA’s Official program hit it on the nose with this woman. There’s just “something” about Ellis. That simple statement summed up her performances throughout the conference where she could be so captivating and funny at the same time. She hails from Minnesota and her tunes are full of hope and positive wishfulness which is so welcome in today’s upside down world we live in. Two stunning songs,”Right on Time” and “Wherever You Are”(title of new CD), prompted the packed showcase crowd to give thee only full on standing ovations of the conference. Impressive indeed. Her most recent and eighth release garnered her one of 6 winners of the 2013 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition. Her smile alone was something that never ever left her face wherever you saw her and was most refreshing. HMR knows she is coming to Houston in February and that is a must see gig for us.

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PARKER MILSAP

This is another chap that is not a stranger to HMR. However, what we witnessed over his weekend gigs was a maturity he has picked up for a dude that is young and raw. As in 19 year-old young folks. The 3 piece he jammed with was tight and boistrous out of the shoot on “Disappear” about getting out of a little town which he knows a lot about being from central Oklahoma. “Truck Stop Jesus” just flat out woke this SWRFA sumbitch up and other gems like “Old Time Religion” and “Sticks and Stones” showcased his raspy Elvis type swagger that is bad ass period. Sky is the limit with PM with the spirited powerful stuff this dude is spilling out on the stage. His ticket is punched to stardom…

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ROY SCHNEIDER

This cat got the award as HMR “Find” performer of SWRFA 2013. His soulful, down to earth sound and delivery was very infectious and enjoyable. Teamed for most of his gigs with Kim Mayfield the carefree duo brought home the bacon major. “Fill the Well”, a tune about 11 days in the Kerrville dust, was very cool and he handled a harp and foot bass drum with KM tearin’ it up on mandolin. He landed a major showcase here and at NERFA in 2012 also.  “Walls That Talk”, his 4th studio release, debuted at #3 on the Folk DJ Chart in September 2012 and was added to Pandora radio, too. Hell dude even had a spin on Season 5 of the reality singing gig, ‘The Voice’. His delivery is both narrative and rockin’ and a constant change of pace as a one man band! This handsome duo hails from Fort Myers, Florida and I’m hoping to catch them again if they venture anywhere HMR can find them. Whether he is was in the big room, outdoors at the pool or in a hotel room, spellbinding performances is a very good way to label RS & KM with!

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MOORS AND McCUMBER

These two cool dudes caught our attention at SWRFA 2012 and we went on to catch them twice in Houston in 2013!  They went from the just missed out on showcase gig in 2012 to getting a major showcase in 2013 and that speaks volumes on it own. Can’t meet a nicer pair of laid back talented musicians who may carry around the most instruments that two guys ever could imagine. Their third co-written disc, “Against the Grain” , was reviewed by HMR and is a tight good album for sure. “Heart That Beats Inside My Chest”, “Caged Bird” and “I Used to Run Around” were stellar. Kort McCumber is the one who is constantly throwing on a new instrument and when James Moors and him face off to jam it is bad to the bone. Our prayers are with Kort as his home was unharmed, but is stranded with no power or roads to get to in Colorado due to recent flooding. Open the top on a blender and throw in bluegrass, smokin’ hot jams, celtic influence and sweet harmonizing blues and ya got what M&M are all about folks…

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BRIAN KALINEC

Brian is an award winning, Houston, Texas-based Americana/folk singer-songwriter. His songwriting style has been tossed around with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Rodney Crowell and Jim Croce. That being said it is only a small description of what this East Texan dude really is. He was everywhere literally that HMR was during the whole conference. Berkalin Records is his baby and with his sweet wife Pam they sponsored the Thursday night Open Mic gig at the pool. The man deserved and got a major showcase in 2013 and sported a talented trio with him of Freebo on bass, Stewart Adamson (Flyin’ A’s) on guitar and the sweetness that is Libby Koch on back-up vocals. “Stranger in this Line” about losing your job in 2008 was very nice. “Bless the Blessing of This Day” about the end of the world from songwriting assignment of SWRFA 2012 was classic, too. The man was in countless showcases and never seems to tire of helping and coaching other musicians. He can jam with the best and he’s the kind of person I feel like I’ve known a lot longer than I have. His aw shucks personality resonates so well with anybody who crosses his path and SWRFA is a better place because of folks like BK. HMR is lucky he hangs in H-Town and I can say HEY a lot!

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AMANDA PEARCY

This Houston native who plys her trade in Austin these days was yet another pleasant find at SWRFA 2013. HMR was able to catch her in a bunch of hotel showcases and she played with the likes of Brian Ashley Jones, by herself and even without instruments at all. Her deep throated raw bluesey rasp has a nasal twang to it that grabs you and settles you in to enjoy her soulful delivery. “Royal Street” is her latest offering and HMR will have this up soon as a reviewed item, too. “Once I Had a Diamond” had a lot of spunk to it and the lady has a special something that is hard to put a finger on it. “Bring You Home”, the title cut and off the wall “Wish I’s in Heaven Settin’ Down” were standouts and unusual in a good way. The lady has a sleek senuality to her that boads well for her future.  HMR already booked to catch her in Houston @ Anderson Fair 10/19/13…

HONORABLE MENTION ARTISTS OF SWRFA 2013-

ORDINARY ELEPHANT – Promising husband and wife team out of Houston, debut CD, “Dusty Words & Cardboard Boxes” produced by Jack Saunders so that says a lot.

THE SPARROWMAKERS – Another hubbie & wife duo who provided some very nice harmonies.

ASHLEE ROSE – Pretty lady who made it to Thursday’s just missed showcase and actually excelled in the hotel room atmosphere much better to HMR. Love songs and a strong voice. “Southern Cross” a goodie.

THE YA YA’S – Married couple been at it for 16 years and also made Thursday just missed showcase. Sing a long tune “What Was He Thinking” a gem!

LINDA McRAE – Off the wall Canadian who had a passionate gospel sound. Made the major showcase stage and her line: “Be the best person you can be and then spread it around!” was a keeper.

LAURA MARIE – Another top notch lady who scored a major showcase. “Dark Horse”, “Stay with Me” and “Angel Please” a very nice trio of tunes.

BRIAN ASHLEY JONES – Very versatile performer who has been a bud of HMR for 2 years running now. He also was found everywhere from Thursday night opener by pool to multiple hotel room gigs. This soulful and sincere South Carolina native hangs his hat in Nashville these days and has a release coming out in early 2014 that HMR is on the listen already. Guys like BAJ make SWRFA what it is-freindly, bad ass and fun.

FLYIN’ A’s – Last year’s HMR winner as “The Find” popped up again in a more limited role, but just as passionate and engaging. If you could bottle and market what Hilary and Stewart Adamson bring to the table for each gig you’d be a rich man! HMR constantly on the look out for this dynamic duo.

MARK AMBROSE – A laidback and charismatic dude who was fun to chat with. Roots rock country tinge to his delivery and very thought provoking lyrics. Look of a winner.

THE WHIPPLES Married since 1979 this couple had strong voices and melodies, plus did a fine job of filling in for Butch Morgan at Saturday’s Pool party which got moved into the Elm Room. Good guitar licks and worth a repeat HMR listen for sure.

TOM CORBETT – This down to earth Ohio native is a favorite of HMR from 2012, too.  His mandolin skills are awesome and he always has his sense of humor showing thru. His alt-country/Americana style blends well with multiple artists and he showed up a lot throughout the weekend. Class act and definitely a mainstay member of the California singer/songwriter scene.

RACHEL LAVEN – This sweet pea of a lady has been around a musical family all her life. San Antonio native has her first CD, “Unwind”, with 11 originals and hopefully she can find time away from Trinity College obligations to take her career to the next level. Sincere moment of SWRFA was her chasing me down to make sure I got her CD.

WHIT HILL – This Nashville based NYC lady performs very well with her hubbie Al Hill. The “Baby Cook a Chicken” song was a hit @ SWRFA 2012 and it played well at a major showcase this go around. A very funny and oddball duo that works. She’s a 2012 Kerrville New Folk winner and that speaks for itself. “Little Boy” and “Walk this World With You” cool numbers that hung with us.

LOST AND NAMELESS ORCHESTRA – Talk about out-of-control-in-your-face bluegrass! This 4 piece exploded off the stage to wrap up the major showcases on Saturday. “When You Love Somebody” stood out and this now Austin based band since 2006 oozes enthusiasm and worth a listen if rockin’ bluegrass action is your bag!

LEEANN ATHERTON – This down home mama hangs her hat in Austin and has been a friend of HMR for years. In fact, she was my first Facebook friend! Girl just generates attention by being sincere no matter if it is blues or country or even covers of Led Zepplin. “Firefly” was a wholesome slice of life about her grandma in Alabama and “Sick of the Blues” brought the killer gritty soul of this music teacher by day! You’ll never meet a more nicer person and go to her famous Barn Dances she hosts (with killer potlucks!) at her adobe in A-Town. Plus her usual gig at Maria’s Taco Xpress on Fridays is always a slam dunk show…

WHEW! Believe it or not, that doesn’t begin to tell you all the cool people we got to share time with at SWRFA.  Impossible to put down everything that goes on at the conference over the course of 4 days. The stated mission of Folk Alliance exists to foster and promote traditional, contemporary, and multicultural folk music and related performing arts in North America. The many goals that FAI hopes to help in cover all areas including education, networking, advocacy, field development and professional development. http://www.folkalliance.org/ has all the info you need!

In closing, none of the continued success of SWRFA could ever go off as well as it does with out Dalis Allen.

After witnessing her whisk around this event the past two years the woman continues to impress me. Whether it be her introducing updates at lunch or opening up the major showcases or even inspecting the soup to make sure vegetarians were “safe” from meat, the girl has a non-stop motor of enthusiasm! She’s always “The Queen of the Ball” in my eyes and her wardrobe is stunning no matter what time of day it is. Her personality permeates throughout the whole SWRFA and lends to my opening about it being a ‘Folk Family Re-union’. Her code of life which includes respecting one another, lend a helping hand whenever you can, smile and HUG your brothers and sisters in music rules. God Bless you and HMR appreciates the chance to bite off a nice slice of life for four wonderful days and nights in the heart of Texas…Until next year support LIVE music will ya?!