Written by Eddie Ferranti
Being the planners we are,  Rose and I sit down in late December and start to chart out the coming year for sure bets to do.  One of those has happened three years running now in the form of the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance.  It is held in Austin in late September and again this year it was a slam dunk good time.   Held at the gracious Holiday Inn near I-290 and I-35 it starts on a Thursday and concludes Sunday.  This year was special also because the HMR team added two loyal members, Ellen and James Klassen, to our crackerjack coverage.  They are vets of Kerrville from years past, but found SWRFA overwhelmingly good compared to that.  They described it as a mind numbing “blur” in a good way!   The format remained the same and for good reason.  The great folks at Berkalin Records put out a delicious and ample spread of cold cuts and fixins, ala a big picnic type deal, complete with plenty of cold beverages including beer and wine.  Pam and Brian Kalinec are beyond sweet hosts and it is a great way to enjoy the “One Song and Go” format at the pool outside in beautiful weather.  Butch Morgan does a bad ass job of moving the performers along and joins in lending his killer skills when the mood hits him which is never enough to this reviewer.  It is a great way to “catch” an artist and then try and meet up with them again over the weekend if they caught your fancy.   This runs from 5-10pm or so and then in the Elm Room at 10:30pm they host the “Almost Made It to Showcase” groups which has culled some major winners for us over the years.  This year was no different for these two:  

ImageAMY McCARLEY   This lady got my attention even before I hit Austin.  She reached out to me on both e-mail and the phone asking me kindly to come check her out.  Well, I showed up at sound check in the Elm Room and was treated to an extra couple songs by myself.  Thee Alabama native graduated from Rice University studying classical guitar and in this performance was joined by Charlie Richards from Austin.  The girl has a thick sweet molasses drawl that grows on ya and a sweet smile that peels off and makes you feel like you’ve known her for years instead of minutes.  The duo did a trippy rockin’ country set and her talents on mouth harp showed versatality all weekend.  This lass knows her way around a guitar and is way more than a strummer.  “Jet Engines” is her latest release following her self-titled debut in 2011 and it has it goin’ on.  Killer songs that stayed with me were the title cut to latest CD, new one “High Wire” which showed off her axe prowess, mighty fine harp action on “Stay” and her successful radio friendly hit on the Americana airwaves “Everybody Wants To”, where she showed how she can pick ’em up and put ’em down big time for a solo artist.  Love to see her front a full band.  I had the pleasure of having a “private and intimate” 3 people concert very late one night and the sincere bond for this lady was special indeed.    Here’s hoping this genuine sweetheart of a skilled musician hits it big and HMR is looking forward to catching up to her emotional self in Kansas City at FAI in February 2015 for my birthday!  

REBECCA FOLSOM   This Boulder, Colorado native is a unique package of poet, artist and a gifted vibrant singer/songwriter.  Her heartfelt lyrics and four octave powerful vocal range stood out delivering an unique blend of gospel, jazz, soul and rockin’ pop vibes that really translated well in the up close and personal settings of SWRFA.  ImageThe woman has published two poetry books, displayed oil paintings in galleries and was sporting her 10th album to date, “Reunion”, which is chocked full of Americana and pop goodies.  She was accompanied by some fine gents over the weekend.   Grammy nominated and animated guitar pro Mark Oblinger and ultra talented Tom Prasado-Rao.  Oblinger has a children’s CD out that has drawns raves with the critics.  Did a song about elepahnts that was a hoot!  Other sweet highlights included “Honkey Tonk Heaven”,  “Oh Holy Bond” about her mama got our attention,  “Little Bird”, the title cut of latest release all about healing the soul, good solid vocal range on “Extraordinary Days” and “Wild Women” that picked up the tempo nicely.  Probably the best take away of this talented person was her unreal passion on “Hope” with the lyrics of “being so soaked in hope you’re pickled!”  Catchy indeed.  All of  her multiple projects all have a common theme of human heartbreak, redemption, freedom and of course hope.  More than anything this lady is a mile of smiles at all times and man she has a keeper that radiates as she performs!   Friday offered Showcases for 1st timers from 1:30-3pm on 9th Floor followed by Sponsored Showcases from 3:30-5:30pm on Floors 7-8-9 !  A welcoming party went on to mingle and get a free drink in Elm Room at 5pm followed by delicious dinner at 6:15pm.  The Official Showcases kicked off at 7:30-10pm followed by Sponsored Showcases hosted by attendees on Floors 7-8-9 from 10:30-the wee hours!!!   Can you believe all of that action and it was only 2 days in?!  Saturday added another Butch Morgan “One and Done” format by the pool from 3:30-5:30pm and then the schedule ran just like Friday all over again!   WHEW!  Here’s my take on the performers we caught “somewhere” amongst all of that thrown at ya that stuck with us…………….   

KATIE GOSNELL   This Austin based sweet pea of a girl won songwriting awards at her alma mater, Berklee College of Music, and hit the stage at a Showcase with talented Tom Prasada-Rao in tow on guitar.  He also produced her fine debut CD, “Dear Katie”, which I’ve listened to a bunch since receiving it and it is a winner.  The lady has the ability to switch gears from a smokey sexy lounge singer on “Lucky” to soaring touching balladeer like the title cut and tug at your heart “”Goodbye”.  Her ample good range with crystal clear vocals adds to the package and her jazzed out sultry version of Led Zepplin’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” is a treat!   She has a way of putting real life time worn sayings like “Don’t worry it will be okay” and “Be a Good Girl” out there in a way that makes you feel like you know her.  Plus tunes like “A Dangerous Thing” shows her tongue-in-cheek lyrical prowess while all the while being backed by smooth musicianship throughout this rookie CD.  This is one of those rare discs that “fits” why sipping coffee on a Sunday morning or cruising down the freeway.   Grab one and also grab a seat next time you can catch this girl.  HMR will.   

MT THELONIOUS   This quirky trio out of St. Louis hit a home run with HMR.  Had the pleasure of catching them multiple times and they continued to impress me the more we witnessed their talents.  Vocals and guitar work by super intense Ian Luber, solid bottom stand up bassist Mark Wallace and off the charts violin magic with ease of Alyssa Avery was breath taking.  They actually did one number that was 12 minutes long that they introduced as “more for the band taking us on a magical musical journey” and it was.  They all met in college and Wallace shared with me that this is the first band that seems to be “sticking” with him among multiple projects.  Had a meal time chat with AA and she’s a talented peach who showed up all over the SWRFA performing with new found musicians!  Thee intoxicating energy and vibe they exude draws you in and will not let go until they say so.  Their name pays homage to mutual influence, American jazz legend Thelonius Monk.  I guess you’d call them Indie music, but smokin’ spirit to perform is what I’d label it if I had to.  Rumor is Handshake Management’s Charlie Stewart reached out to them during SWRFA and if so they roped a goodie.  No telling how much more they will flourish as they continue to perform live together.  

ImageTHE HOLLANDS   This was a very unique story all in itself.  A full-time internationally touring family based in the USA via Australia that tours in an RV for the last three years and seems like they’re having a blast doing it.   Jana, originally from Michigan, has travelled between three continents, starred on mandolin, banjo and guitar plus her angelic type voice was smooth as silk.  Paired with her awesome daughter, Graciana, the results were both stunning and special .  Australian native hubbie Craig actually started his career as a Celtic punk rocker and did a 7 year stint in a Chicago band called Ballydowse.  His guitar work blazed a hypnotic trail blending sweetly with the soaring vocals of the ladies. Rounding out the quartet is youngster Banjo, who kicked it major on percussion box that kept the back beat neato ! Very inventive for his age.  Again this was yet another performance that is unreal when packed in thee intimate setting of a bedroom.  SWRFA provides this and bands like this one thrive in the environment.  Had the pleasure of chatting with them in the hospitality room and it made it more special to remember this outfit.  You should, too.   

PAPER MOON SHINERS   This Austin based off-the-wall duo who specialize in old timey vintage songs from the twentieth century have been HMR darlings since we first caught them at SRFA 2102.  Another gem from the “Almost Showcase” Thursday installment, who went on to a major Showcase in 2013, proved this year that the momentum carry over was evident with packed rooms whenever they played.  Never have I enjoyed a band’s in-your-face antics that could make me either belly laugh guffaw or sing-a-long in the same song!    Frank Meyer is an underrated bad ass on “anything” he plays including ukelele to multiple guitars.  His way down low baritone voice soars from one end to thee other out of nowhere in a blind siding fashion.  Couple that with the spot on vibratos of sweet Elena Antinelli,  who can knock you out with cartoon comic deliveries or down-and-dirty from deep in  the gut blues that will make you slap yo mama!   Super tunes that showcase all I’ve stated include Meyers’ dare you not to giggle “Devil Up There” and “Stickerbush”,  marvelous interaction on “Same Thang”,  soulful and then some Elena’s “Come in My Kitchen”, and gotta hear it over and over “Git” to catch all the funny lyrics!   Nostalgic killer music is being brought back like new by these two talented individuals who love what they are doing and are two of the coolest hippies one could ever want to cross paths with.   HMR is stuck like glue to these two I mean to tell ya.  

SONiA of Dissapear Fear ( real name Sinia Rustein)   This pepper pot of a lady sizzled at her Showcase performance and had me chasing her down whenever I could which was 3 times.  Her powerful lyrics and prowess with her SONiA Santa Cruz guitar and mouth harp has had her described as a ‘Female Dylan’.  All I know is that this Baltimore ball of fire excites and ignites like a  rebel hippie from the 60’s to me!   Lotta ‘spunk’.  Girl even stashes her guiitar pick ion her tongue while she sings.  One song during her Showcase set had the room shaking shakers that were passed out and the electric guitar scorched the room with a good rockin’ vibe.  Goose bumps sheet.  “Broken Film”, her Nashville made 17th album, exudes the seeds of activism, love, and world awareness thru out the record.  Love to catch this globe trottin’ upstart artist with her full 8 piece Dissapear Band in tow some day!  The reggae infused Americana folk-rock package is all there with one for sure.  


ImageBRIAN KALINEC   In the NBA they have the 6th Man of the Year Award.  Well SWRFA should have their own and it is BK.  3 years running every where I go-there he is!   Amazing how he can blend in and enhance any performer he latches on to with his fine guitar work.  Showcases, One & Go’s, private rooms and Thursday Showcases are all platforms for this guy.  Him and his sweet wife Pam are staples at this event and we’re all better for it.  

ORDINARY ELEPHANT   This down to earth duo has been on HMR’s watch list since meeting them at SWRFA 2013.  They have recently made the decision to live in a motor home with their two dogs and travel the country playing their tunes.  Pete’s ‘banjitar’ work and Christy’s delicate and effortless soaring vocals are a pleasurable mix to embrace. Their debut album, “dusty words and cardboard boxes” was done under the talented eye of Jack Saunders at White Cat Studios.  Hoping for the best for this cool beans couple whom seem to get better every time we see them!  

BUFFALO ROGERS   This big ole sodbuster of a dude hails from Oklahoma and is a hoot.  We caught him mashin’ a mandolin with Matt Harlan back in Houston in 2014 and his booming and bombastic style is cool.   To say he can fill a room puts it mildly.  He’s a wonderful blend of rocking country, Americana and folk that smacks of his hometown roots showcasing his talents as a clever lyric writer/ multi-instumentalist.  Highlight moment was tune with fiddle guru from Mt. Thelonius, Alyssa Avery, that smoked!  

LIBBY KOCH   Two words that my Rose put down to describe this woman : consistently good.  Amen girl.  Have known this fun lovin’ performer for 2 years or so now and she’s a keeper.  Strong deep in your face vocals coupled with major guitar prowess brings out the foot stompin’ in ya every time!   Can rock you and soothe you from song to song and has become a SWRFA regular.   2013’s major Showcase was a show stealer and recently at Houston’s Redneck Country Club she opened for Rodney Crowell AND closed the place until 3am!   Never seen this bright as a sunny day woman down and it refreshing to know her.  

DC BLOOM   Austin artist caught our ear with his tune, “Some Kind of Nasty Coming Down”.  Good voice and strong guitar licks makes him a must see again when we visit Austin music scene.  

EMILIE CLEPPER   Half Texan and half Canadian strong voiced hill country troubadour of a woman. Good combo of smokey vocals, touching lyrics, above average guitar work and soothing folk influences make for a nice presentation.   

NEW VAGABONDS   Cute as hell couple, Ashlee Rose & Jimmy Dasher, kicked it at the Thursday night Showcase big time.  We caught her at same setting in 2013 and their cover of Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” is a major must see.  Good voices and chemistry.  I still have my coozee she gave me in 2013 and they left us wanting more.   

KJ SMILE   Very personable woman that sparkled with Brian Kalinec in tow.  “Where Do Old Lovers Go” was a stand out song and she showed good vocal range.   

JACOB JOHNSON   Young South Carolina hot shot guitar whiz that blazed a Showcase with ample upper neck axe work that drew raves from the packed house.   

THE LOVEBIRDS   Quirky duo from San Diego that blended their ukelele and guitar work with off the wall drums and passionate vocals. Their live performance was billed at the Showcase as a tornado of sights and sounds and it was.  Added a nice rock bump to thee evening.  They won the 2014 Kerrville Fest New Folk songwriting contest, too.  

CACTUS TRACTOR   Wild ass group from New Mexico who stirred it up major with their Indie style madness.  Lots of instruments in play including banjo, fiddle, guitar, stand up bass and vocal harmaonies galore.  Lots of energy and seem more fit for festival jamming where they’d let your hair down big time.   

ANNY CELSI   Portland native who now resides in southern California is described as a ‘beatnik’ which is fine by me and has drawn comparisons to Aimee Mann, Lucinda Williams and Jackie DeShannon.  Catchy lyrics and a strong voice and would love to see her front a band.   

ANDREW DELANEY   This Dallas artist caught our eye immediately and was Ellen Klassen’s favorite of the event.  His great voice along with his thoughtful and humurous lyrics were refreshing. Stand out songs were ” Light On at My House” , “Brought the Whole Circus Down” and “Rats and Sinking Ships”.   WHEW. 

Have to do shout outs to these well worth it performers and plain good folks also.  Chuck Hawthorne, Moors & McCumber, Michael McGarrah, Strangebyrds, Charlie “Funny Dude” Stewart, Betty Soo, Ann Goloby, Butch Morgan,  Dulcie Taylor, all of the ever friendly and helpful volunteers , hotel staff and Rob Lytle.  Plus a major pat on the back to thee excellent sound work done at all the Showcases!  

ImageIn closing, the constant that thrives thru the three SWRFA’s that we’ve attended is the ‘Queen of the Ball’, Dalis Allen.  This hard working music lover imposes her will deep into the fabric of what SWRFA really is.  I’ll quote the lady here: “Every year IS the best because we keep bringing to SWRFA support and love for one another and music in a world that sometimes doesn’t give it.  Our latest creation that leaves us feeling good, whether it is a song, a casserole or a conference is the best here right now. I love that about us!” 

Lost count of all the hugs I got and gave over 3+ days, but I know there is nothing like this “Family Reunion” no hassle lovefest she has going on.  Next year’s dates for SWRFA #16 are 9/23-27/15 and 60 tickets have already been sold.  www.swrfa.com is where you need to go to keep up with all the action.  All I know is if sweet DA is so kind to invite us back,  the “Four Music Lovin’ Hipsters” from Houston Music Review will be there for sure in 2015.  We felt honored to be credited as the only print media members of SWRFA in the official program and hope this gives you a bit of insight to what SWRFA is like.  You can revist thee other two years of coverage also at : www.houstonmusicreview.com under columns and features on the left side.

  Believe it or not, this account I gave just scratches the surface of the goodness that permeates in Austin over one glorious weekend.  Conferences, work shops, massages, acupuncture, career advise, etc. is on tap for thee artists, promoters and house concert enthusiasts to name a few!   

Now that’s a date that Rose & I GOT down already………..Peace and love.  

Edge, Rose, Ellen and James