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Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Here’s Robert Earl Keen as Antonio Vivaldi opening his eighth annual benefit in Kerrville for an organization he said “it’s my passion to tell people about”: the Hill Country Youth Orchestra.vivaldi crop

Keen told the crowd at the Feb. 21 show that on his travels around the country, he’ll get to talking with people about the orchestra, and they’ll say, “Oh yes, we’ve got something like that here,” and he’ll say, “No; no, you don’t.” The HCYO provides full tuition-and-fees scholarships for each of its hundred-plus students.

He’s supporting his bluegrass album “The Happy Prisoner” right now, so his part of the concert had an old-timey feel — just not as old as Vivaldi:

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But first, the kiddos cut loose with the classical goodies:

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(Apologies for fuzzy phone photos taken at some distance)

Watch for next year’s show, likely to be in February again, and go check it out if you can. It’s a lovely night at Kerrville’s Cailloux Theater, and this year it raised $65,000 for those scholarships. Keen closed his part of the show with a completely acoustic set, playing the special guitar they auctioned off to raise part of that money:

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It was beautiful.

(Fellow Aggie/Kerrville note: The auction also included Johnny Manziel autographed memorabilia. Keen is Class of ’78, Manziel is ’15)

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A year kicked off with loved ones in Fort Worth is a year that’s gonna go well. I grew up near here, love the city and was tickled to hear the Metroplex referred to on the radio as “FW-D.”

Sundance Square decked out for the holidays. It was barely above freezing, so nobody’s loitering in the outdoor seats 🙂 But the restaurants and bars were doing good business and have nice views of the square!

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Beautiful Bass Hall, where crowds were arriving for the New Year’s Eve concert by Robert Earl Keen:

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Joe T Garcia’s turns 80 this year – the sign says “Since 1935!” Cannot count the number of great afternoons and evenings I’ve had at Joe T’s. If you go eat there on a pretty afternoon, not a freezing cold night, you can have your “family dinner” in the rambling, maze-like patio gardens out back of the old house.

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First time ever to go in Billy Bob’s Texas. Bewilderingly huge and comic place, with what seemed like half of North Texas there with their New Year’s Eve dates.

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But even at a distance (and this was one of the closer tables!) the Turnpike Troubadours were great. Wonderful way to ring in the year.

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Heard on the radio yesterday: An old norteño version of the old, old Hank Thompson hit “Wild Side of Life.” “Mi Nueva Casa,” I learn from musica.com, was a 1982 hit for Los Invasores de Nuevo León, boosting them to their first gold record. That is totally fitting in a number of ways, one being that Texas (Hank’s home state) and Nuevo León are neighbors, and one being that “Wild Side of Life” has a tendency to spin off hits.

Western Swing pioneer Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys were Billboard’s top country and western band of the year for 14 years straight, 1951-1964. The tune behind “Wild Side” itself is “an old traditional English melody” on which the Southern hymn “Great Speckled Bird” was based, according to a biography of Roy Acuff. “GSB” was Acuff’s first radio hit and got him a recording contract in 1936. In 1952, “Wild Side of Life” stayed at No. 1 for nine weeks, newly fitted out with lyrics about a temptress who breaks up a man’s marriage and then leaves him to go back to her bar-room good-timing ways – its most famous line being, “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels.” That inspired an answer song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the first country No. 1 by a solo female artist, which sold a million copies and launched Kitty Wells’ career. It put the blame back on men for cheatin’ and was considered so shocking that NBC and the Grand Ole Opry both banned it. Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter did a mashup of the two songs in 1981, which brings us neatly back around, chronologically speaking, to Los Invasores:

Hank Thompson:

Hank sang (not wrote, but sang):

You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
But there’s something I’m wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

Los Invasores’ lyrics with my translation (which reads very stilted because I’m not translating for the feeling of it but literally the words themselves. Language major, sorry 🙂 I like to know what the original words were and then fill in the feeling):

Te escribi una carta y no me contestaste         I wrote you a letter and you didn’t answer me
Fui a buscarte y ya cambiaste dirección          I went to search for you and you’d already moved (lit., changed address)
Como tengo unas cosas que reclamarte          As I have a couple things to complain to you about
me obligaste a que te cante esta canción        You’ve obliged me to sing to you this song

The song goes on to talk about how he gave up his home to be with her and is pretty miserable where he’s living now, a place that features bottles, a jukebox and a neon sign. “Y una cualquiera es la que ocupa tu lugar” — and her place is taken by whatever lady is around.

Kitty’s entry in this tune’s history books:

If you have something stuck in your throat and need to upchuck quickly, or alternately to gain an immediate visceral understanding of the Nashville tendency to slap sappy strings and gooshy backup singers all over a defenseless song that caused musicians like Buck Owens to rebel with the “Bakersfield Sound,” etc., listen to this alternate version of Hank’s “Wild Side.”

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Painted buntings are so colorful that when people spot them, they think somebody’s parrot has escaped. But these birds range across most of Texas. They just like to hide in brush, so they’re rarely seen. To make them pop out like magic, here’s all you need: white millet seed.

ImageI made this poster a few years ago from a photo I took at my folks’ place. We spread what I called “the river of millet” across the back porch and watched every day right before sunset; it only took the buntings a few days to start turning up en masse. Right about now is a good time to try this. From March 5 to May 22, says Texas A&M’s Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, painted buntings return to Texas from Central America and Mexico to start building nests and laying little blue-grey-white eggs with red markings. They’ll start heading back south at the end of June.

Painted buntings are found in other states, but Texas has the largest breeding population, with Oklahoma second. I won’t lie, it’ll be pretty hard to pull out as many males as you see in this photo. But they are total suckers for millet, so give it a try. There are probably buntings hanging out in your shrubbery right now. 🙂

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Paisano-lobby

James-Dean-room-keyMarfa’s Hotel Paisano famously housed the stars of “Giant” during filming in 1955, and you can, if you like, throw rooftop terrace parties in the Rock Hudson Suite; the Elizabeth Taylor Suite has a kitchen and sitting room. Up-and-coming actor James Dean got a single room with its own bath, not a given in hotels of the day. Most of the hotel has been redone – Dean’s room is clean-lined, simple, with a pretty iron desk – but the 1920s bathroom fixtures are unchanged since the Paisano opened.

james-dean-room-deskJames-Dean-shower

westtexasiceSo, before we headed out to a fancy restaurant that night, I got to hop into James Dean’s shower. The vicarious movie-star feeling, though, really set in while I was getting ready to go out: If you want to feel like Elizabeth Taylor, then swanning around James Dean’s hotel room in a full slip while you put on your eye makeup will do the trick. You feel like he’s about to come back in with ice for the drinks.

 

 

Pics are mine except for Dean outside West Texas Ice by Richard Miller.

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hewittvioladagambaviolsideI saw this beautiful thing played at a concert by La Follia Baroque; its player, James, told me about its history. Designed and built by luthier Timothy Johnson of Hewitt, it is a division viol (which the VdGSA says is an English type of bass viola da gamba). Johnson says the inlaid pattern is acanthus (scrolling decoration used since the ancient Greeks and based on a Mediterranean plant), “created using an intarsia technique called tarsi a incastro which was brought to a high level of perfection by George Boule, furniture maker to King Louis XIV.  It became a very popular decorative style of the late 17th century for both furniture and musical instruments.”

More photos of this viol’s inlaid back, sides and details here.

La Follia is a wonderful group that plays Vivaldi, Mozart and contemporaries on the original instruments — sitting in a small chamber with them is a bit like really, really pleasant time travel.

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Piano scholar and player James Goodwin has a number of videos up on YouTube. This, he says, “is an improvisation in the piano blues style that developed in the barrelhouses and whorehouses of Texas in the 1920s and 1930s. Characteristic is the use of slurred notes in the right hand and pumping chords or stride in the left hand.” (Buy a CD here)

 

 

 

 

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