Lucid Culture


Patricia Vonne’s New Album Is Worth It and Then Some

Proof that sometimes good things happen to good songwriters. Here in most of the US, Patricia Vonne is ironically best known as an actress who’s made frequent appearances in her brother Roberto Rodriguez’s films. But in Europe and her native Texas, she’s a bonafide star. Her latest and fourth cd Worth It should help spread the word to those not already in the know. Her unaffectedly throaty wail soars intensely and passionately over rich, lushly interwoven layers of guitars that often evoke great Australian art-rockers the Church, but with a disquieting, often hallucinatory southwestern edge. This album is a showcase not only for Vonne’s voice but for Robert LaRoche’s terrifically anthemic, vibrant rhythm and lead guitar- he’s sort of a border-rock version of Keith Richards – along with Rick Del Castillo on guitars, Scott Garber on bass, Dony Wynn on drums and cameos from Rosie Flores, Joe Ely and songwriter Darin Murphy.

The title track opens the album, an edgy, swinging backbeat janglerock anthem that lends a sympathetic ear to the tormented visions of a homeless drug addict. It’s something akin to what the early Pretenders might have sounded like if Chrissie Hynde had grown up in Austin rather than Akron. The no-nonsense, blues-tinged Cut from the Same Cloth is a co-write with Flores, a similarly-minded, edgy Tejana. A gothic flamenco rock en Español shuffle, Fuente Vaqueros evokes the region in Grenada, Spain where Frederico Garcia Lorca famously first saw the light of day.

Vonne maintains the drama and suspense with Castle Walls, muting the flamenco intensity a little by turning  it over to the drums, and then to an incisively bluesy Joe Reyes guitar solo. A new spin on an old myth, El Marinero y La Sirena has Del Castillo’s pointillistic nylon-string guitar mingling hypnotically and eerily with Carl Thiel’s insistent piano. The big concert favorite Love Is a Bounty hitches a swaying country beat and lonesome, bucolic Murphy harmonica to biting, bluesy rock; La Lomita de Santa Cruz, just Vonne’s voice and LaRoche’s reverb-drenched guitar, is a bitter tale of drought and doom.

There’s also a couple of big, terse, tension-driven janglerock anthems along with Cowskulls and Ghosttowns, a blazing Georgia Satellites-style musclecar rocker gone goth, and the wry, cynically amusing backbeat rock anthem Gin and Platonic with her old New York band featuring Kirk Brewster on lead guitar, Scott Yoder on bass and Eddie Zweiback on drums. Yet another great album by one of this era’s finest and most original songwriters in Americana and rock en Español.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Flatlanders at Castle Clinton, NYC 8/2/07

Their time finally came almost thirty years after they started, as twangy rock posing as country finally pushed traditional country (or what was left of it) over the edge, into the chasm where dead musical genres go, down there with roots reggae and dixieland and punk. But for these guys it was never a pose: they always were and still remain a country-rock band. That term has become almost an insult, and perhaps rightfully so, but these Lubbock, Texas vets, darlings of the NPR set, actually make it work. Although the show wasn’t quite the ruckus they typically raise indoors, late at night, there were many absolutely delightful moments.

The three frontmen, all of who played acoustic guitar and sang spot-on harmonies, brought their distinctive personalities to the set. Joe Ely is the Tex-Mex guy with a thing for mariachi melodies; Jimmie Dale Gilmore is the Willie Nelson-style crooner, and Butch Hancock brings the corn. This unit brings out the very best in each of them: Ely manages to stay pretty much on this side of the border, Gilmore’s hippie streak is held firmly in check, and Hancock’s buffoonery is kept pretty much to a minimum. Bolstered by an effortlessly tight rhythm section and a fine lead guitarist, the trio mixed newer material into the set along with familiar crowd-pleasers such as Dallas, swinging along on a boogie beat.

It’s too bad the Flatlanders haven’t had more hits, because their best songs are very, very catchy. The highlight of the night was Julia, a gorgeously rueful midtempo ballad sung by Ely: When the first chorus ended, all three acoustic guitars chiming in unison as the lead player sprinkled some magically clanging notes around them, the crescendo was literally breathtaking. They didn’t hit that kind of high again, but they didn’t really shoot for it: these vets know how to size up a crowd – this one was definitely older, mostly tourists from the looks of them, with a small but vocal Texas contingent – so they played it pretty safe.

With one exception. Midway through the set, Gilmore assured the crowd that “not all Texans agree with other Texans,” and received a very warm response. “He’s not from Texas!” yelled someone in the crowd. “Who’s he?” joked Hancock. This band may not write political songs, but like the best country musicians, they’re populist through and through. After about an hour worth of consistently tasty twang, they wrapped up their first encore with a fiery number told from the point of view of a driver who picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be Jesus. Mr. Christ lets him drink a beer with impunity but eventually puts a gun to the guy’s head and then steals the car. No doubt the band would have done more like this had this been later in the evening, with alcohol flowing in abundance.

Afterward we went up to Banjo Jim’s to continue the festivities. After a lengthy setup, Ray Suarez lookalike Joe Whyte and his band took the stage, Whyte telling the audience how he’d had a dream in which he’d punched George Bush in the face. This met with a very enthusiastic reception. Too bad the music that followed was so sterile, generic suburban janglepop with a few country licks thrown in here and there: a New Jersey version of Counting Crows, maybe. One of our entourage noted that the following band, a trio from Philadelphia, sounded like the Black Crowes (this show was for the birds, hardy har har). I saw the Black Crowes open for someone once but they were so forgettable, I can’t remember what they sounded like: a tuneless version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, maybe? At this point, we’d finally had our fill and the evening had cooled off a little bit, so we hit the pavement and called it a night.

August 3, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment