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The Whiskey Sisters

Posted by Deborah Orazi on January 14, 2013 at 1:35 AM

It's Thursday Happy Hour at the Continental Club and the place is packed.

I quickly notice, however, that this isn't your usual mixed crowd of music lovers. Sure, there are plenty of women scattered about, but surrounding the stage are a sea of males clutching beer bottles, rapt faces turned upward toward the source of the music.

Seemingly bewitched.

This may have something to do with the two women singing like a couple of sirens on stage.

They call themselves The Whiskey Sisters, but in fact, they aren't even related.

Teal Collins and Barbara Nesbitt are, if anything, soul sisters.

They front one of the best new bands in town, a rock and soul revue with a nod to Tina Turner and even the Everly Brothers.

 "Harmony driven, powerhouse rocking, Americana - with chicks!" is how Teal described it.

"It’ll make you feel good!” Barbara added.

Each had made a name for herself around town (Collins with The Mother Truckers, Nesbitt as a solo artist) before teaming up last year.

"Barbara and I had met at a Stonehoney show where we both sat in with those guys,” Teal recalled. “We met again at the Saxon for the (South Austin) Moonlighters, and talked about singing together. When we got together and ran some tunes, there was a light bulb that went on for both of us, a simplicity when finding harmonies, and matching vibratos, that you rarely find with another singer! We also discovered a shared love of many of the same bands, and the same favorite color, yellow - which is weird!  We've been together less than a year and have already recorded an album and are doing a residency at the Continental Club every Thursday.”

Both of the women have strong musical histories that are apparent in performance and in their songwriting.

"My dad was a jazz disc jockey and so growing up there was no end to the great music I was turned on to,” said Teal. “He taught me to play ukulele at five-years-old and we would play a bunch of jazz standards like 'Ain't She Sweet" etc. As a teen I discovered the Beatles and Zeppelin, started playing an electric guitar that Les Paul gave me (through my dad's relationship with Les), and started rocking in garage bands with fellow school mates. They pushed me to sing in the band, and it was a lot easier than playing guitar, so I pretty much turned into a singer right then! Josh Zee and I put together The Mother Truckers in 1999 and released four albums, toured the world, and followed our musical noses to Austin, where the scene was just right for what we do. I'm happy to report that it feels just right for the Whiskey Sisters as well!”

In case you were wondering, Teal still has the guitar Les Paul gave her, and plays it often.

“I used to sneak my father’s old 45s from the basement as a kid and put on shows to my dolls, singing and dancing around to The RighteousBrothers, Sam Cooke, and The Everly Brothers among others!” Barbara said of her background. “ I left home at 15, joined a band and never looked back.  My first band was a jam band called Rare Daze in Virginia and was just a good dang time.  I moved away from that genre in my writing and formed a rock band called Cradle and played in an acoustic duo called The Perpetrators for a number of years.  From there I moved to San Diego and hit a massive creative streak, writing all the time, and forming a band out there to showcase those songs.  I also started singing back-ups part of the year with Tim Flannery,  the third base coach for The Giants (in his off seasons).  San Diego was wonderful but I like to challenge myself, so I moved to Austin not knowing a soul and jumped into the music scene.  I was playing solo and small ensemble shows when Teal and I met and formed The Whiskey Sisters.  The musical synergy I feel with her is unmatched and we are forging ahead!!”

Their debut CD is due next month, recorded with basically the same band they use on stage, the exception being guitarist Etan Sekons takeing over for Josh Zee live.

"It's ALL original material!,” Teal said of the CD. “Twelve songs recorded at Congress House studios and Summit Studios here in Austin. We have Josh Zee on electric guitar, Lonnie Trevino, Jr. on bass, Michael Davids on keys, and Phil Bass on drums. Barbara and I played acoustic guitar and handclaps!

“The record hits the streets Tuesday, Feb.19, when we will do a 5 p.m. Waterloo Records in-store performance and signing. Then, Feb. 22 we will have our official CD release party at, where else, the Continental Club!”

Collins and Nesbitt each contributed songs to the CD and are big admirers of each others songwriting.

“ Teal’s tune, 'Good Girl Down',  has always been one of my favorites to play, and I think it came off really well in the studio,” Barbara said. “It has that upbeat, twangy, strong female thing that I think represents The Whiskey Sisters well and makes you smile.”

 "I really love Barbara's song  'All I Can Do' “, said Teal. “The whole sentiment behind it is really sweet and the melody just carries you away! It was one of the first songs she brought to the table and right away it fit!”

 You can hear them play those songs and more Thursdays starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Continental. For other gigs, check out their web site at www.thewhiskeysisters.com.

See our Photo Gallery for more pics of The Whiskey Sisters.

 

 

 

 

C. Hunt's Ice House

Posted by Deborah Orazi on July 20, 2011 at 8:13 AM

It's 7 p.m. and the temperature is still hovering near the century mark when I pull into the

 parking lot at C. Hunt's Ice House in North Austin.

Lured by the prospect of hearing some honky-tonk tunes from Roy Heinrich and the Pick-Ups, I willingly risked heat stroke driving in my un-air-conditioned Miata while the sun was still out.

 Heinrich and Co. don't disappoint and I survived, cooled by a $2 can of Diet Coke - the same price as the beer, but a bargain when you consider the music, and the history lesson I was about to get from one of Austin's beloved elder statesmen.

Watching a dominos game from a stool inside the bar is the tall, thin figure of Chester Hunt, the proprietor and namesake of the establishment.

"I've owned this building for 51 years," said the congenial Hunt, who was born and raised in Georgetown.  "It was a meat processing plant. We processed between 3,000 and 4,000 deer a year. In 1995 I opened it as a bar. It made me an awful good living as a meat processing plant, but this is a whole lot easier."

The bar's setting is surprisingly pastoral considering bustling Burnet Road lies no more

 than 500 feet from the front door.  

"Nobody in town has a grape arbor like we do," Hunt said proudly. The  mustang grape vines provide shade for the two rows of picnic tables outside the main entrance.

A flatbed trailer under a lush green tree opposite the tables serves as the stage. There

are no fancy, colored stage lights. Just a street light that flickers on when the sun starts to set.

 The dance floor is a paved driveway.

"We can seat about 500," Hunt said. But on June 2, around 2,000 people showed-up to pay respects to him on his 85th birthday.

"He's the best boss in the world," said bartender Shelby Blaydes, who also books the music.

Go to the Photo Gallery for a glimpse of my visit to the inimitable C. Hunt's Ice House. 

 

 

My Name is Jimmy Lloyd

Posted by Deborah Orazi on April 14, 2011 at 7:34 AM

 

It was three days into SXSW Music 2011 and I was on my way to the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin on an unseasonably hot day to pick-up singer/songwriter/TV host Jimmy Lloyd for an interview.

His is a remarkable success story and I’m curious to hear the details of it from the man himself while he’s in town checking out artists, possibly for the NBC-TV show in New York that bears his name, ‘The Jimmy Lloyd Songwriter Showcase’.

“I came to SXSW for the first time last year and I said then that I’d never miss another one,” he had told me the day before at a BMI showcase. “I saw so many great bands.”

Perennially cheerful and positive, the towering Lloyd doesn’t flinch when he sees my tiny un-air-conditioned Miata - or when he hears the rattling noise it makes. He calmly folds himself into the passenger seat and we set off to find a quiet place to talk.

Traffic is horrendous and with one eye on my rising temperature gauge and the other on the beads of sweat forming on my passenger’s brow, I steer the car in the direction of a cross-town bookstore and its café. Only about 50,000 out-of-state cars stand between us and a cold Diet Coke.

The  multi-talented Lloyd can write and record his own songs, turn one into an online video sensation, and then miraculously parlay it into a TV show on NBC, but he can’t make the sea of stopped cars in front of us part. 

The video that launched his TV career was of a catchy tune he wrote called ‘Cop Bar’. It was from a 10-song CD he recorded three years ago called simply, ‘Jimmy Lloyd’.  

“I knew there was something special about the video,” he explained once we were seated at the café. “I knew after all the effort that went into making the video, something would come of it.”

His hunch proved correct.  Add to the mix Lloyd’s gift for marketing, a keen business sense, and a healthy dose of ambition and you begin to see why he has a TV show carried on NBC's digital channels in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia,  and Washington D.C…..and we don’t. 

 It all began as an effort to promote his CD.

“Once the CD was released I realized the greatest challenge was making people aware of what you’re doing,” he said. “I realized that the cavalry wasn’t coming. I had to do it myself.”

Lloyd figured making a video and putting it online would be a good first step, so he assembled a cast and crew and set about making “my ‘Apocalypse Now’, the mother of all music videos.”

He put ads on Craigslist for actors and  crew and was amazed at the response. Among those responding were professional actors from an Emmy-winning HBO series.

“I couldn’t believe there were actors from "The Sopranos" trolling Craigslist for work,” he said. “You’ll spot them in the video.”

Ironically, one of the lead characters on "The Sopranos", Michael Imperioli (who played Tony Soprano’s nephew,Christopher) would become a guest, along with his band La Dolce Vita, on Episode Seven of Lloyd’s tv show.

After some crafty marketing by Lloyd, the unusual video became a hit online (you’ll understand why if you follow the link to it at the end of this story) and two months and two days after it was posted, he got the message that would change everything.

 “A person affiliated with programming at NBC e-mailed me, ‘This is really impressive. Who are you?’ ”

Next thing you know, Lloyd and his buddy Ashish Naik, now Co-executive producer of the TV show, were meeting with network executives and pitching the idea for the TV show.  A pilot was ordered up, which the network liked, and Lloyd was set. He not only would be helping his own career with the new show, he'd also be able to help fellow artists advance theirs.

“In music today you cannot be just another person with your hand out,” he said. “You’ve got to offer something.  I knew we were doing something for other people, and I knew it was good.

 “In the fall of 2009 we started auditions. We had 4,000 email submissions that we whittled down to 100 after listening to everything that came to us.  We had 80 songwriters come in to audition and then whittled it down to 25.”

Ten episodes have been filmed so far, in addition to the pilot.

Lloyd likes to describe the show as an ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ for songwriters. Filmed at New York’s Gibson Guitar Showroom, each of the episodes basically consists of a monologue by Lloyd, performances, and interviews, including a discussion of the featured artist’s songwriting process.

At a BMI showcase during SXSW 2011, one of the acts that have appeared on his show, Brooklyn-based band Hank and the Cupcakes, introduces Lloyd from the stage and performs a song they wrote for him,  ‘My Name is Jimmy" (and I Have a TV Show)’.

They’ll be no hiding behind his Ray Bans now I think to myself as I watch heads in the audience turn. Sure enough, one of Austin’s myriad singer/songwriters approaches him. 

“In the beginning we got about 500 submissions a week,” Lloyd said the next day during our talk. I ask if his time-consuming duties on the show haven’t been to the detriment of his own music. If anything, he insists, his songwriting skills have improved as a result of the show.

“First and foremost I see myself as a songwriter,” Lloyd, a Neil Young admirer, said. “I’ve been writing songs most of my life, but I’ve always been business-minded.

“The production is time consuming, but I think my songwriting has gotten better. I meet great songwriters all the time and it makes me ‘up’ my game. I’m a competitive person, so I try to write a song to compare with that person or songwriter I admire. The greatest thing that’s resulted from this experience is the people I’ve met, the songwriters.”

After our  interview, we get up to leave the café and a young man rushes over to Lloyd, handing him an I-Phone. On the screen are notes he took after having overheard our conversation from a few tables away.

“I was listening to every thing you said and I agree with it all,” gushed the young musician. “It’s how I feel, too.”

And that’s exactly what Lloyd is counting on, people identifying with the songs and the people who sing them on his show.  

Next on the horizon for Lloyd is a reality TV series he’s pitching about struggling musicians in New York City called ‘The Scene…L.E.S.’  Dozens of young hopefuls showed up at a casting call for it in New York on April 2. Here is a teaser for that show:    http://vimeo.com/19667835

 

“It’s a spin-off,” he explained. “I became fascinated by the back-story of all of these songwriters I was meeting.”

My favorite character in the trailer Lloyd is pitching to TV execs is ‘Cheeseburger Don’ Ryan, a witty and insightful New Jersey-based troubadour. He, too, is at SXSW this year and I meet him when he shows up with Lloyd at the Saxon Pub for Texas singer/songwriter James Hand’s showcase.

Lloyd also has plans to expand his original show, taking it on the road (could Austin be on a future itinerary?) and taping at music venues such as the Highline Ballroom in New York.

But one thing won’t change.

“The show will always be by a songwriter, for a songwriter,” he insisted.

To see the risqué video that started it all forLloyd, follow this link: http://vimeo.com/10747104 .

You can watch episodes of his TV show here: jimmylloyd.com

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be on Lloyd’s show, contact him at songwritershowcase@jimmylloyd.tv

 


 

Remembering Pinetop

Posted by Deborah Orazi on March 23, 2011 at 7:58 AM

When I moved to Austin seven years ago, one of the things I couldn’t get over was seeing Pinetop Perkins around town.

 Joe Willie ‘Pinetop’ Perkins, one of the original Delta bluesmen. Muddy Waters’ piano player. A guy who had recorded for Sam Phillips in Memphis.  Grammy winner.   

There he was sitting alone at a table at the Broken Spoke,an assortment of his CDs spread out in front of him for sale. I was surprised to see him at the Spoke that first time. But it turns out Pinetop was a country music fan.  

Each time I saw him there, I grew a little bolder. At first I would stop by the table just to take a picture and shake his hand. Soon I was lingering longer and longer until I eventually got the nerve to pull up a chair one night. He didn’t seem to mind at all.  From then on I would sit with him whenever  I saw him at the Spoke, allowing myself just one question per visit so as not to be a pest.

 Pinetop knew the blues all too well, in his private life as well as his music.  A time or two he talked about himself without my asking anything. One particular night he seemed melancholy, and out of the blue told of being stabbed by a woman (a pivotal event in his career that would transform him from a guitar player into a keyboardist), and of a traumatic episode of violence in his family. I still wonder why he told me, a virtual stranger.

Another evening at the Spoke, a big blond woman in a shortskirt walked by the table and bent down to pick up something she had dropped.The view left little to the imagination. Suppressing a giggle I turned to Pinetop to see if he noticed. I was met by wide grin.

“If you got it, flaunt it,” the then 92-year-old said, shaking his head.   

When Chuck Berry played the Paramount in Austin a few years ago, Pinetop was backstage visiting his old friend.

I was there, too, but I was out front in the audience, the proud recipient of a ‘King Bee Social Club’ guitar pick passed to me by Chuck’s son right after the concert ended. When the crowd cleared I walked onto the stage and looked out the back load-in door just in time to see Chuck drive down the back alley in a big sedan.

A few minutes later Pinetop appeared from the dressing room area and made a beeline for the piano on the far side of the stage. He sat down, spread his long fingers over the keys and began pounding out gospel songs. I stood by his side listening to the impromptu concert and clutching my guitar pick, all the while thinking I must be the luckiest girl in the world. 

 

 



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