Please Don’t Stop the Music: Tom Palaima
Musical inspiration and other tidbits from the Live Music Capital of campus. Check out our corresponding Spotify playlist here.
I have put together here representative Austin music that captures some of its soul these last 50 years. Our late great colleague, polymathic translator, poet and parageographer Douglass Parker (1927–2011) described himself to me once as “a jazz trombonist who took a wrong turn in 1947.” He played alongside the likes of Jon Blondell (below) who described Douglass to me once as “oh, yeah, that literature professor with solid chops.” The Classics and Austin music go way back!
One of joys of Austin has long been live music by masters of many different popular genres. Some of these go into my courses that focus on music, old and new, as social commentary. Others have been sampled by visiting classicists like Judson Herrman, José Melena, Carlos Varias Garcia, Jan Driessen, Nicolle Hirschfeld and Barry Strauss.
- Zuzu Bollin (1923–1990) “Cold, Cold Feeling”. This track is by a notable early-50’s blues man who was long thought dead…but wasn’t. Rediscovered living in Dallas in 1988, he recorded his only full-length album in 1989. Antone’s Records picked it up for distribution: Antone’s cd ANT 0018. Thank God. He is backed by legendary players like Doyle Bramhall, George Rains, Jon Blondell, and Duke Robillard. Antone’s house-band guitarist, producer and one-man blues historian Derek O’Brien writes the liner notes.
- Albert Collins, “Don’t Go Reaching Across My Plate” from his Frostbite cd. Known as the ‘Ice Man’ for his cool sound or the ‘Master of the Telecaster’ for his guitar skills, Collins was a regular at Antone’s blues club where he was backed by incredible local players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Derek O’Brien. Mirabile dictu et visu, Collins would snake his way with his long guitar cord through the audience and out the small entrance door to grab a smoke outside in the parking lot. There he would talk amiably with ardent fans, often including one Austin classicist, all the while playing his guitar as the band inside kept in synch.
- Eliza Gilkyson “Reunion” from her recent cd Secularia, for which Tom Palaima, Andrew Riggsby and Richard Thomas advised her on the Latin she wanted to use. Eliza and her soulmate, UT Austin journalism professor and social activist Robert Jensen, are a united force for humanity and speaking, writing, singing and living the truth to power. She and Jimmy LaFave were mainstays of the Walking Woody’s Road national tour that brought to Americans across the country starting in 2012 Woody’s music and Woody’s own version of singing the truth to comfort downtrodden and discarded human beings.
- James McMurtry “No More Buffalo” from American Masters Best of the Sugar Hill Years. No one, not even Bob Dylan, has mastered the art of bringing to life ordinary people and observing what should be observed with anger or deep sympathy like Larry McMurty’s son James. He has become a stellar guitarist, as evidenced in a longstanding acoustic set at The Gallery on Tuesday nights when in town and in two sets with his full band at the iconic Continental Club Wednesdays starting at midnight.
- Albert and Gage, “Goodnight Blues” from Dakota Lullaby. Husband and wife duo Chris Albert and Christine Gage can go it alone or do it together. They have been doing it together for almost twenty-five years. Chris anchors Monday nights at legendary Donn’s Depot.
- Jimmy LaFave “Shelter from the Storm” from Austin Skyline . No one played and sang and got inside Dylan songs better than Jimmy LaFave — except Dylan himself. This from Jimmy’s career-defining Austin Skyline cd (1992). See: https://www.statesman.com/news/20170522/commentary-how-jimmy-lafave-gave-us-the-gift-of-love .
- Willie Nelson “Jimmy’s Road”. Written by a still struggling-to-make-it Willie Nelson on June 20, 1968, but re-released first among the IRS tapes in the early 90’s and then in 2003 on Willie’s own Peace Web site as he sang again for peace and against our Middle Eastern Vietnam II. Read this piece of mine about the courage it took for Willie to write and record this song when he did.
- Denny Freeman “Soul Street” from his Out of the Blue. Denny is the sound of Austin guitar for over 50 years now, playing blues with Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan at the One Knite in the early 70’s and later at Antone’s; playing with jazz trombonist Jon Blondell in the Elephant Room; with Hammond B-3 player Mike Flanigin trio in The Gallery; and with his longstanding late-50’s-into-60’s groove band Fridays at the Saxon Pub and with John ‘X’ Reed taking the lead on country-and-western standards Wednesdays at C-Boy’s. Throw in being Bob Dylan’s lead guitarist 2005–2009. For a taste of what it was like when it was like what it once was, see this snippet of Stu Gilbert’s documentary Spent a Year There One Knite and see below.
- Denny Freeman “Gotta Serve Somebody” from Denny’s Diggin’ on Dylan cd. A rough studio track courtesy Denny Freeman.
- BettySoo “Lonesome Whistle” by Hank Williams. From her heat sin water skin. A rising star whom I first saw and heard opening for Jimmy LaFave at his longstanding New Year’s Eve show at Threadgill’s. You will hear why Jimmy had her opening.
- Billy Joe Shaver “You Wouldn’t Know Love,” a quintessentially trademark short ‘a-culpoco’ encore by country-and-western singer songwriter great Billy Joe Shaver. It is just the way most lives are, I suppose, that Shaver, who is a songwriting genius, is best known for being acquitted of the charge of aggravated assault for shooting a man in the face outside a Texas bar in 2007. Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall showed up as character witnesses.