HearthPR: Hannalee's Wintery Wonderland





Brassica is the second of four EPs from Seattle indie roots trio Hannalee. This series of EPs is timed to release with the seasons, and Brassica is a sweet hymn to the cold embrace of winter. The previous EP, Cucurbita, was an ode to Fall, and Hannalee have two more EPs (Spring/Summer) planned for the rest of 2013. Inspired by winter nights spent in the family cabin in the Methow Valley, Brassica wanders through snowy trails, late-night conversations around the fire, sleighbells, and many other aspects of an American winter. The diverse array of songs range from the beautiful love song “Baby Come Home,” to the Beatles-inflected “Born Again Tonight” and the gospel-choir uplift of “Shine.” Rain-drenched harmonies, windswept acoustic guitar work and the intimate warmth of three loving friends making music together complete Hannalee’s vision for their Pacific Northwest winter EP. With Brassica, this roots trio continue their journey to a holistic view of music, where the emphasis is on making music sustainable and plumbing the creative depths of a group.

More about Hannalee and this project:
Following a lull in his popular indie-rock band Motopony’s touring, songwriter Michael Notter returned to his home in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood and turned his music inwards, looking for a way to form his creativity into something deeply sustainable and satisfying. He returned to his dreamy folk trio, Hannalee, that he had formed in 2010 with his wife Anna-Lisa and childhood friend Fidelia Rowe, and poured his energy into the group’s lush 3-part harmonies and original songs. The result ended up being 4 EPs of material that will be released with the turn of the seasons from Fall 2012 until Summer 2013. Each EP will be screen printed with original artwork, handmade by friends. The goal of the project is to make music of such quality that it lifts up the listener, and to surround that music with as much beauty as possible.

Sometimes when you look for the roots of your music, you go deep, and that’s clearly the case with Hannalee. Each song sounds like it’s been hand-woven from gossamer threads, and the voices weave together with the kind of beaming brightness that only the best singers can pull off. Michael’s not the first to find a kind of life-affirming energy in homemade folk music, but there’s something infectiously joyful about this album. It’s the feeling that it’s made with the love of friends and family and the purest love of music devoid of any of the usual worries and troubles of the music business. As Michael says, “I wanted to dwell in the experience of the music, rather than making a record and moving on.” Sometimes you gotta go back home to save yourself, and it sounds like Michael discovered this simple truth with Hannalee.


Hannalee: "Baby Come Home"


Hannalee: "It's Snowing"


Hannalee: Brassica



blog date 02/20/2013  | comments comments (0)

HearthPR: Wood & Wire's Hard-Driving Bluegrass Twang

Austin-based bluegrass stringband Wood & Wire comes out the gate hard and fast with their debut, self-titled album. Like a chattering tommy gun, Trevor Smith’s rapid-fire banjo picking explodes from his strings, opening the album with one heck of a bang. The opening song, “Mexico,” is so strong and self-assured that you’ll find yourself wondering where these kids came from. The tale of a convict on the run, “Mexico” unfolds like a Tarantino grindhouse flick, the first sign of many on this album that Wood & Wire have found a way to take the same incendiary spark of bluegrass that first put the music on the map back in the late 1940s and channel it into a sound for a new generation.

Wood & Wire have the whole package: red-hot picking, cutting-edge musical arrangements, jet-propelled vocal harmonies, and a knack for writing songs that tell a story. It’s no wonder they’re lighting up the Austin roots music scene, are opening for Yonder Mountain Stringband’s early 2013 tour, and are due for a breakout performance at SXSW this year. They did all this through the power of their music. It’s bluegrass, but with a heavy twang; Monroe-inspired tradition that owes a near equal dose of love to songwriters like Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, or Texas songwriters like Robert Earl Keen and Billy Joe Shaver.



Prepare to be blown away by their killer banjo opening in "Mexico":


Formed as a duo in 2010, guitarist Tony Kamel and mandolinist Matt Slusher had both got their start playing with artists like Graham Wilkinson, South Austin Jug Band, and Rodney Hayden. Adding banjo picker Trevor Smith (from Green Mountain Grass) and bassist Dom Fisher, they built the complex arrangements on their debut album from scratch and shared the songwriting duties across the board, with each band member contributing in some way. It’s a remarkably egalitarian view, and a sign that this band is a tightly interlocking unit that’s built to last.


Their debut album has a wide variety of songs–and some tunes too! The material ranges from the historical (“Coal Mining One” is set in 1940s Kentucky) to the heartbreaking (“Setting the World on Fire”) to the humorous (the raucous “Rollin’ in the Washingtons” takes a less-than-sober look at the financial situations–or lack thereof–of touring bluegrass musicians who have a taste for liquor and an eye for the ladies). Tight, three-part harmonies, sprightly mandolin, and rolling banjo keep the band’s sound grassy, while contemporary flourishes, like the cutting-edge arrangements and contemporary subject matter, speak to the group’s diverse backgrounds and far-flung musical influences.

Wood & Wire take the best elements of bluegrass – blazing power-picking and intense vocal harmonies – and blend this with contemporary songwriting and arrangements, and influences from across the spectrum of American roots music. That’s the key to their appeal, but the key to their success will be based on the blood, sweat, and tears they’re going to shed as they move from Austin’s favorite stringband into the national spotlight. Let’s help them on their way.


Wood & Wire: "Setting the World On Fire"


Wood & Wire: "Coal Mining One"




blog date 02/14/2013  | comments comments (0)

Hearth Music at Folk Alliance 2013


We're packing today to head out to the 2013 Folk Alliance International Conference in Toronto this week! We went in 2010 and had a blast meeting new friends, discovering great bands, and staying up way too late. Are you going to Folk Alliance? Be sure to say hi to Devon from Hearth there! He's bringing the brand-new album from California songwriter Rita Hosking and will have extra copies of most of the albums we're currently promoting. AND--- Hearth Music will be running a showcase room during Folk Alliance, along with our good friends from 12X12 Management (Pokey Lafarge, Betse Ellis) and Quicksilver Productions (Frank Solivan, New Country Rehab, Caleb Klauder). Check out our killer lineup:

ROOM 1029
, Delta Chelsea Hotel
Toronto, ON

-Nora Jane Struthers & the Party Line   10:30pm
     Classic Americana from Powerful Songwriter
-Tony Furtado   11pm
     Dazzling Banjo/Guitar Virtuoso and New Folk Leader
-Charlie Parr     11:30pm
     Haunted Country Blues Songwriting Prophet
-Phoebe Hunt     12am
     Soulful Songstress of the New American Songbook
-Joe Crookston    12:30am
     NY State Songwriting Poet Troubadour
-Betse Ellis    1am
      Firecracker Ozark Fiddler, Singer, Songwriter
-Raina Rose    1:30am
      Lovely Texas Songstress and Folk Leader
-De Temps Antan     2am
      Intensely Powerful French-Canadian Trad Trio

ROOM 1029
, Delta Chelsea Hotel
Toronto, ON

-Laura Cortese   10:30pm
     Powerhouse Post-Folk Fiddler, Singer, Songwriter
-Ryan Spearman   11pm
     "the jujitsu master of folk music"
-Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac   11:30pm
      Two Masters of Cape Breton's Scottish Traditions
-The Revelers   12am
       Louisiana Cajun Roots Meet Country Honky-Tonk
-Phoebe Hunt    12:30am
      Soulful Songstress of the New American Songbook
-New Country Rehab   1am
      Altered, Acoustic Indie-Country Songsmiths
-Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg   1:30am
     Sublime Bluegrass and Old-Time Roots Music
-Baskery   2am
     "Sweden's own wildwood flowers"
-The Mastersons   2:30am
      Husband and wife duo, Deft instrumentalists, Texas groove

ROOM 1029
, Delta Chelsea Hotel
Toronto, ON

-Head for the Hills   10:30pm
      Boundary Pushing Colorado Bluegrass Quartet
-Reed Turner   11:00pm
      Outsider Art Singer-Songwriter from Austin
-Betse Ellis  11:30pm
      Firecracker Ozark Fiddler, Singer, Songwriter
-The Bills  12am
      Globally Inspired Roots Music from Western Canada
-Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman   12:30am
      Americali Singer-Songwriter w/Global Roots + Country Twang
-New Country Rehab   1am
     Altered, Acoustic Indie-Country Songsmiths
-Pharis & Jason Romero   1:30am
     The Pure Mastery of American Old-Time Traditions
-Roosevelt Dime   2am
     Jug-Band Blues, New Orleans Soul, Neo-Folk Roots
-Betse Ellis & New Country Rehab    2:30am
      All-Star Jam Session to Close it Out!

Stop by Folk Alliance Room 1029 at night for a visit and listen to some of our favorite artists and friends. This truly is a top-flight lineup in our view, and we can't wait to present such amazing music. See you at Folk Alliance 2013!!

blog date 02/13/2013  | comments comments (0)

HearthPR: Pharis & Jason Romero Return to Their Roots

Pharis & Jason Romero

Long Gone Out West Blues


We here at Hearth Music are especially excited to be working once again with the stunning duo Pharis & Jason Romero. Following on the heels of their first album A Passing Glimpse—which just won the Canadian Folk Music Award for "New/Emerging Artist of the Year"—their newest album continues to raise the bar on great folk music.

At this point, with the release of their stunning sophomore album, Long Gone Out West Blues, it’s inevitable that Canadian roots duo Pharis & Jason Romero will be compared to Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. This is because the Romeros write songs that are both dicult to tell from the traditional sources that inspired them AND sound impossibly fresh and new. Pharis & Jason’s songs contain the element of transcendence. It’s the effortless moment of flight when a bird takes wing, or the zen precision of a master archer placing an arrow, or the soft wooden curve of a chair turned by the hand of a true craftsman. It’s the mark of artists who’ve mastered their craft to such a degree that they’re able to move the traditions to a new state. That’s why you’ll recognize every song on Pharis & Jason Romero’s new album, even the songs they’ve written themselves or sourced from rare field recordings. Because you’ll recognize the hand of the master in their music.

Pharis & Jason Romero make their lives in the deep wilds of British Columbia, working from their homestead outside the town of Horsefly. They are professional instrument makers, and Jason’s banjos are some of the best in the world. They work together every day in their workshop, and retire to the house to make music in the evenings. It’s an idyllic lifestyle, and shows the closeness between this husband and wife duo that is echoed in their music. On Long Gone Out West Blues, their voices meld as eortlessly as their instruments, intertwining on an instinctual level. Their instruments intertwine as well, as both are masterful guitarists in the vein of Norman Blake. Instrumentally, Jason Romero presents some of his best work on this record, drawing deep beauty out of the wordless subtlety of his playing. His sublimely beautiful banjo leads o two instrumental sets, and his finger-picked guitar work, intended to sound more like flat picking, sparkles along the strings.

Spending so much time immersed in American folk traditions, both Pharis & Jason Romero have a wealth of knowledge to draw from in choosing the songs on their new album. The cold- blooded hymn “It Just Suits Me” is taken from a field recording of Georgia Sea Island singers, vintage country song “Truck Driver’s Blues” came from a radio broadcast from the 40s, and “Waiting for the Evening Mail” is from a 78 of old-time singer Riley Puckett. But the real focus of the album should be on their original songs, written by Pharis Romero. Pharis has always been a powerful songwriter, and she’s come into her own with this record. “Sad Old Song,” has lovely verses speaking to the life of traveling musicians struggling to make their voices heard, the heart-rending ballad “I Want to Be Lucky” is a weary hard-luck story, and “Come On Home” is a gentle, soothing balm of hope for those looking for home after a hard day. What’s remarkable about Pharis’ songs are how they’re able to sound like traditional songs while still communicating something new. It’s hard to tell “Lonely Home Blues” from an old 78rpm country blues song, and “The Little Things Are Hardest in the End” could easily be a vintage country hit.

You get the same feeling listening to Pharis & Jason Romero that you do looking at an old photograph. Their music touches something deeper than the music of our present day. It taps into something larger than ourselves. Their music reminds us of where we came from and points the way to where American folk music is going today.

Pharis & Jason Romero: "Sad Old Song"



Pharis & Jason Romero: "Truck Driver's Blues"


Pharis & Jason Romero: Long Gone Out West Blues



blog date 02/12/2013  | comments comments (0)

Hearth Music Interview with Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs

I first fell in love with Texas while working for the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, so in my mind when I think of Texas, I think of the wonderfully vibrant Tex-Mex culture of San Antonio. I’ve never been to Austin or Houston, or anywhere else in Texas; San Antonio was so full of culture and history that I didn’t want to leave. At the Accordion Festival, I learned that San Antonio was the heartland of Tex-Mex (or Tejano) conjunto music (Spanish-speaking, accordion-driven county music that still retains roots to the Mexican traditions it originally came from). Not speaking Spanish myself and not really knowing much about conjunto, I was still welcomed into the fold and got to hang out back stage with Flaco Jimenez while he warmed up, chat with Sunny Sauceda about his wardrobe choices (black cowboy boots, black cowboy hat, black-and-white zebra-striped accordion, and black Nike gloves), and party with old-school conjunto master Gilberto Perez.

When I heard that famed conjunto band Los Texmaniacs had a new album out with Smithsonian Folkways, and that this album was their love letter to Texas, with each song based on a Texas city or inspired by a place in Texas, I jumped at the chance to interview Max Baca. Once a member of the genre-bending band The Texas Tornados, where he worked to bring the bajo sexto, a big-bellied, many stringed guitar-like instrument whose heavy bass-runs are at the heart of the conjunto sound, into rock ‘n roll. Now with Los Texmaniacs he’s reveling in the traditions that originally inspired him, and finding like-company with the rest of the Texmaniacs, who all share a deep love for Tejano traditions. Calling from his home in San Antonio, Max was a wonderful person to interview and seemed to have endlessly interesting stories from his lifetime of traveling and performing around the world.

Hearth Music Interview with Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs

Hearth Music: You live in San Antonio; what neighborhood do you live in?

Max Baca: I live in the south side, actually the southeast portion of San Antonio.

Is there a strong Tejano community out there?

MB: There is. San Antonio is considered the capital for Tejano music. So, there’s a big Tejano fan base that’s in San Antonio and in different parts of Texas as well. Being that Flaco Jimenez is from here and a lot of the great accordionists were from San Antonio. Flaco’s father, Tiago (Santiago) Jimenez, Sr., was from here and Steve Jordan (Esteban Jordan) was from San Antonio. They might have been from other parts but they always ended up in San Antonio for some reason. [laughing]

You weren’t born in San Antonio; you were born in New Mexico, is that right? Tell me about where you grew up.

MB: I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1967 and I grew up listening to old Narciso Martinez and Tony de la Rosa and Tiago Jimenez and, of course, Flaco Jimenez was always my biggest inspiration in music. My father, Max Baca, Sr., he was an accordionist. Back in the late 50s and the early 60s, my dad was pretty popular in New Mexico.

When did you start playing the bajo sexto and why did you choose to go from the accordion to the bajo?

MB: When I first started playing music, I started on the accordion. Actually, I made my debut with my dad at the age of 5 in the ballroom. I started on the accordion and my brother played accordion too. When I was about 7, 8 years old, after we saw Flaco, then, he had a bajo player and his name was Oscar Tellez and I was just drawn to that guy; he was my idol. The minute I saw him and he talked to me, I was just so flabbergasted, “Man, this guy’s great!” and the sound of that instrument, the sound of that bajo sexto, it just really attracted me. Later on, I started learning about the bajo sexto itself as I grew up, and I got into more of… “Hey, where does this instrument come from?” I started studying Santiago Almeida, Narciso Martinez’s bajo player, who, back then, was a monster, because in those days he was taking the whole load with the bass and the strumming and everything. I was like, “Wow! That is cool!” Nowadays, you don’t see bajo sexto players playing like that. They take the top strings off. They just use the bottom 3 or 4 strings; they leave out the beauty of the low notes and the rhythm. They just do the “chank,” the bottom chank and they don’t do the bajedo, which is the bass part which makes that instrument so unique. So, when I grew up seeing these guys play, that inspired me, and I said, “Man, that’s what I want to do.”... That’s basically how I got started. Of course, throughout the years, Flaco would say, “Hey, you’re a good bajo player. You can really master that thing and make a name for yourself and be the first one to take your name and take that bajo sexto to another level worldwide to where people will say, ‘Hey, Max Baca, that guy plays the bajo sexto.’” Get a name for yourself and then, he said to me, “If I can accomplish what I do on the accordion, you can. And if Tito Fuentes can accomplish being a famous timbale player and Carlos Santana can be a great guitar player–you can be the first great bajo player.”

I was like, “What? That’s cool!” I’ve been blessed with hanging out with really heavy cats like Flaco, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers when they used to play the Texas Tornadoes. Of course, David Hidalgo is one of my all-time idols and I’ve been on stage with Willie Nelson and on stage with B.B. King, these monster guitar players. Willie Nelson, to me, those little solos that he plays are just phenomenal, so heart-felt and he doesn’t play nothin’ technical but, when he plays it, you know that’s Willie Nelson playing his guitar. So, that’s the identity that I’ve tried to create with my bajo sexto. People say, “Hey, I know that’s you on the bajo. I hear your sound right away.” You develop your sound and it kind of sticks with you. People are calling me and asking me which strings I use, what picks I use, what pick-up I use, what bajo sexto I use cuz they want to get that sound that I get. It’s consistency and of course, it’s also the way you play. It could be just one note, as long as you’re feeling that one note, and you’re playing with total heart and soul and feeling in it, that’s what counts. That’s what’s going to reach the people. You’re going to connect with the people, just by the way you play your instrument and by how you make them feel it.

Let’s talk about the new album, Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds. It seems like a love letter to Texas. I noticed most of the songs are drawn from specific parts of Texas. Is that right?

MB: Yeah, I guess so. I guess you could say that... we listened to the songs and we said, "This concept definitely has the Texas towns, because we’re mentioning Seguin, we’re mentioning San Antonio; we’re mentioning Laredo, we’re mentioning Austin... And then, a bunch of other songs that we did on there were like, "The Eyes of Texas," "San Antonio Rose," "El Paso," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Waltz Across Texas." So, we said, "Well, the towns and songs of Texas, so how about title it, Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds? So, that’s how we came up with that title. Dan [Sheehy of Smithsonian Folkways] said, "I like that. It’s catchy."

A lot of the songs on here are classics like, "San Antonio Rose," "Viva Seguin." I don’t know a lot about conjunto but I know a lot of these songs. Was there a choice to choose classic songs?

MB: Yeah.  Of course, "Viva Seguin" is classic and then we did "Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio" which won Flaco his first Grammy. Then the second song we did was a Lydia Mendoza song called "Amor Bonito," a beautiful song. She wrote that song and Lydia Mendoza was from Texas and that song was from Texas. All the songs we put in there were from Texas. I wrote one of them called, "Anna Mia." I wrote it when I was here in Texas, so I guess you could call that a Texas song. I had met a girl and fell in love with her and she was my Anna, that was my girl, and then, one day, she just up and left me, didn’t even say why, what, where, how, nothing. When I first wrote the song, the first half of the song is praising her; I’m so happy that we’re together and I stopped the song there because she left me. So, the second half of the song, I’m pleading with her to come back. That’s typical songwriting that 90% of these songs are about: heartbreaks and everyday life. All the songs that are in the CD, they’re relative to Texas and the Texas towns and the Tex-Mex sound...

The music now-a-days to me is just so commercial. It doesn’t have the beauty and the feel and the heart that it does and that’s the reason why, personally, I like these older tunes, because they’ve been around forever. Like "Waltz Across Texas," Ernest Tubb, he recorded that and it’s been a classic. It’s a classic Texas song and "Viva Seguin" has been around and it’s a classic Texas song. I don’t think these songs will ever die. They have a beauty to them. "Amor Bonito," if you listen to the words by Lydia Mendoza... these are just beautiful, beautiful songs.

How does the rock and roll spirit of the Texas Tornados live on with the Texmaniacs? You guys are playing pretty straight-ahead roots music but how do you keep the rock and roll side?

MB: That’s unique to the Texmaniacs. Augie Meyers told me one time, he says, "You know, you have that vision and you have that engine and that heart, just like Doug Sahm has." He told me and I thought about that and I’m like, "Wow! That’s pretty heavy for you to tell me that, Augie," and he says: "That’s unique to the Texmaniacs. We can do the traditional, roots music that we were brought up with, but then, by the same token, we can twist it a little bit and incorporate the fiddle." On the new CD, we incorporated Bobby Flores on the fiddle and then, even when we do a live show, or live concert to 10,000 people, like if we’re doing a big show overseas, we incorporate our guitar player. We have Willie J., he plays blues guitar and he sings. He’s like the next BB King; he’s phenomenal. He’s really a heartfelt player. So, we incorporate Willy with us into the conjunto, and then that just brings us to another level. We're playing blues and rock and roll but not overdoing it either, not exaggerating with distorted guitars, just playing downright rock and roll with the conjunto elements. That’s pretty cool as long as it’s done right. A lot of conjuntos have tried to play rock and roll but they just don’t have the feel of it. That’s a unique thing about the Texmaniacs, we can get the feel of rock and roll.


Of course, I was a big fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty and that kind of music, and later on, ACDC, but we didn't overdo it. We added a little into the conjunto thing, otherwise people will say, "Look, these people have done too much." You just want enough to where it’s hip and cool. Texmaniacs, that’s what we have. That’s what we can do. We can go and play the Smithsonian Folklife Festival with a traditional conjunto and get the point across to the people, and it would be the first time that they would hear this music and they like it. When they leave at the end of the dance or at the end of the show, they go buy a CD because we touched them and they liked it. Or, on the other hand, we can go play at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, or the Hollywood Bowl, a big concert where we’re jamming out and playing Texmaniacs type of stuff and rock out a little bit. In the middle of the set, we break down and we play the acoustic version of conjunto; they love that in a big concert. All of a sudden, the band breaks down and does “Viva Seguin." The crowd goes crazy and they love it. That’s a unique thing about Texmaniacs and I think a lot has to do with what Augie said that the engine and the heart of having that vision of being able to do both, traditional and modern.

You started off in a lot of dance music. You started in your father’s dance band and you’ve done a lot of dance music. When you tour now with those Texmaniacs, you go all over the world. Do people still dance to the music?

MB: Yeah, they do. It’s music to dance to. You want to tap your foot and then you start dancing. We went to play in China and we played in performing arts theaters, beautiful theaters and before you know it, by the end of the show, they’d get up from their seat to the little space between the front seat and the stage, maybe 15-20 feet and, before you know it, people are jumping and dancing... They’re dancing because we’re moving them. It was really cool! Back when I played with my dad, there was a lot of bailes, where people would go dance just to go dance. Now, we play in a big concert to Chinese people and, before you know it, by the end of the set, they’re in that space there dancing in their own way. Even in Holland, or Spain or the concerts, we played one in San Pedro in Argentina, in Buenos Aires and we started playing “Marina” and people just started jumping right there where they stood, they just started jumping, jumping, jumping to the beat.

That’s amazing! [laughing] I love that.

MB: To me they were dancing, that’s their way of dancing. Obviously, they don’t know how to do the right dance steps but we moved them; that was their way of dancing.

Moving on to another question I had… There must be a lot of Mexican immigrants coming into Texas, especially with all the border violence. How have the Mexicans integrated with the Tejanos? Is there a blending of Norteno and conjunto music at all?

Max: Yeah, there’s a huge norteno market right now: huge, huge. At first, I remember Mingo Saldivar would go play in Mexico and he became really huge over there. The “Dancing Cowboy” they called him. He hit with that “Ring of Fire” and it was huge thing over there and he played to 30,000 people a night. He’d come back here and he was still Mingo but over there he was huge. And it’s vice versa; there’s a lot of Norteno bands that are over here in the States or that come over here, and they’re huge over here because of the population of the Mexican immigrants. They love their music. Los Tigres del Norte are a prime example. Those guys will go fill up a football stadium! There’s definitely a big Norteno movement right now. So, they’ve got a style like… they have the beat of the Tejano and then, they incorporate licks and a stylistic way of playing that’s different from the traditional conjunto. It’s pretty cool, man. I really appreciate it and I dig it, but my heart’s always been faithful to the Tejano conjunto sound.

Do you see conjunto being embraced by a younger generation? Is another generation taking up the music now?

MB: Yes, there’s a lot of young conjuntos that are just busting out now, really, really good ones. They have a more modern sound because it’s another generation. I would say Los Texmaniacs are probably one of the last bands that are doing a modern thing but with the old feel to it. The newer guys… they’ll listen to something on the radio and then, they’ll perfect that and they’ll get that commercial sound. You talk to an accordion player now and you say, “Hey, did you ever hear of Narciso Martinez?” and they’ll have no clue who that was, or Flaco Jimenez. It’s another generation; they’re younger. I would personally love to say before I die, “I took my bajo sexto around the world and I made a mark.” Why can’t Texamaniacs be on MTV? Why can’t our music be on VH1 and MTV and those mainstreams? Give it a chance! There’s a lot of people that have never heard it, don’t know what it is, and I guarantee you, if they hear it, they’ll dig it. That’s what I’m shooting for; that’s my goal, to get the younger generation to continue the tradition and hopefully, some day, it’s got a bigger, world-wide appeal than what it has now. I think it’s come a long ways, thanks to Mingo, thanks to Flaco, especially Flaco. He took his conjunto around the world. That’s what I want to do; that’s the footsteps we’re following and carrying on the tradition.

Speaking of bring conjunto to new places, tell me about recording with the Rolling Stones! 

MB: In 1996, me and Flaco were out on a tour in Los Angeles with the “Rock Angels." It was just me and Flaco and they were backing us up, we were on tour with them and, then, at one of the gigs that we played at, back stage, we got a phone call from Don Was who was producing the Voodoo Lounge CD for the Rolling Stones and he was looking for Flaco because he saw in the newspaper that me and Flaco were playing out there. So, he said, “There’s one song that we would love to have you record on; it needs that Tex-Mex sound to it.” So Flaco said, “Yeah, that would be great and my bajo player, Max, is here.” He said, “Bring him too, that’s great. Recording a bajo together, that would be awesome.” So, when we got to the studio, we had the song because they gave us, back then, a cassette tape and we heard it at the hotel.

The next day when we got to the recording session, we started playing the song and they put my mic up to my bajo and then I was in another room over there and we walked in and Mick Jagger was the first one to greet us. I was in awe! I had to psych myself out. He’s like, “Hey, Flaco! Hey, Max!” Really cool cat, real short skinny guy. Don Was was sitting there and Keith Richards was sitting in the back. The other 2 guys, Charlie and Ronnie, they walked out. When we walked into the studio, Mick shook our hands, “Hey, guys.” I grabbed my case and opened up the bajo and Keith Richards was sitting in the corner and he saw my bajo and he got up and he says, “ Pow! “ He was smoking a cigarette and he says, “What is that thing?” And I say, “That is a bajo sexto” and he goes, “Can I hear it?” and I go, “Sure, man.” And I gave him my bajo and he tried to play it like a guitar and of course, it’s tuned different and he’s all, “Wow! What is this thing? How do you play it? This is beautiful.” And I said, “It’s a bajo sexto” and he goes, “This is amazing!” He was smoking a cigarette and the whole time that he is checking it out, his cigarette is… the ash is building up and he had the cigarette in his mouth and the ashes are just about to fall and so... I’ll never forget... When the cigarette fell, the little cherry fell with it and it landed on the bajo. He wiped it off and said, “I’m sorry, man,” He chuckled and, “I’m sorry. I love this thing man, I want it, I want it!” He goes, “Name your price, I want to buy it from you. Just name your price, I don’t care what it is” he tells me and I’m like, “Whoa, man. Keith Richards wants to buy my bajo.” I looked at Flaco, and Flaco just shrugged his shoulders, like, “I don’t know.” I’m thinking, “What should I sell this thing for, $20,000?" This is Keith Richards here; he’s a guitar collector. He has Elvis Presley’s guitars and he’s got guitars that are amazing. I just started thinking. I go, “Mr. Richards, it was a gift from my father.” He said, “I understand, sentimental value, yeah, I understand. But I don’t care, name your price. I don’t care, you name your price. I want this.” I was like, “Wow, man.” So, it turned out that I never sold it to him and I froze and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t sell it. When I got back from the tour, after we did the recording, and I flew back home to Albuquerque, I told my dad the story and then, he’s like, “Pendejo, you should have sold it to him. Pendejo, you should have sold it. You could have bought 10 of them!” [laughing] I’m like, “Okay, Dad. I’m out here being loyal to you!” But that’s a true story, that’s a true story. But I guess I could say, I didn’t sell it to him. That year, ’96, we won a Grammy, that CD, that album, Voodoo Lounge won a Grammy, so me and Flaco participated in that. They sent us both a double platinum CD album. I have it hanging on my wall... Later on, I recorded with Mellencamp. I did a song with Mellencamp. Of course, Ricky Skaggs, Charles Sawtelle and Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett, so many others.

Do you still have Keith Richards’ cigarette burn on your bajo sexto?

MB: [laughing] I do. I do. It’s still there.

That’s amazing. What was the song specifically that you were on, on Voodoo Lounge?

MB: It’s called, “Sweethearts Together.” Check it out. It’s track #10. It starts off real slow and then, you can hear the bajo coming in. It comes in on the second measure, you can hear it right away. It’s kind of like a bolero, like a bolero and then, in the middle solo, Flaco takes a solo on the accordion.

Well, thanks Max. We’ll have to do another interview again soon. This has been a lot of fun.

MB: You call me anytime, my friend.

Max Baca Talks About and Demonstrates Conjunto Music and the Bajo Sexto:

Los Texmaniacs: Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio (I Leave You in San Antonio)



NOTE: Hearth Music has been a publicist for Smithsonian Folkways in the past, but we weren't involved with this Los Texmaniacs release in any way.

blog date 02/02/2013  | comments comments (0)

Guest Blog: Joel Savoy & David Greely in Olympia Concert Review

Guest Concert Review by Llyn De Danaan.

On the icy evening of January 11 (the temperatures locally hit 20 degrees Fahrenheit and black ice slicked up the roads throughout town), Dave Greely and Joel Savoy made a stop on their way from Portland to Seattle to entertain a grateful sell-out crowd and inaugurate Olympia, Washington’s newest music venue, the back room of André Le Rest’s iconic Bread Peddler café. Dave Greely, for those who don’t know, is the founding fiddler of the Mamou Playboys [Steve Riley's band] and an earnest student of Cajun roots music as well as a composer and storyteller. He was born in Baton Rouge and raised in Livingston Parish. Savoy is from Eunice, Louisiana and in addition to his fiddling, entertained us with stories of the rural Mardi Gras traditions in Cajun country.

The back room was a perfect place to hear the duo perform and to enjoy a sampling of wine, beer, cheese and breads, and pastries. Among regular roots music devotees present were people who frequent local Quebecois and other jams. The front row was claimed by excited children, students of fiddle and dance, who watched and listened with great concentration. I last spotted this handsome group in the front row of Washington Center for Performance Arts’ recent Natalie MacMaster concert.

This kickoff of the Bread Peddler’s new musical life couldn’t have been more lively and apt. Greely and Savoy played a mixture of old tunes (many drawn from Denis McGee’s repertoire such as McGee’s A Minor Waltz) and newer compositions. Greely introduced the uninitiated to McGee’s work, as well as to the work of Varise Conner, and to the history of “une ronde des danses” which included polkas as well as waltzes and one and two steps. For those who didn’t know the history of the Cajuns/Acadians, there was a brief but informative lesson.

This event was produced by Raincrow Productions. Attendees used the Greely/Savoy evening as opportunity to promote the 5th Annual Olympia Old Time Music Festival to be held at the Urban Onion in downtown Olympia on February 14-17, 2013. The festival will include workshops, dances, and performances. (see http://www.olyoldtime.org/)

David Greely w/Joel Savoy : Cotillion/Chataigner





Lynn De Danaan is a Northwest writer and anthropologist based out of Olympia, WA. Her books include Koans for the Inner Dog: A Guide to Canine Enlightenment, collections of poems, and her latest work, Big Adventure in Moa Nui: The Very Mysterious Events on a South Pacific Island and Their Resolution, a work of fiction based on her travels in Tahiti. Her nonfiction book, Katie Gale’s Tombstone: Landscape, Power, and Justice on 19th Century Oyster Bay will be published by University of Nebraska Press.

blog date 01/28/2013  | comments comments (0)