Austin Music Review: Russel Taine Jr.

by Brianna Caleri

When Aaron Winston was asked to play at The Mohawk in 2017, he scrambled to get a group together. Within a week, Russel Taine Jr. went from a solo project to a band. Three years after that, the dreamy alt-rock band is leaning more into its country identity with four Austin-centric singles about summer in the city. The two released so far, “Sister Sister” and “Blue Jean Baby” offer Austinites some much-needed reassurance via serious nostalgia.

RusselTaineJr1(photos by Brianna Carleri, Russel Taine Jr. and band, 2019)

Winston started writing songs as a teenager, eventually adopting the pen name his grandfather used in correspondence to the United States from Moscow during the Cold War. His decision was a little intellectual, and a lot because he liked how it sounded; two key elements of the band’s future efforts. Now it inspires a conversation starter in the perpetual fan question, “Who is Russel Taine Jr.?” And while it may just be a happy coincidence, naming the band for a semi-fictional member anchors the group to their southern rock forebears (remember Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band?).

RusselTaineJr2“Sister Sister” wastes no time in introducing the mysterious ghostwriter, slipping the band name into the lyrics as a way, Winston says, of reminding new audiences who they’re watching at local venues. In context as the first of four related singles, it has the unintended effect of staking a claim to a new, more purposeful identity. The track explicitly mentions Austin and it’s “hot summer nights,” but, lest the lyrics get too on-the-nose, sprinkles in charmingly confusing images like a demure woman’s “Rorschach grin.” Little intellectual twists maintain the group’s usual air of delicate fantasy over the song’s retro southern skeleton. Lots of delay and effortless arpeggios wash a haze over soulful organ and what might have been a screaming guitar solo is set back into the distance of the mix.

Winston clarifies the titular “sister” isn’t any woman in particular, but represents “any number of relationships” over time. This one is about nostalgia; a feeling best reserved for weak memories about strong feelings. It’s about sharing the tiny moments that build our identities, and the vagueness that makes them relatable and reassuring. The story told is a bid for reconnection. Emotional intimacy in the simplicity of summer is something many of us are missing right now while keeping our distance.

“Blue Jean Baby,” released on July 1, provides a foil to “Sister Sister,” with a shoutable anthemic chorus any band would be tempted to use for a show closer. Despite a more energetic presence, it’s overall lighter fare. The leading lady of this crowd-pleaser skews more toward the femme fatale. Like her, the electric guitars are grittier, but a riff runs through the song to nail down the kind of mellow reverie that ties together the Russel Taine Jr. catalog. This one in particular is packed with southern tropes: blue jeans, a tight sundress, standing on docks, and even dueling guitars. Against the muddy bass is jangly rhythm guitar that brings flashes of Tom Petty’s California to Texas.

Of the two tracks, “Blue Jean Baby” offers a simpler message, about dancing all night. It’s the one to sway along with while grilling for two and looking forward to the return of cookouts for twenty. Following the reassuring “Sister Sister,” it seems to seems to say we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. Summer hits are the ultimate form escapism, but in this case, the escape is in our own backyards. It’s not so bad to be stuck here, after all.

SX Self-Quarantine Playlist

by S. Pulse

These SXSW artists won’t get to attend the cancelled festival, but happened to record the perfect quarantine song.  What songs would you add to our list?

Josiah Johnson

Declan J Donovan

Neal Francis

The Talbott Brothers

Early James

JP Saxe

White Denim

Jackie Venson

Wiley from Atlanta

Electric Fields

Reb Fountain




Girl Skin

Billie Eilish Rocks ACL Taping at Moody Theater

by Dan Radin

When an icon arrives, there’s no mistaking the event.

And there Billie Eilish stood: upstage at the top of her riser, sunglasses on, in her baggy athletic wear, nuclear green hair glowing, rotating her head laterally to take in the screaming TV audience. She knew they’d be watching this episode of Austin City Limits on repeat. Eilish looked at the camera and smiled.

The legendary Moody Theater roared all evening with palpable admiration for the 17-year old pop star. Outstretched arms and shouts of “I LOVE YOU BILLIE” rang perpetually while Eilish danced and sang her way through an hour of her dark pop.

Eilish played right into the madness. Starting with “bad guy,” she arm pumped and jumped across every inch of the stage, singing to and addressing each seat in the theater. It was the kind of enthusiasm that likely gifted Eilish the medical boot she wore on her right leg through her set. It didn’t hamper her spirit in the slightest.

Eilish’s sense of self shone as brightly as her neon-green hair. Commenting on playing “Copycat”: “I know a lot of people don’t like that song. But I like it. So I’m gonna play it.” Her movements, open and confident, helped deliver every vocal line with sincere conviction. Atop a stool at the front of the stage, Eilish sang her piano ballads beautifully.

Behind her stage persona, the singer made a point to be transparent in her feelings with the audience. “I was skeptical at first. I was worried you wouldn’t like me,” Eilish confessed. The responding shrieks announced support otherwise. Eilish’s maturity for her age was impressive, notably encouragement to “live in the moment” and enjoy life past a superficial level. Adults and kids alike in the audience sported Eilish t-shirts. Inevitably, Eilish strikes a universally-aspired confidence, while being supremely relatable in her humanity.

Eilish appeared to be surrounded (on-stage and otherwise) by her support system, in the form of drummer Andrew Marshall, and “my big brother Finneas.” Also Eilish’s producer, Finneas swapped smoothly between guitar/bass/piano, while receiving hearty cheers from the crowd. The two-man backing band played tightly to the click and allowed Eilish to flourish as the frontwoman.

At the end of closer “Bury a Friend,” Eilish dropped into her sinister backbend. She then purposefully disappeared into a sea of clambering fans in the front row for “Hugs.” Past being a remarkable musician, Eilish is just as admirable for her commitment to being a North Star for her peers, and welcoming vulnerability. In the face of her stardom, Eilish wants to remind us she’s just like everyone else.

Eric Clapton’s 2019 Crossroads Guitar Festival Brought New & Old to Dallas

-Dallas, Texas

Words can’t even describe the depth and breadth of music talent this past week in Dallas, Texas. Considered one of the world’s all-time greatest guitarists and known amongst his peers as a great collaborator, Eric Clapton brought the fifth installment of the Crossroads Guitar Festival to American Airlines Center.

final-8836The past, present and future of guitar music joined Eric Clapton in Dallas, Texas for an unparalleled two-night event that fans and artists alike will remember for a very long time. The lineup alone got everyone stoked for this return to Dallas where it all started. It’s been six long years since the last festival and people came from all over to witness it. The fest brought international legends as well as budding artists and covered all music genres from jazz to alternative rock. The sheer amount of legendary guitarists under one roof was undeniable and palpable.

final-9363The list of performers included:

Day 1:

Citizen Cope
Eric Clapton & Andy Fairweather-Low
Gustavo Santaolalla
James Burton & Albert Lee
Jeff Beck
Jimmy Vaughan
Kurt Rosenwinkel with Pedro Martins
The Marcus King Band
Pedro Martins & Daniel Santiago
Peter Frampton
Sheryl Crow
Sonny Landreth

final-6918Day 2:

Buddy Guy
Doyle Bramhall
Eric Clapton & His Band with Alan Darby
Gary Clark, Jr.
James Bay
Keb Mo
Lianne La Havas
Los Lobos
Robert Cray
Robert Randolph
Tedeschi Trucks
Tom Misch
Vince Gill & Band

final-9827Besides the epic artists themselves, each day included incredible collaborations the likes of which you would not get to see anywhere else. It makes this event truly special. And not just for the audience. Incredible and unusual collabs by special guests delighted the crowd: Alan Darby, Billy Gibbons, Bonnie Raitt, Gary Clark Jr., Jamie Oldaker, Keb’ Mo’, Albert Lee, Bradley Walker, Jerry Douglas, Joe Walsh, John Mayer.

final-8444Clapton appeared many times throughout the nights and dedicated the event to his friend, Alan Rogan, who passed away earlier in the summer. Alan was a great musician who was part of The Who family since the 70’s.

Thanks to a rotating stage and amazing stage crew, Bill Murray, there was constant action and little down time between sets.

final-6089The show was emceed by an interesting comedic choice, Bill Murray. He added some silliness and fun and also attempted to jam with bands on several occasions. Murray is well-known for his love of live music, showing up at music festivals and iconic shows.

final-0360Texas artists had a strong spot in this year’s lineup including: Gary Clark Jr. (Austin), Jimmie Vaughan (Austin), Billy Gibbons (Houston), Doyle Bramhall II (Dallas).

final-7477Highlights from the fest:

The Eagle’s Joe Walsh and Vince Gill jammed together on epic Eagle’s songs. Watching legend James Burton (who played with Elvis) jamming with Albert Lee was incredibly special. John Mayer jammed with several artists and newcomer Tom Misch. Huge set with Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang (who have been touring together for years). Deep sets from Gary Clark Jr., Jimmie Vaughan collab with Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow’s collabs with Doyle Bramhall and Bonnie Raitt, and Tedeschi Trucks’ set. Legend Robert Cray and buzzworthy Marcus King were also great sets. Seeing legend Jeff Beck perform was indescribable. But nothing felt more iconic than seeing Clapton himself play (and his epic band) and jam with many of the artists.


final-9013His band – which unusually featured two drummers and a percussionist – was Chris Stainton (keys), Paul Carrack (keys / vocals), Doyle Bramhall II (guitar / vocals), Nathan East (bass / vocals), Katie Kissoon (vocals), Sharon White (vocals), Pedrito Martinez (percussion), Sonny Emory (drums) and Steve Gadd (drums). Featured guests were Alan Darby, and John Mayer. The 8 song electric set was a highlight from start to finish but the crowd favorites were undoubtedly “Pretending”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Layla “(with John Mayer) and amazing cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that closed out the set.

final-0621Set from Day 1:

Sonny Landreth: Walkin’ Blues, It Hurts Me Too, Instrumental (Title Unknown), Brave New Girl

Eric Clapton with Andy Fairweather Low, Jamie Oldaker, Steve Gadd, Nathan East and Pedrito Martinez: Circus, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Tears In Heaven, Wonderful Tonight, Lay Down Sally

Bonnie Raitt, Keb’ Mo’ and Alan Darby – 1 song. Alan played the new Gibson Custom Eric Clapton 1964 Firebird 1 Recreation which is part of the 2019 Crossroads Guitar Collection.

Citizen Cope – 5 songs including Bullet And A Target and Sideways. Gary Clark, Jr. joined for one number

Gustavo Santaolalla – the Argentinian guitarist and composer opened with the Apology Song, followed by a selection of songs from film soundtracks he composed.

Sheryl Crow – 6-song set with guests Bonnie Raitt and James Bay. If It Makes You Happy, Steve McQueen (with Bonnie Raitt), Live Wire (with Bonnie Raitt), Everything Is Broken (with Bonnie Raitt and James Bay), Every Day Is A Winding Road (with James Bay)

Pedro Martins and Daniel Santiago – 3-song set

Kurt Rosenwinkel with Pedro Martins – performed 6 songs. Songs were taken from Kurt Rosenwinkel’s album Caipi and Pedro Martin’s album, Vox.

James Burton and Albert Lee with Jamie Oldaker and Nathan East: That’s Alright Mama, Rock Around With Ollie Vee

final-7925Jimmie Vaughan and The Tilt-A-Whirl Band with guests Bonnie Raitt and Billy Gibbons: D/FW, Roll Roll Roll, No One To Talk To (But The Blues), Baby Please Come Home (with Bonnie Raitt), I Ain’t Never (with Bonnie Raitt), Sharp Dressed Man (with Billy Gibbons), La Grange (with Billy Gibbons)

Doyle Bramhall and Gary Clark, Jr: Rock Me Baby

The Marcus King Band: 7 song set including I Just Want To Make Love To You, Hoochie Coochie Man and Goodbye Carolina.

Peter Frampton with Eric Clapton: Georgia On My Mind (Instrumental), Do You Feel Like We Do, While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with Eric Clapton)

Jeff Beck with guests Johnny Depp and Jimmy Hall: Jeff’s set included Big Block, Isolation (with Johnny Depp), Somebody’s Nobody (with Johnny Depp), Superstition (with Johnny Depp and Jimmy Hall), Little Wing (with Johnny Depp and Jimmy Hall)- anyone who left early missed it since it was at the end of the set after midnight.

final-7757Set from Day 2:

Robert Randolph: – Cut Em Loose, two unknown song titles, Don’t Fight It, Baptise Me

Doyle Bramhall II with guests Jim Keltner (full set) and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi for two songs. Doyle’s set: I Wanna Be Your Dog, Izabella, That’s How Strong My Love Is (with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi), Going Going Gone (with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi)

Tom Misch with guest John Mayer: I Wish, It Runs Through Me, Unknown Song Title (with John Mayer)

James Bay: Hold Back The River, Let It Go, Peer Pressure, Proud Mary, When We Were On Fire

Los Lobos with guests Eric Clapton and Susan Tedeschi: Set lincluded Made To Break Your Heart (with Eric Clapton and Susan Tedeschi), I Walk Alone, Will The Wolf Survive

Keb’ Mo’: five song solo set was Every Morning, I Remember You, Am I Wrong, Just Like You, Dangerous Mood

Robert Cray Band: six song set was I Shiver, I Don’t Care, Fix This, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Just How Low

Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang: three song set with extended versions of Cognac, I Just Want To Make Love To You and Five Long Years (included snippets of Mary Had A Little Lamb and I’m A King Bee).

John Mayer: two song solo set was Slow Dancing In A Burning Room and Neon

Tedeschi Trucks Band: five song set was Signs High Times, Down In The Flood, How Blue Can You Get (dedicated to the memory of BB King), Keep On Growing, Shame

Lianne La Havas: three song solo set was Is Your Love Big Enough, I Say A Little Prayer, Midnight

Gary Clark Jr: His seven song set was Bright Lights, Feed The Babies, I Got My Eyes On You, Low Down Rolling Stone, Our Love, Pearl Cadillac, Come Together

Vince Gill with guests Albert Lee, Bradley Walker, Jerry Douglas and Joe Walsh: The eight song set was Oklahoma Dust, Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down, Ode To Billie Joe, Tulsa Time (with Albert Lee, Jerry Douglas and Bradley Walker), Drifting Too Far From The Shore (with Albert Lee, Jerry Douglas and Bradley Walker), Hey Joe (with Albert Lee and Jerry Douglas), Rocky Mountain Way (with Joe Walsh), Life In The Fast Lane (with Joe Walsh)

Eric Clapton and His Band: The festival host started off by singing Happy Birthday to emcee Bill Murray and presented a cake. Eric’s main set was Pretending, Key To The Highway (with guest Alan Darby), Hoochie Coochie Man (with guest Alan Darby), Badge, Little Queen of Spades, Layla (electric, with John Mayer), and Crossroads (with John Mayer). Purple Rain was the encore.

All Star Guitar Finale: High Time We Went (with most of the musicians).

Although some epic guitarists (still alive and most are touring) that could easily be considered some of the besrt weren’t on the lineup this year-probably for scheduling reasons etc.: Tom Morello, Pete Townshend, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Dan Auerbach, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Perry, Jack White, The Edge, Brian May, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Slash, Nita Strauss, Keith Richards) this year’s festival couldn’t have been better (albeit for a few more female artists).

final-6510All profits from the Festival benefited The Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a treatment and education facility founded by the guitarist for chemically dependent persons. Clapton’s wife Melia Clapton spoke briefly about her personal connection to the treatment center and how thankful she was for it helping her brother. She also announced a new program, Turn up for Recovery, which aims to raise awareness and funds for abstinence based recovery. We loved that this event was for such a great cause that is in great need today around the world.

More about Crossroads Centre

Founded in 1998 by Eric Clapton, Crossroads Centre Antigua was created to provide treatment and education to chemically and alcohol-dependent people, their families, and their significant others. Treatment is provided through residential care, family and aftercare programs. The pathway to recovery is founded on the 12 steps and a change in lifestyle. Crossroads Centre, Antigua also operates a 16-bed halfway house in Antigua called the Bevon House and facilitates various ongoing recovery initiatives on the island of Antigua and around the Caribbean.