Monday nights are now the creative territory of an artistic singularity simply known as Odie. For the few hours on Monday nights, Odie works his magic, transforming Tequila Mockingbird's River Walk digs into a relaxed and dusty roadside honky tonk. As he rattles off an eccentric medley of originals and covers every week - everything from the Replacements to Roger Miller - he is gradually building what most bar owners consider their slowest night of the week into an institution, a proven venue where local music fans can be just as entertained as the clueless tourists who happen to wander in off the street.
The first six months of the Grackle Munday experiment have been a modest success, drawing a steady flow of onlookers through the door. Odie also invites a wide range of friends to make guest appearances. Past guests have included German experimental musician Andreas Martin and San Antonio's Joe Reyes, of the Grammy-nominated duo Lara and Reyes.
Regardless of the rotating supporting roster, Grackle Munday is an experience that leaves audiences both satisfied and mulling over an inevitable irony: a lanky, blue-eyed, half-Japanese man who sings country songs with an authentic Texas twang, and offers you green tea in between numbers. And thankfully, the show is free, which balances out any moolah you may have to fork out for downtown parking.
MAKING THE CASE
In recent years, vintage country music has been a refuge for many former punk rockers, but few have made the transition with as much skill and authority as Neko Case. A drummer in various Pacific Northwest punk bands of the early '90s, Case didn't discover her singing voice until she moved into country music. Her third and latest album, Blacklisted, not only confirms her haunting power as a vocalist, but establishes her as one of the best songwriters on the so-called Americana scene. Her Friday, February 14 show at Austin's Mercury Club is her first tour stop in this part of Texas since Blacklisted's 2002 release, and is worth a Valentine's Day trek up IH-35.
THE ENDLESS SKYWAY
Had he lived, Woody Guthrie would have been 90 years old this year. To celebrate the occasion, several renowned singer/songwriters are coming together for a 23-city tour honoring the great American songwriter. The Ribbon of Highway Festival passes through BraunTex Theater in New Braunfels on Thursday, February 13.
Guthrie was born in Oklahoma in 1912 and spent several years in Texas, but the Depression and the Great Dust Storm of 1935 sent him and other "dust bowl refugees" to California. Guthrie's experiences on the road found their way into his songs "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" and "Talking Dust Bowl Blues." He combined music with social commentary on the radio in 1937; by 1939, Guthrie was in New York mixing it up with artists, writers, musicians, and leftist organizations. Together with friends Leadbelly, Burl Ives, and Pete Seeger, Guthrie supported controversial causes by singing protest songs about the plight of the common man. Guthrie served in the Army during World War II, and his post-war career suffered from the onset of Huntington's Chorea, a degenerative disease that robbed him of his health and ultimately his life in 1967. Guthrie has since received numerous posthumous awards, including a Grammy in 1999 for his folk songs.
Singer/songwriters Jimmy LaFave, Ellis Paul, Slaid Cleaves, and Eliza Gilkyson are touring the country to honor Guthrie. The concert features the stories, songs, and philosophies of the legend, as well as Guthrie-inspired songs. "He was the original traveling storyteller and folk singer," says LaFave, "an advocate for social change and overall, a real character." The concerts promise to be a real celebration of the life and times of one of America's great artists.