Dec 152011

Taproot best of 2011 logoIn the six years I’ve been hacking away at Taproot Radio, the thing that keeps me going is that every CD that shows up in the mail has something going for it. Every single CD has an enthusiastic, heartfelt band or singer behind it. I get a kick out of the enthusiasm people have for their music.

But some CDs are better than others. Some folks are still working on their musicianship and some folks are still trying to learn the elusive art of songwriting.

And some CDs knock my socks off. Every now and then I’ll be slogging through what seems to be the 100th not-quite-ready-for-prime-time CD and I’ll slide one into the car player that blows me away. When the music’s right and the lyrics are right, and the band’s attitude is right everything feels right with the world.

This year’s Taproot Best of 2011, as always, comes from CDs that have been submitted to Taproot Radio. And the number of CDs that came into the station was the largest ever. So these 20 CDs are truly the cream of the crop. I’m proud to be able to share them with you.

Enjoy. As always I value your thoughts and feedback in the comments or by email. And please, support and thank these artists. They deserve it.

Calvin Powers, Music Director, Taproot Radio

1. Queen Of The Minor Key – Eilen Jewell

queen of the minor key by eilen jewellEilen Jewel’s had hints of rockabilly in her previous CDs, hidden behind the blues crooning and the sweet country twangs. But on Queen of the Minor Key, Eilen Jewell bring the rockabilly front and center, just to prove she can. She’s still got the surf guitar, blues, and country bits in these songs. Most importantly her strong feminine voice carries it all. By all rights Queen of the Minor Key ought to be an instant rockabilly classic.

Queen of the Minor Key on iTunes


2. Old Mad Joy – The Gourds

old mad joy by the gourdsThe problem with every Gourds CD that comes out is that you have to get over the “but it doesn’t sound exactly like the last CD which I liked so much” problem. They never go for a radical change from one CD to the next. They just keep evolving and growing in new directions. This year’s Old Mad Joy is no exception. They’ve moved in to full-on rock and roll territory on Old Mad Joy, with Jimmy Smiths’ lyrics being just as obtuse and intriguing as ever and Kevin Russel’s mandolin taking a beating like never before. They keep adding instruments. They keep adding more and more vocals. The sound just keeps getting richer, grittier, heavier and, well, funner. The Gourds are still the best bar band ever in my book.

Old Mad Joy on iTunes


3. Eleven Eleven – Dave Alvin

eleven eleven by dave alvinNo one makes you want to drop what you’re doing to run off and join a band like Dave Alvin does. His blues rock vibe has just the right mix of bittersweet sleaze and aloof indifference to the facts of life most people have to pay attention too. This year’s Eleven Eleven rides into my top 10 on the strength of “Johnny Ace is Dead” with good support from “Harlan Country Line” and “Black Rose of Texas.” I also give him props for having the guts to include a song like “Dirty Nightgown” in the mix as well.

Eleven Eleven on iTunes



4. The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams – Various Artists

the lost notebooks of hank williamsIt’s not just a historic project destined to sit on the shelves of museums. It’s also a really fine CD, carried both by the amazingly powerful melodic simplicity of Hank Williams’ lyrics and the “posthumous collaboration” from 13 stellar singer/songwriters who knew how to stay true to the Hank Williams sound. Hardly a weak track on the CD.

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams on iTunes

On Episode 68 of the Taproot Podcast, listen to a special audio show about the making of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. 13 singer/songwriters were given the opportunity to set lyrics from Hank Williams’ notebooks to music and perform them on the CD. On this show hosted by Alejandro Escovedo, we hear the artists such as Jack White, Rodney Crowell, and Alan Jackson talk about what it was like to “collaborate” with Hank Williams. (To be released on December 26, 2011)


5. To Drink The Rain – Malcolm Holcombe

to drink the rain by malcolm holcombe Like all great visionary artists, Malcolm Holcombe sounds equal parts childish, grandfatherly, and crazy. His Appalachian blues/soul music has a tough as nails energy to it without losing the foot tapping appeal. Studio musicians have said they would fight for the right to play on a Malcolm Holcombe CD and To Drink The Rain shows you why.  This is one of those CD’s that I’d like to put every track into rotation, but I limited myself to “One Leg At A Time,” “Down In The Woods,” “Becky’s Blessed (Backporch Flowers),” “A Mighty City,” and “To Drink The Rain”

To Drink The Rain on iTunes

On episode 44 of the Taproot Podcast, talks about living in the North Carolina Mountains and talks about 3 tracks from the CD, To Drink The Rain.

6. Bad Ingredients – Scott H. Biram

bad ingredients by scott h biramThe dirty one man band is back with Bad Ingredients. Some people have tried to characterize this CD has his “quiet” album. But as I said in my review, “quiet” is a relative term in this context, more along the lines of channeling his demons rather than exorcising them.My focus tracks were “Black Creek Risin’,” “Dontcha Lie to Me Baby,” “Hang Your Head and Cry,” and “Memories of You Sweetheart.”

Bad Ingredients on iTunes


7. If I Walked on Water – Ted Hefko And The Thousandaires

if i walked on water by ted hefko and the thousandairesTed Hefko writes New Orleans inspired jazz that appeals to the NYC crowd. That’s a tall order but he and his band, the Thousandaires know how to make music that sounds upbeat, sophisticated, and fun while staying true to the spirit of New Orleans. Think of him as an urban Dr. John. My focus tracks are “If I Walked On Water,” “It’s Cold In Here,” and “You’ve Gotta Take Steps.”

If I Walked On Water on iTunes

On episode 66 of the Taproot Podcast, Ted Hefko talks about the extremely competitive music scene in NYC and how that’s a positive influence on artists, how Dylan’s early work was a huge inspiration for him, riding the Greyhound Bus to move to New Orleans when he was just out of high school, and learning to “fix his face.”

8. More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat – Mark Jungers

more like a good dog than a bad cat by mark jungers The Texas highways are littered with the discarded Texan  songwriters who failed the authenticity sniff test. But veteran singer Mark Jungers has survived, writing songs that fit the here and now of  rural Texas without sounding cheap or pandering. My focus tracks are a”Show Me A Sign,” “Wasn’t Thinking,” “50 Head,” and “Drive.”

More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat on iTunes

On episode 47 of the Taproot Podcast, Mark Jungers talks about the upcoming Frio River Festival, how he came up with the title “More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat,” and why he needed to write a cattle-rustling song,


9. Paladino – Paladino

paladino Most of Paladino’s songs explode out of the psyche of lead man Jonathan Harkham so fast that the backing band can hardly keep up.  You don’t so much listen to them as hit against them like flying into the side of a beautiful southern California mountainside. The things is, you’ll want to thank the band when it’s done. My focus tracks are “Have You Ever Been Lonely,” “Lonely Mountain,” “Mexicali Rainsong,” “Ode To Misery,” and “Snow Deer.”

Paladino on iTunes

On episode 67 of the Taproot Podcast, Joanathan Harkham talks about trying to capture the textures of the southern California landscape and latino culture, listening to his mother’s country music while growing up in Los Angeles, and why he chose to cover “Green Green Grass of Home.” (To be published on December 19, 2011)

10. Who Was That Man? – Tokyo Rosenthal

It would be a mistake and a shame to saddle Tokyo “Toke” Rosenthall with the label”singer/songwriter.” Better to call him one of the most entertaining story tellers working today. His latest CD, Who Was That Man?, unfolds like the opening credits of an epic western movie, complete with dramatic mariachi horns. There are elements of “Country and Western” music woven throughout the CD, but he’s not riding off into cliche’ territory. He’s just setting expectations for a set of songs that are borderline mythic ballads. Highlights for me are “Maybe I’ve Been Where I’m Goin’,” “San Antone,” and the bizarre and catchy tune, “The Librarian.”

Who Was That Man? on iTunes

On episode 50 of the Taproot Podcast, Tokyo Rosenthal talks about the award he won for his song “Black To Blue,” his experience with European “listening rooms,” and where he got those mysterious horn players on his latest CD.

11. Middle of Everywhere – Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three

middle of everywhere by poky lafarge and the south city three Not since the Squirrel Nut Zippers has 20’s/30’s/Depression era music been so fun. I don’t know how a group of young guys can make such achingly authentic music, but they do it. They treat it like the fun romp this sort of music was always intended to be. The track “Mississippi Girl” could earn the CD a spot on anyone’s Best of list all by itself. “So Long Honeybee, Goodbye,” and “Head to Toe” are winners too.

Middle of Everywhere on iTunes


12. Bad Man’s Blood – Ray Bonneville

bad man's blood by ray bonneville Ray Bonneville is one of the best barroom balladeers working today not to mention a guitar player second to no one. Whether he is pounding on it like a rock and roll star or creating bluesy atmospherics, he knows how to tell a story in song and music. Every song will keep your attention. There’s always something building in there. Think Dave Alvin, but more rugged, more scarred, more stories.  Highlights for me are “Bad Man’s Blood,” “Sugar and Riley,” “Mississippi,” and “Blonde of Mine.”

Bad Man’s Blood on iTunes

On Episode 52 of The Taproot Podcast, Ray Bonneville talks about whether or not he’s a blues man, his time in New Orleans, and the spaces in his songs.

13. Okra And Ecclesiastes – Grant Peeples

okra and ecclesiastes by grant peeples Grant Peeple’s third CD, Okra And Ecclesiastes wins my reward for best original CD title in, oh, well, a long time. Some how that title builds an image of Deep Woods Gothic that permeates the whole CD and Grant follows through with Ray Wylie Hubbard style lyrics and gritty, grindy, guitars. Highlights for me are “Power Lines,” “Down Here In The Country,” and “My People Come From Dirt.”

Okra and Ecclesiastes on iTunes

On episode 31 of the Taproot Podcast, Grant Peeples talks about selling music on the honor system, his North Carolina connection, and how he nearly set his dog on fire.

14. Welding Burns – Rod Picott

welding burns by rod picott Rod Picott’s latest CD, Welding Burns, is just right for the times, which is to say it’s about tough people working their way through hard times. It’s a CD full of stories about people doing the right thing sometimes, and sometimes, well, not so much. Picott’s CD comes across as a set of tough as nails rock and roll ballads tempered with just a little bit of mournful country twang. Highlights for me are the title track, “410,” and “Sheetrock”.

Welding Burns on iTunes


15. Ghost Stories – Eric Hisaw

ghost stories by eric hisawEric Hisaw has a way with the Joe Sixpack Rock and Roll Ballad. His songs deserve to be turned into anthems for the working class. All the characters in his songs are so real you’d swear you’ve met them before. My focus tracks are “Johnston County,” “California,” “Don’t Live There Anymore,” and “The Love She Wants.”

Ghost Stories on iTunes

On episode 53 of the Taproot Podcast, Eric Hisaw talks about his cheap living days, the writers who inspired him, and the challenges and rewards of writing songs about your family.

16. Wreck And The Mess – Scotty Alan

wreck and the mess by scotty alan Scotty Alan knows how to write songs with a hook in them. Wreck and the Mess wins my 2011 award for most songs I like to sing along with at the chorus. Most songs are driven by an acoustic guitar riff that could be at home in a punk band, which is pretty much where Scotty cut his teeth musically.  My focus tracks are “Good-Bye,” “Your Hero?,” “Long Ways From Laughin’,”  and “Ain’t Much.”

Wreck and the Mess on iTunes

On episode 63 of the Taproot Podcast, Scotty Alan talks about living in the wilds of Michigan, his punk rock days, making music at home, how he found himself in Los Angeles to record his CD, Wreck and the Mess, and his “Irish roots.”

17. The Sun Session – The Border Blasters

the sun session by the border blasters I have to give props to The Border Blasters’ new CD, The Sun Sessions.  It was recorded in the legendary Sun studios in Memphis, but these songs are so easy-going and relaxed it has a back porch music vibe which I really really like. This is a fantastic CD to listen to after a hard day’s work.

The Sun Session on iTunes

On episode 64 of the Taproot Podcast, Todd Jagger and JR Harrell talk about listening to border radio stations when they were kids, their own radio show, the joys of Texas swing, and their experience recording in Sun Studios with ghosts looking over their shoulder.

18. Another Lost Highway – Arty Hill

another lost highway by arty hillHere’s what you need to know about Arty Hill and his band, The Long Gone Daddys. They are the the best honky tonk band working today. Their songs are original, fun, and just right for the times. Yeah, they cover the classic tried and true honky tonk songs at their live gigs. But you’ll want to dance to their originals even more.

Another Lost Highway on iTunes

On episode 60 of the Taproot Podcast, Arty Hill talks about changing the name of his most recent CD, his theory of what makes a song great, getting preloaded on a Ford, and why he had to write a song about drinking charcoal.


19. Wood And Stone – Tara Nevins

wood and stone by tara nevins Tara Nevins’ solo CD, Wood and Stone, is a deeply personal set of songs about working through relationships, work, and life in general. But she manages to make them universal  and you’d swear she’s singing about your life by the time you get to the end of the CD.  You can hear strains of her Donna The Buffalo music in this CD, but at the end of the day, this CD is Tara’s voice.

Wood and Stone on iTunes

On episode 40 of the Taproot Podcast, Tara Nevins from Donna The Buffalo discusses her new solo CD, Wood and Stone, her reunion with her previous band mates, and announces the location of the new Grass Roots Festival.


20. Lie To Me by Bettysoo and Doug Cox

lie to me by bettysoo and doug cox Two great voices, a guitar, and a dobro is all it takes for Bettysoo and Doug Cox to knock it out of the park with their latest CD, Lie To Me.  Bettysoo’s voice is strong, feminine, and mesmerizing, and Doug Cox’ guitar riffs are a perfect complement, soulful, tight, and clear. The CD  highlight the duo’s strengths and range from old-school Doug Sahm to more modern fare like Jane Siberry. Highlights for me are “Lie To Me,” “Boxcars,” and their cover of “Dublin Blues.”

Lie To Me on iTunes

On episode 51 of the Taproot Podcast, Bettysoo and Doug Cox talk about their one year anniversary as musical collaborators, their naming challenges, and the sensuous mysteries of the dobro..


Nov 282011

Todd Jagger and JR Harrell talk about listening to border radio stations when they were kids, their own radio show, the joys of Texas swing, and their experience recording in Sun Studios with ghosts looking over their shoulder.

The Border BlastersTPR#64 The Border Blasters – Interview and Music (MP3)


The Night of 100 Elvises


 Show Notes:

Transcript of Interview With The Border Blasters

Calvin Powers: I’m happy to have as my guest on the Taproot Podcast J.R. Harrell and Todd Jagger, better known as The Border Blasters. They are veterans of Texas music. I am glad to have them on the show. J.R. and Todd, welcome to the Taproot Podcast.

Todd Jagger: Hello, everybody.

JR Harrell: Howdy.

Calvin Powers: I understand, we were just talking a little bit ago; you guys had your own radio show for a while. One of you guys wanna tell me about that?

JR Harrell: Go ahead, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Sure. We did what was called the Border Blast Revue. We did that for five years on Marfa Public Radio. We just decided back in March of this year to take a little hiatus from doing this radio show. It’s a long ways from where both of us live, a little longer for me. We had a great time doing it. It was a weekly radio show where we played a lot of the same kind of music that you play on the Taproot Radio. It was a lot of fun. We had a lot of guests.

JR Harrell: Marfa is a destination. You get all kinds of artists that show up that you’d never believe.

Calvin Powers: That’s cool. We will link to that station in the [inaudible] page. Most of our listeners are based on the East Coast and the North Carolina area. A lot of people might not know what a Border Blaster is. One of you guys wanna kind of give us just a basic explanation about what that is?

Todd Jagger: Go for it, Jimmy.

JR Harrell: Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, there were these stations on the other side of the border in Mexico like in Monterrey and El Paso and Juarez.

Todd Jagger: And Acuna.

JR Harrell: In Acuna, absolutely. They were high-powered radio stations at 500,000 watts. At night they would turn the power up and blast al these different kinds of music. Of course, do all these big sales pitches for baby chicks and all kinds of operations you probably should never do. For me growing up when I was growing up in Austin, I heard that stuff on the radio when I was 6, 7, 8 years old. The first time I ever heard blues music and it just blew my mind.

Calvin Powers: That’s interesting. The first time you heard blues music was on a border blaster radio station?

JR Harrell: Yeah, probably it; I’d say either XEG or Radio Monterrey, which got me listening to WLS and KVLO and all the other stations that you could get at night that would be either the clear channel stations here it would get so clear at night you could hear all that different kind of music.

Todd Jagger: The most famous one was the one in Villa Acuna, Mexico which was started by Dr. Brinkley who was run out of the United States basically because he had this operation where he would fuse goat glands to male parts.

JR Harrell: That’s a big thought, ain’t it?

Todd Jagger: He started this station in Acuna and had his hospital in Del Rio, Texas. In order to get people to listen to the pitches for all the operations and the medicines, and the physic readers and all that stuff that they did where people would actually send money, they brought the musical artist from the United States that really couldn’t get mainstream recognition. That’s where the Carter Family got their start; that’s where Cowboy Slim Rinehart. It was this really weird conglomeration of blues, hillbilly, gospel.

Pretty soon in the ‘50s when these were very famous and you could pick these stations up in Europe, even Elvis and very mainstream artists, Hank Williams and all the big stars would make over to [inaudible] to the border radio in Monterrey and Acuna.

Calvin Powers: These were sort of the melting pot of all the different musical influences on your work, right?

Todd Jagger: Exactly, that’s where we take the name because we grew up listening to all those kind of weird different styles of everything from western swing to blues to gospel to straight country and hillbilly music. That’s what influenced our style of music.

JR Harrell: I have to add to that. Play and dances, we played in so many different parties and different little small shows where it’d be just me and Todd and people wanna dance. You think about just two people getting people to dance. Usually there’s a band or orchestra or something like that. That’s another little part of it too though is making wherever there’s kind of danceable. It makes you wanna ting-a-ling.

Todd Jagger: That’s the thing. All those styles of music, that’s what they had in common, is that they were very popular oriented, entertaining, danceable.

JR Harrell: Dancing is very infectious. Sometimes it only takes on couple. Nobody will be dancing and you’ll be just playing your tails off and nobody will get up. Finally maybe one couple gets up and then everybody’s up.

Calvin Powers: Let’s talk about your latest CD a little bit because given that background your latest CD really is kind of a different change of pace and different turn. It’s called The Sun Sessions. Why don’t you all kind of tell us a little bit how this CD came to exist?

Todd Jagger: Was it two or three years that we went to International Folk Alliance in Memphis?

JR Harrell: I think just two, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Two years, okay. When we were up there, we went around town a little bit. I called up Sun Studios when we were gonna go the next year and said, “I hear y’all are still a active studio.” They said, “Yep, we sure are.” I said, “How do you go about getting time?” He said, “You just book it.” So I did. I booked some time when we were gonna be there right before we left. We had nine showcase performances at the International Folk Alliance.

We did our last show and hopped in a cab and went over and took the little tour of Sun Studios. I had three hours of studio time booked and went in there and just knocked them out one after the other; got a rough mix, bought a t-shirt and went home.

Calvin Powers: It’s like to rough mix with your souvenir you took home, huh?

Todd Jagger: It was.

JR Harrell: Yeah, exactly.

Todd Jagger: It was.

JR Harrell: It was almost surreal because you go through the museum part of it and there’s Howlin’ Wolf and Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, just one thing after the other with all these guys who started it out in ’50, 1951. You get that before you go in the studio and then you get in the studio and these huge posters of Elvis and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.

Calvin Powers: There’s no pressure at all.

JR Harrell: No, you’re just dwarfed by all the posters. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It has all the old feel. We got to use all the old microphones. It was amazing experience.

Calvin Powers: I’m sorry. Go head.

Todd Jagger: No, I was gonna say, like he said, it was an amazing experience because you’re standing and like you said, no pressure at all because you’re standing there underneath snapshots that are blown up to three foot of people like Howlin’ Wolf and Roy Orbison standing where you’re standing and creating all this iconic music that is basically part of our DNA. I look over and I’m singing into a mic and there’s a picture with Bono standing there singing into the same mic. He’s singing into a mic that Elvis was using. It was a little intimidating to be quite honest.

JR Harrell: We had played so much that week, which was really a good part of it. We’d done so many showcases. We had to be involved with all the things we were doing that week that to be able to do that time was really way good.

Todd Jagger: Even the engineer, it was quite a [inaudible]. Had we to do this over again we might’ve brought a few friends over there because it was basically just us and the engineer in the whole building. Everything else was shutdown. There was nobody else anywhere around.

JR Harrell: Us and the ghost.

Todd Jagger: We even said, “Are there ghosts here?” He says, “You bet there are.” Then he proceeded to tell us stories about things going weird in the studio. He said, it was about halfway through the session and we were listening, getting a playback on something and he said, “Y’all are doing real good. I’ve had name people come in here and just not be able to get it. They’re so intimidated by standing in this room that it just affects them.” We felt pretty good about that.

Calvin Powers: Let’s give people a taste of that CD. Let people hear what came out of that three-hour session. What should we [inaudible] first from the CD?

Todd Jagger: How about let’s do Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody? How does that sound?

JR Harrell: That’s a good one.

Calvin Powers: Tell us the story. Tell us the story behind that one.

Todd Jagger: This was John Prine’s song. Jimmy, you’re the one that brought this to the bands.

JR Harrell: Oddly enough, we ended up kind of running with it. We heard it maybe three or four times and wrote it down and then forgot that version, which is really kind of the most way when we take a cover song we kind of listen to it once or twice and try to forget it and then do it the way how we’re gonna do it. That’s kind of what happened. We got our groove going on it and for months I kept thinking it needs a tuba. We happened to know a friend who is this wonderful double base player and tuba player.

We happened to run into him after we’d done the session and I said, “Will you play tuba on this?” He said, “But of course.” We had to do a couple of songs with tuba. That kind of took us to another place too.

Calvin Powers: I was wondering about that because Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody covered John Prine off of the The Border Blasters CD the Sun Sessions.

Considering the fact that you had just three hours to lay down, what is it, ten tracks and you’re in this historic studio with legends of music surrounding you, at least their ghost are; how is it that you manage to make a CD where the music feels so relaxed and easy going and just back porch style? How did you manage to do that?

Todd Jagger: That’s just our style, actually.

JR Harrell: We’re unconscious most of the time.

Todd Jagger: It really is. This was a lot easier for us then trying to do a studio type album where you’re worried about a lot of multiple takes and over dubs and whatever. We just decided this is what we’re gonna do, we’ve got a little short span and quite honestly, that’s the way music used to be done. Elvis would walk into Sun Studios and say, “You know what? I wanna cut this 45.” They weren’t worried about a yearlong album project or anything like that. They were coming in and they were laying down the tracks.

JR Harrell: Twenty-five bucks you got your 45 [inaudible].

Todd Jagger: That was kind of the spirit in which we approached this was going in there and laying it down, words and all. There’s little things in there that we had a producer standing over us or somebody like that and they said, “You know, let’s polish that a little bit.” That’s not the way music outta be in my opinion. I think it’s nice to have it be real with all the blemishes left on.

Calvin Powers: Since you guys are veterans of so many musical styles from that era, I wanna talk a little bit about Texas Swing for a second. For folks who live and breathe in Austin or whatnot, they’re well familiar with it. A lot of times outside of the area people only think of the very stereotypical honky tonkin’ two-step. You guys, at least in my opinion, you’ve got a couple of tracks on this CD that are at least what I think you would call a Texas Swing. I was wondering if you could kind of tell us about that style of music.

Todd Jagger: What I would say about it is there again, we hear that growing up, I did on the radio. My dad had Hank Williams records and Bob Wills and Tex Woody and Ernest Tubb and we listened to that. Ernest Tubb primarily with Bob Wills, they were such purveyors of the honky tonk swing style Adolf Hofner to really give it [inaudible] more local runs. Milton Brown before Bob Wills. Milton Brown was an incredible influence on everybody because he saw the melting pot. Leah Jordan saw the melting pot.

That’s what it was, bringing all these styles that everybody got to hear and put their spin on it. Bob Wills did that really well. Asleep at the Wheel has carried different heights as Ray Benson does. They interpret it that way.

JR Harrell: That was all about dance. It’s still all about dancing.

Todd Jagger: I would contend that the Western swing that we’re thinking of and certainly what you’re thinking of also has a lot less to do with what people would call Western swing today. The stuff back then was really kind of hillbilly.

JR Harrell: It was jazz. They listened to [inaudible] and Moody. They listened to Linda Reinheart, that’s who they listened to. They all pulled from that. Grapenny was a total influence of Jesse Ashlock. Look where Sweeny and Cotton Collins where were Cotton Collins [inaudible] for the player. Cotton, the same thing. They were the jazz part of it and made it swing.

Todd Jagger: They were all drunk too.

Calvin Powers: That would make anything swing, I guess. Let’s play another track from the CD the Sun Sessions. Maybe one that’s got a little bit of that swing feel to it. What should we play next?

JR Harrell: Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Todd Jagger: Yeah, there you go, let’s do Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Calvin Powers: How’d you come up with that one? What is Ojinaga?

JR Harrell: You say it better than I do. I could never say it right, Todd.

Todd Jagger: Only when you’re singing it, right?

JR Harrell: I could do it. I sing Spanish pretty well.

Todd Jagger: Ojinaga is a little border town about 88 miles away from where we live out in West Texas.

JR Harrell: Right across from Presidio, Texas.

Todd Jagger: Often the hottest spot in the country. This is just one that basically is done in the Western Swing style in every sense of the word and that is basically an adaptation of songs that probably evolved. We put our own spin on it.

JR Harrell: Stole it fair and square.

Todd Jagger: Yeah, that’s where I was going with it, stole it fair and square. When we do it live we typically have what we call the Ojinaga horns, which is basically us pretending to do trumpet and trombone with our mouth. We decided that was not acceptable on the recording.

JR Harrell: Thank goodness.

Todd Jagger: Moonlight in Ojinaga.

Calvin Powers: When you guys are on the road these days, I know you travel a lot and I know you’re kind of aiming for that dance crowd, what is your favorite kind of place to play? If you could pick your favorite venues, what would that venue look like?

Todd Jagger: I think for us, places where people both listen and depending on whether or not we’ve got the full band with us then. We like people to dance but we also like folks to listen.

JR Harrell: We’re kind of getting spoiled now on house concert kind of situations or these coffee house things where you play to church or the smoke free, alcohol free thing, which goes from 8:00-10:00, which is kind of nice and everybody’s always really nice and the sound’s good. We get spoiled with those.

Todd Jagger: We love playing acoustic without any amplifications. The house concerts are a wonderful way to do that and it’s also a really great way to really get to know your fans and to talk to them and interact with them and have a good time and have them listen to the songs.

JR Harrell: A crowd of 20 people instead of 200, it’s really a nice switch.

Calvin Powers: I know out in our area the house concert thing is really booming. There’s several house concert series that are really taken off. Now some of the music venues are actually designing house concert like nights at the nightclub. They’ll bring in old couches and try to create a living room type setting there at the club and they’ll limit ticket sales to like 45 people.

JR Harrell: People actually listening, isn’t that interesting? Sometimes it takes a little prodding or it’s making them experience what it is and not just be a party time and actually sit and listen to somebody.

Todd Jagger: One of our personal big influences was a band around Austin in the ‘70s and ‘80s called Uncle Walt’s Band. Do you know those guys?

Calvin Powers: No, I don’t. Tell us about them.

Todd Jagger: Go find them. Two of them aren’t with us anymore. They both passed tragically. David Ball who’s kind of making the circuit in the country store now is the third member. Uncle Walt’s was an acoustic trio; two guitars and David Ball on the upright bass. Champ Hood playing guitar and Walter Hyatt playing the other guitar.

JR Harrell: I believe they were all up from your area. They were up from North Carolina, South Carolina area.

Todd Jagger: Yep, they were. They were from –

JR Harrell: – Greensboro.

Todd Jagger: Something like that.

JR Harrell: Greensboro, wasn’t it?

Todd Jagger: yeah, Greensboro, I believe it was.

Calvin Powers: Now I’m gonna be on a mission to look them up. Thanks for the pointer.

JR Harrell: They were incredible and such performers.

Todd Jagger: You are gonna love them. Getting back to the whole point of that was that they had a thing, of course this was all before pick ups on your acoustic guitar, anything like that so they worked with all mics. When the crowds got a little loud in the places, they would just turn their PA down a little bit. They really forced people to listen to them, which I thought was always very interesting and a neat way of doing it. You can do that in a bar if you’ve got the huevos to turn your PA down when the crowd gets hot, gets loud.

JR Harrell: Now everybody plugs in, of course. To play an acoustic music but they have to plug in, what’s wrong with that picture?

Calvin Powers: Let’s play one more track from the Sun Sessions CD. What should we play for the [inaudible]?

JR Harrell: The Next Life, Todd.

Todd Jagger: All right, let’s play The Next Life. In about ten days, I guess, we’re gonna be back in Austin for the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance Conference, which takes place every year in Austin, Texas. It’s a really neat event. It’s kind of like Folk Alliance in Memphis only smaller, 200 or 300 of your closest friends. Every year when you go do your registration and get your packet, there’s a little fish bowl on the registration counter and it’s got things that look like fortunes from fortune cookies in there.

You reach in there and you pick it up and it’s your song assignment. These little things on there and they can be just total off the wall stuff or who knows what they’re gonna be. I don’t know how these people come up with it. By the time you pick that thing out of there on Thursday evening or Friday morning or whenever it is, people perform their songs that they’ve written on Sunday morning during brunch. You gotta write and come up with a song by that time.

JR Harrell: It’s amazing.

Todd Jagger: It is absolutely amazing.

JR Harrell: People are the most creative you could imagine.

Todd Jagger: I’m blown away by the level of talent of the people there.

JR Harrell: You talk about with a gun to your head, that’s it.

Todd Jagger: This particular song was my song assignment.

JR Harrell: We had the gun to Todd’s head as I recall or was it the [inaudible]?

Todd Jagger: I don’t know.

Calvin Powers: What was the phrase?

Todd Jagger: The phrase was how would you do things different in your next life. Basically, I just blew off the thing thinking that, “I can’t do this. I’m not much of a song writer,” etc. Literally, Sunday morning about an hour before we were to go to the brunch and we weren’t gonna perform anything because neither of us wrote a song. I was in the shower and it just kind of came to me and I keep a diver’s slate in the shower to write down ideas.

For all you songwriters or writers, that’s my tip for the day is go to your local dive shop and pick up a diver’s slate and you can keep it in the shower. I wrote down two verses in the chorus and got out of the shower and Jimmy helped me with the music part of it and we went there and performed it literally with wet hair.

Calvin Powers: That’s hilarious.

Todd Jagger: Everybody loved it. I forgot who it was. One of the other songwriters came up and said, “That’s a keeper, boys.” It has been a keeper. Here it is. I always say I dedicate this one to my momma and you can decide which one it is whether it is my momma or my momma.

Calvin Powers: All right, In the Next Life. What’s on the calendar next for the Border Blasters?

Todd Jagger: We’re doing the Folk Alliance Conference next week. Then we’ll be going back out to West Texas for a little bit and we have got some local gigs around there. We’ll go back to Austin in October to do Threadgill’s. We should have some other stuff around there that weekend. I’m not exactly sure what’s firmed up at this point. I need to talk to our booking agent and see what she’s got lined up for us. After that we’re not real sure. We’re just really looking forward to coming to your house and playing for you and 20 of your favorite friends.

Calvin Powers: If you make a trip to North Carolina I’ll round up 20 of my neighbors and we’ll do a house concert, that’d be great.

Todd Jagger: What part of North Carolina are you in?

Calvin Powers: Chapel Hill in Carrboro.

Todd Jagger: Our good friend Tom Pittman, the [inaudible], just moved to Nashville.

Calvin Powers: Listen, thanks for sharing your stories today. Most importantly, thanks for sharing your feel good music with us. We look forward to hearing much more in the future.

Todd Jagger: Calvin, thank you. We really appreciate it.

JR Harrell: Thanks for having us. We enjoyed it.

[End of Audio]

Duration: 26 minutes

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The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.


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