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Tuesday - March 12, 2013

To start my music week off, I headed over to catch Austin's own What Made Milwaukee Famous. I've known about this band for more than a decade, and followed them as their sound has changed over the years from indie rock to rock to alternative country... and when you don't see them in over a year, things are bound to change a bit. Fronted by Michael Kingcaid, WMMF has evolved their sound to a somewhat bouncy, very Austin (to my ears), kind of indie rock full of the kind of bounce and vibe that bands like Spoon have pioneered, but these boys still douse the songs with touches of alt. country. The new songs maintain an edginess and noisiness that evokes images of Wilco, but the band also treads into some light soul territory, as well as playing a couple of songs that are nigh on country music. Their latest song, “Gone And Done It Now,” draws much from the soul past of America, and when the band wraps up their set with an Otis Redding tune, it all ties together very nicely.

Next up I trekked on over to my favorite Austin honky-tonk, The White Horse, for a band I had not heard in a few years. Crooks, when I first saw them, was a basic 4-piece honky-tonk country band with a clean sound that I was immediately drawn to. The band has widened their musical range considerably and added a few players, including horns and accordion. What this all adds up to is a sound that is at once American, while drawing from well of music found more close to the Mexican border. The band still plays their straighter honky-tonk, with its stomping rhythms and beautifully twangy guitars, but when the horns join in the sound moves south a touch and gets bigger and broader. This band is always fun to catch live, as the guys on stage are obviously having a great time, making it that much more natural for the crowd to do the same.

Wrapping up my first night of music was one more Austin band I've seen a few times over the years. Frank Smith has evolved... a lot. The band is so prolific and seems to take on new members each time I catch them, which adds up to a lot of constant change. Two or three years ago, the band was anchored by some pretty solidly Americana roots, not really country per se, but a touch of old American music. That sound has morphed almost completely out of the band's sound now and been replaced by a solidly rock sound, replete with dual lead vocals and some nice call-and-response style guitars. This line up is very dynamic and the sound simply soars, the guitars working their way nimbly among the cool rhythms, solid drumming, and groovy bass lines. The vocal melodies are highly stylized and the tension built up by the guitars is fantastic, moving between rocking leads and rhythms to atmosphere and back again, while the keyboards take the same tact and sometimes hold everything together with a fine hook and then break everything apart with some cool countermelody.

-David DeVoe


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Mike Doughty



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