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PIņATA PROTEST "Plethora" CD Saustex Media (2010) As the story goes, Spanish conquistadors were first to introduce the piņata into Mexican culture, a blending which yielded a symbol that ebodies celebration... The band, Piņata Protest's music is a firebrand fusion of South Texas conjunto flare and puro punk rock angst, that typically results in a festive ritual of it's own style. Their debut longplayer "Plethora" (Saustex Media) is packed from start to finish with three-chord punk rock-n-roll and (mostly) high-velocity Tex-Mex rhythms, that summon the Stacy Adams, Pro Ked, and Dr. Marten sects alike to the dancefloor. This record captures well the kinetic & infectious energy that has long been a hallmark of Piņata Protest's live performances. From the rollicking "Cantina" (a tale of partying pitfalls and a fine mamacita), and the manic "No Que Si" (about modern society's feigning of cultural equality), to songs that paint a picture of the harsh realities of migrant worker's life ("Campesino" and "Maquilapolis"), Vocalist/squeezeboxer Alvaro Del Norte and company set stories of social struggles and the life of the common people to a power-packed soundtrack that defies cultural catagorization, and blurs traditional musical boundaries. Just as the great Esteban Jordan was dubbed the "Jimi Hendrix of the accordion", Piņata Protest seem to have appropriately assumed the mantle of "The Clash of conjunto".
--Review by Jerry Clayworth
"DIRT ROAD TO PSYCHEDELIA: Austin, TX During The 1960's" DVD Produced/Directed by Scott Conn Independent Documentary (2008) Little did Austin filmmaker Scott Conn know, while he spent time working in the technical side of the industry, that his vision of a self-produced glimpse into the early Texas folk music scene's metamorphosis into a psychedelic rock explosion, would become one of the definitive documents of that cultural movement. Ten years in the making provided Conn with the opportunity to seek out quite an array of musicians & other key participants in the scene, and delve into less obvious ground than has been historically covered in the pages of rock-n-roll history. Beginning with the folk-revival of the early 1960's, when a young Janis Joplin made her way to Austin from Port Arthur, Texas, autoharp in-hand, there are first-hand accounts of how she quickly became the shining star of folk song circles, and other musical gatherings centered around the folkie/beatnik "ghetto" community. Rare snapshots & home recordings capture a side of Joplin that is in sharp contrast to the Janis that the rest of the world would soon know. Whereas the recent Roky Erickson documentary, "You're Gonna Miss Me", gave a riveting overview of the 13th Floor Elevators' front man's life & career, Conn chose to concentrate on the earliest dawning of Roky's entry into the rock scene. From the influence of James Brown's fiery vocals & stage presence on Roky, to the impact that the Elevators had from their very first foray out to the West Coast. One of the film's most interesting chapters focuses on the short-lived, but highly significant music venue, the Vulcan Gas Company. Sources for the scene's history over the years have included references to the Vulcan in bits & pieces, but never to the degree, and in the detail that "Dirt Road..." does. The club was not only one of Texas' earliest sources of psychedelic concert poster art, but the first to meld psyche music, lightshows, and oil lamps, with the rich heritage of blues musicians like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, and Freddie King. It played host to an atmosphere that was richly integrated & culturally diverse, setting a tone in Austin that is still reflected to this day. Along it's winding trail, "Dirt Road To Psychedelia" touches on the introduction of psychedelic drugs into the Austin counterculture, key venues Threadgill's and The Jade Room, transitional bands like Shiva's Headband and Conqueroo, and so much more. Scott Conn has done a wonderful job, covering about as much ground as one possibly could within the framework of a 72 minute film. In the end, what is most fascinating about this account of the cultural evolution is a certain innocence of spirit which remained intact throughout... This is summed up best in the film by Dana Morris-Erickson: "The old joke about 'If you can describe the 60's, you weren't there...' Well, that's not true. How can you describe being a child? How can you describe loving a song, except just to love it?" You will indeed love this disc.
--Review by Jerry Clayworth
JOHNNY WINTER "Live Through The 70's" DVD MVD Visual (2008) This DVD is undeniable evidence that in a world of great guitarists, Johnny Winter in his prime, was a true colossus on the six-string. Following the success of his "Live Bootleg" CD series, Winter's fans have been eagerly anticipating the release of some of the fabled early European & US TV performances. Not one to disappoint, Johnny ventured deep into the archives to produce "Live Through The 70's", an extraordinary collection of clips showing the soul man in his fiery formative years from 1970-74, and 1979. It kicks off with an appearance on Danish TV's Gladsaxe Teen Club from 1970, that brings the original Winter band of drummer Uncle John Turner, bassist Tommy Shannon, and as guest on keys & sax, brother Edgar Winter, into your living room with vivid color & sound quality. If one has any questions about the essentialness of this disc, they're answered as soon as the band explodes into their powerful early version of Edgar's "Frankenstein". This pre-synthesiser nugget is driven by Johnny's guitar and that signature Uncle John backbeat. And though I'm not usually much on drum solos, to see Turner work his kit here, is a primal & rhythmic thing of beauty. Not withstanding a rather spiritless audience, the quartet packs plenty of raw blues punch into "Be Careful With A Fool" & "Drop The Bomb". Also from 1970, are three songs from London's Royal Albert Hall. Here we see the start of Johnny's progression into the rock & roll realm. His version of Chuck Berry's 1955 classic "Johnny B. Goode" will always rank right up there with the original, as Winter's scorching guitar puts his take head & shoulders above all the rest. The smokin' "Mean Town Blues" on Germany's famed Beat Club round out the 1970 performances. "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo" and "Stone County" from a 1973 Waterbury, CT show recorded for Don Kirshner's Rock Concert have Johnny performing at his arena-filling, rock-star apex. With his long white beard, and decked out in silver stack-heeled boots & black leather top hat, Johnny is like a wizard, gliding around the stage, mixing up a white-hot musical potion, and holding the audience under his spell. The All-Star performance of Muddy Waters' "Walk In The Park" from 1974's Chicago Blues Summit on Soundstage brings together Johnny, Junior Wells, Dr. John, Michael Bloomfield, and the mighty Band of Gypsys' drummer Buddy Miles, for what can only be described as a "blues jam for the ages". For the 1974 German Musikladen's "Boney Maroney", Winter added a second guitar player, giving him a chance to stretch out even more with his lead work. The camera edits here are pretty dynamic for the time, with lots of quick cuts and interplay. Sort of similar to the classic Beat Club look, but without the "green screen" effects. It fits the energy of the tune very well. To wrap up the collection, we see Johnny come full-circle back to the blues, with three songs on the German Rockpalast program. Outside of the drummer being perched behind an enormous, transparent orange drum kit that would be more appropriate for Led Zeppelin than a three-piece blues act from Texas, this is a marvelous performance in many ways. Bassist Jon Paris takes on harp duties as well, and handles the task to a tee. The trio takes the audience on a southern road trip with Jimmy Rogers' "Walking By Myself", and the 1957 Dale Hawkins/James Burton hit, "Suzie Q". It's Winter's soul-deep treatment of Delta blues pioneer, Willie Brown's "Mississippi Blues", that best showcase Johnny's passion for the genre. Interspersed throughout the segments are interview clips from Detroit's Tubeworks in 1970, which were filmed in the early morning hours following the Ann Arbor Blues Festival. The clips are very off-the-cuff, and cover the ground between the current state of rock & roll music, to Johnny's desire to levitate. Johnny even offers up an impromptu take of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key To The Highway", as he teaches bassist Randy Jo Hobbs the tune. More evidence of JW's pure passion for the blues. "Live Through The 70's" is an indispensable document of the rise & rule of one of the greats, and should be an integral part of any blues, roots, and Texas music fan's library.