Saturday, December 28, 2013

                                   THE RED DIRT ROAD DOGS ARE ON A ROLL
                                                DENNIS AND BRENDA KIPPA

We've come full circle this week... all the way back to the first band we reviewed. It was early last spring, and we were newly besotted with the band called Uncle Lucius. That one experience has opened us up to a whole world of great music and all that goes with it.

Less than two weeks ago, on a Friday night in Tyler, we had another chance to see this great band and the fans who follow them around. We noticed very early on that the fans represent a very real and present part of the Uncle Lucius experience, and now that we have seen them play several more times, we've become aware that the band's relationship with their fans and other musicians within their circle is part of the lore that follows this unique group. Their legendary generosity was on display at this most recent concert because they hand-picked their opening act. In this way, they elected to share their own fan base with their opening act, and they provided a treat for their fans with the careful selection of Folk Family Revival, a four-piece band in which all but one are brothers. Not even for one moment did we feel that they were there to use up the time before Lucius arrived; these guys were there to show us their brand of music, and it did not disappoint. Most of their songs were original and they inspired us to buy their CD, lest we lose touch with them. For their encore, they chose a hearty rendition of The Beatles' Get Back, on which they were joined by Lucius' keyboard player, Jon Grossman. You'll never hear a better version of this great classic than the one we heard that night.

As for Lucius' own set, it provided everything we expect to hear, plus a surprise. Actually, even a surprise is expected when we see them, but the surprise is that you have no idea what it might be. This time, it was a healthy dose from Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger album. It was rolled out true to the original, as a tribute to Willie by fans of his music, which is another thing we can say about the Lucius band. In one more complete surprise and blowout, the band's keyboard player (Jon Grossman) again took center stage to play a rollicking version of the classic Down Yonder. When things like this happen, we find that we are quite grateful to be among those in the audience who are old enough to remember this classic, and it gives us extra appreciation for the fact that this band knows the song in spite of their own youth.

We reported recently that we were going to see The Band of Heathens. They are the band we told you about after we caught their on-line concert from Berkley, California. We were so excited to have the opportunity to see this group live that we got there nearly four hours before they took the stage.

As for the journey and the venue, we spent only one hour and 57 minutes to arrive at the door of The Granada Theatre on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. It has been over twenty years since I (Brenda) have been in this area of my old hometown, and it had changed so little that I had to search for new sights. However, a light meal across the street was $30, and parking at the venue was $8, so there was a bit of change there. Armed with tickets to good seats, we were glad we had that foresight, because those without advance tickets were treated to a standing-room concert. (We might have appreciated that opportunity a few decades ago, but the seats were much preferred this time).

There were two opening acts. The first was Jamielyn Wilson, who also performs as a part of the trio called The Tricias. Like many of the best Texas acts, she hails from South Austin. Delivering a nice set of her own songs, she showed her strong vocals, good nature and easy way of bantering to the crowd.

The second act was a four-piece band called Southern Revival. They were instantly-entertaining, in part because of the unique sound and engaging smile of the lead singer. It was impossible not to smile with him. They were joined onstage for a few songs by a violin player whose name escapes me. I apologize for this oversight on my part, because she was a great addition and she deserves to be recognized. Also a standout member of the band was their drummer. We made a note of Southern Revival's name, in hopes that we will have a chance to see them again soon, hopefully out in our east Texas area.

As for The Band of Heathens, we feel certain that this band will be the one that will still be on everyone's radar many years from now. Reaching into a bag of superlatives, I come up empty-handed; the words are all too bland. These guys are the absolute magic-men of today's touring musicians. Yes, there are others – Uncle Lucius is certainly one – but when it comes to improvisational moments, where one song morphs into another and then goes into a riff to someplace you can't imagine, before it slides back into the original song again... these musicians are the champions of that. If you have never witnessed this kind of music before (think The Greatful Dead of days gone by), then you simply must. Don't leave this life without it!

We reported on The Band Of Heathens' ability to take their listeners on an unforgettable excursion after we saw them on-line. We noticed then that they seem to have ways of communicating with one another according to which one of them is going to assume the lead in each song. This band makes available many of their concerts for purchase after their live shows. From what we've seen of these, there is simply never a repeat of a concert. Never. It seems to go outside the laws their DNA; it's impossible to conceive of. For this reason, each concert is a ride into someplace wonderful, with master magicians at the helm. I'm a person of many words sometimes, yet I am one of simple tastes: give me more of The Band of Heathens! And as always, enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

(Travelin' With The Red Dirt Road Dogs)

                                                             Dennis and Brenda Kippa

Yes, friends, you read that headline right. Sometimes the concert will bring itself right into our homes.
This is a fairly new capability, but our Red Dirt crystal ball tells us that one day this will just be another choice we can make in deciding how to experience the music we want to hear.

With a nod to the powerhouse that is Texas weather, we recently found ourselves canceled out of a concert for the second time in less than thirty days. Not willing to be left undone again, Road Dog One (that's Dennis) began a tour through the websites of the bands we like. To our surprise, he discovered that The Band Of Heathens was having a web concert, and it was due to begin in just a few minutes.

You haven't heard us talk about the Band of Heathens... yet. We are anxiously awaiting their concert in Dallas later this month; our full report will follow that event. So far, we had only seen them in short clips of one or two songs - aboard a cruise ship, in clubs, etc. - via U-Tube online. We noticed a joyful sense of experimentation, yet a clearly well-oiled package of professional musicianship that made us want to be in the audience at the earliest possible opportunity. Every time we saw a clip of their performance, we wanted to see more. Now we were seeing that a whole concert was here for the taking … and the great sum of five dollars. What's not to love about this?

Road Dog One did his magic with the cords, plugs, inputs & outputs, and we were ready to be a part of the audience with one or two minutes to spare.

The scene was a club in Berkley, California. On the down side, the whole event was shot with only one camera, fixed in a long-range position. This made it impossible to experience any close-ups, or to even be certain about exactly which person was singing at times. That is the end of the down side report, because everything else was concert perfection. This band's trademark concert style of improvisation and extended versions of their songs keeps their audience in a constant state of excitement and expectation. Just when a song seems to be coming to it's end, the band launches into a thrilling transitional jam to tie it to another of their songs to create a once-in-a-lifetime medley. Judging by the body language between the band members, it seems apparent that whoever is “in charge” of a song is the one that all of the others watch closely. This person takes the song where he wants it to go and the others follow along with what is needed. Many bands try to do this; not so many can pull it off and make it look easy.

We realized that we were receiving audio that was unaltered by first going through the venue's sound system, which made a huge difference. For this, we give our full appreciation to the audio technician who was in charge of the sound board. Clearly, this person knew how to process the sounds, and through the wonder of digital output and this technician's talent, we were on the receiving end of a truly unique sound experience.

The Band of Heathens is another of the amazing Austin-based music marvels. It's made up of founding members Ed Jourdi and Gordi Quist, both of whom are expert at vocals, guitar and harmonica, and Ed Jourdi also shines on keyboards when the occasion warrants. The two of them play off each other, taking each song into new territory with almost every delivery. What sounds like straight-up rock or country one time might sound like gospel the next time they play it. The band is rounded out by Trevor Nealon on keyboards and Richard Millsap on drums. In the opinion of Road Dog Two (that's me, Brenda), it's the keyboards that often take this band into the stratosphere. All of their songs are original, and these guys really know how to put a song together. We won't be a bit surprised when some of their songs get picked up by other musicians in a bid to grab the glow for themselves (it probably won't work, though; perfection shouldn't be messed with).

What a great treat it was to stumble upon this web concert! As the result of having several things go “wrong”, we are reminded that the finest jewels of experience are sometimes found hidden behind or underneath the remains of what once looked like a lost evening.

Watch for more on the Band Of Heathens later this month or early next year. Meanwhile, listen to Americana music for yourself, and enjoy!  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

                                  (TRAVELING WITH THE RED DIRT ROAD DOGS)
                                                       Dennis and Brenda Kippa

Some months ago we received an e-mail from our nephew. He's the one who put us on this whole music-chasing path by telling us about the band Uncle Lucius. ( We were immediately so smitten with Uncle Lucius that we decided to become “music reviewers”, just so we could tell you about this amazing band). This much-loved nephew (Van Scott Folger/son of Brenda's brother) and one of his associates produced Lucius' video for the song “Keep The Wolves Away”. Now he was calling to tell us that he met another group that he thought we might like. So again we warmed up our favorite music archive site, to listen to this group. It only took one song. We were completely thrilled with what we were hearing and couldn't wait to see them. Unfortunately, we had to wait several weeks, but the wait allowed us some time to read whatever we could find on these young artists.

The band was formed quite by accident a few years ago. As the story goes, the boys were on a float trip down the Guadalupe River near Austin. For those of you who aren't familiar with these time-tested events, they involve lots of loosely-connected people who connect themselves together with ropes, using inner tubes and ice chests as floatation devices as they drift down the Guadalupe River. It's a long-held ritual in the Austin area, involving whiling the hours away, enjoying the sun, the moon, and music. Often, the music is provided by those who have brought along their guitars, as it did on the day that these musicians met each other. As they sang their way down the river late that night, bystanders took note of what they were hearing. The talk over breakfast the next morning was all about the “midnight river choir”, as the group had been dubbed by those listeners. These four young men were no fools, and saw a label that could stick and describe the vibe of the music they were creating. And so it was that Eric Middleton (lead singer and guitar player), Bob Driver III, (bass guitar player and singer), Justin Nelson (lead guitar and singer), and Michael Pyeatt (singer and drummer) went into the water as four individuals and came out of the water as “Midnight River Choir”, a group with a sound of its own. With the name of the group decided, Midnight River Choir began on its course as a band to see in the Austin and New Braunfels area.

After several weeks, the long-awaited date arrived for us to see the band. The venue was the Choctaw Casino in Idabel, Oklahoma. We had been there before, so we knew that the drive was about two hours from our house.

If you're thinking about going to a concert at this venue, you'll want to follow your easiest route to Winnsboro. That's where you pick up SH 37, which will take you all the way there. Just follow the signs. After you go over the Red River, the road takes a wide turn to the east, and 15 miles later you have arrived in Idabel. The Choctaw Casino is located in a shopping center on the main drag. As you walk inside, you are immediately greeted by over 300 slot machines. (This might be why they offer the concerts for free... do you think?). We try to just walk by them, but if we fail, we just chalk it up to the cost of keeping concerts coming without a cover charge or a ticket to buy.

Once your senses are adjusted, look for the “Loggers Bar and Grill” sign, which is located in a far corner of the building. If you pretend you're shopping for milk at the grocery store, you'll walk right to it. Now grab yourself a table: you've arrived! The food is good blue collar fare at affordable prices, served in large quantities. We ordered the Logger burger, which was about ¾ pound of beef with no end to it. It was delicious. Don't expect to find any fancy drinks or wines here, but if you like beer and /or soft drinks, you'll do fine.

Now, about the concert (you knew we would get here eventually, didn't you?). It was great and well worth the wait. Watching them perform, we were reminded of the young strangers who floated down the river a few years ago. To us, they still appeared as young and carefree as they must have been at that time, yet there was a certain wisdom and professional manner that couldn't have been there at that time. Most of the material was from their upcoming album, which is due out in February. All of it was amazing and we anxiously await the release, so we can hear those songs again. We had listened to their first album (Welcome To Delirium; released in 2011) so many times; we were very happy to hear many of those songs too. Their amazing four (yes four) part harmonies never failed to deliver. Judging by the chills and goose-bumps their performance gave us, we would have to give them a five-star rating, if we were using a five star system. Eric Middleton's facial expressions reminded us of the twisted expressions that John Mayer is known for. It's a mannerism that seems to show total immersion in the task at hand; an absolute loss of ones' self through the performance. Just as we were sharing this observation, the group launched into a cover of Mayer's song “Gravity”, which was one of the most outstanding moments of the whole concert.

Given the task of describing the sound of Midnight River Choir, people who have been around a few decades would probably bring to mind the songs and energy of The Band, with a measure of Poco added in because of their masterful harmonies. Those who are just starting their “musical memory book” would surly include The Band of Heathens, plus who knows who else.... we're too old to know

Friends, never miss a chance to get out and experience the music that's available in Americana venues. Crowds are still too small (in our opinion) to properly reward these talented musicians, who have studied and practiced and honed the gifts of their talents. Often, we drive long distances to hear our favorites, thinking we have really hit a long road to get there. These are the times that we have to remind ourselves that the band has often driven three times as far as we have. And without fail, they step onstage and deliver incredible concerts as if they were playing to a packed 50,000-seat area. They certainly deserve to be, and hopefully, one day they will. Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Many times over the past months of writing this column, we have wanted
to include our observations about the venues where Americana music
artists play. In addition, there is often a story about the route
we've taken, the food we've sampled, and the people we've met along
the way. However, since we usually test the space limits of our great
newspaper publisher, we've consistently cut out these parts of our
reports because we couldn't decide what else within the column we
could cut.

This week, we want to begin sharing this information. We're hoping
that some of you may have decided you'd like to start attending some
of the shows we've been talking about, but aren't sure where to start.

For us, the venue is the second-most important consideration when we
decide to go to see someone perform live. The most important? Come on,
we'll give you three guesses, but the first two won't count. It's
who's performing! (Was that your guess?)

Of course, it's always about the band we want to see. But Texas is a
gigantic place, and we decided early on that we needed to set certain
limits about how far we are willing to travel and how much we are able
to spend. Gas prices being what they are these days, it just plain
makes sense to consider everything if you live on a fixed income, as
we do. If any of our readers' memory banks include the long-ago music
events that were held in gigantic stadiums and arenas, with equally
huge ticket prices, be prepared for a great surprise about the costs
involved these days. Ticket prices range from five to twenty-five
dollars, and sometimes there is no charge at all.  Furthermore, the
joyful feeling that comes with sharing a memorable music event with
like-minded strangers has not diminished one bit with the passage of
time.  Are you getting the idea that it's time for you to go check it
out? Great!

First, be advised that we begin our journeys from our home at Lake
Hawkins, in Wood County, Texas. You will need to “do the math” and
make your own adjustments with that in mind. We find that going
on-line and printing a map takes the guesswork away.

Part of the adventure for us is what's on the road, so we make every
effort to avoid interstate highways. If you don't mind truck traffic
and value every minute you might save by getting into the road race
where they travel, you might not want to use our suggestions in this
area. You can always get your satellite guide and find a path that
suits you. That said, let's begin.

The enchanting town of Ben Wheeler, is home to The Forge and Moore's
Store. There is so much to say about Ben Wheeler that it's impossible
to know where to start. Will a tease that tells you that not long ago
it was close to being a ghost town be enough to send you to the
internet to find out what happened? It's an amazing story. We'll tell
you this much: what's there now has been carefully chosen with an eye
to sparking the interest of all who arrive there. Every door opens to
a new and delightful discovery.

Ben Wheeler is situated about 15 minutes east of Canton, on FM 279,
which is the road to Edom (another wonderful little town that's geared
to the tourist). We get to Ben Wheeler via Lindale, taking SH 16 west
out of Lindale.  This is probably our favorite east Texas road; it's
beautiful in any season and at any time of day.  SH 16 goes through
Van – the only other town on the route – and goes under I-20, to
connect with FM 773 just a little past I-20. After turning left and
traveling on SH 773, you will find yourself at FM 279, where you will
need to turn; you are now at Ben Wheeler. A left turn takes you to
Moore's Store on your left, with The Forge about a block farther, on
your right.
 The best part of your first visit to Ben Wheeler is your own surprise
when you find that you have traveled through back roads for a good
distance and have arrived at a place that is teeming with lights,
music, and lots and lots of people everywhere. It really is a
thrilling sight.

Both The Forge and Moore's Store boast great food and atmosphere. The
Forge is marginally more laid -back, with a tasty menu of soups,
salads and sandwiches. The music is acoustic, leaning toward good
blues, folk, and Americana music. The Forge is built in the old
blacksmith shop, and evidences of it's earlier life are abundant.
Spill-over crowds are made comfortable at additional tables located on
the wrap-around porch. For even larger events,  space is available at
The Forge Annex, which is adjacent to The Forge..

Moore's Store serves food all day long. The menu is classic home
cooking, burgers, etc. Servings are large, prices are fair, and all is
served with just enough of a flair and always a good presentation.
Seating is as you wish, at large, long tables. Patrons order at a
counter and pick up their own food; the staff is there to take away
dishes and keep your drinks filled. Karaoke is held one night each
week, and when the music starts, there's a large dance floor.  You'll
find great newer Americana acts, along with acts that have been around
for a long time and bring their loyal following along. Among
musicians, Moore's is fast becoming a favored venue to play.

Folks, we've over-done it again this week. We'll stop here, with a
promise to include more venue information soon. We need to tell you
about Ben Wheeler's hilarious Hog Festival, which was held recently
and is held annually. The Festival's headliner was 1100 Springs, which
is a great country/Americana band, with a heavy dose of old-time
country songs that are guaranteed crowd- pleasers.

A long-awaited chance to hear one of our favorites – Midnight River
Choir – came this last weekend, too. We will give you some details
soon. They were everything we hoped they would be. Stay tuned

Monday, October 14, 2013

                                       FRIDAY NIGHT CHURCH WITH BILLY JOE SHAVER:
Dennis and Brenda Kippa

Dennis Says:

Brenda and I had not planned to travel to Ben Wheeler last Friday night to see Billy Joe Shaver, but a friend that we really admire practically lives and breathes Billy Joe. He would never dream of missing an opportunity to witness a performance. After awhile, such devotion becomes contagious, and we knew we needed to go, too. We had seen Shaver in June, at the Gladewater Rodeo Arena.. On that night, he shared billing with Ray Wylie Hubbard and Cody Canada and The Departed. While we enjoyed the whole evening, I can't say we came away as big fans of Billy Joe.

A call to the venue (Moore's Store, our favorite) revealed that advance ticket sales were somewhat disappointing, which was assumed to be because of Friday Night Football. However, at the appointed hour, we arrived to a rocking room full of folks who were keen on seeing Billy Joe. It was as close to a sellout you can get and still be comfortable in the room. We were seated by one of the large front windows, right in front of the stage, on the side where band members come and go. As the front band got halfway through their set, we noticed activity on the front porch. It was Billy Joe and his band, off-loading their gear. A moment later, a number of people got up from their tables and went out to greet Billy Joe. Lots of pictures were taken and many handshakes and hugs were shared. It looked like a very good friend was returning home, causing a big celebration. Brenda and I, along with others in our group, went out to the porch where I was amazed to be greeted by Billy Joe with a handshake that said to me “It's great to see you”. I felt sincere friendship that I didn't expect from an entertainer. This was my first clue that this evening was going to be very different than what I had expected.

Brenda Says:

I could jump all the way to the end and tell you that the show seemed different for Billy Joe, too, but I need to tell you the why of it.

Our friend had told me that every time he sees Billy Joe, the show is exactly the same. Right down to each gesture and the introduction for each song, it's always the same. Still, this friend will go on-line to see the show if too much time has passed since he's seen Billy Joe's show. Exactly what is the draw? What makes people like my friend want to see him again and again? It isn't the awesome beauty of his voice; it shows every bit of the wear you would expect after a long life and a lot of hard living.

When we saw him in June, there were too many distractions and the sound system wasn't the best for anyone who wanted to hear the lyrics. I remember hearing him say that he had quit drink and drugs in favor of his friendship with Jesus Christ, but most of his act seemed to still imitate the Outlaw Country image that he earned during the 1970s. At the time, I even questioned the truth of his claims; that's how convincing he was.

I am quick to overlook the fact that his act does not change. He's 74 now, so memorizing a show that works seems a prudent thing to do He has received so many awards and influenced so many new artists along the way that he can do whatever he wants. I can't begin to list all of the ways he has been recognized for his talents, but to offer a taste of it, I'll tell you that in 2006 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame; and in 2007 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association. Between 1973 and 2007, he released 23 albums. So you get the idea: he has earned the right to go onstage and be his own man. So... who is he?

As we stood on the porch at Moore's Store last Friday night, Dennis took a picture of me with Billy Joe Shaver. He seemed determined to speak to everyone who wanted to speak to him. In the short conversation I had with him, he told me about how he had loved his wife so much that he had married her three times, with Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame) officiating each time. “We did better unmarried than we did married”, he said, “but I always loved that woman”. He was clearly enjoying himself, and I wondered if this kind of small-talk - that was really not small at all - was the true reason for his being here. I noticed that with each person, he found a reason to speak of Jesus Christ.

When he took the stage, we were finally able to understand the reason for everyone's devotion to this man. Yes, he sang “Honky Tonk Heroes”, “Wacko From Waco”, “Old Five And Dimers Like Me”, and the autobiographical “Georgia On a Fast Train”, and he swayed and brayed like the Original Old Outlaw Country Boy as he sang those songs. But it was in his delivery of “When Fallen Angels Fly”, “When I Get My Wings”, “Live Forever”, and “Lay Your Burdens Down” that everything became clear to me about why this man keeps on with his show. His introductions may be the same every time, but they tell of the death of his son in 2000, and of other painful losses in his life. Before his “I'm Just An Old Lump of Coal”, he explained that he wrote the song to beg for help in leaving his old ways behind. It was when he sang “Tramp On Your Street”, that my own tears could no longer be denied. That song brought me to the most painful event in my life.

Before you decide that the show must be too sad to be enjoyable, you need to know that this is the part where Billy Joe Shaver shines. He manages to keep his audience reminded about how precious life is, and how fun life is, and – most of all – how much Jesus Christ loves us all. He comes right out and talks about the troops who are putting their lives on the line for our freedoms, and asks the audience to take care of them when they come home. He talks about those who are in need because of drug or alcohol addiction. (“Help them; love them; feed them; but don't give them any money”).

More than once, my friend leaned over and said “This song isn't usually in the show”. More than once, Billy Joe asked the audience “Haven't you had enough yet?” When everyone shouted “No!”, he turned to the band and they decided what else to play. When he finally let the show come to it's end, he seemed grateful in a way I've never seen in a performer before. He hugged each band member, and then, as he came off-stage, he hugged me... and everyone else who wanted a hug.

Both Dennis and I wanted another word with him, but he was surrounded at the door, as any good preacher is, at the end of a very good sermon.

We aren't the only ones who appreciate the preacher in Billy Joe Shaver. In 2006, when running for governor of the state of Texas, Kinky Friedman appointed Shaver to the position of Spiritual Adviser for his campaign.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dennis and Brenda Kippa

On short notice Saturday afternoon, we were advised that Ann Armstrong
would be performing at The Forge in Ben Wheeler in a few hours.

As I searched my memory bank, I couldn't be certain if I knew her. I
had a vague feeling that we old people get sometimes, where we feel
certain that we ought to remember something, but sadly, at the moment
we simply don't. But there was no time for on-line research or

We arrived at The Forge at about 7:10 P.M. We had been told that she
was scheduled on-stage at 7:00 P.M., but we have come to understand
that “on-stage” times are notoriously late, often by an hour or two.

Not on this night. Not with this performer. We were about to discover
what it's like to be in the presence of a true professional. The huge
crowd that got there on time knew that they were in the presence of a
real blues legend. Most of them had been following her career for

As soon as we got close enough to look in the windows from the
wrap-around porch of The Forge, I could see Ann Armstrong's trademark
waist-length, braided hair. And with that glance, along with the
beginnings of the music that was blowing through the walls and into
the night air, my memories came flooding back to me. The time was the
early 1980's, and the place was Poor David's Pub in Dallas. Ann was a
frequent performer there, and on one fine evening, I had the good
fortune to be in the audience.

In an instant, I remembered her pure, clear voice and her magical
guitar playing. And now, right here in Ben Wheeler, I was fortunate
enough to find myself in her audience once again.

Clearly, she has been going forward with her life and enriching her
talents all these years. Her voice is just as open and awesome as it
was so long ago, with an added depth that probably comes from honing
her talents with the respect that great good gifts deserve.  After we
got home, I read an article wherein her voice was said to be like a
“steam-powered nightingale”. Yes, that's it; I wish I'd said that.
Indeed, it's a voice that will follow you around and stay in your head
for a long while.

Steve Hughes is Ann's long-time companion and musical partner.
Together with Steve's  harmonica and flute,  Ann's slide guitar moves
and vocal powers create a rare thing of almost unspeakable beauty.
Many of the songs she performed were those that she wrote. They mixed
seamlessly with those of Robert Johnson and others. On one song, Steve
Hughes' gravely voice took center stage, creating one of the night's
truly fine moments.

To my delight, I got to speak with Ann for a few minutes. We quickly
discovered that we were raised almost side-by-side, in the great
flatlands of Midland, Texas. She shared one of the funniest anecdotes
I've ever heard about the place; it's one I'll be passing along every
chance I get (giving proper credit, of course).

This amazing performer has stayed so busy that it has been difficult
to get her into the studio to record, so we recommend that you keep an
eye on entertainment pages or her website and go see her live. She
will be returning to The Forge on Saturday, December 14th; don't miss
that one. She does have one CD - “Lucky Charm” - which is a grand
representation of her craft. It's available on on-line, at her

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Troubadour Wears A Derby Hat
Dennis and Brenda Kippa

By now, readers of this column know that our favorite thing to do is to go see live music and find out about the people who play it and love it like we do.

But we've been keeping a secret “favorite thing to do” since February of this year, and it's within this part of our lives that we found the jewel that we're going to share with you this week.

Every Friday, we bake cakes or cookies, and bag them up in a giant bag. And on Saturday, we make the short journey to Lindale, Texas, where we unload our bag for the fine folks who live at the Care Center there. For the first hour, we all devour the goodies we've brought, while we listen to music. The second hour is for Bingo, which we've discovered is the universally most-loved game for those who are limited in some way by their health problems. Dennis “calls” the game, and Brenda helps anyone who needs it and passes out the winnings. For this two hours each week, everyone has the opportunity to experience an attitude adjustment, if one is needed, or to dump any stress that lingers after their routine-filled week. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to find that we are the ones who experience the most profound changes and amazing joy, but surprise us it did. We adore the new friends we've made there.

What's that you say? This column is about the music? Oh yes, of course! Enter Steve Fuqua, who makes his journey each week from Alba, Texas. He's there not for money or recognition, but because he wants to be there. This singer/songwriter, art teacher, fisherman, actor and all-around good guy is affiliated with Sentimental Journey, which is a ministry of sorts that brings live music to care centers and nursing homes. We've been lucky enough to experience his music and the ever-ready twinkle in his eyes almost every week since about March or April of this year. Mixing his own songs with many of the great standards that everyone remembers, Steve often surprises us by launching in to the lesser-known songs that we have found along the way but never thought we would hear again. His delivery is always heart-felt and appropriate for the occasion and the song. This is probably not an easy task at times, with the constant distractions that are always present in this setting, but Steve keeps his “eye on the ball” and delivers the song every time. A resident thinks this is a karaoke opportunity and doesn't even know the words? No problem. Steve handles these situations with grace and calm. We were especially entertained this past weekend, when a resident began singing along with one of Steve's original songs. By now, he has performed it so often that is sounds like what it (hopefully) will be one day – an old standard.

We happened to meet up with Steve one evening when we were attending a performance by another band. It was then that we discovered that he operates as a junior-high school art teacher in his “day job”, and that his is an actor and a drummer in addition to being the accomplished guitar player and singer that we already knew about. We also learned that he has fought cancer twice in the past decade and he's still standing and still singing.

You can listen to Steve's music online, at ReverbNation/Steve Fuqua. If you're in a crowded place sometime, and you see a guy in a derby hat, check him out. If he has a special twinkle about him, chances are it's Steve Fuqua. And if it is, tell him we said hello, and remind him that he is appreciated for what he does.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

                                            The Mike McClure Band Does It Their Way

                                                          Dennis and Brenda Kippa

 Always looking for new music, we were listening to various artists on
the music player “Spotify” when we heard our first song by Mike
McClure. It was a remake of “Into The Mystic”, which is a decades-old
song by Van Morrison.  This song is what Brenda refers to as her
“all-time favorite song in the whole universe”,  and remakes of it
have fallen far short, according to her.  However, the version by Mike
McClure was as good as it gets (other than the original), and it
really won us over. We immediately sent for all three available CDs
and marked our calendar for the first chance we could find to catch
him in concert.  We knew we had found another amazing artist.

 Mike's sound is a little bit country and a whole lot of rock and
roll. The music industry puts a
label on this blend of music, calling it Red Dirt music.

Mike McClure was originally part of a band called The Great Divide.
They recorded many albums, which won rave reviews and kept them
touring heavily during the 90's.  As a front man, Mike was said to
give great performances every time they played. But as the story is
told, this is the part where the band's management company hired a new
producer to “take them to the next level”. The first thing the
producer did was change the sound of the band, which proved to be a
horrendous mistake.  As soon as the first CD was released, the fans
heard the difference in the sound and did not like it. Worse still,
Mike McClure did not like it, either.  He was not happy that the band
had given up the sound that had brought them to the dance.

The ensuing turmoil led to the breakup of The Great Divide and Mike
went out on his own.  Eventually,  he formed The Mike McClure Band and
they set off to reclaim the Red Dirt music that they and their fans
had been missing. Ironically, along the way Mike had also started to
produce music for a number of other artists, being careful not to make
the same mistakes that his old producer had made.

The band consists of Mike McClure on vocals and guitar, Tom Skinner on
bass,  and Eric Hansen on drums.  Their first album together, released
in 2005, was called “Camelot Falling”.  The previously-mentioned “Into
The Mystic” is on this one. In 2010, they released not one, but two
albums,  “Halfway Out Of The Woods” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, both of
which were produced by Joe Hardy. Hardy also contributed vocals,
keyboards and guitar to several cuts. All three albums utilized guest
musicians to give each song the full measure of McClure's vision for
the songs he penned.

Our opportunity to see the band perform came this past weekend in
Idabell, Oklahoma.  On the two hour trip to the venue, we listened to
all three CDs all the way there.  As is often the case with performers
that are new to us, we arrived still uncertain exactly what to expect.

The place was completely full of eager Mike McClure fans. Clearly,
most had been following his career for a long time. Those sitting next
to us used the extra time by telling us their favorite stories about
the band and their music.

At the appointed time,  in walks a scruffy-looking bald guy, wearing a
scruffy white t-shirt, bermuda shorts and tennis shoes. This was our
man, Mike McClure.   A fan sitting next to us leaned in and explained
with a big grin, “that's the way he always looks”.  After a
sound-check that seemed more like a part of the performance, the band
launched into a wild ride of a show.  We didn't know all of the songs,
but we didn't need to. A highlight for us was provided by bass player,
 Tom Skinner. Sitting on a stool in a darkened part of the stage,
Skinner quietly played his bass all through the show.  When it was his
turn to step up to the mike, an eruption of crazy applause welcomed
him.  We can't tell you what he sang, although it was so wonderful
that we were moved to record the performance with our video camera.
Even in listening to it again, the title escapes us; however it was so
earnestly and beautifully delivered, with lyrics so moving... well,
this is why we go to these things, folks.

We feel safe in reporting that everyone was thoroughly entertained.
There's no doubt about that at all. But when the end of the show
arrived, they simply exited the stage. No “goodbye”, no “thanks for
coming”, no nothing. The lights came on and they were gone.  No need
to shout for more;  it was over.  Hey, it was his show. He cut up and
joked with the audience all the way through.  We loved him, same as
everyone else who was there. We got the idea that this time around,
Mike McClure is doing it for the sake of the music and for those who
love it the way he does.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



Dennis and Brenda Kippa

It's Brenda again this week, and I've been thinking.....

This week, we aren't profiling a band. We want to talk about the fans
of Americana Music – which, of course, includes ourselves.

Readers of this column over the past few weeks may have begun to
realize that a couple of things seem to be true about us. Number One:
We don't write about anyone we don't love to listen to. And (Number
Two), we are what some people refer to as “old”. Those readers are
right on both counts.

The reason you won't read a bad write-up in this column is simple. If
we don't like the music, hopefully we don't go in the first place. And
the part about being “old” gives us an attitude that we don't want to
waste any of our remaining time with any performances that we don't

Actually,“enjoy” might be an insufficient word here. My belief is that
musical talent is a gift from a higher power, and therefore it can be
either a healing experience or a damaging one when we listen to it.
(Depending on which “higher power” bestowed the gift).

I suppose that we both knew that we might not see many people who
looked like ourselves in the venues where live music is found, but we
didn't dwell on it, and we didn't expect it to be a problem.  And it
hasn't been.  However, it has been amusing at times.

Once, we were being asked for our identification by a door person who
had probably been told “no exceptions” to the policy that keeps
underage drinking from being allowed. As we fumbled for our licenses,
a manager stepped in and said “they're okay” and “right this way,
sir”, and showed us to our seats. At first, we thought we had been
mistaken for “somebody”, but on further thought we realized that we
had just been profiled on the basis of age. It was a great laugh.

Another time, we were at the door to pay our way in to a concert by a
26-year-old performer. The person at the door asked us if we didn't
mean to come the next night, when the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard
would be performing. We explained that we had already seen Hubbard
recently (great show!), and we were halfway through the show before we
realized that we had been age-profiled again... but wait, there's
more! When writing to the venue the next morning to offer a
5-thumbs-up review, Dennis decided to share the story of what happened
at the door. Having only communicated via e-mail to that point, Dennis
was shocked when the manager told him that SHE was the person at the
door. At that point, there was a full round of laughter, and she
insisted that dinner would be on the house on our next visit.

We've found that the music world is full of exceedingly nice people.
And being the oldest ones is not so bad at all. Even though it still
holds that most people at the events we attend are 20-something and
30-something, we have discovered that a much younger audience is
waiting in the wings.

You may recall that in our first column, we told you about Uncle
Lucius, and hoped you would mark your calendar for an event in
downtown Tyler on Sept. 7th, called the East Texas All-Star Revue.
Everything about the event was beyond expectations, including the
cooler-than-usual temperatures and the gentle breeze that stayed with
us 'till the end. There were a total of 8 bands on 2 stages, plus lots
of other things going on in the blocked-off downtown area. Uncle
Lucius was the headliner, so they took the main stage from about 11:30
until the city-mandated lights-out time of 1:00 AM.

What amazed and delighted us was the extra dimension to the fans
gathered below the raised stage, right in front of the band. A large
percentage of them were young kids – ages 12 to 13 and under. And
where did they all come from? We hadn't noticed them before Lucius
took the stage.

By now, surely you know that we really, really do enjoy and admire
Lucius. In addition to being totally amazing and entertaining
musicians, they are completely decent human beings – the kind who do
good things and don't talk about it. In going to see them anytime they
are within driving distance from home, we have also come to recognize
and appreciate their fans. From the first time we saw them perform, we
were slack-jawed by the way the fans knew every word to every song and
seemed to even have certain gestures that they did in unison. At first
we thought that this was the new face of audiences in general (which
was very intimidating to imagine), but we came to understand that this
bunch of people seem to truly be a breed apart; they are Lucius fans.
After all, who lets their 12-and-under kids attend a concert until 1
AM in an outdoor area?

The answer is Uncle Lucius fans, as long as it's Lucius the kids are
listening to. The parents know that there is no danger of lewd lyrics
or behavior, yet they also know that their kids will have full
bragging rights the next day as they talk to their friends, because
Uncle Lucius is cool - that's universally understood – and so are
their fans. We imagine that the fans who are parents are betting that
Uncle Lucius' unique quality of GOODness will be sufficiently
attractive and contagious to provide a lesson while the kids aren't
even aware they're being taught.

This much is certain: we have seen the happy faces of young people who
are being totally entertained – and they were listening to “Americana”
music. Forget “country”; most of it has jumped into the gutter. We
propose a new bumper sticker: “Real Rockers Go American

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wesley Pruitt Band Revue

                                                    Rockin' With The Wesley Pruitt Band                                              
                                                         Dennis and Brenda Kippa

It's not often you go to a grocery store to listen to a band, but that's what we did.  Maybe it sounds strange, but hear me out. There is a new store called "Fresh By Brookshire's", located on Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler.  They advertise that you can buy nearly anything exotic in the food arena. That's quite impressive, and it might even be true, but what I want to mention is what's outside, on the East side of the building. It's a huge patio with tables, chairs and a bar, where a simple food and drink menu is offered.  In the late afternoon, this area is graced with shade from the setting sun, and if you're lucky, you might catch a nice breeze, too. A place does not get much better than that... until the band arrives!

The Wesley Pruitt Band is very local, with most of the trio coming out of the Canton area.  I can best describe their music as rockin' blues
with a lot of a soul, mixed with a dab of Americana, along with a bunch of Hendricks and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Wesley’s licks are a sight to see. I've never seen hands move so fast on a six string.

The band is made up of Wesley Pruitt, Jr. on lead vocals and lead guitar, with Joe Drew on bass and vocals and Chris Oliver on drums and vocals. Occasionally, one or two more musicians are added, as was the case on the night we saw them.

Onstage, Wesley is a mover and a shaker.  He pulls you into the music with his strong vocals and outstanding guitar playing. He is clearly determined to get the audience stomping, clapping and singing along with him. This band can cover most any tune -  from Hank Williams to the Rolling Stones - and they do it with their own great style.  Just when you realize that you are being completely wowed and entertained, the trio adds some of Wesley's own songs to the mix. "Cheatin' Woman Blues", "Thief In The Night", and "Poor Man's Blues" - these are some of Wesley's songs, any they all sit comfortably with the standards he's been playing all evening.

By going to their website on ReverbNation you can listen to many of Wesley Pruitt's songs, and they have some of their videos posted there also. To find where they're playing and other information, Facebook is the best resource. They are becoming regulars at Moore's Store in Ben Wheeler.
Moore's is probably our favorite venue; the food and ambiance is great, and the drive from Wood County is full of peaceful East Texas sights. If you start your drive before the sun sets, you can take it all in and by the time you get there, you have left any stress behind and you have plenty of time for a leisurely meal before the music begins.

There's no need to go to Dallas.  We've got it all right here in East Texas. Enjoy!

If you have comments or questions, e-mail us at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    SIX MARKET BLVD  REVIEW                                
               East Texas Music Scene
                                                    Dennis and Brenda Kippa

Sometimes I am just plain wrong about things, and my wife is right. I know, that hurts, but I am a big enough man to admit it. She was right about the band Six Market Blvd. I was wrong and I am so glad I was. We were given a CD of Six Market Blvd music some time back and quite frankly I was not impressed. My wife, on the other hand, went nuts over them. She heard things that for whatever reason, I could not hear. Well, I played that CD a number of times, and after a bit, I heard what she heard. Then we saw them live at a well- known venue in south Tyler, and I was sold.

Six Market Blvd. is a Stephenville, Texas-based band, made up of Clayton Landau on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Josh Serrato on lead guitar and 12-string guitar, Ben Hussey on lead vocals, harmony, electric bass and stand up bass, Dallas Neal on drums and percussion, and Red Shahan on keyboard and lead vocals. All the members of this band are exceptional musicians. You need to key in on Josh on lead guitar. You will hear licks that you would swear are coming from Clapton and it was 1980 again. Very strong lead guitar. On lead vocals, Clayton Landau has a tenor voice that is unique and easy to listen to. Ben on bass has magic fingers that cover those stings and provide a base line for each cut on both of their CD's. Dallas is a great drummer who handles the bands' transitions well. Red is on keyboard and helps meld every thing together.

The latest CD “Shake It Down “has a number of cuts that stand out. First on the CD is “Say It” and it's the flagship tune. Great hooks, great transitions, and a big sound. The cuts “Mailbox”, “14 Miles From Home”, “Medina”, “Getting Older”, (aren’t we all?) and the fun one, “White Goose”, are tunes that are a real pleasure to listen too. And I mean you don't get tired of them. “Mailbox” is now a single and climbing the charts and is being played by radio stations all over the state of Texas. Their freshman effort, called “Running on Seven”, has several songs that have reached the top 25 chart in Texas.

The real treat comes when you see them live. It is a fun show with non- stop music. These boys work hard to give a great show each and every time they perform. They do over 175 dates a year, so they will come around to East Texas in short order and when they do, go see them. If you have to compare their music to something, you may have heard that Six Market Blvd. sounds like America or Pure Prairie League. Lyrics about love won and lost, old age, and radiator fluid on the ground are a few of the lyric hooks. Yes, I said radiator fluid on the ground.

Of course Six Market Blvd has a website, and they're on Twitter and Facebook'. And don't forget that you can often find performances on You Tube. Six market Blvd. doesn't disappoint there, either.

Well I hope you get out and see some of these great Texas bands and support them with your attendance at venues and buy their CD's and T shirts. That is what keeps them going. It's a brave new world out there, and that's how money is generated these days. That's a topic for another time, perhaps.


Would you like to hear what grabbed my ear and made me act all silly about Six Market's music? All of it was interesting and fun to hear, but there were two songs in particular that went into my brain and simply set up residence there for several days. They're still there, actually, for reasons that are completely opposite.

The song “Getting Older” must have been born to this band in a moment of 'generational leap-frog'. To my mind, these boys shouldn't know what's in the mind of an old person but they do. This song tells a heart-breaking story, made all the more haunting by the nuances in Clayton Landau's voice that don't show up on any of his other vocals. The only way I can properly explain it to you is to reveal that I cry every time I hear it. I'm wasted with sweet tears that rip at my soul; it's just that spooky. (There. I've said it. Please don't judge me too harshly.)
The other song - “White Goose” - has a melody that is impossible to stop hearing. It will have you slapping at your ears, trying to shake yourself free of it. Then, when you think it's finally gone, it will creep back in again. That part is a lovely nuisance. The problem is that the last three notes don't seem to fit, and they had me yelling at the CD, that's how much I didn't like them. I was resigned to feeling this love it/hate those three notes thing forever, and then we went to see their live show. After delivering a show-stopping version of the song (and it's last three notes), Clayton smiled broadly and added “Cha-cha-cha!”. Now you know what the last three notes are, and now I'm finally in on the genius of adding them to this infectious song.
I could go on and on about what I liked about this music, but I'll stop right here; Dennis said it all already, and he's exactly right. Happy listening, everybody.

If you have comments or information you would like passed on, send an e-mail to us. Tell us about your favorite Texas band at