Mis­sis­sippi blues on Aus­tralian la­bel from a Texas gui­tar-and-drums duo

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE&ARTS - By Michael Cor­co­ran

That Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, and Austin have been sis­ter cities since 1983 has ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the de­but re­lease of Austin blues stom­pers Old Gray Mule on Ade­laide’s Sto­bie Sounds la­bel. But “Sound Like Some­thin’ Fell Off The House,” which fea­tures 10 in­stru­men­tal boo­gie blues num­bers by gui­tarist Char­lie “C.R.” Humphrey and drum­mer Joe Falco, sounds at home on South Aus­tralia’s com­mu­nity-based, pure roots la­bel. The duo’s front porch party sound, stripped down to just mus­cle and bone, could be called “low­down un­der blues.”

“We saw that (Sto­bie) was try­ing to put to­gether a Big Joe Wil­liams trib­ute record, so we sent our al­bum and they got back with us right away,” says Humphrey, who hooked up with Chicago na­tive Falco via Craigslist. Old Gray Mule is Humphrey’s first band where he played his own songs, but he couldn’t find a kin­dred spirit un­til he jammed with Falco, who moved

Con­tin­ued from D to Austin in 2006. “We started play­ing to­gether in Novem­ber, made the record on Feb. 28 and had Sto­bie in­ter­ested by the end of March,” says Humphrey. “So, yeah, I think you can say things have moved pretty fast.”

The duo’s first-ever pay­ing gig was at April’s Juke Joint Fes­ti­val in Clarks­dale, Miss., just down the high­way from where the Mule’s main in­spi­ra­tion, R.L. Burn­side, and his close friend Ju­nior Kim­brough re­sus­ci­tated the blues on the Fat Pos­sum la­bel in the ’90s.

Humphrey’s in­tro­duc­tion to Burn­side’s fear­less boo­gie was as a third-grader, but he didn’t re­al­ize it un­til he was a young man. Dur­ing Black His­tory Month, his teacher at West­bury Chris­tian School in Hous­ton played a doc­u­men­tary called “The Land Where the Blues Be­gan,” which fea­tured a young Burn­side. Humphrey was riv­eted. “I didn’t know who that singer was un­til he started putting out records again, about 15 years ago,” says Humphrey, 37, who lives in Lock­hart. “It hit me — that was R.L. Burn­side!”

Old Gray Mule’s de­but was recorded in two hours and 50 min­utes in the beau­ti­fully re­stored Edythe Bates Chapel in Round Top. That Fes­ti­val Hill venue is most of­ten the site of clas­si­cal mu­sic, not this duo’s foot-stompin,’ tent re­vival sound, but OGM had an in with the man­ager be­cause Falco, who works for a lo­cal stone out­fit­ter, helped build the cat­a­combs un­der the chapel.

Al­though they’ve been to­gether only nine months, Old Gray Mule is a band with an in­ter­est­ing story, right down to Humphrey’s gui­tar rig. He plays a five-string gui­tar (tuned to open F) through two amps — a 1973 Fender Twin Re­verb and a 1964 Gib­son Fal­con that he found out on the curb dur­ing bulk trash col­lec­tion day in Lock­hart. Humphrey says the Fal­con looked like it had sat in a ditch for 30 years, but the folks at Austin Am­pli­fier got the old amp up and hum­ming again.

Humphrey and Falco will be lug­ging their gear — as well as boxes of their im­pres­sive de­but LP — to two shows this week that mark the 80th birth­day of Ju­nior Kim­brough, who passed away in 1998.

Along with Ju­nior’s old­est son, David Kim­brough Jr., and one-man band C.W. Ayon, Old Gray Mule will play Road­house Rags on Fri­day and T.C.’s Lounge on Satur­day. The T.C.’s gig will also fea­ture Black Squeeze, a Black Keys trib­ute band. Get there early Satur­day for any chance of get­ting in­side, as that old juke joint at 1413 Web­berville Road is gonna rock like never be­fore.

A friend joins Es­covedo on­stage. Bruce Spring­steen gave the crowd at the Stone Pony in As­bury Park, N.J., a thrill Fri­day night when he hopped on­stage dur­ing Ale­jan­dro Es­covedo’s set and did three songs — “Al­ways a Friend,” “Faith” and “Beast of Bur­den” — with the Wim­ber­ley-based rocker and his band.

It would’ve been a big­ger sur­prise if Spring­steen didn’t sit in, how­ever. The Pony is the club that launched Spring­steen’s ca­reer in the early ’70s, plus he’s man­aged by the same team that man­ages Es­covedo. The pair per­formed “Al­ways a Friend” in Hous­ton in 2008, and Spring­steen guests on Es­covedo’s new­est al­bum, “Street Songs of Love.”

Last week was a big one for Es­covedo, who per­formed “An­chor” on “The Late Show With David Let­ter­man” on Wed­nes­day.

Ed­mon­son get­ting set­tled in

Man­hat­tan. Jazz singer Kat Ed­mon­son will spend the rest of the sum­mer tour­ing with fel­low Hous­ton na­tive Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, with a night off to play the Jazz Stan­dard in NYC on Aug. 3, her 27th birth­day.

Ed­mon­son shocked her lo­cal fans a few months ago by mov­ing to New York City on a few days’ no­tice when a cheap apart­ment be­came avail­able. In an e-mail, Ed­mon­son says she’s been dig­ging Man­hat­tan, where she’s been busy re­hears­ing her new band. They’ll go into the stu­dio af­ter the Lovett tour’s over in Au­gust.

Ed­mon­son re­turns to Austin on Sept. 23 to play at KGSR’s free Un­plugged at the Grove at Shady Grove.

Celebrity sight­ing: Ac­tress Jenny Wade, who plays the sexy D.A. Liz Traynor on Fox’s hi­lar­i­ously warped buddy cop show “The Good Guys,” ap­par­ently went straight from the air­port to An­tone’s Thurs­day night, tot­ing her carry-on lug­gage. Wade was there to see boyfriend Jonathan Tyler and his band North­ern Lights tear it up be­fore a full house.

Jeremy sex­ton

Joe Falco, left, and Char­lie ‘C.R.’ Humphrey teamed up mu­si­cally only nine months ago, but they’ve al­ready re­leased ‘Sound Like Some­thin’ Fell Off the House,’ their de­but CD.

Jenny Wade

Kat Ed­mon­son

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