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