Folk Uke, followed by Hector Ward & the Big Time group and then Guy Forsyth and his band delivered an eclectic mix of folk, blues, reggae, funk and bluegrass music over six hours in three separate shows.
Folk Uke, formed by daughters of iconic fathers born worlds apart, Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, perform satirical and somewhat sensational music. Their famous dads, Willie Nelson and Arlo Guthrie, may perform guitar leads on their daughters’ albums, but live, Amy, 41, and Cathy, 42, hold their own. Angelic voices often contradicted edgy and authentic song lyrics from their self-titled release in 2005 and Reincarnation in 2011. Amy sings lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar while Cathy harmonizes and accompanies her on ukulele. Favorites were “Sh*t makes the Flowers Grow,” “Knock Me Up,” and “Mother F***er.” They effortlessly sang the 1980 cover song, “He Needs Me” by Harry Nilsson, 2002’s “Worthless” by Mike Stinson and “Long Black Limousine,” written in 1958 by Vern Stovall and Bobby George. Amy delivered the narrative for their collaborative song “I Miss My Boyfriend.” Currently, the two have begun writing a new album they expect to release in 2016, tentatively titled Star F***er, or Constellation Consummation.
Hector Ward, co-owner of South Austin’s The Texas Cuban food truck by day, by night also fronts the Big Time band, a nine-piece Latin funk group complete with a horn section. Though Ward performed without his backup singers, his vocals and some overall solid band musicianship carried the show. Members included Mark Wilson, Ward’s long-time business partner and baritone saxophone and flute player, drummer and co-songwriter Mike McGurk and lead and rhythm guitarist Rain Cross, the son of Grammy award winning songwriter Christopher Cross. Others included cornet player Micah Shalom, trombone player Ben Taylor and bass player Kai Roach. Ward sang those songs he co-wrote with Phil Roach: “Azucar,” “Freightline Funk,” “Nuevo Laredo,” “Time Will Tell” and “Vibro.” Newcomers included tenor saxophone player Jennifer Nailos filling in for Ryan Allen and percussionist David Farris filling in for Rodney Corbin.
The band’s two albums include Freightline Funk released in 2009 and Sum of All in 2011. Ward’s reggae-infused “Simplify” and McGurk’s “Whiskey Pants” delighted audience members, who also helped to sing the refrain for “Taking Lightening Home,” which Ward co-wrote about blues singer Sam John “Lightnin’” Hopkins. He also performed “Ghost Story,” a song about an infamous politician who wanders the prairie searching for a stolen whiskey bottle.
Guy Forsyth has an unmistakable onstage energy that has fueled 25 years of touring internationally while recording 14 albums. He plays his trademark “singing saw,” a modified farming tool used with a violin bow to create a hauntingly instrumental version of “Over the Rainbow.” He’s come a long way from his Kansas City, MO home where he first worked as a street musician, later as a studio session player and then as a comic stunt man at Renaissance fairs before moving to Austin in 1990. His band members include drummer Nina Botta and her husband/bassist Jeff Botta, who also played on Forsyth’s 2012 The Freedom to Fail album. Guitarist George Rarey also performs on The Pleaser, Forsyth’s new blues album to be released this April on the Lizard Disc label. Towards the end of the show, The Pleaser bassist Naj Conklin also joined the stage. One of the best songs of the night included “Sink ‘Em Low (the Holler),” which Forsyth and the band sang a capella amid hand clapping and foot stomping. He also sang “She’s Crazy Now,” an as yet unrecorded love song that features a unique third person protagonist who quickly becomes antagonistic.
-Donna Marie Miller
Photos by Donna Marie Miller