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Ha Ha Tonka "Usual Suspects"

We run in our circles. They are concentric and they radiate out from our homes, but somehow they seem to cover the same turf. Whether it is the work - babysitter nexus, or its the restaurant and club rounds, we tend to go to the same places. Do the same things with the same people. So when John Riedie called me to meet him at Emo’s this summer, I said yes, and I don’t go to Emo’s all that often. But I went both because it was John, who I have known for fifteen years, and because of the band. John was funny, he just told me I should get my butt down there. I asked him who was playing. I had to pry it out of him. When he finally said, "Ha Ha Tonka," I let out a hoot! I loved their 2007 album Buckle In The Bible was a jumping and hollering joy.

Ha Ha Tonka's new CD, Death Of A Decade, just came out this Tuesday, and takes the music in a wonderful, albeit different, direction. In case you were wondering, they took their name after Ha Ha Tonka State Park in their native Missouri. They are steeped in the musical history of the Ozarks, effortlessly transporting the fundamentals learned there into the ‘anything goes’ jubilance of the modern day.

We were blown away by their appearance at the Music Fog Marathon in Austin a few weeks ago. Here is the “Usual Suspects,” filmed at Threadgill’s World Headquarters.

- Jessie Scott

Usual Suspects - Death of a Decade


Brian Wright "Maria Sugarcane"

The air is warming in Texas. This does not bode well for a temperate summer, when it is heading into the 90's, and it is only mid-April. Reports of particulate matter are high, not just with pollen from Oak, Ash, Willow, and Pecan covering one’s car in sprinkles of tender yellow green. But the weather folks also talk about burnings in Mexico and Central America setting stuff into the air. Agricultural burning happens at this time each year, and the strong spring winds carry the smoke up into South and Central Texas. Here is the NASA map from 2004's burnings. There is something so deliberate about this all, the way it feels, the hex it casts. There is a fabulous song from Mary Gauthier called “Sugar Cane.” Maybe it is the way we are wired, but the danger lurks just at the edge of this, with the senses heightened.

Brian Wright twists it some, as “Maria Sugarcane” is a good old fashioned murder ballad. Brian put out House On Fire just last week. He is Texas born and bred, but needed a change in venue and headed out west. For the last 6 years, he has fronted Brian Wright and The Waco Tragedies based in L.A. He is a rich songwriter, an articulate teller of tales. On this, his third album, he plays virtually all the instruments, too. When he came to the Music Fog Marathon, he performed solo, and the songs shone like embers. Brian plays tonight at The Basement in Nashville, and then the WZEW Hangout Festival in Mobile, Alabama on April 9th. Click here for more tour dates. Here is some inspiration, in the form of the Music Fog version of “Maria Sugarcane.”

- Jessie Scott

Maria Sugarcane - House On Fire