If you still think of country music and white hats when you hear the name Brandon Jenkins, you've been out of the loop for far too long. Long gone are the days of Jenkins catering to Nashville's expectations, or even trying to fit the "outlaw country" mold. Even by Jenkins' admission, if you tried to fit him in a genre, it would probably have to be something as widespread as Americana.
At least to my ears, Jenkins really started finding his voice and establishing his identity with 2004's Down In Flames. While his 2006 release, VII, stepped back and relaxed a little, not taking on such dark tones as its predecessor, Jenkins was still finding his comfort zone. With his latest disc, Faster than a Stone, however, it appears that he has finally found his comfort zone and started to flourish.
Playing part blues, a little country, and a whole lot or rock and roll, Jenkins doesn't worry about labels. He lets the music speak for itself. And although the Tulsa native admitted that he misses T-Town and hopes to return at some point, his relocation to Austin put him in a place where he can open up musically.
Last week, he chuckled with me at the fact that he doesn't really fit in with the traditional country scene. "The motto down here is 'Keep Austin Weird,' so I guess I'm doing my part. In Austin, having a shaved head and tattoos is more of an asset than a liability and people applaud a musician who makes their own way," he said.
In a city that's known more for music and breaking the mold, Jenkins is right at home and reaping the benefits of working the Texas music circuit.
But it's not like Jenkins cut all Tulsa ties since his move. Faster than a Stone marks Jenkins return to recording with Dave Percefull, as Percefull moved Yellow Dog Studios to Austin last year. This time, however, Jenkins took control of the boards and produced the record himself. Ha also tapped some additional talent, recruiting appearances by Stoney LaRue and Travis Fite on his latest disc.
While it's not necessarily surprising to hear Jenkins slide easily between barn burners like the opening cut and blues shuffles like "Big Mama's Kitchen" or tender ballads like "Till the Morning Comes", the key to the new disc is how comfortable he seems in his skin. Nothing seems forced, but instead confident and cool-headed (which, in all due respects, fit's Jenkins iconic image). Perhaps part of that, however, came by chance.
After performing for years with an additional guitarist (he worked with some killers, such as "Soup Bone," Brad James and David Kelley), he has now taken over guitar duties both on stage and in the studio, working with a trio.
Jenkins said that it initially happened because his guitarist at the time couldn't make it to a gig, understandably due to his home flooding, but without time to find a replacement, Jenkins just took over himself. And while he said it was a challenge, it was one he enjoyed and ended up embracing.
"I didn't start out to be a singer/songwriter. I originally wanted to be a rock and roll guitar player, so here I am 20 years later, finally doing just that," he chuckled.
Now Jenkins' band is leaner and meaner, and he's a got a new disc in hand to prove it. Released in late October, Faster than a Stone has seen immediate success, moving up to number 11 on the Texas music charts in just a few short weeks. You'll be able to get yours and see the man live this weekend when he plays Mercury Lounge Saturday night, November 29.
Burning Down the BOK
If you didn't see Metallica at the BOK Center last week, you missed one hell of a show. With no disrespect to the country bands and old-timers that have played the venue so far, even the gentleman next to me proclaimed that "Now they can finally say the arena has been inaugurated." I don't think Tulsa's seen that much bombast and spectacle in years.
I attended the show a little skeptical. Could the band that's seemingly done its best to self destruct (via a string of crappy albums, the Some Kind Of Monster documentary, and suing its fans over downloading) and still claim to be credible, really put its money where its mouth is? After witnessing last Tuesday night's show, the answer is a resounding yes. More than 25 years after forming in LA, Metallica proved that they are still the kings of the rock and roll jungle.
Full on spectacle was the rule, starting with the laser show intro and in-the-round stage set up, right through the return to your thrash roots encore and everything in between, including their biggest hits and more pyrotechnics than I've seen in years.
While the set list included "Harvester of Sorrow," "One," "Master of Puppets" and "Seek and Destroy," the real star of the show was frontman James Hetfield. While appropriately serious and sinister for a metal band, he knows not to take himself too seriously, letting a wicked grin crack through the scowl and allowing everyone in attendance know that he was enjoying himself. He reveled in the attention. Hetfield is all swagger and self-assurance, directing both the band and the audience at the same time. Any aspiring young metal heads should take note: Hetfield is still the gold standard.
As part of the celebration of Kirk Hammet's birthday, the lead guitarist was bombarded with silly string and cream pies during the encore and it continued for about 15 minutes afterward as the band roamed the stage with hugs and high fives while acknowledging the crowd.
Yes, Tulsa, We're finally officially a rock and roll town.
On a side note, I've got to air my only complaints: I understand that a metal crowd calls for a different level of security, if the only form an insurance standpoint. When you've got two main entrances and are trying to run roughly 14,000 people through seven metal detectors, you need to rethink your plan. Forty minutes after I arrived, I finally entered the building, missing the first opening band, The Sword.
With the holiday weekend, if you aren't skipping town, you'll likely want to get out this weekend. It's a busy one, starting with Thanksgiving night, so here are a few of the highlights.
Once you've had your fill of turkey and football, you'll probably feel the need to escape the family and cut loose. Indie rock fans can always count on Soundpony with The Unit Breed, Fannie Pack and David's Bandana; while more jam oriented fans can chill at Exit 6C with Little Chair and Whirligig. The biggest gigs of the night are both on Main Street, however, as Brave Combo returns to The Marquee and Philip Zoellner holds his CD release party with Mike Kelley at Bob's.
Friday night's highlights return to Main Street as Jason Boland and the Stragglers bring their outlaw country to the Ballroom and The Marquee hosts the all-out chaos of O'Death and Those Darlins.
If you don't spend Saturday night at the aforementioned Brandon Jenkins gig, you can check out the 4th annual Cancer Sucks! Benefit with Matt Thompson, Dustin Pittsley, Sweatin' Bullets, RadioRadio, Ganem, 7 Story Drop, Crooked X, Aranda, Less than Perfect and Trip C for a mix of all genres with a $10 ticket at Cain's Ballroom.
Apparently Tulsa has become a primary stop on the American Idol routing. This Saturday night, AI alumnus Jason Castro headlines the grand opening of the Fly Trap Music Hall (2nd and Frankfort) with To Have Heroes (Andy Skib, who's currently gigging with Idol king David Cook) and Bryan Jewett opening the show.
Finally, the weekend wraps up with indie rock and holiday cheer on Sunday, November 30. If you're into the latest buzz, stop in at Bob's to check out Little Joy (featuring Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes). If you're ready to start reveling in Christmas music, however, your best bet of the season will be the Casting Crowns Christmas Concert at the BOK Center.
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