Los Lonely Boys • Shelby Lynne
...and other music coming to town.

By Alan Sculley

When Los Lonelyboys were asked in a recent NPR interview to name some of the favorite gigs they'd played in all their cross-country touring over the past year, they listed Lexington (Kentucky).

It's a sign that this town is slowly but surely returning to its heyday for Americana/roots/alt country tour stops — the days when it was written up in No Depression; when Alejandro Escovedo cited it as HIS favorite place to play (along with Chicago); and when the town was nearly always mentioned as a likely destination by bands rolling through South by Southwest. Now we cede shows like the Flatlanders to Northern Kentucky — and there's barely a pause for lamentation.

But for music lovers who somehow just cannot be satiated by the prospect of a Clay Aiken gig at Rupp Arena..... recent weeks have included successful shows by Junior Brown and Hank III, and the coming weeks are just as packed.

For those who won't be road-tripping to Bonaroo this weekend in Tennessee, Kim Richey will be at the Dame Friday night (co-headlining with Robert Bradley). Los Lonelyboys will take the same stage Monday night. (If you saw their Austin City Limits performance with Guster, you have an idea of what to expect — for the uninitiated, it's simple enough to mention that if you're looking for the logical heirs to Santana, you won't want to miss this show. Which is not to say that their work is remotely derivative, because it isn't.)

Later in the week, Shelby Lynne will perform Thursday night at the Kentucky Theatre.

Upcoming weeks will include everyone from Robbie Fulks to Los Lobos — and one can only hope that this summer's steady stream of talent passing through marks the end of those misery-filled droughts when music lovers had neither the Wrocklage nor Lynagh's to sustain them. Buy your tickets and try not to take the bounty for granted.

Aging scenesters remember that as quickly as the rock gods giveth, it ALL can be taken away. (Sure, everyone remembers Starlight's reasonably well-attended Jayhawks gig show last summer — but by no means was that enough to sustain a club, night in and night out.) Clubs survive on living, drinking, loyal bodies.

Without them, they fold.

And then there'd be nothing on the horizon beyond a fall performance by Norah Jones at Rupp.

That'd be a sad enough prospect to make everyone take to the roads in August and carpool to the Ryman for Lucinda Williams. And Nashville's already rich enough. It'd be nice to keep some of our entertainment dollars here.


At the South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas this past March, there was no avoiding the fact that the state’s hottest home-grown talent on the scene was the Los Lonely Boys.

The San Angelo-based group’s performances that weekend were among the most talked-about shows at the festival, which features more than 1,000 acts playing showcases. But more significantly, the group’s status as the new kings of the Texas scene was cemented on the opening night when Los Lonely Boys walked off with the top three honors at the Austin Music Awards—band of the year, song of the year and album of the year.

Guitarist/singer Henry Garza is decidedly humble when asked about winning the prestigious Austin Music Awards honors.

“It kind of feels like confusing in a sense because we’re still looking at ourselves like ‘What do they see in us?’ What do they like?’” he said. “We don’t really see it in ourselves. We don’t go around saying ‘Oh yeah, we’re good.’”

But the recently released self-titled debut CD by Los Lonely Boys makes it plenty obvious why Garza and his brothers—bassist JoJo Garza and drummer Ringo Garza—have become so highly acclaimed so quickly.

And with their current single, “Heaven,” having reached the top five on Billboard magazine’s adult top 40 chart, the buzz is now audible well beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.

The debut CD offers a tasty wide-ranging mix of bluesy rock and roll spiced with a touch of the Garza brothers’ Mexican heritage.

Rockers like “Real Emotions” and “Seniorita,” manage to blend a solid punch with graceful melodies. But there are many more facets on display on the Los Lonely Boys CD. “Heaven” and “Nobody Else” are mid-tempo tracks with decidedly sunny dispositions, while “More Than Love” takes the Garza brothers into early rock and roll balladry with its doo-wop-ish vocal harmonies and rolling piano line.

“Crazy Dream” reveals Henry Garza’s love for Stevie Ray Vaughan with its shuffling guitar riffs and strutting tempo. A strong Carlos Santana influence, meanwhile, shines on “Onda,” an eight-minute instrumental track that Henry Garza said was cut in its entirety in one take.

The Mexican roots of the group, meanwhile surface in bluesy rocker “Dime Mi Amor” and “Hollywood,” an acoustic track with a particularly pretty melody.

Henry Garza, meanwhile, makes his presence felt with several searing guitar solos and plenty of nimble fills. His playing has prompted a number of writers to proclaim him as the next great Texas guitarist, following in the footsteps of such legends as Freddie King, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and brothers Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan.

The breadth—not to mention the quality—of the “Los Lonely Boys” CD is impressive for a debut act. But then, the Garza brothers, who are in their early 20s and all share in the songwriting for the group, had plenty of musical schooling on their way to launching their recording career. Their career began in childhood, when their father, Ringo Garza Sr. taught them their instruments. Henry Garza, in fact, says he wrote his first song at age four.

When the Garza brothers were young children, their father fronted a band with his brothers and sister that gained considerable popularity in the Southern states. That group, though, came to a sudden and tragic end when one of brothers died.

By the time the boys had entered their teens, they had stepped in as their father’s backing band. They soon gained a deep appreciation for early rock and roll, blues and their native conjunto music, as they played clubs first around Texas, and later in Nashville, where their father, sensing the talents of his sons, moved the band during the 1990s. Henry Garza said his father’s music was a huge influence on the sound he and his brothers developed as Los Lonely Boys.

“It was different in a sense just because it was a different era, a (different) time,” Henry Garza said of his father’s music. “But it was definitely the same kind of deal, kind of concept, because he was mixing English with conjunto music. He was like mixing in some country two-step, Texas two-step music with an accordion and a bajo sexto and a bass and drums. They were mixing like the country with the Spanish, the Spanglish deal, man. That’s kind of where we got our deal that we could do that. There are no limits. There are no limits on music and what our dad was doing was showing us that he was putting his own little twist on the music. Our dad was just awesome. He’s still awesome.”

Just as importantly, Henry Garza said his father gave his sons an honest introduction to the lifestyle of a touring bar band.

“Our dad didn’t put no cover over our eyes and make the world look like something that it wasn’t,” the guitarist/singer said. “We were doing and seeing things and living things that you really don’t get subjected to when you’re a little kid that young, like your parents are trying to keep you clean and don’t think about girls and all this, just life in general. But our dad because of where we lived, he didn’t put no cover on our eyes, and we thank him for that, because he showed us exactly how it was and there was no sugar coating on it, you know what I mean.

“That’s why it feels so good right now to receive these blessings that we’ve been blessed with, which is the people really digging the music, dude, because that’s what it’s about for us,” Henry Garza said. “It’s not about trying to, not even make records or make money or be stars or anything like. We just want to play music and give it to the world. You give, you shall receive.”

Los Lonely Boys began playing gigs on their own while still in Nashville, but before long returned to San Angelo and began building a touring base around Texas and the South.
Along the way, the group picked up an important high-profile supporter— country music legend Willie Nelson, who has since had the group to play at two of his Farm Aid benefits, opened his studio for the group to record their self-titled CD and proclaimed the Los Lonely Boys as his favorite band.

“It started with his nephew,” Henry Garza said. “His nephew had come to one of our shows. Our manager hooked him up with our demo and (he) said I’m going to show (it to) Willie.’

The nephew soon reported back that Nelson wanted to come to see the Los Lonely Boys play—the prospect of which Henry Garza said he and his brothers took with a major grain of salt. “Sure enough, we were doing a show in Austin, Texas at Momo’s, and the man himself, with his wife, they sit down,” Henry Garza recalled. “We immediately greeted him and thanked him for coming, and then we proceeded to play, we started jamming, and it was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He took us under his wing, and who better than Willie Nelson? It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Los Lonely Boys will play The Dame Monday, June 14. 7pm, tickets are $12.


It’s hard not to see a great deal of irony in the title of the current Shelby Lynne CD—Identity Crisis.

That’s because over a career that now spans nearly 15 years, few artists have shifted musical directions more frequently than Lynne, and in doing so kept fans off guard about what to expect next from her CDs. “If there is one thing I am good at, it’s keeping everybody pretty confused,” Lynne acknowledged with good humor.

Born Shelby Lynne Moore in 1968, Lynne was born in Virginia and raised in Alabama, leading a fairly normal life until an almost unspeakable tragedy struck.

When she was 17, her father shot and killed her mother and then turned the gun on himself. Lynne, who has always been reluctant to talk about the incident, quickly turned to music as she attempted to move on with her life. At age 18, she got married to her high school sweetheart (a union that lasted only a short time), moved to Nashville and was signed by Epic Records.

Lynne turned out three CDs on Epic that found her adhering to a mainstream country sound and following the industry’s formulas for making country records.

She relied on the industry’s bevy of outside songwriters for material, had her CDs produced by seasoned veterans of Nashville recording sessions and stuck close to a mainstream country sound.

And while Lynne was roundly praised for her robust singing voice (and even earned the 1991 Academy of Country Music Award for best new female artist), by the time of her third CD, she was showing far too much artistic restlessness to be molded into being the latest Reba McEntire. Looking back, Lynne voiced no regrets over her decision to try to make her mark in mainstream country music.

“I was raised pretty much listening to country music, and I knew in my soul that’s what I really wanted to do,” Lynne said. “So Nashville’s where you go for that. And when I got there and I realized I really didn’t like the business part of it. I did the best I could.”

After leaving Epic Records, Lynne signed with the independent label, Morgan Creek Records, and revealed a whole new side to her musical roots with Temptation, a 1993 CD that explored the western swing sound made famous by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

Then came a new record company, Magnatone, a new CD, Restless, and once again a new musical direction, as Lynne made a swing CD steeped in blues, country and jazz.

But Lynne’s biggest surprise was still ahead of her. Following Restless, she set aside whatever links to the country industry remained and signed with Island/Def Jam Records.
Her 2000 debut for the label, I Am Shelby Lynne, became a critical sensation. Strongly influenced by Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul, the CD showcased yet another side of Lynne’s musical roots, and re-established some of the career momentum that had faded with the Temptation and Restless CDs.

The CD went on to sell more than 200,000 copies and win a Grammy Award—ironically enough for best new artist, even though Lynne was hardly a new face on the music scene.
Lynne followed that triumph with Love, Shelby, a CD that saw her collaborate with producer/songwriter Glenn Ballard (known for his work on the Dave Matthews Band CD Everyday and Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill). The rock/pop CD they created stiffed commercially—a notable setback considering the success of I Am Shelby Lynne.

Lynne admitted that she was being pushed by Island/Def Jam to make a more commercial sounding record, but she remains proud of Love, Shelby. “I love Love, Shelby,” she said. “It was equally as big a part of my life and my heart as all of my records.”

Nevertheless, Lynne now finds herself on yet another record label—Capitol—and with Identity Crisis, showing yet another side to her music. Gone are the full-band arrangements and big production of I Am Shelby Lynne and Love, Shelby, as Identity Crisis strips Lynne’s music back to its acoustic foundation.

The tone gets set with the opening track, “Telephone,” a bluesy tune that supplements Lynne’s vocals and acoustic guitar only with spare percussion and a some low-key electric guitar. Other ballads, such as, “If I Were Smart” and “I Don’t Think So” follow a similar path as Lynne digs deep emotionally and wisely lets her words and vocal melodies carry the day. Identity Crisis, though, isn’t without its frisky moments. On “10 Rocks,” Lynne rollicks through a spirited tune with a strong gospel feel. “Gotta Be Better” rocks behind Lynne’s hard acoustic strumming and an insistent rhythm. “Evil Man” puts Lynne in a gritty country blues setting. Despite the title Identity Crisis, the CD is being touted by Capitol as the Lynne CD that is her most personal and most true to herself. Lynne fully endorses that notion.

“It would have to be really,” she said. “It’s all me. It’s my songs, my thoughts, my words, my life. It’s really personal. I don’t really do anything ever that’s not personal. I don’t know how to do anything else. But this album was born in my dining room, in my home studio, by myself, all hours of the night for many months, and just kind of spending a lot of time with myself, I guess. So I guess it would have to be as close to me as I’ve ever gotten music-wise.”

Lynne is being quite literal when she speaks of the home-made approach to Identity Crisis.

After Love, Shelby had crashed and burned on the charts, Lynne and Island/Def Jam eagerly parted ways.

“I asked off before they could drop me,” Lynne said. “I wasn’t happy with them. They weren’t happy with me. The bottom line is they didn’t get me. They didn’t understand what I do musically. And if something’s not working, you can’t make it fit. So it was really best for everybody.” Lynne returned to her home in Palm Springs, California expecting to take a break. And while she took time to reconnect with her family and her life, she also found herself getting inspired to write songs—so much so that she frequently stayed up all night writing.

She had studio equipment in her house, so Lynne began recording the tunes, playing all the instruments herself as she created the blueprint for CD’s intimate, largely acoustic sound.

It was only after much of the material had taken shape that Lynne booked time at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood to judiciously flesh out a few songs. Strings were recorded for a few tunes, while Little Feat’s Billy Payne came into record keyboard parts for 10 songs, Larry Antonio added bass and Kevin Ricard laid down percussion for some of the songs.

Throughout the project, Lynne stayed away from pursuing a record deal, and it was only after Identity Crisis was finished that she began considering her options. She had few expectations and was shocked to learn about Capitol’s interest.

“When I was making this album, I thought this is crazy. Nobody is ever going to like this thing,” Lynne said. “It’s not commercial at all. It’s completely personal. It’s basically an acoustic style record. There’s nothing fancy about it. It’s just what I want to do. And I didn’t expect anybody, especially a label like Capitol (to want it). I was really getting resigned to doing like an independent cool label thing. But then Capitol said ‘Uh-uh, we dig it. We want it.’”

Shelby Lynne will play the Kentucky Theatre, Thursday, June 17th. 8pm, tickets are $27.25.