What a pleasant surprise to have William Michael Smith feature me in the the Houston Press Rocks Off 200. Very cool…indeed.
REVIEW: LESLIE KRAFKA’S “ON.WARD.”
For a testament to the respect Leslie Krafka has already earned in Texas music circles, check the credits on her second album, on•ward. The Houston-based singer-songwriter enlisted a cast of experienced, talented musicians for this project, and the album’s 11 tracks – 10 written by Krafka and one well-chosen cover – for the most part are worthy of the all-star team.
Krafka has a way with narrative, and many of on•ward‘s songs are stories about love – looking for it (“I Want Love,” “Stay With Me”), finding it (“Magdalena”), saying goodbye to the bad kind (“Wine Women and Song”), saying goodbye to the good kind (“The Pain of Losing You”), and finding a substitute for it (“Whiskey High”). The writing is strong for the most part, and the playing is excellent.
The music has a pop feel, with country and folk overtones courtesy of accordions, fiddles and steel guitars. Co-producer Lloyd Maines’ pedal steel helps turn “South Texas Fall” into a serious country weeper. A couple of songs (“Beauty” and “Jewel”) take a more optimistic tone. For her one cover, Krafka turns “Drunken Poet’s Dream” (written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard), into a first-person account, adopting the voice of the title character. The album closes with “Freedom Train,” the story of a slave’s journey west to a new life.
There’s nice work on production by Maines and his musical partner, Terri Hendrix – the album has a clean, sharp sound that showcases Krafka’s fine voice. Maines and Hendrix also supplied vocal and instrumental parts; other contributors include such Texas notables as Riley Osbourne on B-3 organ, Bukka Allen on accordion, David Spencer on electric guitar, Richard Bowden on fiddles, Rick Richards and Pat Manske on drums, and Jack Saunders on several stringed instruments. It adds up to a successful sophomore effort that holds promise for the future.
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GoodSongs: Leslie Krafka – On·ward
Here’s a sad little not-so-secret. There just isn’t much of a music scene in Houston. We’ve had some great bands over the years (Fever Tree, ZZ Top, the Dishes, etc.) and some fine musicians spent time here (Townes Van Zandt and others), but it’s nothing like the Austin or Nashville scene.
So, when I receive a review copy of a record from a Houston artist, you can rest assured I’ll take a listen. In this case, I’m glad I did, because Leslie Krafka‘s new record is very good. The music and arrangements are top-notch, as you’d expect from anything produced by Lloyd Maines. Much of the writing and singing has a nineties-era Suzy Boggus vibe, and for those who didn’t know me back then, that’s high praise. Suzy’s recording of the Cheryl Wheeler songAces is one of my favorite tracks ever. My favorite track on Leslie’s new record is South Texas Fall. This song is a 10 on anyone’s scale.
She does a great cover of Drunken Poets Dream that oozes girl-power (though I continue to lament the way many musicians and almost all of Hollywood play to the false myth of cigarettes as cool and rebellious (when they are, in fact, stupid, unhealthy and offensive to anyone nearby).
Wine Women and Song is another favorite of mine.
On·ward is set for release on May 3, 2014 at Anderson Fair (I’ve seen so many amazing shows there; Steve Fromholz being one that immediately comes to mind as a favorite). If you share my desire to support Houston musicians (and you should), check it out.
Yes, on·ward is available now for Pre-Order!!! Now, you can wait until May 3rd to get the new CD at the show, but if you can’t make it, because you live far away, or you’ve made other plans, or you just don’t get out much….then reserve your copy of the record today, and it will be shipped on or around May 3rd right to your door. Click on the “MERCH” link right on the menu at the top and follow the links to order as many copies as your heart desires. Then at check out you can pay either with a credit card or Paypal. It’s so easy a child could do it. Actually, let your child do it. This stuff is a breeze for them. Thanks some much for all the support…..I appreciate it.—Leslie
My new CD on·ward that is. Thank you Rick for the kind words.
“Having the opportunity to have seen the maturity of Leslie Krafka’s music from the listener and the on air host side I can without reservation recommend her new CD “onward”. The title itself frees Ms. Krafka’s writing and opens a new chapter for her and the music, with full respect to the process of story writing “Onward” is a complete musical novel. Ms. Krafka’s cover of Hayes Carll’s & Ray Wylie Hubbard’s – Drunken Poets Dream should appease the feminist and bring a smile to the opposing view of the song.” Rick Heysqueirdo, KPFT’s Lonestar Jukebox
Ok y’all….my first video is officially unveiled. Choosing which song to make into a video was tough…not Sofie’s Choice tough, but tough none the less. I have to say, never having done anything like this before, I was a little nervous going in. But I was in good hands with photographer Mary Keating-Bruton and make up artist/drummer Terri Cote. We had a rocking good time. Next Troy Dillinger did some nice editing and BOOM, it’s a video. So, check it out. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m blown away…having Terri Hendrix co-produce my new CD so cool. People don’t come any better then Terri. I feel so lucky to know her. Here’s what Terri had to say about my new record on·ward coming out on May 3rd.
“Leslie Krafka is a genuine songwriter that writes about topics ranging from storytelling to matters of the heart. She’s never trite and always seeking truth in her lyrics with a style all her own. A little bit of twang with a saucy spice of city slicker. It makes for an intoxicating mix that leaves the listener wanting more.”—Terri Hendrix/songwriter, musician, producer
Looking back at what I laughably called my review of Leslie’s first album, I concluded it was “a bloody good record”. I have become no more articulate over the years, so will just say that this time around the same is true with knobs on. That those knobs are being twiddled by legendary Texas producer and pedal steel dude Lloyd Maines is a good start, but it is the quality of Leslie’s songs and singing that make the record stand out. Here’s an example.
“Wine, Women and Song” – Leslie Krafka
One of the other highlights of the new album is her gender-bending cover of “Drunken Poet’s Dream”, the Hayes Carll/ Ray Wylie Hubbard co-write which both perform with aplomb but with slightly different words. Leslie does the Hubbard version, which marks her out as a woman of taste and refinement (no matter what the words say).
If you are thinking that Ray Wylie Hubbard and Hayes Carll seem an unlikely writing team, have a listen to these two songs and think again. The protagonists are surely sons of the same redneck mother.
This Friday night make your way down to Galveston and The Old Quarter for a cool show benefiting the doggies and kitties of Galveston. Admission is a new or used item for an animal, like leashes, bedding, toys or food. One item gets you in the door. Lots of folks will be there to entertain you, including me. Cya there.