The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Monday, August 4, 2024

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: PART I: Papermoons & Elaine Greer @ Boondocks 30 July 2024

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Wednesday the Papermoons were playing their last show in Houston before their departure to far off lands. Their new album New Tales has been spinning endlessly at work, in my car, and in my head. So, given my obsession with the music (not to mention the good and endearing nature of Daniel and Matt), this was required attendance. This show could have been bittersweet and sad but it was instead a very joyous affair of friends and fans there to celebrate the 'Moons and their talents. If you missed out on seeing the Papermoons live or haven't heard their new album of Team Science, you have and are missing out on one of Houston's best bands - ever! Let me just take that up a notch. While people like (well, you know who I'm gonna pick on so let's not name names. let's just say) Mr. L. have taken so much time complaining about how so and so touring act misses Houston or how our bands are second rate and nothing more than a den of hipsters, right under his and many other self-fulfilling prophets' noses lie bands like the Papermoons who have taken their art and polished it into a Zen-like perfection that can go against any touring band. Those of you who missed them live because you bought this line have no sympathy from me but I do recommend you listen to the new album (which, for me, is shaping up to be in 2024 what Lemming Baby was for me last year ) and to catch them whenever they return.

Opening was local chanteuse Elaine Greer who played a great set backed up by bassist Travis Smith and the multi-talented Austin Sepultavo. The former I think is likely the world's happiest bassist - bouncing on the stage with a "look at me Ma" glee. Austin meanwhile is the Swiss Army Knife of sidemen employing guitar, lap steel, and accordion as well as taking backing vocal duties throughout. Elaine performed a set of her folky pop with a sweet voice and a charming disposition. She goes on stage and sings her songs with a combination of humility and joy that immediately draws you into what she's doing. Combine that with music that is lovely and smart and you have a winning combination. It was a sweet show even if we never figured out just what the hell those weird sounds were that rose from the PA at inopportune moments.

At about 11:30 the Papermoons took the stage and it seemed that everyone was downstairs prompting Matt to shrug an "Oh well" before launching into the set. He needn't have been worried as the second the first notes hit, as if by magic, the entire room was filled. And what a set! The last time I saw them at the Mink Backroom the sound was somewhat dodgy (at least from where I stood) but this time the sound was perfect with the drums sounding gorgeous, the guitar painfully beautiful, and the vocals soul-melting. And you wonder why I abhor large venues? Here is why you can't beat the intimacy, immediacy, and connection of a small room like that of the upstairs at Boondocks. Here you could simply submerge yourself in the songs and sing along (though in my case, singing very quietly since the songs are too good to ruin with my singing). And the crowd ate-up what they had to offer which was most of their short catalog. Matt's ability to play little loops and similar small touches with his delay pedal at times was a detail I'd missed previously but, perhaps because I'm now so familiar with the new album, I was quite taken by it this time. That kind of texture I'd always figured was a nuance only to be found in the studio but Matt clearly is a clever enough guitarist to pull it off live. That kind of attention to sound is what makes this simple duo so much more than many larger ensembles. It's the sound of two people who are of one mind about the music they are creating and have carefully thought about what they are doing. If Buddha were in the crowd, he'd likely say they have achieved "the true Dharma eye...the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters" and found himself singing and clapping along with the rest of us as they played an encore of "Bad Nope" from their 7" debut. Mind you, the crowd wasn't just singing and clapping along, they were hitting all the stops just right which prompted Elaine Greer to turn and say in jest "Nah, we've never heard these songs before have we?" Nope, Elaine, why would you think that?

Go n-éiri an bothar leat, Papermoons.

Elaine Greer's lovely and smart songs
got the house moving.

Austin Sepultavo
the Swiss-Army Knife of sidemen.

If you missed the Papermoons this time 'round,
you missed on one of Houston's best bands - ever.

Matt Clark - He may not be playing Malmsteen-

like arpeggios but I guarantee, if you listen to
what he does, you'll come away with a lot more
about what a guitar can do beyond empty scale runs.

Daniel Hawkins' drumming
emphasizing emotion over complexity.

Ben Murphy of
Bright Men of Learning & Tody Castillo

joins in on
Lazy Bones.

More pictures on my Flickr (Link)

Elaine Greer on Myspace (Link)
Papermoons on Myspace (Link)

Team Science Records (Link)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2024

Exodus: Movement of Jah People!

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 11:50 AM

Is it me or is this a year of exodus for great musicians from Houston? Earlier Danny Mee of the Jonx moved to Austin and Jenny Westbury also announced her imminent departure to Seattle. Now word comes down the line of a continued talent drain.

First Iram Guerrero of Young Mammals (aka The Dimes) is down to his last three shows before he leaves Houston. That's a huge blow given that he's one of the premier drummers in Houston and a defining part of the band's sound. Then, Papermoons announced that after their upcoming tour, they too will also be leaving Houston. Oh wait, but it gets worse because Sabra Laval has also announced her departure from Houston. Man, that's a rough year and we're just past the halfway mark.

So, just so you know, here may be the last few times for you to see these artists in the near future as they will be seen a lot less frequently 'round these parts.


Friday July 11
CD Release/Tour Kick-off w/ B./The Sour Notes /Phillip Forshee
@ The Backroom (behind the Mink)

Young Mammals

Saturday July 12
W/ Wicked Poseur, News On The March& Hard Place
@ Artstorm/Caroline Collective

Sunday July 13
W/ Hard Place & Wicked Poseur!!!
@ The Backroom (behind the Mink)

Sunday July 27
The Houston Press Music Awards

Sabra Laval

Monday July 28
w/ Warren Jackson Hearne & Admiral David
@ Notsuoh

The Jonx

Friday August 1
w/ Sharks and Sailors (CD Release Party) & UME
@ Walters

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Saturday, July 5, 2024


posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 6:07 AM

Papermoons self-portrait

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting with the Papermoons outside King Biscuit in the hot Texas sun as guitarist Matt Clark and drummer Daniel Hawkins are getting all In Search of... on me. A house party on their upcoming tour is right near the hometown of the legendary Moth Man which, as you can imagine, is a local legend involving some creature that looks like…well...a Moth Man. The supernatural is an odd little diversion for the Papermoons. “We went to an old graveyard in Sleepy Hollow at night.” says Daniel, “That was some freaky shit!” Cleary not freaked out enough on that tour, they plan to spend some time this tour visiting Gettysburg where ghosts are said to roam and people can visit at night. It’s all par for the course for a band that clearly loves not only making music but also travelling. Talk with them for any length of time and it’s clear that, for these two, touring is still a grand adventure filled with the promise of the unexpected and the memorable.

That love of the road is actually quite appropriate as the duo met while touring in different bands. Danny had been drumming in Houston’s Little Compass and Matt had been in playing guitar in the Akron, Ohio band Adios. The bands met through the internet, toured together, and the two immediately hit it off. Then, when the bands were coming to their logical end, a night at Late Night Pie sealed the partnership. “We were talking about quieter bands like Wilco,” says Matt, “and it turns out we had similar ideas of what we wanted to do. We started sending tapes of songs back and forth between Ohio and Texas where one of us would build on the ideas of the other. Eventually, I was over with school and had nothing keeping me in Ohio so I moved to Houston.”

The new duo soon discovered the challenges and rewards of the new less-is-more approach. “There’s a freedom in just playing a backbeat and not overplaying.” says Danny, “Believe it or not, it’s actually easier to overplay than to just hold-back but it’s amazing how much a song can be just as powerful without resorting to simple volume.”

“My guitar has to do a lot more work,” explains Matt, “and I have to try to fill the sound. But if you can play a song – just vocals and a guitar – and it holds up, that’s a good song. That’s my benchmark.”

“When we work on songs, we hear arrangements in our heads,” says Danny, “so if we don’t feel that, we drop it. This new album was written pretty fast. We wanted to release it in time to tour during the summer so all the songs were written and recorded under that time constraint but we didn’t compromise in the process. This album is exactly the album we wanted to release.”

The album was partially written in our small apartment. “Danny set up his drums here in the living room,” says Matt as he sketches three very small rectangles in an L shape with stick figures on my note pad. “I was in the bedroom here, and in this small bathroom between the two rooms is where I set my amp. We recorded the entire thing on Adobe Audition starting with Danny’s drums and I’d layer on top of that. We’d start with the music and find the vocal harmonies.”

“Harmonies were the first thing on the table when we started his band!” exclaims Danny. “We love killer harmonies so that’s one of the things we concentrate on. We’ll work out the melodies and Matt will write the lyrics.”

“I’m not much of a lyricist,” says Matt as his leg shakes up and down under the table, “I’ll try to write broad lyrics that everyone can relate to. Some of it is from stuff I’ve experienced but the lyrics are never specific. I just try to find that one line and, once I’ve got that down, the rest of the lyrics flow from that one line.”

Matt may be humble about his lyrics but there is a simple honesty in his words that seem as organic and of-the-earth as the music. Take the opening track – Follow The Sun - from the new Papermoons album. Chiming guitar notes play off a lonely slide guitar as vocals sing a gorgeous melody evoking a melancholy joy. They sing “Yeah, I chose this life/ a life with no money at all/ and you get what you put in/ if you do what you love/ give in/ just give in.” That is the Papermoons in a nutshell.

The Papermoons’ new album “New Tales” will be available in July on Team Science.
Their tour kicks off on July 11th with their record release at the Backroom at the Mink.


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Monday, May 19, 2024

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: Papermoons & Bright Men of Learning @ The Backroom 16 May 2024

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Lets face it, even if Hendrix were to rise from the dead and play a set before 10:30PM the odds of me seeing him would be dodgy at best. I think I'm just locked into that whole Rudyard's time zone - doors at 9 and bands start at 10:30(ish!!!) - sorry. Friday was no different as even the lure of The Wild Moccasins (who put on great lively shows that are matched by some great tunes) wasn't enough to forgo a pre-show round of booze and baseball with some friends over at Griffs*. That is no dis to the Moccasins but just to say that this is just a peculiarity of mine or to put it another way - when it comes to early shows, I suck! Regardless, I did arrive (happily sauced) and Bright Men of Learning and Papermoons put on two lovely sets of finely crafted music. If you were close enough to catch me drunkenly singing along at points - my sincerest apologies.

Bright Men of Learning
are a perfect example of what I mean by craft; they are not trying to reinvent the wheel because BMOL's songwriter Marshall Preddy figured out that reinventing the wheel is horribly overrated. They don't do musical tricks on stage nor do they play around with fancy time signatures, jarring electronics sounds, or anything that approaches overstatement. The band simply plays straight-up rootsy rock. They rely on the basics - sharp songs, a solid voice, and a crack band. It's a band that whittles away at its craft and presents you with a perfectly carved experience that's at once recognizable as part of a tradition and yet true to itself. The band delivered exactly that on Friday. The triple guitar attack led by Ben Murphy, whose ear is simply incredible, is always a kick. (I always wonder if Ben writes his own lines or if they are given to him by Marshall but I always forget to ask.) The effect is always a lovely melodic compliment to the vocals that round the songs out quite nicely. The big thing about BMOL is that, as time has gone by, Marshall's batting average as a writer just gets better and better. You can hear it on the band's releases and lately it's particularly noticeable as there are many unreleased songs which leave you after the show looking for a studio version in vain. "What the Devil" and "Western Hearts" being two examples of two songs that simply kill and will have me first in line to grab the new album.

Papermoons also crafts gorgeous songs that tend toward the understated and organic but the duo swing things a bit more on the folksy side than BMOL. The songs on Friday were played beautifully but the 'Moons secret weapon is their harmonies and the Mink's sound system simply let them down. At least from where I stood, Matt's vocals came through nicely but anytime Daniel's vocals should have been there to punctuate the song they were nowhere to be found. It's a shame because the band does harmonies so well and in a manner I don't hear very many other Houston bands attempting. That should have been frustrating enough to have gotten under my craw and ruined the show but even with one arm tied behind their back the band can still pull off an engaging and gorgeous set. The technical issues simply lost out to the music and that's no accident because the 'Moons, when you get right down to the nub, craft some beautiful songs and as Bill Fool so aptly put it in the Born Liars article "It all comes down to the songs." .

So let me leave you with this thought from Dave Van Ronk which I think applies to both bands.

"When songs get pretentious, overflowery and obscure, the songwriter is proclaiming that he or she is an artist, and the whole concept of "art" as we understand it today is an early-nineteenth-century intellectual construct based on a set of what I consider to be false romantic notions. I think it's a good thing that, back in the Renaissance, people like Michelangelo were treated like interior decorators. A well-written song is a craft item. Take care of the craft, and the art will take care of itself."[1]

Bright Men indeed
Marshall Preddy (r) writes the songs

Johnathan Sage (l) drives the van**

Ben Murphy (l) wondering
"Is Jonathan on the sauce again?"

Papermoons - (l-r)
Daniel Hawkins & Matt Clark

Matt Clark!
Geddy Lee fetish - exposed!

Bright Men of Learning

*Just in case you were wondering. Yes, the Astros lost and no we never could get the guy in the back patio to relinquish the TV. What a dick. Yet I will concede that losing to the Rangers is no better outside than inside.

**Not just any van but the Jman company van. He's not just a great bassist but also a florist! How freaking rock and roll is that?!!

[1] P. 208 The Mayor of MacDougal Street - A Memoir. Dave Van Ronk with Elija Wald (c) 2024 Da Capo Press

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Sunday, April 27, 2024

Review - Papermoons-Lazy Bones

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 4:02 PM

My obsession for this last week has been the song Lazy Bones - a teaser Papermoons posted for their upcoming album on their Myspace. If there have been cries of 2024 being a rough year for Houston music (Proletariat's closing, the ongoing travails of SHFL, etc. ), let me just say that Papermoons are prepared to clean the slate and raise the bar. Papermoons show how you can accomplish more with understatement and simplicity than any overdriven Marshall, screaming rawk vocalist, or histrionic Xiu Xiu emoting song could ever dream of.

There are no gimmicks in this song. In fact, if you break it down, what do we have? Most of the song is just straight C to F with a bridge that rises to G - a straight 1-4-5. That's pretty basic stuff. But the band makes it work because they start with a strong melody and back it up with brilliant harmonies and enviable phrasing in which there are, on occasion, words you cannot make out simply because the phrasing chooses emotion over articulation. That kind of instinct is priceless.

Consider the transition between the opening and the first verse. The opening starts with a simple waltz where the chords ring each measure, the drums ride softly off the cymbals, and the vocals let the notes hover, then, with a short melodic run, the song plows into the first verse. The meter hasn't changed, the chords are still C to F, but there is this lovely momentum in that change and they do this by simply having the guitars, drums, and vocal melody emphasize the beat. In other words, they simply hang back then hit the beat. It's subtle but horribly effective and the reason it works is because it's all so organic and natural in feel.

It's gorgeous music performed with singular confidence and emotion that reaches in and grabs your heart and stops all the noise and clutter around you! It's 3:53 of pure beauty and if that isn't good enough for you then you have no soul!

I can't wait for the album this summer!


Rating System

David Thomas (Pere Ubu): So good my head is going to explode!

Dave Thomas (Wendy's): Pretty tasty.

Dave Thomas (SCTV): Oh My fucking God! What happened to these guys!
*Reserved for bands that at one time were great.

Celine Dion: Hey, more power to the artist and the fans but leave me out of it.

Nickelback Dude: So bad that I'm only reserving it for the worst of the worst; I mean, come on, we're talking sucking worse than Celine Dion.

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