By Rebecca Herpin
I am a native Texan, and nearly every stereotype that you’ve heard about the Lonestar state is true. We’re proud but polite, rowdy but hardworking, and the Tex-Mex is unbelievable. However, Texas isn’t simply a Republican hotbed prepared to secede at a moments notice. Houston and Austin are both cities that spew diversity, and from these centers great music is produced.
“H-town” is known to harbor innovative rap and hip-hop artists. Austin, on the other hand, likes to keep it weird. While exploring the beat on new album releases, I decided to shy away from my attraction to solid base lines and wonky electronic space tunes. With courage, I ventured to the “genres” category and checked the “folk music” box. Now, although I grew up down South, I’m not a big fan of country music; but folk music can be quite interesting. There is purity in the melody that calms chaotic minds.
For the first time, I listened to Shakey Graves. The Austin folk band released a new EP entitled Donor Blues. I really enjoyed this album particularly because of the fun acoustic noises that Shakey Graves intermingles with homey lyrical narrative. “War Horses” is one of my favorites from the EP, but “Stereotypes of a Blue Collard Man” really gets to the heart of what perhaps the average southerner contemplates on the day-to-day hustle.
Nonetheless, I decided to investigate the Austin folk scene more closely.
I began by simply Googling “Austin Folk Music”. Eventually, with a few search modifications, I found some hip venues that showcase young folk artists. For more information (in case you are ever in Austin or you happen to attend the University of Texas) check out this helpful directory.
The band that I would like to highlight is a folk band, performing in Austin this month, but they sound nothing like Shakey Graves, nor are they native Texans. VaNa MaZi is a Eurasian folk band hailing from the exotic land of Eastern Europe, specializing in Eurasian prog core. Prog core really is a monomer that describes the “old country music from the new world” that VaNa MaZi so masterfully composes. Prog, short for progress, is a term often associated with the progressive rock movement that originated in the UK during the ‘60s. Their newest album, Flux, left me a bit puzzled. The upbeat tempo was engaging, but I couldn’t displace the tone from something that I would hear on a soundtrack about a movie cataloging Middle Earth. Yet, I cannot marginalize the talent that these young folk artists posses, and they rightfully have earned a performance in the weird Austin music scene. Particularly, watching VaNa MaZi play the accordion and drum lines of their compositions in a live setting would be nothing short of magical.
It is undeniable that one feels somewhat at peace with the interesting hobbit-hare, hippity-hop that characterizes tracks like “Oaya” and “Fireflies”. Although I prefer a tight grooveline that can easily be produced on even the most basic of beat pads, my love of string instruments was reawakened in Flux. Listening to a chorus of nimble string trills is comparable to the peace-of-mind––the mental clarity––that I feel in the open spaces of Texas, amongst amber waves of grain and seas of Bluebonnets. Or, while wandering through the rolling mountains of Colorado. But, if you’re currently in a quaint non-heated standard, 12 x 12 foot New York apartment with many to-dos and many to-don’ts piled high for the week, put on some folk music, saddle up and settle down.
And remember––don’t kick a cow chip on a hot day. #KeepAustinWeird
Like VaNa MaZi on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/VaNa-MaZi/188533764511882
Listen to their music here: http://www.vanamazi.com/