Artists we Work With...
Award-winning Texas singer-songwriter Bob Livingston, a veteran performer, storyteller, and music ambassador, has played the world over.
Livingston has seen a lot of the world since growing up in musically fertile West Texas. Hailing originally from Lubbock, his interests were more 'Cosmic' than 'Cowboy' and have prompted him to delve into the music and mysteries of many cultures. Traveling since 1987 as a Music Ambassador for the US State Department, Livingston has taken Texas music as far afield as India, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, demonstrating again and again the unique power that music has to build bridges between peoples of the world. As Livingston says, 'When all else fails, music prevails'. This philosophy earned him the honor of being appointed 'Austin’s International Music Ambassador' in November of 2009 by the City Council right before a tour of Africa.
Livingston has never been a traditional Texas country musician living the honky-tonk life, even though he's spent more than his share of time on the roadhouse circuit with some of the most colorful musicians on the planet. As a member of Austin’s legendary Lost Gonzo Band, Livingston performed and recorded with such musical visionaries as Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Livingston played an integral role in creating the music that first earned Austin the designation of 'Live Music Capital of the World'. The Gonzos’ self-titled debut record on MCA was named by Rolling Stone Magazine, "...one of the best albums ever to come out of Austin."
This cosmic and world-traveled view was reflected in Livingston's 2004 CD, 'Mahatma Gandhi & Sitting Bull' released on Vireo Records and named in the Austin American-Statesman's "Top 10 List." In 2008, Vireo released a compilation called, 'Original Spirit', that includes 'Gandhi & Bull' in its entirety and several more surprise tracks from Livingston's Lost Gonzo Band days. But it's his latest CD, 'Gypsy Alibi' that is defining Livingston's new musical direction. Released in 2011 on New Wilderness Records, 'Gypsy Alibi' is co-produced by Lloyd Maines and won "Album of the Year" at the Texas Music Awards that year. It has more of a folk-rock/Americana spirit than his last outing and is still enjoying radio airplay around the country and abroad. Listen to "Ruby's Shoes, "Country Western Swing," and "Androids Lament."
ivingston has a few side projects that keep him writing and producing: He plays with a multi-cultural group from Texas and India called Cowboys & Indians supported by the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin's Cultural Arts Division. They play in schools and theaters all over Texas. Livingston is turning the concept into a full-fledged musical play with Houston playright/songwriter, Bobby Bridger. The first performances are scheduled for Summer 2017. Livingston is also a member of two other rockin' bands, the legendary Lost Gonzo Band and a spinoff called the Lost Austin Band.
These days, Livingston is on the Americana folk circuit and plays a lot of solo, duo and trio shows. In a live performance with Bob Livingston, one finds a veteran singer-songwriter and a master storyteller who captures his audience from the first notes played. It's an irresistible invitation to travel down cosmic musical highways and rutted back country roads from Lubbock to Lahore! Bob was just inducted into the "Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame 2016" by the Austin Songwriter's Association.
Bob is currently accepting pledges for a crowd-funding campaign to get his new album off the ground. Check it out here>>>
Different paths wove together long enough for 2-Bit Palomino to release three CDs and win the Vocal Group of the Year Award in both 2011 and 2013 from the Academy of Texas Music. The trio consisted of singer-songwriters Andi Renfree, Ren Renfree, and Bill Ward. Founded in March of 2010, their paths have recently taken them down different roads with the Renfrees moving to Nashville, TN, and Ward remaining in Houston, but the group does get together for the occasional special gig.
The trio’s third and last project titled “Things I Dream About”, was produced by veteran engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Don Richmond. The CD is a collection of beautifully written songs that will take you on a melodic journey highlighted by the groups’ award-winning harmonies.
Touring in Europe a few years ago, singer-songwriter Bob Cheevers noticed a sticker on a friend’s guitar case that spoke volumes to him: “On Earth as It Is in Austin!” Recalling the moment, Cheevers says, “As trivial as it might sound, seeing that sticker was affirmation that my relocating to Austin was exactly the right move.”
After pounding the musical pavement in Nashville for over 15 years and becoming frustrated with the “cookie-cutter” mentality of Music Row, Cheevers had moved to Austin in 2008 seeking fertile creative soil to revitalize his work. “While I love Nashville, I needed to move away from the chart-oriented songwriting mill into a world where artists are encouraged to write from the heart rather than writing for the charts. Moving to Texas felt right from the start. So many of my pals, like Walt Wilkins and Kevin Welch, had already moved there and I felt enormous creative freedom simply by being in that community of artists.”
If any residual doubts about the move did linger, they were resolved after his first Austin-based album, Tall Texas Tales netted Cheevers the 2011 Singer-Songwriter of the Year award from the Texas Music Academy. His album, On Earth as It Is in Austin, is another testament to the continuing creative growth he has experienced since leaving Nashville.
With On Earth as It Is in Austin, Cheevers delivers a generous 15-song helping full of his trademark tales of rebels and outlaws and dreamers and lovers, recorded as musical duets with 15 different celebrated musicians performing on one song each.
Fifty Years, to be released on Howlin’ Dog Records in Spring, 2017, is the ultimate retrospective of Cheevers’ career… so far. Including previously recorded works and songs never-before-released, the 5-disc set is a map of Cheever’s life and times through song.
Long recognized by peers as being blessed with the acute vision of a master painter coupled with the precision attention to detail of a great novelist, Cheevers has written over 3,000 songs in his almost five decade career. Along the way he has rightfully earned the mantle of master songwriter as well as the respect of his many songwriting pals, including Texas icon Ray Wiley Hubbard, who recently said, “Bob is one cool scarecrow gypsy poet who writes and sings the romantic beautiful truth. When he releases a record, I listen.”
Also a cult favorite in the UK and Europe where he has toured for more than a decade, Cheevers continues to find inspiration in the life he’s chosen in Texas as well as the rich Southern heritage that came from his growing up in Memphis. His rootsy, blues-flavored songs spin tales of life in a conversational language of the heart that rock the soul. They are intimate and expansive, poignant and bracing, tender and raucous, unflinchingly honest and redemptively healing. As he laughingly is known to say, “I don’t know if these stories are true, but they happened to me.”
Once a die-hard rocker, Don Conoscenti is one of the most respected musicians and acclaimed songwriters in acoustic music. He is also a seasoned studio pro working as producer, composer and multi-instrumental session player in an array of musical scenarios. His live performances are a soulful fusion of styles blended from his experience playing rock, jazz, blues, folk, funk and country. But his primary love is the landscape of storytelling. He’s made many friends in the Folk, Americana, Rock, Jazz, and Native American musical communities and they’ve lent their talents to his recordings and performances.
His recordings have been in the top 20 albums played by folk and acoustic DJ’s worldwide. NPR, World Café and Acoustic Café have all spotlighted his music and he has played some of the top venues and festivals in the U.S including Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, The Troubadour, The Kennedy Center and Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, which was home base for many years as he was coming up alongside friends Shawn Mullins, John Mayer and the members of Sugarland to name a few.
Michael Hearne is a ‘songwriter’s songwriter’ with impeccable musical instincts, inspired songwriting, and instrumental virtuosity. Since the 1970s, this native Dallas, Texan, has strolled a musical path inspired by the great folk and country singer-songwriters who typify the Americana "roots" scene. Having spent time in the 70s in Red River, New Mexico with the likes of Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Bob Livingston, Hearne is one of the originators of “Southwest Americana”.
Hearne’s talent manifested as a young kid influenced strongly by his uncle, Bill Hearne, and aunt, Bonnie Hearne. Michael Hearne had his hands on his first real guitar by age 7 and by 12, was a fixture at parties and local homespun events, not realizing that this period was actually dress rehearsal for what would prove to be an ever-evolving, rewarding, and extended musical career.
His newest project, Red River Dreams, on Howlin’ Dog Records, floats between his current residence in the hill country of Texas and the mountains of northern New Mexico, his adopted homeland. The album builds on Hearne’s songwriting yet includes excellent selections of some of the top Americana singer-songwriters.
In addition to Hearne’s solo project, he and Shake Russell produced and recorded a duo album, Only as Strong as Your Dreams, on the Howlin’ Dog label that was released in March of 2016.
Hearne’s previous CD, The High Road to Taos, received critical acclaim. Just after its release in December 2007, The High Road to Taos landed a coveted position on the KTAOS Top Ten recordings chart for that year. Michael Hearne is now being heard around the world thanks to the World Wide Web, old-fashioned regional and national airwaves and because of the legion of loyal fans who continue to support him and his music. Eliza Gilkyson said "Michael Hearne's record (High Road to Taos) embodies all that I love about New Mexico. Between his whiskey velvet voice, the evocative songwriting and gorgeous musical production, I found myself profoundly aching for my favorite place in the world".
A consistent winner of the "Best of Taos" awards for performer and singer while living in northern New Mexico, Hearne's songwriting credits are impressive. Awards include Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Production at the 2001 New Mexico MIC AWARDS, for A Taos Christmas Eve, 2002. He has penned songs for Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P. Nunn (Lesson to be Learned from Love) and his New Mexico anthem, New Mexico Rain, was recorded by his uncle and aunt, Bill and Bonnie Hearne, and country music legend Johnny Rodriguez.
Hearne now makes his home in the Austin, TX area and plays both solo and with partner Shake Russell.
For more than three decades, Texas singer-songwriter Shake Russell has been entertaining audiences throughout the region with his unique, Americana style of folk-rock. A prolific songwriter, Russell has written or co-written hundreds of melodies. Through the years, Russell’s songs and albums have frequented the Billboard charts, with many, including Deep in the West, You’ve Got a Lover, Put Yourself in My Shoes, One More Payment, and Our Kind of Love being recorded by such distinguished artists as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Ricky Skaggs’ hit recording of You’ve Got a Lover has appeared on three of Skaggs’ albums. In 1983 Shake was commissioned by the Texas State University in San Marcos to write a song, River of Innocence, for a documentary filmed and produced by the university. In 1986, Shake was asked by longtime friend Bruce Bryant, creative producer at Houston television station KTRK, to compose a theme song commemorating the Texas sesquicentennial. He obliged and wrote the regional favorite, Traveling Texas.
His latest CD, Little Bright Band of Light, will be released in September, 2016. This release shows both the depth Russell’s fans expect as well as breadth, moving from the light-hearted to the dark mystery to beautiful ballads of love. Russell’s deep, resonant voice is highlighted throughout.
Shake is a two-time recipient of the BMI “Million Air” award for Clint Black’s recordings of Put Yourself in My Shoes and One More Payment, both of which he co-wrote with Clint, and a four-time recipient of the BMI Writer’s Award. The Texas Music Association named Shake the “2004 Texas Music Awards Entertainer of the Year” and nominated his song, Cowboy Coffee, for the “2007 Texas Music Awards Best New Song.”
As a left-handed player, Russell taught himself to play upside down in the same way as the legendary folk artist Elizabeth Cotton. Later in his career, Shake would have an opportunity to meet this amazing lady at a performance in Chicago. Before settling in Texas in the mid-70s, Russell’s musical career took him from his hometown of Independence, Missouri, to Kansas City, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago , Nashville, and the legendary Coconut Grove, a renowned mecca for artists that is often described as the Greenwich Village of the southeast. Notables who significantly influenced Russell’s development as a singer-songwriter were Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Robbie Robertson, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, and John Vandiver.
These days, Russell can be seen at any number of Texas venues playing with partner Michael Hearne and bassist Mike Roberts as a trio or performing as a solo act.
A Shortish list of folks who have recorded at Howlin' Dog:
David Clemmer Bob Cheevers