Austin Collins
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Austin Collins

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Houston native Austin Collins has followed his country music jones up the road to the state capital, where his debut, Something Better, has quickly established his credentials as a Texas country up-and-comer. Collins has a gift for intelligent lyrical hooks that make his brand of country far superior to the mindless one-liner Toby Keith-isms that dominate country radio. His voice is instantly likable, and it works well in the friendly grooves of songs like "22 Hours" and the title track, which could be a country radio hit with the right breaks. But don't get the idea that this is some glorified form of pandering Nashvegas vanilla pudding. Songs like "Down" (as in "you're goin' down"), which echo the likes of Jack Ingram and Cross Canadian Ragweed, have the requisite stomp and swagger to stand up against all the alt-country hipsters and the loudest of the Texas music bands. Barring a serious misstep, Austin Collins seems quickly bound for greater things than a Tuesday-night songwriter showcase.
--William Michael Smith - The Houston Press


“Thanks to Roses are Black, look for Austin Collins to be the next Texas artist that can’t be held by the boundaries of his home state.” (02/25/08, Kelly Dearmore) - Twangville


“The man with one of the most distinctive and unique voices in all of Americana music has truly taken his art to the next level with his new release Roses are Black. Austin Collins has proven on this sophomore record that he is one of the most talented songwriters and performers in Texas and Americana music. The record is, in a word … fantastic.” - Keith Howerton, Texas Music Times - Texas Music Times


“Produced by Will Johnson, the album is not nearly as pessimistic as the title might suggest and is a godsend for those craving the golden alt-country days of Slobberbone and Uncle Tupelo.” (04/06/08) - Dallas Observer


Listening to "Roses Are Black," the sophomore release from Austin Collins, I can't help but picture Jay Farrar of the Americana band Son Volt singing these songs.

And I say that as a compliment to Mr. Collins, who is ably backed by a talented trio called The Rainbirds.

Son Volt, which formed after the seminal band Uncle Tupelo broke up in the early 1990's, has been a leader in the sort of mournful, folksy, alt-country that appeals to hipsters as well as cowboys. Houston native Collins, with this fine 12-song collection, has been able to release an album that is truly personal and deep. It's also got a Texas polish that is understated, thanks to producer Will Johnson of the North Texas indie band Centro-matic.

The title track has Collins singing about a woman wanting her man back, a man who has taken an easy route and is no longer committed to her the way he was.

Drummer Craig Bagby pens one of the album's true highlights, "Broken," a bittersweet and harmony-laden song that reminds me of Michael Nesmith's lyrical style.

A sample verse: "I get so nervous that I'll slip off track / I've turned to salt from all my looking back / It keeps me from ever getting the knack / Of you."

Collins, though, is the chief songwriter and these songs reflect his struggles in life and in love. For instance, on the stellar "House Without Windows," Collins' characters have dug in their heels though "Quiet words kill moments but one breath could save my soul." It's a subtle poetry that Collins is clearly mastering.

One senses from Austin Collins and The Rainbirds that they are a great live band. Of course I haven't seen them live but until I do, I'll be keeping "Roses Are Black" within reach.

Rating - B
Published March 28, 2008 - The Norman Transcript


Talented Texas based singer/songwriter Austin Collins released his debut disc in 2005 ( Something Better ) and avoided the sophomore slump, with one of my favorite discs from the past few years, Roses Are Black (2008). Collins’ two discs of alt country gems recalled the sound and spirit of Steve Earle, Son Volt and Whiskeytown. Austin and the Rainbirds (Craig Bagby and Dylan McDougall) live up to the expectations and accolades (Collins won Airplay Direct’s 2009 All Things Americana award) and deliver another strong set of Americana rock on disc number three, Wrong Control (Eight Dollar Music, release date-March 2nd). There’s less twang, the electric guitars are turned up a little louder, the bass and drums rock a little harder, and Austin and producer Will Johnson (Centro-matic) have added some pop touches including hand claps, harmonies and ba ba ba bas to the Rainbird’s country-rock. Before radio was an unlistenable wasteland, when the term “pop” wasn’t an insult, these tracks would have been described as “radio friendly”. It isn’t just hooks. guitars and drums. Austin and the Rainbirds have written and recorded ten honest intelligent songs dealing with matters of the heart and relationships won, lost….. or maybe still being sorted out. This isn’t “tears in my beer” country or whiny alt emo. Wrong Control is a mature determined disc from a talented singer/songwriter and you get the feeling that Austin is going to be just fine as he sorts it all out. To give full credit to the Rainbirds, besides great playing, drummer Craig Bagby contributed two tracks on Wrong Control and Dylan McDougall steps up to the mike and delivers some great vocals from the Patterson Hood/Little Steven/Keith Richards school of rock on his “Forever Avenue”.

A minor complaint. I might have sequenced the songs in a slightly different order ending with either:

“Conventional Lust” (Austin Collins)
We can make this better
We can make this so much better.

or

“Head Down” (Craig Bagby)
And I’m never coming back again
With my head down.

to better reflect the optimism and resolve that ultimately shines through.

Wrong Control comes highly recommended (and you wouldn’t go wrong picking up both Something Better and Roses Are Black too).

Interview with Austin Collins
HB: What/who inspired you to become a songwriter?

AC: Growing up, I always loved music and had always played guitar. Like any good Houston kid I listened to a lot of Robert Earl Keen and learned to play and sing at the same time by accompanying his records. I really enjoyed singing other people’s songs, but my ultimate desire was to write my own material. For a long time however I couldn’t get a song finished or couldn’t write songs that I felt really said anything. As much as I loved Keen and a lot of other songwriters, my disposition, style, and strengths didn’t really lean towards the role of the bard.

My freshman year of college, a friend turned me on to both Trace and Strangers Almanac in the same week. When I heard the way these guys each conveyed their thoughts and their hearts it was like a new world opened up to me. Before I heard Son Volt and Whiskeytown I didn’t think it was possible to pull your heart and passions out of your chest and display them without sounding campy or cheesy. After that, I soon discovered the Jayhawks and Wilco etc. These bands were writing and performing powerful songs and doing so with power. So these discoveries were pretty life changing to me – not only that, writing this way was cathartic, a sort of therapy for me.

I started approaching songs this way and working through my craft with a friend name Michael Jarrett and soon had enough songs that I liked for a record. This was 2004 and met up with my first producer, Billy Cerveny, and we made my first record in Nashville. Here we are in 2010, I’ve since hooked up with Dylan and Craig, formed a band and we’re on album #3, Wrong Control.

HB:Any plans to tour/Festivals in support of Wrong Control?

AC:Yes on the touring – we’ll be doing the Texas circuit through March, play some SXSW shows and then head to the southeast in April. Touring’s the best part of being a musician. I love getting to make friends all over the country. Festival season starts pretty soon too so expect to see us out at some of your favorites there as well.

HB: Best road food?

AC:My current top road food is at Sheetz gas station – Drew Kennedy introduced me the last time we were out together. The on demand ordering system is a modern marvel, the food is delicious and affordable, and to top it off its 24 hours.

HB:Favorite novelists?

AC: David James Duncan, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Russo, Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy

HB:Some bands you've shared gigs with?

AC:Patterson Hood, James McMurtry and Reckless Kelly

HB:Do you ever do covers?

AC:Some yeah, not enough. We’ve had a bad habit of doing obscure covers that we dig, but that no one else has heard. We’re working on pulling some songs together that the crowd can sing along with us on. My favorite song to do is “Return of The Grevious Angel” by Gram Parsons.

HB:Strangest gig?

AC:I’ve played a bunch of weird gigs, but there is no contest: Reno’s in Webster, TX. It’s in an old gutted Walmart. I think that should give you a good idea why it was the strangest gig so far. Also, it would make a great place to hole up against a zombie attack.

HB:Why does so much great music come out of Texas?

AC:Bob Wills and Willie Nelson. Those are the guys who put Texas on the map musically.

HB: ____________ is definitely a band you should check out.

AC: I have four: Telegraph Canyon, Leatherbag, Graham Weber and Collin Herring.

HB: Thanks Austin! I’ll add a fifth: Austin Collins and the Rainbirds.

http://tinyurl.com/yajcozh
- Hal Bogerd


You had me at Will Johnson. Will Johnson from Centromatic has produced the new record from Houston native Austin Collins. Wrong Control comes out March 2 and from the songs I’ve heard and from the video below the record is full of buzzing guitars and pulsing drums. On record Austin Collins has a full band sound that brings me back to the robust sounds of early Replacements and Uncle Tupelo. High praise indeed but I really like these songs and the wall of sound that encompasses them.

http://tinyurl.com/y87vcbv - Songs:Illinois


Austin Collins is an artist on the rise. His previous release Roses are Black received a lot of critical praise. With the release of Wrong Control on March 2nd, music fans will no doubt take notice. Along with his band the Rainbirds, Collins is delivering a more rocking twist to accompany his excellent songwriting.

The album begins with the broken love of "Just the Same." On this song Collins declares "A rose by any other name is just a flower in the rain. She was born to hold your dreams back by strain." On the title cut we get a glimpse of what he feels gets in the way of Love's happiness, "you always said that choice was a device in a disguise. Place you bets and leave because the heartache's in the details." It seems we can reinvent what is good about a relationship into something entirely different. Then there is "The Island," which uses seemingly incongruent metaphors to bring it all together in a hopeful way.

All of these conceptual twists and turns have an underlying edgy beat that moves them along. The groove is consistent among the songs, but it is not monotonous. There is an undertone to the music that makes it one of those albums you can play over and over again. Give it a try. I bet you'll listen more than once.

http://tinyurl.com/yay77cv
- Chip Frazier


5. Austin Collins, Roses Are Black

I first caught Collins while in Austin a few years ago watching Tody Castillo and Arthur Yoria at an icehouse during SXSW. I was immediately impressed with his songs, which are often dark, depressing, and worldly–the perfect combination for alt-country music. With Roses Are Black, he’s crafted his masterpiece. The backing band, The Rainbirds, is superb as well. - www.houstoncalling.net


"Texas' own Austin Collins came out of nowhere this year with one of the best alt country releases to hit store shelves. The songwriter achieves a perfect combination of twang and grit with memorable melodies sweeping around everywhere. Roses Are Black is a hit from start to finish and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite track. There are just too many." - Yahoo Music


Discography

Something Better, LP 2005, Fat Caddy Records
Roses Are Black, LP 2008, Fat Caddy Records
Roses Are Black, LP 2008, Blue Rose Records (Germany)
Wrong Control, LP 2010, Eight Dollar Music

Photos

Bio

The Houston born, Austin, TX based Collins has returned with heart in hand and music in groove. His latest offering, Wrong Control, is by name mysterious and unique, but that’s par for Austin’s course. He’s a writer, after all, and as any good writer will tell you, one mustn’t tip ones hand right off the bat. And so, you can’t help but wonder exactly what it is that went wrong and exactly what it is that he’s trying to control. And as that drama unfolds, you begin to get this feeling: There’s just so much Austin Collins and the Rainbirds got right with Wrong Control. With Centro-Matic’s Will Johnson at the production helm, they pick and choose their moments with expertise, creating a vast and colorful landscape upon which the drama can unfold.