Adrienne Braswell is celebrating the release of her long-awaited CD, “Great Big Yellow Sunflower,” Friday (June 16), 5:30 p.m., at San Geronimo Lodge, 1101 Witt Road in Cañón. Admission is $10 at the door.
This is Braswell’s second solo CD and for Braswell and her fans, the wait has been long, but worth it.
“This recording project has taken me five years to complete. This was a time in my life in Austin when I was just taking care of my mom and family business and working in a restaurant. Of course, I was always writing songs in my own time, but I was not out singing and working those songs very much,” Braswell said.
“When I finally found myself at ByrdHouse Studio with Tommy Byrd, many of the songs were being finished and rearranged in the studio. I am a songwriter and singer, but I don’t always do as well laying down my own guitar and piano parts, so I brought in my guitarist from San Antonio, Melody Ackerman, and she arranged and charted everything,” Braswell said.
“By the time Tommy brought in some of Austin’s best award-winning musicians, we were ready for them. This is all very timely and expensive. Also, I moved back to Taos two years ago. I would’ve gone back to finish mastering right away, but then some personal challenges came up and, frankly, it’s taken me two more years just to feel like I could get back to finishing up.”
All of the songs on the album are written by Braswell. There are 10 songs – and that’s a lot of songwriting.
“I write constantly. I’m always writing a story or an essay or poetry. As for music, it floods me. It just never stops. You would think I’d have produced more finished albums. I don’t see how I can’t keep producing records that are all my own, with the body of work that I need to get out. Perhaps this will be a time in my life when that can happen. I do want to say, though, that it’s not ‘all my own.’ The other musicians brought this music to the higher and more dynamic place that I feel it is in. Sometimes, I do write out or play the parts that I want a musician to play, but mostly they contribute their own ideas,” she said.
In the album notes, Braswell makes reference to the way the songs are done on the album, but eventually, there will be other versions and arrangements. Tempo asked her for an example of how one of her songs has evolved over time.
“There’s a great example of the first song on the record, ‘No Rest From Love.’ I wrote that as a dirge. It was slow and melancholy. Then, when we got in the studio, ... my most excellent guitarist, Melody Ackerman, laid down the guitar track. She raised the tempo and it turned into a fun Motown-ish number. Then we put Michael Cross on harmonies, a longtime beloved Austin blues artist, and singing with him was pure joy. Now, it’s the first cut on the album because it’s a dynamo,” she explained.
Braswell’s music is a folk-jazz-gospel hybrid. Her voice, though high and clear with an expansive range, is also clearly blues. She is an award-winning New Mexico singer-songwriter for the best blues song in 2004 at the New Mexico Music Awards for her tune, “Scrawny Little White Girl,” from her first solo CD, “Blue Door.” Braswell has sung onstage with B.B. King and Jimmy LaFave. In Austin, Texas, she co-wrote and performed in a nationally touring comedy musical, “The Cowpattys,” performing for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, as well as opening for The Smothers Brothers Road Show.
Braswell’s new CD was produced in Austin with Tommy Byrd of ByrdHouse Studio. For the CD release celebration, Braswell is bringing two notable Austin players.
These are Ackerman on lead guitar and Paul Pearcy, drummer and percussionist. Ackerman has played with Leon Rausch, Willie Nelson, Augie Meyer, W.C. Clark and Johnny Rodriguez. Her style ranges from country to blues and folk to fusion. Pearcy was voted best drummer by Austin Music Awards and has recorded with Nelson, Dixie Chicks and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and he was a longtime member of the iconic Beto y los Fairlanes.
Taos musicians Bob Andrews and Jenny Bird will also be joining in the celebration. Andrews, on keyboards, is originally from England and now calls Taos home. He toured nationally with Graham Parker and The Rumor until he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. Bird, a singer-songwriter who has toured widely and produced 12 CDs, will be adding vocal harmony.
Braswell’s Austin-Taos roots pull at her all the time. When asked what it is about Taos that keeps her coming back, she said she thought it was the opposite of an undertow.
“I think it’s an ‘overtow.’ It might come from the mountain. It might come from the sky. It swoops down into the canyon and yanks you up and sets you down. Before you can say, ‘I’m done with Taos,’ you’re back,” she said. “I love it here. It’s gorgeous. It’s passionate. It’s hard, but it’s just hard everywhere.”
She said she appreciates her Texas roots. She mentioned the food, the hill country, the big oaks. She added, “I have to say, though, that it’s mostly fenced. In Taos, no matter which direction you go, there’s public land. It’s still wild. It’s open. I want to stay open.”
Open and free – just like a great big yellow sunflower.