Thanks For Making Rockin’ the River Great in 2014!

We had yet another totally tubular Rockin’ the River season and it just wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. A GIANT thank you goes out to Andrews Distributing Company, North Texas Marine, Body Glove, Hydroslide, Backwoods Paddlesports at Panther Island Rentals, DFW.com, 95.9 The Ranch and Yelp Metro Fort Worth! You are all so amazing and the reason we can continue to produce events like this to help keep Fort Worth funky.

The Lowdown: Brandon Rhyder

Country music’s Brandon Rhyder has unquestionably established himself as a fixture in the Texas Country/Red Dirt scene. Rhyder has released eight albums and boasts an impressive four #1 singles on the Texas Music Charts, along with an abundance of other milestones. He continues to push boundaries and deliver fresh material, all while maintaining his signature sound that fans have grown to love.

His latest album, That’s Just Me, which is produced by both Rhyder and his longtime guitar player Matt Powell, served as his eighth full-length album over the span of 12 years. Recorded and carefully crafted at The Zone in Dripping Springs, TX, this album includes co-writes from fellow Texan powerhouses and friends Josh Abbott and Wade Bowen. The debut single from the album, “Haggard,” was heavily inspired by Charlie Daniels and Riders in the Sky and is a clear picture into Rhyder’s youth. The song proved to be wildly successful as it scored the #1 position on the Texas Regional Radio Report (TRRR).

The Lowdown: Dirty River Boys

The Dirty River Boys are paving their own road as they travel it. They are a proof to the idea that “if you can dream it, you can do it,” moving with purpose ever closer to the light. Above all is their belief in their music. It inspires them and provides exultation for each member, as well as for the audiences who have become fans by the force field the band creates in live performance.

Steely intention aside, there is a magic to being in the right place with the right stuff at the right time. Home in El Paso, the Dirty River Boys longed to make music the centerpiece of their lives. Then they played their very first Austin gig, a happy hour set at hipster hangout, Lustre Pearl. The music they presented was energetic and infectious, though stripped down acoustic. The joy was unmistakable. And a new path with exciting possibilities was being born. The band migrated to Austin shortly thereafter, where they thrive amidst the other musicians in town, and love the strong sense of community they found. “Being in Austin, with so many great bands, it makes you up your game.”

Travis Stearns and Nino Cooper met in the music scene in El Paso. They started performing every once in a while, while they waited for the day they could dedicate themselves to music 24/7. The Dirty River Boys trio formed 3 years ago, when Marco Gutierrez quit his job and school to join the band. “We had to go against full bands in El Paso, us with three people with acoustic instruments. It shows if you are consistent and serious about your music, you can really make it. We put our hearts out there every night. People see that.” They added an upright bass player about a year and a half ago. Colton James joined for a 90 minute set at the River Road Icehouse. It was a trial by fire and a foursome was forged.

The new album, Science Of Flight, was recorded at Yellow Dog Studio in South Austin, Texas. Marco, Nino, Travis and CJ put aside just five days for the process. They played everything on the album themselves, only tapping on the legendary Kim Deschamps to lay down pedal steel. Expect surprises; Wurlitzer, marching drum sounds, train whistles, a rattlesnake. The band was aware of their ability to recreate the sounds on stage in the live environment. The Dirty River Boys are seemingly always on the road, having logged 200,000 miles in the van.

Science of Flight has been described by The Dirty River Boys as Western, Fat, and Rock and Roll. It touches on numerous emotions with gentle harmonies that sparkle with beauty, acoustic rave-ups, and hook driven tunes. “This time, we made a record. We build it, recording the parts ourselves. This is a band record. We are really excited about it.”

The Lowdown: Josh Grider

It clearly takes some degree of talent to make it in the music business. It also takes killer songs that mesh the perfect lyric with a fitting and captivating arrangement. But possibly the hardest, most frustrating part of the whole ordeal are the roles that timing, cosmic alignment, being in the right place at the right time, and pure unadulterated passion play. That matrix of unidentifiable variables that come together for some, while conspiring against others is what Josh Grider explores on his newest album, Luck & Desire.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico native moved to Nashville by way of Texas in early 2011 just to “try something different.” There, he hung around Music Row for a few years meeting fellow songwriters, signing a publishing deal, and building a network of like-minded friends who challenged his writing and supported his dreams. One of them was fellow singer/songwriter and soon-to-be producer, Trent Willmon. The connection was monumental. “He’s savvy,” Josh explains. “He understands what being an artist is. He understands what being a writer is. He understands Texas and Nashville, and he understands the road. He understands so much of what I do, and the proof is in the pudding. We made a awesome record.”

That was the goal—to make an awesome record. But for Josh, it was about more than just making an album that would sell well or produce a litany of number-one hits. He says his goal was “to make something artistically satisfying enough for the purist in me, but relatable enough that I could play it for my dad.” He pauses and explains, “My dad is a smart guy, but he’s not a studied musician or anything, he’s just a lover of country music.” Indeed he is. He raised Josh on the classics, the legends. Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson are the foundation that Grider builds on, but his own generation of musical peers is also present in his music. “Dave Matthews was a huge influence. John Mayer and Chris Thile make me want to just quit,” he laughs. “I’m just blown away by everything those guys do. I could never do what they do, but I’m certainly challenged by them. For me, they are setting the bar for songwriters in our generation.”

The formally trained singer, who remembers pressing, “play” on his Fisher Price tape recorder to hear Ricky Skaggs “Heartbroke,” always knew country was where he belonged. Even though he played guitar in a jazz combo in high school, and received a scholarship to attend college and study classical voice, it only took one night performing in a Waco honky-tonk for Josh’s relationship with his roots to be solidified.

Josh began putting pen to paper in high school and soon realized his passion. He beams when he says, “Writing is my favorite thing in the world. I’m very fortunate to be given the ability to deliver what I write, and I guess that’s why singing the songs I wrote is my second favorite thing in the world.” Writing is more than a job for Josh. It’s a passion that allows him to chronicle his life, and a therapy that helps him make sense of the world around him. When speaking about song selection for Luck and Desire he says, “I just started looking at what I had been writing and all of the sudden these themes of want, and need, and desire, and getting or not getting what you want started surfacing.” According to Josh, that is just what seems to happen. “There will be seasons in my life and things that I go through that will definitely influence my writing. It’s really neat to go back and look at how the songs reflect what I was going through in my life and how I was trying to work it out musically.”

There is, too, an unspoken theme to Luck & Desire that Josh is most proud of. “Luck and Desire definitely play a big thematic role in this album,” he says. “But that particular song sort of ends sadly for desire. I think there’s more hope than that in the record. Overall, I want there to be hope, because I have hope. Without it what the hell is the point? I say focus on the good and believe that something good is going to happen, and it just might.”

For more information check out www.joshgrider.com

The Lowdown: Eleven Hundred Springs

Listening to any effort from Eleven Hundred Springs, including latest Midway, is like having your cool uncle pull out his favorite albums. Matt Hillyer and the rest of the band have that old-school country sound down. When the band first formed way back in 1998, some people thought it was just guys imitating the sounds of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Hank Williams, but over the course of nine albums, Eleven Hundred Springs have developed into a tight unit of true believers. Songs like “I’m a S.O.B. (When I’m S-O-B-E-R)” and “Hard Work Just Ain’t Working Anymore” are not imitative of the band’s influences. They are authoritative narratives of rural America.

Eleven Hundred Springs shows a commitment to the true soul of country music — what Steve Earle calls real music. While they may not look like your conformist country (Disney Channel / reality show, etc) act, the tradition and spirit that make up true Americana is easy to see. It’s all about honesty and lack of pretense.

The Lowdown: Johnny Cooper

Come out this Thursday and tube the Trinity with an experienced Rockin’ the River veteran. This will be Johnny Cooper’s third performance at Panther Island Pavilion on the only waterfront stage in Texas. Here’s the lowdown on what you can expect from Mr. Cooper:

Musicians get noticed for a wide range of reasons. Some win various competitions, while others seem to have as much in the way of connections as in pure talent. Then there are those who simply demand attention through performances so dynamic and powerful that they simply cannot be ignored.

Johnny Cooper is one of those artists.

The front man of the band that bears his name, Cooper already has achieved dual-threat status: he has rare talent that has earned him critical acclaim for his recordings and live shows, and he performs with an energy that captivates audiences in venues of all sizes.

That he has grown so successful so quickly is hardly unexpected, considering he is thriving in the environment in which he was raised. With a mom who was a dance choreographer and a dad who was a songwriter and owned nightclubs, Cooper has been around entertainers throughout his life, and now features a sound that draws on his enormous range of musical influences — a list that includes pop, classic rock, R&B, hip-hop and country — and features an irresistible energy. “That’s what my whole thing’s about,” Cooper says. “I can’t tell you that tomorrow, I’m not going to write a country song, or a funk song, or team up with a rapper. I love it when you tell me I can’t write a certain kind of song, because then I’m going to show up and say, ‘glad you said I can’t do it — here it is.’

“I like a lot of different artists. I listened to a lot of Queen growing up, and Stevie Wonder has had a big effect on my life, but I can’t put on Art Garfunkel and shake my ass. When I first heard Stevie Wonder, I wanted to get up and move. I’m drawn to people who get up there and play with cajones. If I want to hear you sing, I can stay at home and listen to a recording, but if I want to see a show, I want to see a show. That’s the way I am on stage.”

Of course, on-stage theatrics can only carry an artist so far. At his core, Cooper is an extremely gifted musician whose versatility denies his youth. His rich voice is both exceptionally talented and well trained; few singers are willing to perform covers of artists like Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, TLC and James Brown, as Cooper did (largely while building up his library of his own compositions) and he does so with a confidence and style worthy of the original artists. He also is a skillful guitarist who can astound with his full band, in duo performances with a drummer or as a solo acoustic artist. While recording his first several albums, Cooper has become an in-demand performer, often playing more than 200 shows a year.

Cooper’s band is as varied as its leader. Cooper had worked on previous projects with drummer Joe Cortez IV (“the best drummer I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cooper says) and was eager to continue their working relationship. He had no intention of adding a keyboard player until his search for a new bassist led him to Jay Sandford, who in turn introduced keyboardist Cris Brenham. “They came in and blew me away,” Cooper says. “Right away, they laid down what my music was missing. It was exciting because it was different. I realized they were exactly what we needed.” The last piece to the puzzle was the band’s “utility player,” Matt Puckett, who plays violin and lead/backup guitar and sings backup vocals, “There’s nothing more exciting than someone who can play a lot of instruments, who can fill a lot of roles. Matt can do all of those things, and he does them really well. He’s phenomenal, and he makes us all better.”

With his band complete, Cooper’s focus is on what he enjoys most: creating and performing his unique brand of music that features often-requested signature songs like “Texas to You” and “Crazy,” drawing comparisons to an range of artists, from John Mayer to Maroon 5. “Go big or go home,” Cooper says. “My whole thing is that I want to keep writing music and writing different kinds of music, writing stuff that appeals to more people, not just one type of people. As long as you surround yourself with creative people — and I have done that — I’ll continue to write more music … and better music.”

Cooper’s sound has evolved since his first album, which had a Texas country/southern rock feel. Moving forward, he added more funk and R&B influences, earning comparisons to Lenny Kravitz. His next offering, Red Sessions, is a hybrid of several musical genres and is being supported through pledgemusic.com, which allows fans to help fund the creation of the album. “It’s a hands-on way for people to help make music,” Cooper says. “Fans get to hear our music and make donations toward the next recording, and in return, they get things back, a bunch of personalized stuff. It’s a great way of allowing our fans to help us make the music they enjoy.”

That’s exactly what fans are doing, and in rapidly growing numbers: enjoying the music of Johnny Cooper, whose song writing, on-stage charisma and unique talent has to be seen and heard to be believed.

The Lowdown: Brandon Jenkins

Brandon Jenkins is what we call in the Business a Triple Threat. Not only is he the most hailed writer of the Red Dirt movement writing more than just hit songs, but Red Dirt Anthems that captured the spirit of his generation, he’s a soulful monster of tone on guitar displaying his roots of growing up in the Tulsa music scene where so many masters were forged, and most of all his voice is distinguished like no other, so rich and barrel soaked and his trademark.

All that being said his big bald bearded persona captures his audiences like the full displayed sleeves of tattoos he so proudly bares. His music touches on so many different genres; yet has that thread that keeps it uniquely Jenkins. Over all Brandon Jenkins is an American classic and will be long remembered as a musical pioneer and fearless composer personality long after he’s gone.

Don’t miss your chance to see him perform live this Thursday at Rockin’ the River.

Thieving Birds Feature

You know we wouldn’t dare start the Rockin’ the River season unless we had a kick-ass band to headline. Enter Thieving Birds. They’re a band from Fort Worth, Texas that was formed in September of 2010. These four friends combine Rock, Country, Roots and Blues to create a unique musical offering to their audience. The lyrics are thoughtful and strong being carried by the sultry and powerful voice of vocalist and guitarist Ace Crayton. The Rhythm section is filled out by the strong and solid drumming of Beau Brauer along with the precise Bass playing of Rody Molder. Lead Guitarist John Seidler weaves notes together to create a landscape of guitar work that will make you feel as if you’re moving across the terrain of their great state.

They released their debut, self-titled album on June 25th, 2011 and entertain and amuse audiences with their high- energy live sets. “All we want to do is play music together, to have that moment on stage when we’re all feeling the song, and to have the crowd share that moment with us… you can’t get that feeling anywhere else. That’s live music… that’s why we do it,” says Crayton.

You can get more information about Thieving Birds at thievingbirdsmusic.com

Rockin’ the River is Almost Here!

We are less than two weeks away from the kick-off of Rockin’ the River! Mark your calendars now and round up your friends because it’s time to tube the Trinity. We’re starting the season with a bang on Thursday, June 5. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and the free concert from Thieving Birds begins at 6:45 p.m. on the waterfront stage. When the sun goes down we’re moving the party to the Southshore stage with a concert from Sam Riggs & The Night People at 8:30 p.m. which will be followed by a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. See you on the river!