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from Country Music People - UK

from The Bakersfield Californian

Here's what the critics are saying...


Stephen David Austin ♪♪♪♪
A Bakersfield Dozen
I can tell you two things about Stephen David Austin; first, he’s a fine story teller. His lyrics are strong, clear, clean, and cohesive. No confusion or beating-around the-bush. Second, he sure knows how to pick his fellow musicians. His crew is top notch in every way. From the first Tele twang to the last and everything in between these L.A. musicians are great and provide an excellent vehicle to carry each song. The tunes weave a nice pattern between humor (Best Ex I Ever Had) to the dark side of life (Heroes And Heroin) then back again. Many artists have used this template through the years and it almost always works. It certainly does here. He can use humor very effectively but has no trouble changing gears when the dirty deed needs tellin’. The stand-out track as far as I’m concerned is (Kansas Ain’t In Kansas Anymore). It really shines with strong lyrics, lots of edgy layered guitars, and a killer back-round vocal by (Teresa James). She really put the kiss on the rose for me. Stephen David Austin has blended the right ingredients and cooked himself up A Bakersfield Dozen. Nice Job.

"Hey Steve, sorry I have been remiss on thanking you for the CD.
I just got around to listening to it last night... and it is awesome.
Usually it takes two or three listens to fully appreciate new CDs but this was clearly a winner after one play.
Whatever it cost you, it was money well spent.
Now if somebody big decides to record a song or two, it will really be well spent.
But it's money well spent regardless.
I like the fact you didn't cut corners and stick it in an amateurish package --
The packaging is as first rate as the players.
Well done! When's the next one?"

     There are, at this moment in time, 10 million bands making music in North America. Wait, there are 10 million Americana/roots/country bands making music in North America. Most of them use the same instrumentation. Most share the same influences. Most make, roughly, the exact same music. It easy to see how this happens as there are only so many instruments most folks can play, only so many classic bands successful enough to be influential, and only so many song patterns to follow.If this is true, HOW ON EARTH could a new artist do anything unique, special, or vaguely interesting?It’s simple. Just say something interesting.Tell us a story. Write an interesting lyric. Be insightful, wry, and touching. Those words are yours and being unique and special is completely in the grasp of the artist willing to put up the effort. Of course, some people just can’t do it. Some don’t want to do it. and some don’t like it when it’s done.All this brings me to Stephen David Austin.
     He works on Bakersfield side of country music – telecasters, high harmonies, and strong back-beats. It’s a great tradition and a solid music to create and celebrate. On his new record, A Bakersfield Dozen Austin does just that. These are great driving songs and great dancing songs. Great songs while you’re getting dressed and ready for a night on the town. But, frankly, if that is where Stephen David Austin stopped I wouldn’t be writing this review.
     He’s a wit and a writer of prose, reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen. Most are autobiographical and more than a few involve bad, bad men. In The Cage Austin picks up a hitchhiker who just finished serving his sentence for beating a man to death. Heroes and Heroin take a look at the lives of Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia, and Charlie Parker.
     I think the song that best sums up Austin is, The Best Ex I Ever Had – a high-energy shuffle about a woman who is only happy when he’s sad. It’s funny, it’s fun, and I like it that way. There has been some use of the word “poet” in conjunction with Stephen David Austin, and I’m not sure that’s fair. Those who want REAL poetry may feel let down and those who hate poetry will be missing out. If it’s poetry, it’s Hank Williams poetry. It’s pain-spoken rural poetry, which I think is a harder stunt to perform and more fun to listen to.
     Musically, Austin has a low and round warble that works great with the stories he shares. His band is top notch, full of guys from I See Hawks in LA and Dwight Yoakam’s band. A Bakersfield Dozen is a collection of great music and better stories.


"The 11 tunes here make up a brilliant CD debut by an immensely talented creator and performer of a fresh helping of roots Americana. Emphasis is on the Bakersfield Sound as pioneered and popularized by the late Buck Owens and paid homage by country legend Dwight Yoakam. There's also a dose of the story-telling style of country music with down-home, hard-hitting lyrics as done by Merle Haggard, another practitioner of the Bakersfield Sound.
Austin penned all the lyrics and music for nine of the tunes. He shares lyricist credit on "Kansas Ain't in Kansas Anymore" with Steven Mayer, and the lone track without Austin's creative input is "Baby's in Black" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Every song gets some of the Bakersfield treatment as it was developed in the '50s and perfected in the ensuing decades, passing up the slickly produced studio work so common in recording studios. The album's heavy beat of percussion, occasional fiddles, guitars picked not strummed (usually Fender Telecasters) and some potent pedal steel are the underpinnings of this distinctive genre.
Of course, there's a reverential, respectful ode to Owens with "The Day Buck Owens Died," sounding like something the song's subject would have done. Austin dishes up a delightful, self-effacing, fun number, "Dance With No Pants," but turns deadly serious in the album highlight, "The Fat Kid," dealing with bullying and its serious repercussions. It's a fine mix by a newcomer who could be on the national radar soon."

Instantly likable toe tappin' music from California's Stephen David Austin. Up to this point Austin has been a side musician playing covers in bar bands. But with the release of A Bakersfield Dozen he has boldly stepped into the spotlight. It may just be our impression but it seems that lately the lines between underground pop, rock, Americana, and country are getting very blurry. And the blurrier the lines get...the more interesting things seem. Stephen writes about straightforward subjects that most folks should be able to relate to and he writes songs that are, at times, embarrassingly simple. And this works in his favor, because when the tunes are this good complexities are no longer necessary. Austin's voice and style remind us of Martin Mull on his first couple of albums. He's got a super sexy deep voice and he delivers the lyrics with the confidence of a guy who really knows his stuff. Eleven bad boys here including "Best Ex I Ever Had," "Dance With No Pants," "Kansas Ain't In Kansas Anymore," and "The Fat Kid." Warm friendly stuff with a groovy kinda solid kick...

"Oh, yeah, this is nothing like what you would expect. An old guy that's been working the back 40 for quite a while rounds up a bunch of cow punks and LA roots players and displays his love for Buck and Merle but he does it through the eyes and ears of Kinky Friedman and Chinga Chavin. So left of center, it's a must for subversive fans that like seeing the envelope pushed so far it tears. This is a great set to play just to see if the people around you are paying attention. Anyone who bought the 30th anniversary edition of "Sold American" will get just what's going on here. Fun stuff all the way. "


Stephen David Austin is a storyteller who uses his own musical influences, performers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and their Bakersfield, California stamped sound, as a bed upon which he lays his tales in ‘A Bakersfield Dozen’, his most recent album effort. The story lines are taken from the real life of Stephen David Austin if you leave out the appearance of a Beatles song (“Baby’s in Black”). The Bakersfield sound connection is run through an Americana filter on the album and home life is put under the microscope on “Bad Dog” while night life gets its due in “Dance With No Pants”. Stephen’s songs are taken from current calendar days in the life of a musician (“MySpace”), past love (“The Best Ex I Ever Had”), the hole that our personal favorites leave in life when they exit (“Heroes and Heroin”) and the view outside the window (“Kansas Ain’t Kansas Anymore”). Stephen David Austin has an eye that is hardwired to his pen.

"A Bakersfield Dozen" by Stephen David Austin is a great piece of work...both musically and lyrically.

Enclosing a bottle opener ("can be used for both domestic and imported beers!") with a CD that has "Bakersfield" in the title sends a pretty clear message, but Austin, who lengthened his name to avoid confusion, thus joining "the ranks of 'the men with three names', an elite club primarily occupied by serial killers and musicians," comes at The Bakersfield Sound from left field.  Influenced equally by Owens and Haggard, The Blasters, and The Beat Farmers, he writes blue collar Americana poetry with a recurring theme of "you can't go home again" , backed by the cream of California country musicians: Marty Rifkin, pedal and lap steel, dobro, and electric guitar; Paul Marshall, bass; Shawn Nourse, drums & percussion; Teresa James, background vocals; Brantley Kearns, fiddle; Skip Edwards, piano and accordion; and Dave Currall, electric guitar.  With ten originals and a cover of Lennon / McCartney's "Baby's In Black", Austin ranges from the wry humor of "Best Ex I Ever Had" and "MySpace" ("please download my music"), to the pathos of "The Cage", about a man released into an utterly unfamiliar world after 40 years in prison, to the observational "Kansas Ain't In Kansas Anymore", inspired by a story about Wichita street gangs, to the heartfelt tribute of "The Day Buck Owens Died".

      On first listen this sounds just like yet another album of well played honky tonking country songs very much in the Bakersfield tradition with the likes of Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam beaming at you through the beers and tears. A fine cast of players, described in the liner notes as “the tortured artists” do provide a thrilling sound with Marty Rifkin on pedal and lap steel guitar standing out with his magnificent fills and solo slots. With fiddle, Dobro and banjo all appearing on occasion Austin covers all the bases to the extent that the album could be well recommended to anyone who digs, well, that “Bakersfield” sound.
      However Austin has a trick up his sleeve. Wading through the many fine licks here one eventually finds his lyrics which are certainly a notch above what one expected. While he’s able to craft an almost perfect tale of a jailbird heading home after a 40 year stretch (The Cage) and deliver an affectionate homage to the late Buck Owens (The Day Buck Owens Died) several of his songs have a wry, sardonic edge to them. Heroes and Heroin namechecks Captain Trips aka Jerry Garcia on a cautionary anti drug song while Kansas Ain’t in Kansas Anymore is a powerful diatribe against the encroaching gang warfare that used to be emblematic of the likes of LA but which now infests middle America. On The Fat Kid he deals with bullying at school coming across like a Telecaster wielding Randy Newman as he sings “ he’s a fat kid, a loser and a freak, a pachyderm pariah, a mesomorphic geek.” He gets bang up to date on MySpace where he damns the dilemma of having to use the net to promote his music and being pulled into the whole social networking whirlpool.
     Overall Austin’s debut is mighty impressive indeed.

     As the title lets you know, this is deeply rooted in the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens, one that’s served countless practitioners - most notably Dwight Yoakam - pretty well over the years. Omaha born Austin’s a new name on the recording scene, but he’s been around the live circuit in assorted bar bands for a good while, playing covers by heroes like Owens and Haggard, until he was prompted by Dave Alvin and Tom T Hall to focus on his own songs. Assembling musicians that included pedal steel guitarist Marty Rifkin who’s also done duty for Springsteen, this debut album’s the end result.
     Opening number Best Ex I Ever Had pretty much sums up what’s on offer, a cocktail of catchy tunes, frequently playful lyrics and twangy guitar. Likewise, Dance With No Pants boogies along like a freight train on an amusing redneck narrative with lines about inbred relatives and ‘bouncing like an out of state cheque’ while Back To Bakersfield pays tribute to the blue collar townsfolk and, borrowing its intro from Buckaroo, The Day Buck Owens Died speaks for itself.
     Not that his songs don’t have darker sides. Referencing Gram (the melody deliberatly evoking Streets of Baltimore), Charlie Parker and Jerry Garcia, behind its keening steel, Heroes And Heroin addresses the way drugs have taken so many shining stars while the bluesy Kansas Ain’t In Kansas Anymore concerns Wichita’s methamphetamine problems and Fat Kid is about how anyone different from the crowd is always the target for bullying and abuse. In the tradition of Johnny Cash, there’s also a prison song, The Cage although this one comes from Austin picking up a hitchhiker who turned out to have just been released after serving 40 years for beating the guy who propositioned his wife to death.
     ... it’ll be welcome on any of those bar room jukeboxes where he paid his dues.

     The Golden Age of country western music has all but withered in the eyes of Tehachapi based singer/songwriter Stephen David Austin.
     While he admits the scene has changed, the local audience has continued to flourish and recognize the rich history and legacy of country music. Influenced by Bakersfield’s own Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, the release of Austin’s debut album, “A Bakersfield Dozen,” has carried on the legend that draws on their honky-tonk sound and American roots.
     An honest recap of life’s most humorous and enduring moments, this collection blends a slightly embellished perception of reality through the tales of vengeful Ex’s, celebrity overdoses and Bakersfield life. Austin’s ability to draw upon relevant events has allowed fans outside of the realm of country music to explore the raw energy of the signature Bakersfield Sound found in many of his songs.
     “There is a connection to people’s every day joys and sadness, to peoples struggles and triumphs that makes country music relatable. It verbalizes an emotion that people have not put into words on their own,” said Austin.
     Austin was born in Omaha, Neb., though he moved often due to his father’s career. The family eventually relocated to Southern California. At the age of nine, he received his first guitar and took music lessons for a brief period. The sounds Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Tom T. Hall were among his early discoveries thanks to his father’s musical interest.
      “My dad was a country western fan and musician; that was my primary exposure. I’ve always identified with the lyrics to country music. I’ve always been drawn to how well country artists can tell a story.”
      The expressive nature of the genre was taken into consideration by Austin who in each song invites the listener on a journey through the oil fields of Bakersfield and surprisingly, to the sounds that served as an inspiration for George Harrison of the Beatles. Austin’s ode to their success includes a cover of “Baby’s in Black,” that was included o the album per request of a friend.
      Prior to the release of, “A Bakersfield Dozen,” Austin found himself playing in a number of bar bands before making the decision to go solo and take on the daunting task of writing material and hiring session musicians for his album.
      Starting off with fragments and transforming them into full-length songs proved to be a worthwhile task. During the writing process, Austin sifted through material that had accumulated from years of playing and ended up with an assortment of thirteen tracks; eleven made the final cut.
      “I had all these songs, and I wanted to present them in the best light I could,” said Austin.
      The session musicians featured on “A Bakersfield Dozen” create a tight rhythm section that complements Austin’s vocal abilities and country flair. The final product was taken to an even great height by these seasoned pros and their creative use of pedal steel, fiddle and harmony vocals.
      “The only way I was going to have control over the outcome of the songs was to hire people I respected and play up to their level,” said Austin.
      He assembled a group of session players that included pedal steel and slide guitar player Marty Rifkin. His impressive resume boasts a number of well-known artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.
      Other contributions were made by bassist Paul Marshall, guitarist and long-time friend Dave Currall, pianist Skip Edwards, harmony vocalist Teresa James, drummer Shaw Nourse, and Brantley Kearns on fiddle. Their musical talents heightened the energy and created a solid backing band for Austin’s solo project.
      “A lot of these people came together because they were players whose work I admired, and I had seen them on the L.A. roots music scene for quite a while.”
      The album begins with, “Best Ex I Ever Had,” a humorous tale involving the aftermath of a relationship gone awry. On the second track, “Heroes and Heroin,” Austin addresses the tragedy of substance abuse and relives the loss of famed musicians Charlie Parker, Jerry Garcia and Gram Parsons. The expressive lyrics of his songs paint a picture for listeners while the instruments create a palette that can be drawn upon.
      “Bakersfield is to country music what punk rock is to rock n roll. More of a bare bones format to present attitudes, ideas and words,” said Austin.
       The sixth track off of the album, “Kansas Ain’t Kansas Anymore,” is a slow-churning illustration of swampy roots rock at its finest, while “The Day Buck Owens Died” takes listeners back to the moment of realization when the Bakersfield icon and legend passed.
      Austin has revealed plans for an upcoming tour that will commence after he recuperates from a recent knee replacement. He plans to schedule shows for the spring and summer and embark on a European tour during the fall to support, “A Bakersfield Dozen.”
      “I’m just hoping that the people who hear it like it, and that people understand it. It’s something I had to do whether it was commercially accepted or not,” said Austin.

     Artist Stephen David Austin has brought back the Bakersfield sound with his debut album “A Bakersfield Dozen.”
      Local musician Stephen David Austin has made it clear that he is determined to carry on the vision of country western music through the legendary sounds of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
     The allure of fame as a country musician in Bakersfield began with Owens, whose talents drew more than one hopeful to town with the hope of success.
     Austin makes a valiant effort at revitalizing the scene to its glory days on his solo album featuring a handful of seasoned session musicians with impressive resumes of their own, ranging from work with Bruce Springsteen to Stevie Nicks.
     His debut album, “A Bakersfield Dozen,” involves a number of old-timey, Americana-flavored tunes that cleverly incorporate pedal steel, dobro, a resonator guitar, and fiddle. The sound of the album comes across as safe, but for those looking for a sound heavily influenced by Owens and Haggard, look no further.
     The album opens with the humorous, “Best Ex I Ever Had,” a fitting track with an exaggerated sense of past relationships that don’t turn out how we would like them to. Even those who aren’t avid country fans can appreciate some of the humor and get into the realistic nature of the songs.
     The fifth track off of the album, “Back to Bakersfield” is a tale of Austin’s grandparents moving to town from Oklahoma during the Dustbowl. While it makes for an interesting story, younger audiences might have a hard time connecting, due to the fact that they may not share the same vision of the simple life; sitting on the back porch drinking ice cold beverages.
     Apart from the more mature feel of this tune, the album makes a good effort at reaching a broad audience with songs like “Myspace” and “Bad Dog,” which feature a vocal cameo by his grandson.
     “Heroes and Heroin” makes brief references to Charlie Parker, Gram Parsons and Jerry Garcia who were all musicians that tragically died due to substance abuse. 
     The Lennon/McCartney cover, “Baby’s In Black” appears to be out of place on the album, which is something that Austin has admitted himself. It was included on the album by the request of a friend. Although George Harrison was influenced by the sound of country music, it may not have proved to be the best choice of song to cover on the album.
     Audiences can’t help but make a comparison to the original when a well-known group like The Beatles wrote and performed it.
    “The Day Buck Owens Died” is one of the more relevant tracks on the album. It tells the tale of Owen’s life; an important part of Bakersfield history that residents should be aware of, from humble beginnings to his rise to fame and eventual death. This song gives a general idea of one man’s perspective on the hall of fame musician that left behind the Crystal Palace and created music that changed the history of the genre.
     Whether you’re a fan of country music or not, there’s bound to be something you can take away from this album full of catchy tunes and realistic imagery.

"Stephen David Austin combineert op “A Bakersfield Dozen” als het ware het beste van twee werelden. Met name zijn teksten blijken van bijzonder fijne makelij. Sterke staaltjes van storytelling zijn het, waarmee hij naar onze bescheiden mening bij momenten moeiteloos aansluiting vindt bij eigen idolen als een Townes Van Zandt, een Guy Clark, een Steve Earle en een Dave Alvin. Alleen verpakt hij die schrijfsels van ‘m graag op een andere manier. En wat dat betreft vormt de titel van de plaat hier met enige regelmaat een ideale indicatie. Austin blijkt immers een grote fan van de ooit door knapen als Buck Owens, Tommy Collins en Merle Haggard groot gemaakte Bakersfield Sound. En die tracht hij op zijn eerste cd geregeld naar het hier en nu te vertalen. Dat is bijvoorbeeld nogal nadrukkelijk het geval in het swingende “Best Ex I Ever Had” en “The Day Buck Owens Died”. Elders gaat hij dan weer eerder voor een sterk traditioneel aandoend old-time string band-geluid (de Lennon & McCartney-cover “Baby’s In Black”), een pure singer-songwriter-aanpak (“The Cage”) of zelfs country- en rootsrock (“Kansas Ain’t Kansas Anymore” en “The Fat Kid”). Het resultaat van dat alles is een op z’n minst interessant te noemen geheel, waaraan ondermeer Skip Edwards, Brantley Kearns, Shawn Nourse, Teresa James, Marty Rifkin, Dave Currall, en Paul Marshall maar wat graag hun medewerking verleenden".

     Bakersfield is een naam die velen bekend in de oren zal klinken. Het is de stad in Californië waar Buck Owens en Merle Haggard in de jaren 50 en 60 van de twintigste eeuw hun eigen countrygenre creëerden als reactie op de in die tijd met violen overladen Nashville-sound. Voor de liefhebbers van die muziek is er goed nieuws in de vorm van het debuut van deze echte honkytonker, Stephan David Austin (wel toevallig, die achternaam).
     Recht-voor-zijn-raap country met vleugjes rock ’n roll, lekkere begeleiding met naast Austin op gitaren, banjo, tambourine en ‘handclaps’ pedal steel, dobro, gitaar, bas en drums in de hoofdrol en incidenteel piano, accordeon en fiddle. Een onverwachte verrassing is een leuke cover van Lennon/McCartney’s ‘Baby’s in black’. Alle andere songs zijn van Austin zelf, waarbij hij soms leuke verwijzingen geeft naar zijn favoriete Bakersfield-sound, zoals in ‘The day Buck Owens died’, waar hij opent met een bekende Owens-lick. Heel leuk is zijn ode aan het downloaden op internet, ‘My Space’, een liedje dat trouwens heel sterk lijkt op ‘Bye, Bye Love’ van de Everly Brothers. En voor de afsluiter, ‘Bad dog’ haalt Stephen zijn hoorbaar piepjonge kleinzoon Kayleb erbij, die mee’zingt’ met opa in de kelder, waar het nummer is opgenomen. Omdat opa Stephen hier de enige begeleider is (op gitaar) is duidelijk dat de man nog leuk gitaar speelt ook.
     ‘A Bakersfield dozen’ van Stephen David Austin geeft de naam van de inhoud van de CD bijna correct weer. De aanduiding Bakersfield (de sound) is helemaal correct, voor een ‘dozen’ komen we één nummer tekort. Maar feit is dat de CD aangenaam wegluistert en lekker ongecompliceerd is.

      Wellicht heb je evenals ondergetekende nog nooit gehoord van deze man.
      Niet echt verwonderlijk Stephen Austin, een al wat oudere gitarist werkte de afgelopen veertig jaar voor een resem cowpunkers en rootsartiesten uit de LA scène. De hoesfoto van cowboy Stephen en op de achterflap een en een zwarte stier in het groene heuvelland vormen al een overduidelijke indicatie voor de muziek die we mogen verwachten.
Op zijn laattijdig debuut, de man is ondertussen de 56 gepasseerd, brengt aangespoord door Dave Alvin en Tom T. Hall hulde aan The Bakersfield sound. Gewapend met een twangende Telecaster eert hij Buck Owens en Merle Haggard maar ook onvolprezen volgelingen als Dwight Yoakam. In tegenstelling tot de titel laat vermoeden krijgen we hier geen dozijn songs voorgeschoteld maar welgeteld elf waaronder een enkele cover van ‘Baby’s In Black’ uit de vroege periode van van The Beatles dat hier een stringarrangement uit de oude doos aangemeten krijgt.
      ‘Kansas Ain’t Kansas Anymore’ componeerde Steven Mayer, voor het overige horen we hier uitsluitend eigen werk dat met een warm brommende bariton, ondersteund door harmoniezang van Teresa James, wordt gedebiteerd in de schaduw van een alomtegenwoordige twangende Telecaster.
      Met het niet van humor gespeende, gedeeltelijk Spanish spoken, ‘The Best Ex I Ever Had’ komen we komen meteen in de juiste stemming. Tot Austin’s grote verwondering stemde een uitgelezen kransje van muzikanten uit de plaatselijke countryscène en het entourage van Yoakam toe om de begeleiding te verzorgen. Zo wordt de gitaar en banjo van Austin naast de ritmesectie van ‘I See Hawks In LA’, geflankeerd door pedal- en andere’ steelgitaren van Marty Rifkin. In ‘Back To Bakersfield’, een verhaal dat teruggaat tot de jaren dertig, zorgt de fiddle van Brantley Kearns voor de juiste sfeer. ‘The Day Buck Owens Died’ is een prachtige ode aan de architect van The Bakersfield sound en ‘The Cage’ is zo’n uit het leven gegrepen verhaal waar je ademloos naar luistert. Die verhalen worden voortreffelijk gecombineerd met muziek uit een verloren gewaand tijdperk.
      This outrageous Telecaster slinger brings the old Bakersfield style back with great storytelling. A very nice piece of work from a talented mucisian and songwriter.
--Cis Van Looy 03/13/2012

"...conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition...
The world...can never forget what they did here."
--ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 11/18/1863

(Note- The music player at the bottom of the page can be activated at any time to listen to full songs.)