Ya know, you can find treasure anywhere, if you just look a little closer. When driving through Texas on the back roads, it's easy to move so fast that you pass by some pretty neat places. They are often unassuming in size and shape. They can look like just another local dive on the side of a lonely stretch of highway. Do not be fooled.
Alice's Restaurant is in the tiny town (pop. 584) of Neiderwald, off highway 21, south of Austin, Bastrop, and kinda in the middle of cow country. It's soul is based in the Arlo Guthrie tune and movie of the same name, and if for some reason you are not familiar with either, it is high time to correct that.
The beauty of the hippie ideal at its peak was the communal nature of humans: the ability to live and let live and still be friends, even if only for an afternoon. I am afraid the best of those times has been forgotten in the ever faster technology bound world we all live in. There are only a few pockets of this sort of hope and simple joy to be found anywhere anymore. Alice's out in Neiderwald is one of them, and I recommend to all to find it, experience it, and maybe keep it in your heart for when things get too tough out here. Here are a few reasons why.
First, let's talk food. It is one thing to sit and eat a meal. It is another to revel in every BITE. The Sunday brunch buffet was astounding: moist sweet pork chops, eggplant steaks, two types of potatoes, corn and green beans, baked beans, breakfast stuff, cake and brownies, wonderful coffee...if I have to go on, well, you just aren't into food. And the little extras brought around just because.....scallops wrapped in bacon, rosemary skewered shrimp off the barbie...I haven't even seen the menu yet (it's online) and I am sold.
If salivating like that isn't enough for you, let's talk music. Jelly Jar was the main reason for my trip out to this lovely place. They are a South Austin band that runs the gamut from country to rock to blues, all with equal verve and expertise. They have something that a lot of musicians would love to find- a strong basic band that loves to have folks sit in, add in your two cents and take the ceiling just a little higher. Miss Karen is a throaty, smoky blues singer. Ricky is a talented and poignant songwriter, Gary and Charlie a strong and able rhythm section. Tom is up front with his banjos and tremendous voice. On top of that today we had Albert Besteiro Jr.,bassist for Del Castillo pulling duty as lead guitar. If that man ever tells you he can't play guitar, kick him for me! And tell him who it's from!
they played a lovely long set, going from their own brand of country rock to Jimi Hendrix (All Along the Watchtower, sung by Bert!), to Karen's lovely torch songs, to a new piece written by guitarist Ricky, entitled The Disaster song. I am a sensitive soul sometimes, and this one caught me; it's about New Orleans, and how her fate has touched all of us, even from far away. I had to put my sunglasses one for awhile out of embarassment for being too moved. Amazing writing, sir.Make certain that one goes on the next CD.
After a casual set change and time to sit and chat with everyone, another band came up, known as Kat's Meow. The guitarist was a tall, white bearded young fellow by the name of Slim Ritchey, also out of Austin I believe, and man, no holow body has seen such expert use in my company in a long time. Gary from Jelly Jar sat in on a sparse kit of snare, brushes and highhat. On the upright bass, Francie kept up one of the wildest paces I have heard out of a bassist in awhile! I know drummers are crazy, but I am pretty convinced right now that they all took lessons from this one bass player! Damn, girl!
Fronting these folks was a little pixie by the name of Kat Edmondson. When I saw her up there, I wasn't sure what to think. soaking wet, she probably doesn't weigh 98 LBS! A cute little blonde thing that would drive most of the guys crazy, she changed my tune by starting hers. I was astounded at the voice that came out of her! The group did a lot of old standbys from the 30's, 40's and 50's, very very well. My personal faves were probably the swing tunes. I could hear them playing in a speakeasy, Kat dressed up in flapper regalia. I don't know if they are a regular group or a happenstance get-together, but I would sit and lsiten to them just about anywhere. It was a lovely surprise after a great day.
Folks, next time you have had enough of city living, and need a mental break, especially if it is a music filled sunday, head out to Alice's. It is just one of those places you will fall for, and go back to, just because. If you see me there, introduce yourself and I will buy you a cuppa joe.
and many thanks to all the folks I met out there. You are a good portion of the reason why it was just such a neat experience. My friend Casey and I have already promised ourselves to come back out. Soon.