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17 May 09 Album Review – Bill Aspinwall “Free Range Trout”

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bill-aspinwall-free-range-troutBill Aspinwall offers us an album that crosses a number of Texas musical styles including folk, pop and blues.  He has brought together a talented set of friends to produce an album that highlights their versatility and creativity including Gibson, the dog and Satchmo, the cat (highlighted in “Mister Crippen’s Banjo”).  This is the first of two albums that we will be reviewing that were recorded by Lloyd Daniel at his Songbrush Sound studios near Houston. 

Aspinwall was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, but has been a traveler most of his life, having lived in Ohio, Illinois, California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Now residing in Austin and Houston, his music is a corollary to the historical development of Texas music.  He combines the experiences of many places and different musical styles to express a musical statement that is truly his own. 

The oneiric opening track sets the stage for an interesting musical experience.  “Restoration” provides an illusion of being underwater.  Aspinwall describes it as a dream-like state where we are being liberated from an underwater prison.  As we transition into an angelic telecaster riff calling us to freedom, the count down into the title track begins.  This opening sets us off on a fun musical journey. 

The guitar is the integral force in Aspinwall’s music.  Even as he shows his versatility with the instrument, he brings into the compositions string artists who compliment his playing style.  Mike Crippen is a true artist with his fingers dancing across the banjo and lead guitar.  There is Bill Dessens ( on pedal steel guitar … there is just something about a pedal steel master that adds real Texas soul to a song.  And, Bill Dessens is a master of the pedal steel, having been inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento, California, the Pioneers of Western Swing Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington, the Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.

T.C. Smythe and Gary Taylor ( add their musical flair to various songs on the album.  Smythe and Taylor recently were awarded Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2009 Texas Music Awards, quite an accomplishment among a group a talented nominees.  Smythe adds strong vocal support on “Second Chance” and “Mr. Crippen’s Banjo”.  Taylor plays the background guitar work on an unusual part of the album.

T. C. Smythe’s vocal work on “Second Chance” highlights her ability to deliver a strong performance on a complex melody.  Combined with Bill Dessens’ pedal steel work, “Second Chance” is a memorable track. It’s easy to see why both artists have been recognized by their fellow performers and fans as outstanding musicians.

In the latter half of the album, there appears a recorded commercial from around 1950 featuring a disk jockey named Cowboy Nate.  I could tell you the story about Cowboy Nate, the song “My Rose” and why both are important to this album, but, paraphrasing Paul Harvey, you’ll have to wait to hear “the rest of the story”.   Watch the Texas Music Journal; this story is worthy of an article on its own.  After reading it, you will understand why this album would be missing something without the commercial and the track “My Rose”. 

In “My Rose” the fiddle work is provided by another member of the River Road Boys, Clyde Brewer.  Clyde is known in many of the music circles in Texas.  Like his friend and fellow performer, Bill Dessens, Clyde has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame – the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento, California, the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, the Golden Spike Country Music Hall of Fame in Utah, the Pioneers of Western Swing Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington, and the Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.  Additionally, he was recently inducted in the International Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Aspinwall is a member of the Houston Association of Acoustic Musicians (HAAM) ( and the Houston Songwriters Association (HSA) (  Within these organizations are many fine musicians and songwriters.  The HSA honored Aspinwall with two awards in one year: Songwriter of the Year (2005) and Song of the Year (2005). 
The Song of the Year, “Fractured Lives”, was co-written with Tracy Timpanaro and is featured on “Free Range Trout”.  Adding to solid lyrics that tug at your heart strings, Mike Darnell ( provides the heartbeat to the song with his djembe work and adds good backup vocals.  Jack Saunders (, who has been a strong part of the Texas music scene since the 1970’s, contributes outstanding guitar work for the track.  This is one of the more notable tracks on the album. 

Another musician featured on the album is Lena Shammas.  We are hoping to reprint an article written by Bill Aspinwall on Lena.  In addition to being a good songwriter, Aspinwall is quite adept at writing.  Lena’s story is an intriguing one and he tells it well. 

The production work of Lloyd Daniel at Songbrush Sound is impeccable.  He balances each instrument and voice in way that highlights their part of the song while allowing the listener to hear the important contribution each makes.  With this album and the next one we review, Mike Darnell’s “The Promise Land”, we see that Daniel is as much a master of the science of sound engineering as he is a master of the art of producing the perfect sound for a song. 

 “Free Range Trout” is Aspinwall’s first solo effort, but obviously, he draws upon more than just his outstanding songwriting abilities.  He engages the talents of many notable Texas musicians to provide the musical development of his ideas.  Like the free range trout, this album traverses many streams of musical themes; but, in the end, highlights the talents of Aspinwall & Friends.

“Free Range Trout” can be purchased at

Track Listing

1. Restoration
2. Free Range Trout**
3. Hole in My Pocket**
4. Second Chance**
5. El azur del invierno
6. Fractured Lives**
7. Goin’ Back to Chalmette**
8. Mr. Crippen’s Banjo**
9. Cowboy Nate
10. My Rose
11. Open Arms
12. In Winter Knows
13. Little Cat**
14. Waiting Here for You

** Notable tracks


Bill Aspinwall – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass
Mike Crippen – banjo and guitar
Willie B – electric guitar
Lisa Canida – vocals
Tony Kozel – bass
Dave Corbett – drums
Mike Darnell – mandolin, djembe and back-up vocals bongos
T. C. Smythe – duet vocals and harmonies
Gary Taylor – Guitar
David and Kelly Hanshaw – harmonies
Bill Dessesns – pedal steel guitar
Lena Shammas – vocals
Jack Saunders – baritone & resophonic guitars and bass
Little Terry Rogers – Harmonica
Kelly Lancaster – mandolin
Cowboy Nate – radio ad
Clyde Brewer – fiddle
Jen Rathbun – piano
Rev. Dr. Otis Futhermucker – harmonica
Kat Rose & Molly Wear – harmony vocals
Sandy Warren – harmony vocal
Tony Ryan – bass

Recording Engineer – Lloyd Daniel, Songbrush Sound

Singers/songwriters or bands that would like their album reviewed their albums can send 2 CDs and their contact information to our office (Texas Music Journal, 8920 Pocono Dr., Plano, TX 75025).  We try to get the album reviewed within 5- 7 days of receipt. That gives us time to review the music and contact the artist for short interviews related to their music. As all albums are peer reviewed,  we have two people review every album then compare and contrast notes.

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  1. |

    […] Gillick, and Bill Aspinwall (see the Texas Music Journal article on Aspinwall & Friends, “Free Range Trout”).  With a small number of instruments and the excellent djembe and cajon work of Peter […]

  2. |

    […] This is the first of what we hope will be many articles written by Bill Aspinwall whose album, Free Range Trout, was reviewed by the Texas Music Journal (…). […]

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