The Dust Devils
Built around the award-winning, mature songwriting of Kevin Higgins, and representing Texas with their original southern-rockin', genre-bendin' “Farm-to-Market Rock'n'Roll” style of music, The Dust Devils once again state their independence from hype and trends. With the 2007 release of their third album, Change in the Weather, (Little Train Records), the Dust Devils combine diversity with raw talent, allowing them to move about freely on the musical landscape. Add to that the visual and musical advantage of a male and female fronting the band, and you have a winning combination all the way around.
By 2003, the (previously-named) Cosmic Dust Devils had been kicking around Texas for a few years, with a handful of accolades and a self-titled CD under their belts. The miles and low wages eventually took their toll, leaving the two original founders of the band, (Kevin Higgins and Barbara Malteze), no alternative but to disband the group and come up with a new plan. That plan included a new name...and Nashville.
Shortening the name to The Dust Devils, Higgins and Malteze recorded their sophomore cd, Gathering Dust, between Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Spicewood, TX and Emerald and Masterfonics in Nashville, TN. Other than a co-write with Malteze on one song, Higgins single-handedly wrote all the material for the album. It was released in 2005.
Some of the talent assembled to perform on the CD included such legendary figures and top Nashville studio musicians as Barry Beckett (Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr.) and Glen Duncan (Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard).
By a chance meeting, an instant friendship was formed with legendary photographer, Carl Dunn, (www.thisisrockandroll.com), who graciously offered up his services and contributed portrait photos of Malteze and Higgins for the CD's artwork package. Carl is known for his breathtaking photos of Led Zepplin, Janis Joplin, Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Ritchie Blackmore, Aerosmith and most every rock icon of that era.
Gathering Dust made headlines, sweeping the 2006 Texas Music Awards by winning "Album of the Year", "Song of the Year" (Walk On), "Female Vocalist of the Year" (Barbara Malteze), and "Vocal Duo of the Year."
Kevin Higgins, (guitars/vocals/songwriter), was raised in El Paso, playing in cover bands until he decided to pursue a career in songwriting. He moved to L.A. in the early '90s where he met Barbara Malteze, who was fronting her own blues rock band at the time. The couple moved to Austin and in 1998 and recorded Higgins' solo CD, Dark Side of the Barn. It was only natural that The Cosmic Dust Devils would form as a result of these recording sessions. Proclaimed as “…one of the classic country/folk/rock albums of that year” (AllMusicGuide.com), this CD won “Album of the Year” at the 2000 Hill Country Music Awards.
Higgins would go on to become a 2000 Kerrville “New Folk” Finalist later that year, earning the band a spot on the Main Stage at the 2001 Kerrville Folk Festival. People who attended in 2001 may remember Rod Kennedy, (founder/producer of the Kerrville Folk Festival), wiping his brow at the end of the band's set and proclaiming to the audience, “Texas rock-and-roll is back!”
The Cosmic Dust Devils released a self-titled CD in 2002 which received rave reviews, such as "Higgins is quite possibly the next great Texas songwriter," (Rockzilla.com); and "...a sparkling and important release..." (AllMusicGuide.com). In 2004, Higgins' song, “Company Time”, was placed in the movie “A Day Without A Mexican” (and released on the EMI soundtrack).
Critics have compared Higgins' songwriting to that of Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Patterson Hood, and Red Stegall. "...the sound of the South never went away - it just got better with age..."(AllMusicGuide.com). Higgins went on to win 2nd place in the coveted 2006 B.W. Stevenson songwriting contest held in Dallas, (just to keep the critics honest).
Barbara Malteze, (vocals/keys/mandolin), was influenced by Southern rock of another gender. Some think it might’ve been Janis Joplin, but it was really Joyce Kennedy from Atlanta’s Mother’s Finest who was a major influence on Malteze. Mother’s Finest’s bottom-driven grooves and Kennedy’s dynamic gospel-drenched vocals were key ingredients in fueling Malteze's ambition to front a hard-driving band.
In early 2005, Malteze was invited to perform the headlining tribute at the "18th Annual Janis Joplin Birthday Bash" at the Port Arthur Civic Center. Back when Cashbox was the voice of the music industry, they wrote, "Barbara does know how to pump out ripping vocals." Malteze's past as L.A. heavy metal vocalist/songwriter for her self-titled band is still very much alive in Europe, as evidenced by a 2003 feature interview in Metal Maidens Magazine (Netherlands); 2006 worldwide vinyl LP release of Count Your Blessings by Femetal Records, and a recent interview with "Heavy" Magazine (the 2nd largest heavy metal magazine in Germany), for the Nov. 2006 issue. Malteze continues to make waves in Texas, as she accepted the honor of "Female Vocalist of the Year" for two years in a row at the 2006 & 2007 Texas Music Awards, a feat of repetition that no other artist has accomplished thus far.
XM Satellite Radio has been rotating cuts by the band on a regular basis since Jan. 2006. In Sept. 2006, several Cumulus Broadcast stations have picked up “Outlaw Girl” to brand their stations’ “outlaw” image. As of Feb. 2007, with practically no promotion, "Looking for Pearl" rose to #2 on the TexasTop40.com site, with over 5,000 downloads logged.
The Dust Devils’ industry showcases have included "Windows on Texas", (a Texas Hill Country event held in January, similar to Austin's SXSW); an “Official Texas Party” CRS-37 showcase at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville; “South by The Sons” showcase at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas; and performances in Austin at Waterloo Ice House and Flipnotics during SXSW. Higgins and Malteze recently returned from their Nashville music-industry showcase, which garnered such reviews as “…they impressed at their showcase and are an act to watch.” (CountryMusicFactsandNews.com). The late founding member of Marshall Tucker Band, George McKorkle was on hand to introduce the band at the showcase.
With the Dust Devils’ new lineup in tow, they recently returned from their 4th Annual “Coastal Bender” , a huge fan-appreciation party held in Port Aransas, TX, where they released their most recent cd. Recorded in a week's time, (with Higgins in the producer's chair), Change in the Weather materialized in the studio as he wrote right up to the day of the sessions. The band had only been together for 8 weeks prior to recording. Higgins taught the group brand new songs on the spot, so the excitement and freshness of the material translated to disk.
The buzz surrounding the current lineup of George Quiroga, Chris Adams and Eddie Flores has created quite a stir, with articles appearing; (Sept. 2006, “Rising Stars” special feature, Best in Texas Magazine), (Oct. 2006 cover story, Hill Country Happenings Magazine) and (Oct. 2006 feature interview, The Stars of Texas Magazine).