Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sam Phillips at Largo 11-9-13

 This may have been the best Sam Phillips show that I have seen in the last 10 years. There have been many highlights over the years, but this show had it all. Sam’s singing was effortless and beautiful tonight. Nothing new there. Her guitar playing was very self assured (sometimes she can be a bit hesitant on the guitar). She put on a full one and a half hour show with over 20 songs. That is as much as I’ve ever seen her play. And then there was the band. Oh, what a band. Of course there was Eric Gorfain and the Section Quartet. Jay Belarose was back on drums (one of my all time favorites). Patrick Warren, who was on the Boot and a Shoe tour played keyboards. That was pretty much the touring band from 2004. Added to this was Jennifer Condos on bass and and Greg Leisz on guitar (Eric also played guitar and banjo when needed). That’s 9 people on stage! And man did they sound good. The entire 9 only played on a couple of songs as members left and rejoined the stage as they were needed. But when they were all there, it was a great sound.  If there was a way to make money touring with this band, it would be, by the end of the tour, one of the best touring bands of the last few years. They were just amazing to watch.

Before Sam came on stage, a woman was playing music on an old turntable, drawing on pieces of paper and sometimes throwing them into the audience. It was a bit of pantomime and was very cute. It turned out to be Sam’s daughter, Simone. Keep your eyes open for her in a few years.

Next up came the Section Quartet. Instead of playing covers from a multitude of rock songs, which they do so well, they performed what they called an Overture. It was really a medley of Sam’s songs; about 7 or 8. They ended up getting split into 3 groups because the audience applause forced them to stop a couple of times. Probably the highlight of this set was “Animals on Wheels”. Those who have seen Sam perform this know that she usually sings and uses an old tape machine to play the music. Every so often she wiggles the tape machine and causes the sound to wobble.  The Section Quartet came up with a way to play the wobble on their violins. It was hysterically funny and had many in the audience laughing.
Sam came on stage and played almost all of her new CD, Push Any Button, played several from her 2 Nonesuch CDs and several more from that period in between. And for those of us who have been following longer, she slipped in “I Don’t Want to Fall In Love” and “000” (which got a standing ovation). She was in great spirits joked with the crowd and basically led us through the evening as only she can; with her great sense of humor and down to earth attitude.

It was just a perfect evening. Sam, Eric, Jay and a few others hung around after the show and chatted with everyone. It was great seeing them all again. If you are in L.A., do not miss the Sunday night show. There are still tickets available.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Music for August 2013

Push Any Button - Sam Phillips (8/13/2013)

Earlier this year, Sam promised a CD that she felt would represent what she would have sounded like back in the 60’s and early 70’s had she been recording then. She has accomplished this without being totally retro and without stealing from her Beatles inspired sound of Martinis and Bikinis. The sound on Push Any Button is a wonderful mix of La La La’s from the Gilmore Girls, the modern edginess from Don’t Do Anything and melodies that could only be inspired by that great era of music in the 60’s. Maybe the song that accomplishes this best is “When I’m Alone” which has a classic 60’s melody, the Section Quartet playing 60’s inspired strings, harmonies that hearken back to the early 60’s female singers and a great little guitar solo in the last bridge that is just perfect. Lyrically, this is classic Sam Phillips; challenging you to develop your own interpretation and sounding just right (almost forcing you to sing along), even if you aren't sure what she is trying to say. My only complaints about the CD are the bonus tracks that went out to fans who purchased the CD early. The 2 original songs belong on this CD; they are that good. Push Any Button is available as a CD/mp3/Vinyl at and as a CD or mp3 at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some Adult Music

I love watching artists mature. The following artists are all in their 30s and 40s. They have done some living and have things they want to say about it. These aren’t your typical rock and roll love songs...

Jen Chapin - Reckoning (2013)
As you listen to some of these songs you may find yourself thinking they are your normal relationship songs (plus a few socially conscious songs as well). But listen carefully and you’ll realize that Jen is a mother first (probably why it has been so long since the last studio CD) and some of these songs are really about her relationship with her kids. That alone makes this CD worth listening to. Jen's excellent writing and edgy style makes me think of Ani Difranco. I really love this CD and highly recommend it. For more info, check out

Thea Gilmore - Regardless (2013)
Thea has taken time out for a child and that process seems to have permeated her work. This is her most maturely produced CD. Some critics in England have compared it Dido’s work. I might go with Sarah McLachlan. This a beautiful CD (as should be obvious when you mention those two names). Long time fans may find it too... pop. But there is no doubt that a lot of care has gone into producing this. “Regardless” is available as an import or an MP3 download at . Give it a listen. It will take you back to the days of Lilith Fair and then beyond.

Changing the tempo a bit...

Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart (2013)
Somewhere between punk and English singer/songwriter, Frank lays it all out for you. This is an artist who seems tired of the rock and roll life, but maybe can’t help himself. There are still plenty of love (or loveless) songs, but his advancing age (30’s can be a bit old for punk rockers) puts an interesting twist on the songs. He may have created the theme song for his generation, when he sings “We Shall Not Overcome”. I listened to this one way more than I thought I would. Really really good.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

New Music April / May 2013

Tyler Lyle - The Golden Age & The Silver God (2012)

What a find this was. A truly indie CD (he has his own label), Tyler has created a blend of music that somewhere between Mumford and David Grey. But labels and comparisons aren’t fair. I love the melodies and arrangments; the personal nature of the songs. It’s a great spin. Please check him out at .

Patty Griffin - American Kid (2013)
When is Patty never in top form. Another outstanding CD from the person Bruce Cockburn once called “An American Treasure”. Dedicated to her late father, this CD feels familiar, but might best be described as an obvious follow up musically to “Children Running Through”. If you are a big fan of Patty’s, you will not be disappointed. If you are new to her music, you will find a lot to love about this beautiful, down to earth CD.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Music 2013

Walt Cronin & Martin Beal - Gone So Long (2013)
In an era where besting your earlier releases is rare, Walt Cronin just keeps getting better and better. He still has that plain voice that reminds you of a smoother Kris Kristofferson, but his songwriting continues to improve.Joined by Martin Beal on this album, the production is solid, the melodies are wonderful and the the lyrics ring true. This is the best Walt Cronin CD yet and highly recommended if you love Americana/Folk. You can find him on Facebook.

Miles Zuniga - These Ghosts have Bones (2011)
What's not to like here. Miles was one of the key members of Fastball. This CD is just filled with hooks. And, it's a breakup CD. Lots of pain and great hooks? Really. What else can you ask for?

JD McPherson - Signs & Signifiers (2012)
This is just flat out fun. The sound is all rockabilly and the energy level never lets up. You can download the excellent "North Side Gal" here.

Amy Cook - Summer Skin (2012)
I could tell you how good the songs are on this CD that seems to defy boundaries (Not really Country or Folk. More Singer/Songwriter. I guess thats what Americana is all about), but you just have to give it a listen. If you're looking for famous people to endorse it, how about Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, David Garza and Meshell Ndegeocello who all appear on it. It should have been on my best of 2012 list.

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Music of 2012

This isn’t a best of list for two reasons. First, I just haven’t listened to all the great music that came out in 2012 (and yes, there was a lot of really good music released this year). And the second reasons is... well, the obvious one... It is all subjective. So here are my favorites and why:

John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
For a freshman release, this is fantastic. The grittiness of a great folk singer, with the pipes of a seasoned veteran and the hooks of a future star. Just a brilliant CD and maybe my very favorite of the year.

Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
The first Springsteen CD in years that I listened to over and over again. Maybe his best writing since he reformed the band. The new songs, for the first time in years, were actually the highlights of many of his shows.

Whitehorse - Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss
Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland finally got together musically and produced a complete CD: And complete is a good word for it. For both of them, it is their best material in years. They are a dream combination and I hope neither of them has to write another breakup CD anytime soon. Gritty, powerful, earthy, rockin’ are the words I’d use to describe two of my favorite Canadians.

Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Speaking of Canadians, Kathleen has not let up on any of her CDs, although Failer may still be her best. This new one though may be her second best. With Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) at the helm, this breakup CD is more keyboard driven but more important, may be Kathleen’s most personal work. This one stayed on my CD player for a long time.

John Hiatt - Mystic Pinball
It seems to be the year of comebacks. I wasn’t a big fan of John’s last CD, but he hit this one out of the park. Great melodies and great lyrics; things we expect from Mr. Hiatt.

Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose
It’s hard to believe this is Glen’s first solo CD, but it is. And it is brilliant.

Pugwash - The Olympus Sound
It is still only available as an import, but if you are a fan of XTC or pure pop, you should check out this fantastic CD. It is another one that stayed on my CD player for a long long time.

Minnesota - Are You There
Peter Himmelman has a band again and the results of his collaborations make one of the better CDs I’ve heard all year. It’s rocking and thought provoking. How does he do it?

Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On
There were lots of political CDs this year, but maybe none better than Ani’s. This is getting redundant, but... Her best CD in years. Very accessible but packs a big punch.

Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful
The co-writer of the last 3 Alejandro Escovedo CDs, shows that he can do it all by himself. This tribute to the city by the bay is not only a great listen, but a great read. Those of us old enough recognize the references to San Francisco, but you don’t have to, to enjoy this album.

Alejandro Escovedo - Big Station
Al’s third CD with Chuck Prophet co-writing and Tony Visconti at the helm, isn’t quite as good as the first two, but it is still head and shoulders above much of what the music industry is releasing these days. Few artists can pull off three in a row like Alejandro has.

Right behind these artists are Shawn Colvin (“All Fall Down”) and Patti Smith (“Banga”) who also released their best work in years. Alabama Shakes (“Boys & Girls”) had an excellent first release but I think I like her more than the band. Time will tell. Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound were lots of fun, as was JD McPherson’s eponymous release. And finally Bonnie Raitt’s “Slipstream” reminded me of just how good a CD can sound if the production is done right. A very good CD made even better because you can crank it up and feel the clean sound as it surrounds you.

Favorite Songs of the Year
This list might change by tomorrow, but as of today these were some of my favorite songs of the year:
Glen Hansard - Maybe Not Tonight
John Fullbright - Daydreamer (It was really hard to just pick one from this CD)
Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own
Audra Mae - The Real Thing
Whitehorse - Achilles’ Desire
Ry Cooder - Mutt Romney Blues
Todd Snider - In The Beginning
Kathleen Edwards - Change the Sheets
Pugwash - Here we go ‘round Again
Peter Himmelman - Ash and Chickenwire

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hobart Brothers and Lil’ Sis Hobart at McCabes

Sunday night was one of those unforgettable nights at McCabes. The music was actually overshadowed by the craziness of the evening; which is tough to do since the music is so good. It was the perfect storm (if I can use that pun right now). Susan Cowsill, the woman in the middle of this semi-famous threesum, had some family in the audience. It was the last night of the tour. It was at McCabes (a room so intimate, artists can have conversations with people in the back row). And tonight Jon Dee Graham (the most represented songwriter in the group) decided to start telling tour bus secrets. By the end of the evening, John Cowsill was on stage sort of singing the Cowsill hit “I Love the Flower Girl”, or as Susan called it “F***ing Flower Girl”, and using Jon Dee’s running jokes to mercilessly attack his sister.
But enough about the fun. We came for the music and we got all of it and a few more. The band, which also includes Freedy Johnston, performed their entire new CD, which I love. This was the stripped down version, since it was just the three of them (Freedy singing and on guitar, Jon Dee singing and on guitar and doing most of the leads and Susan singing, playing tambourine and playing guitar on “...Flower Girl”). This is Austin Americana at its best as they sang and told stories about their lives and the people around them. Just great music. Along with “...Flower Girl” they did two excellent covers; “Wichita Lineman” and “Thirteen” (from Big Star in tribute to Alex Chilton). We laughed. We sang. We had a great time. Thanks Hobart family.