Monday, May 30, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Gabrielle – Wide (6/14/2005) Gabrielle is part of the New York scene that includes artists like October Project and Sylvia Tosun (both played here on The Promise). And this new CD, to be released in June includes ex-New Yorkers like Julian Coryell. They want us to believe that she carries the spirit of Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel in her music. I’m not sure about Joni, but I do hear Tori Amos and Kate Bush. Some of the music on this CD is wonderfully produced with a “world beat” sound. Other songs are just straight singer/songwriter pieces. It makes for a very interesting experience. Just as you’re getting into this moody Middle Eastern thing, she switches to a life in the biz song. It takes a lot of confidence to go into these two very distinct areas, and Gabrielle pulls it off. Her web site is www.mudmusic.com and you should check out her artwork while you’re there. She is a very talented woman.

pinkeye d’gekko – Dry Clothes for the Drowning (2004) PDG, as they like to shorten the name, plays a lively roots rock and roll. I’m sure their live shows are a blast and you can even invite mom and dad. For touring info and such, go to: www.pdgrocks.com .

John Prine – Fair & Square (2005) One of the great American songwriters puts out his first CD since surviving cancer. His voice may not be what it used to, but the talent is still there.

Keren Ann – Nolita (2005) I saw Keren earlier this year at the Hotel CafĂ© and fell in love with her music. This is her new CD which continues her European styled vocalist approach to music. Going back and forth between French and English, I close my eyes and think: Claudine Longet wasn’t this good. Keren can be found at www.kerenann.com .

Sunday, May 22, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Cowboy Junkies –Early 21st Century Blues (2005) I remember the first time I heard the Cowboy Junkies: It was their amazing cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. So it was no surprise to me that I would enjoy this CD of covers. Highlights for me include the two Springsteen covers, “Brothers Under The Bridge” and “You’re Missing”. Other than John Lennon’s “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier”, which is given a rap section, this is all very Cowboy Junkies music. If you’re a fan, you will love this side excursion.

Loudon Wainwright III – Here Come The Choppers! (2005) What a fun CD this is. Where do I start? There is a fantastic song called “Make Your Mother Mad” about how daughters will side with their fathers in a divorce just to piss off mom. Has anyone ever covered this before? I loved it. “Half Fist” is a wonderful tale about Loudon Wainwright the first. I haven’t quite figured out what the idea behind visiting Hank Williams grave the day Mr. Rogers died in “Hank & Fred”, but it makes for fun discussion. And I laughed and related to “My Biggest Fan”, which is self explanatory. The title track is a surreal image that most of us who have lived in Los Angeles can easily picture. If you’ve been down the Miracle Mile, you will love this song. I love this CD. Great home spun songs. He is a superior writer showing off his craft.

Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers – Corvidae (2004) This is strange and wonderful CD. It’s bluesy and yet not at all predictable. It’s an indie release that deserves some attention. You can find them at http://www.myshkinsrubywarblers.com .

Dave Potts – One Night In The South (2003) His voice reminds me of Marc Douglas Berardo, an indie favorite here at The Promise. His folkish songs about the south are engrossing and grabbed me immediately. You can find out more about Dave at http://www.davepotts.com

Martyn Joseph – Whoever it was that brought me here will have to take me home (2004) This CD, actually released in 2003, continues his tradition of great songwriting. It is maybe the best written CD of this week’s additions. It’s that good. Find out more at http://www.appleseedrec.com .

Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm (2005) This is a theme CD about addicts and alcoholism and all the pain that follows them and the people around them. It is not a happy CD and is one that asks to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, it is classic Aimee Mann: The departure is only in the constant theme. You’ve got to give credit to Aimee, who is a borderline indie artist, to release a risky CD like this. It will pay off for those who listen to it.

Porcupine Tree – Deadwing (2005) Okay, so once in awhile I need to slip a progressive rock CD in here. There are a couple of songs that fit into The Promise’s play list. If you are into prog rock, this is a not miss CD.

Lene Lovich – Lucky Number The Best of (2004) There used to be a story I loved to tell that described me. It was many many years ago and I was in a record store (no CDs yet) returning a Lene Lovich album. I had gotten it as a gift and asked the clerk if I could return it and get something else. He smiled and said, “Sure, you don’t look like a Lene Lovich fan anyway”. And I said, “Well, actually, I already have it”. I loved the idea that people couldn’t read me: That they couldn’t see that I loved this hip/strange music coming from England. Today, listening to this best of CD it seems so much tamer than 25 years ago. And me? I wish people understood me just a bit better.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Not This Week

Some of you may have noticed that the play list went down over the weekend. Well, that was part of a bigger problem that I spent Sunday night on. We moved our web/mail server to a data center because of a problem with SBC. That coupled with the fact that I'm headed out to St. Louis this morning means that there will be no new set this week. The good news is that there will be lots of new old stuff to listen to. I always overbuild my play list for times like this. This extra section is always filled with lots of older sets that you may not have heard. So, please stay tuned.

Next week, I promise (a little pun there), lots of new music including: Aimee Mann's latest, "The Forgotten Arm", last years release of Martyn Joseph's "Whoever it was that brought me here will have to take me home", maybe a bit of Porcupine Tree, plus indie artists Dave Potts and Myshkin's Ruby Warblers (gotta love that name). And then there is the stuff I haven't even listened to yet!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Shawn Colvin Live at the Coach House

“I hope you like women with guitars” said Brook Ramel part way through her set last night. Luckily we do, ‘cause that is what we got. Brook, along with Brandi Carlisle gave excellent performances; but the night belonged to Shawn, who hasn’t been to Southern California in a few years. “When was I last here?” Shawn asked. “A couple of years ago. You went to Disneyland”, I said (notice I didn’t say yelled? You don’t need to yell when you are within speaking distance ::::big grin:::: ). “I went to Disneyland? Oh yeah I did. Well my daughter is 7 now and…”. And that led to a story about her daughter farting in a Chinese restaurant. The good old Shawn is back, telling wonderfully new stories and singing her songs with a love that hasn’t been there for the last few years.

But Shawn was a bit distracted. You could tell when she first came out and hadn’t even decided what her first song was going to be. Shawn is one of the few artists with the talent and guts to go on stage without a set list. But usually she at least knows what she wants to start with. After a couple of songs she was sort of fumbling around and I said, “Tell us a story”. “Okay. I wasn’t going to tell you this one but…” And then she proceeded to tell us the story of her accident that she had that day. It was her little Ford rental going full force into a Korean woman’s Volvo. Shawn lost, with airbags exploding and, well… She had us in stitches, which luckily for her she wasn’t in. But you could see that some pain was starting to settle in. This may have been the reason for her sitting on a stool throughout the show. And that is all I really need to say about this show. The beauty of a Shawn Colvin concert is that you never know what songs she is going to play (because she doesn’t) and she’s always got great stories to tell you. Her voice is always so beautiful and she is such a good guitar player; even if she denies it (“Please turn down the monitors for my guitar, I don’t want to hear all of my mistakes”).

There were actually very few covers last night. She opened with a Chris Whitley song and did a few other standards: The best of which was probably Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”. She seems much happier with herself and her music these days. We only got one new song from the album she is working on though. It sounded good and it will be so nice to have new Colvin material to listen to, someday.

Monday, May 09, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses (2005) A return to brilliance for Ryan as he delivers a short double CD that is his best work since Gold. The most prolific writer on the scene since Elvis Costello, hurry and enjoy this now, ‘cause he’s got another one coming in the fall.

Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman (2005) If you are a fan of Ben’s music, you will love this CD. Otherwise, it may take a couple of listens to allow this complex mix of piano based rock and personal lyrics to grab you. With so few piano rockers out there, it is well worth the wait.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Bruce Sprinsteen Live at the Pantages

Rule #1: When deciding which Springsteen show to go to in L.A., never pick opening night. For some reason industry people always end up at that show, and Bruce must know it. The crowd isn’t as alive and the set list is usually pretty straightforward. Although Monday night wasn’t a typical opener for The Boss (there were 4 tour premiers), Tuesday night was one of those special nights. And this wasn’t a “reserved” crowd like Monday night’s, giving him big ovations several times throughout the night. Probably the largest ovation came after a stunning version of “The River” with Bruce on piano. The second biggest ovation was probably for… Nils. Yep, Nils Lofgrin showed up near the end of the show to play acoustic lead on “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”.

This is the kind of tour that Springsteen fans dream of. He is adding and dropping songs like crazy so far. At least six songs from Tuesday’s show were not on Monday’s set list. He dropped Black Cowboys (one of my favorites on the new CD) but brought back “Racing in the Streets” (he has done this a few times on the tour). Instead of opening with to Reason to Believe (which was moved to the number 2 slot) he sat down at a pump organ and played My Beautiful Reward. It was a less dramatic opening, but was a nice lead-in to the intense Reason to Believe.

Reason to Believe was done with just voice and harmonica with a bullet mic and Bruce stomping on a board that had a microphone attached. The voice and harmonica were processed through a filter that distorted the hell out of it, making him sound like an old blues singer. The screens went to black and white adding to the effect. I think he may have gotten a bit too excited while singing it though. The pounding on the board caused not only the water on his piano to fall (someone spent some time under the piano cleaning up the mess) but the lamp on the piano fell also and broke (“Patti’s gonna kill me”… it was okay though. He got Nils to take the blame). He used the same filter on his voice for Johnny 99 near the end of the show. I think once was probably enough for that effect.

Bruce has been really getting into that falsetto/Roy Orbison thing lately, and he is doing it really well. Several songs ended with sections of him hitting really high notes (for him) as he hummed/yodeled. I gotta say though, his need to do that twang to his voice on some songs continues to be a little annoying. It isn’t him and it only distracts from the song.

Maybe the best parts of these shows are the stories. During Jesus was an Only Son, he would stop and a la VH1 Storytellers, would describe the next section of the song. He did it so naturally though; it felt like it was part of the song. He did 2 boarder crossing songs, The Line and Matamoras Banks. During the later he made his most political speech, asking for a humane immigration law. Matamoras Banks is sung in reverse chronological order, starting with the floating body in the river that never made it across the boarder. The only real shot he took at president Bush was his public unwillingness to agree that evolution happened. During these moments the crowd would try and applaud his words and he would stop them. “Nope, Nope, stop… don’t want to be preaching to choir” (something like that). He then went on to talk about the hate mail he received after the last set of shows; which he enjoyed receiving. His favorite was a box of his records and a dead chicken. He liked that one.

The sound at the Pantages was fantastic. His voice came through crystal clear. You could understand all of his stories without straining and it was actually easier to understand the lyrics on the new songs than when listening to the CD. What a fantastic evening.

The set list, courtesy of brucespringsteen.net (I believe the all cap songs are tour premiers):

1. MY BEAUTIFUL REWARD (on pump organ)
2. Reason to Believe
3. Devils and Dust
4. Youngstown
5. EMPTY SKY
6. Long Time Comin'
7. Silver Palomino
8. THE RIVER (on piano)
9. TOUGHER THAN THE REST (on piano)
10. Part Man, Part Monkey
11. ALL THE WAY HOME
12. THE LINE
13. Reno
14. Racing in the Street (on piano)
15. The Rising
16. Further On (Up the Road)
17. Jesus Was an Only Son (on piano)
18. Leah
19. The Hitter
20. Matamoras Banks

encore:
21. Johnny 99
22. If I Should Fall Behind (on guitar)
23. Waitin' on a Sunny Day (w/ Nils)
24. The Promised Land

Sunday, May 01, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Fergus McCormick – Jumping The Gun (2005) There is a lady named Ariel who sends me CDs from the artists that she represents; and boy can she pick ‘em. This is one of the best indie releases I’ve heard this year: Great melodies, good storytelling and well produced and arranged. His bio lists lots of artists who he may remind you of and I can’t argue with it. Check out this singer/songwriter yourself at www.fergusmccormick.org . You won’t be sorry.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Worlds Apart (2005) This alternative band is wonderfully unique and yet so accessible. There is a sense of humor to go along with the loud guitars and powerful rhythms throughout this CD.

Jorane – the You and the Now (2005) Not too long ago my Google alert for Kate Bush came up with an interview with a French Canadian singer/cellist who goes by the name Jorane. Having the cello as the main instrument was intriguing, but to also have her sound remind the writer of Kate Bush was enough to get me to check her out. What a beautiful unique CD this is. As you might guess, the bass line is the focus of this music. It is soft and moody and although she doesn’t “sound” like Kate Bush, her use of her voice as an instrument does remind you of how Kate works. This CD has been doing a good job of battling for CD player time with Bruce’s new one.

Bruce Springsteen – Devils and Dust (2005) After all the hype what really surprised me about this CD was how well arranged and produced it was: Not that Brendan O’Brien isn’t a good producer. It’s just that with all the comparisons to Tom Joad and Nebraska, I expected a more stripped down record. Most of the arrangements fill the room nicely without distracting from the power of his messages. Listening to this CD got me thinking: What if Bruce had worked with Brendan back in the early 90’s when he did those two solo CDs. Can you imagine how much better they might have been? Anyway, this will not disappoint Springsteen fans and those who don’t follow his music but love Americana singers might love this one also. And with some of the explicate lyrics, Bruce may finally be able to get some of his hero worshipers to see him as more human.

Glenn Tilbrook - Transatlantic Ping Pong (2004) Glenn, for those who don’t know, is half of the songwriting team that makes up Squeeze. He is the half with the Paul McCartney voice. The songs that he just sings purely; they soar. There are several on this, his latest CD. There are also a couple fun songs, including what someday may be a country classic: “Genitalia of a Fool”. If you are a Squeeze fan, you will enjoy this CD.

Maia Sharp – Fine Upstanding Citizen (2005) I saw Maia open for Bob Schneider a few years back and really enjoyed her set. This is the first CD of her’s that I’ve listened to and I really enjoyed it. There is great songwriting going on here with good melodies to carry the songs. The title track is a weird way to end this CD (and actually an interesting choice to name the CD after) but it is very funny and sad.

Los Lobos – How Will The Wolf Survive? (1984) The Wolf (Los Lobos) has survived very nicely, thank you. And so has this, their first major release, 20 plus years later. T-Bone Burnett produced this CD which stands to remind us that the L.A./Southern California sound was and is bilingual. What a great album.

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen