Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Kate Bush CD

Reuters is reporting that Kate Bush, after a 12 year hiatus will be releasing a double CD called "Aerial" on November 8th in the U.S. (November 7th in the U.K.). It is going to be a long 69 days. :-)

Monday, August 29, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Jon Dee Graham – First Bear On The Moon (2005) This is a quickly thrown together release; part revenge, part gotta pay the rent. But, it is Jon Dee Graham and he is fabulous. 5 of the 8 songs are originally from previous CDs and were recorded from a radio broadcast made on the day of, “King George’s coronation”. There are 3 new songs. “Best” and “Betrayed” are very good. I’m not sure about “Jesus of the Freeway”. It’s a strange song, and I’m not really sure what he was going for here. 7 out of 8 is a good ratio, and if you like Jon’s music, do check it out. http://www.jondeegraham.com/

Bill Bryant – drawn from memory (2005) This is a beautiful CD. Bill is an independent artist who writes soft but soul searching songs. He is somewhere between country and folk with a voice that reminds one a bit of James Taylor. http://www.billbryantmusic.com

Various artists - This is Americana – This compilation of “Americana Music” has a little something for everyone: Country, bluegrass, and alt-country. If you were thinking of listening to some of the better bands in this area, this is a great place to start. You will find music from: Tift Merritt, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Alison Krauss, The Jayhawks, Anne McCue, Rosanne Cash, Fairfax, Jay Farrar, Shelby Lynne, Lori McKenna, Lucinda Williams and more. And it’s cheap. I think I paid a buck for it in Austin last year.

The Tom Collins – daylight tonight (2005) This is just good old rock and roll: Led Zep meets the Black Crows. This is the perfect example of how rock and roll is not dead. It’s a good solid album and it deserves your attention. http://www.thetomcollins.com

Anemo – Alanis meets Kate Bush? No, that’s not really fair. This band has a modern style and their vocalist at times sounds like both ladies. But they really do not sound like anyone that I know of. Okay, that’s not exactly right either. “Who Will You” reminds me a lot of Alanis. But that’s not a bad thing, is it? They sent me some mp3s, and I don’t have a lot of info about them. But, they have some nice hooks and I’ve enjoyed the songs I’ve heard. You can get more info at their web site: http://www.anemo.co.uk

Lyle Lovett – Pontiac (1987) What a classic CD this is. It is fun and funny and it constantly is making you tap your foot. I love it!

John Hiatt – Perfectly Good Guitar (1993) I remember September 7 1993 like it was yesterday. PGG had just been released, but I didn’t have time to buy it and make it to John’s performance at the Coach House that night. During the show that evening he played most of the songs from this brand new CD. I loved every one of them immediately. It is so rare in rock and roll to have that kind of moment.

Poi Dog Pondering – Volo Volo (1992) Rock and Roll has always been a regional business. Outside of breakout hits, most bands have followings in different areas, and are unheard of in others. You would think that with the power of the Internet, things would change; and to some degree they have. As the large labels continue to dump artists in record numbers, the small labels, which are filling up the cracks in the system, can’t afford to give strong national support. So, the regional nature of rock and roll continues. Poi Dog, which has a strong base in Austin and Chicago came to me through friends I’ve met on the Internet who live in Chicago and Santa Fe. With their unique sound and fascinating arrangements this is an exciting band to listen to. I wish more people could hear them. I understand this was their last CD before major lineup changes and a move to Chicago. I must say, I really like the Austin version of this band.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

ACL Festival snubbing Austinites

I’ve been wondering aloud for months and now I’ve got a rumor to hold on to. According to an informed source, the owners of the Austin City Limits Music Festival have given the local musicians an ultimatum: Play for free or buy a ticket and watch the show. One of the great draws for people outside of Austin is the chance to hear music from one of the riches sources of music in the country. I can go to a dozen cities around the country to see Arcade Fire and Widespread Panic. I don’t need to fly to Austin. On the other hand, the producers of the show are thinking that these local bands are getting lots of publicity and it should be worth playing for free. This is a truly symbiotic relationship and I hope they work this out next year. Otherwise, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep going.

Alejandro Escovedo live at the Casbah in San Diego

I’ve been waiting a good 2 years to see Alejandro, and with Deb turning me on to Jon Dee Graham, the anticipation was almost unbearable. But we made it through the evening, and oh what an evening it was…

If you haven’t been to the Casbah, it’s pretty much like all of the other small clubs; fairly clean, minimal number of seats and a small stage. The sound was actually pretty good, except for a buzz that never really went away (or was that me?). The bathrooms… They should make the owners of these clubs use their own bathrooms. Whatever.

Up first was a surprise guest, Mario Escovedo; Alejandro’s younger brother. Actually he’s the baby (13th of 13). Dumping the band concept, he has been doing the singer/songwriter thing pretty much since their father died last year. The problem is that even though you can hear Alejandro’s voice in his voice, Mario does not have the power or range. He was determined though to not let that stop him. Some of the songs were well written and well song, but others caused him to go outside his limits and I don’t really think he succeeded. He did both new and old songs. It was the older ones that had the most trouble being translated to this new format. One of the more interesting aspects of the show was the little brother’s willingness to talk about his older brother (called “Coach” by those who know him). His stories about hanging in Austin with Coach led Jon to later throw his two cents in, saying: “That’s one of his meanest tricks. Five minutes before the show he’ll look at you and say, ‘You’re going to wear THAT?’”.

After Mario’s show, this older guy steps up on the stage in a cheap suit that really needed to be ironed. Oh my… that’s Jon Dee Graham, isn’t it. With just an acoustic guitar and gravelly powerful voice, Jon held most of us in the audience in awe for the 30 or 40 minutes he was on stage. His great melodies, stellar guitar playing and self deprecating sense of humor (“I feel really stupid playing solos when there are no other instruments playing”) were intoxicating. At the end of the show he begged us, really, he begged us to buy his CDs. “If you buy 2 CDs I can have breakfast tomorrow. If you buy 15 CDs I’ll be able to renew my prescription, which makes me a lot easier to get along with on the bus”. This need for money may have to do with his falling out with his current record label. He was so upset with them, he put together a CD of 8 songs (3 new, 5 live songs from the last 3 CDs) and is pushing that at the shows partially to spite them. So, if you don’t have “First Bear On The Moon”, it should be available at Amazon. Maybe the highlight of the show came a few songs in, when, unable to deal with two idiots at the bar (friends of Mario’s it turned out), he walked to the side of the stage and said, “Hey! Hey! Guys, if you need to keep talking, you can take your drinks outside”. That earned him a big applause from the crowd, because you could hear these two talking all the way across the room.

At about 11pm, Alejandro and band took the stage. Maybe the right word is “covered” the stage. The 7 piece band (Alejandro on guitars, Jon on lead guitar and slide, bass, drums, keyboards, cello and violin) barely fit. I kept waiting for Susan, the violinist to poke the bass player in the eye. And the sound! I really wasn’t expecting it to be that powerful, but when all 7 of them start rocking, the place exploded with energy. If this had been a full house (only about 100 or so showed up making the club about half full) I swear there won’t have been enough fans to cool us down from the energy generated. When you add together his unique songs, great jams (man can Jon play slide guitar!) and amazing arrangements you end up with a one of my club highlights of the year. I never saw him before he got sick, so I can’t compare it. But I can’t believe he was any more powerful than last night. There were plenty of highlights; including a potent version of “With These Hands” and 2 new songs (the producer of the next CD is going to be none other than John Cale). I love the new songs; classic Alejandro stuff. They played about 1 hours and 50 minutes, closing with some covers including “All the Young Dudes” (Ian Hunter and Alejandro have a mutual admiration society going) and I believe a Neil Young song. This was well worth getting home at 2am and being up at 7am to go to work.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin Live at the House of Blues Anaheim

Okay, so let’s pretend you are a singer/songwriter and you find yourself at the Hiatt/Colvin show with a to-do list in your hand. What would the short list be? Hmmmm…

  1. Pick up the guitar and don’t let go for, uhmmm, I don’t know, 5… 6 years? Watching Shawn play with her elegance and sophistication and with such ease should make most young singer/songwriters decide to switch to piano. Now, if they go see Ben Folds then they’re in real trouble. John is no slouch either on guitar, ripping off acoustic leads like he’s holding a machine gun. But Shawn just makes it look so easy.
  2. Take voice lessons. Better yet, get someone else to sing the songs. Shawn has a beautiful voice. And John… well, some brilliant DJ/PD (was it on KSCA or WCR?) once played Don Henley’s version of “Through Your Hands” back to back with John’s (I think it was one of those A-Z things). There was no comparison. John has this wonderfully soulful voice that is so full of emotion.
  3. Take some songwriting classes, ‘cause these are two of the best.
  4. Get a stronger anti-depressant, ‘cause you just ain’t that good.

So Shawn comes out with her guitar and beret and funky clothing and wows this, I’d say, 70% Hiatt audience. She came to work and must have gone a good 15 to 20 minutes before deciding to have a long chat with the audience. She once again told the story about her touring Europe with Suzanne Vega; segueing into “Polaroids”. But she also came up with a 4 year old story about going to Disneyland that I hadn’t heard before. It probably had something to do with the show being in Downtown Disney and her daughter running on the stage to chat with her. Her daughter later went into the audience and then climbed onto the stage, leading to my favorite line of the evening: “Where is that nanny we hired off the street this morning to watch you?” Musically it was a typical set that lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. But, about two thirds of the way through the set she blessed us with 3 new songs. For those setting your timers, move it forward six months. February is the planned release date of her next CD. The new songs sounded really good. She said it is going to be a very downbeat CD and 2 of the 3 songs fit that mold. She finished her set off with “Killing the Blues” and then “Round of Blues”, but saved the big highlight for the encore: “Four Seasons in One Day”. It was magnificent.

I haven’t seen John Hiatt solo in many many years. He is truly one of America’s great songwriters. And he proved it, not by going back and playing his best songs, but by focusing on the where he is today. It was a good hour into the set before he dipped back into his prime years (1987-1990). Thinking back, he may have slipped one in (I think he performed “Your Dad Did” during the first half), but the first hour was all about the current Hiatt; including lots of songs from the new “Master of Disaster” CD, and the not too old “Crossing Muddy Waters” and “The Tiki Bar is Open”. Although I enjoyed the “Master of Disaster” CD, the live renditions along with the stories behind them, made me want to go back and listen to it again; as John might say, “With new ears”. The second half of the set mixed songs from 1987 and beyond. As the set neared its end, he moved to the piano where you have no choice but to be moved. I believe he is at his most soulful when playing it. He, of course did “Through Your Hands” at the end of this section and closed off the show with “Slow Turning”, which, as always, brought the house down. One of the highlights of the evening was his story about pulling off to the side of the road and watching the space shuttle launch, only to later learn that “Perfectly Good Guitar” was onboard. It turns out that the crew loved “Blue Telescope”; the only song he played on electric guitar this night. John played for almost 2 hours, and if it wasn’t for the pain in my feet from standing, it would have felt like 10 minutes. This was one of those rare evenings were we all (Me, Maria, Susie and her friend, and Shawn’s greatest fan… I can’t remember her name, but she has only been to two concerts since her breast cancer started. And yes, both were Colvin shows) easily got our money’s worth. 1 twisted catholic boy (“it never leaves you”) plus 1 depressed Austinite equals a very happy nearly full HOB.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Shelby Lynne and Bob Schneider Live at the Avalon

Or is it Bob Schneider and Shelby Lynne? Ticketmaster showed Shelby first. The tickets had Shelby on top. So we were very surprised when Shelby walked out on stage first. I’m not sure if she was responding to someone in the audience but she said, “We had a fight and obviously HE won”. With that Shelby and her 3 piece band kicked it into high gear. This was more of a rock and roll show than the one we saw in Austin last year. In fact, the cowboy hat wearing cowgirl was now a work shirt, beret wearing rocker. I got the feeling though that she was not happy about being on first and to reflect it there was this constant and a bit annoying thanking/pointing to the other members of the band after each song. It seemed very insincere. Maybe it was a message to L.A. Whatever, it was all a bit weird. The band stuck mainly to music from the last 2 CDs, but whenever Shelby dug a little deeper, she got thunderous applause from the very small crowd (I was told they were only expecting 300 people). The set did slow down from time to time, but this was not a country set by any stretch of the imagination. Ben, her slide/lead guitar player was wonderful. I last saw him adding amazing sounds to Gary Jules band. Hopefully Gary used him in the studio this year. The band played for about an hour and then went off without an encore.

So the interesting question was: Is this Shelby’s crowd or Bob’s? Very few people left when Bob and the Lonelyland band stepped on stage (to the music of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood). And as they cranked up and crunched out an old Scabs tune, there was no doubt that they owned the place. This was a very straightforward show (maybe because they only played for an hour and a half). Bob kept it very professional (well as professionally as Bob can). That’s not to say that the band can’t play. Sometimes they are just too loose and the song selection is way out there. Bob also has a tendency to throw away lyrics. He sang the songs much straighter tonight. The new guitar player, Jeff Plankenhorn, did a great job on guitar. I don’t believe he was given as many solos as Billy, but he made the most of the ones he got.

The highlight for the evening was a version of “Under My Skin” that I had never heard before. Bob loves to change the style of songs. The original has an upbeat Tom Waits sound to it. This version though was a slow, sultry almost blues style. It was amazing.

The closing song was a new one: “Sons of Ralph”. It’s, uhmmm, a pirate song. It’s basically a list of all the disgusting things we do as the Sons of Ralph. It’s a sing-a-long of course.

In between, were lots of songs from the latest CD and several from Lonelyland. It was a focused and well performed show.

This was my first trip to the Avalon. It is a cool open theater with benches and couches for the privileged few around the outside and upstairs. The rest of us low life sat on the steps leading onto the dance floor. The sound was barely okay, with too much distortion to give it a thumbs up. AND they wouldn’t allow Bob to record and sell his CDs, so I had no copy of the show to take home. That sucked. If you haven’t been to the Avalon, just expect a bigger House of Blues, without the gift shop and restaurant.

This Weeks Play List

Without Gravity – Tenderfoot (2005) For the second week in a row I’m going to rave about a CD; putting it on my early best of year list. The first song to get me hooked was “Country”, which takes some of its melody from Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”, but then takes off in its own beautiful direction. The rest of the CD is closer to Damian Rice then it is to Traffic. This CD has already clocked plenty of time on my player. Maybe the best band from Iceland since… Do check it out. http://www.withoutgravity.net .

KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 2 (1994) I’m not sure if this is my favorite, but is sure was the most expensive to buy (don’t even ask). How could I let it get away, what with a rare Sam Phillips performance on it; not to mention Crowded House doing “Fall At Your Feet”. All of these CDs can be found on ebay.com, but don't expect to find this one easily. For some reason it is the rarest of them all.

Grey Eye Glances – A Little Voodoo (2002) Some time ago a listener was bugging me to check these guys out. He said he was close to the band and to write them and they would send me some music. I did, they didn’t and I pretty much forgot them until I came across their CD a year later and decided to give it a try. Sorry, no amazing story here. I enjoyed parts of the CD. Maybe my expectations were too high. I will play my favorites from this CD and let you all decide. If you really like them, check out their web site, http://greyeyeglances.com or look up their stream on Live365.com .

Jill Sobule – Happy Town (1997) I’m continuing my look back at older Jill Sobule material. Happy Town was her follow up to her self titled CD and the hit, “I Kissed a Girl”. And it continues with the great songwriting, wry lyrics and clever stories that have been her trademark for the last 10 years. Many of these songs can be heard in her current performances. If you live in or around Los Angeles, she is playing pretty much every month at Largo, http://www.largo-la.com . And of course her web site is http://www.jillsobule.com .

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Jill Sobule at Largo - August 9th


Yep, another evening of Jill Sobule. With her “no set list” approach to concerts, every evening is different. Tuesday night did not disappoint. Jill wasn’t as uhmmm, hyper as last month, but there is always plenty of energy at her shows. The theme this show, and there was really a theme this time, were women she knew in her life: Margaret, Karen, and a few others I can’t remember. It was a fun set. Late in the show she unplugged, totally, went out into the audience and sang 4 or 5 songs. She later told me her voice was a bit roughed up because of that. It was all fun and, well, typical Jill. Although I didn’t find my way onstage, I got two requests in: “Kathy Lee” (which she is threatening to retire) and “I saw a cop”. Actually, she didn’t finish “Kathy Lee” and skipped a verse in “I saw a cop”. But it was good enough. Jess again drew here. There are two good pictures coming, but this is a scan of Jill sitting right next to us during the audience portion of the show.

Opening the show was Tom Brosseau. I have seen him several times; opening for Jill and also Sam Phillips. He has a beautiful voice with a Roy Orbison falsetto that is breathtaking. His songs are really poems. It is hard to follow them though. Maybe a lyric sheet would make the songs more meaningful. Generally, I just get lost in his voice and lose track of the lyrics altogether. He actually joked around a bit during this show, doing a bit of a white folk version of a NWA song.

Monday, August 08, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Tina Schlieske – Slow Burn (2005) This is one of those “Wow” CDs. Names like Joan Osborne, Shelby Lynne, Bonnie Raitt and even Cher come to mind; and that’s just her voice. The music is a little bit blues, a little bit rock with a touch of country. It is very well produced with good solid songwriting. Inside the CD it says that it was recorded on a shoestring with plenty of alcohol and we are to play it loud. If it really was a shoestring it sure doesn’t sound like it. And there is no alcoholic sloppiness here. As to playing it loud, now that is a good suggestion. On my short list for CD of the year. You can find out more about Tina at: http://www.tinaschlieske.com

Jill Sobule – Things Here Are Different (1990) Long before Jill sang “I Kissed a Girl”, making her a star (at least at all the lesbian gatherings), she released this Todd Rundgren produced CD. There are still remnants of the ‘80s here, but not enough to cover up the beginnings of a great songwriter. None of the songs here are at that level where they just don’t let go of you, like… uhmmm, well, just about everything else she has released. But there are some good songs here. One song that has been haunting me is called “Pilar (Things Here are Different)”. It is about the lack of freedom that women have in Spain: A very moving song. This CD can be had cheap at Amazon.com and is so worth it. And Jill has one of the more fun/useful sites online at http://www.jillsobule.com .

Chad Jasmine – The Greatest of Ease (1999) Paul turned me on to this guy, and, well, I’m not sure what to say. This is a fascinating CD and I need to listen to it more. But I listened long enough to know that it belongs on The Promise. http://www.chadjasmine.net .

Southern Culture On The Skids – Plastic Seat Sweat (1997) What can I say… I just gotta put some SCOTS on every so often. A redneck B52s, the SCOTS are just all about fun. And on that level, they always succeed. http://www.scots.com .

A3 – Exile on Coldharbour Lane (1998) There is so muich more to A3 than just the group that sings the theme song for The Sopranos. Hell, there is so much more to “Woke Up This Morning” than the part you hear on the Sopranos. I don’t play a lot of techno on The Promise, but A3 is an exception. With songs like “U Don’t Dance 2 Techno Anymore”, a song about a girl who ODs in front of the DJ at a rave, A3 combines techno, house, blues, gospel and country sometimes all in one song. And there is power behind the messages, which goes along nicely with the power of the beat. http://www.alabama3.co.uk/

Monday, August 01, 2005

This Weeks Play List

Some stories and ramblings to go along with the song list this week. Enjoy…

Waterline – Long Goners (2005) I only have a couple of songs from this CD. Chris who is half of the due that makes up the core of this band was kind enough to send a couple of mp3s to me. The backup band for this CD is The Goners, often John Hiatt’s band over the last decade, and featuring the great Sonny Landreth on slide guitar. These two songs are pretty hot. I’m going to have to check out the rest of the CD. For more info you can go to http://www.waterlinemusic.com

Lucinda Williams – Live at the Fillmore (2005) Make sure you have your anti-depressants handy when you put this CD into your player. There may be no voice in rock right now that so conveys the heartbreak and pain the way Lucinda’s does. As potent as her studio recordings are, this 2 CD set just burns all the way through.

Gomez – Out West (2005) One of the highlights from the ACL Festival last year was the hour long set by Gomez. I’ve always enjoyed their CDs, but really loved their live set. And this 2 CD package is not a disappointment. There’s lots of energy from this very talented band.

KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 8 (2000) There isn’t a live radio collection that is as consistently as good as the KGSR recordings. They are released every year around November and I always wait with anticipation for my copy. They are all 2 CD sets except for the first one (a single CD) and this one (a triple CD!). The third CD in this set is actually a best of from the first 7 years plus a tribute to Jerry Reed from Eric Johnson. As always, there are too many great performances to mention. Everyone from Patti Smith to Bruce Cockburn is on these CDs with lots of Austinites like Patty Griffin, Alejandro Escovedo and Bob Schneider. All of the KGSR CDs find their way onto to Ebay on a regular basis, if you need to add to your collection. And the next CD will be available online at http://www.waterloorecords.com .

Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge (1988) A bunch of years back, I put Melissa’s music away. It had hit too close to home and was just too painful to listen to. Over the years I’ve continued to see her in concert and listen to her new music. Last week, for the first time in years, I play this CD. From the opening bass and drums of “Similar Features”, the shivers started. This is one of those great freshman CDs; and it has lost nothing with time.

This seems like a good time to tell my Melissa story. It was a few years back. I was in San Diego with my friend Kim and we had pit seats for Melissa. I was one of maybe 3 guys in the pit (I think they were guys) and Kim and I were having a great time enjoying the show. There was a segment of the show when Melissa took requests. Everyone who had been going to the shows knew when it was (Kim saw her up and down the coast that year). As that moment came near, Kim turned to me and said, “Born to Run”! Yes! What a great idea, we’ll yell that out together. And so we did. But Melissa didn’t hear. But the people around us did and thought it was a great idea (in case you didn’t know, when Melissa did her unplugged on MTV, Springsteen came on stage with her and sang “Thunder Road”). And so a group of strangers around us started yelling “Bruuuuuuuuce”. That caught Melissa’s attention. She came over toward us and said, “What”? We yelled “Born to Run” and Melissa said the following: “ Oh, I see. It is always the boyfriends and husbands. They think, I have to sit through this music. The least she can do is play some Bruce.” Then she looks right at us, points and says, “Well, it ain’t gonna happen”. Then she goes to the other side of the stage and takes a request from someone else. So, Melissa, if you ever read this, you were wrong and you owe us all a Springsteen song. :-) Okay, back to the music.

The Devlins – Waiting (1997) Like so many other people, I discovered The Devlins when I watched the first (or was it second) episode of Six Feet Under on HBO. The closing song for that episode, “Waiting”, was so powerful, that it haunted me for months. Finally the Six Feet Under CD came out and I was able to enjoy this song over and over and over… The full CD, which I recently picked up has a different mix for “Waiting”. Maybe not as good, but it is still a very powerful song. The rest of the CD is good but not nearly as potent. It is very spiritual and this leads to a quandary for me. I guess it is time for a little talk…

Some people may be under the mistaken impression that this stream called The Promise has some religious significance. Apparently there are Christian references on the Internet to the words “the promise”. Well, truthfully, I had no idea when I picked this name. Hey, I’m Jewish, how would I know. But I love that the title can have so many different meanings to people. And that is why I picked it. Its real meaning for me dates back to September 1999. I was at Staples Center in L.A. along with 20,000 of my closest friends to see The Boss. Part way through his set, the E Street Band left the stage and Bruce climbed onto the piano bench to give us a valentine; a song I don’t believe he had ever performed west of the Rockies: The Promise. At that time the box set hadn’t been released and this was such a rare song that it took awhile before we recognized it (the acoustics at Staples suck during softer moments). I’ve been totally in love with the song ever since. And so, when I started this station, it was an obvious choice for a name. There are other reasons for the name, but I’ll leave those for another time. Meanwhile, I’ve ended up playing some spiritual music from time to time. It is weird for me ‘cause I don’t want people to see the station that way, but when music is real good, I’ve just gotta play it. And so I play The Scabs to try and counterbalance things. :-)

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