Wednesday, September 21, 2005

ACL Festival

I am in Austin for just under a week to soak in the music from the ACL Festival. We always start early with concerts at local clubs. Check out my ACL blog to see pictures and hear about performances. Go to: http://aclfestival.blogspot.com .

Monday, September 19, 2005

Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle at Royce Hall UCLA

The last few times I’ve seen Steve Earle, he has been with his band and it was a powerful and exhilarating experience from both a physical and intellectual standpoint. So, Sunday night at UCLA was going to be different. It was just Steve and his guitar (and harmonica). At the beginning he started in on a long rap, as he played a riff on his guitar about being a recovering folk singer. How exciting this would be, to get more stories out of him. As it turned out, he then proceeded to stick to the music and only told a handful of stories and only made a few speeches. The speeches got a mixed reaction from the crowd. It seemed that the first anti-war or anti-Bush comment was well received, but a couple of comments later, the applause was much lighter. And this happened several times. Anyone who thought this wasn’t going to be at least somewhat political had no clue about these guys. Both Steve and Kris have been activists for many years. Near the end, Steve pulled out… okay I need to stop here for a second and say, “I was right”. Back in February we saw Steve Earle and Allison Moorer performing. Allison sang several songs with Steve and his band. I commented to the people around me that there was something going on. I could see it in her eyes. My friends said, “Nooooo”. Well, seven months later she has ditched her husband and Steve introduced her as his wife. So, Steve pulled out his wife, Allison Moorer and they sang a song together. You could see the love in their eyes without doubt this night (we had 5th row… that helped). Most of the songs he sang were somewhat older, playing only one song from the current “Revolution” CD and the title track from Jerusalem. It was a very enjoyable show although a bit short and just not as powerful as when he has the band.

I really had no idea what to expect from Kris Kristofferson. We all know songs like “Me and Bobbie McGee” and a few others that have made it as hits, but that was about all I knew. Kris is a classic folk singer. That is, the words are what are important and the melody is, well, generally stolen from somewhere. In fact, at least 4 or 5 songs had bits of “Bobbie McGee” in them. To emphasize this point, and I’m not sure how intentional it is, but at the end of every song, as soon as he sang the last lyric, he would say “Thank you” and literally stop playing without hitting the final notes on the guitar. It was very annoying. But it left no doubt that he had things to say, words to bring to us. He may not be a John Prine, but he is way up there in this category, and if you can get past the basic arrangements, you will enjoy his shows. There were moments of humor too. He stopped a song mid way through to tell us that this line (“She had rings on her fingers and time on her hands”) was the best he had ever written and that it was so good, someone stole just that line and create a song from it. He also mentioned a movie that had some of his songs in it, but during the credits it said, “All songs written and performed by Willie Nelson”. This brought the comment (and I’m paraphrasing), “Songwriting is a great way to earn a living, but it isn’t for the meek”.

This Weeks Play List

Jose Gonzalez – Veneer (2005) The sticker on the CD describes him as Nick Drake with a Latin guitar. And, yep, that’s it. If you like Nick Drake, you must listen to this CD. It is beautiful and moving, with a sound that is both derivative and yet original. You can put this up front and listen carefully, or play it at your next dinner party and watch how people slowly notice the mood of the music. This is one helluva CD. http://www.jose-gonzalez.com

Eliza Gilkyson – Paradise Hotel (2005) Maybe the next queen of alt-country, this is really my first taste of Eliza; and she tastes very good. The arrangements are simple and yet very expressive. Her voice is so comforting. The songs bounce around between folk, country and straight forward singer/songwriter. And then she covers World Party’s “Is It Like Today”. The song, about God, the universe and everything, fits her songs so well. There is also a fascinating combination of her song Paradise Hotel with Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale”. http://www.redhouserecords.com/

Richard Thompson - Front Parlour Ballads (2005) It’s heavily acoustic, but that doesn’t matter. Richard Thompson is one of the great guitar players, acoustic or electric. And he is such a great storyteller, taking you into working class lives and revealing the pain and joy. I can listen to this CD over and over… and have already. http://www.richardthompson-music.com

James McMurtry – Childish Things (2005) Some good alt-country here; with a rockin’ edge. Another good CD for you all to listen to. http://www.jamesmcmurtry.com

Procol Harum – Classics Volume 17 (A Long Time Ago) So, you know that I’m going to segue A Whiter Shade of Pale and Eliza Gilkyson’s “Paradise Hotel”. I just have to. Procol Harum is one of the great bands in rock history. They moved between elegant (“A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador”) and rockin’ (“Simple Sister” and “Whisky Train”) then throwing in epic stories like “A Salty Dog”. Every so often I just have to put this CD on and let it take me back to a lost world.

Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs (1969) Long before Boz was the disco king (okay, I’m being rude here, but he was so friggin’ popular with the “dance” crowd back then), he was a great representative of the San Francisco blues/rock/funk scene. And listening to this CD for the first time in over 25 years, I found myself enjoying it more today then I did back in the 70’s. There was a driving reason for buying this CD though. I’ve been trying to find an inexpensive version of “Lone Me A Dime” for years. It is a classic blues rock piece that goes into double time at the end and features Duane Allman on some blazing solos. If you haven’t heard this classic, it is worth every penny.

Randy Newman – Little Criminals (1977) He is one of America’s great songwriters. And there is more this CD then the hit “Short People”. Songs like “Baltimore” get into your blood and change your DNA. It is that good.

Nuggets – Disk 4 (1998) This 4 CD set should be required listening for anyone who wants to tag “Rock and roll fan” on to their profile. The two LP set was expanded by Rhino into an amazing collection of music. Hmmm, okay, I’ve probably mention this 3 times before. Enough said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Catching up on Concerts and stuff

It has been a very busy month so far. I am behind on concerts. I am behind on updating the play list. And it isn't going to get better. Next week I leave for Austin for the Austin City Limits Music Festival; Friday September 23rd thru 25th. As in previous years, I will be writing about the shows and posting pictures. You will be able to find these at http://aclfestival.blogspot.com . Meanwhile, here are a couple of mini concert reviews of Jill Sobule and Lucinda Williams.

Last week I saw Jill Sobule at Largo. Yep another Jill Sobule concert. Jill wasn’t 100% this time. Either tired or distracted, it took awhile for her to kick it into gear. She also forgot a couple of lines from songs. But you gotta love the way she deals with it: “Wait, can I start over?” she asks the crowd. She is so cute. The opening band, which included Dave Carpenter on upright bass joined her on several songs, giving her a full band for the first time in awhile. It was another fun show. We’ll probably go back in October when the next show is announced.

Last Saturday we saw Lucinda Williams. It was a last minute decision and so we had pretty mediocre seats (it didn’t help that we needed 5 seats together). CC Adcock was the opening act and I enjoyed him a lot (although that wasn’t a unanimous decision within my party). It was just him and a stand up bass player who spent most of the show bent over playing the bass almost parallel to the ground. He also had I believe something attached to his hand to hit the body of the bass with to give them a percussion sound. The sound of the two of them was sort of a Cajun mellow Violent Femmes (again I had trouble getting my friends to agree with me on this). I bought his CD and will post about it later.

Lucinda Williams was not the Lucinda we saw in Austin 2 years ago. In fact she wasn’t even the Lucinda I listened to on her new Live in Austin CD. This was a happy Lucinda; a sharing, giving Lucinda. Many of the songs came with stories about who or what influenced the song. Many influences were famous people and the crowd acknowledged them with applause. The largest applause came when she mentioned Paul Westerberg; very unexpected. But it made sense when she thanked the crowd (which she did several times) and said that she loved this crowd because they accepted both her “straight country” and rock and roll songs. I wish we were up closer for this show. It would have been nice to see the “good” Lucinda up close like we saw the “bad” Lucinda two years ago. She played for about 2.5 hours. I found a song list online so I’ll pass it on:

MAIN SET: (1) Ventura; (2) Fruits of My Labor; (3) Those Three Days; (4) Metal Firecracker; (5) Jailhouse Tears; (6) Pineola; (7) Still I Long for Your Kiss; (8) 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten; (9) Where Is My Love? (10) Righteously; (11) Knowing; (12) Changed the Locks; (13) Come On; (14) Essence; (15) Bleeding Fingers; (16) Joy; FIRST ENCORE: (17) Lake Charles; (18) Crescent City; (19) Bus to Baton Rouge; (20) Well, Well, Well; (21) Get Right With God; SECOND ENCORE: (22) Unsuffer Me; (23) American Dream; (24) West.

Monday, September 05, 2005

This Weeks Play List

This Weeks Play List September 5 2005

Just one addition this week, but there is always lots of new music to listen to on The Promise…

Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005) A thank you to Jeanne for turning me on to this band. I love the dark places these guys take me. And at the same time, the melodies put a smile on your face. It’s a great combination that you just don’t see enough these days. The song that really hooked me was, “I will follow you into the dark”, a tale that is half love song half suicide pact and totally beautiful. I have to find a way to see them when I am in Austin later this month. You can get more info on them at http://www.deathcabforcutie.com .

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Red Cross Support at CD Baby

CD Baby, my favorite Internet only music store, has gotten together with many of the independent artists they support to donate all proceeds from the sales of their CDs to the Red Cross for hurricane relief. So, buy some music and support the relief effort. Here is the link: http://www.cdbaby.com/group/redcross

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