Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Los Lobos and The Lowrider Band at the Anaheim House of Blues

One last concert before years end. Actually it was only my second concert since ACL. How could that happen? And now after all these years, I'm going to see Los Lobos. Twice I've had tickets and had to sell them. Twice, they have been at ACL and I ended up at another stage. And so finally, on a beautiful Southern California post Christmas night, we squeezed into the House of Blues to see this now legendary band.

"Who is the opening band", Maria asked me. I had no idea. So, I was really surprised when Cesar came out and not only introduced them, but called them the band that had the largest influence on Los Lobos. And so, these old guys come out and start to play some of their songs. You know where this is going, don't you? Maybe you've heard some of their songs: The Cisco Kid, The World is a Ghetto, Why Can't We Be Friends, Slipping Into Darkness and of course Low Rider. Yep, they are most of what was once called War, the funk band that backed Eric Burdon for a time and produced another hit, "Spill the Wine". Their producer/agent owns the name War now and so the keyboardist (probably the least interesting part of the band) is now touring as War. Now, back in the 70's, I knew all of this music because radio played it. But I was more interested in prog rock or folk rock. I really didn't know much about them. So, seeing these guys perform for the first time was a real treat. The first thing you notice right off is that Lee Oskar's harmonica playing is out of this world. He is easily one of the greats and his jams were amazing. The rest of the band loved jamming too and so what you have here is a funk jam band. Loved it. They played all of the hits during their hour set, but they were all fresh because of the free form style. They had the whole place bouncing and singing along. What a treat.

Los Lobos is going to have to pull out all of the stops if they are going to compete. After about a 30 minute wait, out they come, playing a mid tempo song that David had to use a cheat sheet for to remember the lyrics. And then they kicked it into gear, digging back into the 80's for some rockabilly and never letting up the rest of the night. But the real fun didn't start until about a half hour into the show when they played a song that was inspired by the late great James Brown. It was sort of a blues number but with THAT energy. Joining them was Lee Oskar and the sax player. Lee pretty much stayed on stage for the rest of the night as Los Lobos jammed their way through a wide selection of music. What a band they are, playing all forms of rock including blues and rockabilly and then all forms for Latino music; from sambas to mambas to polkas to boleros. It was an amazing blend of music. And how interesting it was to hear harmonica during a bolero. Also joining LL on stage was blues singer Willie G, who among other things, led them in a fun cover of JB's "I Feel Good". 100 minutes later it was all over. What a night. I have to add this to my list of best concerts of the year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Play List Update for December

Paolo Nutini – Live Sessions (2006)
We so enjoyed this young Irish lad at ACL this year. These live performances are just a hint of the potential. Can’t wait to hear more.

Minibar – Desert After Rain (2006)
These guys continue to churn out great music. When their last CD came out it reminded me of the days when record stores would have a guaranteed sale (if you don’t like this CD, bring it back for a full refund). It was that good. “Desert” continues the quality rock songwriting. Find out more at http://www.minibarfans.com .

One Foot In – Songbook (2006)
Thank God there is the term “Americana”, ‘cause there is no other way to describe these guys. Touching on blues, country, and an assortment of Americana sub genres, One Foot In makes it all work. Looking forward to seeing this OC band live someday. http://www.onefootin.com

Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)
A Strange, beautiful, exotic brew is stirred around here, creating easily 2006’s most unusually good release. Joanna, on harp has added strings arranged by Van Dyke Parks. What a brilliant touch.

Thea Gilmore – Harpo’s Ghost (2006)
This was high on my list for best CDs of the year long before the final track came round. It’s one of those CDs where words do not do it justice. It’s got it all: Great lyrics, excellent production, wonderful melodies. I probably overuse that last line, but whenever a CD grabs me like this, it is those three things. Oh, and yes, she can sing! A thank you goes out to Geoff (you know who you are) who tried to tell me about Thea.

Joan Osborne – Pretty Little Stranger (2006)
Joan has the “First CD Curse”. When that first amazing CD comes out, you end up comparing everything else to it. And “Relish”, released some 10 years ago, was one of those great CDs. It isn’t fair to compare; but it is hard not to. “Pretty Little Stranger” is probably her best CD since that amazing CD. Her voice is still there, although generally subdued. There are only one or two vocal explosions. But that’s okay. This is a softer CD and the songwriting (both hers and her covers) carries it. The CD was recorded in Nashville, and so yes, I’d call this an alt country CD. What a surprise to hear how nicely Joan fits into that genre. I loved this CD and had I thought about it more I would have probably put it in my best female category for this year. Her web page is pretty basic, so check out her Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/joanosborne .

Julian Coryell – Undercovers (2006)
I am dying to hear new original music from Julian, but it looks like that is going to have to wait a little longer. Meanwhile, anyone who has seen him perform knows that he loves to play covers. I was told by a friend of his that he knows every rock and roll song ever written. I believe it. He is a great guitar player, arranger, singer and overall nice guy (based on one fascinating meeting we had outside the Hotel Café one night). And so it is a natural for him to do a covers CD. This is a very simple production with Julian on keyboards, guitar and drum machine and a couple of bass players thrown in. What really stands out are his selections. It is surprisingly very 70’s with covers of Led Zep, ELO, Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake, Elvis Costello and Emmit Rhodes. But not necessarily the songs you’d think. Right now, my favorite is probably “Visions” by Stevie Wonder. It is just so beautiful. But listen for yourself. You can pick this CD up at CDBaby, http://cdbaby.com/cd/juliancoryell2 or check out his Myspace site: http://www.myspace.com/juliancoryell .

Tom Waits – Orphans (2006)
This is no ordinary “odds and ends” CD/Box. The first two CDs are filled with gems, most of which I’d never heard before but fell in love with immediately. The third CD is a bit stranger (well, it is Tom Waits after all) with some spoken word stuff and bits of weirdness. It is a must have for your collection. Well worth the thirty plus dollars.

T Bone Burnett – Twenty Twenty (2006)
Forty songs spanning T Bone’s entire career (which includes the CD of new music he released on the same day). Not a bad song among them. No. That’s not right. Every song is a standout. And for those of you who love the story behind the song, each song has a little blurb written about it in the accompanying book (a good reason to actually buy the CD instead of going through ITunes). This is one of my favorite CDs of the year. It was a wonderful couple of hours catching up on the sections of T Bone’s career I missed the first time around.

Elizabeth & the Catapult – Elizabeth & the Catapult (2006)
I love when jazz and rock are combined and Elizabeth and band are doing just that in this exciting EP. The self titled CD contains 5 songs, each driven by jazz lines and Elizabeth Ziman’s beautiful voice. Is it rock or is it jazz? Who cares! I want to catch the next plane to the east coast and check these guys out live. http://www.elizabethandthecatapult.com

Broadcasts Vol. 14 – KGSR (2006)
What is there to say here? Every year KGSR puts out the best live radio CD in the country; maybe the world. How can you lose when you are one of the best radio stations around playing music in one of the best music cities on earth and the CDs are being sold at one of the best music stores in the universe? If there are any of these limited release CDs left, you will find them at http://www.waterloorecords.com . Okay, I’ll list some names for those of you who aren’t convinced yet: Death Cab for Cutie, Nickel Creek, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Kathleen Edwards, Beth Orton, Spoon, David Gray, Brandi Carlile, World Party, Billy Bragg, KT Tunstall, James McMurtry, Teddy Thompson, Rosanne Cash, Alejandro Escovedo, Alexi Murdoch, Shawn Colvin, Eliza Gilkyson (and there are still 19 more!).

JJ Baron – Brand New Stranger (2005)
Americana with a rock edge. I was re-listening to this CD today and realized that it fits so comfortably into everything else I’m listening to these days. CDs like this give me faith that as the large record companies crumble, the music will survive. Check out JJ at http://www.jjbaron.com .

Spottiswoode & McMahon – S&M (2006)
Spottiswoode has some strange friends, but we knew that. Although there may be some kinky sex going on here, S&M is really about people; strange, unusual people. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s the point. The whole CD has a very European sound which is perfect when dealing in the depravities chronicled here. http://www.spottiswoode.com

Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten the Hatches (2005)
This is more than a one song CD, but still, there is one really hot song on this CD that stands out. It’s called “F*ck Was I” and I can’t help but think about those old V-8 commercials, “I could have had a V-8”. You get the point. But after you’ve listened to it a few dozen times you’ll be ready to eat up the rest of this young singer/songwriter’s music. http://www.jennyowenyoungs.com

Guster – Ganging Up on the Sun (2006)
These guys know how to make a song sing. It is somewhere between modern rock and just pure pop music. Every CD sounds great.

The Little Willies – The Little Willies (2006)
This is Norah Jones’ country side project. It is a fun trip south made perfect with the hilarious story of seeing Lou Reed cow tipping called “Lou Reed”.

Favorites of 2006

Favorites of 2006
I’m not arrogant enough to a make a best of list. These are just my favorites. So here are my lists. I’m sure I forgot some stuff and there is still music I haven’t listened to yet (like The Pernice Brothers – Live a Little). Enjoy…

Favorite Female Artist
These three women really stood out for me this year. Jenny’s CD was amazing. It is rare that you see so deep into one’s soul. Lyrically one of the best this year. With Tina and Thea, I fell in love with their CDs by song 3. Great songs, great melodies, great production. Just perfect.

Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Tina Dico – In The Red
Thea Gilmore – Harpo’s Ghost

Favorite Male Artist
I first saw Willie at a benefit for Light of Day and loved “cell phones in the pockets of the dead”. A great mix of messages and rock and roll. Phil Roy’s follow up doesn’t have “melt”, but not a bad song on it. Alexi’s CD was worth the wait. T Bone… Just read the lyrics and feel the rhythms. Amazing. People who aren’t Bruce fans have been attracted to The Seeger Sessions: A great side project. Alejandro is finally back, and with John Cale. How cool is that. Damien Rice… Wow. And finally Bob. It ain’t Lonelyland, but for the first time in 6 years I like everything on the CD.

Willie Nile – Streets of New York
Phil Roy – The Great Longing
Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence
T Bone Burnett – The True False Identity
Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome – The Seeger Sessions
Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror
Damien Rice - 9
Bob Schneider – The Californian

Favorite Box Set
T Bone’s musical history has been lost to most of us. This is a must box set. I loved every song. The first 2 CDs from Tom Wait’s Orphans is just packed with good songs. Tom can be hard to listen to for a long period of time for some people. This could change that.

Tom Waits – Orphans
T Bone Burnett – Twenty Twenty

Favorite Indie Artists
Patti is a great songwriter. I would love to see her matched up with a great producer like John Leventhal. Gary Jules songs are like small poems. Kristy Kruger has such a unique vision and is so talented. I love this CD. Joanna Newsom, uhmmm, is strange, amazing, and may be the next Kate Bush.

Patti Witten – Tell the Wind
Gary Jules – Gary Jules
Kristy Kruger – Songs from a Dead Man’s Couch
Joanna Newsom – Ys

Favorite Concerts
I thought the Seeger Sessions concerts were as good as some E Street performances I’ve seen over the years. What a potent band Bruce put together. And then the new arrangements of his older material… It was a risk that paid off big. T Bone Burnett’s performance was so powerful and engaging with a great band behind him; each member contributing so much. Gomez just knocked us over. They were so good that Guster, a very good band paled in comparison. Finally saw Jon Dee with a band. And then James comes out and just blows me away. Best double bill of the year. And I’ll sneak this one in… Sam finally singing “I Need Love” with the Section Quartet. Thanks Sam!

Bruce Springsteen
T Bone Burnett
Gomez/Guster
Jon Dee Graham/ James McMurtry

And a bunch of other CDs I really liked
(many of which could have easily been in my favorite lists):

Bruce Springsteen – Hammersmith Odeon ‘75
Cat Power – The Greatest
Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac
KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope
Etienne de Rocher – Etienne de Rocher
Shawn Colvin – These Four Walls
Stephen Dijoseph – Hypnotized
Amos Lee – Supply and Demand
Kenny White – Never Like This
Ollabelle – Riverside Battle Songs
Neil Young – Living with War
The Watson Twins – Southern Manners
Gomez – How We Operate
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning
Jon Dee Graham – Full

Calexico – Garden Ruin
Drive
-By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse

Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers
Wild Colonials – Life As We Know It
Allison Moorer – Getting Somewhere
World Party – Dumbing Up
Bruce Cockburn – Life Short Call Now
Los Lonely Boys – Sacred
Golden Smog – Another Fine Day
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
Dave Potts - $12.99
Minibar – Desert after Rain

Elizabeth & the Catapult
Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
Guster – Ganging up on the Sun
KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 14
The Little Willies
Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten The Hatches
Paolo Nutini – Live Sessions
Los Lobos – The Town and the City
Trail of Dead – So Divided
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Five for Fighting – Two Lights
Joan Osborne – Pretty Little Stranger

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Misc Music News

I'm working my butt off to get as many of the '06 CDs in to my play list as possible before the end of the year. Meanwhile, I thought I'd pass on a bit of music news...

KGSR has released their annual live CD. As always, it has great stuff on it. It is, in my opinion the best radio station CD year in and year out. Just some of the artists on this 2 CD disk are: Death Cab, Nickel Creek, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Beth Orton, Spoon, David Gray, Brandi Carlile, World Party, Kt Tunstall, Teddy Thompson, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin and many more. They still have them in stock at www.waterloorecords.com . Don’t miss out. They always sell out. And then you’ll have to beg Deb to find one for you.
J

It’s not as exciting, but The Mountain, up in Washington has their 1 disk CD available. Not sure if they have sold out, but there’s good stuff including: Gomez, KT, Guster, Train, Barenaked Ladies and Goo Goo Dolls. You can get it here: http://www.kmtt.com/listingsentry.asp?id=463978&pt=mountainmusicinfo

Phil Roy is having a holiday sale. Go to www.philroy.com and he not only is selling any of his 3 CDs for $10 plus shipping, but he will personally sign them any way you want. How cool is that?

Julian Coryell has a new CD out that is all covers. Although he says it is available now, CDBaby doesn’t seem to have them in stock. But you can have them alert you when it comes in. Buy it here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/juliancoryell2 . New music is coming from Julian this spring.

Lost among the hoopla of T-Bone Burnett’s new CD this year was his compilation CD (released on the same day), which I finally got around to listening to. Wow! Lots of stuff I didn’t know on this 40 song set. What is really interesting is that he has comments about how he came to write or why he wrote each of the songs. Very interesting. Also interesting, is the fact he has included a couple of songs from the CD he released on the same day. Anyone who likes to pick up a cd/album and read the lyrics will find this to be a real treat.

Friday, November 24, 2006

New Music for November

Dave Stephens – Stories for Copper (2006)
This CD takes me back to the early 70’s when there was a lot of pop in rock. It is a well produced (self-produced in fact) CD with all the hooks in all the right places. http://davestephens.ca

Willy Porter – Available Light (2006)
It has been a few years since Willy has crossed my path (almost 10 years maybe). He still plays a mean guitar and is still a passionate songwriter. Half a dozen CDs or so have slipped by me and after listening to “Available Light”, I feel the need to go back and check them out. He is heads above most singer/songwriters and this is an excellent example. I can’t wait to play some of his music for you all. Willy can be found at http://www.willyporter.com .

Patti Witten – Tell The Wind (2006)
It is all about the songwriting. Patti is one of the finest independent songwriters writing today and “Tell The Wind” is a natural follow up to her previous efforts. While many songwriters sing about losing a love, Patti sings about the emotions and feelings that run through you. This is one of those CDs where you are glad there are written lyrics to enjoy as you listen. Go buy all of Patti’s CDs at http://www.pattiwitten.com .

Martha Colby – Across Two Rivers (2005)
The last time I saw Martha, she was playing these amazing cello solos for October Project. When you attack rock from the point of view of a cello, you always seem to get very interesting music. Like Jorane from Canada, Martha’s classical training and beautiful cello playing leads to a very unique CD. Taking chances that most musicians wouldn’t dare take, “Across Two Rivers” pulls you in with her spirited risks and exciting arrangements. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes pure singer/songwriter, this CD is a risk worth taking. http://www.marthacolby.com

Holly Palmer – Tender Hooks (2004)
I first fell in love with Holly Palmer and her music when she performed with Kenny White in L.A. Her current CD at the time, “I Confess”, was a mix of pop and rock filtered through a jazz vocalist’s sense of being. It is a fantastic CD. “Tender Hooks” predates “I Confess” and you can see where Holly was headed. This CD is less pop and more experimental in its sound. Check out both of Holly’s CDs at http://www.hollypalmer.com.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
This is their first major label release and although it doesn’t hold up as well as their previous effort, it is The Decemberists, which means they’re unique view on music and the world is a joy to behold.

Ollabelle – Riverside Battle Songs (2006)
The first thing I thought of as I listened to this excellent CD is Eastmountainsouth. With its traditional sound yet polished delivery, this is a CD that takes you back as well as brings you forward. Like the Eastmountainsouth CD it is a pure joy to listen to.

Chris Thile – How to Grow A Woman from the Ground (2006)
When I first saw Chris live (just before his last CD was released), I expected a very bluegrass performance from him and instead got a very singer/songwriter performance and later CD. This time around, I got what I expected the first time. Another good solo effort for Chris.

The Long Winters – Putting The Days To Bed (2006)
I really enjoyed this CD. They remind me a bit of a modern rock version of the Counting Crows without copying from them. This is a solid rockin’ CD. http://www.thelongwinters.com

Damien Rice – 9 (2006)
A couple of years ago, I took my daughter to see Damien in concert. I told her this was very mellow, but really interesting music and that she would love it. Little did I know that there was a loud side to Mr. Rice. Sitting up in the balcony of the Wiltern in L.A., it was an amazing experience. My friend in the pit, had to leave because of the volume though. And so that makes this new CD a perfect realization of the Damien Rice “sound”: Beautiful, powerful and capable of going from a whisper to a scream in an instant. "9" is getting mixed reviews, but I think it is one of this years’ best. Songs like “9 Crimes” and “Elephant” remind you of his previous masterpiece and songs like “Restless Tree” truly show off his anger and pain.

Joanna Newsom – The Milk Eyed Mender (2004)
Not long ago, when there was talk about Kate Bush having a new CD and maybe a tour, I added her name to my Google Alerts. Although Kate never toured, the move has paid off. You see, reviewers love to use artists like Kate as a comparison to their offbeat female artist reviews. First it led me to Jorane, a cellist from Canada. This time it brought me to Joanna Newsom, a singer with a unique sound. She plays the harp and has a voice that is sometimes childlike and innocent. Her harp playing is beautiful. When it is just her and the harp, this CD soars. Joanna’s unique style is worth checking out… right here: http://www.dragcity.com/bands/newsom.html


Andy Logan and Paul Needza Friend each sent me mp3’s and I’ve added them to the play list. Andy who’s straight ahead sound was very enjoyable can be found at www.andylogan.com . Paul who has a potent maybe even combustible sound can be found at www.paulneedzafriend.com . I look forward to hearing more from these guys.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

OK Go At the Glass House in Pomona

So, it was Jess’ turn to pick the concert and she was so excited about going to see OK Go. Thank God my daughter doesn’t have the rap gene, or for that matter the boy band gene (although we got a little of that by nights end). It’s a pain in the butt getting out to Pomona on a week night, but… it was worth it. Really.

Knowing the venue a bit better after seeing Jenny Lewis, we moved quickly to the risers on the far left wall so that even though we stood all night, we got to lean on something and see above most of the crowd. My friend Susan and her son Jon showed up too, so we had a nice little parent kid group going. I also ended up meeting a guy who started the conversation with me with, “So, is this your favorite band too?” It turns out he was even older musically then we were, “My daughter likes my music too; Frank Sinatra, jazz”. Anyway, we made up the majority of the old folk there (maybe they planned it that way).

Up first: Quit Your Day Job. I kid you not, that is their name. And you know, with a name like that, there has to be some humor going on. Sure enough, this is maybe one of the funniest bands since the Dickies (although they really do not compare… sorry guys). It is a three piece band, with guitar, keyboard and drums. The keyboard player does the bass lines and really gives the band an 80’s sound. But truly they are a not quite hardcore punk band. The song titles are the highlights to the songs and in fact generally they are pretty much all of the lyrics too. With songs like, “Pigs from Hell”, “Pissing on a Panda”, “Sperms are Germs” (their only love song) and “Look, there’s a Dollar”, we were laughing or at least smiling throughout the show. Actually, the smiling by the guitar player (this big, show your teeth smile) was almost as bizarre as the keyboard player slowly stripping throughout the show (we found his sock on the floor after the show but decided not to touch it). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see myself buying any of their CDs anytime soon. But it was fun to watch.

Okay, how do I describe OK Go? I guess you could say that they are a rock band that wants to be a boy band; but not really. They are charismatic, fun, their music is filled with hooks, the melodies aren’t bad and the lead singer has a lot of Mick Jagger in him. They also use a healthy dose of gimmicks to keep the show exciting. And like their music, which is a mix of old (80’s) and new, the gimmicks represented the good old days (floating in the audience) and the new electronic days (having everyone hold up their cell phones instead of lighters… and what an amazing blue tinted scene that was!). They also did an acoustic song out in the middle of the audience. Now those of you who saw Melissa Etheridge know that she has done this. But, they brought small flood lights with them and had the audience be the lighting crew while they played in the middle of them all. They also had small web cams attached all over the stage. The coolest one was right on the microphone of the lead singer. You got this distorted black and white picture of his face that was displayed on the back screen. It was pretty cool.

They did two covers during the show, a song by the Damned and a Violent Femmes song. But I will always remember what they didn’t do. They were about to sing an ELO song (probably “Don’t Bring Me Down”), but an audience member said she had heard it last night, so he said, “Okay we won’t play it. Hey guys, how about some Violent Femmes”. And off they went.

So you may say, I know OK Go from somewhere. Well, they are the band that does that amazing treadmill video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv5zWaTEVkI . There is no way they are going to do a club tour and bring a half dozen treadmills with them, but you know, seeing the video that dancing is their life. And so, at the end, their boy band inside them comes out and they do an amazingly complicated choreographed dance that had everyone yelling and laughing, all at the same time. It is nice to see that someone still knows how to put on a show.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

End of October Play List

Peter Kerns
What is it about growing up down under? I don’t think it’s the water (although it may be). So, my best guess is that they just got way too much of the Finn brothers (That would be Tim and Neil) in their musical diet. And that is a very very good thing, for Neil and Tim Finn are in a class by themselves. But, this is about Peter. Sorry. Peter has that great Finn-like voice with a bit of McCartney thrown in. The one song that I have heard is just beautiful and worth the 99 cents at ITunes. Peter has a Myspace site. So, for more info, you can check him out at http://www.myspace.com/peterkearns .

Shawn Colvin – These Four Walls (2006)
It has been way too long since the last Shawn Colvin CD. But it may have been worth the wait. In “These Four Walls”, Shawn takes on her past demons and looks at life today as a single mother and a songwriter. As with previous CDs, a large chunk of the sound you hear is the very talented songwriter/producer John Leventhal. Together they make one of the finest songwriting teams working today.

Greg Smith – Above the Clouds (2006)
I suppose you could put Greg Smith’s CD, Above The Clouds in the New Age section of your CD store, and The Promise isn’t a New Age station. But, we like a change of pace every so often, and the guitar work on this CD is elegant, beautiful and sometimes powerful. To listen to more of Greg’s guitar work, go to http://gregsmithguitar.com .

Sue Merchant – Fool (2006)
This is classic singer/songwriter/folk. With her soothing voice and soft guitar, you find yourself floating through this CD. Sue’s down to earth lyrics round it into a wonderful listening experience. http://suemerchant.net .

Stephen Dijoseph – Hypnotized (2006)
Hypnotized really describes the opening couple of songs on this CD. There is a lot of great stuff here that is really worth checking out. I’m not really sure how to describe this CD. It is stripped down, but seems to still be full bodied. At times it comes off as straight forward rock and then there are songs like “No Chance” that are a bit out there. Another strong indie release to check out. http://www.stephendijoseph.com .

Gary Jules – Gary Jules (2006)
Around two years ago, I saw Gary perform much of his new stuff in concert. It was amazing. Somehow, it never made it onto tape, and so here we are two years later with another batch of new songs. Listening to Gary Jules is like reading poetry with beautiful music behind it. The lyrics are right out front in the production; as they should be. The standout song is an oldie that never got the studio treatment, “Wichita”. Gary is an independent once again, so please support him at http://www.garyjules.com .

Dave Potts - $12.99 (2006)
$12.99 was the price paid for a sweatshirt in a town where the character in the song of the same name ended up living. Was it the same town where he met Amanda Bramlett who stole his heart? I don’t know, but these are all wonderful stories told by Dave Potts, who has created another classic piece of Americana. With such a sincere voice, you just have to believe he is telling you all about his life. http://www.davepotts.com

Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006)
Anyone remember Leon Redbone? He played on SNL a few times, I believe, during the 70’s. He is still around, with about a dozen CDs to his name. Again, I’m getting off track… All I could think about while listening to Bob Dylan’s “Modern Times” was Leon Redbone. I think it is the style and delivery. This is an interesting CD, with Bob getting sexy on us. It is either really cool, or really creepy. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Pete Yorn – Nightcrawler (2006)
I’ve always loved Pete Yorn’s style. He’s got such a strong sense of what sounds good, without sounding like anyone else. And even though this is very much a Pete Yorn CD, it has its own sound. No obvious hits on this one, but lots of good rock and roll.

Five for Fighting – Two Lights (2006)
When I first met John Ondrasik some years ago, I told him something that I thought was obvious, yet no one had told him it before. “Your music reminds me of Elton John”, I said. He loved the comparison, which was so much better than what the record industry people were saying at the time (Counting Crows? I don’t think so.). He was just releasing his second CD on his second label. 9/11 was still a year away. The heavy piano makes it an obvious comparison, but I saw the way he phrased things to be very similar to Elton too. Over the years, I think he has gotten even closer to Elton’s sound which is a double edged sword. Maybe the last CD was just too pop for me. But I love “Two Lights”. It is his best work since “America Town“. There is a nice mix of ballads and rockers with plenty of energy. If you’ve never wandered past the hits, FFF is a group worth getting to know better.

Jimmy Lafave – Blue Nightfall (2005)
As I continue my journey through the alt-country world, I keep hearing the most amazing sounds. Jimmy Lafave was someone I had only known as one of the few outsiders to get called up on stage with Bruce Springsteen during his Devils and Dust tour. Mike Marrone was kind enough to give me a copy of “Blue Nightfall” and I fell in love immediately. From the straining voice in “Revival” that opens the CD to the rockin’ “Gotta Ramble” that closes it, I was totally consumed by this album. Just go buy it. It’s that good. Really. I mean it. Here, here’s a link to Amazon.com. Buy it. :-) http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Nightfall-Jimmy-LaFave/dp/B0007D4MRW

Grandaddy – Just Like The Fambly Cat (2006)
You know those movies where some suburban kid makes some music in his own home-made studio and by the end of the movie he is either famous or no longer cares and just loves making music for himself and his girlfriend? And it is so unrealistic. The production that comes from that home system is just too good. And then you listen to anything from Grandaddy and realize that he has lived that dream; with all the talent and everything. I just love listening to his CDs and marveling at the talent that the big time record companies just can't comprehend. "Just Like The Fambly Cat" continues the Granddady tradition of offbeat lyrics and brilliant melodies and production.

Phil Manzanera – 6PM (2004)
This CD fits the 801 legacy very nicely. If that means nothing to you, then go check out 801 Live on ITunes and as you listen remember this happened in the mid 70's; before punk, before New Wave. None of the studio releases from the 801 band ever matched the intensity of the under rehearsed live band that only played a couple of shows one summer 30 years ago.

Sir Douglas Quintet – Live From Austin (ACL) (2006)
This new CD is from a 1981 performance filmed for the Austin City Limits TV show. If you are a fan of that show, you should check out all the live music that they have been releasing on CD and DVD over the last couple of years. Doug Sahm (Sir Doug) and his band brought Tex-Mex to the masses in the middle 60’s; slipping in as an American answer to the British Invasion. This music and this reunion concert is just foot tapping fun and for those of us who are old enough, will bring back memories of a simpler time.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October 1 Play List - Part 1

Life sure has a way of getting in the way. Between a big birthday party, 2 weddings, getting engaged and a half dozen or so other birthdays, September disappeared faster than a Democrat on the immigration fence in an election year. Meanwhile, I keep listening to music and preparing to add to my play list. There is so much music though, I didn't want any of it to get lost. So, I am going post a few mini reviews at a time. For those of you who I've promised air time, it is coming. Meanwhile, here are the first 5 of about 20 or so CDs that I will be adding to the play list.

Phil Roy – The Great Longing (2006)
”Not a note out of place”. That may be the best description of this CD that I’ve heard. Phil Roy’s third CD is literally perfect. The songs about personal strength and love are in some ways a continuation of the optimism of the 60’s, that got lost in the hedonism and self loathing of the 70’s and beyond. Although I must admit that I enjoy songs about hedonism and self loathing (Scott Weiland’s “Desperation #5” comes to mind), maybe it is time, in this era of fear and loathing to bring it back. As you listen to Phil’s soulful voice and perfect arrangements, you can’t help but hear the joyfulness of Stevie Wonder at times and social conscience of Marvin Gay. Have I pushed too hard here? This is a great CD that everyone should own. Buy the pre-release now. Go to http://philroy.com .


Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence (2006)
Nick Drake was playing as I started writing… And how fitting. Take the floating atmosphere of Nick, add the great acoustic guitar sound of Bruce Cockburn, and you’ve got the first full release by Alexi Murdoch. This CD is a couple of years in the making, and it was well worth they wait. http://www.myspace.com/aleximurdoch


Amos Lee – Supply and Demand (2006)
I’ve been listening to this CD for some time now and with its release this week, you all can now hear what everyone has been raving about. There is no sophomore jinx as Amos easily keeps pace with last year’s “Amos Lee” CD. What Amos Lee has created are beautiful, powerful and well crafted songs. This should make my 10 ten list for 2006. http://www.amoslee.com/


October Project – Covered – The Songs of Emil Adler & Julie Flanders (2006)
OP is one of my all time favorite bands, and Emil, Marina & Julie are some of my all time favorite people in the music biz. This is a CD of love; the love that so many east coast artists feel for both the music and spirits of the band called October Project. This tribute includes artists such as Julian Coryell, Joy Askew, Sylvia Tosun, Richard Barone (from the Bongos) and even a song performed by OP themselves. If you are a fan of the band, this is a fun ride through many of their finer songs. http://www.octoberproject.net .


Kenny White – Never Like This (2006)
I’ve spoken with Kenny White several times over the last few years. He is not only a talented musician and songwriter, he is also not afraid to speak his mind. And that is what this CD, available at his website http://www.kennywhite.net , is all about. Like so many other people who live on a coast in this fine country, Kenny is pissed at our president and the religious right. And these 5 songs are his personal attack on what he sees as wrong. Maybe his most scathing attack is reserved for Pat Robertson, who, he writes in his final lines of the song named after Pat, “a direct line to who?? Oh pat, c’mon spare me, in god’s corporation you’re a stock boy at best”. Ouch. This is another excellent political piece that will sit very nicely in your collection next to Neil Young’s “Living with War”. And my hat’s off to Wildflower for backing Kenny on this CD.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ACL 2006

Once again I am in Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival. I'll be posting pictures and comments at http://aclfestival.blogspot.com . It should be another fun year. We got a bit of blues in tonight and are probably headed to see The Scabs at Antones on Thursday night. There will be posts throughout the week and weekend. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

So far to go

It has been a crazy summer this year with fewer updates by me than I would have wanted. And the delay continues as I head to Austin for the ACL festival. For those of you indie artists who I have promised airplay, please be assured that I will be adding you to the play list. It's just taking longer than I thought. Meanwhile, watch my ACL blog for updates from the festival.

Thank you all for listening,

bruce

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jon Dee Graham at 14 Below in Santa Monica

It was a last minute thing, but Maria was on a mission. She had once admonished Jon for smoking on stage (she has asthma) and being the good person that he is, he put out his cigarette. So, we left my parents party early with a no smoking themed t-shirt in hand (and a book for his son) and headed out to 14 Below, a little club in Santa Monica. After we parked our car, we ran into Jon. He didn’t remember us from that San Diego night, but he sure remembered the smoking incident when Maria reminded him. We had a great talk; chatted about why he was playing this place (Alejandro Escovedo will be there next month so it must be okay), ACL (they are doing an anti-ACL concert which Deb and I are going to) and his son (more operations but they finally took their first family vacation this year) who suffers from Legg-Perthes Syndrome, a degenerative bone disease. He loved the book and laughed a lot at the shirt.

14 Below is an interesting place. You walk into a bar and that appears to be all there is there. But, a back room sports a small club with limited seating along the walls and a very deep stage. The sound seemed good, although with only an acoustic guitar and vocals it is hard to tell for sure. Jon played for close to an hour, sticking mainly to his new CD, “Full”. At the end of his show, he said goodnight and started to pack up his guitar when someone from the audience of about 15 yelled, you need to do an encore. A quick discussion with the sound guy turned into two more songs, including a beautiful Spanish song, “Volver”. Jon Dee Graham is one of those songwriters out there that just hasn’t gotten past the Austin crowd and that is just so sad. He is very talented writing both sad distraught songs and beautiful love songs. And his gravelly voice makes you feel all the pain and joy. If you don’t own a Jon Dee CD, you really should pick one up.

World Party at the Coach House

With his shaggy hair and so English humor and attitude, I couldn’t help but think of Jeff Lynne Friday night as Karl Wallinger took the stage with World Party. Of course what these two really have in common is their ability to create classic pop songs that leave you humming on your way out of the club. And Friday night, song after song was a classic. They were all perfect pieces of rock with plenty of energy and smiles from the band to compliment (I have never seen such a happy band… except for the bass player who seemed overly focused on playing). What makes Karl and World Party stand out though is his focus on the world and how we are messing it up. But with all the sociopolitical warnings, there is always a positive message about loving yourself and the world. The current band is very solid and we were treated to wonderful guitar, violin and accordion solos throughout. And the bass sound was as tight as I’ve ever heard it at the Coach House (the Rickenbacker bass guitars may have had a bit to do with it). Karl was in great spirits and seemed to really appreciate the great ovations the crowd was giving him (several standing ovations during the night from a place where people generally don’t stand until it is time to leave). And we were treated to a real encore. They turned on the music, turned up the house lights and had actually pulled the microphones off the stands when Karl and the band decided to return. It was a fun evening full of hits that never were from a band that should be playing a much bigger place.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gary Jules at the Troubadour

Every time I go to the Troubadour I have so many memories: The KSCA party, Wild Colonial Christmas shows, the crowd going crazy and demanding an encore from Peter Hammill (sorry, I had to do an obscure one). Sunday night it was Gary Jules’ turn to stand on the stage where Elton John’s career took off thirty plus years ago. Gary is at a turning point in his career. He has gone back to being an indie. A year an half ago I caught Gary at the Hotel Café and raved about the new music he was about to record. Well, most of it is gone (for now). So, it’s a whole new batch of songs (although “Witchita” which you can also get on the Hotel Café Live CD survived) but the same beautiful and intelligent style that has made Gary’s music so appealing. His 80 minute set focused heavily on the new material and on first listen sounds as good as anything he has done. He did get in a few oldies including “Barstool” and of course “Mad World”.

Okay, so now for the fun stuff. It seems his slide guitar player (I can never remember his name, but damn he is so good) got a gig with Shakira. Well, the band, Gary specifically, was teasing him throughout the night (maybe it had to also do with the fact that he left his cell phone on and during a slide solo it started to feed back). Right near the end, he said something that could have been in bad taste, but we were in the balcony and not one hundred percent sure what it was that he said. Maria, though was absolutely sure he had knocked a fellow Columbian and she would have none of that. “I want to talk to him” she said. Well, she knows I love to chat with artists after the show so she figured it was her turn and how could I refuse her. I actually got a kick out of it and I know I had a big grin on my face as she told Gary off. Gary, very gracefully explained to her that he was very lucky to have this slide player and that they were just teasing him about playing in the big time; nothing personal about Shakira. Gary then said I’ll have him come down and explain it; which he did. He was also very nice (and again one hell of a slide guitar player; almost worth going to see Shakira for). It was all lots of fun and Maria felt a bit embarrassed but happy that they are all such nice guys and that Shakira’s reputation is still intact.

Brett Dennen opened the show. My God is this kid out of junior high yet? And then he starts to sing. Imagine a mellow Jack Johnson sound but more reggae and the voice of an an an adult. The music was okay, but the voice will stick with you. It was southern and earthy and potent.

Jim Bianco was the second opening act and will be playing piano part time with Gary on his 2 week tour of Europe (he played on several of Gary’s songs during our show). Jim has a sort of jazzy crooner approach to his music. Some of it gets bluesy and sometimes it sounds right out of the 40’s or maybe 50’s (really, I’m not that old). He seemed to lack the energy of Gary or Brett (at least on this night), but he was in good humor, joking about how stupid he was opening with two new songs and then proceeded to play yet another new one.

A very memorable night at the Troub. Now… when are the Wild Colonials coming back?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 12th Play List

This is what I get for waiting for a few weeks to update my play list. There is just so much good music to play for you all and… well here is what I’m adding this week.

Tunisia – two false idols (2006)
This CD originally showed up in my progressive rock mailbox, and although the music is very sophisticated, it really is more singer/songwriter than prog rock. So, here it is: A little proggy, but a fine effort from Ben Craven. You can find out more about Tunisia at: www.tunisiamusic.com .

World Party – Dumbing Up (2006 or 2000 depending where you live)
Karl survived an aneurysm and is now back touring. This CD released back in 2000 (or maybe 2001) in England, finally gets a U.S. release, making it immediately one of the best CDs of the year. For the full story go to http://www.worldparty.net/worldparty.html

Bruce Cockburn – Life Short Call Now (2006)
Bruce is one of the best songwriters performing today, and this is another fine release by him. As always there is a mix of political, social and personal lyrics on the CD. He continues to play around a bit with his love of jazz and this time adds a full string orchestra to the mix; making for some very beautiful moments.

Counting Crows – New Amsterdam – Live at Heineken Music Hall February 4-6 2003 (2006)
I’ve always loved the Counting Crows music, but have always thought that Adam Duritz tried too hard in concert. So, I’m always a bit leery of their live CDs. But Adam and the band are in good form here. If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy this collection.

Los Lonely Boys – Sacred (2006)
I almost didn’t pick up this CD. It has been so hard for me to get past the fact that they rocked so hard a few years ago at the ACL Festival, and although I loved the first CD, I thought the touring after they started to become popular seemed to lack the emotion we saw the first time around (wow, that was one long sentence… sorry). But, I did pick it up and I’m glad. Some horns on the opening track, “My Way”, signal that this is going to be an interesting follow up. And it is. This is a fine CD that leaves no doubt that the brothers LLB are red blooded Texicans. Moving from Stevie to Carlos, many of the songs seem made for live guitar jams (well of course). But they are also well written and interesting. If you liked the first CD, I think you will enjoy this one too. On these hot days of July, listening to this CD makes me feel like I’m sitting in a Texas bar sweating and rockin’.

Golden Smog – Another Fine Day (2006)
This Mid West super group has put out a very strong pop classic. It is probably closer to the Jayhawks than Wilco and truthfully, at times it is closer to the classic pop from early 70’s bands like Bandfinger, Paul McCartney or Emitt Rhodes than the alt-country scene. I love this CD and am going to have trouble keeping it out of the CD player.

Alice Peacock – Who I Am (2006)
This is a beautiful CD with some nice arrangements (it never hurts to have Daphne and Lea from The Section Quartet behind you). Piano based, Alice balances her pop styling with songs about personal growth and self discovery. Alice is on Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/alicepeacock .

Nils Lofgren – Sacred Weapon (2006)
He is one of rock and rolls great guitar players (what does Bruce call him? The Godfather of the rock ‘n roll or something like that?) This is a beautiful album though, with wonderful songs about love and life and great guitar licks in between. If you’ve never given Nils much thought other than his role in the E Street Band, you should give this CD a try. And check out his website at http://www.nilslofgren.com .

Bob Schneider – The Californian (2006)
If “The Californian” sounds like a live CD, it is because it almost is. Recorded in just 4 days, this CD succeeds and fails because of it. For such a fast recording, the production is excellent. There are no bad songs on this CD, but, for a Bob Schneider CD the diversity of sounds seems less than usual. It is almost as if we are being given a glimpse into a week in Bob’s musical life. That week is very rock and roll with no ebbs and flows. This CD is pretty much straight ahead and that is where it suffers. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on Bob, but he is so talented you hope for perfection with each CD. I know that this will be one of the CDs I listen to the most over the course of this year, but Bob can do better. Vanguard picked up several of Bob’s older CDs along with this one. So, if you have holes in your Bob Schneider collection, now’s the time to fill them. And do pick this one up because beyond my harsh words, it is an excellent CD. Bob’s website is: http://www.bobschneidermusic.com/ . Oh, and one more thing… Mud House is easily one of the best party songs you’re going to hear all year. It may not be as good as a live version, but trust me, not only will you be hooked, but you can take this one over to your 20 something friends and they’ll love it too!

Steven James Band – Get Up & Run (2006)
Do you remember the days when groups like R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary and Big Country ruled? The Steven James Band feels like the younger brother of these bands. And that is a welcome relief from all this “Modern Rock”. This is a solid indie album worth checking out. http://www.stevenjames.com/

Spoon – Gimme Fiction (2005)
My cousin’s son, Adam, has been bugging me to check out Spoon for some time now. He loves this band, and for good reason. These guys have all the talent needed to make it big. There is a strong 60’s pop influence, but they are not in any way retro. There is lots of flair, lots of energy, lots of power… lots of fun. Do not miss this band.

Tom Petty – Highway Companion (2006)
Rolling Stone called him the most consistent performer over the last 30 years (or something like that), and you just can’t argue with that. This is another good CD from Tom. Jeff Lynne is behind the scenes (although when Jeff produces you can not really call it “behind”, since his style is so up front). Just buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Alec Gross & The Districts - Win?orLose? (2006)
Anyone who creates a song called, “Joni Mitchell Was Right”, gets included on my play list, no questions asked. But seriously, this is that fun Southern tinged rock that we all know and love. You’ll tape your feet while listening and feel really trapped in your car because you can’t get up and dance. For more info on Alec and his Districts you can go to either http://www.alecgross.com or http://www.myspace.com/alecgrossandthedistricts .

And of course, along with these new adds, we have more music from Dave Manning, Aya Peard, Tina Dico, Jen Chapin, Melissa McCelland, Etienne de Rocher , Jill Sobule, and Kristy Kruger . You can hear all of this and more at: http://www.live365.com/stations/thepromiseradio .

Thanks for listening,

Bruce

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Section Quartet with Sam Phillips

I knew it was going to be one of those evenings, highs and lows, good and bad, when the asshole, I mean doorman at Largo informed us that Jessie, being underage would not be allowed to sit at the bar and that we would have to sit at a dinner table. “Since when”, I asked. “Uhmmm, since always”. Asshole. But he gave us a nice table that we shared with a very interesting couple. She was originally from Arkansas but now lives in L.A. He is a resident of New Zealand and a piano player making a CD. We had some great conversations about producers and music and… It was fun. After dinner I asked how they met. We got that immediate “looking at each other” bit, that couples sometimes do, and I knew it was going to be a cute story. They met… years ago in Yahoo’s Adrian Belew room and fell in love. How romantic is that? But talk about a long distance relationship.

Okay so after our second dinner of the night (did I mention that the doorman is an asshole?) Sam comes out with Eric (the leader of the Section Quartet) and starts to sing. I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it! I still can’t believe it! She sang… You all know that I’ve been asking Sam to play it for the last two years. I even asked Eric to convince Sam to play it. And if you read my post from Sam’s last performance with her band a couple of years ago, you may remember that she had it on her set list that night and didn’t play it. Well tonight she opened with it. It being, “I Need Love”! I don’t believe she has performed it live in 10 years (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Now, back to the good and bad. Part way through the first chorus, she stopped singing and apologized. She found it foolish (I can’t remember the exact word she used) for her to be up there singing to us words like, “I need love”. And maybe that is why she hasn’t song the song in so long. Or maybe it is because she doesn’t sing notes that high anymore and she had a little trouble with them. Nevertheless, she finished up the song, which had a nice mid tempo beat and beautiful violin (it actually is that other violin like instrument that Eric plays) behind it. The song, which originally was so upbeat, still works at a slower pace. I was a very very happy camper. My daughter kept looking up at me as she was singing. She could see the big smile on my face. Jess did some great sketches of Sam and the Quartet. I will post some when she gets them scanned or redrawn for me. Sam was in a very happy/funny mood, telling a story about a woman driving with a hairdo that looked like she had a candle on her head and just basically joking around throughout the short set. The rest of her 5 song set is a blur. I was just so happy. And I swear as she started to sing “I Need Love” she looked at me and smiled. Okay, so I was just at that point where the artist may or may not be able to see me, but… The other highlight of this 5 song set was “Sister Rosetta Comes Before Us” (I may have screwed up the title… sorry). I remember hearing that one last year and it sounded good. It seems to be a bit more upbeat now and, well, it is getting me so excited about the upcoming release (it’s going to be a long wait).

As the Section Quartet was setting up on the stage, someone yelled out to the owner of Largo (who was about to introduce them), “We want more Sam”. And he says, “Stranger things have happened”. And sure enough, about half way through their set, Sam returned to perform 3 more songs. The most interesting of which was “When You’re Down”, mainly because it was now only backed with strings. The last band version of that song was so rockin’. This version was more subdued but still excellent.

The Section Quartet put on another amazing show. One of the highlights of the show was the Sex Pistols, “God Save The Queen”. When they do songs like this or “London Calling” or songs by Tool or Muse or even Iron Maiden (they did all of these last night), they rock better than most bands out there today. I’ve talked about the Section Quartet many times and I never get tired of seeing them in concert.

Sam left early so I didn’t get to talk to her, but Eric and Daphne hung around, as they always do. Eric took credit for “I Need Love”, telling me he pushed Sam into playing it. Thank you Eric! The Section have just signed with Decca and are going to put together a new CD. Meanwhile, they have released an EP on ITunes. The current work load caused Daphne to have to say “No” to Alejandro Escovedo, who asked her to join his tour. I’m sure that doesn’t happen to him a lot. Otherwise no new news from Sam. Hopefully she’ll keep playing live throughout the year.

Monday, July 17, 2006

July 17th Play List

Aya Peard – Aya Peard (2006)
Her dreamy voice makes you want more than the three songs here. And her eclectic version of “Running with the Devil”, shows you that there is more here than a pretty voice and good production. Aya has a myspace page at http://www.myspace/ayapeard .

Dave Manning – Mobile Home Girl (2002)
His voice may remind you of Tom Waits and his main instrument is a piano, so the comparison gets even deeper. But Dave’s music is much more homespun. Bouncing between humorous stories and more straightforward songs about small town life, Dave brings his strong song making craft to a style that would probably be called country had he switched to guitar. The piano, though, gives the music a more emotional, personal ring. And something tells me he is a lot of fun in concert. You can buy his CDs at CDBaby; http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/davemanning .

Grant-Lee Phillips – nineteeneighties (2006)
Unlike Mathew Sweet’s latest tribute to the 60’s, Grant’s tribute to the 80’s really works. He has taken all of these great songs and slowed them down and then stripped them down. What you have left are… the songs. And they do work. This CD will take you back, but you won’t feel like you’re rehashing the 80’s. Instead you are seeing it in a new light. http://www.grantleephillips.com/

Richard Butler – Richard Butler (2006)
This is a nice way to segue: From Grant’s interpretation of the 80’s, to the first solo CD from the leader of the 80’s Psychedelic Furs. I first started hearing this CD on XM’s The Loft. It didn’t really grab me. But when I sat down with the whole CD, it seemed to make sense. You can hear some of the darkness from the early days, but it is not overwhelming. I found myself drawn into this CD. It doesn’t happen often enough these days.

Tina Dico – Live Session (2006)
If you read my review of her live show several months back, http://thepromiselive.blogspot.com/2006/03/tina-dico-at-hotel-cafe.html , you know where this review is going… Her solo versions of songs from “In The Red” and “Far” are worth the few bucks (You can only get this at ITunes). They’re worth much more than that actually. These 6 songs leave you wanting to hear everything she’s done, solo. She is touring right now. Do not miss her!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 4th Play List

Wild Colonials – Life As We Know It (2006)
It has been so long: Just way too long for this new Wild Colonial music to finally appear. The 5 song (if you buy it on ITunes) EP is the first of 4 EPs that will ultimately make up the “Life As We Know It” CD. This first set tells us nothing about the current WC sound. I believe I’ve heard all of these songs in concert (and it has been something like 5 years since they have graced the Southland with a concert). Nevertheless, it is great music that I’ve already listened to over and over and… well you get the idea. For those of you who have no idea who The Wild Colonials are, imagine this: Irish vocalist with the lead instrument being the violin, but with a strong rhythm guitar, a healthy dose of, well, most everything and finish it off with sad sad songs that will tear your heart out. Angela can bend a note like Billie Holiday. Actually, I’ve seen a jazz version of WC and it is scary how good she is in this genre; better than her rock and techno work. Check them out at: http://www.wildcolonials.com/ .

Jen Chapin – Ready (2006)
Jen not only has a gift for songwriting, like her dad Harry, but has his desire to make the world a better place. This is a good CD and deserves your attention. For all the info go to her site at http://www.jenchapin.com .

Allison Moorer – Getting Somewhere (2006)
One of the great voices in alt-country, Allison is back with a CD produced by new hubby, Steve Earle. Not as guitar laden as her previous effort, this CD still rocks when it needs to and the softer songs will send shivers up your spine. The CD opens with Allison singing, “I’ve got a lot of work to do” and ends with her hoping that it is worthwhile, singing, “I have to believe I’m getting somewhere”. I think she is.

The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)
This is Jack White’s little super group adventure. And… It is a good CD. Had this occurred before the White Stripes, it would have done well, but wouldn’t have created the critical stir that Jack and his sister have. As is typical with WS, the music wanders around different styles, but overall is classic rock and roll. I’m glad I listened.

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint – The River in Reverse (2006)
Elvis and a horn section. Need I say more? Another good CD from one of the best.

C.C. Adcock – Lafayette Marquis (2004)
I saw C.C. open for Lucinda Williams last year and just loved the show. I really didn’t expect much from this CD and it actually ended up in the “to listen” pile for some time. Big mistake. This is an excellent CD, filled with the energy of the Violent Femmes done New Orleans style.

WDST – 25 th Anniversary (2006)
A very nice collection from a station I had never heard of until recently. There are so many AAA hits on this CD, it was hard not to buy. You can get it online at ITunes or go to the station web site and order it.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New Music

There is no doubt that the shorter the move, the more painful it is. But, the move is pretty much complete and I am totally disorganized (okay those of you who know me are saying, “How can you tell”?). So… Here is all of the music I’ve been promising. It is playing as I finish writing all of this (There is so much I just couldn’t write about everyone). So check it out. It will be playing daily over the next week. Thanks for listening to The Promise.

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome – The Seeger Sessions (2006)
Even though I am a big Springsteen fan, I was truly surprised by this CD. I expected to listen to it a couple of times and then move on, knowing that Bruce created a fine compilation of Pete Seeger songs. But this CD really grabbed me. I love the power of the big (really big) band. I love the sloppiness yet proficiency of this series of first or nearly first takes. The joy and enthusiasm just overwhelms you. This CD will continue to get heavy play on my CD player for some time to come. Having said all of this, I must add this thought… I wonder if Bruce is second guessing himself right now. With powerful political CDs by Neil Young and T-Bone Burnett (not to mention the new Elvis Costello), is Bruce wondering if he should have made this a more political CD. To do a Pete Seeger tribute and avoid the more political songs is the only negative aspect of this CD. In any other year, it wouldn’t have matter.

T Bone Burnett – The True False Identity (2006)
It has been way too long a time since T Bone released a CD; but it is well worth the wait. This is one powerful CD. With almost no hints of his early country days, this CD is empowered by driving rhythms and mostly talk singing. It is an attack on our current state of affairs; from our imposter president (“cowboy with no cattle, warrior with no war, they don’t make imposters like John Wayne anymore”) to the spiritual mess that is being hoisted upon us (“on the seventh day God created evolution”). But it isn’t all politics. On what must be his answer to Sam Phillips latest CD and tour, “I’m Going on a Long Journey Never to Return”, T-Bone takes a few swipes at his ex, but also seems to share responsibility for the breakup of their marriage. This is a must have CD. It challenges you to think: Think about this different style of music, today’s political climate and even your spiritual self.

Neil Young – Living with War (2006)
If you haven’t heard about this album, it is because the powers that be want to keep the status quo and do not really want to risk life as we know it by playing something as politically aggressive as this powerful piece of work. This is a full frontal attack on the president, politics in general and the war in Iraq in particular. This is Neil at his sloppiest best; full of grungy guitars and huge choruses. If you didn’t know where Neil stands on the subjects of the day, there will be no doubt after listening to this potent weapon. Hopefully someday this CD will be very dated. But for now, it is a torch for those who oppose the war and current administration.

Gomez – How We Operate (2006)
These are some of the most imaginative and innovative musicians on the scene today. Their music is intelligent and fun, powerful and accessible. For those of you who are fans, it is more great stuff from a band that really kicks ass in concert.

The Watson Twins – Southern Manners (2006)
This 8 song CD is like a dreamscape, softly floating out of your speakers. It isn’t really alt-country and the gospel tag that was added to them during the Jenny Lewis tour doesn’t really describe them either. Imagine two Natalie Merchants singing in harmony. Well, that doesn’t really describe them either. So maybe you should just check them out yourself. After the intensity of T-Bone and Neil’s CD, this is a welcome diversion.

Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror (2006)
Since getting ill (hepatitis c) a few years back we weren’t sure if there would be another CD from Austin’s favorite songwriter, let alone a challenging one. But you knew that this would be a special CD when John Cale was signed on to produce.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning (2006)
It was only a matter of time before Mark moved completely into the country/alt-country arena. And if you’re going to have a partner in crime, it might as well be one of the great country singers of all time. Who knew that Mark’s deep haunting vocals would work so well with Emmylou’s sweet twang? But it does. This seems to be more of a Knopfler CD, with Emmylou singing harmonies and taking lead vocals on some of the songs. It works very nicely though as it extends Mark’s trip through the south.

Jon Dee Graham – Full (2006)
Rhett Miller – The Believer (2006)
Ben Harper – Both Sides of the Gun (2006)
Calexico – Garden Ruin (2006)
Drive-By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse (2006)
Matthow Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – Under The Covers Vol. 1 (2006)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Gilmore Girls Live

Okay, the title is a bit of a joke but… When David Palmer had his favorite Phillips on stage, you couldn’t help but think about how cool the Gilmore Girls is to have Sam doing the music and Grant to show up occasionally and sing. So yes, it was a David Palmer show, but David loves to sit in the background playing his piano (and man can he play) letting his friends front the band. And so after two beautiful solo numbers by David, up came Sam. The two of them did a couple of songs together and then the rest of the band joined in: Jay and Patrick from her band, a guy named Paul (sorry, can’t remember his last name) on bass and one other guy playing a little but cool keyboard. After 4 songs taken from her last two CDs, the highlight came: A new song called “Signal”. On first listen Sam seems to be singing about being at a crossroads; waiting for a signal. It’s a wonderful song that fits very nicely into what she has been doing for the last couple of years. Grant Lee Phillips then joined the group as Sam moved to backing vocals and then left after one song. Grant then led the band for about 5 or 6 numbers which included singing some covers by Bowie and a powerful version of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”. My daughter has school today, so we left before the second half jam began. Last time I saw the show, the jam was very very cool.

We only got to talk to Sam for… 20 minutes. When I sat down afterward, I was blown away at the time. It was such a fun conversation. Even Grant had trouble pulling her away. The big highlight? Her next CD is in the can! She is label shopping right now. Expect to hear it early next year. It was completely produced by Sam this time (T-Bone oversaw the mix of Boot…). Along with “Signal”, “When You’re Down” and “Sister Rosseta” (Not sure of the exact title) are in the collection.

Off topic here… If you’re wondering why John Mayer played guitar with T-Bone on the Leno show, it is really very simple. His guitar player couldn’t make the show and someone recommended JM.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bruce Springsteen at The Greek Theater, Los Angeles

So many things went racing through my head as I watched Bruce Springsteen and his 17 piece band perform last night at the Greek. I was reminded of the power and fun of watching Lyle Lovett and his Large Band playing in Austin last year; all top notch musicians and everyone taking solos. Memories raced back to the earlier days when Bruce and the E Street Band would finish off their sets playing a half hour of dance music with everyone up dancing and singing along. The chandeliers reminded me of The Last Waltz; a film/concert that washed across the musical landscape bringing us great music from so many different directions. And here was Bruce, doing all of that and even more.

There is an old theory: Put two drummers on stage and you will have one powerful performance. You could probably add a theory that says: Put more than a dozen people on stage and you don’t really need the extra drummer. So, take that theory and then add BRUUUUCE and it was an evening to remember. We were up dancing and singing along throughout the two and a half hour performance. Bruce was a bit leery about getting an L.A. crowd to sing along, and early on we didn’t disappoint him. But after a few tasty remarks about just how bad we were, the crowd built up some energy and by the time Jacobs Ladder came around, even the record company stooges, were singing along.

Most of the music was from the Seeger Sessions CD, but Bruce would throw in a song of his own every so often. With a unique band like this you can’t just play the songs straight up, even if they fit that way. If I Should Fall Behind was done in a waltz tempo, giving it a mid 1900’s feel. Ramrod was reshuffled with a Cajun beat. Even Johnny 99 was reformatted to fit the full band.

Probably the biggest star of the evening (outside of Bruce) was the horn section. Many of the songs, even the more folk ones, ended up as New Orleans Dixieland jam sessions with the horn section providing the power. With some powerful gospel influences thrown in, Bruce pretty much covered twentieth century Americana; although with more power than most of the original writers of these fine songs could have ever imagined.

It was a great evening all around. Bruce shows are always a time to renew friendships and make new friends (A few friends of mine actually ended up in the same row, just 4 seats away. How funny is that?). It is and always will be as much a musical experience as it is a communal gathering. I took my brother-in-law to the show. He has been a Pete Seeger fan for over 40 years. He loved it. I don’t think he was prepared for a Springsteen performance (and I know he wasn’t prepared for my Springsteen friends who are all Springsteen all the time, when there is a tour). If you have the chance to see this show somewhere, do go. You will have a great time. I promise.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We're Moving

We’re moving the studio. What I mean to say is, we are packing up and moving these computers across town. It has been very time consuming getting this all together and that has kept me from updating the station. The actual move will be sometime this week or next. I will try and do it as far off hours as possible. Meanwhile, Starting today (Tuesday) at around 8:53am Pacific Coast time, I am going to start playing everything from my current digital library. That’s 5000 songs with no repeats!

As soon as everything is back together, I’ve got new music from Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Calexico, T-Bone Burnett, Drive-By Truckers, Gomez, The Watson Twins, Ben Harper, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Rhett Miller and more.

Thank you all for listening to The Promise and for your patience during the move.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

This Weeks Play List

Jeremiah Lockwood – American Primitive (2005)
What a fascinating CD. Jeremiah’s music is so totally unique and yet it is steeped in the many traditions of Americana: Traditional Blues, folk, bluegrass all are here. Experience it yourself at: http://www.jeremiahlockwood.com/home.html

Traveling Wilburys – Vol 1 (1988) Vol 3 (1990)
It all started at Penny Lane Records in Pasadena. They had a Russian import of the 2 Wilburys CDs. When I tried to buy it I found out that it had already been sold; however they couldn’t find the cover (they keep the actual CDs behind the counter). I got a nice, “thanks for finding it”. No finders fee, nothing. But then the guy in charge says, “We have Vol 3 in stock”. Okay, cool. He finds it for me and off I go, generally happy with at least buying the real thing. Of course, listening to this fun CD made me want Vol 1 even more. So, on to Ebay I went and 12 hours later I was the owner of both Traveling Wilburys CDs. These aren’t important CDs. And maybe if they weren’t out of print I might not have cared as much. But, they are a reminder of how much fun rock and roll can be. The word on the Internet is that George was working on a box set when he died and that now his son has picked up the project. Someday these unimportant and yet essential CDs will be available once again.

Skydiggers & Cash Brothers – Skydiggers Cash Brothers (2005)
The Skydiggers and the Cash Brothers are both integral parts of the Canadian alt-country scene. It has been several years (at least) since the Cash brothers left the Skydiggers to start up their own successful band. Late last year they got back together to do this low cost reunion type acoustic CD. Listening, I felt like I was in a big overstuffed chair. The feel here is comfortable and relaxed as the main songwriters from each band trade off compositions and vocals. I believe this is only available on their websites. Do check it out.

Rufus Wainwright – Poses (2001)
While I’m writing this, my IPOD starts playing “Dead Skunk”; the first single from Rufus’ father, Loudon. That has nothing to do with this, just thought it was funny. Anyway, Stacey, http://chewingtheclef.blogspot.com/ recently reviewed this CD on her blog and I was so taken by the review I decided it was time to own a Rufus Wainwright CD. After listening to Poses for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just come out of a Broadway play. That is not to say that these are “Broadway tunes”. Okay, maybe they are, but they are really good “Broadway tunes”. I’m not one to sit down and listen to a musical but I can see myself enjoying this on a rainy day, like today, or a cold night in front of the fireplace. It is soothing, yet edgy. And his voice is just so beautiful and inspired. The bonus track, “Across the Universe” demonstrates this perfectly. Thanks Stacey.

Janis Ian – Billie’s Bones (2004)
Janis Ian has been making music now for 40 years! Her outspoken nature has served her music well throughout the years. This CD takes an interesting and successful move into country. It isn’t a full blown country/alt-country CD, but that feel permeates it. There is a wonderful duet with Dolly Parton which highlights this new direction. But… Janis Ian is and has always been one of the greatest singer/songwriters we have. And it shows in the excellent CD. “Billie’s Bones” deserves so much more attention then it received. Please, go support Janis at http://www.janisian.com/

Toad the Wet Sprocket – Dulcinea (1994)
I spent most of the 90’s listening to women (this would be a good place to put in an ex joke, but…) and Glen Phillips and his band were so popular it was easy to just ignore them (I still can’t believe I ignored a band that derived their name from a Monty Python skit). I do remember seeing them during the “Rock The Vote” tour. I was there to see 10,000 Maniacs but came away in awe of T-Bone Burnett. And why didn’t I get the hint that I should have been listening when Glen said to the crowd how excited he was to be in the same building as Sam Phillips (she didn’t perform that night)? So, here I am, years later listening to their CDs for the first time. But you all already know about them: Great production, lush arrangements, beautiful tunes. Listening to Dulcinea is an overall enjoyable experience. I guess I’m going to have to listen to the rest of them.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tina Schlieske at The Mint and Kristy Kruger at Genghis Cohen.

So it was like this… There's this singer with a voice as powerful as a small atom bomb. But she lives/tours in Minnesota. What are the chances she'll find her way out to L.A. And there is this woman with long hair and a kazoo who captured our attention in Austin with her unique style and who's last CD was one of my biggest and happiest surprises last year. But she lives in Dallas. What are the chances she'll find her way out to L.A. But last night Tina Schlieske was the opening act for the monthly Sin City concert at The Mint and Kristy Kruger had her CD release party at Genghis Cohen's. If that isn't a big enough coincidence, when I saw Kristy in Austin, she was one of the opening acts for a Texas version of Sin City.

Okay, here's the plan: Tina is going on at 8PM and Kristy goes on at 9PM "Sharp". An email to Shilah, who runs the Sin City shows confirms that Tina will be on no later than 8:15. The Mint is 2.5 miles from Genghis Cohen. I CAN DO THIS!

The evening started out great; finding a parking space a block from The Mint. The staff there is very friendly and obviously love the music. Stephanie, my bartender that night, was bouncing around and couldn't wait for the music to start. On Stephanie's suggestion I had the Filet Mignon Slider; a burger made with fresh ground filet mignon and piled high with, uhmmm, stuff. What a treat, and it stayed with me all night.

Sin City is a alt-country/Americana showcase and Tina Schlieske doesn't exactly fit. But man can she sing; which is probably why she was added to the show. Opening with just her singing over her guitar, the song slowly built until the whole band (which includes her sister Laura on backing vocals… Okay, it is a family thing 'cause her sister has a great voice too!) was cooking on all burners and Tina's voice was exploding on top of it. Tina's songs are rock with some white soul and a bit of country thrown in. It's a very Midwestern sound and it works well around her soaring vocals. The performance, which ran about 45 minutes, focused on music from her current CD "Slow Burn"; one of my favorite indie releases last year. For someone who has several CDs out, she seemed a bit timid when talking to the audience (called us "Ladies and Gentleman" several times), but her performance proved that the CD isn't a fluke. She's got the talent. Tina can be found at: http://www.tinabsides.com/default.asp

With one song left in Tina's show, I ran out of The Mint, http://www.themintla.com/ , and jumped in my car for the long 2.5 mile drive down Fairfax to Genghis Cohen; http://www.genghiscohen.com/ . I gave myself 15 minutes, but there was plenty of traffic on Fairfax on a Friday night. Arriving only a few minutes late, I was still able to get a seat before Kristy started. The place was packed. I've never been to GC when it was filled up. The poor waitress (don't know her name, but she is always there. You can't miss her with her blond pigtails and artwork all over her back) was covering the entire room. There were 3 shows there that night, and not everyone was there to see Kristy, but they were a good and sometimes enthusiastic audience. Kristy opened with a story, actually a nightmare, about what could happen to her this night. It was a multi-part dream in which everything that you couldn't imagine would go wrong; finishing up with the sound guy cutting off the sound and calling her a bitch. Luckily for her and us, none of it came true. With her 4 piece band behind her (Upright bass, acoustic guitar, steel guitar and for the last half of the set banjo), Kristy ran through most of her new CD, (I love this title!) "Songs from a dead man's couch". She played acoustic guitar throughout, sang into a bullet for about half of the show (gives it a 40's quality) and not only pulled out a harmonica for the closer, "Gold Rush", but even got the kazoo out. Her sound is hard to pinpoint. Take a bit of the current Sam Phillips, throw in a dash of Tom Waits, it's a bit jazz with a country beat, and all singer/songwriter. The new songs seem to be about the loneliness of the road and about striving to find "gold". Kristy Kruger is young and strong. And she will need to be because she is taking the road less traveled and we are all very grateful for it. Find out more about Kristy at http://www.kristykruger.com/ and you can get her new CD at http://cdbaby.com/cd/kruger4 .

On my way out the door I heard one of her band members say they were headed out to Largo to see Jon Brion. It was only 10pm… Hmmm…

Sunday, April 02, 2006

This Weeks Play List

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 (2006)
So, now it is official: We are playing music from this heavily bootlegged concert, considered by many to be one of the great E Street shows. The energy, the excitement, the risks, they are all here. It is a great show and worth having in your collection, even if you now also own the DVD.

Melissa McClelland – Stranded in Suburbia (2004)
When I saw Luke Doucet in concert, Melissa was his partner on stage. She is also his new partner in real life and they were just so cute together on stage. Melissa has a great voice (you don’t get to sing backup on a Sarah McLachlan tour without the pipes). It might be easy to compare her songs to Avril Lavigne, but there is so much more. Listening to the songs, this appears to be a woman who knows how beautiful she is yet is still insecure. She puts on a tough outer exterior, but is scared on the inside. I believe she has a CD coming out this month in Canada. I can’t wait to see the growth over the last 2 years. You can find out more at Melissa’s site: http://www.melissamcclelland.com/

Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers (2006)
To be honest, I first discovered Beth upon hearing “Central Reservation” from 1999. I loved the moody atmosphere of the CD and the single, “Stolen Car”. Nothing she did before or has done since has been quite like it. For many casual fans that meant disappointment. Well, it has been 7 years and it is time to put that behind us (myself included here). This new CD from Beth Orton does not have the atmosphere, and I don’t know if I’ve changed more than she has, but I love it that way. I was really surprised at how I found myself not wanting to take this CD out of my player. There are great melodies and rhythms here to keep your foot taping and your mind thinking. This may become my favorite Beth CD.

Jim Wolf – No Sleep What-so-ever (2005)
Indie artist Jim Wolf has some great tunes on this new CD. I really enjoyed it. There is a strong pop sense here with good production. Worth checking out at: http://www.jimwolf.com .

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