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

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