Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
What a beautiful night in the desert. Near Alpine in or around
Melissa's current tour is unique. She is telling her life story in song. Her latest CD, which is autobiographical, is the basis for this show. It makes for interesting pacing choices. Before the first hour was up, "Bring me some water" and "I'm the one" were gone. But it also allowed her to dig deep into her songbook, playing songs that had not been heard in concert in many years. Between each song Melissa would tell us short pieces of her life story that would be used to introduce and maybe explain the purpose of the next song. Most artists could never get away with this, but most of us know Melissa's story, from playing the bars in
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Amelia - A Long Lovely List of Repairs (2008)
A bit cabaret, sometimes international (the opening song for this CD is in Spanish, but sounds almost French) and always interesting, Portland based Amelia have created a CD that just can't be easily dropped into any of the obvious genres. They are too quirky for singer/songwriter but not quirky enough to call them Tom Waits disciples. A very enjoyable 3rd CD from this trio. Portland really has become a solid music scene. http://www.ameliaband.com
Bruce Springsteen - Magic Tour Highlights (2008)
And highlights you get here with four songs in both audio and video format. Before I go on, if you didn't know already, this CD is only available at ITunes. So, four songs, all with special guests. For "Sandy", The Boss brings Danny up front for one of his last performances before his death (proceeds from the sale of this CD go toward a fund in his name), Roger Mcguinn helps out with "Turn! Turn! Turn!", Tom Morello performs an amazing guitar solo for "Ghost of Tom Joad" and in a rare turn, Bruce performs the first single from Alejandro Escovedo's new CD along with Alejandro. Four great performances. Well worth the $8.
Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal (2008)
And speaking of Alejandro, this is one hell of a CD. Sure Dave Marsh (who wrote Bruce Springsteen's biography) called it the CD of the year. And okay, Alejandro just signed to the management company that handles Bruce. And yes, he got on stage with Bruce and they played HIS song. All of that made me step back and wonder if there is some overkill in marketing here. But the CD holds up. In any other era in rock an roll this would have been his coming out CD. It's got it all: the hooks, the Bowie like production, the riffs that all seem familiar and yet new and well written songs detailing his own life in the rock and role road show. This is one solid CD, maybe his best yet. Alejandro has written some great songs, but this is the first CD that is great from start to finish. Buy this and be prepared to rock!
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs (2008)
Even though they are not my favorite band to see in concert, their CDs continue to impress me. This CD finds them stretching their musical boundaries sounding at times almost like a prog rock/art rock band. The 8 plus minute "I will possess your heart" will captivate you.
Harold and Maude Soundtrack (2008)
Back in February, I was reading a magazine while on a plane to Florida and there was an article about how Cameron Crow had worked with Cat Stevens to finally release a soundtrack to "the greatest love story of our generation" (or something like that came out of Cameron Diaz's mouth during "There's Something about Mary") on vinyl. Yes, only on vinyl. And only 2500 records. As soon as the plane landed I popped open my computer and ordered a copy. By the time I came home they were already sold out. So, I guess I can't tell you to buy this, although you might want to watch EBay. Anyway, this is a great package with posters, a large coffee table book with pictures and comments from most of the key people from the movie, a vinyl single with alternate takes and, of course, all of the wonderful songs that made up one of the great soundtracks of our time.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Although the ads said that Willie Nile hasn't played L.A. in 20 years, I somehow remember seeing him perform at the "Light of Day" benefit a few years back. In fact, that is how I first heard of him. His "Cell Phone (In the pockets of the Dead)" blew me away and I remember having to wait a few months for the CD to actually be released. "Streets of New York" is an excellent CD by the way. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We arrived way early on Saturday and so Maria and our friend Cathy, took off down the street while I held down the first place in line. As it turns out, there are extra benefits for being first in line. Besides getting to meet Gary, Willie's manager, McCabe's has a tradition of giving the first person in line a stool to sit on: Much nicer than the hard cement. So, Gary is a nice guy and we talk about how nice Willie is and how I'm going to love the new live CD that is coming out. Fun stuff. They let us in at 7:30 and we go right up to the front row. Sitting on the left, I notice that we are in front of the VIP seats. When the VIP's get there, I hear something about grass roots or something, but can't hear enough to get excited. Then one of them asks if the others have been to the new Largo. That's where I jump in. I proceed to tell them how great it is. They nod and smile. I don't think they wanted my input. Oh well. At just after 8pm, the show starts and... No opening act. Instead, the guy behind me stands up and goes to the stage to introduce Willie. So, those of you who watch The Office may have already figured out that it was Creed Bratton who used to be in the Grass Roots and is now on The Office who was sitting behind us. Creed does a great intro talking about how this is going to be so intense that we will be bleeding from our eyes. Willie loved that. Willie comes out on stage with his writing buddy, Frankie Lee, who plays a snare drum and sings backup vocals. Although he was on acoustic guitar most of the night, Willie did do a nice stint on piano. I think he is actually a better piano player than guitarist. He will be the first one to tell you he isn't a great guitarist. That is part of his charm. But playing guitar he stands and poses and moves like a rock star. Still it was only an acoustic guitar in his hands. It was a great visual. Playing lots of songs from his last CD, and several new songs, Willie charmed us all night, getting us to sing along to songs we have never heard and just making us laugh and smile. He is humble and funny and energetic; everything that makes for a fun rock and roll show. He closed the nearly 2 hour set with "I wanna be Sedated" using a choir of about a hundred to really make McCabe's Explode. After the show everyone hung around for an autograph, so we bought the live CD (it is very good) and headed out.
All the way around, McCabe's is a great showplace. They have good sound, a nice room and easily the nicest staff in L.A. Oh, and their cookies are from Trader Joes.
Monday, June 30, 2008
I arrived at the new Largo Thursday night and immediately felt like it was home. You walk past an iron gate into an outdoor patio. To the right is The Small Room. Inside that room there is a bar and a small stage with a flat screen behind it. There are cocktail tables that fill the room. This should be an excellent place to see up and coming acts. Straight ahead were the side doors into the theater. To the left was the entrance and the waiting room. At the back of the room was a small bar where merchandise is sold. On top of the bar is a small portable record player. That is what they used to entertain the crowd before the show. An Andrew Byrd vinyl was placed on it which really seemed to fit the room. There were a few cocktail tables off to the left allowing people to buy a drink in the small room and then hang out by the entrance until show time. The theater itself is a standard style auditorium/theater, with auditorium theater seats (it seats about 220 I believe). The stage is bigger than the original Largo, but not huge. There were 7 people on stage at one point and Eric later said it felt pretty tight up there. The big potential negative is that the sound board is upstairs. When I talked to Sam's sound guy, Stacy, after the show, he was really surprised how easy it was to get the sound right and didn't need to run up and down the stairs to check the sound. More on that later. There are pieces of Largo everywhere: old pictures, bits of furniture, but it is very much a new theater. The combination of the two rooms and maybe the only 200 person sit down theater for rock music in the city, gives the new Largo the potential to be one of the hottest showcases in town. Flanagan did a great job converting the old Coronet Theater.
When I got there, Sam was still rehearsing, but Sam's manager was there, guessed who I was and lead me to the bar. He gave me some seed money and some water and I went right at it. I had been told there was new merchandise, but for some reason didn't think about The Section Quartet needing space. They had already set up in the corner of the bar. Daphne and Leah came up and said hi and thanked me for helping out. "Oh, you want me to handle your merch also? No problem". Actually, I really enjoy their music and have no problem selling them to people, so it really was a pleasure taking their stuff on too. Sam had added Baggu's (its a vinyl shopping bag) to her table as well as 10 signed and numbered "anti tour books". They were hand made collage based hand stapled 8 1/2 by 11 books. There is nothing about the tour in them, just Sam having fun with pictures and old advertisements and such. I love the pictures of Sam with guitar and her comments on them.
At 8:05 the doors opened. By 8:15 the tour books were gone. Even at $30 a piece, not a single person balked. I sold every one that I showed. Sam has a whole summer to make more. Hopefully, she will be bringing them on tour with her. For a good half hour, it was non stop selling. I sold t-shirts and Cd's of course. One Baggu sold, but I know there were a few people who were going to wait and buy them online. It is a pretty cool concept, especially if you are into the environment. My online friends Bill, Ralph and Jen came by as did Kristy Hanson who I spin on my online station. PJ Harvey was there also, although I didn't get a chance to meet her. And apparently a friend of Pete's figured out that we knew him in common. Thanks for the email Pete.
At about 8:30, The Section Quartet went on. I missed most of their show because I got into a very interesting conversation with Sam's manager. Everyone Sam surrounds herself with are good people. We had a great talk about religion and rock and roll and our place in the world. Heavy stuff to be talking about at a "rock show". I loved it. TSQ played 5 songs. I caught the last one. They are always such a fun and interesting act to watch and listen to. Eric's selections of songs to perform show a keen eye toward what is truly musical in rock and roll. And his arrangements are second to none. They play with a passion that is generally reserved only for traditional rock acts.
After about a five minute brake, Sam came on stage with the Section Quartet and started her show. I left the merch table high and dry, knowing that Sam's fans would be respectful. Of course, I took the money with me. I'm no fool. :-) Actually, I sat in the back row so that I could peak out every so often and make sure no one was hanging around it. Even from the back, you are close enough to see that look in Sam's eyes when she is pretending to be confused. The sound was excellent. I think they found a good sound guy in Stacy Parrish.
So... Sam started with the Quartet then added Jay Bellerose on drums and Chris Bruce on bass and electric guitars. Now, I've gone on and on about how good Jay is. And I loved watching him on the A Boot and a Shoe tour. But the music from "Don't Do Anything" really focuses a lot on Jay's drumming, and when he was added to the show... WOW. At one point, Sam said after a song something like, "I don't know what Jay was doing over there". He brings so much energy to the stage with songs that are so ready to explode. And explode they did. I loved the ABAAS tour, but this upcoming tour is going to be something special, for you have the contrast of the beauty of Sam playing in front of the Section Quartet and then the power and emotion when you add Jay's drumming to it. And then there is Eric Gorfain, who played not only violin, but guitar, piano and banjo. At one point he had the banjo in his lap, was playing the piano and then would pull up the banjo and play; going back and forth throughout the song. "My Career in Chemistry" was one of the killer songs in the set as was "No Explanations". Ultimately, it is about Sam, and her voice was well prepared for the dynamic changes in the sound as she performed most of "Don't Do Anything", and a few songs from ABAAS and Fan Dance. She also brought back the Stephin Merritt penned "Underwear", which is, as one review called it "wicked". "Sister Rosetta" and "Signal" have become staples in the set list and they were beautifully done. I have to believe it must be a bit weird for Jay to be performing "Sister Rosetta" after playing a slower version all spring on the Plant and Krauss tour, but he claims it isn't. Sam played about an hour, joked around a lot, and overall put together one of the best shows I've seen her perform. I can just imagine what it is going to be like when they get a few shows under their belt.
After the show, I continued to sell merchandise, while the fans along with Sam and members of both bands hung out on the outdoor patio. After closing up shop, I went outside, chatting with Sam, some of her family, Eric, and Stacy. Stacy, by the way, has a really good voice. You can check him out at http://www.simple-music.com . I plan to add his CD to my station. He did a great job of mixing the show. The band, even when playing loudly, never overwhelmed Sam. Everyone was very happy about the show. Sam talked about wanting to play the small room someday. At the end of the evening I was totally satisfied. There was great music, wonderful conversations and a feeling that I had helped out a bit. Both Sam and Eric thanked me many times for my help, but it is really I who should thank them. It isn't often you get a chance to help out an artist who you love. And then to be even a little part of the experience was just amazing. Back during ABAAS I saw Sam a dozen times over a 12 month period. That year was so special. It will probably never happen to me again. But these three shows may have equaled that (although my cookie story will never be eclipsed). Thank you Sam. Thank you Eric. And for those of you who got this far, thank you for indulging me.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Night 2 of my 3 night stand as Sam Phillips merchandise guy was way different than night 1. First, I left my daughter at home. Second, we had a long drive to get out of Orange County and all the way across L.A. county, on a work day, right during rush hour. It wasn't fun folks. But we actually made it to the Canyon Club about 20 minutes early, interrupting Sam's sound check. The Canyon Club is a very nice dinner theater with round tables and even a few tables with signed guitars embedded under glass. The sound system was good and the staff friendly. They had a nice table in front of a booth waiting for us and so Maria and I set up the t-shirts and kicked back for an hour. Sam and Eric were pretty busy so we barely saw them before their show. We did meet Marc Cohn's road manager. It seems that Marc figured that during his little tour he would just have someone from each club run his "merch" table. Well, the Canyon Club's staff was pretty busy and... well... we said, "Sure". This should be interesting. And so the third difference from the night before was that we were going to be handling all of the people buying CDs and posters from the main act. This was going to be a lot more work. He offered us money but we refused. As I told Eric later, if the money didn't tie out and we weren't getting paid I could go tell him to... well you get the idea.
At 10:30, the Canyon Club turns into an 80's disco; shifting everything up an hour. The crowd was let in at 6pm and Sam and Eric went on at 7pm. This meant, as Sam jokingly said to the crowd during her show, that she was going to be interrupting their salads. That has to be so tough for an artist to play while the crowd eats. Sam did her best, but it was so noisy, even those people who might have been interested didn't get much of a chance to hear her. Sam only did about 30 minutes, dropping the Steven Merritt song. My gut tells me that if she had gone with a more electric guitar based set she would have done better. The only way to get past someone's dinner is to play louder than the table conversation. But, Sam and Eric did a good job up there. The sound was much better than at the Coach House. We were off to the side instead of in the back, so we had a much better view. But it was so disappointing to hear people talking during the show.
After the show, we sold several CDs to new fans. I don't believe one person came up to us and said they knew who she was. That was very weird. Even in Orange County, we got a few fans coming up to us telling us how surprised they were that she was on the bill and how excited they were to see her. Actually, there was this couple near the booth who seemed to know her music and were always the first ones to start clapping after her songs. I was hoping they would come up to the booth. I'm sure there were more out there. I just didn't get a chance to meet them. A big thank you goes out to Rich who came to the show based solely on my recommendation. He kept coming over to the booth to get his CD signed and kept missing Sam who was bouncing around the venue after the shows. I also met a guy who did audio/video reviews. I couldn't resist going for the small world concept: Do you know my friend Kim. Of course he did. He knew who she used to work for and what she was doing now. It really is a small world.
Marc Cohn (I believe I misspelled his name last night... Sorry Marc) came out at about 8pm and did a solid show, singing songs from his new CD as well as classics like "Walking in Memphis" and "Silver Cadillac". There is a song called "29 Ways" that Maria and I just loved. He's got a great voice and I really found all of the songs that night to be enjoyable. After the show a lady walked up to me and whispered, "Why isn't he more famous"? Good question. The voice is there. The hooks are there. The band plays with a lot of energy.
After the show, the rush started. We sold about 50 or 60 CDs and a handful of posters. Marc came out after about 15 minutes and sat down at the table next to us. He pretty much ignored us, probably assuming we were Canyon Club staff. You get spoiled when you're hanging with Sam and Eric. Sam came by and brought us a plate of cookies. She is so thoughtful. I hope she doesn't think we are even though (I brought her home made cookies back during her Boot/Shoe tour). I should also mention that they fed us both nights. That was very nice of them to do.
At the end of the evening we didn't tie out. Off by three whole dollars (someone must have stolen a poster). Marc's manager was very happy with that though. We asked for a couple of CDs which he happily gave us and he then offered to get them signed. We followed him into the back and actually met Marc, who seemed a bit tired but was very polite. By 11:30 we were in our hotel room in Valencia (we're headed to Sacramento for the weekend) exhausted but happy.
The final leg of this mini tour is next Thursday at the new Largo. Maria is staying in Sacramento and I'll be manning the booth all by myself. Those of you who are coming to the show, please be patient... and please bring correct change! Largo is going to be great. Sam told me that they are going into rehearsals starting today for that show with Jay Bellerose taking time off from the P/K tour to rehearse with them. And the Section Quartet will be there too. It is going to be a great show. Oh, I said that already, didn't I. Well it is. And if you live in So. Cal. there is no reason for you to miss it. Hope to see some of you there.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Finally, at 8pm it was show time. I NEVER watch Sam from the back of the room, so this was a different experience for me. But, like I told Sam later, it allowed me to sing along with the songs without bothering anyone. This not being her crowd, I thought Sam made a wise choice and opened with "Sister Rosetta". The odds are, people are a bit familiar with it. I made sure to bring up that song to new fans before the show; "Have you heard Raising Sand"? She did several songs from the new CD before pulling out the tape player for her solo rendition of "Animals on Wheels". I think some of the crowd was scratching their heads at that one, but others got the humor in the piece. She then covered a Steven Merritt song (Sorry, I should have asked for a set list) and finished up with "One Day Late" (a bunch of people clapped along to that one) and "Reflecting Light". The mix was not too good in the back, so it is hard to comment on the quality of the show, but Sam's voice was as beautiful as always. Interestingly, Eric's electric guitar was not very loud, but that may have just been my location. Sam did seem a bit timid in between songs this time around. Maybe it was because it wasn't her audience. She did joke around after awhile, asking the audience if she should do 1 or 2 more songs. Ralph, yelled "three". Sam loved that.
After the show, several old and new fans came over and got a chance to meet Sam. She was her usual charming self. And when the crowd went back to their seats, the five of us continued talking. Jess talked to Sam about using her music in her animation pieces (my little girl knows how to network!) and Maria questioned Sam on the meaning of the t-shirts. I chatted with Eric about the 39 things a band shouldn't do when booking a show.
It was so much fun talking music, hanging with these two wonderful people and... I get to do it all over again tonight in Agoura.
Garrent, Sam wants us all to get together. You need to come out to the coast (west coast) for one of the shows.
Ralph and Jeni, I'm expecting a review on the Marc Cohen show. And Jeni, it was a pleasure meeting you.
Rich, hope to see you at the show tonight.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Ruby James - Desert Rose (2007)
Persistence... Ruby wrote to ask if I had checked out a link her publicist had sent. I hadn't. A quick listen told me that she was someone who belonged on The Promise and so an email or two later and the CD was on its way. Another nice CD to add to the play list. I wasn't expecting to be so taken by this CD though. The best "Americana" bends the boundaries and "Everything Good Goes Away" was the song that hooked me, with a style that was more Allman Brothers then Emmylou. I love the arrangements on these songs: The slide guitar gliding lightly on top of the acoustic guitars on "Desert Rose", the bluesy feel in "Mistress of the Devil". She's working on a new CD and already I can't wait. http://rubyjames.com/
John Batdorf - Home Again (2008)
Half of the acoustic guitar team, Batdorf and Rodney, John Batdorf has recreated that sound on his new CD, taking beautifully inspired lyrics filled with hope and combining them with near jaw dropping acoustic guitar soloing. A beautiful CD that will inspire you on several levels. You can pick the CD up at CDBaby, http://cdbaby.com/cd/batdorf
Mason Brothers - The Sun The Moon and the Sea (2007)
I believe I could play this CD in the background for hours at a time without needing to turn it off. It is a beautiful, soft acoustic work of art; gentle and yet still exciting. This fits really well next to John Datdorf. http://www.masonbrothersmusic.com/
The EZ Powell Band - Bedroom Eyes (2006)
The EZ Powell Band is a one man band with plenty of potential. The production is very sparse but if you look past the rough edges you can see a talented songwriter trying to be heard. Someone we will be keeping an eye on. http://www.ezpowell.com/
Corday - Superhero (2007)
Jennifer Corday has been playing The O.C. and elsewhere since... well, since it was hip to be a female singer/songwriter. The potential has always been there and now she has arrived with this excellent CD. The songwriting is as good as she's ever done. The production on this CD is the best she has ever had. If you live in the O.C./Long Beach area or have the chance to catch her when she does festivals around the U.S., do so. This new music along with her charisma at live performances will continue to make her one of the most respected acts in the county. Watch out world. http://www.corday.net/
Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything (2008)
I've already talked about this fantastic CD. See below for reviews of the CD and a recent Borders performance. There will be plenty of this CD showing up on the station. A must buy. http://samphillips.com
Tina Dico - Count to Ten (2008)
Tina's last CD was my CD of the year. I'm not sure if this one will get there, but it stands up very nicely next to her last, "In The Red". A woman on her own, singing about her life and lovers, Tina does it as good as anyone I have heard since... Maybe since Joni did it in the 60's/early 70's.
Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers (2008)
Kathleen continues to grow and develop as a writer. She continues telling stories about people from small towns. And they continue to grab you and make you feel. But nothing she has done, prepared me for the power of "Alicia Ross", where she takes on the role of a young woman who was killed by her neighbor; singing to her mother about her death. Saying goodbye. One song worth the price of admission. The rest of the CD is gravy.
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark (2008)
Jason Isbell has left the band and the writing slack has been picked up by Shoona Tucker, the bassist in the band. What we have is a sometimes gentler sound. When they want to sound like the Stones though, they can rock with the best of them. Another good CD from the social/political storytellers of the South.
Jackson Browne - Solo Acoustic vol. 2 (2008)
It's Jackson Brown, live, telling stories. What else do you need to know?
Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning (2008)
This is an exciting CD from the son one of rocks finest songwriters, Neil Finn. This is a solo effort in all it's glory with Liam playing most if not all of the instruments. He showed us how it was done in concert last year, and now as I listen to the finished product, it all seemed to come back. The songs and melodies have great staying power. This is someone to watch out for.
R.E.M. - Accelerate (2008)
Returning to the sound that made them the darlings of the media and gave them a huge following, R.E.M. has found their voice again. This is the first R.E.M. CD I've fully recommended thismillennium.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
This was a nice safe start, since she has been performing this song for a couple of years with and without drums. "Little Plastic Life" also fit very nicely as a duo. But how would "No Explanations" do? That song has Jay's drumming all over it. Turns out, it didn't really need it. Eric switched to electric guitar and it continued to have the edge that makes it such a powerful song. Sam sang beautifully throughout the show and Eric's violin was the perfect compliment. She had a few problems with her guitar (it was their first show) but that was the only blemish to a perfect if not short (30 minutes) evening. Okay, there was the aborted attempt to perform "Can't Come Down", but even that problem turned into a fun moment for everyone. Sam was in great spirits, introducing herself, as usual, and also welcoming shoppers to Borders as they walked by her in between songs. This is going to be so much fun watching this show grow and develop over the next few months. After the show was almost as much fun. We ran in to Lynne and caught up. Vickie came out from Costa Mesa to see the show. Thanks Vickie! She bought a CD too. I ran into Kristy Hanson and Mike Chiaburu. Mike produced Kristy's latest CD (do check it out at http://myspace.com/kristyhanson ) and will be performing this Sunday at Sundays on Sunset @ Libertine at 8210 Sunset Blvd (8pm and only $5!). I've never actually met either of them before, but several months ago, Mike saw my picture on Myspace and recognized me from some Sam shows. He sent me Kristy's CD which I really liked. Tonight I was trying to get by him when he stopped me. The two of them are so unassuming. And when you've just spent the last couple of hours watching people in Hollywood, unassuming is way off from the norm. I chatted with Eric for awhile (it wasn't the Dodger's night) and finally got a chance to say hi to Sam. She signed autographs for close to an hour, because, as those of you who have met her know, she really enjoys meeting people and she treats you as if there is no one else in line. She finally met Maria (who loved her) and recognized that it was Maria who yelled out "Obama" when Sam asked what the score was. That's my Maria. If you're in L.A., don't forget, Sam will be playing the new Largo on the 26th of this month. And for the rest of you, check Sam's Border's tour schedule at her website http://www.samphillips.com .
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It starts with her voice, "I thought if he understood, he wouldn't treat me this way. No explanations". There's a little electric guitar accenting the voice. And then comes the beat. A big tribal beat that is right up front in the mix and keeps growing and growing as the song continues on. It's not a fast song and when it is just Sam, it feels like a Boot and a Shoe song. But that big drum sound and the fuzzy guitar give it a new feel. "No Explanations" is the opening track to "Don't Do Anything" and a sign that Sam is not standing still in her musical style.
Sam has stated in an interview somewhere that she sees this CD as a cross between ABAAS ("A Boot and a Shoe") and "Martinis and Bikinis". It is easy to see. The big drums on some of the songs and the heavy use of a electric guitar along with several songs that have very catchy choruses really bring back the feel of her mid 90's sound. But the rest of the CD is Sam with her acoustic guitar or piano surrounded by deft drumming from Jay and always gorgeous violin from Eric which is very much the qualities we loved in ABAAS. In fact, this CD is pretty much a trio with Sam on piano and acoustic and electric guitars, Jay Bellerose on percussion and Eric Gorfain (The Section Quartet) on violin (and I understand banjo and other instruments of destruction). Patrick Warren helps out here and there and I believe there are a couple of bass players. The entire Section Quartet gets in on a few songs also.
"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" and "Signal" are two of the older songs on the CD and it shows. The sound is very close to ABAAS with some lovely violin from Eric. I believe The Section Quartet are on both of them also.
"Another Song" and "Don't Do Anything" are back to back on the CD. I love this pairing of songs. They almost segue with no time gap between the two. "Another Song" is a beautiful piano based song that reminds you of ABAAS with Sam singing, "Did you ever love me?" while sweet voices sing "La La La" in the background. "Don't Do Anything" is a fuzzy electric guitar based song with Sam singing "I Love you more when you don't do anything?". Is she being sarcastic? Ironic? It seems that her tongue is firmly placed in her cheek. It is so different from "Another Song" and yet they fit together so well. The old (ABAAS) sound and the new style; blending beautifully.
Ever since I totally blew R.E.M.'s "The One I Love", I've avoided discussing lyrics. There are people that are much better at this then I am. But I have been listening to this Cd for several weeks now and I just can't resist making a fool of myself. So... Where "A Boot and a Shoe" was considered by some to be the breakup CD, "Don't Do Anything" finds Sam moving on after divorce. There appear to be references to this past relationship throughout the CD and there are still some emotions that need to be displayed. But there is no doubt that she is moving on. And that is what makes this CD so exciting. For Sam is driven by her passion to make music: To create art. It is her calling and songs like "Can't Come Down" and "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" seem to drive home this point. Lyrics from a Sam Phillips CD are never straightforward though. They are more like abstract paintings; giving you small glimpses of reality surrounded by dream like images. Then there is "Watching Out of This World" which seems to be using the TV show "Out of This World" as a metaphor. I wish I had a lyric sheet.
"Watching Out of This World" is the closer and I love it there. So many CDs just sort of end. When you hear "Watching Out of this World" you know the CD is coming to an end and that thought along with the song's feel make you feel a bit melancholy. And then you smile because with a running time of about 37 minutes, you have plenty of time to listen to "Don't Do Anything" all over again.
I generally don't put this much emphasis on a single CD. But the perfect combination of a great CD, an early release copy and a passion for one of my favorite performers made spending this much time and space irresistible. I will be featuring this CD on my station; playing all 12 songs throughout the day, every day until the release date (June 3rd). You can purchase this CD at Amazon.com or if you wish to pick up the CD with bonus mp3s, go to http://www.nonesuch.com/Hi_Band/albums.cfm?album_num=725# and order it there.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Shauna Burns - The Moon and The Fire Circle (2008)
Somewhere between Sarah and Kate rides Shauna Burns. With her ethereal voice, spacious arrangements and lots of piano, you can't help but become enchanted with "The Moon and The Fire Circle". Throw in some cello and other interesting strings and you have an album that will let you float away. If you love Sarah or Tori or even Kate, you should really check out this beautiful CD. http://www.shaunaburns.com or http://myspace.com/shaunaburns .
Sean Costello - We Can Get Together (2008)
This is classic blues rock with mighty strong guitar hooks complimented by at times raspy and always engaging vocals. You would think that after all these years blues rock would get predictable and boring, but Sean gives so much of himself to this CD that the music almost transcends the genre making it fresh and exciting. But forget all of that. Try and listen without tapping your foot or playing air guitar. I dare you. http://www.seancostello.com or http://myspace.com/seancostello
Carolyn Wonderland - Miss Understood (2008)
I first saw Carolyn in a small BBQ restaurant in Austin. There was barely a stage there and it was just her and another woman. When she opened her mouth you could feel the passion in this woman. Then when she started playing some slide guitar leads you knew it was only a matter of time for this very talented artist. And this is the CD we have been waiting for. Every song is fit for radio airplay. It opens with what should be a radio classic, the title track "Miss Understood"; a bluesy slide crazy rock nugget. She proceeds to cover lots of ground over the next dozen songs, adding horns, doubling the beat, slowing down for an aching moment of country blues, even throwing in some choice covers. This will be high on my list at the end of the year. http://www.carolynwonderland.com or http://myspace.com/carolynwonderland .
Bob Schneider - When the Sun Breaks Down on the Moon (2008)
One man albums are always tough to review. Just how good would this CD be if he had a full band playing with him. It's not like he can't afford to bring in the hired guns to flesh out the songs. There are lots of interesting songs here, but only a few that really grab you like Bob is capable of. Hearing much of this in concert a few weeks ago, it seems to make more sense now. And I guess, when everyone wants you to spend your time living up to previous classics likeLonelyland , you need to do things without outside influences every so often. Listening to this CD, there is still plenty of good music left in Bob. We'll just have to wait a little longer for his next classic.
Allison Moorer - Mockingbird (2008)
With a voice like Allison's, she could sing the greatest hits of the Archie's and I'd be happy. So, that she has put together an excellent collection of songs written by women, isn't at all a bad thing. She shines on her own song, "Mockingbird" as well as classics "Dancin' Barefoot", "Ring of Fire" and "Orphan Train" by Julie Miller. This is a very enjoyable album. Now get back to writing Allison. We love what you have to say.
Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin' (2008)
Allison's sister Shelby Lynne, has taken a similar yet slightly different route for her latest CD. She has decided to focus on songs made famous by Dusty Springfield. There aren't many that can cover Dusty's songs, but Shelby does a great job. If you like that era of music, then do check out this CD.
Cat Power - Jukebox (2008)
And yet another cover CD... This I believe is Cat Power's second such CD and it starts out with the only version of "New York, New York" that I can stand to listen to these days: That's how unique and powerful a version it is. Cat Power has a style that just overshadows whatever she performs, making any song instantly her own. If you like Cat Power, you'll love this. If you don't, you'll hate this. What else can I say here.
Josh Ritter - In the Dark - Live at Vicar Street (2008)
His last CD really brought him home to me. And so I thought I'd check out this live CD to get a better feel for the older stuff. Great idea on my part. This is one fantastic CD with a DVD to boot. The passion from the audience seems to really bring out the best from Josh and his band. I can't wait to see him live some day.
The Missiles of October - Hope
Saw these guys as an opening act at The Coach House a few months ago and was really impressed. This is a solid CD with interesting songs and solid production and guitar work.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - The Swell Season (2007)
So, this is really what started the whole thing. If you haven't seen "Once" yet, just go buy it. I guarantee you will enjoy the movie and the music. Glen and Marketa started with this CD, then Glen took some of the songs for a Frames CD and more of them for the movie. So, there's lots that is familiar here. But if you need to have everything related to "Once", you need this in your collection. I still can't get enough.
Herbie Hancock - River, The Joni Letters (2007)
To have a jazz great cover Joni Mitchell seems obvious. Why it has taken this long is beyond me. Yes, it won a Grammy but that is rarely a reason to listen to anything. Great songs performed by excellent vocalists and one of the great keyboard men is the reason to buy this.
Steve Poltz - Traveling (2008)
Steve is one funny guy. And when he writes about his life and the things in it, you can't help but laugh. I don't think a studio album will ever do him justice, but this gets pretty close. He's a fun guy with lots of fun songs, and some deeper meaning if you look close enough.
Paul Thorn - A Long Way From Tupelo (2008)
Speaking of funny, Paul Thorn takes that poor southerner role and spins it around on us until we we see ourselves in a whole different light. This is his best CD since the classic "Ain't Love Strange". And the extra disk with a bunch of live songs is probably worth the price of admission. Buy this CD. Paul deserves so much more recognition. http://www.paulthorn.com
Sia - Some People Have Real Problems (2008)
There is no "Breath Me" (the final song from "Six Feet Under") here and that is too bad. There is nothing bad here, but nothing really stands out. Maybe I need to listen to it some more.
Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool (2008)
You may remember "Pure Pop for Now People", Nick's first album. And if you didn't know, this was the real title of that album (the record company in the U.S. wouldn't release it that way). With lots of extra songs, this is a must have for anyone who wants to hear the best of what the "New Wave" brought us. "Jesus of Cool" is a great title, but "Pure Pop for Now People" best describes this album.
Juno - Music from the Motion Picture
Obviously a special movie and soundtrack. Indie music from multiple generations make this a unique collection. From Barry Louise Polisar's classic "All I want is You" to the Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking with You" there is something for every age. And just in case you need some classic rock, "All the Young Dudes" will make you smile.