Monday, December 29, 2008

The Best of 2008

What follows are my favorite CDs of 2008. Are these the best? I suppose it is all subjective. I know that in the top group, these were the CDs I couldn't get enough of throughout the year. If you have been enjoying The Promise this year, these are the best of the best, and I'm sure you will enjoy owning your own copies of these excellent CDs. Truthfully though, all of the CDs on this page are worth owning.

So, we start with the very best, in alphabetical order...

The Very Best CDs of 2008

Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
On the list because, like the others, I just couldn't put it down. A fun CD that has no real weaknesses.
Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
On many "Best of" lists, this CD started out as a favorite and just kept growing and growing on me. If the world were fair, Alejandro would be a mega star by now. The best rockin' CD by just about anyone in years.
Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything
Yes, I'm sure I'm not the most objective reviewer here, but this is a superb CD and I played it more than any other this year. A nice move forward for Sam.
Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
This is just a pop rock classic. Again, very heavy airplay on my CD players and IPODs.
Carolyn Wonderland - Miss Understood
There is just too much talent here to ignore. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

The Very Best CDs 2008 Part 2

Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World (2008)
My favorite of hers so far. Beautiful songs. Beautiful lyrics. Beautiful World.
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (2008)
I was hooked from the opening notes. Wish I had had more time with it this year.
James McMurtry - Just Us Kids (2008)
I just find myself wanting to hear more and more of James McMurtry. I have started buying the old stuff because I can't believe he just suddenly got this good. The rock poet for those of us who are watching the world age.
Randy Newman - harps and angels (2008)
The lyrics alone put this near the top. One of America's great songwriters with an excellent CD.
Kym Tuvim - Nothing Sweet Nothing (2008)
A mix of jazz, blues and folk, I guarantee you will be hooked within 2 minutes into the first song of this excellent CD. She sings in a lower register not unlike Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading and it just sounds so good in front of her solid backing band.
Natalia Zuckerman - Brand New Frame (2008)
I really enjoy folk meets, well, just about anything. With Natalia, it is folk with jazzy vocals. There is a smoky sound to her vocals that can make most any song thrilling.


Other Excellent Releases this year
Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology
Shauna Burns - The Moon and The Fire Circle
Calexico - Carried To Dust
Elvis Costello and the Imposters - MomoFuku
Sean Costello - We Can Get Together
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Tina Dico - Count to Ten
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning
Collin Herring - Past Life Crashing
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Anne Mccue - East of Electric
Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
Luke Powers - Texasee
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Paul Thorn - A Long Way From Tupelo
Martha Wainwright - I know you're married but I've got feelings too
The Watson Twins - Fire Songs
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Best Vinyl Issue
Harold and Maude Soundtrack (Finally!) Those of us who own this limited edition disc, should get down on our knees and thank Cameron Crow for making this happen. It only took 35 or so years.

Best Guitar Solo
This was the easiest call this year. Tom Morello stepped out onto the Honda Center stage in Anaheim, CA and proceeded to blow Bruce Springsteen's fans away with his guitar solo at the end of Ghost of Tom Joad. All nicely documented and available on ITunes (audio and video).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More New Music for December 2008

Randy Newman - harps and angels (2008)
One of America's greatest songwriters is back after a long layoff with a CD that belongs on every one's best of list. Randy is a master of sarcasm, great political insight and the sweet and sentimental. And sometimes, they happen all in the same song. Killer songs like "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country", "Potholes" and the title track, "Harps and Angels" represent the best of Randy Newman. Don't let this one get away.
Susannah Blinkoff - Let's Pretend (2008)
As you start to listen to this excellent CD, it seems to be a hot piece of pop music. But the farther into the CD you go, the more interesting it becomes. Susannah's very pop voice can move toward emotional and even sultry sounds. Every song is a surprise in waiting. All of the songs were co-written by Rich Jacques, so he must get a lot of credit for sound of this CD. They make a great team and I hope they continue to work together in the future. http://www.susannahblinkoff.com .
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain - Live at Canterbury House 1968 (2008)
Hearing the very young Neil Young chat on stage is worth the price of admission here. And to hear these wonderful songs with just Neil's guitar is a special treat. My favorite of the live releases from Neil, so far. 
Future Clouds and Radar - Peoria (2008)
Robert Harrison, who is Future Clouds and Radar, has a lot of nerve. His first release was a 2 CD set and now his latest has only 8 songs on it. But Robert is a serious artist who follows few rules. This new CD, which is very much about our mortality, isn't a downer of a CD at all. There are only a few hints at the Beatles like sound that he is so capable of, but you can't help but be drawn to this unusual CD. "Eighteen Months" is the big rocker on this one and it's chorus is "Eighteen months, buried alive". You don't suppose he is talking about Peoria, do you? 
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (2008)
What a turn around from last year's slow and depressing CD. He opens with a horn section signally a change of sound and mood. His voice is as sexy as ever and the mood change has lead to a powerfully beautiful CD. Whether using a Stax like horn section or leading a soulfully driven love song, Ray seems to have all of the musical answers. This is one of the best of the year. 
Tom Bolton - When I Cross the River (2007)
I have to stop myself from using the word "Americana" here. How about Australiacana? This CD of folk like sounds is too exciting to just call folk. But we can't call it Americana (which is where all the folk/country like songs end up) because he is Australian. The basis is acoustic folk, but it moves out in many directions and leads to some very original songs. There are also some very powerful lyrics here. You can find out more at Tom's site: http://www.sensibletom.com  

Stocking Stuffers
These low priced EPs are just what you need for those little gifts to give your music friends. 
Todd Snider - Peace Queer (2008)
This probably belongs with the rest of the CDs, but at only 8 songs with one an instrumental and the other a reading of one of the songs, it is more an EP than a full CD. But what an EP! These six songs will make you laugh, they'll make you cry and most important, they will make you think. "Is this thing on" is a bully song with the best ending twist I've ever heard. His mellow approach to John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" adds to the poignancy. "Mission Accomplished..." is, well, you just gotta hear to. Go to Todd's web site and pick this one up. You will love it. http://toddsnider.net  
Alejandro Escovedo - Live Animal (2008)
If Alejandro's "Real Animal" didn't rock enough for you, or if you just can't get enough of one of the best CDs of the year, pick this hot 5 song EP up. http://www.buymusichere.net/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=13&upc=5099924346221
Shark and Co. with Cindy Wasserman - Don't Give Up (2008)
Peter Gabriel's great "Don't Give Up" is taken for a nice spin by the guitarist for the Wild Colonials and the sister of Grammy winner Bob Wasserman (and she is currently in the band Dead Rock West). It is all for a good cause, Farm Aid and the Red Cross. http://www.sharkmusic.net
Mudcrutch - Live! (2008)
Tom Petty leads his old band through a rockin' set of 4 songs; but of course. The "Crystal River" solo/jam is probably all you need to know when considering buying this. http://www.buymusichere.net/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=13&upc=09362498242
Dave Boutette - Boomtown & Candidate (2008)
I usually don't mention singles, but these two songs are really really good. Dave's last CD was no fluke. I"m not sure if these are for sale, but check them out at http://www.myspace.com/daveboutettemusic  . I can't wait for his next CD!
Liam Finn - Live at the Wiltern (2008)
Neil's son toured with Eddie Vedder earlier this year and this CD came from one (or maybe 2) of the shows. Watch out for this guy. With his first CD a solid release and the pedigree of being in the Finn family, there is sure greatness to come. Meanwhile, if you buy Liam's CD from http://www.yeproc.com/ you get this live EP free. 

Running out of time... Some short quick reviews.
Thea Gilmore - LieJacker (2008)
Another solid CD from Thea. Not as good as the last couple, but maybe I just need more time with it. 
The Watson Twins - Fire Songs (2008)
The sisters seem to have found their sound with their first full length CD ("Southern Manners" was only 8 songs). Landing somewhere between Jenny Lewis and Natalie Merchant, they weave together a near dozen songs that show off their wonderful harmonies and solid songwriting abilities. 
Bruce Hughes - Shorty - An Album of Momentary Songs (2008)
Listening to this CD you can see where he's been. Time spent with Poi Dog and Bob Schneider have given this artist a quirky, funky, pop sound. 
Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things (2008)
Not a bad CD, but I don't think he is the right person for the Rick Rubin stripped down approach. 
KFOG - Live From the Archives 15 (2008)
A decent selection of new live music. Maybe the second or third best live compilation on the market. You can find out more by going to kfog.com
Radiohead - In Rainbows (2008)
I've never been a huge fan. I thought they were too derivative of some of the great prog rock of the 70's. But I love the mix of styles in this CD. I may have to go back and check out the older stuff. 
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology (2008)
Lyrically this may be his weakest CD. I did enjoy the move back to mid tempo rock and roll and like it better than the last couple. 
Joe Bonamassa - Live from nowhere in particular (2008)
Can't believe there are guitar fans who still don't know this guitar God. As with most guitar wizards, it's the live stuff that really stands out. This two CD set is a bargain.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela (2008)
Uhmmm, Spanish flamenco acoustic rock. What else do you need to know. Pretty impressive playing and lots of fun. 
Shawn Mullins - Honeydew (2008)
Shawn has really become a great storyteller. Add to that a good sense of melody and you have a wonderful CD. 
Tristan Prettyman Hello...X (2008)
She is right up there with the other female heavyweights of singer/songwriter/pop/rock. There are some real hits here and several seriously good songs. If you like Missy or Alanis, you should check Tristan out. 
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
In the pure rock genre, there aren't many who really can compete with just about anything that Jack White does. I love the feel of "no rules" that seem to permeate these CD's. You are never quite sure where they are going next. Not all that typical in rock and roll these days. 
Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers (2008)
Classic Aimee Mann and maybe my second favorite CD packaging this year. This is her best CD in years with really not a bad song on it. Some nice orchestrations flesh out some of the songs, but it is, as always, all Aimee. 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New Music December 2008

Lots of music coming to The Promise this month. Here are the first few...

The Ditty Bops - Summer Rains (2008)
I've been telling friends for some time that the new Ditty Bops CD, "Summer Rains", is worth buying just for the packaging. Well, apparently some folks agreed and the CD is now up for a Grammy for packaging. Congratulations ladies! Their eclectic mix of modern folksy swing is just so much fun to listen to. And you can play with the cover for hours (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit). Check it out here: http://www.dittybops.com
KGSR Broadcasts vol. 16 (2008)
Every year it is the best live CD compilation. Makes you want to just pack up and move to Austin. This years double CD contains music by Pete Yorn, Andrew Bird, Lyle Lovett, Iron & Wine, The Swell Season, Jimmy LaFave, Daniel Lanois, R.E.M.,James McMurtry, Shelby Lynne,Tiff Merritt, John Hiatt, Cowboy Junkies, Indigo Girls, Aimee Mann, Alejandro Escovedo, Carolyn Wonderland, Bob Schneider and many more. You can purchase this limited addition CD at http://www.waterloorecords.com . 
Peter Himmelman - Pen and Ink (2008)
To really get Peter, you need to see him live. Or, get on his mailing list and download this CD for free (while you can). He is a great writer, a great entertainer, and funnier than most comedians on the circuit today. So, go to http://www.peterhimmelman.com today and well, maybe beg him to let you download this very special CD. 
The Baseball Project - Vol 1 Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. (2008)
This collaboration between Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon and Scott Mccoughey is a baseball lover's dream. These are real songs about real people who so many of us grew up with. If you knew that Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings and lost the game and the record books do not show it as a perfect game, this CD is for you. If you knew who Satchel Paige was and understood how Curt Flood changed modern baseball while ruining his own career, then this CD is for you. If you grew up loving baseball, you will love this CD. And even if you aren't a baseball fan, these are good songs with interesting stories. My only complaint? Other than "Fernando", all the stories are east of the Rockies. Still, this was a fun CD to listen to. 
Luke Powers - Texasee (2008)
The title tells it all. Even though Luke is from Tennessee, his music follows in the footsteps of great Texas artists like Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen. Luke, I think you need to use your middle name. The stories in this CD are witty and wonderful. He continues to have a fascination with those who came before us, this time taking aim with "Paul is Dead". After 2 of Luke's Cd's, I am now looking forward to what comes next. This CD should rank near the top of the indie Cd's I've listened to this year. Check out more about Luke Powers at http://www.texasee.com  . 


Saturday, November 22, 2008

More New Music November 2008

As always, it is a battle to get all of the new (2008) music listened to and on my stream before year end. And as always, I never quite make it. But I am going to get a bit closer with this batch of music. 
Natalia Zuckerman - Brand New Frame (2008)
I really enjoy folk meets, well, just about anything. With Natalia, it is folk with jazzy vocals. There is a smoky sound to her vocals that can make most any song thrilling. This is one of my favorite indie/small label releases this year. Tastefully produced by Willie Porter, you can feel the grit, when there is grit and the fancy when it wants to be light and breezy. Please listen to her on The Promise or check her out on the web: http://www.nataliazukerman.com/  
Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World (2008)
I have been playing the hell out of this CD in my car and just can't get enough. This is easily my favorite Eliza CD so far. The folk side has great melodies and always interesting themes. The rockers are solid and fun. She opens the CD with "Emerald Street" singing, "All because I'm in Love". If this is in any way autobiographical and if that is what it takes for her to put out such a steller CD, she should fall in love more often. 
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey (2008)
Speaking of being in love, it sure feels like Lucinda is there too. So what is interesting is that the woman with the voice that could make a deaf man cry (that's a good thing by the way) now is singing about somewhat happier things; and it works. No matter how happy the song, you are left wondering if maybe this is just an illusion and that pain is right around the corner. And finally, she has released "Jailhouse Tears". I heard her do this a few years ago and have been waiting and wondering who she would duet with. Turns out it was the country star Elvis Costello. :-) And what a wonderful choice! Another really good CD from Lucinda. 
Lili Haydn - Place Between Places (2008)
I'm a sucker for a woman with a violin. I believe I've told you that before. Some 10 years ago, I saw Lili playing with the Wild Colonials and just fell in love with her and her music. She has a light whispery voice, which may put some off, but I think it fits her music just fine. Her last CD was a shot at pop and an attempt to shed the dark goth image she had somehow acquired. I didn't really like it. This CD is somewhere in between, with the pop sounds not so overly produced and some dark images creeping back in. It is still a heavily produced CD, which is something I usually don't jump at. But, with her beautiful violin all over the place I found myself constantly smiling as I listened. The closer is a hidden track which is so 70's prog like that if you were there back in the day, it will make you smile. Oh, and Eric, if you're reading this, sorry about faking you out. 
Colin Meloy - Sings Live! (2008)
It's the leader of the Decemberists doing the solo bit. If there is any doubt as to who runs the show, this CD makes it obvious. Missing only the full arrangements, Colin creates a world that pulls you in and makes you want to learn strange yet magnetic lyrics. This fun CD is a sign that there is still plenty to come from one of the key indie bands in the U.S.
Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious (2008)
I was listening to a Loft Session on XM and heard Mike and just had to hear more. I picked up this CD and was not disappointed. And, considering that it is on ATO, one shouldn't be surprised. Hmmm, wouldn't it be fun to hear Mike open for Patty Griffin some time? The CD opens with "Fort Hood" which samples "Let the Sun Shine In". All that energy doesn't stop there as he moves into one upbeat song after another. Anyone who said that singer/songwriters had to be mellow hasn't seen the state of the art lately. There are getting to be too many favorites for 2008, but this has to be on that list. 
Calexico - Carried To Dust (2008)
There is a genre of movies (actually it is a term used in paintings and writing as well) called Magical Realism. It has been used to describe movies from Latin Americans where a realistic movie is laced with magical elements. That is the way I see this wonderful CD from Calexico. You almost feel like you are in a hallucinogenic dream state and the flowing rhythms are suddenly interrupted by trumpets that seem other-worldly. This needs to be heard to be understood. A brilliant CD. 
Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking (2008)
If there was any doubt that Eastmountainsouth was Peter's CD, this should end that discussion. These nine songs continue the dreamlike beauty that was Eastmountainsouth. So, it goes without saying, if you loved Peter then, you will love his new CD. It is one of the most beautiful CDs released this year. You can buy the CD here: http://tinyurl.com/Leavetaking-Amazon-Music-Store
Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete (2008)
It has always been about Chrissie and then the band, which has been endlessly changing since the early 80s. This is one hot band with Jim Keltner on Drums and Eric Heywood on steel guitar. Break Up the Concrete is a good rocking CD and it has one of my favorite lines of the year: "and by the way, you look fantastic, in your boots of Chinese plastic". Maybe only Chrissie Hynde can get away with a line like that. 
Los Lonely Boys - Forgiven (2008)
This doesn't have the energy of their first CD and it doesn't have the excitement that comes with change that the second CD had. But the Garza brothers can sure play and when those moments occur, it is pure rock and roll, uhmmm, heaven. 
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (2008)
The lyrics on this excellent CD don't feel as personal as they were on her first solo CD. This CD is more storytelling. Now maybe her first one was really just storytelling, but it sure felt like it was about her. Still, there is nothing to knock here. I love the stories and I love the risks that Jenny continues to take. 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

New Music for November 2008

Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008)
There is nothing bad about this CD. I like all of the songs. But... There is nothing special here. If you are a fan, you will continue to enjoy their music. If you haven't listened since the first CD, there may not be a reason to go back. Maybe in time some of the songs will grow on me more. 
Dave Boutette - The Piccolo Heart (2007)
This is a unique and very satisfying piece of Americana. Although it is at times folk, it is not folksy. And though it may be quirky, it is still very accessible. This is very high on my list of new indie releases that I have received this year. http://www.myspace.com/daveboutettemusic 
James McMurtry - Just Us Kids (2008)
The follow up to 2005's "Childish Things", is just as solid, just as potent, just as good. These are more than just stories from the heartland. These are poems. Loud poems, but poems none the less. "Ruby and Carlos" will break your heart. "Just Us Kids" will resonate like no other song about aging. "Cheney's Toy" will make you laugh and nod with understanding. And James is rocking along with every song. One of my favorites of the year.
Elvis Costello and the Imposters - MomoFuku (2008)
Elvis is rocking again with the Imposters. And this is a rockin' good CD. No ground breaking stuff here. No amazing songs that stop you in your tracks. But it is the best Elvis CD in some time. And that means, it is a must buy. 
Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch (2008)
Or, Tom Petty and a few Heartbreakers get together with old friends and have a good time in the studio. It's a bit more country than a Heartbreakers CD; and maybe a bit more ragged, but that just adds to the charm. I'm not going to even second guess the motives of making this CD because it is good enough to stand on its own. "Crystal River" maybe worth the price of admission with the classic riffing in the middle of this 9 minute epic. It is good to see Tom is still working hard to make good music. 
Willie Nile - Live From The Streets of New York (2008)
This is basically a live version of Willie's excellent 2006 release "Streets of New York". There is also a DVD available of this concert. Nothing is lost in translation. A totally under appreciated CD, "Streets", gets a second life with this CD. Hopefully it will pick up more fans. Willie, bring your band next time you play L.A. And don't wait another 20 years! http://www.willienile.com  
Collin Herring - Past Life Crashing (2008)
Collin is Texas' answer to Ryan Adams. Right now, I like what he is doing over Ryan. All he needs is that big CD. But for now, we'll enjoy this not quite Whiskeytrain quality alt country rock. 
Simple - In Perfect Disarray (2008)
I met Stacy Parrish, who is Simple, while he was doing the sound for Sam Phillips earlier this year. This home made CD shows promise for a young artist. The sound is very 90's with the big guitars and the soft sounds moving into big peaks. Inspiral Carpets comes to mind as I listen. http://www.stacyparrish.com/home.html

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More New Music for October 2008

Here are a couple of additional artists that have been added to the play list this month...

Mutlu - Livin' It (2008)
More Philly soul from this smooth voiced artist. If your creds come from who hangs out with you, then Mutlu is the real thing. His guests on this CD include: Daryl Hall, Amos Lee and G. Love. If you like these three artists, you will enjoy this CD. http://www.mutlusounds.com
Alex Woodard - Alex Woodard (2008)
Good old fashioned country rock is what you will find with an emphasis on the country. There are a few sweet ballads here, but the highlights are the full band country rockers. These songs kept my foot tapping and I enjoyed the stories they told. http://www.alexwoodard.com

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Music for October 2008

Some day I'll be caught up. Meanwhile, here is a bunch of music now playing on The Promise:

Spottiswoode & His  Enemies - That's What I Like (2007)
Demented and delightful. Listening to Spottiswoode is almost like watching a David Lynch movie, except it's a lot more fun. Imagine sitting in a small cabaret in a foreign country, with lots of strange people pushing up against you. The singer comes out and everyone becomes transfixed on this unique performer. Or maybe you're in a hip club in Soho at 3am. I know, none of this makes sense. So, go and buy the CD and you'll see what I mean. 
Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need (2008)
Teddy has really done his parents proud. Add this to my list of favorites for 2008. Sounding somewhere between Chris Isaak and Rufus Wainwright this CD is a pop classic. I dare you to not like it. Yes, it is that good. 
Martha Wainwright - I know you're married but I've got feelings too (2008)
Right off the bat, this CD gets high marks for its title. I don't see anyone coming up with a better one. So, let's just call this the best CD title of the year. As for the music (almost forgot about the music), Martha nails several songs with vocals that can at times sound like Kate Bush or Joanna Newsome. But she can come down to earth to. "You Cheated Me" would have been a hit in any decade where there was radio to support it. It is girl pop rock at its best. 
Ian Hunter - Shrunken Heads (2008)
Old guy rocks! Like Graham Parker, Ian Hunter can sing about old age and rock at the same time. Maybe the youngins won't be able to relate to this CD, but they will be able to rock and roll to it. And that's what it is all about. A smart album that you will listen to over and over again. 
The Romanovs ...And the Moon was Hungry... (2007)
Somewhere between Kate Bush and Evanescence lies the Romanovs. Lead by singer/violinist Morgan Kibby, this band lands a potent punch. Just pop enough for the masses, yet alt enough for the edge that the rest of us need; and lots of violin!
Anne Mccue - East of Electric (2008)
With a minimal amount of instruments, guitar, a bit of bass, a touch of percussion and some very tasteful mandolin, Anne only has her songwriting to lean on. Its a good thing she is a top notch writer. These dozen or so songs sound so good you can't even imagine that there is a better way to present them. I think I'm going to have to put this on my best of list for the year. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

ACL Festival

I just finished up the better part of the week in Austin, soaking up music, food, tequila, music and more music at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. I haven't finished writing about it and there are still plenty of pictures and a few more videos (actually you will find all of the videos at http://www.youtube.com/infomas ) but you can read about my time there at http://aclfestival.blogspot.com . As always, plenty of music that I hear in Austin ends up on The Promise. So check it out before it makes its way to my steam. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Melissa Etheridge in San Diego

Saturday August 30th

What a beautiful night in the desert. Near Alpine in or around San Diego County, way down I-8 lies an Indian reservation with a portable outdoor venue. With temperatures in the 70s and a nice breeze to keep us cool, it was the perfect night for a concert. In fact it was a perfect night to close out Melissa Etheridge's 2008 tour (sort of). My friend Kim is a long time member of Melissa's fan club, so when I join her for a show I'm always guaranteed great seats and 3rd row dead center was what we had last night.
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 Long Beach, to her stealing a married woman and then watching that fall apart, to her finding "true love" and then her battle with cancer. It is a story with an uplifting message of hope and taking control of you own life. All of this worked well for Melissa. She continues to keep a solid rock band behind her with the amazing Philip Sayce on guitar. If he goes back to playing weekly at Molly Malone’s and you love great guitar playing and live in So.Cal., you must check him out. Two hours and forty minutes after it started, Melissa finished us off with a rousing version of “Like The Way I Do”.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Music for August 2008

Oh my. This is what I get for taking some time off. I've got loads of new music for you all to listen to. So, I'm going to split this up into a few posts. This first post will include music from New CDs by Bruce Springsteen, Amelia, Death Cab for Cutie, Alejandro Escovedo and The Original Soundtrack from Harold And Maude. Meanwhile, there is even more going on the stream. So please stop on by and give it a listen. http://www.live365.com/stations/thepromiseradio
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

Sam Phillips on Tour

Sam Phillips has announced the first leg of her tour in a unique and amusing way. Even if you saw on her Borders tour, don't miss her with the full band. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Raul Malo at The Coach House

We came to see Raul because Maria loves his voice. I was a bit concerned after seeing his show in Austin at the ACL Festival. It opened with a bang and closed with a bang, but the middle section was a bit slow. The problem it turned out was that RaulMalo needs more than an hour to get all of his musical ideas into play. And so, Wednesday night, we got to see the real show, and what a treat it was. Opening with a couple of Mavericks classics (sorry, I didn't write down the song titles), he then settled in to perform music from his latest CD. For those of you who don't know about Raul or his CD... First, imagine a voice somewhere between Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, with all the passion that goes with it. The new CD contains classic 50's songs with a country attitude. It is a slow paced CD that isn't for everyone. But, as I've said before, RaulMalo can sing the dictionary and it will sound great. So, this portion of the show was similar to the ACL show until he started to venture out again, singing songs like "Besame Mucho ". Maria was in a puddle on the floor after that one. Moving into his solo portion of the show, he took some requests and really showed off his vocal talents, only accompanied by his guitar and a harmonica played by a member of the horn section. The rest of the show mixed up his material, playing more Spanish classics like "Volver" and plenty of Mavericks tunes containing that great Tex/Mex sound. He finished off with Van's "Bright Side of the Road". The band behind him was tight and helped fuel the passionate energy that comes from Raul's voice. The band consisted of Raul was on guitar with drums, keyboards, bass and a sax and trumpet horn section. In the end we did everything we could to stay seated, but the music finally was just too much for us and when he came back for his encore we forgot to sit down, instead we did what you are supposed to do at a RaulMalo or Mavericks show: Dance the Night Away. We will not miss him the next time he comes around.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Willie Nile at McCabe's


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

Sam Phillips and The Section Quartet at the new Largo

This is going to be a long post. There is so much to cover here...

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

On the Road with Sam and Eric

Okay, the heading is a bit of a joke. The show last night was within driving distance for all of us, but Tim's comment, "More stories from the road" inspired it. Thanks Tim.

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

Hanging with Sam Phillips and Eric Gorfain

Last night was an absolute blast. I had asked Eric Gorfain at the Borders show if they needed any help with any of the upcoming Sam Phillips/Marc Cohen shows and Eric says, well, we don't have anyone set to handle the merchandise table. And so... Sam was opening for Marc Cohen at the Coach House here in The OC. This is an old stomping ground of mine. I've been to dozens of shows there. This was going to be fun. We get there a couple of hours early and are lead upstairs to Sam's room. It has been a few years since Jessie, my daughter, has been to one of Sam's shows, so she was thrilled to get to talk to Sam again. The 5 of us (Maria my wife, Jess, Sam, Eric and I) spent some time talking... about lots of stuff. The Coach House gets plenty of credit for actually hanging paintings in the room and having a motif. And Garrett, Sam and Eric could not say enough nice things about you. We then headed downstairs to set up the table while Sam and Eric put their work clothes on. We chatted with several fans and soon to be fans before the show. Those of you, who know me, know how much I love to sell a favorite performer of mine. I was in heaven.

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

New Music for June 2008

It seems like it took forever to get this batch of CDs onto the play list. I've been sitting with some of these for well over a month. I'm excited about the indie artists this time around, including: Ruby James, John Batdorf, Mason Brothers, EZ Powell Band and Corday. But the more established artists are just as exciting with Sam Phillips, Tina Dico, Kathleen Edwards, R.E.M., Drive-By Truckers, Jackson Brown and Liam Finn all releasing excellent CDs.

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

Sam Phillips Live at Borders in Hollywood

Sam Phillips - Live at Borders in Hollywood It's been a year since I last saw Sam Phillips live and with the new CD being released today, the anticipation was almost overwhelming. At exactly 7pm Sam and Eric Gorfain came out to the top of the stairs inside the store where they had created a makeshift stage and the show was on. With a good 50 to 60 people in attendance, the area was packed. I was a little concerned about how they were going to perform these drum heavy songs, but with Eric switching between violin and electric guitar, the essence of the songs showed through. They opened with "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" and let me tell you, if you've been listening to the Plant/Krauss version, you're listening to the wrong one.

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

New Music from Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything (June 3rd 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

New Music for April 2008

We've got lots of new music here and lots more coming in the near future including Sam Phillips latest release (more on that very soon). Meanwhile check out The Promise and enjoy music from the Juno Soundtrack, Nick Lowe, Sia, Paul Thorn, Steve Poltz, Herbie Handcock, Glann HAnsard and Marketa Irglova, The Missiles of October, Josh Ritter, Cat Power, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Bob Schneider, Carolyn Wonderland, Sean Costello and Shauna Burns.

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.

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