Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Music December 2009

Okay, I'm going to try and get through as many CDs as possible before year end. Here we go...
James Maddock - Sunrise on Avenue C (2009)
James Maddock's return (has it really been 10 years?) may very well be the very best CD of the year. It starts with the lyrics. The songs about relationships desired and lost have insight that is rarely seen in pop music. There are wonderful hooks throughout and the production is beautiful without being overly done. There is not a weak song among the dozen here. If you're going to buy one more CD before the end of the year, this is it.
Luke Powers - Running to Paradise (2009)
This new CD from Luke brings us 16 more stories/songs sung by a man who someday will be a folk legend. The term "folk" may be too limiting for the style of his music which seems to capture the best of the Texas and Tennessee scenes. His CDs always dip into our collective past, and this one not only goes back to the 60's for "The Real Elenor Rigby", but also the 70's for "Johnny Rotten Come to Jesus". Always a favorite indie release of mine. Get more info at http://www.phoebeclaire.net or you can purchase it at CD Baby.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11 (2009)
If you love guitar, how you can't love this duo is beyond me. Armed with acoustic guitars and no real limits as to where they can go, the music is exciting, amazing and filled with the kind of joy that so few artists project.
The Swell Season - Strict Joy (deluxe edition) (2009)
The deluxe set of this follow up CD from the duo that made "Once" one of the best musical movies a year or so ago, is a must have. Disc 1 is the new music. It feels like more time and money were allowed for this CD and you hear some beautiful arrangements; especially the standout "Low Rising". Disc 2 is a live performance, which demonstrates their ability to not only convert their studio recordings into live pieces, but gives you a hint on just how good they can be in concert. Backed by The Frames, this alone is worth purchasing the CD. Disc 3 is a DVD (I'll get around to that some day).
Angela McCluskey - You Could Start a Fight in an Empty House (2009)
Right off the bat you have one of my favorite album titles of the year. But seriously, Angela and her friends have put together what is now my favorite post Wild Colonials CD. With Shark and Paul busy making soundtracks among other things, Angela has created a wonderful CD. A couple of the songs have a bit of the techno sound that Angela has been dabbling in, but generally this CD is all about Angela; her voice, her lyrics and her friends (like Joseph Arthur for example). Angela McCluskey is in a league with Lucinda Williams when it comes to letting you hear the pain in her voice. So when she slows it down and tells you a sad story, you really feel it. A couple of the later Wild Colonial songs are included here which just adds to the enjoyment. This is an excellent CD and it will easily hold us over until the gang gets back together again.
Ellsworth - Bright Red Road (2009)
As with his last CD, it is hard to label Ellsworth's music. It is less Americana this time and more... I don't know... Troubadour like? Ellsworth has focused his lyrics on the world and so many of it's problems. This is very much a social commentary CD, yet it never gets too heavy. Although you I might be tempted to call it folk, it is very modern folk with full arrangements and solid production. This CD is going to get plenty of play on The Promise. For more info, you can go to http://www.ellsworthsongs.com

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New Music December 2009

I've got lots of new music on the way. Here are a few of new CDs you will hear on The Promise...

Kevin Gilbert - "Nuts" and "Bolts" (2009)
Kevin, the man behind Toy Matinee and one of the key songwriters in the Tuesday Night Music Club, has been gone over a dozen years, but he hasn't been forgotten. His estate has finally released some material that has been sitting in the vaults. These aren't half recorded, not quite ready pieces of music, but fully produced (and let's face it, when Kevin produced something it was FULLY PRODUCED) ready for release songs. In fact most of the first CD, "Nuts" is typical of the heavily produced songs from Toy Matinee (The last few songs are simpler productions though). "Bolts" is much more personal with Kevin mainly accompanied by either guitar or piano/keyboard with maybe some light percussion. Throughout the two CDs, the songs focus on life and relationships; which is probably why the people who are releasing these CDs consider them singer/songwriter CDs. The sound is very 80s, but the quality is there, both in the production and the writing. If you loved Kevin before, you will love these new/old CDs. Warning, if you only buy "Nuts", you will be mislead (on purpose) by the liner notes and you WILL buy "Bolts" just to see what she as talking about. You can find out more and buy the CDs here: http://kevingilbert.com/
James McMurtry - Live in Europe (2009)
The studio CDs don't begin to show you the power of his live shows. The problem with this CD is that some of the classics were saved for the DVD that comes with it (if you haven't seen him do "Choctaw Bingo" live...). So, at 8 songs, the CD is a bit short. The 6 songs on the DVD make up for it, if you like to watch your music. Still, it is hard to put down anything live by James. This was a nice addition to my JM collection.
Tinted Windows - Tinted Windows (2009)
There hasn't been a power pop band like this since... maybe The Knack. If that sounds horrible to you, then you will want to pass on this CD. But, if you love to hear that sweet vocal with the power chords and big drumming, then this is the CD for you. The surprise here is that this is actually a super band featuring Taylor Hanson from Hanson, James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins, Adam Schlesinger from Fortunes of Wayne and on drums Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick. This could be the next big band.
Sam Phillips - Cold Dark Night (2009)
Part of her Long Play project, there are a half dozen Christmas songs here. Now, I'm not one for Christmas songs, but Sam can make anything sound special to me and these songs prove that. The highlight is easily "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" which she originally recorded for the movie, "A Midnight Clear". This new arrangement is just as gorgeous.
Lazy Preacher - 4th and Independent (2009)
They are Orange County's little secret, and that's too bad. You might be tempted to call their music psychedelic folk, but putting labels on Lazy Preacher isn't easy. Let's see... I'd put them somewhere between Beck and The Moody Blues. How is that for a wide label. This new CD is more focused than "Fall Asleep When Awaking" and has a more consistent sound; nice acoustic guitar with good melodies and just enough strangeness to keep you on edge. One of my favorite indie CDs of 2009. You can find out more here: http://www.lazypreacher.com
Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard - One Fast Move Or I'm Gone - Music from Kerouac's Big Sur (2009)
Big fans of Jack Kerouac, Jay (Son Volt) and Ben (Death Cab for Cutie) take Jack's words and create a brilliant folky/Americana CD. For me, the highlight is hearing songs that sound like Son Volt but have Benjamin singing (and vise versa). If you like either of these artists (especially Jay Farrar) check out this beautiful and touching tribute to the King of the Beats.
Matt Stansberry - Self Portrait EP (2009)
Some great hooks from this indie artist. "Love Struck" has hit written all over it. His people like to compare him to John Mayer, and... well, it seems to fit. Some really nice pop music. Find out more at http://mattstansberry.com
Mike Doughty - Sad Man Happy Man (2009)
I just love his style. This acoustic rock always seems on the verge of exploding. He can write, he can sing, he brings the melodies and he brings the energy. What else can rock and roll ask for? It is maybe a touch below "Golden Delicious", but them maybe I just need to listen to it some more, 'cause every time I do it keeps getting better. http://mikedoughty.com

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Section Quartet Holiday Show at Largo

If you know me, you know I'm not one for holiday shows. Still, how could I not resist the lineup, and with Eric Gorfain arranging the evening (not to mention the actual material), I knew it would be fun. The band opened with Silent Night, a rare (for this show) traditional song. But as a warning of things to come, I suppose, they took it in a new direction with Daphne Chen playing the melody on her theremin (think "Good Vibrations" or almost any old horror movie). It gave the song a bit of a spooky feel. It is always amazing to watch Daphne perform on the theremin; pulling sounds literally out of thin air.

The biggest surprise of the night and one of my favorite moments came a couple of songs later. Sarah Silverman sang "Give The Jew Girl Toys". If you haven't heard this hysterically funny song, you should check it out on Youtube. Be warned though, it is standard Sarah material (it will offend those who are easily offended).

Before each singer appeared, David "Gruber" Allen would introduce one of the Section players along with himself and then introduce the guest artist. They were going for a bad Oscars feel where the offstage Gruber mimicked the offstage announcers at the awards shows and then the two of them would tell bad jokes while introducing the next artist. Those of us who got it, loved it. David has great timing and is generally just a very funny guy. His rap in the middle of Silver Bells had us rolling in the aisles.

The band and singers moved away from the traditional songs, singing more modern favorites. The Section Quartet did a lovely version of "Christmas Time is Here" (the Vince Guaraldi classic from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"). Joe Henry did "Blue Christmas". Vivian Campbell (Yes, that heavy metal giant) did "Merry Christmas Everybody" (originally sung by Slade). And Mike Viola (Candy Butchers along with plenty of solo stuff) did "Father Christmas". The most traditional song was performed by Sam Phillips, singing "Away in a Manager". It was easily the most beautiful moment of the evening. Sam took this traditional song and gave it the warmth and passion that so few singers can do these days. The song appears on her new EP "Cold Dark Night", by the way.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Addi, the balloon guy, brought out his bass balloon and played the bass line to The Dreidel song. You just have to see him play that balloon to really get how cool the whole thing is. Daphne did the arrangement for this traditional song, changing the style a few times mid song. It was a the most unique and maybe my favorite version ever of this song that I've been singing since I was a child. Also appearing was Jim Hodgson who played his concept video of "Jolly Filter". I'm not going to try and explain this. Just go to Youtube (this version doesn't have the sound... there may be a better version somewhere, but you'll get the idea).

The evening ended with most everyone on stage singing "Happy Christmas (War is Over)", the Lennon classic. It was a touching end to a very fun evening. Below is the full set list:

Silent Night - TSQ
Do They Know it is Christmas - TSQ
Give the Jew Girl Toys - Sarah Silverman
Christmastime is here - TSQ
Blue Christmas - Joe Henry
Wonderful Christmas - TSQ
Away in a Manger - Sam Phillips
Jolly Filter Film - Jim Hodgson
Silver Bells - Dave "Gruber" Allen
Dreidel Song - Addi
Last Christmas - TSQ
Merry Christmas Everybody - Vivian Campbell
Father Christmas - Mike Viola
Happy Christmas (War is Over) - Almost everyone

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