Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Music of 2012

This isn’t a best of list for two reasons. First, I just haven’t listened to all the great music that came out in 2012 (and yes, there was a lot of really good music released this year). And the second reasons is... well, the obvious one... It is all subjective. So here are my favorites and why:

John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
For a freshman release, this is fantastic. The grittiness of a great folk singer, with the pipes of a seasoned veteran and the hooks of a future star. Just a brilliant CD and maybe my very favorite of the year.

Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
The first Springsteen CD in years that I listened to over and over again. Maybe his best writing since he reformed the band. The new songs, for the first time in years, were actually the highlights of many of his shows.

Whitehorse - Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss
Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland finally got together musically and produced a complete CD: And complete is a good word for it. For both of them, it is their best material in years. They are a dream combination and I hope neither of them has to write another breakup CD anytime soon. Gritty, powerful, earthy, rockin’ are the words I’d use to describe two of my favorite Canadians.

Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Speaking of Canadians, Kathleen has not let up on any of her CDs, although Failer may still be her best. This new one though may be her second best. With Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) at the helm, this breakup CD is more keyboard driven but more important, may be Kathleen’s most personal work. This one stayed on my CD player for a long time.

John Hiatt - Mystic Pinball
It seems to be the year of comebacks. I wasn’t a big fan of John’s last CD, but he hit this one out of the park. Great melodies and great lyrics; things we expect from Mr. Hiatt.

Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose
It’s hard to believe this is Glen’s first solo CD, but it is. And it is brilliant.

Pugwash - The Olympus Sound
It is still only available as an import, but if you are a fan of XTC or pure pop, you should check out this fantastic CD. It is another one that stayed on my CD player for a long long time.

Minnesota - Are You There
Peter Himmelman has a band again and the results of his collaborations make one of the better CDs I’ve heard all year. It’s rocking and thought provoking. How does he do it?

Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On
There were lots of political CDs this year, but maybe none better than Ani’s. This is getting redundant, but... Her best CD in years. Very accessible but packs a big punch.

Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful
The co-writer of the last 3 Alejandro Escovedo CDs, shows that he can do it all by himself. This tribute to the city by the bay is not only a great listen, but a great read. Those of us old enough recognize the references to San Francisco, but you don’t have to, to enjoy this album.

Alejandro Escovedo - Big Station
Al’s third CD with Chuck Prophet co-writing and Tony Visconti at the helm, isn’t quite as good as the first two, but it is still head and shoulders above much of what the music industry is releasing these days. Few artists can pull off three in a row like Alejandro has.

Right behind these artists are Shawn Colvin (“All Fall Down”) and Patti Smith (“Banga”) who also released their best work in years. Alabama Shakes (“Boys & Girls”) had an excellent first release but I think I like her more than the band. Time will tell. Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound were lots of fun, as was JD McPherson’s eponymous release. And finally Bonnie Raitt’s “Slipstream” reminded me of just how good a CD can sound if the production is done right. A very good CD made even better because you can crank it up and feel the clean sound as it surrounds you.

Favorite Songs of the Year
This list might change by tomorrow, but as of today these were some of my favorite songs of the year:
Glen Hansard - Maybe Not Tonight
John Fullbright - Daydreamer (It was really hard to just pick one from this CD)
Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own
Audra Mae - The Real Thing
Whitehorse - Achilles’ Desire
Ry Cooder - Mutt Romney Blues
Todd Snider - In The Beginning
Kathleen Edwards - Change the Sheets
Pugwash - Here we go ‘round Again
Peter Himmelman - Ash and Chickenwire

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hobart Brothers and Lil’ Sis Hobart at McCabes

Sunday night was one of those unforgettable nights at McCabes. The music was actually overshadowed by the craziness of the evening; which is tough to do since the music is so good. It was the perfect storm (if I can use that pun right now). Susan Cowsill, the woman in the middle of this semi-famous threesum, had some family in the audience. It was the last night of the tour. It was at McCabes (a room so intimate, artists can have conversations with people in the back row). And tonight Jon Dee Graham (the most represented songwriter in the group) decided to start telling tour bus secrets. By the end of the evening, John Cowsill was on stage sort of singing the Cowsill hit “I Love the Flower Girl”, or as Susan called it “F***ing Flower Girl”, and using Jon Dee’s running jokes to mercilessly attack his sister.
But enough about the fun. We came for the music and we got all of it and a few more. The band, which also includes Freedy Johnston, performed their entire new CD, which I love. This was the stripped down version, since it was just the three of them (Freedy singing and on guitar, Jon Dee singing and on guitar and doing most of the leads and Susan singing, playing tambourine and playing guitar on “...Flower Girl”). This is Austin Americana at its best as they sang and told stories about their lives and the people around them. Just great music. Along with “...Flower Girl” they did two excellent covers; “Wichita Lineman” and “Thirteen” (from Big Star in tribute to Alex Chilton). We laughed. We sang. We had a great time. Thanks Hobart family.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Fairly New Music

It has been some time since I reviewed any music here. Life has been very busy. But, there is just so much good music out there right now I just had to take some time and chat about it...

John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
Already way ahead of the pack in my CD of the year race, this debut studio release from the 26 year old from Oklahoma is fantastic on every level. The lyrics show an artist well beyond his physical years and the hooks and melodies owe a debt to the past without repeating it. From beginning to end a brilliant CD.

Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful
After listening to Temple Beautiful, you understand why Alejandro Escovedo’s last three CDs are so good. Chuck is not only a great writing partner, he has turned into a great solo artist. This is one spectacular CD with references about the Bay Area to keep us Californians talking about the lyrics for some time to come. A must buy.

Marjorie Cardwell - In Another World
I just love the artists from down under. Their sense of melody seems more finely tuned than most. Marjorie’s songs conjure up memories of the 60’s but she doesn’t really sound like anyone I remember. A lovely piece of music that keeps growing on me with each listen. You can pick up her indie CD here: http://marjoriecardwell.com .

Sam Phillips - Martinis & Bikinis (Remaster)
Generally, CDs created in the 90’s shouldn’t need a remaster. Honestly, the remastering is only a minor part of what makes this a great package. Yes, there is more clarity than before. But, if you’re listening on your iPod with some ear buds, you are not going to be able to tell the difference. What is exciting are the extras; 3 remakes that have shown up on other records and a beautiful new version of Strawberry Road. For you vinyl freaks, there is finally a vinyl version of the CD. And the highlight of the vinyl release are the pics. All of the album artwork is show in full size on the outside and the inner sleeves. It is a beautiful package. And the white discs are pretty cool too. Altogether, this is a pop masterpiece made even better. You can pick this up at the usual locations online or you can support the artist and the people behind this release by buying it direct from the label at http://omnivorerecordings.com/artists/sam-phillips/ .

Seth Walker - Time Can Change
A soulful voice, a smooth delivery and lots of heartbreak. If you look up groove in the dictionary, it will tell you to put down the stupid book and listen to this record. A jazzy, bluesy roots CD that just makes you feel good. Oh yeah, and what a sweet sound he gets from his guitar.

Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real - Wasted
You can hear dad’s voice in him, but this isn’t dad’s music; although you can hear the rebel. This is a good southern rockin time and I was surprised how much I liked it. Worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Patty Griffin at 2012 SXSW














It has been such a busy year and I am so behind. But here is a pic of Patty Griffin from the Austin Music Awards, which occurs during SXSW. Patty just sang the one song, but it made lots of us very happy.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Amy Correia














Normally I'm not one to spend a lot of time directly helping an artist's PR people. When there is music I like, I talk about it, I play it and leave the rest up to you all. But, sometimes an extra nudge is needed. Amy Correia is such a fine talent and is so under appreciated that when I was asked to mention her 3 Independent Music Award nominations and free downloads, I felt compelled to help out. So... If you want to help her out, you can click on the links below and vote for her, but more important, click this link to download some of her music. "You Go Your Way" was one of my favorite CD's last year and I'm happy to give it one more push. Enjoy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bruce Springsteen in Austin

A few quick and random notes about the show. I've got pictures. They will come later.

Bruce played a whole show, just about 2.5 hours. Very similar set to Apollo and Michele Moore was there to do the rap. Tom Morello was there too and along with the 2 songs he does on the new album, he did Ghost of Tom Joad. Seeds with a horn section will blow your clothes off (sorry, couldn't resist the movie reference). With Bruce trying to mix despair with fun, some segues didn't work. The energy from Seeds into E Street Shuffle was good, but a little weird. Jake did a great job. The solo on Thunder Road though is actually a quartet of horns playing all at once. He liked to trot out the horn section, bringing them up front 3 times I believe. With a five foot stage and a foot and a half from the audience, Bruce couldn't resist stage diving. Actually it was more like falling backwards and praying that people would catch him. It worked both times. Then, he jumped on the railing were there was a big guy (two separate places) and held hands with the guy to keep his balance. Visualize that for a minute if you can. It was pretty fricken scary to watch a 60+ do that right in front of you. Jimmie Cliff came out and played 3 songs including No Woman No Cry and The Harder They Come. At the keynote speech, Bruce called Eric Burdon the ugliest singer in rock and roll history. He didn't know Eric was in town. Obviously, Eric didn't hear what Bruce said about him because he came on stage and they ripped through a great version of We Got To Get Out of This Place. The finale was This Land Is Your Land. Jimmy didn't come out but everyone else did, including Alejandro Escovedo, members of Low Anthem, Garland Jefferys, members of Arcade Fire, Joe Ely and Tom Morello.

Some personal notes... The crowd wasn't typical with plenty of virgins there. Still, the place is so small, I think everyone, even in the balcony, felt like they were in the pit. So the whole place was singing; at least the ones that knew the lyrics. I really miss the mandolin and the stronger beat on Land of Hope and Dreams. Still, it works. At the Apollo, you could hear Bruce huffing and puffing after the first set of songs. Austin confirmed that Bruce is getting a bit older. Still, he was jumping off the piano; so his knees are still intact. He put on a hell of a show (always great when you're on the rail I suppose) tonight; one of my favorites. There were 3 virgins around me and they were all blown away. That's what it is all about, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Steve Poltz, Matt the Electrician and Southpaw Jones at Whip In















I finished off the night at Whip In, a.. uhmm… Oh just Google it. The place was packed as they had group after group of singer/songwriters come up and sing in the round. I was there to see Steve Poltz and Matt the Electrician. The third person in the group was Southpaw Jones. So, Steve is supposed to be the funny one, but I think Matt and Southpaw out did him tonight. They were all really good though and if I wake up early enough, I’ll give Steve another chance tomorrow.

Bruce Hughes and the All Nude Army





























I left the dentists to their music and headed out of town to the Saxon Pub. This may be my only visit to a favorite of mine, but the lineup, now that they are an official SXSW showcase, didn’t seem as interesting as last year. Still, I love seeing Bruce Hughes and the All Nude Army. No one was naked, but the sounds of his Sly and the Family Stone based funk got us all intoxicated. This is one tight band as you will see in the video. It’s funk with great soloing.

Charlie Faye and Will Sexton at MXMW















Charlie Faye and Will Sexton where up next. Their Americana sounds blend so nicely together.

Dan Dyer and David Garza at MXMW















First up were Dan Dyer and David Garza. I’ve seen David a few times over the years but this was my first time seeing Dan. They only played Dan’s songs as David played guitar, drums and some backup harmonies. Dan is a great singer and David was playing some fantastic moody guitar licks. A great way to start SXSW for me.

After checking out the convention center, I walked half way across town to see a dentist. No, my teeth are fine. Authentic Smiles Dental Studio puts on Mouth By Mouth West every year. It is a benefit for the Health Alliance For Austin Musicians. The place is very very small as you’ll see in the pictures and videos.




SXSW 2012 Tuesday

Last year I only hung around the periphery of SXSW. This year I’m doing the whole thing. I have a badge and this morning hit the convention center to see what I missed last year. The convention center floor is a unique place serving both the music makers and the geeks. There were lots of social media apps being sold as well as high tech marketing for media people (music/film/whatever). For years it has been obvious to me that tech and music speak the same language. For the first time, I really got to see it in action. Not a lot of physical products here, but my favorite was the iPhone cover that they would either drop on the floor or through into a tank of water. Pretty cool and available at Best Buy. I haven’t been upstairs yet (there are 4 floors here!) but will be doing that on Thursday to see Springsteen talk. I have entered into the lottery for his official concert. If the rumors are correct, it will be in the hall where Austin City Limits is now taped. It holds 3000, but every seat is right on top of the stage. I find out Thursday at 10am if I got in.

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