Friday, June 16, 2006

New Music

There is no doubt that the shorter the move, the more painful it is. But, the move is pretty much complete and I am totally disorganized (okay those of you who know me are saying, “How can you tell”?). So… Here is all of the music I’ve been promising. It is playing as I finish writing all of this (There is so much I just couldn’t write about everyone). So check it out. It will be playing daily over the next week. Thanks for listening to The Promise.

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome – The Seeger Sessions (2006)
Even though I am a big Springsteen fan, I was truly surprised by this CD. I expected to listen to it a couple of times and then move on, knowing that Bruce created a fine compilation of Pete Seeger songs. But this CD really grabbed me. I love the power of the big (really big) band. I love the sloppiness yet proficiency of this series of first or nearly first takes. The joy and enthusiasm just overwhelms you. This CD will continue to get heavy play on my CD player for some time to come. Having said all of this, I must add this thought… I wonder if Bruce is second guessing himself right now. With powerful political CDs by Neil Young and T-Bone Burnett (not to mention the new Elvis Costello), is Bruce wondering if he should have made this a more political CD. To do a Pete Seeger tribute and avoid the more political songs is the only negative aspect of this CD. In any other year, it wouldn’t have matter.

T Bone Burnett – The True False Identity (2006)
It has been way too long a time since T Bone released a CD; but it is well worth the wait. This is one powerful CD. With almost no hints of his early country days, this CD is empowered by driving rhythms and mostly talk singing. It is an attack on our current state of affairs; from our imposter president (“cowboy with no cattle, warrior with no war, they don’t make imposters like John Wayne anymore”) to the spiritual mess that is being hoisted upon us (“on the seventh day God created evolution”). But it isn’t all politics. On what must be his answer to Sam Phillips latest CD and tour, “I’m Going on a Long Journey Never to Return”, T-Bone takes a few swipes at his ex, but also seems to share responsibility for the breakup of their marriage. This is a must have CD. It challenges you to think: Think about this different style of music, today’s political climate and even your spiritual self.

Neil Young – Living with War (2006)
If you haven’t heard about this album, it is because the powers that be want to keep the status quo and do not really want to risk life as we know it by playing something as politically aggressive as this powerful piece of work. This is a full frontal attack on the president, politics in general and the war in Iraq in particular. This is Neil at his sloppiest best; full of grungy guitars and huge choruses. If you didn’t know where Neil stands on the subjects of the day, there will be no doubt after listening to this potent weapon. Hopefully someday this CD will be very dated. But for now, it is a torch for those who oppose the war and current administration.

Gomez – How We Operate (2006)
These are some of the most imaginative and innovative musicians on the scene today. Their music is intelligent and fun, powerful and accessible. For those of you who are fans, it is more great stuff from a band that really kicks ass in concert.

The Watson Twins – Southern Manners (2006)
This 8 song CD is like a dreamscape, softly floating out of your speakers. It isn’t really alt-country and the gospel tag that was added to them during the Jenny Lewis tour doesn’t really describe them either. Imagine two Natalie Merchants singing in harmony. Well, that doesn’t really describe them either. So maybe you should just check them out yourself. After the intensity of T-Bone and Neil’s CD, this is a welcome diversion.

Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror (2006)
Since getting ill (hepatitis c) a few years back we weren’t sure if there would be another CD from Austin’s favorite songwriter, let alone a challenging one. But you knew that this would be a special CD when John Cale was signed on to produce.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning (2006)
It was only a matter of time before Mark moved completely into the country/alt-country arena. And if you’re going to have a partner in crime, it might as well be one of the great country singers of all time. Who knew that Mark’s deep haunting vocals would work so well with Emmylou’s sweet twang? But it does. This seems to be more of a Knopfler CD, with Emmylou singing harmonies and taking lead vocals on some of the songs. It works very nicely though as it extends Mark’s trip through the south.

Jon Dee Graham – Full (2006)
Rhett Miller – The Believer (2006)
Ben Harper – Both Sides of the Gun (2006)
Calexico – Garden Ruin (2006)
Drive-By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse (2006)
Matthow Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – Under The Covers Vol. 1 (2006)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Gilmore Girls Live

Okay, the title is a bit of a joke but… When David Palmer had his favorite Phillips on stage, you couldn’t help but think about how cool the Gilmore Girls is to have Sam doing the music and Grant to show up occasionally and sing. So yes, it was a David Palmer show, but David loves to sit in the background playing his piano (and man can he play) letting his friends front the band. And so after two beautiful solo numbers by David, up came Sam. The two of them did a couple of songs together and then the rest of the band joined in: Jay and Patrick from her band, a guy named Paul (sorry, can’t remember his last name) on bass and one other guy playing a little but cool keyboard. After 4 songs taken from her last two CDs, the highlight came: A new song called “Signal”. On first listen Sam seems to be singing about being at a crossroads; waiting for a signal. It’s a wonderful song that fits very nicely into what she has been doing for the last couple of years. Grant Lee Phillips then joined the group as Sam moved to backing vocals and then left after one song. Grant then led the band for about 5 or 6 numbers which included singing some covers by Bowie and a powerful version of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”. My daughter has school today, so we left before the second half jam began. Last time I saw the show, the jam was very very cool.

We only got to talk to Sam for… 20 minutes. When I sat down afterward, I was blown away at the time. It was such a fun conversation. Even Grant had trouble pulling her away. The big highlight? Her next CD is in the can! She is label shopping right now. Expect to hear it early next year. It was completely produced by Sam this time (T-Bone oversaw the mix of Boot…). Along with “Signal”, “When You’re Down” and “Sister Rosseta” (Not sure of the exact title) are in the collection.

Off topic here… If you’re wondering why John Mayer played guitar with T-Bone on the Leno show, it is really very simple. His guitar player couldn’t make the show and someone recommended JM.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bruce Springsteen at The Greek Theater, Los Angeles

So many things went racing through my head as I watched Bruce Springsteen and his 17 piece band perform last night at the Greek. I was reminded of the power and fun of watching Lyle Lovett and his Large Band playing in Austin last year; all top notch musicians and everyone taking solos. Memories raced back to the earlier days when Bruce and the E Street Band would finish off their sets playing a half hour of dance music with everyone up dancing and singing along. The chandeliers reminded me of The Last Waltz; a film/concert that washed across the musical landscape bringing us great music from so many different directions. And here was Bruce, doing all of that and even more.

There is an old theory: Put two drummers on stage and you will have one powerful performance. You could probably add a theory that says: Put more than a dozen people on stage and you don’t really need the extra drummer. So, take that theory and then add BRUUUUCE and it was an evening to remember. We were up dancing and singing along throughout the two and a half hour performance. Bruce was a bit leery about getting an L.A. crowd to sing along, and early on we didn’t disappoint him. But after a few tasty remarks about just how bad we were, the crowd built up some energy and by the time Jacobs Ladder came around, even the record company stooges, were singing along.

Most of the music was from the Seeger Sessions CD, but Bruce would throw in a song of his own every so often. With a unique band like this you can’t just play the songs straight up, even if they fit that way. If I Should Fall Behind was done in a waltz tempo, giving it a mid 1900’s feel. Ramrod was reshuffled with a Cajun beat. Even Johnny 99 was reformatted to fit the full band.

Probably the biggest star of the evening (outside of Bruce) was the horn section. Many of the songs, even the more folk ones, ended up as New Orleans Dixieland jam sessions with the horn section providing the power. With some powerful gospel influences thrown in, Bruce pretty much covered twentieth century Americana; although with more power than most of the original writers of these fine songs could have ever imagined.

It was a great evening all around. Bruce shows are always a time to renew friendships and make new friends (A few friends of mine actually ended up in the same row, just 4 seats away. How funny is that?). It is and always will be as much a musical experience as it is a communal gathering. I took my brother-in-law to the show. He has been a Pete Seeger fan for over 40 years. He loved it. I don’t think he was prepared for a Springsteen performance (and I know he wasn’t prepared for my Springsteen friends who are all Springsteen all the time, when there is a tour). If you have the chance to see this show somewhere, do go. You will have a great time. I promise.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen