Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Los Lobos and The Lowrider Band at the Anaheim House of Blues

One last concert before years end. Actually it was only my second concert since ACL. How could that happen? And now after all these years, I'm going to see Los Lobos. Twice I've had tickets and had to sell them. Twice, they have been at ACL and I ended up at another stage. And so finally, on a beautiful Southern California post Christmas night, we squeezed into the House of Blues to see this now legendary band.

"Who is the opening band", Maria asked me. I had no idea. So, I was really surprised when Cesar came out and not only introduced them, but called them the band that had the largest influence on Los Lobos. And so, these old guys come out and start to play some of their songs. You know where this is going, don't you? Maybe you've heard some of their songs: The Cisco Kid, The World is a Ghetto, Why Can't We Be Friends, Slipping Into Darkness and of course Low Rider. Yep, they are most of what was once called War, the funk band that backed Eric Burdon for a time and produced another hit, "Spill the Wine". Their producer/agent owns the name War now and so the keyboardist (probably the least interesting part of the band) is now touring as War. Now, back in the 70's, I knew all of this music because radio played it. But I was more interested in prog rock or folk rock. I really didn't know much about them. So, seeing these guys perform for the first time was a real treat. The first thing you notice right off is that Lee Oskar's harmonica playing is out of this world. He is easily one of the greats and his jams were amazing. The rest of the band loved jamming too and so what you have here is a funk jam band. Loved it. They played all of the hits during their hour set, but they were all fresh because of the free form style. They had the whole place bouncing and singing along. What a treat.

Los Lobos is going to have to pull out all of the stops if they are going to compete. After about a 30 minute wait, out they come, playing a mid tempo song that David had to use a cheat sheet for to remember the lyrics. And then they kicked it into gear, digging back into the 80's for some rockabilly and never letting up the rest of the night. But the real fun didn't start until about a half hour into the show when they played a song that was inspired by the late great James Brown. It was sort of a blues number but with THAT energy. Joining them was Lee Oskar and the sax player. Lee pretty much stayed on stage for the rest of the night as Los Lobos jammed their way through a wide selection of music. What a band they are, playing all forms of rock including blues and rockabilly and then all forms for Latino music; from sambas to mambas to polkas to boleros. It was an amazing blend of music. And how interesting it was to hear harmonica during a bolero. Also joining LL on stage was blues singer Willie G, who among other things, led them in a fun cover of JB's "I Feel Good". 100 minutes later it was all over. What a night. I have to add this to my list of best concerts of the year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Play List Update for December

Paolo Nutini – Live Sessions (2006)
We so enjoyed this young Irish lad at ACL this year. These live performances are just a hint of the potential. Can’t wait to hear more.

Minibar – Desert After Rain (2006)
These guys continue to churn out great music. When their last CD came out it reminded me of the days when record stores would have a guaranteed sale (if you don’t like this CD, bring it back for a full refund). It was that good. “Desert” continues the quality rock songwriting. Find out more at .

One Foot In – Songbook (2006)
Thank God there is the term “Americana”, ‘cause there is no other way to describe these guys. Touching on blues, country, and an assortment of Americana sub genres, One Foot In makes it all work. Looking forward to seeing this OC band live someday.

Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)
A Strange, beautiful, exotic brew is stirred around here, creating easily 2006’s most unusually good release. Joanna, on harp has added strings arranged by Van Dyke Parks. What a brilliant touch.

Thea Gilmore – Harpo’s Ghost (2006)
This was high on my list for best CDs of the year long before the final track came round. It’s one of those CDs where words do not do it justice. It’s got it all: Great lyrics, excellent production, wonderful melodies. I probably overuse that last line, but whenever a CD grabs me like this, it is those three things. Oh, and yes, she can sing! A thank you goes out to Geoff (you know who you are) who tried to tell me about Thea.

Joan Osborne – Pretty Little Stranger (2006)
Joan has the “First CD Curse”. When that first amazing CD comes out, you end up comparing everything else to it. And “Relish”, released some 10 years ago, was one of those great CDs. It isn’t fair to compare; but it is hard not to. “Pretty Little Stranger” is probably her best CD since that amazing CD. Her voice is still there, although generally subdued. There are only one or two vocal explosions. But that’s okay. This is a softer CD and the songwriting (both hers and her covers) carries it. The CD was recorded in Nashville, and so yes, I’d call this an alt country CD. What a surprise to hear how nicely Joan fits into that genre. I loved this CD and had I thought about it more I would have probably put it in my best female category for this year. Her web page is pretty basic, so check out her Myspace page at .

Julian Coryell – Undercovers (2006)
I am dying to hear new original music from Julian, but it looks like that is going to have to wait a little longer. Meanwhile, anyone who has seen him perform knows that he loves to play covers. I was told by a friend of his that he knows every rock and roll song ever written. I believe it. He is a great guitar player, arranger, singer and overall nice guy (based on one fascinating meeting we had outside the Hotel CafĂ© one night). And so it is a natural for him to do a covers CD. This is a very simple production with Julian on keyboards, guitar and drum machine and a couple of bass players thrown in. What really stands out are his selections. It is surprisingly very 70’s with covers of Led Zep, ELO, Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake, Elvis Costello and Emmit Rhodes. But not necessarily the songs you’d think. Right now, my favorite is probably “Visions” by Stevie Wonder. It is just so beautiful. But listen for yourself. You can pick this CD up at CDBaby, or check out his Myspace site: .

Tom Waits – Orphans (2006)
This is no ordinary “odds and ends” CD/Box. The first two CDs are filled with gems, most of which I’d never heard before but fell in love with immediately. The third CD is a bit stranger (well, it is Tom Waits after all) with some spoken word stuff and bits of weirdness. It is a must have for your collection. Well worth the thirty plus dollars.

T Bone Burnett – Twenty Twenty (2006)
Forty songs spanning T Bone’s entire career (which includes the CD of new music he released on the same day). Not a bad song among them. No. That’s not right. Every song is a standout. And for those of you who love the story behind the song, each song has a little blurb written about it in the accompanying book (a good reason to actually buy the CD instead of going through ITunes). This is one of my favorite CDs of the year. It was a wonderful couple of hours catching up on the sections of T Bone’s career I missed the first time around.

Elizabeth & the Catapult – Elizabeth & the Catapult (2006)
I love when jazz and rock are combined and Elizabeth and band are doing just that in this exciting EP. The self titled CD contains 5 songs, each driven by jazz lines and Elizabeth Ziman’s beautiful voice. Is it rock or is it jazz? Who cares! I want to catch the next plane to the east coast and check these guys out live.

Broadcasts Vol. 14 – KGSR (2006)
What is there to say here? Every year KGSR puts out the best live radio CD in the country; maybe the world. How can you lose when you are one of the best radio stations around playing music in one of the best music cities on earth and the CDs are being sold at one of the best music stores in the universe? If there are any of these limited release CDs left, you will find them at . Okay, I’ll list some names for those of you who aren’t convinced yet: Death Cab for Cutie, Nickel Creek, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Kathleen Edwards, Beth Orton, Spoon, David Gray, Brandi Carlile, World Party, Billy Bragg, KT Tunstall, James McMurtry, Teddy Thompson, Rosanne Cash, Alejandro Escovedo, Alexi Murdoch, Shawn Colvin, Eliza Gilkyson (and there are still 19 more!).

JJ Baron – Brand New Stranger (2005)
Americana with a rock edge. I was re-listening to this CD today and realized that it fits so comfortably into everything else I’m listening to these days. CDs like this give me faith that as the large record companies crumble, the music will survive. Check out JJ at .

Spottiswoode & McMahon – S&M (2006)
Spottiswoode has some strange friends, but we knew that. Although there may be some kinky sex going on here, S&M is really about people; strange, unusual people. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s the point. The whole CD has a very European sound which is perfect when dealing in the depravities chronicled here.

Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten the Hatches (2005)
This is more than a one song CD, but still, there is one really hot song on this CD that stands out. It’s called “F*ck Was I” and I can’t help but think about those old V-8 commercials, “I could have had a V-8”. You get the point. But after you’ve listened to it a few dozen times you’ll be ready to eat up the rest of this young singer/songwriter’s music.

Guster – Ganging Up on the Sun (2006)
These guys know how to make a song sing. It is somewhere between modern rock and just pure pop music. Every CD sounds great.

The Little Willies – The Little Willies (2006)
This is Norah Jones’ country side project. It is a fun trip south made perfect with the hilarious story of seeing Lou Reed cow tipping called “Lou Reed”.

Favorites of 2006

Favorites of 2006
I’m not arrogant enough to a make a best of list. These are just my favorites. So here are my lists. I’m sure I forgot some stuff and there is still music I haven’t listened to yet (like The Pernice Brothers – Live a Little). Enjoy…

Favorite Female Artist
These three women really stood out for me this year. Jenny’s CD was amazing. It is rare that you see so deep into one’s soul. Lyrically one of the best this year. With Tina and Thea, I fell in love with their CDs by song 3. Great songs, great melodies, great production. Just perfect.

Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Tina Dico – In The Red
Thea Gilmore – Harpo’s Ghost

Favorite Male Artist
I first saw Willie at a benefit for Light of Day and loved “cell phones in the pockets of the dead”. A great mix of messages and rock and roll. Phil Roy’s follow up doesn’t have “melt”, but not a bad song on it. Alexi’s CD was worth the wait. T Bone… Just read the lyrics and feel the rhythms. Amazing. People who aren’t Bruce fans have been attracted to The Seeger Sessions: A great side project. Alejandro is finally back, and with John Cale. How cool is that. Damien Rice… Wow. And finally Bob. It ain’t Lonelyland, but for the first time in 6 years I like everything on the CD.

Willie Nile – Streets of New York
Phil Roy – The Great Longing
Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence
T Bone Burnett – The True False Identity
Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome – The Seeger Sessions
Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror
Damien Rice - 9
Bob Schneider – The Californian

Favorite Box Set
T Bone’s musical history has been lost to most of us. This is a must box set. I loved every song. The first 2 CDs from Tom Wait’s Orphans is just packed with good songs. Tom can be hard to listen to for a long period of time for some people. This could change that.

Tom Waits – Orphans
T Bone Burnett – Twenty Twenty

Favorite Indie Artists
Patti is a great songwriter. I would love to see her matched up with a great producer like John Leventhal. Gary Jules songs are like small poems. Kristy Kruger has such a unique vision and is so talented. I love this CD. Joanna Newsom, uhmmm, is strange, amazing, and may be the next Kate Bush.

Patti Witten – Tell the Wind
Gary Jules – Gary Jules
Kristy Kruger – Songs from a Dead Man’s Couch
Joanna Newsom – Ys

Favorite Concerts
I thought the Seeger Sessions concerts were as good as some E Street performances I’ve seen over the years. What a potent band Bruce put together. And then the new arrangements of his older material… It was a risk that paid off big. T Bone Burnett’s performance was so powerful and engaging with a great band behind him; each member contributing so much. Gomez just knocked us over. They were so good that Guster, a very good band paled in comparison. Finally saw Jon Dee with a band. And then James comes out and just blows me away. Best double bill of the year. And I’ll sneak this one in… Sam finally singing “I Need Love” with the Section Quartet. Thanks Sam!

Bruce Springsteen
T Bone Burnett
Jon Dee Graham/ James McMurtry

And a bunch of other CDs I really liked
(many of which could have easily been in my favorite lists):

Bruce Springsteen – Hammersmith Odeon ‘75
Cat Power – The Greatest
Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac
KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope
Etienne de Rocher – Etienne de Rocher
Shawn Colvin – These Four Walls
Stephen Dijoseph – Hypnotized
Amos Lee – Supply and Demand
Kenny White – Never Like This
Ollabelle – Riverside Battle Songs
Neil Young – Living with War
The Watson Twins – Southern Manners
Gomez – How We Operate
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning
Jon Dee Graham – Full

Calexico – Garden Ruin
-By Truckers – A Blessing and A Curse

Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers
Wild Colonials – Life As We Know It
Allison Moorer – Getting Somewhere
World Party – Dumbing Up
Bruce Cockburn – Life Short Call Now
Los Lonely Boys – Sacred
Golden Smog – Another Fine Day
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
Dave Potts - $12.99
Minibar – Desert after Rain

Elizabeth & the Catapult
Josh Ritter – The Animal Years
Guster – Ganging up on the Sun
KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 14
The Little Willies
Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten The Hatches
Paolo Nutini – Live Sessions
Los Lobos – The Town and the City
Trail of Dead – So Divided
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Five for Fighting – Two Lights
Joan Osborne – Pretty Little Stranger

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Misc Music News

I'm working my butt off to get as many of the '06 CDs in to my play list as possible before the end of the year. Meanwhile, I thought I'd pass on a bit of music news...

KGSR has released their annual live CD. As always, it has great stuff on it. It is, in my opinion the best radio station CD year in and year out. Just some of the artists on this 2 CD disk are: Death Cab, Nickel Creek, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Beth Orton, Spoon, David Gray, Brandi Carlile, World Party, Kt Tunstall, Teddy Thompson, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin and many more. They still have them in stock at . Don’t miss out. They always sell out. And then you’ll have to beg Deb to find one for you.

It’s not as exciting, but The Mountain, up in Washington has their 1 disk CD available. Not sure if they have sold out, but there’s good stuff including: Gomez, KT, Guster, Train, Barenaked Ladies and Goo Goo Dolls. You can get it here:

Phil Roy is having a holiday sale. Go to and he not only is selling any of his 3 CDs for $10 plus shipping, but he will personally sign them any way you want. How cool is that?

Julian Coryell has a new CD out that is all covers. Although he says it is available now, CDBaby doesn’t seem to have them in stock. But you can have them alert you when it comes in. Buy it here: . New music is coming from Julian this spring.

Lost among the hoopla of T-Bone Burnett’s new CD this year was his compilation CD (released on the same day), which I finally got around to listening to. Wow! Lots of stuff I didn’t know on this 40 song set. What is really interesting is that he has comments about how he came to write or why he wrote each of the songs. Very interesting. Also interesting, is the fact he has included a couple of songs from the CD he released on the same day. Anyone who likes to pick up a cd/album and read the lyrics will find this to be a real treat.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen