Saturday, December 22, 2007

Favorites for 2007

Let's get this straight... These aren't "The Best" of 2007, just my favorites. These are the songs and CDs that kept showing up on my CD player. There were lots of great ones this year and these are the best of the best; IMHO. :-)

Favorite Singles
Damien Rice - When Doves Fly
Okay, this isn't really from 2007, but it is the year that I came across it. From an Australian compilation called "Like a Version", Damien creates the type of magic that you rarely get from a cover. From the opening chords, there is something familiar about it. Deep down you know where this song is headed. And when it gets there it will put a big smile on your face.
Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town
One of the great voices in music today has created his best song to date. With lines like "Tell me do you really think you go to hell for having loved?", Rufus lashes out at the intolerance that still exists today. Combine that with a killer melody and Rufus' natural passion and you have THE BEST song of the year.
Bruce Robison - It Came From San Antonio
Bruce creates a spot-on tribute to The Sir Douglas Quintet with this fun rocker. All of the energy and excitement comes flowing out, just like in the 60's when DougSahm and his band had big hits with songs like "She's About a Mover".
The Red Button - Cruel Girl
A perfect song. Right out of the 60's, this is just pure pop.

Favorite Major Label CDs
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Who knew that Bobbie could sing so soft? What a great pair of voices. Then throw in one of the best producers, T-Bone Burnett, and finish it off with lots of good songs, including a new one from Sam Phillips.
Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
Changing your style is always a big risk. Steve gets lots of extra points for fiddling with a winning sound. And apparently, being in love has been good for his songwriting too.
Patti Scialfa - Play it as it Lays
This is her best CD yet. Patti's songwriting is so good that her husband could probably take a few lessons from her.
Once - Music from the Motion Picture
The songs tell the story in this movie. It's a wonderful story and that makes this the best soundtrack of the year.
Lori Mckenna - Unglamorous
Wake up America, there's another great songwriter here. Lori's country/folk/rock is contagious.
Joni Mitchell - Shine
If there was to be a degree in singer/songwriting, Joni's music would have to be the bulk of the coursework. "Shine" is a wonderfully social and political work. This is the best grandmother writing today and the younger generations still have plenty to learn.
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
This is the best E Street CD in many years. It may not be as emotionally satisfying as his 70's classics, but these are good songs that really pick up steam with multiplelistenings and in concert.
John Fogerty - Revival
CCR is back as John makes peace with the past and returns to the sound that made him famous.
Crowded House - Time On Earth
It's as if they never left.
Shane Nicholson - Faith & Science
He was the guy who could replace Crowded House. Now we've got two of them.
Joan Armatrading - Into The Blues
Joan takes her own path to the blues.
Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars
Just the song "Going To A Town" makes this one of the best CD's of the year. And there is so much more...
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Just my favorite of the modern bands (The Decemberists are a close second). They are unique, special and a killer band in concert.
Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
She's in her early 40's and is already an American treasure. This CD is all about her singing and Patty shows us just how good she is.
Lucinda Williams - West
I don't think she is capable of putting out a bad CD.

Favorite Indie CDs
Emily Maguire - Keep Walking
This Australian has it all: Great songs. Great Melodies. Great Production. This CD is worth searching for.
Future Clouds & Radar - Future Clouds & Radar
Look out Spoon, these guys are going to be storming the Indie world. They may already be the hottest band in Austin. The best debut from a Texas band since Los Lonely Boys CD of a few years back.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - This is Somewhere
Women can still rock. Move over Melissa, here comes Grace.
The Latebirds - Last of the Good Ol' Days
Sweden isn't the only Scandinavian country to bring us great songwriters. This Finnish band is worth watching. (This is from a pre-release, so expect to hear more about it next year).
Spoon - Ga Ga GA Ga Ga
Between Spoon and Future Clouds the Austin music scene may finally get the respect it deserves.
Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
This is a pop rock classic. One great song after another. If you don't enjoy this CD you probably shouldn't be reading anything I have to say.
Jimmy LaFave - Cimarron Manifesto
Another great songwriter waiting for the world to catch up with him.
Cowboy Junkies - At The End of Paths Taken
Their best CD since "Trinity Sessions".
Sarah Borges - Diamonds in the Dark
Tapping every vein that is Americana Music, there isn't a bit of filler on this CD.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Music for December 2007

New music from: Lazy Preacher, Lisle Engle, Future Clouds & Radar, Jim Armstrong, Deana Carter, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Ben Harper, The Latebirds, Patti Smith, Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Bros., Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, The Cake Sale, Raul Malo, Heart, Iron and Wine, A Fine Frenzy, Patty Griffin and The Frames.

Well, we're at the end of the year... again! I can't believe that The Promise has been around for over 5 years now. As always a big thank you goes out to not only the artists that have been so kind as to share their music, but also to you, the listeners (and readers). If you're not listening, I have no reason to be doing this. So thank you for giving me an excuse to buy way too manyCDs. :-)

We are up to around 5000 songs in the complete play list and to prove it, we're going to play the entire library starting in the wee hours of New Years Day (some time after 1:00am Pacific Time) and running for about 2 weeks. I won't say no repeats, but nearly no repeats for 2 full weeks. Enjoy.

Now, on to the new stuff... Once again, I just couldn't get to all the new music for 2007. I've got another 10 or 12 CDs that I ran out of time for. I guess that is what January is for. But there is so much great music here, you'll hardly notice the time fly by. So, check out the new songs here and then listen to The Promise. HappyHolidays!

Lazy Preacher - Fall Asleep When Awaking (2007)
If there is a problem with this CD, it is... well... just too big. With 20 songs to listen to, it can be a bit tough to assimilate it all in one or two sittings. This is not to say it is too long or that there is any waste here. It's just a lot of work for me. Especially when the music is good enough to warrant many listens. Most of the music on "Fall Asleep" is driven by a strummed acoustic guitar that (if you are old enough) takes you back to the late 60's when psychedelic could just as easily be acoustic as electronic. There are bits of country and alternative (what ever that is today) and reggae all wrapped up with some fascinating lyrics and catchy melodies. Well worth the effort. Take it.
Lisle Engle - California Miles (2007)
I've said this before, I'm a sucker for rock violin. Lisle Engle uses the violin a lot like Dave Matthews; augmenting his vocals and as an important soloing instrument. It gives this excellent sounding CD a late 60's early 70's feel and takes me back to bands like Curved Air and It's A Beautiful Day. There are some exciting pop melodies among the dozen or so songs and good production throughout.
Future Clouds & Radar - Future Clouds & Radar (2007)
It takes a lot of guts to put out a double CD as your first release. It takes even more guts to save nuggets like "Build Havana" for the second disc. Not only does Robert Harrison, leader of this band, have the guts, but he can back it up with this swirling psychedelic pop... dare I say, masterpiece.
Jim Armstrong - Mudtown (2007)
Straight from the heartland... You know... Toronto, Canada. With his slightly gravely voice and straight ahead attack, this is rock and roll that makes you think ofMellancamp or even Melissa. If you close your eyes you can see these guys playing live in a small club opening for someone, when they really should be the main attraction. Good songwriting. Good sense of rock and roll. Find out more at Sonic Deli Records (love that name).
Deana Carter - The Chain (2007)
This is a daughter's tribute to her father (Fred Carter Jr.) and the music she was brought up with. Deanna, who has had fame in the country music charts, brings top notch session musicians together (including her father) for a bunch of classic songs. These aren't country classics, but pop/rock classics from the 60's and 70's. Deana Carter's silky country voice goes very nicely with music from The Band, Dylan, Paul Simon and Neil Young.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - This is Somewhere (2007)
I saw Grace and the Nocturnals heat up the tent at ACL this year. Not since Melissa showed us how a woman can rock as hard and powerfully as a man have we had a show stopper like Grace Potter. She's got the pipes, she has the writing talent, she has... the spirit of rock and roll. Enough said.
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals - Lifeline (2007)
Maybe as close to a soul classic as you are going to see this year or maybe for many years to come.
KGSR Broadcasts Vol 15 (2007)
Every year this is the best of all of the live radio compilations. Get your copy while supplies last:
The Latebirds - Last of the Good Ol' Days (2007 or 2008)
I thought it was just Sweden, but apparently all of Scandinavia has musicians that have a strong sense of melody. This soon to be released CD from the Finnish bandThe Latebirds is fantastic with great melodies and wonderful songs about the human condition. At times Markus appears to be channeling Al Stewart in his vocals which just adds to the pop feel of this CD. But, instead of telling stories about the past, Markus wants to talk about the here and now; whether it is political or social. One of my top picks of the year.
Patti Smith - Four from Twelve (2007)
This is a sample CD from Patti's CD, "Twelve". It is yet another cover CD from a well respected artist. I love Patti's energy and it is all here; at least with these four songs. So, if you're a big Patti Smith fan, you'll enjoy this and probably the full CD.
Gram Parsons with The Flying Burrito Bros. - Archives Vol 1 (2007)
Gram Parsons is the man given credit as one of the major influences on the country rock genre. These are live recordings from 1969. The sound has been cleaned up nicely. The passion is as dirty raw as it was 38 years ago. A must buy for anyone who loves this genre. It is also one of the first Cd's from Amoeba Records, one of the last of the independent record stores.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)
Who knew Bobbie could sound so sweet and soft. Join his perfect rock and roll voice with one of the best of the best, Alison Krauss, and you have one of the best sounding Cd's of the year. Check this out if you like either of them.
The Cake Sale - The Cake Sale (2007)
Saving the earth, one CD at a time, The Cake Sale is more than just a bunch of artists who gave a song to the album. The artists work with a core band featuring among others Crowded House's Nick Seymour. Vocals and songwriting were contributed by GlenHansard, Josh Ritter, Gary Lightbody, Nina Persson and Gemma Hayes, Lisa Hannigan and Damien Rice (to name but a few). The best thing for you to do is read about it here though:
Raul Malo - Austin City Limits Music Festival (2007)
He could sing the phone book. What else needs to be said. You can get this on Itunes.
Heart - Dreamboat Annie Live (2007)
The latest thing these days is to perform a classic album live. This CD and a separate DVD bring this classic rock album back for a spin; and a fun spin it is. Ann can still sing. Nancy can still play guitar. What else do you need to know. Oh, well, maybe... It is worth it just for the Led Zeppelin covers.
Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog (2007)
They float along a pretty path; a bit psychedelic and they remind you of the more pop moments of the Grateful Dead. You expect them to explode and they never really do. And yet, you don't mind floating along the ebb and flow of the acoustic and electric layers.
A Fine Frenzy - One Cell in the Sea (2007)
A Fine Frenzy is actually Alison Sudol; a singer/songwriter from Seattle. "One Cell..." is a collection of gorgeous mini epics. But don't let that scare you off. It is quite accessible. Her piano driven music sounds like that moment in the movies when everything becomes clear to the main actor. Passionate writing and beautiful vocals make this a excellent addition to any collection.
Patty Griffin - Live from the Artists Den DVD/CD (2007)
Barnes & Noble have a special version of this DVD that includes a CD of the concert (so you can travel with the music). It's Patty Griffin. It's live. It's wonderful.
The Frames - The Cost (2007)
Some movies stay inside you forever. And all it takes is a simple reminder, a moment, to bring it all back. Such is the case with the Movie "Once", which comes out on DVD this month. And what brings it back? Anything with GlenHansard in it. So, putting the latest Frame's CD, "The Cost" into the CD player sent chills down my spine as my mind revisited one of my favorite films of the year. It helps that a couple of songs on this CD are also part of the soundtrack. Where have I been? How could I miss this great band for so long. Like Damien Rice, The Frames have a fairly acoustic sound, that can explode at any moment. I have read that they are one amazing band to see live. I can't wait to experience that someday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Halloween Eve Show October 30, 2007

The lights went out and the crowd roared. Smoke filled the stage. Instead of circus music, eerie organ music played. Up onto the stage, 6 zombie like men carrying a coffin approached. They placed the coffin down and from inside an arm rose. It required something and Little Steven knew what it needed. He handed it a guitar. They raised the coffin and Bruce stepped out. That was October 31, 1980. And they recreated the scene last night! It was my first Springsteen show ever and this was my final Bruce Springsteen show of this tour. And what a night it was; including one BIG treat from Bruce. But, let's start at the beginning...

A friend, who I owe deeply now, got me a ticket through the band will call. I asked for a floor ticket not knowing that the band will call doesn't open until 6:30 the night of the show. When I found this out last night, I complained to one of the people who was working the booth who I knew worked for the promoter. He asked me my name and said, don't worry, you'll have one. Being a promoter, I didn't trust him, so I came early to the show. I'm still not sure why I came early, but at 3:30, there I was in the Sports Arena parking lot. I wandered around and couldn't find anyone I knew, so I went back to my car, turned on the radio and figured I would check email. No sooner do I turn on the radio then a car pulls up next to me. During Bruce's stadium tour (was that 4 or 5 years ago already?) I traveled to San Francisco with a group of strangers to see Bruce atPac Bell Park. They were friends of a friend. We sat in the pit that night (what a good omen). And there they were, parked next to me. So, I spent the next couple hours hanging with them, drinkingKetel One and eating some very good turkey wraps. Also in the group was Bill who flew in from Chicago for the show. Maybe Deb knows him. :-) They all had floor seats and should have been nervous about getting in the pit, but there was a serene confidence about them. They knew they were going to get in. As they waited for the numbers to be called, Joy, made a final karma move, selling her extra floor seat to a guy for $20. Moments later they found out they were in the pit (barely).

So, while they lined up, I went over to the will call area to wait. There I met Markus, the lead singer and songwriter of The Latebirds, a Finnish band. I plan to check them out when time allows. We had a great conversation about all sorts of things. And it turned out he was even a huge Sam Phillips fan. I didn't have time to tell him about how I proposed to her though. At 6:35, the window finally opened, I got my ticket, looked inside and... I WAS IN THE PIT!!!!! Putting on my wristband I headed inside (okay, the truth is that there was a long line to get in if you had floor seats so it was a good ten minutes before I actually headed in) and met up with Joy and all her friends. We were having a great time, but I was thirsty. Because we were all late getting into the pit, there were no real spots that needed to be saved so I could easily come and go as I needed. Wandering around the outside area, I walked past a section that probably needed to be guarded, but there was no one there. So there I was. And there was Nils? And Max? And Roy? And And... Little Steven!!! I ran back to the pit, grabbed Joy and Bill and said, "Little Steve is right over there (pointing) RIGHT NOW". We ran back to the spot and... He got a big hug from Joy, and a handshake from me. Bill got his picture taken with Roy and well, could the night get any better? YES.

So, Bruce comes out of the coffin and just like every other night on the tour yells the perfect Halloween yell, "Is anybody alive out there!" And on went the show. This was my first real pit show and man was it good. Bruce was having fun the band was alive! Nothing compares when you're that close (I may have been standing on the equivalent of 8th or 10th row). He did Tunnel of Love and Nils just ripped the solo. Everyone was talking about it afterwards. Reason to Believe just exploded. Patti's "Town CalledHeartbreak " was so intimate, with Bruce and Patti so close exchanging vocals. It was a great show, but we wanted a gift. And during the encore we got one. Bruce said, "Here's apre -Halloween treat for Los Angeles". It only took two notes for the place to go crazy. I was told by a good authority he has never played "Kitty's Back" in Los Angeles. If he has, it's been a long long time. And man! They played it like it was a regular on the set list. Bruce's solo kicked ass and the band was so tight. I still haven't come down. So, how do you top that? The only way you can, segue it into Born To Run. I may never recover. Soon the show was over. We all stood there, dazed. What an amazing night. What a great show. I sure hope someone taped it.

Setlist (from
Radio Nowhere
The Ties That Bind
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Tunnel of Love
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Kitty's Back
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Los Angeles Sports Arena October 29th 2007

This is round 2 of a 3 rounder for me. We had seats in the upper level, but row 8, and in the corner. It turns out that it is actually closer then the back of the lower level in Oakland. I love the Sports Arena!

As we started to go in, I heard someone yell, "Bruuuuce". Well, I've gotten used to ignoring my name at Springsteen shows, but I turned anyway. It was Randy and Sue. I always know that at the L.A. Bruce shows I'm going to run into old friends. It is one of the many reasons I love these shows.

Things did not start out good for The Boss on this evening. The show opens with circus music playing as the band walks out. The music kept stopping and starting (not supposed to happen) with a loud scratch like they were having a connection problem every time it started back up. And later in the evening (was it at the beginning of Backstreets, I can't remember) it got worse as the low end, probably from the bass guitar got way out of hand and sent vibrations through the cement walls of the arena.

Otherwise, it was a great show. The audience started out really loud and excited for an L.A. crowd. But, watching from the upper level, they seemed to relax as the show went on. By the end though, with the Born to Run into Dancing in the Dark combo, they were up and singing/screaming.

This was a first night show, which generally has been considered not as good as the second night shows. Probably because I've spent too much time listening to the tour boots, but it seemed just too familiar. There were no tour premiers this night either. But it was an excellent show with great moments.

The heat! Did I mention the heat? We were sweating before the show even started. Bruce brought it up a couple of times and even brought water out to the crowd. At least one girl fainted from the heat (I guessing it was the heat). Bruce was very nice and even asked about her during the show.

There are lots of things I love about this tour. He has taken the folky "Reason to Believe", and turned it into a blazing blues number that brings down the house every night. Think, Chis Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Thing", starting with just harmonica and drums and then exploding with the band joining in. Gypsy Bikers culminates with Bruce and Little Steven trading blistering guitar solos. During "Magic", there are two vertical screens and the video camera picks up Bruce on one and Patti on the other. Very cool effect. Many of the new songs really come to life in concert. I especially love how powerful "Devils Arcade" comes off.

I'm crossing my fingers that I'm in the pit tonight. If not I'm going to be very pissed at a couple of SFX people who made promises last night. Meanwhile, here is the set list, brought to you by .

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
Candy's Room
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Oakland October 26, 2007

This has really been a long strange week. The first half of the week was actually pretty normal, other than the working too hard thing. But then I got the call from my friend Kim. An old friend of ours JimCreasy had died. Now Jim was supposed to die back around the end of the 70's. He had been diagnosed with diabetes and according to him, didn't have much time left. Shortly after that , he moved to Kentucky to be with family. In 1999, he came out to visit. This would be his last visit. He wasn't expected to live much longer. But live he did. He came very close to making it to my wedding, but at the last minute his doctor discouraged him from going. When we went to Nashville last month, we were hoping to meet up with him. Again, it fell through. Jim Loved The Who. To him, Pete Townsend was the closest thing to God on earth. His love of music was as great as any one I know. Back in the 90's his album collection was around 10,000. His 45 collection was twice that. Every year he made a couple dozenCDs (in the old days it was tapes) of rare weird fun Christmas music. I was lucky enough to be on the short list that received these wonderfulCDs . Last weekend Jim wrote me and asked me to send him some of the Bruce boots from the tour this year. He wasn't a big fan, probably because you can only have one God, but he had learned to respect him. My friend Deborah, one of the biggest Bruce fans I know, was one of Jim's closest friends. This has been really tough on her. We've been talking throughout the weekend; part Jim, part Bruce. She convinced Chris Carter to dedicate a song to him on his show today. She also gave him a boot of the only E Street Beatles cover. Meanwhile, I'm the hub for all the information about Jim. So, while I'm emotionally excited about the Springsteen shows, I'm also in the middle of... all of this.

We caught the 5PM plane to Oakland, arrived at around 6:30 (it was so nice to be breathing the clean air up there), took a cab to the hotel (he went the wrong way, of course... It was his first day on the job), convinced him to wait while we checked in and then jumped back in the cab and headed over to the Oracle Center (or whatever the name is these days). Arriving at around 7:30, we had a good 45 minutes to relax (Bruce never starts his shows on time) which allowed us to chat with Bruce fans. You can bad mouth the fans of today all you want (I'll never disagree), but Springsteen fans are a different breed. We had nice conversations with 3 different groups of people around us. One gentleman left early, but handed me his card and said, "keep this", several times.

We were at the back of the lower level (the last row actually); Not bad seats. But as soon as I saw that we were under an awning, I got nervous. The sound often bounces off of awnings and makes it real hard to enjoy the music let alone understand what is being said. The lights went out and the crowd roared. This was a good west coast crowd. Although they really had no idea what to do duringThundercrack (hell, I barely knew what to do), they still came through time and again when required. Yes, if you haven't peaked at any of the set lists for the tour, Bruce has brought out a real real real oldie. One that has only been released on his Tracks box set. And the sound? It was great. Maybe the cleanest sound I've had at a Bruce show, when not up close. It might have been a bit loud, but that could have just been that I don't go to arena shows anymore.

This tour is a more compact show, clocking in usually at around two and a quarter hours; which is exactly where we ended up on Friday night. Still, he fits in 23 plus songs each night. This is accomplished by cutting out all the talking. Bruce's raps are minimal, giving interesting but quick intros to "Magic" and"Livin ' in the Future" and the shortest band intros of the E Street's entire concert life. What this means though, is that the pacing has to be different. No time for a slow middle, which he normally has. And although the pace does drop at times, the band quickly picks it up on the next song. The back to back combo of Tunnel of Love into Racing in the Streets, was excellent, but may have slowed down the show a bit too much. Had this been a 3 hour show, it would have worked much better. He did come out of that duo with a bang, rocking his way through "Working on the Highway", a great replacement for the usual Cadillac Ranch or Ramrod.

Dancing in the Dark is back as a regular on the set list. Audience participation is so important for E Street shows and throwing this one next to Born To Run really creates a tremendous amount energy within the crowd. It's like a fight, with BTR providing the deadly punch and DITD finishing us off with the knockout punch. The show always closes with American Land, Bruce's Seegerish fiddlin' rave. It is a great closer; one that keeps everyone on their feet, clapping and singing.

After the show I pulled out the card that was handed to me and read the note the guy had written on it. He had lost his wife to breast cancer this year. The Bruce shows were obviously something they shared, so this show must have, for him, been bitter sweet. We all want to share the Bruce experience with others. This was his way of reaching out.

I was so tired after the show, I literally hit the bed and was fast asleep. In the morning we headed into The City to catch up with Maria's family. In between meals, Maria did some work while I hit Rasputin Records. Rasputin in San Francisco and San Jose has a reputation for having a much better progressive rock selection then Amoeba, and I walked away with a nice selection ofCDs including some that I never had on vinyl including music from Yes, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett and Steve Howe. I also picked up some used CDs that were on my recent to-buy list: A Fine Frenzy, Iron and Wine and The Cake Sale (really cool gathering of musicians to support world wide fare trade including: LisaHannigan, Glen Hansard, Damien Rice and Josh Ritter). And fitting the weekend and the last month, I found a live CD from Shooter Jennings who we saw at the Grand Ole Opry. The band is introduced on the CD by Little Steven. Hows that for timing.

Okay, I'm ready for the next two shows this week!

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
Two Hearts
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Tunnel of Love
Racing in the Street
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New Music for October

Wow. So much music, so little attention span. :-) Okay, seriously, there is a lot to cover here. I spent most of September in the South and Southwest and am so glad to be home. But there is so much catching up to do now. These CDs that have been added to the play list are in no particular order. There are some indie bands and some new bands. A couple are on their sophomore release and several are long time favorites that you all know about. Please take a few minutes and flip through the whole list. I'm sure there is something here you'll like.

Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior (2007)
This new CD from long time guitar hero and all round great artist is a rocker. Most of the songs are classic Thompson, with wonderful insights, cool melodies and sweet guitar licks.
Marshall Dabney - Crown Jewel (2006)
The great thing about today's music industry is that an artist who is willing to go it alone can create music the way he sees fit. And that brings us to Marshall Dabney, a superb guitarist who has built a wonderful CD that is part prog rock, maybe a touch jazz, part guitar fun and all very 70's; but in a good way. I really enjoyed the fun instrumentals; a reminder that you don't have to add cheesy lyrics to a song when a good guitar is all you may need.
Sun Volt - The Search (2007)
Is that horns I hear? Hmmm. Here is a fun description: Son Volt is a cross between REM and Bob Mould. That is the way the new CD strikes me. Its the same great voice with melodies to fit.
Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
From the opening chords of "to the dogs or whatever" I was hooked. I liked his last CD, but I LOVE this one. The recording feels sort of low tech, and maybe that adds to the fun. Yep, this is fun CD. Now that's not to say that the songs are lightweight, they just all feel so good. The best will have you not only tapping your feet, but will have you singing along almost instantly. Go buy this... Now.
White Stripes - Icky Thump (2007)
Back to a more straight forward sound, Jack and Meg have created another potent CD. I'm reminded of the power duos from the early 70's (what am I saying? Power duos?) except without the excess. And Jack Black is still one of the most creative guitarists alive.
Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade (2007)
It's a more modern sound with some drum tracks and maybe even some scratching, but there is no doubt it is still Steve Earle. This is a strong CD with only a minimum of outright political attacks but a maximum of strong social discovery as he talks about his move to New York City and the love of his life, Allison Moorer. She sings backup on this CD and their voices sound wonderful together. I highly recommend this CD for both old and new fans.
Eliza Gilkyson - Your Town Tonight (2007)
I just discovered Eliza earlier this year and have only seen her as an opening act. So this live CD is such a pleasure to listen to. But nothing prepared me for her rendition of her father's "Green Fields". Wow! If you are a fan of Eliza's or have wondered about her, this is a great way to get introduced.
Jesse Malin - Glitter in the Gutter (2007)
The lineage of New Jersey rockers continues and with this CD Jesse is just about ready to join the big boys. A duet with The Boss helps, but Jesse can stand on his own, thank you. Great rockin' CD.
Bill Harvey - bear sick (2007)
As Bob Schneider's guitar player, Billy played a mean guitar. But on his own, his sound is more soft, acoustic and quirky. And with each CD the songwriting continues to get better and better. At times his songwriting reminds me of Steve Poltz, without the outrageous humor.
The Section Quartet - Fuzzbox (2007)
No one rocks harder with strings and bows than The Section Quartet. Their first major label release continues where their indie CD left off: creating great quartet arrangements to rock songs. Obviously the arrangements are what makes their sound so good. But it is the song selection that makes their CDs worth buying. Rarely going with the obvious choice, they cover Bowie, but it is "The Man Who Sold The World"; not one that most people can remember the tune to. But you say to yourself, "I know that song". It really is fun listening to their CDs (or live for that mater) the first time. It is not all rarities though. Following Bowie is the 90's classic "Black Hole Sun" and then Led Zep's Heartbreaker. Too old school for you? How about "No One Knows" from Queens of the Stone Age? Eric, Daphne, Leah and Richard understand music. They can see the beauty and complexity in what most of us see as just rock and roll. And most important... My daughter, the budding artist, says it is great to paint to. So there you have it.
Luke Powers - Picture Book (2007)
When I was young I believed that the words were the song. As I got older I fell in love with great playing. But the words kept creeping in. Some of those progressive bands in the 70's sounded so good, but the lyrics? So, if you listen to words, you end up listening to singer/songwriters. And ultimately, you're going to find yourself on the fringes of country music because good country and folk music loves a good story (something beyond losing the wife, the dog and the house as the train goes by). And Luke Powers writes a good story. You're going to laugh. You're going to cry. Well, okay, maybe not cry. But whoever "Mr. Yeah Yeah Yeah" is must be a pretty pitiful person. And did Luke really see JFK driving a pickup truck? Have I peaked your interest? I hope so, because I loved listening to these folk/country/whatever stories.
Julia Albert - ...More Real Than This (2007)
This little 5 song EP grabbed my interest because... well... I know, you've heard this a bunch of times, but... there is some Kate Bush in her. And I'm a sucker for anyone who reminds me of her. This is much more pop than Kate though. Still this EP makes me want to hear more.
Patti Scialfa - Play it as it Lays (2007)
I was on an exercise bike in Memphis a few weeks ago and put on this CD. Searching for inspiration, Patti sings, "I'm Looking for Elvis down a Memphis road". And I was hooked. I loved both of Patti's previous CDs, but they pale in comparison to this beautiful CD from a very mature woman dealing with life and her art. I went several workout sessions in a row with this CD on because I just couldn't get enough of it. I hear she sings one of her songs during Bruce's tour. I, for one, will be looking forward to that part of the show.
Graham Parker & the Figgs - 103 in June - Live in Chicago (2006)
You can feel the sweat dripping off the guitars on this CD. On a very warm night in Chicago a few years back, Graham and the Figgs rocked hard for a club full of frenzied fans. I saw them around this time and remember being totally exhausted at the end (and I was sitting). This is what rock and roll is all about. So, support your local independent record dealer, 'cause that is the only place this is available.
Once - Music from the Motion Picture (2007)
I had never followed the Frames and so therefore had no idea what I was in for when I sat down to watch this movie a couple months ago. What a brilliant movie and CD. When it is available for sale, buy it. And then pick up this CD or Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "The Swell Season". And I'm guessing you may want to pick up all of the Frames' CDs. That was the way I came out of the movie. It is passionate acoustic music that will just knock you over.
Bruce Robison - It Came From San Antonio (2007)
The title track to this short CD is an homage to The Sir Douglas Quintet, who were actually from San Antonio not Liverpool as many people believed back in the 60's. It is a great little rocker that totally captures the style and sound of the day. The rest of the CD is just really good songwriting from a man who is best known as the husband of Kelly Willis. But he has written songs for people like George Straight and, of course, Kelly. It is a short CD and can be picked up real cheap on his web site. Pick it up while you can. You won't be disappointed.
Lori Mckenna - Unglamorous (2007)
If radio were playing "music" these days, Unglamorous would be a guaranteed crossover hit for Lori. Her folk/country style is never overshadowed by over production which would allow mellower rock stations to play her music. Country stations would pick up on the great stories and overall fun spirit that is all over this CD. Lori is a really good songwriter and deserves to be listened to. I will be playing a lot of this CD on the stream.
Joni Mitchell - Shine (2007)
Joni is no longer the pop artist. She hasn't been for decades. During her big "comeback" in the 90's, she stripped her music back down to an acoustic level, but it still wasn't "pop". What it was though was strikingly social-political. Songs like "Sex Kills" still ring true 10 years later. "Shine" brings back the jazzy band sound and keeps the strong attack on the problems in this world. If you truly loved Joni for her lyrics, you will love this CD. But if you are looking for pretty melodies about lost love, you might want to pick up one of her older albums. This would be a better world if more grandmothers were as outspoken as Joni.
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight (2007)
Jenny Lewis and friends take a shot at the more straightforward and direct sound. It's easier to swallow. But don't worry. They are too quirky to be totally commercial. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Ann Wilson - Hope & Glory (2007)
For her first solo CD, Ann has decided to pick songs that she loves and that she feels are important in this day and age to sing for us. She has also gather some of her friends (you know most of them) to sing and play with her. The result is a strong cover CD from one of the finest voices in rock.
Bruce Springsteen - Magic (2007)
The Boss is rocking this time out. Obviously, The Promise is a big fan, so any review would be just a bit partisan. What I will say is that the CD grows on me with each listen. And as I listen to the bootlegs of his current tour, the magic of this CD really starts to show through.
Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature (2007)
His unique, flamenco inspired guitar playing drives his sound. With his soft voice on top of the guitar, you are pulled into his world. He is like no one I have ever heard, and yet his sound is so familiar. I once compared him to Nick Drake. That may be closest you are going to get.
John Fogerty - Revival (2007)
A perfect title for a near perfect return to form. John has resurrected the sound and feel of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The melodies, the syncopation, the voice... It is all here. But the CD doesn't dwell on the past. John just uses it as a launching pad for some of the best music he has written since the CCR days.
Peter Bradley Adams - Gather Up (2006)
Like floating down a calm river, Peter Bradley Adams' new CD is a continuation of his eastmountainsouth CD, providing a soft, beautiful landscape of music to rest our weary bones on. At times he reminds me of the soft side of Jackson Brown. This is a less traditional CD then the last, but it is just so darn beautiful, it really doesn't matter what's going on here.
Emiko - Here Lies Tinkerbell (2003)
Sexy, brash, straight talking, funky... All this and a beat you can dance to. Her attitude reminds me of early Alanis, but she is much more upfront with her sexuality. Enjoy this CD now, before the pop mainstream destroys her.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ACL Festival 2007

I'm headed to Austin this week for the annual ACL Festival. Watch for updates on my ACL blog at .

Because of ACL and my wedding and a trip to Tennessee later this month, there may not be a full update to my music stream until October. But there is plenty of good music coming. So stay tuned.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Music in July

Yes, I know it is well into August, but, well, weddings some how seem to get in the way. All of this music has been playing on The Promise since late July and it has taken me all of this time just to get back to this blog. But here we go, short but sweet. As always, a big thank you to all of the artists who send me their wonderfulCDs for airplay. My short descriptions can't do you justice.

Crowded House - Time On Earth (2007)
Right now this is in the running for my favorite CD of the year. It has been about 10 years since last we saw a Crowded House CD. Neil Finn hasn't been sitting around collecting royalties though. He has continued to grow and develop as a songwriter. His solo CDs along with his CDs with his brother Tim have been excellent. So that this Crowded House CD is great is no surprise. What does it sound like? Well, it sounds like... Crowded House. Classic Crowded House at that.
Loudon Wainwright III - Strange Weirdos (Music From and Inspired by the File Knocked Up) (2007)
It's Loudon. Although I have been a fan since "Dead Skunk", I hadn't really checked out the albums until the last couple of years. He is truly an American treasure. A wonderful CD to check out.
Blood Red Sun - A Nation of Saviors (2007)
An Excellent rock outfit, this is definitely not for someone looking for a mellow evening out. But if you're looking for plenty of hooks and some good hard rockin', you've come to the right place.
Ellsworth - American Compost (2006)
I've been having trouble pinpointing what Ellsworth is. There is no doubt we are listening to Americana, but with a bit of a twist. I think what I like about the music, is the the early 60's feel it seems to exude as go through the tracks. A great combination and one that makes this indie CD worth checking out. You can check out his Myspace site at: .
High Cotton - High Cotton (2004)
This is another Americana artist but with a fun sound and a powerful female singer. I enjoyed this 5 song EP. Think early Michele Shocked. They have newer music available at: , or check out their Myspace site: .
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger (2007)
Everyone has been talking about this CD, some calling it his best work since Whiskeytown. I don't see it. The short answer here is that I really enjoyed this CD; probably more than the last few. But not so much more that I'm jumping up and down with excitement. Ryan is a gifted writer and he always shows signs of it in almost every CD he puts out. This one is no exception.
Raul Malo - After Hours (2007)
So... if you're a big fan of 50's classics song with a country attitude and one of the great voices in rock, then this CD is for you. And that pretty much describes it. Raul can sing the phone book and his band on this CD can pretty much play it all, but this music is really limited in scope. You'll either love it or pass it over and wait for the next one.
Spoon - Ga Ga GA Ga Ga (2007)
Spoon is slowly working its way into the American consciousness. I don't think this CD is as obviously pop as their last couple, but in their unique way Spoon is creating a new pop; something we can all be proud of.
Kim Richey - Chinese Boxes (2007)
There is an upbeat sound to almost everything Kim sings. You just can't help but feel good while listening to her CDs. This may not have the solid singles that her last couple of CDs had, but it is a solid CD; one I'll be enjoying for awhile.
Minnie Driver - Seastories (2007)
When last we talked about Minnie Driver (yes, that Minnie Driver), I was telling you to buy the CD just for the great Springsteen cover. Well, this new CD shows us that indeed Minnie Driver has arrived. Put her next to the other solid singer/songwriters out there and she will fit right in. I love her voice. I love her song selections. It's a beautiful collection and worth every penny.
Nick Drake - Family Tree (2007)
It is hard to recommend this CD and it is hard not to. If you have eaten up all of the legal Nick Drake material and haven't gotten enough, you will eat this one up too. These are so-so recordings made not as part of a record, but as inspirations that maybe someday would be shaped into something great. It is raw and interesting and there are a few standout cuts. And it is Nick Drake; one of the great unknowns who died way too soon.
2 Nice Girls - Two Nice Girls (2007 - Reissue)
This is a CD I had to have for one song: Sweet Jane (with Affection). I already owned "I spent my last $10 on birth control and beer"; the second best song on the CD (and one of the funniest lesbian songs I've ever heard). After these two songs, you have a very nice folk-like CD (some call it lesbian folk). ButSJWA is a great. They have combined Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" with Joan Armatrading's "Love and Affection". It is an absolute classic.
Duncan Sheik - White Limousine (2006)
When Duncan Sheik walked away with a Tony this year, some people in the music industry may have been surprised. But listen to this CD from 2006 and you will hear how Duncan has grown over the years, creating a full sound that is worthy of the stage. A beautiful CD to listen to.
Todd Helvig - Distill (2007)
I've saved Todd for last because... well this type of artist can be really hard to describe. He has a classic rock voice. But his songs are far from that. They are passionate acoustic pieces that don't draw us in with hooks, but with the... passion (there's that word again). It almost feels like these are classic rock and roll songs turned acoustic. Bring on the band and you blow out the doors. But I like it better this way. Todd bares his soul for us, and you don't get that with leather and two drum kits. I'm willing to bet that he is one to see in concert. If you're in the Colorado area, you can check him out live, otherwise, you can pick up his CDs at .

Coming attractions:
Lots more music on the way, including new music from: Once - The Soundtrack, Graham Parker Live in Chicago, Emiko, Lori Mckenna, Bruce Robinson (just go out and buy this one now... great, althought short, CD), Julia Albert, Luke Powers, and Marshall Dabney.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Alejandro Escovedo Live at The Mint in L.A.

It was a perfect evening for some great rock and roll and Alejandro Escovedo did not disappoint. We arrived at The Mint in the middle of the opening act's set. The Estate played an interesting set of... well I'm not quite sure how to describe it. The lead singer had a voice that kept reminding me of Janis Joplin. It is a bit high for a man and just gravelly enough to make you clear your throat every so often. There was a lot of passion in it and the songs sounded real good. I'm going to have to pick up the CD and give him/them more of a listen.

Alejandro came out with a standard rock and roll lineup: guitar, bass, drums, violin and cello. It really is a great grouping and all of the musicians happen to be pretty good on top of that. The Wild Colonials, during their Christmas shows, used to at times have a lineup that was a bit like this. And with both bands, when they are all up there, you get a really full sound. And so, at the end of the show for example, when the band just kicks some ass during Castanets , it sounds GREAT. And I love a band that is having a good time on stage. You can see it in their eyes; especially while trading off solos with each other.

Alejandro introduced two new songs: Sister Lost Soul and Sensitive Boys. Both are going to be recorded in L.A. next month (hopefully!). The new album is supposed to be a sort of travelogue of the places and times where Alejandro Escovedo has lived. Sister Lost Soul is about the rockers whom he admired that are no longer with us. Sensitive Boys was dedicated to his brother. Both songs sounded great.

There were no real surprises in the set, with the band playing lots of favorites throughout the hour and a quarter. What may have been the highlight for some (it was for me) was saved for last with a beautiful version of Ian Hunter's "I Wish I Was Your Mother". There was a beautiful a cappella section near the end that just made the evening. With that he left the stage with promises to try and come back next month. Watch The Mint's web site for more info. Also, you can check out Sin City, the promoter of the show. And, of course, Alejandro Escovedo can be found here: .

Oh... Sorry for the crappy picture. It's a new camera and I really didn't have time to play with it before the show. And then suddenly we were surrounded by amazingly tall people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Joan Armatrading at 4th & B in San Diego

This was my first time visiting 4th & B, which is run by the House of Blues. So, lets just get this out of the way first. Any band, Velvet Revolver or louder, will do just fine here. But anyone softer, even with electric guitars, is going up against a concrete box with not an acoustic tile in site. Joan's sound crew did a fantastic job of mixing the sound, but it sure isn't the place you want to see someone special like Joan Armatrading.

You can't really talk about this show without talking about the new CD, "Into the Blues". The CD, which is Joan's take on the blues, is her best in 20 years. And this new music blends so nicely with her 70's folk/jazz era. With a solid backing band (drums, bass and keyboards), the 70's songs really rocked and the new tunes sounded even better than on the CD. Joan's guitar playing at times reminded me B.B. King as she whipped off clean well conceived solo after solo. This concert was a reminder of just how much I enjoy watching Joan play guitar.

Joan saved most of the 80's hits for the end, and that worked well since they are so full of energy but don't really segue well with the new songs. As always the audience explodes when Joan walks on stage and always gives several standing ovations (yes, there were seats!) during the evening.

I ended up having a slightly funny situation with Joan. I am friends with her assistant, Jenn. Maria and I were walking around well before the show and and saw Joan, but didn't say anything; just smiled at her. Later, right after the sound check, we were at the backstage door and Joan came out. As she walked by I said, "Hi Joan". It is well known that Joan likes her privacy and I wasn't going to try and start up a conversation so I just said, "Is Jenn around"? That stopped Joan in her tracks. "Jennifer?" she asked. I said yes and she said, "Do you know her?". I think she was really surprised to have someone asking for one of her crew members. Anyway, I said yes and a minute later Jenn came out of the bus and we caught up on each other's lives. But I'll always remember the surprise on Joan's face. It was pretty funny.

Always remember, be polite to the techs on stage. Which is why I am able to give you the song list for the show. :-)

The Devil I Know
A Woman In Love
Show Some Emotion
Somethin's Gonna Blow
Play the Blues
Into the Blues
Tall in the Saddle
All The Way From America
My Baby's Gone
Empty Highway
Cool Blue
You Rope You Tie Me
Call Me Names
Me Myself I
Drop the Pilot

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Music for June

Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band - Live In Dublin (2007)
The story goes (and it may not be true, but it has always sounded good): String convinced Bruce that in order to stretch as an artist, he needed to dump his band (the great E Street Band). And he may have been right, but I don't think his timing was. The problem was the Bruce didn't really have a direction or purpose and so when he put together the replacement band, it was merely a copy of the E Street Band. Most fans weren't happy and ultimately Bruce brought back the E Street Band. But with the Seeger Sessions there was now a purpose; a direction. And the fun of that CD, the concerts last summer and this new live CD/DVD is watching Springsteen stretch. Even if the Seeger Sessions CD didn't do it for you, the live stuff is just too good to ignore. Bouncing around between Dixie Land, Gospel, Two Step and whatever else they can conjure up, this is pure energy. It is a foot stomping good time. It is as powerful as it is poignant. My favorite section of this CD is on disc two where he goes directly from "Open All Night" with its huge band (because the term big band just isn't enough) swing into the sing-a-long "Pay Me My Money Down" with horns blazing and the crowd singing. The song fades out with the crowd continuing to sing the chorus. When the music starts again, we've got a country/rockin'/two steppin' "Growin' Up", that you just have to hear to believe. There are other reworked classics that will blow your mind if you haven't heard them already, including: "Atlantic city", "Further On (Up the Road)", "Highway Patrolman" and "Blinded By The Light". I haven't watched the DVD yet. I'll get around to it. But this CD is going to be hanging around on my CD player for some time to come.
Shane Nicholson - Faith & Science (2007)
Someone else said it and I usually wouldn't use someone else's worlds, but I was thinking the same thing as I listened for the first time: "This is the best music Crowded House never recorded". The beauty, the passion, the vocals, they are all here. The melodies are as sweet as a summer afternoon at the beach. Which is to say, they aren't sugary, but they sure look good. The first listen made me think, this is good, but it doesn't have the big songs like the last CD. But by the second time around I was already picking out favorites. This is an excellent CD. For more info go to .
Joan Armatrading - Into The Blues (2007)
I remember reading an interview with Joan many years ago and she stated (maybe more for effect than based on her reality) that she didn't see the difference between herself and say Led Zeppelin. It takes a a true artist to make an outrageous statement like that. Joan writes her own type of pop music, just like LedZep did. What is the difference? Just as Led Zepp merged blues and psychedelic music into an institution, Joan has been fiddling with styles for years. In the 70's it was her unique blend of folk and jazz. In the 80's it was punk and ska and folk and jazz. With "Into The Blues", Joan takes on the Blues and like the rest of her work, it doesn't sound like anything else you've ever heard. It is Joan's take on the Blues and... well, it is really good. Find out more at .
Keren Ann - Keren Ann (2007)
I called her voice whispery when I first saw her in 2005 at the Hotel Cafe. But two years later, the voice is stronger and more confident. The songs still float, like a boat on the Mediterranean on a summer's day. Another enjoyable CD from the Israeli born, French raised singer/songwriter.
The Lava Province - Strangeway (2006)
Full of hooks and strong guitar chords, this CD will take you back to the 80's when bands like REM where stretching the limits of New Wave. Laurens Vernot , who is the band, has a strong understanding of how to write a pop song, and rarely deviates. You might find yourself delightfully surprised by this unassuming CD.
Joan Osborne - Breakfast in Bed (2007)
What a wonderful title. I can see myself the morning after a long night... uhmmm... in bed... listening to this CD as we eat the croissants and fruit that room service brought in. Okay, focus... So, it was only a matter of time before Joan, with her big powerful voice, not only took on some classic soul and R&B tunes but created a few for herself. Although the originals don't compare to the classics, they fit very nicely and, more importantly, Joan continues to improve as a songwriter. I still think Joan can go even farther with her voice, but this is a very nice distraction while we wait.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Music... It's the End of May Already

Emily Maguire - Keep Walking (2007)
What a delight this CD is. So often I receive CDs from singer/songwriters and I love the CDs but find myself thinking: If only they had a great producer to really finish off the songs... Someone like John Leventhal (Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash to name but a few). But not "Keep Walking". I love the music on this CD as much as the lyrics. The songs are well written, fully produced, interesting, different, changing pace with each song. I just can't say enough about it. Emily has a beautiful voice and sings these with enough passion to make this a fully developed CD. If this were the 90's (when radio mattered and people like Sheryl Crow and Paula Cole ruled the airwaves) EmilyMaguire would be on her way to becoming a house hold name. This is easily one of my favorite independent CDs of the year so far. Find out more about "Keep Walking" at or .
Brandi Carlile - The Story (2007)
With T-Bone Burnett behind the wheel, I was expecting so much more. Still this is a strong CD and a step up from her initial release.
Steve Lee - All Secrets Fade (2001)
Singer/Songwriter Steve Lee has created a solid CD. The music dances around between modern folk ("American Gothic") and straight ahead rockers ("Half a Chance"), all blending together to create a fine piece of work. You can purchase this CD at .
Cowboy Junkies - At The End of Paths Taken (2007)
This may very well be the best CD the Junkies have ever done. It was almost 20 years ago that The Cowboy Junkies created that very special CD, "The Trinity Sessions", and we have all been waiting for something to top it ever since. This isn't a haunting CD, like Trinity. Instead it is a natural CD; filled with 20 years of songwriting experience and maturity. The sound moves from the CJ type mellow "Still Lost" to a the hard edged "Cutting Board Blues" and yet never loses focus. "Spiral Down" could easily have made it on that first CD... And we haven't even gotten half way into the CD.
Tori Amos - American Doll Posse (2007)
All the talk on Tori's new release is about her 4 personalities and how each one takes on a portion of this CD. Don't expect too many surprises though. This is Tori, through and through. And it's another excellent CD from an artist who has found her way again.
Jimmy LaFave - Cimarron Manifesto (2007)
I spent half my life avoiding country music. But alt-country artists like Jimmy LaFave keep drawing me closer and closer. Another excellent CD from the real music capital of the world: Austin.
No Fixed Abode - Clearwater (2007)
I love the sound of Irish Folk Rock, and you'll find it in ample supply on No Fixed Abode's "Clearwater". Una Walsh's vocals lead this band with Patrick Walker's violin and viola driving the songs home. Not unlike the Wild Colonials, whose guitar player, Shark, sits in the background but is obviously the driving force in the band, Tony Dean who co-wrote all of the songs with Walsh may be the key that puts this band above the rest. With strong songwriting, gorgeous lead vocals and killer violin, what is not to love. Get more info at
Black Angel - O'California (2006)
Rough and raw, dripping from an overdose of Stones records, Black Angel is probably one of those bands that are just too much fun to see in concert. I had a lot of fun listening to this CD. Check 'em out here:
Melissa McClelland - Thumbelina's One Night Stand (2006)
This is the CD I went looking for a year plus ago after seeing her back up Luke Doucet at Largo. They were an opening act for Kathleen Edwards and I was enthralled... by both of them. That first CD was good, but not what I was hoping for. With Luke behind the console on this one, Melissa really shines. She already has a voice (sang with Sarah McLachlan) and she has the wit; both of which were displayed on that last CD. With this one, she now shows the songwriting talent. "Passenger 24" grabs you and the rest of the CD doesn't let you go. The sound is hard to describe (but I'll try): Canadian country/blues/pop with an attitude. You'll just have to buy it and find out for yourself. And if you are anywhere near her live, it will be worth the ticket to see her perform.
Neil Young - Massey Hall 1971 (2007)
Neil solo, 1971. What else needs to be said? That most of the audience had never heard this classic music will give you goose bumps. It will start conversations like, "I was there the night Tom Petty introduced a new song, "Refugee". What else do you need?
Golden Smog - Blood On The Slacks (2007)
With only 8 songs two of which are covers, this is an interesting adventure. But if you need to hear what The Jayhawks meet Bowie would sound like, then you should pick this up. I loved it.
Elliott Smith - New Moon (2007)
More music from the vaults of this late great singer/songwriter. You may want to stay away from this if you are an aspiring singer/songwriter. You know there has got to be someone out there saying, "Geez, this guy is dead and he is still putting out better music then I am". It is all simply produced, these demo's that have been lying around for a few years. Mainly guitar and vocals, some of the songs are just pure joy. Always a reminder of a great talent lost.
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (2007)
They continue to be one of the most original bands alive today. Is it pop? Is it country (or alt-country)? It sure sounds like a jam band here. And it all just sounds so good.
Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars (2007)
You will want to buy this CD just for the sad and beautiful "Going to a Town". Very high on my list for best song of the year. And in case you forgot where Rufus got his name, there is "Old Paint", which sounds so much like his dad, Loudon, that you may forget which CD you are listening too. Another beautiful CD from one of the truly special voices in pop/rock.
Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
They are a band that has the ability to connect pop and progressive rock in a way that has never really been done before. This CD isn't as pop as "Deadwing", but it is still well played progressive rock that deserves a listen from anyone that wants to go beyond the 3 chord structure.
Blonde Redhead - 23 (2007)
I was intrigued by the CD cover and the reviews sounded very interesting. So I checked out this modern rock band that has a good 10 year history. This kind of a CD is a reminder that there is so much good music out there if you are willing to spend some time looking. I love the breathy vocals, and that is the big hook here. I'm looking forward to spending more time with them.
Warren Zevon - Preludes (2007)
This is a must buy for any Zevon fan. The first CD is filled with demos of songs, some of which were never recorded. The second CD is an interview he did 7 years ago. He is tough on the interviewer, but it is riveting.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Music for April 2007

Travis Kline - Travis Kline (2007 EP)
This is a strong alt-country release. And he is only 18? Really? The future of alt-country is in good hands. I like all 6 songs on this EP.
Edgehill Ave - Edgehill Ave (2007)
Edgehill Ave. is a band with plenty of potential. Their Americana sound is full of classic melodies and fine acoustic guitar leads filling all the empty spaces. "With These Hands" is the standout cut.
The Red Button - She's About To Cross My Mind (2007)
Combining the classic 60's sound with sparkling production and straightforward songwriting, this is the perfect CD for those who want new music, but want to relive the 60's. "Cruel Girl" is as good as single I've heard in years.
Charlotte Kendrick - North of New York (2007)
Simple sweet stories about folks. Is that what folk music is all about? :-) Well that is what this folk CD is about. Charlotte has a beautiful and strong voice that carries these tunes along. And well written tunes they are. Treat yourself to the simpler pleasures.
Zera Vaughan - Back to the Roots (2007)
A little change of pace for The Promise. This techno/pop/multi-language release is intoxicating and I though you would enjoy to hear a bit of it. The Middle Eastern influence runs throughout and when combined with the full production sound, makes for a very powerful CD.
Carla Hassett - Quero Saber (2007)
Continuing along with the change of pace theme, Carla Hassett has created a beautiful CD. Partly sung in Portuguese, the South American rhythms along with Carla's expressive voice make this a CD that transcends language. Her cover of the Beatles "Julia" is just gorgeous.
Aqualung - Memory Man (2007)
Stylish without being contrived. That would be my description of Agualung. The writing is beautiful, the moody textures envelop you. This is what radio should be playing. Actually I think they may be. :-)
Air - Pocket Symphony (2007)
Beautiful and frustrating at the same time. This is such a beautiful CD and part of that beauty comes from the several instrumentals. But on a pop/rock album, instrumentals often make me think that the song would be so much better if it were completed. I know, I know, it was done this way for a reason. Still, there is so much more potential with these guys. Loved the CD. On the first set of songs for my stream, I kept wanting to put them next to either Aqualung or Arcade Fire. The three were meant for each other I suppose.
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007)
While waiting in line for Crowded House, the subject of Arcade Fire came up. We both agreed that their live shows last year were at or near the top of our lists for live performances. This unlikely hero of the alternative scene has put out another CD in a similar vein, although they are stretching the sound (some are calling a couple of the songs 80'sSpringsteenish ... I'm not sure I'd go that far). The music continues to be dense and powerful. The lyrics seem to be moving out beyond their local lives into a more political statement. It works for me.
Graham Parker - Don't Tell Columbus (2007)
Graham Parker continues to put out good music. He is still an angry man, but what is important is that he continues to be relevant. He sticks it to the enemy while making you tap your feet and hum his tunes. Do not let this old guy slip by. This is a must buy.
Ron Sexsmith - Time Being (2006)
A near perfect singer/songwriter CD. Great songwriting, interesting ideas flying around in the songs, solid production, plenty of energy, melodies to hum to... I could go on and on. But you are better served just going over to Amazon and picking up your own copy.
Kerry Getz - Little Victory (2002)
There are a limited number of reasons that I love living in The O.C. One of the biggest reasons is the quiet, but talented, live music scene. What may make it unique are all the talented women playing around here. Kerry Getz fits in very nicely on The Promise along with Yvonne Perra and Jennifer Corday. Solid songwriting with a tremendous amount of personality is what distinguishes these women.
Warren Zevon - The Envoy (2007) & Warren Zevon - Stand In The Fire (2007)
It was a crime that these two CDs were unavailable until now. Both of these were recorded in the early 80's, and you have to put up with a bit of 80's synth.. but it is worth it. Stand In The Fire, a live album, rocks like no other Warren Zevon CD. The Envoy shows both Warren's sweet side and his political side.

Crowded House at the Glass House

It was a strange and wonderful night on Friday, as we headed out to Pomona to see Crowded House for the first time. Yes, I know what you're saying: You've never seen them before Bruce?!?! Well, I was busy seeing girl groups in the 80's and 90's and well... I have no good excuse. Probably the most amazing part of the evening for me was the group of people I found myself with in line. I stood and listened around me as everyone recounted their Crowded House experiences. I was tempted to jump in when they switched to Neil solo and Finn Brother's shows, but I was way over my head here. Finally the conversation turned to locations and comparisons and I jumped in. There were 4 groups of us talking and the musical styles started bouncing all over the place. It was way beyond anything I would have expected from a Crowded House crowd. "Did you see Peter Gabriel at the Roxy? So did I! I saw Gentle Giant tape a show for In Concert. Have you heard of The Section Quartet? I love Largo. It went on and on. Concerts that we all had been to at the same time. Very weird... and wonderful.

So after a couple of hours in the sun talking music and watching Neil and band walk by a few times, they let us in to wait another hour. But right at 8 the show got started with Neil's son, Liam performing a solo show. With just an electric guitar and drum kit, Liam put on an interesting show. Most of the songs required him to use tape loops (I call them that, 'cause I go back to the days of RobertFripp really using tape to make the loops). Like Howie Day and Julian Coryell and countless others these days, Liam layered guitar rhythms on top of each other then either sang over it or hammered out some energetic drumming. The problem with loops is that you have to be very very good to pull this off. In the second song, he made a slight mistake in one of the chords and that mistake kept coming back around throughout the rest of the song. Turning the loops on and off can be problematic too. Although it was fun watching him turn them on and off while drumming, sometimes the drop off of the loops was so sudden it took away from the songs. One of my favorite parts though was when he added to the loops a portabletheremin (think "Good Vibrations") and played with it like Hendrix used to play with feedback. It was very cool. As you listen to Liam's songs, you know that you are listening to a Finn. He should develop into a fine songwriter. It was a very enjoyable opening act.

We were in good position in line, but not good enough to hang on the stage, so we ended up leaning on the gate that surrounded the sound board; which was right next to the stage. It turned out to be a great spot, because they had put a speaker on the floor right next to us with the full mix so we had no problem hearing the vocals or banter between members of the band. And banter they did. Neil and Nick seemed the most talkative, with Nick always seeming to want to turn a comment into a song. But when they started talking about secrets and Neil decided to sing a line from the Beatles, "Do You Want to Know a Secret", well, I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience to yell, "Keep Going". And he did, with lots of help from the audience. It was a magical moment. The crowd seemed to besoooo on key. It was beautiful.

The first half of the show was made up of new songs and songs I'd call tier 2 songs; not their big potent songs, but songs that most songwriters wish they had written. That seemed to dull the crowd spirit a bit and made for a slow beginning. But after about 45 minutes they kicked into gear, singing "Private Universe", "World Where you Live" and "Don't Dream It's Over". After that, there was no letting up. They finished off with "When you Come" and off the stage they went.

There were two encores with the highlight being the creation of a new song based on the first song Mark ever played on the piano (it was a joke question from Neil that turned into an extended jam with Neil even creating lyrics on the spot). They finished up with "Something So Strong" and "Better Be Home", and then it was over; two and a quarter hours after it started. It truly was a magical evening, filled with laughter and beautiful melodies and lots of crowd sing-a-longs.

Now you know I'm getting old and don't have the best memory. As soon as the last song played I leaned into the sound area and begged the Aussie, who I earlier had chatted up a bit, to give me his set list... and he did. So here it is, straight from the horses mouth. I've decided to just write what was written. You'll have to figure out the actual song titles:

Locked Out
Don't Stop Now
Walked Her Way Down
Fingers of Love
Black and White Boy
Nobody Wants To
People Are Like Suns
Don't Dream
Silent House
English Trees
4 Seasons
She Called Out
Distant Sun
When You Come

Transit Lounge
Fall At Your Feet

Something So Strong
Better Be Home

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hardware Upgrade

Those of you who listen to The Promise a lot (and thank you, by the way), may have noticed that you haven't been kicked off this week. The Promise is actually pushed to the Live365 servers instead of residing on the servers like most of the Live365 broadcasts. Any hardware issues on my end interrupt the stream. I have been having intermittent hardware problems for some time now and finally sucked it up and replaced all of the networking hardware. As of today, we have gone 3 days without a blip (compared to several times a day sometimes). Please let me know if you experience any problems.

Meanwhile, more music is coming soon. There is the new CD, Memory Man which is the latest from Aqualung. And we have several Indie artists including The Red Button, Edgehill Ave., Travis Kline and Kerry Getz.

Thank you for supporting The Promise. But more important, Thank you for supporting independent musicians.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Music for March

Patty Griffin - Children Running Through (2007)
I talked about this CD in a previous post; Just go buy it.

Lucinda Williams - West (2007)

I'm not sure if there is anyone in music right now that conveys pain like Lucinda does. There is not as much anger on this CD and the music is less raw, but this is still a very good CD.

Rickie Lee Jones - The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (2007)

Have you ever wondered how Rickie could disrupt Christian music? Well, now you get the chance to find out, as Rickie creates a unique sound to convey her feelings about Christianity. I love the music. The message you will have to decide for yourself.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - Real Live Roadrunning (2006)

The live version of their excellent CD includes nice covers from their solo catalogs. If you skipped the studio version and you like either of these wonderful artists, this may be the CD for you.

Kemp Harris - Edenton (2006)

I seem to be getting a bunch of religious based music lately. And in case you hadn't already figured it out, The Promise is NOT a Christian music station. Nevertheless, a soulful voice singing in the blues/Gospel style is sometimes hard to ignore. And Kemp Harris is one of those people. You can almost hear him crying as he prays with his music.

Various Artists - Live from the Mountain Music Lounge Volume 12 (2006)

This is one of the better live radio compilations every year. The 2006 version includes live performances from David Gray, Gomez, KT Tunstall, Nickel Creek, Death Cab for Cutie, Brandie Carlile, Guster, Train, Barenaked Ladies, Goo Goo Dolls, and a few others.

Willy Mason - Where the Humans Eat (2006)

This is a very interesting and unique CD. It is very alt-country. The first listen didn't grab me, but part way through the second sitting, I was tapping my foot and really digging the lyrics. Could he be a young T Bone Burnett? Time will tell.

Paolo Nutini - These Streets (2007)

Everyone is talking about Paolo. At such a young age, he has such an ancient voice. Not unlike Van Morrison, he is another Irishman with lots of soul. The CD is very well produced; maybe too much so. If his people push him as hard as they seem to be so far, we may all get very tired of him very quickly. Hopefully he will reject it all and use his voice for good instead of evil.

Various Artists - Endless Highway The Music of The Band (2007)

One of the great bands of our time, The Band's music is so good and the musicians were so good, you have to be a bit nervous about a tribute CD. But the songs work. Some are very faithful, others add a healthy dose of outside styles like country or jam band. But it is all good. At its worst, it makes you want to pull out your old Band CDs and give them a listen. And that may be reason enough to buy it. You may want to pick this up at Best Buy, which is selling it with a bonus disk that includes 4 more songs.

Tom Brosseau - Tom Brosseau (2006)

Let's call this "cowboy stream of consciousness". This folk/country/??? is beautiful and hypnotic. You just have to sit and listen for a half hour to really get it. I do recommend seeing him live, just to "get it". I understand this CD is older material brought together. He has a new CD out now that I haven't listened to yet.

Peter Moon Band - Postcards From Earth (2002)

Peter Moon is a very talented artist who's CD from a few years back, can easily compete with much of the music you hear on the radio today. Somewhere between Modern Rock and Pop, the music doesn't linger on any one style long enough to bore. I'm betting these guys put on a great live show.

Joe Goldmark - Seducing the '60s (2007)

This CD is a bit unusual. Joe Goldmark is a steel guitar player. He has brought his friends together to sing a bunch of covers that allow him to lay down some very tasteful slide guitar. He doesn't try and overpower the songs, which include a strong version of Neil Young's Helpless, instead creating a mood. He does a nice job of this.

Like a Version / Like a Version 2 - (2005 & 2006)

I stumbled on these CDs late last year. They are from an Australian radio station that has their guests sing cover songs. They then compile the best of them into these CDs. Damien Rice singing Prince's "When Doves Cry" is worth buying both CDs, paying the shipping and even sending a nice thank you card to whoever it was that sold it to you. But there are plenty of interesting performances from people who haven't made it here in the states... And they are all solid performances.

Carolyn Wonderland - Bloodless Revolution

Only in Austin can you go into a hole in the wall restaurant, eat some BBQ and listen to someone as talented as Carolyn Wonderland. She sings like she's seen more than her share of pain. And her guitar playing conveys the same emotion. I'd gain so much weight if I lived in Austin. And you will gain so much pleasure listening to this CD.

Frank Black - Fast Man Raider Man (2006)

It's Frank. 2 CDs. Lots of great songs. Enough said.

Crowded House - Farewell to the World (2006/2007)

Their back! Crowded House will be touring the U.S. this year and releasing a CD of new material. While we wait, they have given us their farewell performance on disc. How ironic is that? I'm sure they can tell you since Neil Finn is the master of irony. If nothing else, this CD reminds us that Crowded House could rock when they wanted to. Can't wait for the new stuff!

Josh Rouse - Sutitulo (2006)

If I'm going to kick back and listen to mellow... ahhhh, kick back music, I'll take a Josh Rouse over a Jack Johnson any day. Not that they have a lot in common, but Josh can just make you feel good without sounding the same from song to song. This is very good pop rock.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lots of Live Music

This has been a busy live music week for us. It started last Tuesday with Sam Phillips at Spaceland (doing a benefit for a private school in L.A.). Sunday night was Richard Thompson and Eliza Gilikyson (along with Kerry Getz) at The Coach House. And the following Tuesday was Patty Griffin at the Wiltern.

Sam Phillips

Okay, I've written these Sam Phillips reviews a dozen times before, so I'll keep it short. Sam was is great form, singing 10 songs accompanied by Eric from The Section Quartet on violins. David Palmer (who also performed that night) played piano on a couple of the tunes. The most amazing thing about the evening was how attentive the crowd was. You could hear a pin drop in when Sam wasn't singing. In fact, looking over at the bar half way through the show, I was surprised to see it completely empty. She had the crowd wrapped completely around her finger and seemed to enjoy it; joking with the audience several times during the short performance. So... here is the set list (new songs may not have accurate titles):

Sister Rossetta (new)
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming
Taking Pictures
The Fan Dance
When You're Down
Gilmore Girls instrumental
Looking for a Signal (new)
Reflecting Light
One Day Late

Long Ago and Far Away (a cappella)

In Sam news (I'm sure that is what you're waiting for)... The music was in the can and now it is out again. Sam is working on more new songs and a new direction. By the time Nonesuch gets their act together she may have enough material for 2 CDs. Meanwhile, a 2007 release date is up in the air.

Richard Thompson, Eliza Gilkyson and Kerry Getz

Sunday night was spent at our favorite O.C. concert spot, The Coach House. I love it because a) You can sit, b) if you buy the so-so dinner you can sit close, c) The staff is generally friendly, d) It is small enough to enjoy a great atmosphere, e) The bar is just far enough in the back to not be too loud during the show f) Did I mention you get to sit?

I've seen Kerry Getz's name in local mailings and ads for years but have never seen her perform before. She was very entertaining, wrote some good tunes and was very funny. I don't think she did this on purpose, but during her show she was joking around and said the old line about when she was young she walked to school every day in the snow... uphill both ways. It was a line that Richard Jeni turned into a very funny routine many years ago ("we were so poor we couldn't afford feet"). During one of her songs, someone in the bar was so loud we could all hear the name Nicole. In mid song she immediately changed the name of the girl in the song to Nicole. Great entertainment chops. I look forward to listening to her CD.

I was really excited about seeing Eliza Gilkyson for the the first time. I almost went down to San Diego to see her as the main attraction. I wish I did because the 30 - 40 minute show was just not enough of this little known (at least outside of Texas) talent. With her dry whit, political strength and beautiful voice she performed a handful of great songs that led us to the CD stand once again to make sure we had everything she had to sell. So... I have to relate this story she told... Introducing a song about lost love, she told us how she always fell in love with really good guitar players (to the point of actually marrying them!). Finally a shrink said to her, "You know, we often are attracted to people who have qualities we lack. Maybe you should get better at playing your guitar". What a great line.

And of course, great guitar playing is what came next. Richard Thompson is one of the best guitar players in music. Watching him in a full band is pretty awesome. But seeing him with just his acoustic guitar goes beyond words. Add to that a song book that most artists would be jealous of and you have a truly inspirational evening. Richard stuck mostly to the last few CDs, but he did pull out some oldies, including a Sandy Denny song from his Fairport Convention Days. FC, by the way, is celebrating their 40th year together. Damn we're getting old. Asking us to join in on a couple of songs, he did not hold back his disappointment in our abilities. But that is part of his great dry sense of humor. This led to one of the funniest moments in the show; his ode to smart women. The song was made up of all these great couplets of lines describing how/why he likes smart women. And it kept going on and on. It would get to the apparent end and he'd say, "But wait, there's more". It was just a fun fun song. I've always seen this strong sense of insecurity in his music. Songs like "Crawl Back" seem to hint at a passive aggressive nature. The nervous way he chats with the audience seems to add to that. It is such a wonderful honest trait and makes for great songwriting. A well rounded, human artist. A great show.

Patty Griffin

Family night at the Wiltern. With my daughter and fiance in tow, we met up with Larry and his daughter and later met a mother who had brought her grown daughter. I love this multi-generation thing. :-)

It has been way too long since Patty did a show in L.A. (not counting the Hotel Cafe show last month). And the fans made sure she understood; giving huge and extended ovations several times. Over the last 10 years Patty has truly grown up on stage. 10 years ago, Patty was the shy singer standing on one leg most of the night with the great voice and perfect songwriting. Her last tour showed us that she knew how to shake her booty a bit (a good thing she doesn't do that 1 leg thing much anymore, otherwise she might fall over). Tuesday night she sang with the confidence of a... professional singer. Leaning against the stage, just a few feet from her 3-4 inch heals (okay, for those who need to know: simple black dress with a modest plunging neckline, black belt with a bow on the back and green patterned stalkings with what appeared to be pink shoes, with a lot of gray stripes or something like that) you could see the singer in her coming out. There was so much confidence. It was... it was... heaven. Like the rest of the tour so far, Patty pretty much stuck to the last 2 CDs with just a couple of songs from her past and a Sam and Dave cover (actually I don't think they wrote it). Patty sings for herself. It is great when an artist wants to make a statement and doesn't worry about what the fans want. But I can only imagine how intense a show it would be if she where to go back and play a bunch of songs from Living with Ghosts and Flaming Red. She would blow the doors off of any room. The fans went nuts when she went back to the first CD to perform Sweet Lorraine. Her hour and a half (if that) show was way too short. But I'll take an hour and half of Patty over most others (and you probably know who the exceptions are).

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen