Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Music December 2009

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New Music December 2009

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

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

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Section Quartet Holiday Show at Largo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Swell Season and Josh Ritter at The Wiltern

A week ago we were privileged to see one of the best shows I've seen all year. Last month I bought the tickets, opting for the first balcony at the Wiltern since it was standing room only on the floor. The Wiltern is just small enough where the early rows of the loge are perfect for a sit down show; especially if you are dead center like we were.

We arrived just before the show started. I was so focused on the Swell Season, I had forgotten that Josh Ritter was the opening act. He was on my short list of bands I really wanted to see live, so when he walked out on stage I was thrilled. And... I was not disappointed. He put on a lively set of rockin' tunes that made you smile and tap your feet throughout. His interaction with the audience was natural and usually very funny. He told a wandering story that really didn't have much of a point, and it didn't matter. I can't wait to see him do a full set some day.

After a short delay, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the duo that makes up The Swell Season came out, sat on the floor and did a cute song together. We were hooked immediately. They were then joined by The Frames, Glen's band for many years. The stage, with beautiful lighting and set designs, was laid out like an arc, with the Frames making up most of the curve and Marketa and her piano finishing it off. It was as if to say, we are The Swell Season and the Frames are over here helping. Although Marketa sang lead on a couple of songs, this is all really about Glen Hansard. In the middle of the night, everyone left, except for Glen, and he performed several songs solo. On one song he actually unplugged his guitar (the one with the big hole in it), walked out to the front of the stage and did it completely acoustic. Pretty impressive for a theater that big. It is Glen and Marketa's personalities that really win you over though. She is so humble and sweet. He is just as humble; a down to earth guy who, when he asks you sing along, is completely sincere about it and is just trying to make better music with you singing the harmonies. Their songs about lost love and unrequited love are as uplifting as they are sad. Before you can really feel sad though, Glen is joking about something or other and you find yourself laughing and having a grand old time. To accentuate the humor in their show, during the encore, they brought out Jason Segel to sing a song he had written. Jason, who is best known for his acting (and that nude scene), was hysterical, singing about finding someone at the Wiltern to come home with him that night. Marketa, who gave up her piano for him, walked across the stage with a sign that had his phone number (well, it was the phone number he gave in the song) on it. As the nearly 2 hour show (which actually ran over time) came to an end, they brought out Josh to sing with them, closing the circle of a perfect musical evening.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Music for November 2009

Black Joe Lewis - Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! (2009)
This is high energy funk/rock/soul and is a blast to listen to. I saw them in Austin and they can bring it. The CD won't disappoint.
Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 - White Lies for Dark Times (2009)
Another Ben Harper CD and another solid one for him. Doesn't seem to matter who he plays with, the music works.
Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson - Break Up (2009)
Talk about digging deep for inspiration... Pete channels Serge Gainsbourg's recording with Brigitte Bardot from the 60's, recording a break up CD with his muse I suppose The original was the actual breakup couple. I'm not anything beats how Fleetwood Mac did it. But, I'm getting off track. This is a nice CD from Pete and Scarlett (who is much better off not covering the great artists of our time) and if you're a fan of Pete's, you should enjoy it.
Sam Phillips - The Long Play (continued)
Finally, there is an official release of "When You're Down". Sam wrote this years ago, and it just hasn't been able to make it onto a CD. Glad to finally see it here.
Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring! (2009)
More of a straight ahead rocker then his previous release, this is still pure Prophet. With his unique singing style and knack for catchy melodies it is so easy to love his music. The lyrics are a mix of social commentary and personal loss but with an uplifting spirit. Another great CD from CP.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Linda Ronstadt Y Mariachi Los Camperos

I wasn't going to write about this show at the Gibson/Universal Amphitheater last Sunday because this isn't music I really know about: But I just had to. We went because a) Linda Ronstadt, at 63, still has that power in her voice and b) Maria, being from Colombia, loves this music. And so there I was, knowing that I wouldn't really know any lyrics (although on the real mushy ones, Maria would translate to me... very lovingly) and having to focus on the music. For those of you who think those trios at your local Mexican restaurant (yes, they are not actually mariachis, but trios usually) is what I was in for, are greatly mistaken. The band, which consisted of 5 violin players, 2 trumpeters, a full sized (although light apparently) harp and a 3 guitar rhythm section (and maybe I'm missing one or two) was amazing. The melodies are not as simple as you might expect. There are time changes in the middle of songs and the melodies go well beyond the sweet and sappy stuff you may hear from that local trio. It was just fascinating to listen to these men perform. The band played on their own for about a half hour or more and then introduced Linda. She sang solo and also shared vocals with three of the violin players who were also excellent singers. The entire evening fell a little short of 2 hours. Watching near perfection in every aspect of the show made it go by so much faster than I ever realized. I think I will do this again some day. As for Linda, wow, that voice can sing in any language. And unlike her show of classics a year or so ago, you could just see the joy and passion in her face as she sang songs derived from all over Mexico. You don't need to understand the words to see it.

Joan Osborne, The Holmes Brothers and Paul Thorn

I was in Glendale last Friday for a concert. I know, that just sounds weird. Glendale CA isn't known for rock and roll. Never the less, there we were at the Alex Theater to see Joan Osborne and Paul Thorn. And what a wonderful night it was.

Paul opened the show with a 30 minute set (way too short for him) and had us all laughing from the opening song. His down home southern humor is infectious and he easily won over plenty of people (many of whom stood in line after his set to buy his latest live CD/DVD).

The Holmes Brothers then came out and presented us with a diverse set of rock and soul. It wasn't nearly as engaging as Paul Thorn, but for a trio of grey haired rockers they did a great job.

After an intermission, Joan came out with her keyboardist and a percussionist and did a wonderful job on "St. Theresa". The percussionist was then replaced by The Holmes Brothers, who, along with her keyboard player, backed her for the rest of the set. Joan did a few songs from Relish, a couple of new songs and did some great covers; pretty much tearing up the place with her powerful voice. She is as sexy today as she was when we first discovered her back in the mid 90's. It isn't just the body, it is her attitude and singing style that drives men, and plenty of women in the audience, wild. It is still amazing to me that a women with this much talent leaves so many seats empty. She was only out there for about an hour, but it was worth every penny we spent to see an artist who truly loves singing, doing what she does best. You'll find a couple of poorly shot videos of the show at or click on the pictures down below.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Music October 2009

I know. I know. These always start with, "I've been so busy" and "There is so much to catch up on". No excuses. We'll just get right in to it.

Bob Schneider - Lovely Creatures (2009)
This is Bob's best CD in years. Maybe his best since "Lonelyland". It is filled with hooks, has an optimistic up beat to it and yet somehow I love it. Seriously, it's a great sounding CD, closer to Lonelyland then the last few CDs, yet not at all like it. He decided to remake a couple of Scabs songs, and they are fine. But the treasures here are the new songs. I'm very happy knowing that I will be spinning most of this CD on The Promise. It has been way too long Bob.
Suzanna Choffel - Shudders & Rings (2006)
While we're in Austin... If you read my blog post at ACL this year , you know that I fell for Suzanna's music live. And I am happy to report that the CD is really good also. There are some different players on this CD but the overall jazz/singer/songwriter sound is still intact. Suzanna sings like a sultry jazz singer. Her songs are sophisticated, surprising and yet familiar. This is a beautiful CD. It deserves your attention.
Sam Phillips - Hypnotists in Paris (2009)
For the first portion of Sam's "The Long Play" project we have 5 wonderful songs, including the brilliant revisiting of "I Don't Want To Fall In Love" from Sam's "Indescribable Wow". The project, a year long releasing of music, first on her web site and later on ITunes/Amazon/etc, should keep us Sam Phillips fans quite satisfied for some time to come. One of the 5 highlights (yes, I love every song on this EP), is Sam's love song to her daughter, "So Glad You're Here". Although there is a full band (Section Quartet) version of the song, she decided to release the piano version, which is so much more personal. For $52, you get 5 digital EP's and a digital CD over the next year (along with other fun stuff on her website). I highly recommend checking it out.
Various Artists - The Best Is Yet To Come - The Songs of Cy Coleman (2009)
And speaking of Sam Phillips, she makes an appearance on this compilation of classics done in a modern style. The songs each have their singer's stamp on them, yet they remain true to the original versions. Besides Sam, there are excellent performances by Patty Griffin, Jill Sobule, Missy Higgins, Ambrosia Parsley, Madeleine Peyroux, Julianna Raye, Peria Batala, Sara Watkins, Nikka Costa, Sarabeth Tucek and two beautiful songs from Fiona Apple.
John Lefebvre - Psalngs (2009)
This would be really easy to dismiss, if it wasn't so darn interesting. John, who is awaiting trial in L.A. on gambling charges (he wrote payment programs for a gambling site), wrote a bunch of songs and then hired some of the best players in L.A. to create this CD. Actually, it is beyond a CD. It is all available for free download at The songs are actually pretty good. The singing is a little raw, but he has an interesting voice; one that you could get addicted to. The playing is top notch and this adds to the confusion. Did a great backup band make this more enjoyable or is it really the creation of a new exciting singer/songwriter. I'll leave it to you to decide. I will be playing a few of the songs on The Promise, so check him out.
Charlie Faye - Wilson St.
I saw Charlie Faye as an opening act at The Mint a couple of months ago. I didn't really hear any of it because of the crowd noise, but I heard enough to know there was something good going on here. I picked up her CD that night and have really enjoyed it. This CD can best be described as classic country rock with a solid rock edge and Charlie's sweet voice, making is as easy to swallow as a cold sweet tea on a hot Texas day. Songs like "Runaround" and "Jersey Pride" sound like they belong in another era. Actually, "Jersey Pride" reminds me a bit of Natalie Merchant. The songs will take you back without sounding old and dated.
Mary Kastle - Another Swing (2008) / Fresh Air (2006)
These pair of EPs continue to show off the female/jazz/singer/songwriter in music today. It is an exciting area to watch as women such as Mary, with exciting voices and interesting arrangements challenge our rock and roll ideas. Songs like "Down the Wire", with the piano up front and a funky guitar in the background, make me glad I have the opportunity to get to share this music with you. Find out more about Mary Kastle at

More coming soon...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Decemberists at Royce Hall

It all became clear to me, last night, as I heard the sonar come from the speakers about 20 minutes before the show. There is only one song that starts that way, Pink Floyd's "Echoes". Even if I wasn't aware that The Decemberists have covered it before, it was an easy call. And as the song ended, I turned to my daughter and said, "And the house lights go down". And sure enough, the lights went out. Colin's love of everything rock and roll, even prog rock, became even clearer to me now. Their new CD, "Hazards of Love", is a suite of songs, not unlike things Pink Floyd has done. They've added female vocalists for this tour, not unlike what Pink Floyd did with "Dark Side of the Moon". They added an extra dimension to the show by having four animators create video for the new CD, similar to things Pink Floyd has done over the years. And then they came out and gave us the entire piece, non stop, just like The Wall.

I saw this performance in Austin a few weeks ago. But now, seated closer to the stage with no mud in site, and with the fascinating animation on a large screen behind the band, the first hour of the show flew by. Most of the animation did not represent the lyrics of the CD as much as the mood of the music. There were some very cool effects and other stuff that was just strange. Overall it was great way to watch the show. The only portion that seemed to echo the lyrics was during "The Rake", with skeletons and death all around. The band played with enthusiasm and it was just a fun ride. After playing "Hazards", they took a fifteen minute break then came back and played a more standard set that ran another seventy five minutes. They played their fan favorites, did a classic rock cover (Heart's "Crazy on You"), goofed around, had a weird guitar duel, did some strange dancing and played musical chairs with their instruments. Just another Decemberists set. We all walked out completely satisfied.

Kristy Hanson at the Hotel Cafe

About a week ago my wife and I visited the Hotel Cafe to see indie artist Kristy Hanson perform. I have been playing music from her last CD for some time, but had not had the opportunity to see her live yet. The Hotel Cafe is a small room that seats a handful and expects everyone else to stand. Getting there early, we had no problem grabbing a table at the front. I've run into Kristy several time over the last year or so; usually at Sam Phillips concerts. So when she saw me, she came over and we chatted for awhile. What I've always enjoyed about her when chatting is her sweet, almost innocent, small town aura. And it translates wonderfully on the stage. Kristy put on a 45 minute set singing lots of songs from her upcoming release, chatting about her songs and, of course, performing music from her last CD. So often, when you finally hear a singer live, the voice just isn't as good as the record. But Kristy's singing sounded just as good, if not better. I really enjoyed the new songs, which, on first listen, sound even better than the last batch. The highlight of the evening for me though, was a cover of Joni Mitchell's "The Last Time I saw Richard". I've seen seasoned performers like Natalie Merchant not be able to do justice to Joni's music. A powerful and sad song like this is always a risk (especially because you have the potential to bring the house way down), but Kristy pulled it off. Half way through the song I had that stupid grin on my face; the one I get when great music moves me. Thanks Kristy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ACL Festival 2009

It is ACL time again and I am blogging, posting pictures and streaming videos. This year, pictures will be split between my blog at and Facebook. You are welcome to friend me there if you'd like. See the link below. First music posts will probably be Thursday morning.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Sam Phillips and The Section Quartet in Santa Monica

The clouds hovered over So. Cal. Saturday night, making for a cool (finally) evening with some really cool music. Sam Phillips crossed the 405 into Santa Monica and performed with The Section Quartet at The Edye Theater. It is a 99 seat room, with the seats on three sides and Sam pretty much standing in the middle of the room. She entered the room dressed in a sparkling black outfit. Daphne from the Section Quartet followed her out and took her place behind the theremin. For those of you who do not know what a theremin is, think, the synthesized sound from the Beach Boy's "Good Vibrations". But Daphne has taken it to a level I've never seen before. She plays the air around it with the perfection of a classically trained musician, which of course she is. You have to see it to believe it. I was just blown away. After a few strange sounding noises, to get her hands into position, Sam and Daphne kicked off the show with "I wanted to be alone". It was gorgeous, spooky and funny all at the same time. The rest of the Section Quartet then joined Sam on stage and gave us a beautiful version of Sister Rosetta. Throughout the 75 or so minute set, Sam was backed by the quartet, or at times just Eric Gorfain (on guitar, violin and Stroh violin).

Sam was in a great mood, joking with the crowd and keeping it light, even if they were all in black and we didn't get the formal dress code notice. :-) At one point, just as a song started, someone dropped their keys. Sam, who had already started and stopped the song, stopped it again. Walked over to the person and picked up their keys for them. We were laughing so hard, but only until the song finally started up and then it was an "Oh Wow" moment. Sam dug out "I Don't Want To Fall in Love" from the archives; something she probably hasn't played live since the 90's. Eric's arrangement was fantastic. If you don't see this on one of the upcoming EP's, I'd be very surprised. And speaking of Eric, he was really the co-star of the show. There were plenty of new arrangements, since many of the songs were written for a more standard band (you know, drums, bass, keyboards... stuff like that). All of the arrangements added new textures to the songs, without venturing too far from the original feel. Still, we were all there to see Sam, and she did a brilliant job on old and new songs. Most of the 20 song set was from her last 3 releases. There were some new songs including, "So Glad You're Here", "Memory Slope" and "When You're Down" (okay this song is actually several years old, just unreleased... another strong candidate for the EP's). Her last song before the encore is one of my all time favorites, "I Need Love" (this version is available now on Sam's site... more on that in a moment). Even as an all acoustic number, it still has the magic it had 15 years ago (can you believe it has been 15 years?!).

After the show we all got a chance to chat with Sam, as she signed posters and chatted with everyone who was willing to wait in line. She spent a good hour chatting with whoever came before her. And we all had the chance to chat with each other too. It was great finally meeting Jill and it was good seeing Tom again and meeting his wife (they all came from central/northern CA for the show).

Below is the set list for the show. But before I get to that, if you haven't signed up for The Long Play, go to and for $52 you will get early releases of Sam's next 5 digital EP's and digital CD (all of which will be coming out over the next year). From what I understand, the plan is to release 40 or more songs over the next 12 months. What an interesting idea/experiment. The first mp3 is already available. As I mentioned above, the new version of "I Need Love (2009)" is on the site and waiting for you.

Okay, here is the set list:

I wanted to Be Alone
Sister Rosetta
What it All Means
Edge of the World
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming
Taking Pictures
Animals on Wheels (accompanied by her tape player)
Fan Dance
Little Plastic Life
Can't Come Down
I Don't Want To Fall In Love
Memory Slope
Say What You Mean
So Glad You're Here
When You're Down
If I Could Write
One Day Late
I Need Love (2009)
--- Encore ---
Zero Zero Zero

Cheryl Wheeler and Kenny White at McCabe's

Friday night we headed out to Santa Monica to see Maria's favorite folk singer and my favorite piano man. In another era, Kenny White would have already made it. He is not only an accomplished pianist, but also a fine singer, songwriter and producer. His music is filled with humor and thought provoking ideas. Friday night he played songs from an upcoming CD and even though it has been some time since his last full CD release, the songs sound just as good as his previous efforts. I can't wait to hear the final produced versions. Kenny played for about 40 minutes and although he finished with his standard closer, "In My Recurring Dream", the rest of the set was filled with unexpected turns. What is so interesting is that this is exactly opposite of what Cheryl brings to the table.

I've seen Cheryl Wheeler 4 or 5 times now. It is an interesting show because she tells many of the same jokes year in and year out, and yet you still end up laughing. Somehow, there is still a spontaneity to her delivery and it sure is hard to put her down for that. Most of the songs are part of a small group of songs that she plays every year. Still, they are fun songs and I don't hear them often so again, hard to quibble with her choices. She has actually recorded a few new songs this year and played some for us. There were also new stories to go along with those songs. So, over all, this was the best Cheryl Wheeler show I've seen since the first time I saw her. I don't mean to put her down. I will probably see her on her next tour out west and the next after that. She is such a warm and funny person on stage, you can't help but have a good time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Music - End of August 2009

As promised, with the new system in place, I'm bringing the music to you faster (at least I am starting to get caught up... maybe by the end of September). All of these bands have been spinning since the weekend. Also included in the lastest update are: Some covers from the Cowboy Junkies, yet another version of "Alone Again or" from Calexico, a couple from the first 2 Rachel Sweet CDs, some music from Woodstock, songs from Sea Wolf, and tunes from Warren Zevon's "Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School". Hope you are enjoying all of the music. Thanks for listening to The Promise.

Sound of the Blue Heart - Wind of Change (2009)
Earlier this year I talked a bit about their previous release, which I loved. They are back with a new CD and this is even better than the last. I believe I compared Johnny Indovina's voice to Bowie, but I really believe it is closer to David Sylvian from the band Japan. If you are familiar with that music, think a more accessible, more pop sound and you've got it. This is going to go down as one of my favorite indie releases this year. Do check them out at
N.E.D. - No Evidence of Disease (2009)
It sounds like a bad idea: Let's get a group of doctors (not just any doctors but exclusively gynecologic oncology surgeons) together and make a rock and roll album. But, the CD is actually pretty darn good. From mid-tempo songs to hard rockers and then back to modern folk, this six song CD covers lots of ground and is very enjoyable. The production is nice and clean, the vocals (both male and female leads taking turns) are capable and solid. You might want to buy this CD not even knowing that it is a benefit for a cancer foundation. So how can you resist? The CD goes on sale September 8th. You can find out more about the CD, the Facebook page and the organization behind at:
Son Volt - American Central Dust (2009)
There is something calming about knowing that the feel of a Son Volt CD doesn't change. Jay Farrar's unique vocals over crashing guitars, walking on the fence between rock and country like no one else, with maybe the exception of Wilco. I love their sound. This IS Americana at its best.
Wilco - Wilco (The Album) (2009)
And speaking of Wilco... What can I say about Wilco that hasn't already been said by just about every music magazine and blog. Their new CD continues with the beautiful melodies and sonic experimentation; leaning more on the melodies this time. Another great CD from one of America's best.
Tom Morello The Nightwatchman - The Fabled City (2008)
I saw Tom perform a few times with Springsteen, but was blown away when I saw him do his own solo set at a tribute show not long ago. And the one song that really stuck was, "The Lights are on in Spidertown". There are some really good songs on this CD and Tom, sounding more like Dylan than Rage, does a great job putting it all together.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More New Music for August

Okay, let's see if I can get caught up on the rest of these CDs now playing on The Promise...

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (2009)
Well, he certainly has that swamp boogie/old man blues thing going. He may not be the most relevant performer today, but he is an artist with a vision. I really enjoyed his latest.
Pete Yorn - Back & Forth (2009)
Pete has always had a way with melodies and arrangements. Sometimes I'm not sure about his lyrics, but that is always overshadowed by the pure joy of listening to his CDs. Another good one for Pete.
Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (2009)
This time Elvis moves into the bluegrass world and conquers it. So what's new? He brings his art to every genre and we are all better for it. Loved this CD a lot... Maybe not as much as his rockers, but still a great listen.
Nils Lofgrin - The Loner (2009)
Nils does Neal (Young that is) and you can't help but enjoy it. This is a laid back enjoyable spin, with Nils picking his favorites, not necessarily the biggest hits. His guitar work is, as always, exquisite, and his vocals generally convey the pain and joy that Neal first brought to the songs; but in Nils own style.
Gary Jules - Bird (2009)
Another beautiful CD form Gary. If you haven't gotten past his great remake of "Mad World", do yourself a favor and check out any one of his excellent CDs.
Death Cab For Cutie - The Open Door EP (2009)
I believe these were leftover songs from the last CD, "Narrow Stairs". I loved that CD and love these 5 new songs. Although they are very similar in feel to that last CD, they easily stand on their own. Another half a dozen songs and you have an excellent CD.
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns (2009)
I bought this CD because people kept comparing it to the music of Kate Bush. And... she may well be the heir to that thrown. This is a heavily percussion driven band with Natasha Kahn leading the way using her unique voice that can only be compared to Kate. You're either going to love this CD or hate it, but you won't be able to ignore it.
Gomez - A New Tide (2009)
How come you don't know who Gomez is? Great melodies. Great rhythms. Vocals that are unique yet feel oh so familiar. Intelligent arrangements. Did I mention great melodies. I love Gomez. You should too.
The Smithereens - Play Tommy (2009)
I picked this up, just because... I had to. How unusual is this going to be? Can they make it work? I just had to listen. Is this going to be a train wreck or wonderful surprise? Well, it was the later; especially when you can hear the Smithereens coming through. Played with expertise (the drumming is potent and hard to ignore), they do a nice job of recreating the original. It was a fun listen.
Various Artists - The 2009 Believer Music Issue (2009)
Pick up this magazine, while it is still available, and you get this really cool compilation of music. I bought it for the Sam Phillips song, but enjoyed almost every song. And there are some really good music articles in the magazine as well.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Music August 9, 2009

I'm still playing catchup after installing the new software and I've got lots of new music now playing. So click on the link to your left and listen in. Meanwhile, here are short descriptions of what I've added this week:

KJ Walker - Count Me In
A nice solid indie CD with a solid rock base and lots of country/folk fringes. Or is it a solid country/folk base with lots of rock fringes. Check it out for yourself.
Catherine MacLellan - Water in the Ground (2009)
Her voice is as pure as kd Lang's. The music is from our neighbors to the north, and the evidence just keeps growing that Canada is the place to find new music these days. This is a 2 disc CD with the first being a mix of folk, country and light bluesy efforts. On it's own, the first CD is worth picking this up. The second disc, which is called "Dark Dream Midight" reminds me a lot of Shawn Colvin. Again, you can pick up this CD just for this disc. All of the songs on both discs are lightly arranged, with just the right backing to give style to the music without distracting from Catherine's beautiful voice and lyrics. This is going into my best of list at year's end.
Melissa McClelland - Victoria Day 2009
Canadian number two is Melissa McClelland who takes a huge right turn on her latest CD. The music on "Victoria Day" has moved from overtly pop to obviously not. It's 40's style jazz, some bluesy numbers but overall it is just a fun CD to listen to.
Luke Doucet and the White Falcon - Blood's Too Rich (2008)
Canadian number three is Melissa's producer and husband (I believe). There is no way Luke can compete with his amazing break up CD, "Broken", and it appears that Luke and Melissa (who I understand replaced the woman who was the focus of that CD) seem to be very happy these days. So there's little chance we are going to hear heart wrenching and angry attacks from this, his latest CD. Still, this is another excellent CD from Luke who takes a little country some rockabilly and plenty of rock and roll and gives it a strong personal feel.
Bruce Cockburn - Slice O Life - Live Solo (2009)
And our final Canadian on the list is the amazing Bruce Cockburn. If you have never seen him do a solo live show, you are missing one of the great acoustic guitarists in popular music, let alone one of the finest singer/songwriters. If you like any of his hits, you will love this CD that so accurately represents his live solo shows.
Shawn Colvin - Live (2009)
And speaking of live, Shawn Colvin is another artist who brings it in concert. Like Bruce she is an excellent guitar player and has a great voice. It may be her covers that set her apart from so many singer/songwriters. She somehow can make songs sound like they were hers; even a classic Talking Heads song. And you just have to hear her version of Crazy.
Buddy & Julie Miller - Written In Chalk (2009)
All the gals love Buddy, but Buddy saves his best work for his wife Julie. This beautiful, rocking, potent CD is everything that is the country/folk/rock sound. Lots of guests from Patty Griffin to Robert Plant show up to help out. "Gasoline and Matches" is near the top of my list for favorite songs of the year and this CD is there too.
Cracker - Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey (2009)
And speaking of songs of the year, the early leader is Cracker's "Turn On, Tune In, Drop out with me". If you are a fan of Cracker's earlier works, you will love this CD. Lots of good tracks to choose from.
Rachael Yamagata - Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart (2008)
Not sure why I didn't pick this up when it first came out. Another 2 disc set, the first disc feels so personal, it sounds like Rachael has trouble even getting the words out of her mouth; very passionate, sad and beautiful. Disc 2, is short but it is a rockin', with 5 loud, hard edged songs that seem to proclaim that she is not the sweet innocent she was just a few years ago. This would have made it onto my best of list last year.
Willie Nile - House of A Thousand Guitars (2009)
It's been a few years since Willie's last studio release. This is a strong follow up to "Streets of New York". Lots of great songs, plenty of cool riffs and classic melodies. Willie is a working class hero that deserves your attention.
The Emitt Rhodes Recordings [1969-1973] (2009)
He was a rising start while with the Merry-Go-Round, penning great songs like "Live" (covered by the Bangles years later) and "You're a Very Lovely Woman" (included in this collection). He was probably the first artist to be called the next Paul McCartney. But pressure from the record company and sickness, caused him to drop out of site after only 4 albums. All of that music has been brought back together in this wonderful collection. All four discs and an extra single are on this 2 disc collection. If you love 70's pop, you should
grab this before it goes out of print (this is a limited addition).

And I'm not done. But that's all I have time for right now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Still Updating

Well, the new software is up and running, but I'm still working to get all of the music that was on the old system up and running on the new one. And there are plenty of little things to fix. I'm still trying to fine tune the segues (especially the IDs) and getting the rotation of new music to work right is going to take a little time. And of course, the new music is piling up big time. I've got a huge stack of CDs that I've already listened to that need to be imported into the system. We'll get there. The good news so far is that I'm starting to hear indie artists that I haven't really heard in awhile, as the Indie rotation now has more priority. Speaking of which, if you are an indie artist that I play on The Promise and you'd like to have an ID thrown into my rotation, contact me and I'll give you the parameters to record it.

Thank you all for your patience. This work in progress, will hopefully continue to get better and better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Software

What the hell am I doing? The Promise is celebrating 8 years on the air (or through the tubes we call the Internet) this year and it has always been delivered to you via a wonderful software package called OTS. Although OTS has great sound and the BEST segue engine in the business, it was never really designed for Internet radio stations. You may have noticed that there was never album info or that all the songs ran 5 minutes in length. Well, that is all changing now.

Starting today I am slowly bringing up the new software, a program called SAM 4 from Spacial Audio (and no, for those of you who know me, it has nothing to do with Sam Phillips). There are over 5000 songs that need to be brought into the system and I am nowhere near that yet. But I'm hoping to get most of the play list up by the end of the weekend. All of the current music is up though. All of the old intros to sets are gone. I have replaced them for now with short IDs. Hopefully, when I have time, I will slip in a few words live, just to keep you all on your toes.

The changes... you want to know the changes? Well, I am abandoning the creation of sets for now. In its place I am attempting to make sure the current music gets more airplay and that the core songs from the play lists, which hopefully you want to hear more than once or twice a year, will get more airplay. The website will be changing soon also. You will soon have more access to all of the songs played on The Promise and if all goes well, the chance to request songs from that database. I am also hoping to make it easier for indie artists to get their songs to me. I know when this is all set up, I will be able to push the new music out to you much faster than I am today.

So, sit tight, cross your fingers, light a candle and pray that this all works out well. And please, by all means, after listening for awhile, let me know what you think.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Three Guitars and their Cello

McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica continues to add to my "great shows" list and last night was right up there with the best. It was Alejandro Escovedo's return to that stage after many years and he completely owned it.

Amy Cook started us out with a short but shining set of classic Austin Singer/Songwriter music. Her style actually reminds me a lot of David Garza. I really enjoyed it and will be looking to buy her new CD when it comes out. David Pulkingham, Alejandro's guitarist, came out and played a couple of songs with her. It was a wonderful pairing.

After a short break, Alejandro came down the stairs joined by David, and Matt Fish (on cello). They started with older material, with Alejandro often telling the stories that went with the songs. First came songs from Gravity. Then, the twin songs Juarez and Rosalie. The three of them burned through these songs with hot solos by both Matt and David. They finished the early part of the show with a great story about "Dearhead on the Wall" from Boxing Mirror, followed by another potent rendition. Then came a big surprise for me: Alejandro introduced his co-writer for Real Animal and long time friend, Chuck Prophet. Chuck brought his own guitar (thus my title, 3 guitars and their cello... And yes that is a play on the title of the Emmylou, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Buddy Miller tour) and joined the band for a long section of songs from the latest CD, "Real Animal". Now remember, this is all acoustic. But the four of them rocked the place like the three guitar army that they were. And this wasn't just Chuck strumming along and singing some harmony. He did some guitar solos and sang some lead on a couple of songs. He even told us a great story about buying jeans in Europe. Near the end, Amy came out to join them on "Sensitive Boys". The harmonies were beautiful. But there was more to come. They returned for their encore with Amy, David, Matt and Alejandro, and instead of playing on stage, they walked out to the center of the room. Now understand, this is not a big hall. It only seats 125 or so and we are cramped in there. So, this move turns an intimate show into more of a living room type show. They did several songs, but finished with a couple of covers. First, "All the Young Dudes". Amy's interpretation was sooooo good and the audience eagerly joined in for the chorus. They then finished the night with the Ian Hunter song, "I Wish I Was Your Mother". It was a beautiful ending to a perfect evening.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Section Quartet at Largo

A fun evening was planned for those of us who braved the freeways on a weeknight to help celebrate Largo's first anniversary at the Coronet Theater. Although it was a short evening, it was packed with music and comedy. At the center of the show was The Section Quartet, who have not played L.A. for some time. Since their last visit, Leah had a baby so they had to manage without her. Daphne moved to Viola and... I can't remember the name of the violinist who replaced her. The band used a single microphone to amplify their sound (instead of hooking all of the instruments up) which they haven't done in years. That, combined with the warm (I believe omni-directional) vocal microphone that acts as the house microphone, made for a softer sound than usual. That sound fit the evening's entertainment as Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Phillips, Rob Dickinson (from The Catherine Wheel) and Jon Brion shared the stage with the quartet. Highlights for me included Sam performing Tom Waits' "Green Grass" and I think it was Rob doing Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street". In between the performances, we were entertained by two music related comedians. Gruber, who did a wonderful vocal pantomime (yes I know, it can't be a pantomime if it is vocal) about a giant being served at Starbucks which segued into Randy Newman's "Short People" and Addi who made a bass guitar out of balloons and then played a song for us (AMAZING). You can check Addi out here: . The evening ended with Grant, Rob, Jon and much of the crowd singing "California Dreaming". Eric told me later that they'd like to do these shows on a semi-regular basis. I can't wait for the next one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jill Sobule and J.D. Souther

I joined Jane and Amy along with a really sweet couple at the Coach House last night for the Sobule/Souther show. It is always fun to hang with Jane and Amy, especially when Amy gets into her storytelling mode. The couple, who were seated next to us, were fairly new to the OC, so we chatted about the places they've been and where they should go. It was a fun way to kill time while we waited for what seemed like an eternity for our waitress to even take our drink order, let alone our food order.

Brooke Ramel was the opening act. She did a fine job. I think I've seen her before. She's been playing shows at the Coach House for 10 years or so and does a good job connecting with the audience. I almost bought one of her CDs, but... got distracted.

All I can say about Jill Sobule is: Wow! I've only seen her perform as a headliner. I've never seen her open for someone. If you are a good performer you know the difference. She had to earn this crowd's respect and she didn't have a lot of time to do it. Well, it took about one line into her first song to grab their attention. She dropped the F bomb in a song appropriately called "Don't F**K with me", and by the end of the song had every one's attention. In fact, I do not remember the Coach House EVER being so quiet during a pre-headliner set. And for those of you who may be wondering if she is still a vital performer, Jill was not going to play it safe. Her first grouping of songs were all from her new CD, "California Years". In fact, I believe the only song she sang that predated the last 2 CDs was a request (by me) for "Mexican Wrestler". That's right, she didn't even attempt "I Kissed A Girl". She did one cover song, again my request (for some reason my voice just had a direct line to her last night), "All the Young Dudes". Jill had the crowd wrapped around her finger the entire 45 minutes; laughing at the funny stuff and nearly crying during "Mexican Wrestler". The CD line after her show as also as long as I've ever seen for a pre-headliner. I already can't wait to see her again.

J.D.'s show was very different. Where Jill focused on her new music, John David only played a couple of songs from his excellent "If the World Was You" CD. Granted he has a huge catalog to draw from, but I would have loved to hear more of the new CD. I'm sure part of the issue was that he was playing solo and "If the World..." really shines with that band he put together. As a solo performer, Souther is engaging and relaxed with some wonderful stories that just sort of pop out of him. He's not the worlds greatest singer, but when he puts his voice into those wonderful songs, it just works. There was not a bad song or a bad story in his hour and a half performance. To finish out the night, Jill joined him on stage for a very ragged version of the Sinatra hit, "Something Stupid". It made me wonder if the two of them had hung out together with Warren Zevon, when he was alive; just being horribly funny and very crazy. You can see it in all of them.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Music for May 2009

I've been playing this stuff on my station for a week now. I guess I need to mention who it is before I do my next update. Lots of great music here, with plenty of indie artists (which is always good to see). 
Edgehill Avenue - Rambler (2009)
They may not like to hear it, but the title track on this excellent indie release is very "Darkness on the Edge of Town" era Springsteen. And what a great way to start a CD out. The band, who's last release showed potential, is starting to come of age. Less "Americana" and more rock and roll, the songs on Rambler come from a well seasoned rockin' band. They would make a great double bill with Mudcrutch, Tom Petty's new/old band. Great job guys. 
BettySoo  - Heat Sin Water Skin (2009)
It doesn't matter, but it sure is part of the fun when you understand upfront that BettySoo is a young, 5 foot tall Asian American from Texas. And then she opens her mouth. On "Heat Sin Water Skin" she wastes no time letting you know that the cover sometimes doesn't begin to describe what is inside the book. Belting out "Never Knew No Love" like the Texan that she is, her voice is strong and filled with emotion. The music hangs around that alt-country, modern folk style that has become so attractive lately. This CD has a nice edge to it, but it also has a sweetness, because, well, BettySoo from everything I've seen and heard is just that, sweet. "Whisper My Name" shows off BettySoo's folk side and her fine songwriting talents. The arrangements on HSWS are solid, rocking when they need to be, but never overshadowing the voice or the songwriting. Give this CD a spin. You will not regret it.  
Peggy Sue - Body Parts and First Aid (2009)
I couldn't resist going from BettySoo to Peggy Sue, and although their sounds are completely different, Peggy Sue is just as intriguing. This English band creates an acoustic sound that is part modern folk, party gypsy rhythms. Watch out, these guys could be the next indie darlings. 
Julian Coryell - Profit and Loss (2009)
This is Julian's first CD of new music in some time, and it is worth the wait. He has always been a top notch producer and guitarist and now we see his growth as a songwriter catching up with all his other fine qualities (not that he wasn't already a good songwriter). If you liked John Mayer's first CD, you will love this one with great production, strong melodies and personal songs that just can't be written until you lived through some of life's tougher moments. Julian has been laboring in this industry since the mid nineties (produced and performed with Leonard Cohen along with Aimee Mann and lots of other great artists) and truly deserves a hit. 
Shauna Burns - Anamnesis (2009)
In this 5 song EP, Shauna continues to weave her tales of love and relationships around a sound that is at times not of this earth. I'm sure she is tired of the Tori Amos comparisons. My friend Betty was listening and said, "She reminds me of Cirque du Soleil". And she's right. It's a very ethereal sound at times. Something that may have been lacking from her earlier  releases was a sense of passion in her voice (at least compared to her live performances). But her voice seems even more alive on this CD. It is only 5 songs and I wish it was more. This is easily my favorite of her releases so far. You can check her out at . 
Lotus - Under the Sun (2007)
A very upbeat poppy band that really reminds me of the fun days of the 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant. But just when you are settling in with that classic sound, they switch gears on "Bewitched" with a jazzy sound (still very pop though) with flute solos even. A very enjoyable CD from north of the boarder (that would be Canada). 
Katell Keineg - Y Gwyneb Iau / Trouble (2009)
It is hard for me to fault an artist when they are truly applying their art to popular music, but I continue to be disappointed by Katell's CDs. This 4 song EP has 1 very good song on it. Katell has a voice and style that is filled with such potential. Her first 2 CDs were amazing. I hope someday she finds that groove again. 
Michael Tomlinson - The Way Out West (2008)
Leading with his sweet clean voice, this well produced CD brings back in me the days of when it was okay to be acoustic and pleasing to the ear. The tunes remind me of bands like Batdorf and Rodney, Celio and and Kapono, America and a host of other soft rockin' bands that filled the airwaves back in the 70's. If that sounds good to you, then you should check this self-produced CD out.  
Ellen Foley - Nightout (1979)
I've pretty much stopped reviewing older CDs. I just don't have the time. But I've been wanting to get Ellen Foley into a CD player for some time and when I found out that her collection of CDs was released a few years ago, I decided that now was as good a time as any to talk about this undervalued artist/performer. In something that really belongs in a movie, Ellen Foley had it all with a voice that has the quality and especially the passion to make it in rock and roll. She had the looks. She had the friends (this CD has Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter all over it). She was on one of the biggest hit records of the 70's, Meatloaf's "Bat out of Hell". But it didn't happen. Her CDs got ignored. Meatloaf's video used someone else instead of her. And the bad luck continued. She was on TV's Night Court for a year before being replaced. She was the witch in Sondheim's "Into the Woods" in San Diego, but got replaced by Bernadette Peters when it went to Broadway. She now teaches at the Paul Green School of Music in New York (the school was the influence for "School of Rock"). And with all of this, most people don't know who she is. So, check out this wonderful CD that is somewhere between glam rock and early new wave. Great songs. Good production and a voice... oh what a voice. Pure rock and roll. 
Leonard Cohen - Live in London (2009)
I felt horrible when I heard that Julian Coryell had created the arrangements for this tour and was then fired for a reason that only Leonard knows. And so, as I write about this excellent live double CD, keep in mind that much of it was based on Julian's hard work. This is a note for note near perfect CD. In fact seeing Leonard in concert last month, it was obvious that he had peaked in Europe and was now just riding the wave, pretty much sticking to exactly what had been created a year or so ago. The arrangements seem perfectly created to surround this artist who is more about the words than he is the voice. I must say though that I like his voice more today than I did 30 years ago. It has gotten deeper with more character. The performers on this CD are amazingly good. If you missed the tour, just buy this CD or the DVD. For those of you with the original albums, you will find a more accessible Cohen here. 
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (2009)
So, since radio isn't playing anything worthwhile, why worry about how to get songs played. That must have been going through their heads at some point, because The Decemberists have given us a short rock opera where the songs often meld into each other. But there are definitely some "hits" on this CD and no real disappointments. Another good one by one of my favorite indie (although now they are on Capitol) bands. 
Steve Earle - Live At The BBC (2009)
These are performances from 1987 and 1988. If you're a Steve Earle fan, this is a must have. Great performances and well worth it just for his rendition of "Dead Flowers".
Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles - The Stars Are Out (2009)
Rocking somewhere between new wave and alt-country, Sarah Borges continues to knock out some of the most rockin' CDs you're gonna hear these days. She would have been all over rock radio back in the day. There isn't a bad song on this CD and every tune is immediately lovable. This will be high up on my year end list. 
Sara K. - made in the shade (2009)
She is the darling of the audiophile crowd and listening to this CD it is obvious why. The production is not just clean, but literally three dimensional, with a clear feeling of where all of the instruments are located in the studio. And this is just after listening to it on a normal stereo. All of her CDs are recorded to support the SACD format. As for the music, she is very good. Going down the artistic path, not unlike Joni Mitchell, the arrangements are not overpowering with lots of acoustic guitar, piano, fretless bass and harp (maybe too much harp for me though). She seems to have been totally ignored in the U.S. Maybe songs like "Gypsy Eyes" will change that. 
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Rattlin Bones (2008)
Who knew that the alt in alt-country stood for Australia. When Kasey sings it does. And dragging her man, Shane into this truly wonderful sound makes it even more special. This CD is very much a Kasey Chamber's CD, except for the forth song, "Monkey on a Wire", which takes a more Shane Nicholson turn. If you like alt-country-modern-folk from America, you're going to love this Australian version. 
Side FX - Contra Dictions (2008)
They come at you with a big rock band sound, which is really something I don't hear much anymore. The production is solid. The players all have the skills. Kim Cameron who wrote the lyrics and sings lead seems the perfect fit to front this band. At times she is the gentle singer/songwriter and then she can get a little rough and sensuous. A fine first CD from the band from DC. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Late as always

For those of you listening, you've already figured out that there is plenty of new music on The Promise. In the new set are songs from Shauna Burns, Sara K., Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Steve Earle, The Decemberists, Bettysoo, Peggy Sue, Julian Coryell, Leonard Cohen, Side FX, Michael Tomlinson, Katell Keinig, Sarah Borges, Edgehill Avenue and Lotus. I'll get to my mini reviews in a few days hopefully. But I'm writing today because I remember...

In about 40 minutes, an old set rolls around on the station (Tuesday, 10:50AM Pacific time). I know it is too last minute for anyone to notice if you weren't already there, but it brought back memories of a friend who I miss. Jeanne Chappe used to send me mix CDs with wonderful music on them. A couple of those CDs made it onto my station many years ago and still pop up once in awhile. This was an amazing set of music for me because of the artists she introduced me to with it. The set includes Lucinda Williams, Paul Thorn, Amy Correia, Kristy MacColl and Raul Malo; none of whom I had ever listened to before. Jeanne, your spirit is still with us as we pass on the music you so loved. 

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wainwright Family Gathering at HOB

Rufus Wainwright and a couple of his relatives graced the OC this past week with their presence at the House of Blues at Downtown Disney, and we all had a blast. The key to the HOB is eating dinner there first. Not only is the food good (and even the service was excellent), but you get to line up in a special line where they let you in first. Of course for about $30 a seat on top of the ticket prices, they will give you a seat upstairs. But it seemed like we had already paid to get in, so why would we pay again? Anyways, being about the 6th or 7th in line, we ended up leaning on the rail, pretty much front and center. 

Lucy Wainwright Roche, Rufus' little sister opened for him. She was charming in a self deprecating sort of way. I really enjoyed her songs; especially her sing-a-long, "Hungry Heart" by some guy named Springsteen. Her voice is smooth and pretty like her mom's (one of the Roche Sisters). Loudon Wainwright (dad) made an appearance late in her 30 minute set and they sang one of his songs (can't remember the name). Lucy was jokingly upset because he got a bigger ovation than she did. We all laughed along with her. It was a fun half hour. 

After a short delay, Rufus came out wearing Mickey ears, sat down at the piano and proceeded to sing "Going to a Town", changing the lyrics to make it even more obviously a song about homophobia. It almost doesn't matter what he sings; that voice of his is magical. And the styles changed with each song as he mixed up songs from several CDs and even a play he co-wrote over the hour and a half that he performed. Rufus switched off between guitar and piano throughout the night, joking with the audience (especially about the guy next to us who sang along so loud Rufus indirectly acknowledged him; "I didn't expect an Orange County crowd to be singing so loud"). Sister Lucy came out and sang backup on a few songs and swapped verses with him during the encore when he sang "Hallelujah". "Hallelujah" is always a moving song in concert, and Rufus is one of the best at it. And it was cool hearing lots of people singing along to it. At the end, dad (Loudon) came out with Lucy and they did a country folk tune together. It was a family portrait moment and they and we were all smiling and enjoying the moment. I loved seeing Rufus with a full band, but this more intimate version of him was even better. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Leonard Cohen at Nokia / Bruce Springsteen in L.A.

I'm running way behind again these days. Last weekend we went to the Nokia theater to see Leonard Cohen. It was my first time and I had to put up with the jokes from friends who thought the ticket price was a bit high for an artist in their 70's, who can't really sing well. But Saturday night we were treated to an amazing event, watching this 75 year old move around the stage like he was in his 30s, a band that is as good as they get, and overall having a wonderful time. I actually believe LC's voice has gotten better with age, dropping to a lower, richer level and then letting the background singers add the highlights. Every member of the band, from the Spanish guitar player to the background singing Web sisters nailed their parts. Now you could say that they have been pretty much doing the same show for over 100 shows so they should be good at what they do. And that may be true, but it is still impressive to watch. And Leonard... Leonard had the women swooning. With his rich and sensual lyrics, women were either screaming out or quietly moaning in their seats. It was an impressive performance by one of Canada's best poetic songwriters. And even more impressive watching him skip off of stage after each encore. Yes, you heard right. If you missed the show though, don't worry, you can buy the CD or DVD, "Live in London" and get almost the exact same show. 

At the exact opposite end of the "exact same show" performance spectrum is Bruce Springsteen, who put on 2 shows at the Los Angeles Sports Arena this week. Bruce changed 11 songs on the second night truly giving his fans 2 very different shows. Opening night was part of the standard set list for this tour supporting "Working On A Dream". The focus of the shows is "Hard Times" along with hope and dreams for the future. Bruce has lots of music to help focus on the hard times and the new CD brought the dreams aspect into the show. "Seeds" has been pulled out for this tour to help us hear the feeling of despair that so many are going through these days. Driving home his point during the encore, Bruce performs "Hard Times", a Stephen Foster song from the middle 1800's. The set list continues to be from all over his career and from the second leg of his last tour he has added a request section where he pulls signs from the audience. We got a wonderful treat on Wednesday as he pulled "Raise Your Hand" from a fan. He liked it so much, he added it to the set on night 2. The second night was one of those fun shows. It was obvious from the second song, that he wasn't interested in playing the typical set. There were at least a few audibles called during the night, bringing us lots of interesting songs. During the request section, he said something like, "So you want to stump the band", and proceeded to perform "Proud Mary". It was a great WTF moment for those of us who have learned to expect anything and yet are constantly surprised by his choices. 

For night number two I was in the lottery again for the pit and although I didn't win, I did get in the pit and was about 4 or 5 people from the stage on Little Steven's side. At one point, Bruce came over near us and laid down on several of my friends; most of whom are now sick (Bruce was obviously pretty sick both nights and his voice had gotten pretty raspy by night 2). As I spend more time chatting with Bruce fans, I find myself running into more and more people (you know who you are) I know. I now find myself looking over my shoulder more when I hear my name at the shows; which, as you can guess, is pretty much non-stop because of the shared name. :-) 

Okay, I'm off to L.A. to see the Danny Federici benefit. The odds are now very much against Bruce showing up, but we'll see who else decides to drop by. If nothing else, seeing Tom Morello play some guitar will make the $20 tickets worth every penny. 

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen