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. 

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen