Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raul Malo - Solo at The Coach House

Upon entering the Coach House last night, the first thing I noticed was that there were no drums on the stage. This made me a bit nervous. When Raul focuses on ballads it can sometimes get a little less interesting. I love his high energy songs. What were we in for tonight? After the opening act left the stage, they took away everything and I realized we were getting a true solo show. No band, just Raul Malo on guitar and, of course, vocals. Would Raul be able to engage the audience? Would he be able to bring the energy? The answers to these questions is an emphatic yes!

Raul has a wonderful and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor. He made no bones about the fact that he didn't really care what we wanted because he was going to deliver us a show that we would love. When he stated that a song was an old Maverick number, he got cheers and replied, "Thanks. That's better than: When are you getting back together". Later he made joking references about not really playing requests. After singing a song with some Spanish lyrics in the middle, he got some yelling in Spanish from the crowd and responded with, "Cubans are in the house tonight", but in a here they are AGAIN manner. Still, it was all in good fun and he had us laughing throughout the night. When he said he wrote a song for the Mills Brothers he followed with, "They're all dead though... So I recorded it".

But, it is all about the music with Raul, isn't it. And he delivered. With his Elvis meets Roy Orbison voice, it is hard to miss. Some of the faster songs were slowed down as he played with tempos to fit his set. He had the women swooning when he covered Mexican standards like Volver and sent shivers at the end when he sang the Roy Orbison song, "Crying". Near the end of the set he really picked up the pace with some Mavericks classics and had us all singing along. If there is anyone who can bridge the gap between the gringo and Latino music worlds, it is Raul Malo. He has been doing it for years and the best part is, he does both sides so well. He has a CD of new music coming out in August and is also working on a Spanish language CD. Hopefully he will be back this way in the Fall. Can't wait!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Music February 2010

Somehow I just couldn't get through all of the 2009 releases and here we are in 2010 already. So, up first are all the latest 2010 CDs that are now playing on The Promise, including music from Amy Correia, Sam Phillips, Patty Griffin, The Burned, Jon Dee Graham, Tina Dico and Spoon. For you indie artists that have sent me CDs and are waiting to hear your music, it's coming. I promise.
Amy Correia - You Go Your Way (Spring 2010)
It opens with a piano/percussion driven song, the title track, "You Go Your Way", and I am hooked. It doesn't let up there though. The beautiful "Love Changes Everything" follows and then the funny/sad "Powder Blue Trans Am". Most CDs are lucky to have 3 winners, let alone lead off with 3 unique, powerful, and fun songs. All of Amy's original songwriting is wrapped up in Paul Bryan's solid production and Jay Bellerose's always amazing percussion. It's early in the year, but it is going to take a hell of a lot for an indie release to beat this CD in 2010. The CD is only available on Amy's website right now, but will be available everywhere soon. You can listen and buy it here: .
Sam Phillips - Magic for Everybody (2010)
And speaking of Jay Bellerose, he makes a return to recording with Sam Phillips on her latest EP, part of The Long Play project. The EP opens with "Always Merry and Bright", a look at the sadness behind the smile. Interestingly, the strings, arranged by Eric Gorfain, I believe, have a very traditional sound (not what we've grown to expect from Eric). This just adds to the sadness the song seems to bring out. That is not to say that Magic is a downer of a CD. Sam always seems to find the silver lining and the title track, "Magic for Everybody" which follows is so hopeful, she obviously placed it in that order to bring you back up. The 5 song EP ends with a remake of her Gilmore Girls song "Tell Her What She Wants to Know". It is slower and more... more... Sam. This may be my favorite of the EPs released so far and with this collection, we have easily gotten our money's worth. Check out the project at
Patty Griffin - Downtown Church (2010)
That I am listening to a "Gospel" album is a testament to the respect I have for both Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. To Patty's credit, this CD is inspirational, but not overly in your face with the religion. As she has stated in interviews, she was working her way through her own faith as she recorded this. Most of the songs are covers of religious tunes that come in many forms; from country to Mexican traditional to soul. This is a very entertaining CD and Patty's voice shines throughout.
The Burned - The Burned (2010)
Just got this one the other day (thanks Mike) and it has "wow" written all over it. Moody, electric, bluesy, fascinating, wow. You must check these guys out! I hear they have a great live show too.
Jon Dee Graham - Its Not As Bad Aa It Looks (2010)
With a strong rocking band, The Fighting Cocks, behind him, Jon Dee continues to put out good music that gets ignored by the mainstream media. Many of the songs continue to dig into his life and his world, all of which is interesting, sad and beautiful. Check out this wonderful CD at .
Spottiswoode - Piano 45 (2010)
All good songwriters should be able to strip down their songs to piano or guitar and voice and you should be able to see the beauty of it all. On this solo CD from Jonathan Spottiswoode, the theatrics and strange but exciting arrangements are gone and it is all about the songs themselves. It may not be a starting point for new listeners, but if you are a Spottiswoode fan, you will find this batch of 15 songs a wonderful diversion from his other music. But judge for yourself. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. You'll find more info here:
Tina Dico - The Road To Gavle (2010)
Another great CD from Tina. Her wonderfully personal songs are only eclipsed by her beautiful voice. Why don't you own any Tina Dico?
Spoon - Transference (2010)
Spoon continues to knock out great music. This CD is a bit more experimental, maybe even a bit Wilco like in that way. Still, you find yourself loving these quirky songs and their strange moments.

Happy Birthday Steve Poltz

On a rainy night in North County San Diego, Steve Poltz, the somewhat crazy, friend to everyone, singer/songwriter, and co-writer of Jewel's hit "You were meant for me", turned 50 with hundreds of his closest friends and family there to help him celebrate. The Belly Up Tavern was packed for their local hero who put together a show that hardly stopped from 9pm till well past midnight.

Steve, sporting a pink cast on his left arm came out and introduced Lisa Sanders, who played guitar and sang along with a backup singer. She has a beautiful voice, although it was often lost because of the crowd noise. This is San Diego, and having lived there for over 4 years I can say without a doubt that they are the worst audiences I've ever had to share clubs with. I love the Belly Up, but most people in San Diego seem to go to shows for the scene, not the music. It has been that way since the 70's and hasn't appeared to change any. But I digress.

Juan asked me if all the bands were going to sound alike. Well, it was obvious right away that this wasn't going to be one of those nights. As the beautiful sounds of Lisa Sanders were replaced by Mojo Nixon. If you don't know who Mojo Nixon is, this will give you an idea of what the next half hour or so were like: . He opened with a new song called, "Steve Poltz is an old MF". If I need to explain what MF is, you're not old enough to be reading this. Anyways, this was a sweet ballad compared to where he was headed last night. And... And... I just don't think I can go there in this blog. Let's just say it was obscenely over the top with Mojo performing some of his biggest hits. Well, maybe not hits, but they were some of his most notorious songs. Okay, pretty much everything he sings is notorious. He didn't do the Don Henley song though. "Elvis is Everywhere" may have been the show's highlight. Throughout his performance, he kept coming back to the Steve Poltz song, and we sang as loud as we could. I feel lucky that I finally got to see this legend. Uhmmm, but I really felt like I needed a shower afterwards.

Mojo worked the crowd to a near frenzy, and now it was time for Steve Poltz to perform for us. Unfortunately this caused a short disruption in the pace of the show since this was also Steve's CD release party for "Dreamhouse" and much of the CD is quiet (at least quiet compared to Mojo). But Poltz mixed up old songs and new ones with ease. His band, the Cynics really rocked. He brought out guests to perform solo and with him. It started with Anya Marina, a singer/songwriter who has had a bunch of songs on TV shows. Her solo singing was totally drowned out by the crowd although they gave her a nice round of applause. Gregory Page, from the Rugburns sang a few songs. I love his voice. A.J. Croce (yes, that is Jim's son) sang a few songs also, and man, can he play piano. He did a ragtime number that was out of this world. Each artist would join the band, then sing a song or two by themselves (or with Steve) and then the band would come back and they might stay for another number or two. Cindy Lee Berryhill (who I haven't seen in over 20 years) came out and sang backup to a song. Meanwhile, Steve's set rocked the house. With his broken hand putting his guitar playing out of commission, he bounced around the stage non stop, not really knowing what to do with himself. He was almost manic. He brought up his physician who helped with the broken hand, and a couple who danced to one of his songs at their wedding (they danced on stage). He even wished his sister a happy birthday (they were born 2 years apart on the same day). When he finally got to the classic "You were meant for me" (which, as usual, included the David Cassidy rap), he shared the guitar with his guitarist in a cozy funny way.

The evening ended for us with the Rugburns reuniting on stage for an absurdly rocking set. We had to leave early, but I can't imagine any more craziness could have happened that night. Of course, it was a Steve Poltz show, so anything was possible.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shawn Colvin at The Coach House

Without a doubt, Shawn Colvin is one of my favorite live performers. She mixes her excellent catalog of songs with brilliant covers and then usually throws in some great stories and fun audience banter. She is easily one of the best guitarists in the singer/songwriter category and her performances always seem effortless. We were up front and center for Saturday night's show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. She has played there many times before and comes back because of the great audiences, good sound and mediocre food (just a joke there... at least the food is consistent). We got everything we came for, except the stories. She seems to be out of stories at the moment and that is fine because I've heard her tell old stories before, and it always seems disappointing when I already know where it is going. If you doubt that the whole crowd is waiting for stories, it was obvious early on when someone yelled out, "Tell us a story" and you could almost here the rest of the crowd go, "yeah, tell us one Shawn". She did talk briefly about the Grammy's and her daughter saying the "S" word when Steve Earle beat her out for the award.

When my seats are up front, they always seem to be on the right and I never get a good look at Shawn's guitar work. But on this night, we were right there and watching her play is almost as exciting as actually listening to the songs. As for the songs, she pretty much skipped over her last CD and played most of the favorites we came to hear. She took requests, in her own way and time of course. The highlight for me though was finally getting to hear the long version of Polaroids. For those who haven't heard it, after completing the song, she starts playing cover songs that have the same beat and sound. There is a KSCA live session, for those of you who recorded these things, that has it and which I've lived off of for 15 years. I'm guessing many of the people hadn't heard that version and when I yelled out, in the middle of it "Ebony and Ivory" and then she started playing it, well, they thought she was actually listening to me. The reality was, I think she was about to go there anyway. But everyone around me gave me this WTF look. It was great.

We met a lot of nice people, including another big Sam Phillips fan. It is one of the reasons I love going to the Coach House: Always cool people to meet. And as always, we left just short of two hours later very satisfied and looking forward to Shawn's next visit.

Lots on our music schedule this month. Friday we are headed down to Solana Beach to see Steve Poltz's CD release party at The Belly Up. And the Friday after that is Raul Malo back at the Coach House.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen