Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sam Phillips at the Hotel Cafe

If you follow the music biz at all, you know that the entire industry is going through a rebirth, with everyone trying to figure out just were they belong and how they are going to get there. If you're a music publisher, the days of sitting back and waiting for the royalties to roll in are long gone. So what do you do? You become more aggressive. And that is what the owners of Notable Music (a music publishing company) are doing. This afternoon they booked the Hotel Cafe for lunch, bringing in pizza and an open bar and inviting industry types and the press to see just why Sam Phillips fans love Sam Phillips. Sam, of course, did her part, playing a 30 minute set of new and almost new music. Backed by Eric Gorfain on violin and guitar, Jay Bellerose on drum kit and Jennifer Condos on bass, Sam appeared to be in mid tour form. Later she told me how strange it was, they had rehearsed and rehearsed and now the show was over, and there was no tour bus to get on.

Although there were a lot of familiar faces, I'm sure there were some people there who really didn't know Sam's music. This is probably why she opened with "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" (a song from the "Raising Sand" CD that was so popular a couple of years ago). She slipped in a couple of songs from her "Magic for Everybody" EP ("Lever Pulled Down" and "Magic For Everybody"), another from "Don't Do anything" ("Shake it Down") and "Was it all in My Head" a single from her Long Play project. It was at the end of "Shake it Down" that Sam pulled out what looked like a metal bread bowl and started hitting it to add to Jay's percussion. One too many slaps caused the bowl to fly off the stage and land at my feet. Sam apologized after the song, saying it was not intentional and was done with affection. I told her I knew that. She finished off the short set with a crowd favorite "Reflecting Light" and then "One Day Late" (which she dedicated jokingly to the Dodgers... who could use some help right now). What can I say about this band that I already haven't mentioned here before. Jay is one of the most interesting drummers alive; creating sounds like no one else. I have never been disappointed in any of the projects he has worked on in the past. I can't even imagine what Sam sounds like without Eric these days. His violin (and now guitar) have been a big part of Sam's sound for the last 5 or so years. Jen is the newest kid in the band, but she has been backing some pretty big names over the years. The four of them worked so smoothly together, you would have to think that they were, as I said, in the middle of a tour. This show makes me hungry for more live Sam Phillips. Hopefully, when the Long Play project is over, she will do some live gigs. But this will have to do for now.

After the show, I chatted with Jay (until Randy Lewis snuck in there). He's got some interesting projects coming up, including being on tour with Ray LaMontagne. There is no new news about Section Quartet shows. I think Sam is keeping Eric pretty busy. And nothing new to report about Sam. I believe an new EP is coming soon. What a wonderful afternoon. If felt like 2004 all over again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bruce Cockburn at the Coach House

It is almost always a fun time when we go to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. The crowds are almost always polite and they seat you for dinner next to total strangers who often become your best friends (at least for the evening). So it was Friday night, where we met a friendly couple from San Diego who were not only seeing Bruce for the first time, but where at the Coach House for the first time. I explained their dining choices (beef okay, chicken dry, ranch dressing is the only choice - although they now have Caesar) and we then spend the next hour and half talking music. A very familiar story, as was much of Bruce Cockburn's show. But not as familiar as you might think.

The stage was flanked by two huge wind chime like devices that we later found out Bruce could control with his foot. Actually, control isn't a good work, since he just pumped his foot and the metal clanger (or whatever it was called) seemed to hit the bars randomly. There was no opening act and Bruce came out and started right in on some of the crowd's favorites. After about a half hour, he switched gears and started playing new music. Some of the new songs were instrumentals (this is where he used the chimes) on guitar or Charango in one case. There was a wonderfully weird song about Richard Nixon (sort of) and a few others that I can't remember now. But I enjoyed them all. His first set lasted about an hour. After the break, he came back and continued to mix old with new songs. I have always enjoyed the solo Bruce over the band Bruce because of his amazing guitar playing. Although I liked his instrumentals, I felt that they take away from the pace and the power of the show. Bruce Cockburn has lots to say about this world, and he can't really say it with an instrumental. Still, the two plus hours he played were excellent and we had a great time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Patty Griffin at the Wiltern

There is something special about a Patty Griffin concert in L.A. It has nothing directly to do with Patty's performance and everything to do with her music. We always seem to meet people who are seeing Patty for the first time and yesterday was no exception. Hanging next to us as we leaned against the stage was a group of 3 or 4 who had flown in from Hawaii for their first ever show. But nothing could compare to the bubbling energy that was Jocelyn, a 21 year old on her own who hung out with us for the entire 5 plus hours (2 hours in line). This was her first Patty Griffin show and she was so excited. I have been there many times and it was easy to relate to her. We had a great time telling each other stories and talking about music. What made this all humorous was that she is also Jewish. So, here are three Jews, front and center, waiting for Patty Griffin to come out and sing songs from her new Gospel CD.

But first... Buddy Miller came on stage and sang with only an acoustic guitar. After just one song, he brought his band out on stage, which included backup singer, Patty Griffin. She sang backup the entire set (except for the closing number which was again an acoustic solo). And what a potent 45 minutes it was. Singing classics like, "I Worry Too Much" along with a few songs from his latest collaboration with his wife Julie, "Written in Chalk", he had the entire audience bouncing around and loving every minute of it.

After a 20 minute break, Patty came out, with the same band (plus an extra guitarist and keyboards) and Buddy sang backup and played guitar. As expected, Patty focused on her latest CD, "Downtown Church", playing very few other songs from her catalog ("Stay on the Ride", "Heavenly Day", "Up To The Mountain") and only one song from the previous millennium ("Mary"). I may have missed one, but that is my recollection. About half way through her set, she did a solo acoustic set, introducing us to a sexy new song about her grandparents that was so cute. Early in her career Patty proved what a great songwriter she was. Now she is showing us her vocal talents; and they continue to amaze. I will never get tired of listening to her sing. This night was obviously about other people's music, so it was not a surprise when she finished the night with a cover; a rockin' version of the Fabulous Thunderbirds "Why Get Up". It was another great Patty Griffin at the Wiltern show. I can't wait for the next one.

On a side note, my Emitt Rhodes t-shirt continues to get noticed at concerts. I had a few minute conversation with a long time fan about Emitt. It has now surpassed my Alejandro Escovedo shirt, which got lots of comments when Springsteen was last in town. I think I'll wear it to the Peter Himmelman show at McCabes on the 25th.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New Music April 2010

Katell Keineg - At the Mermaid Parade (2010)
It has been over a dozen years since Katell has put out a completely satisfying CD, but the wait is over. From start to finish, Katell has crafted an poetic CD that has her trademark vocals leading well designed melodies into another world. It is only available via download in the U.S. right now. You can purchase it at ITunes or CDBaby.
Kristy Hanson - Into The Quiet (2010)
A nice leap forward for Kristy, who's second CD builds on her first with stronger production, stronger songs and well... It's just a stronger CD. In the days when radio mattered, I could see several songs getting airplay on AAA and maybe even pop rock stations. You can pick up this solid independent CD at CDBaby.
Kenny White - Comfort in the Static (2010)
Kenny's CDs don't come out often enough so I always feel like I'm waiting for the next one. "Comfort in the Static" is well worth the wait. His humor and passion remain intact and the songwriting shows no signs of aging. Kenny continues to document his attempt to navigate through this strange but wonderful world we live in. As one of those who relate to getting older, you can't help but listen and nod, "Yep, I've been there". This man is so talented and it sure would be nice to see him have a bigger fan base. So, please, go to Amazon and purchase this excellent CD.
Allison Moorer - Crows (2010)
It's been 6 years since Allison Moorer has blown us away. "Crows" is s stunning piece of work from Allison and easily her best output since "The Duel". This isn't as loud and fuzz guitar driven as that previous CD, but it is filled with great songs; as good as anything she has written.
John Hiatt - The Open Road (2010)
I don't review music I don't like. It keeps this blog positive (It is so easy to go negative in this day and age). So, when John Hiatt released his last CD (And I've been a huge fan for years), I just didn't get it and decided to play a couple of songs on The Promise, but not blog about the CD. I have no problems talking about "The Open Road" though. This is John's best CD in some time and I love how the songs are all tied into the road, travelling and life on the run. The music rocks, the melodies sparkle and, and, I just love this CD.
Jude Johnstone - Blue Light (2007)
It is sometimes a fine line between singer/songwriter and jazz singer. The more time I spend with great singer/songwriter vocalists, the more I find myself attracted to jazz vocalists. On a small label, Jude Johnstone has a voice that at times reminds me of Shawn Colvin. So, it only seems fair that I share some of this music with you. You can hear more at Jude's website.
Steve Poltz - Dreamhouse (2010)
Steve's "Chinese Vacation" may have some of the funniest songs I've heard in years, but Dreamhouse is a mature work by a talented singer/songwriter. It is a mellower Poltz who has humor and irony drifting in and out of his songs. Lots of good stories/songs here to enjoy.
k.d. lang - recollection (2010)
This is a cool box set with lots of unique and unreleased songs. If you are a big fan you should pick this up. If you've never purchased any of her CDs (like me), this is a great way to start. There are plenty of good songs including 2 versions of Hallelujah.

The Swell Season at McCabe's

I can't believe nearly a month has gone by and I haven't written about this. In what may turn out to be one of the best club shows of the year for me, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed for a small group of fans (under 150) at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. For nearly 2 hours they sang songs, told stories, made us laugh and thoroughly entertained us all. That they are talented and have written some beautiful songs goes without saying. If you haven't seen them before, the extra piece that makes them so special is their humble and down to earth attitude. When Glen begs you to sing along, he really wants you to be a part of the show. His stories are always touching and funny. In one of them, he gives Bono all of the credit for the Swell Season getting to the Academy Awards (something that changed their lives). Marketa, who is just as humble on stage, was supporting a new hairdo giving her an extra bit of sophistication. Although this is really Glen's band, he always leaves a nice chunk of the set open for Marketa to lead. Sending this show over the top was the inclusion of Javier Mas for several songs near the end of the show. Javier is a guitar player from Spain who was also one of the highlights from Leonard Cohen's recent tour. The pure joy he displays while playing incredible leads on his acoustic guitar was a perfect compliment to the Swell Season. For those of you in So Cal who missed the show, the full band will be playing the Hollywood Bowl this summer. Don't miss them.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen