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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Against Me! concert review


My review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed at: ocregister.com/entertainment

As I watched Against Me! do an electrifying version of “White People for Peace” and heard the refrain about “protest songs” at Chain Reaction on Saturday, the mass demonstrations in Egypt immediately came to mind. Although the tune (from 2007 disc "New Wave") is about war, Tom Gabel’s politically-minded punk and folk/rock can definitely be relevant in different situations.

Since moving from respected indie label Fat Wreck Chords to major label Sire Records through the past decade (ties with the latter company were severed a few months ago), the Florida band has continually made creative and sonic strides.

Last year’s "White Crosses" - again helmed by Nirvana producer and sometime Garbage man Butch Vig - was the quartet’s best and most accessible album to date, encompassing influences ranging from fellow Gainesville musician Tom Petty and The ReplacementsPaul Westerberg to Bruce Springsteen.

Even The Boss is an avowed fan. Coincidently, drummer Jay Weinberg (son of E Street Band timekeeper Mighty Max and frequent fill-in for his father on 2009’s "Working on a Dream" world tour) recently joined Against Me! for the current run of concerts. In Anaheim, he definitely added quicker pacing, more heft and seamless transitions to the live sound.

Charging through 21 songs in an hour-long main set, the group was fiery and inspiring as ever. Forget all the naysayers complaining about lost ideals, selling out or whatever, this was an old school punk show all the way. Wildly enthusiastic young followers packed into the small, sold out club like sardines and didn’t hesitate to stage dive and crowd surf at every turn. A pair of Chain Reaction staffers had trouble controlling the barrage of intruders that constantly knocked down microphone stands, put their arms around Gabel and tried to sing with him.

The frontman, completely drenched from the sweaty room, constantly smiled and basically shrugged at all the interruptions. Following one especially robust fan sing along, he said, “there is no better high than this.”

Among the blazing standout songs: the Pogues-like “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” (off 2002 debut effort "Reinventing Axl Rose") was an exciting opener. “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer),” where Gabel name checks Condoleeza Rice and sings about world tensions, contained needling guitar work and roaring backing vocals by James Bowman.

Weinberg did tempered tribal beats amid an intense, expansive “The Ocean” and Gabel played feedback-laden riffs on his battered black Rickenbacker guitar. Other standouts included “White Crosses,” “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” “High Pressure Low,” “Americans Abroad,” “Turn These Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists” and a pair about Gabel’s home state, “Miami” and “Sink Florida, Sink.”   

Tom Gabel photo, from Epicenter 2010 Festival in Fontana, Calif., by Kelly Swift

Get Up Kids/Steel Train concert review

 











My review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed at: ocregister.com/entertainment

At first, there was a Teutonic atmosphere inside the Glass House.

Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” served as The Get Up Kids’ intro music. Then a female voice, taken off some German language tutorial program, led into show opener “Tithe.” The harrowing new rocker, driven by careening guitars and distorted bass, was the first of seven strong, adrenaline-fueled tunes from “There Are Rules” played in Pomona.

The influential Lawrence, Kansas quintet’s long awaited album came out this past Tuesday. Assisted by Ed Rose and Bob Weston (Shellac) in the studio, the band often utilized frenzied early Pixies-styled pacing and experimental touches a la U2’s Berlin-crafted “Achtung Baby.”

Alternative Press and other music publications have suggested the directional change will polarize supporters that have been around since The Get Up Kids’ mid-‘90s start. During the indie rock group’s four-year break, members scattered to such varied units as Spoon, New Amsterdams, Blackpool Lights and Reggie & the Full Effect, so progressing past the aggressive, yet sensitive guy sound was inevitable.  

Keyboardist James Dewees (of the latter act, plus New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance tours) puts his darkwave sonic stamp all over the “Rules” material, but was inexplicably absent on Friday night. Instead, a replacement musician appeared to trigger pre-recorded synth parts and do minor playing.

When I caught The Get Up Kids at this venue in September 2009, amid a tour to support the 10th anniversary reissue of their defining (and most successful) CD “Something to Write Home About,” the place was packed. This instance drew nearly as many high school and college aged concertgoers, but wasn’t sold out.

Matt Pryor sang earnestly and played guitar with sheer abandon throughout the 90-minute set – most notably on the driving, poppy “Action and Action” and “Red Letter Day,” plus  the quieter, acoustic-based “Overdue” (one person held a lighter aloft – how novel), moody “Walking on a Wire” and romantic “I’ll Catch You.” 

Before reaching back to 1997 debut “Four Minute Mile” for an intense “Shorty,” the frontman noted the band had been playing the Glass House a dozen years and gave a shout out Orange County’s way to performance space, Koo’s Art CafĂ©. Later, he asked the audience if they wanted another “really old song” and obliged with “Coming Clean.” Crowd surfing quickly commenced and ended just as fast.

Guitarist Jim Suptic got several vocal spotlights, including the new spacey, industrial-tinged “Automatic,” endearing “Campfire, Kansas” and goofy cover of The Replacements’ “Beer for Breakfast.”

The fractured electronic rock of “Rules” track “Shatter Your Lung” had Suptic adding synth as Pryor gave a creepy vocal delivery. All the guys seemed to be having a good time onstage, particularly the Pope Brothers (bassist Rob; drummer Ryan), who hugged between songs and joked around. Still, when everyone returned for the encores and a couple guys started spontaneously jamming, Pryor said, “no, we’re not writing new songs at a gig.”

Earlier, while waiting in line to enter the Glass House, a fan of opener Steel Train enthused that singer Jack Antonoff was one of the best guitar players around. The New Jersey alt-rockers definitely made a lasting impression at Coachella 2010, where I saw them kick off that Saturday’s main stage proceedings (the Bruce Springsteen cover also helped lure me over). Last year’s excellent and overlooked self-titled third album should’ve been all over modern rock radio.  

In Pomona, Steel Train raced through a rambunctious 40-minute set, rife with giddy Broadway musical-type group harmonies (“Children of the ‘90s”), frenetic piano (“Touch Me Bad”) and spastic guitar work from Antonoff and Dan Silbert (“S.O.G . Burning in Hell,” “Turnpike Ghost”).

The front man had a charming nature that brings to mind Jimmy Fallon (at one point, he exclaimed, “I love this town!”). All five members gathered around one microphone with only Antonoff on electric guitar for “Road Song” (off 2005’s “Twilight Tales…”) and finished with the soaring, Arcade Fire-like “Bullet.”

The Get Up Kids, The Glass House, Pomona, Jan. 28, 2011
Setlist: Tithe/Action and Action/The One You Want/Regent’s Court/Red Letter Day/Automatic/Shorty/Overdue/Pararelevant/I’m a Loner Dottie, a Rebel/Shatter Your Lung/No Love/Holy Roman/Keith Case/Campfire, Kansas/Rememorable/Coming Clean/Walking on a Wire
Encore: Beer for Breakfast/Holiday/Don’t Hate Me/I’ll Catch You/Ten Minutes

Photo courtesy of Terrorbird Records

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Q&A with Free Energy













My interview appeared in the North County Times and can be viewed at:
http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/music/article_21214569-8f9d-5765-b090-1b7aa4e4f1bb.html

The band performs at the Roxy in West Hollywood on Friday; The Loft, UC San Diego on Saturday. 

Free Energy makes good time classic rock music rooted in the mid-1970s. The Philadelphia-based quintet formed four years ago from the ashes of Red Wing, Minn. indie rock combo Hockey Night. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy was intrigued by their demos and produced debut disc 'Stuck on Nothing,' which arrived last spring on DFA Records. Effervescent single “Bang Pop” and their namesake song propelled the album into the top 10 at college radio. Following tour opening stints with Weezer, Mates of State and Titus Andronicus, the group is currently on a headlining tour. We caught up with vocalist Paul Spranger before a show at Minneapolis’ First Avenue club.

Q: How would you describe a typical Free Energy gig?
We’re the hosts of a really awesome party.

Q: Are you satisfied with how 'Stuck on Nothing' turned out and has been received?
We’re surprised that people were puzzled by us. We kind of expected it, but I don’t think we’ve been taken seriously by the media. I really can’t complain. We’ve been very fortunate.

Q: What did you learn from working with Murphy? 
To treat every component of the recording as a puzzle piece that needs to be clear and well-defined, so it can find its proper place

Q: Does the band always start with a rhythm and work up from there?
The foundation of every song is based on the groove. We were lucky that James is a drummer and really knows how to get them to feel right.

Q: Free Energy celebrates such classic rock influences as Thin Lizzy and Sweet. What drew you toward that era of music?
There’s an utter sincerity and fearlessness to express simple sentiments - whether it’s James Taylor or Jackson Browne – that is lacking now. There’s candy coated, simple sentiments in pop music today, but it’s so slick and polished that it’s hard to take seriously. In the ‘70s, a lot of pop music was well-crafted, meaningful and honest. We respond to craftsmanship in every facet of the art.

Q: Do acts like Steve Miller Band and Journey unfairly get a bad rap?
Yeah. Last year, Journey suddenly found a second life after being [featured] on “Glee.” Once there’s enough distance, they don’t have that stigma of being cheesy or bloated rock.

Q: As a teenager, you listened to indie rock such as Pavement. When were you first exposed to classic rock bands of the ‘70s?
It really wasn’t until after college and I’d go to buy $1 records…We used to laugh when we listened to Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” because it seemed so hokey. Then we got a little older and thought, ‘this is the deepest, saddest song I’ve ever heard.’

Q: Do you think being only rock band on a respected dance label like DFA (through Astralwerks) helped attract people to your music?
Having James produce the record opened a ton of doors and gave us so much exposure. DFA has such a great reputation. It’s an honor for us to be part of that. They’ve encouraged us to do what we want.

Q: Some songs have brass and string arrangements. Whose idea was that?
Those were production touches at the end that James suggested…If you’re inspired while performing, that comes through in the recording and people want to listen to it over and over again. If you have something totally processed and auto-tuned and scraped of all life, it becomes harder to listen to that.

Q: Who formulates ideas for the band’s satirical “Power Hour” episodes on YouTube? Were they inspired by “Saturday Night Live” skits?
I’m a huge comedy nerd. I like Monty Python. They’re characters and ideas we come up with in the [touring] van. 

Photo courtesy of DFA Records

Bonus Q&A with Stan Ridgway

It was great to chat again with Ridgway, who often gives thought-provoking answers to questions. There was plenty of good material that didn't make it into my main feature story. Read below for more.




Q: What can you tell me about the current tour?
There’s Pietra on keyboards and vocals. Me on blab and laundry and vocals. Rick King on guitar.

Q: So all the usual suspects, then?
Yeah and Bruce Zelesnik on drums. Bruce is an old friend of mine who actually played on ‘The Big Heat.’ We hooked up together again and we’re trying out some stuff. What’s new is that maybe we’ll get another album out in the summer.

Q: Would you say ‘Neon Mirage’ is an album that reveals more upon repeated listening?
Everything starts to sound like an overused clichĂ© phrase after awhile, but yes – repeated listening will probably benefit the listener. Maybe we should have stickers on records that say, ‘listen to it just once and then toss it.’ You know, the world as it is now, with everything being pretty much available at everyone’s fingertips – playlists, iPhones and everything else…I could give a damn whether they listen to it or not.

Q: Even though the album is informed by loss, it’s not too dark in tone.
At the end of the day, [you think],  ‘what is life all about?’ It’s about the people and the things that you love and your involvement in those things. So it’s not really money or badges or prizes. That’s no great revelation from me.

Q: You’re an admirer of Leonard Cohen’s work. He expertly balances light and dark in his music.
People tend to get the wrong idea, but some of his songs are just a crack up. He’s not literally dour or depressed. It’s almost like a string of gags on what life really is.

Q: What prompted you to revisit “Big Green Tree,” which was originally on 1995’s ‘Black Diamond’ album?
When we started recording with Amy Faris. We had gone into a studio to cut “Lenny Bruce”…she said, ‘we’ve got to play “Big Green Tree”…We changed the key and I really didn’t know what I was going to do with it. It came out so great, it was like ‘this is certainly a new way to do it with all her string parts on there.’ As the timeline marched on and we lost Amy, I was left with these tracks. I suddenly felt this was going to be on the record.

Q: Dave Alvin produced those songs. Had you both worked together in that capacity before?
No, but we’ve hung together a lot and played some shows together over time. He’s a long time friend.

Q: While growing up, your dad used to always play records by people like Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. What did you enjoy about them?
Just the production, musicians and everybody involved. Back then, it was called the “New Nashville Sound.” Now of course, it’s the “retro old sound that no one plays anymore.” They’re too busy playing some bad song from Brooks & Dunn…American music encompasses so much. I think that period of time was really creative for a lot of musicians in that type of music. What you were getting with country music then was a hybrid. A lot of jazz players gravitated toward the studios. They added some things to the mix that weren’t there before. Not to discount the Hank Williams style of rural recording or songwriting, but they added a few things. I think Sinatra actually influenced a lot of people in that regard. He was really out in front then making concept records – things like [1958’s] ‘Only the Lonely’ and songs that were all supposed to be tied together. I think Owen Bradley definitely emulated that. He was listening to what Sinatra and Nelson Riddle were doing and saying, ‘hey, we can do that here.’ He did that with Patsy Cline and other people. He brought in strings and it became more sophisticated.

Q: What is your creative process? Going back to your days in Wall of Voodoo, have you always tried to expand the parameters of what was acceptable in your songwriting?
It’s kind of a mystery and that’s what keeps people interested. All the writers and songwriters I know, we talk and we don’t know what the [hell] we’re doing at all. It’s what keeps you coming back. You think you’ve got a handle on it, that you can lasso it, direct it in a certain way: ‘I’m going to push the envelope here.’ If you do that, sometimes it can come off self-consciously.

Q: Have you found your fans will follow you into whatever stylistic road you take?
It’s funny. You do a lot of things and people get an impression of who you are in their head from having seen you at a certain time. First impressions are hard to beat. I’m grateful for the audience I do have. I think of them in the abstract as friends of mine that know me pretty well. Some will get an impression in their head that you should be how you were in the early ‘80s. They come to a show and they find out differently. They’re usually pleasantly surprised. In shows now, I [basically] play everything. It’s hard to choose which songs to play because there’s so many of them. It’s not bad.

Q: Was “Desert of Dreams” meant as an ode to living in LA, with references to earthquakes, malls, etc.?
Yes, there’s definitely some LA in there. It’s here where we reside without unpacking the song completely.

Q:  How about “Scavenger Hunt?” Did you ever go on those at parties?
Yeah, but I also had a stint in the Boy Scouts. For my friends in the mid-to-late 1960s, the scouts were an excuse to have a gang. We didn’t try to get any medals. The troop was so embarrassed with us after awhile they gave us first class. I think I was a tenderfoot for three years. We used to have a snipe hunt. Any new guys in the troop, you’d take them on a camping trip and look for snipe. In a way, that’s a bit of a scavenger hunt. The song is more about the relationships and people in that song than about the object they’re trying to find.

Q: Which of your solo albums would you say still stand the test of time?
I think ‘Mosquitoes’ stands up. There’s some sounds on it I think are certainly of its time. I don’t think it’s really dated. I do sometimes think about these things - what it would be like listening to them 20 years from now? It’s something you’re informed of in songwriting school right away: ‘it may sound good today, but will it sound good tomorrow? Are you following a trendy bus or really riding something here?’

Q: You did a tour in ’07 commemorating the 25th anniversary of Wall of Voodoo’s ‘Call of the West.’ What was the reaction like?
Those things are fine to do. When I did it, it was great. There were people who came out that maybe hadn’t been out of their houses in 25 years.

Q: Who put together the simple music video for the title track to ‘Neon Mirage?’
I think with videos, my impression of them now is that they’re better when they’re simple and homemade. When I see a big costly video now, I think of all the people that could be fed with whatever money was spent. There really isn’t a channel to play them. They’re always on YouTube. In a way, that’s kind of the new MTV, but not like it used to be. Everything is on YouTube. It’s spectacular and amazing…we’re all sharing this information and everyone’s got their little moment in the sun there.

Q: Are you active on Facebook?
I have 5,000 friends. I don’t know who they are. As it creeps more into privacy issues, I’m sure in a couple years, people will be bailing on it and there will be some new thing. Any way you can get the word out, if you’re playing someplace or some activity is going on in your world, that’s a good thing.

Q: Do you keep up with new music?
I’m kind of late to the party, but I think the Broken Bells record is great. I like a lot of the production on that and what they’ve done. It’s an interesting combination of melody and rhythm. It’s not aggressive, but it’s not wimpy. They’ve reached a certain balance with their songs and the lyrics are ambiguous.

Q: In 2009, you took part in a four-day railroad caravan. How was that experience?
It was a drunken bacchanal. We had a great time. It turned into the punk rock train. We had 50 people on that train. We’re probably going to do that again this year. It was a load of fun. You travel in four vintage railroad cars. Took off from Union Station in LA to Albuquerque, New Mexico overnight. The first night, everyone hit the dining car, which has an open bar. It just blew wide open. We played a lot of music with Jill Sobule, the Handsome Family.

Q: Any plans on doing a sequel to your ‘Crooning the Classics’ album which came out several years ago and can be purchased on your website?
Yes, there’s one in the works. It’s slowly coming together. There’s a part of me that says, ‘should I repeat this and do another one?’ But there are songs I hadn’t sung on the first one that I’d like to sing. We’re getting it together.

Ridgway's albums are available at most major music retail outlets online, while several live albums/DVDs and side projects can be found at stanridgway.com and cdbaby.com. 

Stan Ridgway interview

My interview appeared in the North County Times and can be viewed here:
http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/music/article_b09e32d8-a059-553e-afe1-a346f1cbca1c.html

Ridgway's Southern California tour dates include the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, Feb. 3; the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Feb. 10; McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Feb. 12. For more info, go to stanridgway.com.

Back in 1986, during a San Diego-area gig to promote his solo bow “The Big Heat,” Stan Ridgway made an explosive impression.

At the old Spirit Club in Mission Beach, “about two songs into the set, the PA blew up really loud, like a cherry bomb. Smoke came out of the monitors. It was really spectacular and scared everybody. The whole room went quiet,” recalled the singer/guitarist, from his home studio in Los Angeles.

“We had to stop; it wasn’t to be fixed. I guess it really wasn’t a show at all.”

Next week, Ridgway returns to SoCal with several full band electric performances (though McCabe's is likely to include acoustic material). “Maybe that’ll happen again,” he joked. “Come on down and get blown up!”

Ninth studio album “Neon Mirage” was released last year and finds the alt-rock veteran in a more reflective mood than usual following the deaths of his father, uncle and “Mirage” session woodwind player Amy Faris.

Ridgway took inspiration from Tom Rush, Country Joe & the Fish and Bob Dylan --- acts that made introspective records he grew up listening to in the late ‘60s. “It’s not really shouting to be heard…but is just something I needed to do. Even if it’s sad, there’s a healing process that goes on with music.”

An acoustic guitar, violin and organ-enriched “Halfway There” and “Day Up in the Sun” (imagine a modernized Gene Autry cowboy tune) ponder mortality, yet have an upbeat tone. Was it hard to find the right balance?

“Yeah, but after awhile, you learn how to realistically reflect what life is about. It’s not all dark or light.” Ridgway is continually drawn to Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen’s works because they often achieve that equanimity of “life, love, sex, fun and tragedy…I’m just a link in a chain to those songwriters.”
On “Lenny Bruce,” about the controversial 1950s and ‘60s standup comedian convicted of obscenity charges, he pays homage to both Zimmy (who wrote and recorded it for “Shot of Love”) and Young (with a laid back folk arrangement evoking “Harvest Moon”).

Blasters co-founder Dave Alvin initially saw Ridgway perform the cover at a benefit concert for Peter Case in L.A. and decided to produce it, along with another track. 

Like Bruce, Ridgway has defied the entertainment biz status quo (minus the profanity) since leading Wall of Voodoo for a brief period in the early ‘80s. The unusual L.A. band was best known for their warped “Ring of Fire” remake and bizarre modern rock hit “Mexican Radio.” Over the next decade, the vocalist went onto garner more minor radio and MTV airplay (“Don’t Box Me In” with Stewart Copeland, “Goin’ Southbound,” “Calling Out to Carol,” “I Wanna Be a Boss”).  

Drywall, including longtime keyboardist/vocalist (and wife) Pietra Wexstun and guitarist Rick King, has sporadically served as an outlet for his more experimental noise side. Ridgway and Wexstun put out “Silly Songs for Kids” in 2009, described as “an art record in disguise. Parents can hypnotize their kids with it.”

“I just follow my intuition. If it tells me to go in a certain direction, I go there. I don’t think I’m pushing a boundary. Maybe I find out later. When music and songs are channeled properly, they’re born from silence in musicians’ heads. There isn’t any biased information in silence.”

Elsewhere on “Neon Mirage” is “Wandering Star,” a nod to Owen Bradley’s classic country productions of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee and others.

While Ridgway admitted to not really being a country guy (“I like folk music”), he would “hear them all the time because my dad had those records. So I grew to appreciate them.

“Bradley used to record in a big room with a big Quonset hut (an octagonal-shaped enclosure) and put all the musicians in there. We didn’t have one, but we were close.”

The latest album also finds Ridgway subtly tackling politics (the dark, lurching “Flag Up on a Pole”), delving into jazz/rock crooner mode (“Desert of Dreams,” an ode to Los Angeles) and revisiting his trademark sonic film noir style (“Turn a Blind Eye”). The latter pair feature crazed sax work by frequent Tom Waits sideman Ralph Carney.

“We’re in a post-modern world. The only fresh aspect you can build is a hybrid,” said the singer, not easily slotted into a particular genre. “I’m probably eclectic to a fault…if I had been pinned down in some way, I’d probably have a bigger career. But I like to surprise myself.”

Photo courtesy of Conqueroo publicity








Friday, January 21, 2011

Old 97's concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

A version of my review originally appeared at ocregister.com on the Soundcheck blog. Photos by Robert Kinsler.

When the Old 97’s launched into “Please Hold On While the Train is Moving” toward end of their Thursday night set, the new barnburner could’ve easily described what just came before it. During a loose and boisterous 90-minute performance at the Galaxy Theatre, the quartet rarely slowed down the pace. Fans packed the pit area and the venue was fairly full.

Among the forerunners of alt-country music, the Old 97’s started in Dallas nearly two decades ago. Despite expanding into power pop and other areas in subsequent years, the guys have never achieved their commercial due. Solid eighth studio album “The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1” came out last October (originally conceived as a double collection, “Vol. 2” is expected in late spring). Lead vocalist Rhett Miller (pictured, left) has compared the songs’ diverse stylistic tone to garage rock and The Clash’s “London Calling.” That might be wishful thinking; more aggressiveness does factor into the equation though.   

Taking the stage to “Stuck in the Middle” by Stealers Wheel (whose singer Gerry Rafferty died on Jan. 4), bassist/singer Murry Hammond casually began doing the tune and drummer Philip Peeples joined in for a minute. Then they started the title track to “Grand Theatre,” featuring the first of many sharp electric guitar solos from Ken Bethea (pictured, below). The setlist primarily focused on the latest effort and 1997’s “Too Far To Care.”

Miller didn’t traverse the stage as he often does, but plenty of head-bobbing and windmill motions on acoustic and electric guitars commenced. Various lyrics were excitedly punctuated with “oh yeah” exclamations.

The poppy “Buick City Complex” and the more tempered “No Baby I,” where Miller sang in a lower register, were early highlights. Some “Grand Theatre” songs were inspired by different locales and the best is “Champaign, Illinois.” Based on Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” the band got rare permission to change the lyrics after Zimmy liked what Miller did and even agreed to split publishing royalties. Here, the jangly number contained supple harmonies.

Geographical music lessons continued via the steamrolling “West Texas Teardrops” and “A State of Texas” (about inhabiting a Lone Star State mindset). Bethea’s reverberating tremolo guitar work on the dark “Stoned” (off 1994 debut “Hitchhike to Rhome”) and Miller’s yelping vocals were an abrupt change.

Prior to the sweet marriage ballad “Question,” a guy came onstage and proposed to his girlfriend, a Galaxy bartender. The crowd went nuts afterward. I used to dismiss Hammond’s lead vocal contributions as second rate to Miller’s, but he definitely holds his own now. One example is the chugging Johnny Cash-style “You Were Born to Be in Battle,” which retained a Sun Records outtake feel in its live incarnation. 

“I like this club a lot,” raved Miller (he did a great solo Galaxy show about a year ago), before Hammond took the lead vocal reigns again on the haunting “Smokers,” driven by Bethea’s wild surf guitar playing.  

Hammond warned the crowd that they were in for a “sheer psychedelic assault” on the epic “Please Hold On While the Train is Moving.” No kidding. Miller’s lyrics referenced Pink Floyd, Bethea’s guitar sounds ranged from spacey to Kinksian and the bassist did some McCartney-esque runs.

Peeples held down workmanlike beats throughout the evening and really proved his mettle on the tribal, nearly punk “4 Leaf Clover,” where Miller yelled the words and the group pulled out all the stops.

Old 97’s, Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana, Jan. 20, 2011

Main set: The Grand Theatre/The Magician/Niteclub/You Smoke Too Much/Buick City Complex/No Baby I/Champaign, Illinois/West Texas Teardrops/A State of Texas/Stoned/Question/You Were Born to Be in Battle/Barrier Reef/The Dance Class/Goin’ Goin’ Gone/Smokers/Please Hold On While the Train is Moving/4 Leaf Clover
Encores: Won’t Be Home/Dance with Me/Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)/Timebomb


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dashboard Confessional concert review: Anaheim

My review originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog. Photos by Kelly A. Swift

Audience participation is a common occurrence at many concerts, but the fervent reaction Dashboard Confessional elicits when it plays intimate venues is rare. Creative chief Chris Carrabba pours his heart out onstage and followers sing just as loud, as if their lives depended on it.

Many of us got a first glimpse of this phenomenon while watching Dashboard Confessional appear on MTV’s revamped “Unplugged” in 2002 - the first music artist without a platinum-selling album to do so since the show switched to a non-host format. An accompanying “Unplugged” disc eventually reached the sales plateau and three studio efforts subsequently went gold.

A decade removed from Dashboard Confessional’s full length debut disc “The Swiss Army Romance” in late 2000, teenagers and college students still predominantly dominate the emo rock act’s core fan base. Such was the case on Sunday night in Anaheim.

Carrabba has been touring solo acoustic – just like the early days following his exit from indie rock band Further Seems Forever – to support a limited edition box set reissue commemorating the 10th Anniversary of “Romance” (it is $149 and only available via www.dashboardconfessional.com). 

This spring, Carrabba will mark another anniversary when he reunites with old band for the first time since a one-off gig in 2005 for a series of live dates (only The Paradise in Boston on April 11 and The Bamboozle Festival in E. Rutherford, New Jersey on May 1 have been announced thus far). Right before Christmas, the original lineup also put out an acoustic 7” vinyl single.

During an emotionally-charged, 90-minute set at the sold out Mouse House, the singer utilized several acoustic guitars and started by playing “Romance” front to back. Young girls squealed in delight the moment he hit the stage and launched into DC’s signature live tune “Screaming Infidelities.”

Not one to stand stock still at the microphone stand, he constantly roamed part of the stage in a semi-circle, reveling in the crowd’s voices taking over a key phrase or chorus. Several times, Carrabba wailed to the point of raspiness (“Turpentine Chaser,” “Ender Will Save Us All,” the more aggressive “Again I Go Unnoticed”). Talking was kept to a minimum, except when he related how the subdued “Shirts and Gloves” was inspired by a past girlfriend who was a long haul trucker.

Later, Carrabba covered his Mississippi alt-country singer Cory Branan’s “Tall Green Grass” – a song also tackled with the band last year between select shows opening for Bon Jovi. The rapid fire wordplay, finger picking style and a few curse words on the country blues was a refreshing change of pace.

Couples embraced and swayed along to the romantic “Stolen,” featuring an angelic vocal delivery. One acoustic guitar took quite a beating on the ultra-dramatic “The Best Deception.” Usual concert closer “Hands Down” was uplifting and fun.

Chris Conley was among three opening acts in O.C. Working off a set list containing some fan requests from Twitter, the front man for emo rock band Saves the Day did in a spirited, yet monochromatic 40 minutes onstage. Pondering whether to tackle a Fab Four tune, he said puzzlingly, “nobody knows the Beatles here” and decided against it. Conley’s reedy voice is definitely an acquired taste, but plenty of supporters voiced their approval after such songs as “Take Our Cars Now,” “Hold,” “Cars & Calories,” “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” and “I’m Sorry I’m Leaving.” 

Lady Danville recalled the sophisticated pop song craft and rambunctious live approach of Crowded House and Guster during its time onstage. The young Los Angeles indie pop trio impressed with taut three-part harmonies (the joyful “Cars”), percussionist Matt Frankel’s energetic box pounding, a sublime cover (MGMT’s “Kids”) and a humorous number utilizing ukulele and harmonica, where they gathered around one microphone (“I Want You Back”). I look forward to hearing their album debut this year. Definitely one to watch.

Regular Dashboard guitarist John Lefler, the first of three opening acts, played acoustically as well as some keyboards. His slapdash approach on the power pop-slanted tunes was endearing, recalling both Jason Falkner (ex-Jellyfish) and Gin Blossomsleader Robin Wilson.

Dashboard Confessional, House of Blues Anaheim, Jan. 16, 2011
 

Setlist: Screaming Infidelities/The Sharp Hint of New Tears/Living in Your Letters/Swiss Army Romance/Turpentine Chaser/Plain Morning/Age Six Racer/Again I Go Unnoticed/Ender Will Save Us All/Shirts and Gloves/The Brilliant Dance/The Good Fight/The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most/So Impossible/Tall Green Grass/Carry This Picture/As Lovers Go/Get Me Right/Saints and Sailors/Stolen/Remember to Breathe/The Best Deceptions/Vindicated/Hands Down

Dashboard Confessional plays the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Thursday-Friday; Saturday at House of Blues in San Diego. All are sold out.

Coachella '11 lineup announced

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NAMM 2011: Cheap Trick at Grove of Anaheim

My review originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog.

Cheap Trick headlined an invite-only show at the Grove of Anaheim in conjunction with the NAMM trade show on Saturday night.

Schecter Guitars’ Ninth Annual Winter NAMM Party attracted plenty of people who were only there to schmooze. VIPs got inside early, where a DJ spun music from artists that use the Burbank company’s instruments.

A long line of concertgoers steadily grew impatient while watching other guests stroll right through the entrance for nearly two hours. Near the lower tiered Grove sections, one young female Cheap Trick fan admitted paying $100 for a NAMM badge on Craigslist and an older woman asked if the band was from the 1980s. I saw a guy decked out head to toe in checked attire – just like how guitarist Rick Nielsen used to dress in the group’s early days. Goth metal clown Fifi LaRue and his motley music crew also posed for photos nearby. 

Odd scenarios aside, Cheap Trick delivered the strongest performance I’ve ever witnessed the band do during an exhilarating 75-minute, 17-song set. Concentrating on the commercially successful late ‘70s heyday, they also included three songs from last year’s top notch studio release “The Latest” and a few rarities.

Rock groups that have been around for more than three decades without breaking up are a rare commodity. Even scarcer are ones who continue to make vibrant and compelling new material on a continual basis like Cheap Trick has done since the 2000s with “Special One” and “Rockford.” 

The original members - singer/guitarist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson were joined onstage by touring personnel - longtime keyboardist/backing vocalist Phil “Magic” Cristian and Daxx Nielsen (Rick’s son). All were all in fine form throughout the evening.

Following a montage of Cheap Trick-related audio snippets (Japanese “Budokan” commercial, The Simpsons, live staging of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper”), they opened with an energetic “Way of the World.” Zander, who turns 58 next week, wore a police hat and had no trouble with the wailing chorus.

Rave up rocker “California Man,” the band’s popular cover by The Move, kept the party vibe going. Nielsen might be the elder at 64, but was still spry as ever, climbing up on a black box to engage in whammy bar action amid “On Top of the World” and various other times.

“It’s great to see so many musicians not working tonight,” quipped Nielsen, surveying the packed venue. They could definitely glean plenty of pointers watching these guys. Halfway through the gig, Cheap Trick was engaged in the rollicking, piano-led “The House is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)” when a girl tried to crowd surf and nearly fell to the floor (who expects that at a Cheap Trick show?).

A few selections later, another brazen female crashed the stage on “Sick Man of Europe,” nearly tackling Zander and causing him to lose his place in the song. To avoid security, she staged dived and ran through the middle of the Grove. What a wild and crazy concert. 

Orange County based alt-metal band Burn Halo also impressed with its half-hour opening slot. Fronted by riveting ex-Eighteen Visions singer James Hart, they played songs from the self-titled 2009 debut (top 40 mainstream rock radio hits “Save Me,” “Dirty Little Girl” – Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates guested on the latter’s studio version) and some promising new ones, bringing to mind a mix of AFI, Alice in Chains and Guns ‘N Roses

Cheap Trick, Grove of Anaheim, Jan. 15, 2011
Setlist:
Way of the World/California Man/Hot Love/On Top of the World/I Want You to Want Me/She’s Tight/High Roller/These Days/The House is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)/The Ballad of T.V. Violence (I’m Not the Only Boy)/Baby Loves to Rock/Sick Man of Europe/Closer, the Ballad of Burt and Linda/Surrender
Encore: Clock Strikes Ten/Dream Police/Gonna Raise Hell

NAMM 2011 coverage: Saturday

My report originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog.

Several special and invite only concerts were held Friday evening in conjunction with NAMM. Among the most buzzed about was one Dean Guitars sponsored at the Grove of Anaheim. It featured Megadeth. The company unveiled two new bass series models (“The Spider” and “Hybrid”) inspired by late Who musician John Entwistle.

Yet all the late night partying didn’t deter thousands of NAMM attendees from getting to the Anaheim Convention Center early Saturday morning. Some could be heard complaining about the tighter security measures, reportedly due to past registration badge counterfeiting (entering the convention floor or a trip upstairs to check out a vendor suite required ID, plus badge scanning; that led to many delays as staffers squinted to see the tiny print on foreigners’ passports).

Saturday tends to be the busiest day at NAMM. Artist appearances, performances and signings all multiply and it often takes a good chunk of time just to get down an aisle – especially when people stop and gawk after seeing a popular musician in the flesh. A local school marching band parading through the exhibitor halls also added to the chaos.

Alan Parsons - known for his production/engineering work on The Beatles’ “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and others, plus own his successful group the Alan Parsons Project – was seen discussing his new three-DVD educational series, “The Art and Science of Sound Recording” at the Key Fax New Media booth. Narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, it includes more than 10 hours of material and new Parsons track “All Our Yesterdays.”

During the afternoon, the Taylor Guitars hosted 10 Years. Minus the usual sonic onslaught, the Tennessee alt-metal group’s acoustic set really brought leader Jesse Hasek’s anguished and disturbing lyrics to the forefront. Key examples: the refrain “you can’t kill me that easily” on “Russian Roulette” and “R.E.S.T.,” a tale of rape from 2004’s “Killing All That Holds You.” “The Wicked Ones” was very intense and rock radio hit “So Long, Goodbye” found guitarist Ryan Johnson playing a haunting melody, while Hasek sang with his eyes closed.

Later, Abused Romance (pictured, above) had the unenviable task of performing to an apathetic audience over on the large ACC outdoor patio stage. Still, the Israeli-bred, LA-based heavy rock band gave their all and totally blasted the space with thunderous songs from debut EP “The Sound of Violence” (currently receiving mainstream and alternative radio airplay in SoCal, it is available from digital retailers Tuesday). Far more aggressive live than on the EP, both singer/guitarist Meir Yaniv and bassist Aetam Jakob shook their long hair in unison to the power chords and lead guitarist Amit Ofir continually rattled off monster riffs. “The Sound of Violence,” a more melodic tune, was the definite highlight here.

Photo courtesy of MSO PR and Freeway Entertainment

NAMM 2011 coverage: more from Friday

My report originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog.

Some of the top names in smooth jazz music performed Friday night during Yamaha’s Red Hot Sax Nite II, held at the Anaheim Marriott Grand Ballroom. Dave Koz hosted and performed. Bassist extraordinaire Nathan East, known for his extensive superstar session resume since the 1970s and stint in Fourplay, served as musical director.

The two-hour concert opened with “The Third Degree.” Then Koz joined the four-piece house band for “Put the Top Down,” which can be heard on his latest album “Hello Tomorrow” (in an all-star version with Lee Ritenour, Sheila E., Ray Parker Jr., Jonathan Butler and Brian Culbertson). This rendition found Koz trading punchy sax riffs with guitarist Ross Bolton and impressively holding a sustained note.

“If you don’t like the saxophone, you might as well leave,” warned Koz with a smile, before introducing a succession of players that included Keith Loftus, Jeff Kashiwa (whose keening melody lines informed “Blue Jeans”), Mindi Abair (she brought plenty of visual and musical sizzle) and Jeff Coffin. Whenever the sax players collaborated, their cumulative talents raised the show’s energy level several notches.

Two longtime jazz veterans - trumpeter Bobby Shew and trombonist Andy Martin - paired up on Billy Strayhorn’s dreamy jazz standard “Lush Life.” Coffin, a member of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and recent recruit by the Dave Matthews Band, displayed his aggressive solo style on the New Orleans-flavored “Tall & Lanky” and free jazz of “Turiya.” East even scatted a bit.

The always smiling bassist (pictured, left) was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the instrument manufacturer and a signed guitar.

Later, Abair added a danceable party vibe and some wordless vocals for her song “Lucy’s,” as the other sax players joined in. Koz returned for the bright and fun, Dixieland-styled “Think Big” (another selection culled from “Tomorrow”) and the entire lineup performed it.

But the best was definitely saved for last: a roof raising cover of Average White Band’s popular 1974 hit “Pick Up the Pieces.”

Photos of Jeff Coffin and Mindi Abair (top) and Nathan East (bottom) by Robert Kinsler

Monday, January 17, 2011

NAMM 2011 coverage: Friday

My report originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog. 

Friday afternoon’s festivities in the Taylor Guitars suite at NAMM got off to a rousing start thanks to The Airborne Toxic Event. The LA-based rock band did a mostly acoustic, 20-minute set that showed it can often be just as stirring - and switch instruments with similar dexterity - as Arcade Fire in a live setting.

Although lead singer/guitarist Mikel Jollett looked as if he hadn’t been awake very long, he still delivered some intense vocals on the freewheeling “Missy.” As is custom during the quintet’s concerts, the song segued into a feisty take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” (Jollett even nailed The Boss’ falsetto howls) and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” (Noah Harmon’s standup bass work really propelled the rhythm) before circling back to the original melody. Modern rock radio hit “Sometime Around Midnight,” propelled by Anna Bulbrook’s graceful violin strains, had a dramatic uplift and sounded wonderful. 

Across the hall in the dimly lit Pioneer Electronics room, Chicago house music DJ Kaskade spun tunes - including a remix of Nomad’s “(I Wanna Give You) Devotion” - as various people tried out the newest mixers and decks.

Ed Robertson and Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies immediately followed ATE. The Taylor suite was packed and the doors had to be shut well before the Canadian pop/rock musicians hit the stage. For 40-minutes, both guitarists (Hearn alternated between electric and acoustic, while Robertson stuck with the latter) thoroughly entertained the crowd. Their trademark comic banter and strategically-placed humorous lyric changes were a hoot, especially amid a fast-paced “It’s All Been Done” and “Pinch Me.”  

“We aren’t the guys who do masterful things onstage and they immediately spread virally online,” noted Robertson at one point. Still, they engaged in a bit of intricate picking on “For You” and the strident pace of “Ordinary,” from last year’s “All in Good Time.” Hearn handled the fragile lead vocals on the title track rarity that didn't actually make the album cut.

Elsewhere, “Blame it on Me,” from 1992 debut “Gordon,” came across more ruminative and dramatic in a stripped down format, while the whimsical “Thanks, That Was Fun” was prefaced by a story about how Robertson accidentally ripped off Neil Young in the intro. Finally, big hit “One Week” capped the lively performance

Out in the Anaheim Convention Center hall, Lisa Loeb held court before a large crowd gathered around the theater-styled (and I must say, awkwardly-placed) Alfred Publishing booth. “I feel like I’m playing in a puppet show,” she sheepishly admitted.

Armed with an acoustic guitar, the pop/rock songstress did an amiable version of old song “Wishing Heart” and a new tune from her upcoming “punky” album produced by New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert (!).

Loeb enthused that NAMM “was like being in the hugest store ever” before doing equally big hit “Stay” from the “Reality Bites” soundtrack. Amazingly, her supple voice managed to cut through all the racket going on everywhere. Loeb finished with “Best Friend,” an endearing song from her 2008 children’s album “Camp Lisa.”

Ed Robertson photo from Nov. 2010 in New York, courtesy of barenakedladies.com

NAMM 2011 coverage: more from Thursday


My report originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog.

One thing is usually a sure bet at NAMM: that Taylor Guitars will secure a highly impressive performance roster for its upstairs Anaheim Convention Center suite (a past memorable appearance by Taylor Swift immediately comes to mind).

Frequently boasting lush, Beach Boys-styled harmonies, Plain White T’s was a perfect fit for the Taylor acoustic stage on Thursday afternoon. All five members of the Chicago punk-pop band were lined up on stools in front of the stage. The half-hour set opened with romantic ballad “1, 2, 3, 4” and included such other alternative and pop radio hits as the ebullient “Our Time Now” and sarcastic “Hate (I Really Don’t Like You).”

On the latter, lead guitarist/singer Tim Lopez jokingly polled the medium-sized audience to see if there were any songwriters present and offered some advice: “Try to not to write outside your vocal range like [frontman Tom Higgenson] did.” The quintet excelled on newer selections from winsome latest effort “Wonders of the Younger,” released last month. Lopez handled lead vocals on the jaunty power pop-leaning “Rhythm of Love,” while current single “Boomerang” revisited mid-60s Beatles territory with even more pristine harmonies. “Hey There Delilah,” the tender No. 1 hit from 2007, originally recorded in stripped down fashion, fit perfectly in this setting too.

The band returns to Anaheim to play House of Blues on Feb. 7 with Parachute.   
Plain White T's photo by Robert Kinsler 

NAMM 2011 coverage: Thursday

My report originally appeared on ocregister.com and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog.

Following a media day light on overall events Jan. 12, the NAMM trade show really kicked into gear the next day. Out on the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center, various musicians held court at different instrument booths to promote their gear manufacturers and sign autographs for fans (NAMM is not open to the general public though). One of the largest lines I saw in the afternoon was for Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer, there signing copies of his memoir “Hit Hard” at the Ludwig booth.

The John Lennon Educational Bus launched its 2011 campaign with an appearance at NAMM. The vehicle with a custom-build studio inside travels to high schools and colleges nationwide (not to mention concert tours and festivals like Warped) to promote music in education and assist budding musicians make their first forays into recording.

Outside the ACC on the Wanna Play? stage, Gov. Mike Huckabee made yet another appearance; this time, in support of Lennon bus endeavors and surprisingly compared the lack of music funding in schools today to the animated conveyor belt scene in Pink Floyd’s video for “Another Brick in the Wall, Part. 2.” Former New York Yankees center fielder and smooth jazz guitarist Bernie Williams discussed how attending a performing arts high school in Puerto Rico had an early influence on him.

British pop star Natasha Bedingfield has often mentored students on the Lennon bus. She appeared onstage to perform a joyful – and way too brief – two song set, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. First up was the upbeat and sassy “Weightless,” off Bedingfield’s solid third album “Strip Me.” Released last month, the collection features a collaboration with hip hop act Kevin Rudolf and co-writes/production by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. Bedingfield clapped her hands while delivering a soaring vocal and engaged the moderate-sized crowd in some call and response action. Then came her equally sunny, but more straightforward 2004 top 10 pop hit “Unwritten.”

Finally, a presentation was made to John Lennon Songwriting Contest Winner Madison Violet. The female Americana duo from Toronto beat out thousands of contestants in a dozen categories to snag $20,000, plus a stack of recording equipment. They played “The Ransom,” a pleasant acoustic ballad reminiscent of the Indigo Girls.

Bedingfield photo courtesy of the Orange County Register. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Johnny Cash news

Columbia/Legacy Recordings put out this press release about its great upcoming archival release from the Man in Black...

The musical treasures left behind by Johnny Cash at the House Of Cash estate in Hendersonville, Tennessee, continue to provide insight into his character as an American music icon – perhaps the American music icon. The rich backwoods archive first bore fruit on Columbia/Legacy nearly five years ago, with the release of Personal File aka Bootleg Vol. 1, a fascinating double-CD collection of 49 privately recorded, intimate solo performances dating from 1973 to 1982.


FROM MEMPHIS TO HOLLYWOOD: BOOTLEG VOL. 2 continues the series, focusing on Johnny Cash's recording career at Sun Records in Memphis from late 1954 to late '57 (on CD One), into his first decade at Columbia Records in Nashville, from 1958 to 1969 (on CD Two).  BOOTLEG VOL. 2 will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting February 22.

The trove of archival material on BOOTLEG VOL. 2 begins with a 15-minute live radio broadcast from KWEM in Memphis, hosted by Johnny Cash, who worked for Home Equipment Company, the show's sponsor right across the street from the radio station.  The date was Saturday, May 21, 1955, in the same month that Cash recorded his first Sun single, "Cry! Cry! Cry!" b/w "Hey Porter." In addition to his lively palaver, Cash and the Tennessee Two – guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant – performed a handful of tunes, including the honky tonk "Wide Open Road," a cover of "One More Ride" (from the Sons Of the Pioneers), the gospel "Belshazzar," and the guitar showpiece, "Luther's Boogie."  The broadcast is followed by a one minute spot advertising an upcoming show at the Overton Park Shell, starring Webb Pierce, Red Sovine, Elvis Presley, Cash, and other country acts.

CD One continues with a dozen historically-significant, pre-Sun demos by Cash, 11 of them previously unreleased.  These rare home-recorded demos served as blueprints to such enduring Cash originals as "I Walk The Line," "Get Rhythm" and "Country Boy," and provide new insight into Cash's songwriting.  Two of these demos would soon turn into rockabilly hits for Roy Orbison ("You're My Baby") and Warren Smith ("Rock And Roll Ruby").

Under the heading Sun Rarities are seven outtakes produced between late 1954 and late 1957 by Sam Phillips and Jack Clement.  In addition to familiar Cash titles ("Big River," "Wide Open Road"), there are covers of tunes by Jimmy Rodgers ("Brakeman's Blues"), Marty Robbins ("I Couldn't Keep From Crying"), and Lead Belly ("Goodnight Irene"), an indication of Cash's abiding interest and love for the burgeoning folk music movement, whose embrace of him was a hallmark of his career.  CD One concludes with two final demos, "Restless Kid" (later recorded by Ricky Nelson), and "It's All Over."

The 25 tracks on CD Two span Cash's first 11 years at Columbia Records; he was ultimately with the label for 28 years, through 1986.  This disc presents a fresh gathering of Columbia non-album singles, outtakes, and B-sides being released digitally for the first time in the U.S. (11 of them previously unreleased in the U.S.).

The move to Columbia also meant a move to Los Angeles for Cash and his family as he developed a taste for film and television work, both as a songwriter and as an actor. In the Golden Age of TV westerns and movies, Cash was a natural. His larger-than-life presence boosted the popularity of the gunfighter ballads and Americana tales that became a pop music genre at the end of the 1950s and into the '60s, exemplified by such titles as "Restless Kid," "Johnny Yuma Theme," and "Hardin Wouldn't Run." Another example is "Shifting, Whispering Sands," a spoken-sung collaboration with Lorne Greene, better known as Bonanza TV patriarch Ben Cartwright.

The musical passions of Johnny Cash – from traditional gospel and folk, to Tin Pan Alley and Music Row, among many other sources – were given full rein in 1969, when The Johnny Cash Show became a weekly event on ABC-TV.  It is at that point, with the evocative theme of the show's central feature, "Come Along And Ride This Train," that BOOTLEG VOL. 2 concludes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Robbie Robertson news

More cool news from the label just came across my desk...

On April 5, 429 Records will release How To Become Clairvoyant, Robbie Robertson's fifth solo album and his first record in more than 10 years. Guitar virtuosos Eric Clapton (who co-wrote three tracks with Robertson), Tom Morello and Robert Randolph guest on the album, which Robertson co-produced with Marius de Vries. How To Become Clairvoyant also features Steve Winwood and Trent Reznor as well as vocalists Angela McCluskey, Rocco Deluca and bassist Pino Palladino.

On his last two albums – Music for The Native Americans (1994) and Contact from the Underworld of Redboy (1998) – Robertson explored his ancestry. Now, with How To Become Clairvoyant, he takes on his rock heritage, delivering his first-ever song about leaving The Band, the evocative "This Is Where I Get Off." "What is lost? What is missing?" Robertson asks on "When The Night Was Young," a poignant reflection on youthful idealism. "We could change the world/stop the war…but that was back when the night was young."  You can check out "When The Night Was Young" at:
http://www.429records.com/sites/429records/pressclips/robbie/

The smoldering "Straight Down The Line" is a sly nod to rock 'n' roll's early reputation as the Devil's music, while the blistering "He Don't Live Here No More" details a battle with addiction. The latter features Clapton on harmony vocal and electric and slide guitars alongside Robertson's soulful gut string guitar solo.

Named one of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time," Robertson was a founding member of The Band, penning such classic songs as "The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up On Cripple Creek." The Band's 1976 farewell concert was documented by director Martin Scorsese in the film The Last Waltz and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

In addition to his acclaimed solo albums, Robertson also has a long list of film credits. As Executive Soundtrack Producer for 1996's Phenomenon, he recruited Clapton to perform "Change the World," which subsequently won GRAMMY® awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. He has collaborated with Scorsese on numerous films, including Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Casino, Gangs of New York and Shutter Island.