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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Social Distortion guitarist strikes out on his own

Salvation Town, the solo debut by Jonny Two Bags, guitarist for the Southern California punk rock institution Social Distortion, is due April 1 via Isotone/Thirty Tigers Records.

It was produced by David Kalish, noted for his long association with Rickie Lee Jones. Jackson Browne shares vocals with Wickersham on “Then You Stand Alone,” while David Lindley, whose guitar work graced several of Browne’s classic ’70s albums, contributes to four tracks.

Los Lobos’ multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo and his sons David Jr. and Vincent join in on “Wayward Cain” and super-sideman Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Eric Clapton, k.d. lang, Dave Alvin) also appears on guitar.

The drum chair is filled by Pete Thomas, a mainstay of Elvis Costello’s bands The Attractions and The Imposters. Guest vocalist Gaby Moreno (recent Latin Grammy Award winner as Best New Artist) sings on “Avenues."

Other vocal guests include Julie Miller (wife and collaborator of Buddy Miller) and backup singers Terry Evans and Arnold McCuller, best known for their work with Ry Cooder and James Taylor.

Social Distortion colleagues like keyboardist Danny McGough and bassist Brent Harding, join on a few tracks while Austin accordion luminary Joel Guzman and bassist/punk kingpin Zander Schloss (Weirdos, Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster) round out the lineup.

The roots-based sound of Salvation Town carves out new stylistic terrain for Wickersham, who joined Social Distortion in 2000 after the untimely death of his friend Dennis Danell.

A product of Southern California, Jonny Two Bags had already put together a formidable punk rock résumé before joining Social Distortion. He co-founded the Orange County band Cadillac Tramps, cutting three albums with the group, and subsequently recorded and toured with L.A. punk unit Youth Brigade as well as pro skateboarder Duane Peters’ hard-edged U.S. Bombs.

Wickersham, who co-wrote several songs with Ness for Social Distortion’s albums Sex, Love and Rock ’n’ Roll (2004) and Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (2011), was also penning songs of his own during that time.

He says, “I’ve always been a sideman, so I usually write songs with the hope that the singer will like what I’ve written, take it, tweak it and maybe add some verses of his own.”
Producer Kalish had been urging Wickersham to make his own record for years. Finally, after tempting him with the opportunity to record with Pete Thomas, one of his favorite drummers, Wickersham could no longer resist and work on Salvation Town began.


Over the next two years Kalish helped iron out some new tunes and put the finishing touches on pre-existing tunes like “Then You Stand Alone” and “Forlorn Walls” in between Wickersham’s stints recording and touring with Social Distortion.

The material reflects a multiplicity of musical styles and influences. Wickersham’s father, a professional musician who played folk, rock ’n’ roll, and country-rock, instilled in him a love of Southern California musicians like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and Linda Ronstadt. Wickersham’s own taste in contemporary performers runs the gamut from Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams to Calexico.

Wickersham adds, “As a second- or third-generation punk guy from Orange County, the kings of the music world for me were The Blasters, Los Lobos and X. That school of musicians was as real as it could ever get. I connected with that really early on. That’s how I discovered music — basically, through those artists, the L.A. rockabilly scene, the L.A. roots-punk scene. They schooled me when I was still a little punk rocker on a skateboard."

He was set on making an honest-sounding album without resorting to an overly manicured studio sound: “I was used to making raggedy-sounding music and I wanted to stay true to that without making a punk rock record. It was important to me to record something that doesn’t sound over-produced and still has some spirit."

The combination of Wickersham’s roots-music orientation and his dark, hyper-realistic compositions made for a stylistic shift that even the musician himself didn’t anticipate. “The finished product is not necessarily what I set out to do,” he says. ”It’s not a guitar record, and that’s something that I wouldn’t have expected.”

For many, the greatest revelation of Salvation Town will be Wickersham’s accomplished, fully-realized songwriting, which grew out of his tumultuous youth in the L.A. and Orange County music scenes. Writing and recording this album of streetwise and sometimes painfully frank songs about a life lived with “one foot in the gutter and one foot kicking in the door to Heaven” proved to be somewhat of a cathartic experience.

He notes, “As I was making this record, I realized that in some of these songs I’m singing about things that happened a lifetime ago for me and that was challenging. I just accepted the fact that I needed to purge myself on this record. I wrote about things that happened when I was growing up, feelings and experiences that I have had … stuff that I have never been that open about. Even though my life is different now all of those experiences are still hanging there, just below the surface. I guess it never really goes away … those that have lived it know.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rod Stewart live box set coming

This sounds amazing and I can't wait to hear it....

Warner Bros. Records shines a spotlight on Rod Stewart's legacy on stage with a four-disc collection. It spans more than 20 years, with 58 unreleased live recordings that include his biggest hits along with some covers.

Live 1976-1998: Tonight's The Night will be available on March 18; a digital version will be released the same day.

Arranged chronologically, the opening disc is comprised of performances recorded in a variety of venues across England in 1976. Many of the songs are from Stewart's then-current album, the double-platinum A Night on the Town , including the smash, "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)," which was a #1 hit in the U.S. for eight weeks. Other memorable performances include "You Wear It Well," "Maggie May" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" from the #1 album, Every Picture Tells a Story.


The second disc includes two songs recorded in 1976 - "Sailing" and "Stay With Me," a song Stewart originally recorded with the Faces - but the majority of the music comes from a 1979 concert at the Forum in Los Angeles.

Performances include "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right" from the triple-platinum Foot Loose and Fancy Free, and the title track from Stewart's #1 album, Blondes Have More Fun. Also featured are several songs from Foolish Behavior recorded in 1980 at Wembley Stadium, as well as Stewart's raucous duet with Tina Turner on "Hot Legs," from a 1981 show in LA.

The third disc spans 1984-89 and features a selection of strong performances from two concerts. One was recorded in 1984 in San Diego and includes "Some Guys Have All The Luck" and "You're In My Heart (Final Acclaim)." The second concert was recorded in 1989 at the Meadowlands, on the tail end of his tour in support of Stewart's double platinum album Out Of Order. Those songs include "Forever Young," "Infatuation," "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" and "I Ain't Superstitious," a song he originally recorded in 1968 with the Jeff Beck Group. 

On the final disc are recordings made between 1991-98, beginning with a 1991 show at Wembley Stadium where Stewart mixed "Downtown Train" and "Baby Jane" with classics like "Mandolin Wind."

Stewart was riding a massive wave of success from the Unplugged...and Seated album in 1993 when he performed at the Greek Theatre in LA. Several songs taken from that show touch on Stewart's early years, like "Handbags And Gladrags" from his solo debut An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down (1969), "Cut Across Shorty" from Gasoline Alley (1970) and "(Find A) Reason To Believe" from Every Picture Tells A Story (1971).

The final disc closes with covers of Oasis' "Cigarettes And Alcohol" and Primal Scream's "Rocks" recorded in London in 1998. Those are just two of the many covers featured on the box set, a showcase for Stewart's unparalleled skill at interpreting other artists' music. Among the highlights are: Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart," the Beatles' "Get Back," Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately," B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby," the blues standard "Baby Please Don't Go" and several songs by Sam Cooke, who had an enormous influence. 

Stewart's love of performing still prevails - this year, fans around the world will have an opportunity to see him live in concert when he brings his "Live the Life" tour to South America this February and continuing at stadiums throughout Europe this summer. This April, he'll also make his much-anticipated return to his residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Visit RodStewart.com for more details.

LIVE 1976-1998: TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT
Track Listing

Disc One: 1976
1.    "Three Time Loser"
2.    "You Wear It Well"
3.    "Big Bayou"
4.    "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)"
5.    "The Wild Side Of Life"
6.    "Sweet Little Rock 'n Roller"
7.    "I Don't Want To Talk About It"
8.    "The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II)"
9.    "Maggie May"
10.    "Angel"
11.    "Get Back"
12.    "(I Know) I'm Losing You"
13.    "This Old Heart Of Mine"

Disc Two: 1976-1981
1.    "Sailing"
2.    "Stay With Me"
3.    "Born Loose"
4.    "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right"
5.    "I Just Want To Make Love To You"
6.    "Blondes (Have More Fun)"
7.    Medley: "(I Know) I'm Losing You/It's All Over Now/Standin' In The Shadows Of Love/Layla"
8.    Medley: "Twistin' The Night Away/Every Picture Tells A Story"
9.    "She Won't Dance With Me"
10.    "Passion"
11.    "Gi' Me Wings"
12.    "Hot Legs" - With Tina Turner

Disc Three: 1984-1989
1.    "Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)"
2.    "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)"
3.    "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay"
4.    "Hungry Heart"
5.    "Bad For You"
6.    "Some Guys Have All The Luck"
7.    "Rock Me Baby"
8.    "Infatuation"
9.    "I Ain't Superstitious"
10.    "Every Picture Tells A Story"
11.    "Lost In You"
12.    "Forever Young"
13.    "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"
14.    "Crazy About Her"
15.    "Try A Little Tenderness"
16.    "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)" (Reprise)

Disc Four: 1991-1998
1.    "Downtown Train"
2.    "This Old Heart Of Mine"
3.    "Stay With Me"
4.    "Sweet Soul Music"
5.    "Mandolin Wind"
6.    "Highgate Shuffle"
7.    "Baby Jane"
8.    "Baby Please Don't Go"
9.    "Cut Across Shorty"
10.    "(Find A) Reason To Believe"
11.    "Handbags & Gladrags"
12.    "Having A Party"
13.    "People Get Ready"
14.    "Have I Told You Lately"
15.    Medley: "Twistin' The Night Away/Chain Gang"
16.    "Cigarettes And Alcohol"
17.    "Rocks"

NAMM 2014: Best in Show Products

For a musician, walking through the massive Anaheim Convention Center halls during NAMM is like being a kid in a candy store. There are so many instruments, so much gear and so much going on (artist signings, demos, performances) that it takes at least a couple days to absorb it all. You never know what you'll find going on around the corner.

Here are some items that immediately caught my attention at NAMM 2014 last week...


















Martin Guitars' sharp new Eric Clapton signature edition model (OM-ECHF Navy Blues), the third in a series of collaborations between the guitar maker, rock 'n' roll hall of famer and Hiroshi Fujiwara.

Previous ECHF models included the "Bellezza Nera" (Black Beauty) and "Bellezza Bianca" (White Beauty) with a 24.9" scale length. This OM edition incorporates a longer 25.4" scale for added string tension and tonal projection.

The neck and body are lacquered and polished with a striking dark navy coloration combined with atop East Indian rosewood back and sides and a European spruce soundboard.

Each OM-ECHF Navy Blues guitar bears an interior label, individually numbered and personally signed by Eric Clapton, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Dick Boak and C. F. Martin IV. Quantities will be limited to 181 guitars. (MSRP: $6,999)

Online: www.martinguitar.com

Early Friday afternoon, I decided to check out the wares in Hall E on the lower level and stumbled upon the Mahalo Ukelele booth. It drew a sizable crowd, thanks to a pair of hula dancers and a guy playing/singing songs like Harry Belafonte's "Day-O."
















The China-based company started in the early 2000s and sells electric and acoustic ukes, plus lap steel models. Designs range from custom, mahogany and colored to flags, art, rock and my favorite - surf, which - you guessed it - is shaped like a surfboard. Even better - the prices are reasonable.

Online: www.mahalo-ukelele.com

Located directly across from Mahalo was Matsikas S.A. Musical Instruments, whose headquarters is in Athens, Greece. It has specialized in the production of Hellenic traditional musical instruments since 1979. 


















Products include Turkish ouds, bouzoukis, tamburas, tzouras, lyras, mandolas and lutes as well as cellos, mandolins, banjos, violins, violas, accordions and accessories. 

Online: www.matsikas.gr














Taking the prize for the most bizarre instrument I saw during NAMM '14 was the drum set (above) by Tampa-based Crush Drums and Percussion that was encased in a vine-type apparatus display dubbed "The Tree of Life." Several adults and teenagers clamored atop a pedestal to take their picture with the kit. 

Online: www.crushdrum.com

Over at the Ogre booth, the Korean company's Thunderclap distortion and Tubeholic overdrive effects pedals with gargoyle covers, in addition to this guitar below, were very interesting. 

 



 



 
 

Online: www.orgre.kr

Heading upstairs to the large Peavey Electronics room and performance area, I was fascinated by the novelty designed guitars based on TV's "The Simpsons," "The Walking Dead," the film "Star Wars," various comic superheroes and more. Not just for kids learning how to play, these instruments easily appeal to fanboy adult musicians too.

 












Based in Mississippi, Peavey is one of the top instrument and amplifier manufacturers in America, was founded in 1965 and boasts more than 2,000 products. 

Online: www.peavey.com
 













On the main floor of the convention center, there was also an enclosed display featuring the 
"The Walking Dead" guitars...

  

 

 






Tuesday, January 28, 2014

NAMM 2014: Performances and more

A version of my article originally appeared at ocregister.com.

photo courtesy of NAMM
For many music industry professionals, the winter NAMM Show’s return to Anaheim Convention Center this past week was the year’s top priority. While walking through the large trade show floors, it was common to hear people say their schedules were arranged around the annual trip to O.C. or how much they couldn’t wait to come back.

International retailers touted their regular products and lateste innovations. New and established musicians used it to discover, network and promote tools that help them fulfill their creative ambitions.

Brian Transeau is a key example of the latter. The American electronic dance artist known as BT (shown below) spent more than a decade refining Break Tweaker with help from Massachusetts company iZotope. During a demo of the drum synthesizer and beat machine product Thursday afternoon, he showed how to stretch and subdivide music notes in different meters as onlookers gasped.

photo courtesy of NAMM
Loud EDM sounds blaring from the small iZotope booth expectedly drew a big crowd. 

“There are so many firsts,” BT excitably stated to the assembled throng. “It breaks the usual paradigm … I’m scared to see what dubstep producers will do with this.” 

Leland Sklar, on the other hand, mainly utilizes NAMM to see old friends and connect with European and Japanese vendors he usually only communicates with via email.

“For me, it’s mainly about the social experience than hunting down new gear. There’s not much new stuff I need at this point,” admitted the veteran bassist, whose extensive studio session credits since the '70s includes work for Phil Collins, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Warren Zevon. “To me, everything here is like reinventing the wheel.”

“A few years ago, it was depressing with the state of the economy,” he added. “I really feel the energy of the music business now.”

Singer Will Champlin, 30, third-place finalist on the recently completed season of NBC’s The Voice, said he’s been going to NAMM for half his life: “I like seeing the new products and software for making cool new sounds.” Champlin was specifically hunting for a good wireless pack, in-ear monitors, headphones and microphones.

photo by George A. Paul
Fellow music competition show finalist Elise Testone (from 2012’s American Idol, pictured left) attended her inaugural NAMM and played at the Westone Audio booth.

Passionate, bluesy songs like “Can’t Get Enough” and “Still We Try” rose above the noisy din on the convention center's floor and served as a preview of her debut album, In This Life, due next month.

“I think it’s important to be aware of what the music community has to offer. We’re all on the same level,” Testone said. She felt the show’s major benefit for musicians was to “get up to date on all the latest equipment.”

Nashville pop/rock artist and NAMM newbie Ben Rector felt it was “great to see what’s new out there and reconnect with the companies you enjoy.”

Obviously another big part of the trade show is the live performances. Dozens of acts played on five stages located in or around the hall and adjoining hotels, plus vendor booths.

photo courtesy of NAMM
Saturday night, Hall of Famer Robby Krieger (pictured) headlined the large outdoor GoPro Stage on the Grand Plaza. The former Doors guitarist and his five-piece band Jam Kitchen included two sax men who cooked up a heady musical brew despite a muddy sound mix.

Opening the 90-minute set with some trippy instrumental jazz-rock excursions, Krieger’s fingerstyle fretwork remains dexterous as ever after nearly 50 years.

“Here’s one you might remember,” he said, before a hypnotic instrumental take on the Doors’ “You’re Lost, Little Girl.”

The crowd howled in recognition at the classic rumbling riff of “Love Me Two Times,” where Krieger handled lead vocals. The added sax strains were seamless and the players were clearly having fun.

Bassist Arthur Barrow (pictured below) sang/spoke the bizarre “Cosmik Debris,” by his former boss, Frank Zappa, and Krieger tore off some stinging runs. A sprightly, compact “Coffin Dodger” (off Krieger’s 2010 CD Singularity) featured memorable slide guitar.

Halfway through, guest vocalist Dave Brock, of L.A.-based Doors tribute act Wild Child, and Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz kicked the show’s energy level up a few notches. An extended “Touch Me” really benefitted from the horns; the bluesy “Back Door Man” sizzled, thanks to some musical call-and-response action between Krieger and guest harmonica player Lee Oskar, a founding member of Eric Burdon & War.

photo courtesy of NAMM
An enthralling “Riders on the Storm” found Brock in fine, brooding, Jim Morrison-esque form, and Molitz smiled broadly during his interplay with Krieger.

“Light My Fire” (featured twice on the highly recommended new Doors DVD compilation, R-Evolution) whipped the crowd into a frenzy as each musician got a chance to shine.

The guitar vet even incorporated a snatch of the Sound of Music standard “My Favorite Things.” Finally, Brock leaned over the crowd amid fiery closer “Roadhouse Blues” and people sang along loudly to the refrain.

photo by George A. Paul
Earlier Saturday, Joseph Arthur played a freewheeling set on the GoPro stage before a sparse, indifferent lunchtime crowd.

Battling sound problems, the irreverent Ohio alt-folk singer/guitarist spotlighted songs from his 10th and latest studio effort, the intriguing Ballad of Boogie Christ.

Released in two parts last year, the loosely structured concept album features appearances from Fistful of Mercy bandmate Ben Harper, Band keyboardist Garth Hudson, drummer Jim Keltner and others. It was released in the U.K. via Real World, the label belonging to one of Arthur's earliest benefactors, Peter Gabriel.

Accompanied by bassist Jonny Polonsky and a drummer, Arthur apparently dropped an F-bomb onstage and threatened to have his time cut short. Laconic, World Party-esque vocals were often paired with wicked electric guitar solos. “I’m sharing this with you in a therapeutic way,” he said. Highlights included “I Used to Know How to Walk on Water” and the rapid-fire wordplay on the intense addiction tune “I Miss the Zoo” (based on a poem).

photo by Bob Steshetz
Sheila E. headlined Friday night’s festive GoPro Stage in conjunction with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Imagine Party.

Before the concert started, Everclear’s Art Alexakis explained how he wrote, recorded and mixed a new pop/soul song called “Free,” with students at Los Angeles Music Academy's College of Music (where Alexakis serves as songwriting chair), then shot a music video, all in half a day. Then it was shown on a screen.

“You get back as well as you give ... tenacity is how you win in this life,” he said and proceeded to deliver a solo acoustic version of the Everclear hit “Santa Monica.” Too bad more Alexakis music didn’t follow.

Despite a ton of energy, Sheila E. and her seven-piece band turned in an erratic performance, rife with medleys. They began with several tracks from Icon, her first studio release since 2001 (due in April) and boasting appearances by frequent collaborator Prince and MC Lyte. But new Latin jazz, funk and R&B jams like “Nasty Thang,” “Lovely Day” and “I’ll Give You That” came off flat.

photo by Bob Steshetz
The large crowd ate it up, however, and Sheila’s rhythmic delivery on various drum sets and congas were still a wonder to behold.

Following an anecdote about growing up in the musical Escovedo family, she turned in a satisfactory version of “Koo Koo,” her minor 1987 R&B hit.

An ill-advised snippet of the Purple One’s “Erotic City” was followed by bigger E. tunes from the '80s, the fun and punchy “Belle of St. Mark” and groove-laden “A Love Bizarre,” which unfortunately fizzled out.

Indoors at the Marriott Hotel Lobby Stage, Camille Bloom (pictured below) was clad in a bright flowery shirt and proved to be a commanding presence during her Friday afternoon set. Often recalling Ani DiFranco and Suzanne Vega, the Seattle folk singer and guitarist (alongside robust backing vocalist Gaelen Billingsley), delivered a powerful 45-minute set, leavened with humorous between-song banter.

photo by George A. Paul
“The System Is Broken,” among three selections from Bloom’s 2013 indie EP release Big Dreams, was an intense, politically-tinged tune about “the have-nots in our culture.”

It was simply riveting. The title track was an even catchier pop confection live; tension-filled “Here You Come Again,” off the 2010 full-length title Never Out of Time, was equally strong.

Fast and feisty closer “Habit” saw Bloom hilariously add bits of Donna Summer, Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Carly Rae Jepsen and more.

Taylor Guitars can always be counted on at NAMM to present a solid crop of promising young talent, plus a couple big names thrown in for good measure. This year was no exception.


photo by Bob Steshetz
Upstairs in the convention center late Thursday, the San Diego company’s spacious room hosted Johnnyswim, a Nashville-based Americana duo whose 40-minute performance was often akin to the Civil Wars.

Acoustic guitarist Abner Ramirez had a burnished, Ben Harper singing style during the delicate ballad “Annie” and the partially Spanish-sung “Adelina” (both from last year's Heart Beats EP). Meanwhile, Amanda Sudano belted out her vocal lines with finesse, especially on the title track and “Diamonds.” They boasted a comfortable rapport together. Looking forward to hearing the debut album in April.

Definitely one to watch.

photo by Bob Steshetz
Good Old War provided warm, inviting harmonies Friday with their Guster-meets-CSN tunes. The unassuming Philly indie folk trio let their music do all the talking. “Better Weather,” a pleasant “Loud Love” and “That’s Some Dream” fared best.

“Hello, I’m John Mayer,” joked the boyish Ben Rector, 27, at the start of a short, memorable Taylor Room appearance on Saturday.

Then the Oklahoma native poked fun at his own attire. Indeed, a self-deprecating sense of humor and adult-geared, heart-on-sleeve pop/rock songs are traits that Mayer - not to mention Matt Nathanson and Eric Hutchinson – all share with Rector. The difference? This guy adds some inspirational sentiments to the mix.


photo by George A. Paul
A 2006 John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner, the singer/guitarist has toured with Needtobreathe, regularly places in the upper reaches of various iTunes charts and gets his music placed in TV dramas.

Rector’s inspiring fifth album, The Walking in Between, reached the Billboard Top 200 tally and was tailor-made for coffee houses.

During the appealing “Easy Loving You,” Rector adeptly made up a third verse from an audience poll suggestion; the emotional “Sailboat” and dramatic “When a Heart Breaks” soared with vigor. I missed his last House of Blues Anaheim gig. Hope he returns again soon. 

Jason Mraz last played Taylor at NAMM four years ago. His return drew a capacity crowd that spilled outside the doors. Company head Bob Taylor gave a heartfelt introduction about master builder Andy Powers and fellow San Diego resident Mraz.

Accompanied by female folk-rock band Raining Jane (which added cello and mandolin strains on different songs), the amiable Grammy winner opened with a haunting revamp of his Top 10 single “I’m Yours.”

Then he offered a preview of several promising numbers from upcoming album Yes; the sumptuous “Long Drive” sounds like a real gem.

After reminiscing about his early days in San Diego, Mraz and the ladies performed the quietly elegant ballad “A Beautiful Mess” with some supple harmonies, and his sustained vocal note drew loud applause.

Finally, the smooth “Lucky” segued into Spandau Ballet’s “True” and ended the Taylor NAMM series on a high.












 
For even more in-depth coverage of NAMM 2014, head to: youtube.com/user/musicworthbuying and rockwrite.blogspot.com

Eels ready new music

Eels are set to release The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett on April 22.
 
The new 13 track album from singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Everett (aka E) marks his 11th full-length release for Eels, whose debut Beautiful Freak was released in 1996.
 
Everett has also embarked on a number of non-musical projects, including his acclaimed book Things the Grandchildren Should Know and the multiple-award winning Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives documentary film about Everett and his quantum physicist father, Hugh Everett III, broadcast on PBS’ Nova series.

Watch the album trailer for The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett here: 

Bob Dylan 1980s tribute album has ecelectic roster

ATO Records will release Bob Dylan In The 80s: Volume One on March 25. It covers the period starting with 1980's Saved and ends with 1990's Under The Red Sky (including unreleased material -- the "80s Basement Tapes" -- and The Traveling Wilburys).
 
Album contributors include Built To Spill, Glen Hansard, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Langhorne Slim, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Deer Tick, Blitzen Trapper, Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket and more. First track "Jokerman" by Built to Spill, is available now.
 
In the liner notes, New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude) writes, "In the famously difficult art of going up against Dylan's performance of his own material, a number of these reach the highest threshold. I hope Bob Dylan listens to this record, and plays it for his current touring band."

When you ask someone to name a Bob Dylan song or album from the 1980s, you usually get a blank stare in return. Bob Dylan In The 80s: Volume One helps to answer this question.

"80s Dylan is by no means a celebrated period in his career," says co-producer Lauter. "It was, in fact, the lowest point of his commercial success even though he released eight studio albums."
 
He continues, "Our goal was to showcase one of the greatest artists of our time during an off-rhythm period and bring a stronger sense of harmony to the material at hand. Sean and I did everything we could to make this album flow together sonically as if you were listening to a concept album."

Again, Lethem claims, "Given the benefit of decades more hindsight, our Dylan was a lot better than anyone knew...Were one to begin compiling instances of greatness in the type of songwriting that defines our esteem for the earlier Dylan - complex, suggestive, glinting, cascading constructions - you'd hit a dozen examples even before the "comeback" of Oh Mercy."

Portions of proceeds from album sales will go to the charity, Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world. The charity has built more than 150 schools in Asia, Africa and Latin America. For more information, visit pencilsofpromise.org.

TRACK LISTING:

1) Langhorne Slim & The Law - "Got My Mind Made Up"(from Knocked Out Loaded, 1986)
2) Built To Spill - "Jokerman" (from Infidels, 1983)
3) Reggie Watts - "Brownsville Girl (Reprise)" (from Knocked Out Loaded, 1986)
4) Craig Finn (The Hold Steady) - "Sweetheart Like You" (from Infidels, 1983)
5) Ivan & Alyosha - "You Changed My Life" (from Shot Of Love outtakes, 1981)
6) Deer Tick - "Night After Night" (from Hearts of Fire Soundtrack, 1987)
7) Dawn Landes & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Dark Eyes" (from Empire Burlesque, 1985)
8) Tea Leaf Green - "Waiting To Get Beat" (from Empire Burlesque outtakes, 1985)
9) Aaron Freeman of Ween & Slash - "Wiggle Wiggle (from Under The Red Sky, 1990)
10) Elvis Perkins - "Congratulations" (from Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, 1988)
11) Hannah Cohen - "Covenant Woman" (from Saved, 1980)
12) Marco Benevento - "Every Grain Of Sand" (from Shot Of Love, 1981)
13) Yellowbirds - "Series Of Dreams" (from Oh Mercy outtakes, 1989)
14) Blitzen Trapper - "Unbelievable" (from Under The Red Sky, 1990)
15) Lucius - "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" (from Empire Burlesque, 1985)
16) Glen Hansard - "Pressing On" (from Saved, 1980)
17) Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket) - "Death Is Not The End" (from Down In The Groove, 1988)

In addition, there will be seven bonus tracks available exclusively via iTunes as a Deluxe Edition and will also be included on the digital download card that accompanies the vinyl. They are:

1) Spirit Family Reunion - "Man Of Peace" (from Infidels, 1983)
2) Widespread Panic - "Solid Rock" (from Saved, 1980)
3) Grayson Capps - "Silvio" (from Down In The Groove, 1988)
4) Neal Casal - "Property Of Jesus" (from Shot Of Love, 1981)
5) The Low Anthem - "Lenny Bruce" (from Shot Of Love, 1981)
6) Jesse Elliott (These United States) - "Handy Dandy" (from Under The Red Sky, 1990)
7) Chastity Brown - "Saving Grace" (from Saved, 1980)

Boy George album arrives this spring

I can't wait to hear this. Read on for more info...

Culture Club singer and DJ Boy George's new album This Is What I Do, his first full-length studio effort in 18 years, will finally see a U.S. release in March.

It was written by George O'Dowd and longtime writing partners John Themis, Kevan Frost and Richie Stevens (who produced). Dave Bascombe (Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Doves) did mixing duties.

The album features collaborations with producer Youth, as well as DJ Yoda, Kitty Durham, Ally McErlaine, MC Spee and Nizar Al Issa, many of whom will perform as George’s band on his live dates.

“I wanted to make a baggy album, not overproduced and I think I have achieved it. I was listening to things like 'Beast Of Burden' by The Stones, and I had my head most definitely in the 70's... I was also writing from a happy place. This time, no ex-lovers to get revenge on. For me 'Bigger Than War' sums up the tone,” says O'Dowd. 
 
An exclusive Deluxe Edition of the album will be released on his own imprint Very Me Records via Kobalt Label Services and will be available in all physical retail, digital download and streaming services from March 25.

The U.K version is now available. 
 
Boy George plans to take This Is What I Do and his nine-piece band on the road in North America later this year. More details to come.
 

Track listing: 

Grouplove news

Canvasback Music/Atlantic band Grouplove has announced the digital release of “I’m with You,” a short form documentary and concert film featuring the LA-based indie-pop band. “I’m With You” is available at iTunes and Amazon now.

Shot by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Erickson (Dave Matthews Band, My Morning Jacket), it is an exploration into Grouplove’s history and traces their story, combining interviews with the band members and live performance footage.


The digital video bundle will include six exclusive audio tracks recorded during the band’s sold-out “SeeSaw Tour” – which featured the band performing electric and acoustic shows - this past fall (see attached track listing).

To echo the unique format of the tour, the track list is highlighted by recordings from both The Bowery Ballroom (electric) and McKittrick Hotel (acoustic) during the band’s New York City stop. Captured during the filming of the documentary, a live video for one of featured tracks - “I’m With You” - can be viewed now at http://youtu.be/MtuCZGFxvlA.

The film is currently airing on Palladia. A trailer for “I’M WITH YOU” can be viewed now at http://youtu.be/TvC-IGnyIvg.

As previously announced, Grouplove’s headlining North American tour is set to kick off on March 20 at Bogart’s in Cincinnati and continue into May (see attached itinerary). 


Additionally, the cross-country trek now includes a performance at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – the band’s second appearance at the acclaimed event – as well as Big Guava Festival in Tampa, FL and Firefly Festival in Dover, DE.

Grouplove is: Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar), Hannah Hooper (vocals, keys), Sean Gadd (bass, vocals), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals), Ryan Rabin (drums).

Track listing:


1. Colours (Live from the Seesaw Tour)
2. Schoolboy (Live from the Seesaw Tour)
3. I'm With You (Live from the Seesaw Tour)
4. Raspberry (Live from the Seesaw Tour)
5. Ways To Go (Live from the Seesaw Tour)
6. Gold Coast (Live from the Seesaw Tour)

2014 TOUR

^Supported by MS MR
# Supported by Smallpools
*Supported by Alex Winston

(Additional dates to be announced)

March
20 Cincinnati, OH Bogart's*
21 Indianapolis, IN Egyptian Room*
23 Pittsburgh, PA Stage AE*
25 Philadelphia, PA Electric Factory*
26 New York, NY Terminal 5^*
30-31 Washington, DC 930 Club^#

April
1 Washington, DC 930 Club^#
3 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle^#
5-6 Austin, TX Stubbs^#
7 Houston, TX House Of Blues^#
11 Indio, CA Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
18 Indio, CA Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
23 Phoenix, AZ Marquee^#
24 Tucson, AZ Rialto Theatre^#
28 Oklahoma City Diamond Ballroom^#
30 Kansas City, MO Power & Light District^#

May
2 Tampa, FL Big Guava Fest

June
19-22 Dover DE Firefly Festival
        

For more information, visit grouplovemusic.com/tour.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Mavericks back on the road

I highly recommend anyone who's into this music to catch a show. I interviewed Reynolds and did more coverage last year that can be found elsewhere on this blog...

Celebrating over two decades of performing together, The Mavericks will embark on the 25 Live Tour on Feb. 27.

“While the band was formed in the summer of 1989, our first show wasn’t until months later … making 2014 our twenty-fifth year together and we’re very excited to get back out on the road,” says guitarist Robert Reynolds. “In many ways, our fans have become de facto members of the group and it seems high time we throw a party!”

In spite of an indefinite divergence in 2004, The Mavericks musical connection never fizzled and last February, Cuban-American frontman Raul Malo and vivacious musicians Paul Deakin, Robert Reynolds, Eddie Perez and Jerry Dale McFadden reconnected to release a new album In Time (The Valory Music Co.).


The Grammy Award-winning group's return has sparked critical-acclaim for both their new music and exhilarating live shows. Recently, The Mavericks’ music was been featured in the movie Grudge Match and ABC TV drama “Killer Women,” in which the band also made a cameo appearance performing "Dance In The Moonlight."
 

TOUR DATES:
 

2/27 Charleston Music Hall (Charleston, SC)
2/28 Carolina Theatre (Durham, NC)
3/1 Jefferson Theater (Charlottesville, VA)
3/2 The Birchmere (Alexandria, VA)
3/7 Northern Lights Theater (Milwaukee, WI)
3/8 Royal Oak Music Theatre (Royal Oak, MI)
3/9 Pantages Theatre (Minneapolis, MN)
3/13 O'Brian's Event Centre (Saskatoon, Canada)
3/14 Casino Regina (Regina, Canada)
3/15 Living Sky Casino (Swift Current, Canada)
3/16 Burton Cummings Theatre (Winnipeg, Canada)
3/18 West Manitoba Centennial Theatre (Brandon Manitoba, Canada)
3/19 Festival Place (Sherwood Park, Canada)
3/20 Festival Place (Sherwood Park, Canada)
3/21 Athabasca Regional Multiplex (Athabasca, Canada)
3/22 Flames Central (Calgary, Canada)
3/29 Silver Legacy Resort & Casino (Reno, NV)
3/30 Great American Music Hall (San Francisco, CA)
4/1 Belly Up Tavern (Solana Beach, CA)
4/3 The Fonda Theatre (Los Angeles, CA)
4/5 Talking Stick Resort Showroom (Scottsdale, AZ)
4/10 House Of Blues (Houston, TX)
4/11 ACL Live at The Moody Theater (Austin, TX)
4/12 Main Street Arts Festival (Ft. Worth, TX)
4/13 Floores Country Store (Helotes, TX)
4/18 Knuckleheads Saloon (Kansas City, MO)
4/25 Center Stage (Atlanta, GA)
4/26 JazzFest (New Orleans, LA)
5/1 Parker Playhouse (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
5/2 Capitol Theatre (Clearwater, FL)
5/3 Suwannee River Jam (Live Oak, FL)
5/8 Calvin Theatre (Northampton, MA)
5/9 State Theatre (Portland, ME)
5/10 Capitol Center For The Arts (Concord, NH)
5/11 The Wilbur Theatre (Boston, MA)
5/15 SOPAC (South Orange, NJ)
5/16 Keswick Theatre (Glenside, PA)
5/17 Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead (Munhall, PA)
6/7 Little River Casino Resort (Manistee, MI)
6/19 Count Basie Theatre (Red Bank, NJ)
6/20 The Space at Westbury (Westbury, NY)
6/22 Mayo Performing Arts Center (Morristown, NJ)

themavericksband.com.

Cyndi Lauper's 'She’s So Unusual' gets deluxe reissue treatment

Last summer, I reviewed Lauper at the Greek, which can be found on this blog. I look forward to this reissue...

Cyndi Lauper will celebrate the anniversary of her debut album with She’s So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration, released through Legacy Recordings on April 1.

The 2-CD deluxe edition will feature the original album, rare demos, live concert recording as well as remixes by some of today’s hottest DJs and producers including NERVO, Bent Collective and Yolanda Be Cool.

It will also be available as a single CD (original remastered album and 3 new remixes) as well as a 1-LP vinyl (includes an insert for download of 3 new remixes). The NERVO remix of “Time After Time” is available for immediate download with every iTunes pre-order.

In addition to rare and never-before-heard recordings, the physical deluxe edition includes an unusual surprise. The collection includes a reusable sticker set, including vinyl cut outs of Lauper’s cutting-edge outfits and accessories that can be arranged in different combinations on a 3D fold-out backdrop of the bedroom featured in her iconic “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” music video. Journalist and author Jancee Dunn, who worked with Lauper on her 2012 New York Times Best Selling autobiography, authored the detailed liner notes.

"I'm always looking forward, trying to do something that's new and different," said Lauper. "But every once in a while it's good to look back and celebrate. I've always been proud of this album, with the statement we made and, most importantly, what it has meant to my fans, I want to thank them for all the years of support," she added.

She’s So Unusual, Lauper’s debut solo album was produced by Rick Chertoff and featuring Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian of the Philadelphia band the Hooters, has some of Lauper’s most well-known songs and perennial radio favorites including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” “Money Changes Everything,” and “All Through the Night."

With it, Lauper became the first female artist to have four top 10 singles on a debut album. The release went on to sell over 16 million copies worldwide and won Lauper a Grammy Award for Best New Artist and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video.

The album has influenced generations of boundary-pushing musicians since its release, evident in everything from the ska-infused punk of No Doubt, the attitude of P!nk, the infectious pop of Katy Perry, the fluorescent personality of Nicki Minaj and, of course, in Lady Gaga’s fashion.

The anniversary celebration will continue this spring with a special performance by Lauper on the public television music performance series Front and Center (formerly Front Row Center). Recorded at New York’s Highline Ballroom on Dec. 9, 2013 in front of a small audience, Lauper performed the album in its entirety and shared intimate memories about the production and her life at the time she recorded it.

On this Sunday’s Grammy Awards, she is nominated (her 15th) for Best Musical Theater Album for her work in the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots,” for which she received the Tony Award for Best Score.

“Kinky Boots,” the Broadway musical Lauper composed the music and lyrics for, opened last year to critical acclaim and went on to win six Tony Awards including Best Score for Lauper.

In 2012 she released her New York Times Best Selling autobiography, “Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir.” Written with journalist Jancee Dunn and published by Atria Books, the memoir details for the first time Lauper’s tumultuous years growing up in Queens, the ups and downs of a career that has spanned over three decades, her conflicted feelings on fame and her advocacy of equality for all that led to the creation of her foundation, the True Colors Fund.

A multi-talented artist and one of music’s most beloved icons, Lauper has racked up global record sales of over 50 million and has won countless awards, from a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony to numerous honors for her tireless activism. Lauper has released 11 studio albums, her most recent, the Grammy nominated “Memphis Blues,” ruled the Billboard Blues chart for 14 consecutive weeks to become the best-selling Blues album of 2010. Overall, during her storied music career, Lauper has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards, 7 American Video Awards and 18 MTV Awards.

“She’s So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration (DELUXE EDITION)

Disc One:
1. Money Changes Everything 5:06
2. Girls Just Want To Have Fun 3:55
3. When You Were Mine 5:06
4. Time After Time 4:03
5. She Bop 3:49
6. All Through The Night 4:33
7. Witness 3:40
8. I’ll Kiss You 4:12
9. He’s So Unusual 0:46
10. Yeah Yeah 3:16

Bonus Tracks:
1. Girls Just Want To Have Fun (2013 Yolanda Be Cool Remix)
2. Time After Time (2013 Nervo Remix)
3. Time After Time (2013 Bent Collective Remix)

Disc 2
1. Girls Just Want To Have Fun 3:31 (Early Guitar Demo)
2. All Through The Night 5:21 (1982 rehearsal, with studio dialog)
3. Rules And Regulations 2:39 (1982 Rehearsal)
4. Money Changes Everything 5:06 (Demo)
5. Girls Just Want To Have Fun 3:21 (Demo)
6. Right Train, Wrong Track (Non LP B-Side) 4:40
7. Witness 3:40 (Live, Boston, 1984)
8. She Bop (1983 Arthur Baker Remix)
9. Time After Time 4:01 (Work In Progress Rough Mix)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Savages release video for 'Strife'

British post-punk outfit Savages have released the video for “Strife,” a song off of their highly-lauded debut album Silence Yourself, out now via Matador/Pop Noire.
 
The striking black and white video, inspired by a murder scene in the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus, features two men fighting on a vacant beach to a tragic end. The video is directed by Antoine Carlier, French director and co-founder of Pop Noire with Savages’ Jehnny Beth.

Foreword by Savages:

"We wanted to make a video that focused on a timeless human physicality and physical expression, a search for understanding through the movement, action and reaction of two characters. We chose the classical landscape of the empty beach. A fight ensues between two men: one older, one younger; a tragic outcome, and death."

French director Antoine Carlier - co-founder of Pop Noire records with Jehnny Beth, who previously collaborated with the band on their artwork - filmed the scene with a modern black & white aesthetic on the beaches of Gironde in South-West France. The film is a play on human instincts and desire for survival, echoing the famous beach murder scene in the novel 'The Stranger' by Albert Camus.

Either a tale from the past or science-fiction, this is an endless story of human struggle. We see the fragmentation between two generations, a subject of predilection for Savages (ref: 'I Am Here' manifesto), where the ‘young, intelligent and radical people’ live in servitude to established elders.”

Directed by Antoine Carlier
Produced by Walter Films and Savages
Actors: Leo Pochat and Richard Duval
Savages are: Ayse Hassan (bass), Fay Milton (drums), Gemma Thompson (guitar) and Jehnny Beth (vocals)

savagesband.com 

Grammy Awards nominees 2014 preview

Here is my take on selected categories for the Grammy Awards, which will be handed out this Sunday at Staples Center in LA. Disagree? Let me know your picks.

Album Of The Year
"The Blessed Unrest" — Sara Bareilles
"Random Access Memories" — Daft Punk
"Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" — Kendrick Lamar
"The Heist" — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
"Red" — Taylor Swift

>WHO SHOULD WIN: I'd have to go with Sara Bareilles for the insightful songwriting. 

Record Of The Year
"Get Lucky" — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
"Radioactive" — Imagine Dragons
"Royals" — Lorde
"Locked Out Of Heaven" — Bruno Mars
"Blurred Lines" — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Bruno Mars

Song Of The Year
"Just Give Me A Reason" — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)
"Locked Out Of Heaven" — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
"Roar" — Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
"Royals" — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)
"Same Love" — Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: "Just Give Me A Reason" and "Locked Out Of Heaven" were both memorable, but I'd give it to Pink

Best New Artist
James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Kacey Musgraves is the most deserving and actually a newcomer.

Best Pop Solo Performance
"Brave" — Sara Bareilles
"Royals" — Lorde
"When I Was Your Man" — Bruno Mars
"Roar" — Katy Perry
"Mirrors" — Justin Timberlake

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Bruno Mars 

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
"Get Lucky" — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
"Just Give Me A Reason" — Pink Featuring Nate Ruess
"Stay" — Rihanna Featuring Mikky Ekko
"Blurred Lines" — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams
"Suit & Tie" — Justin Timberlake & Jay Z

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Pink Featuring Nate Ruess

 Best Pop Vocal Album
"Paradise" — Lana Del Rey
"Pure Heroine" — Lorde
"Unorthodox Jukebox" — Bruno Mars
"Blurred Lines" — Robin Thicke
"The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience" — Justin Timberlake

>WHO SHOULD WIN: "Unorthodox Jukebox" — Bruno Mars

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
"Viva Duets" — Tony Bennett & Various Artists
"To Be Loved" — Michael Bublé
"The Standards" — Gloria Estefan
"Cee Lo's Magic Moment" — Cee Lo Green
"Now" — Dionne Warwick

>WHO SHOULD WIN: "To Be Loved" — Michael Bublé

Best Rock Performance
"Always Alright" — Alabama Shakes
"The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" — David Bowie
"Radioactive" — Imagine Dragons
"Kashmir" (Live) — Led Zeppelin
"My God Is The Sun" — Queens Of The Stone Age
"I'm Shakin'" — Jack White

>WHO SHOULD WIN: David Bowie made a strong return and should be rewarded.

Best Rock Album
"13" — Black Sabbath
"The Next Day" — David Bowie
"Mechanical Bull" — Kings Of Leon
"Celebration Day" — Led Zeppelin
"…Like Clockwork" — Queens Of The Stone Age
"Psychedelic Pill" — Neil Young With Crazy Horse

>WHO SHOULD WIN: This is a tough category, but I'd go again with Bowie 

Best Rock Song
"Ain't Messin 'Round" -- Gary Clark Jr., songwriter (Gary Clark Jr.)
"Cut Me Some Slack" -- Dave Grohl, Paul McCartney, Krist Novoselic & Pat Smear, songwriters (Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)
"Doom And Gloom" -- Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, songwriters (The Rolling Stones)
"God Is Dead?" -- Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi & Ozzy Osbourne, songwriters (Black Sabbath)
"Panic Station" -- Matthew Bellamy, songwriter (Muse)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Both Muse and Gary Clark Jr. made the most memorable songs here. I'd give it to Muse.

Best Alternative Music Album
"The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You" -- Neko Case
"Trouble Will Find Me" -- The National
"Hesitation Marks" -- Nine Inch Nails
"Lonerism" -- Tame Impala
"Modern Vampires Of The City" -- Vampire Weekend

>WHO SHOULD WIN: A lot of tough competition, but Vampire Weekend released a stunner.

Best Country Solo Performance
"I Drive Your Truck" — Lee Brice
"I Want Crazy" — Hunter Hayes
"Mama's Broken Heart" — Miranda Lambert
"Wagon Wheel" — Darius Rucker
"Mine Would Be You" — Blake Shelton

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Lee Brice's tune is a real tearjerker and should snag it.

Best Country Album
Night Train — Jason Aldean
Two Lanes Of Freedom — Tim McGraw
Same Trailer Different Park — Kacey Musgraves
Based On A True Story — Blake Shelton
Red — Taylor Swift

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Kacey Musgraves' album was the most solid throughout, whereas the others had some filler.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
"From This Valley"— The Civil Wars
"Don't Rush" — Kelly Clarkson Featuring Vince Gill
"Your Side Of The Bed" — Little Big Town
"Highway Don't Care" — Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
"You Can't Make Old Friends" — Kenny Rogers With Dolly Parton

>WHO SHOULD WIN: This is a fairly tough one. I'd go with Kenny & Dolly tender reunion.

Best Country Song (A Songwriters Award)
"Begin Again" — Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)
"I Drive Your Truck" — Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington & Jimmy Yeary, songwriters (Lee Brice)
"Mama's Broken Heart" — Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
"Merry Go 'Round" — Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves & Josh Osborne, songwriters (Kacey Musgraves)
"Mine Would Be You" — Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington & Deric Ruttan, songwriters (Blake Shelton)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: This is between Lee Brice (for the reason mentioned above) and Kacey Musgraves. I'd give it to the latter for the shrewd wordplay.

Best Americana Album
Old Yellow Moon — Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Love Has Come For You — Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
Buddy And Jim — Buddy Miller And Jim Lauderdale
One True Vine — Mavis Staples
Songbook — Allen Toussaint

>WHO SHOULD WIN: The reunion between old music partners Harris & Crowell was solid. 

Best Song Written For Visual Media
"Atlas" from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" -- Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters (Coldplay)
"Silver Lining" from "Silver Linings Playbook" -- Diane Warren, songwriter (Jessie J)
"Skyfall" from "Skyfall"-- Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
"We Both Know" from "Safe Haven" -- Colbie Caillat & Gavin DeGraw, songwriters (Colbie Caillat Featuring Gavin DeGraw)
"Young And Beautiful" from "The Great Gatsby" --Lana Del Rey & Rick Nowels, songwriters (Lana Del Rey)
"You've Got Time" from Orange Is The New Black – Regina Spektor, songwriter (Regina Spektor)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Coldplay 

Best Recording Package
Automatic Music Can Be Fun — Mike Brown, Zac Decamp, Brian Grunert & Annie Stoll, art directors (Geneseo)
Long Night Moon — Sarah Dodds & Shauna Dodds, art directors (Reckless Kelly)
Magna Carta... Holy Grail — Brian Roettinger, art director (Jay-Z)
Metallica Through The Never (Music From The Motion Picture) — Bruce Duckworth, Sarah Moffat & David Turner, art directors (Metallica)
The Next Day — Jonathan Barnbrook, art director (David Bowie)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: David Bowie's cover was minimalist recycling at its best. Made you think, 'wait, haven't I seen this before?' 

Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package
The Brussels Affair — Charles Dooher & Scott Sandler, art directors (The Rolling Stones)
How Do You Do (Limited Edition Box Set) — Mayer Hawthorne, art director (Mayer Hawthorne)
The Road To Red Rocks (Special Edition) — Ross Stirling, art director (Mumford & Sons)
The Smith Tapes — Masaki Koike, art director (Various Artists)
Wings Over America (Deluxe Edition) — Simon Earith & James Musgrave, art directors (Paul McCartney and Wings)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Paul McCartney and Wings 

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Rob Cavallo — "All That Echoes" (Josh Groban), "Bright Lights" (Gary Clark Jr.). "¡Dos!" (Green Day), "If I Loved You" (Delta Rae featuring Lindsey Buckingham), "Love They Say" (Tegan and Sara), "Things Are Changin'" (Gary Clark Jr.), "¡Tré!" (Green Day), "When My Train Pulls In" (Gary Clark Jr.), "You've Got Time" (Regina Spektor)
Dr. Luke — "Bounce It" (Juicy J Featuring Wale & Trey Songz), "Crazy Kids" (Kesha), "Fall Down (will.i.am featuring Miley Cyrus), "Give It 2 U" (Robin Thicke featuring Kendrick Lamar), "Like Nobody´s Around" (Big Time Rush) , "Roar" (Katy Perry), "Rock Me" (One Direction), "Wrecking Ball" (Miley Cyrus)
Ariel Rechtshaid — "Days Are Gone" (Haim), "Everything Is Embarrassing" (Sky Ferreira), "Lost in My Bedroom" (Sky Ferreira), "Modern Vampires of the City" (Vampire Weekend), "Reincarnated" (Snoop Lion), "True Romance" (Charli XCX), "You're No Good" (Major Lazer featuring Santigold, Vybz Kartel, Danielle Haim and Yasmin)
Jeff Tweedy — "The Invisible Way" (Low), "One True Vine" (Mavis Staples), "Wassaic Way" (Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion)
Pharrell Williams — "BBC" (Jay-Z), "Blurred Lines" (Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell), "Happy" (Pharrell Williams), "I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel)" (Jennifer Hudson featuring T.I.), "Nuclear" (Destiny's Child), "Oceans" (Jay-Z featuring Frank Ocean), "Reach Out Richard" (Mayer Hawthorne), "The Stars Are Ours" (Mayer Hawthorne)

>WHO SHOULD WIN: Rob Cavallo had a hand in some of the best 2011-12 albums.