Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summerland Tour 2012 Lineup

In addition to Lit, these bands* reached the height of success during the ‘90s and are still putting out solid new material. Here’s a primer…
Origin: Portland, 1992
Latest album: “Invisible Stars” (2012)
Background: Singer/guitarist and songwriter Art Alexakis is the lone original member. He continues to put out Everclear albums at a steady clip. The potent “Stars” harks back to the group’s salad days by combining aggressive alt-rock with melodic pop sensibilities (“Falling in a Good Way,” “I am Better Without You”). Alexakis can also be seen in the current pay cable documentary “The Other F Word,” revolving around how fatherhood affects alt-rock musicians.
Major hits: “Santa Monica,” “Everything to Everyone,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine,” “Wonderful.”
Sugar Ray
Origin: Newport Beach, 1988
Latest album: “Music for Cougars” (2009)
Background: In recent years, Mark McGrath was more visible on TV as an “Extra” co-host and “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant than as the affable front man for this breezy alt-pop band. Sugar Ray’s ’09 effort featured a guest appearance from Donavon Frankenreiter and a Weezer cover. McGrath helped spearhead the Summerland Tour alongside Alexakis and hopes to make it an annual event. He and founding guitarist Rodney Sheppard are joined by new recruits for this concert outing.
Major hits: “Fly,” “Every Morning,” “Someday,” “When It’s Over,” “Falls Apart (Run Away)”
Gin Blossoms
Origin: Tempe, Ariz., 1987
Latest album: “No Chocolate Cake” (2010)
Background: From 1992-96, this band’s easygoing blend of jangly rock and power pop blanketed the airwaves, thanks to the dominant “New Miserable Experience” and “Congratulations…I’m Sorry” discs. Breaking up in the mid-‘90s, Gin Blossoms resurfaced in the 2000s with vocalist Robin Wilson and most of the core lineup intact. “Cake” saw the musicians collaborate with Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts.  
Major hits: “Hey Jealousy,” “Found Out About You,” “’Til I Hear it From You,” “Follow You Down.”
Marcy Playground
Origin: New York City, 1996
Latest album: “Lunch, Recess, Detention” (2012)
Background: Languid singer/guitarist John Wozniak and his post-grunge group struck platinum with a self-titled debut in 1997. Acoustic based rock album “Leaving Wonderland” emerged in 2009, followed by a fan-curated remix disc. “Lunch, Recess, Detention” is a retrospective collection featuring rarities, B-sides, covers (Procol Harum, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young) remixes and a handful of new tunes. It came out digitally this week and will be available on CD in July.
Major hits: “Sex & Candy,” “Saint Joe on the School Bus”
*Note: Not all bands play all dates. Go to for more info. 

Squeeze Q&A

A version of my story originally ran at The band is currently on tour with the B-52's and hits the Greek Theater in LA on June 30. 

When it comes to astute observations on British life, few can rival Squeeze.

The veteran London pop/rock band, led by singer/guitarists Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, came to prominence during the late 1970s new wave era and notched a dozen top 40 UK singles.

Here in the States, it was a mainstay on college radio stations and then-embryonic alt-rock format with sharply-penned tunes “Up the Junction,” “Goodbye Girl,” “Pulling Muscles (From the Shell),” “Is That Love?,” the Paul Carrack-sung “Tempted” – used in numerous TV commercials - and “Black Coffee in Bed.”

Squeeze finally found true American success with 1987’s “Babylon and On,” which contained the hits “Hourglass” and “853-5937.” The compilation “Singles - 45’s and Under” went platinum.

Regularly associated with Elvis Costello & The Attractions (whose members often worked on Squeeze records), Difford & Tilbrook have dissolved the group and resumed their partnership several times over the years, putting out solo efforts in the interim. 

Honored with a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for contribution to British music in 2008, Squeeze has been cited as an influence by popular young English acts Kasabian, Mark Ronson, Lily Allen and Razorlight. Recently recorded covers of their songs include The Shins (“Goodbye Girl”) and Belle and Sebastian (“Cool for Cats”).

The latest Squeeze release is a limited-edition, white vinyl double album Live at the Fillmore. Recorded at the historic San Francisco venue in 2010, it is sold at shows and through, but comes in a digital version too.

Fans who attend the tour with the B-52’s can purchase a same show Squeeze recording afterward on CD or zip drive/USB formats.

Ensconced in a studio working on the long-awaited studio follow up to 1998’s “Domino,” Difford talked about performing live and other aspects of Squeeze’s career in an email interview. 

Question: Since Squeeze has played the San Diego area many times over the years, I wondered if any standout gigs come to mind.
Answer: The West Coast is full of memories. None are stand alone, yet they seem the same. We have played there too much recently and I think [Harrah’s] could be one of our last shows there for awhile. 

Q: During the band’s tour of Southern California this past April, you included several deep album cuts in the setlist. Did that keep the shows fresher for you, as opposed to strictly doing the hits or singles?
A: We always tip out the songs that fit the tour well. It keeps us on our toes. The hits are always going to go down the best. People glaze over hearing new songs as I do when see bands I like playing new songs. It's [just] how it is. 

Q: What was your impression on playing the Coachella Festivals for the first time? Did it live up to the hype?
A: No, it was very clean and tidy - a golf club of a festival. But having said that, I enjoyed our time on stage. 

Q: I thought the visual presentation during those shows, with the animated Squeeze cartoon and historical news clips montage, was brilliant. Will you continue to using it during the summer concert trek?
A: Who knows? We will see, it's all about budget. 

Q: Have you toured with the B-52’s in the past?
A: Never before. I’ve never seen them live. 

Q: At one point in the sets, before “Who’s That,” Glenn said it was a combination of Captain Beefheart, Paul McCartney and James Last. Were those three musicians formative influences on either of you?
A: Maybe for Glenn; not for me. 

Q: Why was the new live album recorded at the Fillmore in San Francisco? Was that show the best one on the tour?
A: It was an end off idea to record the show. It worked very well and I'm proud of it. Live albums are, for the most part, excuses for not having any new songs. They fill a gap; plug a hole. 

Q: Are you pleased with the reaction Squeeze got from meticulously recreating your greatest hits for the “Spot the Difference” album in 2010?
A: It was Glenn's idea. He did all the work and I think it worked. 
Q: If you had to choose, which albums in the Squeeze catalog do you think still stand the test of time and why?
A: [1981’s Costello-produced] “East Side Story.” It had everything a record should have: a band united by song, a great producer and a caring time frame. You won't get much better from us, I'm sure. 

Q: What has it been like having the Difford & Tilbrook musical partnership back together again since 2007? Do you envision the new studio album consisting of all-new material or possibly songs you’ve stockpiled?
A:  We will be recording and there will be new songs. It's all there in the great out there of life. I'm done, but I'm happy. 

Q: How would you rate the current lineup of Squeeze, with bassist John Bentley back in the fold for the first time since the early ‘80s, among those of the past?
A: It's one of the best lineups: great people, who perform Squeeze as a badge. Very proud to know them all, but I wouldn't have them around for Christmas! 

Q: Do you hear any new artists out there carrying on the Squeeze tradition?
A: No, I'm not listening with those ears on.

Lit interview: Summerland Tour/Los Angeles

Megaforce Records
A version of my story originally ran at Lit plays the Greek Theater in LA on June 29 as part of the Summerland Tour. Tickets are $30-$60 + fees. 

The modern rock landscape has changed quite a bit since Lit last hit the music scene in 2004.

Nowadays, buoyant acts like Gotye, Grouplove, Foster the People and fun. tend to dominate the airwaves.

 “I don’t necessarily think ‘alternative’ when I hear Gotye. There’s nothing wrong with it, but a lot of popular songs on alternative radio don’t even have a guitar,” said Jeremy Popoff, from Lit’s home base in Fullerton.

“As a guitar player and kid who loved rock ‘n’ roll and loved it when guitars plugged into Marshall stacks came out on the radio - that is a little disappointing. But everything comes around.”

Popoff, his lead vocalist brother A. Jay, bassist Kevin Baldes and drummer Allen Shellenberger started out as Razzle, with a hard-edged sound in 1989. The band made the rounds at Sunset Strip and OC clubs before settling on the Lit moniker. Independent label debut “Tripping the Light Fantastic” emerged in 1997.

Signing to RCA Records soon after, “A Place in the Sun” went platinum on the back of major alternative hits “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Miserable” (the accompanying video famously featured a giant Pamela Anderson) and “Zip-Lock.”  Follow up disc “Atomic” was moderately successful. Lit returned to the indie world in ‘04 with a solid self-titled effort.

Then tragedy struck. A motorcycle accident on the Ortega Highway in Lake Elsinore claimed the life of the siblings’ stepfather and severely injured their mother. Shellenberger was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008 and died a year later at age 39.

Once the guys took time to grieve, they resumed touring and eventually re-entered the studio. Lit’s new studio album “The View from the Bottom” (Megaforce) is the invigorating result.

The musicians’ back story and penchant for a stiff drink make the title and cover illustration of clinking glasses all the more appropriate. Popoff called it “an optimistic toast to the future.”

Butch Walker (Weezer, P!nk) produced the new album. His history with Lit goes back to “Atomic,” for which he helped pen some songs.

Popoff said the recording process was “super comfortable. We had to sit in traffic every day going [from Orange County] to Venice, but nobody minded the commute. Once we got there, we drank good wine and whisky, listened to music, watched YouTube videos, jumped around and in between, managed to make a record.”

Rife with crunchy guitars and solos at every turn, “The View from the Bottom” is Lit’s strongest effort to date. Fist-pumping anthems (a defiant “The Broken,” blazing glam stomper “Same S---, Different Drink,” “C’mon”) and power ballads (“She Don’t Know, “The Wall”) are delivered with equal fervor. The insanely catchy “Right This Time” harks back to Eighties AOR classics. 

Sexually themed “Partner in Crime” finds Popoff engaging in some talk box action.

“I haven’t used one in years, but I’ve always thought that sound was killer. I’m a big Joe Walsh fan. When we made the demo for that song, I was at Ryan’s house and thought a talk box would sound good. I literally ran up the street to Guitar Center, bought one, then came back and used it.”

A few personal songs with lyrics about living life to the fullest hit close to home. “Here’s to Us,” a poignant tribute to Shellenberger, is a prime example.

“That took A. Jay a few different attempts to get right,” explained Popoff. “The real emotional part was when we got the string arrangement back from Patrick Warren. Everybody got goose bumps the first time they heard it.”

Besides overseeing Fullerton’s popular Slidebar music club (which opened in ’06), Popoff also does a different style of songwriting via a publishing deal with EMI Nashville. His collaborations have been recorded by country artists Jamey Johnson, former Trick Pony singer Heidi Newfield and Colt Ford.

“I’ve found country music really refreshing,” he said. “Back when we wrote ‘A Place in the Sun,’ I had been listening to big band stuff, crooners and Sinatra. I think it made that album sound different than anything else on the radio at the time. Diving into country, then coming back to the table and writing for Lit again, recharged me.”

Now Popoff is anxious to join the Summerland package tour with a new Lit lineup, comprising Ryan Gillmor (“Glee,” David Archuleta, Kris Allen) and Shellenberger’s former drum tech/tour substitute Nathan Walker.

“They bring a lot to the mix,” said Popoff. “Ryan co-wrote several songs with us. Having him play keyboards and guitar frees me up live to do different things.”                                                                                                                                                                                             For Summerland tickets, go to
More Lit tour dates, see                                                                                              

An interview with the band Train

photo courtesy Columbia Records
A version of my story originally appeared at See tour dates at the end.

Train proudly hails from the City by the Bay.

The band gave props to the region on its 2009 effort “Save Me, San Francisco.” More references can be found within new album “California 37,” which is named after the state highway running through Napa Valley. 

“Since our career took off, we never really embraced it like we should have,” said drummer Scott Underwood, in a phone interview from Nashville. Train took a late ‘90s hiatus and the musicians realized they had “lost touch with our roots. That’s something we wanted back.”

Initially formed as a quintet in 1994, Train is rounded out by singer Pat Monahan and guitarist Jimmy Stafford. Underwood recalled early days playing “tiny little hell holes” in the Tenderloin section of SF.

Everything that changed after the group’s self-titled debut disc spawned a major pop single (“Meet Virginia”) and went platinum in ‘99. Subsequent million-selling CDs (“Drops of Jupiter,” “My Private Nation,” “Save Me, San Francisco”) resulted in Grammy Awards and several other hits (“Calling All Angels,” “She’s on Fire,” “If It’s Love”).

Ukulele-driven smash “Hey, Soul Sister” sold 4.3 million downloads and was 2010’s most played radio track, placing it among the top 20 all-time best sellers of the rock era. Just a few years earlier, Train was stuck in a creative malaise when fourth effort “For Me, It’s You” failed to measure up to its predecessors.

“When we came back, we didn’t know if anybody was going to care about Train at all,” admitted Underwood. “The success of ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ was really mind-blowing to us and the music industry as a whole. We really appreciated it. We’ll never take our career for granted again.”

Train wrote the material that comprised “California 37” during several world tours to support “Save Me San Francisco.” Butch Walker oversaw the bulk of studio work.

“He’s an old friend; we used to play shows with his band Marvelous 3. Even though we made a pop record, he has rock sensibilities and helped keep the edge alive. It felt like working with a peer.”

Espionage (the Norwegian production duo responsible for “Hey, Soul Sister”) also returned to provide musical input.

Among the pleasant surprises are some Mariachi brass flourishes on frantic, humorous new single “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” and a flamenco-leaning “Mermaid.” Underwood said the former was inspired by the group’s South American tour with Shakira. “We really dug the Latin vibe.”

Driving pop/rocker “This’ll Be My Year” is a history lesson a la Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Subtle New Orleans-styled horns accentuate “Sing Together” and dramatic piano ballad “When the Fog Rolls In.”

Bagpipes cap off “We Were Made for This,” the West LA Children’s Choir appears on “You Can Finally Meet My Mom” and the title track finds Monahan channeling his inner Kanye West.

According to Underwood, agreeing on unusual Train ideas is effortless. “We have a singular mind when it comes to music and we [often] hear the same instruments applying to a song. It’s really easy to work and put stuff together."

Ashley Monroe duets with Monahan on the folkish album highlight “Bruises,” about a high school reunion. The Train drummer has high praise for Monroe, the female country singer whose songwriting credits include Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood and Pistol Annies partner Miranda Lambert.

“We feel really lucky to have her. I think it’s the best Train song ever.”

Monahan often uses lighthearted pop culture references in his lyrics. “California 37” continues that tradition.

Underwood prefers the singer’s serious material. “Pat has this spectrum where he can go from the most heartbreaking love song into one that’s completely funny. Over time, I realized he has a [unique] voice and style of lyric-writing.”

Recently, Train unveiled a different California 37 product - the third varietal from its Save Me San Francisco Wine Company. The signature drink is available select retailers, markets and restaurants.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Underwood said the cabernet sauvignon has done “amazingly well. We really wanted to make a good quality wine and not a novelty. It got 92 [rating] in Wine Spectator” magazine. 

U.S. tour dates:
Milwaukee, WI
Marcus Amphitheater

Del Mar, CA
San Diego County Fair

Charlotte, NC
Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre

Raleigh, NC
Raleigh Amphitheater

Des Moines, IA
Stars in the Park

St. Louis, MO
Peabody Opera House

Lincoln, NE
Pinewood Bowl Amphitheater

Indianapolis, IN
Indiana State Fair

Nashville, TN
The Woods at Fontanel

Rochester Hills, MI

Cincinnati, OH
PNC Pavilion

Kansas City, MO

Highland Park, IL
Ravinia Festival

Highland Park, IL
Ravinia Festival

Toledo, OH
Toledo Zoo Amphitheater

Springfield, IL
Illinois State Fair

Cleveland, OH
Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

Philadelphia, PA
Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Uncasville, CT
Mohegan Sun

Vienna, VA
Wolf Trap

Glen Allen, VA
Innsbrook Pavilion

Canandaigua, NY
Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center

Essex Junction, VT
Champlain Valley Exposition

Gilford , NH
Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion

New York, NY
Central Park Summerstage (Rumsey Playfield)

Pittsburgh, PA

West Long Branch, NJ
MAC Center – Monmouth University

Lenox, MA

Atlantic City, NJ

Virginia Beach, VA
American Music Festival

Boca Raton, FL
Mizner Park Amphitheater

St. Augustine, FL
St. Augustine Amphitheater

Atlanta, GA
Chastain Park Amphitheater

Dayton, OH
Downtown Revival Music Festival

Tuscaloosa, AL
Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

Memphis, TN
Mud Island Amphitheater

Oklahoma City, OK
Zoo Amphitheater

Houston, TX
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Grand Prairie, TX
Verizon Theater

New Braunfels, TX
WhiteWater Amphitheater

Morrison, CO
Red Rocks

Salt Lake City, UT
Gallivan Center

Portland, OR

Puyallup, WA
Western Washington Fair

Vancouver, BC
Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Eugene, OR
Cuthbert Amphitheater

Reno, NV
Reno Events Center

Berkeley, CA
Greek Theater

Los Angeles, CA
Nokia Theater

Phoenix, AZ
Comerica Theater

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Joe Jackson pays tribute to Duke Ellington

In celebration of the release of Joe Jackson's new album The Duke, out today on Razor & Tie, Rolling Stone premiered the track for “It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Go That Swing).” Teaming up with Iggy Pop on vocals, the track challenged both legendary artists to create “something that swings like hell, but isn't actually 'swing,” according to Jackson.

In support of the album, Joe Jackson and the Bigger Band are hitting the road this September on a North American tour.

The Duke is an unconventional salute to Ellington, demonstrating the timeless brilliance of his classic compositions while showcasing Jackson's sublime skills as an arranger, instrumentalist and vocal interpreter.

Athough it's only the second time he's recorded an album not comprised of his own compositions, The Duke is a personal project for Jackson, whose longstanding affinity for Ellington's pioneering spirit has served as a key inspiration throughout his own three-decades-plus career.

The English singer/keyboardist interprets 15 Ellington classics over the course of 10 tracks, interspersing melodic and rhythmic elements of various compositions in a manner that's consistent with Ellington's own freewheeling approach.

Rather than emulating the songs' original big-band settings, Jackson filters the material through his own musical imagination while exploring an assortment of unexpected grooves and textures. The resulting album is a seamless fusion of sounds and styles, whose abundant sense of playfulness is consistent with Ellington's boundary-breaking attitude.

Guests on the album include Iggy Pop, Sharon Jones, Regina Carter, ?uestlove, Christian McBride, Steve Vai, and more.

Joe Jackson Tour Dates

09/15: Bethesda, MD - Music Centre at Strathmore
09/16: Greenville, SC – Peace Center Hall
09/18: Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre
09/19: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
09/21: New York, NY – Town Hall
09/22: New York, NY – Town Hall
09/25: Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Theatre
09/27: Ann Arbor, MI – Michigan Theater
09/28: Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
09/29: Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater
10/02: Seattle, WA – Moore Theatre
10/04: Saratoga, CA – The Lilian Fontaine Garden Theatre at Montalvo
10/05: San Francisco, CA – Nob Hill Masonic Center
10/06: Los Angeles, CA – Orpheum Theatre

Kasey Chambers heads to America with album, tour

Sugar Hill Records announces the worldwide release of Storybook from Aussie songstress Kasey Chambers on July 30 as an exclusive.

These collection of songs inspired Chambers to become a musician. “This album is a tribute to artists who have influenced me - from when I was a small child up until now. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today without the music from these incredible singer/songwriters and their inspiration.”

The album is the musical accompaniment to Kasey’s autobiography, A Little Bird Told Me, which was recently published by Harper Collins in Australia. 

On Storybook, Kasey works her magic on gutsy, soulful tunes hand-picked from the iconic songbooks of Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt and more. Kasey returns to the U.S. this summer with a new run of tour dates in conjunction with the worldwide release of Storybook. 

Kasey Chambers Summer Tour

8-02     Santa Monica, CA - Santa Monica Pier
8-04     Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater
8-05     Seattle, WA - The Triple Door
8-07     San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
8-08    Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre
8-10     Alexandria, VA - The Birchmere
8-11    New York, NY – City Winery
8-12    Northampton, MA – The Iron Horse
8-13    Annapolis, MD – The Ram’s Head
8-15    Dallas, TX – Kessler Theatre
8-16     Austin, TX - One World Theatre
8-18     Lyons, CO - Folks Festival 

Storybook is available for pre-order now.

Steve Forbert back in September

Over With You, Steve Forbert's first studio album in three years, will be released Sept. 11 on Blue Corn Music.

From the first song, All I Asked of You, with its “sore-tailed cat” and its “one-armed man,” Over With You brings the lyrical brilliance of Forbert into a rich musical landscape where the emotional depth of the lyrics, and the affinity of the musicians supporting them, is palpable.
“This album is very personal,” Forbert says. “The songs are about what people feel in deep relationships — mainly love and friction.”

Forbert says he wanted the new album to be musically sparse. There is no bass on some tracks, for example, creating a haunting vibe on the songs and leaving the spotlight firmly on the lyrics. 
“I’m not Lady Gaga,” he says. “I went for a much more minimal thing. It’s all about the songs.”
Nonetheless, the musicianship is superb, with Ben Harper, as a guest guitarist on three tracks, including a smoldering solo on the upbeat focus track, That’d Be Alright.
Forbert calls “Sugarcane Plum Fairy,” the last song on Over With You, “a return to ‘Goin’ Down to Laurel’,” one of the most beloved cuts on Alive on Arrival. He says it’s about returning to a relationship a year or so later and finding everything out of place and the magic completely gone. 
As a young man from Meridian, Mississippi, Steve traveled to New York City and played guitar for spare change in Grand Central Station. He vaulted to international prominence with a folk-rock hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” during a time when rootsy rock was fading out and the Ramones, Talking Heads and other New Wave and punk acts were moving in to the public consciousness.
“Those styles didn’t really synch with my musical approach,” reflects Forbert. Still, critics raved about Forbert’s poetic lyrics and engaging melodies, and the crowds at CBGB’s in New York accepted him alongside those acts. “I've never been interested in changing what I do to fit emerging trends,” Forbert observes. “Looking back on it, I was helping to keep a particular American songwriting tradition alive at a time when it wasn’t in the spotlight.”
After his first two records came a plethora of well-crafted, unforgettable songs on such albums as Little Stevie Orbit, Streets of This Town, The American in Me, Mission of the Crossroad Palms and Evergreen Boy. His tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Any Old Time, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004.
Forbert’s music was pure Americana before that genre was recognized. The road and the changing landscape are an integral part of the hard-working Forbert’s life and songwriting. He was a truck driver before releasing his first album and says there’s “romance” involved when he gets in the car after each show and drives to the next gig in another city.
Fourteen albums on, Forbert’s stamp on American music is akin to the legendary footprints of Warren Zevon, Gene Clark, Gram Parsons and other top American songwriters, and he has often been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen.
Now, 34 years after his first album, Steve Forbert is releasing an exciting new one, Over With You. Its ten fresh but mature songs pinpoint a wide range of emotions that color personal relationships — emotions that most listeners have undoubtedly felt and struggled to understand at some point in their lives. “This is an album that has taken a lifetime to make,” explains Forbert.  “You don’t just pull these songs out of thin air — you have to live them.”

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heart news

Heart's 14th studio album Fanatic arrives Oct. 2. It was recorded with Grammy-winning producer Ben Mink (kd lang).

New song titles include "Fanatic," "Dear Old America," "Walkin' Good" (featuring Sarah McLachlan), "Skin and Bones," "Million Miles," "Pennsylvania," "Mashallah," "Rock Deep (Vancouver)," "59 Crunch," and "Corduroy Road."

"What a crazy year we are having," said Heart singer Ann Wilson. "Our box set, Strange Euphoria, and our book, Kicking and Dreaming, each tell the story of our lives so far, personally and musically. Fanatic, tells our story as it is now and brings it all up-to-the-minute. What a thrill to have worked with both [writer] Charles Cross and Ben Mink respectively on these, and of course to touch the musical magic Nancy and I have always shared together."
Earlier this month, Epic/Legacy released Strange Euphoria, the first definitive career-spanning, multi-label boxed set retrospective chronicling Heart. Personally curated by Ann and Nancy Wilson, the anthology has big hits, best-loved songs, deep catalog treasures, rarities, demos and live performances.
Heart will be touring from June 29-November 17. This fall, Ann and Nancy Wilson will also be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (followed by a live concert webcast).

The HarperCollins hardcover edition of Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll, the memoir penned by Ann and Nancy Wilson with author Charles R. Cross, arrives Sept. 18. 

Solo album from Cracker's Johnny Hickman due next week

Johnny Hickman will be releasing his second solo album, Tilting, on July 3 (Campstove Records). It will be available in CD and digital formats.

Hickman's songs have leaned heavily towards Americana/alt-country territory as lead guitarist in Cracker and on his 2005 solo debut, Palmhenge.

On Tilting, the musical boundaries are broader than ever before. There are still traces of Americana ("Measure Of A Man," "Destiny Misspent," "Whittled Down" and the bluesy "Resurrection Train") and also strains of Dust Bowl-era jazz ("Papa Johnny's Arms") and rockers ("Takin' Me Back" and "Another Road"). The earthy folk of "Drunkard's Epiphany" is elevated by sunny harmonies and keen pop sensibilities.

"Personally, all my favorite records and bands have been those that don't flatline into one tiny sub-genre (Beatles, Kinks, Radiohead, Tom Petty, Neil Young). When I write, I just do it and don't worry about it. As [Cracker bandmate David Lowery] and I always say, the only real rule in music is 'don't suck.'"

The album's title Tilting is tied to one of Hickman's favorite countries, Spain, and it refers to Cervantes' classic novel Don Quixote. "I sometimes feel like the impassioned madman with his lance trying to slay the windmill giants," Johnny reveals. "I think a lot of people do in these troubled times. The idea of battling these mighty, unbeatable foes both real and imagined is disturbing yet darkly amusing to me."

"The songs on Tilting are definitely more personal, more autobiographical than on either Palmhenge or Cracker records. I didn't set out to do that but it's just where I am in life, I suppose. I didn't steer cautiously around any of my feelings or experiences, good or bad. It's as honest as hell, I can tell you that. Lyrically, there’s a little mid-life crisis catharsis going on here, not that that's a bad thing. That and just being pissed off and reveling in it."

“Producer Jason Larson and I played most of the instruments and sang most of the backing vocals on Tilting...At times we would call up our very talented musician friends to come in and play too, but mostly it was the two man band - laughing and running back and forth until we dropped at 3 a.m. Then we'd get together the next morning, listen and see what we had. A kind of crazy way to make a record, but it worked."

1  Measure of a Man
2  Destiny Misspent
3  Not Enough
4  Dream Along With Me
5  Sick Cynthia Thing
6  Whittled Down
7  Our Little Movie
8  Papa Johnny's Arms
9  Takin' Me Back
10  Resurrection Train
11  Drunkard's Epiphany
12  Another Road

Hickman is scheduled to perform various solo shows in 2012 in support of Tilting and will tour with Cracker this summer as part of Barenaked Ladies' "Last Summer on Earth" tour, alongside Blues Traveler and Big Head Todd & The Monsters.

For tour dates go to: 

Tift Merritt album and tour news

I interviewed Merritt for her Tambourine CD and she was just a joy to talk to. I look forward to her new material...
Critically acclaimed singer Tift Merritt’s Yep Roc Records label debut Traveling Alone is due Oct. 2. The album was recorded with Tucker Martine (The Decemberists). It features guest appearances by Andrew Bird and noted session guitarist by Marc Ribot (Elvis Costello).
“I really wanted to make a record that was real and raw,” said Merritt. “I wanted to put together my dream cast and see if I could hold my own with them...To me, Traveling Alone is about the roads on the inside—those places that are hard to see and not easy to send postcards from.” 
Traveling Alone follows the lauded 2010 album See You on the Moon. Merritt's debut album Bramble Rose came out in 2002 and she has put out three full-length and two live albums since. 
Her 2004 release Tambourine was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Album as well as three Americana Music Awards. Tift is also beginning her fifth year as the host of monthly interview show “The Spark” for NPR/KRTS Marfa, TX Public Radio; guests on the show have included Emmylou Harris, writer Nick Hornby and singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash.


1. Traveling Alone
2. Sweet Spot
3. Drifted Apart
4. Still Not Home
5. Feeling of Beauty
6. Too Soon to Go
7. Small Talk Relations
8. Spring
9. To Myself
10. In the Way
11. Marks
June 27...Asbury Park, NJ...Stone Pony*
July 18...Pittsburgh, PA...Carnegie Hall †
July 19...Kent, OH...Kent Stage†
July 22...Wichita, KS...Orpheum Theatre†
July 25...Denver, CO...Botanic Gardens†
July 26...Layton, UT...Davis Arts Council†
July 28...Calgary, AB...Calgary Folk Festival
July 31...Fargo, ND...Fargo Theatre†
August 1...Minneapolis, MN...Minnesota Zoo Ampitheater†
August 3...Madison, WI...Barrymore Theatre†
August 4...Bayfield, WI...Big Top Chatauqua†
August 15...Englewood, NJ...Bergen Performing Arts Center†
August 22...Cincinnati, OH...Taft Theater†
August 23...Knoxville, TN...Bijou†
August 24...Atlanta, GA...Atlanta Botanical Garden†
September 14-16...Bristol, TN...Rhythm & Roots
September 22...Wilmington, NC...Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
September 23...New York, NY...City Winery
* with Josh Ritter
† with Mary Chapin Carpenter

Simian Mobile Disco North American tour dates

UK electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco just released their new single and video for “Your Love Ain’t Fair,” from their new album Unpatterns (out now on Wichita Recordings).

The last few months have seen James Ford and Jas Shaw release visually striking videos and take their DJ set to clubs and festival stages internationally and across North America.

Stream their recent set from Barcelona’s Sónar Festival at:

SMD will premiere their new live show at LA's FYF Fest in September and return to North America later this winter.

“Your Love Ain’t Fair”
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO North American Tour Dates
Jul 12 Toronto, ON   - The Hoxton (DJ set)
Jul 13 Chicago, IL - The Mid (DJ set)
Jul 14 Pattersonville, NY - Camp Bisco (DJ set)
Sep 1-2 Los Angeles, CA – FYF Fest
Dec 01 San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine
Dec 02 Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
Dec 03 Seattle, WA - Neumos
Dec 04 Vancouver, BC - Venue
Dec 06 New York, NY - Webster Hall
Dec 07 Philadelphia, PA - Making Time
Dec 08 Washington, DC - Rock N Roll Hotel
Dec 11 Boston, MA - Paradise          
Dec 13 Montreal, QC - Club Soda
Dec 14 Toronto, ON - Hoxton
Dec 15 Chicago, IL - Bottom Lounge

Kenny Loggins concert review: Anaheim

A version of my review originally appeared at

Last year’s big screen remake of “Footloose” suddenly brought Kenny Loggins – whose name is equally synonymous with the original 1984 film as star Kevin Bacon's due to the No. 1 theme song - back into public consciousness for a brief period.
Blake Shelton recorded a rollicking cover of the title track for the updated soundtrack and the pair made some television appearances together.
With any luck, Loggins will return to the limelight in a bigger way this fall when the debut album by his fine new folk/rock band Blue Sky Riders - pictured above - arrives. They were the opening act at City National Grove of Anaheim on Wednesday night.
The highly engaging, 90-minute show was well-attended. It covered many facets of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s career, which now spans more than five decades. An introductory montage of archival clips on the screens concluded with “Danny’s Song.” Before the Loggins & Messina classic finished, the band appeared onstage to do the job.
“It’s great to be back here; I love this room,” said Loggins, before delving into the comforting soft rock of “Return to Pooh Corner,” off the same named 1994 children’s CD. He explained the genesis of the tune (and also would later for other selections). Fans dutifully sang along loudly.
One of two medleys began with L&M’s slinky 1972 hit “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and included Loggins’ early influences/old favorites by Peggy Lee, The Coasters, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger and surprisingly, Prince. On the latter, he humorously strained to reach the helium high notes.
Those who thought Loggins couldn’t rock out was proven wrong during the lean and mean L&M song “Angry Eyes” and other eye openers in the set. Blue Sky Riders singer Georgia Middleman subbed for Stevie Nicks as Loggins’ duet partner on a warm, folk-leaning arrangement of “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” (apparently a rarity at his concerts).  
Following a funny anecdote about penning the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald and a dead-on impression, Loggins recalled the more serious inspiration for “This is It.” Here, it was played in a stark, more dramatic fashion like Loggins’ 1993 live CD, Outside: From the Redwoods.
An extended “Celebrate Me Home,” saw Loggins pulling out all the stops. He sang soulfully (initially accompanied by piano) and worked both sides of the Grove stage. Heading into the crowd, Loggins was accosted by overzealous male fan wanting to snap a picture and told him, “Uh, I’m kind of busy here.” Then the singer climbed onto a table (not something you expect from a 64-year-old), the lead guitarist did a solo and Loggins traded scat lines with him.
Middleman and husband Gary Burr (the other core BSR band member) provided robust backing vocals on environmentally themed “Conviction of the Heart.” A bluesy two-fer from the “Caddyshack” soundtrack featured a minor changeup on the rousing “I’m Alright.”   
Loggins’ signature hit “Footloose” was fun and feisty as ever. More blues came in the form of Robert Johnson-via-Cream’s “Crossroads.” The band did an impressive job.
Blue Sky Riders’ half hour lead off spot showcased the trio’s marvelous harmonies and easy rapport.
The ebullient Middleman and Burr are accomplished country and pop tunesmiths with multiple big name hits to their credits. She even has a composition on the new Kenny Chesney release. Loggins first met Burr a couple years back while putting together the underrated 2008 disc, How About Now.
Fortunately, they resurrected the title track. The winsome live version was upbeat. Middleman took the lead on Faith Hill-type ballad “Little Victories” and traded vocals with Loggins for the resonant country rocker “Too Old to Dream.” The band capped things off with an enthusiastic cover of The Beatles’ “Help!” 
Kenny Loggins, City National Grove of Anaheim, June 20, 2012
Setlist: Danny’s Song/Return to Pooh Corner/(Medley: Your Mama Don’t Dance/Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll/Young Blood/Chain of Fools/Fever/Kiss)/Angry Eyes/Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’/This is It/Leap of Faith/Celebrate Me Home/Conviction of the Heart/Mr. Night/I’m Alright
Encore: (Medley: Danger Zone/Footloose)/Crossroads/Forever

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Raveonettes return in September

The Raveonettes - Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner - announce the release of new album "Observator," out Sept. 11 on Vice Records.

Wagner says, "The fact that I was listening to The Doors constantly added to the seductive draw of the drowning sun in Los Angeles. I wanted to get back to that classic verse-chorus-verse style of song writing that The Doors managed so well on their best singles. It's a very specific and evocative feel that I wanted to achieve, and going out west seemed the best way to capture it."

Throwing himself into the real lives of people he encountered in both California and New York, Wagner soaked up the stories of both cities. "I get a lot of my ideas when I'm out. I get drunk and have moments of lucidity where I scribble down notes and thoughts. The next day, I'll start channeling the thoughts I had the previous night. That's sort of always worked for me but this time, I had to go the long way round to remember that."

Observator was recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound Studios with mentor Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Go-Gos, Richard Hell), who the band worked with on album "Pretty In Black."

"It was during these sessions that a new dimension to the Raveonettes began to develop; it's the first time we've ever used the piano and what a glorious, gloomy sound it makes. We knew immediately that it was something we needed to expand on. But make no mistake; Observator is still a gorgeous guitar album."

Tour Dates:

June 23                      Subterranean                               Chicago, IL
June 24                      Green Music Fest                        Chicago, IL
September 21            Hawthorne Theatre                      Portland, OR
September 22            Neumo's                                       Seattle, WA
September 23            Venue                                           Vancouver, BC
September 26            Triple Rock                                   Minneapolis, MN
September 27            Lincoln Hall                                   Chicago, IL
September 28            The Firebird                                   St. Louis, MO
September 29            A&R Bar                                         Columbus, OH
September 30            Magic Stick                                    Detroit, MI
October 2                   Phoenix Concert Theatre              Toronto, ON
October 5                   Webster Hall                                  New York, NY
October 6                   Black Cat                                       Washington, DC
October 7                   Paradise Rock Club                       Boston, MA
October 8                   El Rey Theatre                               Los Angeles, CA
October 11                 Belly Up Tavern                              Solana Beach, CA
October 12                 Bombo's 365 Club                          San Francisco, CA