Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Old 97's tour dates

Old 97's are about to tour in support of new album Most Messed Up on ATO Records. Here are the details...

Tour Dates:

5/05 - El Paso, TX @ Tricky Falls
5/06 - Tucson, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
5/07 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
5/08 - Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern
5/09 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
5/10 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
5/12 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox at the Market
5/13 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
5/14 - Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
5/15 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
5/17 - Lynchburg, TN @ Live at the Landmark
5/24 - Ft. Worth, TX @ Colonial Golf Tournament
5/27 - Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald's Upstairs
5/28 - New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
5/29 - Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
5/30 - Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle
5/31 - Washington DC @ 9:30 Club
6/02 - Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
6/03 - New York, NY @ Webster Hall
6/04 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr Small's Theatre
6/05 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
6/06 - Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
6/07 - Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
6/17 - Kansas City, MO @ Crossroads
6/18 - St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
6/19 - Bloomington, IL @ The Castle Theatre
6/20 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
6/21 - Chicago, IL @ Park West Theater
6/22 - Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall
6/24 - Newport, KY @ The Southgate House Revival
6/26 - Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
6/27 - Little Rock, AR @ Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack
6/28 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
6/29 - Santa Fe, NM @ Sol Santa Fe
7/20 - Memphis, TN @ The Levitt Shell
7/22 - Richmond, VA @ The National
7/23 - Dewey Beach, DE @ Bottle & Cork
7/24 - Asbury Park, NJ @ The Stone Pony
7/25 - Wellfleet, MA @ Wellfleet Beachcomber
7/26 - Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
7/27 - Camden, NJ @ Xponential Festival

Blondie's new/old anniversary album package

photo: Danielle St. Laurent
I'm always interested in the band's new material. Read on for more details...

Blondie has just unveiled the new video for “Sugar On The Side” via Hunger TV.
Directed by English photographer Rankin, this striking video shares its concept with Debbie Harry's bold Issue 5 cover shoot for UK’s Hunger Magazine. Shot in monochrome and mixing kaleidoscope and geometric visuals, “Sugar On The Side” sees Harry embody two contrasting looks and personas. The track features Caribbean collective Systema Solar.
“This album is a little more far-reaching. It’s a bit more dancey. We’ve done a lot more collaboration, with different musicians, singers and writers on this album than ever before," Debbie Harry told Hunger.
"For instance, Chris (Stein) got in touch with the guys from Systema Solar, who are on 'Sugar On The Side', over the internet because he had been listening to their music and really liked it.” 
2014 marks Blondie’s 40th Anniversary as a band. In celebration of this milestone, they will release a special double-disc package entitled Blondie 4(0) Ever on May 13 via NOBLE ID/ ESMG. It will include a collection of new songs entitled Ghosts of Download, and an album entitled Deluxe Redux: Greatest Hits, featuring brand new studio recordings of the band’s biggest songs. The iconic Andy Warhol “Debbie Harry” portrait is the cover art for the greatest hits album.
The album is available now to pre-order on iTunes, Amazon and Best Buy. Fans who pre-order the physical package through Amazon or Best Buy can choose amongst the Standard, Deluxe or Vinyl LP options. The Standard package (Amazon, Best Buy) is the 2-CD set. The Deluxe package (Amazon, Best Buy) includes the 2-CD set, a DVD of Blondie’s 1977 CBGB performance, a replica vintage poster and 5 postcards of Chris Stein photos.

A vinyl LP package includes both albums on vinyl plus a DVD of Blondie’s 1977 CBGB performance. Fans who pre-order the digital album via iTunes and Amazon will receive three additional Ghosts of Download bonus tracks with the album. The iTunes pre-order also exclusively comes with an instant free download of the new song "I Want To Drag You Around."

Blondie 4(0) Ever Tracklisting:

Greatest Hits Album

1.            Heart of Glass
2.            Dreaming
3.            Tide Is High
4.            Maria
5.            Sunday Girl
6.            Hanging on the Telephone
7.            Rapture
8.            One Way or Another
9.            Call Me
10.          Atomic
11.          Rip Her to Shreds

Ghosts of Download

1.            Sugar on the Side
2.            Rave
3.            A Rose By Any Name
4.            I Want To Drag You Around
5.            Winter
6.            I Screwed Up
7.            Relax
8.            Take Me In The Night
9.            Make A Way
10.          Mile High
11.          Euphoria
12.          Take It Back
13.          Backroom

Blondie Upcoming Live Dates/Appearances:

U.S. Dates:
05/24/14   Atlantic City, NJ @ Tropicana Casino & Resort
05/25/14   Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center
05/28/14   New York, NY @ 92Y (Debbie Harry & Chris Stein in Conversation with Anthony DeCurtis)
10/03/14   Valley Center, CA @ Harrah's Rincon
International Dates:
06/10/14   Stockholm, Sweden @ Cirkus
06/12/14   Bergen, Norway @ Bergenfest Festival
06/14/14   Esbjerg, Denmark @ Esbjerg Rock Festival
06/18/14   Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
06/19/14   Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg @ Rockhal
06/21/14   Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain @ Azkena Rock Festival
06/23/14   Berlin, Germany @ Tempodrom
06/24/14   Hamburg, Germany @ Große Freiheit
06/25/14   Cologne, Germany @ E-Werk
06/27/14   Pilton, England @ Glastonbury Festival
06/29/14   Sheffield, England @ O2 Academy Sheffield
07/01/14   London, England @ Virgin
07/03/14   Barcelona, Spain @ Pedralbes Gardens
07/04/14   Herouville St-Clair, Normandy @ Chateau De Beauregard
07/07/14   Argelès-sur-Mer, France @ Les Deferlantes
07/10/14   Ottawa, Ontario @ Ottawa Bluesfest
07/11/14   Quebec City, Quebec @ Festival d’Ete International de Quebec
07/18/14   Pemberton, British Columbia @ Pemberton Music Festival
08/16/14   Chelmsford, England @ V Festival
08/17/14   Stafford, England @ V Festival
08/22/14   Paris, France @ Roc En Seine
08/31/14   Namur, Belgium @ La Fête des Solidarités

The return of Peter Himmelman

Just got this press release. Should be an intriguing album...

On his newest album, The Boat That Carries Us, out on July 15 via his own Himmasongs Recordings, Peter Himmelman is a man on the move — whether it’s in a dark El Camino wrestling the wind outside of Reno, on a plane floating 33,000 feet above the Midwest or, on the title track, in a boat that needs no sails.

It’s no coincidence that a variety of vehicles (planes, trains and even 10-ton tanks) roll through this CD, since Himmelman wrote many of the tunes while on cross-country flights. This sense of being in transit also influenced the nature of his songwriting, with each of the record’s characters in a kind of perpetual motion. “Being so high above things,” he says, “gave the songs a particular perspective — physically and metaphysically.” The “bleary-eyed travelers” in “Afraid To Lose” who wear their “doubt like a skin” aren’t just shuffling through a bus station, they’re also are on existential journey. The world-weary airplane passenger in “33K Feet” is “too tired to explain what I mean” when relating his epiphany of feeling “somehow complete at 500 miles per hour/and 33,000 feet.”

The Minnesota-bred, L.A.-based singer/songwriter describes his albums as “just chronicles of my life at a given period of time. I’m essentially a journalist. I write as I see things and I try to report objectively.” After several albums filled with narratives of the emotional struggles he saw before him, Himmelman now feels like he has succeeded in scaling a mountain, and the songs on Boat reflect this new perspective of hopefulness.
The songs that bookend Boat especially embody Himmelman’s more optimistic (at least for him) point of view. The title track, which opens the CD, offers reassuring words of survival: “though the current’s strong/it can’t break our will,” “the Northern Star/will surely guide us home” and “the darkest sky/gives way to dawn”. The closing number, a folksy, gospel-flavored “Hotter Brighter Sun,” similarly conveys the idea that something better exists “over the edge of what’s expected/off to the side of what’s been done.”
Even the disc’s darker tunes offer rays of light. “Green Mexican Dreams” finds a man experiencing a Castaneda-esque south of the border trek before returning home to Los Angeles, while “In the Hour of Ebbing Light” delivers a swamp-pop apocalyptic vision of a city about to burn yet suggests that “we can make it back to Eden.”
Boat marks the first time that Himmelman composed the lyrics first, which he discovered to be an extremely liberating way to write. “Seeing the structure of the words on the page was very visual, almost like drawing the lyrics,” he explains. A visual artist as well as a musical one, Himmelman described this songwriting process as being similar to painting as it induces a semi-dreamlike state, or, perhaps, he suggests jokingly, that comes “from the lack of oxygen on the plane flights.”
To record Boat, Himmelman also altered the way he creates an album. Instead of utilizing elaborate demos like he often had previously, he only brought in rudimentary song sketches, which he recorded primarily live in the studio with few takes. He found this approach to be “exciting, challenging and stimulating.”  It helped that his core backing band featured a pair of legends — drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Leland Sklar — plus the talented David Steele (John Prine, Lucinda Williams) on electric guitar. “They took me to a higher place,” Himmelman confesses, “We each elevated one another.”
These musicians, he says, know how to transform a song into “a transcendent thing with the power to hypnotize listeners.” They also are such intuitive players that he didn’t have to tell them what to play. Keltner changed the drumbeat to “Green Mexican Dreams,” turning a track that wasn’t quite working into one of the CD’s standout cuts. Steele’s guitar work so impressed Himmelman that he wound up playing just acoustic guitar and piano. Steele unleashes some particularly nasty guitar work on “Angels Die” while using jazz licks to color the sardonically twisted love story “Tuck It In.” Keyboardist Will Gramling joined the Boat party after the main sessions; however, his organ work fits in seamlessly, especially the soulful tones he contributes to tracks like “For Wednesday at 7 p.m. (I Apologize)” and “That's What It Looks Like to Me.”
Boat, Himmelman says, wouldn’t have been made without the urging and input of his longtime friend and collaborator Sheldon Gomberg. Serving as producer, main engineer, sounding board and mentor, Gomberg helped shape the album, advising Himmelman to not camouflage himself in these songs. As a result, Boat stands as the warmest, and most spare sounding, album in his critically acclaimed catalog.
Himmelman first surfaced on the American music scene in the Minneapolis New Wave band Sussman Lawrence before moving on to create a uniquely diverse musical career. He’s best known as the thought-provoking singer/songwriter that the San Francisco Chronicle described as someone who “probes the depths of all the passions, from anguish to lust, to depths few rockers can even imagine.” Himmelman’s restless creativity has led him to record a series of children’s albums (including the Grammy-nominated My Green Kite), compose scores for numerous TV series and films and, for several years, host the live podcast show Furious World. Recently, he founded Big Muse, an innovative new company in which he uses song writing to show companies how to improve, communication, innovative thinking, and leadership skills.
To get Boat made, Himmelman turned to Kickstarter and found his inaugural crowd-sourcing endeavor to be a truly galvanizing experience. Although claiming that he basically writes songs for an audience of less than ten: (his wife, his mother, his best friend, his kids, and himself) Himmelman was able to see, through the Kickstarter campaign, the many fans out there who care deeply about his music.
For the CD’s release, he has created an artfully designed lyric book as well as a cookbook, which he admits is really is the work of his wife. Well known for his witty, wry live performances, he will share his excitement about The Boat That Carries Us with some selective touring while also working on the music for the new USA Network show DIG.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Damon Albarn U.S. tour dates

Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) will be making his way from Governor's Ball to Bonnaroo this June and has confirmed some new U.S. stops in between.

In additional to his previously announced festival dates, Damon will headline other shows as well. A limited number of Damon Albarn VIP packages will be available for these dates, visit for details on these and general on-sale dates. Tomorrow, Damon's first solo album Everyday Robots will hit stores and digital retailers.

US TOUR 2014

6/06/14 - New York, NY - Governors Ball Music Festival
6/08/14 - New York, NY -- Irving Plaza
6/09/14 - Boston, MA -- Royale
6/10/14 - Baltimore, MD -- Rams Head Live
6/12/14 - Raleigh, NC -- Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
6/13/14 - Atlanta, NC -- Fox Theatre
6/14/14 - Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stagecoach Festival 2014 review: Day 3

photo: Robert Kinsler
My review originally appeared in the OC Register

With the gale force winds from the past two days subsiding, early Sunday afternoon was far more tolerable, though you could still sense some people were moving at a slower pace after living it up the night before.

Alabama alt-country singer Shelly Colvin (no relation to Shawn), who possesses a keening voice akin to Emmylou Harris’ distinctive tone, started the Mustang stage’s proceedings with some laid-back tunes that at times brought to mind Sheryl Crow.

She’s done studio work for others, collaborated with JD Souther and Old Crow Medicine Show, had music placements in films and just opened for fellow Stagecoach artist John Prine. Here, Colvin was backed by an impressive band that featured members of Dawes, My Morning Jacket and Everest, plus veteran pedal steel master Greg Leisz. Hypnotic songs from her 2012 full-length effort Up the Hickory, Down the Pine fared best, notably “Wishing Well” and one whose lyrics ask “where's my Studebaker?” (When was the last time you heard mention of that ancient car?)

Speaking of Dawes, Jonny Fritz, previously known under the surname Corndawg, utilized that band’s guitarist, Taylor Goldsmith, to co-produce last year’s Dad Country. His set in Palomino made prodigious use of fiddle, but despite the inclusion of Goldsmith on a few cuts, it came across like undistinguishable music for truckers. Maybe the recorded versions of “Shut Up” and “The Life of Bear” are better. 

photo: Robert Kinsler
“Thanks for making my dreams come true,” said an ebullient Susanna Hoffs during her Stagecoach debut Sunday afternoon. Back in December, the Bangles’ frontwoman told me in an interview that she’d always wanted to play the festival.

Her all-male band here included Andrew Brassell, who helped craft Hoffs’ winsome 2012 solo album, Someday.

Yet, surprisingly, only one selection from that effort, seemingly tailor-made for this fest, was featured: the glorious “Raining,” for which a music video was shot in the Coachella Valley.

I figured Hoffs might rework some Bangles tunes with pedal steel or fiddle to make them countrified. Nope. Instead, it was multiple rocking hits from her primary group (“Walk Like an Egytian,” “Eternal Flame,” the Prince-penned “Manic Monday,” their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”) with male-centric backing vocals for an interesting change of pace.

“Egyptian” did include slide guitar, though, and there were other pleasant twists. Hoffs’ take on the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” – sung by Linda Ronstadt but penned by Michael Nesmith, who would perform here later – was as delightful as it is on her Under the Covers, Vol. 1 collaboration with Matthew Sweet. “In Your Room” and Big Star’s “September Gurls” were brawnier than the Bangles’ versions and found Hoffs shaking her long hair while playing a signature Rickenbacker guitar.

Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” boasted subtle electric guitar, harmonica and a hushed vocal. And the dramatic rarity “I'll Keep It with Mine,” a Dylan gem covered by the Paisley Underground offshoot project Rainy Day in 1984, apparently made its live debut in Indio. Hoffs’ honeyed delivery and another bandmate’s fuzz-tone guitar made it a standout. Although the Mustang was half-full, her fans in attendance were really devoted.

Shovels and Rope had a White Stripes-type deal going on in the same tent immediately afterward. The male-female duo, already Americana Music Award winners, had plenty of people dancing around on their fun, bluesy songs, colored by guitar, drums and keyboards.

Instrumental twang guitar master Duane Eddy displayed plenty of dexterity – even at 76 – during his time in the Palomino tent. He brought along a tight band that featured a saxophonist (sometimes two when the keyboardist joined in) and MC5 axe man Wayne Kramer (!) on acoustic and electric models.

With Nick 13 of Tiger Army watching from the front of the stage, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer elated with plenty of nuggets your parents or grandparents probably played on 45 records: big hits “Rebel Rouser,” “Because They’re Young” and “Peter Gunn,” not to mention tasty morsels like “Ramrod” (enlivened with barrelhouse piano), the self-descriptive “3:30 Blues” and “Some Kind of Earthquake.” The legend, playing on orange six-string gear, described each song and seemed to enjoy himself.

Passing by the Mustang stage, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, comprising the very young Mizzone brothers out of New Jersey, prompted plenty of do-si-dos with the title track of their second album The Farthest Horizon and other feisty bluegrass numbers.

Even more dancing was to be had in the same spot where Asleep at the Wheel also held court later.

Much like Eddy, the veteran band’s enjoyable set was like a trip back several decades, especially while delving into their famed stock-in-trade: the catalog of Bob Wills, King of Western Swing. Tall frontman Ray Benson’s stentorian voice definitely demanded attention, even from far outside the tent. The group also excelled during the old standard “Route 66” and “Miles and Miles of Road."

Dustin Lynch made the ladies swoon on the Mane stage with a solid set comprising songs from his 2012 chart-topping, self-titled debut album and a couple new tracks.

The Neo-traditionalist country singer is a boy-next-door type with a deep baritone. Here, he excelled on fun current hit "Where It's At (Yep Yep)," "Sittin' Pretty," the #2 charting ballad "Cowboys and Angels" (inspired by Lynch's grandparents' long marriage) and the more twangy "Name on It." 

He even threw in a bit of Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" and Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places." That prompted the expected crowd singalong as hundreds hoisted their drinks skyward. 

For more coverage of the festival, go to:

Stagecoach Festival 2014 review: Day 2

My review originally appeared in the OC Register


Given its three male headliners - Friday opener Eric Church, Saturday star Jason Aldean and Sunday closer Luke Bryan - and the nature of their music, some people have dubbed this testosterone-heavy edition of Stagecoach the "Bro-Down."

Dan + Shay definitely fit that description as well. The latest hit-making duo in country music emerged Saturday afternoon on the Mane Stage with energy galore, calling out party references and urging early birds to make some noise several times.

But the crowd standing directly in front (far larger than Friday at the same time) needed no prodding; a bunch of young cowgirls shrieked loudly from the moment Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney appeared.
A few weeks ago, their album Where it All Began debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's country albums chart and the single "19 You & Me" went Top 10. Here in Indio, the hunky guys emerged in black jackets, then the good-time tunes flowed like gravy.

Constantly working both sides of the stage or singing side by side, their chemistry couldn't be denied, particularly during "Somewhere Only We Know," which lyrically name-checked Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" (an acoustic cover showcasing a fine harmony blend followed), "Stop Drop & Roll" and the soaring current hit, during which Dan + Shay sang "you were California beautiful" and drew cheers.
Right before them, Sara Haze (below) started the Mane stage with a thoroughly pleasant blend of country-pop. The Lake Forest native has placed her songs with major acts (the next arrives next month on Rascal Flatts' new effort) and is set to open for Little Big Town this summer at the OC Fair. Her acoustic set here featured a mandolin player and guitarist.

"I've been to Stagecoach many times and am happy to play here," she said excitedly before the upbeat "Handcuffs."

Highlights included a spunky "Warpaint," the poignant life lessons of "Hand Me Down" (inspired by her family, whow were in attendance) and "Famous," the latest hit for one of Friday's Mane performers, Kelleigh Bannen. 

A large number of people here with general-admission access stake spots early in the day at Stagecoach and never move. That leaves plenty of downtime, especially for older folk who aren’t constantly chugging down beers.

Late Saturday afternoon, one woman in the Palomino tent bided her time by knitting a hat while sitting on a bale of hay. Those makeshift seats became a hot commodity by the time acclaimed Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit performed there.

The former guitarist for Drive-By Truckers made plenty of critics’ best-of lists last year with his frequently captivating album Southeastern. Next fall, he’s doing three nights (two are sold out) at the 2,300-capacity Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Like country legend Rodney Crowell and alt-rocker Josh Ritter, Isbell has a knack for crafting vivid, highly personal lyrics that cut to the quick. I’d only seen him perform via a pair of recent PBS specials, so this was my first opportunity to catch the Alabama native live. Definitely not a disappointment: his 50-minute set was the best thing I saw on Day 2.

photo: Eric England
Rootsy opener “Flying Over Water” saw Isbell serve up the first of several tasteful solos. Second guitarist Sadler Vaden provided sweet backing vocals on “Stockholm” and others, while “Outfit,” penned for his father, and “Cover Me Up,” which touches on sexual abuse, were just plain riveting. Isbell moved from whispered to wailing vocals, Vaden offered up great slide guitar work – and several shirtless guys in white cowboy hats whooped and hollered as the latter song reached a crescendo.

Another fine touch: Isbell’s between-song banter came peppered with self-deprecating humor. Other standouts included “Alabama Pines” and the lean, early-’70s Stones vibe of “Go It Alone” and “Super 8” (as in “I don’t wanna die” in one).

Dashing out to the Mane stage, I arrived right when Ashley Monroe acknowledged marijuana smoke and recalled co-writing "Heart Like Mine" with Miranda Lambert before fellow Pistol Annies bandmate recorded it. Even one of the usually stone-faced security guards sang along. The Annies' "Unhappily Married" was still damn catchy in her solo hands, while "Weed Instead of Roses" was quite a hoot.

Crystal Gayle (below), the country-pop crossover star of the ’70s and ’80s who hasn’t recorded a new studio album in more than a decade, made a rare Southern California appearance Saturday at Stagecoach. Elderly concert-goers helped fill much of the Palomino.

The sophisticated singer, 63, had a spectacular chart run from 1976-86 when she notched a dozen or so No. 1 singles and was equally known for her exceedingly ravenous long hair. (It still almost reaches the floor, though it’s wispier these days.) One lady standing next to me exclaimed: “She’s still gorgeous.”

Instead of a crowd-pleasing hit parade in Indio, however, Gayle turned in a somewhat erratic set.

Clad in a glittery silver-and-black outfit, she started with “Half the Way” and routinely clipped her vocal phrasing. Her takes on Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” and a tune popularized by Mary Hopkins, “Those Were the Days,” were merely adequate.

Backing vocals were supplied by her sister Peggy Sue Webb. The pair indulged some good-natured duets, including a bit from famous sibling Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a sprightly “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and the Peggy co-write “Don’t Come Home a-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
Later, the band’s timekeeper was given a solo and did some of “Little Drummer Boy,” and there were forays into jazz. Still, longtime fans were treated to smooth versions of “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For,” “Talking in Your Sleep” and, of course, her signature smash, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
By the time Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hit the same stage right before 8, Stagecoach attendees were well into wild party mode – something Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland couldn’t fulfill on the Mane Stage. (I overheard some guys joking about her: “Nettles is from Sugar WHO?”)
That atmosphere made it unbearable for those who just wanted to enjoy the veteran Long Beach folk/rock outfit’s career-spanning set.

After 40-plus years, John McEuen’s chops on mandolin, fiddle and banjo are still sharp as ever. Drummer Jimmie Faddon played harmonica simultaneously with his rhythms, and Hanna reminisced about playing the old Golden Bear nightclub in Huntington Beach during the band’s formative days.
Before the spirited hit “Dance Little Jean,” amiable lead singer/guitarist Jeff Hanna half-joked: “There’s 10 marriages between the four of us. We had to work hard at our divorces.” Another one of their staples, “Mr. Bojangles,” prompted a hearty sing-along. Inspired ballad “Working Man,” a feisty version of “My Walking Shoes Don’t Fit Me Anymore” and “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me” (from 2009’s Speed of Life) all came across well.

But once they went into some mellow extended jams, like “Rippling Waters,” the energy level in Palomino deflated and there were some quick exits. Those who remained, though, were rewarded with the anthemic “Fishing Hole” and Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” – both developing into quite the hoedowns – and naturally the band closed with its staple rendition of the century-old hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

For more coverage of the festival, go to: 

Stagecoach Festival 2014 review: Day 1

photo by Robert Kinsler
My review originally appeared in the OC Register.


One surefire way to tell if an artist's set is really cookin' is when an impromptu line dance crops up. Such was the case Friday afternoon during Sam Outlaw's fine set of traditional music on the Mustang stage.

The L.A.-based singer/guitarist (Outlaw is his mother's maiden name) is no stranger to the desert, having shot a music video in Joshua Tree. He cites influences like George Jones and Merle Haggard, and those sources showed amid the memorable song "Kind to Me" (prefaced by an introduction about how "pedal steel is still actually included in some country songs these days") and another tune that found him "going out on a limb to sing a happy love song." Two gals stood on bales of hay in front of the stage to dance before being shooed away by security.

photo by Robert Kinsler
Earlier, the Wild Feathers kicked off the Palomino action with a bang. Playing to in-the-know early birds, the band's highly enjoyable set featured some sizzling guitar work (the racing "Backwoods Company") and cascading multi-part harmonies plus lead vocal change-offs reminiscent of the Band and the early Eagles during "Hard Times" and "Left My Woman." "The Ceiling," another selection from the band's exceptional 2013 self-titled debut, finished everything on a high.

Speaking of great axework, Lindsay Ell (seen below) could give many guys a run for their money. 

The Canadian country singer/guitarist was discovered by Randy Bachman (of the Guess Who), has toured with Buddy Guy and released a pair of albums with another on the way. Without an introduction she launched the Mane Stage rundown, and her performance was an eye-opener, not necessarily for her vocals (which were merely adequate) but for her fast-fingered fretwork on her purple Gibson.

Best examples were the smoldering "State of Emergency" (co-penned by Carolyn Dawn Johnson), rockin' covers of "American Woman" (teased with licks from Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Aerosmith) and Keith Urban's "Who Wouldn't Want to Be Me."

She even did some light-touch hammer-on bits acoustically before the tender ballad "Not Another Me."

Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, out of San Francisco, brought to mind '70s adult contemporary pop/rock with tunes from their eponymous effort from last year, notably on "Hey Stranger" and another moody one that wouldn't have been out of place on a Fleetwood Mac LP back in the day. The standout from the group's set was a faithful take on the Betty Everett/Linda Ronstadt staple "You're No Good," which gave Bluhm a chance to add vocal grit while her husband Tim (of the Mother Hips) played swelling keyboards.

Acclaimed Austin-based bluegrass performer Sarah Jarosz drew a small crowd to the Mustang with her trio. Songs from last year's solid, Grammy-nominated effort Build Me Up from Bones (like the title track) as well as a cover of Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" were lovely and haunting. 

High tailing it over to the Palomino for the last half of Shelby Lynne's set, I saw the Grammy-winning, Coachella Valley resident bring a little gospel spark to Empire Polo Grounds. Before the luxurious "Road I'm On," she said, "Life takes us on a journey. I'm glad I get to write about it. This is about going to the light." 

Other spiritual-tinged numbers from last year's Thanks EP included the upbeat "Call Me Up" (Ben Peeler supplied tasty lap steel work) and slow groove of "Walkin'." The latter found Lynne bring veteran background vocalist Maxine Waters (spotlighted in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom) to the front of the stage for some call and response action.    

Thomas Rhett's earthy country tunes got a good response from the crowd. "'Round Here," penned for Florida Georgia Line, was described as "my first No. 1 as a songwriter" and performed solo acoustic. Everyone sang along loudly.

High energy hits "It Goes Like This" and "Something to Do with My Hands" also wend down well. Yet I thought the best segment came amid the poignant top 30 ballad "Beer with Jesus."

Then the Georgia native explained "I wrote it in college and it means a lot to me. Listen to the lyrics. If you don't want to, there's a Ferris wheel over there calling your name." He also did a fine take on the patriotic "'Merica," which Kenny Rogers recorded last year.

Many Stagecoach people do crazy things – that's a given – but it's rare to see it happen in the tents during an undercard's performance. Early Friday evening, as the Black Lillies played, a lady decided she wanted to take part of the Mustang stage's decor (an animal skull) and pose for a picture with it. Fortunately, security personnel saw what happened and made sure the item was returned.

And the Americana band from Knoxville, Tenn.? They put on the strongest set I saw in the tents, by far. Led by Cruz Contreras, the quintet mixed honky-tonk, rockabilly, noirish country-rock and more, all with plenty of verve. It brought to mind a similar nightcap here two years ago by a Latino-fronted band that I also couldn't tear myself away from: the Mavericks.

When Contreras sang in tandem with Tricia Brady on the rambunctious "Smokestack Lady" (off last year's Runaway Freeway Blues), the pair nearly channelled the spirit of Johnny and June Carter Cash. "Ruby," about a drug-addicted woman, featured a dramatic vocal delivery, while "Peach Pickin'" and "All This Living" were additional highlights.

Immediately preceding them inside Mustang, Canada's Wailin' Jennys turned in a charming set.

The Juno Award-winning female trio, a regular guest on Garrison Keillor's program A Prarie Home Companion, boasted a friendly repartee. Each took fine turns on lead vocals (soprano, mezzo and alto) and frequently changed instruments. The folk and bluegrass tunes went down well among the moderate-size crowd. Nicky Mehta got people to sing "hallelujah" during "Swing Low, Sail High" and the musicians' harmonies were just plain gorgeous. Other winners included "One Voice" and the jazz-inflected "Cherry Blossom Love."

For more coverage of the festival, go to:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Neon Trees makes the TV rounds, U.S. tour starts soon

Neon Trees appeared on Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and Michael this week. Here's the network TV debut of "Love in the 21st Century" on GMA: 

Neon Trees performs "Love in the 21st Century" on Good Morning America


Watch Neon Trees perform "Sleeping with a Friend" and "Everybody Talks"
Live with Kelly and Michael:

Neon Trees performs "Sleeping with a Friend" on Live! with Kelly and Michael

The multi-platinum group new album, Pop Psychology, came out this week on Island Records. "Sleeping With A Friend," the album's first single has charted high at Hot AC, Alternative, Triple A and Top 40 radio

Neon Trees recorded Pop Psychology in Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles, and Provo, UT with longtime collaborator Tim Pagnotta. The album continues Neon Trees' exploration of new wave, smart pop and dance music.

It is the follow up to 2012's Picture Show, which debuted at #17 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart and featured the RIAA double platinum single "Everybody Talks," which charted in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Neon Trees' debut album, Habits, was released in 2010 and featured the double platinum single "Animal."


5/12 - Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
5/14 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
5/16 - Atlantic City, NJ @ House of Blues
5/19 - Norfolk, VA @ The Norva
5/20 - Richmond, VA @ The National
5/22 - Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
5/23 - Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle
5/24 - Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
5/25 - North Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues
5/27 - Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock Live
5/28 - Tampa, FL @ The Ritz Ybor
5/29 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
6/1 - Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
6/2 - Austin, TX @ Stubb's Waller Creek
6/4 - Tucson, AZ @ The Rialto Theatre
6/5 - Las Vegas, NV @ The Cosmopolitan
6/9 - Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre
6/10 - Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory
6/11 - Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory
6/13 - Reno, NV @ Knitting Factory
6/14 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
6/16 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
6/17 - Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
6/21 - Louisville, KY @ Fourth Street Live!
6/23 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
6/24 - Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
6/29 - Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore
6/30 - Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
7/1 - Dewey Beach, DE @ Bottle & Cork
7/3 - Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
7/4 - Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
7/7 - New York, NY @ Central Park Summer Stage
7/10 - Wallingford, CT @ The Dome at Toyota Presents
7/11 - Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live
7/13 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club