Monday, August 31, 2015

Dylan Howe: “Subterranean: New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin” (2015) CD Review

In the mid-1970s, David Bowie moved to West Berlin. He released three studio albums in the next few years that are considered a trilogy of sorts, the Berlin Trilogy. Those albums are Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Earlier this year, jazz drummer Dylan Howe released Subterranean: New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin, featuring interesting interpretations of David Bowie’s compositions from that time. These are renditions of songs from Low And “Heroes,” including the entire side two of Low and two tracks that were recorded for Low but only released later in expanded editions. Nothing from Lodger is included, which is a shame, as that is one of my personal favorite Bowie albums (but then again Lodger doesn’t have instrumentals). But what is included here is excellent. And you don’t necessarily need to be a David Bowie fan to appreciate this album, especially as the tunes Howe covers are not your typical Bowie tunes. I think the album will be more interesting if you are a Bowie fan, but as long as you appreciate jazz, you’ll be able to enjoy this disc regardless of your feelings about David Bowie. Joining Dylan Howe on this CD are Ross Stanley on piano and synthesizer, Mark Hodgson on bass, Brandon Allen on saxophone, Julian Siegel on saxophone, Nick Pini on bass, Adrian Utley on guitar, and Steve Howe on koto.

The album opens with “Subterraneans,” the odd, atmospheric mostly instrumental track that concludes Low. Here it has a similar feel, which can be dark and haunting at times, but then also has a human feel because of the saxophones. This version is a few minutes longer than Bowie’s original. Interestingly, it’s followed by “Weeping Wall,” the instrumental tune that actually precedes it on Low. This is a strange, sometimes eerie number. Dylan Howe begins his rendition on drums, playing for half a minute or so before the other musicians come in. I really like this track, particularly because of Ross Stanley’s work on keys, which actually gives it something of an uplifting vibe at times, and brings it more firmly into the jazz realm. As with “Subterraneans,” this version of “Weeping Wall” is a few minutes longer than David Bowie’s original.

“All Saints” was recorded for Low, but wasn’t included on the original record. It was later included as a bonus track on the CD. It has a heavy, intense, electronic, industrial vibe.  The version on this CD begins with some really nice work on bass by Mark Hodgson, giving the piece a more introspective and exploratory feel at the start. But when it kicks in, it gains that heavier atmosphere and an electronic pulse. Then it surprisingly goes in a more traditional jazz direction, with even a bit of a swing to it, and there is some excellent stuff on saxophone. It goes back and forth between these two musical worlds, finding lots of interesting places to play, and includes a wonderful lead spot on bass. At eleven minutes, this version is quite a bit longer than the original. It is followed by “Some Are,” the other track that was recorded for, but not included on, the original pressing of Low. This one does have some lyrics, though an instrumental version was included on Bowie’s compilation All Saints. The version on this CD, of course, is instrumental. I love Ross Stanley’s work on piano.

“Neuköln” is a moody instrumental track from Bowie’s “Heroes” that was written by David Bowie and Brian Eno. Dylan Howe gives us two interpretations of this composition, “Neuköln – Night” and “Neuköln – Day.” Interestingly, while the saxophone plays such a key part in Bowie’s original, there is no saxophone on either of Howe’s tracks. It’s even more interesting when you consider that every other track on this CD, with one exception, has saxophone. Instead, it is Ross Stanley on piano that adds wonderful touches. These two tracks are the only ones to feature Nick Pini on bass.

Dylan Howe’s rendition of “Art Decade” has a kind of loose feel from the start. This is an instrumental track from the second side of Low. It is followed by the tune that precedes it on the Bowie album, “Warszawa.” Bowie’s version does have vocals, which come in more than halfway through the song. Howe and company really delve into the world of this composition, stretching it out to just over eleven minutes, taking it in some different directions. This is the only track on the CD to feature Adrian Utley on guitar. Ross Stanley delivers some wonderful stuff on keys in the second half of the song.

Dylan Howe concludes the CD with “Moss Garden,” a track from “Heroes” that was written by David Bowie and Brian Eno. On the original version, David Bowie plays koto, a Japanese string instrument. And on the version here it is Steve Howe on koto. Steve Howe is, of course, known for his work as the guitarist in Yes and Asia, and he is also Dylan Howe’s father. Other than Steve Howe, the only musicians on this track are Dylan Howe on drums and synths, and Ross Stanley on piano. There is a more calm, almost pretty feel to this one.

CD Track List
  1. Subterraneans
  2. Weeping Wall
  3. All Saints
  4. Some Are
  5. Neuköln – Night
  6. Art Decade
  7. Warszawa
  8. Neuköln – Day
  9. Moss Garden 
Subterranean: New Designs On Bowie’s Berlin was released on January 20, 2015.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Auburn: “Mixed Feelings” (2015) CD Review

Auburn is a British band that was formed by vocalist and guitarist Liz Lenten in 1999, then temporarily separated approximately a decade ago. They reunited in 2011, coming on strong, with Indian Summer the following year and then Nashville in 2014. And now they have a new CD, titled Mixed Feelings, on which the band dips into a good range of musical realms, including folk, blues, country and pop. All of the tracks are originals, written or co-written by Liz Lenten. This album, like the previous one, was recorded in Nashville, and features musicians from the area rather than the official band members from the UK. Those assembled for this release are all accomplished musicians, and most of them played on Nashville as well. The album was produced by Thomm Jutz, who also plays guitar on it (you might know Jutz from his work with Nanci Griffith).

Auburn kicks off the new album with its title track, “Mixed Feelings,” a tune which has a nice bluesy edge. There is also a cool rhythm on drums by Lynn Williams, and some good work on guitar. But it is Liz Lenten’s vocals which are the focus. Hers is a voice with a lot of character, a voice that seems to almost effortlessly draw in listeners. “I’ve got mixed feelings/Of love and hate/And I can’t function in this state.” “Mixed Feelings” was written by Liz Lenten and Mark Gustavina. And then “Love Lost Its Way” has something of a relaxed 1970s vibe, particularly on the chorus. “This time, I know/Love’s lost its way home/My tears roll slow/Love lost its way home.”

“Friends” is a sweet, gentle, warm song that I really love. The song is like a needed reminder that we’re not alone. But it refrains from making impossible promises, and so it has a beautiful honesty. Check out these lines: “I can’t mend your broken dreams/But I’m your friend/Won’t pretend that I can keep/The demons from your sleep/I’m your friend.” Wonderful, right? This is one of my favorites. And it’s followed by a delightful, quirky, humorous song, “Hell Hath No Fury.” This one is told from the perspective of an obsessed nut, beginning by saying “Sure we can just be friends,” but soon saying, “So you don’t forget me, I’ll keep messing with your head” and then “I’ll call every hour just to check that you’re all right/I’ll intercept your mail so no one else can write.” By the way, the line “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a slight rewording of a line written by William Congreve (not William Shakespeare, as many believe). The line is, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

“Crystal Stairs” has a really cool, catchy groove, helping to make it another of this disc’s highlights. This one also features some good harmony vocals, as well as excellent work on guitar. I’m also really fond of “Out There,” mainly because of Liz Lenten’s vocals, as she sings, “You won’t be alone, I swear/You will find love out there/You don’t need to be scared/Of a new life out there.” “Wood For The Trees” is another favorite. It has such a delicious vibe, and I love Justin Moses’ work on both fiddle and banjo. “I know I’m losing you/I know you’re just moving through/You’re slipping fast/My time is past/Oh, I know I’m losing you.” This is an excellent song.

CD Track List
  1. Mixed Feelings
  2. Love Lost Its Way
  3. New Years Day
  4. Friends
  5. Hell Hath No Fury
  6. Crystal Stairs
  7. Lovers Lullaby
  8. Out There
  9. More Than Everything
  10. Wood For The Trees
  11. Quiet Life
  12. Feel The Sun 

Musicians on this release include Liz Lenten on lead vocals; Lynn Williams on drums; Mark Fain on bass; Justin Moses on fiddle, banjo and dobro; Barry Walsh on piano, Wurlitzer and organ; JT Brown on harmony vocals; and Thomm Jutz on guitar.

Mixed Feelings is scheduled to be released on September 11, 2015 through Bat Country and Scarlet Records.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pugwash at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub, 8-28-15 Concert Review

Pugwash performing "Answers On A Postcard"
Pugwash is currently touring the states to help promote their excellent new CD, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends), which comes out September 4th and is the band’s first CD to be released internationally. I was turned onto this Irish band only a year or so ago, when a compilation was released in the U.S. through Omnivore Recordings, and so last night’s show at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub was the first chance I had to see them in concert.

And what a great show it was. I got there early in order to grab one of the few tables near the front. Soon it started to get crowded. People seemed to arrive all at once, like a wave crashing upon the stage then receding to the back of the room, leaving behind this strange assortment of people. Definitely an older crowd, which made me happy. These are folks who made the effort, people to whom music is important. My kind of people. The Cherry Bluestorms opened the show at 9 p.m. with a set of 1960s-influenced pop tunes (and actually, they kicked off their set with a good rendition of “She Said She Said,” one of my favorite Beatles tunes). The volume was loud enough without being too loud, and I was glad that the sound man wasn’t one of those deaf and daft guys who mistake their small clubs for Madison Square Gardens.

Just before 10 p.m., Pugwash was introduced, though the venue’s house music was still playing, leading the band to joke, “Amateurs.” They kicked off the show with the opening tune from the new album, “Kicking And Screaming.” And after it, they joked, “Good night.” Pugwash is a band that jokes around quite a bit, keeping things loose. They had a great and immediate rapport with the crowd. After “Kicking And Screaming,” they played “Kings And Queens,” a tune from their first album. It’s been insanely hot in Los Angeles the past week or so, and Molly Malone’s is a fairly small room so I figured it might get a bit warm in there. And indeed it did, leading Thomas Walsh to say early on: “We are very honored to sweat. We come from a land sweat doesn’t exist.”

After “Keep Movin’ On,” they did a bit of “Suspicious Minds,” and then played one of my favorite tracks from the new album, “Hung Myself Out To Dry.” They played my other favorites too – “You Could Always Cry” and “Oh Happy Days” – after I shouted out requests for them. And after “Oh Happy Days,” they talked a bit about recording that song, and how Ray Davies came to be on it.

They dedicated “Finer things In Life” to a woman named Amber, who is getting married soon. And after that tune, they shouted out random things to see if the audience would cheer, and the crowd happily played along. They did a few covers, including The Idle Race's “Morning Sunshine” and XTC's “Love On A Farmboy's Wages.” At one point they jokingly did a bit of Abba’s “Fernando.” They stopped, but then started again, in earnest this time. And a joke about “token applause” led to a rendition of The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” But one of my favorite humorous moments was when they joked about The Beach Boys covering Kraftwerk, “Fun, fun, fun on the autobahn.” Sure, there’s quite a bit of fucking around during the show, but Pugwash is a lot of fun, and the music is great.

Nelson Bragg (of The Brian Wilson Band) joined Pugwash for “Your Friend” and a cover of Tom Petty’s  “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” playing tambourine and maracas. At the end of “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” he shattered the maracas by banging them together (then quickly left the stage). Pugwash then ended the show with “The Fool I Had Become” (from the new CD) and “It’s Nice To Be Nice.” They said “It’s Nice To Be Nice” was essentially the encore, because they didn’t want to walk off and come back, as it’s too much work. That didn’t stop the audience from calling out for an encore, of course. The show ended at 11:44 p.m. And though the audience kept the call for an encore going for a while, the band did not return to the stage.

Set List
  1. Kicking And Screaming
  2. Kings And Queens
  3. Keep Movin’ On
  4. Hung Myself Out To Dry
  5. Finer Things In Life
  6. Apples
  7. Be My Friend Awhile
  8. Fernando
  9. There You Are
  10. You Could Always Cry
  11. Answers On A Postcard
  12. The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  13. Morning Sunshine
  14. Here
  15. Love On A Farmboy’s Wages
  16. Oh Happy Days
  17. Anyone Who Asks
  18. Fall Down
  19. Your Friend
  20. Runnin’ Down A Dream
  21. The Fool I Had Become
  22. It’s Nice To Be Nice
Here are a few photos from the show:

Pugwash introduction
"Kings And Queens"
"Finer Things In Life"
"Be My Friend Awhile"
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
"Fall Down"
"Your Friend"
"The Fool I Had Become"
"It's Nice To Be Nice"
Tickets for this show were $15. As the new CD from Pugwash is the first to get an international release, I am guessing word will spread quickly about how good this band is, and the next time they come through town they’ll be booked in a larger venue. I am so glad I got to see them in such an intimate room. Molly Malone’s Irish Pub is located at 575 S. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dave Davies: “Rippin’ Up New York City: Live At City Winery NYC” (2015) CD Review

Last year Dave Davies released a new studio album titled Rippin’ Up Time, and now he has a new live album coming out, which was recorded at the City Winery in New York and is appropriately titled Rippin’ Up New York City. It was actually recorded last year, on November 24 and 25, just a month after the studio album was released. It has that raw energy we always expect from Dave Davies, and features a good mix of material from the new album and some great Kinks classics (including my all-time favorite Kinks song, “Strangers”).

The CD opens with the title track from last year’s release, “Rippin’ Up Time.” (Actually, there is a 38-second introduction, but that doesn’t necessarily need to be a separate track.) “Rippin’ Up Time” is harder rock tune, and a good one with which to kick off the show. This version is oddly almost an instrumental rendition, with only a bit of the lyrics near the beginning and again near the end. And it’s actually a bit shorter than the studio version. It’s followed an early Kinks song, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” which was written by Ray Davies but on which Dave sang lead, and then “I Need You,” another early Kinks tune, a great rock and roll number. This version has a lot of energy.

That is followed by a couple of tunes from early Dave Davies singles. “Creeping Jean” was released as the flip side to Dave Davies’ single, “Hold My Hand.” The version on this live CD is titled “Creepin’ Jean,” and it has a nice little rock jam in the second half. “Suzannah’s Still Alive” is a really cool tune, one of my favorites on this CD. It was originally released as a single in 1967, then spelled “Susannah’s Still Alive” on most of the copies, and as “Suzanah’s Still Alive” on some. The new spelling seems a combination of the two. He also does “Death Of A Clown,” his first solo single.

Dave Davies introduces “See My Friends” as one of his favorite Kinks song. Though it is listed as “See My Friend” on the CD case, Dave clearly refers to it as “See My Friends” in his brief introduction. This is a fantastic psychedelic tune with Indian influences, and the version on this live album is a wonderful, extended rendition (at approximately seven minutes, it’s the longest track on the CD). Dave introduces the band at the end of the track. “See My Friends” was written by Ray Davies. It’s followed by my favorite Kinks song, “Strangers,” from Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround Part One, one of my personal favorite records. Dave introduces it by saying: “None of us are really strangers. We are all connected.” Interestingly, this rendition begins with the drumbeat which ends the studio version. I absolutely love this rendition. Dave Davies delivers such a great vocal performance here, giving the song nuances that the studio version doesn’t have. It is so moving. Just listen to him sing lines like, “I’ve killed my world and I’ve killed my time” and “So I will follow you wherever you go/If your offered hand is still open to me” and “This love of life makes me weak at my knees.” There is also some added stuff on guitar that is wonderful. I highly recommend checking out this track. Dare I say it might be better than the original? Yes, yes, yes.

After “Strangers,” he asks the audience if there are any requests. A lot of things are shouted out, and Dave picks “Flowers In The Rain,” a truly pretty tune from his 2002 solo album Bug. He does a couple of other tunes from Rippin’ Up Time – “Front Room” and “King Of Karaoke.” Both of these songs look back at the 1960s, including nods to specific Kinks songs. They’re good tunes, but I do wish he would have done “Nosey Neighbors” and “Mindwash,” two of my favorites from the studio album.

The most recent Kinks song Dave performs on this CD is “Living On A Thin Line” (here titled “Livin’ On A Thin Line”), from the 1984 record Word Of Mouth. I’ve always loved this song, and I listened to this cassette (yes, cassette) over and over when it came out (that album includes the hit “Do It Again,” but “Living On A Thin Line” might be the record’s best tune). The album then concludes with three classic Kinks rock tunes: “Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” “All Day And All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me.” “You Really Got Me” holds a special place for me, for when I got my drum kit at the age of thirteen and my friend across the street got his guitar, it was the first song we ever tackled (unless my memory is faulty or dishonest).

CD Track List
  1. Intro
  2. Rippin’ Up Time
  3. I’m Not Like Everybody Else
  4. I Need You
  5. Creepin’ Jean
  6. Suzannah’s Still Alive
  7. See My Friend
  8. Strangers
  9. Flowers In The Rain
  10. Front Room
  11. King Of Karaoke
  12. Death Of A Clown
  13. Livin’ On A Thin Line
  14. Where Have All The Good Times Gone
  15. All Day And All Of The Night
  16. You Really Got Me
Rippin’ Up New York City: Live At City Winery NYC is scheduled to be released on September 4, 2015 through Red River Entertainment.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rick And The All-Stars: “The Invisible Session” (2015) CD Review

The Stone Hill All-Stars continue to surprise and impress me. Earlier this year they released Away, one of my favorite CDs so far of 2015, and one which they recorded in a single day. Now they’ve collaborated with jazz guitarist Rick Pressler on a new project, Rick And The All-Stars, and the debut album, The Invisible Session, was likewise recorded in a single day. The Invisible Session was recorded on July 3, 2015 at Invisible Sound Studios in Baltimore, and was largely improvised (with one or two exceptions), with no second takes or overdubs. As a result, the album has a loose and exciting feel, and includes bits of studio banter at the beginning or end of several tracks. These are instrumental tracks, with no composition titles. When asked about the decision to leave the tracks untitled, Paul Margolis told me, “It just seemed odd to go back to the results of this spontaneous event and assign names to the tracks.” So the CD’s eight tracks are simply referred to by number (though, interestingly, the tracks do have titles on the CD Baby site and Amazon, but those titles are not the official titles). The lack of song titles also gives The Invisible Session’s title another meaning. By the way, Paul Margolis and Rick Pressler had worked together before, on projects like 32 Lions and The Bongo Division. The Invisible Session was mixed and mastered by Dave Nachodsky.

The first track begins loosely with bass, and then the other instruments quickly come in, trying things, like getting to know each other. It is Dan Naiman on saxophone who first really announces himself in a lead spot, and then John Shock finds a good groove on keys, and that’s when the song seems to really get its footing (you can hear someone exclaim “Yeah” in the background when John starts that groove). The tune definitely retains its loose, cool vibe throughout, and there’s a bit of banter at the end of the track. And then the second track begins with some banter: “What was that rhythm, Hoppy, because I wasn’t playing it?” Clearly these guys are having a good time, and that’s reflected in the wild and delightful second track. Hoppy Hopkins gives us a great and unusual groove on drums. The only problem is that this track is over way too soon.

The third track is one of my favorites. It has a kind of funky thing happening. Fans of Phish are going to love this track. Just imagine if Phish had a saxophone, as occasionally they have had (“What is a band without a saxophone?”). I totally dig Paul Margolis’ work on bass here. And Rick Pressler does some seriously interesting and cool stuff on guitar. The whole band just has everything going just about exactly right. This tune will get you moving, get you smiling. “Great moments there,” someone comments at the end. Yeah, every moment of this track.

There is a bit of goofing around at the start of the fourth track, giving us the feel of being in a rehearsal space with the band. But then the tune itself is pretty tight at times, with a good, full sound. The fifth track also begins with a bit of banter, and then the bass leads the band into a cool, somewhat mellow groove. And I love the way it builds from there, making this another of the disc’s highlights. This track has a fairly steady feel, yet goes in some interesting directions.

It is followed by a bluesy tune, which is one of the two tracks that was conceived of earlier, this one by Paul Margolis. (The other is the eighth track.) Interestingly, it is only on these two tracks that Paul Margolis plays guitar and Dan Naiman picks up the bass. So there is no saxophone here. But there is plenty of nice guitar work. The eighth track is another of my favorites. This is the one that was written by Rick Pressler ahead of time, and it has such a great vibe. I love music that transports me to some other land, time, realm, and this track certainly takes me outside of myself, while simultaneously putting a smile on my face. I love this track.

The Invisible Session was released on July 28, 2015. The band plans to record a second album next year.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Marshall Crenshaw: “#392: The EP Collection” (2015) CD Review

Marshall Crenshaw released a series of six EPs on vinyl over the last several years, each containing three tracks: a new original tune, a cover, and a new version of one of his older songs. Now a compilation of some of those tracks has been released on Addie-ville Records through Red River Entertainment. Titled #392: The EP Collection, this CD contains the original material and the covers, plus two bonus tracks. Many of the original songs were co-written by Dan Bern. In the liner notes, Marshall Crenshaw mentions how their friendship was cemented by a near-death experience on a flight in Alaska. The original songs are organized in reverse-order, with the most recent original track kicking off the album, and then moving backward through time. Then, interestingly, it moves forward again with the covers from those same EPs, ending with “Made My Bed, Gonna Lie In It,” from the most recent EP.  These vinyl EPs were available through a subscription, and it’s great that two thirds of the tracks are now available on CD to a wider audience.

This compilation opens with “Grab The Next Train,” the title track to the most recent of the EPs, which was released in May of this year. It’s a beautiful song of longing, and of doing something about it. “I got a notion that won’t leave my brain/I’m on my way downtown to grab the next train.” This song really works for me, perhaps in part because it makes me think of my girlfriend traveling by train all the way across the country to see me (which she’s done several times). And I totally relate to the line, “On a plane I feel like I’m in a cage.” “Grab The Next Train” was written by Marshall Crenshaw and Dan Bern, and is one of my personal favorites.
It’s followed by “Move Now,” which was also co-written by Marshall Crenshaw and Dan Bern. This was the title track to the EP released in November of last year. It has a little more of an edge, particularly to the blue-rock guitar part. “I put my shoes on my feet/Stepped out the back door into the burning heat/I left a note to say/Take whatever you want, I’ve gone away.” Marshall Crenshaw plays all the instruments on this track, something that’s not all that unusual for him. He’d done that on even some of his earliest recordings.

The lines from “Red Wine” that stood out for me the first time I listened to this CD were, “Well, the clouds rolled in today/And I tried to stop them/Then I heard your tales of woe/And I tried to top them.” I love those lines. And “Driving And Dreaming” is a tune I’ll add to my road trip song list, with lines like “I’ve been leaving a trail of smoke and dust behind/Flying by and laughing at the speed limit signs” and “And I’m fighting a losing battle/With the Oklahoma wind/The joy’s gone out of the joy ride/And I’m still nowhere, here I am still nowhere, nowhere near the end” and “Nothing but a wide open road as far as I could see.”

The last of the original tunes is “I Don’t See You Laughing Now,” the title track from the first of the EPs. “It must be hell to realize/That you fell for your own lies.” It is followed by the first of the covers, Jeff Lynne’s “No Time,” also from I Don’t You See You Laughing Now. “No Time” is an interesting tune that was originally released in 1971 on The Move’s final album (just before they became ELO). And Marshall Crenshaw does a great job with it. Among the instruments he plays on this track is toy piano. He is joined by Plink Giglio on mellotron, Glen Burtnick on guitar and backing vocals, and PK Lavengood on guitar. An even more surprising cover is The Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close To You,” which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Marshall Crenshaw delivers an earnest and pretty rendition, which features Steve Bernstein on trumpet.

From there, Marshall Crenshaw goes to classic rock for a cool version of The Bobby Fuller Four’s “Never To Be Forgotten,” on which he plays all the instruments and does all the vocals. He also plays everything on the following track, “Right Here Now,” an excellent song written by James McMurtry (and included on his 1995 album, Where’d You Hide The Body). I always liked the opening lines, “Somebody’s calling/It don’t mean a thing/If I don’t feel like talking/I just let it ring.” Marshall Crenshaw then returns to 1960s music for a cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful tune, “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It,” from their Daydream album, and once again he plays all the instruments. He then concludes with another 1960s song, The Easybeats’ “Made My Bed, Gonna Lie In It,” from the Grab The Next Train EP.

Bonus Tracks

The CD contains two tracks that are not from the EPs. The first is a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Man With Money,” recorded live in January 2014 soon after Phil Everly died. The second is a demo of “Front Page News,” a really good song Marshall Crenshaw co-wrote with Leroy Preston and recorded in the 1990s. “You lay all the blame right at my feet/This almost reads like a scandal sheet/It says we're through/It's front page news.”

CD Track List
  1. Grab The Next Train
  2. Move Now
  3. Red Wine
  4. Driving And Dreaming
  5. Stranger And Stranger
  6. I Don’t See You Laughing Now
  7. No Time
  8. (They Long To Be) Close To You
  9. Never To Be Forgotten
  10. Right Here Now
  11. Didn’t Want To Have To Do It
  12. Made My Bed, Gonna Lie In It
  13. Man With Money
  14. Front Page News
#392: The EP Collection was released on August 21, 2015 on Addie-ville Records through Red River Entertainment. And no, I don't know what's up with the CD's title. In 1999, Marshall Crenshaw released an album titled #447, which I read was a joke on the amount of music he'd created. So the fact that this is a smaller number released at a later date... Well, perhaps he's re-evaluated the earlier joke. If anyone knows (including Marshall himself), please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.

The Brian Kinler Band Performs at Kulak’s Woodshed, 8-21-15

Brian Kinler Band performing "Mama's Gumbo Pot"
The Brian Kinler Band did a great set last night at Kulak’s Woodshed in North Hollywood. If you haven’t been to this venue, it definitely has its own particular vibe. The place is pretty small, and in order to make small feel intimate, there are couches and even a bed from which people can watch the concerts. Don’t worry: there are also chairs. Record jackets and CDs adorn the walls, along with a wide variety of other objects. The shows there are free, and the venue broadcasts them online. Because of the concert going out live on the internet, it had to begin at a specific time, and there was actually a countdown, to get the band onstage, which felt a bit odd.

Brian Kinler got things off to a fun start with the always-appreciated “Slobbertongue.” The band has a new member, Pete Merriweather, on drums, and Brian introduced him before starting the song. He also mentioned that the song is “about my favorite pastime – making out.” And before “Mama’s Gumbo Pot,” he talked about how he wanted to be a drummer himself, and told the audience about an early professional gig which resulted in a broken snare.

The newest Brian Kinler Band CD, The Race Against Time, has quite a different feel from earlier releases, and is much more in the dance realm, and features vocals on many of the tracks. So I was excited to see how these new songs would translate to the live experience. And after a false start, “Racing Against Time” was a very beautiful rendition. This is one of the CD’s instrumental tracks. They also did two of the tracks featuring Francesca Capasso on vocals: “Bombshell” and “I’d Give Up Everything But You.” “Bombshell” is the CD’s lead-off track, and is a lot of fun, and worked well live. “I’d Give Up Everything But You” is one of my personal favorites from the new album, and it was in my head all day leading up to the show, so I was especially excited to hear this one. It definitely had a different feel in the live context, but I really enjoyed it.

In addition to those two songs, Francesca Capasso sang several covers, including “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” “Mercedes Benz” and “At Last.” “Baby What You Want Me To Do” was one of the highlights of the set for me. Francesca Capasso has such power and emotion in her voice, and she can sing the hell out of a tune, and just own it. “At Last” was gorgeous.

And of course “Makes Me Smile” was as pretty and moving as always. That’s one of my favorites. And after it, Andrea Whitney led the band in “Orange Blossom Special.” Another of the highlights last night was “Wookiee Boogie.” This was a totally cookin’ rendition, played at a quick clip. Pete was on top of it, keeping things moving, much to Brian’s joy. Seriously, you could feel it. Afterwards, Brian and Matt Whitney agreed they’d never played it so fast before. In fact, Brian said his hands were shaking at the beginning of the following tune, “Rosedown.”

The show ended with a few more good covers sung by Francesca Capasso: “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Chain Of Fools” and “Respect.”

Set List
  1. Slobbertongue
  2. The Fall
  3. Mama’s Gumbo Pot
  4. Racing Against Time
  5. Makes Me Smile
  6. Orange Blossom Special
  7. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours
  8. Baby What You Want Me To Do
  9. Natural Woman
  10. Bombshell
  11. I’d Give Up Everything But You
  12. Mercedes Benz
  13. At Last
  14. Wookiee Boogie
  15. Rosedown
  16. The Devil Went Down To Georgia
  17. Don’t Leave Me This Way
  18. Chain Of Fools
  19. Respect 
There was no encore.

Here are a few photos from the night:

"The Fall"
"Baby What You Want Me To Do"
"I'd Give Up Everything But You"
"At Last"
"The Devil Went Down To Georgia"
"Don't Leave Me This Way"
Kulak’s Woodshed is located at 5230 Laurel Canyon Blvd., in North Hollywood, California. You can check out the venue’s website here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Brady Enslen: “Beautiful Things” (2015) CD Review

Brady Enslen is an excellent folk singer and songwriter from Alberta, Canada. Beautiful Things is his debut studio album, though a few of the songs on it were included on an earlier album with Brett Nelson titled The Kiln Sessions, which was recorded live last year. The first time I put this CD on, I was immediately drawn in. Brady Enslen’s voice has warmth and confidence, and his songs immediately feel like a vital part of your world. There isn’t a weak track here. And besides that, Beautiful Things is a CD that would be perfect to have along on a road trip. I’ll be adding a few of these tunes to my road trip mix CD list.

It opens with one of those tracks, “Drive,” a gorgeous, mellow song with intimate-sounding vocals. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “We’ll drive until the mountains fall to their knees/We’ll meet the Pacific and throw our cares in the sea/We’ll drive, drive, we’ll drive until we can’t drive anymore.” This song is so beautiful. It’s followed by another song that I’ll be adding to road trip mix CDs, “Horizon Lines,” with lines like “Southern twang, mountain song/There’s a lot of places to belong/It’s raining in Virginia beyond that Mississippi bend/New York, New York/Wait right here ‘til I’m back again.” This one is more of a sweet country rock tune, with some nice work on pedal steel by Eric Lemoine.

“Beautiful Things,” the CD’s title track, has a wonderful, positive feel and an honest, sweet attitude. There is love in his voice as he sings, “You are my beautiful thing.” There are some really pretty backing vocals by Aisha Belle which add a lot to this track. Plus, I love the violin, also by Aisha Belle. That and the great percussion make me feel like I’m standing on the shores of Ireland or Scotland.

“Bitter In Barstow” is another track that I will be playing on road trips. It is also one of the songs that was included on The Kiln Sessions. The version here has a fuller sound, with drums and pedal steel, but maintains a raw feel, which is great. The title makes me laugh (perhaps because I live in Los Angeles), and he refers to Barstow as “some dirty little town.” “And I really must go/Make my wheels hit the road/Because I’m bitter in Barstow/I’m hanging out in Fresno/I’m going crazy in Bakersfield/I’m in love in L.A.”

“The Hawk’s Eye” and “The Engineer” are the other two tunes that were included on The Kiln Sessions. “The Hawk’s Eye” is my personal favorite track on Beautiful Things, and the fuller band sound on this rendition really makes it something special. It has this great old-time jazzy feel, mixed with country, and the results are just bloody delicious. I am particularly fond of the violin on this track. “You can hear the coyotes howling/Arched back and looking at the moon/You can hear the storm clouds are growling/Telling you that rain will be here soon.” And “The Engineer” is more firmly in the country realm, and the drums of this version give the impression of the train. There is a good energy to this track, and some wonderful work on guitar.

“No Whiskey For Mama” is a fun western swing tune, with a reference to Lord Of The Flies: “Those kids were left to fend for their lives/Kind of like Lord Of The Flies/Running wild and running free.” The album then concludes on a sweet and pretty note with “Drags Of Sunset.” “I best be on my way/To better things/Before the light goes away/And I lose my way.”

CD Track List
  1. Drive
  2. Horizon Lines
  3. Beautiful Things
  4. End Of A Page
  5. Lonesome Winds
  6. Bitter In Barstow
  7. The Hawk’s Eye
  8. The Engineer
  9. No Whiskey For Mama
  10. Drags Of Sunset

Brady Enslen is on lead vocals and guitar. Joining him are Aisha Belle on violin and vocals, Ashley Au on bass, Dan Bertnick on drums, Matt Filopoulos on lead guitar, Eric Lemoine on pedal steel, and Scott Nolan on piano and organ.

Beautiful Things is scheduled to be released on September 11, 2015.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pugwash: “Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends)” (2015) CD Review

Irish pop band Pugwash has been around for more than fifteen years, and amazingly none of their studio albums have been officially released internationally. Until now, that is. Omnivore Recordings is releasing Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends), the band’s new album, giving a wider audience a chance to enjoy this great band. Last year Omnivore put out a collection of Pugwash material titled A Rose In A Garden Of Weeds: A Preamble Through The History Of Pugwash. That functioned as my personal introduction to the band, and I assume helped quite a few other folks in the United States get caught up, and also prepared us for this new album. All of the tracks on this CD are originals, written or co-written by lead singer and guitarist Thomas Walsh. And this album boasts some impressive guest musicians, such as Ray Davies and Jeff Lynne.

The new CD opens with “Kicking And Screaming,” a good rock tune that sounds a bit like The Monkees’ “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” There’s a positive bent to the song, with lines like, “’Cause hate’s stopped living in my mind/I ran it out/I dragged it out/Kicking and screaming/On its knees.” (By the way, the lyrics are printed in the liner notes, and “its” is mistakenly printed as “it’s,” a common error.) Jeff Lynne makes a guest appearance on this track.

“Lucky In Every Way” is a delightful pop song. The lines that stood out the first time I listened to this disc are: “I’m so lucky I found her/Even though I stopped looking.” Nice, right? This song has some wonderful harmonizing, and one section brings to mind the Beach Boys. “Feed His Heart With Coal” is an unusual pop song about a train, with some interesting changes.

Neil Hannon appears on several tracks, including “Just So You Know,” on which he plays Fender Rhodes piano. Neil Hannon has played with Pugwash before, appearing on Eleven Modern Antiquities. You might also know Neil from his work with The Divine Comedy, which provided the music for the television series Father Ted. “Just So You Know” has a really good mellow vibe. “And though my heart is in June/My head is in December.” There is something beautiful in both the vocal delivery and the instrumental section. And then “Clouds” is kind of delightfully cheesy at times. Neil Hannon plays Farfisa rhythm box on this one. “Clouds” also features Noel Langley on flugelhorn, and Alan Redmond on backing vocals.

“You Could Always Cry” is one of my favorites. It’s a lot of fun, coming at you at a great, quick pace, with a good rhythm to get you dancing. I dig Shaun McGee’s work on bass. And like all of this band's tracks, the vocals are excellent. “And one look from you doesn’t mean I’ll break.” Neil Hannon plays piano on this track. That’s followed by another of this disc’s most fun tracks, “Hung Myself Out To Dry,” which also features Neil Hannon on keys. I love this song, and you can really hear the ELO influence at times in the vocals, like on the line “As I look for my future today.” I like these lines: “The past was my present future/I didn’t want to be a loser/When looking for love.”

“Silly Love” reminds me a bit of Paul McCartney, and not just because of the title. This one was written by Thomas Walsh and Tosh Flood. Here is the chorus: “Silly love/Silly love/Won’t you come in/So you can run down from my eyes/Fall upon the ground/And sew all the seeds around.” It is followed by “Oh Happy Days,” the track that features Ray Davies on backing vocals. Andy Partridge (from XTC) also provides backing vocals, and Noel Langley is on flugelhorn, and Neil Hannon plays both banjo and piano on this one. This is another of my personal favorites. It has this sweet, happy vibe that is really effective.

Play This Intimately concludes with “We Are Everywhere,” a kind of trippy number that features Neil Langley on trumpet. “Dandelion seeds parachute in the air/Then by the morning the dawn will declare/We are everywhere.”

CD Track List
  1. Kicking And Screaming
  2. Lucky In Every Way
  3. Feed His Heart With Coal
  4. Just So You Know
  5. Clouds
  6. The Fool I Had Become
  7. You Could Always Cry
  8. Hung Myself Out To Dry
  9. Silly Love
  10. Oh Happy Days
  11. All The Way From Love
  12. We Are Everywhere
Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) is scheduled to be released on CD on September 4, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. It will also be available as a limited edition on translucent red vinyl. By the way, Pugwash is going to be touring the United States to support this CD, that tour beginning in just a few days.

Adam Ezra Group's Ramble Festival To Raise Money To Aid Wounded Veteran

The Ramble is an annual event put on by Adam Ezra Group, with the aim of doing a bit of good in the community. It is a free event, but all donations will go toward building a handicap-accessible home for a wounded veteran in New England. This year The Ramble will be held on August 29, 2015 at Salisbury Beach in Salisbury, Massachusetts, from 2 p.m. to midnight.

Adam Ezra Group headlines the event, playing from 8 to 10 p.m. Here is this year's full lineup:
  • 2:00 p.m. - Ben Knight
  • 2:45 p.m. - Project Kali
  • 3:30 p.m. - Gretchen And The Pickpockets
  • 4:15 p.m. - Bella's Bartok
  • 5:00 p.m. - Cold Engines
  • 5:45 p.m. - Jason Spooner
  • 6:30 p.m. - Chad Hollister Band
  • 8:00 p.m. - Adam Ezra Group
  • 10:30 p.m. - The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow (after party at Uncle Eddie's Oceanside Tavern)
There will also be a cookie bake-off and yoga on the beach, and a fireworks display at 10 p.m. If you can't make it to the show, it will be streamed live on The Ramble website. (You can also donate on that site.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hannah Burgé: “Green River Sessions” (2015) CD Review

Vocalist Hannah Burgé’s debut album, Green River Sessions, is a nice mix of jazz and world music elements. Though she is based in Ontario, clearly part of her soul is residing in Latin America. Approximately half of the CD’s tracks are originals. She is backed by some excellent musicians, mainly the trio of Robi Botos on keys, Paco Luviano on bass and Mark Kelso on drums. (Paco Luviano also produced this album.) And Hendrik Muerkens is featured on harmonica on two tracks.

Green River Sessions opens with an original composition, “Art Of Living,” which was inspired by the music of Cuba. “I want to be in the ocean/Surrounded by great love.” Luisito Orbegoso provides some vocals on this track, during a gorgeous call and response section in the second half of the song. And the vocals certainly are the focus, but the band provides some excellent backing. I particularly enjoy Mark Kelso’s work on percussion.

Hannah Burgé follows that with “Be My Love,” one of the album’s covers. This is a popular song written by Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn. What strikes me immediately about Hannah Burgé’s rendition is the harmonica, which I completely love. That’s Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica (the sound of which reminds me oddly of Judd Lander’s harmonica on “Karma Chameleon,” that sort of beautiful, smooth, soaring sound). This version is obviously quite a bit different from Mario Lanza’s original version. It has more of a dance rhythm. Hannah Burgé then tackles “Black Velvet,” a pop song written by Christopher Ward and David Tyson and made a hit by Allanah Myles in 1989. That version had a distinct blues feel. Robin Lee then had a country hit with it, using it as the title track to her 1990 record. Hannah Burgé puts her own spin on this hit tune, though keeping some of the blues in her vocal delivery. Her version features Tony Zorzi on guitar, and there is a nice bluesy lead guitar section. This album concludes with a slightly shorter version of “Black Velvet.”

“I’m In,” an original composition by Hannah Burgé, features Kelly Jefferson on saxophone. I’m not all that fond of the lyrics to this one, but the music is really good. The instrumental section to “Nica’s Dream” is also fantastic, with Robi Botos contributing some impressive and delightful work on keys. And I love what Mark Kelso does on drums, joined by Jalidan Ruiz on congas for this track. “Nica’s Dream” was written by Horace Silver, and has been covered by a large number of artists over the years, including The Jazz Messengers and Mel Tormé.

Hendrik Muerkens joins Hannah Burgé on harmonica again for “Sunshine Samba,” one of this album’s original compositions, and one of my personal favorites. There is so much joy in this track, particularly toward the end. And check out that delicious lead on harmonica halfway through. It's followed by “Serenity,” also written by Hannah Burgé, the CD's only really mellow track, a beautiful song that showcases Hannah's vocal talent. “Joy in my heart/And you on my mind/The world and its forces align/Carry me home.”

CD Track List
  1. Art Of Living
  2. Be My Love
  3. Black Velvet
  4. I’m In
  5. De Repente
  6. Nica’s Dream
  7. Sunshine Samba
  8. Serenity
  9. Black Velvet (Radio Edit) 
Green River Sessions is scheduled to be released on October 2, 2015 through Music Village.

Racoon Bandit: “Close Your Eyes” (2015) CD Review

Racoon Bandit is a Canadian band mixing rock, pop and folk elements to great effect and results. The band is made up of Fraser McCallum on vocals and rhythm guitar, Roger Carter on drums and keys, Scott Gallant on bass and Adam Gallant on vocals and lead guitar. Their new album, Close Your Eyes, the follow-up to 2011’s Into The Hills, offers some wonderful original material, as well as one excellent and unusual choice of covers.

Racoon Bandit opens the new CD with “Searcher Song,” which, with those touches on lead guitar, right away gives you the feeling of someone out in the desert somewhere, alone, but that steady rhythm adds a sense of urgency or foreboding. And when the song kicks in, it becomes kind of catchy, and the vocals feels like they’re descending on us from the heavens. The whole thing works so well, having a sort of late 1960s psychedelic element that pulls you into the world of the song. It’s followed by “You Got Into It,” which has such a different feel. This is more in the country realm, with a more upbeat vibe. There is something kind of catchy about this one as well, and I absolutely love the bass. “And you and me know we could do better/I think you would agree that we could do better.”

“Skin Of Your Teeth” is one of my favorites. It has this delightful, positive pop vibe right from the start, and the sound has me smiling every time I listen to it. I really like the vocals, which have a friendly feel. It’s just an all-round wonderful tune. And it’s followed by “I’m Waiting,” another favorite. This one too is quite catchy, and I find myself moving to its groove. There is an easy-going vibe to some of these tracks, yet they also dig themselves into your brain and make a welcome home there. “But you said that you’d be back soon/I’m waiting, I’m waiting.” I like the pause before the second “I’m waiting,” which really works to give you the sense that he’s actually waiting. I just totally love this track.

I also really like “Believe Me,” which is such a pretty song, with some good lyrics. “Closed the door on anyone who tried to tell me it was all in my mind.” “Please don’t close your eyes/To the light that surrounds you/I just want for you this time to believe me.” And the addition of strings here is perfect, making the instrumental section really rise above. Interestingly, this pretty track is followed by a slightly goofy and delightful short instrumental track titled “The Piano Tuner.” This is the CD’s only instrumental tune.

“Teenage Wasted Love” is more of a powerful pop rock tune, with sweet vocal work. “And you know it’s gonna hurt so bad/I can’t give in to anybody/Some things last forever.” And then, “Now I know that nothing lasts forever.” This song really captures the emotions and viewpoint of those teenage years, especially with the repetition of “I don’t know” partway through. And there is a beauty to this track.

The album concludes with its only cover, “Passing Through,” which was written by Dick Blakeslee. Leonard Cohen covered this one on Live Songs. He also sang it briefly (just a line or two of it) at one show I attended several years ago, much to the delight of me and everyone else there. It's a great song that has also been covered by Pete Seeger, The Highwaymen, and others. And Racoon Bandit's rendition is used as the theme song for the Canadian web series Just Passing Through. And yes, I love Racoon Bandit's version. It's another of this album's highlights.

CD Track List
  1. Searcher Song
  2. You Got Into It
  3. Skin Of Your Teeth
  4. I’m Waiting
  5. On The Hook
  6. Believe Me
  7. The Piano Tuner (Interlude)
  8. Metals
  9. Teenage Wasted Love
  10. Black Shovel
  11. Second Chance
  12. Passing Through
Close Your Eyes is scheduled to be released on August 21, 2015. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Paper Beat Scissors: “Go On” (2015) CD Review

Paper Beat Scissors is the project of Tim Crabtree, who wrote all of the songs on the new CD, Go On, the follow-up to the eponymous debut. This CD is a wonderful and always-interesting mix of pop and folk sounds, electronica mixed with acoustic instruments, and Tim Crabtree’s voice is one that is full of yearning, need, a voice seeking exploration. And the music reflects that desire for exploration as well. It is achieved in part by having different musicians and different instruments on different tracks. This album at many points manages to be both mellow and exciting simultaneously (like “Onwards”).

It opens with “Enough,” which begins with an electronic-sounding drum beat, then suddenly becomes a beautiful pop song. The first time I listened to this disc, that came as a wonderful surprise, when the song kicked in. From that opening beat, I expected it to go in a very different direction, and so I was immediately interested and caught up in the music. And because of that, I paid even closer attention to the lyrics. Here is a taste: “Blithely you pick out your words/And won’t change them, no matter what the fashion/Clothed in your nouns and your verbs/Their best attempts to lead you to distraction.”

That’s followed by “Lawless,” which has a mellow, acoustic feel to start, the guitar soft and steady, giving focus to the vocals, to the lyrics. “Over out in the mud you made a promise/Over out in the mud you made a wish/Back where we walked you said that it was clearing/To quiet my mind and hold us both to this.” There is a beauty to this track, and then a couple of minutes in, it bursts up to another level. Michael Feuerstack plays pedal steel on this track. Gregory Burton plays euphonium and provides the orchestral arrangement, which serves the song well and never overpowers it.

One of my favorite tracks is “Wouldn’t,” mainly because of the sound of the song during the chorus, which is earnest and moving. “It was time for it to go/It was time, but it wouldn’t.” Simple, but effective. And I appreciate the joyous play with language, as in lines like “It was on the mind of all that minded we were there” and “The absence of a meaning didn’t mean we didn’t care.” Gregory Burton is on euphonium; Pietro Amato is on French horn; and Patrick Cruvellier is on violin. It is followed by another favorite, “Unfazed,” which features Tim Crabtree on piano and has country elements, most obviously heard in the pedal steel work by Michael Feuerstack. It is a pretty track, with a sound that seems to offer comfort almost like a lullaby. Check out these lyrics: “Don’t wake up when it rains/Silence should stay/Sleep through it all as through there’ll be no pain.” I love this song.

“A Reprieve” is the album’s only instrumental track. It fades in at the beginning, as if already in progress, coming from a distance, and has a slow, steady build as it approaches, taking hold. And then it eases out, releasing us gently. The album concludes with its title track, “Go On,” which is actually a different take on the CD’s opening track, “Enough,” this time with clarinet, bassoon and violin.

CD Track List
  1. Enough
  2. Lawless
  3. When You Still
  4. Wouldn’t
  5. Unfazed
  6. Onwards
  7. Altona
  8. A Reprieve
  9. Bundled
  10. Go On
Go On was released on August 14, 2015 through Forward Music Group. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tawny Ellis: “Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions” (2015) CD Review

Tawny Ellis is a talented singer and songwriter who also works in the realm of sculpture, and makes jewelry as well. In addition, she is a lap steel player, as can be heard on her new EP, Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions. This CD contains two original compositions and two covers, and features members of the Athens, Georgia band Five Eight (and actually, one of the two covers is a Five Eight tune). Tawny Ellis herself is from Georgia, but is now based in Los Angeles.

The EP opens with one of the original tracks, “Ghosts Of The Low Country,” which was written by Tawny Ellis and her husband Gio Loria, who plays dobro and Hammond B3 on this one. But right away what will grab you is Tawny Ellis’ voice. It is one of those voices perfect for country and folk, sweet and intimate and full of heartache. “They’re the ghosts of the low country/Coming out of the river, washing over me/Singing songs in sweet harmony/Whispering secrets to me/They’re the ghosts of the low country.” Five Eight’s Sean Dunn and Patrick Ferguson play on this track, on electric guitar and drums respectively, and Tawny Ellis plays lap steel. This is a moving composition. “How many years must you walk/To find your way back home/So many tears, oh, they’re falling/Calling you back home.”

It’s followed by the other original tune, “Evolve Or Die,” which was written by Tawny Ellis and Walter Spenser. It has a wonderful gospel folk vibe, and features some nice work on drums by Patrick Ferguson and on guitar by Gio Loria. “’Cause hell’s a big place with an open gate/But heaven’s calling/For there I’m bound/The bells are ringing/Can’t you hear the sound.” There is a positive bent to this track, in lines like “But I can change this/It’s not too late/To let the light in/’Til the darkness fades” and “My breath is steady/And my mind is sound/My heart is full now/With love abound/I hear bells ringing/Come gather round.” What I like also is the earnestness of the song, of its delivery. This is a song that Tawny Ellis had recorded and released earlier; it was the title track to her 2008 CD.

“Desperate Tonight” is a Five Eight tune written by Mike Mantione and included on that band’s 1992 release, I Learned Shut Up. Tawny Ellis’ rendition features two members of that band – Sean Dunn on electric guitar and Patrick Ferguson on drums. This is a wonderful song, and Tawny Ellis’ rendition is beautiful. She really pours her heart into it. I love these lines: “I’ve chosen my weapon and it’s silence/Complete with my trusted friend arrogance.” The EP then concludes with a kind of sweet, relaxed rendition of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” the song written by Alan Block and Donn Hecht and made famous by Patsy Cline. Tawny Ellis plays lap steel on this track. And something in her voices makes me believe her when she sings, “I walk for miles along the highway/Well, that’s just my way of saying I love you/I’m always walkin’ after midnight/Searching for you.”

CD Track List
  1. Ghosts Of The Low Country
  2. Evolve Or Die
  3. Desperate Tonight
  4. Walkin’ After Midnight
Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions is scheduled to be released on November 6, 2015.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Grownup Noise's Final Shows (At Least For Now)

The Grownup Noise is one of my favorite current bands. But after this weekend, they may no longer exist as a band, and certainly not in the form we know. The good news is that they have a new CD out. So the shows this weekend are part celebration of the new album, part farewell. Last night they played at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts. Tonight they play at Lily Pad, in Cambridge. This is their last official show, but it turns out the band also has a show scheduled for tomorrow. It's not listed on their web page, because it's at a residence. Like many artists these days, The Grownup Noise had turned to fans for help in funding the new album. One of the incentives or rewards was a house concert, and the show is to take place tomorrow, August 16th, from 3 to 5 p.m. in West Medford. It's going to take place on the porch, so people are encouraged to bring along their own beach chairs and refreshments. The address is 41 Monument St., West Medford, Massachusetts. I really wish I could be there. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Peter Frampton: “Now” (2003/2015) CD Review

I worked as an extra for a week or so on Almost Famous (at the time referred to as Untitled Cameron Crowe Project), a movie for which Peter Frampton provided some music and worked as a consultant. The movie was about a band called Stillwater, and several scenes were concert scenes. Well, at one point work stopped on a concert scene, and it was announced that Peter Frampton was going to play for us. And indeed, he came out on stage and did a short concert. It was unexpected and a total joy – probably the best time I ever spent as an extra. And it rekindled my interest in his music. So when his next CD, Now, came out in 2003, I bought a copy and was largely impressed by its eleven tracks, all but one of which are originals. And actually one of the songs on this release, “Hour Of Need,” was written for Almost Famous. Now Omnivore Recordings is re-issuing this album. There are no bonus tracks, but there are some new liner notes by Scott Schinder, including bits from an interview conducted with Peter Frampton.

Now kicks off with a solid rock tune, “Verge Of A Thing,” with a nice heavy groove. It was written by Peter Frampton and Gordon Kennedy (who co-wrote the majority of this CD’s material). Gordon Kennedy also plays guitar on this track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “But oh, as hard as I try, there's no explaining this/It ain't the wine or the dope that's talking/It ain't your psychic on Benzedrine/No, I have been to the mountain and I have a dream/Baby, we're on the verge of a thing.” It’s followed by “Flying Without Wings,” which begins with some good bluesy guitar, which right away gets me on board. This song has a nice groove and some positive lyrics, like these lines: “Take to the skies/You're flying without wings/Get up and do it again/You've got to make the wind your friend/You might just find you'll float away/Sit back, enjoy the ride/You've got to trust what's there inside.”

“Love Stands Alone” begins as a mellower, prettier song, then kicks in with a power for the chorus (“Doesn’t matter/Doesn’t matter to her…”). “Love Stands Alone” was written by Peter Frampton, Gordon Kennedy and Bob Mayo. The lines that always stand out for me are: “Once I was captured/By the fire in her eyes/Now when I look I see the whites of her lies.” “Not Forgotten” also begins as a mellower, acoustic tune, and when it kicks in, it retains that feel. There is something really pretty about this song, and it’s one of my favorite tracks on this release. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Those who went before/Why are they remembered/They held our hands/And sang us songs/Lived their lives ‘til they were gone/But not forgotten.”

“Hour Of Need” was written by Peter Frampton, Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick for the film Almost Famous, where it is performed by the fictional band Stillwater (not to be confused with the actual 1970s band Stillwater, who interestingly use that talking guitar effect on their song “Mind Bender,” the effect that Peter Frampton famously used). “Hour Of Need” is a really good song, and stands up well on its own, away from the film for which it was written.

I usually think it’s a good idea to discourage songwriters from writing about their children, because often the resulting songs are their worst material. It’s like how parents expect everyone else to think their children are as amazing as they do. But there is something undeniably sweet about Peter Frampton’s “Mia Rose,” written about his daughter. It’s certainly not the album’s strongest track, but it’s kind of adorable. It was written by Peter Frampton and Kimmie Rhodes. “I’m Back” is a good rock song, though I could do without the reference to The Terminator, which kind of detracts from the song a bit, making it a bit more goofy. “I’m back/Like Schwarzenegger in Terminator.” Unfortunately, the line is in the chorus, so it’s repeated several times.

The following track, “I Need Ground,” is a much better song, with some nice percussion by Blair Masters. “I need ground/Somewhere soft to land/When I come down/Somewhere it's safe to stand.” Then comes the CD’s sole cover, a good rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It opens with a thoughtful, arresting guitar solo, and features some excellent guitar work throughout. Don Fields plays acoustic guitar on this track. It leads into “Greens,” which also begins with an introspective-sounding guitar solo, and is the album’s only instrumental track. It's a wonderful tune, with the guitar at times playing the part you might imagine a lone late-night saxophonist would play. It was written by Peter Frampton and Bob Mayo, and features Jed Leiber on keyboards.

The CD then ends with one of my favorite tracks, a sweet and positive number titled “Above It All,” written by Peter Frampton, Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Here is a bit of the lyrics: “It's me and you/Chasing sunshine until tomorrow/What will we do/If the sky cries and turns to sorrow/I see us picking up/The pieces when they fall/Rising above it all.”

CD Track List
  1. Verge Of A Thing
  2. Flying Without Wings
  3. Love Stands Alone
  4. Not Forgotten
  5. Hour Of Need
  6. Mia Rose
  7. I’m Back
  8. I Need Ground
  9. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  10. Greens
  11. Above It All 
This re-issue of Now is scheduled to be released on September 4, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings, following re-issues of Frampton's 1986 release, Premonition, and 1989 album, When All The Pieces Fit.