Friday, July 29, 2016

Colton Kayser: “Place To Settle” (2016) CD Review

Colton Kayser is a singer and songwriter based in New Jersey. In 2014, he released his self-titled debut full-length CD, which mixed folk sounds with some pop and rock elements and sensibilities. He is now following that up with Place To Settle, which features all original material, co-written by Colton Kayser (mostly with Jon Leidersdorff). Like his debut album, the music here combines folk and pop, and in some ways feels like it goes farther in the pop and rock direction, at least on certain tracks. Joining Colton on this CD are Alex Brumel on electric guitar, PK Lavengood on electric guitar, Roshane Karunaratne on organ and piano, Jeff Levine on organ, Jonathan Tea on piano, Cody McCorry on bass, Erik Kase Romero on bass and percussion, Mike Linardi on drums and Glen Burtnik on backing vocals.

Its opening track, “Bad Guy,” begins in the folk realm, but kicks in and becomes more of a pop song, especially in its chorus. This is a chorus that I found myself singing along to even on the first time through. Partly that’s because it’s easy to remember: “I’m not the bad guy/I’m not the bad guy/I’m not the bad guy/Just give me a try/Give us a try.” But the way Colton sings it, and the way the song builds up to it, makes it perfect for singing along to. Especially as it sometimes comes out of a darker place in the verses: “And when you feel it, you torture me/You lash out, find your hiding place/And test to see if I’ll go away.” I really like the way the chorus rises out of that. It’s followed by the CD’s title track, “Place To Settle,” which has a chorus that is even more catchy:  I’m just looking/For a place to settle/A place to settle in your heart.” This song has a very positive sound, particularly that happy, groovy instrumental section toward the end, which I love (I especially dig the work on keys). This is probably my favorite track. “And I just realized what you’re really asking me/Will you feel this way tomorrow?/We’ve both been here too many times before.”

“Save My Soul” is another of the disc’s highlights. This one is closer to folk and that alternative country realm, though like the album’s first track, it builds up to its chorus in a deliberate way, which then gives the chorus a greater power. Here are the opening lines (which most of us have been able to relate to at some point or other): “I’m so tired in the morning/I fade through the day/The bags under my eyes/No, they don’t go away.” But this is a song of hope, and it’s during the chorus that he feels the most empowered, the most determined, and the music reflects that energy.

The first time I listened to this album, certain lines stood out. Such as these, from “Love Of My Life”: “Big dreams and little money/Everything I need except you, honey.” Lines I could immediately relate to, even before he added, “Miles and miles away.” Ah, the joys of a long-distance relationship. I’m not sure if this song is making me feel better or worse, but it’s a good song either way. “Love Of My Life” was written by Colton Kayser and Joe Parella.

“Going Down To Georgia” has more of a relaxed country vibe. In this song, he sings about going down to Georgia for a friend. “I’m so proud to be your fool/There’s one thing I know/Oh this is true/That I will follow you/Right until the end.” The album then concludes with “As Kids,” which has a peppy groove and is about following one’s dreams.

CD Track List
  1. Bad Guy
  2. Place To Settle
  3. If You Love Me
  4. Save My Soul
  5. Love Of My Life
  6. Miss 4th Of July
  7. Easy Love
  8. I Guess So
  9. Going Down To Georgia
  10. As Kids
Place To Settle is scheduled to be released on July 30, 2016.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Waiting For Henry: “Town Called Patience” (2016) CD Review

Waiting For Henry is a rock band with strong country and folk influences and a bar band edge and rawness, reminding me at times of bands like The Life Of Riley and Wilco. The band’s new release, Town Called Patience, is the second full-length CD, following 2013’s Ghosts & Compromise. It was produced by Mitch Easter, the man responsible for producing early records by R.E.M., who also adds some work on guitar and keys. This CD features original material, written by the band’s two singer/guitarists, Dave Slomin and David Ashdown. Mike Chun is on bass, and Rob Draghi, who joined the band last year, is on drums and percussion.

“Musconetcong,” the lead-off track, was written by Dave Slomin and begins with just guitar before the rest of the band comes in. And that’s something of an indication of the prominence of the guitars on this album. I really like a lot of the guitar work on this track, but it’s the feel of the vocals that draws me in. I love the way he plays with the words “time” and “wrong” in the song’s opening line, “There was a time before it went all went wrong,” with just a bit of twang, a bit of weariness, holding onto the words, giving them emphasis. There is also something of a sweet, sad, nostalgic feel to this one, which I love. This track is one of the disc’s highlights. It’s followed by “Gutterball,” which was also written by Dave Slomin, and has more of a rock feel.

The lines from “Matter Of Time” that always stand out for me are: “You and me took it all on chance, and lost those fifteen years/Nothing left but mix cassettes, tear-stained hearts and auctioneers.” I think it’s mainly the mix cassettes, such a clear image full of meaning and emotion, especially for those of us for whom making those tapes was so important. Then the following track, “Palms,” is one of my favorites. It was written by David Ashdown, and is one that grabbed me the first time I listened to this CD. Here are the opening lines: “I go for palms/You go for majesty/We go for songs/You go for tragedy/What would you do/’Cause it could happen to you/On the last day of your life.” Those first two lines are so unusual that I was immediately pulled into the song, curious as to where it would go, what it would say.

In the lyrics to “Parsippany” the band mentions Circle K: “Amber Waves and Circle Ks are over now.” Ages ago I applied for a job at a Circle K (which is a convenience store) in Eugene, but that company insisted all employees submit to a drug test. Of course I refused (as no one’s life would be in my hands in my capacity as cashier), so I was relieved of having to work there. I hadn’t thought about that for a while. Interesting how music can pull memories out like that.

“Town Called Patience,” the album’s title track, is another highlight. I love the folk vibe of this song. Also, the song’s first lines caught me: “I want everything/And you want everything too/And in the end everything turns to dust between us.”  This one was written by Dave Slomin, and the more I listen to this disc, the more I love this particular track. “There is a town called Patience/We missed the exit there/We missed the exit there.” I also really dig “Angel On The Run,” which has more of a rock vibe and was written by David Ashdown. The CD concludes with “In The End,” a song written by Dave Slomin. It has a sweet, pretty feel at times, and that helps make it another standout track. “This time round I’m back again/The worse for wear/A better man.”

CD Track List
  1. Musconetcong
  2. Gutterball
  3. Hangnail
  4. Flipclock
  5. Matter Of Time
  6. Palms
  7. Parsippany
  8. Could It Be
  9. Town Called Patience
  10. Angel On The Run
  11. Wrong
  12. In The End
Town Called Patience is scheduled to be released on August 26, 2016.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dead & Company at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 7-26-16 Concert Review

"Cold Rain And Snow"
On the way into the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre parking lot there are creepy advertisements for some new residential development. I guess that’s what’s going to take the place of the concert venue after it’s demolished. Ah, progress. Well, that didn’t matter all that much last night when Dead & Company put on a show there. But we did wonder whether the venue’s imminent demise was somehow responsible for the lack of direction when fans arrived at the parking lot. There was no one directing us where to park, and, even more surprisingly, no one was there to take our money. Parking was free. Amazing. So people just parked anywhere they wanted to, and actually that worked out just fine. But it was certainly a topic of conversation before the show. I also wonder if the money people saved on parking ended up being spent inside the venue, because it seemed that more people than usual were buying T-shirts and posters and so on. The merchandise booths actually ran out of several shirts.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. My friend and I left North Hollywood at 2:30 p.m., aiming to get to the venue around 4 p.m., when the parking lot was scheduled to open. Apparently, the parking lot opened earlier, as I later learned. But that didn’t matter to us, as it took us approximately three hours and fifteen minutes to get there. It’s usually an hour and fifteen minute drive. But traffic sucked basically the entire way. No idea why. So no time to explore Shakedown Street (or even find out where it was) before the show, just enough time for a few beers before heading in.

By the way, they let you take in bottles of water and food, which is good. I had my pockets stuffed with crackers and peanuts and whatnot. Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, for those who haven’t been there, is set up the same way that Shoreline is, and the same way Great Woods is, with a lawn section in the back, but with no cover over the seated area. Our seats were toward the back before the lawn section (terrace 11). The sound was good, as there were speakers fairly close to us.

The band was scheduled to go on at 7 p.m., and actually started at 7:22 p.m. They kicked off the show with “Cold Rain And Snow,” with John Mayer on lead vocals. John, by the way, was wearing a white Europe ’72 T-shirt. He must be having the time of his life. There wasn’t a whole lot of jamming on this tune, but still, it got the show off to a pretty good start. The band then eased into “Jack Straw,” and the jam later in the song was both sweet and powerful. They followed that with “Bertha,” with John Mayer on lead vocals, and that’s when things really started popping. “Black-Throated Wind” was one I wanted to hear, and they did a wonderful rendition last night, with Bob Weir tearing it up on vocals. And there was some great stuff by Oteil Burbridge on bass toward the end. “Loose Lucy” was fun, and it was great to hear “Big Boss Man,” with John Mayer on lead vocals. I especially liked what Jeff Chimenti did on organ.

The band wrapped up the first set with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” a highlight of the show for me. This was a version that just got better and better as it went along, and it featured an interesting echo of the title line, with John starting the line and Bob echoing him. There was more vocal play with the title line later in the song. Plus, there was some great stuff on keys, and a glorious end. I could feel it in my teeth, you know? It seemed like the band had intended on doing one more song, something like “Deal” or “Don’t Ease Me In,” and then decided to end the set right there. It ended at 8:30 p.m., with Bob Weir urging folks to register to vote.

At 9:10 p.m., the band came back out to start the second set, which they kicked off with “Deal.” It was a good version, with John going wild on guitar. That went right into “Scarlet Begonias,” which had great energy. The “Tea for Two” line was delivered a cappella. That of course slid into “Fire On The Mountain,” with Jason Hann (from String Cheese Incident) joining the band on percussion. He played several different instruments, including talking drum. The band ended the song with, “There’s a fire!

When they started “Dark Star,” neither my friend nor I was as excited as we used to be, as it’s become a sort of common tune. But it ended up being a really good version. I liked the little touches on keys, those high notes reminding me a bit of those late 1960s versions with Tom Constanten. And Bob stretched out the word “Lady” in the line “Lady in velvet,” holding onto the first syllable. Then Bob repeated the “nightfall of diamonds” phrase several times, and the tune got even more interesting, with a very cool groove. The visuals on the screen behind the band also got pretty interesting during this song.

Jason Hann returned to help out on the “Drums” segment. There was a second guest on percussion too, but I’m not certain who it was. Oteil also got behind a drum kit for a bit of this segment. This “Drums” built up into a crazy and powerful beast, and then Mickey Hart was left to explore stranger territory on his own. “The Other One” emerged from “Space,” with Oteil doing a slightly different monster bass part to get it going. “The Other One” is a song that has sounded different at different times over the years, and Dead & Company took it in a new direction. There wasn’t that wild, thunderous drive between lines, but rather a steady groove under them. I ended up totally digging it.

“Stella Blue” is one of my favorite songs, and Bob’s voice sounded really good, but it’s still very strange for me to hear this one without Jerry. Oddly, I could hear a lot of chatter to my right during this song. They concluded the second set with a really rocking version of “U.S. Blues.” John Mayer sang, “Been hiding out in this rock and roll band.” The second set ended at 10:37 p.m. A minute later the band came back for a two-song encore: “Brokedown Palace” and “Johnny B. Goode,” the latter featuring some great stuff on keys during the jam. The show ended at 10:50 p.m.

Set List

Set I
  1. Cold Rain And Snow
  2. Jack Straw
  3. Bertha
  4. Black-Throated Wind
  5. Loose Lucy
  6. Big Boss Man
  7. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo 
Set II
  1. Deal >
  2. Scarlet Begonias >
  3. Fire On The Mountain
  4. Dark Star >
  5. Drums >
  6. Space >
  7. The Other One >
  8. Stella Blue >
  9. U.S. Blues 
  1. Brokedown Palace
  2. Johnny B. Goode
On the way out, we stopped at two merchandise tables because for once I was actually in the mood to buy a T-shirt. There was a cool purple one that I really liked, and a blue one that my friend wanted. But they were out of our sizes in both of those shirts. Oh well. Saved us each forty dollars. We did manage to find Shakedown Street after the show, and I bought a T-shirt from a guy for twenty, and a couple of stickers from a girl my friend used to know. The drive home took less than a third of the time it took to get to the venue.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rebecca Angel: “Jet Samba” (2016) CD Single Review

Last autumn, vocalist Rebecca Angel released a holiday single, “My Favorite Time Of The Year,” a song written by her father, Dennis Angel, who also played flugelhorn on the track. She’s now releasing a new single, “Jet Samba,” with her father again joining her on flugelhorn. This tune, however, was written by Brazilian composer Marcos Valle, and was used as the title track to his 2005 release, where it was an instrumental track.

Rebecca Angel’s rendition marks the first time the tune has been recorded with vocals. The lyrics were written by Ronaldo Bastos, and have a bright, happy feel, to match the fun rhythm. “I love when you dress to kill/And you move like a movie star/As soon as you touch my lips/I feel all the things you are.” Rebecca has a natural innocence and youthfulness to her voice (well, she’s, what, twenty years old), which work perfectly with these lines. And before the actual lyrics, Rebecca adds a “la la la” vocal part in place of the horn in the original. This is a sweet, relaxed section before the band kicks in, and she returns to it later, though with more energy then, delivering those vocals more like scat.

There is also a wonderful instrumental section. Rebecca is backed by essentially the same group of musicians who joined her on “My Favorite Time Of The Year”: Jason Miles on keyboard, Dennis Angel on flugelhorn, Gottfried Stoger on flute, Christian Ver Halen on guitar, Adam Dorn on bass, Cyro Baptista on percussion and Brian Dunne on drums. The single was produced and arranged by Jason Miles.

CD Track List
  1. Jet Samba
Jet Samba is scheduled to be released on July 25, 2016 on Timeless Grooves Records. Kick off your week with a bright samba.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Grahams Rattle The Hocks DVD Review

Earlier this year The Grahams released a deluxe edition of their excellent album Glory Bound, the original version of which came out in 2015. Also released in 2015 was Rattle The Hocks, which was basically the soundtrack to a short film titled The Grahams Rattle The Hocks. That film is now available digitally.

A title card at the beginning of the film tells us that The Grahams (Alyssa Graham and Doug Graham) traveled the country by train in the summer of 2014, and arrived in Memphis with songs inspired by their adventures and experiences. Musician Cody Dickinson (of North Mississippi Allstars), who played with the duo, documented part of that journey, as well as the recording of the band’s new material. Obviously, Alyssa and Doug were inspired by Woody Guthrie, and in fact “Hard Travelin’” plays over the opening titles.

The film is a loose, but intimate look at The Grahams, and is narrated by both Alyssa and Doug (the narration having been written by Bryan McCann). Alyssa says, “There’s a special connection between American folk music and the railroad that has no parallel elsewhere in the world.” She talks about the band’s own goals in traveling by train: “We’re looking for the modern echo of older sounds.” The film is about the band, about the rails, and about the land and towns they visited, but mostly it is about the music. We see them playing “Glory Bound,” and there is footage of them recording “Promised Land,” “Biscuits” and “Tender Annabelle.” There is also footage shot at Sun Studios where they perform “Mama,” which is gorgeous and sweet. I also really like the footage of them playing “Lay Me Down” while leaning against a great old tree. And we see them perform “City Of New Orleans” on the actual City Of New Orleans (as well as with a full band in New Orleans).

The Grahams Rattle The Hocks is approximately thirty minutes, and is a treat for all fans of American folk music. It was released on digital formats on July 8, 2016. There are no special features.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Paul Kelly: “Seven Sonnets & A Song” (2016) CD Review

The new Paul Kelly CD, Seven Sonnets & A Song, combines two passions of mine: Shakespeare and great music. This isn’t the first time Paul Kelly has turned to Shakespeare on one of his albums. On his 2012 release Spring And Fall, an album of love songs, there is a hidden track titled “Where Are You Roaming.” This is a song sung by Feste in Twelfth Night, and it’s also known as “O Mistress Mine.” Interestingly, Paul Kelly includes this song on his new CD as well, this time under that other title. That is the Song of the CD’s title, Seven Sonnets & A Song. One poem on this CD, however, was not written by Shakespeare, but rather by his contemporary Philip Sidney.

The more I hear from Paul Kelly, the more of a fan of his I become. He’s a damn good writer himself, but on this album he turns to the best writer the human race has ever produced. Known mainly for his dramatic works, William Shakespeare also wrote several poems and 154 sonnets. Paul Kelly has chosen six of the sonnets (including the most famous, Sonnet 18) and set them to music.

The CD begins with “Sonnet 138,” which is set to a cool, smoky, jazzy groove. Paul does make some changes to it. He removes the word “that” from the first line, singing “When my love swears she’s made of truth.” After “On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed,” he then goes to the final couplet, changing it a bit as well. “O, I lie with her, and she lies with me/In our faults by lies we flattered be.” He repeats those two lines, using them as a sort of chorus. He then returns to “But wherefore says she not she is unjust,” then continuing to the end of the sonnet, again making the changes to “Therefore I lie with her and she with me.” There is also a cool instrumental section.

That’s followed by “Sonnet 73.” This one Paul Kelly doesn’t change at all. He sings it as a beautiful folk song, aided by the sweet harmony vocals by Alice Keath. Lucky Oceans (from Asleep At The Wheel) plays pedal steel on this track, which is one of my personal favorites. This is just wonderful. “In me thou see’st the twilight of such day/As after sunset fadeth in the west.

Probably the most well-known of Shakespeare’s sonnets in “Sonnet 18,” which begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Paul Kelly delivers the first four lines a cappella. Then he adds his acoustic guitar. And at the line “By thy eternal summer shall not fade,” strings are also added (I am always a sucker for cello). Paul makes only one slight change to the wording, singing “As long as men can breathe” rather than “So long as men can breathe.” And after the last lines, there is a beautiful instrumental section which features Aaron Barnden on violin, Leah Zweck on viola, Charlotte Jacke on cello and Alice Keath on banjo. Alice Keath then joins Paul on vocals, and they sing the sonnet a second time through. This is an absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous sonnet.

“My True Love Hath My Heart” was not written by Shakespeare, but by Philip Sidney. As I understand it, it is part of one of his longer works, titled The Countess Of Pembroke’s Arcadia. But having not read that work, I’m not sure exactly how it fits in.  On this track, Vika Bull sings the lead vocal part, with Paul Kelly on acoustic guitar. Linda Bull provides harmony vocals. This is a gorgeous song, having something of a timeless feel. The vocals are stunning, and I am going to have to pick some albums by Vika And Linda soon.

Sonnets 44 and 45 are related, and so Paul Kelly combines the two into one song. For “Sonnet 44,” Paul’s vocals are accompanied by Cameron Bruce on piano. It is a heartbreaking performance of a piece that contains a sadness and longing for a distant lover. There is the idea that the distance can be overcome by thought of the other person, but he is upset that he can’t follow physically, for he isn’t as light as thought. The rest of the band then comes in between the two sonnets, and Paul’s vocal approach takes on more energy for “Sonnet 45.” This is such an excellent, impressive and quite moving reading of these connected sonnets.

Vika and Linda Bull join Paul again for “Sonnet 60,” which is about mortality. It’s kind of a depressing sonnet, though the final couplet is one in which Shakespeare hopes that his very verses will keep his friend or lover alive and young (an idea he revisits in several of the sonnets). There is a distance and a bit of anger to Paul’s vocal approach, until the final couplet, which he sings with a touch of hope. As with “Sonnet 18,” after an instrumental section, Paul sings the sonnet a second time. This second time has more power, and feels like destruction, like an inevitable end, a reaction to the cruelty of time. It’s a remarkable performance.

The CD then concludes with “O Mistress Mine,” the song from Act II of Twelfth Night. Of course, you can draw a connection to “Sonnet 60” because of its final line, “Youth’s a stuff will not endure.” But this is a pretty song, and Paul Kelly does a wonderful job with it.

CD Track List
  1. Sonnet 138
  2. Sonnet 73
  3. Sonnet 18
  4. My True Love Hath My Heart
  5. Sonnets 44 & 45
  6. Sonnet 60
  7. O Mistress Mine
Seven Sonnets & A Song is scheduled to be released on CD and vinyl on July 29, 2016. It was made available digitally on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23rd. By the way, I absolutely love the CD cover, which is a nod to the covers of the old Signet Classic editions, the versions many of us read in school.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chet O’Keefe: “Because Of You” (2016) CD Review

Chet O’Keefe sings on one track of the new CD by Auburn, Love & Promises, which was released in June, and he and Auburn’s lead singer, Liz Lenten, have been touring together. Released on the same day as Love & Promises is Chet’s new CD, Because Of You. This is his third album, following 1998’s Four Wheel Low and 2010’s Game Bird (the latter featuring Nanci Griffith on backing vocals on “Some Swedish Men” and “Petting Zoo”). And though Because Of You is his new CD, these tracks were actually recorded a few years ago, and were made available digitally in the summer of 2014. Chet wrote most of the songs, but a couple of tracks feature lyrics that Blaze Foley had written but never recorded. So Chet set those to music.

The CD leads off with “Not Drunk Yet,” a really good song which begins with the positive lines “Everything is quiet/Everything is cool,” then turns suddenly, “And my heart’s ripped out/And my brain just shouts/Why am I such a fool?” Ah, those strange and strong conflicting feelings when missing someone, weak and vulnerable and wanting more. “You make me feel like a man I once knew/And I can’t wait to get together again with you.” That’s followed by “True Love,” a sad and sweet song about two people looking for love. At times it reminds me of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” but instead “Waltzing Matilda,” Elvis Presley songs are playing as a backdrop to this tale. The characters are vivid, and the song is kind of beautiful and moving.  Some lines are delivered almost as spoken word: “And she cooked lots of dinners/And she even got thinner/And Jimmy, he grew closer to God.”

The CD’s title track, “Because Of You,” is one with lyrics written by Blaze Foley. It has a sad feel, about a man lost in memories. “Well, I thought so many times your ghost had quit to haunt me/And then you reappear every now and then/There used to be a time when all you did was want me/Now that time is gone, it will never come again.” There is ultimately, perhaps, something positive in the final line, “It’s too long that I’ve been crying because of you,” because within that line is some kind of determination to move on, especially as the line is repeated. That one is followed by a goofier, happier tune, “Hick Tech(nology).” The line “Put your earplugs on/Because the muffler’s gone” made me laugh aloud the first time I put on this disc. “Goin’ Downtown” is the other track with lyrics written by Blaze Foley, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s about a man looking for some company downtown to help him shake his blues, and it has kind of a sweet vibe.

“Oh Angel” is another strong track, co-written with Thomm Jutz, Kim Richey and Jon Weisberger. It is really pretty, and features some excellent lyrics, like “Throw me a line to a time that I won’t regret” and “When I look homeward, you’re what I see” and “When ‘one more’ turns to more, you pull me from the brink. Kim Richey adds to the beauty of this song with her backing vocals.

Another track I am really fond of is “Drinkin’ Day.” Check out the opening lines: “Well, today’s going to be a drinkin’ day/My peace of mind has gone away/She said she was leaving, but she stayed/Looks like it’s going to be another drinkin’ day.” I love the way those lines surprise us, that it’s her remaining, not her leaving, that causes him to drink. Wonderful! The album concludes with “Talking Kerrville Blues,” a song about the Kerrville Folk Festival from a musician’s perspective.

CD Track List
  1. Not Drunk Yet
  2. True Love
  3. Because Of You
  4. Hick Tech(nology)
  5. Goin’ Downtown
  6. Oh Angel
  7. Star Café
  8. Drinkin’ Day
  9. Blue Martin
  10. Talking Kerrville Blues
Because Of You was released on  June 17, 2016 on Scarlet Records.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Kate & Anna McGarrigle: “Pronto Monto” (1978/2016) CD Review

It surprises me when a record hasn’t yet been released on CD, especially when it’s an album by a popular artist. But, until a couple of weeks ago, such was the case with the third album from Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Pronto Monto. Originally released in 1978, Pronto Monto was the duo’s third and final album for Warner Bros. Here the sisters are joined by some seriously talented musicians, including Steve Gadd on drums, David Spinoza on guitar and Michael Moore on bass. There is more of a pop sound to a lot of these tracks than was heard on their first two albums. Apparently, this album didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped. But there are some really good songs here. The CD includes new liner notes by Mark Leviton.

The album opens with “Oh My Heart,” written by Anna McGarrigle and her husband, Dane Lanken. There are brief funky moments by Tony Levin on bass, and I like Anna’s vocals particularly on the chorus, but this isn’t one of my favorite tracks. For me, things get more interesting with the second track, “Side Of Fries,” which is fun, and features a playful vibe and something of an old-time groove at times. And there is some wonderful work by David Woodford on saxophone. “Well, my momma didn’t tell me/And my poppa didn’t say/This world’s a busy place and time just wastes away.” “Side Of Fries” was written by Kate McGarrigle and Philippe Tartartcheff (Tartartcheff also co-wrote “Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine” on the first record and “Naufragee Du Tendre” on the second).  Phillip Tartartcheff also co-wrote this CD’s title track, “Pronto Monto,” its title a play on the first phrase, “Prends ton manteau.” This song is kind of delightful, and features Kate on squeeze box and Chaim Tannenbaum on mandolin.

“Just Another Broken Heart” is a mellow and pretty tune written by David Nichtern, who also plays electric guitar on this track. Nichtern, who produced this record, is probably best known for writing the hit “Midnight At The Oasis,” but he has also composed music for movies like White Line Fever and The Big Picture.

I guess I’m partial to the sillier songs on this album, because one of my favorites is “NA CL,” which is a bit bluesy, a bit jazzy, and provides something of a chemistry lesson with lines like “Just a little atom of chlorine, valence minus one” and “It’s fun to ionize.” It was written by Kate McGarrigle, who also provides a delightful piano part. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “But somewhere in that sea lurks handsome sodium/With enough electrons on his outside shell plus that extra one/Somewhere in this deep blue sea there’s a negative/For my extra energy/Yes, somewhere in this foam my positive will find a home.” And the song’s final line makes me laugh every time: “Think of the love that you eat when you salt your meat.” Plus, there is a tuba. I love this song.

When a songwriter writes about his or her children, the results are generally the artist’s weakest songs. Yes, there are exceptions, of course. But this album’s “Bundle Of Sorrow, Bundle Of Joy” is not one of those exceptions. In general, I would recommend that songwriters refrain from writing directly about their children, or at least from including those songs on their albums. “Come Back Baby,” which follows “Bundle Of Sorrow, Bundle Of Joy,” is a much better tune. Check out these lines: “Somebody I love I know I ought to hate/Runs me ‘round in circles and then he makes me wait/Got no head, got no brains/Just got a heart, and my heart is in pain.” Chaim Tannenbaum plays harmonica on this track.

The album ends with “Cover Up My Head,” written by Galt MacDermot and William Dumaresq. MacDermot is, of course, known for being one of the writers of Hair. (I also just learned he was one of the writers of a musical called My Fur Lady, and now I really want to get a copy of that record. Does anyone have it?) MacDermot and Dumaresq also wrote “No Biscuit Blues,” which Kate & Anna included on their second album, Dancer With Bruised Knees. George Devens plays marimba and percussion on “Cover Up My Head.” “I’m all alone now/I’m on my own now/I guess I’ll go to bed now/Cover up my head.”

CD Track List
  1. Oh My Heart
  2. Side Of Fries
  3. Just Another Broken Heart
  4. NA CL
  5. Pronto Monto
  6. Stella By Artois
  7. Bundle Of Sorrow, Bundle Of Joy
  8. Come Back Baby
  9. Tryin’ To Get To You
  10. Fixture In The Park
  11. Dead Weight
  12. Cover Up My Head
Pronto Monto was released on CD on July 1, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Auburn: “Love & Promises” (2016) CD Review

Since British band Auburn reformed in 2011, they’ve released several albums, including last year’s Mixed Feelings (the one that turned me on to the band). Mixed Feelings and the band’s previous release, Nashville, were both recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. The band’s new album, Love & Promises, was likewise recorded in Nashville, and, as with Mixed Feelings, features musicians from the area rather than the official band members. Some of them, like Mark Fain and Justin Moses, also played on last year’s release. Thomm Jutz, whom you might know from his work with Nanci Griffith, produced the CD and plays guitar on it. This album features all original material, written or co-written by the band’s founder and vocalist, Liz Lenten.

The CD opens with “Asleep,” the first lines of which are whispered to us, like a secret, like a confession: “I don’t want to wake up in the morning/I don’t want to get out of my bed.” Or perhaps like someone holding onto the night, as she soon sings, “I don’t want to go back to the real world/To my humdrum life/Even though it’s unnerving/This craziness just feels right.” And there is a dreamlike quality to the song, though of course it’s a lucid dream. “I just want to be asleep/To dream about you.” Then “In My Blood” has a bit of blues, a bit of pop. Interestingly, Liz employs a sort of whispered vocal delivery here too at times, but to a totally different effect.

“Love & Promises,” the CD’s title track, has something of a sweet, relaxed pop vibe, and is a different look at love, opening with the lines “I don’t need love and promises/I just want someone to hold.” But it sounds like a love song, which perhaps indicates contradictory desires. “I don’t need wedding dresses/Or a little band of gold/I just want sweet caresses/To warm me when it’s cold.” That’s followed by “Miss You Blues,” which is a mellow, intimate blues number about how the nights are so long when you’re missing that special someone. “Each minute lasts a blue moon, even my pulse is running slow.”

“Cross The Deep Atlantic” is an adorable duet, sounding almost like a children’s song, or lullaby with lines like “I’d cross the deep Atlantic/In a little rowing boat/Just to have you close to me.” This is another love song that professes not to be a love song, as they sing, “’Cause I know this isn’t love” and “I know it’s not forever.” The male vocals are provided by Chet O’Keefe, who has his own new CD out (which was released on the same day as this Auburn disc). I can’t help but love this song.

“Stupid Game” features Liz’s vocals with just acoustic guitar accompaniment, giving stronger focus to the lyrics and to Liz’s emotional delivery, especially to lines like “Please don’t take me apart/When you break my heart.” There is a vulnerability in her delivery that works so well for this song. “If Everyone Was Listening” is the one song on the CD that Liz Lenten co-wrote with Mark Gustavino, who is one of the official members of Auburn. “What would you say/If you could talk/In a language anyone could understand.”

I really love the feel of the chorus to “Tell Me,” which has power, and is a combination of pop and country sounds. “Tell me, tell me/Why d’you throw my love away/Tell me, tell me/What you wanted me to say/Help me, help me/I need you to explain/Tell me/Why d’you throw my love away.” The dobro is wonderful.

CD Track List
  1. Asleep
  2. In My Blood
  3. Love & Promises
  4. Miss You Blues
  5. Wanda
  6. Cross The Deep Atlantic
  7. Safety Net
  8. Ivory Moon
  9. Stupid Game
  10. If Everyone Was Listening
  11. Tell Me
  12. State Of Grace

Musicians on this CD include Liz Lenten on lead vocals, Thomm Jutz on guitar, Evan Hutchings on drums, Mark Fain on bass, Jen Gunderman on keyboards and accordion, Justin Moses on dobro and Britt Savage on backing vocals.

Love & Promises was released on June 17, 2016 on Scarlet Records.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Rave-Ups: “Town + Country” (1985/2016) CD Review

The Rave-Ups’ first full-length album, Town + Country, was one of the best records of 1985. The music combines elements of rock, punk, folk and country, and is a whole hell of a lot of fun, while still having something to say (like in “Class Tramp”). It has now been re-issued, and the music sounds as great as ever. This special expanded edition contains eleven bonus tracks, all of which were previously unissued, as well as new liner notes by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Podrasky.

The album kicks off with “Positively Lost Me,” an excellent song that was also released as a single. It sort of sneaks up on you and then quickly grabs you at the beginning. It was written by Jimmer Podrasky. And somehow it doesn’t seem egotistical when he opens the song with the line “You lost a lot when you lost me.” Turn this one up, sing along, and enjoy. By the way, this song was featured in the movie Pretty In Pink.  It’s followed by “Remember (Newman’s Lovesong),” which is also is a fun song, sung with a bit of a twang at moments. This one was also written by Jimmer Podrasky.

The line from “Better World” that always stands out for me is “If God is dead, then who took over?” This track features pedal steel by Sneaky Pete Kleinow (from The Flying Burrito Brothers). “In My Gremlin” is a wild and deliciously fun track. The energy reminds me a bit of Elton Motello’s “Jet Boy Jet Girl,” or rather that Plastic Bertrand song “Ca Plane Pour Moi,” with those “Whoo-oo-oo-oo” backing vocals. This is a song I’ll be adding to my road trip mix CD play list. It has a playful nod to the Beach Boys’ “409” in the line, “She’s so fine, my 109.” “In My Gremlin” was written by Jimmer Podrasky, Michael Kaniecki and Bob McGrath.

One of my favorite tracks is the delightful “Not Where You’re At (But Where You Will Be),” which mentions Pittsburgh, the city the band was originally from. The song is not about Pittsburgh, however; it’s about being in Los Angeles, with lines like “Palm trees speak to me.” Having lived in this city for quite a while now, I can relate to these lines: “Well, I don’t know what else to say/I kinda like this place/Well, I don’t care what people say/I kinda like this place.”

The only cover on the original album is an interesting rendition of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” I’m mostly familiar with The Byrds’ excellent version of this song. But The Byrds messed up a line, singing “Pack up your money, pick up your tent” rather than “Pick up your money, pack up your tent.” And so Dylan actually called Roger McGuinn out in one of his own versions, which featured different lyrics. What’s interesting is that it’s this version that The Rave-Ups turn to for their own cover, and so they mention McGuinn. I’ve read in other reviews that The Rave-Ups mess with the lyrics to the song, but that’s not true. All of the lines here are Dylan’s.

The album then ends with “Rave-Up/Shut-Up,” another fun tune. The year after this record originally came out, The Rave-Ups were featured in the film Pretty In Pink, in a bar scene, playing this song while Duckie and Iona talk at a table and Andie and Blane enter. They then are shown playing “Positively Lost Me.” The songs are strongly featured, but neither song was included on the movie’s soundtrack. Who knows what might have happened had the songs been included?

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue includes eleven bonus tracks. Yes, there are more bonus tracks than original tracks. The first is an unusual cover of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)” done to the tune of “La Bamba,” and with a verse of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” thrown in as well. This track was a demo. That’s followed by two songs performed on a Los Angeles radio program: a cover of Merle Travis’ “Nine Pound Hammer” and “Positively Lost Me.” These two tracks were recorded on March 16, 1986.

There are also some previously unissued original tunes, including “Square Hole,” “The Rumor” and “See You,” all written by Jimmer Podrasky, and “No No No,” written by Michael Kaniecki. These tracks were all recorded in 1986. Also included are early versions of “Train To Nowhere,” “Please Take Her (She’s Mine),” “Mickey Of Alphabet City” and “Blue Carrot.” “Train To Nowhere” is a song that would end up on the EP Hamlet Meets John Doe, while the other three would find their way onto the band’s record The Book Of Your Regrets.

CD Track List
  1. Positively Lost Me
  2. Remember (Newsman’s Lovesong)
  3. Better World
  4. Class Tramp
  5. In My Gremlin
  6. Radio
  7. By The Way
  8. Not Where You’re At (But Where You Will Be)
  9. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
  10. Rave-Up/Shut-Up
  11. If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)
  12. Nine Pound Hammer
  13. Positive Lost Me
  14. Square Hole
  15. Train To Nowhere
  16. The Rumor
  17. Please Take Her (She’s Mine)
  18. Mickey Of Alphabet City
  19. No No No
  20. See You
  21. Blue Carrot 
This expanded edition of Town + Country was released on July 8, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Lucky Losers: “In Any Town” (2016) CD Review

The Lucky Losers are a San Francisco-based band featuring both female and male lead vocals. The vocalists – Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz – each have successful solo careers as well, and teamed up a couple of years ago. They put out their first full-length CD, A Winning Hand, last year. Now they’re following it up with In Any Town, featuring mostly original material. The music has a bluesy base, yet this is overall a very fun album. And with all the craziness going on in the world today, we need this music, which is largely enjoyable and positive. Joining them on this CD are Marvin Greene on guitar, Chris Burns on keyboards, Tim Wagar on bass and Robi Bean on drums. Several other musicians join them on certain tracks.

They begin the album with “So High,” which was written by Phil Berkowitz and Danny Caron. Berkowitz and Caron have been writing together for a while, having co-written several tracks on Berkowitz’s solo album All Night Party, which Caron also co-produced. The track opens with a bit of studio banter before kicking in with a bluesy rock feel and some nice work on harmonica by Phil Berkowitz. The tune is a fun love song, opening with these lines: “Me and my sweet baby got a good thing going on/Got a love so strong that will never grow old/Because every time we kiss, we’re like two little kids/Forever young and forever bold.” Kit Andersen plays lead guitar on this track, and Lisa Leuschner Andersen provides backing vocals. That’s followed by “It Ain’t Enough,” which was written by Cathy Lemons. This one has a meaner and cooler blues vibe, and features Cathy on lead vocals. “Give me a prayer/I’m sinking fast/I’m outta time now/My best days are past.” In one verse, the backing vocals repeating “Change it” have an early 1970s R&B feel, which is wonderful. I also like the work on keys. A longer version of this song was released as a single, and the album version is lacking my favorite verse (which has lines like “You love me for my crimes/And all my sins/My mind is just a shallow grave/That you can whisper in”).

“Jackson” is one of the album’s two covers, and it comes as something of a surprise, since I’m mainly familiar with the country versions of this song. But it was co-written by Jerry Leiber, who is of course known for co-writing (with Mike Stoller) many of the early rock and roll hits. The version by The Lucky Losers is closer to that by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood than to, say, that by Johnny Cash and June Carter. The Lucky Losers have a lot of fun with this song, tossing in little responses like Phil’s “Don’t mind if I do” after Cathy sings “We’ll go on down to Jackson,” and Phil’s “What’s left of it” after Cathy sings “Go comb your hair.” Sure, it’s a bit goofy, but it’s fun.

It’s followed by what is probably my favorite track of the CD, “Don’t Let ‘Em See Ya Cry,” which was written by Cathy Lemons. This song has an excellent old blues vibe, with wonderful work on keys, a seriously cool lead guitar part, and a fantastic horn section. Michael Peloquin is on saxophone, Mike Rose is on trumpet and Mike Rinta is on trombone. All of that is great, and there is a delicious instrumental section, but it is Cathy Lemons’ voice that really sells this track. “They say I sold my soul/They say I don’t love you, baby/Now I got nowhere to go/But I don’t pay it no mind/I just walk the line/And I won’t, no I won’t ever let them see me cry.” The horn section also plays on “Blind Man In The Dark,” with Terry Hanck doing the tenor saxophone lead part.

“I Can’t Change Ya” is another fun tune, with a wonderful energy. I have to imagine this one must be a highlight of the group’s live performances. There is some goofy vocal play at the end that actually made me laugh out loud. Phil sings, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” to which Cathy responds, “But baby we’re always broke.” Phil then says, “Yeah, but you said we were going to stick together through thick and thin,” to which Cathy says, “Yeah, but if things get a little bit too thick, I’m going to have to thin out, kind of like your hair.” Franck Goldwasser plays guitar on this track.

“In Any Town,” the CD’s title track, is mellower, more intimate and serious tune. There is a vulnerability to the vocals, and a beauty to the song. “Oh, I’m so tired/Of people telling me/What I can and cannot do/This little town is driving me mad/Trying to keep me away from you.” I love Phil’s work on harmonica. This song is another of my favorites. It’s followed by another serious number, “Devil’s Dream,” which has something of a heavier feel. “Come on, show your face/Show it to me now/Ain’t got no more to lose/No more, no how.” The album concludes with its other cover tune, “Small Town Talk,” a song written by Bobby Charles Guidry and Rick Danko. Both Bobby Charles and Rick Danko recorded the song, as did Boz Scaggs, Paul Butterfield, Paul Thorn and Shannon McNally, among others. The Lucky Losers do a really good job with it.

CD Track List
  1. So High
  2. It Ain’t Enough
  3. Jackson
  4. Don’t Let ‘Em See Ya Cry
  5. Blind Man In The Dark
  6. I Can’t Change Ya
  7. Still Enough Time To Cry
  8. Give Me A Sign
  9. In Any Town
  10. Devil’s Dream
  11. Small Town Talk 
In Any Town was released on July 15, 2016 on Dirty Cat Records.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Traveling Wilburys: “The Traveling Wilburys Collection” (2016) CD Review

I was never all that fond of the term “supergroup,” but the one band to which the term undeniably applies is The Traveling Wilburys. This group was made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. They put out two albums, Volume 1 and Volume 3, and had several hits, including “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line” and “She’s My Baby.” By the time Volume 3 was recorded, Roy Orbison had died. We’ve since lost George Harrison as well. The albums went out of print, then came back as a deluxe package in 2007, which then also went out of print. Now that deluxe three-disc set is back in print, and also is available for the first time on streaming services. This set includes two CDs (the band’s two albums, plus bonus tracks) and one DVD, as well as a nice liner notes booklet. It’s absolutely wonderful to revisit these songs. There is such joy, such a sense of fun to these tracks.

Disc One: Traveling Wilburys Volume 1

The first disc contains the complete first album, along with a couple of bonus tracks. The CD opens with “Handle With Care,” a song that was originally intended as a flip side to George Harrison’s “This Is Love,” but which ended up beginning something much greater. It’s an excellent song, and was a hit for the group, though shockingly only reached #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Everybody’s got somebody to lean on/Put your body next to mine and dream on/I’ve been uptight and made a mess/But I’ll clean up myself, I guess/Oh, the sweet smell of success/Handle me with care.” It’s followed by “Dirty World,” a fun tune with Bob Dylan on lead vocals. Check out these lines: “You don’t need no wax job/You’re smooth enough for me/If you need your oil changed, I’ll do it for you free/Oh baby, the pleasure be all mine/If you let me drive your pick-up truck/And park it where the sun don’t shine.” Silly, yes, and delightful. “He loves your trembling Wilbury.” “Rattled” is also a whole hell of a lot of fun, with a great rock and roll vibe. Jeff Lynne sings lead on this one.

“Last Night” is another of the CD’s popular tracks, with Tom Petty on lead vocals (though with some great stuff from Roy Orbison as well – “I asked her to marry me/She smiled, and pulled out a knife”). This song is seriously catchy and fun, a tune to get you feeling good. It was always one of my favorites, and has lost none of its charm over the years. But really, there is not a single weak track here. “Last Night” is followed by “Not Alone Any More,” with Roy Orbison on lead vocals. His is one of the best voices in music. I saw him in concert in 1988, the same year this album was recorded, and his voice was amazing. It had lost none of its power or beauty in the decades since his career began.

“Tweeter And The Monkey Man” is one of those great Bob Dylan story songs (like “Hurricane”). According to the documentary (which is included on the second disc of this set), the song was mainly written by Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. Interestingly, it contains the titles to several Bruce Springsteen songs in its lyrics, in lines like “So they hopped into a stolen car, took Highway 99” and “She made secret calls to the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill/It was out on Thunder Road, Tweeter at the wheel.” The original album then ends with “End Of The Line,” which was also a hit (though this one too didn’t chart as highly as you might expect). “Well, it’s all right.” The first disc contains two bonus tracks: “Maxine” and “Like A Ship.” Both are really good songs. I am particularly fond of “Like A Ship.”

Disc Two: DVD

The DVD features The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys, a twenty-five-minute documentary on the band. Though directed by Willy Smax, this documentary includes footage of the clapboard at the beginning which indicates the director as “Nelson Wilbury,” George Harrison. George Harrison is interviewed at the beginning, and he tells how the band came together, from a dinner he had with Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. “And I said to Jeff, ‘Look, tomorrow I’m just going in the studio and make up a tune, and do you want to come and help?’” He called Bob Dylan to see if he could record at his studio, then mentions, “My guitar was at Tom Petty’s house.” Crazy, right? The other Wilburys are interviewed as well, talking about how the songs came about. Roy Orbison says that they didn’t spend a lot of time planning anything out. “So we just wrote the best songs that we could write, and sang them as best we could.” There is footage of them writing some of the songs, and the documentary includes interesting anecdotes about how certain tracks, such as “Dirty World,” came about. There is plenty of great footage, including drummer Jim Keltner using the contents of a refrigerator for percussion on “Rattled.” There is also footage from the music video shoots. The guys stress that they were all friends, and that the project was about those friendships.

The DVD also includes music videos for “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” “She’s My Baby,” “Inside Out” and “Wilbury Twist.” Look how happy the guys are in the video for “End Of The Line,” particularly Tom Petty. It’s a joy to watch these videos. And “Wilbury Twist” is a rather silly video featuring appearances by John Candy and Eric Idle at the beginning.

Disc Three: Traveling Wilburys Volume 3

The third disc contains the band’s second (and final) album, playfully titled Volume 3, and two bonus tracks. This album came out in 1990, nearly two years after the death of Roy Orbison, to whom the record was dedicated. The album opens with “She’s My Baby,” which was also released as a single. It’s more of a rock song than any of the tracks on the first album. It’s followed by “Inside Out,” which was also released as a single. Both of these songs are good, but I actually prefer a lot of the other tracks on this record, like “If You Belonged To Me,” which Bob Dylan sings lead on. “Oh, how happy you would be if you belonged to me.” Dylan also plays harmonica on this one.

While this CD might not be quite as much as fun as the first release, it’s still really strong. And it does feature some playful (yet poignant) lyrics, such as these in “The Devil’s Been Busy”: “While you're strolling down the fairway/Showing no remorse/Glowing from the poisons/They've sprayed on your golf course” and “Sometimes you think you’re crazy/But you know you’re only mad.” And “7 Deadly Sins” is certainly fun, sounding as it does like one of those classic doo-wop tunes. There is even the addition of saxophone. And then “Poor House” has a great old-timey folk thing happening, particularly in the vocals, which are delivered like bluegrass. “Everything I do is wrong/I always end up robbed/Woman, I tried so hard/Done all I can do/They’re gonna put me in the poor house/Keep all the best for you.”

“Cool Dry Place” is a fun bluesy tune about musical equipment, with Tom Petty on lead vocals. “I’ve got guitars, basses, amplifiers and drums/Accordions and mandolins and things that sometimes hum.” I like these lines: “I tried to call the lawyer and asked him what to do/He referred me to his doctor who referred me back to you.” The album ends with the silly “Wilbury Twist,” which contains dance instructions. It’s funny, in no small part because of the very idea of people like Bob Dylan and George Harrison creating a dance craze, something that seems far beneath their talents. But the results are totally enjoyable. And besides, the song takes the idea of a dance craze and adapts it to those of us who are getting older: “Lift your other foot up (other foot up)/Fall on your ass (fall on your ass)/Get back up (get back up)/Put your teeth in a glass (teeth in a glass).” This song was released as a single. “I guess by now you’ve got the gist/Everybody’s crazy about the Wilbury Twist.

This disc has two bonus tracks: “Nobody’s Child” and “Runaway.” Both are covers. “Nobody’s Child” was originally released as the title track to the 1990 compilation Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal. This song was written by Cy Coben and Mel Foree, and was also covered by Tony Sheridan with The Beatles. I really like the Traveling Wilburys’ version. “Runaway” is the Del Shannon song, written by Del Shannon and Max Crook. This track was originally included as the flip side to “She’s My Baby.”

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Handle With Care
  2. Dirty World
  3. Rattled
  4. Last Night
  5. Not Alone Any More
  6. Congratulations
  7. Heading For The Light
  8. Margarita
  9. Tweeter And The Monkey Man
  10. End Of The Line
  11. Maxine
  12. Like A Ship
Disc Three (Disc Two is the DVD)
  1. She’s My Baby
  2. Inside Out
  3. If You Belonged To Me
  4. The Devil’s Been Busy
  5. 7 Deadly Sins
  6. Poor House
  7. Where Were You Last Night?
  8. Cool Dry Place
  9. New Blue Moon
  10. You Took My Breath Away
  11. Wilbury Twist
  12. Nobody’s Child
  13. Runaway 
The Traveling Wilburys Collection was released on June 3, 2016 through Concord Music Group.

Henry Wagons at Bootleg Theater, 7-13-16 Concert Review

Henry Wagons performing "Santa Fe"
I arrange my work schedule around music, as much as I’m able. Some folks think I’m mad for taking a day off to see a band, but in fact I usually take two days off. No sense in having to get up early the day after a concert. And so this week I turned down work for Wednesday and Thursday in order to see Henry Wagons at the Bootleg Theater Wednesday night. He played this venue only a few weeks ago, a solo show, and it was great. This time he had a band backing him, including one musician who was in the band Wagons. And I have to say this show was even better. It was a treat to be able to see him twice in such a short span of time, as he’s based in Australia. I hope this means he’ll be touring the states more often.

Before the show I noticed that under the upside down “Cocktails” sign, upon which Henry remarked last time, there was a Henry Wagons poster. Very cool. Last time he wasn’t the headliner, but rather supported Leslie Stevens Band. This time he was the main act, which of course meant listening to two openers before getting to enjoy his set. But since the two bands on the bill with him the previous time were really good, I was hopeful and optimistic about the lineup last night, though I was unfamiliar with the other two artists.

The first, Sam Morrow, was scheduled to go on at 8:45 p.m., according to the little hand-made sign taped to the wall outside the entrance. And, holy moly, at exactly 8:45 the band took the stage. I love it. And within a few minutes the night was off and running. This was a really good rock band, which included Ted Russell Kamp on bass. They played some tunes from There Is No Map, including “Girls,” “Green” (with Samantha Valdez joining on backing vocals) and “Devil’s In The Details.” They also did a good cover of Willie Nelson’s “Shotgun Willie.” Miwi La Lupa then did a solo set on electric guitar, playing several songs from his recent release, Ended Up Making Love, including “Big Heart,” “Holiday” and “I Yield.” So, yes, once again the two artists on the bill with Henry Wagons were excellent.

Henry Wagons took the stage at 10:33 p.m., only three minutes past the scheduled time. How about that? Maybe it’s just a result of getting older, but I really appreciate it when things start on time. The band kicked off the set with “Tomboy,” a song from After What I Did Last Night, Henry’s most recent release. The set focused mainly on material from that album. After that first song, Henry remarked, “What a great night of music it’s been.” Indeed. I know that headliners will often compliment the openers, but in this case it was true.

The band then went into “King Hit,” followed by “Head Or Heart,” both from the new CD. Henry thanked the crowd for coming out on a Wednesday night. “It’s great you dragged your asses out here,” he said. He had the audience laughing throughout the set. Seriously, his banter between songs was just as enjoyable as the songs themselves. After a good rocking version of “Drive All Night ‘Til Dawn,” Henry mentioned his previous gig at this venue, and then talked about how Chad used to be in Wagons until he fell in love with a woman and moved to Nashville – a woman he actually met during a Wagons tour. After not getting much of a reaction from the audience, Henry turned to Chad and said, “They’re pretty unimpressed,” and added that love happens all the time. He then dedicated “Cold Burger, Cold Fries” to Chad’s wife.

After “Weak Link,” Henry joked, “We’re hurtling toward my favorite part of the show right now,” and then encouraged the band to leave the stage so he could do a solo song. He chose the humorous “Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister” from the Wagons album The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown. The band then returned for a cover of “Never Been To Spain.” That’s a song Wagons actually covered on that same CD. Henry also played it at his solo gig at the Bootleg Theater last month, and so this time when he sang that he’d never been to the Bootleg Theater, he quickly added, “Clearly a lie.”

He then did a few more from After What I Did Last Night…, including “Only Child,” “Only Sane Mother Fucker” and “Santa Fe.” During “Only Sane Mother Fucker,” he got off the stage and danced around with the audience. After that song, he mentioned how he touched the forehead of one guy in the crowd and got a vision of the man’s future, which included children and two divorces. “You’ll be mostly sad, but you’ll have happy moments,” Henry told him.

The band then wrapped up the set with two songs from the Wagons album Rumble, Shake And Tumble, which is the CD that turned me on to Henry Wagons. They did “I Blew It” and “Willie Nelson.” Chad sang the salt and pepper line in “Willie Nelson,” and Henry got the whole crowd singing along by the end. It was a fantastic set. I thought there would certainly be an encore, but the house music went on only seconds after the band left the stage.

Set List
  1. Tomboy
  2. King Hit
  3. Head Or Heart
  4. Drive All Night ‘Til Dawn
  5. Cold Burger, Cold Fries
  6. Weak Link
  7. Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister
  8. Never Been To Spain
  9. Only Child
  10. Only Sane Mother Fucker
  11. Santa Fe
  12. I Blew It
  13. Willie Nelson 
Here are some photos from the set:

"Head Or Heart"
"Head Or Heart"
"Drive All Night 'Til Dawn"
"Drive All Night 'Til Dawn"
"Cold Burger, Cold Fries"
"Cold Burger, Cold Fries"
"Only Child"
"Only Sane Mother Fucker"
"Willie Nelson"

Tickets for this show were $10. The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles, California.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

M.D. Dunn: “Solace” (2016) CD Review

Singer, songwriter and poet M.D. Dunn’s newest release, Solace, features mostly original material, including several rather pretty guitar instrumentals. The music has something of a mellow 1970s folk feel at times. This is his seventh release, and was produced by Rusty McCarthy, who also plays bass, banjo and guitar on it. Also joining M.D. Dunn on this CD are Chris Murphy on drums, Al Wood on harmonica, Cliff Alloy on percussion, Jenny Gauvreau on piano and backing vocals, Sheldon Jaaskelainen on violin, and Britta Wolfert on backing vocals. Mark D. Dunn is based in Ontario (yes, great music continues to come from that area).

The album opens with “Beauty,” which begins with some excellent work on acoustic guitar. It eases in, the guitar taking you on a little journey. And then when the vocals come in, you find yourself on a familiar road: “You’re a little too tired/You know you’re too stoned to drive/So you pull over to the shoulder of a road you’ve known all your life.” The song kicks in and features something of a driving beat and energy, with passion behind the vocal delivery. “Come on and be the beauty/Heal this wounded world.” There is some great work by Al Wood on harmonica, which never rises to overpower the guitar. “I’ve got a hole in my heart the shape of God’s fist.”  Like “Beauty,” the following track, “Master Of Doubt,” starts with some good work on acoustic guitar to pull you in. It’s the guitar that is really at the heart of this CD. “Master Of Doubt” is about a certain longing and a shyness keeping him from acting on it. “And too scared to even speak with you/I looked away before you knew.”

“Miracles Happen (And Frequently Go Unnoticed) Even On A Day Like This” is the first of the album’s instrumental tracks. It is really pretty, and features some wonderful work on guitar. Again, it is the acoustic guitar that is at the heart of this release. Partway through the track, the violin eases in, and the track becomes more beautiful. The violin does the same for the CD’s title track, “Solace.” While that song has a strong 1970s vibe, the lyrics mention more modern contraptions: “She’s screaming at the phone/Under my window at 2 a.m./Got the broken GPS blues.” Those lines come as a surprise to me, and sort of lift me out of the song, if only momentarily. Another thing that comes as a surprise is the inclusion of a live track, “Watchful,” which was recorded in January of this year. On this one he is joined only by Rusty McCarthy on bass, which actually was recorded later. Basically, this is a live solo performance. I think I would have cut the audience reaction at the end, the applause, because it’s a bit jarring.

The album’s second instrumental track, “Snow Angels,” is, like “Miracles Happen,” quite pretty. Apparently, this one originally had lyrics, and a vocal version was included on Dunn’s first release, 1994’s After The Great Sleep (but I haven’t been able to find that track online to give it a listen). On this instrumental rendition, he is joined only by Rusty McCarthy. The other instrumentals are “Seasons” and “The Companion.”

“On Without End” is another with a strong 1970s vibe reminding me a bit of America or perhaps Stephen Stills or Neil Young. “City is green when seen from above/The river winding through like a snake/Swirling in the center/The cells in the body just glowing with love/It’s like looking in a mirror/That looks into the eyes of the universe/You go on without end.” Sheldon Jaaskelainen adds some beautiful work on violin. Britta Wolfert and Jenny Gauvreau provide backing vocals. It’s really good, but probably my favorite track is “The Last Beautiful Thing.” There is just something about this song that gets right to me. Sure, the violin is excellent. And I love the backing vocals by Britta Wolfert and Jenny Gauvreau. But I think it’s the lyrics that really make this track stand out. There is something warming and friendly and positive about them. “I know you/By the songs that you give/And you came through/Came through/When everyone was wrong/You came through/Came through/When everyone had gone.” It’s a beautiful song.

The album’s only cover is actually an adaptation of an e.e. cummings poem, “i thank you, god.” The last two lines of the poem are used as sort of a chorus, sung after the first stanza as well as later. The album concludes with “Diamond Inside,” which, sure, is a bit corny, but also really sweet. “Everybody has a diamond inside/See it shining in their eyes.”  I ended up really liking this song, partly because of the beautiful violin. The sweet, honest feel ended up moving me.

CD Track List
  1. Beauty
  2. Master Of Doubt
  3. Miracles Happen (And Frequently Go Unnoticed) Even On A Day Like This
  4. Solace
  5. Watchful
  6. Snow Angels
  7. On Without End
  8. Seasons
  9. The Last Beautiful Thing
  10. i thank you, god
  11. The Companion
  12. Diamond Inside
Solace was released on May 10, 2016.