Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Brett Harris: “Up In The Air” (2016) CD Review

It seems like we’re hearing a lot from The dB’s and their extended musical family these days. And that’s a good thing. The latest offering is one of the best – Brett Harris’ new CD, Up In The Air.  Brett Harris has performed with both The dB’s and Big Star, and he is based in North Carolina, where this album was recorded (part of it was recorded at Modern Recording, which was started by Chris Stamey). All songs on this CD are originals, written by Brett Harris, and he can certainly write some damn good pop songs that are both catchy and meaningful. By the way, Skylar Gudasz, another of member of that extended family, provides some backing vocals on this album. (Skylar has a track on The dB’s And Friends’ Christmas Time Again! CD.)

The album opens with “End Of The Rope,” which begins with a guitar lick that reminds me strongly of The Beatles. And when it kicks in, it becomes an absolutely delicious, bright pop song.  Maybe it’s wrong, but I just don’t care what’s right/As long as I’ve got you here with me tonight.” And I love the long pause before “tonight.” “End Of The Rope” is followed by a sweeter-sounding, prettier pop tune titled “Don’t Look Back,” which is another of my favorites. Most of us can relate to lines like “But I’m proceeding carefully/Because I don’t want my poor heart to be broken again.” There is something warm in his delivery, even as he sings of missed opportunities, “So baby, just once grant me this last request/Don’t look back when you go.” And check out these lines: “Believe me when I say/How I wish that I could stay/Trade all my yesterdays/For the chance of one tomorrow.”

There is something really catchy about “Lies,” both in the music and the pattern of the vocal line. Like on lyrics like these: “Seems my mind’s made up/But my heart, it feels so hollow/The unintended consequence of bitter pills I’ve had to swallow.” And then suddenly this track takes an interesting and fun turn, dipping into a twisted old jazz feel, which I totally love. This song has an odd ending as well. This is probably my favorite track. Another track I am especially fond of is “Rumor.” It has an interesting combination of musical vibes, with a kind of cool, slow groove, some nice work on keys, and then suddenly this great horn rising up toward the end. “Down to the wire/And under the gun/You shrug it off, but you know, you know, you know/You ain’t foolin’ no one.”

“Up In The Air,” the CD’s title track, is another of the album’s highlights. It’s a sweet and kind of quirky combination of pop and folk elements. “I confess/Without you I’m a mess/I need your tenderness/So, darling, reconsider.” The album concludes with “Spanish Moss,” an interesting and pretty song. What I particularly love about this track is that moment when the backing vocals come in. They raise the song to a place of beauty. And from there, the song becomes more powerful emotionally, with wonderful touches on strings. It’s a gorgeous ending to this CD.

CD Track List
  1. End Of The Rope
  2. Don’t Look Back
  3. Lies
  4. Out Of The Blue
  5. High Times
  6. Rumor
  7. Summer Night
  8. Up In The Air
  9. Shadetree
  10. Spanish Moss
Up In The Air is scheduled to be released on March 4, 2016 through Hit The Deck Recordings.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ellis Paul at McCabe’s, 2-5-16 Concert Review

Ellis Paul is one of the greatest living singer/songwriters, and he also puts on an excellent show. I’ve seen him in concert more than two hundred times, and he always impresses me. What’s perhaps more important is that I always feels so damn good at the end of his shows. Music at its best has the power to move us, to unite us, to embrace us, to warm us, to make us hopeful and excited about our own lives and about life in general, and even to make us want to be the best people we can be. Ellis Paul’s music does this. And it does it every time.

Last night he played at McCabe’s in Santa Monica. Right before the show he met with a photographer who was going to shoot the performance. If you’ve never been backstage at McCabe’s, there are some amazing photos lining the walls, photos of artists who have played there over the years. So when Ellis began his show, he mentioned these photographs, joking that there are photos of everyone who had ever played there except him. But soon there will be a photo of him on those walls. He then kicked off the show with “I Ain’t No Jesus,” a wonderful song. “The only miracle that I’ve seen is you walking down the aisle to me.” He then talked a bit about McCabe’s, which for those who haven’t been there is a guitar shop during the day when not hosting concerts. He told the story of the guitar that he wanted to purchase there several years ago, but which was eventually bought by Neil Young.

That’s one thing about Ellis: he’s a damned good storyteller as well as singer. I’ve heard that story a few times, but it still feels fresh, still makes me laugh. After a sweet rendition of “Rose Tattoo,” he talked about Kurt Russell accidentally destroying an expensive old guitar that he thought was a prop, and then talked about his first road trip, encouraging audience members to remember their own first trips. It got me to thinking about a road trip I took to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 1991. We had no money for a hotel, and ended up sleeping in my van at a rest stop on the outskirts of the city for a week. What the story also did was make me eager to hit the road again. The story of his road trip was the introduction to “Chasing Beauty,” the title track to his 2014 release (which was on my list of the ten best CDs of that year). From that album, he also did “Drive-In Movie,” “Love Is A Curious Thing” and “Kick Out The Lights.” “Kick Out The Lights” was particularly good, with a lot of energy, both from Ellis and from the crowd who sang along.

One song I am always happy to hear is “Maria’s Beautiful Mess.” Over the years there have been a few songs that he’s played consistently (such as “3,000 Miles” and, for a while, “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”), and these days it is “Maria’s Beautiful Mess.” It is one of his best songs (sometimes I think his very best), and last night in his introduction he sort of broke the song down to its components, showing how he gives it a sort of drum beat and a bass line, saying the song is like a combination of James Taylor and the Rolling Stones. He followed that with “This Is Where All Good Trees Go,” a song about McCabe’s which he improvised at a show there back in 2011, and which he’s played during at least one other show since then.

He did two covers at the show last night. The first was “The Only Way,” which was written by Mark Erelli and which Ellis recorded with Vance Gilbert for their Side Of The Road album. Ellis played harmonica on it. The second was “The Circle Game,” one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs. He introduced it by saying, “I want to do a Joni Mitchell song for you… because it’s Super Bowl weekend.” While tuning his guitar, he also joked, “I’m going to throw this guitar away after this show.” A version of this song by Buffy Sainte-Marie is played during the opening credits sequence of The Strawberry Statement, one of my favorite films. I’ve seen Ellis play this one before, and he always does a really good job with it. It’s such a beautiful and moving song, and the audience sang along with the chorus.

While Ellis was tuning before “The Circle Game,” Lincoln, who works at McCabe’s, brought out a guitar that’s for sale, one that Ellis has his eye on, and put it on a guitar stand on stage, humorously setting it with the price tag visible. So after “The Circle Game,” Ellis played a few songs on it, including “Kiss The Sun,” which was a request. The guitar had no electronics or strap, so he sat on a stool in the audience, performing the songs unmiked, and that’s how he concluded his set.

Interestingly, for his encore, he actually improvised a song on piano, a funny song about Kurt Russell destroying the guitar, told from the perspective of the tree that became the guitar. Titled “My Big Break,” it features lines like these: “It was my big break in so many ways/Kurt Russell, is this the way you treat Goldie Hawn?/What the fuck are you on?/I’m a forty thousand dollar guitar.”

Set List
  1. I Ain’t No Jesus
  2. 3,000 Miles
  3. Rose Tattoo
  4. Chasing Beauty
  5. Drive-In Movie
  6. Hurricane Angel
  7. Kick Out The Lights
  8. Maria’s Beautiful Mess
  9. This Is Where All Good Trees Go
  10. The Only Way
  11. The Circle Game
  12. Kiss The Sun
  13. Snow In Austin
  14. Thomas Edison
  15. Love Is A Curious Thing 
Encore
  1. My Big Break
The show ended a little before 10 p.m. After the concert, Ellis had a brief photo session. So the next time you’re at McCabe’s, there should be a photo of Ellis Paul on the walls. McCabe's is located at 3101 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Emitt Rhodes: “Rainbow Ends” (2016) CD Review


Emitt Rhodes released his first solo album in 1970, on which he wrote, sang, performed and produced every track. That album reached #29 on the Billboard chart (years later that album’s “Lullaby” would be featured in The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my favorite films). He followed that self-titled record with a few more over the next couple of years. But after 1973’s (perhaps appropriately titled) Farewell To Paradise, he stopped releasing albums and stopped performing. But he continued writing and recording (he has a track on the Bee Gees tribute, To Love The Bee Gees). And now, after forty-three years, we are treated to a new full-length album by Emitt Rhodes, Rainbow Ends. This album features all original material, written or co-written by Emitt Rhodes. There are some excellent guest artists on this release, including Aimee Mann, Jon Brion and Susannah Hoffs. The album was produced by Chris Price, who also plays guitar and organ, and provides some harmony vocals. The band also includes Jason Falkner on guitar, Taylor Locke on guitar, Fernando Perdomo on bass, Joseph Seiders on drums, and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on piano and vibraphone.

“Dog On A Chain,” the lead-off track, begins as folk (reminding me a bit of Brooks Williams), then kicks in with a kind of mellow rock vibe. This song relates a less-than-ideal look at love and relationships, and it’s a really good track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I was led along like a dog on a chain/Out in the cold/Out in the rain/I was led along like a dog on a leash/I did as told while she did as she pleased.” And I love these lines: “Once she praised me/Now she hates me/I can’t see how I have changed.” Excellent, right? Aimee Mann provides some harmony vocals on this track, and Jon Brion plays guitar.

That is followed by “If I Knew Then,” an excellent song with an interesting bluesy hook. This one too takes a look at the darker and lesser side of love. “Wouldn’t give my heart/To just anyone/If I knew then/What was to come/I gave my trust/An act of faith/How could I be so dumb.” I really like the piano work by Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. This is one of my favorite tracks.

“Isn’t It So” has some 1970s soft rock vibes. It’s a sweet song of loss and longing. “I’m still trying to please you/Even though you’re not here/Still talking to you/Even though you can’t hear/And the more I deny it/The more that it’s true/There’s hardly a moment/I’m not thinking of you.” “Someone Else” is another strong track about vulnerability in love. It opens with the lines, “When you tell someone you care a lot/Prepare yourself for a broken heart.” Those lines are so wonderfully depressing. And check out these lines: “I like her so much it makes me ill/And it makes no sense/And it never will.” “Someone Else” was written by Emitt Rhodes and Chris Price. Susannah Hoffs provides harmony vocals on this track. And then Nels Cline (from Wilco) plays guitar on “I Can’t Tell My Heart.”

“Put Some Rhythm To It” is a fun song taking us back to those awkward days of learning to dance and seeking romance. The song has a kind of nostalgic sound, which works so well, transporting us to the 1970s, and it also has a good sense of humor. “At every school dance/I would not strut nor prance/And I seldom left my seat.” Susannah Hoffs provides harmony vocals on this track. That one is followed by “It’s All Behind Us Now,” which has a good groove. It’s about trying to let things from the past remain in the past, while we move on. “Let’s forget those things we said/Say the things we wish we had/Let’s forget those things we did/Do thing right this time instead/It’s all behind us now.” Pat Sansone plays acoustic guitar on this track.

The CD ends with its title track, “Rainbow Ends.” “Always chasing rainbow ends/Head up in the clouds/Thought my dreams would never end/But my eyes, they’re open now.”

CD Track List
  1. Dog On A Chain
  2. If I Knew Then
  3. Isn’t It So
  4. This Wall Between Us
  5. Someone Else
  6. I Can’t Tell My Heart
  7. Put Some Rhythm To It
  8. It’s All Behind Us Now
  9. What’s A Man To Do
  10. Friday’s Love
  11. Rainbow Ends 
Rainbow Ends is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Color Of Noise Blu-ray/DVD Review

The Color Of Noise is a completely enjoyable documentary about Tom Hazelmyer and his record label, Amphetamine Reptile, and the punk bands that have been part of that label. It was released as a two-disc set – one disc being the Blu-ray, the other being the DVD. There is plenty of great music and lots of interviews with members of bands like Cows, The Thrown Ups, Lubricated Goats, Surgery, Helmet, and Unsane.

And of course there is material from interviews with Tom Hazelmyer. He himself was a member of the band Halo Of Flies, and the documentary includes interviews with his bandmates. Tom made the first record in order to raise his chances of his getting the band signed to another label, and sold the records out of the trunk of his car. Interestingly, the label name Amphetamine Reptile came from a guy in his barracks in the marines mishearing a line from a Motorhead song, “Love Me Like A Reptile.” Tom talks about how Twin Tone Records helped with the manufacturing and distribution, and about the series of compilations titled Dope, Guns ‘N’ Fucking In The Streets, one of which included the first track by Mudhoney.

There are also interviews with other people who worked for the label, as well as interviews with some of the artists who created the album and poster art, including Frank Kozik and Chris Cooper. The documentary treats us to lots of shots of the great artwork. And of course there is old concert footage. There is also footage from a concert in 2010 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the label, with performances by Melvins, The Thrown Ups, God Bullies, Hammerhead and other bands. Because really this documentary ends up being more about the bands, the music, than it does about Tom Hazelmyer. There are lots of great anecdotes, like the information about the five bands touring in London. One thing that struck me was how often band members mention acid, because I don’t normally associate LSD with punk music.

Even though the film is two hours, it does feel like a lot of stuff is just touched upon. I wanted it to go into more depth in certain areas. And then at the end it spends a bit too much time on a montage of people describing Tom Hazelmyer. Still, it really is an enjoyable documentary. And be sure to watch the entire end credits sequence.

Special Features

Apart from the commentary track, the special features are only available on the Blu-ray disc and not on the DVD. Just so you know. The commentary track is by director Eric Robel and editor Michael Dimmitt, who play a drinking game as they watch the movie.

The other special features include The Enthusiasts, with interviews with two videographers who shot concert footage. We see some of that footage, including stuff from 1989. There is also a rough cut of the original opening of the film, including footage from Lincoln, Nebraska, and stuff about Charlie Burton. “AmRep Does Subpop” is about some singles and the original cover art. There is an interview with Tom Hazelmyer from 1992. There is also footage of performances by Cows, Hammerhead, Surgery, Janitor Joe and Unsane. The special features also include the Kickstarter promo, a poster gallery and the film’s trailer.

The Color Of Noise was directed by Eric Robel, and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 24, 2015 through MVD Visual.

February 2016 Concert Calendar

I started this blog to let people know about all the good music that's out there. I only review CDs that I like. The rest I leave to everyone else. In addition, I try to keep track of where those artists are performing. So here is a list of a few concerts you might be interested in for the month of February, 2016. Most of these are artists that I've reviewed. I will try to add to this calendar whenever I can throughout the month.

February 1, 2016  (Monday)
They Might Be Giants  -   Academy 2, Manchester, UK

February 2, 2016  (Tuesday)
Samantha Crain  -  The Flying Steamshovel, Rossland, BC, Canada
Gaelic Storm  -   The Foundry, Athens, GA
Martin Sexton  -   Belly Up, Aspen, CO
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Druid City Music Hall, Tuscaloosa, AL

February 3, 2016  (Wednesday)
James McMurtry  -   Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
They Might Be Giants  -   The Junction, Cambridge, UK
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, FL

February 4, 2016  (Thursday)
Cloud Cult  -  Gallagher Performing Arts Center, Cedar Falls, IA
Dressy Bessy  -  Surfside 7, Ft. Collins, CO
Gaelic Storm  -   The National, Richmond, VA
James McMurtry  -   Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD
Martin Sexton  -   Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, CA
They Might Be Giants  -   O2 Shepards Bush, London, UK
Chris Trapper  -  Hrasko Concert, Kelowna, BC, Canada 
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   The Plaza Live, Orlando, FL

February 5, 2016  (Friday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Flux Capacitor, Colorado Springs, CO
Gaelic Storm  -   Harvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount, VA
I See Hawks In L.A.  -   The Palms, Winters, CA
The Nields  -  The Rockwood, New York, NY
Willie Nile  -   The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook, CT
Ellis Paul McCabe's Guitar ShopSanta Monica, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
James McMurtry  -   Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA
Martin Sexton  -   Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Chris Trapper  -   Ironwood, Calgary, AB, Canada
Dar Williams  -  Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA 
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Jannus Live, Saint Petersburg, FL

February 6, 2016  (Saturday)
Cloud Cult  -   Papa Charlies, Lutsen, MN
Dressy Bessy  -   Hi-Dive, Denver, CO
Gaelic Storm  -   The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC
Tracy Grammer  -  The Arts Block, Greenfield, MA
I See Hawks In L.A.  -   The Makeout Room, San Francisco, CA
Rebecca Loebe  -   Eddie's Attic, Decatur, GA
James McMurtry  -   City Winery, New York, NY
Ellis Paul  -  Laura R. Charles Theater, National City, CA  -  7:30 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -   Coconino Center For The Arts, Flagstaff, AZ
Chris Trapper  -   Parkview Hall, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Dar Williams  -   The Greenwich Odeum, East Greenwich, RI
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale, FL

February 7, 2016  (Sunday)
I See Hawks In L.A.  -   Folkish Festival at Marin County Mart, Larkspur, CA

February 8, 2016  (Monday)

February 9, 2016  (Tuesday)
Martin Sexton  -   Barleycorns, Wichita, KS
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

February 10, 2016  (Wednesday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
Martin Sexton  -   Academy Of Music, Oklahoma City, OK
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Music Farm, Charleston, SC

February  11, 2016  (Thursday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Bowery Electric, New York, NY
Ellis Paul  -  McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk St., Houston, TX  -  7:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -   Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa, OK
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -   7:30 p.m.
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Music Farm, Columbia, SC

February 12, 2016  (Friday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Union Hall, New York, NY
Gaelic Storm  -   Mill City Nights, Minneapolis, MN
Ellis Paul Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse, 9555 North Central Expressway, Dallas, TX  -  8:00 p.m.
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA

February 13, 2016  (Saturday)
Dressy Bessy  -   The Boot And Saddle, Philadelphia, PA
Ruthie Foster  -  Montgomery Community College Science Center Theater, Blue Bell, PA
Gaelic Storm  -   Egyptian Theatre, Dekalb, IL
Ellis Paul Cactus CafĂ©, University of Texas, Austin, TX  -  8:30 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -   Republic, New Orleans, LA
Svetlana And The Delancey Five  -  Chappaqua Station, Chappaqua, NY
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA

February 14, 2016  (Sunday)
Ruthie Foster  -   Blackrock Center For The Arts, Germantown, MD
Gaelic Storm  -   Englert Theatre, Iowa City, IA
Martin Sexton  -   Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, FL
Svetlana And The Delancey Five  -   Lucey's Bar, Brooklyn, NY
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   3rd And Lindsley, Nashville, TN

February 15, 2016  (Monday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Gypsy Sally's, Washington, D.C.

February 16, 2016  (Tuesday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Strange Matter, Richmond, VA

February 17, 2016  (Wednesday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC
Gaelic Storm  -   The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

February 18, 2016  (Thursday)
Dressy Bessy  -   Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Ruthie Foster  -   Coda Concert House, Joplin, MO
Gaelic Storm  -   The Vogue, Indianapolis, IN

February 19, 2016  (Friday)
Jonatha Brooke  -  Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
Cloud Cult  -   Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Dressy Bessy  -   The Earl, Atlanta, GA
Ruthie Foster  -   Sheldon Concert Hall, St. Louis, MO
Gaelic Storm  -   Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH

February 20, 2016  (Saturday)
Marcia Ball  -  Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Cloud Cult  -   Barrymore Theater, Madison, WI
Dressy Bessy  -   40 Watt, Athens, GA
Ruthie Foster  -   Murphy Auditorium, New Harmony, IN
Gaelic Storm  -   House Of Blues, Cleveland, OH
Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars  -  The Plough And Stars, Cambridge, Ma  -  4:00 p.m.

February 21, 2016  (Sunday)
Marcia Ball  -  Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
Tom Chapin  -  Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY
Ruthie Foster  -   City Winery, Nashville, TN
Gaelic Storm  -   Tralf Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
Kaki King  -   Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA
Steve Poltz  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA  -  8:00 p.m.

February 22, 2016  (Monday)
Kaki King  -   Jammin Java, Vienna, VA

February 23, 2016 (Tuesday)

February 24, 2016  (Wednesday)
Gaelic Storm  -   Swyer Theatre at The Egg, Albany, NY
Kaki King  -   Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Svetlana And The Delancey Five  -   Joe's Pub, New York, NY

February 25, 2016  (Thursday)
Gaelic Storm  - The Cabot Theater, Beverly, MA
Kaki King  -   The Little Theatre, Rochester, NY
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -   7:30 p.m.

February 26, 2016  (Friday)
Kaki King  -   The Egg Center For The Performing Arts, Albany, NY
Christine Ohlman And Rebel Montez  -  Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY
Ellis Paul  -  Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland, OH  -  7:00 p.m.
Tom Rush  -  Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA

February 27, 2016  (Saturday)
Aztec Two Step  -  Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
The Howlin' Brothers  -   East Of Austin, Villa Rica, GA
Kaki King  -   The Strand Theatre, Rockland, ME
Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars  -  The Plough And Stars, Cambridge, Ma  -  4:00 p.m. 
The Nields  -  Jones Library, Northampton, MA  -  10:30 a.m.
The Nields  -  The Space, Hamden, CT  -  8:00 p.m.
David Wilcox  -  McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA  -  8:00 p.m.

February 28, 2016  (Sunday)
Kaki King  -   The Root Note Studio, Lowell, MA
Ellis Paul SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL  -  7:00 p.m.

February 29, 2016  (Monday)
Amy Speace  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  8:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Circle Jerks: “VI” (1987/2016) CD Review

In 1987, the Circle Jerks released their fifth album, titled VI because, fuck, not everything needs to be in order. I had listened to the Circle Jerks early on, thanks to some friends who turned me on to bands like Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Black Flag. One thing I appreciated about the Circle Jerks was their sense of humor. I mean, even their choice of band names is funny, and I have to admit the title of their third album, Golden Shower Of Hits, still makes me smile (and what a great cover that album has). But by 1987 I was off into other musical realms, and so didn’t listen to VI upon its initial release. Now it’s being remastered and re-issued, with new liner notes, and so I’m getting a chance to enjoy it. And there is plenty to enjoy on this disc. The tracks are mostly hard, fast, short, in-and-out punk rock tunes, with a sense of humor, but also with something to say. Check out “Living,” for example. I wish I had this record back in my teens, but the lines “I’m tired, give me something/Is that all there is, is that all there is” still speak strongly to me. Most of the tracks are originals, the exception being an excellent CCR cover.

The album opens with “Beat Me Senseless,” which is actually one of my least favorite tracks. It’s just not all that interesting. It has kind of a hard rock sound. But no worries, two minutes later, we’re into “Patty’s Killing Mel,” which is a much better tune with more of a biting sense of humor. This one was written by Zander Schloss, who had joined the band in 1984. “Patty’s killing Mel/Red beef, cocktails, sending him to hell/Susie killing Sal, Bobbi killing Joe/It’s your blood, who’s to know/Carol killing Del, Sally killing Sam/Get too close, you’ll understand.” And of course it has the spoken word part about dust under the counter indicating a possible lack of love in the relationship. Then “Casualty Vampires” rips on people who thrive on seeing the misery of others, those people who slow down on the highway to look at car wrecks, hoping to see a corpse. That’s followed by one of my favorites, “Tell Me Why,” which has a strong message. “Watch your mouth, mind your speech/Be aware, stay on your feet/Try to run, get you when you’re weak/Why are they always hounding me.”

I am also really fond of “Protection.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Like the whales in the ocean/We could become extinct/Don’t let them hunt us/In the wild kingdom/You better believe all the animals need protection.” But probably my absolute favorite on this album is “Living,” which is another with strong social commentary. Check out these lines: “Not much hope for any future/No desire to recall the past/Lower standards of education/Hard to think when your stomach is empty.” This is a great song.

The album’s only cover is a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which is perfectly placed after “American Way” (which has lines like “They can justify anything they do/It’s all right, as long they’re/Waving the red white and blue”), and delivered with the right snarl and anger and attitude. Seriously, this is a really good version of “Fortunate Son.” It’s a perfect song for getting the hardcore punk treatment, the anger being there in the original (John Fogerty sings the fuck out of it). This CD concludes with another strong track, “I Don’t.” “I don’t cook, I don’t clean/I don’t have the energy for the scene/And I don’t got no car/I don’t worry ‘bout the price of gasoline.”

CD Track List
  1. Beat Me Senseless
  2. Patty’s Killing Mel
  3. Casualty Vampire
  4. Tell Me Why
  5. Protection
  6. I’m Alive
  7. Status Clinger
  8. Living
  9. American Way
  10. Fortunate Son
  11. Love Kills
  12. All Wound Up
  13. I Don’t 
This re-issue of VI is scheduled to be released on February 5, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

J.D. Souther: “Home By Dawn” (1984/2016) CD Review

J.D. Souther may be known primarily for his songwriting talents (he co-wrote some of The Eagles’ biggest hits), but these days people are getting another chance to hear some of his excellent recordings. His first solo album was released as an expanded edition by Omnivore Recordings, and soon both his second album, Black Rose, and his fourth album, Home By Dawn, will likewise get expanded editions. (Of course, that makes me wonder why his third, You’re Only Lonely, is being skipped.) Home By Dawn has quite a different feel from the others, having a more pop-oriented country vibe, along with elements of rockabilly. As with earlier albums, this one boasts some wonderful guests, including Linda Ronstadt and Don Henley, and features all original material, written or co-written by J.D. Souther (one of the bonus tracks, however, is a cover). This expanded edition contains four bonus tracks, three of which were previously unreleased, and new liner notes by Scott Schinder with excerpts from a recent interview with J.D. Souther.

The album kicks off with its title track, “Home By Dawn,” a lively tune with a much more modern country pop feel than earlier material, while somehow simultaneously having something of an early rock or rockabilly element, all wrapped up in 1980s production sounds. As different as the sound is, at the heart of it is still J.D. Souther’s impressive songwriting. “He said goodbye and just walked right out the door/He looked so good he must have practiced it before.” Don Henley provides some backing vocals on this track (he also sings on “Bad News Travels Fast”). That’s followed by “Go Ahead And Rain,” which has kind of a sweeter pop feel. It opens with these lines: “I don’t know how you go on with your sorrows/Weighing you down like a stone/But then, I don’t know how I can sit here/And give you advice, dying for home.” He’s such a good songwriter.

“Say You Will” has a bit of a Buddy Holly vibe, and features Linda Ronstadt on vocals. Linda and J.D. had worked together before, and actually she sang on “If You Have Crying Eyes” on Black Rose. She had also covered several of his songs on her own albums, including “Faithless Love,” “I Can Almost See It,” “Don’t Cry Now,” “The Fast One” and “Silver Blue.” As always, J.D. and Linda sound excellent together on “Say You Will,” a song that J.D. Souther wrote with Danny Kortchmar. “You can stay until/Either one of us gives up/And then all right/Kiss me good night/But say you won’t let me go.” This is one of the album’s best tracks.

“I’ll Take Care Of You” is a sweet, fairly straight, unabashed love song, which came as kind of a surprise after listening to his earlier albums. This track features J.D. Souther on vocals and piano, with Billy Walker on guitar. This song was covered by The Dixie Chicks on their 1998 release, Wide Open Spaces. The bonus tracks include a demo version of this song. “I’ll Take Care Of You” is followed by another love song, “All For You,” with lines like “But this is just one night/And I know life is too long/To go on living without you.” I also really like these lines: “You know I’d do anything you want me to/The darkest night is just the kind I like/But I just can’t sleep it through.”

“Night” is a really good and catchy pop song, which J.D. Souther co-wrote with Waddy Watchtel, who plays guitar on this track. “Light, too much light/Means one more night/Is all over/But the night keeps coming back/Nothing could be as good as that.” How was this song not a hit? It’s one of my personal favorites. The original album concludes with “All I Want,” a track on which J.D. Souther plays all the instruments.

The bonus tracks include “Hearts Against The Wind,” an absolutely wonderful song from the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. It’s a duet with Linda Ronstadt, and features Ricky Skaggs on mandolin. This is the one bonus track that was previously released. “Little Girl Blue” is the one cover tune on this CD. It was written by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, and was also covered by Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, among many others. This is such a pretty song, and J.D. Souther goes a great job with it. The CD then ends with “Girls All Over The World,” a very cool, humorous, bluesy tune. This is actually one of my favorite tracks. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You see 'em on the beaches/Wearing big blond curls/Or standing on a bus stop/Wearing big fake pearls/I don't care/Just as long as they care about me.

CD Track List
  1. Home By Dawn
  2. Go Ahead And Rain
  3. Say You Will
  4. I’ll Take Care Of You
  5. All For You
  6. Night
  7. Don’t Know What I’m Gonna Do
  8. Bad News Travels Fast
  9. All I Want
  10. Hearts Against The Wind
  11. I’ll Take Care Of You (demo)
  12. Little Girl Blue
  13. Girls All Over The World 
This special re-issue of Home By Dawn is scheduled to be released on February 12, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.