Thursday, June 20, 2024

Rick Shea & The Losin’ End at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, 6-19-24 Concert Review

Rob Waller & His Very Best Friends played an absolutely wonderful set of I See Hawks In L.A. songs last night at the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon. Getting the night off to a great start was Rick Shea’s band, Rick Shea & The Losin’ End. Tony Gilkyson had been scheduled to fill in for Rick, but he wasn’t feeling good enough, so Rick Shea filled in for Tony. Got that? At 8:42 p.m., he took the stage and mentioned that he was still recovering from knee surgery and getting used to the new parts. Last night’s show was his first time playing since the surgery, first time “back in the wild,” as he put it. But there were no cobwebs to shake off, or creaking hinges to oil. Not at all.

He kicked off the set with “Shelter Valley Blues,” which featured some nice work on pedal steel by Dan Wistrom, who played with both bands last night. Rick then began “Mexicali Train” on guitar. That song’s rhythm gave us the feel of a train moving along. The song mentions “Kerouac and Cassady,” and it does give us that feeling of being out there traveling along the road. Later in the song, Rick Shea mentions “Castaneda,” these names taking me back to a certain time in my life when I was first reading their works. “Mexicali Train” was included on Rick Shea’s Sweet Bernardine album, where it was followed by “Mariachi Hotel,” and last night it was likewise followed by that song. “Mariachi Hotel” featured a strong mood and atmosphere, established immediately by Rick’s guitar work, and by the use of brushes on the drums. For me, it was one of the highlights of the set, and I just wanted its atmosphere to envelope me.

While introducing “The Starkville Blues,” Rick mentioned it was written from the point of view of Johnny Cash when he was thrown in jail. Dan Wistrom switched to guitar for this one, and delivered a delicious lead. That was followed by “Blues Stop Knocking At My Door,” which contained a nice jam, with first Dan and then Rick delivering some great stuff on guitar. This fun number could have gone on longer, and I would have been happy. He followed that with another song from that same album, “Down At The Bar At Gypsy Sally’s,” with Dan back on pedal steel. This song had a great mean vibe. “It tastes like kerosene,” oh yes. Then he played “Hold On Jake,” introducing it as a drinking song and shouting out to the bartender, who is from Lynn, Massachusetts (though I bet if you asked him for water, he’d give you water).

Rick Shea slowed things down with “Sweet Bernardine,” which featured some really nice stuff on pedal steel. That was followed by “Juanita (Why Are You So Mean),” a song about his mother-in-law. He then wrapped up the set with “Big Rain Is Comin’ Mama.” In the song’s introduction, Rick mentioned that he wrote it a few years ago during an election year. And here we are again. The craziness has not left this nation, and it threatens to get worse. “The water’s starting to rise.” His set ended at 9:34 p.m.

Set List

  1. Shelter Valley Blues
  2. Mexicali Train
  3. Mariachi Hotel
  4. The Starkville Blues
  5. Blues Stop Knocking At My Door
  6. Down At The Bar At Gypsy Sally’s
  7. Hold On Jake
  8. Sweet Bernardine
  9. Juanita (Why Are You So Mean)
  10. Big Rain Is Comin’ Mama

Here are a few photos:

Rob Waller & His Very Best Friends at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, 6-19-24 Concert Review

Rob Waller And His Very Best Friends, "Ohio"
Last night Rob Waller, Paul Marshall and Victoria Jacobs of I See Hawks In L.A., along with Dan Wistrom on guitar and pedal steel, put on an absolutely wonderful show at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon. It was the second time that Rob, Paul and Victoria had played together since that special concert at McCabe’s celebrating the life and music of Paul Lacques. The first was at a wedding that had been booked months earlier, and Dan Wistrom had sat in on that show as well. Dan was basically filling the role that Paul Lacques played, as he did in April with Kip Boardman at The Mayan Bar & Grill. Big shoes to fill, to be sure, but Dan Wistrom is a talented player who seems able to handle anything someone might throw at him. He’s the right guy for the job, in part because he doesn’t try to recreate Paul Lacques’ work, but rather understands the spirit of it. The show last night was not billed as a Hawks show – not in the emails or the flyer – and the guys seemed careful to avoid doing so, which is understandable. But it was so good see these musicians play together, and also so good to hear these songs again, songs which have been an important part of our lives and continue to mean so much. It would be a shame for these songs to cease being played, whatever they decide to call themselves as a group.

"Raised By Hippies"
Rick Shea & The Losin’ End opened the show, taking the stage at 8:42 p.m. Dan Wistrom played electric guitar and pedal steel for this set too. It was an excellent set, and I will post some photos from it separately. It was 9:59 p.m. when Rob Waller and friends were ready. “Hey there, I’m Rob Waller,” Rob said. “And these are my Very Best Friends.” And with that, these musicians went right into the music, opening the set with “Raised By Hippies,” a song from the band’s California Country album. And almost immediately it was clear that the magic was there, and for that I was thankful. But it wasn’t just that. The joy was also there, and that was perhaps even more moving. Dan Wistrom played electric guitar on that first song, and provided some backing vocals. Before they started the second number of the set, “Poour Me,” Dan asked Rob, “Should I do it on the steel?” Rob’s response was, “Up to you.” And it was in that moment that I was certain this was going to work perfectly and that it was going to be a fantastic night. Dan chose pedal steel, by the way, and delivered some really nice work. And when Victoria was smiling at what Dan was doing, everything felt good. Everything was good.

"My Parka Saved Me"
“Poour Me” comes from the Hawks’ Live And Never Learn album, and it was followed last night by that album’s title track, which found Dan back on electric guitar. “I try so hard to do what’s right,” Rob sings in this one. Well, this was it. Things felt right again. They followed that with “Ohio,” a newer song, one that was not included on a studio release. Dan Wistrom put his own mark on it during his lead on electric guitar, perhaps feeling even more freedom on this one since there wasn’t a studio recording to think back to. Victoria then sang lead on “My Parka Saved Me,” another song from Live And Never Learn, one that is a total delight, and really exemplified the joy of the evening. “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet,” a song that was included on Shoulda Been Gold, followed. There was a really good vibe about that song. Paul Marshall then sang lead on “Drinker’s Hall Of Fame,” a wonderful country number that featured Dan on pedal steel. Dan stayed on pedal steel for a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Me And Paul,” and, as you might imagine, this song carried with it a particular spirit. “That was for Paul Lacques,” Rob said afterward.

"Long Black Veil"
Sometimes I wish for a simpler time, when you could drink right out of the stream,” Rob Waller sings in “California Country.” I think we all feel that way from time to time, perhaps even more so these days, and the Hawks’ music often evokes just that sort of time. It makes us feel, at least for the length of a song, that we do live in such a time, or that such a thing is possible again. I think that is part of the band’s appeal. “California Country” was followed by “White Cross,” another song that was included on Live And Never Learn. Dan Wistrom delivered some good stuff on guitar, leading Rob to tell him to keep going during his lead. Then from Hallowed Ground, they played “Carbon Dated Love,” which includes the line “Our love will never end,” something those in the audience were happy to hear. Dan switched to pedal steel for “Still Want You,” a sweet country love song from Grapevine. “I still want you/To hold me in your arms.” The crowd was singing along, and not just on this song. There was a joy in adding our voices, and perhaps also a need. Paul Marshall sang lead on a great cover of “Long Black Veil,” and the band followed that with “Humboldt,” which got the crowd dancing. That song featured a nice jam, just like we’d hoped. And the group concluded the set with a song I had requested, “If You Lead I Will Follow,” which is from New Kind Of Lonely. It’s a beautiful song that often gets in my head, and it was a great way to wrap things up. “If you lead I will follow/You give me comfort from the world/When my heart is feeling hollow/You fill it up with your diamonds and pearls.” The show ended at 11:20 p.m.

Set List

  1. Raised By Hippies
  2. Poour Me
  3. Live And Never Learn
  4. Ohio
  5. My Parka Saved Me
  6. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet
  7. Drinker’s Hall Of Fame
  8. Me And Paul
  9. California Country
  10. White Cross
  11. Carbon Dated Love
  12. Still Want You
  13. Long Black Veil
  14. Humboldt
  15. If You Lead I Will Follow

Here are a few more photos:

"Raised By Hippies"

"Poour Me"

"Live And Never Learn"

"My Parka Saved Me"

Maui Sugar Mill Saloon is located at 18389 Venture Blvd. in Tarzana, California.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Steve Forbert: “Daylight Savings Time” (2024) CD Review

Before we even get into the music, yes, the term is actually Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time. There, that’s out of the way. Steve Forbert has been releasing great original material since the late 1970s. A two-disc set of his first two albums, Alive On Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim, was released in 2013, complete with several bonus tracks, and last year a new version of his 1988 album Streets Of This Town was issued, remastered and remixed. It’s great to revisit these early albums, but Steve Forbert’s talent for songwriting has only grown in the years since those early releases. His new album features all original material, and a great group of musicians backing him. Joining him on this album are Rob Clores on keyboards and accordion, Gurf Morlix on electric guitar, Aaron Comess on drums, Byron House on bass, and Layonne Holmes on backing vocals.

The album opens with “Clouds Roll Past The Sky,” which has a pleasant and pretty sound as it begins. “All those years of youth sure came and went/Young days felt like they went past in real time/Now they seem like so much faster spent.” Indeed. But then he tells us, “Summer’s not done yet/Have another hit/And make the most of it.” I love this. Sure, we can’t help but look back and look forward, but the key is to realize we do actually exist in the moment and to make the most of our lives as they are happening. Not our past lives, not our future lives, but the present, even as he sings “Don’t tell me those days are over.” He also offers this advice: “Save some time for stuff that calms your mind/After all, God knows you’ve got enough things/Tangling up your thoughts most of the time.” This song has such a good feeling about it, a feeling that is intended to transfer to the listener, and certainly does. This song is like a fresh breath, a great way to kick off the album

My girlfriend and I have been noticing a lot more grey vehicles in recent days, and Steve addresses that in the opening lines of “Purple Toyota”: “Auto makers these days go for/Cars that look like rainy weather/Hardly ever bright ones, never, no.” This song is about adding a splash of color to our lives, and though he is singing about cars, we get the sense that this idea applies to things outside of mode of transportation. And wouldn’t rush hour be just a bit more enjoyable if there were brighter colors on the road? “Sometimes I wonder/Will it bounce back later on/These days I’m under/The impression that it’s gone.”  He concludes the song with its opening lines. Then “Sound Existence” opens with a positive line, “You’ve got a place to stay, and you have got a place to park.” For those of us living in Los Angeles, a place to park is just about as important as a place to stay. He continues, “The neighborhood you live in is a safe place after dark.” This song at first seems to remind us to appreciate the good things in our lives, perhaps an important reminder, particularly when we feel down about our lives not being where we’d like them. But there is more going on in this song, as it hints about things outside of this safe existence he has described. “It’s all going to keep you happy if they don’t turn on the news/If getting by’s the new success, well, who needs lots to lose?” There is a lot of terrible stuff going on right now, stuff that can’t be ignored, though it is difficult to fault someone for wanting to focus on his or her immediate surroundings, particularly someone in his or her “golden years.” There is a little nod to “Truckin’” in the line “It’s been a long strange trip.” This song also provides the album with its title.

Steve Forbert delivers some nice work on harmonica at the beginning of “Pour A Little Glitter On It, Baby.” And is that first line, the title line, a playful nod to the line “Pour a little sugar on it, baby” from The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”? Either way, it makes me smile. And there is a Shakespeare reference in this song: “Though the discontent of winter may be/Waiting in the wings behind the fall,” a playful variation on Richard III’s “Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this son of York.” This is, as you likely know, not Steve Forbert’s first song to refer to Shakespeare. One of his early hits was titled “Romeo’s Tune.” He also has a song titled “Steve Forbert’s Midsummer Night’s Toast.” Later in this song he plays on the cliché about the best-laid plans, and the line “Yeah, but what would mice be planning anyway?” makes me laugh aloud. That’s followed by “The Blues,” which has a cheerful, kind of delightfully goofy vibe early on, as he sings, “I kicked the blues today/They’ve up and waltzed away/But they’ll be back again/I just can’t say quite when.” And soon he delivers the sobering line, “The blues in fact for some becomes the norm.” This song refers to both Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse, and it features some sweet work on accordion.

“Tomorrow Song” has a sweet and gentle vibe. I have to remember to play this song for my girlfriend, particularly because of these lines: “Today’s such a good day to sleep late/So sleep late and rest yourselves/You’re working too hard lately, and that is best left to someone else.” Sometimes we just need to put problems aside. Life is so damn short, as Steve Forbert sings here, “I would be happy to just spend some time with you/Time keeps on slipping away.” We don’t need to be busy all the time, right? That is followed by “One Lone Leaf,” a song about taking a walk on the woods. Do you ever just focus on a single leaf falling? And it seems to hold great meaning, doesn’t it? You try to catch it, don’t you? In the album’s first track, Steve Forbert sang that “Summer’s not yet gone,” and here he sings, “And I’ll be sad when I see summer start to go.” I also appreciate these lines: “You know the drive here could drive you crazy/You know the traffic lights are long, you’ll hit ‘em all.”

“Simon Says” has a delicious, bluesy groove as it starts. “Simon says it’s late, it’s late/And Simon says come on/Come on, and make for the door.” I also love this line: “Simon says let’s move before they raise the parking rate.” Oh yes! Leaving never sounded so good. This track features some great stuff on guitar. That’s followed by “Dixie Miles,” which also has a good, strong groove. “I’m a granddad now three times over/Still, I’d swear I’m forty-five/I don’t need no off-road Land Rover/Just a simple car to drive.” I dig that work on keys on this track. The album concludes with “Guilt Tripper.” Some cool guitar work sets this one in motion. And what a fantastic rhythm! These lines catch me by surprise each time I listen to this song: “You made the pope feel guilty/About all the church’s sins/He sighed a heavy sigh/And swore he’d try to make amends.” This is a cool song to wrap up an excellent album.

CD Track List

  1. Clouds Roll Past The Sky
  2. Purple Toyota
  3. Sound Existence
  4. Pour A Little Glitter On It, Baby
  5. The Blues
  6. Tomorrow Song
  7. One Lone Leaf
  8. Simon Says
  9. Dixie Miles
  10. Guilt Tripper

Daylight Savings Time is scheduled to be released on August 16, 2024.

Jessie Baylin: “Strawberry Wind (Deluxe Edition)” (2024) CD Review

Jessie Baylin is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. In 2018, she released a children’s album titled Strawberry Wind, and apparently it was an Amazon exclusive release (though of course copies popped up for sale elsewhere). Now she has released an expanded edition of the album, which is available more widely, and is on both vinyl and CD. The expanded CD release contains four bonus tracks. It features mostly original material, co-written by Jessie Baylin. In fact, there is just one cover, and it is among the bonus tracks. And while the music is for children as well as their parents, one certainly does not need to be either to enjoy these songs.

The album opens with “Dream Catcher,” which has a sweet, magical vibe. There is a cool, 1960s sound to the music and to Jessie Baylin’s vocal approach. “Give me dreams of happiness and joy/And laughter in the night.” There are also some rather humorous “La la la” backing vocals, which make the song even more adorable. “Dream Catcher” was written by Jessie Baylin and Thad Cockrell. That’s followed by “Supermoon,” which features a pretty, gentle vocal performance. “No one’s gonna sleep tonight/We’re under the same big beautiful sky/Pulling us closer.” This track also contains a magical instrumental section in the second half. This one was written by Jessie Baylin and Daniel Tashian. “Strawberry Wind,” the album’s title track, is a beautiful and positive song with something of a timeless vibe. “And the door is open/Strawberry wind is blowing/And I feel good just knowing/That you’re here with me/And the world is wide open/For you and me.” This music has a relaxing and uplifting effect, which certainly everyone could use in these strange days. This wonderful song was written by Jessie Baylin and Daniel Tashian. It contains some nice work on guitar, particularly toward the end.

“Same Old Tune” has a delightfully playful vibe as it opens. Here are the song’s first lines: “Walking along, humming a tune/Thinking so sweetly, baby, of you/Only you, humming that same old tune.” There is a bit of the blues to this track. This is one of my personal favorites. Everything about this track is great, from that cool drum beat to those delicious additions on electric guitar. This track is a total delight from beginning to end. I can see it having tremendous appeal for children, but those elements are also what grab those of us who are adults too. For aren’t we all still kids inside? “Same Old Tune” was written by Jessie Baylin, Andrew Combs and Jordan Lehning. That’s followed by “Sparkle Shoelaces.” How strange that the line “Sparkle shoelaces, sparkle shoelaces” can sound romantic, but I swear it does. Jessie Baylin creates a wonderful dreamlike landscape here, like a vacation in a land of dreams located near a clear sea. “What once was tragic/Turns into magic/Takes us to faraway lands/And mystical places,” she sings. And the music of this song does just that, making it another of the disc’s highlights. The line “Say hello to the friends we know” reminds me of a holiday song. “Sparkle Shoelaces” was written by Jessie Baylin and Thad Cockrell.

“Little Bird” gently rocks us in its arms, and there is something undeniably catchy about it. “Little bird, little bird/Stretching your wings in the morning light/Fly away, fly away/Don’t forget that you’ll/Always be, always be, always be my baby blue.” Ah yes, a song of letting go, but not really letting go. I’m not a parent, but I understand that must be a difficult but also exciting moment, looking forward to seeing what your child will accomplish on his or her own. This is a beautiful song. It was written by Jessie Baylin and Daniel Tashian. It is followed by “Magic Of Your Mind,” which has a classic sound, particularly in the guitar work and the rhythm. “Sometimes life will be low/Sometimes life will be high/That’s just the way the river flows/But you will always have the magic of your mind/Magic of your mind.” That’s a nice message for both children and adults.

“It’s The Summertime” has a wonderfully cheerful groove. “If you feel like dancing, you can have a party/You can stay up late, tell everybody/It’s the summertime.” Oh yes, this song perfectly captures and conveys that great feeling when the weather turns warm, and the possibilities seem endless. Growing up doesn’t really kill that feeling. “Doesn’t last too long,” Jessie Baylin reminds us. True, not just of summer, but of the entire thing, so let’s do our best to enjoy ourselves and our time. I love this song. Then “I Am A Dreamer” begins with strings. The guitar work then adds to that dreamlike quality which is perfect for the song. “My feet in the gutter, my head in the clouds/Long are the days when the sun meets the moon/Just like my world when I’m dreaming away the blue.” That’s followed by “Power In Words.” “There’s power in the words/Be careful what you say,” Jessie Baylin sings at the beginning of this one. It’s a song about how you really can’t take back anything you say, and reminds people to think before speaking and to come from a place of love. I like that work on keys in the middle. “Let love flow.” The final of the original album’s tracks, “We Need Each Other,” has a classic, soulful vibe. “We need each other, yes we do/Yes we do, yes we do.” It is a positive, cheerful and pretty song.

Bonus Tracks

The final four tracks on this disc were not included on the album’s original release. The first of these, “Big Feelings,” begins with the sound of a child saying, “Come on, let’s go.” Then Jessie Baylin addresses the child directly, singing about how she was once a child too. It is a song about the connection between a parent and child, and it urges the child to feel okay about opening up. “If you need a place to land, you can talk to me/You’ve got those big feelings, I’ve got them too/It can be so hard to contain them/Something I’m still learning how to do/And it’s so hard to explain them.” This one was written by Jessie Baylin, Daniel Tashian and Thad Cockrell. It’s followed by “Come Over.” It is another track that has a magical feeling as it begins. The drums come in, leading to the main body of the song, as she sings about hearing someone playing The Beatles’ “The Ballad Of John And Yoko.” This track has such a pleasant vibe. “Come over/You know we’re going to have a good time.”

This disc’s sole cover is “I Can Bring Love,” a song the Bee Gees included on the album To Whom It May Concern, released in 1972. Jessie Baylin delivers a touching, beautiful rendition. “I can change the whole world if you are near me/No tears if you can hear me." The expanded edition of Strawberry Wind concludes with “A Beautiful Life.” This song begins in a place of worry, but soon Jessie Baylin sings, “When it all goes wrong and it falls apart/That’s when all the good things can finally start.” And the song opens into a brighter place, which is wonderful. This track is another highlight, and it contains the adorable lines “Sprinkle me with grace/I’m a human sundae.”

CD Track List

  1. Dream Catcher
  2. Supermoon
  3. Strawberry Wind
  4. Same Old Tune
  5. Sparkle Shoelaces
  6. Little Bird
  7. Magic Of Your Mind
  8. It’s The Summertime
  9. I Am A Dreamer
  10. Power In Words
  11. We Need Each Other
  12. Big Feelings
  13. Come Over
  14. I Can Bring Love
  15. A Beautiful Life

This expanded version of Strawberry Wind was released on May 31, 2024, and is available on vinyl as well as CD. The vinyl version does not contain the final track.