Saturday, December 3, 2016

Whitney Rose: “South Texas Suite” (2017) CD Review

I was turned onto Whitney Rose last year with the release of her Heartbreaker Of The Year album. I immediately loved her voice and style, and was excited to hear more from her. Well, in January she will release a new six-track EP titled South Texas Suite, featuring mostly original material inspired by her move to Austin. When she released Heartbreaker Of The Year, she was based in Toronto, but after doing a residency at the Continental Club she decided to stay in Texas. South Texas Suite contains some great old-time country vibes, with some girl group pop flavors. She’s put together an incredible band for this release, including Bryce Clark on guitar, Sophia Johnson on guitar, Redd Volkaert on guitar, James Shelton on steel guitar, Tom Lewis on drums, Kevin Smith on bass, Erik Hokkanen on fiddle, and Earl Poole Ball on piano.

Whitney Rose opens the EP with “Three Minute Love Affair,” an original song that features Michael Guerra on accordion. It is a sweet tune about dancing with someone, and how for the length of the song the world is just the two of you. Yes, those can be magical moments, as the music determines the world and how long it will last. “Now there’s no one else, no darling, it’s just you and me/We ain’t got no future and we got no history.” This song has a “cha cha cha” ending. It’s followed by “Analog,” one of my favorites. It was written by fellow Austin singer/songwriter Brennen Leigh, who says it’s about the desire to go back to simpler things. This is a song I appreciate, expressing feelings that I have too (a lot of us do, it seems), with lines like “I don’t want advertisements on my telephone/I don’t want form letters, robo-calls” and “Now I’m not down on it just because it’s new/But in gaining a little, we’ve lost something too/When you climb into bed with a phone in your face/It feels like you’re lightyears away from this place.” Amen. Whitney Rose delivers an excellent rendition, and I love Erik Hokkanen’s fiddle on this one.

“My Boots” is a fun country tune written by Whitney Rose. It starts off with a sweet introduction, and then when it kicks in, it immediately transports us to a honky tonk dance hall. It’s a song about following one’s own personal style and feelings, no matter the surroundings. Here is the chorus: “I’ll go if I can wear my boots/I don’t feel like high heel shoes/And that don’t mean that I’m crazy/That don’t mean I ain’t a lady/Ain’t going to go as no one else/Only going as myself/I’ll go if I can wear my boots.” And I dig that piano part in the second half of the song. Boots or high heels or no shoes at all, you should be dancing by the end of this one.

“Bluebonnets For My Baby” has a sweeter sound, with a kind of classic girl group pop vibe mixed into its country elements. It’s a nice romantic slow dance number, written by yet another Austin singer/songwriter, Teri Joyce, and included on her 2010 release Kitchen Radio. Whitney Rose’s delightful voice seems custom-made for this type of material. She follows that with an original, “Lookin’ Back On Luckenbach” (yeah, it’s a cute title), a mellow tune about thinking back to a place one has left. “My mind is full with memories and dreams/I don’t need one more than the other/I need them both like I need air to breathe.” Whitney Rose then concludes the CD with “How ‘Bout A Hand For The Band,” a short instrumental number that was originally intended to be the ending of “My Boots.” And if you play it directly after “My Boots,” you’ll hear how it is the natural continuation of that song.

CD Track List
  1. Three Minute Love Affair
  2. Analog
  3. My Boots
  4. Bluebonnets For My Baby
  5. Lookin’ Back On Luckenbach
  6. How ‘Bout A hand For The Band
South Texas Suite is scheduled to be released on January 27, 2017 on Six Shooter Records.

Albert Marques Trio: “Live In The South Bronx” (2016) CD Review

Albert Marques is a jazz pianist based in New York (though from Barcelona), and his new album is a live recording from July 11, 2015 at Pregones Theater in the Bronx. Live In The South Bronx features mostly original material, with just a couple of covers. The trio features Walter Stinson on double bass and Zack O’Farrill on drums.

The opening piece, “Double Sur,” is an intriguing track, at times playful, even sly, and moving easily from one path to another, seeming to threaten to build into an orchestral giant if other musicians suddenly joined them. It is dominated by Albert Marques’ piano, but the bass and drums are often what add a sense of daring to the composition. “Double Sur” was composed by Albert Marques, as was the following track, “IDN,” which begins with a bass solo that is almost delicate at moments, quietly, gently pulling us in. The tune then takes on a strange, somewhat dark tone as the other instruments come in, like a tentative step into a surreal reality with glass trees and deceptive, angular women coming toward us from impossible places, the piano sometimes describing the scene, sometimes conducting it. But then once we’re firmly part of the landscape ourselves, it’s hard not to take that next step. In fact, this world has hold of our feet and face and sometimes pulls them in opposing directions; yet there is no pain, we change and adapt, mostly. The drums present an irregular heartbeat, the bass then moving through the landscape with us, and returning us, at least in part, back to our reality.

The first cover of the album is “Iris,” written by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and recorded by Miles Davis (it appears on the 1965 record E.S.P.). This track begins in a more mellow way, but has its own peculiar energy, heard at times in that great lead on bass, and then in that sudden fiery burst on piano around the four-minute mark. Each of these tracks feels like a living, breathing, moving entity, a beast with hunger, needs, problems and anger and joy. Check out “Jazz Is Working Class” for a perfect example. This one gets angry, then as if having exhausted itself, relaxes a bit. Then listen to that great section with bass and drums. There are also some vocals; that is, vocal noises, no lyrics, like the beast is finding a new way to communicate and is testing it out. An expression of joy or an attack? Or both?  That leads to a very cool drum solo, a more basic and always effective form of communication, and the crowd responds enthusiastically.

Then “Cançó Pel Pare” has a more intimate feel from the start, but still with a slightly chaotic edge at moments, as if to say we can’t control even our most personal affairs. There is always that element of chance, of the unknown, of something darker around a corner. I love that brighter, happier piano part that emerges nearly halfway through. A comforting sound, even as the drums retain a wildness and the bass a tenseness. It’s like a soft beauty in the darkness, and it comes out triumphant. It’s followed by the album’s other cover, a really good rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which begins as a piano solo, then takes on a kind of funky edge as the bass and drums come in, before settling into that familiar groove.

The CD concludes with one track composed by bassist Walter Stinson and one composed by drummer Zack O’Farrill. The first, “Alan Watts,” was written by Stinson, and has a contemplative vibe and makes effective use of pauses. It then builds into something beautiful. “Foggy Conscience” was written by O’Farrill, and its mood is darker and intense. And right when it’s about to break you or consume you, there is a change, becoming kind of playful, even if there is a twisted side to its playfulness.

CD Track List
  1. Double Sur
  2. IDN
  3. Iris
  4. Jazz Is Working Class 
  5. Cançó Pel Pare
  6. Ain’t No Sunshine
  7. Alan Watts
  8. Foggy Conscience
Live In The South Bronx was released on November 4, 2016 through Zoho Music.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Erin Hill: “Christmas Harp” (2016) CD Review

Earlier this year, harpist and singer Erin Hill released an album of beautiful covers, including a particularly passionate and moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and an excellent delivery of “Habanera.”  I was struck by her voice as much as I was won over by that gorgeous harp. And now she has released a holiday album titled Christmas Harp, which features both instrumental tracks as well as vocal recordings. There is something magical about a harp. It’s an instrument that almost automatically transports us out of our current reality, our current time, and puts us in touch with something eternal, or outside of time. And that is something that is quite desirable now.

She begins the album with “What Child Is This?” This is a beautiful song, though I prefer the original “Greensleeves.” She follows that with “Christmas Canon,” one that’s not all that familiar to me, a song by Trans-Siberian Orchestra from their The Christmas Attic album. I prefer the instrumental sections, which have a pretty innocence, and are basically “Pachelbel's Canon.” So, interestingly, she begins the album with two Christmas songs that are based on earlier pieces. For “Christmas Canon,” Erin Hill has recorded several vocal parts, accompanying herself, and the results are beautiful.

“My Favorite Things” is not really a Christmas tune, but I suppose it’s related to the holiday in as much as it lists things she likes, which could be read as a Christmas wish list. Plus, the list includes “sleigh bells,” “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes” and “silver-white winters,” which are all part of the holiday. I’m not a fan of this song, and I’ve never been able to make it through The Sound Of Music, but I do like the instrumental sections of this rendition. She follows that with an absolutely beautiful instrumental version of “Carol Of The Bells,” one of my favorite tracks of this CD. And then she delivers a stunningly gorgeous version of “Ave Maria.” This is an incredible performance, and in my opinion is the best track of the disc. If this doesn’t move you, something has gone horribly wrong.

I’ve always loved Bach’s “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” and Erin Hill does a wonderful job with it here. She also delivers a very pretty rendition of “Silent Night.” Here too she harmonizes with herself, and the results help make this track another of this CD’s highlights.

Debussy’s “The Girl With The Flaxen Hair” isn’t a Christmas song, but it’s a pretty piece, especially as Erin Hill presents it. She then concludes Christmas Harp with “Pie Jesu,” which translates roughly as “Jesus’ Foot” (just kidding, of course). On this composition, Erin delivers another impressive and moving vocal performance.

CD Track List
  1. What Child Is This?
  2. Christmas Canon
  3. My Favorite Things
  4. Carol Of The Bells
  5. Ave Maria
  6. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  7. Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring
  8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  9. Silent Night
  10. White Christmas
  11. The Girl With The Flaxen Hair
  12. Pie Jesu
Christmas Harp was released on October 28, 2016 through Goldenlane Records, a division of Cleopatra Records.

Dark For Dark: “All Dressed” (2016) CD Review

Dark For Dark is the trio of Jess Lewis, Melanie Stone and Rebecca Zolkower, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They put out their debut full-length CD, Warboats, in 2013, and have now followed it up with All Dressed, an EP of original material written by Rebecca Zolkower. By the way, you might know Rebecca Zolkower from her many appearances on other artists’ releases. She sings on CDs by Old Cabin, Ronok Sarkar and Corey Isenor, among others. She is also a member of Dance Movie. And you might be familiar with Jess Lewis through her Cactus Flower project. And you might know Melanie Stone through her work with The Heavy Blinkers. So, yeah, these are three talented and experienced singers and musicians. On their new CD they are joined by Asa Brosius on pedal steel and Matt Gallant on drums. This is an excellent disc.

The EP opens with “Orchard,” a song that is a total delight, with a joyful and innocent sound. It’s heavily influenced by 1960s folk rock, heard in the approach on guitar and the blending of vocals. There is also a touch of The Nields at one key moment here. “Over and underneath the sky/I forced my body back inside/But it’s not true/What they are telling you.” That’s followed by “Moon Full Moon,” which has a slightly darker feel about it, reminding me a bit of Velvet Underground at the beginning. But there is something oddly pretty about this tune.

“Blue Morning” has sort of a Cowboy Junkies vibe (Cowboy Junkies are also a Canadian band), with a haunting country sound. This track features some gorgeous vocals. “Maybe there’s a plan/For picking up on chances/Maybe at the end of the day/You’ll get it anyway/Because it’s a blue morning/You want to be yourself.”   Then “Owls” has a 1960s thing happening in the guitar, as well as in the drumbeat.

“Unseasonal” is a mellow and beautiful piece. “We were unfamiliar, I was scared/But now you’re everywhere/Like a warm breeze/It’s unseasonal, we couldn’t breathe.”  Dark For Dark then concludes the EP with “The Roof.” There is something both uplifting and comforting about this song. “Our eyes will adjust in the dark.”

CD Track List
  1. Orchard
  2. Moon Full Moon
  3. Blue Morning
  4. Owls
  5. Unseasonal
  6. The Roof
All Dressed was released on June 24, 2016 on Headless Owl Records.

Corey Isenor: “A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse)” (2016) CD Review

Corey Isenor is a singer, guitarist and songwriter based in Nova Scotia. His new album, A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse), features all original material. This is the first CD of his I’ve heard, and I was struck by both his songwriting and his honest and friendly delivery. These songs contain some excellent lyrics, with certain lines standing out, like the main line of “Forces Of Our Nature” and these lines from “Forms Of My Desire”: “Oh, the beauty of vision, it can also be a curse/And with every woman that I see, the pain gets worse.” The music has a familiar and sweet vibe, and it’s hard to believe I haven’t heard this artist before. His voice and style are such that we can immediately connect with his music. On this disc he is joined by Liam Frier on electric guitar, Chris Meaney on bass, Benn Ross on drums, Jordi Comstock on percussion, Donald MacLennan on violin, and Andrew Sneddon on pedal steel, as well as a few other guest musicians on certain tracks. Rebecca Zolkower and Desiree Gordon provide backing vocals.

An album that opens with the line “I’ve been dreaming for a long time” is an album that I know is going to speak to me. “Forces Of Our Nature,” the lead-off track, is a pretty song, and I love the violin. As I mentioned, I really like the main line, “We are forces of our nature.” This song features folk and country elements. Corey Isenor follows that with “Losing My Mind,” a song which shows the compassion in his voice. Every time I listen to this disc, the line “I’ve got horses in the stable, but they’re all unhappy” amuses me. In this song he wonders, “Am I losing my mind?” Ah, who can tell these days? Recent events here in the U.S. have me questioning reality on a daily basis.

“The Navy Blues” has a nice, relaxed country vibe, and also has a delightful, playful sense, which I appreciate. You can hear it in lines like “Been hanging around with those darker hues” and “Dressed in denim to only confuse.” This is also the song that provides the album with its title. I liked this song the first time around, and like it more each time I listen to this disc. It’s followed by one of my personal favorites, “Ferry Tale.” I love Corey’s vocals, that catchy guitar part, and the whole vibe of this tune. It makes me smile every time. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Breaking the speed limit/All of your heart in it/Nothing will keep you from trying/Hell of a day/But this car’s in my way/And I can’t get by/Time slips away/As the sky turns to grey.” And I love the piano part by Steve Chapin, who joins Corey on this track.

“Diamonds On The Moon” begins as a pretty, thoughtful guitar instrumental piece, and adds some animal sound effects, which I could take or leave. Then the band comes in and the tune takes on a brighter, happier tone. Rosalind McPhail adds some great touches on flute, which in a way relate to the earlier bird sounds. “And it’s been said/There is more to you than meets the eye/Of this oncoming storm/And I’ve been forewarned/There is still much to learn/From this skin yet unburned/Hidden away/Always a look, but never a line to be heard.” Rosalind McPhail also plays flute on “Burning The Hickory,” an instrumental track.

Another highlight of this disc is “From Towers To Windmills.” That moment when the song really kicks in is tremendous, like a gorgeous burst of positive energy and emotion. I can’t help but be moved by this song. You should definitely check it out. Music like this can do us all some good. Mike O’Neill plays bass on this track. The album then concludes with another instrumental track, “The Dark Horse.”

CD Track List
  1. Forces Of Our Nature
  2. Losing My Mind
  3. Queen Of Calgary
  4. The Navy Blues
  5. Ferry Tale
  6. Diamonds On The Moon
  7. Forms Of My Desire
  8. Burning The Hickory
  9. From Towers To Windmills
  10. The Dark Horse
A Painted Portrait (Of The Classic Ruse) was released on September 16, 2016.

December 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 December, 2016. This concert calendar might seem slightly shorter than usual. That is because I am not including any concerts taking place in any state that voted for Donald Trump. Those people don't deserve good music. I call for all bands and singer/songwriters to cancel all concerts in those states for the next four years. 

December 1, 2016  (Thursday)
Del McCoury Band  -  Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Reverend Horton Heat  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Rusted Root  -  The Bull Run, Shirley, MA
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.

December 2, 2016  (Friday)
Adam Ezra Group  -  Lovin' Cup, Rochester, NY
Tim Gearan Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA -  9:30 p.m.
Tracy Grammer  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Los Lobos  -  The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Del McCoury Band  -  Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA
The Monkees  -   Queensland Performing Arts Centre, South Brisbane, Australia
Over The Rhine  -   The Triple Door, Seattle, WA
Ellis Paul  -  The River Club Music Hall, 78 Border Street, Scituate, MA  -  8:00 p.m.
Michelle Shocked  -  The Towne Crier, New York, NY
Chris Trapper  -  The Burren, Somerville, MA
Suzanne Vega  -  The Bull Run Restaurant, Shirley, MA

December 3, 2016  (Saturday)
Adam Ezra Group  -   The Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie, NY
Gypsy Soul  -  The Royal Room, Seattle, WA
Lucy Kaplansky  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Over The Rhine  -   The Triple Door, Seattle, WA
Ellis Paul  -  Circle of Friends Coffeehouse, 262 Chestnut Street, Franklin, MA -  8:00 p.m.
Rachael Sage  -  The Hotel Cafe Second Stage, Los Angeles, CA  -  8:00 p.m.
The Whooligans  -  The Auld Dubliner, Long Beach, CA  -  10:00 p.m.

December 4, 2016  (Sunday)
Over The Rhine  - Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Rusted Root  -  Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH

December 5, 2016  (Monday)
The Monkees  - Wrest Point, Hobart, Australia

December 6, 2016  (Tuesday)
Over The Rhine  -   W.O.W. Hall, Eugene, OR

December 7, 2016  (Wednesday)
Holly Bowling  -  Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, CA
Richard Buckner  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
The Dandy Warhols  -  The Showbox, Seattle, WA -  8:30 p.m.
Freedy Johnston  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
The Monkees  - Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia

December 8, 2016  (Thursday)
Over The Rhine  -   Freight And Salvage, Berkeley, CA

December 9, 2016  (Friday)
Tim Gearan Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA -  9:30 p.m.
Mike Gordon  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
I See Hawks In L.A.  - Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA -  10:00 p.m.
The Monkees  -   Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, Australia
Christopher Williams  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA

December 10, 2016  (Saturday)
Adam Ezra Group  -   The Widowmaker, Sugarloaf, ME
Mike Gordon  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Gypsy Soul  -  Cafe Pink House, Saratoga, CA  -  7:30 p.m.
Norah Jones  -  Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars  -  The Plough And Stars, Cambridge, MA  -  4:00 p.m.
The Monkees  -   State Theatre, Sydney, Australia
Painted Mandolin  -  Don Quixote's International Music Hall, Felton, CA
Patrolled By Radar  -   Lost Knight, Los Angeles, CA
Ellis Paul  -  Higher Ground, 1214 Williston Rd., South Burlington, VT  -  7:30 p.m.
Tom Rush  -  The Bull Run Restaurant, Shirley,  MA
The Whooligans  -   The Red Leprechaun, Long Beach, CA
Winterbloom  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA

December 11, 2016  (Sunday)
Mike Gordon  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Gypsy Soul  - The Fenix, San Rafael, CA  -  6:30 p.m.
The Monkees  -   Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, Australia
Terrapin All-Stars  -  Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, CA

December 12, 2016 (Monday)
Ellis Paul  -  Slates Restaurant, 169 Water Street, Hallowell, ME

December 13, 2016  (Tuesday)
Miss Tess And The Talkbacks  -  Gypsy Sally's, Washington, D.C.
The Monkees  - Perth Concert Hall, Perth, Australia

December 14, 2016  (Wednesday)
Richard Thompson  -   Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA

December 15, 2016  (Thursday)
Peter Case  -  Don Quixote's International Music Hall, Felton, CA
The Grahams  -   The Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, CA
The Monkees  - Enmore Theatre, Sydney, Australia
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.
Richard Thompson  -   Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA 

December 16, 2016  (Friday)
Adam Ezra Group  -   Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT
Tim Gearan Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA -  9:30 p.m.
The Monkees  -   Jupiters, Gold Coast, Australia
Richard Thompson  -   Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA
Chris Trapper  -  The Burren, Somerville, MA

December 17, 2016  (Saturday)
The Dandy Warhols  -  The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Guy Davis  -  The Burren, Somerville, MA
Adam Ezra Group  -  The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
Gypsy Soul  - Unitarian Center, Ashland, OR  -  7:30 p.m.
Holland And Clark  -  Cheetah's, Los Angeles, CA
Lori McKenna  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  5:00 p.m.
Lori McKenna  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  8:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Portsmouth Book and Bar, 40 Pleasant Street , Portsmouth, NH -  7:00 p.m.
Richard Thompson  -   Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA
The Whooligans  -   The Auld Dubliner, Long Beach, CA  -  10:00 p.m.

December 18, 2016  (Sunday)
Los Lobos  -  City Winery, New York, NY
Lori McKenna  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  5:00 p.m.
Lori McKenna  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  8:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Long Island Museum, 1200 NY-25A, Stony Brook, NY  -  3:00 p.m.

December 19, 2016 (Monday)
Los Lobos  -  City Winery, New York, NY

December 20, 2016  (Tuesday)

December 21, 2016  (Wednesday)

December 22, 2016  (Thursday)
Duke Levine Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
Rebirth Brass Band  -  Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO

December 23, 2016  (Friday)
Tim Gearan Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA -  9:30 p.m.
Rebirth Brass Band  -  Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO

December 24, 2016  (Saturday)
Gypsy Soul  - Ashland Springs Hotel Ballroom, Ashland, OR  -  7:00 p.m.

December 25, 2016  (Sunday)

December 26, 2016  (Monday)
Melissa Ferrick  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.

December 27, 2016  (Tuesday)
Melissa Ferrick  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.

December 28, 2016  (Wednesday)
Melissa Ferrick  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones  -  House Of Blues, Boston, MA

December 29, 2016  (Thursday)
Adam Ezra Group  -   Stratton Mountain, Stratton, VT
Duke Levine Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones  -  House Of Blues, Boston, MA
Ellis Paul One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, ME  -  8:00 p.m.
Melvern Taylor And His Fabulous Meltones  -  Toad, Cambridge, MA  -  7:30 p.m. 

December 30, 2016  (Friday)
Holly Bowling  -   The Cutting Room, New York, NY
Adam Ezra Group  -   The Towne Crier, Beacon, NY
Tim Gearan Band  -  Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, MA -  9:30 p.m.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones  -  House Of Blues, Boston, MA 
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  10:00 p.m.
Brooks Williams  -  The Burren, Somerville, MA  -  7:00 p.m.

December 31, 2016  (Saturday)
Holly Bowling  -   The Cutting Room, New York, NY
Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker  -  Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Tommy Castro And The Painkillers  -  Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, Berkeley, CA
China Cats  -  Don Quixote's International Music Hall, Felton, CA
Adam Ezra Group  -   The Flying Monkey, Plymouth, NH
Over The Rhine  - Old Town School Of Folk Music, Chicago, IL
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  7:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  -  10:00 p.m.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Annie Marie Lewis: “A Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas In The USA” (2014) CD Review

It’s that time of year, there’s no denying it. I was stopped at a light on Gower earlier today, and was surprised to hear Christmas music blaring from the car next to mine. But why not?  There is plenty of bad Christmas music out there, but fortunately there are some good CDs available to help get you in the holiday spirit. Annie Marie Lewis’ A Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas In The USA is one of the better ones. I do need to point out first that there is an error in the album’s title. It is listed as “A Rock N’ Roll Christmas,” but of course the “N” needs an apostrophe on either side for it to mean “and” (Guns N’ Roses has the same issue, and is one reason I just can’t stand that band). On this album, Annie Marie Lewis delivers rock and roll and rockabilly-flavored takes on some of the holiday’s standard fare. And the music is clearly in her blood; she is the niece of Jerry Lee Lewis, the daughter of Linda Gail Lewis, and the cousin of Mickey Gilley. She is joined by Danny B. Harvey on guitar, piano and bass. This is a really good album, despite its opening with what I consider to be one of the worst songs ever written, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” For my analysis of that song, click here.

She follows “Rudolph” with “Santa Baby,” one of the holiday’s sexier songs. There is always a wink in the vocals when singing the line, “I’ve been an awful good girl.” As a side note, no matter how many times I sing this song, no one has slipped a sable coat under the tree for me. Of course, I don’t have a tree, but that is beside the point, isn’t it? Maybe this year… Anyway, Annie Marie Lewis delivers a playful, delicious rendition. “Come and trim my Christmas tree.”

The album’s title track, “A Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas” (or, as it’s printed, “A Rock N’ Roll Christmas”), is an original tune written by Danny Harvey, though borrowing a bit from The Ramones’ “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School.” “It’s the night before Christmas, and all through the house/Everybody is rocking, even the mouse/The whiskey is flowing while the records play/We’re going to rock it ‘til the break of day.” Not a bad way to spend the holiday, eh? And this is certainly a great song to play at your Christmas party. Everyone can get into the action, no matter his or her normal demeanor: “The Grinch is boppin’ with Ebenezer Scrooge.” Then her version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” really swings.

One Christmas song that is perfectly made for this album is “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and originally done by Elvis Presley. I really dig Annie Marie Lewis’ vocal delivery, and I can’t help but love that piano. It’s followed by “Frosty The Snowman,” which is one of those holiday songs that I could do without. That being said, this is possibly the best version I’ve heard. It has a classic rock and roll feel, with a youthful innocence about it, and has a nice instrumental section. I also like what Annie Marie Lewis does with “Deck The Halls,” making it cooler than it’s probably ever been before. I like the sort of steady rhythm in the vocal line that works with the drums. It’s kind of simple, but effective.

“Hush Lil’ Baby (Merry Christmas)” is a tune attributed to Danny Harvey, but it’s really a combination of other songs. It has a Bo Diddley beat, and sounds quite a bit like The Strangeloves’ “I Want A Candy,” but with lines from “Hush, Little Baby,” the traditional lullaby. For “The First Noel,” Annie Marie Lewis offers a more traditional interpretation, not adding much rock and/or roll to it.

“Little Drummer Boy” has always been one of my favorites of the traditional Christmas tunes, even before Joan Jett released her version (though it was her rendition that cemented my love for the song). Annie Marie Lewis gives this one a fast and full drum beat, with a classic rock and roll guitar over it. This is one that will be perfect for your holiday party. She then ends the CD with “Merry Christmas Baby,” another of the holiday’s best tunes. She delivers a good rendition of this smooth and sexy rhythm and blues number. At one point the guitar does a little “Jingle Bells” tease. And I love that piano part in the second half of the song. Annie Marie Lewis whispers the last line of the song, and thus of the album, as if directly to each of us, “Merry Christmas, baby.” Oh yes!

CD Track List
  1. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
  2. Santa Baby
  3. Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas
  4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  5. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
  6. Frosty The Snowman
  7. Deck The Halls
  8. Hush Lil’ Baby (Merry Christmas)
  9. O Come All Ye Faithful
  10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  11. The First Noel
  12. Blue Christmas
  13. Little Drummer Boy
  14. Merry Christmas Baby
A Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas In The USA was released in December of 2014 on Rockabilly Records, a division of Cleopatra Records.