Monday, November 28, 2011

Dean Fields: "Under A Searchlight Moon" (2011) CD Review

"A tongue like a hammer and a mouth full of nails." That's the opening line of Dean Fields' new CD. The first time I put it on, I had aimed to get some other things done in my apartment while listening. But that line grabbed me, and I set aside everything else to just listen. And then listened again. And again.

Though Dean Fields has been performing for ten years, this EP was my introduction to this singer/songwriter. And if these five songs are a true indication of his talent, then Dean Fields is definitely someone to pay attention to. Under A Searchlight Moon isn't a solo effort. There is a band, and unlike some folk albums with bands, the other instruments sound inherent to the songs, rather than forced or simply added in the studio. But it is the album's lyrics that really impressed me. All of the songs are originals, written by Dean Fields.

"Tongue Like A Hammer"

"Tongue Like A Hammer" opens with a short acoustic guitar intro before that line that grabbed me. With a line like that, I wasn't expecting the song to be sweet. But this song has an undeniable beauty, and some wonderful lyrics. Here is a taste: "So let me prove you wrong/All your ever-present doubt and your endless questions/Honey, let me love you like no one's ever done." (I also have to mention another phrase that made me smile: "A watchdog's bark and a cat o'nine tails.") This song also features some nice work by Trey Pollard. I really liked this song from the first listen, and each time I play this EP I like it more.

"Forever Never Knowing"

"Forever Never Knowing" immediately wins you over with its catchy folk rhythm. Its lyrics actually made me laugh out loud, catching me off guard, with its line about the hat ("I held onto you holding onto your hat/How about that?/I've never seen you wear one before") and these lines: "You get pretty/You just keep going/That's why we're late for everything we ever do/Still I'll spend forever never knowing/How I live life living without you." This song also has the EP's title in its lyrics: "So I'm holding onto you under a big wide searchlight moon." I love this song's mixture of beauty and humor - I think it's exactly that combination that makes this song feel true.

"Something's Gotta Give"

Sometimes a song will directly address exactly what you're feeling or experiencing in your life at the time you first hear it, and so it immediately feels important. That's how it was for me with "Something's Gotta Give." This is the song from this EP that really got to me. In this one, Dean sings, "Something's gotta give/If I ain't giving up/'Cause this ain't no way to live/Something's gotta give/If I ain't giving up/I ain't giving up." I love songs that are sad and positive at the same time, songs that are full of hope because hope is all there is left. "Something's Gotta Give" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

"Nowhere Fast"

"Nowhere Fast" is a more upbeat song, opening with a burst of energy that's a bit jarring after the previous song. But it doesn't take long for you to catch up and switch moods. This song even has a cool lead guitar section. And this warning: "If you're taking me, you'd better be taking heed." It ends with the phrase, "making the best of disaster," which is great.

"Could've Been"

Dean's vocals really come to the fore on the EP's final track, "Could've Been." This is a slower song, and once again features some good lyrics. It begins and ends with the line, "I'll be here tomorrow." The last lines are, "Show me all your reasons/Disappointments/Show me/Show me what could've been/I'll be here tomorrow."

CD Track List

  1. Tongue Like A Hammer
  2. Forever Never Knowing
  3. Something's Gotta Give
  4. Nowhere Fast
  5. Could've Been


Musicians appearing on this CD include Dean Fields on guitar and vocals, Curtis Fye on bass and vocals, Wells Hanley on drums and piano, Trey Pollard on guitar and pedal steel, and Erika Sato on violin.

Under A Searchlight Moon was released on March 15, 2011. For those in the Boston area, Dean Fields will be doing a series of concerts with Lori McKenna at Club Passim in Cambridge in December. Those should be some seriously good shows.

Grateful Dead: "Dick's Picks Volume 34" (2011 re-issue) CD Review

There are two years that really stand out as far as Grateful Dead concerts tapes are concerned: 1973 and 1977. Those years saw the band doing some incredible jams. And there was often a lot of beauty to those musical explorations. But they also weren't afraid of getting loud and even dissonant, of really going for it. In 1977, the band seemed to have a renewed energy. They had taken most of 1975 off, as well as the first half of 1976. But by 1977, they were going full-steam ahead. Song selections were good too. Some older material was getting a fresh spin. Songs like "New Minglewood Blues" and "Dancing In The Street" come to mind as examples. And their new material at that time was among the best the band ever wrote - "Terrapin Station" and "Estimated Prophet" being obvious stand-outs.

Dick's Picks Volume 34 actually contains two incredible versions of "Estimated Prophet," a song written by John Barlow and Bob Weir, and featured on the band's 1977 studio release, Terrapin Station. In later years this song would often be paired with "Eyes Of The World." But on these recordings it is paired with "St. Stephen" and "He's Gone."

Dick's Picks Volume 34 contains the complete show the Grateful Dead performed on November 5, 1977 at the Community War Memorial in Rochester, New York. It also contains a good chunk of the concert from November 2, 1977 (three songs from the first set, and four from the second set).

Disc One

The first disc contains the complete first set from November 5, 1977. They opened the show with "New Minglewood Blues," a song originally included on the band's very first studio release as "New New Minglewood Blues." It would also be included on 1978's Shakedown Street as "All New Minglewood Blues." But on concert tapes it was always labeled as "New Minglewood Blues." And the version here is pretty bloody awesome. I love what Keith Godchaux is doing on piano a few minutes into the song, and after that, the jam seriously rocks. And this is a song that doesn't always stand out as a highlight.

That's a good way to open the show, but it's the second song that really stands out on the first disc. I usually think of "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" as a relatively mellow song. It's got this great easy groove, and a pretty ending section. But the version included on this disc has so much more. It has an excellent vibe, and tremendous energy. Jerry's guitar part during the jam soars. It's hard to believe that the concert had only just started - this is the kind of playing the band often had to work up to over the course of the night. This is absolutely one of the best versions of this song the band ever performed.

Drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart are more prominent than usual on "Looks Like Rain," which makes the song a little more vibrant than normal. This is not a mellow version, but it still retains its beauty.

After "Looks Like Rain," there is some stage banter about people being squashed up front, something that would sometimes happen at Dead shows. "The people up in front are getting smashed horribly again. If everybody on the floor could sorta try to move back, it would be helpful." "It's hard for us to get off seeing smashed human bodies up here, you know what I mean?" That leads into "Dire Wolf," with its refrain of "Please don't murder me" being comically apt.

The band then does a great pair of country covers: Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Johnny Cash's "Big River." These are lively, fun versions, particularly "Big River," which should get you dancing. At the end, you can hear an audience member repeatedly screaming out a request for "Samson And Delilah." He's have to wait until the second set for that one, and besides it was Jerry's turn at lead vocals, so the band went into "Candyman," from the band's 1970 release American Beauty.

The first set is rounded out with the always-appreciated "Jack Straw" and a fun version of "Deal," a song that Jerry Garcia often played as a first set closer.

Disc Two

The second disc (and second set of 11-5-77) oddly starts with a solo on bass by Phil Lesh, with the drummers coming in partway through. And clearly the folks up in the front were still getting squashed, because the band did its "Take A Step Back" bit before actually going into its first song of the set.

The second set really starts with one of the band's best songs, "Eyes Of The World," originally included on its 1973 studio release, Wake Of The Flood. This is a song the band would often stretch out on, which is part of what made it a favorite. But also the lyrics really spoke to the Dead fans, especially lines like "Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world" and "Sometimes we live no particular way but our own/Sometimes we visit your country and live in your home/Sometimes we ride on your horses/Sometimes we walk alone/Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own." Beautiful.

That guy who was shouting earlier must have been excited when the band segued into "Samson And Delilah," led by Bill and Mickey. And he must have been even more excited as the song progressed, because Bob Weir's vocal performance is wonderfully intense and energetic. And Jerry's guitar is basically screaming with joy during the jam.

Jerry brings it down a bit with the pretty and sweet "It Must Have Been Roses."

The rest of the second disc is from November 2, 1977. The reason for this is to avoid breaking up the jam of the rest of the second set from November 5th, with one song flowing into the next. So as "filler," we get the last song from the first set of November 2nd, "Might As Well," and the last four songs from the second set of that night.

"Estimated Prophet" is another of the Dead's best tunes, and this version from November 2nd is really good. The jam is loose, but with that great groove that "Estimated" is known for. Jerry Garcia does some really interesting stuff on guitar, especially starting around eight and a half minutes in. That leads into one of the band's most beloved songs, "St. Stephen" (a song the band stopped playing in 1983). As was typical in those years, the last section of the song was cut, and the band went right into "Truckin'." "Lately it occurs to me what a strange long strange trip it's been."

As wild as this version of "Truckin'" is, it's the next tune, "Around And Around," that's really surprising. Generally, the Dead's Chuck Berry covers were fairly breezy. But this one clocks in at approximately eight and half minutes. It starts off really quietly, and slowly. Usually it was the songs that Jerry sang that would get slowed down during these years when heroin was a big factor. But this version of "Around And Around" feels slow. Was Bobby trying to push it, trying to drive it? It's hard to tell, but suddenly at around the four-minute mark the song speeds up tremendously. From heroin to amphetamine in a heartbeat. And Donna's presence in this song is wonderful.

CD Three

The third disc returns us to the main concert, November 5, 1977. And we get our second rendition of "Estimated Prophet." This jam is really different. It has almost a reggae feel, especially around the seven-minute mark, and is pretty mellow. It's interesting how one song can have two such different feels, only three days apart. But that's the Grateful Dead for you - you never knew quite what direction they'd take you. And perhaps because of its mellower mood, this song led easily into "He's Gone." I always love that beautiful vocal section at the end of the song. It got crazier in the days of Brent Mydland, but had a wonderful groove in these days of Keith and Donna.

"He's Gone" leads into "The Other One," which begins with a short drum solo (titled "Rhythm Devils" at the time, but later simply referred to as "Drums"). And actually, it's not even a drum solo, because Phil is present on bass. Really, this track should be combined with the following one, which is labeled "The Other One" because it is the intro to that song. "The Other One" is a truly interesting song. It's a segment of a much longer piece titled "That's It For The Other One," which was featured on the Grateful Dead's 1968 release, Anthem Of The Sun. On that release, this segment was titled "The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get." But in concert it became simply "The Other One." There are some incredibly dark versions of this song, and some delicate versions. But this was another song that the band often stretched out on, finding all sorts of places to go. The lyrics have references to Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in On The Road) and Furthur (Ken Kesey's bus). The most interesting section of the rendition included here starts approximately eight and a half minutes in.

"The Other One" leads into a moving rendition of "Black Peter" and then the second set closer, "Sugar Magnolia." This version of "Sugar Magnolia" has a nice long pause before the "Sunshine Daydream" section. And then, because November 2, 1977 was a Saturday, the encore was "One More Saturday Night."

The final two songs of the third disc are more "filler" from the first set of November 2, 1977: "Lazy Lightnin'" into "Supplication." Donna is gorgeous on this version of "Lazy Lightnin'."

CD Track List

CD One
  1. New Minglewood Blues
  2. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
  3. Looks Like Rain
  4. Dire Wolf
  5. Mama Tried >
  6. Big River
  7. CandymanJack Straw
  8. Deal

CD Two
  1. Phil Solo >
  2. Take A Step Back >
  3. Eyes Of The World >
  4. Samson And Delilah
  5. It Must Have Been The Roses
  6. Might As Well
  7. Estimated Prophet >
  8. St. Stephen >
  9. Truckin' >
  10. Around And Around

CD Three
  1. Estimated Prophet >
  2. He's Gone >
  3. Rhythm Devils >
  4. The Other One >
  5. Black Peter >
  6. Sugar Magnolia
  7. One More Saturday Night
  8. Lazy Lightnin' >
  9. Supplication


The Grateful Dead at the time of this recording were Jerry Garcia on vocals and lead guitar, Bob Weir on vocals and rhythm guitar, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Keith Godchaux on keyboards, Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and Mickey Hart on drums.

This re-issue was originally scheduled to be released on November 15, 2011, but was actually released a week later on November 22nd. Also re-issued at the same time were Volume 35 and Volume 36.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stew & The Negro Problem: "Making It" (2012) CD Review

I first heard Stew & The Negro Problem several years ago on KPFK, here in Los Angeles. There is a program on that radio station called The Music Never Stops which, as you might guess, is largely a Grateful Dead show. But the program's host, Barry Smolin, uses the first section of the show to showcase newer recordings by jam bands. And it was during that opening section that The Negro Problem first caught my ear. They did not fit into the typical "jam band" category. There was something else going on here. Honestly, I didn't know quite what it was, but I knew I liked it.

A lot of jam band music works on an emotional, intuitive level, and The Negro Problem certainly can thrive on that level. But there is also something more intellectual about Stew & The Negro Problem, something more thoughtfully designed. Lyrically, they're often closer to the singer/songwriter genre. That is to say, the lyrics truly matter.

And the lyrics are often funny. Toward the end of "Therapy Only Works If You Tell The Truth," the therapist coldly repeats, "When did you first notice there was a problem in the relationship?" Until finally the answer comes, "Oh, when she left me." And that's how the song ends.

"Making It"

The album opens with its title track, a groovy rock instrumental with some delicious madness on drums, feeling almost like the end of an extended jam. It's just under two minutes long.


"Pretend" begins as a mellower, jazzy journey before the vocals come in. Sometimes when you're having trouble, it's not the complex, artsy tune that helps, but that familiar, innocuous song. In "Pretend," Stew sings, "I need a stupid song to pull me through/Like a childhood dog when you had the flu." But this song itself is not the stupid song he's seeking, not with lines like "Truth was more than you deserved." And I love these lyrics: "But stupid little songs always stay true/And when times get hard, they stay with you/And when times get tough, the song does too."

"Black Men Ski"

"Black Men Ski" is a humorous song that plays with stereotypes. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Black men now are students of gay sensibility/Wear ironic T-shirts drenched in code unknown to thee/Get baptized in Walden Pond amongst a searing mob/The cleansing blood of Jesus could not do a thorough job/So black men ski." Yes, this song is funny. (And is it "thorough" or "Thoreau"?) But don't let your laughter keep you from hearing the song's message, which you might hear in lines like "Some kids I'll describe as friends say I am race-obsessed/The luxury of that opinion shows that you are blessed."


There are so many songs about relationships ending. But what others are so direct and yet so poetic at the same time? Check out these lyrics from "Curse": "And now you don't need a new girlfriend/What you need is a nurse/We won't flag you a taxi/We'll just hail you a hearse." And then there is the repeated line, "Ask her to lift the curse." Heidi then comes in and sings the opening lines.


"Speed" begins with some soft playing on guitar. In this tune about methamphetamine, Stew sings, "My body was so resilient/Everything I said was brilliant/And it seems to fulfill a sincere artistic need." There is something of a 1960s rock feel to parts of this song, particularly when it kicks in (that bit reminds me especially of a certain section of The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away"). This all leads to a joyous cacophony toward the end (like jazz eating rock, or possibly rock eating jazz).

"Tomorrow Gone"

"Tomorrow Gone" begins with an easy-going reggae beat - sort of like reggae out on the range. This song has a really sweet sound, with their vocals blending beautifully. The first time I listened to this album, this is one that really stood out. I immediately loved it. And this is one of the lines that caught me: "You ain't got to be ignorant to want some bliss." And then "Tomorrow Gone" eases into this delicious New Orleans-flavored horn section. This song itself is bliss.

"Leave Believe"

"Leave Believe is a sad acoustic songs that starts, "It took a little while for me to see/You stopped believing in me/I wasn't left with much to do/So I stopped believing in you." How's that for getting right to the heart of things? The song needs no other lyrics. First Stew sings the lines, then Heidi has her turn (as in "Curse"). And it's crushing - that they both feel the same way, and yet are so isolated. And then the song kicks in with a surprising force. This is one of my favorites.

"Treat Right"

The album ends with "Treat Right," which has something of a 1970s groove. This is a song about writing songs, and finding therapy in song (and songwriting). It seems a lot of songwriters try to work out their relationship problems in song. And as Stew sings, "And if it don't work, we'll write a song about that too." That's a good, positive spin, eh? I love these lines: "I tried to write a tune about you and me/To turn a mystery into melody."

CD Track List

  1. Making It
  2. Pretend
  3. Black Men Ski
  4. Curse
  5. Speed
  6. Love Is A Cult
  7. Suzy Wong
  8. Tomorrow Gone
  9. Leave Believe
  10. Therapy Only Works If You Tell The Truth
  11. Treat Right


Stew & The Negro Problem are Stew on noisy guitar and pillow talk (yes, that's how he's credited in the liner notes); Heidi Rodewald on vocals, bass, melodica and guitar; Marty Beller on drums and marimba; Mike McGinnis on reeds and winds; Joe McGinty on keyboards; Joe Spurney on guitar; Brian Drye on trombone; Jeff Hermanson on trumpet; Jacob Garchik on tuba; and Urbano Sanchez on percussion.

Making It is scheduled to be released on January 24, 2012.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Leonard Cohen CD To Be Released In January

Leonard Cohen's new studio CD, titled Old Ideas, is scheduled to be released on January 31, 2012. This will be his first studio release since 2004's Dear Heather. Fans who caught shows on his recent world tour will be happy to know that "Darkness" is to be included on the album. However, that is the only one of the songs he debuted on the tour to make it on the CD. What about "Feels So Good," "Lullaby" and "Born In Chains"?

Well, Leonard Cohen has said that "Born In Chains" and the other new ones will likely be on the next album. Yes, he's already thinking about another CD. That's excellent news, indeed. And of course the absence of those three songs on Old Ideas means the inclusion of three songs we haven't even heard yet. And new Leonard Cohen material is always cause for celebration.

There is no word on whether there will be a tour to support Old Ideas. Leonard Cohen did not tour to support Dear Heather or Ten New Songs (2001), his previous two studio albums.

I'm hoping to get an advance copy to review here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ray Charles: "Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles" (2011) Box Set

Early on in his career the word "genius" was included in Ray Charles' record titles (The Genius Of Ray Charles, 1959; The Genius Hits The Road, 1960; The Genius Sings The Blues, 1961). With anyone else, it would seem the height of arrogance. With him, it somehow seems an understatement. Then last year saw the release of Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters. And now we get this amazing box set titled Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles. I like that he's gone from "rare" to "singular," because really there is no one else like Ray Charles.

This collection is amazing, featuring all the singles he released on ABC from 1960 to 1973. Yes, the hits are here - "Georgia On My Mind," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "You Don't Know Me" - but there are also the flip sides, and a lot of these tunes have not been available before on CD. (And let's face: a B side from Ray Charles is like an A side from anybody else.)

Ray Charles had already achieved stardom by this point, with songs like "I Got A Woman" and "What'd I Say" released on his previous label, Atlantic. But he was still growing as an artist. This period saw some of his greatest performances, and contains fantastic energy and tremendous playing. Has ever a voice contained so much emotion? Has ever a voice been rough and sweet simultaneously, as it is on "Carry Me Back To Old Virginny"? His voice can drive away my cares and concerns on a tune like "Hopelessly," then get me dancing with a song like "I Don't Need No Doctor." Soul, blues, country, rock and roll, jazz... Ray Charles can do it all, and do it all insanely well, taking each genre and making it his own.

Some of these tracks have an orchestra; some have a more raw feel. Some have both. But all are gems. This is an incredible collection.

Disc One Features "Georgia On My Mind"

This collection begins, oddly, with a female lead singer - Margie Hendrix in an impressive performance. It's not until forty-nine seconds into the first track, "My Baby (I Love Her Yes I Do)," that we finally hear Ray Charles sing. This groovy song has a slow swing with a ton of spunk. Written by Ray Charles, this song was actually the flip side to "Who You Gonna Love."

"Worried Life Blues" is a seriously cool blues tune. The flip side to "Sticks And Stones," it begins with a spoken word intro by Sid Feller. He says, "Say Ray, you sure look mighty sad." Ray responds, "Man, that's because I got the blues." Sid then tells him to go ahead and sing the blues. This song features a short solo on sax by David Newman.

"Georgia On My Mind" is of course the big hit that made Ray Charles a mainstream star. This song reached #1 on the pop chart. Ralph Burns did the arrangement for this beautiful rendition.

"Hit The Road, Jack" is one of the coolest tunes of all time. Written by Percy Mayfield (who also penned the single's flip side, "The Danger Zone"), this song features some great vocal work by Margie Hendrix and the rest of the Raelettes. The only problem with this song is its length. It fades out before the two-minute mark, when it feels to be hitting its stride. I always want more. This was released in August, 1961.

"But On The Other Hand, Baby" is a late-night smokey tune with some wonderful work on horn, blowing sweetly over Ray's piano. That's Phil Guilbeau on trumpet. This song starts with the line, "You know I'm hooked for you, mama," with a reference to Ray's drug habit. "But On The Other Hand, Baby" was written by Ray Charles and Percy Mayfield.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" wasn't a hit on its initial release in January 1962 (reaching only to #91 on the charts), but it's definitely had staying power, and I'm thankful for that. It's a great duet, a sort of seduction (possibly helped by drugs - "Say, what's in this drink"). Betty Carter provides that wonderful second set of vocals. Betty Carter also sings on the B side, "We'll Be Together Again."

"At The Club," written by Percy Mayfield, begins with the sound of a crowd at the club. This excellent tune features some cool work on bass by Edgar Willis, as well as a wonderfully funny ending. Ray sings, "Because if you're a policeman's woman, just talking to you is a crime." And then a deep voice comes in, "That's right, bud, let's go."

"You Don't Know Me" is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. And like most beautiful songs, it's sad. This song reached #2 on The Billboard Hot 100. "You Don't Know Me" plays a prominent part in one of my favorite films, Groundhog Day.

The first disc ends "Careless Love," written by Ray Charles (with a repeated reference to "Amazing Grace" in the line "I once was blind but now I see"). It was released in July 1962.

Disc Two

Ray Charles can cover a wide range of material and be true to its sources while adding his own special magic. The second disc begins with his excellent cover of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart." Ray Charles has often delved into country music, and in 1962 released two albums titled Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music and Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music Volume 2 ("Your Cheatin' Heart" was on the second volume).

"Take These Chains From My Heart" is another country tune, and clearly on a theme Ray Charles dug ("Unchain My Heart" is on the first disc). Written by Fred Rose and Hy Heath, this song was originally recorded by Hank Williams. In the section that is just piano, bass and drums it has a definite jazz feel, which is wonderful.

A phenomenal live version of "Busted" was included on Live In Concert, released earlier this year. Here in this collection is the original single, released in the summer of 1963. This is a song that really speaks to many of us in this horrible economy, with lines like "A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day" and "I am no thief, but a man can go wrong when he's busted." Ray Charles makes me feel a bit better about being broke. Singing this song will raise your spirits too. Sing it loudly!

Ray Charles eases you into "That Lucky Old Sun." It's a slow and glorious version. He gives a pretty incredible vocal performance here.

"Ol' Man Time" is a fun tune with a big band sound. This delightful song, written by Cliff Friend and Jack Reynolds, features lyrics lines like "Ol' man time is a bugaboo/Every year he changes you/He bends your back, dims your eyes." But there's hope, for there's one thing he can't change: "Love that's true stays the same."

"Something's Wrong" is one of my favorite tracks. It's one of those cool tunes that catches you by surprise. His vocal performance has a bit of a playful quality. This has a slow build. The horns seem to want to take the song in a brighter direction, but each time Ray's voice brings it back down. He won't allow himself to be happy here. After all, something is wrong. And that's not going away. "Something's Wrong" was written by Percy Mayfield.

"Makin' Whoopee" is a live track recorded on September 20, 1964. That show was released as Live In Concert by Concord Music group earlier this year. According to the liner notes of that CD, this is the only recording of Ray Charles performing this song. On that CD, it's a single track. Here it is divided into two tracks, as it was when originally released as a single. The first track fades out after he jokes, "You know what I've been doing." The second track is instrumental. Interestingly, the order was reversed for the single (and thus this collection). It's actually the instrumental section that came first in the actual performance. Ray didn't start singing until approximately two and a half minutes in. This song has a great loose and sexy, yet funny vibe.

Disc Three Features Buck Owens Songs

The second disc featured the two-part concert performance of "Makin' Whoopie." The third disc also features a two-part live track, recorded at the same concert. This time it's "I've Got A Woman," which was also included on Live In Concert. These two tracks are pure fun. The first fades out, and the second picks up where the first left off. "I've Got A Woman" was written by Ray Charles and Renald Richard.

That's followed by another two-part song, the absolutely gorgeous "Without A Song." (Shockingly, this song did not chart.) The first track fades out, but the second has its own fresh start, and could stand on its own. "Without A Song" is definitely a stand-out in a collection of incredible recordings. Just set aside all distractions, close your eyes and listen.

The third disc finds Ray Charles covering three Buck Owens songs. The first, "Love's Gonna Live Here," is a peppy, wonderful little tune with some great backing vocals, nice work on guitar, and a positive attitude. Ray switches gears with "Crying Time," a sad, crying-in-your-beer, end-of-a-relationship type of song. In that one he sings, "Now they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder/And that tears are only rain to make love grow/Well, my love for you could never grow no stronger/If I live to be a hundred years old." I love the fiddle. The third Buck Owens song, "Together Again," is a sweet tune, pulling us out of whatever despair we might have feen feeling during "Crying Time." Ray Charles does a couple of surprising things vocally right near the end of the track.

"You're Just About To Lose Your Clown" features Billy Preston on organ, Don Peake on guitar and Earl Palmer on drums. How's that for a great band? Plus, this is a damn cool song, written by Johnny MacRae. That same group plays on "Let's Go Get Stoned," a song Joe Cocker did on Mad Dogs & Englishmen. This rendition by Ray Charles is so smooth in sections.

"The Train" is a fantastic dance tune with a slow groove. Written by Ray Charles, this is one of my favorites. I could do without the train sound effects at the end, but it's a great track all the same.

Disc Four Features Two Beatles Songs

I love songs like "Here We Go Again," songs with an easy groove, great vocals, and good work on piano. Songs you want to sing along to, or drink to. And this one features Billy Preston on organ. Lillie Fort provides the wonderful backing vocals on this one.

On the fourth disc there are two Beatles covers. First, he takes "Yesterday," and combines the gentle sound of the strings with his incredibly raw vocal performance. The results are intense and highly emotional. This was recorded in 1967, when The Beatles were boldly striking off into new territory. In the second Beatles song, "Eleanor Rigby," Ray Charles changes the vocal rhythm to make it his own. It's interesting. It throws you off at first, but being a bit unbalanced is a great way to come at this song anew. Ray's voice somehow embodies all of the lonely people. It's just this side of magical.

"Understanding" blew me away with its graphically violent passage. Written by Ray Charles and Jimmy Holiday, this song was the flip side to "Eleanor Rigby," and I can't help but think it surprised a good number of people who bought the single.

The fourth disc ends with a sweet and slow rendition of the Gershwin tune "Someone To Watch Over Me."

Disc Five

The fifth disc opens with "Laughin' And Clownin,'" a wonderful bluesy number written by Sam Cooke. Recorded in 1968, but not released until January of 1970, this track features Freddy Robinson on guitar.

"Feel So Bad" is a seriously cool, funky tune written by James Johnson and Leslie Temple. It features excellent work by Don Peake on guitar and Carol Kaye on bass. Ray is clearly having a ball with this song.

Ray Charles gets insanely playful in his rendition of "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma." I've always loved Melanie Safka, and Ray's version of one of her biggest tunes is absolutely wonderful. He introduces the French section by wsaying, "Now girls, if you don't mind, I'd like to hear this in French." And then he gives it a go himself, before concluding, "My French must be pretty bad/I'd better do this in English." It's little touches like that that prove delightful. But he's still true to Melanie's song.

The flip side to "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma" is "America The Beautiful." Now I've never claimed to be patriotic, but Ray Charles' rendition of this song is so gorgeous that I almost wish I could be.

"Hey Mister" is an impassioned plea (or demand) to the government to solve the poverty problem in this country. It even mentions impeachment ("The poor people know that they can't impeach you/They're just hoping that their cries will reach you.") This record came out in November of 1972. Ray sounds truly angry on this one. It's excellent. I love these lines: "Foreign aid is well and good/But why don't you give some of that money to the neighborhood?"

John Denver's such a great songwriter, and Ray Charles does a excellent job on "Take Me Home, Country Roads." This is such a beautiful song. The end is wonderful with the backing vocalists.

This disc, and thus the collection, ends with a strange rendition of "Ring Of Fire." It's quite a bit different from Johnny Cash's version, and concludes with Ray whispering, "The ring of fire/Your ring of fire burns," and then giving a whispered laugh. It was released in April, 1973 (though it was actually recorded in May of 1970).

CD Track List

Disc One

  1. My Baby (I Love Her Yes I Do)
  2. Who You Gonna Love
  3. Sticks And Stones
  4. Worried Life Blues
  5. Georgia On My Mind
  6. Carry Me Back To Old Virginny
  7. Them That Got
  8. I Wonder
  9. Ruby
  10. Heardhearted Hannah
  11. Hit The Road, Jack
  12. The Danger Zone
  13. Unchain My Heart
  14. But On The Other Hand, Baby
  15. Baby, It's Cold Outside
  16. We'll Be Together Again
  17. At The Club
  18. Hide Nor Hair
  19. I Can't Stop Loving You
  20. Born To Lose
  21. You Don't Know Me
  22. Careless Love

Disc Two

  1. Your Cheatin' Heart
  2. You Are My Sunshine
  3. Don't Set Me Free
  4. The Brightest Smile In Town
  5. Take These Chains From My Heart
  6. No Letter Today
  7. Without Love (There Is Nothing)
  8. No One
  9. Busted
  10. Make Believe
  11. That Lucky Old Sun
  12. Ol' Man Time
  13. Baby, Don't You Cry
  14. My Heart Cries For You
  15. My Baby Don't Dig Me
  16. Something's Wrong
  17. No One To Cry To
  18. A Tear Fell
  19. Smack Dab In The Middle
  20. I Wake Up Cryin'
  21. Makin' Whoopee (Vocal) (Live)
  22. Makin' Whoopee (Piano) (Live)

Disc Three

  1. Teardrops From My Eyes
  2. Cry
  3. I've Got A Woman (Part 1)
  4. I've Got A Woman (Part 2)
  5. Without A Song (Part 1)
  6. Without A Song (Part 2)
  7. I'm A Fool To care
  8. Love's Gonna Live Here
  9. The Cincinnati Kid
  10. That's All I Am To You
  11. Crying Time
  12. When My Dreamboat Comes Home
  13. Together Again
  14. You're Just About To Lose Your Clown
  15. Let's Go Get Stoned
  16. The Train
  17. I Chose To Sing The Blues
  18. Hopelessly
  19. I Don't Need No Doctor
  20. Please Say You're Fooling
  21. I Want To Talk About You
  22. Something Inside Me

Disc Four

  1. Here We Go Again
  2. Somebody Ought To Write A Book About It
  3. In The Heat Of The Night
  4. Something's Got To Change
  5. Yesterday
  6. Never Had Enough Of Nothing Yet
  7. That's A Lie
  8. Go On Home
  9. Eleanor Rigby
  10. Understanding
  11. Sweet Young Thing Like You
  12. Listen, They're Playing My Song
  13. If It Wasn't For Bad Luck
  14. When I Stop Dreaming
  15. I'll Be Your Servant
  16. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
  17. Let Me Love You
  18. I'm Satisfied
  19. We Can Make It
  20. I Can't Stop Loving You, Babby
  21. Claudie Mae
  22. Someone To Watch Over Me

Disc Five

  1. Laughin' And Clownin'
  2. That Thing Called Love
  3. Till I Can't Take It Anymore
  4. If You Were Mine
  5. Don't Change On Me
  6. Sweet Memories
  7. Feel So Bad
  8. Your Love Is So Doggone Good
  9. What Am I Living For
  10. Tired Of My Tears
  11. Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma
  12. America The Beautiful
  13. Hey Mister
  14. There'll Be No Peace Without All Men As One
  15. Every Saturday Night
  16. Take Me Home, Country Roads
  17. I Can Make It Thru The Days (But Oh Those Lonely Nights)
  18. Ring Of Fire

Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles is scheduled to be released on November 15, 2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Song Analysis

There are a lot of songs associated with the Christmas holiday. Some are pretty good, some aren't so good. And then there is "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," one of the worst songs ever written.

Reindeer Knowledge

It starts off, "You know Dasher and Dancer/And Prancer and Vixen/Comet and Cupid/And Donner and Blitzen." So right off the bat it is establishing that You, the listener, are some sort of reindeer expert. You know the names of all of the reindeer. And then in the very next line it asks you, the reindeer expert, "But do you recall/The most famous reindeer of all?"

Now if someone is aware of all the obscure reindeer like Prancer and Vixen, wouldn't it stand to reason that he or she would be able to recall "the most famous reindeer"? In fact, wouldn't a reindeer expert be insulted by the question? That's like saying that you know Nolan Reimold and Bengie Molina, but have you ever heard of Babe Ruth?

Glowing Nose

The song continues, "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer/Had a very shiny nose." The repetition of the word "nose" like that is the mark of sloppy, lazy songwriting. It continues, "And if you ever saw him/You would even say it glows." By saying "You would even say it glows," it's implying that at most his nose glows. And that might even be a slight exaggeration.

I don't know how many of you have ever driven in the fog. But you want lights that do more than simply glow. You want a bright beam. It's not like Santa Claus needed to alert other flying sleds of his presence. No, he needed light to be able to see the rooftops and telephone poles and such things so that he wouldn't crash.

Which brings to mind another problem with the song. If Santa's elves are able to build all these wonderful toys and electronic gadgets, why couldn't they build him some headlights for his flying sled? Seriously. He wants to put his own safety as well as that of the rest of the reindeer in the hands of a slightly glowing nose? That's insane. Santa is crazy.

Mean Reindeer

The song also establishes that the other reindeer are juvenile and mean. "All of the other reindeer/Used to laugh and call him names." Names like "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"? The very name of the song is mean. Why call him by his one imperfection, his one oddity? Doesn't he have a last name? Defining him by his deformity is cruel. Do any of you like to be defined by one feature, by one physical attribute? No, of course not.

Then, like the little sycophants that they are, the other reindeer love Rudolph as soon as Santa shows him some favor. Once Santa asks him to guide his sleigh, the songs says, "Then all the reindeer loved him/And they shouted out with glee/Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer/You'll go down in history." Even at the end, they're still calling him "the red-nosed reindeer." Clearly, the love they show for him is merely superficial flattery.

By the way, what has Rudolph been doing all this time? Was he not even in the Christmas Eve reindeer lineup until that one night? Was he just hanging around until there was some fog? Or did he work in some other capacity at the toy factory?

Montgomery Ward Origins

"Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was written by Johnny Marks. But the song did not mark Rudolph's inception.

Rudolph was actually created for Montgomery Ward as a promotional tool in 1939. Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books each year to children, and decided to save money by coming up with its own character.

Robert L. May came up with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But the red nose almost didn't happen, because a red nose is traditionally associated with drunkenness, and so thought inappropriate for a Christmas character.

But as we all now know, imbibing is an important part of the holiday, and without a little alcohol, a lot of folks wouldn't make it through the day.

"Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a poorly constructed and conceived song, but it seems to be here to stay. Fortunately, its airplay is limited to a few weeks out of the year.

(Note: I originally posted this on December 8, 2010 on another site.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Christmas Music: Covers Of Traditional Holiday Songs

There are a lot of traditional songs associated with Christmas, and they all get a lot of play during the holiday season. (Yes, there is entire season during which these songs are played - not just on the holiday itself. Why is that? Why do we accept that?) Sadly, the great majority of these songs are irritating and obnoxious, and there is just no getting away from them. They are played in every store and most restaurants, as well as on the radio, all through the month of December (and even in late November, damn them).

However, there are some good versions of a few of these songs available, by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, The Ventures and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. So for those who wish to be festive but not obnoxious in their holiday music selections, here are a few ideas.

"Little Drummer Boy" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts are an excellent rock and roll band. And they still put on an energetic and entertaining concert. For those who haven't yet had the opportunity to see this band perform, it's highly recommended that you make the effort. The band's newer material stands up with their early classics.

And Joan Jett has always chosen interesting songs to cover. Her version of Tommy James And The Shondells' "Crimson And Clover" is a great example. And on that same album, I Love Rock 'N' Roll (1981), is her cover of the Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy."

"Little Drummer Boy" is one of the better songs played during the Christmas holidays, and this version by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts is probably the best ever recorded. It's close enough to the original to not upset the traditionalists too much, but has a wonderful rock edge to please everyone else. The rock element takes over nearly three minutes in for the instrumental section of the song, and features some great guitar. Joan Jett has an awesome voice, and the backing vocals are also particularly wonderful on this rendition.

(For another good version of "Little Drummer Boy," check out the rendition by Bing Crosby & David Bowie.)

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen

As for rock versions of traditional Christmas songs, Bruce Sringsteen's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is among the most famous and most loved. Bruce Springsteen introduces his rendition by asking his band if they've all been good "and practicing real hard." He then asks the audience if they've been good. The audience responds, but not as enthusiastically as Bruce might have hoped, so he teases them, "That's not many. You guys are in trouble out here."

This is certainly one of the only versions of this song worth listening to, mostly because Bruce Springsteen is clearly having fun with it. Another thing that makes recording worth listening to is the part where he breaks the song down and sings, "You better be good for goodness sake." He does that twice during the song. And the last thing making this worthwhile is of course Clarence Clemons on saxophone.

This is a live recording from December 12, 1975. This song is included on the 1995 holiday compilation Christmas Of Hope.

"Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" by Joseph Spence

For a much stranger and even cooler version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town," check out Joseph Spence's rendition. His is the absolute best version of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town." Joseph Spence hardly sings it at all, just mumbles a few of the lines, and that's what helps to make it such a great version. Because, seriously, those lyrics aren't any good.

It's wonderful how Joseph Spence calls him "Santy Claw." And his guitar work is fantastic. This is a live recording. It's included on 1995 Dr. Demento compilation Holidays In Dementia.

"Jingle Bells" by The Ventures

Some Christmas songs only work as instrumentals. The Ventures prove that "Jingle Bells" is one such song with their excellent rendition of the holiday classic. The electric guitar does what would be the vocal line, and it sounds great.

The Ventures take what is normally a rather stupid song, and make it cool. Versions of this song are included on The Ventures albums Christmas Album (1965) and Christmas Joy (2002).

"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" by Wynton Marsalis

Another excellent instrumental version of a holiday song is Wynton Marsalis' rendition of "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" Wynton breathes new life into the song, finding interesting place for improvisation. His version was recorded in from 1989 and appeared on his album Crescent City Christmas Card.

"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" was also included on Christmas of Hope (1995).

"Joy To The World" by Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin can really belt out a tune like nobody's business. She makes "Joy To The World" seriously rock in this gospel-flavored number. This is certainly one of the best versions of this song ever done. There is enough power here to make even the staunchest of atheists cry out "Hallelujah."

"7 O' Clock News/Silent Night" by Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel do the most interesting and innovative version of "Silent Night." They sing the first section of the song, while over it a news broadcast is heard. The song begins with the vocals and piano, and the newscast begins only a few moments later, and then increases in volume.

The broadcast includes bits about Martin Luther King and a proposed march in Chicago, as well as information on a series of murders. The juxtaposition of the newscast with the beautiful voices of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel singing "Silent Night" is incredible and effective. This song is just under two minutes long.

This song was included on Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme (1966).

These choices should help folks who are hoping to put together a good mix for their holidays. There are also several excellent original rock Christmas songs that should round out the collection.

(Note: I originally posted this on December 4, 2010 on another site.)

Christmas Music: The Best Original Christmas Songs

Christmas is a time for folks to go a little mad. And there are plenty of reasons for it - the stress, the shopping, the relatives, the flashing lights, the weather, the trash, the expense, the disappointment... and of course the music. By and large, Christmas music is just awful. And you can't get away from it. It's everywhere.

But cheer up, because there are some good holiday songs out there. The following are some excellent Christmas songs.

"Fairytale Of New York"

Who would imagine that the best Christmas song would be by an Irish folk-punk band? And who could guess that a song with the line "Happy Christmas, your arse, I pray God it's our last" would be one of the sweetest songs ever recorded? Well, "Fairytale Of New York" by The Pogues is by far the best song ever written for this holiday, and it is indeed truly sweet.

It starts out on Christmas Eve in the drunk tank, and the man's thoughts turn to his woman and he says, "I've got a feeling this year's for me and you/So happy Christmas/I love you, baby/I can see a better time when all our dreams come true."

The woman's part is included too, as she reflects back on their relationship: "When you first took my hand on a cold Christmas Eve, you promised me Broadway was waiting for me." They trade compliments and insults, while "The boys of the NYPD choir were singing 'Galway Bay.'" The female vocals are sung by Kirsty MacColl.

She says, "You took my dreams from me when I first found you."

He replies, "I kept them with me, babe/And I put them with my own/Can't make it all alone/I built my dreams around you."

"Fairytale Of New York" was originally released on the band's 1988 album If I Should Fall From Grace With God. It was also included on their 1991 compilation Essential.

"2000 Miles"

Another surprise for the Christmas holiday is "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders. On the same album that found Chrissie Hynde in the "Middle Of The Road" and "Back On The Chain Gang" The Pretenders included this beautiful and moving Christmas song.

The song fades in, like it's approaching the listener, like a warm light in the distance. Chrissie sings, "In these frozen and silent nights/Sometimes in a dream, you appear/Outside under the purple sky/Diamonds in the snow sparkle/Our hearts were singing/It felt like Christmas time/2000 miles is very far through the snow/I think of you wherever you go."

This song was included on The Pretenders' 1983 release, Learning To Crawl. It was written by Chrissie Hynde.

"Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses

"Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses is absolutely one of the best Christmas songs ever written (probably second only to The Pogues' "Fairytale Of New York"). It's totally fun, it has a great rhythm, and it has a sweet and happy ending. Who knew forgetting cranberries could lead to bliss? And this is the band that had a hit with "I Know What Boys Like."

"Christmas Wrapping" was written by Chris Butler, and included on the 1982 record by The Waitresses, I Could Rule The World If I Could Only Get The Parts. "Christmas Wrapping" was also included on the Dr. Demento compilation, Holidays In Dementia, as well as the Christmas rock compilation, A Rock 'N' Roll Christmas.

"Father Christmas" by The Kinks

"Father Christmas" is one of the best Christmas rock songs. For those who are unfamiliar with this Christmas tune, here are some of the lyrics: "Father Christmas, give us some money/Don't mess around with your silly toys/We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over/We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed/Give all the toys to the little rich boys."

The first line is, "When I was small I believed in Santa Claus, though I knew it was my dad." "Father Christmas" was written by Ray Davies. It was originally released as a single, and then included on the 1986 double album Come Dancing With The Kinks.

It is also available on A Rock 'N' Roll Christmas (1994).

"I Believe In Father Christmas" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "I Believe In Father Christmas" is a beautiful song about the loss of innocence. It was written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield.

This song features some excellent lyrics, including these lines: "They sold me a dream of Christmas/They sold me a silent night/They told me a fairy story/'Til I believed in the Israelite/And I believed in Father Christmas/And I looked to the sky with excited eyes/When I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn/And I saw him and through his disguise."

It's available on the compilation, A Rock 'N' Roll Christmas.

"The Pause Of Mr. Claus"

Arlo Guthrie is most famous for his wonderful song "Alice's Restaurant," which tells a funny story about Thanksgiving, littering and the draft. There are a couple of other songs in which he tells a nice, long tale, such as "The Motorcycle Song" and "The Pause Of Mr. Claus."

"The Pause Of Mr. Claus" is dedicated to the members of the F.B.I., and in his introduction to the song Arlo talks about the difficulties of having that job. Like "Alice's Restaurant," the song itself is quite short. Here are some of the lyrics: "Santa Clause has a red suit/He's a communist/And a beard, and long hair/Must be a pacifist/What's in the pipe that he's smoking?"

"The Pause Of Mr. Claus" was included on Arlo Guthrie's 1968 album Arlo.

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" is an excellent song by Bob Geldof and Band Aid. This was released as a single in November of 1984. Everybody from the pop world is on this recording, including David Bowie, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Wham, U2, Spandau Ballet, The Boomtown Rats, Big Country and Bananarama.

Dan Hicks And The Hot Licks

And if all of this is not enough, check out this year's holiday release from Dan Hicks And The Hot Licks, titled Crazy For Christmas. This entire album is actually really good, and it includes some wonderful new material, as well as some excellent covers of traditional holiday songs.

That should help those who wish to put together some good original music for the holidays. There are of course several other good Christmas songs, including some excellent covers of traditional tunes.

(Note: I originally posted this on November 27, 2010 on another site.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2011 Concert Calendar

Here is a list of concerts you might be interested in for the month of November. Most of these are bands that I've reviewed, though some are some bands that I haven't yet written about, but really like. If you can, try to check out at least a few of these shows. I will be adding listings throughout the month, so please check back again later.

November 1, 2011
Diana Jones - The Greystones, Sheffield, United Kingdom

November 2, 2011 (Wednesday)
Gaelic Storm - Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
Great American Taxi - Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, TX
Diana Jones - The Biddulph Arms, Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom
James McMurtry - The Long Center For Performing Arts, Austin, TX
Yonder Mountain String Band - Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA

November 3, 2011 (Thursday)
Great American Taxi - La Zona Rosa, Austin, TX
Dar Williams - Symphony Space, New York, NY
Yonder Mountain String Band - House Of Blues, Cleveland, OH

November 4, 2011 (Friday)
Anita And The Yanks - Ireland's 32, Van Nuys, CA - 9:30 p.m.
Antje Duvekot - Moab Folk Music Festival, Moab, UT
Entrain - Playhouse On Park, W. Hartford, CT
Gaelic Storm - Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Great American Taxi - Granada Theater, Dallas, TX
The Greencards - Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY - 9:00 p.m.
I See Hawks In L.A. - Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA - 9:30 p.m.
Free show
Cyndi Lauper - Club Nokia, Los Angeles, CA
James McMurtry - Antone's, Austin, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - Sam's Burger Joint, San Antonio, TX - 9:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 advance/$20 at door
Ellis Paul - Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook, CT - 8:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton - Festine Auditorium, Rome, NY
with special guest Chris Trapper
Wagons - Meeniyan Hall, Meeniyan, Australia
Dar Williams - Wilmington, DE
Tickets: $30

November 5, 2011 (Saturday)
Antioquia - Starry Plough, Berkeley, CA
Antje Duvekot - Moab Folk Music Festival, Moab, UT
Entrain - Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
Gaelic Storm - Neptune Theatre, Seattle, WA
Great American Taxi - Fitzgerald’s, Houston, TX
The Greencards - Club Infinity, Clarence, NY - 7:30 p.m.
Diana Jones - St. Bedes Club, Chorley, United Kingdom
James McMurtry - The Firehouse, Houston, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - The Kessler Theater, Dallas, TX - 8:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul - Music At Lillypads, 27 North Rd., Peace Dale, RI - 7:30 p.m.
Mieka Pauley - SIR Studios, New York, NY
Martin Sexton - Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD
Wagons - Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, Australia
Dar Williams - Catham, NJ - 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $30

November 6, 2011 (Sunday)
Antje Duvekot - Aspen Meadows House Concerts, Nederland, CO - 7:00 p.m.
Gaelic Storm - Bing Crosby Theater, Spokane, WA
The Greencards - Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH - 7:30 p.m.
James McMurtry - Dan's Silverleaf, Denton, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - George's Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville, AZ - 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $10
Martin Sexton - Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD

November 7, 2011 (Monday)
I See Hawks In L.A. - Joe's Great American Bar & Grill, Burbank, CA
(at Ronnie Mack's Barndance; special show in honor of Gram Parsons)
Ellis Paul - Slates Restaurant, 169 Water St., Hallowell, ME

November 8, 2011 (Tuesday)
Bullied By Strings - The Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA (CANCELED)
Gaelic Storm - The Knitting Factory, Boise, ID
Ryan Montbleau Band - WorkPlay Theater, Birmingham, AL - 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $12

November 9, 2011 (Wednesday)
Gaelic Storm - The State Room, Salt Lake City, UT
I See Hawks In L.A. - Maverick Saloon, Santa Ynez, CA - 7:30 p.m.
Ryan Montbleau Band - New Earth Music Hall, Athens, GA - 9:00 p.m.
Tickets: $7

November 10, 2011 (Thursday)
Great American Taxi - Brick and Mortar, San Francisco, CA
James McMurtry - Cheatham Street Warehouse, San Marcos, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - Eddie's Attic, Decatur, GA - 8:00 p.m.
Dar Williams - Bethlehem, PA
Tickets: $25

November 11, 2011 (Friday)
Jim Bianco - Hotel Cafe, Hollywood, CA - 10:00 p.m.
Gaelic Storm - Stargazers Theatre, Colorado Springs, CO
Great American Taxi - Auburn Events Center, Auburn, CA
James McMurtry - Granada Theatre, Dallas, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - Backbooth, Orlando, FL
Dar Williams - The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA - 8:30 p.m.
(with Ellis Paul opening) Tickets: $38.50

November 12, 2011 (Saturday)
Antje Duvekot and Cheryl Wheeler - Chandler Music Hall, Randolph, VT - 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20
Gaelic Storm - Gothic Theatre, Englewood, CO
Great American Taxi - River Theater, Guerneville, CA
James McMurtry - Floore's Country Store, Helotes, TX
Ryan Montbleau Band - Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, FL - 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $12
Ellis Paul - New Hope Winery, 6123 Lower York Rd., New Hope, PA - 8:00 p.m.
Wagons - Vanguard, Sydney, Australia
Dar Williams - The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA - 8:30 p.m.

November 13, 2011 (Sunday)
Great American Taxi - Nelson Family Vineyards, Ukiah, CA
The Greencards - Oneida Casino, Oneida, WI - 7:30 p.m.
Ellis Paul - Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Rd., Londonderry, NH - 7:00 p.m.
Wagons - Vanguard, Sydney, Australia
Dar Williams - Lyric Theater, Blacksburg, VA
Tickets: $29

November 14, 2011 (Monday)
Great American Taxi - Humboldt Brewery, Arcata, CA
The Greencards - Oneida Casino, Oneida, WI - 7:30 p.m.
Ryan Montbleau Band - The Pour House, Charleston, SC - 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10

November 15, 2011 (Tuesday)
The Greencards - Oneida Casino, Oneida, WI - 7:30 p.m.

November 16, 2011 (Wednesday)
Ryan Montbleau Band - The Double Door Inn, Charlotte, NC - 8:00 p.m.

November 17, 2011 (Thursday)
Black Party Politics - Elevate Lounge, Los Angeles, CA - 9:00 p.m.
Great American Taxi - Moon Brewing Co., Bend, OR
The Greencards - The Maintenance Shop, Ames, IA - 8:00 p.m.
James McMurtry - Down East Saloon, Homer, AK
Ryan Montbleau Band - Jammin Java, Vienna, VA - 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15
Ellis Paul - The Four Corners, 40 Andover Rd., New London, NH - 8:00 p.m.

November 18, 2011 (Friday)
Antje Duvekot - Concerts At Our House, Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20
The Greencards - LAFTA at the 7th Street Loft, Lincoln, NE - 7:30 p.m.
Lovrbomz - Genghis Cohen, 740 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA - 9 p.m.
James McMurtry - Latitude 62, Talkeetna, AK
Ryan Montbleau Band - World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
The Nields - CSPS, 1103 3rd St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA
Ellis Paul - The River Club Music Hall, 78 Border St., Scituate, MA - 8:00 p.m.
Alice Wallace - Kulak's Woodshed, North Hollywood, CA
Tickets: $10 (Special album-release show)
Dar Williams - The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI - 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35

November 19, 2011 (Saturday)
Antje Duvekot - Concerts At Our House, Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20
Great American Taxi - Mt. Tabor Theater, Portland, OR
The Greencards - Knuckleheads, Kansas City, MO - 8:30 p.m.
James McMurtry - Sydney Laurence Theatre at Alaska Center For Performing Arts, Anchorage, AK
Ryan Montbleau Band - City Winery, New York, NY - 8:00 p.m.
The Nields - This Old House Concert, Berwyn, IL
Ellis Paul - Common Ground Coffeehouse, 25 Old Jackson Ave., Hastings-On-Hudson, NY - 7:30 p.m.
Dar Williams - The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI - 7:30 p.m.

November 20, 2011 (Sunday)
Great American Taxi - Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA
The Greencards - Dyck Auditorium, Hesston, KS - 4:30 p.m.
James McMurtry - Vagabond Blues, Palmer, AK
The Nields - Old Town School Of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL
Ellis Paul - The Vanilla Bean, Pomfret, CT - 7:00 p.m.
Dar Williams - Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

November 21, 2011 (Monday)

November 22, 2011 (Tuesday)

November 23, 2011 (Wednesday)

November 24, 2011 (Thursday)

November 25, 2011 (Friday)
Ryan Montbleau Band - Rock N Roll Resort, Kerhonkson, NY
Ellis Paul - The Red Cat, 2901 2nd Ave., Birmingham, AL - 8:30 p.m.
The String Cheese Incident - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Ashville, TN

November 26, 2011 (Saturday)
I See Hawks In L.A. - Pappy And Harriets, Pioneertown, CA - 7:30 p.m.
Ellis Paul - Eddie's Attic, 515 North McDonough St., Decatur, GA
The String Cheese Incident - Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA

November 27, 2011 (Sunday)
The String Cheese Incident - Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA

November 28, 2011 (Monday)
The String Cheese Incident - Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

November 29, 2011 (Tuesday)
Kinky Friedman - The Aardvark, Fort Worth, TX

November 30, 2011 (Wednesday)
The String Cheese Incident - Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, MD

November 2011 Update

Howdy, everybody. At the beginning of each month, I'll include a link to the blog entry that lists all of my articles, arranged by subject, so that they're easy to find. That link is this:

List Of All My Music Articles

It's been my intention with this blog to let people know about all the great music that's out there. So I tend to write about CDs and bands that I like. Sure, there might be an exception now and again. But I have no desire to tear apart some new band that's out there struggling to find a fan base. What I want to do is let people know about new bands they might not have heard of yet, and to remind them of some bands they might have forgotten. And to keep people up-to-date with all the great new releases, as well as concert listings. Basically, to share my love of music with anyone who cares to read this.

And for anyone who might be interested, I thought I'd let you know that my friend Jason and I started a greeting card company (yes, seriously), and a series of short films that are tied in with the characters from the greeting cards. And of course we have a blog. For anyone who'd like to check it out, the company is called Grandmother's Fanny Game.