Friday, September 28, 2012

Vince Guaraldi: "The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi" (2012) CD Review

Pianist Vince Guaraldi recorded a lot of excellent music during his lifetime, but I think I'll always associate him with the composition I first heard as a child, the theme from Peanuts, "Linus And Lucy." That theme, along with several written for A Charlie Brown Christmas, are included on the new compilation, The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi.  This collection contains mostly original compositions, but also some good covers, like "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise," which is a fun tune featuring some nice work by Eddie Duran on guitar (Although, is the word "morning" really necessary in that title?). That song was written by Sigmond Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II for The New Moon.

Whether performing one of his own compositions, or giving his spin to someone else's song, there is something so truly happy in Vince Guaraldi's playing that absolutely transfers to the listener.  If a musician's style of playing is any indication of personality, then Vince Guaraldi must have been extremely kind and generous of spirit. And also a lot of fun, for there certainly is a playful quality too.

"Cast Your Fate To The Wind"

The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi opens with "Cast Your Fate to The Wind." The first section of this song is so pretty and joyful. I'd be surprised if it didn't make you feel good. And then some wonderful drumming by Colin Bailey announces the change to a groovier jazz section, which is equally wonderful. This song was actually a hit on the pop charts.

"Cast Your Fate To The Wind" was originally released on Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus, which was re-issued in 2010. ("Mahnã De Carnaval," from that record, is also included in this collection.)

"El Matador"

"El Matador" likewise has some interesting changes. What's impressive is how the changes can be both abrupt and smooth. This is a live track, originally released on Live At El Matador. El Matador was a club in San Francisco where Vince Guaraldi frequently performed.  Vince Guaraldi's playing is particularly wonderful on this track.

"Treat Street"

"Treat Street" is a fun, catchy pop-jazz tune with a Latin feel. It was named after the street in San Francisco where Fantasy Records was located. This is a seriously happy tune, and according to the liner notes, it was intended to be a follow-up hit to "Cast Your Fate To The Wind." And although it's a great tune, it was never a hit.

"Linus And Lucy"

"Linus And Lucy" is probably the tune that Vince Guaraldi will always be remembered for, and that's not a bad thing. I love this song. According to the liner notes, it was originally written for a television documentary on Charles M. Schulz. It was then, of course, included on A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is the best Christmas special ever made. And the music is a big reason for that special's appeal. This is a song everyone can dance to. Just pick your favorite Peanuts character dance, and imitate it. (I like the one with arms straight out.)

(It must have been interesting to see him perform this one live before the Christmas special came out - to hear it without the associations, to hear it simply as a great piece of music.)

"The Lady's In Love With You"

"The Lady's In Love With You" is is fast-paced gem that really blew me away. Vince Guaraldi is incredible, and doesn't let up. His playing is absolutely delicious. There is also great work by Eddie Duran on guitar and Dean Reilly on bass. "The Lady's In Love With You" was written by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

This collection concludes with three more Peanuts tunes. The first, "Charlie Brown Theme," was also written for that half-hour special, and has a great groove. The other two were written for the Christmas special. "Christmastime Is Here" is that beautiful, sweet (even sad) tune that you all know and love. I always enjoy that great constant work with brushes on the snare and hi-hat (That's Jerry Granelli on drums). Plus, there's a nice bass lead by Fred Marshall a few minutes in.

CD Track List
  1. Cast Your Fate To The Wind
  2. El Matador
  3. Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise
  4. Ginza
  5. Treat Street
  6. Django
  7. Linus And Lucy
  8. The Lady's In Love With You
  9. Star Song
  10. Outra Vez
  11. Manhã De Carnaval
  12. Charlie Brown Theme
  13. Christmas Is Coming
  14. Christmas Time Is Here
The Very Best Of Vince Guaraldi was released on August 7, 2012 through Concord Music Group. Also released on that date were Cannonball Adderley: The Very Best Of,  Dave Brubeck: The Very Best Of: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953, The Bill Evans Trio: The Very Best Of, and Thelonious Monk: The Very Best Of.

Vince Guaraldi died from a heart attack in 1976.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dave Brubeck: "The Very Best Of Dave Brubeck: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953" (2012) CD Review

Dave Brubeck has been one of my favorite pianists since my uncle gave me a copy of Time Out when I was in my late teens. That album has what is still probably his most famous tune, "Take Five."  Concord Music Group is releasing a series of The Very Best Of compilations, including one of Dave Brubeck's music.

The Very Best Of Dave Brubeck: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953 is early Dave Brubeck, featuring music years before the release of "Take Five."  Most of these pieces are short, with the exceptions of the live tracks that close out the collection. All but one of these tracks are covers, including four Rodgers and Hart tunes, one Gershwin song and one Cole Porter composition. Most of these tunes features Paul Desmond on alto saxophone. 

All of the tracks were previously released.

"Blue Moon"

The Very Best Of Dave Brubeck opens with a fast-paced, bright rendition of the famous Rodgers and Hart composition, "Blue Moon." Performed by The Dave Brubeck Trio, this might be the most fun version I've ever heard of this tune. It still retains something of the song's inherent beauty, of course, while finding new areas within its structure. And I dig that brief bass section. The song has an interesting ending.

By the way, this song is the earliest recording in this collection, from September of 1949.

"Let's Fall In Love"

Dave Brubeck's version of "Let's Fall In Love" also has a quick tempo, and he highlights the fun elements of this tune (without, of course, the lyrics, which always felt like the most delightful part of this song to me). Dave Brubeck makes this his own, and adds some wonderful touches on piano. It's over so quickly. I'd like to hear what else he would have done with it, had he been given another two or three minutes.

"Body And Soul"

"Body And Soul" starts off slower, but Carl Tjader is on bongos rather than the kit, and that provides a certain type of energy. And soon the tempo picks up. It's interesting how well piano and bongos can work together, with sections where it's almost a sort of strange duet.  "Body And Soul" was written by Johnny Green, Edward Heyman and Robert Sour.

"My Heart Stood Still"

"My Heart Stood Still," a Rodgers and Hart song, is performed as a piano solo. It starts slow and sweet, but then takes on that strange energy that a lot of Brubeck's well known work has. You can really hear at times in this piece where he was heading. And then he returns to the song's opening feel, to end softly, which is just perfect. This track was recorded in October of 1953.

"This Can't Be Love"

I love Dave Brubeck's piano lead section on "This Can't Be Love." It has an untamed, almost aggressive quality that is fantastic, over that great steady rhythm by Wyatt "Bull" Ruther on bass and Herb Barman on drums. I also like Paul Desmond's part on alto saxophone, but once Brubeck takes over, it's honestly hard to recall what Desmond had done. "This Can't Be Love" is definitely one of my favorites from this collection. This track was recorded in 1952, and was originally released on Jazz At Storyville.

"A Foggy Day"

Dave Brubeck's rendition of the Gershwin tune "A Foggy Day" is an exciting and delightful piece of music. Really, this song feels like a living, breathing character. The changes in the song are like the changing emotions and gait of a person. "A Foggy Day" was written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, and was included in the 1937 film A Damsel In Distress.

"Lyons Busy"

"Lyons Busy" is the sole Dave Brubeck composition in this collection. The song's title comes from a radio program hosted by Jimmy Lyons, a San Francisco DJ. This track comes on strong, and the bass is powerful, even during Brubeck's lead. I like Paul Desmond's work on this song, in his early lead section, and particularly toward the end of the track.

Live Tracks

The album concludes with three live tracks, all recorded in 1953. The first is "Stardust." I absolutely love what Paul Desmond does on this song, so cool and so sweet. And then Brubeck comes in, and offers such moments of quiet beauty that he feels like an angel, able to sweep away misery, at least for a time. This track is from The Dave Brubeck Quartet's Jazz At Oberlin.

The last two tracks were recorded in December of 1953 at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California.  I love the energy on "Give A Little Whistle" - and this is probably the coolest track in this collection. And as great as Dave Brubeck's lead section is, I'm actually even more enamored of the moments just before that when he and Paul Desmond are playing together.

This collection ends with a sweet version of "For All We Know," writen by Samuel Lewis and J. Fred Coots.

CD Track List
  1. Blue Moon
  2. Let's Fall In Love
  3. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
  4. Body And Soul
  5. I May Be Wrong
  6. My Heart Stood Still
  7. This Can't Be Love
  8. Frenesi
  9. Me And My Shadow
  10. A Foggy Day
  11. Lyons Busy
  12. Just One Of Those Things
  13. Stardust
  14. Give A Little Whistle
  15. For All We Know
The Very Best Of Dave Brubeck: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953 was released on August 7, 2012 through Concord Music Group. Also released on that date were Cannonball Adderley: The Very Best Of,  The Bill Evans Trio: The Very Best Of, Vince Guaraldi: The Very Best Of and Thelonious Monk: The Very Best Of.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Glen Campbell And Jimmy Webb: "In Session..." (2012) CD/DVD Review

Glen Campbell is known for several hits songs, including "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Honey Come Back" and of course "Rhinestone Cowboy."  The writer responsible for most of those songs is Jimmy Webb.  The two have performed together often over the years. And in 1988, Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb recorded a show for the television series In Session. On that show, they performed many of the songs that Webb wrote for Campbell, and also talked a bit about several of the songs.

Now Concord Music Group is releasing a 2-disc edition of that performance. The first disc is a CD, and the second is a DVD of the program.

If you don't own any Glen Campbell or Jimmy Webb albums, this is probably not the album to start with. This is for fans, for the tracks include some spoken introductions, and even some mistakes and interruptions. If somehow you haven't heard these songs before, this stuff will likely be of little interest. But for those who are fans, these discs work as an truly interesting document, and feature some wonderful performances. And of course a lot of these songs will be familiar to many people, particularly "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston." All the songs were written by Jimmy Webb, who plays piano on these tracks. Glen Campbell is on guitar and vocals.  (The other musicians are not listed - and that's talked about in the liner notes.)


The CD opens with Jimmy Webb talking about meeting Glen Campbell on a Chevrolet commercial. He says how at the time he had long hair, and that the first thing Glen said to him was "Why don't you get a haircut?"  Jimmy adds, "He and I were sort of on the opposite side of the political spectrum at that time, and I don't know whether we really liked each other very much. But as time went on, we became very, very close." They then go into "Light Years" (which, yes, is a cheesy song).  (On the CD, the spoken introductions are not presented as separate tracks, but are on the same tracks as the songs.)

There is a really nice rendition of "If These Walls Could Speak." It's a simple version, letting the vocals tell the story, and Glen's voice sounds so good.  There is no spoken introduction, just the song.

Regarding "Galveston," Jimmy Webb talks about how when Glen Campbell recorded it, it was faster than he'd intended. And in the intervening years it has slowed to where it should have been originally. "Songs know how fast they want to be sung," he says. It's interesting, because he's essentially boasting that he was right, and Glen was wrong. The track then has a really good version of that famous song.  (By the way, a live version of this song was released earlier this year on Glen Campbell's Live In Japan.)

"MacArthur Park" features the lines, "Someone left my cake out in the rain/And I don't think that I can take it/'Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again." Glen gives an earnest delivery on what are possibly the goofiest (if not stupidest) lyrics ever. And then - shockingly - there is an interruption in the song. Jimmy Webb talks about the lyrics right after that moment, as the song continues to play in the background, which is very odd. It's as if after lyrics that ridiculous, they felt that an explanation was needed immediately, that it couldn't wait until the end of the song. Jimmy says about the lyrics, "I guess the controversy is, Are they any good? Or do they mean anything? Or is this guy putting us on?"  Then: "No, I'm not putting anybody on." Okay, then. Nearly five minutes in, the song takes on a new energy that is really cool, and features some nice work on electric guitar.

The CD also features a nice version of "Wichita Lineman," which is such a good song. I like the lines,  "And I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time." There is also some really nice acoustic guitar work by Glen Campbell.

There is no introduction to "Sunshower," just the song. I really like this track. It's kept simple, and so the beauty of the song shines through plainly. According to the liner notes, this is the only recording of Glen Campbell performing this song. It's really good, though near the end he makes a mistake and stops, saying, "I'm going to get that right."

There is also no introduction to "Still Within The Sound Of My Voice," the album's final track, and, to my ears, one of the strongest tracks on this release.


The DVD contains all of the songs from the CD, plus more stage banter from both Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, as they discuss various songs. For this performance, Jimmy Webb is seated at the piano, and Glen Campbell is seated, facing him. That setup creates a nice, intimate, close feel between them.

Oddly, the DVD begins in the middle of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." Then it goes to a bit of an interview with Jimmy Webb. He's at the control booth, so this was clearly shot separately from the performance. This is the "Get a haircut" bit before "Light Years." And then after the song, there is a bit of Glen talking about the take, which is a cool moment (and which is not on the CD).

When talking about "If These Walls Could Speak," Glen asks if it's true that Jimmy wrote the song for Waylon Jennings. And then after the song, Glen jokes that he sounded like Waylon there in a couple of places. These are the moments that make this DVD wonderful.

There is no introduction to "MacArthur Park." And yes, the interview interrupts this song on the DVD as well. It cuts to it, then back to the song. In the video we see that it's Glen Campbell who is playing the wonderful electric guitar part in this song, as well as the acoustic guitar. The electric was recorded later, and we get a bit of split screen action showing both at once, which is pretty cool. I really like that electric guitar part.  The end credits come up toward the end of this song. Apparently this was presented as two programs.  (Oddly, the first part is approximately twenty-four minutes, while the second is only eighteen.)

Like the first section, the second section comes in toward the end of a song - this time "Almost Alright Again."  During "Wichita Lineman," you can see how much Glen loves this song. Watch his face especially near the beginning.

Glen stands for the performance of "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," doing just vocals, not playing guitar. And for this song he's wearing an Angels baseball jacket.

Glen and Jimmy talk about "Honey Come Back," a cool moment that is not on the CD, and they play a bit of that song. They then talk about "Sunshower." This is probably my favorite section of the DVD. It was my favorite track on the CD, and I love it even more on the DVD. You can really see how much Jimmy Webb is enjoying watching Glen play it.

CD Track List
  1. Light Years
  2. If These Walls Could Speak
  3. Galveston
  4. Where's The Playground Susie
  5. MacArthur Park
  6. Wichita Lineman
  7. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
  8. Sunshower
  9. Still Within The Sound Of My Voice
In Session... is scheduled to be released on October 9, 2012.  Two years ago, another In Session performance was released as a two-disc set, that by Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia: "Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings" (2012) CD Box Set Review

Back in Boston in the late 1980s there was a weekly radio program called "Dead Ahead," which played Grateful Dead concert tapes along with a few interesting album tracks. It was on that show that I first heard music from the Keystone recordings by Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. Specifically, what I first heard was "Mystery Train."  And I loved it. It was quite a bit different from what Jerry was doing with the Dead, but of course in a way just as good. And now, twenty-five years after I first heard that tune, Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings is being released. 

This 4-disc box set includes the recordings from the two shows they performed on July 10 and 11, 1973, including seven previously unreleased tracks.  Yes, this music is from 1973, the year that is considered by many Grateful Dead fans (myself included) to be the best year of Dead concerts. And even though the Dead did seventy-two concerts that year, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders performed somewhat regularly at the Keystone, keeping the group low-key (and unnamed). And when Jerry wasn't playing in either of those bands, he played in a bluegrass band called Old & In The Way. Did he ever sleep?  Part of what made the Grateful Dead so great in 1973 was the jazz-like way the band approached the material that year, often stretching out in jams that were fairly open-ended. And that same spirit is heard throughout these Keystone recordings.  There is really only one somewhat short track here, that being "That's All Right, Mama."

There are a lot of extra goodies in this box set. Keystone concert calendars from 1973 are included on the back of each disc's sleeve - a nice touch. There is also a 28-page booklet, with photos and notes, a poster of the July 1973 concert calendar, a coaster, a button and a scratchbook disguised as a matchbook. But it's the music that is key here.

Disc 1

The first disc opens with "Hi-Heel Sneakers" and Jerry sweetly singing, "Put on your red dress, baby, because we're going out tonight." I've always thought this song was a bit silly, mainly because of the phrase, "your wig hat." Right off the bat, we get that first groovy jam. "Keepers" is a seriously funky instrumental, fantastic fun, and unlike most of what you've heard from Jerry Garcia. An awesome groove that you can dance to. It's one of the tracks that was previously unreleased.

"It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" is one the Grateful Dead did a few times. Jerry gives a fairly soulful delivery in this rendition, which has a bit of a slower groove than Bob Dylan's original. And holy moly, listen to Jerry on "I could not get across" - he does something with his voice I don't think I've ever heard before. This track was previously unreleased.

Jerry Garcia covering Rodgers & Hart? Yup. Not only does this band do a cool version of "My Funny Valentine," but they really jam on it. At 18:14, it's the longest track in this set. They do a jazzy instrumental rendition, with some really nice work by Bill Vitt on drums. Jerry really gets into it, and there are some truly phenomenal moments.  The first disc ends with that great groovy version of "Mystery Train."

Disc 2

The second disc opens with "I Second That Emotion," and then goes into a really great slow, funky bluesy groove on "Someday Baby." Jerry really stretches on this, doing some interesting things vocally - and of course with his guitar. He was always about exploring new territory musically, and you can really sense a certain freedom here, and definitely a joy as well. There is a nice jam, with Merl doing some particularly wonderful things. This band is having a really good time, and that joy transfers to the listeners. I love this track.

"Merl's Tune" is an interesting instrumental track with lots of changes. As you might expect from the title, Merl Saunders does some great stuff. But Jerry offers some pretty impressive moments on guitar, and the track quickly becomes a free-form jam.

Jerry's voice sounds so sweet on "Positively 4th Street," which might be odd for this song. Dylan's somewhat angry delivery is more appropriate. But it's always a treat to hear Jerry sounding so good. And David Grisman sits in on mandolin for this one. This disc ends with "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," a song I saw the Jerry Garcia Band do later.

Disc 3

The third disc has a few songs repeated from the first disc, and that's fine. It opens with a slow, thoughtful rendition of Dylan's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry."  Jerry sings, "Don't the sun look good shining through the trees" and "Don't the moon look fine setting down over the sea," a lyric flub that was in the version on the first disc too (switching "sun" and "moon").  We also get another cool version of that funky instrumental, "Keepers." This one comes on strong with keyboards, and has that same great groove - it's totally tight, yet simultaneously loose enough for interesting discoveries. It's a bit shorter than the first version.

Okay, do the first few notes of "One Kind Favor" sound just like the beginning of "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo"? Or is it just me?  This disc also features a high-energy, fast-paced light version of "That's All Right, Mama," a song I've always dug. Man, I love some of the stuff John Kahn does on bass. Fantastic. This is the shortest track in the set, at a mere four minutes.

There is a cool, long version of "The Harder They Come," a track that was previously unreleased. I think Merl Saunders' approach on this is really interesting and unusual. The third disc also has another long instrumental rendition of the standard "My Funny Valenine." Listening to this track, it's easy to believe Jerry Garcia could have been a great jazz guitarist if he'd decided to go that route. This track is truly wonderful, and includes a somewhat spacey jam.

The third disc ends with a pretty good version of "Money Honey." I love what Jerry does during the jam section toward the end.

Disc 4

The final disc starts with another groovy version of "Someday Baby," this one previously unreleased, then goes into a second version of "Merl's Tune," also previously unreleased. This is a pretty good jam, with some spacey elements.

The real treat on the fourth disc is "Like A Road," with a soulful delivery on vocals. This is one that Jerry played in later years with the Jerry Garcia Band. Those versions had those great backing vocalists. But in this version Jerry handles the vocals by himself, giving it a very different, more personal, feel.  The fourth disc ends with a second version of "How Sweet It Is," and it's a really good rendition with lots of energy.

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Hi-Heel Sneakers
  2. Keepers
  3. The Harder They Come
  4. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
  5. It's Too Late (She's Gone)
  6. My Funny Valentine
  7. Mystery Train
Disc 2
  1. I Second That Emotion
  2. Someday Baby
  3. Merl's Tune
  4. It Ain't No Use
  5. Positively 4th Street
  6. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
Disc 3
  1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cy
  2. Keepers
  3. One Kind Favor
  4. That's All Right, Mama
  5. The Harder They Come
  6. My Funny Valentine
  7. Money Honey
Disc 4
  1. Someday Baby
  2. Merl's Tune
  3. Like A Road Leading Home
  4. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

The musicians on these discs are Merl Saunders on keyboards, Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals, John Kahn on bass, and Bill Vitt on drums.  As mentioned, David Grisman plays mandolin on "Positively 4th Street."

Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings is scheduled to be released on September 25, 2012 through Concord Music Group.

Keller Williams With The Travelin' McCourys: "Pick" (2012) CD Review

Keller Williams seems to always be involved in several projects at once, and all of them are worth paying attention to. His newest album is with the bluegrass band The Travelin' McCourys.  In July, they put out a CD titled Pick. This album has several original tunes, as well as a lot of interesting choices of covers, like the John Hartford tune (a song I love). They also do a great rendition of Steve Earle's "The Graveyard Shift" (a song that appeared on the Steve Earle And The Del McCoury Band CD The Mountain). The fiddle and mandolin are particularly excellent on that one, and listen to those vocals. I love the lines, "I've got what all the women want/I never say I do 'cause I really don't." There are a lot of fun, spirited songs like "What A Waste Of Good Corn Liquor," written by Murray Lewis and Bill Long.  And I'm particularly fond of "I'm Amazed," a tune written by James Edward Olliges, Jr. Again, the vocals are wonderful.

There are no instrumentals on Pick, something odd for a bluegrass album. The CD packaging's interior artwork includes photos of various picks - not just guitar picks and banjo picks, but toothpicks and lock picks and so on.

"Something Else"

Pick opens with "Something Else," an original tune written by Keller Williams. It's a groovy tune with a prominent bass line, and opens with the lines, "She, she was looking for something different/She, she was looking for something else/She, she was searching for higher meaning/She, she was searching for a song." I dig the fiddle, but the song's starts and stops keep it from going wild, which is a bit of a tease, because as soon as the fiddle comes in, I want it to take over, to fly.  And I sure do appreciate the adverb in the line, "She makes me think differently."  (Many people these days seem to have forgotten how adverbs are used.)

"American Car"

"American Car" was written by Mike Doughty and Daniel Dodd Wilson. I like how it playfully turns an idea on its head, yearning to leave the circus to run away to join the office.  I also love the harmonies on this song, particularly on the chorus: "How sweet you are in your long black American car/And you know just where to find me/If I don't know who you are, you will remind me." Like in most bluegrass tunes, the players take turns at leads, and that instrumental section is wonderful, with an easy, bright energy

"Messed Up Just Right"

"Messed Up Just Right" is a cool tune about a memorable date, written by bass player Alan Bartram. It's a fun tune with a certain sense of humor, which is obvious right from the count-off at the beginning:  "One, two, you know what to do." Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Her heels on high enough to excite/I'm sportin' my granddad's cuff links/And she's rockin' my mamma's fur/There's a lot of gals out tonight/But they don't look as good as her."  Her dress is "hot enough to burn" and his hair is "messed up just right." The song ends with morning and it's her hair that's messed up just right. And of course this song features some nice work on bass.

"I Am Elvis"

It's interesting that they include "I Am Elvis" on this CD, because Keller Williams just released this song on last year's Bass. On that record it has a bit of a Paul Simon feel to it, with also a reggae thing at times. As you might guess, the version on the new release is quite a bit different. This version begins tentatively, like it's emerging from the fog.  The vocals are wonderful - listen to the way they blend on the lines, "It's all in my mind/I live inside my imagination/Yes, it's all in my mind/My imagination stays on vacation/And I like to go there when I have the time." Bass still has a prominent place in this rendition. And there is a really nice bluegrass instrumental section, which I wish were longer. This song seems to fly by, though this version is actually more than a minute longer than that on Bass.

"Price Tag"

"Price Tag" is a slower, softer tune that's really nice. I immediately love the feel of this one. And when it kicks in for the chorus, it's the vocals that are really impressive, though the groove is good too. Written by Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly, Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr and Jessica Cornish, "Price Tag" is a song about trying to enjoy the moment and the music. "We want to make the world dance/Forget about your price tag." I believe them. This is one of my favorites from this disc, and is definitely one of the more surprising choices for covers. This one was done by Jessie J, and appeared on last year's Who You Are.

"Sexual Harassment"

"Sexual Harassment" is one I've always loved since I first heard it. This is a song asking if various things that were once considered courting and wooing are now a call for legal action. It's a very funny tune, but also sad and somewhat serious because it has a base in reality. It begins, "If I send you flowers and ask you to dine/If I tell you how I feel over burgundy wine/If I whisper your name in some fake foreign accent/Would that be the same as sexual harassment?"  The song asks, "If I fall in love, what should I do/How can I not come onto you/Is this serious, or is this silly/Or should I plan on pleading guilty?

"Sexual Harassment" was written by John Hartford, and originally appeared on his 1994 release, The Walls We Bounce Off Of.

"Bumper Sticker"

Pick concludes with "Bumper Sticker" How can you not love a bluegrass song that has the line, "It's hard to mow my lawn when my grass is blue"?  And the instrumental section is great. Enjoy all the references (Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Lester Flatt, etc.).

"Bumper Sticker" was written by Keller Williams.

CD Track List
  1. Something Else
  2. American Car
  3. Messed Up Just Right
  4. Mullet Cut
  5. The Graveyard Shift
  6. I Am Elvis
  7. What A Waste Of Good Corn Liquor
  8. I'm Amazed
  9. Price Tag
  10. Sexual Harassment
  11. Bumper Sticker

The musicians on this album are Keller Williams, on guitar and vocals, Jason Carter on fiddle and vocals, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and vocals, Alan Bartram on bass and vocals, and Rob McCoury on banjo and vocals. Del McCoury provides special guest vocals.

Pick was released on July 3, 2012 through SCI Fidelity Records.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Grateful Dead: "The Closing Of Winterland" DVD Review

The greatest rock band ever - and don't even think about arguing with me on this - was the Grateful Dead. I caught forty-one shows (actually a small number in Dead land) between 1988 and 1995. Most of them were excellent. Some of them were magical.  All of them are memorable for one reason or another. Ten years before my first show, the Grateful Dead played their final gig at Winterland, a venue that will forever be associated with the band. This show was on December 31, 1978, and New Year's Eve shows were known to be wild nights for the band.  This night was particularly excellent. There were some wonderful guest musicians, and two great opening bands (The Blues Brothers and New Riders Of The Purple Sage). Plus, Winterland was a home for the Grateful Dead, and its closing seemed to bring out the best from the band. Other changes were to happen soon - the next year saw the departures of Keith and Donna Godchaux, and the arrival of Brent Mydland.  So this was the last New Year's show with Keith and Donna.

We're all fortunate they filmed this one. It was actually broadcast live on television (as well as on radio). And sure, there are some awkward camera movements at times, mostly when they're trying to get shots of Phil Lesh (who is standing behind Keith due to the relatively small stage).  And sure, every once in a while they lose focus. But it's all good.  It's all part of capturing the moment, all part of the magic that was a Grateful Dead concert.

Disc 1

The first disc contains the first and second sets. It starts with Bill Graham dressed as Father Time riding in on a giant lit joint. Yes, it was midnight, and that was the start of the show. The band played three sets that night.

Set I

That night the band opened with a rousing rendition of "Sugar Magnolia." It's hard to see at first because of all the balloons in the crowd, but man, look at Jerry smiling!  "Sugar" segues into "Scarlet Begonias" (something they did to start the second set of my very first show ten years later). Donna adds some nice vocals to the end of "Scarlet" in the jam before it becomes "Fire On The Mountain."  Holy moly, check out Jerry grooving to the beginning of "Fire," just before he starts the first verse.  After "Fire," Bill Graham thanks the crowd for thirteen years. Bob leads the audience in saying, "Thank you, Uncle Bobo," and then tells the story of the band being too broke to get Bill Graham something for his birthday and so they gave him a new name.  There is a nice slow, pretty "Friend Of The Devil," which they follow with a good rockin' rendition of "It's All Over Now" (Man, I'd love to know what Jerry and Donna were laughing about).  Before "Stagger Lee," Bob jokes, "We're going to play a selection from our latest chart-buster."  Then Donna gets a turn at lead vocals with "From The Heart Of Me," a tune they only played in late 1978 and early 1979, a song included on Shakedown Street, released earlier that year.

Set II

The band opens the second set with "Samson And Delilah" (which of course has the appropriate lyric, "If I had my way I would tear this whole building down"). I dig the Steal Your Face with dancing skeletons projected above the stage. Then they do a really nice, groovy version of "Ramble On Rose" - just a fantastic rendition. Some guy in the audience is really adamant about them playing "Dark Star." Some audience members were keeping a running tally of how many days had passed since the last time the band played that song in San Francisco: 1,535. But  band goes into a powerful version of "I Need A Miracle" - and they're joined by Matt Kelly on harmonica, which is awesome. A nice jam leads into a pretty vocal refrain, then eases into "Terrapin Station," one of the best songs ever written. And holy moly, look at Phil during this one. They go into "Playing In The Band," which of course basically guarantees a great jam. It's wonderful and it slides into "Drums."

This is a fantastic drum solo. And they're joined by Ken Kesey in Thunder Machine, a ridiculous contraption that's brought on stage. They're also joined by Lee Oskar on harmonica, and Greg Errico on drums. This is one of the highlights of the show. Bill and Mickey switch to hand percussion and keep it going. It is certainly one of the best "Drums" segments ever. And it leads naturally into "Not Fade Away."  It's kind of a slightly slow version, but has a great jam, including a lead guitar section by John Cipollina. That goes right into "Around And Around," which feels just a bit slow too - but Bob is clearly having a good time, goofing, and Donna screams, surprising him. And then it speeds up at the end to a nice respectable Chuck Berry pace.

Disc 2


They open the third set with "Dark Star," all the band members standing together to start it just right, and the audience erupts with joy at those first notes. ("Dark Star" was always a special song to Dead fans, and I remember being thrilled the first time I saw the band perform it in 1990.) After the first verse, the jam leads to "The Other One." It's Phil who brings in the tune with that heavy bass line. Only one verse of "The Other One," before going back into "Dark Star," but they stick with that for only a minute or so before easing into "Wharf Rat," another of my personal favorites. The vocals in that one section are beautiful, and I like what Keith's doing on piano. That leads to "St. Stephen," another fan favorite (one I never got to see them perform). They end the set with a really fun version of "Good Lovin.'" Toward the end, Bob says the sun's about to rise, and Uncle Bobo will have breakfast ready for everyone.


After some technical difficulties, the band launches into "Casey Jones." Jerry's having so much fun that he doesn't seem to want it to end, but it does, and they go right into "Johnny B. Goode." Bill Graham then introduces the band. "The greatest rock and roll band that ever was." I agree.  Then we get "And We Bid You Goodnight," but oddly there is no video - just audio and stills.

Bonus Features

The second disc has several bonus features.  The first is a documentary titled "Winterland: A Million Memories," which features interviews with Mickey Hart, Bob Weir and Steve Parish.  They all talk about the venue, of course, Mickey mentioning how Bill Graham would oversell the place. Bob Weir talks about NRPS, and about the balloon problem.  There is also some old footage from the day. The interview with the chick from Boston is funny. What's really awesome, though, is that there is an interview with Dick Latvala from that time. And then he was identified simply as a "Dead Head."  But he would go on to be the tape archivist for the band, and to start the Dick's Picks series of concert releases in the 1990s. But back in 1978 he says, "The most important thing in life is to get to a Grateful Dead concert."  Plus, there is a shot of two Coneheads/Deadheads.

There is also footage from The Blues Brothers' set from that night. John Belushi talks a bit about Steve Cropper and Donald Duck Dunn, and they go into "Soul Man" and then "B Movie."  For some reason the set by New Riders Of The Purple Sage was not filmed that night. Why not?  But the bonus features include the audio of their performance of "Glendale Train" (one of my favorites from that band), with old photos and archival footage to accompany the tune.  (That's a song that gets in my head every time I drive through Glendale.)

There is also a short "Making Of" the DVD, with interviews with David Lemieux and Jeffrey Norman. They talk about Mickey Hart's involvement, and also about Dick Latvala (apparently, Dick had said that this concert was the greatest night of his life).

Another wonderful feature is a series of interviews done between the first and second sets - with Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Ken Kesey. Bob and Mickey encourage people to write to Bill Graham to have him build a new venue, and they talk a bit about Egypt (they had played near the pyramids just a few months earlier). Kesey talks about the Thunder Machine and about Egypt.  There is also an interview with Bill Graham from earlier that day.

The bonus features include a chronology of the Grateful Dead at Winterland, listing each of the shows, and including a tidbit or two about each of them.

The Closing Of Winterland was released on September 11, 2012 through Shout! Factory.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Christa Couture: "The Living Record" (2012) CD Review

I fell for Canadian singer/songwriter Christa Couture a year ago when I first listened to Loved, a best-of EP. I was drawn to her voice, and intrigued by her lyrics and song structure.  There is something adventurous (and yet incredibly personal) in her songwriting. And besides being an incredible songwriter, Christa Couture is able to do so much with her voice, to convey so much with just a certain inflection on a word, or even a syllable.

She can create beauty when she wants to, and she often does, like in "Hopeless Situation" (I love the way she sings, "What are we? Are we artists here?" - those lines have already gotten stuck in my head).  But it's like the journey is the most important element in these songs. "I don't need a destination, I just need to walk/I need to gather my thoughts and take a stock of my words/Give me music," she sings in "Sing For Me."  And there are plenty of surprises on her new album, The Living Record. She can dip into indie pop, as well as folk. And then a song like "An Invitation In Three Parts" has more of a country feel at times, partly because Steve Dawson plays pedal steel.  "Paper Anniversary" is another surprise, in that it's a duet. It's an unabashed love song, sung with Jim Byrnes.

The Living Record features all original songs.  It's interesting - there are moments when she reminds me a bit of other artists, like The Nields, Tori Amos or Dar Williams, but those moments are fleeting. There is no one quite like Christa Couture.  The Living Record is a really strong album, and each time I listen to it, I am more enamored of it.  Different songs stick out as favorites on each listen.

"You Were Here In Michigan"

The Living Record opens with "You Were Here In Michigan," a pop-folk tune that has a bright feel, due in part to its drum beat.  I love Christa's delivery of "when I told her no" - just that quick quiet way she says "no," like an actor tossing away a great line to make it even funnier. The full line is "She said, 'well isn't Canada part of America now?' and was surprised when I told her no."  The refrain is, "I am lost in the city, but don't take pity on me," a line a lot of folks can relate to.

"Good Bayou"

"Good Bayou" is more of a folk tune, and right away I really like the guitar work. The silly title actually made me laugh. Christa does some seriously adorable things vocally on this one, and I can't help but love this song about her "boy from down the bayou." She describes him as her "favorite phone call." This one too has a bright, positive feel. Then there is an interesting change for the line, "Anywhere in Canada is so far from Louisiana."

"Lucky Or Lost"

"Lucky Or Lost" is a slower, softer, sadder tune that opens with the line, "It's hard to say if I'll ever gain capacity for joy again because where I'm broken is so very broken." She is amazing with this kind of song, and is adept at breaking your heart if she wants to. But you get the sense that's not what she's trying to do, for her music has something of a healing about it.

This song is driven by piano and her voice. I love the way some of the lines are given as almost a whisper, like she almost doesn't want to admit them, like, "I'm a witness of catastrophe, a kind of nightmare." Then suddenly the song changes three and a half minutes in, taking on a strange vitality, almost a forced brightness as she sings about going through the motions and getting closer to the life she wants to live, before taking on a more naturally dark tone ("deep down in the soil/deep down in the hole") before turning more to its main feel.

"Pirate Jenny And The Storm"

"Pirate Jenny And The Storm" is a truly unusual song, and is one of my favorites from this album. Christa tries lots of different things with this one, and is successful at each turn (and this song takes several).  It begins almost like an explosion, and at times sounds like a demented sideshow. It then slips into a pretty realm, when she sings, "How your body is never touched/How your singing is never heard/I've never cried so much, little bird." And the piano part sounds almost like a lullaby toward the end, before the song builds with the repetition of "Sail, set sail." I love this song. She really takes us on an interesting journey with this one.

Steve Dawson plays banjo on this song, and JP Carter plays trumpet.  Christie Rose and Maya Siegel provide backing vocals.

"Pussycat Pussycat"

"Pussycat Pussycat" is maybe the most surprising tune on the album. This one has a funky edge. Seriously. And there is something flirtatious and sexy in her vocal delivery. This song has a catchy rhythm, even in her vocals, particularly on "What a year, what a year, what a year."  I completely dig this song. She gives an impressive vocal performance throughout, but especially in that section in the middle. (There are moments when she is up there with the great jazz singers.)

And check out these lyrics: "I went to take the tube and got stuck/I went to take the train and got mugged/I went from pub to pub to pub to pub/Oh yeah and then I fell in love."  I love that falling in love is presented almost as an afterthought, not nearly as memorable as trouble on the subway. But it's also included in a line that lists troubles.  And then listen to that organ (that's some wonderful stuff by Chris Gestrin).  This is one of the coolest songs I've heard this year.

"Wooden Shoes And Windmills"

"Wooden Shoes And Windmills" is another that I love, in no small part because of the presence of cello, an instrument that always does it for me. But the lyrics are also wonderful. Here is a taste: "I was gone before you were gone/I didn't know the best way to pack up our days/Recall that night on your lawn - a drunken display of my rot and decay/You were kind at the perfect time."  This is a gorgeous song.

"The Way Of The Dodo (The Living Record)"

The album concludes with its title track, a beautiful song on which Christa Couture plays piano. I'm continually struck by how well she crafts a song, and by her vocal delivery, how she's able to draw you in. In this song, a line that really hit me (partly because of the intimate, sad way she presents it) is "This is the closest we'll ever be again, and when you take your last breath, I'm going to take it in and never let it go."

CD Track List
  1. You Were Here In Michigan
  2. Good Bayou
  3. Lucky Or Lost
  4. Pirate Jenny And The Storm
  5. Parasite
  6. Hopeless Situation
  7. Sing For Me
  8. An Invitation In Three Parts
  9. Pussycat Pussycat
  10. Paper Anniversary
  11. Wooden Shoes And Windmills
  12. The Way Of The Dodo (The Living Record)

Musicians on this album include Christa Couture on vocals, acoustic guitar, piano; Rob Becker on bass; Steve Dawson on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pedal steel, ukulele, mandotar, Mellotron, vocals; Niko Friesen on drums; Chris Gestrin on organ, keyboards and tack piano; JP Carter on trumpet; Cris Derksen on cello; Christie Rose on vocals; Maya Siegel on vocals; Jim Byrnes on vocals

The Living Record was released on September 4, 2012. It was produced by Steve Dawson.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The English Beat: "Live At The US Festival '82 & '83" (2012) CD/DVD Review

Shout! Factory re-issued The English Beat's entire catalogue in a box set earlier this year. That's pretty exciting, but what is even more exciting is the release of a new live album, Live At The US Festival, featuring performances from 1982 and 1983. This is a two-disc set, the second disc being a DVD.

The US Festival was held during two weekends in 1982 and 1983 in San Bernardino, California, and was funded by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computes. The lineups were fairly astounding, and included bands like Grateful Dead, The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Ramones, The Police, The Clash, Talking Heads and Oingo Boingo.  Some performances have already been released, including those by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Quiet Riot.

And now the performances by The English Beat are seeing a release. For those who are unfamiliar with their music, it's a delightful combination of ska, pop and punk. This band has the energy of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, with some of the attitude of The Clash and some of the silly joy of Sha Na Na. They're a great band to dance to, with excellent grooves, but also with good lyrics. They're not just a seriously fun band; their lyrics are strong as well.

Disc One - CD

The CD contains selections from both shows, slightly favoring the 1982 show.  There were several songs that the band played at both shows, and the CD refrains from repeats. The CD presents tracks from the 1982 concert first, following it with songs from the 1983 performance. The album includes bits of stage banter with several tracks, which I appreciate. It opens with a shout to the audience, "Come on, everybody, let's twist and crawl." "Twist & Crawl" is such a cool tune, and a good one to dance to.

They played several songs from what at the time was a yet-to-be-released album, Special Beat Service, including "Sugar & Stress" (which they call "another new number"). This is one of the best tunes. If it doesn't get you dancing, you've probably died in the night and are still unaware of your new state. Plus, I dig the lyrics: "This world is upside down/The rights and wrongs don't get much wronger/Mistakes found in the past/Turn into rules protecting power." It's a fantastic song.

In their introduction to "Save It For Later" they say it is to be the new U.S. single. The single didn't do all that well, but this is a song that would later be covered by Pete Townshend and Pearl Jam, and included in the film Kingpin (1996).

The band introduces "Two Swords" by saying, "This next song is about violence, and how stupid violence really is." This is a good example of a tune that has a message but is still fun to dance to. The CD also includes good versions of two more of my favorites: "Mirror In The Bathroom" and "Jeanette."  It also features a fun version of "Tears Of A Clown."

In the introduction to "Ackee 1 2 3" they say, "This one's all about, quite by surprise, catching yourself smiling. Don't happen very often, so when it happens, enjoy it." I imagine the entire crowd was smiling throughout the band's set.

The CD contains just under an hour of music.

Disc Two - DVD

The DVD contains the band's performances from both concerts - September 3, 1982 and May 28, 1983. The first two songs are missing from the 1982 concert because, according to the liner notes, the master elements for those performances have been damaged (but interestingly, their introduction is included). Thus, the performance from 1982 is approximately 47 minutes, a bit shorter than the 53-minute set of 1983.

Both sets were performed during the daytime, and shot with multiple cameras. There are some shots of the audience, and they're definitely grooving and dancing (though the ones closest to the stage are packed in a bit too tightly to be able to dance - yikes, claustrophobia sets in just looking at those folks).  The band members are clearly enjoying themselves. You can see it on their faces in the first show especially during "I Confess," "Sugar & Stress," and also at the end of "Stand Down Margaret."  There is so much energy and joy and good vibes.

The 1982 performance of "Get A Job" has a false start, and there's some funny stage banter which is not on the CD, for the CD takes that song from the second show. "Two Swords" really gets the audience moving, with even those squashed up front somehow finding space to dance.  And the crowd starts jumping the moment they recognize "Mirror In The Bathroom."

"Jackpot" is their encore to the first show. Before the song, they mention how this is the biggest audience they've ever played to, and joke they feel they know everyone personally. By the way, they also make a joke reference to Woodstock after their encore

At their second performance at the US Festival, this one in 1983, they're introduced as The Beat rather than English Beat. The Beat is the band's real name, but in the United States they were called The English Beat because there was already a band called The Beat.

This was another daytime set, and apparently it was a very hot day. Singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling, in the introduction to "Two Swords," says that "dancing's a lot better than violence, especially on a hot day."

If anything, it seems that the 1983 audience is even more into the band's set. There is a nice seriously wide shot of the audience (with the stage in deep background). It is a large crowd, and the audience is clearly having a great time. Watch them clapping and dancing during "Too Nice To Talk To," "Ranking Full Stop"and "Save It For Later."  There are shots of some people really getting down and cutting loose.

The DVD has no special features.

CD Track List
  1. Twist & Crawl
  2. I Confess
  3. Doors Of Your Heart
  4. Sugar & Stress
  5. Two Swords
  6. Hands Off... She's Mine
  7. Save It For Later
  8. Too Nice To Talk To
  9. Mirror In The Bathroom
  10. Jeanette
  11. Spar Wid Me
  12. Get-A-Job/Stand Down Margaret
  13. Tears Of A Clown
  14. Ackee 1 2 3
  15. Ranking Full Stop
  16. Jackpot
Live At The US Festival '82 & '83 is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2012 through Shout! Factory. I hope they release more performances from these concerts on DVD.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steve Forbert at The Hotel Cafe, 9-10-12 Concert Review

Steve Forbert did an excellent set at The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood last night. On the eve of the release of his new album, Over With You, he focused on much of that CD's material. That was fine with me, as he played most of my favorites from that album, including "All I Need To Do" and "Don't Look Down, Pollyanna."  Sitting in with him for the set were Ben Sollee on bass and cello, and Jordan Ellis on drums.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for cello, so I completely enjoyed the set. Plus, Steve Forbert is a seriously good performer.  There is something casual, yet committed about his stage presence, something almost goofy and endearing. And there is definitely something silly in the way he ends the songs.

With acoustic guitar and harmonica, Steve took the stage at 8 o'clock, saying, "Who's here on a Monday night? What's happening?" He then launched into the crowd-pleasing "Going Down To Laurel," the opening track from his debut album, Alive On Arrival.  After a couple of false starts to "All I Need To Do," Ben joked to him, "L.A. does this."

Before "Blackbird Tune," Steve said, "Ben is going to play some cello for you."  And at the end of that song, our server caught on fire. But we got her out quickly, and she surprisingly didn't seem at all alarmed. She completely kept her cool. In fact, she asked me if I were all right.  That led to one of the happiest-sounding tunes from the new record, "That'd Be Alright." Ben did some backing vocals on this one, repeating, "That'd be alright."

In introducing "Baby, I Know," Steve said it was called, "Baby, I Know You're Only 90 Percent Happy With Me," then joked, "Or should it be called 'Wishful Thinking'?"

Ben played cello again on "Over With You," the new CD's title track.  It's such a pretty song, and the audience got very quiet for this one.  After that song, a drunk guy in the front urged other audience members to "get closer to the guy." He said it several times. I wonder if he perhaps forgot Steve Forbert's name. Steve then played the fun "What Kinda Guy."  After "Steve Forbert's Midsummer Night's Toast," people shouted out lots of requests, all of which Steve happily ignored. Instead he played one of my favorites from the new album, "Don't Look Down, Pollyanna."  I absolutely love the cello part in that song.

He ended his set with "Romeo's Tune," which of course was no surprise. That song was a hit back in 1979 and still  sounds fresh. So though the crowd didn't hear its requests, everyone seemed happy at the end of the set.

Set List
  1. Going Down To Laurel
  2. All I Need To Do
  3. The Sweet Love That You Give (Sure Goes A Long, Long Way)
  4. Blackbird Tune
  5. That'd Be Alright
  6. Baby, I Know
  7. It Sure Was Better Back Then
  8. Over With You
  9. What Kinda Guy
  10. Steve Forbert's Midsummer Night's Toast
  11. Don't Look Down, Pollyanna
  12. Romeo's Tune
After Steve's set, Ben Sollee and Jordan Ellis stayed and did an impressive set.  For most of that set, Ben played cello, and he played the hell out of it.  Cello, percussion, vocals.  I dug the entire set, but there were at least two or three tunes that really blew me away.  I'm looking forward to hearing Ben's new album when it's released. By the way, during his set, Ben said that Steve Forbert gave such a good show "that his belt is still on stage." He then joked that they'd take bids on it at the end of the night.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kelly's Lot: "Plain Simple Me" (2012) CD Review

Kelly's Lot is an excellent blues-rock band based in Los Angeles and fronted by Kelly Zirbes.  They've released several albums over the years including The Light (2008), Pastrami & Jam (2009) and Live In Brussels (2011).  This is a band that, to my ear, has gotten better and better.  I think their most recent release, the live album, is the best they'd ever done.

And now they're putting out a new studio album titled Plain Simple Me, an album that I was immediately drawn into. For the most part, the writing is really strong, and the band seems to be taking more chances than ever before, stretching out a bit into different territory.  There is still a lot of that kick-ass bluesy attitude, but the album is more in the acoustic vein, which I love.  And I especially appreciate the presence of Aubrey Richmond on violin, which definitely changes the band's sound too.  Not that every song is acoustic. "I'll Go" features some excellent electric guitar.  As does the closing track, "Runnin'," which is a seriously cool rock tune.

All of the songs are originals.

"Soften Me Up"

Plain Simple Me opens with "Soften Me Up," which is a surprise, with its catchy, happy rhythm. Kelly's voice has a delightful sweetness at times which I don't expect from her. But don't worry - there is still that raw, rough power that breaks in when she sings, "I tried to be sweet and nice/And do everything, everything that's right." How perfect it is for the sweetness to leave her voice just as she sings how she tried to be sweet. This song also boasts some nice work on guitar.  It's a wonderful tune, one of my favorites from this album.


"Restless" is another interesting surprise, for it has a darker mood. I love the addition of violin, and that instrument is allowed to drive the song for a while, which is great. I also really dig the bass line. That's Nate Light on stand-up bass.  But of course it's Kelly's voice that really makes the song live. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I'm getting restless/Time to get out/From under this madness/From under this cloud."

"Plain Simple Me"

The album's title track is another surprising song. It's a pretty tune in which Kelly shows a vulnerable side. She really bares herself here, partly in the lyrics, and also because of the makeup of the song - just vocals, guitar, and violin (and that's Kelly on guitar). In some ways, this song feels like a late 1960s folk tune, in some of the imagery and the general vibe. Like these lines: "Are you the traveler of my dreams/Taking me to places that I’ve dreamed of but I never seen/And I long to take your hand and go with you to that distant land/Because I long to get away/Oh you know that I, I long to be set free from/Plain simple me."

"Lost And Found"

"Lost And Found" is another song of powerful beauty (this album is really full of surprises). It's a song of loss and yet optimism, and even joy as Kelly sings, "I feel love, I feel love, I feel love from above."  The violin adds to the song's beauty. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Lost and found, I'm lost again along the way/Up and down I'm searching everyday/For the angel once beside me and for an angel up above/I need a reason to survive this world without my little girl."

"Better Way"

"Better Way" is more in line with what we know and expect from this band, thematically, with Kelly singing, "I'm gonna bury my love deep today/Nobody gonna hurt me/Nobody gonna ever hurt me/Nobody gonna hurt me again." I love that sort of defiance in the face of heartbreak and mistreatment, and the way she attacks it vocally. But this is still an acoustic tune.  I like what Matt McFadden does on bass.

Of course, one reason why this song feels more like previous material is that a performance of this song was included on last year's release, Live In Brussels. That version is a longer, bluesier, electric rendition. "Better Way" was written By Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson.


The album concludes with "Runnin'," which is more of a rock tune, with a bit of a funky edge and of course more than a bit of blues. There is a certain Zeppelin thing going on her during one section. It's a seriously fun song, one that I imagine is going to be amazing in their live performances. Making the song even better is the presence of Elizabeth Hangan on backing vocals.

"Runnin'" was written by Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson.

CD Track List
  1. Soften Me Up
  2. Restless
  3. This Town
  4. Plain Simple Me
  5. Let's Go To Love
  6. 28
  7. Lost And Found
  8. I'll Go
  9. Better Way
  10. Runnin'

Kelly's Lot is Kelly Zirbes on vocals and guitar, Perry Robertson on guitar, Rob Zucca on guitar and backing vocals, Matt McFadden on bass, and Scotty Lund on drums and percussion. Joining them on this release are Aubrey Richmond on violin, Galen Shostac on keys, Nate Light on stand-up bass, and Elizabeth Hangan on backing vocals.

Plain Simple Me was released August 8, 2012, and is now available on iTunes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Skyline Drive: "Topanga Ranch Motel" (2012) CD Review

Skyline Drive is the new project of Derek Thomas, whom you might know as a member of 60 Watt Kid.  Topanga Ranch Motel, his new CD, is a very different beast. It's more in the singer/songwriter vein, and is a good mix of folk and country. All of the tracks are original songs (so, no, "Lemon Tree" is not that Kingston Trio tune we all know and love).  Derek Thomas is an excellent songwriter, who knows how to tell a good story and who uses strong images. Like in "Damaged," he sings, "And you were wandering out on 5th and Vine/With yellow cab eyes."

Certain images he goes back to in multiple songs, like bare feet ("Nothing Like You," "Rubber Bullets, "Sam's Saloon"), yellow rose ("Nothing Like You," "Damaged"), smoke ("Nothing Like You," "Rubber Bullets," "Lemon Tree," "Damaged"), and fog  ("Bartering Lines, "Lemon Tree"). One image or theme he returns to often on this album is the idea of being lost. In "Lemon Tree" he sings, "I lost you in the fog." In "Damaged": "I lost myself in you." In "The Captain": "You're lost at sea."  And in "Yellowman's Cliff" he sings, "lost in the fire."

Several of the songs on Topanga Ranch Motel are about relationships. Most of them seem to be over, for one reason or another. In "Damaged," he sings, "Those six months were the best I've ever known." And in "Lovebirds," a beautifully sad song, he sings, "Standing in the pouring rain/Crying, screaming out your name/You sent a whisper to the back of my brain/Said to cherish those times and get on with my life again." That song kind of tears me apart.

Adding to the emotional power of these songs is the presence of female vocals (by the wonderful Leslie Stevens). When you have both genders singing about the end of a relationship, it's like they're closer together in being farther apart. There is something so wonderfully sad in that, because there is that feeling that whatever problem they have could be easily solved, but won't be. They're experiencing the same thing, but separately. And in listening to them, it's easy for us to feel we're experiencing it too. Derek Thomas understands that and makes great use of female vocals on this record. These are songs that pull us in and affect us emotionally.

"The Switch"

Topanga Ranch Motel opens with "The Switch," a sweet late-night folk love song. It's in the past tense, a looking back at a relationship, so of course there is a certain sadness to it. He sings, "Tried to get it right for you/Well, isn't that what every man is supposed to do?" His voice has that great tired, worn quality, which fits so well with this song.  "I was glad to be a fool for you/Occasionally lose my cool for you." This is one of my favorites from this disc.

"Nothing Like You"

"Nothing Like You" is a country tune, and a different sort of love song. This one is a more upbeat, happy kind of tune, in which Derek Thomas sings, "Nothing on my mind but getting with you/There's nothing like you, there's nothing like you." I really like the harmonica part. And there is some wonderful work by Erik Kristiansen on pedal steel guitar. This would be a good song to put on a mix for a road trip with your loved one.

"Rubber Bullets"

"Rubber Bullets" is a wonderful, slow country tune, another one about a relationship. He sings, "And got a ticket on my car/She ripped it up and smiled at me/And said this is how it starts/It starts with a bang/And it ends with a kiss." I love that in one line is mentioned the beginning and end. But the line I really like is, "When the real truth is you were the only thing worth getting used to." Wow, that is a wonderful line.

I love the female backing vocals that come in on the chorus, adding another emotional layer to this song. The first time, she comes in softly only for a line or two ("until it hits you in the heart"), and the next time her voice is more present, stronger, for the entire chorus. Almost like his recollection becomes more vivid, and brings her back, recreates her.


There are female backing vocals on chorus to "Damaged" too, about a relationship that is over. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Those six months were the best I've ever known/Ain't asking for 'em back/Just thought I'd let you know/I've been damaged." How are those for some good lyrics? With her singing, "I've been damaged" and "I lost myself in you," it's like they've both come out of the relationship in the same state, which is interesting.  "Damaged" is a  wonderful song, a song of regret.

"Yellowman's Cliff"

"Yellowman's Cliff" is a looking back at his first childhood love, when he was twelve, "And she looked like heaven/Going on eleven." The portrait is of a small town, a dirt road, a lighthouse. He describes their first kiss on the lighthouse steps: "I got nervous and I bit her lip/But I quickly got the hang of it." Perfect, right? It's a sweet song of young, innocent love. But then more than halfway through the song, disaster strikes, the song turns, surprises you. He sings of "The smell of a fire" (the second song to use that image; it's also in "Sam's Saloon").

CD Track List
  1. The Switch
  2. Nothing Like You
  3. Bartering Line
  4. Rubber Bullets
  5. Lemon Tree
  6. Damaged
  7. The Captain
  8. Lovebirds
  9. Sam's Saloon
  10. Yellowman's Cliff

The musicians appearing on this album are Derek Thomas on guitar, harmonica and vocals; Erik Kristiansen on pedal steel guitar; Leslie Stevens on vocals; Mike Derricate on electric bass and vocals; David Brouillette on upright bass; Carl Byron on keys; Jeff Young on keys and organ; Jerry Zacarias on drums; and Michael Guglielmo on drums and percussion.

Topanga Ranch Motel is scheduled to be released on October 16, 2012.  By the way - and I know this isn't important - but I really like the look of the CD itself.  There is something truly appealing about the yellow design on the green disc. Again, I know that has nothing to do with the music, but there you have it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Janis Martin: "The Blanco Sessions" (2012) CD Review

You might not be familiar with the name Janis Martin, but in the 1950s she was dubbed The Female Elvis by RCA (because of her dance moves). Then a marriage and a pregnancy while still a teenager effectively stalled her performing career.  But clearly the music never left her soul, as is obvious from these recordings that she made in 2007 at the age of 67.  All eleven tracks were done in two days. What a great burst of creativity, of energy. Who knows what she would have done next, had she not succumbed to lung cancer several months later. So The Blanco Sessions contains her final recordings.

The music is a wonderful combination of rockabilly, rock 'n' roll, and country.  Her voice is incredibly strong, and gorgeous at times, particularly on a track like "Sweet Dreams." All the songs are covers, and many are from the 1950s. It's interesting that she chose songs from those years that still held a great promise for her.  There are also some more recent songs like "Long White Cadillac," which was written by Dave Alvin and recorded originally by The Blasters in 1983.

Though this is clearly her record, the musicians definitely have room to shine too. Listen to T. Jarrod Bonta on piano on "It'll Be Me"  and "Oh Lonesome Me" for example. There is also some wonderful work on guitar. These musicians create the feel and joy and energy of the time when rock was young.

"As Long As I'm Movin'"

This CD begins with "As Long As I'm Movin'," a seriously fun old rock and roll number. And yeah, Janis is moving, and tearing it up. In this one, she sings, "You've got big strong shoulders built like a trailer truck/Let me run with you, daddy, and maybe I'll change my luck/I've got to watch myself, these boys are getting out of hand/I've got to watch myself, these boys are getting out of hand/They get twelve years old and start acting like a natural man." This song features Jonathan Doyle on tenor sax, and some really good work on guitar by Dave Biller.  This song feels like it was recorded in the 1950s.  It has nothing of a nostalgic feeling about it; it's not trying to recapture anything, but is really living it, and because of that, and because of Janis Martin's voice, it's a joy to listen to.

"As Long As I'm Movin'" was written by Charles E. Calhoun.  Ruth Brown had a hit with it in 1955. Ruth Brown was always an inspiration to Janis Martin, so it's great that this song is included.

"Wild One (Real Wild Child)"

"Wild One (Real Wild Child)" is a song that I've always dug.  It was written by Johnny O'Keefe, Johnny Grenan and Dave Owens, and recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. It's been covered by a lot of folks, including Joan Jett and Brian Setzer.  Janis Martin's version is totally fun. I completely believe her when she tells us not to cramp her style, that she's a real wild child. Yes, even in her sixties, she was clearly a wild child.  Rosie Flores also provides some good vocals on this one, and there is some wonderful work by Dave Biller on guitar.

"Sweet Dreams"

We all know the song "Sweet Dreams" because of Patsy Cline's wonderful rendition.  Well, Janis Martin's version is absolutely beautiful and fantastic.  This is the track that really shows what she can do vocally.  It is seriously impressive. Listen to what she does with lines like, "I should hate you the whole night through/Instead of having sweet dreams about you" and "Why can't I forget the past, start loving someone new/Instead of having sweet dreams about you."  I love this rendition.

"Sweet Dreams" was written by Don Gibson.

"I Believe What You Say"

"I Believe What You Say" is another fast-paced fun rock and roll number. Ricky Nelson had a hit with it in the late 1950s. And Janis Martin and her band are really on fire with this one.  "I Believe What You Say" was written by Johnny Burnette and Dorsey Burnette.

"Roll Around Rockin'"

Janis Martin sounds so sexy during "Roll Around Rockin,'" especially when she sings the title line. Oh, I believe she could roll my blues away. This one features Walter Daniels on harmonica, and some more nice work on keys by T. Jarrod Bonta. There are also some fun backing vocals. This is a great party tune, written by Billy Scott and Stephen R. Floyd.

"Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine"

Janis Martin concludes The Blanco Sessions with an excellent rendition of "Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine." Her vocals are so wonderful, so smooth, and the addition of Kelly Willis on vocals is perfect (her vocals were added later). Darin Murphy plays harmonica on this track, and Rosie Flores plays rhythm guitar. There is a nice extended instrumental section at the end.

(Maybe it's just me, but if you listen on headphones, there is something weird in the left ear at the 55-second mark - just an odd bit of guitar - unless there is something up with my copy. Let me know what you think.)

"Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine" was written by Bill Monroe and Jack Landers.

CD Track List
  1. As Long As I'm Movin'
  2. Wham Bam Jam
  3. Long White Cadillac
  4. Wild One (Real Wild Child)
  5. It'll Be Me
  6. Sweet Dreams
  7. Find Out What's Happening
  8. I Believe What You Say
  9. Roll Around Rockin'
  10. Oh Lonesome Me
  11. Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine

Joining Janis Martin on this release are Bobby Trimble on drums and backing vocals, Dave Biller on guitar, Beau Sample on bass and backing vocals, T. Jarrod Bonta on electric piano, Rosie Flores on backing vocals and rhythm guitar, Sarah Brown on electric bass, Jonathan Doyle on tenor sax, Darin Murphy on harmonica, Walter Daniels on harmonica, and Kelly Willis on vocals.

The Blanco Sessions is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2012 through Cow Island Music.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 2012 Concert Calendar

Here is a list of concerts you might be interested in for the month of September. 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.

September 1, 2012  (Saturday)
7 Walkers  -  Mishawaka, Bellvue, CO
David Bromberg Big Band - City Winery, 155 Varick St., New York, NY -  7:30 p.m.
Fur Dixon & Steve Werner  -  The 50/50 Summer Club, Palms, CA
The Dunwells  -  On The Waterfront Festival, Rockford, IL
Gaelic Storm  -  Kansas City Irish Fest, Kansas City, MO
Harpeth Rising  -  Fylde Folk Festival, Fleetwood, UK
Marley's Ghost  -  Strawberry Music Festival, Yosemite, CA
Old 97s  -  El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
Ellis Paul  -  The BASE at YMCA, 111R Edgartown Road, Martha's Vineyard, MA

September 2, 2012  (Sunday)
7 Walkers  -  Dark Star Jubilee, Thornville, OH
Antioquia  -  Evolvefest, Vernon, NJ
David Bromberg Big Band -  Rhythm And Roots Festival, Ninigret Park, Charlestown, RI  -  9:00 p.m.
Leonard Cohen  -  Sonera Stadium, Helsinki, Finland
The Dunwells  -  Royal Oaks Arts and Beats, Detroit, MI
Ruthie Foster  -  Labor Day Weekend Jazz Festival, Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI
Gaelic Storm  -  Kansas City Irish Fest, Kansas City, MO
Harpeth Rising  -  The American Museum, Bath, UK
Marley's Ghost  -  Strawberry Music Festival, Yosemite, CA

September 3, 2012  (Monday)

September 4, 2012  (Tuesday)
Ruthie Foster  -  The Ark, Ann Arbor MI    

September 5, 2012  (Wednesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Waldbühne, Berlin, Germany
Gaelic Storm  -  Old Rock House, St. Louis, MO
Harpeth Rising  -  Westgate Village Hall, Weardale, UK

September 6, 2012  (Thursday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Mönchengladbach Hockeypark, Mönchengladbach, Germany
The Dunwells  -  eTown Hall, Boulder, CO
Ruthie Foster  -  Ball State University - Pruis Hall, Muncie, IN
Gaelic Storm  -  Deluxe at Old National Centre, Indianapolis, IN
Harpeth Rising  -  Pave, Hull, UK
Martin Sexton  -  Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield, ME

September 7, 2012  (Friday)
David Bromberg Quartet -  Rams Head On Stage, 33 West St., Annapolis, MD -  9:00 p.m.
The Dunwells  -  KTAOS Solar Center, Taos, NM
Steve Forbert  -  City Winery, New York, NY
Gaelic Storm  -  Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Pittsburgh, PA
Harpeth Rising  -  Ingleton Village Hall, Ingleton, UK
Marley's Ghost  -  Swallow Hill, Denver, CO
Ellis Paul  -  Fiddle & Bow Society, Community Arts Cafe, 411 West 4th St, Winston-Salem, NC
Martin Sexton  -  Harmony House Theatre, Cornwall, Canada  -  7:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -  Harmony House Theatre, Cornwall, Canada  -  9:30 p.m.

September 8, 2012  (Saturday)
Antioquia  -  Culturefest World Music and Arts Festival, Pipestem, WV
Leonard Cohen  -  The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, UK
Gaelic Storm  -  Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Pittsburgh, PA
Harpeth Rising  -  Thornley Village Hall, Durham, UK
I See Hawks In L.A.  -  Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA
Los Lobos  -  Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino, Santa Fe, NM
Marley's Ghost  -  eTown, Boulder, CO
Patrolled By Radar  -  Hotel Cafe, Hollywood, CA - 11 p.m.
(Alzheimer's Benefit Concert)
Ellis Paul  -  Tosco Music Party, Dale F. Halton Theater, 1206 Elizabeth Ave, Charlotte, NC
Martin Sexton  -  Summersonic Fest, Halifax, Canada
Yonder Mountain String Band  -   Catskill Chill Music Festival, Hancock, NY

September 9, 2012  (Sunday)
Anita And The Yanks  - Gallaghers Pub And Grill, 300 PCH, Huntington Beach, CA  -  3:00 p.m.
Antioquia  -  A Red Clay Revival Music and Arts Festival, Steele, AL
Leonard Cohen  -  The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, UK
The Dunwells  -  Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, AZ
Gaelic Storm  -  Birchmere Music Hall, Alexandria, VA

September 10, 2012  (Monday)
Steve Forbert  -  Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA

September 11, 2012  (Tuesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  IMMA, Dublin, Ireland
Steve Forbert  -  Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, CA

September 12, 2012  (Wednesday)
Antioquia  -  Stillwater Pub, Birmingham, AL
Leonard Cohen  -  IMMA, Dublin, Ireland

September 13, 2012  (Thursday)
Antioquia  -  The Green Bar (formerly Little Willie's), Tuscaloosa, AL
The Dunwells  -  Public Square Park, Nashville, TN
Dean Fields  -  Eddie's Attic, 515-B N McDonough St., Decatur, GA -  8:00 p.m.
Gaelic Storm  -  House of Blues, Cleveland, OH

September 14, 2012  (Friday)
Antioquia  -  The One Stop, Asheville, NC
Leonard Cohen  -  IMMA, Dublin, Ireland
Christa Couture  -  Ymir Schoolhouse, Ymir, BC
The Dunwells  -  Carlisle Theater, Carlisle, PA
Steve Forbert  -  Natick Arts Center, Natick, MA
Gaelic Storm  -  Michigan Irish Festival, Muskegon, MI
Harpeth Rising  -  Hoosier Beatles, Americana Music Series, Columbus, IN
Los Lobos  -  Quechan Casino Resort, Winterhaven, CA
Marley's Ghost  -  Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield, KS
Ellis Paul  -  Cafe Carpe, 18 South Water Street, Ft. Atkinson, WI
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Jomeokee Music and Arts Festival, Pinnacle, NC

September 15, 2012  (Saturday)
Leonard Cohen  -  IMMA, Dublin, Ireland
Christa Couture  -  Owl Acoustic, Lethbridge, AB
The Dunwells  -  The State Theater, Ithaca, NY
Steve Forbert  -  Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT
Gaelic Storm  -  Michigan Irish Festival, Muskegon, MI
Harpeth Rising  -  Cooper-Young Festival, Memphis, TN
Marley's Ghost  -  Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield, KS
Patrolled By Radar  -  The Foundry, 7465 Melrose, Hollywood, CA - 9:30 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago, IL
Keller Williams  -  Gypsy Pow Wow Music and Arts Festival, Lubbock, TX
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Jomeokee Music and Arts Festival, Pinnacle, NC

September 16, 2012  (Sunday)
Christa Couture  -  Wunderbar, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Little Feat  -  El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

September 17, 2012  (Monday)
Christa Couture  -  The Ironwood, Calgary, AB

September 18, 2012  (Tuesday)
Christa Couture  -  Creative City Centre, Regina, SK, Canada
Steve Forbert  -  The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI

September 19, 2012  (Wednesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Ulker Arena, Istanbul, Turkey
Steve Forbert  -  Hugh's Room, Toronto, ON, Canada

September 20, 2012  (Thursday)
Antioquia  -  The Elevens, Northampton, MA
Christa Couture  -  Brandon Folk Fest Lounge, Brandon, MB
Ellis Paul  -  Burrito Rojo,50 3rd St., Turners Falls, MA
Keller Williams  -  World Cafe Live at The Queen, Wilmington, DE

September 21, 2012  (Friday)
Anita And The Yanks  - Ireland's 32, Van Nuys, CA -  9:30 p.m.
David Bromberg Quartet -  The German House, 315 Gregory Street, Rochester, NY -  8:00 p.m.
Christa Couture  -  Fire Hall, Dauphin, MB
The English Beat  -  Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
Steve Forbert  -  Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA
Keller Williams  -  Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton, NY

September 22, 2012  (Saturday)
Antioquia  -  Meeting Of The Minds, Stroudsburg, PA
David Bromberg Quartet -  Center for the Arts of Homer, 72 South Main Street, Homer, NY  -   8:00 p.m.
Marshall Chapman  -  Southern Women Writers Conference @ Berry College, Ford Auditorium, Mount Berry, GA  -  8:00 pm
Leonard Cohen  -  Piata Constitutional, Bucharest, Romania
Christa Couture  -  Folk Exchange, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
The Dunwells  -  Louisiana, Bristol, United Kingdom
The English Beat  -  Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
Steve Forbert  -  World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
I See Hawks In L.A.  -  RAC Design Building,  Los Angeles, CA
Los Lobos  -  Pepper Tree Ranch, Hollister, CA
Ellis Paul  -  Chocolate Church Arts Center, 798 Washington St, Bath, ME
Keller Williams  -  Papermill Island, Baldwinsville, NY

September 23, 2012  (Sunday)
The Dunwells  -  The Soup Kitchen, Manchester, United Kingdom
Los Lobos  -  Cruzin' For Life, Santa Maria, CA
Ellis Paul  -  The Stone Church, 5 Granite Street, Newmarket, NH

September 24, 2012  (Monday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Arena Verona, Verona, Italy

September 25, 2012  (Tuesday)
Christa Couture  -  The Apollo, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
The Dunwells  -  Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, United Kingdom

September 26, 2012  (Wednesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Zenith Omega, Toulon, France
The Dunwells  -  The Bodega, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Martin Sexton  -  The Intersection, Grand Rapids, MI

September 27, 2012  (Thursday)
Marshall Chapman  -  Carnegie Public Library, Clarksdale, MS - 5:00 pm
Christa Couture  -  Fromagerie Elgin, Sudbury, ON, Canada
The Dunwells  -  Borderline, London, United Kingdom
Steve Forbert  -  Eddie's Attic, Atlanta, GA
Harpeth Rising  -  Moonlight On The Mountain, Birmingham, AL
Los Lobos  -  Showcase Live, Foxborough, MA
(Special performance of Kiko)
Aimee Mann  -  The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA 
Martin Sexton  -  Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Keller Williams  -  The Chameleon, Lancaster, PA

September 28, 2012  (Friday)
David Bromberg Quartet -  Dosey Doe Coffee Shop, 25911 I-45 South, The Woodlands, TX  -  8:30 p.m.
Leonard Cohen  -  Olympia, Paris, France
Moot Davis  -  Ephrata Theatre, Ephrata, PA
The English Beat  -  Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Steve Forbert  -  The Altamont Theatre, Ashville, NC
Harpeth Rising  -  Sundilla Acoustic Concert Series, Auburn, AL
I See Hawks In L.A.  -  Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA
Los Lobos  -  Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY
(Special performance of Kiko)
Aimee Mann  -  Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz, CA 
Ellis Paul  -  Concerts by the Lake, 221 Long Lake Rd, Melrose, FL
Martin Sexton  -  People's, Des Moines, IA
Keller Williams  -  Sherman Theater, Stroudsburg, PA

September 29, 2012  (Saturday)
David Bromberg Quartet -  The Kessler Theater, 1230 West Davis Street, Dallas, TX - 7:00 p.m.
Leonard Cohen  -  Olympia, Paris, France
The English Beat  -  Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, CA
Steve Forbert  -  Stage Door Theater, Charlotte, NC
Harpeth Rising  -  Crimson Moon Café, Dahlonega, GA
Aimee Mann  -  The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA 
Martin Sexton  -  Mitchell Auditorium, Duluth, MN

September 30, 2012  (Sunday)
Anita And The Yanks  -  Finn McCool's Pub,  Santa Monica, CA  - 5:00 p.m.
David Bromberg Quartet -  Antone's Night Club, 213 W 5th St., Austin, TX -  8:00 p.m.
Leonard Cohen  -  Olympia, Paris, France
Christa Couture  -  The Garnet, Peterborough, ON, Canada
Gaelic Storm  -  3rd & Lindsley, Nashville, TN
Los Lobos  -  Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA
(Special performance of Kiko)
Aimee Mann  -  Uptown Theatre, Napa, CA 
Ellis Paul  -  Painted Fish Gallery, Dunedin, FL
Martin Sexton  -  Stage at Island Park, Fargo, ND