Monday, December 31, 2012

Henry Wagons: "Expecting Company?" (2013) CD Review

No other performer excites me these days quite like Henry Wagons. Rumble, Shake And Tumble, the full-length album from 2011, is full of great tunes and delicious, somewhat twisted energy. That year I saw the band perform at a small venue in Los Angeles, and it was one of the best concerts of the year.

So I was seriously thrilled to hear the new solo EP by Henry Wagons. Titled Expecting Company?, this collection of seven songs confirms his place as one of the most exciting musicians around. I’m completely sold on this guy’s talent, and I’ll definitely be paying close attention to everything he does from now on (well, everything he does musically, that is). All of the material on Expecting Company? is original, and Henry plays most of the instruments on these tracks. Si Francis joins him on drums for four of the songs.

One of my favorite elements on this album, however, is the female vocals. Most of these tracks are duets, and the vocalists are all impressive. The more I listen to this album, the more entranced and enamored I become.

There is a great freedom in this album. Henry clearly is not trying to restrain himself, but gives his creativity free rein. And it bounds in several directions, finding a temporary home in the late 1960s – at least on a few tracks. But there is country and folk here as well. What amazes me is that he does everything so well. It’s like each experiment pays off. I feel like if he were Frankenstein, his monster would have turned out just fine.

By the way, check out the cover. With the title in quotation marks, and the songs listed on the front, it totally fits with the 1960s feel of several of the tracks.

“Unwelcome Company”

Expecting Company? opens with “Unwelcome Company,” which has an intense late 1960s feel. You expect sexy go-go dancers with light playing on their torsos to rush into your room brandishing guitars and silver pistols. Two quick drums rolls open the song like machine gun bursts. And Henry sings, “The gentle patter of angel’s toes/Circle round my bedside and brush against my nose.” It sounds a bit like something from Wild In The Streets.

And then Alison Mosshart comes in on vocals. She sounds like a sex kitten who will tear you to pieces with her claws and leave you smiling. She’ll betray you, and you can’t fault her. And when they sing together it’s like the Airplane was hired to do a soundtrack for a weird film. It’s when Henry sings, “Everywhere I go they follow/Everywhere I go they follow me” that he returns to familiar ground. But only briefly. I love those short spurts of electric guitar. Basically, this song blew me away.

“I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene”

“I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene” also has that sort of feel, while adding to it that familiar country rhythm, though then taking it and twisting it into a strange tale of lusting for Mary Magdalene. Henry sings, “Spent all night immersed in prayer/Why must my mind always take me there” (and then Sophia Brous responds with similar lines: “Why must your mind always take you there”). There is actually something sexy about this song, due in large part to Sophia Brous’ vocals, which are amazing. And then it ends on such a pretty note.

“Give Things A Chance To Mend”

Henry Wagons switches to country for “Give Things A Chance To Mend.” But it’s the country of days gone by. We’re in another time, or rather Henry pulls that time to us to make it now. The song is a plea to take a moment and not to make a hasty exit from the relationship, but rather give things a chance to get better. It’s a cool love song. Grab a beer and think of that special, problematic someone. This one is a duet with Jenn Grant, who completely, perfectly captures that old feel. What a great voice. This tune also features pedal steel by Seamus O’Sullivan.

“I Still Can’t Find Her”

I love how low Henry’s voice gets on the opening line of “I Still Can’t Find Her”: “Blow the dust.” The more I listen to Henry Wagons, the more I’m impressed by his vocals. And he does some interesting stuff on this one. And I really like this section: “My mother’s cousin Deborah cheated on her husband Wayne/Wayne’s photo’s been placed by Bill/And that seems a little harsh to me, Debbie.” It’s Debbie’s name coming after that pause that cracks me up every time. That has to be one of the most effective uses of a pause ever in a song. And then to top it off, there’s a spoken word bit. That’s Robert Forster performing; Forster co-wrote this tune with Henry Wagons.

“A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done”

Things get a little strange with “A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done.” This is a wonderfully messed up tune, and will work well on a cool Halloween mix CD. Seriously. It’s a dark tune, but with a drum beat slightly reminiscent of something like “Radar Love” or “Ballroom Blitz.” There’s some killing toward the end. Patience Hodgson provides some excellent vocals.

“Give Me A Kiss”

“Give Me A Kiss” is more in the folk vein, but with a weird carnival waltz atmosphere. My favorite part is Gossling’s vocals. Holy moly, these two make quite a couple. Check out these lines they sing together: “Let’s stop this before it gets worse/There’s room for both of us in this hearse/Raise your glass now to this toast/Let’s split at this fork in the road.” I love this song, and I wish it were longer. I want more.

“Marylou Two”

Expecting Company? concludes with “Marylou Two,” a sort of sequel to (or re-working of) “Marylou,” the final track from Rumble, Shake And Tumble. This one is more of an acoustic folk version, and as a result has an immediate and vulnerable feel. Basically, it’s like the very end of the original version, but expanded to a full song of its own. “And I can’t break free from you, Marylou.” This is also the only track that is not a duet.

CD Track List

  1. Unwelcome Company
  2. I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene
  3. Give Things A Chance To Mend
  4. I Still Can’t Find Her
  5. A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done
  6. Give Me A Kiss
  7. Marylou Two
 Expecting Company? is scheduled to be released on January 22, 2013 on Thirty Tigers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Ten Favorite CDs Of 2012

This year saw the release of a lot of great music.  Making a top ten list is always a bit difficult, and a bit unfair, as there is generally something that I'm forgetting, and different music hits me harder at different times. But I love to make lists, so here I go.

Just so you know, this list is only full-length new studio albums from 2012.  I didn't include any re-issues, compilations or live albums, so a lot of great material didn't make this list, such as re-issues of Grateful Dead Dick's Picks CDs and Los Lobos' Kiko 20th Anniversary Edition.  Also, EPs don't count, so Martin Sexton's wonderful Fall Like Rain is not on the list.

So here they are, my favorite albums from 2012.

10. Ruthie Foster: Let It Burn

The year started off really well with some excellent January releases, including the new one from Ruthie Foster. This album was going to make the list just for that incredibly sexy version of "If I Had A Hammer."  I was listening to it again the other day, and it still blows me away. But the rest of the album is really good too. Ruthie Foster has an excellent voice, and on this release she is joined by The Blind Boys Of Alabama.  By the way, she puts on a good concert, so go see her if you get the chance.

9. Christa Couture: The Living Record

Christa Couture is an excellent singer/songwriter with a truly wonderful voice. Her 2012 release, The Living Record, features all original material. Some of my favorites are "Lucky Or Lost," "Pirate Jenny And The Storm" and "Wooden Shoes And Windmills." But it is "Pussycat Pussycat" that is the most surprising tune on the album. This one has a funky edge, and there is something flirtatious and sexy in Christa's vocal delivery. It is one of the coolest songs I've heard this year.

8. The dBs: Falling Off The Sky

Falling Off The Sky is The dBs' first new album in twenty-five years, and the first album with the band's original lineup since 1982. This album is a lot of fun. I'm particularly fond of "The Wonder Of Love," "Write Back" and "She Won't Drive In The Rain Anymore." And I seriously love "The Adventures Of Albatross And Doggerel."  It's a catchy tune, and has an interesting structure, with its strange section in the middle where he sings, "I can see everything/I can hear everything/But I can't do anything for you" (with a strange Felini feel for just a moment behind the vocals). It is one of my favorite songs of the year.  It was written by Chris Stamey.

7. The Trishas: High, Wide & Handsome

The Trishas are four female singer/songwriters with gorgeous voices and tremendous songwriting ability. Each singer has a distinct voice, and when they harmonize, the sound is beautiful.  I like the entire album, but "Looking At Me" is the song that really made me fall for them. It's a beautiful tune, and the lyrics are wonderful. Here is a taste: "Well, a fire burns slow if you know how to build it/The heat travels up from the ground toward the trees/And when the winds change, I know smoke follows beauty/I follow it up till it's you that I see/Oh, it's a shame, it's a shame/The last one to know is the first to complain/Oh, beware of the dark/For all of your secrets are shared with a spark."

6. Paul Kelly: Spring And Fall

Paul Kelly's 2012 release, Spring And Fall, is an album full of great, honest love songs. This is a seriously strong album. Some of my favorite tracks are "For The Ages," "Time And Tide" and "Sometimes My Baby."  "Sometimes My Baby" has an excellent instrumental section which made me completely fall for the song. Besides music, one of my passions is Shakespeare, and Paul Kelly includes a song from Twelfth Night as a hidden track on this album. Titled "Where Are You Roaming," it is sung by Feste in Act II Scene iii, after Toby asks for a love song.

5. I See Hawks In L.A.: New Kind Of Lonely

I've been a fan of I See Hawks In L.A. for a while now, and I have to say that New Kind Of Lonely is the best album they've released.  This album, even more than the others, really demonstrates what a great, emotional and wise voice Rob Waller has. Plus, this group has great harmonies, which you can hear on basically every track, but especially in a song like "Mary Austin Sky."  This album features the fun "I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead" (a tune I can relate to).  The entire album is strong, but my absolute favorite is "If You Lead I Will Follow," a wonderful and gorgeous country song. Check out these lyrics: "The angels are singing/And I'm still clinging to the crack at the end of the ledge/You're calling to me/Denying gravity/I close my eyes and step over the edge."  This is one of my favorite songs of the year.

4. Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs: Sunday Run Me Over

I love this duo. Their 2011 release was one of my favorites of that year, and this year's album, Sunday Run Me Over, is also fantastic.  Most of the songs are originals, but they also do a few interesting covers. They do a take on Wayne Raney's "We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock And Roll)," changing it to "We Need A Whole Lot Less Of Jesus (And A Lot More Rock And Roll)," about how the Jesus freaks want to direct the nation, regardless of the large numbers of people who don't believe in that nonsense. Their cover of Mac Davis' "Hard To Be Humble" cracks me up.  But of course it's their original material that really makes this album special, particularly "One For The Road," "Turn Around" and "Goodnight."

3. Marley's Ghost: Jubilee

I became a fan of Marley's Ghost a few years ago when I heard Ghost Town (which is a great album). The band's 2012 release, Jubilee, is even better. In addition to some excellent original material (such as "Rollin'" and "South For A Change"), there are some darn good covers (including a take on "It's All Over Now" that completely blew me away). And to top it all off, this album features some wonderful guest players, including John Prine and Emmylou Harris.  (And there is even some yodeling on the album's last track.)

2. Stephane Wrembel: Origins

Stephane Wrembel is an amazing, astounding musician. His new release, Origins, is the only instrumental album to make the list. It's a seriously incredible album.  By now, probably everyone has heard "Bistro Fada," a tune Wrembel composed for Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris. I love that song, but the rest of the album is equally enjoyable and impressive. I was lucky enough to catch one of Stephane Wrembel's concerts this year, and it was one of the best shows I've seen.

1. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas

My number one choice of the year probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little bit. Leonard Cohen is the world's best living songwriter, and his 2012 release, Old Ideas, is his best album in at least two decades. Every song is wonderful. My current favorite is the final track, "Different Sides," which has the line, "Stop writing everything down" (a line which is also on the cover of the Leonard Cohen journal a friend bought for me at one of his concerts).  This album also features "Darkness," a song he introduced during that wild three-year concert tour. The first time I saw him perform it was in San Jose in 2009, and it immediately became a favorite.  "Lullaby" was also performed at several stops on that tour, but unfortunately I wasn't at those particular shows.  Old Ideas opens with another wonderful song, "Going Home," which I saw him do at a stop on his new tour (it was one of the encores). In that song, he refers to himself as "a lazy bastard living in a suit."  I think people have finally let go of that misconception that he's a depressing songwriter.

Chris Stamey: "Lovesick Blues" (2013) CD Review

Chris Stamey is most well known as one of the founders of the dBs. He recorded a couple of albums with the band in the early 1980s before embarking on a solo career.  And then this past June, the dBs released Falling Off The Sky, the band's first album with the original lineup since 1982's Repercussion. It's an excellent album, and is on my list of the ten best of 2012. Chris Stamey is not one to relax, however, and now he is releasing a new solo album titled Lovesick Blues.

This solo material is quite a bit different from the dBs album. It's certainly more in the singer/songwriter vein, but with some gorgeous pop sounds. This is not a folk album. There is a beauty to so many of these tracks, particularly in something like the acoustic "Wintertime" (with lines like, "I hold you from the cold/You tell me a story you already told/And it's wintertime/And the days grow short"). This album really has its own sound, though the vocals remind me at times of some 1960s pop, as there is something of an innocence there, like a fresh look at the world. And yet there is also wisdom and experience, a voice that is well traveled. It's an interesting combination, and then a song like "Occasional Shivers" has a definite late-night lounge or jazz room feel.  There is certainly a lot to enjoy on this CD.


Lovesick Blues opens with "Skin," an interesting love song that I am into immediately. Chris Stamey's voice on this one, and the way he sings it, remind me of some of the sweeter songs by Phish (like "Silent In The Morning"). The lyrics too have something of a Phish feel. Like these lines, which begin the song: "I slip out of my skin/That's how it begins/And drift across the room into you/You look a bit surprised." And these: "I look like I'm asleep/But I'm just incomplete/I watch myself the way that you do." This song feels like morning, bright with possibilities.  "We see everything twice/We see it once as me and once as you."  I also like the percussion on this tune. It's a really sweet song to open the album.


There is something beautiful about "London." It's this connection between singer and the person he sings to, and the emotion in Stamey's honest delivery. It's like an intimate letter, and interestingly it's the mundane details that make it feel intimate. Like trying to create an accurate picture to share with the person, to feel closer.  Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Why don't you stay home/I'll call you when I get up/I've been thirteen hours on the motorway/I think the bass player quit/I've got three more weeks of overdubs." At the end, the vocals fade as the strings become almost harsh, a revisiting of the song's opening moments, giving the song a circular feel, as if things won't change.

"You n Me n XTC"

"You n Me n XTC" has a ridiculous and infectious joy, particularly in its chorus.  Being a fan of road trips and living in Los Angeles, I particularly enjoyed these lines: "We lost the brakes around Santa Fe/And the 8-track blew later that same day/By the time we got to Los Angeles/There was nothing left of our sanity." So they'll fit right in then. (And you can add this song to the list of tunes that mention Hollywood and Vine.) This song reminds me a bit of "Learning To Fly" by Tom Petty. It also makes me think that I need to get my turntable fixed, as all my XTC stuff is on vinyl.

Seamus Kenney plays trombone on this track.

"The Room Above The Bookstore"

I'm a huge Leonard Cohen fan, and one certain way to get my attention is to make a reference to him or his music. The first line of "The Room Above The Bookstore" is "It's a Leonard Cohen morning," so I'm drawn in immediately. Of course, mentioning him can be dangerous, because it sets expectations high, and lyrically no one can match him. So now I'm listening more attentively, more critically, particularly to the song's imagery.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "And you talk about last evening/In a sly, ironic tone/While waiters clear the tables/And sparrows clean the bones/We are hidden in the shadows."  And: "In the hotel round the corner/We have packed our memories/We've pocketed our souvenirs/And folded our unease." This song has a slower, somewhat hypnotic tempo, which helps it get under your skin.

"Lovesick Blues"

"Lovesick Blues," the album's title track, starts off slowly and with lyrics to match that tempo - "So tired of being alone/Too tired to pick up the phone/There's no one I want to be/There's no one I want to see/I've waited so long." The song does kick in a bit, but with these lines, "Sometimes I feel so sad/Mostly I just stay mad/I've shut out all my friends/There's no way to even pretend/That it will ever change." So even as the song becomes more powerful, it's almost like more strength in the resignation to the circumstances. It's truly moving. And his voice sounds strong, yet so vulnerable on the lines, "And I don't have a clue/What I will do without you." Then there is a beautiful, yet sad, instrumental section that reminds me just a bit of George Harrison at moments.

Carrie Shull plays oboe on this track.

"If Memory Serves"

Lovesick Blues concludes with "If Memory Serves," a joyful little pop gem with bit of a mid-1960s feel (there's a Beatles influence). It's a catchy tune, with a humorous element as well, obvious in lines like "I feel sure I never will forget you/By the way, do you spell it with a 'k' or 'q'/And today I think I met someone new/If memory serves," which end the song (and album).  By the way, that's Jeff Crawford on the toy piano (I love that section).

CD Track List
  1. Skin
  2. London
  3. Astronomy
  4. Anyway
  5. You n Me n XTC
  6. I Wrote This Song For You
  7. The Room Above The Bookstore
  8. Wintertime
  9. Occasional Shivers
  10. Lovesick Blues
  11. If Memory Serves
Lovesick Blues is scheduled to be released on February 5, 2013 on Yep Roc Records.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2012 Concert Calendar

Here is a list of concerts you might be interested in for the month of December. 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 try to add to this calendar as much as I can throughout the month.

December 1, 2012  (Saturday)
Antje Duvekot  -  98.7 WFMT-The Midnight Special, Chicago, IL
Steve Forbert  and Patty Larkin  -  AT&T Center, Dallas, TX
Kinky Friedman  -  Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO
The Monkees  -  The Paramount, Huntington, NY
Patrolled By Radar  -  Private party
Ellis Paul  -   Ontario Center for Performing Arts, Oswego Music Hall - McCrobie Building, 41 Lake St, Oswego, NY  -  8:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -  World Cafe Live    , Wilmington, DE
Keller Williams  -  Granada Theater, Lawrence, KS

December 2, 2012  (Sunday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Colisee Pepsi, Quebec City, Quebec
Antje Duvekot  -  Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL
Steve Forbert and Patty Larkin  -  Dosey Doe Acoustic Cafe, The Woodlands, TX    
Kinky Friedman  -  The Blue Door, Oklahoma City, OK
The Monkees  -  The Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
Ellis Paul  -  University Cafe, 100 Nicolls Rd., Stony Brook, NY  -  2:00 p.m.

December 3, 2012  (Monday)
Kinky Friedman  -  Oklahoma Jazz Hall Of Fame, Tulsa, OK

December 4, 2012  (Tuesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Kinky Friedman  -  Oriental Theater, Denver, CO

December 5, 2012  (Wednesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

December 6, 2012  (Thursday)
Steve Forbert  -  Old Rock House, St. Louis, MO
Kinky Friedman  -  The State Room, Salt Lake City, UT
Keller Williams  -  The Handlebar, Greenville, SC

December 7, 2012  (Friday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Scotiabank Place, Kanata, Ontario
Steve Forbert  -  Knucklehead's, Kansas City, MO
Kinky Friedman  -  McCabe’s Guitar Store, Santa Monica, CA
Carrie Newcomer  -  Unitarian Universalist Church, Bloomington, IN 
Ellis Paul  -  CSPS, 1103 S. 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids, IA  -  8:00 p.m.
(With special guest Radoslav Lorkovic)
Martin Sexton  -  Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT
Keller Williams  -  The Pour House, Charleston, SC

December 8, 2012  (Saturday)
Steve Forbert  -  All Soul Acoustic Cafe, Tulsa, OK
Kinky Friedman  -  Maverick Saloon, Santa Ynez, CA
Patrolled By Radar  -  Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA
Ellis Paul  -  The College School, 7825 Big Bend Blvd, St. Louis, MO  -  1:00 p.m.
(special family show)
Ellis Paul  -  Off Broadway Nightclub, 3509 Lemp, St. Louis, MO  -  7:00 p.m.
Martin Sexton  -  Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY
Keller Williams  -  The Pour House, Charleston, SC

December 9, 2012  (Sunday)
Kinky Friedman  -  Zoey’s Cafe, Ventura, CA
Ellis Paul  -  Vaudeville Mews, 212 4th St, Des Moines, IA

December 10, 2012  (Monday)
Kinky Friedman and Mojo Nixon  -  The Belly Up, Solana Beach, CA

December 11, 2012  (Tuesday)
John Cale  -  El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
Leonard Cohen  -  Budweiser Garden, London, Ontario
Kinky Friedman  -  The Prime Cut, Bakersfield, CA

December 12, 2012  (Wednesday)
Concrete Blonde  -  Sinclair Music Hall, Boston, MA
Kinky Friedman  -  The Mucky Duck, Monterey, CA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Strings & Sol at Dreams Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico

December 13, 2012  (Thursday)
Leonard Cohen  -  K-Rock Centre, Kingston, Ontario
Concrete Blonde  -  Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Antje Duvekot  -  One Longfellow Square, Portland , ME
Kinky Friedman  -  Private Party, Santa Cruz, CA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Strings & Sol at Dreams Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico

December 14, 2012  (Friday)
Concrete Blonde  -  Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
Antje Duvekot  -  Oberon, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA
Kinky Friedman  -  Studio E, Sebastopol, CA
Ellis Paul  -  Cactus CafĂ©, University of Texas, 24th & Guadalupe, Austin, TX
(with opening act Rebecca Loebe)
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Strings & Sol at Dreams Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico

December 15, 2012  (Saturday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Wang Theatre, Boston, MA
Antje Duvekot  -  Circle of Friends Coffeehouse, Franklin, MA
The English Beat  -  Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, CA
Kinky Friedman  -  The Palms Playhouse, Winters, CA
Ellis Paul  -  Jefferson Freedom Cafe, 1st Jefferson UU Church, 1959 Sandy Lane, Fort Worth, TX
(with opening act Rebecca Loebe)
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Strings & Sol at Dreams Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico

December 16, 2012  (Sunday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Wang Theatre, Boston, MA
Antje Duvekot  -  University Cafe, Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY
Kinky Friedman  -  Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz, CA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Strings & Sol at Dreams Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico

December 17, 2012  (Monday)
Concrete Blonde  -  9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
Kinky Friedman  -  St. Clair Theater, Modesto, CA

December 18, 2012  (Tuesday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Concrete Blonde  -  Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Kinky Friedman  -  Cafe Du Nord, San Francisco, CA

December 19, 2012  (Wednesday)
Concrete Blonde  -  Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Kinky Friedman  -  Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR

December 20, 2012  (Thursday)
Leonard Cohen  -  Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Kinky Friedman  -  W.O.W. Hall, Eugene, OR

December 21, 2012  (Friday)
Concrete Blonde  -  Park West, Chicago, IL
Antje Duvekot  -  Jammin' Java, 231 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, VA

December 22, 2012  (Saturday)
Concrete Blonde  -  Variety Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
Antje Duvekot  -   Steel City Coffee House, 203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA

December 23, 2012  (Sunday)
Antje Duvekot  -   Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY

December 24, 2012  (Monday)

December 25, 2012  (Tuesday)

December 26, 2012  (Wednesday)

December 27, 2012  (Thursday)
Reverend Horton Heat  -  Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
Keller Williams  -  Brooklyn Performing Arts, Wilmington, NC

December 28, 2012  (Friday)
Phish  -  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 
Keller Williams  -  Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

December 29, 2012  (Saturday)
Ellis Paul  -  One Longfellow, Portland, ME  -  2:00 p.m.
(Family show)
Ellis Paul  -  One Longfellow, Portland, ME  -  8:00 p.m.
Phish  -  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 
String Cheese Incident  -  1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO 
Paul Thorn  -  3rd & Lindsley, Nashville, TN
(with special opening act Steve Forbert)
Keller Williams  -  The NorVa, Norfolk, VA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

December 30, 2012  (Sunday)
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim - Ellis Paul's 16th Annual Holiday Ball, 47 Palmer St., Cambridge, MA  -  6:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim - Ellis Paul's 16th Annual Holiday Ball, 47 Palmer St., Cambridge, MA  -  9:00 p.m.
Phish  -  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 
String Cheese Incident  -  1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO 
Keller Williams  -  The National, Richmond, VA
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

December 31, 2012  (Monday)
Cake  -  The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
Entrain  -  Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury, MA
Steve Forbert  -  Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim - Ellis Paul's 16th Annual Holiday Ball47 Palmer St., Cambridge, MA  -  7:00 p.m.
Ellis Paul  -  Club Passim - Ellis Paul's 16th Annual Holiday Ball47 Palmer St., Cambridge, MA  -  10:00 p.m.
Phish  -  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
String Cheese Incident  -  1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO
Keller Williams  -  Marathon Music Works, Nashville, TN
Yonder Mountain String Band  -  Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cannonball Adderley: "The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley" (2012) CD Review

The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley contains more than an hour of excellent music by the talented alto saxophone player. This collection features material from 1958 to 1975, though focusing on the years 1958 to 1963, when he was on the Riverside label. The final two tracks, the ones from the 1970s, are from when he was recorded on Fantasy. The songs are presented mostly in chronological order, and include a nice long live version of "This Here" and a big band track, "Something Different." There is an amazing amount of energy on this disc, and Adderley is joined by some seriously accomplished musicians, such as Philly Joe Jones, Percy Heath, Art Blakey, Bobby Timmons, Sam Jones, Airto Moreira and of course his brother, Nat Adderley.

"A Little Taste"

This collection opens with "A Little Taste," an original composition from Portrait Of Cannonball (1958). This has a bright, full sound from the start, and gets looser when the band gets into the song, helped in part by Philly Joe Jones' drumming and some excellent work on bass by Sam Jones. Cannonball's lead has a wonderful energy, and is full of delightful surprises. It's joyous. Blue Mitchell's lead on trumpet also has great joy, and that leads to Bill Evans taking control on piano, though only briefly.

"Things Are Getting Better"

"Things Are Getting Better," the title track from a 1958 release, was co-written by Cannonball Adderley and D. Veronica Langdon. This is a light, somewhat silly song that just makes you feel good. It has an easy way about it, though Cannonball's lead reminds me of early rock and roll at times. I really like the play between bass and piano during Percy Heath's lead section. This track also features Milt Jackson on vibes.

"This Here"

"This Here" has such a great groove. It was written by Bobby Timmons, who plays piano on this track, and who really helps with that catchy rhythm and groove. I completely love his lead on piano, which flows perfectly from the main section of the song, not sounding like a break, as solos sometimes do. And Cannonball is absolutely fantastic, his horn dancing and singing. And his younger brother Nat really lets it rip on cornet. This is an excellent song, and is probably my favorite track from this collection. It's a live track from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet In San Francisco (from 1959).

"Know What I Mean?"

"Know What I Mean?" is a Bill Evans composition from the album of the same name, which was re-issued last year as part of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series (that re-issue features a second version of this song in the bonus tracks). This song begins with Bill Evans on piano, then eases in with a slow tempo. This is such an interesting song, as it takes a surprising turn a couple of minutes in, led by Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums.

"Work Song"

"Work Song" is a live track recorded in Tokyo in 1963, with a spoken intro by Cannonball Adderley. This is a composition by Nat Adderley, and it's is a fantastic track, with a tremendous amount of energy. The band - Cannonball Adderley Sextet - really cooks on this one.  This track was originally released on Nippon Soul.

"Jive Samba"

The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley concludes with two tracks from the 1970s. The first is "Jive Samba," written by Nat Adderley, and featuring Airto Moreira on percussion.  This track was originally included on Phenix.

The second is "Inside Straight," a tune co-written by both Adderley brothers. This is a seriously funky jazz tune, with a somewhat heavy, yet totally fun vibe. It gets ridiculous at a certain point - you'll know it when you hear it, and you'll probably love it like I do.  This song is the title track from the 1973 album.

CD Track List
  1. A Little Taste
  2. Things Are Getting Better
  3. This Here
  4. Know What I Mean?
  5. Something Different
  6. Winetone
  7. Dizzy's Business
  8. Work Song
  9. Jive Samba
  10. Inside Straight
The Very Best Of Cannonball Adderley was released on August 7, 2012 through Concord Music Group. Also released on that date were Dave Brubeck: The Very Best Of: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953, The Bill Evans Trio: The Very Best Of, Vince Guaraldi: The Very Best Of, and Thelonious Monk: The Very Best Of.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thelonious Monk: "The Very Best Of" (2012) CD Review

The Very Best Of Thelonious Monk is a new collection of recordings from Monk's years on Prestige and Riverside Records, from 1954 to 1958. (He actually released albums on Riverside into 1961, but this collection only goes as far as 1958.) This collection features mostly original compositions. There are only two covers: "Sophisticated Lady" and "Honeysuckle Rose."  Besides Monk himself, these tracks feature several other incredible musicians, such as John Coltrane, Percy Heath, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins and Max Roach.

"Blue Monk"

"Blue Monk" is one of his Thelonious Monk's most famous compositions, this one coming from Thelonious Monk Trio (a 1954 record on Prestige). This is the first recording of this song. A solo piano version would appear on Thelonious Alone In San Francisco several years later. And of course the piano drives the song in this version too, with some great, playful moments. But this version also has Percy Heath on bass and Art Blakey on drums, keeping a good groove for Monk to play over and with. And toward the end, Percy Heath has a cool lead section, which then takes us into an unusual drum solo by Art Blakey, which I totally dig.

"Bemsha Swing"

"Bemsha Swing" is an interesting tune co-written by Thelonious Monk and Denzil Best. It features an odd beginning with brilliant bursts on horn by Clark Terry on trumpet and Sonny Rollins on tenor sax, with Thelonious Monk then recreating those on piano, in a softer way. And he soon is going off into other related territory. I'm seriously crazy about Max Roach's work on drums and timpani here (and yes, he has a solo). This track originally appeared on Brilliant Corners, though Monk had recorded an earlier version with Miles Davis in 1954 (which was released on Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants).

"Honeysuckle Rose"

"Honeysuckle Rose" is one of this collection's two covers, this one written by Andy Razaf and Thomas Waller. This is a fun, sprightly tune (particularly due to Monk's playing, as he delivers some delicious and surprising stuff). This song features a lead on bass by Oscar Pettiford, and a drum solo by Art Blakey. The moment when Monk comes back directly from Blakey's solo is fantastic. This track is from The Unique Thelonious Monk (1956).

"Ruby, My Dear"

"Ruby, My Dear" begins with some beautiful, sweet work by Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxophone. It isn't until four minutes in that Monk takes his lead, and then only briefly. His playing is soft and sweet, different from most of his work.

"Ruby, My Dear" is from Monk's Music, the only album to be represented by more than one track in this collection. The other tune from that record is "Well, You Needn't." But Monk actually composed and recorded both tunes much earlier in his career. "Well, You Needn't" features both John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxophones.


"Nutty" is the opening track from the live album Misterioso, which was re-issued earlier this year as part of Concord Music Group's Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. This was recorded at the Five Spot Cafe in New York City in August of 1958, and features some wild, spirited playing by Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

"'Round Midnight"

This collection concludes with a solo version of Thelonious Monk's most famous composition, "'Round Midnight," taken from Thelonious Himself (1957), his first solo record for Riverside (the second was Alone In San Francisco).  This song has such a great understated force to it, obvious in this solo rendition. (By the way, a version of this song appears as a bonus track on the re-issue of Misterioso.)

CD Track List
  1. Blue Monk
  2. Hackensack
  3. Sophisticated Lady
  4. Bemsha Swing
  5. Honeysuckle Rose
  6. Ruby, My Dear
  7. Well, You Needn't
  8. Trinkle, Tinkle
  9. Nutty
  10. 'Round Midnight
The Very Best Of Thelonious Monk was released on August 7, 2012 through Concord Music Group. Also released on that date were Cannonball Adderly: The Very Best Of,  The Bill Evans Trio: The Very Best Of, Vince Guaraldi: The Very Best Of and Dave Brubeck: The Very Best Of: The Fantasy Era 1949 - 1953.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carrie Newcomer: "Kindred Spirits: A Collection" (2012) CD Review

Carrie Newcomer is a singer and songwriter I was first turned onto back in the early 1990s when I was getting heavily into folk. Then in the mid-1990s, I co-hosted a folk radio show in Oregon, and we played Newcomer fairly regularly. Now her new CD, Kindred Spirits: A Collection, provides a good opportunity to revisit her music. And for those who haven't heard her, this is certainly a good place to start. This collection of her work features material from throughout her catalogue, and also includes two new songs and two live tracks.

There is something soothing in her music, something that speaks to us on a level I hesitate to call "spiritual" because of the negative connotations the word has for many of us. But what her music taps into, or creates, is a feeling of connection among people, and between us and the rest of the world.  The feeling that we're not isolated, wrapped in our own troubles, alone. Carrie's voice often seems to be saying, "It's okay, you're not alone." (She says it directly in "Angels Unaware": "No one's ever so alone/You can take the world down off your shoulders.")  Not just her voice, but the rhythms and all the instruments seem to be conveying that simple, but needed message.

"The Speed Of Soul"

Kindred Spirits opens with "The Speed Of Soul," one of the two new tracks featured in this collection. It's a gorgeous song about how the fast pace of our society is outside our natural rhythms, and how doing so much can separate us from what it is we've accomplished. There is always something soothing in a song that has lines like, "Come back, come home"

"Breathe In Breathe Out"

In "Breathe In Breathe Out," Carrie delivers a simple message that I often need to remind myself: "Breathe in, breathe out, let it go." But it is the music of this song that really moves me. This song features an incredible performance by Amjad Ali Khan on sarod. There is also some nice percussion by Jim Brock. Carrie sings, "What is done is done/Let it go/What is real is real/What we feel we feel/Then let it go."  It's certainly not always easy to do that. This is one of my favorite tracks; it originally appeared on her 2011 album, Everything Is Everywhere.

"The Gathering Of Spirits"

"The Gathering Of Spirits" has a happier feel, and features Alison Kraus on harmonies. Here is a taste of the lyrics "Let it go, my love my truest/Let it sail on silver wings/Life's a twinkling that's for certain/But it's such a fine thing/There's a gathering of spirits/There's a festival of friends/And we'll take up where we left off/When we all meet again."  Nice, eh? This song also boasts some good work on piano by Winton Reynolds. This song is the title track to her 2002 CD.


"Sparrow" is one of the live tracks, and is a nice rendition featuring just Carrie on vocals and guitar, and Dan Lodge-Rigal on piano. There is an intimate feel to this, with Carrie almost whispering at moments. "Lay your head on my heart/And we'll leave it that way." Though it's a live recording, the applause is cut from the end, which I appreciate, as loud applause is often jarring on an album that's not live throughout.

"Before And After"

Mary Chapin Carpenter provides harmony vocals on "Before And After," and she and Carrie sound phenomenal together. They sing, "We live our lives from then until now/By the mercies received/And the marks upon our brow."  I also really dig the strings. This is a truly wonderful song, and is the title track to Carrie's 2010 release.

"If Not Now"

"If Not Now" (also originally from Before & After) is a really good folk song, one of my favorites from this collection. This is one of those songs that feels like a friend, there to lean on. "We may never see this moment/Or place in time again/If not now, if not now, tell me when." This track features good use of backing vocals, echoing Carrie on "I may never see the promised land," and then later on "If not now, tell me when." And of course I love the strings. 

"A Whole Lot Of Hope"

"A Whole Lot Of Hope" is an early song from Visions And Dreams. This is a song I've always liked, a truly pretty and sweet song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Sometimes you just follow your heart/Don't analyze too long/Or maybe it might just be gone/And you've got a whole lot of hope/You've been keeping in your pocket safe from harm/A whole lot of dreams/You've keeping in your pocket safe from harm." I really like her vocals on this song. For this track she is joined by Michael Lewis on guitar and keyboard.

"A Long Christmas Dinner"

"A Long Christmas Dinner" is the second of the new songs. This one tells the story of a large family gathering yearly for the holidays, and the changes the family has gone through.  Despite the changes over the years, Carrie sings, "But it feels like it's been one long Christmas dinner/One unending prayer, one unbroken line." Krista Detor and David Weber provide backing vocals on this song. Plus, it has a Beatles reference.

"Bare To The Bone"

This collection concludes with "Bare To The Bone," which is the other live tune, and features Carrie accompanied only by Robert Meitus on guitar. (This track does have the audience applause at the end.)

CD Track List
  1. The Speed of Soul
  2. I Believe
  3. Breathe In Breathe Out
  4. There Is A Tree
  5. Geodes
  6. The Gathering Of Spirits
  7. Sparrow
  8. I Do Not Know Its Name
  9. Before And After
  10. Betty's Diner - Remix
  11. Where You Been
  12. Angels Unaware
  13. Two Toasts
  14. Holy As A Day Is Spent
  15. If Not Now
  16. My True Name
  17. A Whole Lot Of Hope
  18. A Long Christmas Dinner
  19. Bare To The Bone
Kindred Spirits: A Collection was released on November 13, 2012 on Rounder Records.

Antioquia: "Viajero" (2012) CD Review

Antioquia isn't going to gently woo you with their new CD, Viajero. This band is going to push you up against a tree and have its way with you. Then once you've been subdued, oddly, they do begin to woo you. Though by then you've already fallen for them, while they were ravishing you. Interestingly, this wasn't the impression they left me with when I saw them in concert several years ago. This CD surprised me. What I do remember is dancing and dancing, and yes, there are plenty of great rhythms on this album to get your feet moving (check out tracks 5 and 8 in particular). There is something unusual about the way this band approaches a song. Fans of Frank Zappa will likely dig what these guys are doing.  There is also something of B-52s element here. That being said, this band is truly its own entity, and is not trying to emulate anyone else. Not everyone is going to like this, but those who do are going to REALLY like it.  You know?


After an incredibly short (and totally unnecessary) introduction about a train approaching, the album kicks right in with "Idaho," with starts with several strong jabs - there is no easing in here - a heavy beginning, jumping right on top of you. This is not a pretty song. It's a song whose repetitive rhythm will take over, get control of you, toss you around a bit before the delightful and slightly goofy repetition of "Idaho." Things get a bit stranger, and by then you're completely immersed, so just go with it. And when they sing, "You're all crazy, just like me," you can't really argue. Toward the end there is some wild guitar and the repeated line, "Take me to Idaho" (a sentence I've never heard anyone say before).


"Sister" begins forcefully, with a great, aggressive dance beat and some kick-ass female vocals. Those then give way to odd quasi-theatrical delivery on the lines, "Take my sister by the hand, my sister by the hand/Show my sister love." But only briefly, then a drum roll leads back to an excellent, angry delivery on "You want the baby born but not supported/You want them for war just not aborted/A woman's womb is not a factory/And the children aren't your worker bees." I really dig the work by Craig Miller on drums.

"Who That Be?"

"Who That Be?" begins with some seriously cool percussion. This is a tribe led by a queen. Oh yes, I am loving these drums, and this is something I definitely remember from them when I saw them perform - great rhythms like this. But at two minutes, this track is too short.


"Mountains" is another strange song, with an unusual beat and some spoken word silliness as the vocalists play characters ("Good evening, Madam," "I love these special events").  This song ventures into a wonderful madness that makes me think this band should make a film and hand out acid to folks on their way into the movie theater (doors open forty-five minutes before showtime - only experienced trippers, please). All of that then gives way to a seriously catchy groove around four minutes in, and it will have you dancing. If that's not enough for you, there is then a good bit of funky rap: "I'm at a desk all day in analysis/My left side's developed paralysis/My brain must be covered in calluses/'Cause I didn't grow up in no palaces."  And the answer to it all is to go back to the mountains.

"No Sleep Til Oakland"

More great percussion begins "No Sleep Til Oakland," with some spoken word over it, like a radio broadcast ("But I do know that art, in my own case the art of poetry, means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds us hostage"), before the song kicks in. And when it kicks in, the wonderful percussion doesn't cease, and actually becomes even more prominent later in the song, near the end.

"There's A Man Jumping Off The Planet"

"There's A Man Jumping Off The Planet" is a cool tune with a reggae beat during the verses. This is really fun song, and features some nice work on sax. The countdown/takeoff chaos at the end throws the song off course, veering from the good groove it established. But other than that, it's really good.


This album features three instrumental tracks, all of which are relatively short.  The first, "Attack of The Killer Balafon," is a strange, almost timid-sounding tune, like stepping tentatively into a dark land. "Dibon" and "Kassa-Nisoro" are short percussion instrumentals featuring traditional rhythms.

"Back To The Mountains"

Viajero concludes with "Back To The Mountains," an odd track which starts with the band fucking around, and then performing a cappella the end of "Mountains," but riffing on that theme in a way that's quite a bit different from the earlier track.

CD Track List
  1. Now Approaching
  2. Idaho
  3. Attack Of The Killer Balafon
  4. Sister
  5. Who That Be?
  6. Steamship Enterprise
  7. Mountains
  8. No Sleep Til Oakland
  9. Rage Of Love
  10. Dibon
  11. Donde Quiere
  12. There's A Man Jumping Off The Planet
  13. Kassa-Nisoro
  14. Back To The Mountains

Antioquia is Rachel Antony-Levine on vocals, keyboard and shekere; Adley Penner on vocals, guitar, dun dun and gong; Tomas Salcedo on vocals, guitar and dun dun; Paul Martin on vocals, bass guitar, upright bass and dun dun; and Craig Miller on vocals, drums, djembe and balafon.  Joining them on this release are Jesse Sheehan on saxophone and Ben Isaacs on djembe.

Viajero was released on May 1, 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blue James Band: "Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight" (2012) CD Review

Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight, the third album from Blue James Band, features all original songs written by singer/guitarist Clifton J. Williams. This music is full of positive vibes, and this is a band that seems like it would put on a good live show, a band that would get folks dancing. Most of these songs have several changes, and are not simple rock tunes. So there is quite a bit to sink your teeth into. I feel the band is often most successful in its brighter, happier moments, like during the chorus of "Setting Sun," which has a great feel to it, and of course during the fantastic title track. These folks are also clearly accomplished musicians (check out the excellent instrumental section to "Between Two Lands"). Blue James Band is based in Boston.

"Not Ready For You"

This album opens with "Not Ready For You," a track which begins as straight rock, but takes on a reggae beat once the vocals come in, and it's that section that I appreciate more. Though interestingly when it slips back into the rock vein, it really works. That build has a good flow to it, and I'd almost rather the song start with the reggae section and have that build, that transition be more of a sweet surprise. There is something bright and friendly in the vocal delivery, particularly on the title line, "I'm not ready for you."  The more I listen to this song, the more I dig it.

"Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight"

"Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight," the album's title track, is one of my favorites. It begins with a great groove on bass, and a wonderful rhythm (I really dig the drums on this track). And when it kicks in, with keys and horn, it becomes great fun. This song reminds me a bit of Paul Simon from the late '80s, early '90s, especially in the vocal patterns in certain sections. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Well, I don't care what you see, just see it in me/And I don't care what you feel, just feel it for me/And I don't care if you take everything/Just give me your love or give me your fight."  (Though the lines "Love will mean more after it's gone because/Peace after war makes that love strong" eerily remind me of a girl I dated who enjoyed fighting because she equated that with passion.)

"Who Are You"

I love the groove and energy of "Who Are You" (along with the horn, of course). Parts of this song remind me a bit of Phish, particularly when Clifton sings, "You've got to get up to get out, and you've got to get out to get in/And you've got to get in to get down to who you are/So who are you." It has that kind of fun vibe about it. There is also some really nice guitar work. This is my personal favorite track from this album, and I've already found myself singing it several times.

"Everyone's Running"

"Everyone's Running" is a really interesting song. An early line grabs me: "My mouth is a hole in the ground that I keep stepping in, keeps me from moving along." Of all the tracks, this is the one that lyrically speaks strongest to me. And even with lines like "Because I don't speak that language here/Now everything's wrong and I am just here sitting all alone," the song still has something of a positive feel (which I appreciate).

"Eyes In The Dark"

Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight concludes with "Eyes In The Dark," which has a quiet and pretty intro on guitar. And this time when the vocals come in, the song retains its simple and pretty structure. It isn't until just before the chorus that the tune gets louder, more powerful.  A little after the three-minute mark, the song seems to be ending, but then takes on a different, brighter feel, with some wonderful vocal work. The last vocal line sounds gorgeous, and that's how the album ends.

CD Track List
  1. Not Ready For You
  2. They Come And They Go
  3. Long Distance Love
  4. Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight
  5. Setting Sun
  6. Who Are You
  7. Everyone's Running
  8. Between Two Lands
  9. Standing In The Fire
  10. Eyes In The Dark

Blue James Band features Clifton Williams on vocals and guitar; Bryan Worley on bass; Liz Lawrence on sax, pedal steel and vocals; Valerie Taylor on keys; and Patrick Tiglao on drums.  The album was mixed by Scott Riebling (the bass player from Letters To Cleo).

Give Me The Love Or Give Me The Fight was released on September 25, 2012 through Chappy Payne Records.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey (2012) Book Review

Music strengthens and unites us, and often helps us through the troubled times. And in Gary Golio's new book, Spirit Seeker, he shows that music did just that for John Coltrane. Music helped him in his early years, to find hope and a voice after a series of family deaths left a void in his life.  Golio clearly shows that it's never too early to try to give children an appreciation for music, and this book should help to do exactly that. 

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey is a biography, but with a focus on the music, and finding one's voice within it, a theme that children should appreciate and understand. In high school, John Coltrane was able to get free lessons for a community band, with used instruments that were donated. Later, after high school, John Coltrane's mother bought him a saxophone of his own, and he became more serious about it. Golio writes, "He began taking classes, studying classical and modern music, always doing more than his teachers asked" (p. 17), a good, positive message for young readers.

I don't know a lot about John Coltrane's life, but I like that this book isn't afraid of mentioning some of the problems he had. Besides the early tragedies, the book also mentions Coltrane's drinking and drug-taking (including an interesting anecdote about how he was "told to 'walk the bar' with his sax - parading along the top of the counter like a circus performer," p. 18). And then Golio does directly equate quitting drugs with Coltrane's success.

There is a heavily religious tone to this book, especially obvious in lines like, "Sad and tired, John soon stopped going to church or reading the Bible" (p. 18). However, while religious, the book doesn't preach or push any one religion, and in that regard it's more spiritual than religious.

Every page of this book is illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. The paintings really reflect the subject and mood of the story, and children will likely react positively to the images. Most of them are brightly colored, and quite pleasing to the eye.  There is a lot going on those paintings as well, the artwork often as complex and wild as the jazz music itself.  The artwork directly illustrates some of what Golio says on a given page, putting images to the words, but goes beyond that, by portraying the emotions and thoughts as well. For example, on the page where Golio writes about how John Coltrane took a job shining shoes, we see in the artwork the young John knelt before a pair of legs. But the legs also are a series of messages such as "Colored Seated In Rear."  And the colors are darker around those legs than elsewhere in the painting. And toward the bottom of the painting, a mop held by one of his relatives is washing away similar messages.

An afterword puts the story into the context of the times. Plus, there's an author's notes about drug use, particularly in relation to musicians, an issue important to him, as he has worked counseling children and teens about addiction. There is also an artist's note, about his inspirations and aspirations, and a bit about how he works. By the way, Rudy Gutierrez created the artwork for Santana's Shaman album.

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey was published by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 23, 2012. If you buy this book for a child, I suggest also giving him or her a Coltrane CD at the same time, perhaps one of the albums that is mentioned in the book - Giant Steps or A Love Supreme. The child can listen to the music while reading the book for a fuller understanding and appreciation.

Gary Golio is also the author of Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow, A Story Of The Young Jimi Hendrix and When Bob Met Woody: The Story Of The Young Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Leonard Cohen at Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, 11/5/12 Concert Review

I've said it before: Seeing Leonard Cohen in concert is as close as I'll get to a religious experience. Except not in Los Angeles.  As much as I love Leonard Cohen, I really hate the Nokia Theatre, and the incredible amount of assholes who attend shows there.  Though it says clearly on the tickets and the web site that the concert will start promptly at 8 p.m., many people arrived late. There was a constant stream of people walking in front of me for several songs. And then people were getting up throughout the show to get drinks or whatever.  I've seen Leonard Cohen in several cities, and it's only Los Angeles where people are rude like that.  It definitely takes away from the enjoyment of the show.  He did two shows at this venue back in 2009, and they were my least favorite shows of that tour.  I thought it might be in part because I was more than halfway back. So this time we decided to spend the money and get seats down near the front. I thought that would eliminate the asshole factor.  But no, I think there were more assholes down in the front than toward the back.

That aside, the concert itself was excellent, though short (short for Leonard Cohen, that is). 

At 7:50 p.m., there was an announcement that the show would start in ten minutes, and sure enough the show started exactly at 8 p.m.  And with that, came Leonard Cohen's first standing ovation.  "Thanks, friends," he said. "Please sit down." And he went into "Dance Me To The End Of Love."  Right away the presence of the fiddle had a positive impact.  For this tour, there were two additions since last time: Mitch Watkins on guitar and Alexandru Bublitchi on violin.  After "Dance Me To The End Of Love," Leonard said he wants to keep touring, and joked that he's planning on starting smoking again when he's eighty (he turned 78 just two months ago).  There were a lot of changes in the show since the last tour, including a lack of cartwheels from the Webb sisters during "The Future."

Folks were still coming in, and after "The Future" Leonard Cohen asked that the lights be turned on so folks could find their seats. "Sorry, folks, that we started on time," he said.  That should have been a clear message to all the inconsiderate bastards who came in late, though I think they might still have missed it. Leonard then turned to the band and said, "We'll play the last chorus of the last song."  And yes, they went into "The Future" again, while the lights remained on.

During "Bird On The Wire," he sang, "Come on, Leonard, you just can't ask for all that much."  Then during "Everybody Knows," people were still coming in.  I say close the doors at 8 p.m. and don't let any of them in until intermission.  That's the only way they'll learn. (Yes, there are times when I truly despise Los Angeles.)  But Leonard Cohen sounded incredible. His voice sounded even better than on the previous tour, and he did lots of variations in phrasing on many of the songs.  "Everybody Knows" was particularly good.

The band went into "Who By Fire," with that great intro by Javier Mas.  Amazing.  The Webb sisters played harp and clarinet on this one.  And then they did a few songs from the new album - "The Darkness," "Amen" and "Come Healing."  Of course, "The Darkness" had been played the previous tour, but this was my first time seeing him perform the other two songs.  "Come Healing" was beautiful, particularly the women's vocals and the violin section.  He did a couple of tunes from Ten New Songs, then finished the first set with "Waiting For The Miracle" and "Anthem."

The first set ended at 9:22 p.m.

At 9:35 p.m., there was a ten-minute warning.  But the second set didn't start until 9:52 p.m., making it the longest set break of any Leonard Cohen concert I've attended.  When he returned to the stage, Leonard said, "Thank you for not going home," and then went into "Tower Of Song." "Suzanne" had a really nice violin part after the second verse.  And then came one of the show's highlights, "The Guests" (from his 1979 release, Recent Songs).  I absolutely love that song, and I hadn't seen him perform it before.  It was one of the most magical moments for me.

He then did another song from the new album, "Anyhow," and then one of my personal favorites, "Heart With No Companion" (from Various Positions). Someone sat in on harmonica during the song. "Democracy" had a fresh feel to it, because of the violin, and also because Leonard Cohen played a jaw harp at the beginning and then a few more times throughout the song.

"Coming Back To You" is another of my favorites, and Leonard Cohen recited the first several lines, and then the Webb sisters performed the song, with backing by Roscoe Beck on bass and Neil Larsen on keyboard.  Their rendition was absolutely gorgeous.  Leonard Cohen then recited the first few lines of "Alexandra Leaving," before leaving the song to Sharon Robinson to perform, with the entire band backing her.

After "I'm Your Man," the crowd gave him another standing ovation. He joked, "Please sit down because I want to start the concert again." But then he actually did start the concert again. He talked about how people arrived late, and so he played the first song again - "Dance Me To The End Of Love."  In a way, it was kind of amusing. But on the other hand, I was wondering what song we were going to miss as a result.  And also, the hell with all those people who arrived late. Don't change the show for them.  After "Dance Me To The End Of Love," he played "Hallelujah" and "Take This Waltz," and that was the end of the second set (and people began leaving during "Take This Waltz," which I can't for the life of me understand).  A short second set, as it ended at 11:05 p.m.

The encores were even shorter - exactly a half hour.  The first encore was a fantastic version of "So Long, Marianne" and then "First We Take Manhattan."  The second encore was "Famous Blue Raincoat" (in which he ended with the line, "Sincerely, a friend" instead of "Sincerely, L. Cohen"), "Going Home" (a wonderful song from the new CD) and "Closing Time."  The encores were rushed, and Leonard Cohen held up a clock at the end. And that was that. The show ended at 11:36 p.m. So no "I Tried To Leave You," which I'd been looking forward to because that's when each band member gets a solo (and I wanted to hear a violin solo).  And also, no "Save The Last Dance," a song he'd been ending shows with on this tour, a song I've never seen him perform.

Other songs we didn't get that he'd been doing on this tour: "Night Comes On," "Sisters Of Mercy," "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye," "Banjo," "Gypsy's Wife," "The Partisan," "If It Be Your Will," "I Can't Forget," "Crazy To Love You," "Different Sides" and "Light As The Breeze." So even though the show was excellent (Leonard Cohen is always excellent), I had really mixed feelings on my way out.  I felt in some way that we'd been cheated. Not only was the show shorter than usual, but two songs were played twice, and because of all the rude L.A. flakes who can't be bothered to be on time anywhere.  And I decided then that, though I'm completely broke, this could not and would not be my last Leonard Cohen concert.  I need to travel to some other city.  I can't let a Los Angeles show be my last Leonard Cohen show.  The Nokia Theatre is a bad venue.  It's poorly designed.  The sound is okay, but not great.  I talked with Leonard Cohen's sound guy the last time he was here, and he told me that they have to keep the volume low or there's an echo.  And tonight I heard the echo, particularly during "A Thousand Kisses Deep."  And they really need to add more bathrooms, like on the sides, so that not everyone has to file into the one bathroom in the back.  Whoever designed this place is an idiot.

Set List

Set I
  1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  2. The Future
  3. The Future
  4. Bird On The Wire
  5. Everybody Knows
  6. Who By Fire
  7. The Darkness
  8. Amen
  9. Come Healing
  10. In My Secret Life
  11. A Thousand Kisses Deep
  12. Waiting For The Miracle
  13. The Flood >
  14. Anthem
Set II
  1. Tower Of Song
  2. Suzanne
  3. The Guests
  4. Anyhow
  5. Heart With No Companion
  6. Democracy
  7. Coming Back To You
  8. Alexandra Leaving
  9. I'm Your Man
  10. Dance Me To The End Of Love
  11. Hallelujah
  12. Take This Waltz
First Encore
  1. So Long, Marianne
  2. First We Take Manhattan
Second Encore
  1. Famous Blue Raincoat
  2. Going Home
  3. Closing Time