Sunday, July 29, 2018

Grateful Dead: “Dave’s Picks Volume 27” (2018) CD Review

Most Grateful Dead concert releases have focused on shows from the 1970s. Of course there is a good reason for that. The band was in top form for a lot of that decade. My three favorite years for Grateful Dead concert tapes are (in order) 1973, 1977 and 1970. But I’m glad we’re getting some 1980s releases now. The new Dave’s Picks three-disc set contains the complete show the Grateful Dead performed on September 2, 1983 at BSU Pavilion in Boise, Idaho.

Disc 1

As they begin “Wang Dang Doodle,” we hear this strange announcement: “Citizens of Boise, submit or perish. You are a conquered people.” “Wang Dang Doodle” was new to the band at the time, and they deliver a good rendition. A bluesy groove to get things moving in Boise. Plus, it’s great to hear the Dead play anything with the words “All night long” right at the start of the show, a delicious promise that we know is almost never literally fulfilled, but still rings of truth. And maybe this is the night, right? The band goes right into “Jack Straw,” a choppy transition. This is a decent “Jack Straw,” with some absolutely wonderful stuff from Jerry on guitar, raising the level of energy. They follow that with a somewhat mellow and slow “They Love Each Other.” For me, this version gets good during Brent’s lead on keys. That’s the beginning of a really nice jam.

For the Country Bob slots, we get “Mama Tried” into “Big River.” “Mama Tried” has a great little jam, with some nice energy. And “Big River” is always a fun one to dance to, and they keep that groove going for a bit. “Brown-Eyed Women” is one I always get excited about, and this is a delicious rendition, with some interesting stuff vocally and more than enough energy. Listen to Jerry sing “Daddy made whiskey and he made it well/Cost two dollars, you know it burned like hell.” Wonderful. Bob then takes things back in a bluesy direction for “New Minglewood Blues.” It takes a while for this one to take off, but when it does, watch out! There is a fantastic section during the jam, with the band reaching some new heights. The crowd totally appreciates it too. Jerry then follows it with “Big Railroad Blues,” which for just a moment at the beginning sounds distant. But that is fixed quickly, and this version is a lot of fun, at moments feeling like a Chuck Berry rock and roll number. That’s followed by a really pretty and ultimately powerful version of “Looks Like Rain.” The first set then wraps up with “Deal.” I usually don’t care all that much about “Deal,” but this is a particularly good rendition, with a whole lot of energy to keep everyone in high spirits throughout the set break.

Disc 2

The second disc contains the first hour of the second set. The second set opens with that great burst setting “Help On The Way” in motion. This version is a bit messy at moments. “Slipknot!” gets kind of intense, not your fun, groovy version. So when we emerge into “Franklin’s Tower,” the joy is all the greater. And this is a good, pulsing “Franklin’s.” “If you get confused, listen to the music play.” This jam is definitely worth listening to. This version keeps you on your toes, offering surprises, the band really thriving in the moment. It’s also interesting how the band eases out of this one, finishing it gently.

We then get my favorite pairing of tunes – “Estimated Prophet” into “Eyes Of The World.” The energy is high for “Estimated,” and it feels like the band could just continue building and rocking, when suddenly Bob comes back in on the vocals, halting that climb, that fiery drive, and suddenly returning the band to that good groove. Then the band starts jamming again, but it’s a very different type of exploration now. For me, this is when it gets interesting, and after a little while the jam leads into “Eyes,” a song that always makes me happy, a song that always gets me dancing. Its vibe is just so light and positive, you know? The sound gets weird for a bit during the last verse, like it switched from soundboard to audience or something, which caught me by surprise, but this is still an excellent version. For some reason, part of the jam is presented here as a separate track, a very cool jam with heavy percussion. And the second disc wraps up with “Drums.” This is a fairly short “Drums,” less than six minutes, and has some strange moments.

Disc 3

The third disc then picks up with “Space.” This is a seriously good “Space,” much more together than it often is, with themes and some pretty moments. This is one of the best “Space” segments I’ve ever heard. Bob teases “Throwing Stones,” and a minute or so later, the band goes into it. “A peaceful place, or so it looks from space/A closer look reveals the human race.” The song was only a year old at this point, and the jam gets a little ugly, but the song ends gently, like letting go. And then the groove of “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad” begins, and everyone starts to feel optimistic about those “possibilities” Bob mentioned at the end of “Throwing Stones.” We’re all together now, zooming down the road. Then Jerry eases us into a nice, passionate “Black Peter.” There are some incredible moments in this version, particularly vocally, as when Jerry suddenly lowers his voice to draw us in further, to draw us closer. The second set then concludes with a rousing “Sugar Magnolia.” It gets a bit messy just before the “Sunshine Daydream” part, but no matter. The encore is a sweet and powerful “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Wang Dang Doodle >
  2. Jack Straw
  3. They Love Each Other
  4. Mama Tried >
  5. Big River
  6. Brown-Eyed Women
  7. New Minglewood Blues
  8. Big Railroad Blues
  9. Looks Like Rain >
  10. Deal
Disc 2
  1. Help On The Way >
  2. Slipknot! >
  3. Franklin’s Tower
  4. Estimated Prophet >
  5. Eyes Of The World >
  6. Jam >
  7. Drums 
Disc 3
  1. Space >
  2. Throwing Stones >
  3. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad >
  4. Black Peter >
  5. Sugar Magnolia
  6. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Dave’s Picks Volume 27 was released in late July, 2018. My copy arrived on July 28th.

Peter Lin and The Lintet: “With Respect” (2018) CD Review

With Respect is the debut album from trombonist Peter Lin and his band, The Lintet. The music here is apparently mostly made up of standards, but not from the Great American Songbook. Rather, these are songs from the Chinese and Taiwanese popular music realms, and so music that might not be familiar to a lot of us. I am glad that these tunes are now becoming familiar to me, because the music on this disc is seriously good. By the way, not all the tracks are standards. There is one original composition, written by Peter Lin. There are notes on each of the tracks in the album’s liner notes, giving us a little background on the compositions. The musicians joining Peter Lin on this release include Anthony Nelson Jr. on saxophone and flute, Oscar Williams II on piano, Ben Rubens on bass, and Nic Cacioppo on drums, as well as some guests on certain tracks.

The album opens with “Forgotten Times,” which actually – according to the liner notes – comes from a film. There is something absolutely delightful about this tune at times. It makes me feel light and happy, in part because of Oscar Williams II’s work on piano. And though it has a nice groove, it also somehow has a calming effect. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable tune. Benjamin Kovacs plays tenor saxophone on this track. That’s followed by “Sweet As Honey,” which has a lively, exciting feel right at the start, with its somewhat unusual rhythm. There is also plenty of cool work on horns to keep us interested. “The Moon Represents My Heart” also raises my spirits immediately. The horns have such a bright and warm and cheerful sound. While the famous version of this song by Teresa Teng has a sweet and gentle vibe, this rendition swings and is quite fun.

“Born Here, From There” is an original composition written by Peter Lin. It has an interesting title, and one that certainly feels personal and relevant to the overall theme of this release. Peter Lin was born in the United States (in Louisiana, and now resides in New Jersey), but is clearly interested in his Taiwanese heritage, exploring the music on this album. And so this composition feels to be the heart of the CD, and its placement right in the center of the tracks seems perfect. It is a thoughtful, engaging tune, featuring lots of moving work on horns, some cool stuff on bass, and some nice work on drums. The album’s other track that is not part of the Chinese or Taiwanese popular songbooks is “My Blues,” composed by Slide Hampton. Peter Lin’s connection to Slide Hampton is strong, and the CD’s liner notes include a note from Slide Hampton. They’ve played together, and apparently Peter Lin is Slide Hampton’s manager. This track pops and moves, and I love the drumming. There is a lot of joy in this recording. Several musicians join Peter Lin on this track, including Anthony Ware on alto saxophone, James Zollar on trumpet, Charlie Sigler on guitar, and Winard Harper on drums. All the musicians have moments to shine, and this track includes a cool bass lead followed by a drum solo toward the end.

Peter Lin’s rendition of “Rose, Rose, I Love You” feels like New Orleans music. It has that kind of joy, that kind of energy, that kind of style. All of the musicians who play on “My Blues” also join Peter Lin for this one. I love this track. The CD then concludes with “Evening Primrose,” featuring Anthony Nelson Jr. on flute. This one too feels designed to make us all feel a little bit better about life, something we can certainly use these days.

CD Track List
  1. Forgotten Times
  2. Sweet As Honey
  3. The Moon Represents My Heart
  4. Born Here, From There
  5. My Blues
  6. Rose, Rose, I Love You
  7. Evening Primrose 
With Respect was released on June 22, 2018.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters: “Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters” (2018) CD Review

The self-titled debut release from Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters is a wonderful album mixing rock, country, and folk, and featuring some damn fine songwriting. The album contains all original material, written or co-written by Ashleigh Flynn. Though this is the first CD from Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters, it is certainly not the first release from Ashleigh Flynn herself. She has put out several solo albums over the last couple of decades, the most recent being the 2016 EP The Low Arc Of The Sun. On the new album, Ashleigh Lynn performs all the lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar, and she is joined by a group of accomplished musicians. The Riveters include Nancy Luca (from Whole Lotta Rosies) on electric guitar, Carmen Paradise (from The Marvins) on bass, Jolie Clausen on drums, Jenny Conlee (from The Decemberists) on keys, Kathryn Claire on fiddle and backing vocals, and Ara Lee on backing vocals.

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters kick off the album with a bang, getting things going with an energetic rockin’ number titled “This Love,” which features a lively vocal performance and some wild stuff on electric guitar. Ashleigh Flynn tells us she aims to give us some of her loving, and urges, “Don’t be shy.” No worries there. She is a strong force, which would easily overcome any shyness on the part of the person she’s after. That’s followed by one of my favorite tracks, “The Sound Of Bells.” This one eases in, and has a rather pretty vocal performance. Something about the way she ends certain lines with “mm-hm” just wins my heart. “Winding up the canyon drive/The only stars are my headlights, mm-hm/The stutter of my engine sound/The moonlight dances on the ground, mm-hm.” You have to hear it. This song then kicks in and develops a fun and totally cheerful vibe. This is a wonderful song that makes me feel good. It’s one I’m going to be listening to often.

The band then follows that with a seriously rockin’ number, “Cold Black Line.” It’s remarkable how varied Ashleigh Flynn’s vocal performances are, how she tailors her approach to the material. Then “Too Close To The Sun” has more of a pop sound, and the vocals fit that sound. This song features one of my favorite lines of the album: “Race to the top just to roll down the hill.” “Too Close To The Sun” was written by Ashleigh Flynn and Nancy Luca. Chris Funk, who produced the album, joins the band on vibes and backing vocals for this track. “One Moment” is a song that really grew on me. It becomes kind of a glorious song. Seriously, it energized me and had me singing along. “You’re going nowhere/You can’t seem to get there/And all you want, and all you want is one moment in the sun.” This one was written by Ashleigh Flynn and Virginia Cohen.

“You Will Remember,” written by Ashleigh Flynn and Nancy Luca, has a strong 1970s rock feel. And yes, the line “You will remember my name” does make me think of Fame. That’s followed by “Shrouded Sun,” a mellower, pretty country and folk song. “Don’t know why I always feel lonely/These thoughts coming and going/My heart beats like a burning flame/I know I can’t be the only/One who hears the bells ring.” Kyleen King joins the band on violin and viola on this track, adding to the song’s beauty. “Oh, how beautiful life could be.” Then “Fly Away” has a great positive vibe, and a catchy hook. I also like Kathryn Claire’s work on fiddle. “High On A Mountain” is a pretty country song, with a sweet-sounding vocal performance. “When I go out walking, the moon gives all the light that I need/My only desire is to see you in front of me.” The album then ends with a delightfully playful tune, “Big Hat, No Cattle,” which offers an affectionate and humorous look at the contradictions and poses of a modern country personality. “Big hat, no cattle/Been forever since I sat in the saddle/In fact, I never rode a horse in my life/I’ve got a gun rack and an American flag/On the window of the back of this cab/She’s an F-150 with mud flaps/Silhouettes of tits and ass.” There is some really nice stuff on keys. I love this song.

CD Track List
  1. This Love
  2. The Sound Of Bells
  3. Cold Black Line
  4. Too Close To The Sun
  5. One Moment
  6. You Will Remember
  7. Shrouded Sun
  8. Fly Away
  9. High On A Mountain
  10. Big Hat, No Cattle
Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters is scheduled to be released on September 21, 2018 on Home Perm Records.

James Austin Jr.: “Songs In The Key Of Wonder” (2018) CD Review

Songs In The Key Of Wonder is an album of Stevie Wonder covers by jazz pianist James Austin, Jr.  What’s interesting is that this is James Austin, Jr.’s debut album. I find it intriguing whenever an artist chooses for his or her first release to do a tribute album. The person the artist is covering and honoring must mean a lot to him or her personally and must have had a strong influence on his or her musical development. If you are going to do a tribute album for your first release, Stevie Wonder is certainly a good choice of artists to cover. Stevie Wonder has so many excellent songs. For the ten selections on this CD, James Austin Jr. chooses a few of Wonder’s most famous songs, such as “My Cherie Amour” and “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” but also some lesser-known numbers like “Golden Lady” and “Tuesday Heartbreak.” Joining the pianist on this release are Bobby Broom on guitar, Ben Rubens on bass, David Williams on bass, Kobie Watkins on drums, Samuel Torres on percussion, Jarrard Harris on alto saxophone, and Joe Magnarelli on trumpet.

This album opens with a sweet rendition of “Isn’t She Lovely,” a song that was included on Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, the 1976 album that obviously gives this release its playful title. James Austin Jr.’s rendition begins differently from Stevie Wonder’s original version, with a nice, thoughtful, quiet introduction on piano. This version then builds and grows in joy, with some wonderful stuff on both trumpet and saxophone, as well as on drums, even including a drum solo. That’s followed by “My Cherie Amour,” which is given a different and prominent rhythm. But it is that lively piano lead that is most interesting. I don’t recall this song ever sounding so sprightly. James Austin Jr. then returns to Songs In The Key Of Life, giving us a rendition of that album’s “Another Star.” This version begins with the good groove, and the piano, when it comes in, basically at first simply joins that rhythm, adding its voice to it (a piano is a percussion instrument, after all). It is then the horns that rise above the strong rhythm. This is one should get your body moving.

“You’ve Got It Bad Girl” is a more relaxed number, with some nice work on bass. This is a song that was included on Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, a 1972 LP from which James Austin Jr. chooses a total of three tracks to cover. The second song from that album to be included here is “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” which was also released as a single and reached #1 on the Billboard chart. The flip side to that single was “Tuesday Heartbreak,” the third track from Talking Book to be covered on this release. This version has kind of an easygoing vibe, and I really like James Austin Jr.’s lead section on keys.

“Part-Time Lover” was a big hit for Stevie Wonder in the mid-1980s, and here James Austin Jr. and his band seem to be having fun with it, getting loose, and delivering a really good rendition. This was never one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs, but this version is giving me more of an appreciation for it. I particularly love the work on guitar and on drums. That’s followed by “Golden Lady,” which features some really nice stuff on both piano and trumpet, and a prominent rhythm. Then James Austin Jr. dips back into In Square Circle (the album that gave us “Part-Time Lover”) for a cover of “Overjoyed.” This is a gentle, incredibly pretty rendition, and I love that gorgeous, tender work on saxophone. This is one of my favorite tracks. This tribute to Stevie Wonder ends with “Lately,” from Hotter Than July. This version includes just piano and bass, and is an absolutely gorgeous way to conclude the album.

CD Track List
  1. Isn’t She Lovely
  2. My Cherie Amour
  3. Another Star
  4. You’ve Got It Bad Girl
  5. Part-Time Lover
  6. Golden Lady
  7. Overjoyed
  8. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
  9. Tuesday Heartbreak
  10. Lately
Songs In The Key Of Wonder is scheduled to be released on August 3, 2018 on JCA Records.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Peter Holsapple: “Game Day” (2018) CD Review

In the opening track of Peter Holsapple’s new album, he asks, “Do I still have what it takes?” He then offers up fifteen more tracks (including three bonus tracks) to answer his own question, that yes, absolutely, he does still have what it takes. Game Day is Peter Holsapple’s first solo album in two decades, and it is an excellent group of songs. He wrote all the material (except for one of the bonus tracks), and plays almost all the instruments. Known for his work with the dBs (who six years ago released their first album in twenty-five years, Falling Off The Sky, Peter Holsapple has kept busy with a variety of projects. But after enjoying Game Day, I am hoping he’ll now focus on more solo material.

The album opens with its title track, and the first lines, “My horoscope read/You oughta stay in bed,” got me on board immediately. Plus, the song has a very cool vibe, and is about playing music. He playfully leaves it to his doctor to tell him, “There’s no reason to quit/So you’d better get used to it.” It seems like the perfect song to open what is his first solo effort in a mighty long time. That’s followed by “Commonplace,” in which he sings “There’s nothing wrong with being common,” a thought no one can really come to terms with. The next line is “We don’t all have to be king,” and yet the most common of all people is now acting as king of our country. (Sorry, sometimes it’s difficult to keep from straying into that territory. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.) This track builds a bit in intensity toward the end. Then “Continental Drifters” has a sweeter tone, with something of a nostalgic feel, looking back at an earlier band. Susan Cowsill, who was a member of the Continental Drifters with Peter Holsapple, joins him on vocals on this track. “And never was a better time had/And never was a finer band/In a time and a place and a different space/’Til it fell apart in our hands.”

For “In Too Deep,” he delivers an angry, snarling vocal performance which totally fits my mood these days. “In too deep/A hill too steep/I can’t look away/’Cause I don’t know how.” And it comes to us over a steady thumping rhythm. There is also some good work on electric guitar. This is a song I think I’ll be playing a lot. It is followed by “Inventory,” which has become one of my favorites. The first time I listened to the album, this is a song that grabbed me partway through. Check out these lines: “Now everyone and everything is gone, and they left me all their stuff/’Cause we all knew that memories alone would never be enough.” There is something oddly catchy about this song, and a weird joy in his voice when singing “Everything is gone” at the end. That’s followed by another of my favorites, “I Got High With You.” Something about this one makes me laugh (and I’m not even high at the moment) – the way he sings it, the tone. “We can talk about the president/We can talk about it all night long.”  For some reason, these lines about getting high by ourselves make me smile: “That’s nothing new/That’s just what we do.” I love this song, and enjoy it more each time I listen to this disc. It’s a gloriously quirky and honest pop song.

“She Handed Him A Pencil” is one of my two favorite song titles on this album. This one has kind of a punk groove to start, and I dig that bass. It’s a strange, intriguing song, with plays on words like “write” and “right” (“You’re supposed to be the writer, right?/So write something tonight”) and then “bear” (“And he went out and thought he shot a bear, but he couldn’t bear to look”). And I love his surprising delivery of “That boy ain’t right.”  The song with my other favorite title is also one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks, “Don’t Ever Leave.” From the moment this one begins, with the whistling, it is just absolutely wonderful. “Sometimes I turn up my radio real loud/Sometimes I try to stay out of the crowd/Sometimes I feel like I’m yelling at clouds/Just yelling, just yelling, yelling at clouds.” Oh yes! This is a song I could listen to all night. Maybe I will. But of course there are several fantastic songs on this album, including “The Smartest Thing I’ve Ever Done,” which had me from its opening line, “There is no sense in what I say, what I’ve done or what I tried to do.” How is that for an excellent first line? “And I’ve been told a thousand times by people better than myself/That this was not the smartest thing that I have ever done/No, not so smart, I agree.” This is the final track of the bulk of the album. The remaining tunes are labeled as bonus tracks.

The first bonus track is the only cover on the album, an excellent, thumping version of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes,” combined with The New York Rock And Roll Ensemble’s “Sing Lady Sing.” The two songs have extremely similar openings. Jeremy Boomhower joins him on trumpet and trombone for this one. This track has a strange, sudden ending. The CD then concludes with both songs from the single that Peter Holsapple released last year. The first, “Don’t Mention The War,” has something of a Neil Young vibe at the beginning. This is a tremendous song, and I’m glad it’s included here. There are some excellent lyrics, like “And he gives off a smell that’s like old rotten meat/And he opens his eyes, and he’s still seeing the dead/And he’s trying to get back to her couch in his head/So don’t mention the war.” The flip side is “Cinderella Style,” an odd tune that I can’t help but like. The musicians joining him on these tracks are James Wallace on piano, drums and vocals; Mark Simonsen on drums, acoustic guitar, vibraphone and vocals; Skylar Gudasz on flute; and Mark Daumen on tuba. “Hanging from a rock/The metamorphosis is incomplete/She made it out to be so bad/But all it really was was true Cinderella style.”

CD Track List
  1. Game Day
  2. Commonplace
  3. Continental Drifters
  4. In Too Deep
  5. Inventory
  6. I Got High With You
  7. Tuff Day
  8. The Better Man
  9. She Handed Him A Pencil
  10. Don’t Ever Leave
  11. Yelling At Clouds
  12. Not Right Now
  13. The Smartest Thing I’ve Ever Done
  14. Them Changes/Sing Lady Sing
  15. Don’t Mention The War
  16. Cinderella Style
Game Day was released today, July 27, 2018, through Omnivore Recordings.

Ronnie Davis And Idren: “Come Straight” (1996/2018) CD Review

There are moments when I believe that the fascists in power can be defeated by music, by positive vibes, that hearing it will cause them to melt into a foul, corrosive puddle. Maybe that seems possible because music somehow feels like the opposite of what they are. The current administration and music are opposing forces, and music is clearly the greater force. And reggae in particular has such a happy sound that it seems destined to eradicate the pestilence that arose in 2016. After all, everything about the puppet president and his supporters is negative, and they seem to survive and thrive on hatred and ignorance. Reggae is obviously the opposite of that. Listening to Come Straight, an album by Ronnie Davis And Idren, shows that to be true. The album was originally released in 1996, and has now been remastered, and is being re-issued with a couple of previously unreleased bonus tracks. Ronnie Davis was a member of The Tennors and The Itals, and had an extensive solo career as well. He died in early 2017. This new issue of Come Straight contains liner notes by Leroy Jodie Pierson.

In the opening track, “Rough Cut,” Ronnie Davis sings “He got no soul/He got no feeling/Ain’t got no pity/Not even for the poor.” Those lyrics certainly seem applicable to the grotesque man pretending to be president of our country.  I dig the strong bass line of reggae, and here it seems to say a lot, to express the troubles and to tell us to keep moving on. This track also features some really cool work on guitar in the second half. “Rough Cut” is followed by “Rough Version,” which is a different version of the same song. It has the feel of a club mix. “Road Of Tradition” also has a vibe like that, like reggae with a club bent. It was written by Ronnie Davis and Robert Doctor, and contains a reference to The Wailers’ “Get Up, Stand Up.”

“Pick Up The Pieces” has a cheerful sound. “You better pick up the pieces/It’s no time to lose.” Then “Won’t You Come Home” is a sweet, delicious song with an innocent vibe, certainly one of the disc’s highlights. It’s a song that Ronnie Davis had recorded earlier in his career, even released it as a single in the 1970s. “Baby, my sweet baby/I’m longing to hold you in my arms/Won’t you come home.” I love his tender and passionate vocal delivery. “Move On Oppressor” is another favorite, with its wonderful groove and message. “Move on, oppressor, oppressors/You’re only trying to conquer/Move on, oppressor, oppressors/You’re only getting me angry.” And this line seems stands out: “Every time we learn the game, you change the rules.” These days there seem to be no rules whatsoever. This one was written by Robert Doctor.

In “Come Straight,” Ronnie Davis sings “You been treating us with dishonesty,” which of course brings to mind a certain mendacious cretin who likes to pretend to drive large trucks and lead a nation. This song, the album’s title track, also urges people to “Stop your negative thinking.” I know, I know, but it’s so difficult these days. This music is certainly helping. This is followed by “Straighten Up Instrumental,” an interesting instrumental rendition of “Come Straight,” and then by another version of it titled “Come Straight Dub.” In “Ease It Up,” Ronnie Davis asks people to “Ease up the pressure” and to “Hit me with music.” Yes, exactly. That’s followed by “If You Conscious,” in which he sings “’Cause in this time we need more love/In this time we need understanding.” That was true more than two decades ago when this album was originally released, and is true now. The original album concludes with a second version of “If You Conscious,” titled “Conscious Dub.”

This special re-issue contains two bonus tracks, neither of which was previously released. The first is “Mister C,” a song written by Robert Doctor. This has a pleasant, positive sound, and features a wonderful vocal performance. This is actually one of the disc’s best tracks, and has some lyrics that I love. “Hey, time, don’t wait for me/I’ll take it slow and do things on my own/In my own time.” The other bonus track, which concludes the CD, is “Welcome You Home,” a fun, joyous number to leave us feeling good. And that is exactly what we’re looking for.

CD Track List
  1. Rough Cut
  2. Rough Version
  3. Road Of Tradition
  4. Pick Up The Pieces
  5. Won’t You Come Home
  6. Repent
  7. Jah Is My Light
  8. Move On Oppressor
  9. Two Roads
  10. Respect Your Elders
  11. Come Straight
  12. Straighten Up Instrumental
  13. Come Straight Dub
  14. Ease It Up 
  15. If You Conscious
  16. Conscious Dub
  17. Mister C
  18. Welcome You Home
This special re-issue of Come Straight is scheduled to be released on August 3, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Winston Jarrett And The Righteous Flames: “Jonestown” (1989/2018) CD Review

Every day, I struggle with anger, because every day brings more incredibly bad news from the country’s capital and from the rabid followers of the demented puppet pretending to lead. There seems to be no end in sight. And people are now displaying an extremely ugly side that they previously had the good sense to keep hidden. Not only have they now revealed their worst qualities, but they revel in them. They boast of their racism, their bigotry and their stupidity, as if there is something wrong with the rest of us for not sharing in those appalling attributes. Things have certainly become turned around in a way I didn’t think possible, or at least likely. Like a lot of people, I’ve been turning to music for relief and comfort. Reggae deals with troubles and struggles sort of head-on, and yet does so with such a cheerful vibe that it feels almost like the monsters are defeated just by these folks singing about them. There is certainly something to be learned by this approach. A lesson I need to re-learn every few days. Fortunately, a lot of good reggae albums are being re-issued. Jonestown, the 1989 release by Winston Jarrett And The Righteous Flames, originally put out on Nighthawk Records, is now being re-issued by Omnivore Recordings. It’s been remastered from the original tapes, and the liner notes by Leroy Jodie Pierson contain a few photos. Jonestown features mostly original material, written by Winston Jarrett.

The album kicks off with “Bad Boy,” and the beat, the sound, the vocals all work to make me feel good, and it’s not long before my optimism returns. There is certainly some magic in this music. And we can all use a little magic these days. “Lord, I’ve got to keep on moving.” “Bad Boy” is followed by “Hold On To This Feeling,” the album’s only cover, a song originally done by Jr. Walker And The All Stars. This track is full of positive vibes. Then the first line of “Run To The Rock” is “Lots of education it takes to rule the nation.” The line is important enough that it is repeated before the next line. Ah, how much I wish the current leaders were educated, or at least even slightly interested in information. They just don’t seem at all curious about anything outside of their own skin. They are baffling and sad creatures. “Unity” has a nice, positive groove. This music is as vibrant and as needed as it was the day it was recorded.

“Jonestown,” the album’s title track, is about the section of Kingston in Jamaica where Winston Jarrett grew up. The song also mentions Trench Town, the famous nearby area that gave us The Wailers. Reggae is music that remembers one’s roots, keeps them strong, even celebrates them. The song is a bit repetitive, but still enjoyable. That’s followed by “Babylon Broke Dung Me House,” which is a perfect example of a song that tells of serious troubles but has a fun, cheerful vibe and sound. Then I really dig the horns in “Spanish Town Road,” another song about a specific area in Kingston. In this song, Winston Jarrett mentions the market at the corner of Spanish Town Road and Darling Street, and thanks to this internet thing I can look at a map of that area and photos of that very market while listening. Yes, there are moments when I am still amazed by the internet. That song is followed by “Lovers Making Love,” which is kind of simple, yet kind of sweet. And, after all, isn’t love what it’s all about? Why the hell else would we be here?

CD Track List
  1. Bad Boy
  2. Hold On To This Feeling
  3. Run To The Rock
  4. Unity
  5. Knotty Got To Find A Way
  6. Jonestown
  7. Babylon Broke Dung Me House
  8. Spanish Town Road
  9. Lovers Making Love
  10. Conference Hall
This re-issue of Jonestown is scheduled to be released on August 3, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

Lucia Jackson: “You And The Night And The Music” (2018) CD Review

Lucia Jackson has been working as a dancer, and is now about to release her debut album as a jazz vocalist. The album, You And The Night And The Music, features arrangements by her father, Ron Jackson, the guitarist, who also plays on this release. Also joining the vocalist on this CD are Yago Vazquez on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass, and Corey Rawls on drums, as well as a few guests on certain tracks. The songs selected are largely standards, but there is also an original composition by Lucia Jackson and Dan Garcia.

Lucia Jackson opens with a Cole Porter song, “Just One Of Those Things,” an excellent choice to get things started. This rendition moves along at a good clip. It’s the work on guitar that first grabbed my attention, but this track features some wonderful work on piano too. And the bass keeps things pumping along. I also dig the drums toward the end of the track. The focus, of course, is on the vocals, and Lucia Jackson’s voice here has a bright, friendly feel. She finds plenty of places to go to keep things interesting and fresh. Then there is a sweetness, an innocence to her voice at the beginning of “Beautiful Love,” heard in the way she delivers words like “mystery.” But she finds different levels here too, perhaps letting the lyrics dictate the approach or allowing herself the freedom to move about within the vocal line. There is more wonderful work on guitar here.

Interestingly, Lucia Jackson then chooses a recent pop song, Julia Michaels’ “Issues,” a song that came out only last year. Everyone I know seems to be bothered by certain choices that people make with regards to words, certain errors. For example, I tense up whenever an actual living person is referred to as a “legend.” That irritates me. I am also annoyed when someone mistakes “celibate” for “chaste” (“celibate” simply means “not married”; it has nothing to do with sex, or a lack thereof). My dad takes umbrage with the use of “issues” in place of “flaws,” and I couldn’t help but think of that when listening to this track. The word “issue” can mean a point that could be disputed, or a matter that needs to be decided, but it does not mean a flaw or defect. To my ears, Lucia Jackson’s rendition is much better than Julia Michaels’ original version, but it is still probably the weakest track, not in terms of its execution, but just as a song itself.

Lucia Jackson delivers a slow, sparse, intriguing rendition of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her,” here titled “And I Love Him.” Her tender vocals are accompanied only by Ron Jackson on guitar. That’s followed by the album’s title track, “You And The Night And The Music.” Here she has a sweet and almost delicate approach at first, her voice accompanied again by only guitar. Then the band bursts in, and the track begins to swing and rock. This track features an excellent lead part on saxophone, which helps to make it one of the album’s highlights. That’s Yaacov Mayman on tenor sax. And that song is followed by my absolute favorite track on the CD, “I’m A Fool To Want You.” I love the way this one begins, transporting me to some European street, imbued with romance and heartache. This track features guest musicians Frederika Krier on violin and Javier Sanchez on bandoneon, and their presence adds tremendously to the great sound and mood of this one. Plus, Lucia Jackson’s vocals are gorgeous and moving.

“Feel The Love” is the album’s original composition, written by Lucia Jackson and Dan Garcia. This one too features some guest musicians, including the song’s co-writer on flamenco classical guitar, and Samuel Torres on percussion. “Feel the love/Let it take you home/Where your past remembers.” That’s followed by a pretty rendition of “Sophisticated Lady,” and then a playful rendition of “No Regrets,” written by Ronnie Ingraham and Harry Tobias. This version includes an extended instrumental section featuring some nice work on both guitar and piano. (By the way, on the back of the CD case, Tom Rush is listed as one of the songwriters. Though Tom Rush did write a song titled “No Regrets,” and that song has become a standard too, none of those lyrics are included here.) The CD concludes with a joyful and sweet rendition of “When You’re Smiling,” which includes a bit of scat and a bass solo. “When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you/When you’re laughing, when you’re laughing, the sun comes shining through.”

CD Track List
  1. Just One Of Those Things
  2. Beautiful Love
  3. Issues
  4. And I Love Him
  5. You And The Night And The Music
  6. I’m A Fool To Want You
  7. Feel The Love
  8. Sophisticated Lady
  9. No Regrets
  10. Never Let Me Go
  11. I Fall In Love Too Easily
  12. Toda Una Vida
  13. When You’re Smiling 
You And The Night And The Music is scheduled to be released on September 14, 2018.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gene Clark: “Gene Clark Sings For You” (2018) CD Review

After Gene Clark left The Byrds in 1966, he began his solo career, releasing his first solo album in early 1967. That year he also recorded Gene Clark Sings For You. The album wasn’t released then, and has remained in the vaults until now. Thanks to Omnivore Recordings, we finally get a chance to enjoy this material. The music is folk, with a somewhat loose and raw and intimate vibe. Nothing is too polished here. There is of course some beautiful poetry to the lyrics. In addition to those eight songs, this disc also includes the five songs from the acetate that Gene Clark gave to The Rose Garden, recordings that hadn’t been heard by anyone outside of that band’s members until now. Yes, this is a significant release. Fairly extensive liner notes by John Einarson tell some of the story behind the recordings contained on this special CD. Remaining unknown, unfortunately, are the names of the musicians accompanying Gene Clark on these tracks, except for Alex del Zoppo, who plays piano. All the songs were written by Gene Clark.

The disc opens with “On Her Own,” a wonderful folk tune about a woman who slipped away, a woman he finds himself looking for. “Seven days a week I wake up and look out my window/Sometimes I feel so low I can hardly speak/But what words I hear when she told me how much she loved me/Draw back the shades, I might as well sleep.” That’s followed by “Past Tense,” which has a somewhat full sound that never gets in the way of the vocals. “I know you don’t know what it means/For her to see your face again/I know you think she’ll never leave.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Yesterday, Am I Right,” which opens with the line, “What did I ever do that was right?” Gene Clark is known for his songwriting, but this one in particular has lyrics that are so effective. Check out these lines: “I'd give up the highway if I knew that you would give your loving to me/The letter that I got from you that told me you had gone has gone clear through me.” It’s that last line especially that I love, with the two different ways of using the word “gone.” And his delivery is excellent, with a heartache and desperation that feels true. “What good is my life without you near? And then “Past My Door” also features some strong lines and phrases, such as “An afternoon of slight intention” and “A girl who paints deception.”

“That’s Alright Be Me” is one song from this session that Gene Clark would revisit, that other version ending up on the 1998 compilation Flying High. While I like that version, I think this one is much better, more powerful. The way he sings the lines “Hey, hey, can't you see/Baby, don't you lie to me” in this version shows a vulnerability and a pain that are compelling. And I like the strings. Another of my favorites is “Down On The Pier,” which manages to be both catchy and sad, and features the addition of calliope. “But I’m here, down on the pier/You’re never here/There’s no one but me.” Gene Clark Sings For You ends with a country song, “7:30 Mode,” which includes a bit of nice work on harmonica.

The next five songs on this CD are from the recording that Gene Clark presented to The Rose Garden, letting that band choose any they wished to record. They chose “A Long Time,” which ended up on their only LP, The Rose Garden, which you can hear on the new compilation, A Trip Through The Garden: The Rose Garden Collection. Gene Clark’s recording of “A Long Time” has quite a different feel and sound than that by The Rose Garden. This one has a more raw folk sound, particularly because Gene Clark performs it solo. “On Tenth Street” has a bit of a Bob Dylan influence. This one features some excellent lyrics, such as these lines: “And when it looks like it’s going to rain/I’ll just go out and try to find someone to blame/For how much I remember you.” “Big City Girl” is a cool bluesy tune. “The day was so cold/I thought that I had some place to get warm/Didn’t care what I stole/Didn’t see it could it ever bring me no harm.” This one also features some good stuff on harmonica. This CD concludes with Gene Clark’s original demo of “Till Today,” a song that The Rose Garden recorded and included on their self-titled LP. “Far beyond the things I could prove to you/Even past the simple reasons I could find/If loved, I know I never will forget you/And if needed, just to know will ease my mind.”

CD Track List
  1. On Her Own
  2. Past Tense
  3. Yesterday, Am I Right
  4. Past My Door
  5. That’s Alright By Me
  6. One Way Road
  7. Down On The Pier
  8. 7:30 Mode
  9. On Tenth Street
  10. Understand Me Too
  11. A Long Time
  12. Big City Girl
  13. Doctor Doctor
  14. Till Today
Gene Clark Sings For You was released on June 15, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

The Rose Garden: “A Trip Through The Garden: The Rose Garden Collection” (2018) CD Review

I love late 1960s music, and I’ve been listening to it since my childhood, so I’m surprised when an album surfaces that is completely (or almost completely) new to me. Such is the case with The Rose Garden’s self-titled album, which makes up a portion of the new compilation A Trip Through The Garden: The Rose Garden Collection. While “Next Plane To London” might be familiar, most of the tracks on this compilation are ones I’d never heard before. In fact, half of them were previously unreleased, including several live recordings. The CD contains nearly eighty minutes of music. The music itself is in the folk-rock realm, and some of it will likely remind you of The Byrds. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, as described in the CD’s extensive liner notes on the story of this band, the band members were big fans of The Byrds. The second reason is that Gene Clark wrote a couple of the band’s songs. The Rose Garden’s connection to the former member of The Byrds is detailed in the liner notes.

The compilation’s first ten tracks make up the band’s self-titled album, The Rose Garden’s only LP. That album opens with “Next Plane To London,” which was also released as a single, and was the band’s hit song. It’s a delightful and kind of catchy folk rock tune. Sure, the airport announcements are a bit silly, but it’s an enjoyable song. “Said that over here I wasn’t in/Down in Hollywood I couldn’t find a friend/Who would help me get in/Or listen to me/I’m on the next plane to London.” Interestingly, this hit mentions “any record on the chart.”  That’s followed by one of my favorites, “I’m Only Second.” Its first line, “How does it feel to be the winning one,” makes me think of that boastful, demented airbag pretending to be president. But I’m not going to let that spoil my enjoyment of this song.  I love the feel of this one, and it features a really nice vocal performance by Diana De Rose. There is something beautiful about this song. This disc also includes another version of this song, the acetate version, which was previously unreleased.

As I mentioned, several of these tracks will remind you of The Byrds. One in particular that will certainly do so is “Coins Of Fun,” which has a vibe and sound similar to that of The Byrds. Even the vocal line is similar. Think of their rendition of “The Bells Of Rhymney.” And that guitar part reminds me of their rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” That’s followed by a cool and unusual take on “I Know You Rider,” here simply titled “Rider,” the first line sung as “I know my rider’s gonna miss me when I’m gone.” The Grateful Dead used to perform this one regularly. “I Know You Rider” is followed a Bob Dylan song that the Grateful Dead also played (though not nearly as often), “She Belongs To Me.” The Rose Garden delivers a kind of sweet, quiet rendition, particularly at the beginning. When it kicks in, it certainly has more of a Byrds sound. The Byrds themselves of course covered a lot of Dylan material.

“Flower Town” is an interesting track. It’s a variation on another song, “Portland Town,” which has been recorded by folks like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, The Kingston Trio, and Joan Baez. This song was the flip side to “Next Plane To London.” I like the addition of flute on this track. That’s followed by “Till Today,” one of the two songs on the LP written by Gene Clark. As you might guess, this is another of the album’s highlights. “And I've got movin' on my mind/Even though it seems so hard to find/The way back home.”  This compilation includes two other versions of the song, including a rehearsal with Gene Clark on vocals and guitar, recorded at John Noreen’s house. How cool is that? The original album concludes with the other song written by Gene Clark, “Long Time.” When it opens, it sounds like a cover of “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” But then it kicks in. This song is from the five-song acetate that Gene Clark gave the band, allowing them to choose to record whichever songs they wanted. By the way, that five-song acetate is included on Gene Clark Sings For You, which was released on the same day as this compilation.

The Rose Garden released another single, “If My World Falls Through,” which is included on this compilation. It’s an interesting song, beginning as a mellow, thoughtful number, but developing into a surprisingly energetic tune for the chorus. There are actually two versions included – the mono single version and a stereo mix (the stereo mix being longer). The same goes for the single’s flip side, “Here’s Today,” a really cool folk-rock song. “While today flows into yesterday, tomorrow may be lost.” I dig the brief instrumental section at the end.

The first of the previously unreleased tracks is actually one of my favorite tracks on the disc. “Down To The Wire” is a song written by Neil Young, recorded with Buffalo Springfield, and originally included on the compilation Decade.  It’s an excellent song, and The Rose Garden does a great job with it. “’Cause anyone who’s helped you out/Can let you down.” This track has a bit of a psychedelic element. And it’s followed by another of the compilation’s best tracks, “Charlie The Fer De Lance,” a song recorded by The First Edition. This one is seriously cool and unusual, and it features flute. “Charlie had a girl named Frog who played the drums all night/The trouble with their relationship was Charlie’s appetite.” “Dead Men Never Die” comes as a surprise. It was written by Leon Rosselson, and is a serious folk song.

The last several tracks are live recordings from August 1967. The sound isn’t perfect, but it’s still cool to have these tracks. The first is the band’s hit, “Next Plane To London.” That’s followed by a couple of Byrds covers, “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and “She Don’t Care About Time,” the latter written by Gene Clark and originally included as the flip side to “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” Those two are followed by a cover of Sonny And Cher’s “It’s The Little Things.” The final track is “You Don’t Love Me,” a song that was also recorded by Sonny Cher, but was written by Willie Cobbs, and based on an earlier song by Bo Diddley. They introduce it as “another Sonny and Cher song,” and do a really good job with it. This track has a tone of energy.

CD Track List
  1. Next Plane To London
  2. I’m Only Second
  3. February Sunshine
  4. Coins Of Fun
  5. Rider
  6. She Belongs To Me
  7. Flower Town
  8. Till Today
  9. Look What You’ve Done
  10. Long Time
  11. If My World Falls Through (Mono Single Version)
  12. Here’s Today (Mono Single Version)
  13. Down To The Wire
  14. Charlie The Fer De Lance
  15. The World Is A Great Big Playground
  16. Here’s Today (Stereo Mix)
  17. If My World Falls Through (Stereo Mix)
  18. Dead Men Never Die (Take 2)
  19. I’m Only Second (Acetate Version)
  20. Till Today (Rehearsal)
  21. Till Today (Acetate Version)
  22. Next Plane To London (Live)
  23. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star (Live)
  24. She Don’t Care About Time (Live)
  25. It’s The Little Things (Live)
  26. You Don’t Love Me (Live)
A Trip Through The Garden: The Rose Garden Collection was released on June 15, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

We Are The West at 701 Santa Monica Blvd, 7-21-18 Concert Review

We Are The West performing "A New Haven"
We all need a little magic now and then. More now than then. And a couple of months ago I found it in a parking garage on the corner of Santa Monica and 7th. A moment of bliss, of being lifted up, of being connected to others; not just that, but connected to the best in others. A rare thing, these days, and something I was eager to experience again. And so last night I made the trek down the 405 freeway to Santa Monica, to the parking garage where We Are The West hold monthly services. This time there wasn’t as much artwork on the walls, and no upright piano. There were, however, two new speakers set up toward the back of the stage – tall, golden speakers, the color of course appropriate for the band’s new album, The Golden Shore. The band was just coming off a couple of shows in northern California, and will soon be hitting the road again, with several dates planned in the Pacific Northwest, and with a gig in Hawaii before that. But for one night they’d be relaxing in Santa Monica.

While folks were coming in, a DJ was spinning some excellent records – Donovan, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and so on. Then, a little before 9 p.m., John and Brett introduced Assateague, the opener they chose for last night’s show. I had listened to a couple of tracks earlier in the day, and liked what I heard. The footage I had seen was of at least three guys, but last night the lead singer and guitarist performed solo. “Usually I play with a band, so I’m trying to think of songs to play without a band,” he told the audience after his first song. His voice reminded me a bit of early Neil Young at times near the beginning of his set, but those comparisons disappeared for me as he played, as I got more and more into what he was doing. He finished his set at 9:38 p.m. Perhaps he got the DJ thinking of Neil Young too, for during the break between artists we were treated to “The Loner.”

We Are The West began just after 10 p.m., John starting things on bass as Brett strapped on his guitar. Last time I saw them, they were accompanied by musicians on piano and drums. This time it was saxophone and drums (Sylvain Carton and Corey Fogel, respectively). They eased in with somewhat soothing tones, creating a strong atmosphere, and after a few minutes, Brett recited the poem printed on the inside of the album cover. The music gradually became more intense, with some harsher sounds on guitar, leading directly into “More Machine Than Man,” the lyrics of which at first are also delivered as spoken word, helping for a seamless transition from the poem. It’s interesting that they chose to open with a song that is wild and at times eerie (as when Brett sings “in the final days of men”), rather than building to it. We were immediately placed in another realm, completely in the band’s hands, descending into chaos, from which it was up to them to lift us. Without pausing, they went into “A New Haven,” which had a more easygoing vibe and ended gently. It was an intriguing opening to the show, and not what they had planned. As they mentioned afterward, “We made a list and then we decided to throw it out.”

They then played “Good Luck (And All That Stuff),” a song with a cheerful sound (for the most part). With it, the band successfully lifted us from the strange land it had brought us to at the beginning of the set. This song featured some nice stuff on saxophone.  They then went into “The Hammer,” which had some wonderfully pretty moments. After that, they returned to music from the new album, The Golden Shore, beginning with the album’s title track, which they eased into. Sylvain Carton switched to clarinet for this one. Throughout the show, he got some incredible and unusual sounds from both the clarinet and the saxophone. “The Golden Shore” featured some beautiful vocal work. They mentioned they’d done more than seventy shows in this garage, and also pointed out their new speakers. “If things sound a little different, it’s because we just got this garage even more customized, with some custom speakers.” Then they launched into “For Me, For You,” one of my personal favorites. This song is a total delight, and I love it more each time I hear it.

Before “Sea Of Light,” also from The Golden Shore, Brett played a bit of something new, an idea of a song that isn’t yet complete or named. He played it solo, then stopped abruptly and changed gears for “Sea Of Light.” Who knows, perhaps that other idea will become more fully formed in time for August’s garage show. I’m looking forward to hearing where it will go. By the way, the presence of saxophone on “Sea Of Light” really made that song one of the highlights of the show. Then, at Brett’s urging, John told the story behind the writing of “Any Day Of The Week.” “Once upon a time, I moved far away, and it seemed like a really big deal to me,” John began. He mentioned that people can suddenly move somewhere, and it can happen quickly, in a day, any day. “We could just move to Spain, tomorrow, if you wanted to,” he said. He then added, “You could move to Culver City,” which got a laugh from the crowd. Sylvain played clarinet on this one, and his brief lead toward the end was wonderful. I love the sweet, gentle, comforting feel of this song. And it was followed last night by “From The Bower,” which has become my favorite We Are The West song. It’s so beautiful. Sylvain Carton sat this one out, and Corey Fogel added just a bit of light stuff on cymbals. “It's all going to change/Everything's changing/You don't look the same/Why is it so confusing?

For “Crops,” a woman (I am not sure of her name) joined the band on mandolin, which was wonderful. This was a really good rendition, with some cool percussion in addition that delicious mandolin. Then Heath Cullen joined them on electric guitar for “The Watchers.” Brett played a bit of “Sorrow” as a lead-in to that song, singing “With your long blond hair and your eyes of blue/The only thing I ever got from you was sorrow” and a few more lines. That song was done by The McCoys and The Merseys in the 1960s, and later by David Bowie. “The Watchers” was beautiful at times, with some interesting work from everyone on stage. “Everything’s in motion,” indeed! Heath Cullen also played electric guitar on the night’s final song, “Tonight’s Tonight.” Before starting that song, Brett mentioned the upcoming Hawaii trip, and how they’re going to be in a movie there, playing their music in a couple of scenes. “You've got visions in your head/But you’ve got to deal with this now instead/Fortune rains from above/To lose is to love.”  The show ended at 11:22 p.m.

Set List
  1. More Machine Than Man >
  2. A New Haven
  3. Good Luck (And All That Stuff)
  4. The Hammer
  5. The Golden Shore
  6. For Me, For You
  7. Sea Of Light (Dirty Ditty)
  8. Any Day Of The Week
  9. From The Bower
  10. Crops
  11. Sorrow >
  12. The Watchers
  13. Tonight’s Tonight
 Here are a few photos from the show:

"The Golden Shore"
"For Me, For You"
"The Watchers"
"Tonight's Tonight"

The next show at the parking garage is scheduled for August 25, 2018.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Yvette Landry & The Jukes: “Louisiana Lovin’” (2018) CD Review

If you need some escape from the troubles of the present, from the god-awful sounds coming from your television whenever Russia’s puppet opens his fetid and foul hole, from that shifty-eyed garble-mouthed monster who lies to the White House press corps every day, from the anger and the depression that have settled over our nation like a heavy dung-stained Confederate flag… Well, Yvette Landry & The Jukes have the perfect album for you. Louisiana Lovin’ is a delightful trip back to some early country, rock and roll and blues music, an album of covers, focusing on material written by folks who were born in Louisiana. Songs you know, songs you love, and delivered with a joy and an energy that make them breathe and dance anew. The band for this for this release was put together by Yvette Landry and Roddie Romero, both of whom play guitar and sing on the album. Jermaine Prejean is on drums, Eric Adcock is keys, Josef Butts is on bass, and Derek Huston is on saxophone. Joining them are special guests Beau Thomas on fiddle and Richard Comeaux on pedal steel. This is a disc that will give us at least a momentary respite from the madness and stupidity that have enveloped our country.

Yvette Landry kicks off the album with “I Need Somebody Bad,” a song written by Ben Peters, a song that was a hit for Jack Greene. I think this new rendition is better. It has that classic country sound, in her vocal approach and in the music, but there is also a fun early rock and roll element, making this a livelier take. Hell, we even get the sax coming in halfway through. Is there anything better than this kind of music? “Yeah, Lord, I need somebody bad tonight/It’s hurting more than I believed it would/Yeah, Lord, I need somebody bad tonight/’Cause I just lost somebody good.” That’s followed by “Homesick Blues,” written by Robert Charles Guidry (Bobby Charles), and performed here as a gorgeous bluesy duet. I love the use of fiddle here, an instrument that expresses sadness so well. “Monday morning I get up and go to work/Guess what’s on my mind.

“Daddy Daddy” is a fun tune written by Rudy Toombs, and recorded by Ruth Brown. It’s a song that provides opportunity from some vocal play, and Yvette Landry does an absolutely wonderful job with it. This version features some delicious work on keys. Roddie Romero then takes lead vocal duties on a really good rendition of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” “Today I saw you, you were kissing my best friend/Now you can kiss tomorrow goodbye.” I know in those lines he is saying that their wedding is off, but it always seems to me that maybe he is going to kill her, that she has no tomorrow at all. Halfway through, Yvette Landry then takes over on vocals, which is interesting. “Of all the loves I’ve ever known/Baby, I loved you best,” she sings. Getting the woman’s perspective certainly changes the feel of the song. I like this rendition a lot. But the track that follows it I absolutely love. “I Almost Lost My Mind” was written by Ivory Joe Hunter, who was not born in Louisiana. But it was recorded by both Fats Domino and Cookie And The Cupcakes, so there you have it. This version by Yvette Landry & The Jukes is just perfect, with excellent vocals, some cool work on keys and wonderful touches on saxophone.

“Three Chords And The Truth” was written by Sara Evans, Ron Harbin and Aimee Mayo, and originally recorded by Sara Evans. Evans is not from Louisiana, but it doesn’t really matter, as this track is absolutely gorgeous, and features a fantastic and moving vocal performance by Yvette Landry. That’s followed by “My Last Date With You,” a pretty song with some nice work on keys. We then get to some more Bobby Charles songs, starting with “Grow Too Old,” which he co-wrote with Fats Domino. Roddie Romero sings lead on this one, and it’s a wonderful and enjoyable rendition. That’s followed by “Yea Yea Baby,” which is ridiculously fun. Roddie and Yvette take turns singing lead, the other delivering some adorable backing vocals. Roddie Romero sings lead on “Forbidden Love,” a song written by David Egan, and featuring some nice work on guitar. “I see you look away/Afraid of where your heart may lead.” The album then concludes with another Bobby Charles song, “Take It Easy Greasy,” a fun, fast-paced rock and roll gem to get you off your seat and make you think the world is a gas. And maybe it is.

CD Track List
  1. I Need Somebody Bad
  2. Homesick Blues
  3. Daddy Daddy
  4. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
  5. I Almost Lost My Mind
  6. Three Chords And The Truth
  7. My Last Date With You
  8. Grow Too Old
  9. Yea Yeah Baby
  10. Forbidden Love
  11. Take It Easy Greasy 
Louisiana Lovin’ is scheduled to be released on July 27, 2018.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Appalatin: “Vida” (2018) CD Review

As the country continues to sink farther into the mire and people become desperate for this ugliness to end, a lot of us look to music to bring us together, to give us a sense of community and lift our spirits. And that is exactly what Appalatin does on the group’s new release, Vida. In fact, the band seems designed to do just that, as it mixes Latin sounds and Appalachian folk sounds, and in such a way to get folks on their feet. The album contains mostly original material, sung in both Spanish and English, as well as a couple of covers. The band is based in Louisville, and is made up of Yani Vozos on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Marlon Obando Solano on guitar and vocals; Fernando Moya on flute and charango; Luis De León on harmonica and percussion; José Oreta on bass; and Steve Sizemore on percussion. Joining them on this release are Carla Gover on vocals and banjo, Gregory Acker on flute, Thiago Wojtowicz on saxophone, Arebo Bey on trumpet, Michael Cleveland on fiddle, and Aaron Bibelhauser on banjo.

Appalatin kicks things off with “Primavera,” a song with a cheerful, upbeat vibe. You can feel it right away, as there are even hand claps at the beginning of the track. This is a song of celebration, of rebirth, something we can certainly use now. “La gente dice que ha llegado la primavera.” There is some nice percussion, as well as pretty work on flute. The good vibes continue with “Reina De Mi Corazón,” featuring some wonderful work on flute and horns. That moment when the horn rises to take the lead is fantastic. This track also features an excellent vocal performance, and is my personal favorite on this album. Also, the lyrics make me think of my girlfriend. “Voy soñando, voy soñando con las estrellas/Entre ellas, eres la mas bella/Ven bailamos, ven bailamos con toda inspiración/Ven cantemos, ven cantemos con toda el corazón.”

They then mellow things out a bit with the pretty “Vida,” the album’s title track, which feels like light dancing across a field. And the lyrics seem to accept the bad with the good from life, even to love it all. “Vida, vida/Vida, vida/Me abrazas, me hieres, me curas las heridas/Y me arrastras por allí, me haces bien, me haces sufrir.”  This song then develops a nice rhythm, and invites us to join in this great dance. That’s followed by “Pituco,” a wonderful instrumental number, a traditional tune. This music is making me happy, lifting an oppressive weight from around me, even if only for a moment. I love that work on flute, flying over that delicious percussion. The album’s other instrumental track, “Echo,” is a fun, cheerful tune with lots of great work on guitar, charango and harmonica. This is another of my favorites.

“Flow Like A River” is the first of the CD’s tracks to be sung in English. This one is catchy in its own way, though the lyrics might be a bit too direct, the song’s message seeming to drive the song. But still, it is a positive message, and we can’t seem to get enough of that these days. Also, it features more good work on flute. “Sweet Song Of My Soul” is also sung in English and has a sweet vibe, which I appreciate. This feels like a late afternoon song, as you take your loved one’s hand in yours and her eyes sparkle as she turns to you, and there is the promise of another day in those eyes and in the warmth of her touch. It has a beautiful, comforting groove. “Sweet, sweet love of my heart/Dance with me and play your part.” The album concludes with a wonderful bluegrass rendition of “Guantanamera.” I first heard this song during my teens; the Sandpipers’ version was included on a compilation cassette of 1960s folk recordings. This version by Appalatin moves at a good clip, and features some great work on fiddle and banjo, a perfect ending to an excellent album.

CD Track List
  1. Primavera
  2. Reina De Mi Corazón
  3. Vida
  4. Pituco
  5. Flow Like A River
  6. Vos Me Das
  7. Sweet Song Of My Soul
  8. Echo
  9. Moliendo Café
  10. Guantanamera
Vida is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2018.

George St. Clair: “Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom” (2018) CD Review

Though currently based in the UK, singer and songwriter George St. Clair grew up in Texas, and his recent album, Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom, is American through and through, with some tracks taking a look at the United States’ history, particularly its relations with Native Americans. The album was recorded and mixed in California, and that certainly contributes to its flavor. The music is a good mix of folk and country, with some excellent lyrics. Joining George St. Clair on this release are Ben Bernstein on bass, Mike Stevens on drums, Dan Lebowitz on pedal steel and electric guitar, David Cuetter on pedal steel, Amy Scher on fiddle, and Kirby Hammel on piano and organ. Maya Abramson and Mark Estall provide backing vocals.

The album opens with one of its best songs, “Tularosa.” This is a wonderful folk-country song with some fantastic lyrics. I was pulled in on the first line, “Listen to me quick now before I tell you some lies.” And check out these lines: “And I learned all the right ways to get it wrong/And taking my time took too long/When I see who gets ahead, I’m glad I fell behind/Now I may be getting nowhere, but I’m starting not to mind.” In a way, those are some depressing lines; yet, this music is making me feel better about the world. And we all certainly need that today. I love the work on fiddle. Plus, George St. Clair’s voice has a friendly vibe, which I appreciate. It seems like everything here is working to tell us, as he sings, “everything is just fine.” That’s followed by another of the disc’s highlights, “The Places Where They Prayed,” an excellent folk song with some nice work on pedal steel. But again, it is the song’s lyrics that really grab me, lines like “People used to love the land/In ways we’ll never understand” and “And how many forgotten ways of dreaming/Are buried under all that asphalt steaming.” This is a song most of us can connect to, or at least a song that most of will want to connect to. This is really a song of our country, a song that our land itself would be singing. It’s interesting, because it has a pleasant sound, when it could have easily taken on an angry tone. “Liberty, she turned away from those who could have used her help.” There is a spoken word section at the end.

“Autumn 1889” tells a captivating story about Native Americans, and the colliding of worlds and ways and beliefs. “They started chanting and swaying all through the night/They were calling for the spirits of every Indian that died/Through the tears that they offered up every night/And they’d been run out from the dens where they’d fought to hold back the tide/Of our numbers and our unyielding desire.” And toward the end there is some beautiful blending of voices. “And now they’re dreaming of a morning/When they can open their eyes/And the plains and the mountains/Will show no trace of our kind.” “Good Times” has a delightful, good-time country groove, getting you tapping your toes and so on. Then its first line is “I don’t know how you can keep on having good times,” which almost for a moment seems directed us for having a good time with this very song. An interesting effect, and it pulled me in. This is a really good song, featuring some nice work on piano. And, like every other song on this album, it includes some good lines. “You keep on having good times though you don’t seem to see/That you’re only feeling better since you’re better off than me/You think that those good times came to you for free/Or they didn’t get that good until you got the best of me. 

“Lie To Them” has a light, pleasant country sound and more nice work on backing vocals. “Deny what you have to do to save your skin/Now go and sharpen up your knives/That’s the only way that they’ll grow in/Let them do the bleeding.” And here is an interesting line, which is repeated: “They’re lying to you/Lie to them.” In this, the sixty-third year of Donald Trump’s presidency, it is sometimes difficult to remember what honesty is like. We have grown used to being lied to because we are lied to by our so-called leaders all day, every day. Republicans are dirty, mendacious cretins who care nothing about their hypocrisy or about this country or about anything other than money. Sad, but true. Also sad but true is that Democrats are going to need to start fighting dirty too. “They’re lying to you/Lie to them.” “New Mexico” is another really good track. I love the line that the border “Divides Spanish and English billboard signs.” It shows that difference in language is fairly unimportant, using the depressing imagery of billboards and the fact that we have them in common. The CD concludes with “Talkin’ Mesquite,” a traditional-sounding folk song delivered as basically spoken word, in the loose, talking blues folk style. “They don’t need your love and they don’t need your care/Just a couple drops of rain a couple times a year/They don't mind oil fumes or car exhaust/Or the bottles or beer cans that drunk drives toss.

CD Track List
  1. Tularosa
  2. The Places Where They Prayed
  3. Autumn 1889
  4. Corridors
  5. Good Times
  6. Cynthia
  7. Up To Fail
  8. Lie To Them
  9. Cimarrones
  10. New Mexico
  11. Pedro Paramo
  12. Talkin’ Mesquite
Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom was released on March 2, 2018.