Monday, April 29, 2019

Grateful Dead: “The Warfield, San Francisco, CA 10/9/80 & 10/10/80” (2019) CD Review

I enjoy a lot of different music, but if asked to pick a single favorite song, my choice would be “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead. And seeing how there are two versions of it on the new Record Store Day release, The Warfield, San Francisco, CA 10/9/80 & 10/10/80, that two-disc set was my number one pick that day. I happened to be in Massachusetts for Record Store Day this year, and so limited my purchases to just a few things so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a lot of records back to L.A. Since this Grateful Dead release was available on both vinyl and CD, I decided to go with the CD (it fit inside my carry-on). In 1980, the Grateful Dead did a series of shows where they played three sets instead of their standard two, with the added set being acoustic. Most of these shows were performed at The Warfield, in San Francisco, and some of the material from those shows ended up on Reckoning, one of my favorite Grateful Dead albums. Now two of those acoustic sets are available as a special Record Store Day release.


The first disc contains the first set from October 9, 1980. The band opens this one with a sweet, somewhat relaxed rendition of “Dire Wolf.” It almost has the sound of folks seated around a fire, singing and playing, perfect for the song’s lyrics. They follow it with a country song written by Bill Browning, “Dark Hollow,” and Bob is sounding good. “I’d rather be in some dark hollow/Where the sun don’t ever shine/Than to be home alone/Knowing that you’re gone/Would cause me to lose my mind.” Ah yes, and yet the song has a cheerful sound, delivered as a traditional-sounding folk tune. They continue in the traditional folk vein with a nice rendition of “I’ve Been All Around This World.”

Bob Weir then counts off the beginning to “Cassidy,” one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. I’ve seen Bob deliver some fantastic versions of this one over the years, and though this is an acoustic rendition, the guys still jam on it a bit, and there is some wonderful stuff on guitar. It is certainly a highlight of this disc. Jerry follows that with a thoughtful, delicate version of “China Doll,” which features Brent Mydland on harpsichord. Things then turn more playful with “On The Road Again.” It’s a fun rendition, with a sudden end. There is a bit of goofy banter, and then Jerry leads the band into “Bird Song.” It’s certainly not the best version of “Bird Song” I’ve heard, but the jam does get good, with moments where you can just let it carry you off into those wonderful places where the Grateful Dead seem to dwell. And Jerry’s vocal delivery has a sweet, gentle quality. Bob follows that with “The Race Is One,” another fun, playful number, with some nice stuff from Brent on piano. I love Jerry’s beautifully intimate vocal delivery on “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” making that track another highlight of the first disc. Then, as the band starts “Ripple,” Jerry says, “Feel free to sing this song if you’d like.” Oh yes, I often find myself singing this song. And this is a beautiful, sweet rendition. “Let there be songs to fill the air.”


The second disc contains the first set from the next night, October 10, 1980. And Bob starts by joking, “We’re the warmup band.” They kick off the set with “On The Road Again.” And yeah, they played that one the previous show, but the band had fewer songs to draw from for these acoustic sets, and so there was a certain amount of repetition during this run of shows. But of course the Dead never really did a song the exact same way twice, so by that reasoning, there was never any repetition. They followed “On The Road Again” with a beautiful and moving rendition of “It Must Have Been The Roses,” and then an enjoyable, somewhat mellow version of “Monkey And The Engineer.”

Jerry delivers an excellent “Jack-A-Roe,” and I think it’s this version that appears on Reckoning (an album which was also released as For The Faithful). Here Jerry shows how adept he was at tackling those old folk tales. I love hearing him sing folk songs, and I’ve been enjoying that three-disc expanded edition of The Pizza Tapes that he recorded with David Grisman and Tony Rice, where he sings tunes like “Man Of Constant Sorrow” and “Little Sadie.” Bob follows “Jack-A-Roe” with “Dark Hollow,” another tune that had been played the night before. This version, to my ears, is the better of the two. The vocals sound great, and the song has a sweet vibe and moves along well. Jerry then eases the band into a version of “To Lay Me Down” that is gorgeous and intimate, pulling you near into a friendly embrace, as if to say things will be all right, and then letting go. Listen to those harmonies. That’s followed by probably the most interesting song choice of the set, an instrumental version of Bob Weir’s “Heaven Help The Fool,” played without the drummers. “Bird Song” follows, and features some surprising guitar work during the jam. Seriously, it’s unlike other versions I’ve heard, and it’s that stuff on guitar that makes this version worth listening to. This set, like the previous one, concludes with a wonderful version of “Ripple.” Okay, yes, all versions of “Ripple” are wonderful. “If I knew the way, I would take you home.”

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Dire Wolf
  2. Dark Hollow
  3. I’ve Been All Around This World
  4. Cassidy
  5. China Doll
  6. On The Road Again
  7. Bird Song
  8. The Race Is On
  9. Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie
  10. Ripple
Disc Two
  1. On The Road Again
  2. It Must Have Been The Roses
  3. Monkey And The Engineer
  4. Jack-A-Roe
  5. Dark Hollow
  6. To Lay Me Down
  7. Heaven Help The Fool
  8. Bird Song
  9. Ripple 
The Warfield, San Francisco, CA 10/9/80 & 10/10/80 was released on April 13, 2019, which was Record Store Day, and is available on both CD and vinyl.

Gurf Morlix at McCabe’s, 4-28-19 Concert Review

One of my favorite places to see a concert is McCabe’s in Santa Monica. The sound is always good, and the crowd that gathers there is respectful – a listening crowd, you know? It’s a good venue to see an artist for the first time, for you can hear every lyric, and have an intimate experience. And that’s where I saw my first Gurf Morlix concert last night. Yes, I admit I arrived a bit late to this particular party, for his music career has been going strong for decades, from his time with Lucinda Williams to his solo career. I’m sure I heard his work with Lucinda, but it was his new album, Impossible Blue, that really turned me onto his music. If you haven’t heard it yet, I definitely recommend checking it out.

As you are probably aware, McCabe’s is a guitar shop during the day, before it is transformed into a concert venue after dark, and guitars line its walls. There were even four guitars hanging on the wall at the back of the stage. One of those guitars had a yellow guitar strap with the words, “Police Line Do Not Cross” on it, which made me smile. And it was this guitar that Gurf took down when he stepped onto the stage just after 8 p.m. He thanked the crowd for coming out, joking “It wouldn’t be the same without you.” Then he began his first song of the night, “Deeper Down.” As I mentioned, the audience at this venue pays attention, and the folks last night clearly appreciated the lyrics to this song, chuckling appreciatively at certain lines, like the one about the stolen shovel and “Your love, such as it was, has taken its toll.” Man, Gurf Morlix can write a good song. And he can also deliver it. By the way, he performed solo on acoustic guitar, providing his own percussion accompaniment with his feet.

After a joke about bad driving, he followed “Deeper Down” with “Blue Smoke,” the line “And your pistons may be blown” eliciting a laugh. But the line from this song that stands out for me is “I love you, but I miss you, even when you’re standing next to me.” What a line. Gurf then mentioned his new album, joking that it made Rolling Stone’s list of the best ten thousand albums of the year so far. He played several tunes from the album, beginning with its lead-off track, “Turpentine,” giving us some cool, bluesy work on guitar. He followed that with “2 Hearts Beating In Time,” first providing a sweet introduction about experiencing his heart beating with that of another. (I wish my girlfriend could have attended this concert with me.) Gurf Morlix established a good, easy rapport with the crowd, and told several stories last night, including one about his heart attack. He started that one with some words about Tom Petty: “I think he had the integrity that all artists should aspire to.” And, yes, it came back around to Petty at the end, with “Won’t Back Down” playing in the hospital as the doctor was finishing a procedure. Gurf can certainly tell a great story, and that story served as introduction to “My Heart Keeps Poundin’,” another song from the new album.

After that song, he asked for a chair, and a guy in the row in front of me handed him the chair next to him. Gurf performed the rest of the set seated, beginning with another song from the new CD, “Backbeat Of The Dispossessed,” a song about a friend of his that had committed suicide. This one nearly had me in tears last night. He followed that with “50 Years,” which also affected me more strongly than I expected it to. Perhaps that’s because it’s been nearly thirty years since I graduated high school. Dear lord. After “Bottom Of The Musquash River,” Gurf Morlix talked about how he used to play with Warren Zevon, leading to him delivering an excellent cover of “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner.” Some excellent guitar-playing received appreciative applause from the audience. He followed that with a cover of “The Massacre Of Glencoe,” then “Voice Of Midnight,” a sweet and sad and beautiful song. He concluded his set with two more covers – The Blind Boys Of Alabama’s “The Last Time” and the traditional Scottish song “The Parting Glass.” The show ended at 9:42 p.m. It was an absolutely wonderful show from beginning to end, and I left the venue feeling relaxed, cheerful and even optimistic. Sometimes music can do that for you, putting you back in touch with the better elements of humanity.

Set List
  1. Deeper Down
  2. Blue Smoke
  3. Turpentine
  4. 2 Hearts Beating In Time
  5. My Heart Keeps Poundin’
  6. Backbeat Of The Dispossessed
  7. 50 Years
  8. Bottom Of The Musquash River
  9. Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
  10. The Massacre Of Glencoe
  11. Voice Of Midnight
  12. The Last Time
  13. The Parting Glass 
McCabe’s is located at 3101 Pico Blvd., in Santa Monica, California.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Alice Wallace and Jesika Von Rabbit at The Federal Bar, 4-28-19 Concert Review

Alice Wallace
The Mimosa Music Series continued today with a great double bill of Alice Wallace and Jesika Von Rabbit, a perhaps unusual pairing, but one that delivered two solid sets of good music. I had seen Alice Wallace at the recent Roots Roadhouse Festival, and was excited to see her again. Jesika Von Rabbit is someone I’d heard of, but hadn’t seen perform before, so I was eager to catch her set too. When I arrived at The Federal Bar, I immediately had a couple of mimosas, to get into the spirit of the thing, you understand. I love the loose, friendly, relaxed vibe of these concerts, and certainly part of that is due to the mimosas at an early hour.

At 11:48 a.m., concert series host Gary Calamar introduced Alice Wallace, mentioning her new album, Into The Blue. Alice told the crowd she and her band were going to do a “nice morning show, which feels a little bit weird.” Her set focused on material from the new album, and she kicked off her set with its lead track, “The Lonely Talking.” I love Alice’s vocal delivery. Morning or not, there was a great deal of energy and power in her voice. After that song, she asked, “Everybody awake now?” Oh yes! She followed that with “Santa Ana Winds,” which featured some pretty work by Kaitlin Wolfberg, and then “The Blue,” which she mentioned was the new single from the album. There is also a music video for this beautiful song. That was followed by “When She Cries,” a bluesy song that featured some excellent stuff on electric guitar. After that, Alice said, “Now we’re awake.” “Motorcycle Ride” was added to the set list because Gary Calamar had mentioned it was his favorite track from the album. Most of the band then left the stage for a stirring rendition of “Elephants,” an effective song about women having a voice and using it. It’s depressing that in 2019 this is still a concern, but of course in November of 2016 the country took a collective leap into its neanderthal past, and we haven’t yet crawled out from that. Alice then addressed another important issue, saying, “I’m sure you guys agree there needs to be more yodeling in the world, right?” That was how she introduced “Echo Canyon,” a powerful song featuring an absolutely wonderful vocal performance. She concluded her set with a cover of Don Walser’s “Rolling Stone From Texas,” first mentioning she is trying to remind folks that yodeling is cool. And yes, this lively, fun country tune featured some serious yodeling. Her set ended at 12:27 p.m.

Set List
  1. The Lonely Talking
  2. Santa Ana Winds
  3. The Blue
  4. When She Cries
  5. Motorcycle Ride
  6. Elephants
  7. Echo Canyon
  8. Rolling Stone From Texas
Jesika Von Rabbit
After a short break, Gary Calamar introduced Jesika Von Rabbit, with her reminding him of her royal title, Queen of the High Desert. On her keyboard, there is a Queen of Clubs playing card next to a sticker of her name. While she focused on material from her latest release, Dessert Rock, she opened her set with a new song, which I believe is titled “Glow.” That was followed by “Children Of The Dust,” which quickly became a groovy, trippy dance tune. It felt weird to be seated for this. “Calypso Facto” also delivered a strong dance beat. It was interesting to me that Jesika maintained such a serious countenance throughout her set, particularly as the music was fun. Her set also included “Going Down” and “Looking For A Weirdo,” as well as a good cover of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me.” Before “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” she said she was going to “slow it down a bit, get it back to brunch mode.” My favorite song of her set, however, was “Innuendo,” from the new album. This song rocked right out of the gate, with a fantastic bass line and the drummer favoring the floor tom in that delicious beat. Jesika Von Rabbit then wrapped up her set with “My Medicine,” which also featured a cool groove and a slow build to a good jam. Her set ended with a smile.

Set List
  1. Glow
  2. Children Of The Dust
  3. Calypso Facto
  4. Going Down
  5. Looking For A Weirdo
  6. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
  7. Innuendo
  8. My Medicine
Here are a few photos from the show:

"The Lonely Talking"
"The Lonely Talking"
"Santa Ana Winds"
"The Blue"
"Calypso Facto"
"Going Down"
"Do You Really Want To Hurt Me"
The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, California.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tierney Sutton Band: “ScreenPlay” (2019) CD Review

In general, I am not a fan of musicals. That being said, I’m completely bonkers about Grease, and the fact that Tierney Sutton Band covers two songs from that film on ScreenPlay is what got me interested in this new release. As the title suggests, this album features music from various films, including Breakfast At Tiffany’s and The Wizard Of Oz, in addition to Grease. The music is great, and the band certainly puts its own spin on these well-known songs with some interesting and sometimes surprising arrangements. The Tierney Sutton Band is made up of Tierney Sutton on vocals, Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt on bass, Trey Henry on bass, and Ray Brinkler on drums and percussion.

The album opens with “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” a song from The Thomas Crown Affair, winning the Oscar for Best Original Song. This rendition by Tierney Sutton Band is strangely haunting at the beginning, with that steady work on snare and Tierney’s absolutely gorgeous vocals, and those wonderful touches on piano. Then, when it comes in, that bass has power. This is an unusual and gripping rendition, one of the best I’ve heard, an excellent start to the disc. That’s followed by a gentle and yet intriguing rendition of “Moon River,” from Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Again, the bass plays a prominent part here. That song is coupled with “Calling You,” a song from Bagdad CafĂ© (a film which I still haven’t seen). It has been covered by several artists since the late 1980s. This song has its own distinct power, particularly in the vocal approach, and the transition from “Moon River” to “Calling You” is seamless. Then, toward the end, Tierney Sutton returns to “Moon River.”

The bass races along at the beginning of “On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever),” and when the song kicks in, it is the piano that is the star of this breezy, delicious rendition. That instrumental section with the piano leading the way is wonderful. That’s followed by “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life?” from The Happy Ending. Somehow I’ve missed this film, though I’ve heard the song before. After being drawn into Tierney Sutton Band’s version of the song, I looked up the movie, and it sounds like something I should check out. Anyway, this track features a beautiful vocal performance, supported by some nice work on piano. “All I ever will recall of my life/Is all of my life with you.” Then “I’ve Got No Strings” opens with percussion, and features Serge Merlaud on guitar.

Probably the biggest surprise for me is Tierney Sutton Band’s take on “If I Only Had A Brain.” This band delivers a totally fun version, with a great, catchy groove, establishing a cool vibe straight away, with finger snaps and even a bit of scat. I absolutely love their take on this song, giving me a whole new appreciation for it. I didn’t expect this track to be a stand-out, but it turns out to be my favorite, and it just gets cooler and cooler as it goes. I love the bass! And actually there are two bass players on this track, Kevin Axt on electric bass and Trey Henry on acoustic bass. This song often gets stuck in my head, and I hope from now on that when it does, it is this version that my brain decides to play. That’s followed by “The Sound Of Silence,” with Tierney Sutton Band giving us an unusual take on this song too, beginning with a full sound before than paring things down. While “The Sound Of Silence” was featured in The Graduate and appears on its soundtrack, it wasn’t written for that movie, and in fact was on two Simon And Garfunkel records prior to that film’s release.

As I mentioned earlier, what aroused my interest in this release was the inclusion of two songs from Grease. And as this album is a celebration of music from films and not the theatre, the two songs the Tierney Sutton Band chose are ones that were in the film but not in the original play. The first is the beautiful “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” this version having something of a late-night vibe, in part because of the work on percussion. There is a nice instrumental section, led by piano. I really like this rendition, though perhaps because of its late-night vibe, the line “But now there’s nowhere to hide since you pushed my life aside” lacks some of the power of the original. That’s followed by the second of the numbers from Grease, “You’re The One That I Want.” In the film, it is a duet. Here, Tierney Sutton handles the vocals on her own, one of the aspects that give this rendition a different vibe from the original. This version also features some cool work on percussion. Interestingly, it’s followed by a song that is presented as a duet, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” from Best Friends, with male vocals provided by Alan Bergman. Originally it was James Ingram and Patti Austin, with James singing the song’s opening lines. Interestingly, this rendition begins with Tierney delivering lines from partway through the original version, and she delivers them a cappella. The song has a pretty, delicate feel, particularly when the piano comes in.

The Tierney Sutton Band delivers a wonderful, pretty rendition of “It Might Be You,” from Tootsie, featuring more good work from guitarist Serge Merlaud. The album then concludes with its most recent song, one co-written by Christian Jacob and Tierney Sutton, “Arrow,” from the film Sully. This is a song I hadn’t heard before, from a film I haven’t seen (after suffering through Changeling, Gran Torino and American Sniper, I decided to take a break from Clint Eastwood-directed movies). The soundtrack to that film was composed by Christian Jacob, The Tierney Sutton Band and Clint Eastwood. “Arrow” is gentle, pretty and loving, featuring some nice work on piano.

CD Track List
  1. The Windmills Of Your Mind
  2. Moon River/Calling You
  3. On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
  4. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
  5. I’ve Got No Strings
  6. If I Only Had A Brain
  7. The Sound Of Silence
  8. Goodbye For Now
  9. Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend
  10. Hopelessly Devoted To You
  11. You’re The One That I Want
  12. How Do You Keep The Music Playing?
  13. Ev’ry Now And Then
  14. It Might Be You
  15. Arrow 
ScreenPlay is scheduled to be released on May 17, 2019 on BFM Jazz.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Robin Lane & The Chartbusters: “Many Years Ago: The Complete Robin Lane & The Chartbusters Collection” (2019) CD Review

Maybe I’m a bit biased, since I am from Massachusetts, but a whole lot of excellent music has come out of Boston over the years. In the late 1970s, when Robin Lane moved from Los Angeles to Boston, her style changed, as she turned to rock music that featured some punk and new wave influences, and The Chartbusters were formed. They were together only six years or so, but during that time released a couple of albums and a couple of EPs. Now Many Years Ago: The Complete Robin Lane & The Chartbusters Collection brings all those recordings together, plus a lot of previously unreleased tracks. The music is driven by guitars, giving it a no-nonsense rock feel. In addition to Robin Lane on lead vocals and guitar, the band included Leroy Radcliffe on guitar and backing vocals, and Asa Brebner on guitar and backing vocals (both of them had played with Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers), along with Tim Jackson on drums and backing vocals, and Scott Baerenwald on bass and backing vocals. This three-disc set contains nearly four hours of music, as well as fairly extensive liner notes by Brett Milano, and several photos. It is a lot of fun revisiting these songs.

Disc One

The first disc contains the band’s two LPs – their self-titled 1980 debut and 1981’s Imitation Life. The debut album opens with “When Things Go Wrong,” a song that immediately took me back to my childhood. This song was wildly popular in Massachusetts, and for good reason. And it totally holds up. That’s followed by “It’ll Only Hurt A Little While,” the guitar having a strong and cool 1960s flavor. The band’s sound on this first LP certainly was informed by some 1960s influences. This song is one of the album’s highlights, and in addition to the wonderful guitar work, I love the way Robin Lane delivers the title line, sort of dragging it out a bit. “Don’t Cry” is another I remember hearing on the radio during my childhood, and it has some pep. Then “Without You” is a solid rock song with a great driving beat, more good work on guitar, and an edge. “Why Do You Tell Me Lies” is another one that takes me to my childhood. This was the sound of Massachusetts in the very early 1980s, and I still love it. What a cool song! That’s followed by “I Don’t Want To Know,” a totally enjoyable rock song. “Be Mine Tonight” has a something of a punk feel and an energetic, powerful vocal performance. “I see something in you/Don’t you want to be mine tonight/I could love you/I think that I already do.” There is a somewhat softer, prettier sound to “Kathy Lee,” with a 1960s folk-rock feel to the guitar.

Imitation Life opens with “Send Me An Angel” and right away, you can hear a difference in the band’s sound, which is a bit harder and doesn’t have as much of that 1960s thing. “What The People Are Doing” has a darker vibe, and a cool unusual vocal approach that I like. “Baby, I’ve been feeling strange/Upside down, but you’re not to blame/In a room where shadows grow/Time fades away.” Then the title track, “Imitation Life,” comes at you at a quick pace and rocks with a certain punk energy. “I don’t want to live an imitation life,” Robin sings, and from what we can hear it seems she is in no danger of doing that.  This is one of my favorite tracks. Robin Lane then changes gears with “Say Goodbye,” a mellower tune. Then the band delivers more of that great punk energy with “No Control,” yet another highlight and probably my favorite song from Imitation Life. I totally dig this one. There is something playful about it, particularly in some of the lyrics and their delivery, and it is a lot of fun. There is even a brief drum solo near the end. Another of the LP’s most enjoyable tracks is “Pretty Mala,” a fun rock and roll tune. That’s followed by “Idiot,” which has a catchy groove and more of a pop vibe. Of all the tracks on Imitation Life, this is the one that retains some of that 1960s influence. That LP then concludes with “For You,” a slower, passionate love song. “For you, I would do anything right/I would do anything wrong.”

Disc Two

The second disc contains the Heart Connection EP, as well as a whole lot of previously unreleased material. It begins with Heart Connection, which came out in 1984 and has more of that 1980s sound in part because of the addition of keyboards to the band. Gone are any remaining 1960s vibes, and largely gone is the punk feel. But the songs are still enjoyable, with a different sort of charm. The EP opens with “Hard Cover,” which is a fun, lively tune, and one I like more each time I listen to this disc. That’s followed by “Believe In You,” which has a strong 1980s pop sound. “Shot In The Dark” has even more of that 1980s sound. But I’m digging it, though when I listen to it on headphones, what sounds like a drum machine version of the kick drum is really distracting. The EP concludes with “True Confessions.” Of all four songs on the EP, this is the one that rocks the most, opening with a strong, fast beat. And in the middle, there is a cool section that begins with drums and bass. Yet this track is still clearly a song of the mid-1980s.

Those four tracks are followed by several other tracks from those same sessions, songs that were left unreleased until now. The first of these is “Lookin’ So Hard,” a decent pop song. That’s followed by “The Irish Song,” which has a somewhat mellower, prettier sound, but with a strong, passionate vocal performance. I am rather fond of this one. “Look The Other Way” also has a strong, emotional center, with a somewhat darker, heavier feel and an excellent vocal performance. How was this track left unreleased until now? “When every line that you’ve drawn has been crossed.” The sound of “Take Back The Night” is certainly a product of 1984, but the lyrics transcend that time. “Young girl walks down the streets alone/She’s taking a chance on her way back home/Over her shoulder, someone moves in/She’s another victim of this world we’re in.” This song isn’t just about violence against woman, but the elderly as well. That’s followed by another strong track, “Words Of Love,” its beat drawing me in from the start. This is the last of the tracks from those sessions.

The Heart Connection sessions were the last of Robin Lane & The Chartbusters (until they reunited in 2001), and this second disc goes from the end back to the beginning, with the three tracks that made up the band’s 1979 Deli Platters single. This includes the original versions of “When Things Go Wrong” and “Why Do You Tell Lies,” both of which would end up on the band’s self-titled debut LP, as well as a song called “The Letter.” That’s followed by some early demos which were previously unreleased. “I Found Out” is a cool rock song with some good work on drums, a demo from 1979. “Loneliness in the heart, it’s keeping us paralyzed/Nobody reaching out to one another anymore/Everybody waiting to die.” The next track, “Rose For Sharon,” will immediately strike you as different from everything else on these discs so far. It has more of a country pop sound, and begins with just vocals and drums. This is a demo from before the days of The Chartbusters. It’s kind of goofy, but interesting in tracking Robin Lane’s progression. “Never Enough” is another pre-Chartbusters demo, and also has something of a country sound, but to my ears is a better song. That’s followed by another demo, but one from much later. “The Longest Thinnest Thread” is from 1990, and is kind of a pretty song, more in the folk realm, a return to her earliest days in the music industry. “This vast distance between us/Can’t be closed by telephone/Your absence has left a hole inside of me/And I can’t bear to view myself/When you’re who I want to see.” The second disc then concludes with “Little Bird,” a track from the 2003 reunion album, Piece Of Mind. This song is more in line with those demos than with the band’s 1980s releases, and has a sweet, beautiful sound.

Disc Three

The third disc contains recordings of live performances, starting with the tracks from 5 Live, the band’s 1980 EP. This EP opens with “When Things Go Wrong,” which Robin Lane dedicates to everyone in the audience. The EP, by the way, was recorded at The Orpheum Theatre in Boston. “When Things Go Wrong” is followed by “Lost My Mind,” a fun, completely enjoyable song with some catchy guitar work, another highlight of this collection. Then “When You Compromise” is a bright rock song. Listening to this, I wish I had seen this band in concert. Seems like their shows would have been a good time. At the beginning of “8.3,” Robin Lane says, “Everybody’s been talking lately about a big earthquake that’s coming.” She then warns that the 8.3 quake is going to come to the east coast too, “So you’d better watch out.” This is probably the coolest track from the live EP, with a thumping punk power. The EP concludes with a wild, rocking cover of Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over.”

The rest of the third disc is made up of previously unreleased live tracks from the years 1979-1981. Most  are from 1979, recorded at Normandy Sound. Before “Caught In The Act,” they are introduced to what sounds like an small, intimate crowd. The band delivers for them an excellent set of rock tunes, including a few that didn’t make it onto a studio release such as “Are You A Hero Now” and “Psychotic Disorders” (“Maybe you think that I’m real pretty/But don’t get too close, because I’ll just treat you shitty/Psychotic disorders”). There are also some tunes that wouldn’t be on a studio album until that 2003 release, Piece Of Mind, such as “Somebody Else,” “Talk To You” (one of my favorites), “Last One To Know” and “In My World.” They also give seriously good renditions of “Many Years Ago” and “I Don’t Want To Know,” the latter dedicated to Sid Vicious, who died that year. There is also a cover of Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun).” Those tracks are followed by a couple recorded at The Paradise Rock Club in 1980 – “Little Eyes” and “Waitin’ In Line.” Then “What The People Are Doing” and “Send Me An Angel” are from a 1981 performance at RCA Studios. This collection wraps up with a couple of songs recorded at Jonathan Swift’s in 1980 – “Way Over There” and “Violent Love.” The sound isn’t quite as good on these last couple of tracks, but the performances are good. I particularly like the band’s rendition of Willie Dixon’s “Violent Love,” which has a delicious, raw drive.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. When Things Go Wrong
  2. It’ll Only Hurt A Little While
  3. Don’t Cry
  4. Without You
  5. Why Do You Tell Me Lies
  6. I Don’t Want To Know
  7. Many Years Ago
  8. Waitin’ In Line
  9. Be Mine Tonight
  10. Kathy Lee
  11. Don’t Wait Till Tomorrow
  12. Send Me An Angel
  13. What The People Are Doing
  14. Imitation Life
  15. Say Goodbye
  16. No Control
  17. Rather Be Blind
  18. Solid Rock
  19. Pretty Mala
  20. Idiot
  21. For You
Disc Two
  1. Hard Cover
  2. Believe In You
  3. Shot In The Dark
  4. True Confessions
  5. Lookin’ So Hard
  6. The Irish Song
  7. Holy Man
  8. Look The Other Way
  9. Save Your Tears
  10. Take Back The Night
  11. Words Of Love
  12. When Things Go Wrong
  13. Why Do You Tell Lies
  14. The Letter
  15. I Found Out
  16. Rose For Sharon
  17. Never Enough
  18. The Longest Thinnest Thread
  19. Little Bird
Disc Three
  1. When Things Go Wrong
  2. Lost My Mind
  3. When You Compromise
  4. 8.3
  5. Shakin’ All Over
  6. Caught In The Act
  7. Somebody Else
  8. Many Years Ago
  9. Talk To You
  10. Are You A Hero Now
  11. Last One To Know
  12. In My World
  13. Rather Be Blind
  14. I Don’t Want To Know
  15. Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)
  16. Psychotic Disorders
  17. Little Eyes
  18. Waitin’ In Line
  19. What The People Are Doing
  20. Send Me An Angel
  21. Way Over There
  22. Violent Love
Many Years Ago: The Complete Robin Lane & The Chartbusters Collection was released on March 1, 2019.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Nils Lofgren: “Blue With Lou” (2019) CD Review

Blue With Lou, the new CD from Nils Lofgren, is an exciting release for a few reasons. First, this is Nils Lofgren’s first new studio album in like eight years. Second, several of the songs on this album were co-written by Lou Reed, even longer ago, songs just waiting for this moment to see the light of day. But the third reason is the most important – the material is seriously good, with energy, with bite, with drive, and with some excellent lyrics. Backing Nils on this release are Andy Newmark on drums and Kevin McCormick on bass, as well as several guest vocalists.

The album opens with “Attitude City,” a good rock tune with a blues edge and some cool, soulful backing vocals by Cindy Mizelle. Though the lyrics are delivered with power and attitude, there is a playful side to this song, obvious from the reference to John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever. This track was co-written by Lou Reed. It is followed by another of the tracks co-written by Lou Reed, “Give.” I seriously dig the vibe of this song right from the beginning. This track features more wonderful vocal work from Cindy Mizelle and a groovy bass line. And check out these lines: “Donate half your brain to science/Preserve your eyes in alcohol/Keep your balls refrigerated/You never know who needs it most.” This is one of the album’s best tracks, and it becomes a good jam featuring some excellent stuff on guitar.

“Talk Thru The Tears” has a sweeter vibe with something of a classic feel, both to the sound and also the lyrics. For example, its first line, “Smile though your heart is breaking,” will remind you strongly of the first line of Nat King Cole’s “Smile,” “Smile though your heart is aching” (a song originally from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times). The backing vocals have an interesting sound as well, reminding me of some old recordings. On this track, the backing vocals are provided by Kenny Miller, Josef Curtis, Jason Raetz and Toby Kidd. And though I despise the misspelling of “Through” in the title, and though this track employs that awful “self”/”shelf” rhyme, I really like this song. It was co-written by Lou Reed. That’s followed by the first of the album’s tracks not co-written by Lou Reed, “Pretty Soon.” There is something beautiful and moving about this unusual love song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Take my damaged heart/Run it straight back home to you/You were always right, baby/Pretty soon is now/I’m on a plane home, sweetheart/Don’t ask me how.” This is another of my favorite tracks.

Branford Marsalis joins Nils Lofgren on tenor saxophone on “City Lights,” helping to make it another stand-out track. While “Talk Thru The Tears” has a connection to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, this one directly refers to Chaplin in its lyrics, and its title comes from the title of a Charlie Chaplin film. The song has a reggae vibe and a sweetness. It was co-written by Lou Reed, who included his own rendition on his 1979 album, The Bells. That album featured a few songs written with Nils Lofgren. That same year, Nils Lofgren included a couple of tracks written with Lou Reed on his LP Nils. The rest of their collaborations were left unrecorded until now. “Charlie Chaplin’s cane/Well, it flicked away the rain/Things weren’t quite the same/After he came here/But then when he left upon our own request/There was no humor left after he left here.” “City Lights” is followed by the album’s title track, “Blue With Lou,” a bluesy rock tune with a steady groove and some good lyrics. “Sick of burying friends and heroes, every fear I feel/Gonna tango in the madness, find an inner flame to burn or heal/World peace fantasies, like flirting with a corpse.” The song is obviously about Lou Reed, its lyrics containing a reference to “Walk On The Wild Side,” but it is the guitar work on this track that really grabs me. Nils Lofgren’s wife, Amy, is one of several backing vocalists who join him on this one. Amy Lofgren also produced the album with Nils.

“Too Blue To Play” is a moving and pretty song, the backing vocals taking it to a different and unexpected place, sort of like old country ballads. This effective track also features some nice work on guitar. “In your anxious arms real hope burns/Sure feels awful close to grace/Let’s live the hurt off/Until there’s not a trace.” That’s followed by “Cut Him Up,” the last of the album’s tracks co-written by Lou Reed. “Out to have a good time/See that dude runnin’ pain/Like a powder monkey/Out to have a damn good time/Lie all you want, man/I’ll never be your junkie.” Then “Dear Heartbreaker” is a really good song written in tribute to Tom Petty, with nods to Petty’s work in lines like “There’s a full moon and a red sun” and “No, he’s not backing down.” This track features more excellent vocal work by Cindy Mizelle. “Let the rip in my heart fill with music.”

CD Track List
  1. Attitude City
  2. Give
  3. Talk Thru The Tears
  4. Pretty Soon
  5. Rock Or Not
  6. City Lights
  7. Blue With Lou
  8. Don’t Let Your Guard Down
  9. Too Blue To Play
  10. Cut Him Up
  11. Dear Heartbreaker
  12. Remember You
Blue With You is scheduled to be released on April 26, 2019 on Cattle Track Road Records.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars at The Plough And Stars, 4-13-19 Concert Review

Whenever I go back to Boston, I make it a point to see Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars. They play from 4 to 6 p.m. on alternating Saturday afternoons at The Plough And Stars in Cambridge. While this band is always good, and always interesting, their show on April 13th was particularly special for it was part of the venue’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Perhaps it was the occasion, perhaps it was because their first set was filmed, perhaps it was an alignment of celestial forces, but Josh Lederman And The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars delivered what I think was the best show they ever performed.

The nature of the band is that its configuration is always different, depending on who is available to play on a given Saturday. Apart from Josh Lederman on guitar and vocals, there is no concrete lineup. And this is by design. So the songs maintain a fresh quality, and even a song they’ve played for many years can hold surprises. At this particular show, the music had something of a New Orleans vibe, due to the absolutely delicious horn section driving the tunes. Clarinet, trumpet and trombone, with bass and drums keeping the grooves moving.

That entire weekend, The Plough And Stars was celebrating its fiftieth birthday, and a man was there to document it all on video.  His presence might have contributed to the energy of the show. Also, spring was finally present in Boston, and Josh seemed to derive some energy from that as well, especially on a song like “Summer Days,” which felt exciting and bright and joyful. That was followed by a fun rendition of “Will I Miss The City?” Again, that New Orleans vibe was wonderful. You could just imagine this version of the CSARs marching down Bourbon St., with women flinging beads at them. At one point, Josh said, “Let’s do a Gershwin tune,” something that got me excited. And Mark Chenevert on clarinet led the band into a bit of “Rhapsody In Blue.” They also did a ridiculously fun rendition of “Long Way From Home,” with some fantastic stuff on trumpet. “Step It Up And Go” got folks dancing.

The second set was perhaps just a touch mellower (maybe because the documentarian was no longer present?), but with a lot of humor. For example, whenever the crowd would applaud a horn solo, Josh would chime in, “Thank you,” as if all applause were directed at him. And at the end, Josh said they would do one more song. He asked, “What do you want to hear?” After the briefest of pauses, getting no immediate request, he said: “Nothing? Okay, good night.” Of course, they did play another song. What an excellent two hours of music! Even the Red Sox losing could not dampen anyone’s spirits that Saturday afternoon.

Here are a few photos from the show:

The Plough And Stars is located at 912 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Roots Roadhouse Festival: Photos

Last week I attended the 2019 Roots Roadhouse Festival at The Echo and The Echoplex, and I took a lot of photos. My aunt and uncle had given me a new camera for my birthday, and this was the first time I’d used it. I posted a review of the show, and included a few photos with it, but I wanted to share some more of those shots with you.

Teddy And The Rough Riders

Alice Wallace

Ruby Boots

Sie Sie Benhoff

Dallas Moore

Sam Morrow

Rosie Flores

James Intveld

Amigo The Devil

Doug Kershaw

Dale Watson

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Adam Carroll: “I Walked In Them Shoes” (2019) CD Review

Singer and songwriter Adam Carroll has released several albums over the course of the past couple of decades, and in 2016 his songwriting was honored with a tribute album, Highway Prayer: A Tribute To Adam Carroll, which featured artists like James McMurtry and Slaid Cleaves covering his songs. Now Adam Carroll is releasing a new studio album, I Walked In Them Shoes. On this release, Adam Carroll plays guitar, harmonica, harmonium and keys, and is accompanied only by Lloyd Maines on pedal steel, rhythm guitar and slide guitar, so the album is basically voice and guitar. At the beginning of each track, Adam introduces the song, simply stating the song’s title, which is an interesting choice, giving the disc something of the feel of a live album, like he’s performing for us in our own homes and letting us know what he’s going to play next.

The album opens with its title track, “Walked In Them Shoes,” an excellent song which has a friendly and wonderfully uplifting vibe. These days we could all use a bit of optimism, and this song expresses it in lines like “Lord, you know we can make it through/Got to carry the load over the bad times.” Adam Carroll’s voice is perfect for telling stories, and you get the sense he has a lot he could tell. “Well, I’ve come from faith-healers, tramps and bootleggers/It’s a long road, but I’m not afraid to die.” The title track is followed by “Caroline,” which begins with a somewhat darker sound and the line “You said romance is for suckers.” But when that sweet pedal steel comes in, the tone changes, becoming lighter. “Is it all that you can do to see the ending of the day?” There is movement, travel, in these songs, and yet there is a strong feeling of home in the music, like a place you can rest, get cozy, and feel loved. It’s wonderful when a musician can provide that in his or her songs.

“Storms” is a sweet folk song about storms, both actual and metaphorical, mentioning the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico (“As I lay down to go to sleep, they’re still struggling with that storm”).  Check out these lines: “Thunder wakes me up from another dream/Well now, nothing lasts forever/You’d better hang on to what you’ve got/Seems everybody’s seeing red/Left and right, and getting hot/Well, I can’t hold out much longer/’Cause this weather’s not the norm/I don’t care if you’re a Democrat/If you save me from this storm.” There is a bit of humor to those last lines, but he’s certainly not joking about the weather not being normal. Climate change is the single biggest problem facing us, and we are suffering through an administration that pretends not to believe in it. “Well, one thing I can say for sure is we’re all weathering the storm.”

“Crescent City Angels” features some nice work on harmonica at the beginning. This song has something of a Townes Van Zandt vibe, which of course I appreciate. And how bloody good is this line: “Taking everything we threw away and all we tried to keep.” Yeah, Adam Carroll can write and deliver a fantastic lyric. It’s no wonder that other artists are covering his material. Interestingly, Caroline shows up in the lyrics of this song too. The lines from “This Old Garage” that stand out for me are “Well, she’s all cleaned up now, she’s not what she used to be/When I see her face, I wonder what’s happened to me.”

On “Cordelia,” Adam Carroll makes his brief introduction not before the song, but a couple of seconds into it. I go back and forth on which is the best Shakespeare play, Hamlet or King Lear, but more often these days I’m choosing King Lear. So of course seeing there’s a track called “Cordelia” got me excited about this album. And yes, this song uses imagery and words that make us think of Lear: “I am a king when you are around,” “I am a stranger without a home/And you are a soldier, but you won’t forget me,” and “When you call my name, I know I can’t fool you/Deep in my heart I still wander around.” It is thought that the actor who originally played Cordelia also played the Fool. This is a wonderful song. It’s followed by “My Only Good Shirt,” a kind of funny, delightful folk tune, one of those songs about being a traveling musician. “I’m not ‘Viva Las Vegas,’ but I’m Motel 6 famous/And they’ll always call me by name.”

“The Last Word” is a beautifully sad song of regrets and some wisdom. “Neither you nor I will win/No matter who gets the last word in.” And check out these lines: “There’s this record I have in my head/That I keep dying to replay/Dreamed you were lying down next to me/But when I woke up, you’d gone away/And I tell you it’s a sin/’Cause I really should have said it all back then.” And at the end there is a playful reference to politics in the line “You and I will never yield the Senate floor.”

CD Track List
  1. Walked In Them Shoes
  2. Caroline
  3. Storms
  4. Crescent City Angels
  5. Iris And The Lonesome Stranger
  6. This Old Garage
  7. Cordelia
  8. My Only Good Shirt
  9. The Last Word
  10. Night At The Show
I Walked In Them Shoes is scheduled to be released on April 12, 2019.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Charlee Porter: “Ride With Me” (2018) CD Review

Charlee Porter is a talented singer and songwriter based in Stockholm, Sweden, working in the country music realm. In 2008, she released her debut self-titled full-length album, and followed it up with Heartstrings. And then several years passed without a new album. That was until late last year, when Charlee Porter delivered Ride With Me, an EP featuring all original material. Joining her on this release are Per Bergkvist, Per ”Flamman” Westling, Mats ”Gaffa” Karlsson, Jesper Andersson and Fredrik Moberg.

Ride With Me opens with its title track, a gorgeous country song in which she urges us, “Come on, take this ride with me.” Hers is one of those voices that is just perfect for country; it’s beautiful and moving and friendly. “Because we dream of a little bit more in life, you and I.” This song has such a good feel about it, a song with an optimistic, positive sound, and I for one am ready and eager to take this ride with her. Charlee Porter follows that with “Oh Man,” which has a bit of a pop vibe, a full sound, and a really good and varied vocal performance. “It’s like giving in, not giving up.” I also really like that guitar part in the second half of the track.

“Damn You For All The Heartache” features a delicious, classic country sound, and is about a somewhat troubled relationship. Charlee certainly has a voice to make it work perfectly. I love this track. “I’ve been trying hard, hard to fix me/You say, ‘Hey, woman, you ain’t never getting it right.’” The EP then concludes with “On A Porch,” a lively number with a driving rhythm, about sneaking out of a home, out of a relationship. “I’m waiting for the sun to rise/Waiting for the morning light.” Oh, has leaving ever sounded so positive? We know from the sound of this song that she’s going to be all right. And maybe the same will be true for the rest of us. All of us here in the United States are waiting for the sun to rise, for the darkness to end so we can leave a certain horrible man far behind.

CD Track List
  1. Ride With Me
  2. Oh Man
  3. Damn You For All The Heartache
  4. On A Porch
Ride With Me was released on November 16, 2018.

Yonder Mountain String Band at Troubadour, 4-5-19 Concert Review

Yonder Mountain String Band performing "Bananas And Blow"
Yonder Mountain String Band is one of the best bands going these days, and that has been true for something like two decades. They are nearing the end of their spring tour, and last night they put on a fantastic show at Troubadour in West Hollywood. I was concerned that traffic might be a problem (even more so than usual), because Troubadour is located right at the edge of Beverly Hills, and that scum Donald Trump was getting together with some other rich racists in that area in order to take their money, causing street closures and general hassle. But as it turned out, though several roads were closed, traffic moved fairly quickly, and I arrived quite early for a good night of music.

After a fun set from Dangermuffin, the opening act from South Carolina, Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage at 9:22 p.m. Ben immediately informed the audience that the band’s name had been changed, and they were now to be known as David Johnston And The Sexy Beasts. He welcomed the crowd to the band’s first show, which then got off to a wonderful start with “Hey Day,” a fun tune. The band wasted no time getting to the jamming. That song ended on some sweet harmonies. Ben then continued the Sexy Beasts line, “We’d like to introduce you to the first of the Sexy Beasts, Jacob Joliff on the mandolin.” Jacob led the group in a nice rendition of King Harvest’s “Dancing In The Moonlight.” That was followed by “The Bolton Stretch.” Before starting that song, Ben mentioned that he once had awesome hair and this song reminds him of it. “The Bolton Stretch” moved at a great fast pace. Adam then led the band in “Landfall,” a song from the band’s Black Sheep album. His guitar lead was particularly wonderful on this one, and the crowd showed its appreciation. This song also featured some fantastic work by Allie on fiddle, which was also cheered by the audience. Dave then sang lead on a cool rendition of “Don’t Worry, Happy Birthday,” a song I love. That was followed by a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know,” with Jacob on lead vocals.

The band took things up a few notches with “Kentucky Mandolin,” an absolutely delicious jam. Partway into it, Johnny Calamari, the bass player from Dangermuffin, joined Ben on a great bass solo. Two players, one instrument, with them taking turns on it, never missing a note. Very cool, very fluid. That was followed by a good mandolin solo. The band then did a couple of tunes from Elevation, the 1999 debut full-length album: “High On A Hilltop” and “Left Me In A Hole.” “Left Me In A Hole” is still one of my absolute favorite Yonder Mountain String Band songs, and it was great hearing it last night. That was followed by “Nowhere Next,” a seriously cool tune with a good groove and some excellent lyrics, another highlight of the show. Ben then whipped the band through “Troubled Mind,” which flew past at a glorious pace and was a lot of fun. “Short and sweet,” he commented afterward. They eased into a really nice version of “New Dusty Miller,” featuring a nice lead on bass early on. The tune became a groovy, kind of spacey jam, and it was time reach into those outer regions or inner regions, depending on your personal direction. I went inner. This one built until we emerged into “Casualty,” an excellent transition. The set then concluded with a cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black.” Yeah, Yonder Mountain String Band takes bluegrass into all sorts of unusual places in its choices of covers. This version began as a rather pretty and serious-sounding instrumental, before becoming intense with its dark lyrics.  Ben played electric bass on this one. The song grew to become a wild, loud jam. An interesting choice to end the set.

But of course the show wasn’t over. When the band came back out for the encore, Ben teased: “You liked bluegrass when you walked in the door, but do you still like it now?” Dave then led the band in “Little Lover.” That was followed by a fun rendition of Ween’s “Bananas And Blow,” then Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” The show concluded with a delightful version of “My Gal,” which featured mandolin and guitar solos at the beginning. “I’ll see you in the morning if I live (if I live)/I will see you in the morning if I don’t get killed (don’t get killed).” The show ended at 11:33 p.m.

Set List
  1. Hey Day
  2. Dancing In The Moonlight
  3. The Bolton Stretch
  4. Landfall
  5. Don’t Worry, Happy Birthday
  6. I Need To Know
  7. Kentucky Mandolin
  8. High On A Hilltop
  9. Left Me A Hole
  10. Nowhere Next
  11. Troubled Mind
  12. New Dusty Miller >
  13. Casualty
  14. Fade To Black
  1. Little Lover
  2. Bananas And Blow
  3. Frankenstein
  4. My Gal
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Hey Day"
"The Bolton Stretch"
"Kentucky Mandolin"
"High On A Hilltop"
"Little Lover"
"Bananas And Blow"
Troubadour is located at 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood, California.