Saturday, June 25, 2022

Opening Bands

When going to concerts, how do you guys feel about going early to see the opening bands? I always try to catch them, because of certain experiences which I talk about in this video.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Benjamin Koppel: “Anna’s Dollhouse” (2022) CD Review

Saxophonist Benjamin Koppel’s new release, Anna’s Dollhouse, is an unusual and intriguing album.  Its nine original compositions together tell the story of Koppel’s aunt, who, in her early twenties, had to flee Nazi-occupied Denmark in the 1940s. Having survived World War II, she married the man her parents had chosen for her, a man she did not love, and stayed with him until he died sixty years later. It was at that point that her life became her own, and she began playing piano again. It was also then that Benjamin Koppel got to know her. When she died in 2019, he decided to tell her story through music, something that was a passion in her life. All the tracks on this release were co-written by vocalist Caecilie Norby. Koppel wrote the music, Norby the lyrics. Joining them on this album are Kenny Werner on piano, Peter Erskine on drums, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, and Jacob Andersen on percussion, along with a string section arranged by Anders Koppel, Benjamin’s father.

The album opens with its title track, the saxophone immediately taking us to another time, another place, which I love. This is a song about youth, and looking to the past, and also about hopes for the future. It is pretty, but knowing something of the story, there is a certain sadness in it, for the love mentioned in the song was not to be. She did not follow her heart, but instead followed the desires of her parents. However, before we get to that point, there is a beautiful lead on piano that represents that more carefree and happy spirit. Then the lead on saxophone seems to recount the more serious moments when she went to live with the man her family chose, but these are still not moments of despair. Before the track’s end, the lyrics return to the beginning, leaving us in a more hopeful frame of mind. That’s followed by “Mes Quatre Hercules,” which takes us back to her childhood and is about four brothers. Its opening lines, about being “So safe and yet so free,” are striking, particularly as we think of the way innocence was destroyed by the Germans. We can’t help but wonder what happened to these men. That short piece leads straight into “Black Water,” which begins with some solo work on bass that pulls us in with its rather somber sound. This is a song of separation, from home, from other family members, during the war, a song of escape and worry. It is a powerful and moving track, featuring some beautiful work on saxophone and an excellent vocal performance. “How do you explain war to a child?/How do you define death to a child?/Do they know the meaning of that star?/Screaming yellow, speaks of who you are.” This is a completely captivating track from beginning to end.

“Dying” is a song that celebrates music, and especially music’s ability to free our minds. And it is about the music within Anna, the music that apparently her husband was unaware of, which makes the song both exciting and sad. “You’re a stranger to the nightingale in me,” Caecilie Norby sings. What a heartbreaking line. This track features some wonderful, uplifting work on piano, and then some passionate playing on saxophone. I love that lead on sax, and the drum work beneath it is exciting as well. “Dying” is followed by “Drip Drop.” This song is interesting, for it starts with a somber instrumental section, but then takes on a playful feel when Caecilie Norby sings its title line, the contrast coming as a surprise. There is a youthful, even childlike feel to that particular line. There is a more serious vibe as she contemplates the rain and our relationship with nature,. “A quiet raindrop falls upon my face/This soft embrace gives back the hope/That we do belong/Somewhere.” The instrumental section signals a change, and soon Anna is in Sweden, and the track takes on a different feel. Then “Sketches Of Life And Death” has a lively, cheerful vibe. Here we seem to view the world through musical terms, which can be associated with all of life, and what joy in discovering that. I love the way the saxophone interacts with her voice. Then after the word “death,” the feeling changes. The strings fade, and the bass takes the piece in a different, more serious direction. The sax lead that soon emerges is rather beautiful.

“The Neighbour” is an arresting piece. What would any of us do in that situation? We think we could never save ourselves by sacrificing others. “Take my cousin instead/Oh no no, it’s not me – it’s the children they said/No, not me – it’s the children they shot/It’s not me – see, the children are dead/It’s not me, it’s not me, it’s not me, it’s not me.” The second half features some excellent work on drums. Then, interestingly, “Sketches Of Life And Death” is revisited before the end of the track. That’s followed by “Ghost Of Europe,” a song about war in Europe. “Empty streets, running feet/They say it’s war in Europe/Cities falling to the ground/Turning into stones.” The album concludes with “Anna’s World,” which is about her strength, her vitality. She remained a person who looked forward. “You won’t see no self-pity/No, she will search for strength in her heart/Make this strong brand new start/She’ll help all the people flee from sadness, madness!/‘Cause in Anna’s world, she’s still this fearless woman/Still believe in fighting every day for justice.” And you might think it would end there. But, no, this track grows in power, in intensity, and then just before the end, it returns to lines from “Ghost Of Europe,” because the war was clearly so defining. This remarkable album concludes with these lines: “Slalom through the cracks of fire/Burning bricks and bones.”

CD Track List

  1. Anna ‘s Dollhouse
  2. Mes Quatre Hercules
  3. Black Water
  4. Dying
  5. Drip Drop
  6. Sketches Of Life And Death
  7. The Neighbour
  8. Ghost Of Europe
  9. Anna’s World

Anna’s Dollhouse was released on June 7, 2022.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Rod Picott: “Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows” (2022) CD Review

Born and raised in New England, singer and songwriter Rod Picott has made Nashville his home for the last couple of decades. He’s released more than a dozen albums during that time. His new one, Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows, features all original material, written or co-written by Rod Picott. And the folks he has chosen to collaborate with on these songs are accomplished singers and songwriters themselves, people like Slaid Cleaves and Mark Erelli. Joining him on this release are Lex Price on bass and tenor guitar, Juan Solodzano on pedal steel and slide guitar, Evan Hutchings on drums, and Neilson Hubbard on piano and backing vocals.

This album opens with a gentle and beautifully sad song titled “Lover,” Rod Picott’s voice containing the ache and longing of which he sings. These are the first lines: “Been without love for so long/I’ve forgotten the words to that song.” Yes, he gets right to the matter. And these lines about aging stand out: “So, lover come find me/I know most of my best is behind me.” Those lines also remind me of a short Leonard Cohen poem: “Marita/Please find me/I am almost 30.” The last few years have been maddening for all of us, but imagine being alone during the pandemic, knowing you still have something to give, but having no one to give it to. There is still hope in his voice as he sings, “And I’m tired and I’m cheated/But I’m not defeated.” This track features some pretty work on both pedal steel and piano. Rod Picott then gets bluesy with “Revenuer,” which creates an interesting atmosphere, especially with that great work on electric guitar. Here his vocal delivery is full of attitude and danger.

“Mona Lisa” is a sweet love song about two ordinary people. In this one too he mentions being tired: “I’m tired and my engine is all torn down.” Ah, isn’t that the overriding state for most of us these days? And so it makes perfect sense that it is reflected in music. This song also has a cheerful, hopeful aspect, which is appreciated. “Someone will come someday/And there ain’t no telling when/And find all the parts of me and put me/Back together again/But I am waiting here for you/Are you waiting somewhere for me too?” That’s followed by “Dirty T-Shirt.” I love the way the pedal steel sets the tone. This is a pretty song. Check out these lyrics: “She was an angel on my shoulder/Sleeping deeply in a dream/I didn’t move so not to wake her/Though I had fire running in my veins/Forget the lipstick and mascara/You don’t need any disguise/I want you just the way you are.” Then “Frankie Lee” is a song told from the perspective of a man sentenced to die, a man who by the time of his execution is no longer the same person who committed the crime. So, in a way, this one too is about aging, something on all our minds these days, I suspect. This song was written by Rod Picott and Jennifer Tortorici. Rod Picott follows that with another portrait, “Sonny Liston,” this one about the boxer. This song reminds me a bit of Greg Brown.

Rod Picott’s previous album, Wood, Steel, Dust & Dreams, featured songs that he wrote with Slaid Cleaves, a lifelong friend of his. This new album includes two tracks co-written by Slaid Cleaves. The first is “Through The Dark.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “This world is hard from the day you’re born/We spend our whole life long/Licking honey from thorns/Just trying to hold on to our hope.” These lines also stand out: “Oh, baby, don’t it feel like we’re/Headed to the end of times.” I think we can all relate to that sentiment. Then “Valentine’s Day” has a really good opening line, “You used to hold me, but I held you back.” I love that you can hear that line at least a couple of ways. This is a song of regret and longing, a song of some introspection, and it features an excellent vocal performance, supported mostly by acoustic guitar. There is some nice work on electric guitar in the track’s second half. That’s followed by “Washington County,” another powerful song, this one featuring some great work on harmonica. This song was co-written by Mark Erelli, a songwriter with whom you are likely familiar, for his material has been covered by several other artists. “Once a month we hit the food bank/Once a month we reach the end/Of the rope we’re clinging onto/And the check the county sends.” I love Rod Picott’s passionate vocal performance.

“Lost In The South” also shows what a talented songwriter Rod Picott is. Check out these lines, about a specific spot in Nashville: “Moved to down here/With everything to my name/Jammed inside an old Chevrolet/Stayed at a motel room on Trinity Lane/Hookers and the dealers/Saw my out-of-state plates/They were banging on the door all night long/I couldn’t sleep a minute for the carrying on.” These days the divide between the so-called red states and the blue is wider than ever, and it must be strange to live in the south, particularly for someone from the northeast. That song is followed by “Mark Of Your Father,” a song about the effect parents have on their children, and it includes lines about Marvin Gaye, who was shot dead by his own father. The album concludes with “Make Your Own Light,” the other track co-written by Slaid Cleaves, this one having an intimate sound, Rod Picott’s voice supported by acoustic guitar. “You ask again and again/In the dark of the night/You try and you fail and try again/To make your own light.”

CD Track List

  1. Lover
  2. Revenuer
  3. Mona Lisa
  4. Dirty T-Shirt
  5. Frankie Lee
  6. Sonny Liston
  7. Through The Dark
  8. Valentine’s Day
  9. Washington County
  10. Lost In The South
  11. Mark Of Your Father
  12. Make Your Own Light

Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows was released on June 10, 2022 on Welding Rod Records.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

As the world outside continues to be bafflingly stupid and dangerous, with psychotic fiends arguing for the freedom to own semi-automatic weapons, many people are turning inward. Fortunately, musicians are here to help us get through these troubling times. Here are brief notes on some new jazz releases you might be interested in checking out.

Peck Allmond Quartet: “Live At Yoshi’s 1994” – This album captures the performance of the Peck Allmond Quartet on July 5, 1994 at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California. The album opens with Sonny Rollin’ “Tenor Madness,” which starts with a cool solo from Peck Allmond. It is more than a minute before the other musicians come in, and though it feels a bit messy as they come in, that loose vibe is part of the track’s appeal. And soon Peck Allmond is taking the group into exciting territory. Ed Kelly then takes a turn at lead nearly halfway through, keeping things hopping with some impressive work on piano. Then John Wiitala delivers a solid, spirited lead on bass. This track just gets better and better, leading to some great drum solos by Bud Spangler, that section of course being my favorite. The group then turns romantic for a rendition of “Like Someone In Love,” which features a good lead on bass early on. I like that John Wiitala is given the space to stretch out and explore here. But it is the piano solo that especially stands out, at first for its gentle beauty that seems to stop whatever commotion may be around us. And it grows from there. The sense of romance then deepens with “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You),” which features some sweet and tender work from Peck Allmond. Then Kenny Brooks joins the group on tenor saxophone for “Softly As in A Morning Sunrise,” a track that moves with a great energy. Peck Allmond is on trumpet for this one. This disc features two piano solos, the first being a warm, touching rendition of John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice.” Peck Allmond begins “Invitation” with a solo. That track also features some excellent work on piano. That’s followed by “Blues By Five,” which moves with a sense of urgency, and features some fantastic playing by all four musicians, with some especially exciting work on piano. The album concludes with the second of its two piano solos, “All Blues” by Miles Davis. This is a gentle, pretty rendition. This album was released on May 20, 2022.

Evan Drybread: “Tiger Tail” – Saxophone player Evan Drybread’s new release features all original material, most of which he composed. Joining him on this release are Mark Buselli on trumpet and flugelhorn, Christopher Pitts on piano and organ, Scott Pazera on bass, and Kenny Phelps on drums. The album opens with “Blackball,” which has a strong groove and features an excellent lead on piano.  Evan Drybead’s lead in the second half is also seriously good, and I wish that section where he is supported mainly by that delicious bass line went on a little longer. Wonderful work. That’s followed by “High Priestess,” a funky jazz fusion piece featuring some great stuff on both organ and drums, with an exciting lead by Evan Drybead that pulls us through the track. I especially love that drum work in the second half, and how the bass continues to play through that section. The track then ends with short drum solo. “The Queen Of Cups” is another of the disc’s highlights. This is one you just let carry you along on its own interesting journey, without imposing your expectations on where it should lead. Perhaps the most exciting piece is the album’s title track, which moves with a powerful energy and sense of purpose, and gets more interesting as it goes on. This one too contains some wonderful work on drums. “Atlantic Mirror” is the first of two tracks written by Christopher Pitts, a beautiful and contemplative tune featuring just Christopher Pitts on piano and Evan Drybread on saxophone. There are moments when the saxophone reaches some magnificent heights. “The Downey Wives” has an enjoyable, easygoing vibe. The group then gets funky with “Woodruff Place Town Hall,” a track that brings a smile to my face. It features some bright work from both Evan Drybread and Mark Buselli, and a cool lead on bass. The album concludes with the second of two pieces composed by Christopher Pitts, “Waltse,” which has something of a carefree sound. Like his other composition on this disc, this one features just Pitts and Drybread. This album was released on May 1, 2022.

Angela O’Neill And The Outrageous 8: “Light At The End Of The Tunnel” – The title of this one is of course appealing for all of us who keep hoping for a glimpse of that light. After two years of a pandemic, and the ongoing troubles caused by the previous administration, we are eager for such a light, which at times seems to be just around the bend. Well, this band is doing its part to will that light into existence with this wonderful album. The disc opens with “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face,” and in the liner notes they joke how during the lockdown people became very accustomed to each other’s faces. That’s followed by a fantastic rendition of “Cry Me A River,” featuring a strong vocal performance and a lot of great stuff from the brass section. It is certainly one of the disc’s highlights. The band, by the way, is made up of Angela O’Neill on vocals; Sam Morgan on tenor saxophone; Ron Cyger on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute and clarinet; Rich Walker on baritone saxophone and flute; Paul Litteral on trumpet and flugelhorn; Harry Smallenburg on trombone; Rocky Davis on piano; Bill Bodine on electric bass; and Tony Pia on drums. There are also some guests on various tracks. This group delivers a really good version of “Come Rain, Come Shine,” a perfect choice of songs for a time when, figuratively speaking, it’s been mostly rain. The energy is then pumped up for “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” featuring guest vocalist Al Timss. Another great choice for these troubled times. That’s followed by “Now And Again,” the album’s only instrumental track. Death has been on my mind lately, and “New York Minute” hits me kind of hard. Check out these lines: “And in these days when darkness falls early/And people rush home to the ones they love/You’d better take a fool’s advice, and take care of your own/Because one day they’re here, the next day they’re gone.” Then Bill A. Jones joins the group on vocals for a spirited rendition of “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Another of this release’s highlights is “Hallelujah I Love Him So,” which features Beth Anderson and Jackie Gibson joining Angela O’Neill on vocals, and includes some good work on harmonica by guest musician Michael Rosen. Jackie Gibson then takes lead vocal duties on “It Might As Well Be Spring.” The group wraps things up with “When The Sun Comes Out.” This album was released on May 21, 2022.

The Paxton/Spangler Septet: “Ugqozi” – The title of the new album from trombonist John Paxton and percussionist RJ Spangler translates as “inspiration,” and in these tracks we get a sense of what inspires them, but also will find inspiration ourselves. The album opens with “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos,” which features some delicious work on bass. It is the brass section, however, which lifts us up almost immediately. The brass has a full sound, many joyful voices. Toward the end, it feels like the track is concluding, but instead it returns to a more relaxed vibe, as at the beginning. The septet, by the way, is made up of Dan Bennett on saxophone, Kasan Belgrave on alto saxophone and flute, John Douglas on trumpet, Phillip J. Hale on piano, Damon Warmack on electric bass, Kurt Krahnke on acoustic bass, Sean Perlmutter on drums. This disc also features special guests Salim Washington on tenor saxophone, oboe and flute; and Alex Harding on baritone saxophone. “Ithemba” is a pretty piece with a welcoming, mellow vibe, its title translating as “hope.” We can all use a healthful dose of hope these days, and this music should give us just that. I imagine I am not the only one who turns to music for hope and inspiration. And this piece takes on a powerful and positive energy midway through. “Part Of A Whole” has a catchy groove that I want to sway and dance to. This track is a wonderful jam, with many moments where the musicians shine. There is a sweet, light sense to “Lwandle’s Lullaby,” a track composed by Salim Washington. It is like it is gently opening up a door to a fairy tale and inviting us inside. Once inside, we are surrounded by a loving and exciting sound. Then “Water No Get Enemy” features another great groove, with a certain funky element, and some passionate work from the brass section. “Pata Pata” is a fun piece with some bluesy elements, and a loose feel. Again, it feels designed to raise our spirits and get us moving. I love that work on piano. The disc concludes with “Jabulani – Easter Joy,” as you might guess from its title, there is an air of celebration. I love the pace and momentum, with the rhythm section propelling this track into some wild territory. We even get a good drum solo halfway through. This album was released on May 27, 2022.

John Wasson’s Strata Big Band: “Chronicles” – There is nothing like some good big band music to shake us loose from these stressful times. John Wasson’s Strata Big Band delivers some excellent original material, as well as some well-chosen covers. The album opens with an original number titled “Heat-Seeker,” which has some bright, exciting playing and a good deal of swing, and features fantastic stuff from Pete Clagett on trumpet and Jeff Robbins on tenor saxophone, over a delicious rhythm. I particularly love that work on drums at the end. That’s followed by “Funk City,” another original piece by John Wasson. As its title promises, this is a funky number, with Eric Hitt’s great bass work standing out. Noel Johnson delivers some wonderful stuff on guitar, and that lead by Chris Beaty on tenor saxophone feels like that giant heart of this track. So is a whole lot of fun. Then “Señor Salsa” features a totally delicious percussion section toward the end. That’s followed by a moving and warm rendition of Jiggs Whigham’s “Bodge,” which features some wonderful, soulful work by Dave Butler on trombone.  This disc also features an exciting, lively rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Blues For Alice,” featuring the trombone section. But probably the coolest of all this album’s tracks is “Tank!” From that work on bass at the beginning, it’s clear this track is something special. Apparently, this is the theme to an anime show. It is great fun, and that lead by Bruce Bohnstengel on alto saxophone is absolutely fantastic. The album concludes with another cool track, “The Detective Chronicles,” an original piece that creates its own atmosphere and characters, taking us along on a ride as a detective does his work. Suddenly in the middle of the action comes a pretty, though brief, solo on piano. And then, bam, we are right back in the chase. Then that section with saxophone and drums is one of my favorite parts of this entire disc. So good! This album was released on May 20, 2022.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Svetlana And The Delancey Five in Los Angeles, 6-19-22: Photos

A bit of New York came to Los Angeles this weekend in the form of a pop-up venue on Melrose celebrating the television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I haven’t yet seen that show, but was excited because Svetlana And The Delancey Five were performing at this special event, and while I’ve been enjoying their music for several years I hadn’t before today had an opportunity to see them in concert. The pop-up venue included a recreation of the Blue Note stage, and it was there that the band performed. They did an absolutely delightful set, the highlight for me being an excellent rendition of “Someone To Watch Over Me,” one of my favorite songs. In addition to the music, there was food, drink and photo opportunities. It is a two-day event, and goes until 8 tonight (so if you hurry, you can still catch it). The band plays every hour.

Set List

  1. instrumental intro
  2. It’s A Good Day
  3. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
  4. Nice Work If You Can Get It
  5. Que Sera, Sera
  6. Someone To Watch Over Me
  7. Cute
  8. instrumental outro

Here are some photos:

The pop-up is located at 8175 Melrose Ave., in Los Angeles.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Record Store Day 2022, Part 2

Happy Record Store Day, everyone. Record Store Day Part 2, that is. In this video I talk about today’s RSD purchases, which I made at Freakbeat Records and Licorice Pizza, both located on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley.

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Bacon Brothers: “Erato” (2022) CD Review

Though his film career had started several years earlier, Kevin Bacon became known to a lot of folks through Footloose, a movie that is all about the music. That was back when original soundtrack meant original soundtrack. And so it seemed perfectly natural when he started his own band a decade or so later with brother Michael Bacon. They’ve put out ten releases over the last twenty-five years. Their new EP, Erato, contains five original songs, with both brothers contributing material. Both Kevin Bacon and Michael Bacon sing and play guitar on these tracks, with Kevin also providing some work on percussion. Joining them are Paul Guzzone on bass and backing vocals; Tim Quick on guitar, mandolin and backing vocals; and Frank Vilardi on drums.

The disc opens with “In Memory (Of When I Cared),” the only track on which the brothers collaborated with other songwriters. It was written by Kevin Bacon, Michael Bacon, Desmond Child and Berkay Birecikli. Desmond Child has a lot of songwriting credits. He co-wrote “I Hate Myself For Loving You” with Joan Jett, Aerosmith’s “Angel” with Steven Tyler, and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer,” among many others. Berkay Birecikli is a composer and music producer known by his professional name, Void Stryker. So there is a significant amount of talent behind this first track, and it shows. The track begins with some interesting percussion, creating a compelling atmosphere. The vocals are then in strong focus at the beginning, with the instruments somewhat softly supporting them. The song soon kicks in, a combination of rock and pop sounds, with a cool vibe running through it. “Lesson learned/Love ain’t fair/Even burned the bed we shared/This song’s in memory/In memory of when I cared.” Chris Day joins the bothers on lead guitar on this track, delivering some memorable work, particularly in the second half. “In Memory (Of When I Cared)” is followed by “Dark Chocolate Eyes,” which has a mellower, more laid-back vibe with a folk and country feel. This one was written by Kevin Bacon. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You were looking like you just woke up/Something stupid written on a coffee cup/Ready for your close-up/Like magic in a chair/Dark chocolate eyes, angel hair.” There is a kind of dreamy, nostalgic groove to this one, which is wonderful. Then suddenly in the middle of the track, there is something an ELO-type sound to the vocals for a couple of lines. This is one of my favorites. Interestingly, this duo has also recorded songs titled “Grey-Green Eyes” and “Brown Eyes.”

“Let Me Happen To You Girl” has a more playful sound from the start, with an island sound. It’s a lot of fun, and I love that percussion. It’s a good one to dance to, feeling like a celebration designed to raise our spirits, just as the lyrics suggest. “Put your devils on the run/Bring you back into the sun/Let me happen to you, girl/Let me happen to you, girl.” And somehow it becomes even more enjoyable as it goes on. This song was written by Michael Bacon. We can continue dancing with “Erato,” the EP’s title track, written by Kevin Bacon. This is another completely enjoyable track, with more great summer sounds. Erato is one of the nine muses in Greek mythology, the patron of lyric and love poetry, so clearly a good choice of goddesses to be addressed in songs. “Here I am still staring into space/Are you a goddess or a muse/Are you just a figment of my blues.” I love that last phrase, “figment of my blues.” That’s great. This track features some strong vocal work, and I imagine it’s a crowd-pleaser at the duo’s live performances. It certainly has that potential. By the way, The Bacon Brothers are putting on several concerts in support of this new release, so check out their tour schedule to see if they will be near you. The EP concludes with “Karaoke Town,” an interesting song, with a surprisingly darker folk sound. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a song with that title, but I guess I was thinking it would be more of a pop tune. So, yes, this is far more interesting than what I’d imagined it would be, featuring a passionate vocal performance. It was written by Kevin Bacon, and produced by his son, Travis Bacon. “When they tried to take away the axe that you have learned to swing/You poured honey on your wounds and you got back in the ring.”

CD Track List

  1. In Memory (Of When I Cared)
  2. Dark Chocolate Eyes
  3. Let Me Happen To You Girl
  4. Erato
  5. Karaoke Town

Erato is scheduled to be released on July 8, 2022.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Music Memories: Dirty Dancing

In 1988, I attended a concert featuring some of the artists whose music is included in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” Please don't judge me too harshly for that. In this video, I recall my experience of that night.


Monday, June 13, 2022

Laura Orshaw: “Solitary Diamond” (2022) CD Review

Fiddler and vocalist Laura Orshaw has performed with several groups, and is a member of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. She has now released her debut solo album. Titled Solitary Diamond, this album contains some delicious bluegrass music, featuring mostly material written by other folks, along with one song that she co-wrote. Joining her on this release are Catherine “BB” Bowness on banjo, Reed Stutz on mandolin, Casey Campbell on mandolin, Alan Bartram on bass and backing vocals, and Tony Watt on guitar, along with several guests on various tracks.

The album opens with “I’ll Trade You Money For Wine,” which was written by Robbie Fulks and included on his 2013 album Gone Away Backward. That original recording features some good stuff on fiddle, and you can be sure that Laura Orshaw’s rendition does as well. This version also features some nice work on mandolin, and a strong vocal performance. Laura Orshaw is certainly not shy, not reluctant to belt out key lines. And check out these lyrics: “Pockets of change don’t drive my worry down/Diamonds don’t make me shine/It’s a short life and a long time underground/I’ll trade you money for wine.” Oh yes, I think we can all appreciate those lines. Life is short, and getting shorter all the time. I think I’ll have a drink. Tim O’Brien joins Laura Orshaw on harmony vocals on this track. We then get a sweet rendition of Jim Ringer’s “Linda’s Out There On Her Own,” here titled simply “On Her Own.” This version is delivered as a duet with Trey Hensley. “Oh, but didn’t we sound good when we sang together?” Yes, indeed! Plus, this track features a whole lot of good banjo work. In fact, there are two banjo players on this one. Eli Gilbert is the special guest on banjo here.

Laura Orshaw delivers a fast rendition of “After You,” a song written by Jerry Chestnut and originally recorded by George Jones. “After you, when someone smiles at me I wonder what’s the price/After you, I’ll be suspicious of anything that’s nice.” Though it is delivered at a more rapid pace, this version still features some pretty work on fiddle, particularly in that instrumental section in the middle. Also, there is some nice back and forth on mandolin and banjo. Jana Mougin and Garnet Imes Bowman provide backing vocals on this track. “Loving you, it’s just too good to last forever/So the world could end tomorrow, I don’t care.” Why is it that lines about the end of the world stand out these days? That’s followed by a cover of The Gordons’ “Rock-A-Bye Cindy.” It has a rather gentle bluegrass sound, but there is a darkness surrounding this song. “No, he ain’t the man I met long ago/But some trouble’s deceiving/Some tears fall slow.” I love the way Laura Orshaw delivers this one, the way she draws out certain words, like “night” on the line “Rock-a-bye Cindy, good night.” Lindsay Lou joins Laura Orshaw on backing vocals. That in turn is followed by a cover of The Kendalls’ “I’ll Be Hurtin’ Either Way,” a song from that duo’s 1979 album Heart Of The Matter. As you might guess from its title, this is a sad song, though this rendition has a rather cheerful sound, thanks in large part to the banjo. “I don’t want to go, but there’s no other way/But it’s so hard to leave you/And it’s so hard to stay/I can never win/In this circle that I’m in/‘Cause you know I’ll be hurtin’ either way.” Jana Mougin and Stephen Mougin join her on backing vocals.

“High Mountain Rising” is a slower number with a passionate vocal performance and a pretty instrumental section in the second half. Laura Orshaw’s work on fiddle in particular is gorgeous. Ronnie Bowman and Garnet Imes Bowman provide harmony vocals on this track. Laura Orshaw then picks up the pace with another Gordons cover, “I Can’t Settle Down,” which comes from Our Time, the same album that featured “Rock-A-Bye Cindy.” It is interesting to me that there is always something appealing in songs about rambling, while there is also always something appealing in songs about home. Go figure. This track features three fiddle players. Joining Laura Orshaw are Brittany Haas and Jenee Fleenor, with Fleenor also providing some harmony vocals. So, yes, fiddle is at the heart of this track. Fellow Po’ Ramblin’ Boys member Josh Rinkel is on guitar. Then we get “Lonely Is My Name,” which Laura Orshaw wrote with Josh Rinkel, who also plays guitar on it. It is the only song on the album that Laura Orshaw had a hand in writing, and it is one of my favorite tracks. Alecia Nugent joins her on vocals for this one, their voices blending beautifully. “And the need for just one more/Reason to sit there thinking/And drive yourself insane/I’m your new companion/Lonely is my name.”

“The Band Of Jesse James” is the second of the album’s songs penned by Jim Ringer, this one coming from his 1977 LP Tramps And Hawkers. Alecia Nugent joins Laura Orshaw again on backing vocals, along with Alan Bartram, who is also on bass. “He told me that he loved me just in passing/He was playing, but I’m still paying/‘Cause I fell.” That’s followed by “Veins Of Coal.” There are a lot of great songs about mining. In fact, the Freakons just put out an entire album of mining songs. On this album, Laura Orshaw delivers a powerful rendition of the Daniel Stearns song. Check out these lines: “Let the wind blow through my ribcage/Let the sunshine bleach my skull/One day my tears will reach the ocean/And my bones will turn into coal.” Alan Bartram provides some good harmony vocals. Laura Orshaw’s fiddle work is as moving as the vocal performances. This is another of the disc’s highlights. Then Jana Mougin and Stephen Mougin provide backing vocals on “Speak Your Heart,” a song written by Mark Simos. The album concludes with “Hank,” which was written by Cy Winstanley and originally included on the 2014 Tattletale Saints release How Red Is The Blood. Laura Orshaw’s version moves at a faster pace, and features some wonderful playing on mandolin and banjo. “I want to sing Hank Williams songs/They must be right, ‘cause honey he ain’t wrong.”

CD Track List

  1. I’ll Trade You Money For Wine
  2. On Her Own
  3. After You
  4. Rock-A-Bye Cindy
  5. I’ll Be Hurtin’ Either Way
  6. High Mountain Rising
  7. I Can’t Settle Down
  8. Lonely Is My Name
  9. The Band Of Jesse James
  10. Veins Of Coal
  11. Speak Your Heart
  12. Hank

Solitary Diamond was released on May 27, 2022 through Dark Shadow Recording.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Dead And Company at Dodgers Stadium, 6-11-22 Concert Review

Dead And Company performing "Good Times"
Dead And Company started the summer tour last night at Dodgers Stadium, and spirits were high before the show. The last show the band played was also here in Los Angeles. That show was on Halloween, and of course we had all expected to hear a “Werewolves Of London” encore that night. But due to what I assume was a time restriction, the band remained on stage at the end of the second set then and played “Brokedown Palace.” So I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the band would start the Dodgers Stadium show by finishing the last show. Could a “Werewolves Of London” opener be in the cards, I wondered. My friend Jon thought it was unlikely, and I agreed, though of course these guys have a history of surprising audiences. So I figured, being it was the first show of the tour, they would start with either “Cold Rain And Snow” or Sam Cooke’s “Good Times.” But I made a point of telling the folks in front of me my “Werewolves” idea, just in case.

At 7:15 p.m., much sooner than we’d expected, a cheer went up in front of us. We stood up (our seats were on the floor – Section A2, Row 27, Seats 3 and 4), and sure enough the band was on stage. The show was scheduled to start at 7, but we figured the band wouldn’t come out until at least 7:30 because security was taking its sweet time getting people through the gates, and at 7:15 p.m., the place was not even a quarter full. Seriously. We got in line just before 5:30, when the doors were supposed to open, and it took us quite a while to get through. First of all, the doors didn’t open on time, though we think that was due to the fact that the soundcheck wasn’t yet complete. We could hear the guitar from outside. But then, rather than just letting folks walk through the metal detectors, these guys were asking to look through every purse and every pocket, peeking under every hat. One security guy even took a close look at both of my water bottles to make sure they hadn’t been tampered with in any way. And I thought, shit, if they invest this much time with each person, and perform their work with this kind of scrutiny, some people will still be in line when the band starts the second set.

Well, they did not surprise us with the first set opener, choosing Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” (often referred to as “Let The Good Times Roll”), and jamming on it a bit at the start. John Mayer was wearing a pink and black California Dead shirt, the same shirt the woman in front of us had on (one of the people with whom I shared my “Werewolves Of London” hypothesis). Bob Weir really delivered on the line, “Time doesn’t mean that much to me.” Oh yes, he had us convinced, and certainly in our state, time meant very little. The guys followed “Good Times” with “Playing In The Band.” Yeah, these early moments in the set had the feeling of a party, to be sure. And I wondered if the guys would stretch out on “Playing” so early in the show, or if they would keep that party vibe going. But why not go for it? After all, time doesn’t mean much anyway. That was made clear. The jam moved at an easy pace. They didn’t seem in a rush to get to the outer reaches of space, but were confident they’d make it anyway, easing past satellites, casting glances their way as they did, everything floating. Propulsion wasn’t necessary, because either way, we were there, and now communication began in earnest, particularly the guitars, which had something going with whatever beings populated those realms. The jam suddenly settled, sooner than expected, and actually the song was over at that moment, incomplete, making us wonder if they’d return to it at the end of the set.

“Feel Like A Stranger” followed, with Bob singing, “You know it’s gonna get stranger, so let’s get on with the show.” That line always gets a cheer. It’s what we were there for, after all. This song became a funky experiment with a steady groove. Green spongy asteroids slowly approached us on the screen behind the band. “It’s going to be a long, long, crazy, crazy night.” We hoped so. And it was so good to see Bill Kreutzmann again. He was absent from the Halloween show due to health issues, but seemed to be totally back in form last night. At one point in the jam, they dipped into “My Favorite Things” from The Sound Of Music, which came as a surprise, while orange flower popcorn moved in a slow spiral dance toward desired oblivion, rising to paradise, or perhaps just to another floor of some oddly angelic tenement. It was uncertain. They followed that with “China Doll,” with Oteil Burbridge on lead vocals. It was an odd, unexpected place for this song. Things were moving so slowly at that point that it was like a strange haze had descended over the proceedings. And why was that cop copter circling overhead? There was some good, kind of bluesy guitar work from John Mayer, and my friend determined it was time for another edible. Sure thing. Everything and everyone seemed to come together when Oteil sang, “Take up your china doll.” And around that time I spotted myself and my friend Leelen when were fifteen years old. How had we gotten there?

Everyone in the crowd seemed happy the moment “Brown-Eyed Women” started. This song has that thing, you know, making it capable, and nearly certain, of doing that, even if it’s not Jerry Garcia up there singing. Who is this John Mayer youngster anyway? Jeff Chimenti was rocking it on the keys. Yes, this song brought the entire audience together. It led straight into “Jack Straw,” which eased in, and for the first moment or two I wasn’t certain which song it was. Then something about its vibe shook my memory, tickled the past. “You’re moving much too slow,” Bob sang, and indeed the song did feel a bit slow. The “silver” line felt a bit buried rather than punctuated, as it often is. And it looked like the sun was then completely down. It was a bit difficult to determine from within the park, with the pitcher’s mound so close. And who is this Shannon person anyway? John Mayer and Bob Weir briefly discussed something, and then the band launched into “Casey Jones.” This was the first time I’d seen any configuration of Grateful Dead members play this song, so it was a thrill for me that they chose this song to close the first set. Plus, it was a good version. The beer and the water I’d been drinking demanded to be let out, so as the song was ending, I danced my way over to the loo. The first set ended at 8:23 p.m.

Set break, and time for another edible. A little calculation led me to think I might not feel it until “Drums,” but that was fine. The plan was to find Shakedown Street after the show anyway, not to get on the road right away. We had been told the general direction it was in before the show, but it looked like a long walk and it was still kind of hot, so we’d decided to make that particular journey at night. People around us were guessing “Touch Of Grey” for the second set opener. I guessed “Shakedown Street,” but I didn’t have any strong feelings about it. At 9:07, the lights went out and a cheer went up. The band started the second set with “Althea.” No one around me had guessed that as the opener, but Jon and I did talk about it in the car on the way in. I figured John Mayer wasn’t going to let pass the first opportunity to play this song in nearly eight months. Smoke swirled on the screen as the guy in front of me asked for a lighter, and just then John delivered the song’s Hamlet reference, a moment in the song that always makes me happy. Wow, have eight months really passed since the last show? Time is flying. And you can be sure that John delivered some great work on guitar here. He was clearly ready for this, eager for this.

As the band began “Scarlet Begonias,” the audience became excited. This song is a crowd favorite. And here we got shown the light, though not in the strangest of places. Things were moving now, with bright streaks darting through walls and hills, and the ground rising up to the sky, lifting everyone. The groove slid deftly between planets, the worlds shifting slightly to give it the space it needed, and that was when things started getting interesting, the band journeying into less familiar territory. And, rather than “Fire On The Mountain,” as probably everyone was expecting, they went into “China Cat Sunflower.” Another surprise, and an interesting choice, taking things in a different direction. There were some gloriously sharp edges to the guitar work. And of course then we weren’t sure what to expect. Would they return to form and go into “I Know You Rider,” or would they go back and do “Fire On The Mountain”? The uncertainty was part of the fun. Like I said, it’s great that these guys can still surprise us after all these years. The groove felt like it could lead down many different avenues, and at one point it seemed to pick up in pace, but then we saw we were still firmly in “China Cat” territory. And it led to “I Know You Rider.” We all felt the optimism of the sun going to shine in our back doors someday. And Bob really tore into the “headlight” lines. There was a great fiery energy to this song. There were moments when I forgot where I was, but the band never seemed to lose track, so everything was fine. The song had a big finish. And, yes, they then played “Fire On The Mountain,” the lights turning red. There was a playful moment when Oteil almost came in a bit soon on the vocals. Ashes flew up from the tongue, or were swallowed. This was kind of a sweet, fairly gentle rendition.

“Drums” began in an electronic landscape, with a beat that rose as from a cauldron, the sound bubbling to the surface, or maybe through an intricate set of pipes, every inch of them a musical instrument. Bang the pipes, communicate with the gods. It was a beat to keep us moving, to keep the lava flowing, taking place in a nightclub in the South American mountains, with lesser deities manning the door and bar. There were moments of humor on the stage, and then things got weird, a hot sun rising over a green world, large and close, the flowers reaching to be absorbed. Mickey Hart was ready to drive the entire thing into deep space himself. There was a machine within, its mechanical heartbeat spitting letters, code. And when the other musicians returned to the stage, there wasn’t much they needed to do, seeing as how far Mickey took them out. Now it was actually up to them to get us all home again, and gently, painlessly, with of course a few stops along the way. And what emerged from “Space” certainly was a surprise. I don’t think the Grateful Dead played “Dear Mr. Fantasy” at all after the death of Brent Mydland, and I can’t recall Dead And Company tackling this one before, but the band played it last night. No, it didn’t have quite the same power, the same juice as when Brent was with the band, but it was great to hear. And they did go into the “Hey Jude” finale, as the Dead used to do with Brent. However, it was a “Hey Jude” jam. It looked like Bob was going to sing at one point, and certainly many in the audience were singing, but the band kept it a jam. “Stella Blue” followed, and this was a touching rendition of one of my personal favorite songs. The band wrapped up the second set with “One More Saturday Night.” It was, after all, a Saturday. Though once again I was reminded of a shirt that I had started to design in late 1994. The front of the shirt was to have a close-up drawing of Jerry’s face, with an index finger over his lips, urging us to be quiet. The back was going to say “Don’t tell Bob it’s Saturday.” The set ended at 10:52 p.m., and it was only several seconds before the band came back out on stage for the encore. And the encore was “Werewolves Of London.” Hurrah! It was so good to finally hear this one. I had thought maybe they’d open the show with it, but instead they closed it with this fun Warren Zevon cover. As soon as they recognized the song, the folks in front of me turned around to share that moment with me. Bob seemed to get confused about the lyrics toward the end, but no matter, it was a great ending to a fantastic night of music. The concert ended at 11:04 p.m.

Set List

Set I

  1. Good Times
  2. Playing In The Band
  3. Feel Like A Stranger
  4. China Doll
  5. Brown-Eyed Women >
  6. Jack Straw
  7. Casey Jones

Set II

  1. Althea >
  2. Scarlet Begonias >
  3. China Cat Sunflower >
  4. I Know You Rider
  5. Fire On The Mountain >
  6. Drums >
  7. Space >
  8. Dear Mr. Fantasy >
  9. Hey Jude
  10. Stella Blue
  11. One More Saturday Night


  1. Werewolves Of London

 Here are a few photos from the show:


before the show

"Playing In The Band"

"Scarlet Begonias"

By the way, we never did find Shakedown Street after the show. We walked in the direction we had been told, and several others were going the same way, but either it was even farther than we went, or it had been quickly dismantled. So my new car is still without Grateful Dead stickers. Next time.