Friday, September 29, 2023

Sunnysiders: “27 Stitches” (2023) CD Review

Sunnysiders are a blues band based in Croatia, begun by the duo of Boris “Hrepa” Hrepić and Antonija “Rola” Vrgoč approximately thirteen years ago. They soon became a full band and released a few albums, including 2020’s The Bridges. Their new album, 27 Stitches, features all original music, most of it written by Hrepić and Vrgoč. The band is made up of Boris “Hrepa” Hrepić on vocals, guitar, harmonica and bass; Antonija “Rola” Vrgoč on vocals and percussion; Luka “Bane” Banić on electric guitar and acoustic guitar; Tomislav “Tomi” Novak on upright bass, fretless bass and dobro; and Mihael “Miha” Vlah on drums. There are special guests on several tracks.

Right from the start of the first track, “Shake And Shiver,” this band grabs you. That cool opening features Hrepa’s deep and sincere vocals, the lines delivered with an intimacy that pulls listeners in. “Under my shoes it’s the same dirt and mud.” And his harmonica seems to respond to what he’s saying. Just after that, the song kicks in, and Rola takes over on vocals, with Hrepa now in a supportive role, which is interesting. The song grows to include a horn section, and features a good groove. Jakša Jordes plays saxophone, Šime Glavina plays trumpet, and Luka Lazar plays trombone on this one. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’m not always the one to follow/You’re not always the one to please/But I will never reach for the sorrow/Never put you down on your knees.” I like the short response Hrepa gives to that last line. And, interestingly, they sing these lines together, “I am the one who always remembers/You are the one who always forgets.” That’s followed by “Who Stole The Rainbow,” which also has a strong groove. According to the disc’s liner notes, this is the oldest song on the album, written by Boris Hrepić and Denis Bižaca when they were still teenagers. It is about offering shelter to a young woman who has suffered abuse. “Hello little girl, your heart has a scar/Hello little girl, now evil is far/Who stole the rainbow?” The girl does respond in part of the song, but is not yet comfortable enough to answer the question directly, and so we get a sense of what she’s experienced more through what is said about her, and through the sound of the song, particularly the guitar work.

The album’s title track, “27 Stitches,” is one of its coolest tracks, with a mean, darker vibe, like something you might hear from Tom Waits. Hrepa and Rola sing this one together. “27 stitches and each one hurts/27 stitches, each one deserved/Lying, cheating, hurting, that’s what I did.” There is a deliciously haunting aspect to this song. Adding to its great sound are Gogo Zujić on rabab, Stipan Kujundžić on tar, and Hari Klarica on bodhran. This is one of my personal favorites. Then there is something of a pop feel to “Weekend Cigarette” as it begins. But then that mournful harmonica adds a different flavor in those early moments. “Every time when you have to go/You love me less than you can confess.” The harmonica then lets loose. This track includes some nice work on guitar, plus some wonderful work by guest musician Vedran Dakić on piano.

“Soup” opens with a strong pulse, feeling like it might become a hard rockin’ number. Interestingly, it actually becomes lighter and playful, the tone changing as they deliver the song’s main line, “I need your soup, soup, soup.” And apparently, it’s not intended as metaphor, but rather they are singing about soup, and so it is a surprisingly fun number. It features some great stuff on harmonica, and Vedran Križan joins the group on accordion. The instrumental sections have a heavier, rocking sound. They switch gears again with “Love You At All,” which begins with some pretty work on acoustic guitar and Hrepa professing his love. This is more in the folk realm. “But there is one moment, darling/When I love you more/It is the moment when you don’t believe me/That I love you at all.” This is another of the disc’s highlights. It’s followed by yet another highlight, “Walk Till Tomorrow.” This one creates a strong atmosphere at the beginning, with that harmonica reaching us over a desolate landscape. “They say life is illusion/They say life is just stumbles and falls.” And then the track becomes a catchy, empowering song, emerging from that opening section. It is like we are marching out of the troubled land on our own terms, the band and those of us listening moving together. This one also has an excellent instrumental section in the second half, featuring some passionate work on guitar. Jadran Vušković provides backing vocals on this track.

“You Can’t Use Your Friend” has more of a traditional blues rhythm, and the horn section comes back, offering some wonderful work. Also, Andrea Jelavić joins the group on flute. Rola delivers a strong vocal performance, and this track features some really nice work on guitar during that instrumental section. That is followed by “Love Remote,” which is a straight ahead rock song, coming as something of a surprise. Special guest Davorin Bogović joins the group on vocals for this one. It’s a fun song, reminding me of some of the music I grew up listening to. There is that sound, that feel, and I am particularly fond of the bass line. Yet, it does have some surprises in it, as that section in the second half: “You can call it destiny/It’s a simple move for me, you’ll see/In the world of disgrace/This is the only place to stay.” “Love Remote” was written by Boris Hrepić and Luka Banić. The band then change gears again with “What About You,” which opens with some nice work on acoustic guitar. “My life has always been a clear case/Everything is written on my face/Whatever I do/What about you.” Vedran Križan joins them on organ, delivering some wonderful work.

“Devil’s Loans” contains a little nod to George Thorogood in its first line, “I was bad to every single bone.” This is another seriously cool track, its sound a delicious combination of influences and instruments. Stipan Kujundžić is on tar, Gogo Zujić is on rabab, and Hari Klarica plays bodhran. This is another of the album’s highlights. “Rivers will flow and rain will fall down/And I will do my best to walk on solid ground/I will do my best to walk on solid ground.” The album concludes with “Highway To Blues,” which has an eerie opening. This is a dark, haunted highway they are on. Then there is a countdown, “Three, two, one,” and the song kicks in, though maintains an eerie aspect. The lyrics have a deep, sort of spoken word delivery, like some of Leonard Cohen’s later work. “Don’t speak, my dear friend, and don’t try to cheer me up/I am behind the wheel again and I don’t mean to stop.” As the song progresses, there is a strange, inevitable beauty to it, like a beauty found within defeat. And check out that work on guitar. This is a fantastic closing number.

CD Track List

  1. Shake And Shiver
  2. Who Stole The Rainbow
  3. 27 Stitches
  4. Weekend Cigarette
  5. Soup
  6. Love You At All
  7. Walk Till Tomorrow
  8. You Can’t Use Your Friend
  9. Love Remote
  10. What About You
  11. Devil’s Loan
  12. Highway To Blues

27 Stitches is scheduled to be released on October 12, 2023.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Kentucky Colonels: “1966” (2023) CD Review

The bluegrass band Kentucky Colonels were around for a relatively brief time in the 1950s and 1960s, releasing only two albums during that period. But the band’s influence and impact have been substantial, particularly in the way the guys pushed the boundaries of traditional bluegrass. The group was led by three brothers: Clarence White, Eric White and Roland White. Guitarist Clarence White would later join The Byrds and then Muleskinner (the latter with David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Kahn and Richard Greene, all of whom would then form Old & In The Way with Jerry Garcia). Mandolin player Roland White would join Bill Monroe And His Bluegrass Boys, Country Gazette, and later Nashville Bluegrass Band, as well as have a solo career. And though Kentucky Colonels released only two records in the 1960s, several albums were released after the band’s dissolution, including 1978’s 1966, which featured tracks recorded in early 1967, just a couple of months before the group disbanded. Now an expanded edition of that album has been released, featuring nine bonus tracks, all of which were previously unreleased, and which interestingly come from the early part of the band’s career, tracks recorded between 1959 and 1961. This release also includes new liner notes written by Jon Hartley Fox.

The album opens with “Soldiers Joy” a delightful, but short instrumental track. And I mean short. It’s 41 seconds (well, the track is 41 seconds, but the tune is actually only 38 seconds). That’s followed by a cover of “The Fugitive,” also known as “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive.”  This one has a sweeter sound, and is one of Merle Haggard’s many songs that deal in one way or another with prison, though he didn’t write this one. It was written by Liz Anderson and Casey Anderson. “Now I’m a hunted fugitive with just two ways/Outrun the law or spend my life in jail.” These guys do a nice job with it. Then “Ruben’s Train” is a fun instrumental number, the band clearly having a good time. “One Tear” is a song by The Osborne Brothers, the first of two Osborne Brothers songs they cover on this album. Their rendition features some good harmonies. “I Might Take You Back Again” is another sweet-sounding number, featuring some wonderful work on guitar. “Loving you is my great sin/And I might take you back again.”

“Take Off Your Cheaters” is one of those glorious, fast-paced instrumental gems. It’s another short one, like fifty seconds long. I guess it couldn’t go on too long, but I’d love another thirty or forty seconds of that fantastic playing. I’m assuming “Cheaters” in the tune’s title refers to capos, and that is only because on a live Grateful Dead recording, Bob Weir mentions that a capo is “known in common circles as a cheater.” Anyway, this track is one of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by “Old Country Church,” which features some really good vocal work, and some nice stuff by Bob Worford on banjo. “Earl’s Breakdown” is another great instrumental number, this one featuring some good work on fiddle. On the CD case, the fiddle player is listed as “Bobby (or Jimmy) Crane.” On the original release he was listed as Bobby Crane. In this release’s liner notes he is mentioned as Jimmy Crane. But whatever his name might be, he delivers some good stuff.

“Give This Message To Your Heart” is the album’s second Osborne Brothers song. The Kentucky Colonels do a wonderful job with it, this track featuring more beautiful harmonies, as well as some nice stuff on mandolin. “Please don’t read between the lines/Give this message to your heart/I don’t know what made me lie to you/Most of all, I just don’t know why I cheated on you.” Then we get the instrumental “Ruben’s Train” again. On the CD case it is listed as “Ruben’s Train (Encore).” On the original 1978 release, it was listed as “Ruben’s Train (Second Cut).” Things then really take off with their rendition of “Cotton Eyed Joe.” This track is fantastic, a whole hell of a lot of fun, another of the disc’s highlights. There is some impressive playing on this one. We then get “Soldiers Joy” again, listed both here and on the original release as “Soldiers Joy (Conclusion).” And indeed that is how the original album concluded.

Bonus Tracks

As I mentioned, the bonus tracks are from earlier in the band’s career, and so the musicians joining them on these tracks are different from those on the main tracks. And in fact, the band was called The Country Boys at that point. The bonus tracks were recorded live for radio and/or television appearances in the Los Angeles area. The first of these tracks is “Head Over Heels In Love With You,” and there is an introduction by the host of whatever program this comes from. The track contains some excellent playing. By the way, an odd mistake on the CD case has this one listed as “Head Over Heals In Love With You.” That’s followed by a great, fast-paced and fun rendition of “Shady Grove.” Another odd error on the CD case has this song listed as “Shady Grave.” This track features some delicious work by Billy Ray Latham on banjo. The banjo playing is also strong on “I’ll Never Love Anybody But You,” though here the mandolin really shines. This track also features good vocal work. “I’ll never love anybody but you, baby, baby/I’ll never love anybody but you, if you’ll be my girl.”

The bonus tracks include a fun rendition of “Polka On The Banjo.” This music just makes me feel so good. There is a sudden ending to this track, like the recording equipment broke down or melted or something. That’s followed by “I’ll Go Steppin’ Too.” Approximately thirty seconds in, there is some applause over part of the song, and I wonder what the crowd was responding to particularly. But there is certainly plenty to applaud here. Then some great stuff on banjo gets “Flint Hill Special” going. This is another wonderfully fast-paced instrumental number. That’s followed by yet another delicious instrumental that flies along like a speeding train, just how we like it. It’s called “Shuckin’ The Corn,” and it is one of my personal favorites from this disc. The crowd responds enthusiastically. And guess what? That in turn is followed by another excellent instrumental tune, “John Hardy,” featuring some great stuff on guitar. This is another of the disc’s highlights. The disc concludes with one last fast-paced instrumental tune, this one titled “Mad Banjo.” With a title like that, it couldn’t be anything but a fast-paced bluegrass gem, and it does not disappoint.

CD Track List

  1. Soldiers Joy
  2. The Fugitive
  3. Ruben’s Train
  4. One Tear
  5. I Might Take You Back Again
  6. Take Off Your Cheaters
  7. Old Country Church
  8. Earl’s Breakdown
  9. Give This Message To Your Heart
  10. Ruben’s Train
  11. Cotton Eyed Joe
  12. Soldiers Joy
  13. Head Over Heels In Love With You
  14. Shady Grove
  15. I’ll Never Love Anybody But You
  16. Polka On The Banjo
  17. I’ll Go Steppin’ Too
  18. Flint Hill Special
  19. Shuckin’ The Corn
  20. John Hardy
  21. Mad Banjo

This special expanded edition of 1966 was released on June 30, 2023. It is available on vinyl too, though I believe the vinyl edition does not include the final two bonus tracks.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Chandrika Tandon: “Ammu’s Treasures” (2023) CD Review

Chandrika Tandon Is a vocalist whose first album, Soul Call, was nominated for a Grammy (Best Contemporary World Music Album). She has since then released a few more albums: Soul March, Soul Mantra, and Shivoham – The Quest. Her new release, Ammu’s Treasures, is actually a three-disc boxed set, containing two discs of songs and one disc of chants. And though it’s packaged for children, even containing two sheets of stickers, it can, and should, also be enjoyed by adults. In fact, in the 148-page book included in the box, Chandrika Tandon addresses the adults (after addressing the children, of course). “My dear grown-ups,” she begins, and then explains where the name Ammu comes from. “Ammu is the name my grandchildren call me,” she writes. She continues, “Ammu means happiness; Ammu means sweetness; Ammu means purity.” That should also give you an idea of her approach to the music contained in this set. Ammu’s Treasures is a wonderful collection of songs, including some old folk tunes and more modern pop songs, all delivered with warmth and joy and honesty. She has created lyric videos for some of these songs, and the video for “Miller Of The Dee” is what first got me interested in this release. The song is beautiful and haunting, the animated video depicting some strange creatures. It really grabbed me, and I ended up watching it multiple times (something I very rarely do). That one track was more than enough to get me excited about this artist and this release. But there is magic running throughout this three-disc set. By the way, Chandrika Tandon includes very brief notes on each of the songs, short messages for children on what they might take away from each track, as well as art work related to each song.

Volume 1 – Songs

The first disc, labeled “Volume 1 – Songs,” contains nearly an hour of music. The album opens with “Children Of The Stars,” and right away it is clear Chandrika Tandon is not talking down to children. This song mentions the various sun signs, and celebrates our differences. As a Pisces, I enjoy these lines: “Pisces children dream away their worry/What’s your secret, Scorpio?/Capricorns are better safe than sorry/But Aquarius says, ‘Let’s go.’” This track features some nice percussion. That’s followed by “I Will Bring You Flowers,” which has a pretty instrumental introduction. This track takes us to a distant land, or a sweet dream land. “I will bring you happiness wrapped up in a box and tied with a yellow bow/I will bring you rainbow skies and summer rain to make your garden grow/And in the winter snow, my songs will keep you from the cold.” What more could any of us ask for? And her delivery is bright and warm and honest. We trust her as we would a friend or parent or angel. Then “À La Claire Fontaine” is sung in French, with some beautiful string accompaniment.

“Kookaburra” is a cheerful number about a bird, featuring some wonderful work on banjo. That’s Béla Fleck on banjo, by the way. Yes, Chandrika Tandon has assembled some fantastic musicians to accompany her on this release. In addition to Béla Fleck, these discs feature the work of Michael Ward-Bergeman on accordion, Eugene Friesen on cello, Brittany Haas on fiddle, Howard Levy on harmonica, Maeve Gilchrist on harp, Dave Schroeder on Mongolian horn, Purbayan Chatterjee on sitar, Marcus Roja on tuba, and Charissa Hoffman on ukuelele. Paul Calo, Bobby Keyes and Romero Lubambo all play guitar, and Brian Gill, Paul Kowert and Victor Wooten all play bass. Rakesh Chaurasia and Keith Underwood play flute. Martin Bejerano and Kenny Werner are on piano, and Cyro Baptista and Jamey Haddad are on percussion. On strings are Kenny Werner, Kevin Kliesch, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and FAMES Orchestra. Again, this is not your typical children’s album. Back to “Kookaburra,” this track made me laugh aloud the first time I heard Chandrika Tandon sing, “Stop, Kookaburra, stop, Kookaburra/That’s not a monkey, that’s me.” This is delightful, and will certainly appeal to children. That’s followed by “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” which is adorable, and includes tuba.

“Ash Grove” is a traditional folk song, a song of sorrow, of mourning, of memory, of holding that special someone in our hearts. It features some nice work on piano and a beautiful vocal performance. That’s followed by “Surangani,” a fun and cheerful number with some good percussion. There is a great joy to Chandrika Tandon’s vocal performance here, and to the music. It is a song that ought to raise your spirits. I love that work on harmonica, and this one also contains wonderful stuff on banjo. Then “Wish You Could Be Here” is a pretty and warm song about missing someone and wanting to share experiences. It features some nice work on guitar and a friendly vocal performance. That’s followed by “Lemon Tree,” a song I heard a lot while growing up. My parents played the Peter, Paul & Mary rendition in particular. Chandrika Tandon’s offering is a lively, delightful rendition, featuring banjo, accordion, tuba and percussion, giving it something of a Louisiana flavor. “Polly Von” was also covered by Peter, Paul & Mary. It is a much more serious and somber song than “Lemon Tree,” and Chandrika Tandon’s vocal approach changes accordingly. She delivers another beautiful performance. This is the message that accompanies this song in the book: “We all make mistakes sometimes without meaning to. We must learn to forgive others and forgive ourselves” (p. 45). I also the artwork for this one, which is on page 44 of the book.

“You Are Old, Father William” is a poem written by Lewis Carroll. Chandrika Tandon delivers a delightful and playful rendition that features some good work on harmonica and some interesting percussion. That is followed by “Que Sera Sera,” another song that I heard a lot while growing up. Back then it was the Doris Day record that I heard the most. In more recent years, it’s been the Pink Martini version. But this version by Chandrika Tandon is up there with those great recordings. It has a lighter flavor than some versions, to be sure, and at times feels like a dream, like a magical dance. “Will You Walk A Little Faster?” is another that comes from Lewis Carroll’s writing. It is often titled “The Mock Turtle’s Song.” “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?” Absolutely.

Chandrika Tandon then turns to a standard, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” her version featuring some wonderful work on piano. I love that she doesn’t shy away from jazz here. I remember loving jazz when I was a child, though I had no idea that the music was jazz (I mean, come on, we all loved the Vince Guaraldi stuff), and I think kids will appreciate this version. Certainly, adults will. Then “Woodpecker’s Song” begins with some percussion imitating the sound of a woodpecker. This is a playful, goofy number. And of course, there have been some jazz renditions of this song. “Sway” is another standard. Chandrika Tandon delivers an excellent rendition. This is one of my favorite tracks from the first disc. It features some wonderful work on both guitar and piano. She does change the word “thrill” to “sway” in the phrase “Make me thrill”: “I can hear the sound of violins/Long before it begins/Make me sway as only you know how/Sway me smooth, sway me now.” She then delivers another that began as a poem, but this one not by Lewis Carroll. “Wynken, Blynken, And Nod” was written by Eugene Field. The first disc concludes with a gorgeous, magical rendition of “Scarborough Fair,” another that I heard a lot in my childhood, then the version by Simon & Garfunkel.

Volume 2 – Songs

The second disc, which is labeled “Volume 2 – Songs,” contains close to an hour of music. It opens with “Miller Of The Dee.” This, as I mentioned earlier, is the track that got me interested in this release. I’ve listened to it many times now, and it is compelling each time. What a gorgeous vocal performance she delivers here, with something of a haunting quality. There is also some wonderful work on banjo. “So let us his example take/And be from malice free/Let everyone his neighbor serve/As served he’d like to be.” That’s followed by another beautiful track, “On A Cool Summer Morning,” this one too featuring banjo, as well some really nice work on flute. This one also features an interesting use of percussion, and a vocal performance that is at times stunning. Chandrika Tandon then delivers a beautiful rendition of “Molly Malone.” I’ve heard several great renditions of this song over the years, by artists like Sinead O’Connor, The Dubliners, and Pete Seeger, and this version by Chandrika Tandon has a place among them. It features some pretty and moving work on strings, but of course it is her vocal performance that is at the center.

The music becomes more fun with “Vive La Compagnie.” “We’re all together for only a while/Vive la compagnie/Sharing a laugh, a book and a smile/Vive la compagnie.” This one has a good Latin rhythm, and features some great stuff on piano. That’s followed by “(How Much) Is That Doggy In The Window?” I can’t help but think of that scene from Pink Flamingos whenever I hear this song, but of course you don’t have to be concerned with your children making that same association. Or do you, fantastic parents? This track is kind of adorable, at least as adorable as the doggy she describes, and it features some wonderful work on guitar. Then “Listen To The Pouring Rain” features gorgeous work on piano, and an equally beautiful vocal performance. There is yet another pretty vocal performance in “Santa Lucia.”

“Now’s The Time For Planting Seeds” is a lighter and playful number that will likely bring a smile to your face. “Early in the day we rise/For our pleasant exercise/And we are healthy as can be.” Yeah, about that, it’s on my list, really. But, seriously, this track is adorable. That’s followed by “Oh Dear! What Can The Matter Be?” Okay, perhaps something is wrong with me because I honestly thought this song was going to be “Seven Old Ladies.” I didn’t realize the tune itself was older than those lyrics. I suppose I should be embarrassed by that, but tra-la-la. Anyway, this is a fun track (though not as fun as it would be with the old ladies lyrics). Then Chandrika Tandon gives us “Where Have The Flowers Gone.” This is a folk song I heard a lot while growing up. My parents played the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary versions, as I recall. Chandrika Tandon does a really good job with it, delivering a gentle, moving rendition that features some pretty work on flute. That’s followed by a sweet rendition of “Donna Donna.”

I still have not seen The Sound Of Music, but I do like some of the songs from that musical, including “Edelweiss.” And on her version, Chandrika Tandon gives a bright, warm vocal performance. That’s followed by a pretty rendition of “Beautiful Dreamer” to play for the little ones when you’re trying to get them to sleep. “Au Clair De La Lune” is another track that is able to transport us, sung in French and featuring sitar. That’s followed by a sweet and rather pretty rendition of the children’s song, “There’s A Hole In My Bucket.” When I was a kid, I remember this song being delivered at a faster pace, but I like the way Chandrika Tandon approaches it. The first few lines of “Hush Little Baby” are delivered a cappella. It feels fitting to follow “Hole In My Bucket” with this one, because there are similarities in the way the lyrics progress. There is a good deal of affection heard in her delivery, and Chandrika’s voice gets softer toward the end, because perhaps by then your little ones have nodded off. The disc then concludes with a second rendition of “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” this one delivered in French and featuring some excellent work on guitar.

Volume 3 – Chants To The Light

The third disc, labeled “Volume 3 – Chants To The Light,” contains chants set to some beautiful music. There are twenty-one chants listed on the back of the CD case, but they are all presented on one single track that is twenty-six minutes long. So it is a single piece of music with different sections. And here her notes on each piece are perhaps more helpful. There is also accompanying artwork for each of the chants, as there are for the songs on the other two discs. The “Om Namashivaya” chant is particularly moving and beautiful. It seems to open up a glorious space before us, a place we can inhabit if we wish. There is some wonderful percussion on “Om Namo Narayanaya” and “Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare.” The most familiar of these chants (at least to me) is “Hare Rama Hare Krishna,” which, if I remember correctly, was even used in the musical Hair. And check out the dramatic string work on “Om Bhoor Bhuvasvaha,” “Shamno Mitrah” and “Sahana Vavatu.”

CD Track List

Disc 1

  1. Children Of The Stars
  2. I Will Bring You Flowers
  3. À La Claire Fontaine
  4. Kookaburra
  5. Teddy Bears’ Picnic
  6. Ash Grove
  7. Surangani
  8. Wish You Could Be Here
  9. Lemon Tree
  10. Polly Von
  11. You Are Old, Father Williams
  12. Que Sera Sera
  13. Will You Walk A Little Faster?
  14. Bye Bye Blackbird
  15. Woodpecker’s Song
  16. Sway
  17. Wynken, Blynken, And Nod
  18. Scarborough Fair

Disc 2

  1. Miller Of The Dee
  2. On A Cool Summer Morning
  3. Molly Malone
  4. Vive La Compagnie
  5. (How Much) Is That Doggy In The Window?
  6. Listen To The Pouring Rain
  7. Santa Lucia
  8. Now’s The Time For Planting Seeds
  9. Oh Dear! What Can The Matter Be?
  10. Where Have All The Flowers Gone
  11. Donna Donna
  12. Edelweiss
  13. Beautiful Dreamer
  14. Au Clair De La Lune
  15. There’s A Hole In My Bucket
  16. Hush Little Baby
  17. Que Sont Devenues Les Fleurs

Disc 3 (all tracks listed are presented a single track)

  1. Om Om Om
  2. Vakra Tunda Mahaa Kaaya
  3. Gurur Bramha Gurur Vishnur
  4. Poojyaya Raghavendraya
  5. Tryambakam Yajaamahe
  6. Om Namashivaya
  7. Vanamali Gadhi Shrangee
  8. Om Namo Narayanaya
  9. Sri Rama Rama Ramethi
  10. Hare Rama Hare Krishna
  11. Sarva Mangala Mangalye
  12. Yaadevi Sarva Bhootheshu
  13. Asato Maa Sad Gamaya
  14. Om Bhoor Bhuvasvaha
  15. Bhadram Karnebih
  16. Poornamadhah Poornamidham
  17. Sarvesham Swasthir Bhavathu
  18. Shamno Mitrah
  19. Sahana Vavatu
  20. Lokha Samastha Sukhino Bhavathu
  21. Om Jai Jagadeesh Hare

Ammu’s Treasures was released on September 7, 2023.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Americana In The Park, 9-24-23

Steve Postell
The fourth and final Sunday concert in this year’s Americana In The Park series featured the double bill of Dan Navarro and Steve Postell’s Night Train Music Club. This has been a really nice series, put on by the city of Santa Monica in partnership with McCabe’s. Because of the participation of McCabe’s, I was fairly certain it would be an enjoyable series of concerts from the start. By day McCabe’s is a guitar shop, but at night it becomes one of the best concert venues in Los Angeles County. Not only do those folks tend to book excellent artists, but they draw the right type of audience as well, people who know music, people who pay attention, who are engaged. In short, it’s a great listening room. And it seemed that a lot of the people who like to see shows at that venue also came out for these concerts in Gandara Park. In addition to the music and the food, a raffle was held at each of these concerts, the winner walking away with a bag of goodies from McCabe’s. No, not a guitar, but last night the bag of goodies did include a kalimba. Very cool.

Dan Navarro
There has been good weather for these shows, and it was another beautiful sunny day in Santa Monica yesterday. At this point, we would expect nothing less. Just after 4 p.m., Dan Navarro was introduced. Well, that is after the food trucks were introduced, of course. Each of these shows has featured different food trucks for anyone who would like a snack or a meal before or during the concert. Dan Navarro had performed a lot of concerts online during the pandemic, several times joining Ellis Paul on his shows as well, and it was great to see him in person again after so long. Dan Navarro was joined by Steve Postell on electric guitar and backing vocals for his entire set. Dan joked, “For those who don’t know my music, you’re about to hear forty-five minutes of the most depressing music you’ve ever heard.” He opened the set with “All Is Quiet,” a song from the Lowen & Navarro album Broken Moon, and followed it with another Lowen & Navarro song, “Compass Point,” that one from All The Time In The World. Then he played a more recent song, “Circling The Drain,” which is from last year’s Horizon Line and was co-written by Deborah Holland. It’s a beautiful song. “We’ve got this time on Earth/Why not live it for all it’s worth/And be a little more forgiving.” He followed that with a song from his previous album, “Bulletproof Heart,” which featured some excellent work by Steve Postell on guitar. He then delivered another track from his newest album, “Rose In The Window,” which was co-written by Preston Sturges. Dan’s guitar part for this song was catchy, and his vocal performance had a raw passion that was great.

Dan mentioned that the first Lowen & Navarro album was released in 1990. I had thought it was actually earlier than that. I remember hearing them at that time, and it seemed that they were already well-established. And I suppose they were, but as a songwriting team, not as a performing duo. I just remember them drawing a crowd in the early 1990s, and assuming they’d been around for quite a while already. Anyway, from that first album, Dan played the title track, “Walking On A Wire,” which was also the duo’s first single. He then switched guitars for “Tar Pit,” another song from his latest album, and Steve Postell got another chance to shine on electric guitar. Dan wrapped up the set with the new album’s title track, “Horizon Line.” His set ended at 4:56 p.m.

"Long Time Gone"
But Dan Navarro was not done. As Steve Postell played on his set, Dan then was part of the band for Steve’s set, playing acoustic guitar and providing some vocal work. Night Train Music Club features a rotating group of musicians, and yesterday included Tariqh Akoni on guitar, Jon Button on bass, Herman Mathews on drums, Peter Adams on keyboards, and Lara Johnston on vocals. They started their set at 5:15 p.m., opening with “Long Time Gone,” the Crosby, Stills & Nash song. Steve Postell had played with David Crosby, and the two were putting a band together when Crosby died early this year. Steve delivered an excellent rendition of the song, a nice jam to start the set. The group followed that with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” with Dan Navarro taking over lead vocal duties and doing a phenomenal job with it. The set was nearly all covers, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” was followed by “Beast Of Burden,” the first of two Rolling Stones they played yesterday. “They’re still at it, those boys,” Steve said afterward. “Beast Of Burden” featured some really nice work on keys. Lara Johnston then sang lead on a cover of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” the Steely Dan song. And Tariqh Akoni sang lead on “Rocky Mountain Way,” the band jamming a bit on this one too. Steve mentioned that he got to play that song with Joe Walsh.

I’ve noticed several of the same people at these Americana In The Park concerts, including one kid who wears ear protection and likes to sit himself on one of the speakers in front of the stage. Of course, the performers can’t help but notice him too, and yesterday Steve said to him, “You’re going to hear a lot longer than we will, because you’re taking care of your ears.” The band then went into a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me,” with Dan Navarro singing lead, and the band rocking. Lara Johnston sang lead on “Dr. Feelgood,” and this is where she really got a chance to show her talent. Not that she didn’t do a good job with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” but that song has just never really interested me. On “Dr. Feelgood,” she delivered a soulful and exciting performance, making it one of the set’s highlights. That was followed by another highlight, “We Belong,” a song that was a hit for Pat Benatar, but was written by Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro. Dan sang lead on this one, and it was so good to hear him do it.

The one original song of the set was “3:45 Coming Through,” a song that Steve Postell wrote and which he performs with The Immediate Family. The song was included on that band’s Can’t Stop Progress. The song had a great groove, and there was a wonderful moment when Steve and Tariqh traded guitar licks. Tariqh then sang lead on a seriously strong rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns And Money,” a song from Zevon’s fantastic 1978 record Excitable Boy. The band then delivered two songs by The Cars, “Drive” and “Just What I Needed.” I’m always happy to hear Cars songs. Those were followed by the second Rolling Stones song of the set, “Wild Horses.” Lara then sang lead on “When Will I Be Loved,” and the band wrapped up the set with “The Weight,” always a great choice for the closing number. Steve, Dan and Lara each sang lead on different verses. The show ended at 6:47 p.m., as it was starting to get dark. It was an excellent day of music. I’m looking forward to seeing what the lineup will be next year, but in the meantime there are several great shows coming up at McCabe’s, including Dan Bern, Jim Kweskin, Tom Paxton and Ellis Paul.

Dan Navarro Set List

  1. All Is Quiet
  2. Compass Point
  3. Circling The Drain
  4. Bulletproof Heart
  5. Rose In The Window
  6. Walking On A Wire
  7. Tar Pit
  8. Horizon Line

Steve Postell’s Night Train Music Club Set List

  1. Long Time Gone
  2. Ain’t No Sunshine
  3. Beast Of Burden
  4. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
  5. Rocky Mountain Way
  6. You Wreck Me
  7. Dr. Feelgood
  8. We Belong
  9. 3:45 Coming Through
  10. Lawyers, Guns And Money
  11. Drive
  12. Just What I Needed
  13. Wild Horses
  14. When Will I Be Loved
  15. The Weight

Here are some photos from the show:

"Compass Point"

"Bulletproof Heart"
"Tar Pit"

"Long Time Gone"

"Ain't No Sunshine" 

"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"

"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"

"Rocky Mountain Way"

"You Wrecked Me"