Saturday, December 30, 2023

Ted Russell Kamp at Ireland’s 32, 12-29-23 Concert Review

Last night Ted Russell Kamp delivered a great show at Ireland’s 32 in Van Nuys. Earlier in the week he took part in the regular jam that is held at that venue every Tuesday, playing a few originals including a song from his upcoming release. That’s right, he has a new album coming out in a few months, and word is it will be available on both CD and vinyl. Last night he played another song from it, one that was co-written by members of I See Hawks In L.A., and that was one of the show’s highlights. Ted Russell Kamp played bass, and was backed by Dave Raven on drums (he also played at Tuesday’s jam), Zachary Ross on guitar, and Dan Wistrom on guitar. That’s one heck of a good and experienced band.

At 9:42 p.m., Ted Russell Kamp took the stage for the first of three sets, and said of Ireland’s 32 that it’s “not only one of the coolest bars in Van Nuys, but one of the coolest places west of the Mississippi.” Maybe so. I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of this place. There is really no nonsense there, no one trying to impress anyone or make a scene. It’s a neighborhood bar, where folks of all ages get together to enjoy a few drinks and some good music. Ted Russell Kamp opened the show with “The Good Part,” a song from the 2020 release Down In The Den, and followed it with another song from that same album, “Hobo Nickel,” which he also played during the jam on Tuesday. Dave Raven then sang lead on the first cover of the night, “That’s All Right, Mama.” Ted Russell Kamp sang mostly original material throughout the night, and Dave Raven chose several covers to do, including a couple by The Band. “That’s All Right, Mama” was followed by “California Wildflower,” from Ted Russell Kamp’s 2011 album Get Back To The Land, and then “Waste A Little Time With Me,” another song that was included on Down In The Den. That one had a cha-cha-cha ending, and after the song Ted Russell Kamp called attention to it, saying it was the first successful cha-cha-cha ending of the night. As far as I recall, it was the only cha-cha-cha ending of the show.

The first Band song of the show was “Up On Cripple Creek,” one of my favorites, and these guys delivered a rocking rendition, including a nice jam. That was followed by “Path Of Least Resistance,” a song included on Ted Russell Kamp’s 2021 album Solitaire. Last night it had something of a different vibe from the album version, because of the presence of a full band. I have a weakness for songs that contain baseball references, and in this one he sings, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you hit a home run every time/The crowd cheered like a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth/Some things, they come easy, but real dreams take time.” That was followed by “Paid By The Mile,” from Walkin’ Shoes, a song that Ted Russell Kamp wrote with Sam Morrow, who included it on his own Concrete And Mud. Dave Raven then sang lead on a cover of Little Walter’s “My Babe.” The first set concluded with “Daughter Of Temptation,” a seriously cool tune from North South. The first set ended at 10:40 p.m.

After a thirty-minute break, the band opened the second set with a new song, “Shine On,” which Ted Russell Kamp wrote with Rob Waller and Paul Lacques of I See Hawks In L.A., and one that is going to be on the new album. It was one I liked immediately, and it certainly has something of a Hawks flavor. They switched gears then with “Tail Light Shine,” which had a raw rocking power. That was followed by the second Band song of the night, “Ophelia,” with Dave Raven again singing lead. Ted Russell Kamp then returned to Walkin’ Shoes for “This Old Guitar,” and followed that with “If I Had A Dollar,” a song he said was inspired by Buck Owens, and one that got people dancing. They did a string of three covers, the first being Little Feat’s “Willin’” with Dave on lead vocals. Ted sang lead on the cover of “Someday We’ll Be Together,” which he introduced as one of his favorite Motown songs of all time, and which featured some excellent guitar work during the jam. Dave Raven sang lead on “Little Sister,” and had a whole lot of fun with it. The second set concluded with a fun original number, “The Last Drop,” a song from Night Owl. The set ended at 12:04 a.m.

At 12:29 a.m., the band opened the third set with “Steady At The Wheel,” chosen to satisfy a request for something groovy and getting the final set of the night off to a great start. They followed that with a really nice cover of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me,” with Ted singing lead. Dave then sang lead on a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” the band delivering a good, energetic rendition. But the highlight of the set came next, with “Have Some Faith,” an original song from Down In The Den. It began as a cool bluesy number, and then developed into an excellent psychedelic jam, the band just taking it where it wanted to go. Not just a highlight of the set, but of the entire show, this song was something special. They followed that with a cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down,” with Dave singing lead. The set concluded with a fantastic rendition of “Home Away From Home,” a song from Walkin’ Shoes. Last night this song included a delicious drum solo, followed by a section of just bass and drums. Very cool. The set ended at 1:12 a.m. There was no encore.

Set List

Set I

  1. The Good Part
  2. Hobo Nickel
  3. That’s All Right, Mama
  4. California Wildflower
  5. Waste A Little Time With Me
  6. Up On Cripple Creek
  7. Path Of Least Resistance
  8. Paid By The Mile
  9. My Babe
  10. Daughter Of Temptation

Set II

  1. Shine On
  2. Tail Light Shine
  3. Ophelia
  4. This Old Guitar
  5. If I Had A Dollar
  6. Willin’
  7. Someday We’ll Be Together
  8. Little Sister
  9. The Last Drop


  1. Steady At The Wheel
  2. She Belongs To Me
  3. Memphis, Tennessee
  4. Have Some Faith
  5. The Bottle Let Me Down
  6. Home Away From Home

Here are a few photos from the show:

Ireland’s 32 is located at 13721 Burbank Blvd. in Van Nuys, California. Ted Russell Kamp is next scheduled to perform there on January 31st. But between now and then, he’s playing the next show in that great new music series at the Mayan Bar & Grill in Monrovia. That show is on January 7th. See you there!

Friday, December 29, 2023

Emilie Clepper: “The Family Record” (2023) CD Review

Singer and songwriter Emilie Clepper pays tribute to her father and his great influence on her music with her new album, appropriately titled The Family Record. Her father, Russell Clepper, whom you might know from his work in The Porch Brothers, joins her on this album, playing guitar and providing some vocals. This isn’t the first time that Emilie has performed material written by her father. She did so on both the Texas Eagle EP and Dirt And Bones. But on this release, every song was written by Russell Clepper. Also joining Emilie Clepper on this disc are Joe Grass on guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, dobro, percussion and vocals; John Sadowy on piano; Morgan Moore on bass; Liam O’Neil on drums; Joel Savoy on violin; and Pete Weiss on accordion.

Emilie Clepper opens the album with “Someplace Like Heaven,” which was the title track to Russell Clepper’s 2002 album. Emilie’s rendition is excellent. There is strength and attitude in her delivery, which works so well. “Won’t you dream me up someplace like heaven/Cool Mexican nights with no wind/And let her be there descending the stairs/Where I cried just to see her ascend.” Plus, this track features some absolutely wonderful stuff on violin, and contains a fantastic instrumental section at the end. It is a delicious and powerful way to get things going. Then “Texas Sunshine” has a much sweeter vibe. Here Emilie Clepper’s vocals have a different feel. She gives us a beautiful performance, and this track features some nice work on pedal steel and accordion. “Dear Mother, I’m thinking tonight/Of a voice young and strong as April winds/Patiently teaching me what’s wrong from what’s right/In the Texas sunshine.”

Another highlight is “Pablo’s Mandolin,” and, yes, there is some good work on mandolin on this track. “There’s only one unforgivable sin/The notes to your song live and die on the wind/If you ever quit playing, this world just might end.” I love Emilie’s voice, and there are is some nice harmonizing. This track also contains some great stuff on guitar and pedal steel. That’s followed by “La Valse A Gaetan,” a beautiful song, Most of that beauty is in their vocal performances, but this track also features some wonderful work on both violin and accordion. This is a song I can listen to over and over. Then “Streets Of Quebec” has a cool vibe and sound. A strong, prominent rhythm and some good work on piano help create the atmosphere of this song. This song’s lyrics also mention a mandolin: “A mandolin sounded still in the wind/And froze some passersby.”

“Steal My Car” is a fun, lively country number featuring some great work on piano and a delicious rhythm. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I never said you could steal my car/Wanted to help you, but you’ve gone too far/Just wondering who the hell you think you are/I never said you could steal my car/I never said that we could be friends/That’s an idea that just don’t make sense.” This track is a total delight, one to get you moving, and it contains some wonderful stuff on violin. That’s followed by another lively number, “Middle Of Everywhere,” this one with a bit of a Louisiana vibe. “They remember the name of that sweet young girl, the one that I loved best/With a bite that didn’t hardly hurt at all and a butterfly on her breast.” This is such an enjoyable number, certain to raise your spirits.

Emilie Clepper slows the pace then with “Netherlands,” song that features another tremendous vocal performance. I also love the way this one builds in power, and the way the accordion and violin work together at times. “She woke up in the wake of the whistle/Of the train that just passed in her dream.” Sarah Dial Primrose and Mo Pair provide backing vocals on this track. Then “Stardusted To Death” has something of a Rolling Stones feel as it begins. This is another lively, energetic track, featuring some cool work on pedal steel. That’s followed by “High Plains Girl,” which also features Mo Pair on backing vocals. “From bootleggers to corporate beggars to those braggarts on those barroom stools/She never blinked or hesitated any time she ran across a fool/Her taste in men/Kept her wasted way back then.” The album concludes with “Nobody’s Song,” which begins with vocals and guitar, with a sound that is gentle and intimate, featuring yet another excellent vocal performance. “With a storm brewing somewhere/As the sun sets low/Nobody can hear it/No one sings along/Nobody knows how right it sounds/Nobody knows how wrong/Nobody copyrights it/Because it’s nobody’s song.”

CD Track List

  1. Someplace Like Heaven
  2. Texas Sunshine
  3. Pablo’s Mandolin
  4. La Valse A Gaetan
  5. Streets Of Quebec
  6. Steal My Car
  7. Middle Of Everywhere
  8. Netherlands
  9. Stardusted To Death
  10. High Plains Girl
  11. Nobody’s Song

The Family Record was released on October 20, 2023.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

J. Wilms: “The Fighter” (2023) CD Review

Jeremy Wilms, who generally goes by J. Wilms, lived in New York City for many years, working as a session and touring musician with a diverse group of artists. Then when the pandemic began, a time when many folks took a fresh look at their lives, he moved back to Atlanta, Georgia to focus on his songwriting and his solo career. His new album, The Fighter, features all original material written during the past few years. Joining him on this disc are Nick Robbins on bass, Bo Bedingfield on drums, and Julia Haltigan on backing vocals.

The album opens with “All The Roads,” which has a positive folk bent, with some sweet work on guitar and a nice bass line, and even includes some whistling. It’s a song about figuring things out, not going in a straight line, but rather following that crazy path that life often leads us up and down. It’s both a song of self-discovery and a love song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And then one day I heard a voice speak clearly/From the inside/You've gotten lost/Stop running from who you are/You can't hide/I circled back around/After all this time/Now I have you next to me/We're changed but the same.” And I love these lines: “May all the roads/Take you where you're going/But not too far.” That’s followed by “Born To Die,” which is the song that got me excited about this album. A video for this song was released a little while back. The first time I heard this song, its first line made me laugh out loud, and then nearly had me crying a second later. That first line is “Everything born is born to die.” So true. Sometimes we find ourselves morbid about such thoughts, but the best way to approach them is with some humor and acceptance, and that is what J. Wilms does here, even as he sings, “Guess I’ll hang my head and cry.” Death has been on my mind a lot the last several years. How couldn’t it be? It’s in the air, isn’t it? Check out these lines: “Some people claim to have the answers/The truth’s for them to show/But the truth’s a slippery dancer/I only know that I don’t know.” There is a friendly and sweet vibe to this song, which is what we need, and I love that guitar work. And it helps put things into perspective, doesn’t it? This is one of the album’s best tracks.

Then “Hey My” opens with some beautiful guitar work. In this song’s first line, J. Wilms directly addresses the people he left at the beginning of the pandemic: “Hey my New York City friends/How you been, have you missed me?” The pandemic caused many of us to reevaluate our priorities, and it seems J. Wilms came to the conclusion that a lot of us did: “One thing I have learned/Friends and family/Are everything to me.” I’ve said this before, but I really do hope someone will put together a comprehensive book about the way musicians responded to the pandemic, about the music that came as a result of the whole situation. This song is another of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by “I’ll Start Tomorrow.” Ah yes, a song for those of us who tend to procrastinate, those of us who intend to get a whole lot done soon. Soon, I tell you, and I mean it. So this song had me smiling in recognition right from its start. “I’m gonna sit and write a song/It’s gonna be epic and strong/Put all the feelings that I felt for so long/I’ll start tomorrow and write a song.” Plus, this track has a rather delightful sound.

“Props” has a more serious and somber vibe. “I’ve been thinking about the seams that come apart/Where one wall ends and another starts/And I feel that there's too much to do/It’s a subtle art to keep the lines all true.” Too much to do, indeed. Where does one start? And then there is some nice work on trombone by special guest Dave “Smoota” Smith. But one of the things that help make this song so effective is that J. Wilms keeps the sound from being too full, too crowded. The focus remains on the lyrics. “Sometimes I want to toss it all/But I’m in it for the long haul.” In “Stopping On A Dime” there is also some self-reevaluation. “The pain I felt has made me reconsider/How I treat you so unkind/I’m glad you stopped to let me know/Instead of just letting me go/You gave me time to wrestle with my demons/And let the love inside me grow.” And these lines speak not just of the pandemic, but of the political and social states of our nation: “This old world has got me down/Something strange is going around/People live in fear of one another/The hate is making us all weak.” So true. And yet this song is hopeful, and is in its way a love song. “Make me anything for you,” he repeats.

“The Fighter,” the album’s title track, has a western vibe. “I’ve been writing all night/Hammering out the words I think will make a decent song/Trying to write a song to make things right.” There are a couple of brief moments that remind me of Paul Simon. J. Wilms, as you’ve gathered by now, has a talent for writing good lyrics. Check out these lines from “Wolf Song”: “I am not scared, but I feel betrayed/By the ghost that lives here/Sweet in my ear just as I awake/With the myths that I’ve made.” The album concludes with “Yes I Know,” another of its highlights, even if it does employ that “self”/“shelf” rhyme that I dislike. What I especially love is the sound and feel of its chorus: “Oh yes, I know/Oh well, I know/Everything that’s good comes to an end/Oh yes, I know/Oh, now I know/We start it all over again and again and again.” It is ultimately a hopeful and positive song, this album leaving us in a better place than we were in before it started.

CD Track List

  1. All The Roads
  2. Born To Die
  3. Hey My
  4. I’ll Start Tomorrow
  5. Props
  6. Stopping On A Dime
  7. The Fighter
  8. Wolf Song
  9. Yes I Know

The Fighter was released on December 8, 2023 (though interestingly the copyright date on the back of the CD case is 2024).

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Blanca Altable: “Las Formas Del Agua” (2023) CD Review

Blanca Altable is a violinist known for her work in B&C Quartet, which she began with Chuchi Alcuadrado, a guitarist she’s been playing with for fifteen years. In 2021, Blanca Altable released her first solo album, Somos Polvo, and has now followed that with Las Formas Del Agua. This new album features all original material, written and arranged by Blanca Altable, who plays violin and keyboards on these tracks, as well as provides the vocals. It is largely a solo album, though she is joined by some musicians on a few tracks. The music here has a theme, that being water in its various shapes and forms and meanings. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I’ve always been drawn to bodies of water, and likewise find myself drawn to this music, to its beauty and motion.

I was captivated from the opening of the album’s first track, “My Lion, Mamma Lion.” It begins with some percussive sounds, like drops of water into a pool, immediately establishing the theme alluded to in the album’s title. Soon the vocals come in, and then the drums. Diana Samprón is on percussion on this track. This piece is wonderful and mesmerizing. I’d say the music transports me, but it feels more like it is transforming the world around me, and doing so naturally, tapping into something that is at the core of life. That is followed by “Drops.” Alex Hache co-wrote this one, and provides the vocals. His approach is like that of a poet telling us a story, presenting it as facts, and his vocals are supported by some gorgeous work on strings. It’s an intriguing track. “Agujas clavan nieve/Deshaciendo el tiempo/Relojes mecidos/Por segundos, viento/Un hombre en la escena del Octavo Centenario/Contemplando la existencia.”

Blanca Altable then takes us into a different and vibrant world with “Under The Sea.” Listening to the music, you can see the many fish moving, swaying in time with the movement of the water, their movements seemingly choreographed by the ocean itself, by the water. And if we let the music take us, we join that school of fish, and perhaps we are guided by the voices that the fish ignore, those of mermaids who lead us to a beautiful place rather than taking us to our destruction. First one, then many, and we are among them, and we no longer care if we ever emerge from the water. Samuel Peñas plays bass on this track. Samuel Peñas also mixed and mastered the album, and is one of its producers. That’s followed by “Inbocacción,” which was produced by Iván Cebrián, who also plays keyboards on this one. I love the way this track builds, even before the vocals come in, but it is the vocal work that becomes the heart and soul of the piece. Coco Moya joins Blanca Altable on vocals on this one. By the way, Coco Moya and Iván Cebrián are known collectively as Menhir, a duo based in Madrid. This track also contains some strong and beautiful work on violin.

There is something light and whimsical about the feel of “Nubola,” yet something eternal, like the ancient ones are playing in the sky and of course are in no hurry to conclude the game. There is a great beauty to the track. Diana Samprón is on percussion. That is followed by “Dew,” which has an intimate sound as it begins. Everything is close now, with details we can see clearly. After a while, this track begins to feel like a dance, one of light and drops of water and whatever magical creatures are able to exist within both. Human voices join them toward the end, and it feels like a natural celebration. Then as “Floating” opens, it feels like a bright dawn over a glorious ocean or tundra, the light hitting the ground, everything coming alive, and we are in awe of the magnitude of it all, the immensity of life. Somehow this music captures that, expresses it, shows it through sound. It’s fantastic and over all too soon.

There is a sense of some urgency as “Niño Del Invierno” begins, with that repeated part on strings. And while the piece’s title mentions winter, and we can sense the fallen snow all around us, there is the sense of spring just around the corner. There is certainly life to this track, even if we can feel the cold air on our skin as we listen. Sticking with winter, the album then concludes with “Ice In My Mouth.” This one has quite a different sound as it begins, a sort of alien world opening before us. Beings like giant shards of ice slip past, disappearing for moments in light, curious but not invasive. If we meditate in this land, will we be left frozen? For there is something strangely and unexpectedly soothing about this track.

CD Track List

  1. My Lion, Mamma Lion
  2. Drops
  3. Under The Sea
  4. Inbocacción
  5. Nubola
  6. Dew
  7. Floating
  8. Niño Del Invierno
  9. Ice In My Mouth

Las Formas Del Agua was released on November 16, 2023.