Great tunes abound. Here’s a recent favorite from the mind of James Mercer and the Shins.
Great tunes abound. Here’s a recent favorite from the mind of James Mercer and the Shins.
Here’s one that’s impossible not to like: Valerie June. I didn’t get introduced until a PBS Newshour mini-feature on her just a few weeks ago. It piqued my interest and sent me on my way to her latest album, The Order of Time, which I’ve had on steady rotation since. A rootsy, bluesy, gospel, old-timey infused ride – and the main attraction: her unique voice.
Take a listen to my favorite: “Two Hearts” (joining the lexicon of other revered “Two Hearts” tunes along with Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak and the Jayhawks)..
If there’s one lesson I keep on learning when it comes to music, it’s to keep listening to the recommendation services that our music services offer. If you spend any decent amount of time listening to streaming music on Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, et al, well – they know what you like, and they’ll slip in some gems now and then; and it doesn’t take long until you a hear a new favorite tune or band.
Case in point today: Google Play Music’s I’m Feeling Lucky feature. Up come my old pals Todd Snider, Uncle Tupelo, and Ryan Bingham – and then… “Santa Ana Winds” by Sons of Bill. They’re a band of brothers from Charlottesville, Virginia – James, Sam and Abe Wilson. The tune comes from their 2012 album Sirens, which was produced by Cracker’s David Lowery.
Obviously I heard the album cut first – a hard charging Americana rocker right up my alley. Guitars, organ, great hooks.. Then I hit up YouTube for some live action, and stumbled on a ‘Music Fog’ acoustic version which strips the song down to a heart-wrenching, gut-punching ballad. OOF! Hit me like a freight train. I think that may be James on lead vocal. Whichever Wilson brother it is, kudos to you my brother. Music to my ears. What a voice.
Another band where I’m late to the party. Hey, it just took a while to get from Charlottesville to Gilbert, Arizona. I’m on board now. All’s well.
Listen to ’em both, won’t you?
Just a few weeks ago I decided to jump back into Apple Music’s Beats One radio shows and see what was new and interesting. There’s a lot of quality content – Elton John’s Rocket Hour is cool, but the the best in my opinion is The Echo Chamber hosted by the Beastie Boys’ own Mike D. His tastes vary wildly (which we figured out in 1989 when Paul’s Boutique came out), but the part I’m enjoying most is getting a taste of the latest hip-hop through the filter of Mike D. I’m enjoying the new ones from A Tribe Called Quest and Run the Jewels, but overall, I lost touch with the hip-hop scene a long time ago. So it’s cool to be able to listen in to Mike’s picks and get turned on again to some good stuff.
Artists like Danny Brown, Vince Staples, and Childish Gambino…
I’ll share three of the tunes that really jumped out at me recently. The first being this track by Danny Brown. Brown is originally from Detroit, he’s 35, and his latest album, Atrocity Exhibition, is his fourth since his 2010 debut The Hybrid. “Really Doe” features Danny, Kendrick Lamar (who is everywhere I look, and deservedly so), Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt. The tune just flows. Nothing I can listen to around my kids, but a great tune just the same…
Second up is 23 year old Vince Staples from Long Beach, CA. “War Ready” is only 2 + minutes, but man, just the way he delivers it, especially in the first 30 seconds, riding along with that beat. “Put my Glock away I got a stronger weapon that never runs out of ammunition so I’m ready for war okay…”
And last, actor/writer/producer/musician etc. etc. etc. Donald Glover, whose music alter ego is Childish Gambino. We’ve all seen him in something. For me, it’s HBO’s Girls. He has a brand new album called Awake, My Love!, and I’m still only one listen in, with many more to come. It’s less hip-hop and more a funk/soul tour de force that channels Parliament, Prince, and Sly Stone. It’s really something creative and unique, and this tune, “California,” is a good sampling…
In the late summer of 1984, I saw Purple Rain for the first time. I was 14. Adolescence had arrived, and was about to be taken for quite a spin with Prince Rogers Nelson at the wheel.
Every long time admirer of Prince has their memories. These are some of mine…
Like most of you, I thought Prince would endure as that strange and wonderful musical genius, always a little bit under the radar, keeping that mysterious low profile. And like you, I was sure we’d be watching him perform well into the future as a sixty-something, a seventy-something, and even beyond. He seemed otherworldly and immune to “time,” didn’t he? Well, that all obviously shattered on that awful morning of April 21st.
Prince is gone. And I think the biggest reason I haven’t typed a word about him all year – my very favorite artist – is that it still doesn’t seem real. Prince dead? Impossible, man. Does not compute. It still just doesn’t quite make sense to me. But gone he is.
The beauty of it all is that his music endures.
I’m 46 now, and still under that purple spell. Always will be. Just as I thought to myself in my room all those years ago.
Prince – “”Just My Imagination” (from the 8-19-1988 aftershow in The Hague, Netherlands)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Bob Weir over the last 10-15 years, it’s that he is most definitely not going to shave that giant mustache and beard. Bob, such a handsome dude underneath that hair! Ah well, the beards are here to stay all around me, I may as well just get used to it.
Crazy to think that more than 21 years have gone by since the passing of Jerry Garcia, bringing with it the end of what was the Grateful Dead. Bob has never let up though. He’s carried on with Ratdog over years with a rotating cast of characters in the band (sorry to see that the great bass player Rob Wasserman passed away earlier this year); and he has re-congregated in different incarnations with his former Dead band mates, most recently as Dead & Company, with John Mayer joining in on guitar and vocal duties (A+ decision on everyone’s part). I’ll finally be checking them out next May when they visit Phoenix on the second show of their tour (May 28).
Adding to his always active life in music, Bob also released Blue Mountain earlier this year, only the third album of his career billed only as Bob Weir (along with 1972’s Ace and 1977’s Heaven Help the Fool). It’s a collection of “cowboy” songs, as he’s referred to them, with help from quality musicians like Josh Ritter and a couple members of the National (who curated that huge and excellent Dead tribute project earlier this year, Day of the Dead).
The album struck a chord with me. I love the downtempo side of the music, and the great melodies and laid back acoustic stylings in Blue Mountain really grabbed me.
A notch above the rest for me are “Gallop on the Run,” “Whatever Happened to Rose,” and especially “Ky-Yi Bossie,” painting a vivid picture of addiction and relationship problems that have to be at least semi-autobiographical. It’s imaginative and honest, framed in a very catchy cowboy tune with a very cowboy title. Check it out…
A quick blast of quality tuneage from Kevin Morby. “Beautiful Strangers” was written to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting. Morby is a 28-year old singer songwriter born in Lubbock, Texas and now living in L.A.
This tune was released along with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall” to benefit Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization fighting the good fight for common sense gun legislation.
Some songs just catch my ear – this is one. Great little guitar groove and a beautiful tune with some heavy subject matter. Tragically beautiful..
Pay $2.00 for the 2 tunes here on Kevin’s Bandcamp page.
New Pixies music! Head Carrier was released to the world on September 30th. The lead single, “Um Chagga Lagga” has been out since early July, and with my head in the sand as usual, I didn’t hear this great track until last week whilst perusing NME. The video below, however is hot off the presses.
It’s a hard charging number that you’ll be adding to your workout/running/road playlist as soon this video wraps up. Great stuff, and a really solid album featuring three of the four original members: Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering. Kim Deal left the band in 2013, so bass duties on Head Carrier are handled by Paz Lenchantin, who’s been touring with the band as well.
Check out Head Carrier on Amazon.
Where do I even start? Months ago, when it was announced that Neil Young would be playing two dates in Telluride, Colorado for the very first time, I knew I’d make the trip up from Phoenix. Not a doubt. On my live music bucket list, Neil ranked at the top, numero uno.
It took me 46 years, but there I was Saturday night, leaning against the barrier left of the stage, my 12-yr old daughter by my side, watching Neil Young – just a few weeks shy of his 71st birthday – rock our faces off with his amazing backing band, Promise of the Real.
The setting? Telluride Town Park. Not your run of mill venue. Rather, one of the most picturesque settings on God’d green earth. See for yourself:
Friday night, we rolled into town just before Neil took the stage around 6:30. My folks have a place just across the beaver pond from Town Park, so although I didn’t go to Friday’s show, I grabbed a beer and parked myself on the balcony. Neil’s voice filled the box canyon as he started off the night with “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold”, and “Long May You Run”… The sound was so crisp and clear that I took in the whole show, all the way to the final notes of “Cinnamon Girl.”
Saturday, it was time to get in and get close. My daughter and I walked into Town Park about an hour and a quarter before show time, and, as you can see above, we did just fine.
Neil walked out from stage left and quickly took a seat at the piano for the opener, “After the Gold Rush.” The next few songs featured Neil with his acoustic guitar and harmonica: “Heart of Gold,” “Sugar Mountain” (the first time he’d played it outside of his Bridge School Benefit since 1993), and “Old Man.” Then, a seat at the organ for “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”, which sounded sacred in the beautiful setting.
Then out came Promise of the Real. It’s worth mentioning each of these guys, because they each add so much to the experience.
Lukas Nelson – guitar; Willie’s 27 year old son and de facto front man of POTR. Great voice and guitar chops.
Micah Nelson – guitar, keys, etc.; Willie’s youngest son, early/mid 20’s I’m guessing. More vocal chops and handy with the bow and guitar.
Corey McCormick – bass; Corey is the most animated of the bunch, jumping around, dancing, deep in the groove. His spirit is infectious and he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Anthony LoGerfo – drums; partnering up with Corey for a killer rhythm section that held down Neil’s tunes, old and new.
Tato Melgar – percussion; solid percussionist, although I couldn’t see him from my far front/left-side vantage point.
I heard Neil in a recent interview talking about Promise of the Real, their talent, and how intimate & familiar they were with his back catalog – deep cuts included. And how apparent that was. Their playing was the perfect accompaniment to Neil: raunchy and raw, or dialed down to a mellow folk-rock feel – whatever the song called for, they were there delivering it just as well as any band that’s ever backed Neil.
And the background vocals and harmonizing! Lukas, Micah and Corey were on point the whole night, enriching classics like “Powderfinger,” “Down by the River” and “Harvest Moon” with beautiful harmonies (three of my all time Neil favorites).
The “moment” for me came during the raucous and powerful choruses of “Down by the River.” Live music lovers all know it. That moment when the goosebumps are in full effect from the sheer force of the Music, a smile plastered across your face…and a glance around the crowd shows you hundreds of others feeling exactly the same way. It’s transcendent and inspiring and gives you hope for humanity – much needed these days.
“Winterlong” was a cut I wasn’t all too familiar with (released on Neil’s 1977 compilation album Decade, and limited pressings of Tonight’s The Night). I loved the feel of that tune – the wistful tinges of sadness and the really pretty melody.
“Out on the Weekend” !! Also one of my favorites, and the first tune of the night with Promise of the Real.
We were treated to “Cortez the Killer” with its sinister vibe, made all the more interesting by a nearby woman succumbing to a combination of altitude and substance – passing out a few feet behind us, then being lifted by security over the front barrier. “Cortez, Cortez, what a killer.”
Family highlight: My daughter was fully aware she was seeing a legend that Saturday night – she was reminded often by yours truly in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. By the end of the night, she was bouncing and singing along to “Rockin’ in the Free World” with all the rest of us. Smiles all around as the song was about to end three or four times, with Neil counting off “1-2-3-4!” and lunging back to the microphone for another round: “Keep on rockin’ in the free world!” It’s something special to make memories with your kids – especially live music memories.
With temps dropping well into the 40’s, Neil and POTR wrapped the night with the encore, “Roll Another Number (for the Road),” then met at center stage where they all huddled, jumping up and down in a shared primal grunt.
After two hours and forty-five minutes of breathtaking folk and wild, reckless rock & roll, we walked off into the cold Telluride night, savoring the evening..
Age is irrelevant. Rock & Roll is timeless.
SET LIST – October 1st, 2016 Telluride, Colorado
I don’t know how my heroes do it – the ability to sit down and pen another gorgeous, heartbreaking tune. Tom Petty has always had a way of pulling on the heartstrings at command, from “Free Fallin'” to “Insider” to “Only a Broken Heart” to “No Reason To Cry.”
On the new Mudcrutch record, he does it again. It’s “I Forgive It All” – simplistic in its melodic beauty, and – oof! – heavy on the subject matter. The lyrics are left open to interpretation. The verses suggest a man at the end of the line, in what respect I’m not so sure. Why is he giving his things to his niece Dora? Prison? Disease? Self destruction?
But the chorus, man… simple, powerful: “I forgive it all / I forgive it all / With her / I forgive it all.”
Sean Penn and Samuel Bayer directed a very interesting video for the tune, which stars Anthony Hopkins taking (what seems like) a final drive from Rodeo Drive to L.A.’s skid row. Before watching this video, maybe listen to the tune on its own (the 1st video below) and let it conjure up whatever images your mind decides..
Breathtaking in its simplicity…
Check out Mudcrutch 2 on Amazon.