Jerry and Merl in San Anselmo, 1972

Merl Saunders nd Jerry Garcia

So what we have here is a vintage recording of Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders and friends (pre-Jerry Garcia Band). This is a soundboard recording zeroed right in on Jerry’s guitar. For those people who associate Garcia only with the Grateful Dead, they’re missing a whole lot of what made him the musician he was. Jerry was an amazing soloist in the Dead’s improv-jam milieu (damn, it’s been a while since I’ve pulled that word out – hello old friend). But with his work outside of the Dead, Jerry dove into bluegrass (his very first band was a jug band), R&B, Motown, early rock & roll, and others.

This is the first set from this night. The second set isn’t in circulation. But even these six songs take a trip through musical genres… Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh…”; Gamble & Huff’s “Expressway (To Your Heart)”- a hit by the Soul Survivors; the gorgeous instrumental version of “Imagine” (only two months after John Lennon’s album had been released); “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama”- Elvis Presley’s breakout single; a Merl Saunders original, “Save Mother Earth”; and Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her”.

All the while, Merl Saunders’ Hammond B3 churns away warmly in the background. Both “Imagine” and “Save Mother Earth” showed up on Saunders’ album ‘Heavy Turbulence’ later that year (an album that featured Garcia on guitar). John Kahn, the bass player in this show, also played on the album, and was the bass player in the Jerry Garcia Band from beginning (1975) until end (1995).

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Paul Butterfield, late master of the Chicago Blues harp, joins in on the last couple of songs.

But it’s Jerry’s guitar skills that take over this show. Prepare to be blown away…

Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, and Friends
Jannuary 19th, 1972
The Lion’s Share
San Anselmo, CA

It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry
Expressway To Your Heart
That’s Alright Mama
Save Mother Earth *
I Was Made To Love Her *

* with Paul Butterfield on harmonica

Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals
Merl Saunders – keyboards, vocals
John Kahn – bass
Bill Vitt – drums
Sarah Fulcher – vocals
Paul Butterfield – harmonica (Guest on tracks 5 & 6)

BUY Rhino’s The Very Best of Jerry Garcia or preview it Rhino’s Listening Party.


Amy Winehouse’s Rehab: No- No – No

amy winehouse

Though this song has been featured about a bazillion times on other music blogs, it’s possible some of you fine folks have not heard it. I just heard it last week for the first time. British singer Amy Winehouse lives quite a public personal life, but gawd can this girl sing.

Amy Winehouse: Rehab (mp3) – from Back to Black (U.S. release is March 12)

Watch the video for Rehab | and a live in-studio performance

Amy’s Official Site | MySpace

Shake Sugaree

Elizabeth Cotten

Not a Friday goes by that I don’t discover an amazing new song on David Johansen’s Mansion of Fun on Sirius. Tonight, driving home from work, it was this song that put me in a happy place for 5 minutes of freeway time. I am in love with this voice.

The song is “Shake Sugaree” by Elizabeth Cotten. The voice is her daughter, Brenda Evans, according to All Music. But according to the eMusic review of the album, it’s Cotten’s 12 year old granddaughter. Either way, she sings like an angel.

Elizabeth Cotten was an important figure in the early folk scene, and had quite a unique story to tell. Born in North Carolina in 1895, she started playing the guitar at an early age, playing it left handed and upside down. She developed a picking style that had her playing the bass lines with her fingers, and the melody with her thumb (you’ll see it in the video below).

She got married at 15, and put her guitar away for the next several decades. She ended up, of all things, being a housekeeper for the Charles Seeger family (a very musical family which included Charles’ son, folk legend Pete). The Seegers encouraged her to pick up the guitar and start playing again, and what resulted were some groundbreaking folk / blues tunes. She recorded the ‘Shake Sugaree’ album in 1967, and lived to the ripe old age of 95 (passing in 1987).

So listen to Elizabeth’s signature guitar pickin’ accompanying her daughter (or granddaughter) on “Shake Sugaree” (not to be confused with the Jerry Garcia / Robert Hunter-penned “Sugaree”).

Buy ‘Shake Sugaree’ on Amazon or eMusic.


Canned Heat Live

canned heat

I’ll admit to being an ignoramus about the band Canned Heat up until a few months ago. I was only familiar with two of their “hit” songs: “On the Road Again” and “Goin’ Up the Country”. Well, in my quest to expand my musical mind and historical perspective, I got a hold of this soundboard recording of a1970 concert.

Canned Heat formed in Los Angeles in 1965. Their main passion and drive came from the blues, and they were responsible for helping to revive the careers of Son House and Albert Collins. Their name comes from a 1928 Tommy Johnson song called “Canned Heat Blues”. Canned heat, AKA Sterno, is a cooking fuel basically, made up primarily of ethanol and methanol. Back in the prohibition days, people would water it down and drink it (or dip some bread into it – yum!). So there’s your canned heat lesson.

The 1970 incarnation of the band was made up of Al “Blind Owl” Wilson (guitar, harmonica, vocals – the voice behind the two songs mentioned above), Bob “The Bear” Hite (vocals, harmonica), Harvey “The Snake” Mandel (guitar), Larry “The Mole Taylor (bass), and Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra (drums).

Wilson would sadly pass away later that year in September of what an autopsy determined to be a bartituate overdose – what they ruled a sucide. He died at the age of 27. Who else died at 27? Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, D. Boon of the Minutemen, and Pigpen of the Grateful Dead. Something about 27?

Enough of the morbidity. Check out some down home 1970 blues here from Canned Heat. If you’re anal about sound quality, this may bug you. It improves as the show goes on. But damn, it’s 36 years old (like me). We may be getting older, but we’re something to behold!

It’s worth it just to hear “Blind Owl” Wilson tear it up in his guitar solos. Enjoy!

Canned Heat
June 29, 1970
Boston, MA
“Boston Tea Party”

1. I Found Love
2. Catfish Blues
3. Bullfrog Blues
4. Gonna Find a New Woman
5. Killing Floor (w/ members of Kaleidoscope)
6. Bring It On Home
7. Kaleideheat Boogie Jam w/ Kaleidoscope *

* Kaleidoscope was a California psychedelic-folk band from the 60’s, built around the nucleus of David Lindley and Chris Darrow. They join Canned Heat for the last tune. Forty minutes of blues boogie jammin’.

It’s Fat Tuesday

James Gandolfini in the Bacchus parade
James Gandolfini in the Bacchus parade

So me lady and I went to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Sunday night. Amazing performance! Treat yourself the next time these guys make it to your town. A highlight for me was a version of the gospel standard “I’ll Fly Away” which morphed into the tail end of – get this – “Purple Rain!” I tell you, the purple guy follows me everywhere. They picked it up at the part where they sing “ooooooh-ohhhh”(you know, where Prince has everyone wave their arms from side to side). The only other place I was more shocked to hear “Purple Rain” was when Phish pulled it out at the Hayden Square Ampitheater in Tempe back in ol’ ninety-five (complete with a Jon Fishman vacuum solo).

Back to the DDBB, four out of the seven members have been there since day one way back in 1977. I was digging the Sousaphone, which sounded a helluva lot like a bass guitar at times (and which took the place of the bass guitar) . Really cool sound. And the four guys up front – Revert Andrews on trombone, Efrem Towns on trumpet (one charismatic motherhumper), Kevin Harris on tenor sax, and my wife’s favorite, Roger Lewis on low down baritone sax (the world needs more baritone sax). It’s quite an experience to see and feel a New Orleans brass band in person. All of those great brass instruments working as one, but so unique and distinct at the same time. What an assault on the senses!

Another first for me was the crowd we shared the performance with. I would guess 80% of the audience was over the age of 65. I guess they were all donors to the Performing Arts Center, and people who buy tickets for the entire concert season. But rest assured, by the time they wrapped up the show with “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now”, everyone’s butt was off their seat, with or without a cane or walker… Respect to my elders!! Good times were had.

So happy Fat Tuesday to all. Right now, they’re getting down and dirty on Bourbon Street. There’s a live webcam going where you can view all of the debauchery of Bourbon St. from the comfort of your computer chair. I checked in around 6pm, and there was already a young lady exchanging boob-age for beads. So you’re bound to get some quality entertainment throughout the evening.

So crank up some Mardi Gras music, grab a drink, and join the armchair revelers…

Snooks Eaglin: Mardi Gras Mambo (mp3) – from Country Boy Down in New Orleans

Charmaine Neville: Second Line (mp3) – from New Orleans Playground

Professor Longhair: Go to the Mardi Gras (mp3) – from Go To the Mardi Gras

Sirius and XM to Merge

Yipee, Major League Baseball! As a Sirius subscriber, that’s the one and only area where I harbored jealousy toward XM Radio subscribers. Well, the rumor mill apparently was correct: XM and Sirius are joining forces (if the regulators will allow it). Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin will retain his position as CEO of the new company, and XM chairman Gary Parsons will be chairman.

So consider me stoked that I will get to hear any broadcast of any Major League Baseball game, while continuing my current habit of spending entirely too mucn time listening to Howard Stern.

The transaction should be wrapped up by the end of the year. Happy Days!

Fantasy Baseball: Is any regular reader out there interested in joining my CBS Sportsline Fantasy Baseball league? Send me an email for more details if you’re interested. I have one – possibly two – open spots.

New Stuff: The West Was Burning

Martha Scanlan

As a member of the Reeltime Travelers, Martha Scanlan’s voice helped catch the attention of T-Bone Burnett and Bob Neuwirth, who had the group record a song for the Cold Mountain soundtrack. A few years later, Martha has recorded and released her debut album, The West Was Burning. It was released last Tuesday, and features the Band’s Levon Helm on drums (among others).

Great voice, an earthy, acoustic vibe, and overall, a really nice album (Sugar Hill knows how to do it right). Check her out…

Martha Scanlan: Get Right Church (mp3)

Buy The West Was Burning

The West was Burning

Martha Scanlin’s Official Site | MySpace

I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Yo La Tengo

Certain albums can draw you to them simply based on the title.

‘I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass’.

Magic, isn’t it? I just picked this latest Yo La Tengo album up from eMusic (screaming deal). I still make the utmost effort to listen to albums all the way through, like a lot of you I’m sure. Even in the download age, where it’s easy to cherry pick songs from iTunes and eMusic, I think it’s still important to buy the artist’s full release of work, like they intend you to hear it. All tracks, in sequence. Many times, it’s not so easy, whether due to time constraints, just not being “into it”, or if it’s quickly reached a magnitude of major suckitude. Well, long story short, this is one of those albums that carries you along on a journey, from beginning to end. I found it impossible to stop listening.

And it’s this song, the 10 minute opener with another classic Yo La Tengo title, that draws you in with it’s infectious and alluring groove.

Yo La Tengo: Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind (mp3) – from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

The only other Yo La album I have is 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, which I also really enjoy. If anyone out there has recommendations for other good Yo La albums, speak up below.

Yo La Tengo’s Official Site

Mardi Gras in the Desert and the Upcoming Spector-acle

Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias in the 70s

One of the very best things about life as a working adult is the three day weekend, and we are upon one again. Props to Abe and George for this President’s Day Weekend!

Ho Na Nae! So Mardi Gras has gone and snuck up on us again, and my wife and I will be celebrating Arizona style by checking out the Dirty Dozen Brass Band over in Scottsdale this weekend. I cannot wait!!

This is always a great time of year to check out Home of the Groove. Dan has cooked up a great post of NOLA Mardi Gras funk courtesy of the Wild Magnolias. Go check out the song “Ho Na Nae”. Of course if you’re ever in need of some New Orleans flavor, Dan serves it up all year long.

The Phil Spectacle: By no means do I take pleasure in the pain and suffering associated with the poor woman who was murdered at Phil Spector’s mansion in 2003. But I read today that the Spector murder trial will be televised, and you can bet it will be great. I can’t begin to fathom the amount of wack job awesomeness that will be broadcast over the airwaves for the weeks (or months) of the trial. I mean, is it possible for the murder trial of this man not to contain at least some entertaining moments?

phil spector


Check out this clip from End of the Century, where the Ramones discuss Phil, including the time he held them hostage at his home.