Crazy Wonderful Indeed

Amerie - Because I Love It

It’d be easy to pass Amerie Mi Marie Rogers by as just another Beyoncé clone to be filed neatly before Ciara and Rihanna in the record industry’s attempt to strike gold more than once (as displayed perfectly by the latter’s more than 2 month stint atop the UK charts with her infectious “Umbrella”). It’s not that easy though, and Amerie is far from another clone.

With everything from the acid-jazz breaks of “Hate2LoveU” to the classic 80’s new-wave funk of “Some Like It” and “Crazy Wonderful”, Amerie delivers 13 tracks of pure funk. It may be a heady comparison but the overall record hearkens back to Sign O’ The Times era Prince. Covering ground from multiple styles while creating a cohesive album that really just makes you want to shake your behind and fall in love all at the same time.

While this record is not out in the states until August 21st, the UK crowd has had this record since May where it reached number 17 on the UK Album charts. Here’s a taste of what we’re in store for… check out “Crazy Wonderful” and pick up Because I Love It when it hits stores, or pick up the UK import which includes her 2005 breakthrough tune “1Thing”.

Amerie – Crazy Wonderful (MP3)

Buy: Because I Love It

Links: Official Site | MySpace

Prince covers The Cars

Prince blew us all away earlier in the year with his take on Foo Fighters’ “The Best of You” at the Super Bowl. He’s always capable of delighting us with the seemingly random cover. So who would have guessed that on July 7th, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Prince decided to channel… Ric Ocasek? That’s right, Prince reached back to the Cars’ 1979 album Candy-O, and unleashed the hit single “Let’s Go” on his hometown crowd.The Chipmunks, who covered “Let’s Go” in 1980, could not be reached for comment. But it looks like the purple man knocked the ‘Munks down to # 2 in the Best Cars Cover category.

Now, if someone could convince Prince to cover all of Candy-O from start to finish, then we’d be in business.

Buy Planet Earth | Candy-O

Soul II Soul Sunday

I’ve been reading up on the latest happenings of Jazzie B. and Soul II Soul. It’s good to see that Jazzie is still going strong as a DJ around London. I really enjoyed the club / R&B groove of their first two U.S. releases, Keep on Movin’ and Vol. II: 1990 – A New Decade. Here’s the biggest hit from Vol. II…

Soul II Soul – Get a Life (mp3)

Buy Vol. II: 1990 – A New Decade.

Check out the videos for: Keep on Movin’ | Back to Life | Get a Life

Catch up with Soul II Soul at their Official Site.

Jason Isbell: An Album & Show Review

Hey everyone, this is Cam, another individual Pete has generously asked to periodically contribute to his blog. I’ve been holding off on this post for some time. Why?

a) I presumed that after the initial flurry of publicity there would be little coverage of Jason Isbell‘s debut album – Sirens of the Ditch – or his extensive tour with stellar opening acts Justin Townes Earle on many dates in July, and Centro-matic for much of August. I was wrong – both tour and CD are getting lots of coverage. Now this is a ‘just in case you haven’t seen it anywhere else’ post…

b) I wanted to see Jason & the 400 Unit live, and for that I had to wait until he came back to my town! Last time, I saw him open for Son Volt (which was great), but it’s different when you’re the headliner…

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the ‘buzz’ – a talented artist releases a long awaited high quality CD and supports it with a great live show and extensive tour.

Jason & the 400 Unit finally came back to Toronto on Tuesday. The venue was most suitable for a rock show; the aging but still going strong El Mocambo, known for now-legendary shows by Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Rolling Stones, U2, and Marilyn Monroe (yes that’s correct, in ’58 apparently!) amongst many others over the years.

Considering the ‘El Mo’ is best known as a college bar, it was quite busy for a weeknight in the middle of the summer when school is out. The band took to the stage around 10:30 or so. My friend asked which one was Jason, to which I replied that Jason was in the middle, in a plaid shirt. “The country-looking guy?!” he asked, a tad concerned. I nodded as Jason picked up one of his electric guitars, and kicked off “Grown”, one of the many tunes on the new album. As always, I thought of Pete, and by extension Ickmusic, as Jason sang the lines: “… are you still dancing to Purple Rain?” After the first few bars my friends were nodding enthusiastically, and by the end there was no more talk of country.

Jason & the 400 Unit followed up on the first tune with a cover of a great song called “The Assassin”, which Jason announced will be released in some capacity in a month or so. “The Assassin” was penned by Patterson Hood, Jason’s former band mate in the band Drive-by Truckers (DBT), whom he joined in late 2001 or so and left abruptly early this year. Sirens of the Ditch was recorded on the few, brief breaks he took from touring with DBT.

Even though the album features some of his old band mates, most of the songs sound unlike his contributions with the Truckers. My other friend, who’d seen Jason with DBT in the fall, remarked that solo Jason is more “controlled”; I agree and think this is in particular reflected on the album. I also think that it’s a sign that the band has practiced hard for the tour, and is in especially fine form.

As the night progressed, Jason switched to acoustic guitar and handed lead guitar duties over to Browan Lollar, who did a great job, and continued to impress the crowd. After a short “smoke break”, Jason returned on solo acoustic before – not a minute too soon – he picked up his electric guitar and the band rejoined him for the final set of songs. These included the first track from Sirens, “Brand New Kind Of Actress”, the smoke-infused blues burner “Hurricanes & Hand Grenades”, & the classic rocker “Try”. To top it all off, the final encore was Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak”, which left the crowd again howling for more.

The tour is still on – see Jason’s website for more information. The 400 Unit, Jason’s band, is comprised of Browan Lollar on guitar, Jimbo Hart on bass, and Ryan Tillery on drums. Son Volt keyboardist Derry deBorja has also joined them on this tour, allowing Jason more time to focus on his guitar playing and vocals.

Jason Isbell – Chicago Promenade (mp3)

Buy Sirens Of The Ditch.

Check out Live Video action over at Stereogum.

Captain’s Dead has Jason’s April 18th show at Irving Plaza in NYC.

Ickmusic Giveaway: New Crowded House

Any Crowded House fans out there? It’s time for a giveaway, and this time it’s the new release from Australia’s Crowded House, who, after an 11-year hiatus, are back with the new album and a full tour. Once again, a great band I would go see skips Phoenix on their itinerary. Luckily I’ll catch them at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in September.

I can’t count myself as a huge fan of Crowded House, but I did buy Temple of Low Men on vinyl back in the day (1988), and I think “Better Be Home Soon” is one of the finer songs to pass through these ears. The original lineup was Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, and Paul Hester. Sadly, Hester took his own life in March 2005. You parents of young children would also recognize Hester as the chef on The Wiggles. You know, the one that sang along with them on “Fruit Salad'”? That was Paul.

The new album, Time on Earth, was released on July 2nd. I’ve had a few listens and am enjoying it thus far. You can check out some of the tracks at their MySpace page.

So as is the norm around these parts, leave a comment below to enter into the CD giveaway. Anyone gonna check them out on tour?

Crowded House’s Official Site | MySpace

Check out video of their Live Earth performance over at Krup’s Place.

Tunnel of Love

The chatter is picking up regarding a new Bruce and the E Street album in the works. Some unconfirmed song names: “Dead Ringers” (possibly the title track), “Sabres, Steel, and Spades”, and “Radio Nowhere.” Possible release date is October, with a tour to follow. If anyone has any other info, feel free to post in the comments.

Tonight I want to talk about Tunnel of Love, which was Bruce’s follow up to his 1984 mega-smash Born in the U.S.A. It undoubtedly surprised the lion’s share of fans he had picked up with U.S.A. With 1987’s Tunnel of Love, Bruce focused in on all the fears, doubts, and challenges of relationships. At the time, he was married to model / actress Julianne Phillips, and it wasn’t hard to connect the dots that Bruce was singing about his own current struggles in his marriage. On the Tunnel of Love tour, the relationship deepened between Bruce and his backup singer, Patti Scialfa. In 1990, his divorce with Phillips was final, and he soon married Jersey girl Patti.

The songs on the album that hit me hardest are the last five, from “Two Faces” to “Valentine’s Day”. It’s a bleak finale to the album, but so perfect in its execution. Each song weaves into the next, with a common theme of – well – doubt….

Two Faces: At night I get down on my knees and pray / Our love will make that other man go away/ But he’ll never say goodbye /Two faces have I

Brilliant Disguise: Tonight our bed is cold / I’m lost in the darkness of our love / God have mercy on the man / Who doubts what he’s sure of – Zowie, that line gives me goose bumps every time.

One Step Up: There’s a girl across the bar / I get the message she’s sendin’/ Mmm she ain’t lookin’ to married / And me well honey I’m pretending

When You’re Alone: Now it ain’t hard feelings or nothin’ sugar / That ain’t what’s got me singing this song / It’s just nobody knows baby where love goes / But when it goes it’s gone gone

Valentine’s Day: Is it the cry of the river / With the moonlight shining through / That ain’t what scares me baby / What scares me is losing you

Music carries me through the good times and the bad. This album has been my companion through those tougher times in relationships over the years. I’m not one to wallow in my misery, but: 1 broken heart + Tunnel of Love = quality time spent. Therapy, really.

This is Bruce’s album of the heart. This is Bruce affirming to himself, and to the listener, that this life and love thing, it ain’t easy. It takes work. Lucky for me and Bruce, we both find ourselves in great places these days. God willing, I won’t have to place myself into these songs again! But I always come back to this album, and I always will.


BUY Tunnel of Love.

Cinderella: One for Rock and Roll

Do not lump Cinderella in with the rest of the 80’s hair bands. Sure, they hit it big with a classic power ballad “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” – still a great song, by the way. But beneath the hair and makeup was a great blues rock band. Their best effort, in my opinion, was 1990’s Heartbreak Station. It was their third studio release (following Night Songs and Long Cold Winter). They abandoned a lot of the over-produced hair rock sounds of their previous records for more of a bluesy, rootsy sound. There’s some great songs on this one. The most popular is “Shelter Me” – a Black Crowes-y number that rocks it with the gospel-like backing vocals. My favorite, though, is their ode to good old rock n’ roll. It’s an uplifting, spirited song. A great rhythm, great acoustic guitars & mandolin… seventeen years later, the tune still sounds as fresh and vibrant as ever.

And as idealistic and corny at is seems, this song perfectly describes my lifelong obsession and affection towards music.

Buy Heartbreak Station.

Good friends and original members Tom Kiefer and Eric Brittingham are still active as Cinderella. Their MySpace and Official Site are still referring to last year’s tour dates, but keep your eye out.

The Videos:

Swamba Redux

Who would’ve thought that three months after getting a brand spanking new, $2000 Apple iMac, that the most reliable computer in the house would be my 3 year old Dell? You know the ad with the cool Mac guy and the geeky Windows guy? The way I feel right now, I’d punch the smirking Mac guy in the face and take Mr. Windows out for beers. My Mac has been nothing but trouble since day one: freezing up with the “spinning beach ball of death” at random times, and lately, some programs deciding just not to open. FRUSTRATING! So after months of troubleshooting with the Apple folks, I’m off to an appointment with an Apple “genius” tonight over at the local Apple store. Meanwhile, hello XP, old friend… (Not how a new Apple owner is supposed to behave, is it?). Make it right, Mr. Jobs!

So thanks for enduring my whining, and on to the music. Bay area 8-string guitar wiz Charlie Hunter has been featured here before. The trio – Charlie on guitar, John Ellis on tenor sax, bass and wurlitzer, and Derrek Phillips on drums – move beyond a mere jazz trio, infusing ample doses of funk and rock. Charlie is also a big Prince fan too, so he gets bonus points right away from me.

Here’s one I heard recently on Sirius, off of last year’s Trio release, Copperopolis. Take in some laid back, Middle funkin’ Eastern style.

Charlie Hunter Trio – Swamba Redux (mp3)

Watch Charlie perform “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”: