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Month: January 2014

World Boogie is Here – North Mississippi Allstars Unleash

nma-boogie

Swampy, dirty, badass rock n’ blues. I’ve listened to the North Mississippi Allstars here and there over the years, but nothing they’ve done has taken a hold of me like their latest release, World Boogie Is Coming.

NMA are essentially Luther Dickinson (guitar), his brother Cody Dickinson (drums), and their friend Chris Chew on bass. Their dad, the late James Dickinson,  was a sought after producer and session player, involved with artists like the Stones, Ry Cooder, Big Star, the Replacements, Mudhoney, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and on and on…

So growing up in Memphis and yeah, north Mississippi, Jim’s kids were as mainlined into the roots/blues music scene as any kid could possibly be. Luther and Cody were especially enthralled with the juke-joint boogie style of southern Blues artists R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. It was modern artists like NMA that helped spark a career revival for Burnside late in his life (he passed in 2005).

The album mixes familiar Blues tunes like “Rollin and Tumblin” and “Boogie,” covers of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough (including my favorite of R.L.’s: “Snake Drive“), and originals written by Luther, Cody and friends. Robert Plant even appears on harmonica on the first two tunes, “JR” and “Goat Meat” (speaking of supercharging the Blues).

At its core, World Boogie is down home n’ dirty blues of the Deep South. But there’s also the infusion of youthful, 21st century, soulful rock. Unique flairs, effects and ambiance. It lifts me right up and makes me smile. It gives me that bad-ass, lip-biting, head-nodding buzz you get from the riff in ZZ Top’s “La Grange.” It makes me grab the virtual sticks and air drum along (see “Boogie”).

World Boogie is Coming is no holds barred stomp rock & blues. This album is the sound I’m looking for when I dip into artists like the Black Keys and Jack White. Great stuff, no doubt, but there is always just something missing.

World Boogie is that something.

♥ Buy World Boogie Is Coming on Amazon for $5.00.

Janelle Monáe: Electrifying [Tempe Marquee Theater Recap]

janelle1

This woman is one of a kind. The Electric Lady, the title of Janelle Monáe’s latest album, is no joke. Electricity surges through her on stage: in the manic dance moves that channel James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Elvis; in the instant, interactive connection she makes with her audience; in her powerful, silky smooth singing; in that smile… in that Stage Presence. Wow!

Yeah, Janelle owned the stage last night for a good hour and 45 minutes at the Marquee Theater in Tempe – my first, and definitely not my last time, seeing her live. A truly great performer is backed by a top notch, talented backing band, and Janelle brought one along: a powerful nine piece pop/soul/rock/funk outfit consisting of two backup singers, two horns, a drummer, a percussionist, guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist. Janelle and her band had the crowd, a couple thousand strong, buzzing from the start. It was the kind of eclectic crowd you’d see at a Prince show – black, white, young, old, gay, straight (“black, white, Puerto Rican everybody just a freakin’ good time..”as Prince once sang).

You just can’t pigeonhole Janelle into a category. It’s not straight R&B, soul (or neosoul) or pop/rock. It’s a grab bag of all of these styles and influences. The supercharged pop of  “Dance Apocalyptic,” one of my favorites, made an early appearance, along with the down tempo R&B of  “Give Em What They Love” and the straight ahead funk of “Q.U.E.E.N”.  She ripped through “Tightrope” (from her great debut full-length, The ArchAndroid), along with a cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”

The real magic, the full-circle realization that you’re seeing someone truly special, came during the four song encore. After coming back out to smooth out the crowd with “Primetime” (a ballad she sings with Miguel on Electric Lady), she launched into Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” which I first saw her perform during the 2010 BET Awards tribute to Prince (which you should watch here). If there’s any performer who’s fully qualified to cover the tune, it’s Janelle Monáe, with her manic intensity.

And then came the highlight of the night for me and I’m sure most of the crowd: “Come Alive (War of the Roses).” The song, about 3 and a half minutes long on the ArchAndroid album, turned into a 10-15 minute clapping & dancing & shaking interactive workout. At one point as the band broke it down, Janelle motioned everyone to get down low, and damned if she didn’t have almost the whole crowd in the room crouching down low for a good three minutes (give or take a few too-cool-for-school audience members, who received jokingly glaring looks from her). There was the interactive call and response between Janelle and the crowd. There were the high energy band solos, as each of them got a chance to showcase their talents for 20 seconds or so… and then there was Janelle, finally jumping out into the crowd, surfing her way a good twenty feet in (see the pic above)…

It was one of those live music moments every fan hopes for: when you say goodbye to reality for a few minutes and lose yourself in the moment. A deep connection with a performer that, when it’s all over, you realize you’re standing there with a huge smile plastered across your face.

There are very few live performers who can channel into that space and establish that core connection with the audience. I’m lucky to say I’ve returned to see Prince and Springsteen do that to me more than two dozen times…

Janelle Monáe has that magic too. I saw it last night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_0gMYq6Odw&w=640&h=360

Goodbye Phil Everly

Phil (left) and Don Everly (right) - from the LA Times website
Phil (left) and Don Everly (right) – from the LA Times website

When I think back on the first five days in 2014 music wise, I think immediately of Phil Everly. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to the big hits of the Everly Brothers: “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Let It Be Me,” and especially “Devoted To You.” I was still a good dozen years away from being born when these songs hit it big on the charts, but as you all know, great music is timeless. That amazing era of early rock n’ roll will live on forever. But unfortunately, the pioneers and legends of the era are living, breathing folks just like the rest of us. Last Friday, January 3rd, we lost a giant, as Phil succumbed to COPD after a lifetime of cigarette smoking.

I am not a smoker, but I get the addiction, and know it ain’t easy to just hang it up. It just seems that there’s a GIANT beneficial incentive to quitting (that whole living longer thing). But easier said than done, and God knows the rest of us ain’t perfect, shoveling in food we shouldn’t be eating, drinking alcohol, etc. Anyhow, my mother in law smokes, and my wife, daughters and I will continue the good fight to push her toward quitting.

Did you make any new year’s resolutions? I’m one of those who puts together a short (and often predictable) list every year. This year, they include:

  • No Crap Food Mon-Sat (desserts, ice cream, cookies, other sugar-filled things). One indulgence on Sundays. You see, I have no will power in the kitchen. If there’s a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, I’ll devour two of them in the span of a minute and not think twice. Cookies? Chips? And God forbid – chocolate, in any form? I’m all over that shit.  All this running I do doesn’t do much good in the weight loss department if all I’m doing is replacing every calorie I burn.  So I’m happy to report that it’s so far, so good in 2014. And yes, today was Sunday, and I did indeed do a little bit of damage to a tin of Costco European Belgian Chocolate Cookies (and yum).
  • Lose some belly. I topped out around 270 a few years ago. I made it all the way down to 230 in 2012 with the help of the Lose It app on iPhone (where you have an allotted amount of calories every day and you track everything you eat). I weighed in at 247 last week and decided to kick start the Lose It routine again.  I’m going to shoot for 220 this time around. By the way, the eight cookies I ate today? 340 cals. Little bastards.
  • Be credit card debt free.  In early 2012, after a lifetime of pitiful money management, I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover audio book and started following his plan. This year should will be the year I’m debt free except for my house. I’ve been in debt my whole adult life, folks, and I can see the finish line. Just right over there.
  • Calm Down. I am not the zen master I appear to be. Ask my wife and kids. Often times I simply just need to calm the hell down.

So those are my big four for the year. I’ll keep you posted.

In tribute to Phil Everly, I’ll leave you with the entire Everly Brothers 1983 reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It had been ten years since their last performance at Knotts Berry Farm, where Phil infamously smashed his guitar and walked off. The highlight of this concert for me is “Let It Be Me,” simply for the priceless looks on Phil’s face as he watched his brother Don sing those beautiful solo parts. Knots Berry Farm was a distant memory.

RIP Phil. You’re missed already.