The Railroad Revival Tour [with a stop in Chandler, AZ]

I haven’t been this unabashedly giddy about an upcoming show in quite some time. News of the Railroad Revival Tour swept across the web Monday morning like a Japanese bullet train (train reference, pow!). It’s a short, exclusive train tour featuring three great bands: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show.

And for once, an exclusive tour that includes the Phoenix area as one of its few stops – and it’s Chandler, for cryin’ out loud, right in my own back yard…

For a week in late April, the three bands will travel in vintage rail cars pulled by two locomotives across the southwest U.S.A. – from Oakland to New Orleans. Chandler Arizona’s big day is Saturday, April 23rd, as the train pulls into the Arizona Railway Museum for a show. Thanks to some pre-sale luck this morning, I was able to grab my tickets. I am pumped!

Can’t wait to finally see Old Crow Medicine Show…
Looking forward to checking out Mumford & Sons (need to dig into their album a little more).
And this’ll be my third time seeing Edward and his Magnetic Zeros (I’ll also see them a week after at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival).

Tickets for all stops go on sale Wednesday, March 9th at 11am CT / 9am PT. According to Railroad Revival Tour’s Facebook page, the Chandler museum stop will have a show capacity of 8,000 people.
For me, it’s a can’t miss experience.

Railroad Revival Tour: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter

Old Crow Medicine Show – “I Hear Them All”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – “Home”

Mumford & Sons – “Timshel”

My Dove, My Lamb

Today, I developed a case of the blahs. Without good reason, really. I’m blessed. Family, work, health…all great, no complaints. But sometimes, even when all’s well, that crap feeling can creep in and take hold. I think they call it part of living.

So tonight I decided to seek out some soul soothing music. Something to take me to that cathartic, introspective place that only good music can. I found it in Phosphorescent with their 2007 album Pride.

I found it particularly in the nine minute and twenty-five second “My Dove, My Lamb”. Seven of the most gorgeous and touching verses put to song. I don’t particularly like linking to those shitty, dime-a-dozen lyrics sites, but you really should listen to this song and read the lyrics. Breathtaking, really…

So even in these cities where she’s haunting me
Even when my weariness is wanting me
Even when my wickednesses want to breathe
Even in these dirty clubs counting 1-2-3
I will keep a singing til I no more can
My dove my dove my lamb

The whole album has a very spiritual quality to it – lots of harmonies, lots of reverb, and best of all, singer Matthew Houck’s voice – delicate but resolute. Definitely not a record you’d pull out and play for your friends on a Saturday night. Rather, I find it’s more of a companion record – one that a listener can form an individual bond with.

Love this band, and love this tune…

from Pride

Phosphoresccent’s Official Site

[Ick’s Pick] Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine

I discovered the treasure trove that is the music of John Prine back in the early 90’s, during my last year of college. The Missing Years about knocked me on my butt, with its witty wordplay, catchy cadences, and gorgeous melodies. The album led me directly to Great Days: The John Prine Anthology, which gave me a crash course in this American treasure, the postman turned folk singer from Maywood, Illinois.

In reading the liner notes of the new tribute album, Broken Hearts &Dirty Windows – Songs of John Prine, I found out that Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) had the same experience – growing up in Wisconsin and happening across the Anthology; getting to know John Prine through classics like “Sam Stone”, “Paradise”, “That’s The Way That The World Goes Round”, and “Hello In There.”

With the release of this fantastic new tribute album, it’s clear that Prine has had a similar impact on a host of younger artists – and it’s interesting that the artists on this record rank among some of my current favorites: Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket, Old Crow Medicine Show, Deer Tick, Drive-By Truckers… it makes sense now: we’re all rooted in Prine’s music, and as they’ve matured and made music of their own, its these same roots that have pulled me into their music.

The common theme is humble, genuine, gritty, homegrown American music.

The standouts for me on this record include Deer Tick’s “Unwed Fathers”, featuring the sandpaper vocals of John McCauley and the sweet accompaniment of Liz Isenberg; Josh Ritter does “Mexican Home” from 1973’s Sweet Revenge. Ritter takes Prine’s uptempo version. and slows it way down – exposing the song’s melancholy core:

“My father died on the porch outside
On an August afternoon
I sipped bourbon and cried
With a friend by the light of the moon
So its hurry! hurry! Step right up
It’s a matter of life or death
The sun is going down
And the moon is just holding its breath.

Drive-By Truckers do their thing, taking The Missing Year‘s “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” and shifting it into overdrive; My Morning Jacket also do a Missing Years tune, “All The Best”, which Jim James and Prine recently performed on Letterman (worth a look); the Avett Brothers pick what I think is the perfect song for them: “Spanish Pipedream”; and Old Crow Medicine Show take the beautiful “Angel from Montgomery” and add their old timey flavor to it.

The big surprise for me was the album’s finale – “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian” as performed by Those Darlins, a female trio from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. First off, it’s one of Prine’s most hilarious songs, the innuendos flying left & right. And then you add a sexy rhythm, an island feel, and the sensual and sassy singing of Those Darlins. Play this at a BBQ this summer, it’ll be a guaranteed hit. It’s such a fun ride, and a fitting finale to what amounts to a great tribute to good ol’ John Prine.

New Music From The Guggenheim Grotto, “Wisdom”

The Guggenheim Grotto
Having seen the band a handful of times in the last month, I’ve heard the track “Wisdom” as many times in it’s raw form. The tune — which comes from the band’s forthcoming record, Master of the Universe — is partly inspired by the long hours the band has logged crossing the country in support of their brilliant Happy the Man. There is currently no date set for the release of the record, though I’d expect it would be sometime in June. Stay tuned!

You can purchase “Wisdom” here.

The band is also doing a residency every Wednesday in June at The Bowery Electric, NYC, and every Thursday at the Tin Angel in Philly.

The Guggenheim Grotto, Live!

The Guggenheim Grotto

The Irish Troubadour of the New Millennium has been largely defined by the likes of Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. My wife refers to it as “sad bastard” music, a title that I find difficult to argue. It’s not all doom and gloom on The Emerald Isle though, one of its best-kept secrets is the folk-pop duo The Guggenheim Grotto. One of my favorite “new to me” bands of last year, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to see the group bring their quirky tales to the stage. Thankfully, I’ll get that chance on March 18th, when the band stops at The Rockwood Music Hall. I cannot recommend enough that those of you local to the venue join me. Enough of my yapping, check out the video for “Her Beautiful Ideas,” and if you dig that pick up the band’s latest record Happy the Man.

Jeff Tweedy at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix

Seeing my favorite artists live in a full band setting is obviously one of life’s great thrills – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Los Lobos, Wilco… But just as thrilling for me is witnessing more intimate showcases: the solo acoustic show. To be able to sit down and study the architect of the songs you love, as they play for you in a small theater – just the artist, a guitar and a microphone – you’re able to get a deeper understanding of the artist and his work.

I’ve had the privilege to sit and watch my favorites in these intimate-type settings: Springsteen on the Tom Joad and Devils and Dust tours, Steve Earle on several occasions, David Hidalgo & Louis Perez at a small theater in Tucson – and last night, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

I’ve followed Jeff and his band since Mermaid Avenue bowled me over in 1998. From that point, I’ve devoured everything they’ve released. For me, it all comes back around to that one unique characteristic: the golden, sweet & raspy vocal chords of Jeff Tweedy.

Last night, in the ornate and acoustically divine Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, the voice was in prime form, filling the small venue – from low whispers to tuneful wails. I don’t mean to get all dramatic and schmaltzy on you all, but it was such a special experience for me and the several hundred that filled the theater. Outside of a few entertaining exchanges between songs, the crowd was perfectly quiet – letting each song live and breathe – with only the sounds of Tweedy’s voice and acoustic guitar wafting perfectly in the air.

Tweedy’s set list dipped into the Wilco songbook (e.g. “Passenger Side”, “A Shot in the Arm”, “Sunken Treasure”, “How To Fight Loneliness”, “Hummingbird”, “Impossible Germany”, “You & I”), his own solo material (“Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard”), Uncle Tupelo (“”Acuff-Rose”), as well as his side project/”supergroup” Golden Smog (“Please Tell My Brother” was one of the most poignant moments).

One great spontaneous moment came when he veered from the set list for a cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine”, a dark Christmas tale of a broken relationship. I had never heard the original, and clearly I was missing out on some wonderful lyrics:  “Where the state highway starts I stopped my car / I got out and stared up at the stars / As meteors died and shot ‘cross the sky / I thought about your sad, shining eyes.”    Picture Tweedy singing this in a mournful country shuffle… it was magic.

Another special moment came with “Jesus, etc.”, as Jeff shared vocal duties with the crowd. It wasn’t the messy sing-a-long you’ve heard at some shows. Rather, it was a very clear and succinct, spot-on rendition, and it made the small venue feel even smaller and more intimate.

After wrapping up “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (dedicated to his wife Susie, who was in attendance with his family), Jeff  stepped away from the mic for the last couple of  songs, standing at the edge of the stage with no PA. “This is what it’ll be like when we lose power”, he joked, referring to a post-apocalyptic world.

This moment summed up the entire evening… here was one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our generation, in a one-off performance – and it wasn’t about the glitz and glamor of a rock ‘n roll band. It wasn’t about effects. And hell, it wasn’t even about amplification.. It was a man and his guitar singing his songs, playing from the heart and soul, and connecting with each and every one of us lucky enough to be in attendance.

Photos: Photographer Holly Carlyle snapped some incredible photographs from the evening. Check them out here.

Set List (thanks to azcentral):

Sunken Treasure
Remember The Mountain Bed
Please Tell My Brother
Country Disappeared
The Ruling Class
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
You and I
Muzzle of Bees
How To Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
In A Future Age
Passenger Side
So Much Wine
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
A Shot in the Arm


Heavy Metal Drummer
Jesus, Etc.
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Someone Else’s Song

Video: Steve Earle at Amoeba Records

I knew I subscribed to Amoeba’s video RSS feed for a reason! Once in a while, they post a gem. Case in point today: Steve Earle.

Here’s Steve’s 45 minute in-store performance from back in May. But be sure to check out the insightful 13 minute interview too, where he discusses his early years as a Nashville songwriter, his former drug habit, The Wire, Radiohead’s refusal to play “Creep”, and even Telluride, Colorado.

In the words of Steve: Telluride is “too high to support intelligent life. I’ve seen that proven over and over and over again.” Good thing my folks only live there five months out of the year!

In-Store Set List:

Rex’s Blues (Townes Van Zandt)
Fort Worth Blues
Pancho & Lefty (TVZ)
Brand New Companion (TVZ)
Rich Man’s War
Lungs (TVZ)
Copperhead Road

Let Him Roll

Guy Clark hit my radar after I got into Steve Earle in the 90’s. I started digging deeper into the “outlaw” singer/songwriters from the state of Texas. People like Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, and Townes Van Zandt. I still have a long way to go with exploring the rich catalogs of these guys. My most recent pick-up on eMusic was The Essential Guy Clark, which I will make a point of spending plenty of time with in the near future.

I heard “Let Him Roll” on Sirius a while ago, and was struck – as I always am with these guys – by the vivid, colorful, and genuine imagery in the storytelling….


It was white port that put that look in his eye,
Grown men get when they need to cry.
We sat down on the curb to rest,
And his head just fell down on his chest.

He says: “Every single day it gets,
“Just a little bit harder to handle and yet. . .”
Then he lost the thread and his mind got cluttered,
And the words just rolled off down the gutter.

It’s a tale of a down on his luck wino – in love with a prostitute from Dallas. He’s at the end of his road, and the narrator tells the story of his sad demise…

Guy Clark – Let Him Roll (mp3) –  from The Essential Guy Clark

With eyes that burn so bright they make me pure

I’ve had a nice 3 day weekend: a hike near Canyon Lake in the Superstition Wilderness, an outing to the zoo with the family, BBQ and wine with the neighbors… but as all good things come to an end, it’s time to face the work week ahead (albeit a  shortened one).

Tonight, the music of Conor Oberst makes a damn fine accompaniment.

I didn’t hear about Bright Eyes until Conor released the great album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning in 2005 and grabbed my attention. So I didn’t hear this great track until this past summer while I was in Telluride. It’s from their second album, Letting Off The Happiness, released in 1998.

Bright Eyes – June On The West Coast (mp3)

Conor’s most recent project and release is Outer South, by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. This is one of my favorites. You can see I like the more introspective tunes…which Conor’s music spilleth over with…

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – I Got The Reason (mp3)


Buzz Cason’s Sentimental Attitude

Oh here’s a nice one. Sort of like Rodney Crowell singing an up-tempo 60’s Bob Dylan tune. The singer is Buzz Cason.

When I heard the song this morning on Sirius Outlaw Country, I pictured Buzz as a younger 20/30-something alt-country rabble rouser a la Todd Snider. Come to find out Buzz was born in 1939 and was a backup singer for Elvis in the 70’s.  Whaaa?   But that doesn’t do justice to his career accomplishments. Read his bio here, with name drops like U2 and the Beatles.

And enjoy this catchy, quick Nashvillian shit-kicker of a number….

Hear: Sentimental Attitude (mp3)

From his new album, Busload of Love.