ACL Highlight: Rodney Crowell

The first full set I caught at this year’s Austin City Limits festival was Rodney Crowell. It was 12:30 in the afternoon on Friday. Maybe it was the combination of a sunny day, a cold beer, good friends, and the opening day of a great music festival in Austin, but Crowell’s set was a thing of beauty.

Crowell, accompanied only by Will Kimbrough on guitar, and Jenny Scheinman on violin, delighted the crowd with some great tunes. Thing is, Rodney is such a great storyteller, he has a way of keeping you on the edge of your seat, anticipating where the story is going next. All the while, these stories are embedded in the sorts of wonderful, rootsy melodies that Crowell has been creating for decades.

There were a few highlights for me. First was Scheinman on violin, who got to showcase her stuff in her own tune, and launched into a killer violin solo – yes killer violin solo – on “Wandering Boy”, also with some great interplay with Crowell’s acoustic…the ending violin strokes had the entire crowd entranced.

Crowell’s “Earthbound” was another favorite, but it was two sublime new ones that stood out this afternoon… consider the first verse of the closing song, “Closer to Heaven”…

I don’t like humus
I hate long lines
Nosy neighbours and the nation blind
Chirpy news anchors alter my mood
I’m offended by buzz words
Like awesome and dude
I look like a trainwreck
I feel like a blob
Till you get to know me
You may think I’m a snob
But I’m closer to heaven
Than I’ve ever been

It’s lyrics like these interwoven in a beatiful song that is the magic of Rodney Crowell.

The other song that affected me was “Moving Work of Art”. It has that Townes Van Zandt / Steve Earle finger pickin’ ballad feel (both Townes and Earle spent a lot of time with Rodney back in the day) – and the love-lost lyrics hit you right where it hurts…

Time is jammed and flying fast
the brakes are bad and the potholes rough
I’m out here running from the past
What we had was not enough
Heard she just touched down in Hollywood
And her friends all say she’s looking good
I saw it coming from the start
She’s a moving work of art

Beautiful stuff. The studio version is great, but doesn’t hold a candle to seeing and hearing Rodney perform the song live. He’s out on the road supporting his latest record, Sex and Gasoline (awesome cover!). Rodney Crowell is one of those underrated living legends, and I recommend the show…

Rodney Crowell Moving Work of Art (mp3)

From:

Rodney CrowellEarthbound (mp3)

From Fate’s Right Hand

Links: Official Site | MySpace

Set List
Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design
I Want You #35
Moving Work of Art
Sex & Gasoline
Earthbound
U Don’t Know How Much I Hate U
I Wish It Would Rain
Wandering Boy
Untitled Julie Scheinman Cover
Fate’s Right Hand
Closer to Heaven

Spearhead’s Say Hey (I Love You)

Infectious riddims from Michael Franti & Spearhead‘s brand new record, All Rebel Rockers. M’ lady and I heard this on Sirius Jam On yesterday, and it was immediately flagged and tagged for later consumption. The album was produced by Sly & Robbie, the veteran reggae production team (Black Uhuru, Yellowman, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, and many more), and recorded mostly in Kingston, Jamaica.

Irie!

Michael Franti & Spearhead Say Hey (I Love You) [mp3, featuring Cherine Anderson]

Buy

Links: Official Site | Watch the Video for “Say Hey (I Love You)” | MySpace

© Photo credit: Mike Schreiber

Conor Oberst’s Sausalito

With his new album, Conor Oberst is right back to the rootsy vibe he had going with Bright Eyes’ great album ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning‘. Conor recorded the album in Tepoztlán, Mexico (a town outside of Mexico City).

It’s this tune that suits my taste like hand to glove. It restores my faith in the man after watching his – umm – sub par job of sitting in with the Boss on “Thunder Road” early this year. All is forgiven.

we should move to Sausalito
living’s easy on a house boat
let the ocean rock us back and forth to sleep

in the morning with the sunrise
look in the water see the blue sky
as if heaven has been laid there at our feet

Conor Oberst – Sausalito (mp3)

Buy Conor’s brand new self-titled album: Conor Oberst

Oberst Linkage: Official Site | MySpace

Live Los Lobos

You know, this blog will turn four years old this year, and it turns out I’ve never graced the pages with live Los Lobos before. Huh? That’s just wrong.

Here’s a great soundboard show from last year’s Edmonton Blues Festival. The crowd is great, and they go bonkers when the band pulls out Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” for the encore. Another highlight is David Hidalgo’s guitar wizardry on “Mas y Mas”.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again): Los Lobos are an American treasure, and hands down one of the best bands around.

For the whole show, download the ZIP.

Los Lobos @ the Edmonton Blues Festival
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
August 27th, 2007

1. Pigfoot Shuffle
2. The Neighborhood
3. Don’t Worry Baby
4. Evangeline
5. David Hidalgo intro to Fat Man
6. The Fat Man
7. Manny’s Bones
8. Let’s Say Goodnight
9. Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio
10. Volver, Volver
11. I Got Loaded
12. Mas y mas (mp3)
13. Cinnamon Girl (mp3)

Keep up with the boys at Los Lobos.com.

Jon and Roy

The Canadians keep comin’ hard with the quality tunes. Jon and Roy hail from Victoria, British Columbia. Their latest album is Another Noon – and it’s great. Warm, laid back, and inviting acoustic roots music.

They scored pretty big for an indie outfit by getting the title track on a new Volkswagen commercial (I think Wilco gave VW ads that instant indie cred). If you dig Citizen Cope or Jack Johnson’s vibe, definitely check out Another Noon.

The standout track for me after a couple of listens is “Oh Please”. It’s like drifting on a cloud. Close your eyes and escape for three and a half minutes.

Jon and RoyOh Please (mp3)

Official Site: http://www.jonandroy.ca

Buy Another Noon:

Prince continues to make friends, says “No Way, Norway!”

Our purple friend is at it again. This time, his sights are set on Norway’s C+C Records, who organized a tribute box set made up of 50 artists doing covers of Prince tunes. Tip # 1, C+C Records: next time, don’t contact Prince’s people to try to send him a free copy. Odds are he won’t say “Thanks.”….

In a rare defense of the purple one, how wise is it really to put together a box set of Prince tunes without making any legal arrangements at all? Even if you are giving it away for free?

Eliot at Wired’s Listening Post blog has the story:

Fifty artists who recorded Prince covers in honor of his purpleness’s 50th birthday on June 7 have been slapped with a lawsuit by the short-tempered star, whose lawyers demand that all copies of the tribute, which had reached number eight on Norway’s album charts and received several popular reviews by the Norwegian press, be destroyed.

It’s perfectly legal to record and sell cover songs of someone else’s material, so long as you pay the compulsory licensing fee of about ten cents per song. To sell their five-disc set of 81 Prince cover songs, they would have to remit around $8 per unit sold to Prince under a compulsory mechanical license.

However, Norway’s C+C Records distributed 5,000 of the box sets for free earlier this month, and claim that no one made any money from the giveaway. As a result, they didn’t think they owed Prince anything except maybe a free copy.

C+C Records owner and Prince fan Christer Falck contacted the purple one’s people to try to send one to Prince, and that’s when the trouble began [bold text by Ickmusic], according to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet (now offline, via Daily Swarm), one of many publications to post positive reviews of the collection.

For now, all 81 songs can be previewed for free on C+C Records‘ website, and some are also available on MySpace in streamable medley form.

When this giveaway first began, there were 5,000 copies of this compilation in circulation. Thanks to Prince’s lawsuit and the publicity it will generate, we expect that number to balloon significantly in the coming weeks.

Listen Up: American Babies

Seems like 4 out of every 5 new bands I discover these days are from Brooklyn, NY. Here’s another one: Tom Hamilton’s American Babies. This tune caught my ear recently, I think on Sirius. Influences range from Ryan Adams to Bright Eyes to Mr. Springsteen. But in this one, I hear Rodney Crowell.

Catchy, quality roots-rockin’ goin’ down right here. Oh, also, drumming in the band is Joe Russo from Benevento-Russo Duo.

American BabiesInvite Your Friends (mp3)

Linkage: Official Site | MySpace

Buy American Babies for $10 on CD Baby. Go. Now.

Review: Friday at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival

When you show up to at a music festival to pick up your press credentials, and you’re handed a VIP pass with 12 free drinks ready to be punched, at a Sierra Nevada-sponsored festival, well – you just know it’s gonna be a great day. Nine hours later – after seeing and hearing the likes of Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, the subdudes, Steve Reynolds Band, and Mikel Lander, Meridith Moore & Friends – I was right, it was great.

This was my second straight year at the Friday offering of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Music Festival. It’s a young festival (this was it’s 5th annual), and with the impressive lineups, the great organization, and so much room at the Westworld venue to expand, it’s going to pick up steam and continue to grow each year. So on this Friday, my partner in crime was my friend Greg. Let me take you through our day…

Review: In Tucson with David Hidalgo and Louie Perez

This past Sunday, I jumped on I-10 East and headed down to Tucson for a Dave & Louie show. Dave & Louie being David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, two members (and the main songwriters) of Los Lobos. The atmosphere and show format could not have been cooler: two 45 minute sets of music followed by a Q&A session – where audience members could step to the microphone and ask questions. Did I step to the mic? But of course! More on that later.

Sunday’s Tucson show was the final stop on a short seven city tour of the West, celebrating almost 40 years of writing songs together.

Hittin’ the Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

As I sit to type this, I’m watching American Idol contestant Kristy Lee Cook absolutely BUTCHER the Beatles song “8 Days a Week”. An uptempo, countrified version. Buhhh-leck. “Dolly Parton on helium”, says Simon. Lucky for me I don’t watch American Idol. Oh sh – -, caught!

So anyway, here’s Alabama 3 with a version of John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” – one of my favorites in his catalog. A3, as the popular country group Alabama insists they call themselves stateside, is a British acid house band that mixes in genres like country, gospel, and blues. Their claim to fame so far is “Woke Up This Morning”, the theme song to The Sopranos (RIP). I heard this on Sirius a few weeks ago, and promised to share it with you fine folks sometime soon.

Alabama 3 – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness (mp3)

From Last Train to Mashville, Vol. 2. (2003)

It’s a fun version – hee-hawed up a bit and turned into a first person perspective. I don’t think they’re being irreverent, and I don’t think the point of the song is lost on them (Prine’s lyrics imply a more somber tone) – but they do alter the atmosphere of tune – one of sadness and – well – loneliness.


photo by Senor McGuire

And who captures the atmosphere of the song the best? My favorite version (I have to honestly say I like it better than Prine’s original) is Nanci Griffith‘s, from her great album of covers, Other Voices, Other Rooms. With a little help from Mr. Prine himself on backing vocals, Nanci sets the tone perfectly – wistful and bittersweet. Every time I hear it though, I wish Prine would take that second verse!

Nanci Griffith – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness (mp3)

From Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993):

And that isn’t to say that Prine’s version is lacking in any way. Here’s the original from Prine’s 1986 album German Afternoons.

John Prine – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness (mp3)

From German Afternoons (1986):

Links:
Alabama 3’s Official Site
Nanci Griffith’s Official Site
John Prine’s Official Site