If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Bob Weir over the last 10-15 years, it’s that he is most definitely not going to shave that giant mustache and beard. Bob, such a handsome dude underneath that hair! Ah well, the beards are here to stay all around me, I may as well just get used to it.
Crazy to think that more than 21 years have gone by since the passing of Jerry Garcia, bringing with it the end of what was the Grateful Dead. Bob has never let up though. He’s carried on with Ratdog over years with a rotating cast of characters in the band (sorry to see that the great bass player Rob Wasserman passed away earlier this year); and he has re-congregated in different incarnations with his former Dead band mates, most recently as Dead & Company, with John Mayer joining in on guitar and vocal duties (A+ decision on everyone’s part). I’ll finally be checking them out next May when they visit Phoenix on the second show of their tour (May 28).
Adding to his always active life in music, Bob also released Blue Mountain earlier this year, only the third album of his career billed only as Bob Weir (along with 1972’s Ace and 1977’s Heaven Help the Fool). It’s a collection of “cowboy” songs, as he’s referred to them, with help from quality musicians like Josh Ritter and a couple members of the National (who curated that huge and excellent Dead tribute project earlier this year, Day of the Dead).
The album struck a chord with me. I love the downtempo side of the music, and the great melodies and laid back acoustic stylings in Blue Mountain really grabbed me.
A notch above the rest for me are “Gallop on the Run,” “Whatever Happened to Rose,” and especially “Ky-Yi Bossie,” painting a vivid picture of addiction and relationship problems that have to be at least semi-autobiographical. It’s imaginative and honest, framed in a very catchy cowboy tune with a very cowboy title. Check it out…
A quick blast of quality tuneage from Kevin Morby. “Beautiful Strangers” was written to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting. Morby is a 28-year old singer songwriter born in Lubbock, Texas and now living in L.A.
This tune was released along with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall” to benefit Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization fighting the good fight for common sense gun legislation.
Some songs just catch my ear – this is one. Great little guitar groove and a beautiful tune with some heavy subject matter. Tragically beautiful..
New Pixies music! Head Carrier was released to the world on September 30th. The lead single, “Um Chagga Lagga” has been out since early July, and with my head in the sand as usual, I didn’t hear this great track until last week whilst perusing NME. The video below, however is hot off the presses.
It’s a hard charging number that you’ll be adding to your workout/running/road playlist as soon this video wraps up. Great stuff, and a really solid album featuring three of the four original members: Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering. Kim Deal left the band in 2013, so bass duties on Head Carrier are handled by Paz Lenchantin, who’s been touring with the band as well.
Where do I even start? Months ago, when it was announced that Neil Young would be playing two dates in Telluride, Colorado for the very first time, I knew I’d make the trip up from Phoenix. Not a doubt. On my live music bucket list, Neil ranked at the top, numero uno.
It took me 46 years, but there I was Saturday night, leaning against the barrier left of the stage, my 12-yr old daughter by my side, watching Neil Young – just a few weeks shy of his 71st birthday – rock our faces off with his amazing backing band, Promise of the Real.
The setting? Telluride Town Park. Not your run of mill venue. Rather, one of the most picturesque settings on God’d green earth. See for yourself:
Friday night, we rolled into town just before Neil took the stage around 6:30. My folks have a place just across the beaver pond from Town Park, so although I didn’t go to Friday’s show, I grabbed a beer and parked myself on the balcony. Neil’s voice filled the box canyon as he started off the night with “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold”, and “Long May You Run”… The sound was so crisp and clear that I took in the whole show, all the way to the final notes of “Cinnamon Girl.”
Saturday, it was time to get in and get close. My daughter and I walked into Town Park about an hour and a quarter before show time, and, as you can see above, we did just fine.
Neil walked out from stage left and quickly took a seat at the piano for the opener, “After the Gold Rush.” The next few songs featured Neil with his acoustic guitar and harmonica: “Heart of Gold,” “Sugar Mountain” (the first time he’d played it outside of his Bridge School Benefit since 1993), and “Old Man.” Then, a seat at the organ for “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”, which sounded sacred in the beautiful setting.
Then out came Promise of the Real. It’s worth mentioning each of these guys, because they each add so much to the experience.
Lukas Nelson – guitar; Willie’s 27 year old son and de facto front man of POTR. Great voice and guitar chops.
Micah Nelson – guitar, keys, etc.; Willie’s youngest son, early/mid 20’s I’m guessing. More vocal chops and handy with the bow and guitar.
Corey McCormick – bass; Corey is the most animated of the bunch, jumping around, dancing, deep in the groove. His spirit is infectious and he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Anthony LoGerfo – drums; partnering up with Corey for a killer rhythm section that held down Neil’s tunes, old and new.
Tato Melgar – percussion; solid percussionist, although I couldn’t see him from my far front/left-side vantage point.
I heard Neil in a recent interview talking about Promise of the Real, their talent, and how intimate & familiar they were with his back catalog – deep cuts included. And how apparent that was. Their playing was the perfect accompaniment to Neil: raunchy and raw, or dialed down to a mellow folk-rock feel – whatever the song called for, they were there delivering it just as well as any band that’s ever backed Neil.
And the background vocals and harmonizing! Lukas, Micah and Corey were on point the whole night, enriching classics like “Powderfinger,” “Down by the River” and “Harvest Moon” with beautiful harmonies (three of my all time Neil favorites).
The “moment” for me came during the raucous and powerful choruses of “Down by the River.” Live music lovers all know it. That moment when the goosebumps are in full effect from the sheer force of the Music, a smile plastered across your face…and a glance around the crowd shows you hundreds of others feeling exactly the same way. It’s transcendent and inspiring and gives you hope for humanity – much needed these days.
“Winterlong” was a cut I wasn’t all too familiar with (released on Neil’s 1977 compilation album Decade, and limited pressings of Tonight’s The Night). I loved the feel of that tune – the wistful tinges of sadness and the really pretty melody.
“Out on the Weekend” !! Also one of my favorites, and the first tune of the night with Promise of the Real.
We were treated to “Cortez the Killer” with its sinister vibe, made all the more interesting by a nearby woman succumbing to a combination of altitude and substance – passing out a few feet behind us, then being lifted by security over the front barrier. “Cortez, Cortez, what a killer.”
Family highlight: My daughter was fully aware she was seeing a legend that Saturday night – she was reminded often by yours truly in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. By the end of the night, she was bouncing and singing along to “Rockin’ in the Free World” with all the rest of us. Smiles all around as the song was about to end three or four times, with Neil counting off “1-2-3-4!” and lunging back to the microphone for another round: “Keep on rockin’ in the free world!” It’s something special to make memories with your kids – especially live music memories.
With temps dropping well into the 40’s, Neil and POTR wrapped the night with the encore, “Roll Another Number (for the Road),” then met at center stage where they all huddled, jumping up and down in a shared primal grunt.
After two hours and forty-five minutes of breathtaking folk and wild, reckless rock & roll, we walked off into the cold Telluride night, savoring the evening..
I don’t know how my heroes do it – the ability to sit down and pen another gorgeous, heartbreaking tune. Tom Petty has always had a way of pulling on the heartstrings at command, from “Free Fallin'” to “Insider” to “Only a Broken Heart” to “No Reason To Cry.”
On the new Mudcrutch record, he does it again. It’s “I Forgive It All” – simplistic in its melodic beauty, and – oof! – heavy on the subject matter. The lyrics are left open to interpretation. The verses suggest a man at the end of the line, in what respect I’m not so sure. Why is he giving his things to his niece Dora? Prison? Disease? Self destruction?
But the chorus, man… simple, powerful: “I forgive it all / I forgive it all / With her / I forgive it all.”
Sean Penn and Samuel Bayer directed a very interesting video for the tune, which stars Anthony Hopkins taking (what seems like) a final drive from Rodeo Drive to L.A.’s skid row. Before watching this video, maybe listen to the tune on its own (the 1st video below) and let it conjure up whatever images your mind decides..
This is my favorite tune right now off the new Band of Horses record, Why Are You OK?
It’s soothing and bittersweet, and just captures everything I love about BoH. Ben Bridwell’s vocals, his phrasing (e.g. “I had you on the Amtrak / I thought you might like / I thought you might like that”), and the rich deepdown mellow vibe.
The album is co-produced by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, and is worth every penny/stream/spin.
As a dad always on the lookout for quality, fun music I can share with my kids (not to mention non-explicit), I love stumbling across songs like “I Could Be Anything.” Yep, the Violent Femmes are still alive and kicking with original members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie. They’ve had a hiatus or two over the years, but earlier this year they release their ninth studio album, We Can Do Anything (their first in 15 years). It’s full of that signature sound we’re all familiar from their smash debut album back in ol’ 1983 (e.g. listen to Memory).
But there’s also this: the tale of King Bongo the dragon slayer. Fun for the whole family…
There’s the loss of so many important musicians these past few months. In the pop/rock realm, we mourn the passings of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. And others like Maurice White, Lemmy Kilmister, and a teen obsession near and dear to my heart: Denise Matthews, aka Vanity. Her nearly unclothed posters and magazine pages (Black Beat!) adorned my teenage-era bedroom walls (along with Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson and his merry band of Minneapolis musicmakers). My favorite:
In the music streaming world, my service of choice, Rdio, filed for bankruptcy and signed off by year’s end. I (and my close friends and family who used it) considered it the best one of the bunch – the clean, intuitive interface, the organization of songs, artists, and albums, and most importantly, the social side of it. Rdio allowed you to follow other users, whether friends or artists or brands, and get a view into what they were listening to and adding to their collection. Spotify is the only other service I can find that features any social integration, and it’s far inferior to what Rdio offered. No marketing though, and that ultimately killed Rdio. R.I.P.!
So with Rdio’s demise, I’ve gone all in with Apple Music. I have so many local files in my iTunes that have been uploaded to the Apple Music cloud, that it just made sense. People complain of its bugs and bloat, but frankly, I’m used to it. Also, you can bring your whole family on board for only $15.99 per month for everyone. I’m hoping they integrate some sort of social feature where users can follow each other. The “Connect” area is perfect for it (and so under-utilized currently).
I’ve jumped in and out of Google Play Music as well (currently signed up). I like the web and mobile interfaces, and I have it as an app on my Sony TV (although they need to work on that interface – when you’re listening to a song/album, all you see on the screen is a giant picture of the artist or album – no artist/album/song info at all. And sometimes, say with the Pogues, for example, you just don’t want Shane MacGowan’s giant mug staring at back at you).
As far as new tunes go, I stumbled across L.A. musician Julia Holter. She offers up an otherworldly, laid back, orchestral/indie vibe that I really like. The best of the bunch is “Lucette Stranded on the Island” from her most recent album, Have You In My Wilderness which you should listen to now.. it’s mesmerizing.
I also recently read John Lydon‘s autobiography, Anger is an Energy. Never Mind The Bollocks has always been a top shelf album for me, but believe it or not, I never jumped into John’s follow up (and current) band Public Image Ltd. Reading through the book and listening along as I go, discovering new P.I.L. tunes in the process, has been a fun ride. John’s as obnoxious and provoking as ever, and I like what I hear. Their newer stuff in the 2010’s is strong too. You can get a good feel for the band in this 2013 set from Glastonbury:
Any new music I should be hearing? Please recommend…
From Clem Snide’s 2005 album End of Love comes this great tune, “Jews For Jesus Blues.” It’s coming up on Christmas 2015 and this would seem to coincide in some way with the holiday, but that’s not my intention. It’s simply a great tune: witty lyrics from Eef Barzelay, and a beautifull arranged country/folk tune that I can’t stop coming back to again and again.
Take it, Clem Snide…
And Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Festivus for the rest of us!
Another cool new tune courtesy of The Loft on Sirius-XM. Another song that connected right away, made my ears perk up and take notice. There’s a pretty clear parallel to Freddie Mercury and Queen.. and that… is a good thing. There’s also great sax, background singers, and a soulful undertone.
Christopher the Conquered is Christopher Ford from Des Moines, Iowa. This song is the title track from his new album coming in February 2016, which you can pre-order right here on his site.