Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Black Crowes Announce New Record and Add Dickinson

The Black Crowes announced some big news. First, their new record, Warpaint, will hit stores on March 4, 2008. The record will be the first studio effort of all new material since 2001. The record will also mark the first release on the band's newly formed label "Silver Arrow Records." In addition to starting their own label, the Crowes will unveil a revamped lineup for 2008.

Luther Dickinson has never been a stranger to the Black Crowes: he and the North Mississippi Allstars have shared the bill and the stage with the Southern rock superstars on numerous occasions, the spectacled guitarist makes regular appearances with Crowes' axeman Rich Robinson in his Circle Sound side project and, in the words of Chris Robinson, Dickinson is "all over" Warpaint.

Coinciding with the March 4th release date, Dickinson and new keyboardist Adam MacDougall will make their debut as official Crowes during a series of "One Night Only" shows that will see the band play Warpaint in its entirety. Following that run, the Crowes will kick off their world tour in Australia on March 24th. The dates and locations for the U.S. shows are expected to be announced shortly.

North Mississippi Allstar fans need not worry. The trio will briefly reform The Word, their southern gospel jam project with John Medeski and Robert Randolph, for a series of four December shows and their fifth studio album, Hernando, will be released on January 22.

Van Halen Adds New Tour Dates

Van Halen announced 28 new dates that will see the band extend this year's successful reunion tour into 2008. The additional dates aren't too much of a surprise given how much cash the band raked in and the steady stream of good reviews. The 2008 tour will kick off in Oklahoma City on January 22nd at the Ford Center and will run through April 7th where that leg will wind down at Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Bradley Center.

The full schedule includes:

Jan. 22 - Ford Center, Oklahoma City, OK
Jan. 24 - AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Jan. 26 - American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Jan. 28 - Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Feb. 1 - Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Feb. 4 - Qwest Event Center, Omaha, NE
Feb. 8 - New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
Feb. 12 - BankAtlantic Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Feb. 14 - Amway Arena, Orlando, FL
Feb. 16 - Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL
Feb. 18 - St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL
Feb. 22 - John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
Mar. 5 - US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH
Mar. 7 - RBC Center, Raleigh, NC
Mar. 9 - 1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore, MD
Mar. 11 - Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH
Mar. 13 - Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ
Mar. 17 - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Mar. 19 - Giant Center, Hershey, PA
Mar. 21 - Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Mar. 24 - Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
Mar. 26 - Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT
Mar. 28 - Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
Mar. 30 - Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO
Apr. 1 - Value City Arena, Columbus, OH
Apr. 3 - Allstate Arena, Chicago, IL
Apr. 5 - Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
Apr. 7 - Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

Tickets for the San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Omaha, New Orleans, Charlottesville, Hershey, and Atlantic City dates will go on sale Saturday December 1st and East Rutherford and New York will go on sale Monday December 3rd. If the spring dates are as well received as this fall's do you really expect David Lee Roth to sit on the sidelines for the summer? I don't.

Friday, November 23, 2007

U2 London Residency?

U2 says it has not scheduled a London Residency. Reports had put the band in the footsteps of Prince who did a long stint at a London arena to much fanfare and claimed to lads were set to do several nights at the O2 Arena in June. The 14 shows were even listed on a U.K. concert ticket website.

But, U2 says it isn't true. A statement from the group reads, "Just a note to correct reports that tickets are becoming available for planned U2 shows next year. There are no plans for live dates next year - so please don't buy tickets for any U2 shows you see advertised."

One thing U2 can confirm is the availability of U2 Go Home, a live album from their 2001 gig at Slane Castle in Ireland. The previously unreleased album is available only via and is a two hour, twenty song set featuring classics ranging from "Out Of Control" to "Walk On."

The Cake Sale

If you were channel surfing in a turkey haze last night and passed by Grey's Anatomy you may have thought you heard some familiar voices in one of the songs. It wasn't just the tryptophan playing tricks, you did. Last night's Grey's featured the song "Some Surprise" from The Cake Sale that counts Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody among its high profile members.

The Cake Sale recorded a disc (of the same name!) conceived by Brian Crosby and Paul Noonan of Bell X1, that also features, among others, Glen Hansard of the Frames and the film ONCE, Nina Persson of the Cardigans, Lisa Hannigan and Josh Ritter. The record is a benefit for Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign and all the songwriters have donated their publishing from these songs - a very cool gesture.

You can stream The Cake Sale here and can check out the video for "Some Surprise" over on YouTube. Yep Roc records is also treating you to an mp3 download of "Black Winged Bird" get it here.

TV music aficionados will recognize Bell X1 or at least their song “Eve, the Apple of my Eye” from being featured on the OC. Bell X1 will release Flock, its U.S. debut, on February 19th.

Led Zeppelin to Tour US?

A Led Zeppelin U.S. tour would no doubt be one of the biggest ticket sellers in 2008. Given the way Van Halen tickets sold this year, a Zeppelin reunion tour would sell like golden hot cakes. Of course, Zeppelin reunion tours are often rumor fodder. But, there is an inkling of hope for this one to be real.

The remaining Led Zeppelin band mates are reforming for the Ahmet Ertegun tribute show in London on December 10th. Will the reunion spark a nostalgia for laughter? Surely the lure of big bucks hauled in by Van Halen and the Police this year may have raised some eyebrows in the Zeppelin camp. A Zeppelin reunion would arguably have significantly more demand than any of the other recent reunion tours. And, at least one other aging rocker is hyped about the possibility.

Ian Asturbury of the Cult reportedly dropped a big hint to fans at a Cincinnati show that his band would be opening for Zeppelin on a U.S. tour in 2008. Wishful thinking? At this point Zeppelin spokespeople say no plans are in place. Of course, for awhile Hillary Clinton said she had no plans in place to run for President. We all know how that turned out. Of course, a Zeppelin reunion would likely be more well received and loads more fun.

Romantics Sue Guitar Hero

The Romantics may just be sentimental or maybe in need of some cash? The one hit wonders are back in the limelight after filing suit against one of the most popular video games on the market. Activision uses the Romantics' "What I Like About You" in their wildly successful game Guitar Hero. The game makers say they got permission to use the song. However, according to reports, it is not any copyright issue that has the Romantics up in arms.

The band seem to be claiming that the replication of the song sounds so much like their original version that the game is infringing upon their "name and likeness." In other words, they claim that even if Activision had permission to use their song, they can't use it in a manner that may create an impression that it is actually the Romantics performing the version in question. A law professor tells USA Today the case is a loser. But, because the band also asked a federal court to halt sales of the game in a shrewdly timed holiday lawsuit the game maker may decide to pay some more money to the band just to make sure the game is on shelves for the Christmas shopping season.

The game, unlike any recent Romantics tunes, has topped U.S. sales charts with prior versions. Well that's one thing they don't have in common.

50 Cent Rails Against Language Hypocrisy

In Parental Advisory, Eric Nuzum's excellent compilation on censorship, he points out that censorship has less to do with defining appropriate expression than it does with defining appropriate people. Nuzum has found an unlikely ally for this view in 50 Cent. As you probably have heard, the rapper/actor, who is still fuming over American TV stations changing the title of his latest single from "I Still Kill" to "I Still Will," has expressed disbelief that no one has raised a fuss over Britney Spears welcoming people to her comeback single "Gimme More" with the phrase, "It's Britney, bitch." It appears we have focused so much of our attention on her parenting skills and driving ability that we've stopped listening to the words that are coming out of her mouth. Given the recent sensitivity to misogynistic lyrics in rap and hip/hop, 50 makes a fair point. Why is it acceptable for a white girl from Tennessee to use the word "bitch" when a black man from Compton would be sharply rebuked? Would everyone sit silent if Spears decided to use Nas' proposed title for her latest album?

The platinum selling artist suggests that if he or one of his peers starting a song by using the word "bitch" they would be demonised. "I guess they have their rules that apply individually to each artist," he says. "Matter of fact, my next single, I'm going to start it (with), 'It's Britney, bitch.'" Fitty may be on to something here. If people get upset, he can simply say, "Oops, I did it again." What's good for the loose should be good for the bad ass.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Clap Your Hands Say “Eh”

By: David Schultz

Ever since the availability of the first mp3, the music industry has wrestled with the philosophical changes foisted upon them by the new technology. In the latest stage of the wholesale rethinking going on with respect to the business of music, Thom Yorke and Radiohead’s decision to sell In Rainbows via an optional pricing system has kickstarted the debate on how music will be and should be sold. It wasn’t that long ago that the prevalent question involved marketing music in an online world. Although still discussed, labels, publicists and even the musicians themselves have mastered the art of promoting their music, becoming skillful at enlisting support of influential music blogs as well as using Myspace for quick and easy exposure. As everyone charted new territory, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah emerged as the poster children for this new generation of bands, standing tall as a beacon for the riches to be reaped by successfully establishing yourself online.

You would have to be the grinchiest of souls not to want to see the Brooklyn based indie-darlings succeed. Even after becoming critically beloved by nearly everyone with a laptop computer, they’ve remained independent, self-producing their second album, Some Loud Thunder, even though they easily could have secured a record deal to defray the costs and assist in promotion and distribution. (In fairness, Wichita Recordings handles their overseas distribution). This past Tuesday, CYHSY brought their impeccable reputation and their often-elaborately named songs back home to New York City’s Bowery Ballroom.

Except for lead singer Alec Ounsworth’s multi-colored pinstriped pajama pants, CYHSY are quite the unassuming lot. Unquestionably, their most distinctive aspect is Ounsworth. On songs from their self-titled debut like “Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away” and “Heavy Metal,” Ounsworth tossed off the lyrics in a singularly distinct style. In person, his unmistakable voice, which exists in the realm between wailing and braying, isn’t as otherworldly as it sounds on record. His vocals aren’t enough to carry the show though and if you aren’t into it, Ounsworth’s probably going to seriously annoy you, especially while he endlessly chants the dark lord’s name during “Satan Said Dance.” For a band heralded for their innovation, their sound isn’t the freshest. At times CYHSY sounds like The Smiths, others like The Cure, they remember how good U2 sounded in their earlier days and mirror some of the wonderful things dreamed up by the Arcade Fire. They won’t disappoint you but they also won’t leave you thinking you’ve seen something revelatory.

The bottom line: I clapped my hands, I said “eh.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ben Chambers Leaving Tea Leaf Green

In an e-mail sent out to Tea Leaf Green's fan base, bassist Ben Chambers announced he was leaving the band to pursue other interests. "After ten great years on the road as a touring musician, I have come to the realization that this life is not for me," says Chambers in the e-mail. "As a result, I have decided to leave Tea Leaf Green to pursue some of my life's other passions. I wish my brothers in the band only the best."

For the time being, Reed Mathis, best known for his work with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, will be temporarily filling in for Chambers on Tea Leaf's upcoming shows. There seems to be some good karma at work as Josh Clark will be handling guitar duties for Particle in the wake of Ben Combe's departure from the band.

On a personal note, I wish Ben nothing but the best. On the occasions that I've met him, he's always been warm, gracious and extremely funny. I'll miss seeing him when Tea Leaf next comes to New York City (which will be December 29th at the Beacon Theater with Gov't Mule).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Young Man’s Blues: Rose Hill Drive At The Blender

By: David Schultz

Christmas season is on the horizon and Van Halen’s reunion, Led Zeppelin’s one-off (for now) monster concert in London and the recently announced Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood shows at Madison Square Garden have visions of classic rock sugarplums dancing in everyone’s head. Impatient fans of hard-pulsing, Seventies-era rock don’t need to wait for the dinosaurs to lumber into their town, they can look to Colorado based Rose Hill Drive to satisfy their desires. A power trio in every sense of the word “power,” brothers Jake and Daniel Sproul (bass and guitar) and Nathan Barnes (drums) transform the blues in the same manner as Cream and Jim Hendrix during his Band Of Gypsys period, bending them to serve their larger purpose. Virtual youngsters in the pantheon of power trios, Rose Hill Drive returned to New York City this past weekend. On their last trip to the Big Apple, they crowded people in to the cozy quarters of the Mercury Lounge. This past Friday, they moved their scene uptown to the larger Blender Theater at Gramercy.

Even though RHD has only one album under their belt, they are no stranger to big rooms. Early on in their career, they caught the attention of Pete Townshend and an appearance on his and Rachel Fuller’s In The Attic Webcast turned into a plum opening spot on The Who’s last arena tour. Like a fine wine, the airy Blender Theater allowed Rose Hill Drive’s music to breathe. Jake Sproul gives voice to all of Rose Hill’s songs and plays an extraordinarily heavy bass; able to work slow gut-rumbling rhythms as well as nimble monster blues riffs. When he and Barnes lock into a groove, it allows his younger brother Daniel, a budding guitar monster, to let loose with solos that seem well beyond his years.

Half of Friday night’s set list came from their self-titled 2006 release and showed a marked development in RHD’s progress. For “Cool Cody,” “Showdown” and “Raise Your Hands,” they used the recorded version of the song as a framework to branch off into extended instrumental passages. Working off of Barnes’ deeply hypnotic drumbeat, the Sprouls turned “Cross The Line” into a sinuous blues exploration and concluded “Reptilian Blues” with a furious psychedelic blues assault of momentous proportions. On their debut album, the elder Sproul showed a deft songwriting touch, creating sagas involving gurus, shamans and outlaws ripped out of classic Westerns. If the newer songs previewed at the Blender, including “Sneak Out” and “Trans Am,” are any indication, Sproul seems to be turning his writer’s eye towards the joys of youth. Their latest material shows a maturity in the music, if not entirely in the subject matter.

Showing that they are good older brothers, Ben, the youngest Sproul, periodically joined in, unassumingly playing guitar for close to half the show. For the encore, members of opening act Super 400 and brother Ben returned to the stage. The extra musicians allowed Jake put down his bass and go into lead singer mode for an electrically charged cover of “Helter Skelter.”

In assessing what Rose Hill Drive has already accomplished, it’s hard to believe that the Sprouls and Barnes are just in their early 20s (Barnes at 25 is the oldest member of the band). When watching them play, they hardly betray any signs of their youth, either in the music or their demeanor. The comparisons to such classic rock heavyweights are well deserved; they are also unfair. Rose Hill Drive can’t help bringing the fantastic power trios of yesteryear to mind but they do so by playing their own high-octane version of the blues that is distinctly theirs. A new album is in the works and should be ready in 2008 and they will continue their New Year’s Eve tradition by covering Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic at the Boulder Theater. As their old friend Pete Townshend would say, these kids are alright.

The Nightwatchman Sings His Union Song

Tom Morello has always been outspoken about his support for unions and The Nightwatchman acts on his beliefs. This past Friday, Morello entertained close to 3,000 protesters outside of the Fox Studios in Century City, California to show his support for the Writers Guild of America, who have been on strike for just over a week. The strike has shut down the late night talk shows which resulted in the cancellation of Conan O'Brien appearances by Grizzly Bear and a Jackie Greene led performance by Phil Lesh & Friends.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Phenomena Of Menomena

By: David Schultz

For many of a certain age, uttering the phrase “menomena,” especially in a deep and scratchy voice, will not only provoke a smile but a high pitched response of “do doo do do do” as well. For the record, the artsy trio from Portland, Oregon that shares a name with the compulsively addictive song bears no resemblance to Jim Henson’s take on dirty hippies that appeared on Sesame Street and, in an updated and more well known form, on The Muppet Show. There’s nothing dirty or hippie-ish about Menomena’s music. Rather, it has an extremely cerebral quality to it, striking more at the intellect than the gut. This past Saturday night, Menomena brought their intricately crafted brand of indie rock back to New York City for a relatively early evening set at Webster Hall.

Lined up across the stage, Justin Harris (guitar/baritone sax), Brent Knopf (keyboards/bass) and Danny Siem (drums) kept listeners on their toes by consistently, often abruptly, shifting tempos and time signatures with very few of their songs following a traditional pattern. Rather, most Menomena songs are like the brainy kid’s alternate solution to a puzzle that gets the desired result through means that defied detection by more rigorously structured minds. Part of what makes Menomena’s arrangements stand out is that they mix uncomplicated but untraditional beats and riffs together in intriguing combinations; they play very few notes and make each one count. “Muscle’n Flo,” skated by on the stuttering rhythm created by Siem’s simple drum beat and Knopf’s uncomplicated keyboard riff. Harris’ baritone sax, reminiscent of Dana Colley’s contributions to Morphine, gave songs like “The Pelican” and “Air Aid” an unusual quality often leading to the rarely seen, and surprisingly riveting, sax, keys and drums combination.

Not every thing Menomena did was unadulterated genius. There were some pretentious moments as well as an occasional lapse into primal scream therapy as not every experiment results in a light bulb. Their most inspired spot occurred near the end of the night. Supported by an eight piece choir, they turned the instrumental interlude of “Evil Bee” into one of those magical moments that keep you returning to live shows in the hopes it will happen again. A perfect mix of Harris’ sax, Knopf’s airy voice and three note keyboard run and the choir’s vocals, it ended way too soon. To close the show, Knopf joined in with the chorus for a near a capella “So Long, Farewell.” Opting to end a night with show tunes from The Sound Of Music can be a perilous affair. Their gracious approach to the close – Harris and Siem moved to the side stage to place the focus on the choir – gave the show’s coda more of a Beatles “Good Night” feel.

Menomena devoted a healthy portion of the show to Friend And Foe, their recent album. After returning home for the evening, I put it on and was struck at the degree to which Menomena recreated the atmosphere of the album at Webster Hall. Even moreso, it gave me a greater appreciation of what they accomplished with Friend And Foe, which isn’t an easily accessible compilation of songs. Usually seeing a band live for the first time diminishes your love for the album that got you there in the first place. It’s at the crux of the “you have to see them live” rallying cry that has been the salvation and bane of many bands. Menomena definitely doesn’t fall into that category. If anything, their live show will give you a deeper insight into their untraditional approach.

Friday, November 09, 2007

On The Fly: The Willie Waldman Project At The Jazz Standard

By: David Schultz

Nights of improvisational music require a higher level of trust from the audience than your average performance. It’s near impossible to anticipate what you’re going to hear but you can guarantee that it will be unrehearsed since it’s inherent to the concept. For these evenings you put your faith in the musicians and rely on their instincts. In the case of the Willie Waldman Project, you can consider yourselves in good hands. The Hollywood based trumpeter can not only bring the heat in his own right, he can assemble a fine group of musicians around him. For his gig this past Wednesday night at New York City’s Jazz Standard, Waldman compiled an exemplary cast of musicians that included jam scene heavyweights Steve Molitz (Particle, Phil Lesh & Friends) and Vinnie Amico (moe.).

Outside of his jazzy solo work, the California based trumpeter is probably best known for his work with Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins in Banyan, a band that also features Wilco’s Nels Cline and Minutemen bassist Mike Watt. He’s also proved to be a diverse session musician with his trumpet appearing on recordings by Perry Farrell, Rob Wasserman and Tupac Shakur. Oh yes, you may also recognize him from Vonda Shepherd’s band on Ally McBeal.

With Waldman, Molitz, Amico and Gent Treadly bassist Greg Koerner (as well as a guitarist whose name I unfortunately never got) acting as the core band, the Project received assists through both sets from keyboardist Pat Daugherty (New York Electric Piano) and clarinetist Dave Aron (producer/sound engineer for Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg) amongst others. On his off-night from Phil Lesh & Friends’ ten show residency at the Nokia Theater, Molitz turned in his usual bank of electric keyboards and worked primarily with the house’s grand piano, Hammond B3 and a portable electric keyboard. Amico was the anchor of the night. With the exception of one solo, moe.'s exceptional drummer kept everything focused and centered.

For the most part, Waldman and company avoided improvisational pitfalls like directionless jamming or overly cluttered tunes with everyone fighting for space. At the outset, things were tentative as they battled through some improvisational jazz and fusion, alternating solos while everyone worked their own variation on a riff or two. It was interesting but not overly intriguing. Once the feeling out process was complete, the night really started cooking, especially in the second set, when everyone started playing together, freely and loosely. By the second set, everyone was picking their spots, working in unison and creating those moments that make free associative shows so exciting.

Waldman proved to be a charismatic ringleader. As the band picked up steam, so did Waldman’s excitement level. The night’s most inspired bit followed one of Waldman’s references to the East coast/West coast nature of his band. Shortly into the ensuing jam, Molitz threw out the riff to Shakur’s “California Love” causing Waldman’s eyes to light up and the song progressed with an enthusiastic lunacy that had people dancing at the back of the jazz hall. At the very end, the talented trumpeter and Daugherty summed the night up in one funky phrase: “There ain’t no party like a Willie Waldman party!”

Radiohead Responds

Radiohead's management has refuted the reports that more than 60% of the people who downloaded In Rainbows opted against paying anything for the album. “In response to purely speculative figures announced in the press regarding the number of downloads and the price paid for the album, the group’s representatives would like to remind people that, as the album could only be downloaded from the band’s website, it is impossible for outside organisations to have accurate figures on sales.” Radiohead further claims that the figures quoted by comScore are inaccurate and and fail to reflect the true market intelligence of their innovative pricing system.

While such statements are interesting and nice, perhaps Radiohead would like to share their figures on which they base their statements and definitively refute the report.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Poison Control Center Tour Dates

The Poison Control Center are an indie pop outfit from Ames, Iowa creating some buzz of late. If you haven't hear them yet, they are taking their jangly post-punk tunes on the road with dates ranging from Chicago to Atlanta.

Nov 8 Chicago, Illinois-The Note (patrick solo)
Nov 9 Lafayette, Indiana-the Venue
Nov 11 Athens, Ohio-Baker Theater (patrick solo)
Nov 12 Lexington, Kentucky-the DAME
Nov 14 Nashville, Tennessee-the Basement (patrick solo)
Nov 15 Augusta, Georgia-the Soul Bar
Nov 16 Atlanta, Georgia-GA TECH U.. "Under the Couch"
Dec 31 Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you can't catch them live you can download their new single "Make Love A Star" here (mp3) from their record A Collage of Impressions and check out more tunes on their MySpace page.

Cary Brothers New Single and Tour Dates

Cary Brothers is popping up all over the place these days. He's still riding the wave of being anointed by Zach Braff as indie cool (or was that the other way around?) and Cary will reach the masses next week when his song "The Last One" is featured in Grey's Anatomy. I've never seen the show, but they seem to be the "it spot" for song licensing these days.

Speaking of song features, do you remember the tune "If You Were Here" from the movie Sixteen Candles? If you've seen it as many times as I have you should remember it as originally done by the Thompson Twins. Either way, Cary does and has covered the song. It'll be the next single from Who You Are. You can check it out here: Windows media / Real Player / Quicktime.

If you're a live show kind of person, Cary is on tour this fall and into December with Ben Lee (dates here) and is reportedly gearing up for another Hotel Cafe tour in the spring.

The Killers Are Still Music Fans

Most musicians grow up idolizing the generation that came before them and once in awhile they are lucky enough to play along side their influences. Brandon Flowers and the Killers, however, are not going to leave jamming with their idols it chance. Talking about ideas on how to follow up their Sam's Town record, Flowers reportedly stated he'd like to collaborate with Elton John.

Of course, if this came to pass, this wouldn't be the first time the Killers paired up with a legend. Lou Reed recently joined the band to record the tune "Tranquilizer." Reed says he liked the song right away upon hearing it and was pleased the way his voice meshed with Flowers'. The song appears on Sawdust, a compilation of B-sides, rarities and remixes that is set to hit stores in the U.S. on November 13th. Meanwhile, you can check out the video on YouTube.

Amy Winehouse No Show

As I've written before, sometimes having loads of talent isn't enough to be a prime time professional musician and Amy Winehouse seems to be a prime example. Obviously this woman has a big time voice and if she chooses can have a huge career. But, her offstage problems may curb or, if things get really ugly, squash her career in it's infancy.

The latest reported Winehouse debacle has her totally missing a video shoot. The date was set, the location was picked, the crew was in place, everyone was ready and willing to help Amy by working on this video - everyone, except Amy herself. According to NME, Winehouse was a no show on the set for a scheduled video shoot for "Love is a Losing Game." The report says Amy was too hungover to make it.

Again, some of this is Amy being rushed to stardom too fast. And, some of it is just plain selfishness. No matter how much potential is there you can only keep people waiting so many times before they give up on you. Here's hoping Amy turns things around while she still can.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Halfway Home: Phil Lesh & Friends Reside At The Nokia

By: David Schultz

In their glory days, a multiple night run of Grateful Dead shows at Madison Square Garden used to change the landscape of New York City. Deadheads from all over would flock to the City in droves and throw a tie-dyed gloss over the entire area. The days of the Dead may be a thing of the past but the spirit lives on with Phil Lesh & Friends, who are currently in the middle of a ten night residency at Times Square’s Nokia Theater.

Hardly content to rest on his laurels as the Dead’s bassist, Lesh has become a classic rock Godfather of sorts, keeping the Dead’s sizable catalog vital by assembling first rate musicians to serve as his Friends. If fans come for a nostalgic trip with Uncle Phil through “Sugar Magnolia” and “Uncle John’s Band,” they are leaving with a new found awareness of the musicians guiding their way. In bringing Larry Campbell, Jackie Greene, Steve Molitz and John Molo together for this current tour, Lesh has put together a band that is the perfect mix of veteran musicianship and young blood.

The two week long residency has just passed its midway point. As Phil & Friends hit the homestretch of the New York run that will close out their seven week long U.S. tour, some short and possibly scattered thoughts and observations.

Larry Campbell has become a true caretaker of classic rock. In playing with Bob Dylan, Levon Helm as well as Lesh, the smooth-playing guitarist has been entrusted with a sizable share of treasured riffs and leads. He is also just as capable with the violin, pedal steel, mandolin and practically anything else with strings.

“Jackie Greene is just like a young Bob Dylan,” says Maggie Campbell with confidence. Larry’s mother knows her stuff; plus, she once accompanied Dylan to the Grammy Awards, so I’m going to give her opinion quite a bit of weight. Wearing a fedora style hat and playing with his guitar slightly askew, the 26-year-old consistently justified Mrs. Campbell’s belief in his unlimited potential. On Monday night, Greene simply made “Sugaree” his own, offering a staggeringly powerful first set closing version that left people awestruck at the young guitarist’s maturity.

The success of keeping Ryan Adams’ guest appearances a secret arose from the fact that hardly anyone knew he was coming until he arrived at the theater. Since jamming with Lesh on “Wharf Rat” at the 2005 Jammys, Lesh and Adams have formed a bit of mutual admiration society with Adams keeping “Wharf Rat” in his repertoire and Lesh often inserting an Adams song or two into his setlists. His inclusion provided some wonderfully improvised moments as well as a couple confused ones. To Adams’ credit, he ran through “Eyes Of The World” with Greene backstage only minutes before taking the stage and handling the song like he’d known it all his life.

On Friday night, Molitz was an iron man. After nearly four hours on stage at the Nokia, Molitz hustled a few blocks south to meet up with Particle for an after-hours gig at the Highline Ballroom. None the worse for wear, Molitz shifted gears and entered into full bore jamtronica mode and helped guide Josh Clark from Tea Leaf Green through his first full gig with Particle as they played well into the night. Originally believed to be a one-off gig, Particle announced that Clark would be joining them for the majority of their month long winter tour. Particle’s show also featured an appearance from Marty Ylitalo, New Monsoon’s former drummer. Fresh off his first appearance with the Blue Man Group, the newly bald drummer came onstage for a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust” and remained onstage sharing the drums with Darren Pujalet for the lengthy jam that ensued.

One thing that makes Phil & Friends shows so much fun is that Lesh doesn’t limit the set lists to Dead songs. Although Lesh cobbles his set lists primarily from the Grateful Dead catalog, he is quite expansive with them. Friday night included an electric version of “Midnight Rider,” an acoustic run through “Dead Flowers” and with Teresa Williams and Amy Helm providing the proper disembodied vocals, Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse.” On Monday, with Molitz and Greene providing a double keyboard assault, Campbell belted out a fantastic version of The Band’s “Chest Fever,” establishing that someone other than Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson actually knows the words to the song.

For a bunch of thoughts on the first half of the Phil & Friends residency, Phil Lesh’s name seems undermentioned (as is John Molo’s, who deserves more than the casual mention I’ve given him). It’s emblematic of the fact that Lesh has surrounded himself with musicians who are every bit equal to the task of keeping up with one of the forefathers of improvisational rock and roll. Even though his name is above the ampersand, Lesh exhibits not one shred of ego, graciously allowing his star to provide light for his Friends to shine.

Pawnshop Roses Complete Sun Studio Session

The Pawnshop Roses (Earvolution Records) took full advantage of a fun opportunity to record at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis last week on Halloween night. The studio is full of amazing music history, including an "X" marking the spot where Elvis stood to record his first demo. After a tour of the facility, Pawnshop got down to business and longtime Sun head engineer James Lott, a great guitar player in his own right and pictured below with the band, even joined them on a run through of Elvis' "That's Alright." And, yes, we left the tape rolling.

The Pawnshop visit was part of a southern swing that included stops in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The recordings will likely be included on an upcoming EP with a tentative release date of January 31, 2008. Meanwhile, the Pawnshop Roses play this Friday night back home at the Grape Street Pub in Philadelphia with Jealousy Curve, Band of Thieves and No Second Troy. Full details are on Pawnshop's MySpace page.

Turn on, tune in, drop out a thing of the past

Even Timothy Leary came to realize that his infamous catch phrase from the sixties might have been sending the wrong message. Leary later explained that "drop out" was not meant for people to "Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity." Today, some key love generation veterans are putting Leary's clarification into action.

HeadCount, a volunteer-run voter registration organization, is getting major help from the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and this week had a presence at fellow Dead alum Phil Lesh's shows in NYC. The group registered nearly 50,000 voters in 2004 through alliances with Dave Matthews Band and other artists, and intends to register another 200,000 voters by staging voter registration drives at more than 500 concerts over the next year. Beyond the DMB, Weir and Lesh, the Allman Brothers Band, members of Phish and newer artists like O.A.R. are aligned with the movement.

“If we don’t protect democracy today, there won’t be a democracy to protect in a few years,” said former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, a member of HeadCount’s board of directors. “I think for the younger folks this is particularly important, because the decisions we make will largely affect the rest of their lives.”

Marc Brownstein, bass player for The Disco Biscuits, serves as HeadCount’s co-chair. “This was something we started as a dream, just a crazy idea that we believed we could pull off,” said Brownstein. “Now it’s almost four years later, and we are in it for the long-term. We hope HeadCount leaves a permanent imprint on the live music community, forever getting fans more engaged in the political system and democracy itself.” Timothy would be proud.

As Tall As Lions New Tune and Tour Dates

As Tall As Lions were a buzz band heading into this year's SXSW and they smartly are looking to keep the conversation going by releasing new music and debuting it on one of the most estblished "new media" sites. The band is releasing a new digital EP recorded with Mike Watts later this month and the title track "Into the Flood" is a featured mp3 over on Stereogum. In addition to the new music, As Tall As Lions announced some new tour dates, including shows with Silverchair and The Receiving End of Sirens.

December Tour Dates:

12/7/2007 Newport Music Hall Columbus, OH w/Silverchair
12/8/2007 House Of Blues Cleveland, OH w/Silverchair
12/11/2007 Music Mill Indianapolis, IN w/Silverchair
12/13/2007 Toad's Place New Haven, CT w/The Receiving End of Sirens
12/14/2007 The Living Room Providence, RI w/The Receiving End of Sirens
12/15/2007 The Station Portland, ME w/The Receiving End of Sirens
12/16/2007 School of Rock Hackensack, NJ w/The Receiving End of Sirens
12/18/2007 The Loft Poughkeepsie, NY w/The Receiving End of Sirens

Cowyboy Junkies Mark Trinity Session 20th Anniversary

The Cowboy Junkies produced one of my all time favorite records in The Trinity Session. Margo Timmins' hauntingly brilliant vocal is simply amazing and the record still holds up two decades later. Interestingly, Junkies bassist Alan Anton confirmed to Earvolution that this multiplatinum masterpiece was recorded on less than most of today's big label "artists" spend on a single day's catering budget.

While the Junkies need absolutely no help in creating their signature sound, the did enlist some friends to record Trinity Revisited, a DVD/CD collection filmed in high definition with 5.1 surround sound, to be released on February 26, 2008 on Latent/Zoë. Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt, Natalie Merchant, and "fifth Junkie" Jeff Bird, all sit in for tunes on the new session.

Trinity Revisited is already out in the UK and The Sunday Times wrote, “It's still magic, and the guest stars bring enough variety to make Trinity Revisited complement, rather than just replicate, the original,” and The Sun lauded it as “… celebrating the original without attempting to re-create it…a perfect older, perhaps wiser companion.”

Jenny Owen Youngs New Video

Jenny (not Owens Young!) Owen Youngs is, in my view, the "breakout" artist of the year. Granted she gained some prominence in 2006 when her "Fuck Was I" (from her 2005 record Batten the Hatches) landed a prime spot on Showtime's Weeds. But, her joining forces with Nettwerk (one of the best labels going) and gaining a fan in "gossip gangsta" Perez Hilton, have catapulted her to deserved indie darling status.

Now the witty "love" song that asks the question that we have all asked ourselves "What the fuck was I thinking?" now has a video - unfortunately the key lyric is edited out, but you still get the gist of this brilliant tune.

Check out an uncensored live version here and if you haven't seen it yet, the clip for her equally brilliant cover of Nelly's "Hot in Herre".

Jenny is also on the road right now so catch her if you can:

11.8 Boulder, CO @ The Rock N Soul Cafe
11.9 Denver, CO @ The Walnut Room
11.10 Salt Lake City, UT @ Celsius Lounge
11.12 Seattle, WA @ HIgh Dive
11.13 POrtland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
11.15 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
11.16 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Crepe Place
11.17 Los Angeles, CA @ Bordello

Don Henley Forshadows Hell Freezing Over...Again

When the Eagles first broke up way back in 1980, Don Henley famously stated that the Eagles would never reunite unless or until hell freezes over. Of course, the Eagles did reunite and giving a nod to Henley's failed prediction called both a tour and a record Hell Freezes Over.

Apparently not learning from the past, or as a way to signal the future, Henley has reportedly stated that the Eagles will never do another studio record. Having recently released Long Road Out Of Eden, Henley is quoted as saying "This is the final statement. We got back together and went around the world twice on tour but then there was nothing left to do without new music. Now we have this album that fits in with our body of work. There won't be another Eagles album after this."

Somewhere someone is no doubt preparing cover art for Hell Freezes Over II.

Shocker! Radiohead Fans Like Free Music

According to Internet research group ComScore, more than 60% of the people who downloaded In Rainbows under Radiohead's potentially revolutionary pay-what-you-want pricing system opted to pay nothing. The study states that of the estimated 1.2 million people that visited the site to download the album, only 38% opted to pay anything, the majority paid no more than $4 and 4% paid more than $12.

The fact that music listeners want to be able to obtain music for free shouldn't surprise anyone. What the study fails to indicate is the number of people that listened to Radiohead's new album solely because it didn't cost them anything to do so. If the RIAA and other like minded institutions use this study to show that people are cheapskates and that this pricing scheme is fatally flawed, they may be missing the forest for the trees. If exposure to this "free" music inspires the downloader to attend a Radiohead concert, buy OK Computer or Kid A or heaven forbid, become a Radiohead fan that purchases future recordings for the rest of the band's life, these "freeloaders" would be helping perpetuate the continued existence of the music industry, not sucking it dry.

Lily Allen Shuns Fame

British tabloids feed on pop star peer bashing, which for some reason seems to be quite common in the London music scene - even among established artists. And, of course, U.S. pop stars use the tabloids to boost their fame here and abroad. But, Lily Allen is having none of it. In fact, the "songstress" is quoted as saying she's not about being famous at all.

On seeing Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham plastered all over magazine covers, Allen reportedly said: "I think 'You're not promoting anything, you don't need the money, so all it's about it being famous.' "And I can never imagine my life being about being famous. I make music, that's what I am here for. I would never go out and court publicity. I am in such a good place, it wouldn't occur to me."

Nope, wouldn't occcur to Lily to bash another pop star just to get her name back in the press for something other than being homesick or skipping shows. Her restraint from participating in such nonsense is inspiring.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Keeping Vital Links Alive: Railroad Earth At The Fillmore

By: David Schultz

Thomas Edison, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi (arguably) notwithstanding, New Jersey is a State that typically does better with things created elsewhere. The football teams that play there originated in New York and still bear the Empire State’s name and the New Jersey Devils won their three Stanley Cups after coming east from Colorado. Even though they formed in a State not known for any distinctive style of music, New Jersey’s Railroad Earth has so immersed themselves in Americana, bluegrass and folk style music, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they hailed from Kentucky or Tennessee. A pillar of the “newgrass” movement, Railroad Earth returned to The Fillmore at Irving Plaza this past Saturday night, combining with Old School Freight Train for an evening of country tinged, upscale folk rock.

Mainly due to efforts of John Skehan (mandolin), Johnny Grubb (standup bass), Andy Goessling (banjo, lap steel and more) and Corey Harmon (drums), it’s not immediately evident that everyone in Railroad Earth plays an acoustic instrument. However, their instrumental choices surely don’t hinder them while they touch upon timeless musical themes. For stretches of the show, all that was missing from making it the most happening barn dance in town was a liberal sprinkling of sawdust on the floor. Tim Carbone, the shaggiest violin player you may ever come across, skillfully pulled the crowd in many directions. When the spotlight shines on guitarist and lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer, Carbone provides a poignant, sometimes melancholic, counterpoint. At other times, he brings the crowd to its boiling point, giving a hoedown atmosphere to instrumental raves like “Old Dangerfield” and “Ragtime Annie Lee.”

On “Head,” a song Sheaffer brought with him from his prior band, From Good Homes, Railroad Earth blends their various influences and creates a mood that might be best described as psychedelic country. From Carbone’s locomotive opening fiddle riff through his duel with Skehan on mandolin, it’s the one song that perfectly captures the wide range of Railroad Earth’s possibilities. In bringing out Neal Casal of Ryan Adams’ Cardinals, they incorporated an electric guitar into their mix, offering a rowdy rendition of “Dandelion Wine” and a soulful reading of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”

It might be easy to pigeonhole Railroad Earth as a country band; it would also be highly misleading. They are as much a country band as the Grateful Dead, The Band or any other group that draws inspiration from homegrown Americana styles. Railroad Earth’s folk and bluegrass drenched music are part of a larger tradition, which has survived by being passed down to each successive generation. The Fillmore’s audience this past Saturday night contained a healthy dose of college age kids who reveled in musical styles that cynics would say they have no interest in. In other words, Railroad Earth are making sure that the circle remains unbroken.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Trick Or Treat: The Black Crowes Scare Up A Crowd For Halloween

By: David Schultz

For Halloween, New York City was blessed with a bounty of options that offered something for everyone: for spectacle, The Police played Madison Square Garden; for musicianship, Zappa Plays Zappa was at the Beacon Theater; for nostalgia, Phil Lesh & Friends began their two week residency at the Nokia Theater and for hipness, Ryan Adams graced the Hammerstein Ballroom. Those who wanted a little bit of everything got their wish too: The Black Crowes at the United Palace. A weird thing happened though on the way to All Hallows Eve nirvana, the Crowes put on a better show the night before.

Since reforming, the Crowes have made their Halloween shows anticipated affairs. In 2005, they played Beach Boys songs while dressed in tropical wear and one year later donned schoolboy outfits for a set as BC/DC. Rumors that this year would feature a Ramones block never came to fruition and save for a couple flying gargoyle type creatures floating over the stage, some creatively carved pumpkins and a couple garishly dressed backup singers, it was your typical Black Crowes show.

Guitarist Paul Stacey and drummer Steve Gorman bring serious chops to the table but the Robinson brothers are still the main attraction of the Black Crowes. Having broken his ankle, Rich hobbled to the stage on crutches and remained seated in a swivel chair for the entirety of both shows. The inability to stand may have restricted his mobility but it surely didn’t hamper his skills. In contrast to his younger brother, Chris Robinson was in a near constant state of motion, waving his arms, shaking his hips and doing his oddly rhythmic hippie dance. A master at wringing every bit of emotion out of a song, especially those involving wounded egos and embittered souls, Robinson often preaches the songs to the audience with near religious fervor. His style does have its rare drawbacks. On Tuesday night, he oversang the opening verses of “Seeing Things” which ultimately deprived the song of its slow and powerful build.

On the opening night, sound was a small problem. From the floor seats under the balcony, which nicely trapped the mingled smells of concert smokables and incense, Robinson’s normally crisp vocals were muddied and buried in the sound mix. Originally, I thought this was simply due to the acoustics of the theater but on the next night, whatever issues there were had been solved and Robinson’s vocals were much clearer. The view from the seats also provided some small humor. Seated behind a small stack of keyboards draped with an Peace symbol adorned American flag, Adam MacDougall looked a bit like Rowlf the Muppet as only his head and shoulders could be seen bouncing up and down while he played the bottom keys, tossing his hair to and fro during an encore rendition of Marvin Gaye/The Band’s “Don’t Do It.”

Tuesday night’s show, the better overall effort of the two, was a jam heavy affair. With Chris Robinson playing harmonica, the Crowes inserted a Rolling Stones “Midnight Rambler” style jam into the middle of “Thorn In My Pride” and took a bluesy segueway into “Catfish Blues” during a lengthy “My Morning Song.” As they had stretched out other songs, their closing rendition of “Hard To Handle,” which can normally run as long as ten minutes was as perfunctory as the original. Much like Aretha Franklin coopted “Respect” from Otis Redding, the Crowes have done the same with “Hard To Handle.”

On Halloween, they were more prone to freaky folk rock like “Ain’t No Cane On The Brazos” and “Polly,” which, disappointingly, had them playing at a slower and without their characteristic bluesy steam. Given the true power that the Crowes can unleash, their kick-ass version of “Another Roadside Tragedy” and smoldering reading of “Sister Luck” were oases in the valley that was the earlier portion of the show. In finishing the set with “Soul Singing,” “Wiser Time” and “Thorn In My Pride,” they recreated their performances from the night before right down to the Gorman drum solo that led to the Stones-drenched jam . For their encore, they gave the crowd the classic rock cover they yearned for, although their run through “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” wrapped up just when it started to gather steam.

If the Crowes didn’t come up with a super-creative way to celebrate Halloween, they did offer the treat that is Patti Smith. New Yorkers have grown used to seeing Rich Robinson and Patti Smith on the same stage. Just after the New Year, the rebel poet made a guest appearance with Luther Dickinson and the Crowes guitarist when Circle Sound played the Bowery Ballroom and Robinson returned the favor when Smith headlined the Beacon Theater last month in a show honoring her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith. Patti Smith may not be the only one willing to ruffle Church feathers these days; she is likely the only one with the guts to enter a church (the United Palace also serves as Rev Ike’s Christ United Church) and belt out the line “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” For the second night, she omitted the line and only briefly touched on the song at the end of her set.

On Wednesday night, Smith joined the Crowes midway through “Nonfiction.” On paper, this must have looked promising. In practice, it was disjointed and extremely disappointing. Smith’s outré ramblings didn’t mesh well at all with the sludgy space being put forth by Robinson, Stacey and bassist Sven Pipien. Perhaps sensing that it wasn’t working, Smith kept waving Robinson to return to the mike, finding it necessary to go dance with him so that she could awkwardly lead him back to the mike by his hand.

Multiple Black Crowes shows are always best looked at in their entirety. Diehards will probably find fault with the identical closing third of both shows as well as with the Crowes’ failure to don any sort of musical costume, even if those expectations were unfairly raised amongst themselves. However, those same fans would also likely rejoice that the Crowes included lesser-known gems like “Feathers” and “Darling Of The Underground Press” in the setlists. Much like the Halloweens we all remember from when we were younger, no matter how nice the house, you still don’t know what treat you’re going to get when you knock on the door. For many, it’s that thrill of the unknown that keeps them coming back to the Crowes.

Perpetual Groove Mixes It Up At The Blender

By: David Schultz

Below the Mason-Dixon Line, Perpetual Groove has carved out a nice little fiefdom for themselves in the jamband scene. Pulling together bits of traditional roots rock, tribal beats and rhythms and a full patina of electronica squeaks and squonks, the Georgia based jamband has attracted a wide range of followers, especially amongst the colleges. Having already solidified their reputation down South, the band affectionately known to their fans as PGroove, are now looking to make the leap from regional sensation to national attraction. The means and methods to take that step have become much more artist friendly: downloadable zip files of entire concerts have rendered the era of tape-trading obsolete. Even so, it’s a slow journey and as AC/DC eloquently put it, “it’s a long way to the top.”

This past weekend, PGroove returned to New York City, making a return engagement at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. With its high ceilings and roomy environs, The Blender made a grand venue for Perpetual Groove, even if they aren’t packing the room to capacity. As ably captured on their latest release, LIVELOVEDIE, the band has a large expansive sound that seems to demand room to breathe. Albert Suttle’s drums and Adam Perry’s bass boldly resound and Brock Butler’s guitar and Matt McDonald’s keyboards likewise flourish.

The Saturday night show joined the many pre-Halloween parties going on throughout Manhattan but attracted surprisingly few people in costume. To open the show, PGroove tipped their hat to their upcoming celebration by resurrecting their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and later threw in some spooky turns to their encore run of “Three Weeks.” A mid set of Peter Gabriel’s “Diggin’ In The Dirt” may have seemed like yet another Halloween styled cover but its been in their repertoire for quite some time. All seemed right when PGroove put forth their bold, expansive touches on rock and roll, when they played around with spacey, techno flourishes, things seemed out of kilter.

My first exposure to Perpetual Groove was earlier this year when they played a two night run at the Knitting Factory. One thing that struck me back then was how Butler successfully wove a rap interlude into “Macumba,” a playful song about penguins. At the Blender, Butler once again stepped to center stage to reprise the gimmick, making the questionable call of doing so while wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Although he added some different rhymes, Butler did the same shtick as at the Knit, rehashing SNL’s “Lazy Sunday” and led the crowd through a chant of “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit.’” What seemed an inspired novelty on first blush lost some of its charm on second exposure.

Even though they played for nearly two hours, the night seemed abbreviated. Just when it seemed that PGroove was hitting their stride during “Mr. Transistor,” the set ended. What most hoped was a set break, turned out to be the short wait for the encore. Once the house lights came on, many baffled fans who are used to three sometimes four hour Perpetual Groove marathons left the theater with a ton of excess energy to burn.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Broken Finger Sidelines Led Zeppelin Reunion

When you've waited more than a quarter century to see a full-blown Led Zeppelin reunion concert, what's another couple weeks. That will have to be everybody's mindset after the postponement of the November 26th show at London's O2 Arena to December 10th. Over the weekend, Jimmy Page broke a finger rendering him unable to properly rehearse for the gig. "I am disappointed that we are forced to postpone the concert by two weeks," said the legendary guitarist. "However, Led Zeppelin have always set very high standards for ourselves, and we feel that this postponement will enable my injury to properly heal, and permit us to perform at the level that both the band and our fans have always been accustomed to."

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!