Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jimi Hendrix Sex Tape

Jimi Hendrix allegedly joined Marilyn Monroe with posthumous sex tape releases this month. But, is all the hype surrounding the Hendrix sex tape focused on a genuine article? Two infamous ladies, who are not in the tape, claim to have first hand (pun intended) knowledge of Jimi's anatomy to verify that the genuine article is indeed what is shown in the grainy footage of a threesome.

But, of course, there's always two sides to a story. Unfortunately, Jimi's not around to verify things so the world is left to rely on others who've been up close and personal with the guitar hero. Hendrix biographer Charles Cross reportedly has seen some of the tape and says one thing he noticed is that none of the rings seen there look like any he'd seen Jimi wearing in various photos he's studied over the years. Beyond that, someone a little more closer to Hendrix, Kathy Etchingham - a girlfriend of Jimi's in the 1960s - says its not him in the film citing differences in the nose and hairline. And, she may be familiar with a few more characteristics that she didn't comment on.

Needless to say the folks behind the film are pushing hard to say it is Jimi Hendrix frolicking with the two girls on the sex tape. I guess we may never know for sure.

Roger Waters Loses His Pig; Please Help

"Look Mummy, up in the sky . . ."

Life imitated art this past weekend as Roger Waters lost his inflatable pig. The plus-sized porcine broke free from its tethers during Waters' set at the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival in Indio, Califonia and drifted away. Memorably, Homer Simpson once set the floating beast adrift during Homerpalooza much to the dismay of Peter Frampton, who had picked it up at Pink Floyd's garage sale.

Coachella's organizers are offering a $10,000 rewards and four festival tickets for life. If you happen to find a large pink inflatable pig in your front yard, contact

Coldplay To Play Bicoastal Free Shows; Gives Away First Single

Coldplay are making "Violet Hill," the first single from their upcoming album, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, available for free.

While they aren't going Radiohead on us and giving the whole album away for free, they are doing their part. On their Web site, Chris Martin and company announced that they would play two free shows: June 16 at the Brixton Academy in London and June 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Details about acquiring tickets will be made available soon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Green Day: Tea Leaf Green Get Down To Earth At The HighLine

By: David Schultz
Photos by Jeremy Gordon

Since its inception three years ago, the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival has grown from an ambitious local weekend-long New York City counterpart to the Jammy Awards into an equally ambitious nationwide endeavor raising environmental awareness in conjunction with Earth Day. For this years Festival, Green Apple organized and produced “America’s largest Earth Day celebration” which consisted of open admission shows in eight different cities, including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, New York City’s Central Park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

As the Green Apple Festival has grown in stature, so have the bands that have helped GAM&AF attain its well-deserved reputation for presenting bands whose relevance matches the importance of its activist message. In its inaugural year, San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green played CBGB, bringing their easy-going rock and roll into the storied punk club. For the 2008 Green Apple Festival, Tea Leaf Green returned to New York City, only this time packing people into the HighLine Ballroom for a wonderful two-night run.

In many ways Tea Leaf Green is a band that keeps its fans young. They have tapped into the same fount discovered and perfected by the Grateful Dead and their shows, which differ from night to night, contain a palpable energy, bristling with a tangible excitement uncommon to the typical concert experience. Their fan base seems to reflect the timeless aura, it transcends age demographics and brings together a wide spectrum of fans who all revel in their communal love of the band and their music. Trevor Garrod, Josh Clark, Scott Rager and Reed Mathis are sitting at the epicenter of a perfect storm that should catapult them onwards and upwards. While true that there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert; there is also nothing like a Tea Leaf Green concert.

With bassist Reed Mathis on tour with the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf has brought ALO’s Steve Adams into the fold for their Spring tour. If Adams had any nerves about stepping into the breach, they hardly showed. For the two HighLine shows, Adams comfortably prowled and bounded about the stage, meshing with Rager as if they had played together for years. Clark enjoyed goading Adams on, giving him a beaming grin whenever Adams found the right bass lick and busting into a funky little dance in response to an Adams solo during “Zoom Zoom.” If the HighLine nights were your first TLG shows, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking Adams had been with the band much longer than four shows.

It’s hard to quibble with anyone branding Tea Leaf with the jamband label unless you are going to assume that the term includes lengthy noodling. Tea Leaf does not mess around with endless soloing and directionless jamming. A song oriented band, Tea Leaf explores the possibilities of their songs in a live setting. Over the HighLine weekend, they inserted a wonderful psychedelic interlude into Garrod’s folksy “Taught To Be Proud” and brought the house down with a tightly wrought reading of “Carter Hotel,” a song that could someday be Tea Leaf Green’s breakout crossover hit.

On the opening night, Tea Leaf interacted marvelously with fellow San Franciscans Hot Buttered Rum. Garrod emerged near the end of HBR’s opening set to sit in on a simmering version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Retuning the favor, violinist Aaron Redner gave a down-home feel to a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia” to close the first set and during the second set, simply transcended the middle portion of “Criminal Intent,” turning Clark’s hard-charging rocker into a sultry, backwoods charmer. For night two, which coincided with Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to New York City, Garrod’s references to Jesus in “I’ve Got A Truck,” which came with an assist from Moonalice’s Barry Sless and Pete Sears, and Clark’s pronouncement during “Wet Spot” about finding God and buying him a drink had a slightly thematic tinge to them.

Not a band that gears its show towards excessive soloing, the second night’s encore featured some impressive (and rare) individual efforts. Clark opened the extra set on his own, offering a resounding reminder that he is one of the most gifted axemen currently practicing the craft before guiding the band into "Hot Dog." Towards the close of “Morning Sun,” Garrod, Clark and Adams slipped into the dark recesses of the stage giving Rager the opportunity to showcase the skills that make Tea Leaf such an intriguing band. A common thread running through Garrod’s melodic tunes and Clark’s straight-up rockers is Rager’s uncanny ability to find the right measures; it’s a trick he performs with the skill of the finest jazz drummers and he does it so well, it’s sometimes easy to overlook.

About a year ago, Tea Leaf’s set lists felt in stasis, as if they were pausing so that everyone could catch up. In the past few months, such criticism would be unfair. At the HighLine, Tea Leaf included beloved tunes like “If It Wasn’t For The Money” and “Kali-Yuga” but also included newer songs like “Let Us Go” and “Red Ribbons.” You sense that Tea Leaf is sitting on a geyser of creativity and it is taking all their effort not to drown their fans in what they have at their fingertips. It makes for a fun time to be a Tea Leaf Green fan. If you’re not on board yet, drink the tea now before it becomes too hot to handle.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sarah Borges and Jon McKiel Bring Different Styles to Sun Studio Sessions

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles have a very different musical style than singer songwriter Jon McKiel. Borges and her band deliver a bouncy Americana country-rock, while McKiel is an introspective troubadour ala Ray Lamontagne and Ryan Adams. Both recently brought their musical styles to Memphis to perform for the Sun Studio Sessions.

Both recorded several songs that will be released over the next several weeks. The first offering from Borges is the foot-tapping "Daniel Lee", while McKiel delivers the brooding "Never Forget."

Dust Free: Reid Genauer Goes It Alone At Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

On a typical night, Reid Genauer shares the stage with such a fine array of musicians that it’s easy to lose sight of his special gifts as a singer and songwriter. Over his lengthy, estimable career, Genauer has played an integral role in the growth and development of Strangefolk and Assembly Of Dust. This month, Genauer has picked up his guitar and hit the road on his own for a short spate of acoustic shows, embarking on his first true solo tour. In taking the stage by his lonesome, Genauer has been playing select shows along the East Coast, providing a rare treat for his fans. For the New York gig, Genauer opted against playing one of the cozy, intimate venues that teem throughout Manhattan in favor of the club-like environs of Sullivan Hall.

In dusting off much of his material, Genauer cut directly to heart of each song. Stripping the Assembly Of Dust material of its musical flourishes, Genauer let his voice and lyrics carry the show. After appealing to the movie geeks in the audience by welcoming everyone to the Dexter Lake Club, Genauer joked that anyone looking to rock tonight may have come to the wrong place, that all you were going find here was someone baring their soul. He was slightly disingenuous with both statements: thankfully, Genauer didn’t get all Ani DiFranco on the crowd and with some solid guitar playing, he did manage to rock the house quite a bit.

Playing before his hometown crowd, Genauer seemed to relish the environment, commenting that with “6 wedges (monitors) and 4 whiskeys” at his disposal, he might be the happiest he’s ever been. At the outset, the decision to play an acoustic show in a hall more suited to louder styles seemed to be a mistake as the chatter of the crowd threatened to overwhelm the music coming from the stage. The hallmark of any good singer-songwriter, Genauer nimbly fought the nattering masses and for more than an hour and a half, needing nothing more than his guitar, his voice and a handful of finely crafted songs to attract their attention. As he played, Genauer slowly quieted the extremely chatty Sullivan Hall crowd; he never completely silenced the audience, though he did get the majority more interested in him than their own conversations.

Genauer debuted some new material, of note, the pleasant “The Second Song” which he appropriately played as the second song of his set. For the most part though, Genauer offered solo renditions of songs from his Assembly Of Dust catalog with the best moments coming when he bore full throttle into AOD’s most soulful and energetic tunes. In trotting out “Harrower,” “Telling Sue” and, by request, “Speculator,” Genauer relied on his remarkably strong voice to provide the power normally delivered by fellow Dusters Nate Wilson, John Leccesse, Adam Terrell and Andy Herrick. They played better with the Sullivan Hall crowd than softer, more reflective songs like “40 Reasons” and “45 Degrees” which yearned for more respectful ears.

In the acoustic setting, the wonderful narratives of Genauer’s literate lyrics were more pronounced. A gifted wordsmith, Genauer writes wonderful tales full of dust-bowl imagery and insightful observations. He also proved himself an amiable host, chatting with the audience between songs. He confessed that on his recent string of solo shows, he’s learned why singer/songwriters talk so much: they simply get tired and need a break. More talkative than at an Assembly of Dust show, Genauer didn’t treat the night as his own version of Storytellers, keeping the night focused on the music. As the night came to a close, he eased into a faultless version of “Songs We Sing” that provoked the same joyous reaction from the crowd as it does at any Assembly of Dust show.

With his glasses and slightly doughy physique, Genauer does not look like your prototypical frontman. Appearances can be misleading that way. Displaying a powerful voice, full of the empathy he carries for the subject matter of his songs, he never wavered or dropped his intensity over the course of the night. In displaying a subtle and self-assured charisma, Genauer revealed himself to be an incredibly engaging solo performer as well as one the more unlikely people to get a crowd gleefully dancing to just one man playing an acoustic guitar.

Negro Baby

With classic rock radio losing its foothold on the terrestrial radio airwaves, reggaeton stations have been thriving. In New York City, Mega 97.9 has remained firmly entrenched near the top of the Arbitron ratings by broadcasting nonstop Latin dance beats and the genre's popularity has been growing exponentially. If you’re a regular reader of Earvolution, you might have guessed that we’re not spending our evenings in the Spanish dance halls. That doesn’t mean that we can’t detect a good beat when we hear it or recognize an up-and-coming talent. In that vein, check out New York City's own Negro Baby. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, Negro Baby’s fine sense of rhythm and expertly-crafted beats will get you moving. If you’re new to the genre, Negro Baby is a good place to start.

Check out "Una Noche Mas," "Padre Celestial" and more here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amy LaVere: Bass Slappin' Sweetheart

Amy LaVere is the latest artist to perform on the Sun Studio Sessions web video series. It's easy to see why Amy is garnering critical acclaim at home and abroad. Just this fall, Amy was nominated as best emerging artist by the Americana Music Association and this summer she'll take her great live show on the road. In addition to Bonnaroo, LaVere and her bandmates, Paul Taylor and Steve Selvidge, will open shows for both Langhorne Slim and the North Mississippi Allstars before hitting the UK later this summer.

Beyond sharing the stage, the connection to the Dickinson family runs deep. Taylor drummed for Cody and Luther before they formed the Allstars and their father, the legendary Jim Dickinson (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), produced her latest release Anchors & Anvils. But, LaVere is not moving ahead soley because of who she knows. She's a compelling performer will appeal to a range of music lovers, including "Norah Jones fans and anyone who loved Robert Plant's and Alison Krauss's Raising Sand." (Daily Mail, UK). Comparisons are nice, but check out Amy's work below as it speaks for itself.

Chinese Democracy Won't Be A TV Show (Either)

The legend of Chinese Democracy refuses to die. The fabled Guns N' Roses album has perpetually been in the about-to-be-released stage for so long, its joined the Roswell alien, the Loch Ness monster and Thomas Pynchon as things that need to be seen to be believed. Not only will Chinese Democracy not be appearing in your local record store anytime soon, it also won't be the centerpiece of a reality show.

Rumors ran rampant last week that Axl Rose was negotiating with U.S. television distributors over a reality show documenting the recording and release of Chinese Democracy. The band has nixed the rumors in a terse statement. "Despite rumours floating around the Internet, Guns N’ Roses will not be appearing on any reality TV program to promote their forthcoming album, Chinese Democracy or for any other reason."

The statement ends with a proclamation that we've all grown tired of hearing. "We’re in negotiations for the release of Chinese Democracy and things are going well." As my grandmother was fond of saying when I kept saying silly things, "All right, E-nough."

The Allman Brothers Band Cancel 2008 Beacon Residency

One of the New York City's most exciting and enduring annual traditions will take a (hopefully) one year hiatus. After moving their annual March residency at the Beacon Theater to May in the hopes that Gregg Allman would be physically capable of performing throughout the entire run, The Allman Brothers Band announced that they would have to cancel the 2008 residency.

If you purchased tickets online with a credit card, Ticketmaster will automatically refund the money to your account. If you went old-school and purchased ducats at a Ticketmaster outlet or at the Beacon, you must return to the point of purchase to get your refund.

Optimists can take note that we are being told to look for information pertaining to the 2009 residency at the start of the New Year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

David Ford "Go To Hell"

David Ford is injecting some life and excitement into the singer songwriter ranks. Unlike the quiet introspective types that often inhabit the space, Ford proves you don't have to whisper to say something important. On tour now with the lovely Sara Barielles and soon linking up with Augustana, Ford is definitely an act worth catching live.

In an earlier leg of his tour, Ford stopped into Sun Studio to perform several songs as part of the Sun Studio Sessions. Below is a clip for "Go To Hell." Check it out for a glimpse of why this should be a great big year for David Ford and his music career.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lightin’ It Up: Backyard Tire Fire At Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

One of the more versatile bands around, Backyard Tire Fire has the ability to turn out sets focused exclusively on gritty traditional blues, homespun country or flat-out classic rock. Whatever mood may strike them, they can follow that muse. It doesn’t hurt that the band’s lead singer and guitarist Ed Anderson is turning into a prodigious and prolific songwriter. His brother, bassist Matt Anderson and drummer Tim Kramp may be having trouble keeping up with the sheer abundance of quality songs springing from his fertile mind.

Last week, Backyard Tire Fire returned to New York City to put on a scorching set before The Beautiful Girls took the stage at Sullivan Hall. Normally a trio, the Tire Fire have recently brought in guitarist Scott Tipping to round out their live sound. An eminently talented axeman, Tipping not only does pushes Ed Anderson to up his game, he makes it possible to keep the band’s signature guitar in the mix when Anderson moves to the keyboards.

BTF kept their one hour set focused on their upcoming album, The Places We Lived. In contrast to his brother who was nattily dressed, Matt Anderson opted for a simpler dress, proudly donning a Sun Studio shirt. In line with the band’s recent Session at the legendary studio, the new songs have a distinctly blues rock feel to them and they let a small hint of country slip in when it suits the song’s purpose. At the close of the set, they offered a stellar version of “Downtime,” one of Vagabonds and Hooligans’ best tracks.

The Tire Fire will be making their way around the Midwest with the Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy over the next couple months. Their road show is definitely worth the price of admission alone. Ed Anderson is truly an emerging songwriter whose immense talent won’t remain hidden for long. Catch them now before Backyard Tire Fire becomes absolutely white hot.

Earvolution's CD Reviews: The Catch-Up Edition

By: David Schultz

Just because Earvolution hasn't gotten around to writing about some of this year's notable releases doesn't mean we haven't been listening.

The Black Crowes: Warpaint
A fine comeback for the Robinson brothers, nonetheless Warpaint fails to recapture the genius of the Crowes’ early days. Longtime fans won't be disappointed and would be hard-pressed to dispute the contention that the addition of Luther Dickinson is one of the best things to have happened to the Crowes in years. “Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution,” “Wounded Bird” and “Oh Josephine” have that inimical Crowes swagger but the magic isn’t sustained for the entire album. Even though it’s better than 2 ½ stars, Maxim could have justified its rating had they actually listened to the album beforehand.

Lenny Kravitz: It Is Time For A Love Revolution
Lenny’s “love revolution” seems to involve celibacy. Given how women get a little weak in the knees over Mr. Kravitz, this is slightly offensive to those of us who don’t have the benefit of his je ne se quois. Getting beyond the concept, Love Revolution is a return to the heartfelt hippie-rock that marked the best moments of Kravitz’ prior efforts. He unleashes his moody side on “I Love The Rain,” channels his inner guitar God on “Love, Love, Love” and “Bring It On” and “If You Want It” and “I Want To Go Home” are Kravitz at his inimitable best. This album, his first in four years, is his best effort in quite some time.

Donna Jean & The Tricksters: Donna Jean & The Tricksters
Even though she’s in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead, it’s easy to forget that Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay a member of the seminal jamband for most of the Seventies. After listening to Donna Jean & The Tricksters recent self-titled effort, any fading memories will quickly come flooding back. Deadheads who whine and moan about music going downhill since Jerry Garcia passed away will be rushing to take their bongs off the shelf after hearing Donna Jean & The Tricksters latest. “Travelin’ Light” could be a kissin’ cousin of “Tennessee Jed” and “Me And Kettle Joe” is an old-school, Dead-Style thirteen minute jam.

Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
The Truckers’ latest, the second of their post-Jason Isbell incarnation, is a prolific creative outburst that could have benefited from some prudent editing. Missing a unifying theme, the 19 tracks crackle with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s acutely poignant insights even if the impact is diluted by the sheer volume. In tilling familiar thematic soil, Creation’s Dark is their most contemplative album to date. Even if the album fails to produce a defining anthem, “That Man I Shot” and “The Righteous Path” come close.

Big Head Todd & The Monsters: All The Love You Need
Long before Radio became the poster boys for the concept, Big Head Todd & The Monsters have been exploring the implications of giving away new music through the Internet. All The Love You Need, BHT’s first full-length, fully-free release, puts together definitive versions of many of the tracks they have floated out amongst their fans. It marks a fine return to form for Todd Park Mohr, whose brand of laid-back, Colorado-crunchy rock and roll, percolating with bluesy guitar riffs, never grows old. “Silvery Moon,” “Blue Sky” and “Fortune Teller” are open-air anthems in need of a festival and the horns Mohr breaks out on “Her Own Kinda Woman” are simply sublime.

Atlas Sound: Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Deerhunter’s Bradford James Cox offers an interesting change of pace on this solo effort, a collection of sparse, haunting tracks that offers more mood than riffs. The album unfolds at a leisurely, nearly psychedelic pace, drawing an assured strength from the slowly unfolding melodies. In line with Grizzly Bear’s calmly lilting style, Let The Blind Lead is an engaging effort that warrants repeated listens.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Little Tae Rides Again
The one constant about Brian Haas, Reed Mathis and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is their unflinching nerve and desire to do something different which each new album. For Little Tae, the JFJO logged in considerable studio time (at least by their standards) and the ambient rock and cerebral rhythms that resulted feel like they’ve been handled with care. With new drummer Josh Raymer manning the kit for the majority of the album, Jacob Fred experiments with an eclectic electric sound that may run counter to many people’s expectations of the band.

The Dodos: Visiter
More immediately accessible than Animal Collective, The Dodos’ Visiter is one of the more off-kilter releases in recent memory. The duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber aren’t lazy about their songcraft and the album floats deliberately on hypnotically seductive guitar riffs and intricate drum beats. A cerebral collection, The Dodos ethereal spin on the minimalist formula of guitars and drums bears a serious listen.

The Whigs: Mission Control
The Whigs’ full-length debut is a raucous affair, full of in-your-face songs that waste little time getting to the point. Julian Doro’s precisely crisp drumming starts everything off right and “Right Hand On My Heart” pulses with energy thanks to a wonderful Parker Gispert guitar riff. In a perfect world, this would be the song that helps them crossover into the mainstream. Sounding like a younger, less patient version of Social Distortion, this Athens, Georgia based trio have produced one of 2008’s most exciting debut releases.

The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
Nothing like a little truth in labeling. Stephen Merritt ratchets up the fuzz on The Magnetic Fields’ eighth album, drenching lullabies like “To Drunk To Dream” in feedback or washing anti-California sentiment like “California Girls” in enough reverb to make it sound somewhat comforting. A modern day album with a completely throwback feel.

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
A re-release of the Wisconsin native’s much talked about debut, Jagjaguwar is making sure Bon Iver’s endearing For Emma, Forever Ago gets a proper audience. A soundtrack for the snowy, winter evening lurking within one’s soul, Justin Vernon doesn’t need anything more than his ethereal voice and an acoustic guitar to draw you in. The album evolves like a dream, “Flume,” “Skinny Love” and “For Emma” floating along peacefully on Iver’s calming melodies. It’s no mistake that NPR had Iver on the bill of their much vaunted SXSW showcase that had people lining up fruitlessly outside of The Parish.

Initial Lineup Announced For 2008 Jammy Awards

Jammy nominees Sharon Jones and Page McConnell are among the initial list of performers that will be playing at the Theater at Madison Square Garden as part of the 7th Jammy Awards. The May 7th event, which will be co-hosted by Warren Haynes and Grace Potter, will also include appearances from Rose Hill Drive, Tea Leaf Green, Galactic, Joe Russo, (Big Head) Todd Park Mohr, Los Lonely Boys, Booker T. Jones, Kyle Hollingsworth (String Cheese Incident), John Gutwillig and Marc Brownstein (Disco Biscuits), Glenn Tillbrook (Squeeze), Jake Cinninger (Umphrey's McGee), Steve Adams (ALO), The Fab Faux, Matisyahu, Christian McBride, James Carter and the HeadCount All-Stars.

Ostensibly an awards show, the main attraction of the Jammys has always been the intriguing pairings of musicians that wouldn't typically appear together under normal circumstances. Past Jammy Awards have seen collaborations between String Cheese Incident and Perry Farrell, the Disco Biscuits and Slick Rick, Robert Randolph and The Blind Boys From Alabama as well as moe. and Blue Oyster Cult. You can also count on a standout set arising from the Lifetime Achievement Award with memorable efforts being turned in by Steve Winwood, Buddy Guy, Bob Weir and Ratdog and Zappa Plays Zappa. This year the Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Phish.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Black Crowes Tour Dates

The Black Crowes announced show and ticket sale dates for their "Euphoria or Bust Tour" that will see them sweep across North America all summer an into the fall. Although the tour, in support of their new record Warpaint, officially kicks off June 28th in New Hampshire, the band is also playing what should be a monster show with the Dave Matthews Band on June 27th in Hershey Pennsylvania. Among the more interesting dates will be a three night stand at the fairly intimate Philadelphi Fillmore a/ka/ The Theater of the Living Arts on South Street. Tickets go on sale on May 2nd and the venue should sell out very quickly. If you can get there do so as it will be a great place to see them play.

Pawnshop Roses at Roots Ramble Festival

The Pawnshop Roses play the Roots Ramble Festival this weekend in Media, Pennsylvania. The Ramble is a multi-venue, multi-stage event with music starting around 6pm and lasting until 2am. The Pawnshop Roses play the Stephen's on State Street stage starting at 9pm. Other artists on the Ramble include Zydeco-a-Go-Go, the Lowlands and Sleepy LaBeef. The full schedule is here.

The Pawnshop Roses will also see their new EP Versions hit all major online retailers later this month. The EP includes tracks featuring members of Robert Randolph's Family Band and a few songs recorded live at Sun Studio in Memphis. Two of the tracks are streaming now on their MySpace page.

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy on Sun Studio Sessions

Amber Rubarth and Adam Levy are the latest artists to appear in the new web video show, the "Sun Studio Sessions" filmed in the historic studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Amber, backed by Adam and Alex Wong, performs "Another Perfect Sunset", while Adam does "In the Morning."

The pair have different styles, but are both great songwriters and play a lot of shows together. They are touring Europe now, with shows in France, the UK and Belgium. Adam and Amber recorded several songs each at Sun and those videos will be released over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

All In Order: The Helio Sequence At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

At this year’s South By Southwest Festival, the proliferation of drums and guitar combos was one of the event’s more noticeable trends. Everywhere you turned, there were duos offering different interpretations of what can be done with only two instruments. I only got a small sampling of The Helio Sequence down in Austin but that brief taste whetted the appetite for more. Guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel opt against distorted guitars and fuzzy blues riffs. Rather, they seem like they’re cut from the mold of the moody, well-pressed, nicely-coiffed bands from the Eighties.

Along with Band Of Horses, The Helio Sequence are helping redefine the music of the Pacific Northwest. Gone are the days of flannel and self-pity and in are T-shirts and . . . well, there’s still a bit of pathos in the air. Beaverton, Oregon’s hottest sensation came to the other coast this past week, headlining one of New York City’s signature venues, the Bowery Ballroom.

On stage, The Helios are a bit looser and more in-your-face than their latest album Keep Your Eyes Ahead would lead you to believe. Lurching back and forth on his stool, Weikel puts all his momentum into every drum stroke. As they incorporate some backing music, Weikel makes you double check whether every beat is actually coming from him. (As far as I could tell: yes, Oh my, yes). Summers bounds gracefully around the stage and on songs like “The Captive Mind” and “Can’t Say No,” he’s as enthralling as any other indie-rock frontman. Purists may not be too happy with their use of backing loops but they can’t grumble too loudly. Their subtle use of the taped music mainly provides atmosphere; it’s hardly noticeable amidst Summers slick guitar riffs and Weikel’s monstrous bashing of the drums.

Their encore was a truly wondrous affair. With Weikel taking a seat in the shadows behind his drum kit, Summers played a marvelously gorgeous rendition of “Broken Afternoon.” After an hour’s worth of smoothly textured modern rock, Summers’ calm, literate echoed Bob Dylan at his warmest and least cryptic. To follow it up, Wiekel tore into one of classic rock’s most recognizable psychedelic drumbeats and he and Summers, who retrieved his electric guitar, closed the night with a spectacular and mesmerizing version of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Using the minimalist structure of two instruments, Summers and Weikel ran the gamut of their catalog moving from smooth Eighties era melodies that ache for a John Hughes movie through some near bluesy tunes with Summers playing a mean harmonica. In watching any guitar and drums combo, it’s near impossible to keep The White Stripes from creeping into your mind; Meg and Jack being the two most well-known practitioners of the craft. At least for now. Once the world catches up with The Helio Sequence (as well as with another little duo out of Akron, Ohio), people’s conceptions will start to change.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

They Are Not Alone: U-Melt At Sullivan Hall

By: David Schultz

For Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Steven Spielberg envisioned music as the most basic form of communication. Since musical tones affect the brain and touch the soul at its most primitive and sensorial cores, the director credibly imagined that two different species could establish the most elementary contact by replaying five notes to each other over a state-of-the-art sound system. While Spielberg may have overestimated the power of music as an information delivery system, he did correctly assess that, regardless of spoken language, music enters the brain and pleases the psyche at its deepest emotional level. U-Melt may not have found the key to communicating through the power of song during their weekend run of shows at New York City’s Sullivan Hall but for those who were willing, Rob Salzer, Zac Lasher, Adam Bendy and George Miller spoke to the part of their existential soul that responds to live music performed at its highest level of perfection.

With the baseball season just around the corner, U-Melt got in the spirit of the season and played two for their hometown fans at the recently renovated Sullivan Hall. It’s the next phase of the band’s evolution; already masters of the late-night, after-hours marathon, U-Melt’s catalog now has the breadth and depth to allow them to play a weekend’s slate of show with Friday night’s gig taking on a completely different character from Saturday night’s.

The shows may have been completely different but they shared some thematically similarities. U-Melt used their first sets to introduce new songs as well as test themselves with a couple covers. On Friday they debuted “Twilight’s Song,” a slightly reggae tinged number and on the next night gave the first live rendering of the groove-heavy “Pura Vida.” In addition to covering the Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime,” they flexed their musical muscles by breaking out Frank Zappa’s “Cosmik Debris” and “Apostrophe.” U-Melt does more than just cover Zappa, they give his music the attention to detail that makes it so special. They don’t gloss over or simplify the complex changing time signatures and Miller simply channels the uniquely zany guitarist through his vocals.

A thinking man’s (and woman's) jamband, U-Melt turned their last set of the two nights into a musical palindrome, nesting songs inside of each other like a musical Matryoshka doll. Opening with Lasher’s “Clear Light,” they were only halfway through the tune before segueing into “Panacea.” They repeated the trick by moving through the first halves of “Schizophrenia,” “Late July’s Lament” and “Green Paper Society” before knocking off a complete run through “Kind Insight.” The band then hit reverse and finished off all the songs. For anyone who was able to follow along, the highbrow concept provided rich rewards. Of course, they worked the concept on multiple levels as the entire show was bookended by “A Robbin’s Tale, Parts 1 and 2.”

U-Melt seamlessly wove their sets together, pausing momentarily between songs when they bothered to stop at all. The band has grown into an extraordinarily tight unit and it’s allowed them to build on their own estimable individual skills. Salzer’s guitar solos are so tied in to each song that it sometimes takes a while before you realize that he’s tearing through one. Usually good for a couple funky bars whenever U-Melt plays “Air,” Bendy’s bass solos were a bit more prevalent and seeing and hearing him assert himself on stage is an extremely welcome addition to the band.

For their Saturday night encore, U-Melt shifted gears and opened their extra set with “Perfect World.” The leisurely paced tune, which concludes with a marvelous Salzer solo, has an understated strength and is a noticeably change of pace from the group’s high octane, prog-rock jams. “Perfect World” might very well be the song that attracts the casual fan to introduce themselves to the tightknit U-Melt community; it has all the makings of a crossover hit. For anyone so inclined to treat themselves to a fabulous evening of music, U-Melt will be heading out on an East coast tour before linking up with the summer festival circuit. If they are coming anywhere near you, just GO!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Keep On Truckin': Drive-By Truckers At Terminal 5

By: David Schultz

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Drive-By Truckers were a little known but widely revered band that was making a name for themselves by reviving Southern rock, perpetuating the Lynyrd Skynyrd mythos and making no bones about their reverence for their home state of Alabama. Southern Rock Opera made them stars and after bringing Jason Isbell into the fold, their next two albums proved it wasn’t a fluke. The bloom is off the rose though and after the disappointing A Blessing And A Curse, the Truckers are trying to recapture their magic by returning to the honest, whiskey-soaked anthems that marked their early days.

Bringing along their customary Costco-sized bottles of Jack Daniels, Drive-By Truckers returned to New York City last week to play Terminal 5, one of the City’s newer venues. The last time DBT came to Manhattan, they sat on stools at the Bowery Ballroom for an acoustic show; this time around, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Shonna Tucker, John Neff, Brad Morgan and guest legend Spooner Oldham plugged in and stayed on their feet (well not Morgan and Oldham). Cooley and Hood combine to present a true dichotomy of the South. Over the night, the two traded the leads back and forth, literally and thematically. In his higher toned, almost pleading voice, Hood speaks from the heart of the South, giving voice to the deepest desires, fears and concerns of the region’s oft-forgotten rural denizens. In contrast, Cooley speaks in the authoritative tones of the Deep South, steeped in its rituals and traditions. Hood sings with an eye towards what should be; Cooley tells it like it is.

The Truckers are in the second year of their post-Isbell period. Isbell was with the band for only two albums, but those albums, Decoration Day and The Dirty South, are among the band’s best. John Neff has stepped into Isbell’s shoes, handling the third guitarist role with ample skill although without a lot of Isbell’s charisma. While Hood and Cooley confidently prowled the stage, Neff reservedly played off to stage right in front of Oldham’s keyboard setup.

Hood has evolved into a masterful story teller. In introducing “18 Wheels Of Love,” Hood told a moving tale involving the subjects of the song, his mother and stepfather. With Tucker and Morgan playing the basic beat of the song, Hood delivered the lengthy story of his stepfather’s battle with cancer, drawing the crowd into his world in much the same way as Bruce Springsteen used to do. Hood’s story ended on an emotionally uplifting note and it gave extra relish to the already boozy tune.

To close the show, Parker Gispert from The Whigs borrowed Hood’s guitar and joined in on a thrashy version of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” putting a Southern spin on a decidedly New York punk rocker. The Whigs, another band hailing from below the Mason-Dixon Line, opened the show with a high-powered, half-hour set featuring some of the best tracks from Mission Control. The Whigs have been making the most of their recent opportunities: at SXSW, they opened for My Morning Jacket at an NPR simulcasted showcase at the Austin Music Hall and over the past couple weeks have been raising eyebrows while the open for the Truckers. Gispert and bassist Tim Deaux have a knack for knowing the right moment to burst away from the mikes and Julian Dorio’s drumming is crisp and precise. In the post-Nirvana 90s, The Whigs would have a powerful force and “Right Hand On My Heart” would have been all over MTV.

DBY geared the show around Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. Thankfully, they didn’t play the entire album; the Trucker’s latest would definitely have benefited from some shrewd editing as the sheer volume of the 19 song output dilutes the album’s overall impact. The new songs take an added depth in the live setting, even Tucker’s laconic “I’m Sorry Houston.” Cooley and Hood’s guitars become much more vivid and whiskey fueled. They also benefit from placement next to other Truckers material like “Where The Devil Don’t Stay” and their smoldering rendition of “Puttin' People On The Moon.”

In seeing the Truckers at Terminal 5, they felt like a band that was rediscovering themselves, trying to recall what made them great without rehashing old material and becoming stale. Some of those attempts misfired, their nearly unrecognizably cover of Tom Petty’s “Rebels” being a fine example. Most of them though, seemed to get Hood and Cooley digging deep and unleashing their inner rock star. It was during these moments that you realized that like the South, Drive-By Truckers will rise again.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!