Monday, March 30, 2009

Mark Sultan: "Hold On" b/w "I Hear A New World"

Montreal Rock N' Roll revivalist Mark Sultan (The Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos, BBQ, King Khan and BBQ Show, etc) churned out this 7 inch for Sub Pop at the end of last year. On this "double A-side, two very different sides of Sultan appear, one that is wholly expected and one that is clearly aiming for a different sound or possibly new direction in his always-evolving career.

"Hold On" leans heavily on some of the cleaner sounds that appeared on his solo album The Sultanic Verses. Sultan has been peddling his brand of garage rock for over ten years. Fans of his work will settle into this "A-Side" with little or no effort. This hip swaying tale of woe would be perfect for an early 60s matinee idol, but ultimately, it's handled much better in Sultan's experienced hands. Veering away from that safe place, Sultan literally takes Joe Meek's "I Hear A New World" in a different direction. Given the airy, mood inducing music, he incorporates elements of dream pop more often associated with Angelo Badalamenti and more recently The Raveonettes. The original features three distinct repeating vocals: lead, backing,and chipmunk repetition as well as canned 50s sci-fi space ship sounds. Instead, Sultan opts for a warbly underwater vocal and at the end of the song is a welcome burst of guitar feedback. Creatively, this might not rate as genre bending but the changes are subtle enough to make this a little more Mark Sultan than Joe Meek.


Since this appears to be a one-off single for Sub Pop it would be safe to assume that "Hold On" gives them what they want. Taking a page from his own play book, Sultan then gives them what they might need. "I Hear a New World" experiment clearly begs the question, "Why not more music in this style?" Safe to say, Sultan could pull it off.

Jack White Unveils Dead Weather

Seeing as it's been almost a year since Jack White started another project from scratch, the White Stripes frontman has formed Dead Weather, whose debut album, Horehound, will be released in June. If The Raconteurs moved White away from the spotlight, Dead Weather transports him to the back of it as it appears he is the band's drummer. The Kills' Alison Mossheart fronts Dead Weather and Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence and guitarist Dean Fertita fill out the band.

Whetting appetites until June, the first single "Hang You From The Heavens" backed with a cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" is already available.

You can check out the video (they still exist) for "Hang You From The Heavens" here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Server Issues

If any of you tried to access Earvolution over the past few days, you may have noticed that you had no success. While it fun and rebellious to claim that The Man has been keeping us down or that the Web Sheriff kindly asked us to close out our entire operation (while thanking us for our support), we've simply had some server issues.

However, if you are reading this now, we've had them fixed. Thanks for your patience. We will return tomorrow morning - just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Different Key: Dan Auerbach At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

As one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach provides the lowdown, reverb laden guitar riffs that have long been the stock in trade of the duo hailing from the industrial paradise known as Akron, Ohio. An apparent workaholic, Auerbach released his debut solo album, Keep It Hid, right on the heels of an overwhelmingly successful tour in support of The Black Keys’ well-regarded Attack & Release. Returning to New York City about two weeks after selling out a pair of shows with Keys-mate Patrick Carney at the cavernous Terminal 5, Auerbach attracted another full house to see him play his solo material at the Bowery Ballroom.

Backed by the Austin-based Hacienda and My Morning Jacket’s Patrick Hallahan, Auerbach played beneath a set of Christmas bulbs and additional stage lighting that were superfluous in the intimate environs of the Bowery Ballroom. Rather than add to the ambience, the lights provided an unnecessary distraction and often a blinding glare. No matter though, Auerbach romped through the majority of his recently released solo album Keep It Hid, his penchant for distortion and reverb making up for any lighting oddities.

Opening with the baleful, empathetic harmonies of “Trouble Weighs A Ton,” Auerbach brought a naked emotion and a touch of pathos not typically found in his Keys’ performance. For the most part, Auerbach’s solo set didn’t deviate too greatly from The Black Keys’ brand of heavy blues. However, with a backing band, Auerbach doesn’t have to do everything (save drumming) by himself. With a full band, the raggedly hirsute guitarist can slide into the traditional role of the blues frontman and work within the context of the surrounding band.

On “When The Night Comes” and “Goin’ Home,” Auerbach delves into the doleful acoustic style of the blues, generating earnest pleas from the depths of soul. It’s a fine contrast to the menacing stomp of songs like “The Prowl” and “I Want Some More” and reveals Auerbach as more than a one trick pony. When Auerbach follows wherever his reverb-heavy guitar takes him, good things usually happen. Even if he didn’t turn the reverb on ultra for “Heartbroken In Disrepair,” the superlative song resounded mightily.

If anything, Auerbach may have worn down the packed Ballroom before stepping on stage. Hacienda, who pulled double duty that night, finished their set of Austin-based indie-rock at about a quarter after ten. In making the crowd wait more than an hour, especially on a Tuesday night, Auerbach had the added onus of reviving a weary crowd, which for the most part he succeeded in doing. In this effort, he received a mighty assist from Hallahan who was a true pleasure to behold. Enjoying his role as percussionist, the linebacker sized drummer danced in rhythm with Auerbach’s heavy stomp, never falling out of step while he added tambourine flourishes, bongo embellishments or simply wailed away on a heavy suspended triangle. If My Morning Jacket’s drummer was having this much fun, you can only imagine how much the rest of us were entertained.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Better Than Prancer: Blitzen Trapper In NYC

By: David Schultz

Guitarist Marty Marquis appreciates the dilemma posed by trying to describe Blitzen Trapper’s music. After covering the Rev. Gary Davis’ “Cocaine Blues” midway through the band’s set at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, Marquis related a story about crossing over the Canadian border, admitting to being stumped when an inquisitive agent asked them what kind of music they played. At a loss for words to describe their sound, Marquis eventually summed up Blitzen Trapper by telling her that they played a Dolly Parton cover. Others have shared Marquis’ difficulty in pigeonholing his band; another wooly sensation from the Pacific Northwest brought to you by the savvy folks at Sub Pop records, Blitzen Trapper twists up folk and country music, infusing the twangy sounds birthed by The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers with an invigoratingly wild-eyed classic rock approach and then sifting it through a psychedelic sieve.

Filling the Bowery Ballroom stage with a barrage of guitars and keyboards, as many as three of each going at a time, the somewhat scruffy Blitzen Trapper plays with the same ingenuity and variety as the most eclectic jamband. Lead singer Eric Early’s voice, a throwback to the hillbilly days affectionately chided by the Coen Brothers in O Brother, Where Art Thou, provides a decidedly down-home quality to the band. His comforting drawl, which occasionally drifts into the calmer ranges of the tempest-in-a-teapot style of Jack White, forms a genteel center for Blitzen Trapper’s countrified mayhem.

Over the course of their ninety minute set at the sold-out Bowery Ballroom, Blitzen Trapper played practically every track of their 2008 gem Furr and touched on the highlights of its predecessor, Wild Mountain Nation. While Early and Marquis act as the de facto frontmen, Eric Menteer (guitar), Drew Laughery (keys), Brian Adrian Koch (drums) and Michael Van Pelt (bass) take care of the heavy lifting, whether it be straightforward, country-based rock and roll or the bends of their occasional prog-rock tinged suites. For the encore, Koch moved down from the drums and joined Marquis at one of the microphones. Along with Early, the three stayed true to the tale of the border guard and offered a sedate rendition of “The Last Thing On My Mind,” although they did concede that it’s really a Tom Paxton song.

Plants & Animals, a trio of Canadians with no amusing anecdotes about crossing into North America, preceded Blitzen Trapper with a set featuring material from their somewhat underappreciated 2008 release, Parc Avenue. Listening to the textured and nuanced material on Parc Avenue, its quite revelatory to see Warren Spicer (guitars), Nicolas Basque (bass) and “The Woodman” Matthew Woodley (drums) generate the moody atmosphere of “Faerie Queen” and the bouncy rhapsody of “Mercy” on stage.

Blitzen Trapper will remain on the road for the rest of the spring, sharing quite a few dates with their label mates the Fleet Foxes. In the midst of the tour, they’ll make their way down to Austin for SXSW where they’ve secured a coveted slot at the NPR Day Party at The Parish, which last year featured Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, A.A. Bondy and Yeasayer.

Surviving Beatles To Play Radio City On April 4

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will appear together at the April 4th "Change Begins Within" benefit at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. The two surviving Beatles are expected to play together for the first time since a 2002 memorial concert for George Harrison. The benefit will raise awareness for transcendental meditation and raise funds to support organizer David Lynch's foundation that provides scholarships to students, parents and teachers around the world to learn to meditate. In addition to the two Beatles, Eddie Vedder, Donovan, Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper and Moby will appear.

The same night as real Beatles will be performing in New York City, a farewell party for Fab Faux and Conan O'Brien guitarist Jimmy Vivino will taking place at the Bowery Ballroom. At Vivino's birthday celebration in January of 2008, Ramble mates Levon Helm, Larry Campbell and Little Sammy David made appearances as did Warren Haynes, Al Kooper, Hubert Sumlin, Paul Shaffer, Willie Nile, Rick Nielsen and David Johansen. If that's who shows up to celebrate his birthday, you can only imagine who will show up to say good bye as the guitarist goes to LA with the Conan O'Brien crew.

Phish Returns: Night 3

From the looks of things, it sounds like all Phish phans can look forward to a fine summer.

Set 1

Sanity, Wilson, Foam, Bathtub Gin, Undermind, AC/DC Bag, My Friend My Friend, Scent Of A Mule, All Of These Dreams, Maze, She Thinks I Still Care, Army Of One, Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Frankenstein

Set 2

Down With Disease, Seven Below, Horse, Silent In The Morning, Twist, 2001, Moma Dance, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Slave To The Traffic Light

Encore

Contact, Bug, Tweezer (reprise)

Should you have the time to spare, take a gander over at the Phish boards on Phantasytour.com. It's a rare fan base that can celebrate their band's reunion by getting into a pissing match with each other over who is the better fan and who knows more based on their 100 shows over 15 years.

By my count, Phish can tally up 3 successful shows and one conquered Live Nation.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Phish Returns: Night 2

The Saturday night set list:

Set 1

Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian And Robert, Split Open And Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You In The Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, It's Ice, Halley's Comet, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Guelah Papyrus, Lawn Boy, Run Like An Antelope

Set 2

Rock And Roll, Limb By Limb, Ghost, Piper, Birds Of A Feather, Wolfman's Brother, Prince Caspian, Mike's Song, I Am Hydrogen, Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero

Encore

A Day In The Life

For a nice review of Saturday night's show, check out Mike Greenhaus over at jambands.com.

Want to listen to it for yourself? Head over to LivePhish, where, for a limited time, they are making each night's show available for free as mp3 downloads.

Neil Young Supports Warner Music; New Album April 7

Warner Music Group has found an unlikely ally in their battle with YouTube over the division of royalties that has seen the Internet site remove the audio from nearly all videos involving the label. In a blog post, the always outspoken Young points out that Warner was one of the first labels to support YouTube and that the original contract they signed is now outdated and the other royalty deals, entered into much later, are more lucrative for the other labels. As Young was once sued by his own label (Geffen) for not sounding enough like himself, it's odd to see him giving aid and comfort to the enemy . . . er major label.

Young's new album, Fork In The Road, inspired by his involvement with the Linc Volt electric car project, will be released on April 7. Young previewed many of the songs from the new album on his latest tour; set next to his older material, the songs about the environment and fuel efficient travel paled considerably.

Spinal Tap To Unwig And Unplug On 30 City Tour

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, the geniuses behind Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind's The Folksmen, will embark on a 30 city tour entitled "Unwigged and Unplugged." Beginning in mid-April at the Center for the Performing Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia, the three comedians will leave the costumes at home and play acoustic versions of their cinematic triumphs throughout the United States. Even if they plan to leave the costumes at home, there's no way these three can be on stage together and not be funny.

On May 26 (and possibly the 27th, the tour will bring them to the newly refurbished Beacon Theater just a few blocks north of Town Hall, the location for much of A Mighty Wind.

Michael Jackson Says "This Is It"

For the first time in nearly a decade, there's news about Michael Jackson that doesn't concern his dire financial straits, his reportedly failing health or his relationship with a young boy. This past Thursday, the deposed King of Pop appeared at London's O2 Arena to announce a ten night run of shows at the same venue that hosted the Led Zeppelin reunion a little more than a year ago. To borrow a phrase from Kenny Loggins, Jackson has dubbed the shows as "This Is It," and demonstrated that he has retained his gift for marketing by saying the phrase repeatedly during the press conference.

The shows begin on July 8th and, as the name suggests, will reportedly be Jackson's final shows in London. Although Jackson still has his fans in the States, given the fact that he fled the country in disgrace after his acquittal on child molestation charges, its unlikely that Jackson will perform a similar run of shows in America. In fact, Rolling Stone reports that London bookmakers are taking bets on whether Jackson even performs at all.

Next to Madonna, there was no bigger superstar in the 80s then Michael Jackson and an announcement that he will bring "Billie Jean," "Beat It" and "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" to the stage once more should be huge news. Sadly, Jackson's bizarre personal life, questionable decisions with plastic surgery and seemingly delusional beliefs as to his place in the world have rendered this recent announcement just another curio in a sad, sad saga.

Dylan To Release "Surprise" Album In April

If the reports are to be believed, Bob Dylan will release this 33rd studio album at the end of April. Seeing as how David Fricke has heard the album, describing it as containing "raw-country love songs, sly wordplay and the wounded state of the nation," it's probably safe to assume the rumors are true. Everyone seems to be describing the new album as a surprise. However, it discounts the distinct possibility that Dylan may have been telling people about this for a long time but no one understood what he was saying.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Phish Returns

On Friday night, Phish returned. Playing the first of three shows at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, the long awaited reunion, by all reports, lived up to the mightily high expectations. Opening with "Fluffhead," Phish played a three and a half hour show, including a nearly two hour opening set.

For those of you not in Hampton, Phish is making mp3 downloads of each show available for free (for a limited time only).

For a pair of fine reviews from Hampton, check out Hidden Track and jambands.com.

Set 1

Fluffhead, The Divided Sky, Chalk Dust Torture, Sample In a Jar, Stash, I Didn't Know, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, Suzy Greenberg, Farmhouse, NICU, Horn, Rift, Train Song, Water In The Sky, The Squirming Coil, David Bowie

Set 2

Backwards Down The Number Line, Tweezer, Taste, Possum, Theme From The Bottom, First Tube, Harry Hood, Waste, You Enjoy Myself,

Encore

Grind, Bouncing Around The Room, Loving Cup

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Keep On Truckin’: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Right around the turn of the century (sounds ominous, doesn’t it), Jason Isbell had it made. Along with his then-wife Shonna Tucker, the Alabama-bred guitarist joined up with the Drive-By Truckers while the bloom was still on the rose of their well-received opus Southern Rock Opera. Over the course of three albums – Decoration Day, The Dirty South and A Blessing And A Curse – Isbell served as the superego between Mike Cooley’s id and Patterson Hood’s ego as the three kept alive the Southern rock tradition of the triple headed guitar monster. Much like a character from one of his own songs, when things seemed at their most stable, they had to change. In 2007, Isbell amicably parted with the group, leaving behind not only a fine body of work as well as an ex-wife.

Coming through New York City with his spring tour in its infancy, the cerebral Southerner returned to New York City for a Thursday night gig at the Bowery Ballroom. Fronting the 400 Unit, Isbell is clearly the focal point, no longer having the spotlight split into thirds, but while you can take Isbell out of the Truckers, you can’t take the Truckers out of Isbell . . . and no matter how you look at it, this is a good thing.

On the self-titled Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, the recently released follow up to Isbell’s 2007 solo debut, the sterling Sirens Of The Ditch, Isbell leads the 400 Unit through the literate character studies and Southern-based liturgies that are the Truckers’ stock in trade. At the Bowery Ballroom, Isbell embraced his older songs, including “Danko/Manuel,” “Never Gonna Change,” “The Outfit” and a cover of Hood’s “The Assassin,” pairing them wonderfully with his newer material. Isbell is a talented songwriter and the 400 Unit – guitarist Browan Lollar, bassist Jimbo Hart, drummer Chad Gamble and keyboardist Derry DeBorja – wisely and patiently restrained themselves before launching into the meaty portion of each song, never overwhelming Isbell’s vocals. The 400 Unit flex their muscle quite admirably but it’s their finesse that proves memorable; Lollar provides an able guitar foil for Isbell and DeBorja’s organ fills nicely accentuate the thoughtful vibe of many of the songs.

At the close of an eighty minute set, Isbell announced a short set break, which, late on a Thursday night proved an odd decision and served to thin the herd. Returning shortly after midnight, Isbell launched into a powerful version of The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” which led into an extended run through “Brand New Kind Of Actress,” one of Isbell’s finest efforts. To close the night, Isbell brought a trio of horns back to the stage for a take on Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” that owed more to Warren Haynes’ vision of the song than that of the irascible Irishman.

Isbell & The 400 Unit will be spending the next two months touring the United States.

Phish Reunion @ Hampton Central

This is not it.

However, the fine folk over at Hidden Track have been waiting for this weekend since Phish played Coventry in 2004. They have every angle of this covered, down to traffic patterns and the weather. If you're looking for relevant information and knowledgeable opinions with respect to this weekend's show, check out Hidden Track by clicking here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The 2009 Music Industry: Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

It's grown commonplace to wax philosophic about the everchanging landscape in the music industry and try to gauge the effects of the downturn of the economy, the disinclination of music fans to pay for the music they enjoy so dearly and how this will affect Kanye West. Most likely, February of 2009 will be remembered for the clusterfucks surrounding the sale of tickets to the Phish reunion shows and Bruce Springsteen's summer tour. Live Nation's inability to handle the influx of traffic to their site angered hundreds of thousands and Ticketmaster's complicity in referring ticket buyers to their online don't-call-it-scalping site attracted the attention of the New Jersey Attorney General.

The whole Live Nation debacle was almost immediately followed by the announcement that the former Clear Channel entity will merge with Ticketmaster into a gigantic potential anti-trust violation. Pearl Jam fans will be quick to point out that this isn't the first time Congress has been asked to look into the monopoly issue with Ticketmaster and this time they seem to be taking the matter a bit more seriously than in the mid-Nineties. It's going to take many months before the merger and its debatable whether it will benefit, harm or have no effect on the ticket buying public. With disposable income becoming a scarce commodity, this is an issue that will surely garner a lot of attention.

Getting less attention is the first Eminem lawsuit in years that doesn't involve his wife. Slim Shady's dispute with his label, Universal Music Group, over the royalties owed from digital sales, most significantly iTunes. If the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger has peaked the interest of music fans, the Eminem/Universal suit has musician's held rapt. The issue that will go the jury concerns whether the record label's deals with online services constitute a distribution agreement or a licensing agreement. If the agreement is considered a distribution deal, as the Universal contends, nothing changes; if considered a licensing deal, Eminem is entitled to substantial additional royalties, potentially a 50/50 split. If Eminem wins, we may be looking at a whole new world.

The Eminem case looms larger in light of the fact that record stores seem to be closing on a daily basis. On the heels of Virgin's closing of their megastore in Times Square, they have announced that they will be locking the doors of their Union Square store in New York City as well as their superstore in San Francisco. Unless you are looking for the new U2 or Springsteen album, the digital marketplace may soon be your only source for acquiring your music.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!