Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Andre Williams: That's All I Need

By: Rinjo Njori

In a nutshell, Andre Williams is a veteran of the Detroit rock scene of the 50s and 60s. He rubbed elbows with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Ike Turner. After those "halcyon days" ended he conquered his mortal addictions and found faith. In the last fifteen years Andre Williams has breathed new life into his music career. Churning out garage rock and country in equal spurts. Luckily on That's All I Need he keeps it basic and firms up Andre Williams' "legend."

"Tricks" by far is the best storytelling on the album, each verse a lesson in Darwin's Survival of the Fittest, but clearly the street version instead of scientific mumbo jumbo. Like most of the other songs on the album the music is minimal, but on this song a lone guitar solo breaks the song in half. Then devolves into a repetitive cycle as the song fades away. "Cigarettes and My Old Lady" relies on a similar technique musically except using a repetitive acoustic riff and tambourine. Williams acknowledges that both cigarettes and his wife take a little bit out of him each day. Similarly "There Ain't No Such Thing as Good Dope" serves as a cautionary tale. Dope ruins those larger than life and those that barely register on the social radar. "America" musically is the most fleshed out and the most defensive. There are moments when Williams is reminiscent of Tom Petty with a funk back bone. What is great about this album is that the music for once doesn't overwhelm Williams. Instead the music is backing up a great storyteller.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Rinjo Cloudcast

The Lily Sparks Interview

By: Deirdre Bones

Reprinted with the kind permission of 20sUP.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about Lily Sparks new EP Cooper Cobra. After their EP release, and in anticipation of their upcoming tour of the UK and Ireland, band members Niamh and Nikki 7 were good enough to sit down and talk with me about their hectic year so far, their upcoming plans and a bass player with criminal timing.

How did Lily Sparks come together as a band?

Nikki 7: KG* and I were already in a band called Minx, the lead singer had a family and decided to leave, so we started auditioning for a new lead singer. We auditioned a lot of people and Niamh was the very last one to audition.
Niamh: I arrived to the audition kind of on the fly, I wasn't too familiar with their songs and I didn't feel ready to go through with the audition.
Nikki 7: She didn't feel ready to audition but we made her do it anyway, we needed to make a decision. So she auditioned with some of our songs, but she put her own twist on the material and brought something fresh and new to the table.

Where does the band’s name 'Lily Sparks' come from?

Nikki 7: Well, we wanted to come up with a new name rather than continuing on with Minx, because this is a new band with a new fresh sound.
Niamh: We wanted a name that was somewhat feminine, because the band is fronted by three women, but also a name that reflected that this is a rock band. So, we were all sitting round one day, just hanging out and getting to know one another when the drummer told us a story about his ex-girlfriend, Lily, who had set his kitchen on fire and so we ran with the idea and we became 'Lily Sparks'.

You won the East coast Emergenza Battle of the Bands last year, tell us about that?

Nikki 7: We had been together a few months at that time and had only done a few shows together, so we entered to get more experience of working together and to get a set list down. That first night of the competition is definitely one of our favorite stories...
Niamh: The very first night of the competition, I was on my way to the club for our performance when I got a text message from our bass player to say that he was already at the club setting up. I had been nervous and felt a bit calmer that things were coming together. We got to the venue and the bass player was no where to be found. So we went ahead and did the sound checks but he still didn't appear. At this stage, there was a packed house and we had to go on, but we still had no bass player. We found out right before we had to go onstage that he had been to the club earlier, then went outside and somehow managed to get himself arrested. We haven't seen him since.
Nikki 7: So we had to go on stage without a bass player which was crazy, but it put us in the frame of mind to just go out there, give it our best shot and have fun. I think the last minute pressure gave us such energy that we gave a great performance, but we were still surprised when we came in first.
Niamh: So that really got the ball rolling. The final was made up of the top bands from Boston and Chicago and the top 12 bands from New York. Winning the competition was very much a surprise win for us, we didn't walk onstage expecting to win, we just wanted to entertain the crowd and have fun and I think that came through and the judges saw that.

How did winning the Battle of the Bands change things for the band?

Niamh: We got to play the main stage at Webster Hall with its fantastic sound system to 1400 people which was an amazing experience and then we went on to perform in Germany representing the USA in the international competition.
Nikki 7: That was a great experience, because we got to meet so many bands from different places that we have stayed in touch with. Niamh also won best vocalist in Germany which was brilliant.

How does the songwriting process evolve?

Nikki 7: Niamh and KG* do a lot of the writing but it is really a collaborative thing, especially the newer material. At the beginning we were working with a lot of older material because we just wanted to get out there and get started, but with the newer material, we are working more as a group, which is great because we are all really invested in it.
Niamh: It is very collaborative process, KG* or Nikki may come up with a guitar riff or the drummer with a beat, or one of us will have a lyric and it just develops from there.
Nikki 7: It takes time, there are days when it flows great and it’s really productive and there are days when it is much harder, but it is good that it is a group effort.

Tell me about the EP Cooper Cobra, are you happy with how it turned out?

Niamh: We were working on the EP before the Battle of the Bands and so after we won, we found ourselves in a time crunch to get the EP recorded before going to Germany so we basically had 5 days to get it done. We recorded it in Brooklyn at Newkirk Studios with Ben Rice who did a great job. Overall we are happy with it, we keep evolving as a band so it feels a little old to us now, even though it’s new to the fans, so in our performances we have to work to keep it fresh and new.
Nikki 7: We are excited about the new material that we are working on but we understand that the EP is new to the fans and that if we don't play "Stars" at every show we will have a riot on our hands!

What type of feedback have you been getting since the EP release?

Niamh: Since the release, we have had a lot more attention and publicity in terms of podcasts and interviews. The EP has been compared by some as a kickback to the '80's and compared with Heart, Pink and to some extent Evanesence. The guitar sounds really have a very classic rock feeling but the vocals provide a more modern twist.

What demographics seem make up your fan base?

Niamh: Demographically, it’s hard to pigeon hole our fan base into any one thing, it’s so diverse. We have had teenagers reach out to us as well as older classic rock fans. The fact that we are a female fronted rock group sets us apart to some extent in that it is a combination that is not overexposed in this era.
Nikki 7: At our shows, we often have girls come up to us at the end of a show, but men often hold back a bit. The songs all have different influences and a different vibe so it appeals to a broad range of people.

What's next for the band short and long term?

Niamh: We have a very busy few months coming up. We have a tour in Ireland and the UK lined up for July, our new video will be coming out soon, we are hoping to do a live recording in New York as well several shows in May. We also have a Christmas song lined up for release in December and will be appearing as guests at the Emergenza competition this year. We are also hoping to have another recording out by the end of this year.

Lily Sparks will be performing at The Bitter End, NY on June 11, 2010 before starting out on their UK and Ireland tour.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tea Leaf Green To Release Looking West on June 8

On June 8, Tea Leaf Green will release Looking West, their second studio album since Reed Mathis joined the band. Tea Leaf's latest will have studio versions of "Carter Hotel," "Jackson Hole," "Drink Of Streams," "Bouncing Betty" and other longtime live staples. "In a band like ours we have so many songs that we play and love but never had a chance to record in the studio," said Trevor Garrod. "It's almost as if we've loved these songs too much and were afraid to encase them forever behind the iron bars of a vacuum sealed, shrink wrapped studio album."

To celebrate the occasion, on June 16, TLG will perform the album its entirety with a stripped down acoustic set at Café du Nord in San Francisco, CA. Every ticket purchase will garner you a copy of the new album.

The California-based band will be here on the East Coast for a July 12 gig as part of the Rocks Off Concert Series.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Toot & The Maytals Jointly Promote Flip And Twist

Along with Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert deserves recognition for popularizing reggae music outside of its Jamaican home. While his compatriots are enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Toots & The Maytals remain unsung heroes. In conjunction with the release of Flip and Twist, their latest, they will mix old school recreation with cutting edge technology and make the album available on a joint shaped USB drive.

The first single, "Perfect Lover" is available gratis

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hodgson Won't Even Give A Little Bit To Supertramp Reunion

When Roger Hodgson was young, things must have been much more logical. With the 40th anniversary of Supertramp approaching, Hodgson has taken severe umbrage with the Rick Davies led version of the band that will celebrate the occasion without him. The former Supertramp leader has called out his ex-bandmates by publicly opining about the entertainment value of the reunion shows if they honor an agreement that no version of Supertramp would play the Hodgson-written songs without him. If Supertramp stays true to their bond, most of Breakfast In America, "Dreamer," "Give A Little Bit" and pretty much everything except "Bloody Well Right."

Given the disputes over Van Hagar, Sublime and "Which one's Pink?" you can almost respect Hodgson's battle for integrity. Almost. Hodgson has a competing tour and he's making sure everyone knows it. Other than Hodgson playing Epcot (no puppet show included), this whole mess will not be coming to an American arena near you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Still Growing Up: Peter Gabriel @ Radio City Music Hall

By: David Schultz

Going back to his days when he dressed as a sunflower while fronting the early prog-rock version of Genesis, Peter Gabriel has continuously reasserted himself as one of classic rock’s most visually engaging performers. Whether it’s taking trust falls into the audience during “Lay Your Hands On Me,” embracing the MTV era with the videos from So, including the trippy clip for “Sledgehammer” or performing in the round for the Up tour, Gabriel connects with his audience on a multitude of levels. For his first tour of the United States, Gabriel seemed to be retreating from his crowd-pleasing antics, leaving the guitars and drums in the equipment shed in favor of the New Blood Orchestra. His devotion to his current project has been serious enough that he passed over an appearance at his own induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Playing limited engagements in the United States, Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra sold out two nights at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

Scratch Your Back, Gabriel’s first studio album in eight years, finds the 60-year-old singer meditatively covering the likes of heavyweights like David Bowie, Lou Reed, Paul Simon and cutting edge hipsters like Bon Iver, Arcade Fire and The Magnetic Fields in an atypically methodical fashion. Gabriel’s opening set at Radio City consisted of a faithful reproduction of the new album with the 54-piece New Blood Orchestra. Much like on his new album, what rescues the songs from the realm of Muzak is Gabriel’s voice. It’s still a potent instrument able to provide the right detachment for wry commentary and the perfect emotive effect to interject an intense passion when he throws himself into the song. Plus, can there be a better place to listen to an orchestra than Radio City? Well, other than Lincoln Center . . . or Carnegie Hall, for that matter.

Passionate music draws a reciprocal response and the Radio City audience varied from those who were engaged by Gabriel’s new approach to his music and others eager to relive old times, as far back as Genesis. It created a palpable tension within the theater with every fevered whoop being greeted with a harried “shush” as well as the occasional aggrieved yelp from the selfish whiner who pleads for quiet because they paid a premium for their seat. (No matter the show, it seems this person thinks everyone else received freebies and thus cannot appreciate the show in their own way). One thing everyone probably could have agreed upon: if Gabriel had thrown an offhand reference to seeing his brother John into his version of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage,” Radio City would have erupted in nostalgic ecstasy.

Normally an animated performer, able to generate raw emotive reactions from the crowd with the simplest of gestures or stage action, Gabriel remained relatively inert throughout the show. Instead, gigantic movable video screens provided the visual aspect of the show, often accentuating rather than interpreting the songs on stage. A nice exception was the sweetly sentimental story enacted by stick figures on the screens that complemented the cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “The Book Of Love.”

In between sets, Lou Reed tottered out for a cover of “Solsbury Hill,” possibly offering a preview of And I’ll Scratch Yours, a companion album on which those artists covered on Scratch Your Back will return the favor by interpreting songs from the Gabriel catalog. With the exception of his appearance with Metallica at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts this past October, it’s been quite some time since Reed has publicly played anything resembling a traditional song. That did not change at Radio City. Barking the lyrics over a reverb heavy near monotone guitar, Reed offered his own interpretation of the classic rock radio staple. It’s was inimically Reed but it begged the question as to whether Reed had ever heard “Solsbury Hill” before trying to play it at Radio City. (Save your complaints, I know he’s heard it).

The second set consisted of newly arranged versions of songs that have always lent themselves to classical takes like “Signal To Noise” and “Downside Up” as well as orchestral based versions of standards like “Red Rain” and “Solsbury Hill.” The New Blood Orchestra proved versatile. Unobtrusive on traditional adaptations of songs like “San Jacinto” and “Don’t Give Up,” which featured Ane Brun, the New Blood brilliantly interpreted the soulful English new wave funk of “Digging In The Dirt” and replaced the bilious cacophony of tribal drums at the end of “The Rhythm And The Heat” with its own potent rumble. A sign of the passage of time, Gabriel no longer closes his shows with “Biko.” Even though its message of faith and perseverance remains no less inspirational, it’s a protest song from a different era. Instead, “In Your Eyes,” which will always owe a debt of gratitude to John Cusack, has become Gabriel’s new encore staple. Taking the African tribal rhythms of the song as its base, the New Blood gave the Gabriel classic a sense of majesty.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Best Coast On The East Coast

By: David Schultz

Back in his Replacements days, Paul Westerberg used to fondly refer people to the left of the dial to find music a step or two removed from the mainstream. After spending a lot of time there, it’s easy to lose your taste for the pop songs that are the bread and butter of commercial radio. Especially when American Idol and Glee make it so easy to plant roots in the alternative campground. Funny thing though, traditional pop doesn’t wither and die as you go into the realm once occupied by the local indie stations. Bands like the Smith Westerns and Los Angeles based Best Coast just disguise it in a form more palatable to discerning tastes.

The simplicity and innocence of the girl groups from the Sixties are seductively hidden behind the layers of reverberation and distortion that Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno slather onto every song. There aren’t any riot grrl ravings or girl power proclamations to be found within Cosentino’s detached cooing. Much like Lesley Gore and Connie Francis before her, Cosentino gives voice to the shy wallflower wistfully pining over the guy that should be hers or the small tokens of affection that resound loudly within the yearning heart.

With nothing more than a couple well-received EPs to their credit, Best Coast got the NPR treatment at this year’s South By Southwest Festival. Following up on the acclaim, the duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno came east, opening up for Japandroids at the Bowery Ballroom at the beginning of April and, a week later, headlining their own sold-out, early evening slot at the Mercury Lounge. At both venues, the simple chords and dreamy vocals swept through the crowd, the spell only broken when Bruno and guest drummer Ali Koehler of the Vivian Girls moved the calming, repetitive waves of sound into the grunge rock realm. A charming and engaging front woman, the tattoos peeking out from the sleeves of Cosentino’s blouse add a sense of complexity and to the pie-eyed naïveté she exudes when she sings or banters with the audience. It’s all part and parcel with Best Coast, there’s a lot to unravel and it’s a worthy effort to undertake.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Blues And Lasers To Celebrate Release Of After All We're Only Human

By: David Schultz

Blues and Lasers - the Scott Tournet led Vermont collective featuring fellow Nocturnals Benny Yurco and Matt Burr, drummer Steve Sharon and bassist John Rogone – has just released After All We’re Only Human, their spectacular follow-up to the band’s self titled 2008 debut. On Blues and Lasers, they unleashed the heft of the Delta blues over a series of sprawling epics. For After All We’re Only Human, the songs have shortened to standard classic rock lengths with the double guitar, double drum impact being delivered in effectively concentrated doses. Gypsies band together, Neil Young’s cowgirl finds new ground on which to tread and Allmans-quality slide guitar finds new sky in which to soar. A worthy companion piece to the upcoming Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Blues and Lasers second outing needs no qualification and finds few equals.

It’s available through the Blues and Lasers Web site, which you can get to quickly by clicking here.

To commemorate the release of their sophomore effort, Blues and Lasers will be playing a weekend’s worth of CD release shows along the East Coast. On May 7, B&L will commence the celebration in the sentimental heartland of rock and roll, headlining the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, New York. On May 8, they will invade Brooklyn Bowl, Pete Shapiro’s environmentally progressive post-Wetlands effort in Brooklyn, New York. The whirlwind will conclude at Club Metronome in the band’s stomping grounds of Burlington, Vermont. This is a truly marvelous band and these shows should be something special that you don't want to miss.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Return Earful

Don't call it a comeback. We've been here for years. Rockin' our peers and putting suckers in fear.

After a month long hiatus to address computer publishing issues that I don't understand enough to even attempt to describe here, Earvolution is back on the air (so to speak). There will be some cosmetic changes afoot as we get used to the new format and we'll try to figure out where most of the pictures went. Many thanks to all of you that haven't forgotten about us and dropped us like we were a once-buzzed about band with a subpar second album.

We probably couldn't thank Justin Ward of the Live Music Blog enough for his help. Without him, Earvolution may have gone the way of the Led Zeppelin reunion tour. While we are tweaking and regrouping, check out Justin's excellent site.

In our absence, I wrote an article for Hidden Track on Willy Porter's performance at the Rubin Museum of Art as part of their Naked Soul concert series. Check it out by clicking here.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!