Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons

One of our favorite bands, Mark Stuart and the Bastard Sons, has an upcoming CD release as well as a new name. Formerly "The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash", Mark Stuart decided in a new "moniker" that "more accurately reflects the tone of Stuart’s music and the direction of his expressive and confident songwriting". Coinciding with the name change is the release of their new CD, Bend In The Road. In support of this release, the band has scheduled tours in his native California and Texas. Based on their three previous CDs, this one should be a keeper.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Music

We've received a lot of new music recently and there are a few we'd like to share. First, we finally got our hands on Steve Earle's latest CD, Townes, songs by Townes Van Zandt. The first two tracks (Pancho And Lefty and White Freightliner Blues) are worth the price of the CD by themselves, let alone our other two favorites: Delta Momma Blues and No Place To Fall. The second CD, is Stockholm Syndrome from singer-songwriter Derek Webb. This CD is the first we've heard from the artist, although he gave 80,000 free downloads of his previous CD Mockingbird in 2006. Initially his music was a little too electronic for my tastes - but I found myself listening to the CD over and over again. Its a nice CD to have playing around the house or with the head phones at work. I particularly liked the latter tracks, Heaven and American Flag Umbrella, where I think he more strongly weaves story lines into the lyrics. I look forward to seeing him in one of two shows at Jammin' Java in late September.

We were very fortunate to receive a copy of Not That Lucky, the latest release form one of our favorite Texan bands: Two Tons of Steel. And this CD did not disappoint; not surprising since it was produced by legendary Lloyd Maines, who also contributes background vocals on a couple tracks. The best part of the CD is that that no two songs are quite the same. "Hold Over Me" has a punk flavor; "Long Road to Heaven" more rock-ish. The title track has a great guitar solo as does "Wanna Dance". I really liked their version of "Run To You", but I'm a little fatigued listening to "Alcohol and Pills" - considering it was recorded in a recent release by Todd Snider and arecent live performance by Fred Eaglesmith. Farther down the line, "Bad Attitude" may be my favorite song: "Trouble knows all about me". The CD ends with a western swing - "Bottom of the Bottle" - a nice bookend with the rockabilly Cry'n Eyes. I really love this band and would like to finally see them live - in a more raw setting, Texas style.

The biggest surprise came from listening to Colin Hay and American Sunshine. Since his days fronting Men at Work, Hay has lived in this country for the past 20 years in this CD contains some aspects from his adopted California as well as some influences from Nashville. The first track, "Oh, California" really sets the tone. It has a reggae - surf flavor - nice maracas and the vocals have a Randy Newman quality. Actually most of the vocals reminded me of Mr. Newman. The reggae beat continues for the next two tracks - but I really liked "Broken Love" - with its more rootsy feel. The same holds for "I Can't Get Up out of this Bed". Make sure you listen to the end. The last three are really good, particularly "Baby, Can I see You Tonight?". For us, this was a surprisingly good CD - basically because Colin Hay has been absent from our record collection for the past two decades. This won't happen again during the next two.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Route 29 Revue

The promoters at Merriweather Post Pavilion organized a great day of music through their inaugural Route 29 Revue, bringing several high profile acts to Columbia Maryland. We are talking about The Felice Brothers, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Iron & Wine, Levon Helm, and
Old Crow Medicine Show. What a lineup.

The day started with Justin Jones & The Driving Rain, a regional band that we have heard of, but never heard live. They really set the tome for the day - providing a nice sound and great vocals. I particularly liked "California". We plan to catch a set next weekend at IOTA Club.

The Felice Brothers followed and how can anyone not like this band. From the lyrics ("I put some whiskey into my whiskey") to crazy stage antics, they are just a fun band to watch. It makes you realize that New York State is much more than New York City - there is a strong farming - rural presence in the state where a blend of bluegrass, zydeco, and alt-country flourishes. And here, to see it in one family. Today they played a few songs from their self titled The Felice Brothers and their latest, Yonder Is The Clock. "Run Chicken Run" continues their line of chicken songs - if you count "Chicken Wire". Onstage, this band is a train wreck - jumping on speakers, bass drum, playing symbols with a washboard. Increasing the commotion, members of Old Crow Medicine Show joined in, what a sight. Go see this band.

The energy continued, albeit at a reduce rate, when Grace Potter & The Nocturnals appeared next. Although the play original music - they bring back memories of late 1960s-1970s classic rock - not only the music but appearance. But they can play and Grace Potter can sing - what a voice. I was extremely impressed with the band - guitarists Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco, drummer Matt Burr, and new bassist Catherine Popper. No wonder This Is Somewhere is such a great CD. They finished their set with an incredibly long encore performance - including a solo by Potter and White Rabbit.

We felt sorry for any act that had to follow Grace Potter, but the one man acoustic set by Iron & Wine was the perfect continuation of the day. Sam Beam just strolled onstage and started playing. This was the first we've heard him, but the pavilion filled quickly for this set, so Beam definitely has a strong fan base. We were most impressed with his guitar picking - his fingers fly. I don't know how we could have missed not hearing one of his half dozen CDs.

After about 5 hours of music, it was time for the band we most wanted to hear to take stage: The Levon Helm Band. We had been looking forward to hearing songs from Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, but quickly learned that would not happen. For Helm was instructed by his doctor to take a few weeks off singing since he had overtaxed his voice earlier in the summer. Considering he survived throat cancer - we had no objections. Instead of singing, Helm jammed on the drums or the mandolin and allowed his others to front the band. This included his daughter Amy Helm, who along with bassist Byron Isaacs, took a break from Ollabelle to perform today. Famed guitarist, producer, you name it, Larry Campbell fronted for most of the evening, along with his wife Teresa Williams, and keyboardist Brian Mitchell. The lineup even included a horn section which really enhanced the New Orleans style of Mitchell's songs - part Allen Toussaint, part Dr. John, and part brass band. Needless to say, this band covered an array of musical styles, from early songs from the Band, to the Dead, to alt-country, to New Orleans style jazz and blues. Their version of Long Black Veil was awesome - with the entire pavilion singing along. Even without singing, Levon Helm is the man - the crowd adored him. If ever in upstate New York - a trend developing - travel to the Levon Helm Studios and catch The Midnight Ramble.

The Old Crow Medicine Show was the final act of the day - and played before a packed pavilion. Throughout the day we wondered if anyone else would care to come - but it appeared that many chose to arrive for the last two acts. This band provided the most bluegrass feel for the day - particularly when they took a page from Tony Trischka and played with two banjos. No wonder Doc Watson invited them to Merlefest. However, they are not your traditional new grass band - they blended gospel, roots, blues, surf, and even some punk into the few songs we heard. We will have to revisit their CD collection....

Unfortunately the long day and an hour drive home forced us to leave before their set ended - and we missed reciprocal appearances from members of the Felice Brothers. But what a day of music - I hope the Route 29 Revue becomes an annual event - we won't miss it. Additional photos are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Justin Trawick's Acoustic Residency

We have been following local Washington D.C. artist, Justin Trawick, for a couple years now - not only because he's a fine musician, but also because he has mastered the art of social networking. He reminds us often that he has a regular engagement at IOTA Club called Justin Trawick's Acoustic Residency which is held the second Tuesday of every month. The idea is to have one or more national, regional, or local acts play a set, followed by Trawick - either solo or his acoustic team. For August 11th, we noticed that he had scheduled Jamie Mclean, who besides fronting the Jamie Mclean Band is best known as the guitarist for the The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Nice coup. There was a large crowd that evening - I think equally split between both artists - as well as a few holdovers from happy hour. Mclean is an excellent guitarist and playing the acoustic guitar that evening provided a clean picking sound. The songs were mostly from his new CD, American Heartache, which features many special guests such as members of The Black Crowes, North Mississippi Allstars, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Shannon McNally. I can't wait to get my hands on this one. The title track and Cherry Tree were two I really liked.

After Mclean's set, Trawick took over and you never know what you'll get with one of his performances. Sometimes Americana, sometimes something with a reggae flare - or even a little rap. To continue with the unexpected, they played a dance song - actually a waltz with drummer, whisking patrons onto the dance floor - me included. Besides being an accomplished guitarist, he is also a fine vocalist - perfectly displayed during the sound check. I could have listened to an A cappella set all evening. Trawick performs regularly throughout the Mid-Atlantic so there's no excuse not to fit one show into your schedule. Plus he plays with his full band two nights at the end of August at Iota - we'll see you there at least one night.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MyJoog Venue: Tim's Rivershore Restaurant

This Saturday we made our annual pilgrimage to Tim's Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse, located south of Wadhington D.C. in Dumfries, Virginia. There is no similar facility south of the city where people can go and relax near the water, eat crabs, and listen to live music. Let's not forget watching boaters party on there vessels or come in on the water taxi, or even the freight and Amtrak trains rolling by. Tim's provide a spot on a secondary pier, which while providing a nice sound, keeps the artist far enough away from the tiki bar where the listener does not feel overwhelmed by the music. Plus its keeps you focused on the water. We arrived in the mid afternoon to find Damion Wolfe on the pier playing to an already large audience. Wolfe is a local artist who regularly performs at similar venues from Baltimore to Richmond. He played a mixture of covers and originals that provided nice background music to our day. The music was not overbearing so that you could converse with neighbors or sing along.

A little after 5, Wolfe packed up and we started to consider whether to call it a day. Then we noticed a familiar artist rolling in new equipment - blues man Whop Frazier and our decision was made for us. Apparently on Saturday's Tim's provided two artists, one from 1-5 the other from 6-10 and Frazier often occupies this second time slot. He is a D.C. native that turned to the blues after hearing blues legend Bobby Parker. "In the years that followed, Frazier played blues with numerous other musicians, including James Cotton, Junior Wells, and Carey Bell. He also recalls a time when he did a show with Eric Clapton." As you can imagine, seeing him setting up for a show was a great surprise. We stayed and listened to several original and popular blues covers - primarily Chicago blues. At this point, most conversations ended as people actively listened, sand, and danced. We were so attuned to the music we barely noticed the sun setting and the tiki lamps and tree lights turning on. What a great way to spend a summer day. Tim's provides live music every Friday-Sunday during the summer - go take a look.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Melodime @ Jammin' Java

On a lazy Friday evening, I was too tired to venture out to The Birchmere to watch the The Fabulous Thunderbirds and there was no way I was going to fight the Beltway on a Friday to head to Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Birchmere; so I hiked to Jammin' Java to see what's up. The venue had two shows scheduled for that evening, I missed the first but arrived in time for The Noah Woods Project followed by the Melodime. I had never heard of either act, but apparently others had - because the venue was as populated as when national acts perform. The opening act had a really unique sound attributed to really good guitar playing by front man Noah Woods and a surrounding cast of woodwinds, bass, drums, and viola. That's an arrangement you don't see very often. The songwriting was clever and Woods' voice is rather Paul Simon-ish. As the group matures their stage presence should improve to form a solid act.

Stage presence was not a problem for the main attraction, Melodime, and they were primarily responsible for the large crowd that night. Apparently the band has build a solid local community of fans because throughout the night most were singing along or even taking over the vocals. Our mistake for letting this band fly under our radar; particularly since they excel with the Americana fused genre we prefer - a good mixture of alt-country, blues, folk, and rock. Melodime is fronted by Bradley Rhodes, whose voice is sometimes a complete replica of Paul Thorn - close your eyes and you can't tell the difference. At times I was waiting for them to belt out "800 Pound Jesus". Brothers Tyler and Sam Duis comprise the rest of the band, on percussion and bass\keyboards respectively. It appears that the band recently changed their lineup with the addition of two new members: Nathan Thomas on bass and crowd favorite - at least for the guys - Katie Shanta on the Violin.

In any case, I like their sound and with self - depreciating humor they are and entertaining group. I really liked "Orange People" which you can hear on the myspace page, "63", and the "Recession" song. There was definitely a nice rock-alt country flare and they can play; but at times some of the songs tended to blend together. That being said, I look forward to their next CD which should be released late summer or early fall. Basically this evening was another example why you should get out of the house and listen to live music; even going to shows where you've never heard the artist - you might find some new favorites.