Archive for April, 2008

Review: “Mudcrutch,” Mudcrutch

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on April 30, 2008 by 30daysout

 

It’s no big secret that Mudcrutch, the band, is the Gainesville, Florida, band that served as the prototype for Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.  Petty is back at the mic for the 2008 version of Mudcrutch, also featuring Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell.  Original Mudcrutch members Randall Marsh (drums) and Tom Leadon (guitar), brother of Eagles and Flying Burrito Brothers member Bernie Leadon, are also in the lineup.  Mudcrutch is a 14-song catalog of country rock and apparent Heartbreakers outtakes that wouldn’t have diverted anyone’s attention from the Eagles or the Byrds if it had been released in the early 1970s.  Those two groups are the obvious touchstones here – “Lover Of The Bayou” is indeed a Byrds tune, one of three cover songs on the album, and “Orphan Of The Storm” (another Katrina-related song) has an Eagles-like lilt.  Leadon takes over lead vocals on “Queen Of The Go-Go Girls” and Tench and Campbell even sing a bit on the album too. “Scare Easy” has that familiar Heartbreakers sound and will likely be the bait that lures the listener inside.  Recorded in a two-week period, this is a little too accomplished to pass off as garage rock but Mudcrutch is a perfect throwback to those early ’70s days when bands knew how to play and, uh, take it easy.

MP3: Scare Easy

Mudcrutch official website

Happy Birthday, Willie!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 30, 2008 by 30daysout

 

If they ever made a Mount Rushmore of the greatest figures in American popular music, it would probably have Elvis, Sinatra, Dylan and Muddy Waters.  And the sculptor would have to make room for one more: the great Willie Nelson.

Willie is 75 years old today (we’re goin’ with the April 30 birthdate).  It’s hard to imagine anyone who has successfully dabbled in so many forms of music: he’s played country, rock, blues and reggae.  He recorded albums of standards long before anyone else, he’s been in movies and played just about every beer joint and football stadium in this country.  It’s almost easier to list the things he hasn’t done.  But please – don’t give him any ideas.

He just put out a four-CD box set with 100 of his best songs and it doesn’t even scratch the surface.  One day, we are going to wake up and Willie Nelson won’t be around any more.  And the world will be a much, much worse place.

 

Official Willie Nelson website

The Alternative Johnny Cash?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 29, 2008 by 30daysout

Johnny Cash was as “alternative” as it got.  Never exactly country, not exactly rock and roll, you couldn’t pigeonhole this guy.  When he sang country, his style was dead-on rock and roll.   It only stands to reason that Elvis became the big star out of Sun Studios – Johnny Cash was just too badass.  He could have been the very first punk rocker.

You can’t beat that Johnny Cash stuff out of Memphis.  It’s been available roughly since the 1950s but it never gets old.

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear The Alternative Johnny Cash, a promo-only CD distributed by Columbia back in 2002.  The short, 5-song disc was issued to help celebrate Cash’s 70th birthday and to serve as a bonus to Kindred Spirits, a multi-artist tribute featuring Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and others.

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Rock Moment: Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, 1986

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on April 29, 2008 by 30daysout

With just a few words, Bob Dylan started a movement.  At the end of the big 1985 Live Aid concert he said something like “It would be great if some of this money could help the farmers in this country.”  Thus, Farm Aid was born.  In September of that year, he appeared at the first Farm Aid concert with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band.

Dylan apparently liked the matchup so much that we went on tour with Petty.  The next year he released Knocked Out Loaded, with the Heartbreakers playing behind him, and came up with an odd title song for a movie, Band Of The Hand.

The “True Confessions” tour was a rockin’ experience and a kick in the pants for the careers of both performers. Two years later, Petty and Dylan would have a hit on their hands when the first album from the Traveling Wilburys scaled the charts.  But that’s another story.

MP3: Band Of The Hand (single)

MP3: You Wanna Ramble (from Knocked Out Loaded)  

Review: Keeping the Blue Flame Alive

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on April 29, 2008 by 30daysout

    

Today’s blues artists are the best living link to the giants of the past.  Some of the old guys are still around, still playing the old sound, but the new guys offer great hope for the future of this vital American music.

David “Honeyboy” Edwards is perhaps the oldest of the old-timers.  On his new album Roamin’ And Ramblin’, this 93-year-old Delta bluesman reaches back on songs like “Crawling Kingsnake” for the classic acoustic sound championed by people he once played with, like Little Walter and the great Robert Johnson.  This album combines new sessions with older live tracks, and has plenty of guests.

Elmore James Jr. has a pure lineage – he is the undisputed son of the legendary Elmore James, father of the electric slide guitar.  “Going Back Home,” which comes early on Daddy Gave Me The Blues, recalls his dad’s classic “Dust My Broom.”  The apple didn’t fall far from this blues tree; Junior’s got his own stinging style on the guitar.  Although things get a little slick at times, this solid Chicago-style blues album rarely loses its energy.

Slick is perhaps a better description for Lowdown Feelin’, the third studio release from The Mannish Boys, a group of veteran blues players including guitarist Kid Ramos.  “These Kind of Blues,” the opener, kicks off with a flamenco guitar and a Mexicali horn that makes you wonder if you wandered into the wrong album by mistake.  Other songs take you on a tour through various blues (and other) styles – it’s all very competently played.  What’s missing is the feelin’, lowdown or otherwise.

And our little blues tour winds up down in the Louisiana bayou, where Tab Benoit rides the Night Train To Nashville.  This live recording is propelled by Benoit’s fiery guitar and boosted by guest spots from Kim Wilson, Jim Lauderdale and a band that’s a New Orleans legend: Louisiana’s LeRoux.  This is the best one of the bunch; it rocks from beginning to end and even tosses in, for the old timers, a faithful cover of the LeRoux standard “New Orleans Ladies.”  This one’s a keeper.

 

MP3: Crawling Kingsnake by David “Honeyboy” Edwards

MP3: Going Back Home (electric) by Elmore James Jr.

MP3: Fine Lookin’ Woman by The Mannish Boys

MP3: New Orleans Ladies by Tab Benoit w/Louisiana’s LeRoux

 

 

Rock Moment: John Fogerty, 1975

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on April 28, 2008 by 30daysout

Blogkeeper’s Note: Occasionally we will feature “Rock Moments,” which are … hell, why lie?  They are just things we want to write about, and attach a few cool songs to.

For a short while, Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the country’s top bands.  But after they broke up in 1972, John Fogerty stumbled with his first solo album.  Blue Ridge Rangers, from 1973, was interesting because Fogerty played all the instruments – but it was country, and very unexciting country at that.

That was when Fogerty’s fight with Fantasy Records – which issued all of Creedence’s albums – came to a head.  Fantasy had the rights for eight albums from Fogerty, but John wanted out because he felt the company was ripping him off.  David Geffen and Asylum Records stepped in and made a deal to allow Fogerty to record again.

The result, John Fogerty, came out in 1975 on Asylum and it was Fogerty’s triumphant return to rock and roll.  “Rockin’ All Over the World,” “The Wall” and “Almost Saturday Night” had the righteous ring of vintage Creedence, and although it had a few cover songs, it was a great album.  After that triumph, Fogerty went into hiding while he worked out his legal problems and wouldn’t surface again until 1985 with Centerfield.

MP3: Rockin’ All Over The World

MP3: Dream Song

 

(More Than) 30 Years Out: Willie Nelson Picnic, 1974

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 28, 2008 by 30daysout

 

Willie Nelson’s first July 4 picnic was in 1973 in Dripping Springs, west of Austin, and it was a near-disaster.  More than 50,000 fans jammed the rural roads leading to the concert site, and understaffed concert workers continuously treated heat exhaustion and fought with drunken fans.

So the next year, they just made it bigger.  Somebody called it “The Great Willie Nelson Commando Hoo-Ha and Texas Brain Fry.”  I can attest to that “fry” part – College Station, Texas, in early July is kinda like the surface of the sun and Willie’s picnic, a three-day event at the Texas World Speedway, was hotter than the devil’s digestive tract after a Tex-Mex meal at Las Manitas.

Of course, Willie opened the show.  He kicked off with “Whiskey River” and “Stay All Night” and you know you’re certainly gonna do that.  Now this all-day affair wasn’t country rock, it was stone country in some parts (Bobby Bare and Sammi Smith, look ‘em up).  But guys like Waylon Jennings rocked pretty hard; I remember everyone going nuts for him.  Jimmy Buffett was there, he hadn’t yet found the tropics so he sang “Let’s Get Drunk And Screw.”  And the crowd replied, “OK.”

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Remembering The Blues

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2008 by 30daysout

America’s great national music is the blues.  Without the blues, there would be no rock and roll, and no hip-hop.  The first generation of the blues masters (Robert Johnson) is pretty much the exclusive territory of college professors and fawning Brits, and latter-day giants like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf have virtually disappeared into the catalogs of countless rockers from the 1960s and 1970s.  It’s tough to hear the blues on the radio, too, unless you venture over to the far left side of the FM dial (think NPR). 

No question: the blues is definitely an endangered art form, although not totally extinct.  Modern artists like Marcia Ball and Jimmie Vaughan keep the faith in Texas, and up in Chicago luminaries like Lonnie Brooks (with his sons) and John Primer are fighting the good fight.  You have Elmore James Jr., son of the great guitarist, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards too.  Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and sometimes John Mayer put the blues on a national stage. 

So let’s celebrate our great national resource with some classic blues artists.  Pay attention, because later this week we will take a look at new albums by some current blues artists and see how they connect to the past.

MP3: I Just Wanna Make Love To You by Muddy Waters

MP3: Knockin’ At Your Door by Elmore James

MP3: Ball And Chain by Etta James

MP3: Hoodoo Man by Junior Wells

MP3: Watergate Blues by Howlin’ Wolf

MP3: Nine Below Zero by Sonny Boy Williamson

Live: Steve Earle and Allison Moorer, Houston

Posted in Review with tags , on April 25, 2008 by 30daysout

“I grew up around here,” said Steve Earle, as he began a mellow in-store performance April 24 at Houston’s Cactus Music.  He launched into a long story about hangin’ with Texas songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt, then picked through on Van Zandt’s “Blue Highway,” which in turn segued into Earle’s own “Fort Worth Blues.” 

Earle then beckoned a honey-haired lady to the stage, and Allison Moorer suddenly stole the show.  She lent ethereal harmony to  Steve’s “City Of Immigrants” off his latest Washington Square Serenade, then took a few solo spots.  She killed on Jessi Colter’s “I’m Looking For Blue Eyes,” which closes Mockingbird, her excellent new album of (mostly) cover songs.

“Grandpa” Steve then came back onstage, but it was too late — his wife won all of our hearts.  If you missed ’em at Cactus, catch them Friday night (April 25) at the Verizon Wireless Theater in Houston, or down the road through July.

MP3: Days Aren’t Long Enough by Steve Earle w/Allison Moorer

Steve Earle official website

Allison Moorer official website

 

Friday is Boss’ Day: E-Street Detours

Posted in Bruce Springsteen with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2008 by 30daysout

                                             

Bruce Springsteen used to be notorious for taking a long time between albums. Three to four years was usually the norm. This gave members of the E Street Band (and Bruce himself) the freedom to explore other options.  Here are just a few:

Gary U.S. Bonds – At one time Gary Anderson (who changed his name to Gary U.S. Bonds after a record company sent his first disc to radio stations with the headline “Buy U.S. Bonds”) was so hot he was a headliner above newcomers The Beatles on a 1963 tour. Bruce and Little Steven (both of whom had grown up on Bonds hits like “Quarter to Three”) met Bonds in 1980. The three became fast friends and Bruce and Stevie produced Bonds’ comeback album, Dedication, in 1981 which included the hit “This Little Girl.” The pair also went on to produce On the Line a year later.  Both are excellent rock and roll CDs, and hard to find.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – Southside Johnny is a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen. The Boss has contributed numerous tunes to Southside’s career such as “The Fever,” and “All the Way Home” to mention a few. Little Steven was behind the boards for most of Southside’s albums including the critically acclaimed Hearts of Stone.  “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town,” from the Jukes’ second LP, is a Springsteen-Van Zandt co-write.

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul – Little Steven’s always called himself a “band guy.”  The Springsteen consigliere  stepped out in front on his first album, Men Without Women, in 1982, and actually left the E Street Band to tour in support of Voice of America in 1984. Van Zandt has a great soulful voice and it really comes out in his solo work. His tunes are often highly political, but usually groovin’. Both CDs are excellent if you can find them. 

Killer Joe – In the early 1990s Mighty Max Weinberg anchored this unit along with guitarist/trumpeter Mark Pender and the Vivino brothers, Jimmy and Jerry.  Scene Of The Crime is a slick R&B effort highlighted by the Springsteen-penned instrumental, “Summer On Signal Hill.”  A chance meeting on a NYC street with talk show host-to-be Conan O’Brien led to Weinberg’s assembling the Max Weinberg 7 in 1993 with some of his old Killer Joe buds.  Check out the self-titled 7 album on Hip-O Records, it’s a hoot.

The Red Bank Rockers – Clarence Clemons has always been asked to participate on other records and he’s played on a few big hits (“You’re A Friend Of Mine” with Jackson Browne, “Freeway Of Love” by Aretha Franklin).  He also had a solid solo career in the mid-1980s, releasing some successful albums under the Red Bank Rockers moniker.  Bruce chipped in to the effort by writing the single “Savin’ Up”  for the Red Bankers’ second album.

MP3: This Little Girl by Gary U.S. Bonds

MP3: Love On The Wrong Side Of Town by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes

MP3: Lyin’ In A Bed Of Fire by Little Steven & the Disciples Of Soul

MP3: Summer On Signal Hill by Killer Joe

MP3: Savin’ Up by Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers

Southside Johnny official website

Clarence Clemons official website

Late Night with Conan O’Brien