Archive for June, 2009

Reviews: Down-Home Music

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on June 30, 2009 by 30daysout

Cover edit              Cover

Ever have one of those days when you’re tired of rock and roll?  Maybe the day you took that Chickenfoot CD home, listened and said “eh.”  It might be time to get back to yer roots, boy. 

Levon Helm has released his second album since beating throat cancer, and Electric Dirt couldn’t be a more appropriate title.  This sequel to his acclaimed Dirt Farmer album is more, ah, electric, with joyous covers of blues and gospel and a detour through the Louisiana swamplands.  Kicking off with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” the album’s first half recreates some of Farmer‘s Appalachian feel, with a highlight coming in the earthy “Growing Trade,” a sad tale about the American farmer.  But with the Allen Toussaint-arranged “Kingfish” (a Randy Newman song about the infamous Huey P. Long), Helm steers into the same territory covered by the Band in their heyday.  Unlike Elvis Costello’s current dead-on-arrival roots exercise, Electric Dirt is the real deal.

MP3: “When I Go Away” by Levon Helm

Son Volt is one of the bands that rose from the ashes of Americana darlings Uncle Tupelo, and their newest, American Central Dust plows the same rich earth as Levon’s Americana.  And with the gently loping “Roll On” or the safely rockin’ “Jukebox Of Steel,” Son Volt doesn’t stray far from their strengths.  You can always bet frontman Jay Farrar will crank out a few gems per album, and he doesn’t disappoint: “Dust Of Daylight” and the aforementioned titles are worth hitting the repeat button for.

MP3: “Roll On” by Son Volt

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Rock Moment: Posters (and more) with your LPs!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2009 by 30daysout
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Poster that came with Kiss' "Unmasked" (1980)

I remember running home with a copy of All Things Must Pass tucked under my arm – the Barker’s department store was about three blocks away from my house, and this purchase represented nearly a month’s worth of wages delivering newspapers.  After all, this was worth 14 bucks: George Harrison’s first solo album with not one, not two but three records!  When I unwrapped the elegant box and gently lifted the cover, folded paper fluttered out of the boxtop.  It was a HUGE poster of George!

Yep, back in the days of vinyl LPs you often got yer money’s worth – and more.  Some of the cooler (or not) artists of the day occasionally tucked some surprises inside the album sleeve, more often than not it was a poster.  You’d slip that baby out and unfold it like a gas station map, and your heart would leap as the last flip revealed a gloriously giant artwork ready for your bedroom wall.

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“Bruce and Michael” – Summer of 1984

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2009 by 30daysout

 MJ & Bruce Springsteen_jpg

The summer of 1984 was an interesting one. I was going into my junior year of college, I got a job delivering Pepsi-Cola in the hot Houston summer (one of the hardest jobs ever) and I was dumped by the same girlfriend, not once, but twice (it’s a long story, so don’t ask). However, I do remember this summer fondly for one reason…the music.

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In the end, Michael Jackson just couldn’t beat it

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 25, 2009 by 30daysout

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How is it that Michael Jackson dies at age 50? Was it the stress from preparing for 50 sold out shows set to take place in London next month? Was it the stress from money problems? Was it left over stress from the child molestation trial? Or was it just a life that appeared to be one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy?

Despite what the coroner’s report will find, none of  us will ever really know what caused his death. None of us will ever know how lonely he was, or how he internalized the constant criticism from the press, hateful and heartless bloggers like Perez Hilton and everyone in between. None of us will ever know what it was really like to be Michael Jackson and what eventually brought him down. In the end, he couldn’t beat all that had become “Michael Jackson.”

Michael Jackson will be remembered by some as the greatest artist of all time. He’ll be remembered by others as the guy who had great affection for little boys and was found not guilty of child molestation after one of the most sensational trials in history. No matter what you think of him, Michael Jackson was one of the most recognizable figures in history, but when you die of a heart attack at such a young age, you have to wonder if it was really worth it.   

Michael Jackson Official Website

Live: Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Houston

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on June 25, 2009 by 30daysout

WinwoodWith just a handful of shows left on their current tour, 60s rock gods Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood turned in a sometimes surprising show in Houston’s Toyota Center on June 24.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the show seemed to spotlight Winwood a bit more, with Clapton taking a secondary role more often than not.  Now let’s put that into perspective – Clapton didn’t address the audience and he didn’t perform many of the more famous numbers associated with his career, but he let his guitar do the talking.  And it was eloquent indeed.

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Better Than Clapton? Blasphemy!

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by 30daysout

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Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood roll into Houston tonight for a stop on their current tour.  It’s always a pleasure to see Clapton, particularly when he’s not in one of his blues modes, or his unplugged modes.  Nothing is better than being in the same room with this awesome guitarist when he cuts loose on a rock song – you certainly want to agree with that classic 1960s graffiti: “Clapton Is God.”

But is Eric Clapton the best guitarist in rock?  Most people would agree, others (particularly those who like to start fights in bars) would disagree.  A few years ago Rolling Stone magazine listed the “100 Greatest Guitarists in Rock,” and Clapton wound up No. 4 on their list.  That list alone could start about a million bar fights, but anyway… Who could believably be considered a greater guitarist than Clapton?  Let’s take a look at five candidates.

1. Jimi Hendrix – During only a few years in the international spotlight (1967-1970), Hendrix managed to accomplish more than many other guitarists do in a lifetime.  Rightfully named No. 1 on Rolling Stone‘s list, nobody has ever come close to this guy – not even Eric Clapton.

MP3: “Little Wing” (alternate version) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

2. Jeff  Beck – Clapton’s successor in the Yardbirds, Beck certainly has a style and technique that is all his own.  He’s managed to graft jazz fusion into a ferocious rock style.  Beck has often sacrificed commercial success for experimentalism, which makes for some fascinating (and sometimes boring) albums.

MP3: “Sweet Little Angel” by Jeff Beck w/ Rod Stewart & Ron Wood 

3. Jimmy Page – The third Yardbirds guitarist and the mastermind behind Led Zeppelin, Page is a powerful guitarist – and the sides he cut with Zeppelin in the late 1960s-early 1970s still wield a mighty influence today.

MP3: “Achilles Last Stand” by Led Zeppelin

4. Peter Green – The troubled genius from the first, bluesy incarnation of Fleetwood Mac may actually be a better pure blues guitarist than Clapton.  He was no slouch as a songwriter, either; he wrote the song attached here.  Nobody played like Peter Green – and today, neither does Peter Green.

MP3: “Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac

5. Stevie Ray Vaughan – This Texas boy thrilled audiences before leaving us way too soon but he left behind some classic recordings and live shows.  It may a take a few listens for newbies to figure out what makes this guy so great; listening to a Stevie Ray performance is like unwrapping an unexpected Christmas gift.

MP3: “Pride and Joy” (live) by Stevie Ray Vaughan

BONUS: “Little Wing” (live) by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood

Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time list

Photo courtesy of Eric Clapton’s official website  

Rock Moment: Johnny Cash’s America

Posted in Rock Moment on June 22, 2009 by 30daysout

CashJohnny Cash is one of the greatest American music artists because he was so, well, American.  From the moment he came on the scene in the 1955 until his death in 2003, he wrote and sang about many of things that made this country great – and not so great.

Late in his career, Columbia released a box set retrospective entitled Love, God, Murder and filled one CD apiece with songs about each subject.  They soon followed up with another CD entitled Life, because Johnny Cash wrote and sang about that too.

If you listen closely, it’s tough to find any real politics in Johnny Cash’s songs.  Oh yeah, he protested the Vietnam war when it was fashionable and he frequently shot the finger at the “Establishment” by refusing to cave in to any political correctness of his time.  And his famous commitment to wear only black (see “Man In Black”) drew more attention to him than to the problems of the day.  But Cash often looked back to the history of this great land to inspire his observations on strength, courage and commitment.  He also drew upon folk tales, tall tales and uniquely American legends (like the Old West) for his songs.  Later in his life Cash was also deeply religious and at one period much of his music reflected his beliefs.  Although much of it was heavy-handed and occasionally unlistenable, Cash characteristically didn’t care – with Johnny Cash, usually what you saw (and heard) was usually what you got.

So let’s celebrate the work of Johnny Cash,  his lessons about history, courage and life and what it means to be an American.

MP3: “Folsom Prison Blues” (live at Folsom Prison)

MP3: “Remember The Alamo”

MP3: “The Rebel – Johnny Yuma”

MP3: “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)”

MP3: “Wreck Of The Old 97” (live)

MP3: “The Ballad Of Ira Hayes”

MP3: “You Wild Colorado”

MP3: “Man In Black”

MP3: “Ragged Old Flag”

MP3: “I’ve Been Everywhere”