Archive for April, 2012

Gettin’ Ready for the Summer

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2012 by 30daysout

We've used this photo before - hope you don't mind if we use it again.

This week, in our hometown of Houston, Texas, we have had a great stretch of lovely, sunny weather. The TV nerds are telling us about temperatures in coming days that will flirt with the 90s, and there’s not a cloud in sight.

So let me be the first to welcome you to pre-summer, that short window of time before the heat is here and the time is right … to suspend all critical judgment and good taste when it comes to entertainment. This week the newly reunited Beach Boys start their 50th anniversary tour and next week the first of the big blockbuster movies (The Avengers) will be unleashed. But you don’t have to sell out just yet – there are some new music releases of actual quality out now, to help you get in the mood for the long, hot summer.

Best of Kokua Festival by Jack Johnson & Friends – Recorded live over six years of Kokua Festivals in Hawaii, this sunny sampler is anchored by Jack Johnson, who is the current generation’s Jimmy Buffett and Beach Boys rolled into one. There’s a healthy sampling of Jack Johnson tunes (“Mudfootball,” “Better Together”) but the best stuff comes from the guest stars, who include Ziggy and Damian Marley, Jackson Browne, Dave Matthews, Ben Harper, Taj Mahal, Eddie Vedder and good ol’ Willie Nelson. A mellow time is had by all. Highlights: “A Pirate Looks At Forty” (Jimmy Buffett cover) by Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews; “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain,” by Willie Nelson w/Jack Johnson and Ben Harper. Best reason to buy it: 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity.

The Grifter’s Hymnal by Ray Wylie Hubbard – The associate dean of Texas songwriters (second only to Guy Clark), Ray Wylie Hubbard has released what many are calling his best album. I kinda thought his last one, A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C), was his best, but no – The Grifter’s Hymnal is packed with gritty, hard-earned truth set to some sizzling electric guitar work. If you buy only this album all year, you will still be light years ahead of the pack. Highlights: “Mother Blues,” “South of the River,” “Coochy Coochy” (featuring Ringo Starr!) Best reason to buy it: It’s a great soundtrack for an outdoor barbecue.

What Kind of World by Brendan Benson – Probably best known for performing as part of the Raconteurs with Jack White, Brendan Benson is a solid songwriter and excellent guitarist who effortlessly combines power pop and melodic guitar rock with a roots music sensibility. Perhaps influenced by his move to Nashville, Benson deftly deploys a country side that balances this listenable album nearly perfectly. Highlights: “Light of Day,” “What Kind of World” and “On The Fence (a duet with Ashley Monroe of the Pistol Annies). Best reason to buy it: Paired with Jack White’s new Blunderbuss, it makes a good one-two party shot.

Sacred Fire (EP) by Jimmy Cliff – While I was excited to get new music from the associate dean of reggae music (second only to Bob Marley), I was bummed by this five-song EP’s short run time. But what’s here is great: Jimmy covers the Clash, Bob Dylan and punk rockers Rancid (the latter’s lead singer Tim Armstrong is producer), and offers a couple originals that set up well alongside his classics. Cliff promises an upcoming full-length album, which will apparently include the tunes from this EP. Highlights: “The Guns of Brixton,” “Ship Is Sailing.” Best reason to buy it: Get the vinyl LP, which has an extra track, “World Upside Down.”

Download “Ship Is Sailing” for free at Jimmy Cliff’s website

A Postcard from California by Al Jardine – This solo album from a founding member of the Beach Boys actually came out a couple of years ago as a download-only offering; now you can get a brick-and-mortar copy with some extra tunes. Of course, the guy who sang “Help Me Rhonda” will put out a record that sounds exactly like the Beach Boys, even to the point of revisiting some of the Boys’ familiar tunes. This time around he loads up on the guest stars: Glen Campbell, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Steve Miller, America, Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Alec Baldwin (yes, the actor) and best of all, the surviving (and one deceased) members of the Beach Boys. Highlights: “Don’t Fight The Sea” with the Beach Boys. Best reason to buy it: The CD back cover has a map of California, in case you get lost while drivin’ up the coast.

Some others out now that are worth mentioning: Marley, a two-CD soundtrack to the documentary on Bob Marley; Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt; Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook by Elvis Costello; Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones and Blunderbuss by Jack White. Wait for: We Salute You (covers) by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, May 1; After Hours by Glenn Frey, May 8; Heroes by Willie Nelson, May 15; Ram (reissue) by Paul & Linda McCartney, May 22; Big Station by Alejandro Escovedo, June 5: and of course That’s Why God Made The Radio by the Beach Boys, also on June 5.

Video Du Jour: Paul Simon

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on April 26, 2012 by 30daysout

It’s a trick! This video is actually Paul Simon covering Brian Wilson – from a 2001 tribute to the Beach Boys’ resident genius, Simon performs “Surfer Girl.”

Smoke Break: Willie Nelson!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on April 25, 2012 by 30daysout

Willie Nelson checks out the statue of him unveiled in Austin last week.

Country music legend Willie Nelson helped unveil a statue honoring him in downtown Austin by singing his new song “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die)” last Friday, 4/20.

One could whiff a little marijuana smoke in a crowd of about 2,000 people as Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell unveiled the privately funded statue in front of the Moody Theater, where the Austin City Limits Studio is now located. Nelson, a 10-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 40 million copies of his 150 albums, appeared on the first episode of the show in 1974.

Listen to “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die”) on Willie’s website – it’s a duet with Snoop Dogg and also features Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson.

Willie Nelson official website

Video Du Jour: The Beach Boys

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by 30daysout

The Beach Boys begin a 50th anniversary tour this week.

The Beach Boys are back! The surviving members of the seminal ’60s surf rock band begin a U.S. tour this week to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks will be backed by Wilson’s crack Wondermints and … well, we already have our tickets!

To help with the celebration, the Beach Boys also plan to release a newly recorded studio album on June 5. The first single is “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” and it has plenty of the trademark harmonies that characterize the Beach Boys’ music. This video features the single, as well as some short comments by the band.

The Beach Boys official website

Video/Levon Helm Tribute Du Jour: John Fogerty & the Black Keys

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on April 24, 2012 by 30daysout

Levon Helm

There have been a lot of tributes to fallen singer Levon Helm since he died last week – none better, though, than this affectionate yet clear-eyed appreciation by Peter Gerstenzang that appeared in the Village Voice. Here is one appropriate excerpt:

After I got the news yesterday that he’d died, I got into the car to drive around and think, two things I’m never good at doing simultaneously. Foolishly, I turned on the radio, expecting to hear The Band’s music blasting, from one end of the dial to the other. I forgot about how doomed my expectation was. Corporate radio was not going to budge its mix of Def Leppard and Rihanna for five fucking minutes to fete this great master of American Music. I thought, none of these programmers realize what terrible fate is awaiting them. And, that, as they say down South, Hell is only half-full. So, I turned off the radio and just started singing “The Weight,” one of the biggest hits The Band ever had and a song that introduced, to most of us little hippies, the first Southern voice since Elvis that didn’t seem scary, or possessed by a guy who had a shotgun pointed at the front wheel of our motorcycle.”

Read the entire Village Voice piece here.

In related news, this appeared on Facebook today:

Message to Robbie Robertson from Dennis Miele: “Robbie, there seems to be a debate about the lyrics to “The Weight”. Can you confirm that the line is ‘Take a load off FANNY’?’

Robbie Robertson: Fanny.

If you are near your computer tonight KUT-FM in Austin remembers legendary musician Levon Helm. Tune in to hear “Levon Helm Rambles Home: An Appreciation,” produced by Paul Ingles, by streaming it on the KUT home page. Show starts at 8 p.m. CDT.

And finally, this tribute to Levon Helm by the Black Keys and John Fogerty took place over the weekend at Coachella:

Levon Helm official website

Chris Ethridge, R.I.P.

Posted in News with tags , , , on April 24, 2012 by 30daysout

The Flying Burrito Brothers, circa 1969: clockwise from top right, Chris Ethridge (d. 2012), Chris Hillman, "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow (d. 2007) and Gram Parsons (d. 1973).

Chris Ethridge, a founding member of the country rock pioneers The Flying Burrito Brothers, has died. He died in Mississippi of complications from pancreatic cancer; he was 65.

He played bass and piano on the Burritos’ The Gilded Palace of Sin debut album in 1969, co-writing a few songs with singer Gram Parsons, including “Hot Burrito No. 1.”

After leaving the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969, Ethridge worked with Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder and Randy Newman, among others. He also spent several years as a member of Willie Nelson’s band.

Read an obituary of Chris Ethridge in the Los Angeles Times

MP3: “Hot Burrito #1” by The Flying Burrito Brothers

Video Du Jour: Norah Jones

Posted in News with tags , , on April 23, 2012 by 30daysout

Norah Jones

We kinda sorta fell in love with Norah Jones during SXSW. We saw her play with her countryfied cohorts the Little Willies, and we were just taken with her voice and her shy-but-not-so-shy stage presence.

What we didn’t do was catch her evening SXSW set, where she showcased songs off her upcoming album Little Broken Hearts. This is a solo pop effort, produced with the help of Danger Mouse … it’s coming out May 1 and the first single is “Happy Pills.” Catch Norah on “Late Night With David Letterman” on May 2.

Norah Jones official website

Record Store Day 2012

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on April 22, 2012 by 30daysout

Evanescence with Amy Lee (far right) showed up to sign autographs for Record Store Day in Houston. What happened where you live?

I still have a bit of a hangover from Record Store Day yesterday … what about you? The fifth annual event, staged to help music fans remember their independent music stores, took place yesterday at record shops across the country, and people walked away with armloads of exclusive, rare vinyl and CD items made just for the occasion.

As someone who’s faithfully patronized RSD every year since its inception,I found that the asking prices for this year’s exclusive items have gotten a bit steep. Seven-inch singles by classic bands like the Byrds and the Small Faces, as well as by current artists like Jack White and the Flaming Lips, reached into the $12 range this year … I found that a bit much to pay for a couple songs on a 45-rpm single.

Likewise with the longer offerings – I bought a Miles Davis LP with five unreleased songs for $25 … but passed on the Flaming Lips’ The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, a double LP that went for upwards of $35 and which may or may not have contained an autograph from band frontman Wayne Coyne. (Ha ha, that item was long gone by the time I got to the table – we purchased a Mastodon/Flaming Lips 45 single instead, for 10 bucks.)

For me, Record Store Day is starting to lose its charm. These prices are seeming more than ever like a gouge, for limited-edition stuff that most likely winds up on eBay an hour or two later. I’d rather go to my hometown independent record store – that’s Cactus Music in Houston – on a non-special day when I can peruse the stacks of used vinyl at my leisure. And of course, I’m there when the good folks at Cactus want to set up a fine in-store performance with free beer. And for all of you who didn’t make it on Saturday – visit your friendly neighborhood record store on Monday … you’ll be surprised what is left over!

On Saturday, Cactus in Houston hosted the band Evanescence for a meet-and-greet autograph session, and a live solo performance by Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller. I tried to swing downtown to the equally awesome Sig’s Lagoon for a live in-store by classic rocker Mark Andes (formerly of Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne and Heart) but totally failed on that count.

I hope you got most of what you wanted to get on Record Store Day; and I hope you are NOT that asshole who posted it on eBay five minutes later.

Free Download: Band of Heathens’ Tribute to Levon Helm

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on April 20, 2012 by 30daysout

The Band of Heathens, playing an instore in Houston last year.

Austin’s Band of Heathens have recorded a spur-of-the-moment to the great Levon Helm. Here’s what they said:

4.20.12 – Yesterday one of our musical heroes, a true American original, Levon Helm passed on.

By some strange twist of cosmic fate, we were in his birth-state of Arkansas when we heard the news. There was some sort of comfort in knowing we were treading on the ground that sculpted the man and set him on the path to utter and complete righteousness.

We wrote this song (“One More Song”) right before our show in Little Rock last night to play during a mini-Levon tribute encore. This is a demo of the song as we recorded it in the parking lot.

Although we’ll never get to hear his voice in the present anymore, we are incredibly lucky to be able to be with our friend whenever our ears are open.

Play us one more song cuz.

Love, The Band of Heathens

MP3: “One More Song” by the Band of Heathens

Band of Heathens download/streaming page for “One More Song”

Levon Helm, R.I.P.

Posted in News with tags , on April 19, 2012 by 30daysout

Levon Helm, with the Band. (Photo by Art Meripol)

Sad news from Woodstock, N.Y., today: Levon Helm, drummer and singer for The Band and a Grammy Award-winning solo artist, has died.

Helm, 71, was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s. Intensive radiation treatment left him with a raspy voice that can be heard on the album Dirt Farmer (2007). Nevertheless, the Arkansas native carried on a busy touring schedule and hosted “Midnight Ramble” events at his barn in Woodstock.

The Band in the 1980s - Garth Hudson (left), Rick Danko (center) and Levon Helm (far right). (Photo by Art Meripol)

After backing Bob Dylan on his notorious 1965-66 “electric” tours, The Band released its first album in 1968, Music from Big Pink, which included one of the group’s signature songs “The Weight.”  The Band followed that with The Band album, which included “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Rag Mama Rag.” Helm played drums and sang with The Band until 1999, when bassist-singer Rick Danko died.

Helm was also an actor; he appeared in a number of theatrical and TV movies, including Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), The Right Stuff (1983), Fire Down Below (1997) and In The Electric Mist (2009).

Thanks to Art Meripol for graciously allowing the use of his photos.

Levon Helm obituary from the Poughkeepsie Journal

MP3: “The Weight” by The Band

MP3: “Up On Cripple Creek” by The Band

MP3: “Take Me To The River” by Levon Helm

MP3: “Tennessee Jed” by Levon Helm

MP3: “Hurricane” by Levon Helm

MP3: “Summertime Blues” by Levon Helm

MP3: “Atlantic City” by The Band

MP3: “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (live) by The Band

YouTube: “I Shall Be Released” by Levon Helm and friends (2010 Newport Folk Festival)

YouTube: “Poor Old Dirt Farmer”

YouTube: “Ophelia” (2009)

Levon Helm official website

Playing with the Band in Arkansas, during the 1980s. (Photo by Art Meripol)