Archive for September, 2012

The Most Bad-Ass Riff

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , on September 28, 2012 by 30daysout

Muddy Waters at the Houston Juneteenth Blues Fest, 1977.

Rock and roll has some killer riffs, mostly played on the electric guitar, and there is no riff more bad-ass than the da-dum-da-DUM riff from songs like Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man.”

Bo had some killer riffs in some of his songs, but the original source seems to be “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” by Muddy Waters from 1954. Written by Willie Dixon, it seems to be the first use of this motif that has shown up in blues and rock music ever since. Bo Diddley, a Chess Records label mate of Muddy Waters, cut his “I’m A Man” in 1955 and Muddy actually answered that record with his own “Mannish Boy.”

Remember Muddy singing “Mannish Boy” in The Band/Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz? That was actually Muddy’s own remake, modeled after his version on the 1977 album Hard Again. The Rolling Stones copped that same song and riff the same year, for their album Love You Live.

Many others have used the same riff, either covering the blues classics of Bo and Muddy, or doing their own originals. “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood to the very recent “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan have used this riff.

It’s lasted this long, and shows no sign of ever going away. That is because it’s bad-ass.

MP3: “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “I’m A Man” by Bo Diddley

MP3: “Mannish Boy” (live) by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

MP3: “A Night With the Jersey Devil” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

YouTube: “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan

Video Du Jour: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

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

Another venerable music act is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and although they may not get the attention of the Rolling Stones or the Beach Boys, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a great and vital piece of American music history.

The band, based out of historic Preservation Hall in New Orleans, is releasing a new album,  St. Peter and 57th. The album consists of live recordings from a show in Carnegie Hall and features special guests including tUnE-yArDs, Trombone Shorty, Yasiin Bey, Jim James, Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle and many more.

This is pretty sublime stuff, and if you can’t enough the band is also releasing a 4-CD, 58-track collection celebrating 50 years of Preservation Hall. You can check out both items on the official web site, and go here to download a free song – the band performing the Crescent City classic “St. James Infirmary” with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Trombone Shorty.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band official web site

YouTube: Preservation Hall Jazz Band with the Del McCoury Band on “Late Night With David Letterman” in 2011

Music on TV: “Treme”

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by 30daysout

Wendell Pierce in “Treme” as trombonist Antoine Batiste (Photos courtesy of HBO)

If you care anything about the history and deep roots of American music, you owe it to yourself to seek out the HBO series “Treme,” which just had its season 3 premiere this past weekend.

“Treme” is an ensemble drama created by David Simon (“The Wire”) and Eric Overmyer (“Homicide” and “Law & Order”). The series is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and it tells the story of a diverse group of residents as they rebuild their lives and their city. “Treme,” pronounced Truh-may, takes its title from the name of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, an historically important source of African-American music and culture.

Season 1 begins in the fall of 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina. Season 2 picks up 14 months after the federal levees failed. While many of the old challenges persist, much has changed. The profiteers have arrived, though the insurance checks haven’t. Crime is on the rise, but the ability of the police department to keep pace with the criminals is questionable. Life in New Orleans is getting better, but it’s not happening fast enough to keep residents from wondering whether things would be easier, better, elsewhere.

Lucia Micarelli, who plays Annie in “Treme,” has played with the Trans Siberian Orchestra and Jethro Tull.

What keeps the city afloat through all of this is its culture. “Treme” is rich with music and food, the two things for which New Orleans is best known. Actors like Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland in “The Wire”), Rob Brown (who plays trumpeter Delmond Lambreaux) and Michiel Huisman (who plays street busker Sonny) mix fluidly with musician/actors Lucia Micarelli (as Annie Tee), a violinist, and the great singer/songwriter Steve Earle, who plays street busker Harley. And each episode is rich with cameos from even more musicians playing themselves: Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Coco Robicheaux, Kermit Ruffins, George Porter Jr.,  Spider Stacy (of the Pogues!) and many, many more.

The food comes in by way of Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens), a New Orleans chef who owns a restaurant and fights to keep it going as the series opens. Her struggles and her odyssey take her at one point far away from the place she loves, all while we sample (as best we can, on TV) some of the coolest looking food ever. As they say (and you are gonna have to watch the show for context): “Drizzle something on it, baby!”

The show immerses itself deep in the culture of a great American city, veering from the rich musical heritage (including the Mardi Gras Indians) to include some very modern touches, like the bloggers whose rage after Katrina kept the city’s hope alive and the inevitable carpetbaggers who swept in to make a buck as the city began to rebuild itself.

The show also features actors Steve Zahn (Happy, Texas), Clarke Peters (“The Wire”), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) and Melissa Leo, an Oscar winner for The Fighter. As with any show with a rich cast of characters, some may come and go – and some go away for good. Tune in to find out who.

Like many of these HBO series, “Treme” is acclaimed but viewed by very few people. In fact, it’s already been announced that next season, Season 4, will be its last. But you even if you don’t subscribe to HBO, there is no excuse not to catch this incredible – and incredibly musical – show. The first two seasons are readily available on DVD (try Amazon), and surely the last two will be available in the next year or so.

MP3: “The Treme Song” by John Boutte

YouTube: Trailer for Season 1 of “Treme”

“Treme” home page (via HBO)

Video Du Jour: Michael Des Barres Band

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

Carnaby Street, the new album by the Michael Des Barres Band, came out a few months ago and it’s still in heavy rotation on my back porch. This is old-school rock and roll, the kind we used to love back when we went to high school football games and senior class dances.

Michael Des Barres is a true rock and roll character, and a welcome guest at many SXSW festivals in Austin. This is “Hot and Sticky,” which he says was inspired by some warm nights in Texas – here, it’s played at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip.

Michael Des Barres official web site

Video Du Jour: Randy Newman

Posted in News with tags on September 20, 2012 by 30daysout

Singer/songwriter Randy Newman returns to the smart-ass attitude that made him famous with a new song, “I’m Dreaming.”

It’s a brutal observation on the racial subtext of the current presidential race, and Randy’s lampooning those people who can’t get past the fact that the current U.S. president just happens to be black. You know who you are.

Beyond that, I’m not sure if there is another point he is trying to make but you are welcome to dig in and figure it out for yourself. At the very least, it will be good practice if you plan to vote this November.

You can download this song for free at the Nonesuch Records site

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: A Real Jokester?

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , on September 19, 2012 by 30daysout

The Beach Boys sign autographs and answer questions on Twitter from Los Angeles on 9/18.

If somebody would have told me 30 years ago that there would be this thing called the internet, and on it would live this other thing called social media, where people could communicate instantly with masses around the world … well, that’s right up there with believing in space aliens and moderate Republicans.

Social media has taken away any sort of false modesty about the world and installed a big, widescreen picture window in our lives. Through that window we can see a topless princess, a starlet’s sweet ass or a football player’s weenie. And if we want to draw a curtain over that picture window to hide something from the world, well, sometimes it’s not so easy.

Which has nothing at all to do with why we’re here today, and that’s to talk about the Beach Boys and Twitter. Think about it – the Beach Boys’ best tunes are like musical tweets from the past, a glimpse into a long-lost world of surf, sand, sun, hot rods and bikinis, all in 140 characters or less.

Certainly you know the Beach Boys – a legacy-rich lineup of Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – are touring to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. You probably knew they wrap up this tour next week with two dates in London, then the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston Beach Boys hit the road again in the States. You might have caught them on the road, or even have heard their all-new studio album That’s Why God Made The Radio.

And you probably heard they’re about to release yet another greatest hits set, 50 Big Ones, coming out Oct. 9. Which explains why the Beach Boys found themselves in a room yesterday (Sept. 18) talking to fans over Twitter.

There were a few good questions, and a lot of goofy ones. One Tweeter asked Brian Wilson, “What is your favorite track on Smile?” Wilson (or someone) answered, “Heroes and Villains.”

The Beach Boys sing the national anthem on Opening Day for the Los Angeles Dodgers in April.

Another question elicited more than a single response: “What is your favorite Beach Boy (sic) song or album?” Bruce replied, “Warmth of the Sun and Sunflower.” Marks said “Surfin’ USA for album and hard to say fav song. Probably God Only Knows.” Love chimed in with “Good Vibrations for Song and our live album in Sacramento, CA. It was the excitement that was so great!”

Wilson, who is credited with creating much of the Beach Boys’ music, had an interesting answer: “California Girls for song and 15 Big Ones for album!” Interesting because 15 Big Ones (1976) was the first album that Wilson produced for the Beach Boys since Pet Sounds, 10 years earlier. After doing that 1960s classic,  Wilson had a breakdown caused by mental illness and a lot of drugs and spent the next decade in a haze.

And Wilson wrote or co-wrote only four of the album’s 15 tracks, which were mostly oldies (Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” was a Top 5 hit). So, an intriguing answer – or maybe a joke?

The reason I say that is because of another Tweet: “Brian, if you could go back and remake one album, which one would it be?” (Full disclosure: that one came from me.) And Brian’s answer? “Endless Summer. I think it could have been better.”

Endless Summer? That 1974 album was a greatest hits set, a collection of singles from the period before Pet Sounds. Even though the original double LP didn’t contain the group’s biggest hit single (“Good Vibrations,” from 1967) it did monster business back in the day. Wilson did oversee the compilation at the time, but you wonder – why would he want to go back and re-do a collection of singles?

As I said, maybe he’s just pulling my leg. Or maybe that damn Mike Love slipped in and answered when nobody was looking!

No matter; this version of the Beach Boys is about to fade away into history, maybe never to return. “Summer’s Gone,” as the final song on the new album says. Thanks Boys – it sure was fun, fun, fun.

You can read a transcript of the entire Beach Boys Twitter exchange here.

The Beach Boys official web site

YouTube: “Good Vibrations” live in NYC, 5/8/12

Video Du Jour: Norah Jones w/Cory Chisel

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on September 19, 2012 by 30daysout

We caught both of these acts at SXSW this year – Norah Jones with her country-roots band The Little Willies, and Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons.  It’s absolutely no surprise they are now touring together.

Chisel played an excellent country rock set at a celebration of Gram Parsons and the Foundation established in his name – Cory was aided most ably by singer Adriel Denae and a band belonging to his friend Brendan Benson. Although we didn’t see it, Jones also performed a pop set featuring tunes off her latest, Little Broken Hearts. Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons have also released a new album, Old Believers.

Here are Chisel and Denae joining Jones onstage in Italy to perform the Gram Parsons classic “Hickory Wind.”