Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ought + Accordion Crimes 10/23/15, Denver CO

Dates: October 23, 2015

Location: Larimer Lounge, Denver CO



I missed Canada’s Ought the last time through town last year that some pals went to and said they really liked so I vowed to not miss it this time. The same pals told me to get there early enough to catch openers Accordion Crimes. They’re from Denver and bear more than a passing resemblance (complexion) to a few of Steve Albini’s bands, namely Big Black and Shellac (ok, maybe a touch of Rapeman too). The songs were angular in all of the right parts but growled when they needed to and vocalist Bryon was a friendly chap too, chatting up the crowd. These guys are worth showing up early for.

Though Ought hail from Canada, I’ve heard the band is made up of four Americans who are calling Montreal home. They burst upon the scene in 2011, released a few eps and released their debut LP, More Than Any Other Day last year on the Constellation label and their latest one, Sun Coming Down just recently on the same label. I heard elements of The Feelies, The Fall, Television, Pavement as well as newcomers like Parquet Courts, too.

Vocalist/guitarist Tim Beeler is tall, thin, wiry and maybe nervous, in a David Byrne kinda way (actually not even sure I’d call it nervous, maybe just quirky) while he and the band are a tight as a bull’s ass. They peeled off tunes from both records and be got to hear “The Weather Song” and “Clarity” from said debut while from the latest one we heard “Men for Miles” (opener), “Celebration’ and “Beautiful Blue Sky.” I can’t say I was blown away or anything but certainly enjoyed it and felt like they were worth leaving the house for.

The BoDeans 10/22/15, Park City UT

Dates: October 22, 2015

Location: Egyptian Theatre. Park City, UT



A night of good surprises – arrive in Park City, UT for a long weekend and see the BoDeans are playing 3-nights at the historic Egyptian Theater right there on Main St.  Always wanted to see these guys, so it was a pre-Halloween treat.   Surprised this truly great venue let me in with my camera gear sans photo pass.  And surprised and happy to see Kenny Aronoff back behind the BoDeans drum kit doing his usually amazing job.  Not surprising was this band living up to its reputation as one of the best live acts of our time.   Outstanding songs and harmonies.  Musically tight, diverse, and adventurous.

Currently the BoDeans are band founder and frontman Kurt Neumann (guitar & vocals), Kenny Aronoff (drums), Stefano Intelisano (keys & accordion), Warren Hood (fiddle), Eric Holden (bass), Chris Szebeni (backing vocals and percussion).  In for Sam Hawksley (guitar & vocals) on this run of shows was Rob Anthony (acoustic guitar).

Neumann’s guitar work is outstanding – great tone, original technique, and he never overplays – restraint is something I admire in a guitarist because it’s much harder and requires greater finesse than the average shredder playing ‘count the notes.’   But you know he could let it rip at any time and still be holding back.  The band has a few November shows in their home state of Wisconsin, and Chicago. And are currently booking shows for 2016 around the US, so don’t miss ‘em.  A splendid night of upbeat, engaging, fun, entertaining music is guaranteed.

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The BoDeans helped usher in the genre we call Adult Alternative, or Americana, or Triple AAA with their first release in 1987, and they continue to explore and work around that target sound.   We hate to categorize any great music, but if you don’t know the BoDeans, that’s a good ballpark.

The BoDeans new release is “I Can’t Stop” available now at the usual outlets, starting with

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THE DB’S & FRIENDS – Christmas Time Again!

Album: Christmas Time Again!

Artist: The dB's & Friends

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: October 16, 2015

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The Upshot: Isn’t it way too early to release a holiday album (much less review one – although we will probably re-post this one in our annual Xmas discs roundup circa mid-December)? But hey, it’s the friggin’ deebs! And this is the proverbial  perennial classic.


What if you put out a record and were subsequently allowed to update it every few years? Ask Chris Stamey and The dB’s. Originally released under Stamey’s name as an EP (1985’s Chris Stamey Group w/special guest The dB’s Christmas Time, on the Coyote label), the subsequently rechristened Christmas Time Again! has been re-released every decade or so (1993, 2006) ever since, adding new recordings along the way. This is its fourth incarnation, with a batch of new arrivals. Yo La Tengo joins with Jeff Tweedy for a rocking Hanukah-themed take on Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Eight Day Weekend.” Newcomers Skylar Gudasz (“The Sounds of Christmas”), Bret Harris (Harry Nilsson’s “Remember [Christmas]”) and Birds & Arrows (“In the Bleak Midwinter,” adapted from Gustav von Holst) provide lovely new Christmas ballads. The cast of Big Star’s Third, organized by Stamey, contributes a stately version of that album’s “Jesus Christ,” sung by ex-R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills. Robyn Hitchcock provides a truly strange spoken word piece called “The Day Before Boxing Day.”

Ultimately, though, the original highlights remains the highlights now: Marshall Crenshaw’s melancholy take on “Lonely Christmas,” the dB’s joyful originals “Holiday Spirit” (“Gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme!”), “Home For the Holidays” and the title track, Ted Lyons’ blackly funny “The Only Law That Santa Claus Understood,” Velvet Crush associate Wes Lachot’s gently jangly “Christmas is the Only Time,” Stamey’s acoustic instrumental version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and, most especially, Alex Chilton’s stark, beautiful version of the Mel Tormé-penned “The Christmas Song,” guaranteed to melt the coldest heart.

Given its perennial return every decade, Christmas Time Again! qualifies as a bonafide holiday classic – cue it up this Xmas morning while you open your presents.

DOWNLOAD: “The Christmas Song,”Holiday Spirit,” “The Sounds of Christmas”


THE WAIFS – Beautiful You

Album: Beautiful You

Artist: The Waifs

Label: Compass

Release Date: August 14, 2015

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The Upshot: After a 4-year hiatus which saw each of the trio’s members living apart, in different cities in the U.S., Australia’s The Waifs have reunited around a release that finds them sounding more together as a band than they have in some time.


 It may take longer than usual to warm up to the Waifs’ seventh studio release but, when you do, it hits you hard. That’s largely because the band features not one but three strong singer-songwriters in sisters Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson, plus Josh Cunningham, each bringing a distinctly different voice to their folk-rock-country mix. Thorn’s bleak opener, “Black Dirt Track” gives way to Simpson’s stark, comparatively forlorn title track, yet it’s Cunningham’s more upbeat country treatment on “Dark Highway” which breathes life into this band reunion, rekindling familiar harmonies while Thorn’s harmonica seals the deal.

A true collaborative effort, things heat up with the hook-laden “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt” and the gradually propulsive “Come Away,” making the most of sisterly harmony and the pure, undeniable chemistry of this band – which also includes Ben Franz (bass, pedal steel) and David Ross Macdonald (drums, percussion). Cunningham’s “Cracks of Dawn” adds more country muscle, peppered with standout guitar. Yet, if you wanted to get your full money’s worth, skip directly to Thorn’s co-write with Beth Chilcott for “Blindly Believing” and discover some of the tastiest country-pop to emerge from Australia since Ayers had a rock. This is nicely capped off by Simpson’s big-attitude ballad, “Rowena & Wallace,” updating anything James Dean ever did for his generation – with Cunningham turning in more stellar guitar around its strong, uplifting chorus. Likewise, Cunningham’s sturdy “Born To Love” combines the best of the Waifs’ signature vocal strengths with a rollicking groove.

Elsewhere, Thorn’s highly tasty “”February” reveals a muscular rocker of a different order after its gentle instrumental birthing. It also serves to underline that Beautiful You presents a somewhat disparate mix, but one that ultimately features the strengths of three powerful talents under one collective roof – separately and together. The result is a little something for everybody – and a whole lot of good music resulting from their still-spirited, very together-sounding collaboration.

DOWNLOAD: “Blindly Believing,” “Dark Highway,” “Beautiful You”

SHAWN COLVIN – Uncovered

Album: Uncovered

Artist: Shawn Colvin

Label: Concord

Release Date: October 02, 2015

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The Upshot: Stripped down covers of icons finds the songbird once again revealed as a stellar interpreter.

Given that it’s been 21 years since the release of Cover Girl, Uncovered could be considered its logical sequel of sorts. Here again, Colvin culls her set list from the efforts of others, showing her taste and finesse in the process. In a way, it’s more adventurous than that set that came before, due not only to the diversity of her sources (Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Stevie Wonder et. al.), but also to the stripped down approach which finds her sharing the spotlight with producer Steuart Smith’s acoustic guitar and little else in the way of additional accoutrement. David Crosby and Marc Cohn make cameo appearances, but it’s Colvin’s facile vocals that effectively redefine songs such as “Baker Street”, Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” Graham Nash’s “I Used To Be a King”,CCR’s “Lodi” and “Robbie Robertson’s “Acadian Driftwood,” as originally recorded by the Band. Colvin and Smith take these songs down to their emotional essence without sacrificing the melodic strains that made them so memorable to begin with. There’s a purity here that might have been hinted at in the original, but which now gets to the core of these renewed renditions though both her diligence and determination.

As a result Colvin adds further credence to her already solid resume, branding herself as an interpreter with a specifically unique perspective. Anyone who’s enjoyed these songs as they were originally will find additional delight in Colvin’s remarkable reinventions.

DOWNLOAD: “Baker Street,” “Tougher Than the Rest,” “Lodi”

DR. JOHN – The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974

Album: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974

Artist: Dr. John

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: September 18, 2015

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The Upshot: Nearly two dozen remarkably potent musical gems that track Mac’s evolution from session musician to full-fledged freak flag waving ,“don’t give a fuck,” King of the parts of New Orleans that tourists never see.


You would think in 2015, with the ubiquity of the Internet and just about every available genre of music imaginable just a few key strokes away (if you question that statement, just Google “Christian Ska Music”), mainstream radio would be emboldened enough to play a wide variety of music, appealing to many. But, sadly just about any FM music station you can pick up in your car nowadays falls into just a handful of well-established formats: Country, Top 40, Classic Rock and Urban Contemporary (radio industry term, not mine).

It’s amazing to think then that a wildly creative and solidly unconventional musician like Dr. John (born Mac Rebennack) was signed to a major record label for most of his career, Atco/Atlantic, then A&M, and allowed to put out single after single, record after record of his New Orleans gumbo of soul, jazz, rock, pop, R&B and funk – smothered with plenty of Voodoo imagery.

Omnivore Recordinsg – the patron saint of rediscovering brilliantly underrated music – has collected 22 such songs in their Dr. John Atco/Atlantic Singles collection, cramming nearly two dozen remarkably potent musical gems that track Mac’s evolution from session musician to full-fledged freak flag waving ,“don’t give a fuck,” King of the parts of New Orleans that tourists never see. Spending more than an hour with this record, it’s crazy to imagine that not only did the top hat-sportin’, gris-gris wearin’ pianist/guitarist win the allegiance of major record labels, but radio stations actually played his music! Dr. John charted with “Right Place, Wrong Times,” Such a Night” and “Iko Iko,” all still fantastically brilliant songs four decades later, despite the fact that no radio programmer would go near any of them in 2015.

Keep on keepin’ on Night Tripper.

DOWNLOAD: “I walk on Gilded Splinters (Parts I and II),” “Right Place, Wrong Time” and “Cold Cold Cold”


DONNY HATHAWAY – Live at the Bitter End 1971

Album: Live at the Bitter End 1971

Artist: Donny Hathaway

Label: Atco/Rhino

Release Date: April 19, 2014


The Upshot: Must-own concert document of the late soul icon captures him at his singing and performing peak.


Boasting a handsome gatefold/tip-on sleeve packaging and a numbered/stamped edition of 3000 copies, Live at the Bitter End 1971 is a must-own for any serious fan of soul music. Though jazz/gospel/soul/funk legend Hathaway would meet a tragic end, leaping to his death from the 15th floor of a New York hotel in 1979 following a baffling stint with mental illness, in 1971 he was absolutely on, as this record comprising a set recorded at the iconic venue clearly shows.

Similar material previously graced Hathaway’s Live album (1972), which also featured tunes cut at L.A.’s Troubadour, but this is a complete show featuring Hathaway and a crack quintet (guitarist Cornell Dupree, guitarist Mike Howard, bassist Willie Weeks, drummer Fred White, conga player Earl DuRouen) absolutely slaying a New York audience. From silky covers of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” to an extended reading of Hathaway’s signature funk workout “The Ghetto” and a jaw-dropping 21-minute bluesy jam called “Voices Inside,” there’s not a wasted note in any of the double album’s grooves.

Journalist Charles Waring contributes in-depth liner notes that additionally make the record a kind of Hathaway tutorial.

DOWNLOAD: “What’s Going On,” “The Ghetto,” “Voices Inside”



Album: Live In London

Artist: The Pogues With Joe Strummer

Label: Warner Bros/Rhino

Release Date: April 19, 2014


The Upshot: Erstwhile Clash mainman’s ’91 collaboration with the Irish wonders proved to be a total winner, as documented on this concert disc.


When this 2LP colored wax goodie originally was released for Record Store Day it quickly sold out its 3000-piece pressing and eBay prices shot up into the $50+ range. For some reason, though, it has recently plummeted in price, averaging out to about $20 – $30 depending on what country you are buying it from. Given that de facto new release status for the record, now feels like a good time to update my original post-RSD review of the set, which as a RSD title probably flew under the radar of a lot of music fans. (Currently there are also some folks listing it in the $60 – $70 range but they are dreaming.)

Previously, the 2012 Strummer release Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros Live at Acton Town Hall proved to be a key part of the erstwhile Clash mainman’s puzzle, and this artifact also made a winning addition to the legacy via his 1991 tenure with partners-in-crime The Pogues. Pressed on brilliant red vinyl, the 2LP set covers all the Pogues bases (wait’ll you hear Joe warble out the melody of “The Sunnyside of the Street”) while not overlooking the Clash oeuvre via passionate readings of “London Calling,” “Straight To Hell,” “Brand New Cadillac” and “I Fought the Law”—all with a Poguesian spin, of course. Joe clearly enjoyed filling in for the AWOL Shane MacGowan, and the band clearly reveled in the partnership.

It’s a solid 5-out-of-5-stars release. While I risk collector-geek blasphemy by saying this, the album really needs to get a wider release so Strummer fans everywhere will get a chance to hear the ’91 London concert. For now, eBay or Discogs probably are your only sources, but as I pointed out above, the current retail price isn’t higher than what it was originally offered at, so go for it while you can.

DOWNLOAD: “Straight To Hell,” “Brand New Cadillac,” “The Sunnyside of the Street”


PROMISED LAND SOUND – For Use and Delight

Album: For Use and Delight

Artist: Promised Land Sound

Label: Paradise of Bachelors

Release Date: October 02, 2015

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The Upshot: Jack White-approved outfit offers decisive proof that Nashville is Music City USA and not Country Music City USA.


Let’s get some of the inevitable comparisons outta the way: on this young Nashville combo’s sophomore platter one encounters elements both overt and suggestive of the Rolling Stones (the earworm riffs), Quicksilver Messenger Service (the lyrical guitar ballets), the Byrds (the cosmic cowboy vibes), Big Star (the unusual melodic twists) and Tom Petty (the romantically drawling vocals). That’s no summary, though, ‘cos these cats have a slow-burn intensity that’s remarkable. No wonder Mr. White approached them early on to do a 45 for his Third Man label.

From the contrasting rootsy romance and psychedelic flourishes of opener “Push and Pull (All the Time)” and the intricate fingerstyle interplay that powers “Dialogue” (that’s fretboard virtuoso and labelmate Steve Gunn guesting) to the stomping power pop of “Golden Child” and extended closing gem “Within Sight,” which over the course of about six minutes morphs from an Untitled-era Byrdsian trope into a modal, Middle Eastern-meditation and finally into a wah-wah fueled garage raveup that just screams “set closer,” For Use and Delight lives up to its title.

In fact, the overall sound here—certainly one must single out the ghostly intimacy of the vocals, with the harmonies recalling better-known contemporaries Dawes and the subtle yet expansive keyboard fills at the arrangements’ edges are lovely—is good enough to draw the attention of the majors and their bigger budgets and bigger studios. Yet recall (just to cite one of the avatars listed above) Big Star’s Number One Record and how that ultimately didn’t need “bigger” or “bigtime” to achieve iconic status. These kids are doing just fine working in their chose scene and working with the ever-tasty NC label Paradise of Bachelors. More proof that Nashville is Music City USA and not Country Music City USA—and, indeed, this Jack White-approved outfit, with its sundry stylistic kinships and roster intersections with such decidedly non-twanging outfits as Pujol, JEFF the Brotherhood, The Ettes (whose own Jem Cohen is one of the producers) and Fly Golden Eagle, ably fulfills its role as a solid indie rock ambassador.

Promised Land Sound are clearly onto something special, and it’s going to be a fun ride to watch ‘em develop.

DOWNLOAD: “Within Sight,” “Golden Child,” “Dialogue”

THE BLESSINGS – Shipwrecked

Album: Shipwrecked

Artist: The Blessings

Label: self-released

Release Date: May 29, 2015

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The Upshot: Cutting the crap and aiming for short ‘n’ sweet, this straightforward outfit makes soulful, meat and potatoes rock.


The Blessings are one of the few American acts that still believe (unironically) in the rock & roll standards set by the Rolling Stones and the Faces: simple (but not stupid), R&B-based (but not dominated), straightforward (but not crude). The L.A. sextet hasn’t released a record since 2011’s masterful Tomahawk Inn, so the appearance of new EP Shipwrecked is more than welcome.

Less aggressive that previous efforts, the disk shows different sides to the Blessings’ talents via the wistful folk rock of the title track to the roots rock of “Ran Out of Teardrops,” which somehow crossbreeds the J. Geils Band with Green On Red. Which isn’t to say the band has abandoned its initial vision: the blues-rollicking “Born With Horns,” the soulful “Come Back Home” and the galloping “Mississippi Moon” fly the meat-and-potatoes rock & roll flag high.

Each cut is finely crafted and loosely performed in the classic style, making us wish there were more than just five. Then again, there’s something to be said for cutting the crap and delivering your best in a short ‘n’ sweet manner, and on Shipwrecked the Blessings knock that approach out of the park.

DOWNLOAD: “Shipwrecked,” “Mississippi Moon,” “Ran Out of Teardrops”