Monthly Archives: November 2015

THE MANTLES — All Odds End

Album: All Odds End

Artist: Mantles

Label: Slumberland

Release Date: October 16, 2015

http://www.slumberland.com/

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The Upshot: Fuzz-toned gems as smooth and inevitable and wholly natural as rocks worn to a shine in a riverbed.

 BY JENNIFER KELLY

The Mantles have distilled jangle pop to its essence, delivering 11 deceptively simple sounding slices of 1960s-nodding guitar pop. The Bay Area band is led by Michael Olivares and Virginia Weatherby, who, even when they’re not trading riffs (he on guitar) and beats (she on drums) are married partners. Their continuous contact and collaboration, plus the unlimited time that the Mantles home-recorded process allows, allows them to polish their fuzz-toned gems until all the extraneities have been removed. These cuts feel as smooth and inevitable and wholly natural as rocks worn to a shine in a riverbed.

All Odds End is not radically different from 2013’s Long Enough to Leave, though somewhat a bit less aggressive than the 2009 debut.  Sly, boisterous “Police My Love” punches out Nuggets-y hooks in bright keyboard melodies, taut strumming and cymbal bashing rock cadences, while “Best Sides” has the ramshackle charm of a Wreckless Eric track. But even so it’s lovely, languid, “Lately,” that stands out here, with its Byrds-ish picked guitar and clean Kinks-like melody. “Lately, it’s not like me,” sings Olivares, distilling all the bittersweet ruefulness of the 1960s into a song so true to itself that it sounds like a classic the first time you listen in.

DOWNLOAD: “Lately” “Police My Love”

GRUPO FANTASMA – Problemas

Album: Problemas

Artist: Grupo Fantasma

Label: Blue Corn Music

Release Date: October 30, 2015

www.bluecornmusic.com

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The Upshot: So upbeat and infectious that even if you don’t understand the Spanish vocals you’ll find no barrier to enjoyment.

BY FRED MILLS

Okay, rock ‘n roll fans, how about some traditional Latin roots music incorporating elements of hip-hop, indie rock and jazz as well as world music from Africa, Eastern Europe and South America—AND a Spanish-language version of the Beatles’ Abbey Road gem “Because,” rendered as a kind of sensual bolero ballad rather than the dreamy psych of the original while still retaining the signature lush vocal harmonies?

Meet Texas dectet Grupo Fantasma—which yours truly saw once upon a time in Austin, during the annual SXSW fest, and was totally, thoroughly, permanently blown away by the combined intensity and sensuality of the group’s prevailing multi-culti aesthetic. Problemas, their fifth full-length, is particularly noteworthy by virtue of producer (and Los Lobos member) Steve Berlin, and the alliance is apt. With a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on in the low-end department (the better to fonk you with, my dear; it’s all about that bass), the group serves up everything from swingin’ big band Afro-Puerto Rican bomba (“Mulato”) to rousing staccato-horns salsa with a side of island guitar (“Problemas”) to sinewy Nuyorican-styled bugalú (“Cayuco”) that suggests a summit between Mongo Santamaria and—check the guitar solo—Santana.

Elsewhere one encounters elements of mambo, south-of-the-border cumbia, New Orleans funk, Peruvian chicha and more. It’s all so upbeat and infectious the fact that you might not be able understand what they’re singing is no barrier to enjoyment. “Ghost group” (which is what Grupo Fantasma translates as), my ass: these guys are as earthy and visceral as pretty much any American roots-rock outfit currently going. The music will still haunt ya, though, and that’s definitely no problemas, eh?

DOWNLOAD: “Porque” (the aforementioned Beatles cover), “Mulato,” “Cayuco”

VARIOUS ARTISTS – To Love the Bee Gees

Album: To Love the Bee Gees

Artist: Various Artists

Label: 80 Proof

Release Date: November 27, 2015

www.80-Proof.com

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The Upshot: A labour of love that, surprisingly for a tribute album, has far more hits than misses.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Gathering a group of artists to pay tribute to the Bee Gees should be a no-miss proposition no matter who’s on the marquee. That point’s proven repeatedly by To Love the Bee Gees, a collection of some of the Brothers‘ Gibbs‘ best performed by a group of mostly obscure artists who still manage for the most part to redeem themselves admirably. Here, the star of the show is the music itself — at least when it comes to the better known material — so much so that the best reads find the spotlight shining not so much on the performers, but rather on the material they’re covering. The selection of songs speaks for itself — “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” and “Words” among them, all repeated via alternate mixes, acoustic versions and various alternate takes on the deluxe edition’s bonus disc.

Surprisingly there have been very few Bee Gees tribute in the past; the excellent Melody Fair and a more recent boy bands offering “Gotta Get a Message to You are the only two that come immediately to mind. It’s gratifying then that for the most part, To Love the Bee Gees holds its own. Here again, the better tracks find the participants varying little from the familiar template. The Silver Seas” “I Started a Joke,” Dylan Gardner’s “Massachusetts” and SheLoom’s “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You” are the best of the bunch for precisely that reason. Emitt Rhodes’ low cast take on “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” comes close but is a bit too subdued, while Elayna Boynton takes the opposite tack and over emotes on the still soulful “To Love Somebody.” Sadly though, Martin Carr turns “Stayin’ Alive” into tedious techno, while “Words” is ruined by Gloom Balloon’s lame attempt at reinventing it as some sort of hip hop extravaganza. And clearly Kinky drew the short end of the stick when they were given the oddly obscure “Living Together,” one of the few songs here that doesn’t come immediately to mind. Likewise, Low Leaf turn the equally unfamiliar “Blue Island” into such a miserable mishmash that the lack of recognition doesn’t matter much anyway.

In the final tally, there are more hits than misses here, and given the majority of songs in the set list, To Love the Bee Gees scores well. A labour of love? Perhaps. For the most part they give it a good try.

 

DOWNLOAD: “I Started a Joke,” “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You,” “Massachusetts”

Dandy Warhols 11/16/15, Atlanta

Dates: November 16, 2015

Location: Terminal West, Atlanta GA

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TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

It is hard to imagine this rock band has been together 21 years, but there it is in Wikipedia – ‘formed in 1994’ by Peter Holmstrӧm and Courtney Taylor-Taylor in Portland, Oregon.  It makes sense;  they play like a band that has been together forever, and working hard at it since day 1.  The Dandy Warhols obviously take what they do very seriously, which is a perfect mix of rock, style, attitude, and fun, write great songs, and somehow manage to combine a melting pot of retro influences and come up with something wholly original.  That’s how a rock band keeps cooking for 20-plus years.

Atlanta fans brought the Dandy love.  I didn’t confirm this show was sold out, but it surely it was.  Terminal W was packed to the rafters with devoted fans hanging on to each of the 20-plus songs the band played, winding up with possibly their biggest hit – Boys Better, still one of the coolest singles from the past 20 years by any band.

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The Dandy Warhols are (L-R) Zia McCabe (keys, bass, vocals), Brent DeBoer (drums & vocals), Peter Holmstrӧm (guitar & vocals) and Courtney Taylor-Taylor (guitar, vocals & keys)

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And I want to add that in no way do Holmstrӧm and DeBoer resemble Mark Farner and Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad in their heyday when they sing together, to people of a certain age.  Any of my photos that indicate otherwise are to be written off as optical illusions and moody lighting.  Or the new beta GFR Instagram filter I used.  😉

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For fellow-guitar and gear fans, an early show highlight for me was a stage crew hand setting up DeBoer’s guitar who went to the trouble of getting my attention and giving me a little spotlight for a photo.  Very cool looking indeed, make and model unknown as of this writing but I’m on it.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 11/6-8/15, Austin

Dates: November 6-8, 2015

Location: Auditorium Shores, Austin TX

 

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TEXT AND PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PASSMAN

DAY 1, NOV. 6

(above and below) King Khan and BBQ

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Benjamin Booker

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Cheap Trick

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Skinny Puppy (Skinny Puppy is very impressive live and a pleasure to shoot. Despite not listening to industrial music for 15 years, it was really enjoyable and a tremendous performance. I highly recommend seeing them if you get a chance. – MP)

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DAY 2, NOV. 7

Charlatans UK

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Archers of Loaf

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Shot Wrestling (e.g., take a shot after each match)

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Ride

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Jane’s Addiction (This was shot from the crowd since Headliner passes were limited to festival photographers, affiliated friends, and publications with large circulation. – MP)

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Sniper 66

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The Applicators

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***

DAY 3, NOV. 8 (Note: Bands not shot with the exception of a few from the crowd since Headliner photo pass holders, i.e. FFF Fest staff photographers, outlets with large circulation, and close friends of the fest were allowed to shoot them:, Chromeo, CHVRCHES, Coheed and Cambria, Drive Like Jehu, Future Islands, Gogol Bordello, Grimes, Jane’s Addiction, L7, Ms. Lauryn Hill, NOFX, ODESZA, Rae Sremmurd, Schoolboy Q, Venom, and Wu-Tang Clan. – MP)

OFF!

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Big Freedia

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Rolling tacos for the Taco Cannon

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Andrew WK, meet the Taco Cannon!

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Some hardworking FFF Fest crew with their ballsacks and tacos

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Taco Cannon! (This is what the line looks like every day when there’s free tacos in Austin. – MP)

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Dag Nasty

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L7 (This was shot from side stage since headliners were restricted to FFF Fest staff photographers, outlets with large circulation, and close friends of the fest. – MP)

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Dirty Fences

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Bluegrass Situation Festival 10/3/15, Los Angeles

Dates: October 3, 2015

Location: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles CA

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TEXT & PHOTOS BY MICHAEL BERICK

The L.A. Bluegrass Situation has always been a rather unique festival situation. Since starting in 2010, it has both expanded and contracted. The festival began as a five-day affair at the intimate Los Angeles club Largo at the Coronet. Last year, the Bluegrass Situation relocated to the larger Theater at the Ace Hotel for two days of shows. This year, the festival was just one day, Oct. 3, but it moved to the even larger Greek Theater.

Actor/banjo enthusiastic Ed Helms’ initial reason to put this festival on was to stimulate interest in L.A. for bluegrass music. Early participants such bluegrass-y acts as the Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, Nickel Creek alums Sean & Sara Watkins and Chris Thile (with his band the Punch Brothers) along with Helms and his fellow banjo-picking actor Steve Martin. The Bluegrass Situation, which is also a popular website, has broaden its musical focus over the years to encompass all sorts of Americana styles. Last year’s headliners, for example, were the history-minded string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the folk-tinged indie rockers Lord Huron.

So it was no surprise that this year’s festival wasn’t just a day of bluegrass. In fact, there was very little music that could be described as traditional bluegrass. The concert was less like a West Coast attempt at Merlefest and more like a little cousin to San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, which coincidentally took place the same weekend.

One advantage of the Greek setting was that it allowed the Festival to begin early. In the afternoon, fans could stroll around outside the amphitheater where there were food trucks, games to play and a small stage featuring up-and-coming acts.

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The outdoor stage proved to be a nice showcase for Southern California’s rich Americana scene Two talented local bands – the jubilant old-timey-inspired ensemble Dustbowl Revival and the lovely, harmony-rich folk-rocker The Wild Reeds – got the day off to a rousing start. The Spirit Family Reunion, imported from New York City, were indeed spirited in their all-too short set of energized acoustic music. Closing out the afternoon was another rising local star Sam Outlaw (below), whose trad-based country felt more suited for a dimly lit honky tonk than the blazing October sun; however, he confidently served up timeless-sounding tunes from his impressive debut, Angeleno. He also got off one of the day’s best lines saying it has always been his dream “to play outside the Greek Theater.”

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The Americana eclecticism continued once concert moved inside the amphitheatre. Nashville-based troubadour Jonny Fritz kicked off the festivities with a short set of decidedly off-kilter tunes as one might expect from someone who used to go by the moniker Jonny Corndawg.

Della Mae, another Nashville act, very much epitomized what the Bluegrass Situation is all about. This all-female ensemble’s acoustic music has bluegrass roots but they stretched out to pull in strands of soul, folk, country and rock. Case in point – their set closer was an impassioned rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectation.”

There was a contemplative mood when singer/songwriter Gregory Alan Isokov took to the stage. His intense, cinematic music held some Leonard Cohen-like qualities, although the Colorado-based performer has a far more expressive voice. At times his intimate music felt a bit lost in the Greek Amphitheatre but Isokov and his small band (particularly guitarist Ramaya Soskin and violinist Jeb Bows) wonderfully guided his songs to dip and soar into crescendos.

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A sense of drama was a key part of the Lone Bellows’ strong set (above), which really galvanized the audience. The group’s core trio – singer/guitarist Zach Williams, multi-instrumentalist/singer Kanene Donehey Pipkin and guitarist/singer Brian Elmquist – are all powerhouse singers and they weren’t shy about showing it. Williams, the main vocalist, was a particularly theatrical performer. He milked the crowd, cajoled them to sing along and putting so much of himself into a song, you thought that he might collapse from exhaustion.

The Brooklyn-based group suggested a folk trio sonically supersized into a rock band – imagine Peter, Paul & Mary melded with Fleetwood Mac – and then injected with some revival tent soul. Songs like “The One You Shouldn’t Let Go,” “You Need Nobody,” the Elmquist showcase “Green Eyes And A Heart of Gold” and their best-known tune “Then Came The Morning” were all anthem-like numbers that brought the crowd to their feet. This band should very quickly work their way up concert bills.

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The Punch Brothers (above), the sole veterans of prior Bluegrass Situations, might have looked like a bluegrass band. The guys played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar and standup bass; however, what they played was something like a bluegrass with mutated DNA.

Fiddler Gabe Witcher, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert, banjoist Noam Pikelny and mandolinist, and ringleader, Chris Thile are all virtuosos and, during their set, they whipped through songs and traded off solos with the precision of diamond cutters. Thile served as ringleader, keeping a light touch while the music flew into the heavens before returning to earth. A prime example of their musical expertise was how they smoothly blended Jimmie Rodgers’ “Brakeman’s Blues” with “Passepied” by Claude Debussy (“the father of bluegrass,” as Thile quipped).

The concert’s closer was the band Dawes who, like The Lone Bellow, would be in major rotation on rock radio stations if there were still rock radio stations of old. While they were the act furthest away from “bluegrass,” the Los Angeles-bred & based band does carry on the legacy of SoCal’s laidback Laurel Canyon folk-rock. What makes Dawes really stand out is frontman Taylor Goldsmith’s distinctive songwriting. He is someone who can write keenly observed lyrics and match them to friendly hooks. Their set mixed old and new tunes, with “Little Bit Of Everything,” “Things Happen,” “If I Wanted Someone” and “All Your Favorite Bands” (a co-write with Jonny Fritz) especially impressing as thinking man’s sing-a-longs.

The recent addition of Duane Betts (son of Dickie, named after Allman) on lead guitar added some welcome grittiness to the Dawes’ sound; Betts accented the “southern” in their Southern California sound. Goldsmith, who early in the set said it was a dream come true to play the Greek, brought the remaining musicians onto the stage to do Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” the 21st Century “Kumbaya.” While it would have been nice if there had been more interactions like this between the bands throughout the show, this “all-star jam” nicely showed how the concert brought together many strands of Americana music. The Bluegrass Situation had an auspicious debut at the Greek Theater, and hopefully they will make it an annual tradition.

 

Neil Young: Heart of Gold, by Harvey Kubernik

Title: Neil Young: Heart of Gold

Author: Harvey Kubernik

Publisher: Backbeat Books

Publication Date: November 10, 2015

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www.backbeatbooks.com

BY FRED MILLS

A number of years ago I was talking Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, of Del-Lords and Steve Earle & the Dukes fame, about some of his extracurricular activities, one of them being handling production chores for Nils Lofgren’s ’92 album Crooked Line. While working on a particularly brawny track called “Drunken Driver” Ambel remarked to Lofgren that it reminded him a lot of Neil Young & Crazy Horse; the lightbulb apparently went on over Lofgren’s head, because a day or so later who should wander into the studio but Young himself. Ambel soon found himself trading electric guitar lines with the music legend. Subsequently, while listening to the playback, Lofgren asked Young what he thought of the riffing.

“It’s ugly, it’s horrible, it’s nasty—it’s just right for the song,” was Young’s response.

That scenario came to mind while absorbing the latest book by veteran L.A. author/journalist Harvey Kubernik (most recently: 2014’s Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows, reviewed HERE). Neil Young: Heart of Gold is rife with such moments, when Young made an artistic call based not on what would seem to be the obvious or logical or even commercial decision, but upon his gut feeling, of what his instincts told him would serve the moment—and certainly the song or the album or the concert at hand—best.

With each of its 10 chapters set up to detail a specific timeline in Young’s life, the 224-page, photo-rich NYHoG pulls off the remarkable event of presenting those timelines with orderly precision based less on uniform blocks of time (for example, the “Expecting to Fly” chapter depicts 1966-69, while “A Long Road Behind Me, A Long Road Ahead” covers an entire decade, 1996-2006) and more on how proximate releases, tours, events and personal digressions informed and related to one another. Just to cite one chapter, the “Keep on Rockin’” 1987-96 period: late ’87 found Young legally free of Geffen Records, with which he’d had a rather, er, fractious relationship (a few years earlier the label had sued him for submitting albums that were “unrepresentative” of the man they’d thought they were signing) and back home on Reprise, where his first release was the horns-heavy/blues-rocking This Note’s For You (the accompanying tour was recently documented on the 11th installment of Neil’s archive series, Bluenote Café); apparently freed psychically as well, Young would go on a sustained creative roll and enjoy one of his most celebrated eras ever, including the release of iconic anthem “Rockin’ In the Free World,” the now-legendary “Smell the Horse” tour with Crazy Horse of the US and Canada that featured Sonic Youth as opening act, the platinum-selling Harvest Moon album, an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “Philadelphia,” the Kurt Cobain-referencing Sleeps With Angels album that earned him his “Godfather of Grunge” sobriquet, and high-profile tours with both Booker T & the MG’s and Pearl Jam serving as his backing band.

Don’t mistake this 8.5” X 10.8” volume for “just another coffeetable book,” however. Folks who spot it in the book store might initially compare it to the 2013 Neil Young: A Life in Pictures, given the similar size and similar wealth of photos—many of them familiar and considered “classic” but quite a few also quite rare and/or relatively obscure—that dot each spread and cover literally every stage of Young’s career (from high school yearbook photos all the way up to his appearance in April of this year in L.A. at Stephen Stills’ Light Up the Blues benefit for Autism Speaks).

But for my money, NYHoG is as worthy a Young biography as, say, Jimmy McDonough’s Shakey, from 2003, or Johnny Rogan’s 2000 tome Zero to Sixty. As a lifelong Young fan who even saw Buffalo Springfield back in the day, Kubernik certainly owns those books and many others, and it’s likely that he didn’t feel the need to retread similar narrative ground. Instead, he structures his book as an oral history that synchs nicely with the images he presents, quoting from Young intimates (David Geffen, David Briggs, Elliot Mazer, etc.), journalists and filmmakers (John Einarson, Henry Diltz, Stanley Dorfman, etc.), musical peers and bandmates (Randy Bachman, Eddie Vedder, Graham Nash, Richie Furay, Nils Lofgren, Frank Sampedro, etc.) and scores more. At the end of the book an appendix lists all of Kubernik’s respondents along with a capsule bio for each, so while a name like Nash or Lofgren probably needs no further explication, it’s nice to know the bonafides for some of the lesser-known people who provide quotes for the book. (Kubernik lists all these folks as “contributors.” Nice populist touch, that.) Another appendix lists the original sources (books, magazines, etc.) for all quotes not collected by Kubernik himself.

He also drops in Young quotes where appropriate, additionally making judicious use of brief but pertinent narrative segues—mindful no doubt of the number one pitfall for oral histories, namely, the ever-present risk of jumping from one “voice” to another without any accompanying context, thereby leaving the reader confused. And to bolster the time-line theme of the book, an appendix provides a very detailed 25-page discography of every Young-related official release.

Ultimately, Neil Young: Heart of Gold strikes the right balance between text and images, between brain food and eye candy. You can proudly leave it out on the table in the living room to impress visitors with your obvious appreciation of The Icon Known As Neil Young, sure. But it’s also the kind of book you can pick up while listening to a record or wondering about some stray bit of Young lore and come away feeling just a little more informed than you were previously.

And hey, Christmas is coming, and everyone’s got a Young fan in the family or circle of friends in need of a good gift idea, so… Now excuse me, I have to go. I’ve been putting off organizing into a database my 500+ Neil Young bootleg LPs, CDs, tapes and downloads for far too long, and I suddenly have an incentive to do just that.

Fortunate Son, by John Fogerty

Title: Fortunat Son

Author: John Fogerty

Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.

Publication Date: October 06, 2015

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http://www.littlebrown.com/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

When it comes to record companies screwing over the artists that make the music they profit from, the list is a long one. But from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, few deals were as blatantly lopsided as the one Creedence Clearwater Revival signed with Fantasy Records. Despite owning a slew of hits created by the band, and more specifically singer/guitarist John Fogerty, the label ended up suing the front man in the 1980s because a song, “The Old Man Down the Road,” on his Centerfield solo album, sounded too much like a song he wrote and sang on from his CCR days – so he was being sued for allegedly ripping off himself. (Go HERE to read about the fascinating legal wrangling that ensued between Fogerty and Fantasy.)

Over the past few decades, Fogerty has talked a little bit about his clashes with Fantasy chief Saul Zaentz, but he finally discusses the relationship and history in full detail in his memoir, Fortunate Son (published by Little, Brown & Company). The book feels almost like an exorcism of sorts for Fogerty, who also goes into great detail about his falling out with his bandmates, including his brother Tom, in the mid-‘70s, when all members wanted more say in the writing of songs.

“As I have been quoted as saying, the worst thing that happened to my band was the Beatles, because the guys in my band thought they could be the Beatles,” Fogerty writes. “Not only did the Beatles have three of the greatest songwriters ever, they had two great singers plus another pretty good singer – and actually a fourth guy with so much personality that it worked.”

He then asks the reader rhetorically if he feels like he was a tyrant in Creedence: “I don’t feel like I was.”

To the reader though, you can’t help but feel like he was at the very least pretty damn difficult to deal with (though it is easy to argue that the guy who wrote “Proud Mary,” “Run Through the Jungle” and “Long As I Can see the Light” deserves his fair share of ego). No one has yet disputed his assertion that he had to teach his CCR band members the various song arrangements on their instruments in the studio.

“Was I sure-handed, a perfectionist, even bullheaded about what I wanted? Yeah, you bet, sometimes. And sometime not… I didn’t sit there and berate or belittle someone in front of everybody else. That just wasn’t in my makeup.”

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Along with finally telling his side to oft-discussed CCR music lore, Fogerty shares a number of interesting anecdotes and facts here, like his penchant for punk rock (he liked The Ramones and Bad Religion’s Sorrow is one of his favorite records). He also finally explains the genesis of the song Willie and the Poor Boys, which came to him on tour as he saw an ad in the paper for the “Winnie the Pooh Super-Pooh Package.”

“I just loved how that sounded, and I wanted to create a cartoonish Winnie-the-Pooh story in a song, with a mythical group.”

The book, a long time coming for many classic rock fans, is a solid read, though perhaps a bit too self-congratulatory. But hell, if you can’t tell the world how great you are in your own bio, who will?

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell 10/17/15, Maryville TN

Dates: October 17

Location: Clayton Center for the Arts, Maryville TN

E and R by David McLister

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

After an extraordinary concert, it’s often tempting to call it the greatest performance one’s ever witnessed. There’s that feeling of afterglow which can linger awhile, maybe even for a week or two before it slowly dissipates and thoughts come back into focus. It’s hard to say if that will be the case with the concert performed by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell last weekend, on Saturday night (Oct. 17), at Maryville, Tennessee’s magnificent Clayton Center for the Arts on the next-to-last date of their The Traveling Kind (Nonesuch) tour, but I’d willing to wager it will resonate for awhile, and perhaps even forever.

For starters, the setting was magnificent. Clayton Center offers superb acoustics, and its location on the idyllic tree-covered campus of Maryville College couldn’t have been better. Having just relocated to the area less than three months ago, we found it a tremendous treat to see these two iconic individuals performing together in such a serene setting a mere fifteen minutes from our new home. [Welcome to the area, Lee and Alisa! – Travel Ed.] At one point Emmylou commented that Rodney could have been in Nashville that night for the premier of the Hank Williams biopic he scored, but he chose to be in Maryville instead. Crowell acknowledged the hometown crowd by gamely attempting the town’s correct pronunciation (“MUR-vuhl” as opposed to “Mary ville”), and he almost got it right (as well he should, since his daughter was in attendance), but it really mattered little how close he came. As soon as the duo walked out on stage, the sold out crowd was smitten.

Still, if they felt they had to work especially hard to charm their audience, they couldn’t have picked better songs to get the set started. From the emphatic opening notes of “Just Want To See You So Bad,” and then onwards through such archival classics as “Wheels,” “Poncho & Lefty,” “Ooh Las Vegas,” “Love Hurts” and “Till I Gain Control,” the show hit one resounding peak after another. Truth be told, they could have reprised “Poncho & Lefty” the entire evening and many of us would have probably been satisfied. Still, there was a wealth of other great songs yet to come — selections culled from their individual catalogues (Harris’ Gram Parsons-penned “Grievous Angel,” “Luxury Liner” and “Red Dirt Girl,” Crowell’s “Ain’t Living Long Like This,” “Till I Gain Control”) and many songs shared between them, the title tracks of their two recent albums together (“Old Yellow Moon,” “The Travelling Kind”) and Crowell’s aforementioned compositions which Harris claimed she first heard on cassette in 1974 and immediately fell in love with. She marvelled at the fact that it took them 38 years to record their first duet album, the Grammy winning Old Yellow Moon, but also mentioned when it came time to do their second, the recently released The Traveling Kind, it took them barely a week to do it.

Rodney Emmyloou

Granted, 26 songs in just over two hours is a lot of ground to cover, but the fact they were able to mine so much material from careers spread well over four decade is a credit to both taste and tenacity. Credit also is due their band, one that includes Hot Band alumnus Steve Fishell on pedal steel, veteran bassist Byron House who subbed at the last minute and their tasteful guitarist Jedd Hughes, who, Harris noted, looks better in their tour cap than anyone else in the band. The band swung, shuffled, rock and relaxed as the songs dictated, making the music seamless and absolutely transfixing, and whether swaying through a tender ballad like “”Back When We Were Beautiful” or lighting up a groove as on “Memphis,” they couldn’t have been tighter or tauter.

After the three song encore, Harris brought her rescue dog to the stage and gave an impassioned talk about why folks should go to their local shelter to find a pet. “They’ll give your life such joy,” she promised, and as if to prove the point she walked her four legged companion to the edge of the stage and then across to give those in the first row a chance to pet it. It was a touching and remarkably human — and humane — way to end such a glorious program, one that resonated well into the evening and will likely continue to do so for some time to come. Then again, when two legends join forces, what other results could there possibly be? Brilliant, breathless, and beautiful.

Live photo by Alisa Cherry; promotional photo by David McLister

BUZZ CASON – Record Machine

Album: Record Machine

Artist: Buzz Cason

Label: Plowboy

Release Date: August 21, 2015

www.plowboyrecords.com

Buzz Cason 8-21

The Upshot: 75-year old songwriting legend dips into a grab-bag of styles that ably display his many gifts.

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

With a resume that encompasses legendary associations with the likes of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly’s Crickets, Kris Kristofferson and Jimmy Buffett, Buzz Cason could be considered something of a legend himself. He co-wrote the monster hit “Everlasting Love,” and his early ‘60s song “Soldier of Love” was even covered by the Beatles as part of their BBC sessions. But mention his name to most people and chances are you’ll be greeted with a blank stare.

Happily then, Record Machine should go a long way to rectifying that by bringing him the widespread attention he deserves. An homage to the joy of making music and the people responsible for it, the album finds Cason hewing through a variety of song styles, from the skiffle-like shuffle of “Don’t Worry Mama” and the steady thump of “Dodgin’ Bullets” to the chipper “Overload,” the driving “Wait On Your Love,” and the rousing rocker “Memphis Friday Night.” Cason tempers the material with a Dylanesque drawl, and on the song “Woe Is Me,” a tale of a frustrated songwriter with a head full of dreams and schemes, his delivery is as dark and despairing as the title implies.

Still, the most surprising offering of all comes in the form of “She Thinks I Still Care,” a Johnny Cash cover which finds Cason affecting a reggae-like lilt to brighten its otherwise sad sentiments. It’s nice to see that at age 75, with a lingering legacy he can still fall back on, Cason can still manage to get in a new groove.

DOWNLOAD: “Woe Is Me,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “Don’t Worry Mama”