Monthly Archives: March 2016

Charles Bradley & The Extraordinaires + Tedo Stone 3/23/16, Athens BA

Dates: March 23, 2016

Location: Georgia Theatre, Athens GA

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Onstage at Athens’ storied Georgia Theatre, the soul man brought it—and then some.


I had to go see this show – and was happy to make the drive to experience it at one of my favorite venues—The Georgia Theatre in Athens. Georgia’s own Tedo Stone was the opening act and is one of my favorite rising bands. Tedo is the front guy with the great voice and songwriting chops. This was a fun, intense performance of some new stuff. He and his bandmates play like a fine road-tested rock machine. Their Facebook page claims influences include T.Rex and Crazy Horse. (No wonder I love ‘em.) Besides Tedo, the band is Frank Keith IV on bass, Chris Mala drums, and Clay Houle on wailing guitar. Check out the fantastic new record Marshes on the This Is American Music label. Stone can be found at his Bandcamp page as well. (Stone is pictured below.)

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On to the headliner. This man is not a young man, and his rising fame has been a fairly recent thing, wowing crowds literally around the world with high profile shows at Coachella, Glastonbury, and Primavera Sound, not to mention SXSW. His new LP is released this week, April 1, titled Changes on Daptone Records; it’s already streaming, so check his website for that too. (The title track is a cover – not the Bowie “Changes” but the Black Sabbath song. It works.) I’ve been wearing out his great 2013 release Victim of Love, also on Daptone, also highly recommended. Man, can this guy let out a soul scream. New songs already getting airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on SiriusXM, because they play the good stuff. He’d be at home on The Loft and Spectrum channels there as well. (I won’t do the whole bio write-up but all things Charles Bradley are at his official website.)

My appreciation for the soul greats was second-hand until way too late in life, meaning I mostly grew up listening to white rocker-crooners paying tribute. Meh. My bad. I’ve been making up for lost time of late, devouring all the Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and James Brown records I can find. So along comes Charles Bradley, and suddenly it’s not a nostalgia thing anymore. He is the real deal soul man like the greats who came before. He is also a great; not a revivalist or a retro act paying tribute.

He’s Charles Bradley, and he’s bringing his world to new audiences, young kids especially, who will be experiencing this for the first time. I didn’t check, but this show had to be sold out. (Say what you will about Millennials, I think they rock, and always impress me with their open-mindedness about and appreciation for all musical genres.)

Bradley’s stage band is Brooklyn-based The Extraordinaires and they are: Freddy DeBoe, Billy Aukstik, Mike Deller, Vince Chariot, Alex Chakour, Caito Sanchez, and Paul Shalda, who plays a great rhythm on the Rickenbacker and who so resembles the late Duane Allman that it was a bit disconcerting at times to glance over and see him there. I would go see these guys alone playing instrumentals, given the chance. Booker T & The MG’s groove action.

Bradley and the band are now on tour in Europe, but definitely hope for some more 2016 U.S. dates.

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Bone Thugs- N- Harmony 3/19/16, Memphis TN

Dates: March 19, 2016

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphis TN

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‘Tha Crossroads’ tour 20th Anniversary gets rolling because that’s how they roll when they are at the New Daisy Theatre.


When you are on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee you can expect a lot of people and a fun night. If you throw in a Grizzly basketball game and a concert from Bone Thugs -N- Harmony you can bet on a packed street.

The recently renovated New Daisy Theatre on Beale St. is now a Live Nation venue. You couldn’t ask for a better place to see a concert with an up-close show with conveniently located bars so you don’t miss a minute of the action. New Daisy has a helpful and courteous staff that made my experience a great one!

From the moment that Bone Thugs-N- Harmony took the stage the crowd was hyped and ready to reminisce of days gone by and we were not disappointed! With hits like “Tha Crossroads”, “1st of tha Month”, and “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” the band has kept people moving and heads bobbing for twenty-five years.

The group from Cleveland Ohio with gangsta rap mixed with harmonies was first signed by none other than Easy-E to his Ruthless Records label in 1991. They made sure to pay homage to him by rapping to “Boyz-N- Tha Hood” and giving Easy a huge shout out before also shouting out to Biggie Smalls and then Tupac.

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It was hard for me to believe that even though a large amount of people in the crowd were not born, or were very young when Bones was on the charts, they were jumping and singing along like this was the new jam. This just goes to prove, a really good song never goes out of style and can even find new audiences.

The band had a meet and greet after the show for everyone who purchased VIP tickets.  More and more artists are doing VIP ticket sales with a meet and greet and usually other extras such as posters, shirts, etc. With plummeting album sales due to downloading, this gives bands a way to generate some extra money, besides shirts and onsite CD sales.


Mark Jackson:


Album: Little Windows

Artist: Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones

Label: Cooking Vinyl

Release Date: April 01, 2016

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The Upshot: Fresh take on vintage pop stylings: Hearts break, lovers cheat and jilted partners confront the unfaithful, but even so, the sound remains pure and unpretentious.


Could this be a blast from the past? Indeed, it certainly sounds that way thanks to Teddy Thompson and newfound partner Kelly Jones’ take on vintage pop. Despite their relatively brief acquaintance, the two are already perfectly in sync, sounding like they’ve been harmonising forever. As a result, their voices combine to create a perfect vehicle for some wide-eyed wonderment as filtered through the prism of idealism and innocence. The material serves that purpose well, to such an extent, in fact, that several of these songs already sound like standards.

It’s little wonder, too, that the influences are so obvious. Buddy Holly (“Never Knew You Loved Me Too,” “Wondering”) and the Everly Brothers (“Better at Lying,” “Don’t Remind Me”) are especially evident in the mix, but given the ideal ‘oldies sound the duo replicates so well, any number of forebears could be name-checked as well. The pair caress the material with both a wink and a tear, effectively milking more than a hint of typical teenage angst as they navigate that fine line between desire and despair. Hearts break, lovers cheat and jilted partners confront the unfaithful, but even so, the sound remains pure and unpretentious, even in the face of tangled emotions. A terrific beginning, Little Windows offers its audience a perfect view.

DOWNLOAD: “Better at Lying,” “Don’t Remind Me,” “Never Knew You Loved Me To”


Album: Side Pony

Artist: Lake Street Dive

Label: Nonesuch

Release Date: February 19, 2016

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The Upshot: Injecting enough of their own touches into the soul/rock genre to make it refreshing, the group cuts their sound with plenty of sweet pop ear candy, too.


The success of soul/R&B revivalists like Alabama Shakes, Sharon Jones and the like have spawned a slew of other bands that are finally getting exposure after years of flying under the radar. These modern groups, dead set on marrying the ‘60s with a few modern touches, seem to be cropping up everywhere nowadays. And Lake Street Dive is among one of the better ones, for the past decade, injecting enough of their own touches into the genre to make it refreshing, cutting their sound with plenty of sweet pop ear candy.

Their latest, Side Pony, is probably one of their most polished efforts yet, but that just adds to the charm. They grabbed producer Dave Cobb to work on this one, and like his work with Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Shooter Jennings, he manages to add the right balance of grit and polish, for a clean sound that doesn’t sacrifice the authenticity.

The Boston foursome have managed to add in a solid mix of get on the dancefloor numbers (“Call Off Your Dogs,” “Can’t Stop”) and breakup songs (“So Long,” “Mistakes”). Rachel Price has a booming voice that sounds like a mix of everyone from Janis Joplin to Dusty Springfield (the brilliant “Spectacular Failures” is Price at her Dusty-channeling best). Side Pony is a solid starting point for anyone who has yet to discover the band.

DOWNLOAD: “Call Off Your Dogs,” “Spectacular Failure” and “So Long”


THE GLOAMING — The Gloaming aka Two

Album: The Gloaming aka Two

Artist: The Gloaming

Label: Brassland

Release Date: February 26, 2016

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The Upshot: Irish-American group frames Irish reels in a postmodern context, featuring the talents of Doveman, members of Afro Celt Sound System and Midnight Court.


This second album from the Irish-American quintet frames traditional Irish reels in a post-modern context, surrounding gamboling fiddle lines with minimalist piano and drone. As with the first album, also self-titled, pianist Thomas Bartlett (that is, Doveman) plays a clean, cerebral counterpoint to band leader Martin Hayes’ history-soaked fiddle figures. An additional violin, played by Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, layers in sustained textures and dissonances that shade line-drawn melodies with depth. Iarla Ó Lionáird, who also performs with Afro Celt Sound System, lends a light, mournful tenor to tracks like “The Pilgrim’s Song” and “Fainleog,” singing in a gentle, but guttural Gaelic against a shimmering, shifting curtain of string sound. Dennis Cahill, who has played with Hayes for decades in the jazz-fusion duo Midnight Court and in a traditional Irish duo, plays with quiet, unshowy mastery on the guitar.

These songs are all luminous, presenting worn-in folk melodies with a lucid, contemporary clarity. The experimentation happens at the edges, in the keening string dissonances that swell out of the interstices of “Casadh an tSugain,” or the minimalist chords that frame “Mrs. Dwyer.”  Even the songs that hew most closely to folk — it’s not hard to imagine “The Bouley House” spooling out in a weathered County Clare pub — are sharp and imaginative. The playing, too, is wonderful, warm, collaborative and technically excellent; instruments cross and intersect and dance over one another without ever stepping on a stray foot.

I’m writing this on St. Patrick’s Day when past-worshipping fiddle music and leprechaun festooned homilies pop up with discouraging regularity on my Facebook feed. The Gloaming is different because it gets at the lovely essence of the Irish tradition without sentimentality or dumbing down — and also isn’t afraid to make it modern.

DOWNLOAD: “Cucunandy” “The Pilgrim’s Song”


Album: My Road

Artist: Bob Margolin

Label: Vizztone

Release Date: January 08, 2016

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The Upshot: The guitarist’s love for, and devotion to, blues tradition remain both clear and consistent.


Bob Margolin lives and breathes the blues. And well he should. Having gotten his apprenticeship as part of the Muddy Waters Band in the late ‘70s during their various world tours, he was able to develop his chops under the watchful eye of the Master himself. Which meant that when Margolin was ready to take his leave in 1980, he had accumulated the credibility and confidence to strike out on his own. His efforts were rewarded with any number of prestigious prizes, including the W.C. Handy Award.

All of which makes My Road such a telling personal document about his journey thus far. While the music stays true to the template, the songs resonate with lyrics that express his admiration for the blues and its purveyors both past and present. “Young and Old Blues” is the most telling of those tracks, a recap of the time he was invited to play with the late, great B.B. King. It was an experience that had him marvelling at the older man’s agility, while also reinforcing the fact that age is only a matter of perspective because skill supersedes all. Likewise, his homage to the music’s continuing legacy (“Robert Johnson and the devil still walk side by side”) on the track “Devil’s Daughter” not only namedrops any number of legends, but brings things full circle as well. Produced by Grammy-winning producer Michael Freeman the album provides an equal mix of originals and choice covers, but its love for, and devotion to, blues tradition remain both clear and consistent.

DOWNLOAD: “Devil’s Daughter,” “Young and Old Blues


SONAR — Black Light

Album: Black Light

Artist: Sonar

Label: Cuneiform

Release Date: October 09, 2015

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The Upshot: Sinuous, foreboding grooves as precise as an equation but imbued with restless, mysterious energy.

By Jennifer Kelly

SONAR — that’s short for SONic Architecture — plays sinuous, foreboding grooves as precise as an equation but imbued with restless, mysterious energy. This project from guitarists Stephan Thelen and Bernhard Wagner, bass player Christian Kuntner and percussionist Manuel Pasquinelli is now on its third album, spinning elegant high tensile strength sonic structures that are no more rock than they are jazz than they are classical or experimental.

A set of rules guide composition and performance. Guitars and basses are all tuned to tritones, the so-called “devil’s interval” that jolts and disturbs even at relatively sedate tempos and volume levels. Rhythms, too, are non-standard and unexpected, shocked through with accented off-beats and incorporating multiple time signatures, with parts that mesh like mismatched gears at unpredictable parts of the measure. The sound, overall, is clean and full of space. Notes either tersely bitten off in syncopated patterns or allowed to linger lyrically, but there are not so many notes. This is minimalist prog if it is prog at all: no shredding.

All that might make SONAR sound a bit dull and precious, a mathematical exercise with no claim on the heart or gut, and yet this music is oddly, uncomfortably moving. “Orbit 5, 7” picks its way through chilled conundrums that open like pop-up books into three-dimensional space. “Angular Momentum” rides an anxious cinematic pulse through thickets of guitar and bass interplay; it’s the music for a long tense interval in a movie, where, perhaps, a team of spies navigates shadowy dangers. “String Geometry” is almost funk, by which I mean you could almost dance to it, though it might be easier with an irregular number of legs and arms.  It’s way more fun and emotionally charged than you would expect from a lab experiment — a test tube music that creates life out of abstract principles.

DOWNLOAD: “Orbit 5, 7”



BEN MONDER – Amorphae

Album: Amorphae

Artist: Ben Monder

Label: ECM

Release Date: October 30, 2015

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The Upshot: An emphasis on improvisation rather than composition, lending a free-flowing vibe to the tracks from the David Bowie jazz guitarist.


Guitarist Ben Monder’s profile was recently raised due to his position as axeman on David Bowie’s final LP Blackstar. But the New Yorker has a long jazz career going back to the early 90s; Amorphae is his sixth album as a leader. Joined on various tracks by free jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille, synthesist Pete Rende and late drummer Paul Motian, Monder puts the emphasis on improvisation rather than composition, lending a free-flowing vibe to the tracks.

“Free flowing” doesn’t mean chaotic – Monder and his cohorts tend toward the atmospheric, as on the shimmering “Tumid Cenobite,” which extracts melody out of volume swells and Cyrille’s subtle percussion accents, or the solo “Tendrils” and “Dinosaur Skies.”  Some dust does get kicked up, of course, via Monder, Rende and Cyrille’s slow climb up the tower of “Zythum” and on Monder and Motian’s duet on the busy “Triffids” and a radically transmogrified Rodgers and Hammerstein Oklahoma standard “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Fans looking for postbop riffing and flashy solos won’t find them here. Monder’s aim is instead to use improvisation to create moods, a soundtrack to life passing by, and in that respect he succeeds admirably.

DOWNLOAD: “Zythum,” “Dinosaur Skies,” “Triffids”



Album: Pines Fly By

Artist: Left Coast Country

Label: self-released

Release Date: February 26, 2016

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The Upshot: A record that conveys an old timey sense of respect while breathing new life into the contemporary bluegrass genre.


Left Coast Country are a bluegrass band hailing from Oregon. Now for some, that unlikely geographical/genre combo might seem sacrilegious, sort of like that old Pace picante commercial where the men find out the salsa was from New York City, and they grunt, “Get a rope!” Well, I’m here to tell you bluegrass lovers that these gentlemen are every bit the real deal. You can smell the whisky on their breath and hear the road weariness in their voices.

Fans of groups such as the Dan Tyminski Band will find a lot to love on this record. The harmonies are sweet, and the playing is a claw fist lover’s delight. The musicians get the balance right between some real dust-ups and the moodier numbers that fall in the second half of the record.

The title track “Pines Fly By” is a song that captures the moment when you’re staring out of your pickup making your way to the next show with nothing but a ribbon of interstate in front of you. “Bus Driver,” meanwhile, is one fine song that rides that fine line between country and bluegrass. Plenty of heartstring pulling and some savory fiddle playing makes this number a real standout. And “Sweetgrass” is a beautiful instrumental showing off such well-honed chops that the listener can imagine it being played during a Prairie Home Companion intermission.

There’s plenty to rave about on this record, and I’ve just touched on a few songs to get you going. I’m sure that live, they must put on one hell of a live show. Music like this is hard to do well, and mediocrity in bluegrass seems the norm these days; which is why I am grateful that Left Coast Country have created a record that conveys an old timey sense of respect while breathing new life into a genre that can seem caged in an O Brother, Where Art Thou prison.

DOWNLOAD: “Bus Driver,” “Sweetgrass,” “Burnin’ Old Pictures of You,” “Pines Fly By”





KATE CAMPBELL- The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1)

Album: The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1)

Artist: Kate Campbell

Label: Large River

Release Date: January 22, 2016

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The Upshot: A deeply personal delivery from the 20-year veteran of pure Americana, and one that resonates with equally deeply-felt feelings and conviction.


Over the course of her 20 year career — one that now encompasses a remarkable 18 albums — Kate Campbell has probed the depths of the heartland and specifically the South, culling stories, anecdotes and pure and simple life lessons from the people and places she’s sung about along the way. It’s a purity of purpose that takes on literary significance, bringing her comparisons to the likes of Faulkner, Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor and others who have helped define an American vision of decades gone by. Little wonder then that she’s earned the praises of contemporaries such as Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, John Prine and others who have not only found a common bond in her music, but eagerly contributed to it as well.

Campbell’s new effort, The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1), follows on the heels of her debut album by the folk supergroup of sorts, The New Agrarians, a co-op that also includes Tom Kimmel and Pierce Pettis. It is, on the surface, a solo effort, but it ultimately takes a different twist. Recorded on an iPhone 5 with two microphones set up in her living room and a few disparate locations across the country, it’ becomes an intimate, homespun affair featuring songs that illustrate various iconic environs. Campbell provides the introductions, offering a presentation that mirrors a live performance. The songs she chose for this particular showcase are particularly profound, and she does them all justice. A tender take on Richard Thompson’s wonderful “Galway to Graceland” is especially emotive, as is the song that helps start the set, a telling read of Simon and Garfunkel’s weary road song “America.”  Naturally, “Me and Bobby McGhee” and “I Am a Pilgrim” find appropriate placement as well. An acoustic take on “Freebird,” the song that serenaded her at her senior prom ends the proceedings and fuels the sentiment with sublime reverence.

A handful of guests lend their talents along the way — Spooner Oldham, Missy Raines and Sally Van Meter among them — but ultimately, Campbell provides a deeply personal delivery and one that resonates with equally deeply-felt feelings and conviction. Let’s hope a Vol. 2 follows in short order.

DOWNLOAD: “America,” “Galway to Graceland,” Freebird”