Monthly Archives: March 2016

WES MONTGOMERY – One Night in Indy

Album: One Night in Indy

Artist: Wes Montgomery

Label: Resonance

Release Date: February 05, 2016

Wes Montgomery 2-5

The Upshot: Jazz guitar legend at his most relaxed and in control on a recently-discovered 1959 set.


Depending on who you ask, Wes Montgomery was either a genius or one of music’s greatest cases of wasted potential. The guitarist’s turn toward a string-laden, more pop-oriented sound in the mid-60s causes consternation amongst hardcore jazzbos to this day. Whether or not they have a point is a discussion for another time – we’re here to consider One Night in Indy. A recently-discovered, 1959 live recording in Montgomery’s hometown of Indianapolis that’s gone unreleased until now, the album features Montgomery in a postbop setting backed by pianist Eddie Higgins’ trio. (Walter Perkins is on drums; despite the label’s best efforts, the bassist is unknown.)

The Higgins trio gently swinging behind him, Montgomery thumb-picks his way through a series of standards, letting his spry licks and round tone do the work. “Give Me the Simple Life” and “Li’l Darling” ride rhythms that almost sound like hepcat clichés, but Montgomery and Higgins (and the mysterious bass player) trade licks like old pals showing off their best stuff. A sensual and wistful take on Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear” translates pillow talk into music, while brisk romps through “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” blast through the haze for some hot licks. Band and leader meld here, as if the music came from four instruments but all of one mind. Montgomery was the king of postbop jazz guitar, and he’s at his most relaxed and in control on One Night in Indy.


DOWNLOAD: “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Give Me the Simple Life”


VARIOUS ARTISTS: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson

Album: God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Alligator

Release Date: February 26, 2016

Blind Willie CD

The Upshot: A project begun as a Kickstarter fund blossoms into one of the best tribute albums of the last decade.


When Willie Johnson was 7 years old, his stepmother, angered at being beaten by his father, took her revenge by splashing the boy’s face with a pan of lye. But losing his eyesight did not slow Willie Johnson down. He became a fire-and-brimstone preacher, spending his life singing the blues and spreading the good word on the streets of several towns in Texas. Between the years 1927-1930, Johnson recorded a total of 29 songs for Columbia Records. He accompanied himself on a cigar-box guitar he built himself. His songs were the very root of the blues, and the lyrics were mostly spiritual in nature.

The impact and influence these 29 would have on the music could not be measured until years later. You have heard the influence in the music of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. From gospel acts like the Staple Singers to alt-country artist Jason Isbell, you can feel Willie Johnson bubbling just below the surface. In 1977, one of his songs was included in a collection that was placed on a rocket jettisoned to outer space. NASA included the song to give whoever finds the ship a sense of the diversity found on Earth. But even though he has influenced generations of musicians, as days pass his name is slowly being lost in the annals of time.

Then comes along comes this compilation CD. This project of love was masterminded by Jeffrey Gaskill, who was responsible for Gotta Serve Somebody:The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan (Sony Records, 2003) which was nominated for 2 Grammys. This CD began its life as a Kickstarter fund, which raised $125,154 for the cause. Gaskill skillfully picked a lineup of 9 artists who collectively put forth a raw, endearing effort. There is nothing but pure honesty and commitment on every track. Like most compilations, the flow is a little uneven, but every track is an homage to a man whose words ring as true today as they did in 1927.

The CD begins with Tom Waits’ rollicking rendition of “Soul of a Man”. This is Tom Waits at his very best. His growling vocals, feverish hand-clapping and joyful piano makes you feel this track was recorded on a hot August night at a little church on the outskirts of Beaumont, Texas. Lucinda Williams and The Tedeschi-Trucks Band follow suit.

To me, it seems every comp CD has one or two artists whose inclusion puzzles you. For this CD, it’s Sinead O’Connor and Rickie Lee Jones. They are not musicians who I would identify as being influenced by Johnson, especially O’Connor. But her track, “Trouble Will Soon Be Over,” stands out as one of the brightest tracks here. The lyrical context is that life will lead to death, then to your ultimate redemption. The guitar track sounds like nothing I would associate to a blues track, but it is just a tribute to the strength of Johnson’s words. The CD moves through a couple more solid tracks and ends up with Rickie Lee Jones. She tackles “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”. It opens with a hollow vocal and a lonely, stark guitar. Jones feels the pain of the lyric and artfully relays that to the listener. The track fills out a little with a French horn, some added vocals, but stays sad and haunting. Its simplicity is its beauty. As Waits starts us off tapping out feet, Jones leads us out bowing our heads in prayer.

Blind Willie Johnson remained poor his entire life, singing and preaching in Texas. His house caught fire in 1945. With nowhere left to go, he continued to live in its remains until contracting malaria and dying penniless in 1945. Thanks to this well-constructed compilation CD (including a very informative booklet), his legacy will be exposed to a new generation of musicians, and music fans.

DOWNLOAD—“The Soul of a Man”-Tom Waits; “Trouble Will Be Over Soon”-Sinead O’Connor; “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”—Rickie Lee Jones


Album: Heavy Air

Artist: The Lavender Flu

Label: Holy Mountain

Release Date: January 15, 2016

Lavendar Flu 1-15

The Upshot: Psychedelia that’s both phenomenal in scope and a challenging work of art, with elements of Medicine, GbV and Bevis Frond.


Fans of psychedelic music need look no further than the latest record from Lavender Flu, which is both phenomenal in scope and a challenging work of art. Lavender Flu, which is a home recording project by Chris Gunn (Hospitals) and a few cohorts, ekes out a space somewhere between a band like Medicine, with its wash of noise, and Guided by Voices, for its sheer variety and reverence to the ‘60s. This being a double album, there’s plenty of meat on the bone to devour and it really is a joy to wrap one’s head around music that is given a delightful free reign.

I’ve been looking forward to the day an album like this would come ‘round. The sonic space that’s hashed out on many of these tracks have obviously come about from some serious drug addled action. Occasionally ramshackle in nature, the music is the perfect complement to a couple of hits from the ol’ Graffix bong. Like a young Nick Salomon (Bevis Frond) sucking you into his world, while very different stylistically, the similarities are in the singular vision and the assuredness of the playing and the freedom to create a very distinct landscape, out of view, and so utterly distinctive that you can’t help but be caught up in its web (cue up Bevis Frond’s Inner Marshland).

If I had to mention one track out of the 30 tracks, I would choose “Lay In The Sun” as the perfect embodiment of everything this album has to offer. It’s a narcotic, hazy, rumbling, euphoric mess of a song that has elements of both the Velvets and Jesus and The Mary Chain. Now if only I had a turntable here in China I’d gladly swap out my MP3s for the real deal on LP. With this early January title, 2016 indeed started off on a really great note.

DOWNLOAD: “Those That Bend”, “Fingers Like Wounds”, “Telepathic Axe”, “Lay In The Sun”

HARPERS BIZARRE – The Complete Singles Collection 1965-1970

Album: The Complete Singles Collection 1965-1970

Artist: Harpers Bizarre

Label: Now Sounds / Cherry Red

Release Date: February 05, 2016

Harpers 2-5

The Upshot: Truth in titling, a comprehensive look at the ‘60s sunshine popsters’ AM radio output.


Part of the same “Now Sounds: Harpers Bizarre” series that also yielded last year’s Anything Goes, The Complete Singles Collection 1965-1970 collects all of the Sixties group’s singles in a 26-song collection. The band recorded four albums during that period, all produced by Warner Bros head honcho Lenny Waronker, and while those records were fine in their own right, it’s the singles where the band really kicked up their heels and tossed out some perfect pop hits.

The band, like a lot of the era’s pop bands, sure must have had interesting publicist or managers back then, as in certain photos they are decked out in cowboy attire, then in suits and ties, then looking the hippy part. Hey, it was the late ‘60s and the times they were a changin’! At any rate, of the 26 songs, five of them hail from their first incarnation as The Tikis (then as The Other Tikis) when they were really Beatle-esque. Then the real sunshine pop kicks in with the “The 59th St Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy’)” written by Paul Simon, then on to “Come to the Sunshine” (one of the best songs of the era), and on to the softer “The Debutante’s Ball”, the  whimsical “Anything Goes,” and on and on. Other tunes included here included “Chatanooga Choo Choo,” “Cotton Candy Sandman (Sandman’s Coming)” (I’m not making that song title up), the country-ish “Virginia City,” the way out there “I Love You Alice B. Toklas,” and plenty more. The full-color booklet includes liners by band member Dick Scoppettone discussing each song, and the rare pics are pretty awesome as well. Harpers Bizarre were a terrific pop band, and if you never discovered them before, well, there’s always now.

DOWNLOAD:  “The 59th St Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy’) , “Come to the Sunshine,”  “The Debutante’s Ball,” “Anything Goes,” “I Love You Alice B. Toklas”


Wolf Alice 4/14/16, Denver

Dates: April 14, 2016

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver, CO


The Upshot: The London quartet has worked hard and certainly deserve the accolades, although they are not a must-see so it will be interesting to see where they’ll go now that they’re signed.


Ok, so at the time a pal of mine had seen this quartet from London last year at the tiny Lost Lake Lounge (across the street and a few blocks down forom the Bluebird). I hadn’t yet heard the band. Afterwards he wouldn’t stop raving about how great they were and stating “You have to go see them at the Bluebird in April.” OK, I’ll go.

I walk up and the sign states sold out so good thing I was on the list (thank you!).  So to go from a somewhat crowded gig at a tiny bar to selling out the Bluebird a year (or less) later…ok, so maybe this band is going places.

The band, who’ve garnered some comparisons to The Pixies and Elastica, is led by cute and charasmatic vocalist Ellie  Roswell and guitarist Joff Oddie (the band is rounded out by equally charasmatic rhythm section of drummer Joel Amey and energetic, bleached bassist Theo Ellis). I missed openers Slaves, but heard they were good. Wolf Alice came out about 10 minutes early for their 9:15 PM start time (no complaints from this old fart) and immedialy launched into a heavy guitar intro and then into “You’re Loves Whore” and “You’re a Germ” both off the forthcoming My Love is Cool (RCA Records).

The band paused and asked how the sold-out crowd was doing which erupted into a loud cheer, I was in the back, but it looks like the folks up front (mostly young ‘uns) were having a good ol’ time.

Later in the set from said forthcoming full-length we also heard lovably jagged cuts like “Freazy,” “Lisbon,” “Fluffy,” ‘The Wonderwhy” and a few others.

Not content to sit back stage after the 60 minute set ended and the crowd chanting “We want more!” the band bounded back on stage and hammered out three more for their encore including “Turn To Dust” (also off said forthcoming lp) an two cuts off earlier eps (“Blush” and “Moaning Lisa Smile”) and called it a night.

While I wasn’t blown away the band was definitely good though seeing them on the big (ger) Bluebird stage made me wish I’d seen ‘em last year at the Lost Lake. It’s ok, they’ve worked hard and certainly deserve the accolades. Interesting to see where they’ll go now that they’re signed, I’ll be going along for that ride.

Sound of Ceres + Pale Sun 3/10/16, Denver

Dates: March 10, 2016

Location: Hi Dive, Denver CO




As I had mentioned in my review of their new LP, Nostalgia for Infinity I totally missed the boat on Candy Claws, but I was not about to miss Karen and Ryan Hover’s new project, Sound of Ceres. The Fort Collins duo (a trio on stage) recently released their debut LP on the Joyful Noise Recordings label and had a record release party at the Hi Dive.

Openers Pale Sun hail from Denver and I’d seen their name around but hadn’t caught them live yet. Playing songs off their recently relased palemoonwhiteout the band had a bit of a Brian Jonestown Massacre vibe (or Black Angels). In other words, heavy on the guitar with pounding rhythms and a murky low end. The good-sized crowd sure dug ’em and so did I. Will catch these guys again.

Sounds of Ceres came out as a trio, Karen on keyboards and vocals, Ryan sitting down on electronic drum and vocals and a guitarist. Oh, they also had a smoke machine. Did I mention how much I love bands who use smoke machines? Even the cheesy bands (which Sound of Ceres are not) who use them always tickle my fancy. Anywho, these guy came out and played a lean 40-minute or so set (no encores). Playing most of the stuff on Nostalgia for Infinity and it sounded great! The band was certainly appreciative with Karen thanking the crowd several times for their rapt attention Cuts like “Pursuer,” “Bryn Marina” and ‘You’re Me” all sounded aces. Not sure if they played my theme song, “Dagger Only Run”  or not (you’d think I’d be a little more on the ball). If these three motor into your town make sure your calendar is clear that night.




Animal Collective – Los Angeles, 3/9/16

Dates: March 9, 2016

Location: Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles



Jackson Pollock, renowned splattermaster of yore, once opined, quite rightly, that every good painter paints what he is. Animal Collective did precisely that with the kaleidoscopic riot of color and noise they generated on the second of its two sold-out evenings at the Fonda Theatre. All the world’s a canvas for this pod of Poindexters-turned-paintball wizards– touring now in support of their tenth album, Painting With— and each note a brushstroke.

The night’s setlist focused, predictably, on Painting With, although they revisited Merriweather Post Pavilion, Feels and Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished via “Daily Routine,” “Loch Raven,” and “Alvin Row,” respectively.  Animal Collective’s electric Kool-Aid acid test of a light show, while fantastically entertaining, makes them notoriously challenging to capture via photographic means. We’ll let you judge for yourself:

Avey Tare




Panda Bear


Jeremy Hyman






RABBIT WILDE – The Heartland

Album: The Heartland

Artist: Rabbit Wilde

Label: self-released

Release Date: February 19, 2016

Rabbit Wilde 2-19

The Upshot: The Washington State band stakes out a place where the roots of American music are planted deepest and where the pluck of a banjo and the stomp of handclaps and knee slaps is all that’s needed to create a decided impression.


Rabbit Wilde’s affinity for authentic Americana is all too obvious, and if dubbing their new album The Heartland wasn’t evidence enough, the joyful stomp that drives nearly all of these songs ought to make that apparent. Based in Bellingham, Washington, the band traces its origins back only three years, but in the time since their formation, they’ve recorded a sterling debut album, The Wild North, and a stellar EP, Southern Winters. Having covered the two geographic extremes they’re now settling for middle ground, a place where the roots of American music are planted deepest and where the pluck of a banjo and the stomp of handclaps and knee slaps is all that’s needed to create a decided impression.

Of course there’s nothing really new about a band that takes its cue from the heartland. Americana music has never been more in demand or more readily available. So it’s imperative that a group can bring its enthusiasm to bear, showing both love and commitment to the cause. In essence, that’s what Rabbit Wilde offers here, a set of songs brimming with the kind of honest to goodness excitement and exhilaration that propelled their forebears to make music in the first place. With the exception of the album’s final track, the slow and subdued “Easy Dear (The Light),” every one of these songs is marked by an effusive energy and an unapologetic sound of celebration. The amiable plunk and ramble of songs such as “Gold,” “Daughter of the Sun,” “Summer Hotel,” “Jackson, WY,” and “Howl” not only move these songs along at an accelerated clip, but also coax their listeners into trying to keep up. Even the more considered songs — those that bear a furrowed brow along with some obvious serious intent — help maintain the momentum and carry the music forward. If a contemplative tune like “Wolf & Whiskey” or the brief blues of “The Long Way Down” seem somewhat out of step, they still keep pace with the proceedings.

Ultimately, The Heartland is the kind of album that can illuminate a Saturday night and even add some respite to recovery during the morning after. The Rabbit Wilde hops along convincingly and is, dare we say, chock full of frisky finesse.

DOWNLOAD: “Gold,” “Daughter of the Sun,” “Summer Hotel”

LUTHER DICKINSON – Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II)

Album: Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II)

Artist: Luther Dickinson

Label: New West

Release Date: February 05, 2016

Luther Dickinson 2-5

The Upshot: North Mississippi All Stars/Black Crowes/The Wondering/The Word rocker goes the solo troubadour route via a sprawling collection of folk and blues.


A record that was half a decade in the making, on Blues & Ballads, Memphis native Luther Dickinson pulls together 21 folk/blues songs – all either written or co-written by him – with the help of a handful of likeminded musicians for an impressive collection.

A modern day troubadour, having worked with folks like John Hiatt, the North Mississippi All Stars, the Black Crowes, The Wondering, most recently Word and many more, Dickinson culled through his vast catalogue to fill out this double album and still found room to add in some newer songs.

Among the guests on this one are Jason Isbell, Mavis Staples, Jim Lauderdale and JJ Grey. Though Dickinson is great on his own, constantly trading off male/female vocals like on the album opener “Hurry Up Sunshine” or the Staples duet “Ain’t No Grave” gives the album a richer vibe. Though there’s plenty of standout tracks here, “Bang Bang Lulu,” (which sounds like a long lost Dr. John nugget) is easily among the best.

At 21 tracks, this album is not for the casual listener, but it’s simply nirvana for anyone who has ever sung along to a Dickinson tune (or John Hiatt, or Black Crows, or Mississippi All Stars…).

DOWNLOAD: “Hurry Up Sunrise,” “Bang Bang Lulu” and “Ain’t No Grave”


August Burns Red + Between The Buried And Me 3/11/16, Memphis

Dates: March 11, 2016

Location: Minglewood Hall, Memphis TN


The Upshot: In concert at Minglewood Hall, it was a “flood” of sonics and emotion.


On a rainy night, after two days of flooding in West Tn., Minglewood Hall hosted a Metal night with Between The Buried And ME taking the stage first.

While I’m definitely not part of their core fan base, I kept an open mind and was pleasantly surprised. With constant tempo changes from somewhat mellow to heavy with throaty screaming and back to normal singing which will no doubt draw you in and keep your heart pounding with fist clinched. The crowd was quickly whipped into a frenzy with hands in the air and headbanging. Mid-way through the set we went on space trip with futuristic keyboard sounds played by Tommy and electrifying guitars by Paul and Dustie. After our little trip we were back into hardcore guitar slaying full-on metal attack.

The band had a great stage presence and really played to the crowd. BTBAM had the crowd wrapped around every lyric and pumped while waiting for August Burns Red.

Between The Buried and me have many tour dates upcoming, including a spot on The Rock On The Range stage May 22nd. Dates here:

Up next was August Burns Red. From the moment that Jake Luhrs stepped on stage this metalcore crowd was ready to lose themselves and not comeback for over an hour or so. Jake kept the crowd jumping, headbanging, and even crowd surfing. The band had three platforms added to the stage in order to elevate when they wanted to tower above the chaotic rocking crowd, which were used constantly by everyone except the drummer. It didn’t take long for Jake to be dripping in sweat from the running, dancing around, and microphone swinging on stage. Jake’s stage presence was menacing and commanded respect as he hit every note, never slowing down. All and all this was a good night for me and for the metalcore fans in attendance were treated to night that will stay with them for awhile!











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