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Category Archives: CD Picks
My Wife’s birthday resulted in the discovery of an amazing new musican. My wife wanted to get out of town for her birthday so we planned a weekend trip to Fort Worth. It just so happened that a new live music venue was opening up that weekend and my wife found an article in the weekend guide of The Dallas Morning News promoting a concert there the same weekend. The performer was a singer/songwriter from Austin named Kat Edmonson. We had never heard of her, but the article described her as follows: “that beautifully gray area that separates Americana from Jazz, country from folk”. Well that was enough for me. We bought tickets. She was performing at a new venue in Fort Worth called The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge. This is a great new place on the south side of Fort Worth. It has an outstanding restaurant, a rooftop bar with an incredible view of Forth Worth, and a Music Hall that seats a little over 200 people. The entire menu in the Lounge is also available in the Music Hall. Pretty cool!
Our experience at the Lounge was first class. The food and wine selection was excellent. After dinner we went into the music hall and enjoyed the concert. The opening act was Luke Wade. He is a local artist from Fort Worth. He was late because he had just played a private fundraiser for President Obama that was hosted by Bill Clinton. The guy came in through the main entrance for the public, ran up on stage, and asked for two minutes to get ready. He performed on guitar with a fiddle player. He put on a very enjoyable show. He sounded too much like John Mayer to me. That should tell you that he could sing and play at a very high level.
After a brief intermission Kat Edmonson sang and was accompanied by a acoustic guitar player. Her guitar player was a French Canadian and he was a spactacular musicain. She performed every song from her latest album and covered a song by Ella Fitzgerald (Champagne) and also Brian Wilson (I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.) Her cover of the Brian Wilson song was easily one of the highlights of a very magical night. She infused the song with a pathos that exceeded the brilliant original song by The Beach Boys.
Kat Edmonson was raised in Houston by her Mother and Grandmother. She grew up listening to their LP records. (This is this story’s link to my blog..) She especially loved her Grandmothers LP’s. She grew up listening and loving The Great American Song Book. Her songs are full of amazing lyrics. She is also a very effective and interesting live performer. She understands subtlety and technique like very few performers I have seen recently. I picked up her latest CD “Way Down Low” and I cannot stop listening to it. The CD features a duet with Lyle Lovett. The lyrics are a great example of her work:
The Long Way Home
I’ll take the long way home tonight Please don’t wake up I’ll be alright Going about my usual day, I had no idea Cupid and friends had other plans for me, now i see And so, before I call it a day I’m making stops along the way Well I’ll be laughing with the moon in sea of delight and thinking every little bitty star in sight When I, take the long way home tonight I’ll take the long way home tonight Please don’t wake up I’ll be alright, going about my usual day, I had no idea Cupid and friends had other plans for me, now i see And so, first, before this day is through I’ve got some things I’ve gotta do Well I’ll be laughing with the moon in sea of delight and thanking every little bitty star in sight When I, take the long way home tonight Well I’ll be winking to the (? wise one?) who always knew And babbling with the brook about my love for you
When I, take the long way home tonight, tonight When I, take the long way home tonight.
If you can’t hear the Soul of Cole Porter in those lyrics then you must not have ever heard a song by him…
Check out Kat Edmonson. She just recorded an episode of Austin City Limits with Willie Nelson. Here is the link to her site: Kat Edmonson. Her music and lyrics are fantastic. The ghost of Cole Porter lives!
I was going to get back to recording and posting about vinyl but this CD would not leave me alone. It has ingrained itself into my psyche. Quite frankly, it has been a very long time since I’ve heard a CD that I could not quit listening to. I listen to this CD constantly. I have to share it with cyberspace. I saw this band at Austin City Limits Music Festival. They were one of the highlights of the 3 day event. Although The Head and the Heart was formed in Seattle Washington in 2009, most of the members are transplants from California and Virginia. The band has three main singers: Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russel, and Charity Rose Thielen. Jonathan and Josiah play guitar, sing, and play percussion. Charity sings, plays percussion, and violin. The other members are Chris Zache (Bass), Kenny Hensley (Piano) and Tyler Williams (Drums and Percussion). As you will hear, the band is piano driven and three part harmony driven. The blending of Josiah, Jonathan, and Charity is pure magic. This band is pulling off what other bands all over the country are aspiring to. That being the marrying of folk, rock, and country into a true Americana sound. Other bands like Bright Eyes, and Monsters of Folk may be getting more press but no one is accomplishing anything remotely as good as The Head and the Heart. The CD is on Sub Pop Records. The label made famous for it’s role in creating the “Seattle Grunge Sound” with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney. As great as this CD is, this band is even better in concert. (See my review of their appearance at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2011.) ACL has released 3 YouTube videos of their performance at the festival, so I am going to include them in this blog. I think you will really enjoy getting a flavor for what The Head and the Heart are like in concert. So “Pump up the volume” and get ready to dance, sing along, and drum on your table your your knees or what ever else you can find to bang on; because this music is irresistible!
1. Cats and Dogs: This first song is very short and acts as a prelude to everything you are going to hear. I love the part where Josiah sings ““Fallin’ from the sky, there are raindrops in my eyes, and my thoughts are digging in the back yard. My roots have grown but I don’t know where they are…” All the elements of folk are here. A simple topic, cats and dogs, a mouse in the house. As the song nears it’s close it surprisingly and effectively switches from 4/4 time to triple time then ends suddenly. If you’re not paying attention you will think that the next song is still part of the first song.
2. Coeur D’ Alene: Coeur is the french word for Heart. This piano driven song has a “Martha my Dear…” feel to it. It has a Beatle feel to it. I love the “La da da” chorus. The luxury of having three singers is exploited very well in this song. As one singer finishes a line another singer will start a line over the last word of the other singer. This creates a dramatic effect at the end of the La da da chorus when the vocal “Messes that I haven’t tried to clean up in a while …” overlaps the last …da
3. Ghosts: This is another song about leaving home and blazing your own trail. “When Mary moved all her shit to Chicago, her Mother made sure she took her Bible. But you won’t see her face on Sundays…” Again this song has a very catchy “du,du, du, du, du, du, du…” chorus. I love the refrain “One day we’ll all be ghosts, tripping around someone else’s house. Once day we’ll all be ghosts, ghosts, ghosts…” Then the du,du, du’s change to “Ba Dap, ba dap, ba, ba, da, da…” This is also kind of Beatle sounding somehow. There was a time in rock history that they believed if you had a da, da type chorus it was a guaranteed hit. This song should be all over the radio. It is infectious and catchy…
4. Down in the Valley: Starting with this song the CD really begins to soar. This is a great song. It starts out simply with Josiah singing with just a guitar “I wish I was a slave to an age old trade. Like ridin’ around on rail cars and workin’ long days. Lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways.” This song is full of yearning, regret and the desire to start over. He sings in falsetto and then Charity joins him at the octave. Their voices blend perfectly. The song builds and builds until it becomes a tidal wave of emotion. Then the song ends quietly just as it begun. But the song is now in your memory bank and is unforgettable. It will stay with you for a long, long time. This is also a staple of their live shows. Listen to the song and then watch the video from ACL 2011.
5. Rivers and Roads: This is the song that The Head and the Heart always end their live shows with. Here they are a brand new band and they already have a traditional end er. It took the Rolling Stones years to get to the point where they had a song that they traditionally ended their shows with! (Jumpin’ Jack Flash) After you hear this song you will understand why they end their shows with it. This song underscores the need for more featured vocals from the only woman in the band Charity Thielen. Listen to what she does in the live performance at ACL. She sings like a woman possessed. She is frenetic. It blew me and the crowd away. This is a show stopper!
6. Honey Come Home: This song starts out with beautiful 3 part harmony. A song about a broken home. A beautiful song with beautiful lyrics.
7. Lost in my Mind: This is their hit. This song just makes you want to sing along and dance your ass off. Which is exactly what happens in the video at ACL. A group of people got on stage and danced with the band during the song. If you watch carefully in the video you can tell the band is totally surprised but they go right along with it and have a blast with their fans. After the song was over Charity asked Jonathan: “Who were they? ” Jonathan says: “I have no idea” Charity asks “Where did they come from” Jonathan says: “I don’t know, but that was a lot of fun!”
8. Winter Song: This is a folk song that any folk singer would have loved to have written. This song also highlights the point made earlier that the band needs to give Charity more opportunity to feature her unique vocals.
9. Sounds Like Hallelujah: This is a beautiful song that almost becomes a prayer. From the count off that starts the song to the beautiful finale this song has heart. I love how the song changes meter in the middle with the “mama don’t put that gun in my hand..” refrain then it switches to the Hallelujah chorus…
10. Heaven Go Easy On Me: Just when you think that a CD could not possibly have anymore great moments this CD stuns you with an unbelievable final song. The singer talks about the wind blowing through your window and your front yard and the music gives you that feeling of the breeze blowing through your window. The leads singers tells the listener “Don’t follow your head, follow your heart…” Then the singers begs “Heaven go easy on me…” The song would be fairly normal but just as the CD starts with a Prelude (Cats and Dogs) it ends with a truly incredible Coda. The piano begins a repetitive motif and the guitar begins to strum and the magic happens. “It’s damn good to have met you. I hope that you’ll stay. We’re well on our way, we’re well on our way…” The band takes full advantage of having three great singers as they layer three lines over each other, each singing different lyrics at the same time. The effect is magic. “All these things go rushing by…” While another sings “We’re well on our way…” and then the last singer sings “All things must end daring…” the singers fade away one at a time until all we hear is Charity’s violin and a cello in a beautiful string quartet for the end of time. The CD ends and I just start it over again.
Bottom line? Go out and buy this CD now! The new Seattle sound is Folk Rock. Check out Fleet Foxes as well. Don’t miss them when the play David Letterman on October 28th. You won’t be disappointed. Personally I love this Americana sounding music and of all the bands that pursue this style of music, The Head and the Heart affect my Head and my Heart!
Low Country Blues by Gregg Allman:
The Great New CD from Gregg Allman
How can I tell you how great this CD is? From the first note to the last it is awesome. This is Gregg Allman’s first CD in 14 years and it was worth the wait. The Blues ooze out of Gregg. He has been through a lot in his life in the past and present.
Gregg Allman has recently survived Liver transplant surgery due to his past I.V. drug problems. Gregg said it was the most painful thing he has ever experienced in his entire life. The CD is produced by the one and only T Bone Burnett. T Bone is in my mind the top Producer working in music today. He produced “The Union” … the latest CD from Elton John and Leon Russell; Robert Plant and Allison Krauss “Raising Sand”; “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?”, and the great CD’s of his ex-wife, Sam Phillips. (Martini’s and Bikini’s, etc…) and the list goes on and on and would blow you away if you knew. He is creating the sound we here today. He is Marshall Chess, Phil Spector, Ahmet Ertegen, Alan Parsons, and whoever else you want to name all rolled into one. T Bone seems hell bent on rekindling every rock star’s career he feels deserves to find a new generation of fans. All I have to say to him is: “You go, dude!!!! Thank God for T Bone Burnett.
This CD almost didn’t get made. Gregg Allman wanted to use his touring band. T Bone said it was a deal killer if Gregg would not use the “All-Star” band he put together for the project. Gregg said “fine, the deal is off…” Lucky (Or Good) for T Bone one of the “All-Stars” was Mac Rebennack (aka “Dr. John”). Dr John has been a close friend of Gregg Allman for many years. He convinced Allman to go ahead with the project. In addition Gregg was assured that the tour supporting the CD would be made with his regular band members. Deal On! The “All-Star” band also includes the great Doyle Bramhall II on lead guitar.
The CD is a tribute to some of Gregg’s favorite Blues Musicians. Some of the musicians who’s songs are covered are: “Sleepy” John Estes, Skip James, Muddy Waters, Little Milton, Junior Wells,, BB King, Buddy Guy, and Magic Sam. My favorite song on the CD is the Skip James song, “Devil Got My Woman”. The Song starts with just Gregg’s voice and acoustic guitar. The guitar is played by Gregg and it was Skip James actual guitar. Gregg sings “I’d rather be the devil than be that Woman’s Man…” It sounds ancient, like listening to Robert Johnson for the first time. Very spooky and powerful music! Every cut is good on this CD. I could go on and on, but just go out and get the CD, NOW!
In this months edition of ” The Absolute Sound” (February 2011-issue 210, pages 120-121) there is an article called “New Jazz on Ten Fingers” by Jeff Wilson. Being a pianist myself, I was very interested in reading this article. First Jeff gets high marks for a very interesting and deep subject. Second, he gets high marks for introducing new solo jazz piano discs. I don’t want to nit pick his article, but I do want to add to this discussion.
Jeff makes the point that it seems that most jazz pianists only do solo recordings as a diversion. He also states that there are many jazz pianists that have never recorded a solo album. I could be wrong but it seemed to me there was an implication that maybe some of these pianists were reluctant to play solo while others excelled at it. What I believe is that many of them would have recorded solo works but record labels are concerned with how marketable solo piano is. Jeff’s reference to Keith Jarrett and the legendary LP “The Koln Concert” is great. Here is living proof that solo piano music has a market. Everybody went out and bought that record. It was hip. It was cool.
I ‘d really like to hear Lenny Tristano’s “The New Tristano” (1962 LP) and I will go on the hunt for it on vinyl. Also, McCoy Tyner’s “Solo”. Here are a couple of samples of the other discs Jeff discussed. First “Fred Hersch plays Jobim”
Next Vijay Iyer Solo:
The Piano is the ultimate instrument. It is really the only insturment that does not require any other accompanyment. In some ways it is kind of strange to discuss the uniqueness of solo piano performances. Beethoven would find it hilarious. Solo piano was the norm not the exception thoughout music history. To me there is nothing quite like seeing solo piano performances live. It is the acid test, the ultimate. I bet even the jazz pianist that never recorded solo work would have loved to release solo performances, but couldn’t get past the A&R man at record company. So here are a few nuggets from the past that did not get mentioned in Mr. Wilson’s article:
Bill Evans “Alone”.
No discussion of Jazz on Ten Fingers could be complete without the mention of the great Bill Evans. Here is the play list from this great LP:
1. Here’s That Rainy Day
2. A Time For Love
3. Midnight Mood
4. On A Clear Day4 On A Clear Day
5. Never Let Me Go
I wish I had room to upload “Never Let Me Go”. This is 14 minutes of magic. It rivals John Coltraine’s “My Favorite Things.” This is a must have Bill Evans Recording. Thank you to Jimmy Joe for my copy of this amazing LP!
Next: Teddy Wilson -Solo:
2. Just One Of Those Things
3. I Get A Kick Out Of You
4. I Love You
5. It’s All Right With Me
6. Love For Sale
7. Too Darn Blue
8. Blue Turning Grey Over You
9. Aint’ Cha’ Glad?
10. I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling
12. Black And Black
13. Ain’t Misbehavin’
14. Honeysuckle Rose
Last, check out Ellis Marsalis. (The Father of Winton Marsalis) He has some great Jazz solo piano discs. I really love the one he did of Duke Ellington songs. (Duke In Blue) This is a must have!
This only scratches the surface of solo jazz piano performances. What do you think? Any comments?