Posts

Showing posts from 2012

Make The World A Funkier Place

Time Has Come Today by The Chamber Brothers is one of the greatest songs ever recorded.  It speaks to a time and a place like few songs, ever.

Unfortunately, one of the men responsible for this and so many other great songs, Lester Chambers, has been massively cheated on his royalties and become otherwise down on his luck.  He currently lives off his Social Security check.

Fortunately, the Kickstarter organization is helping to pick Lester up and set him back on track.  Although they will never get all his money back, they will raise $38,000 to cover all of the costs necessary for Lester to record and release a new record.  They are also providing legal support to ensure he receives all the royalties. This is done by micro-donations from music lovers like us.

And for us, Lester Chambers has released two funky, new Christmas recordings: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Jingle Bells.  They sound great.  Can't wait for the record.

Please join me in helping bring back Lester Chambe…

Your Christmas Bonus ...

Bi-Coastal Songwriter & Musician James Apollo sent in these links to his new Holiday tune.  It is called Ho Ho, Ho Hum.

I really dig it.  From the opening bars, with the muted trumpet and vibes, the song captures a great bluesy vibe.  James Apollo's vocals are perfect.  I picture myself alone in a smokey jazz joint on Christmas Eve, listening to him sing Ho Ho Ho, Ho Hum.  The sleigh bells at the end are also a nice touch.

Be sure to check out the rest of James Apollo's material.  It is good stuff.

Click Here to listen to the song.

Click Here to watch the You Tube version.

The 10 Songs I Digged Most In 2012

I've spent the past week listening to all of the great new songs I've been digging in 2012.  The result is this Top 10 list.  Tough stuff, since there are simply too many great songs to chose from.  Any song in "the next 10" could have made the list.  In the end, I grabbed a bottle of wine, got my chill on, set the volume fairly high, and spent a night listening to a couple of dozen awesome tunes.

So, here it is...

1.  Rest - Michael Kiwanuka

2.  Cigarettes & Truckstops - Lindi Ortega

3.  Hold On - Alabama Shakes

4.  Be Mine - The Heavy

5.  No Diggity - Chet Faker

6.  Darkness - Leonard Cohen

7.  There's A Whole Lotta Heaven - Iris DeMent

8.  The Rumors Are True- David Wax Museum

9.  Dear Believer - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

10.  Bird On A Buffalo- Angus Stone

Please let me know what you think.

I will be taking a short break for the rest of the year.  I expect to return right after they drop the ball.  Can't wait.

And THANK YOU for visiting t…

Benzedrine - Jack Yoder and The Two Piece Suit

from the album Songs We Don't Know (2012)

2012 has been a great year for Jack Yoder, marked by the release of the self-produced Songs We Don't Know and for winning the Colorado Blues Society competition for best solo blues artist of 2012.  Both the record and Jack will be competing at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee next month. Nice way to kick of 2013.

Jack Yoder has an encyclopedic knowledge of tone.  Mention a song and he can dial up the tone and play you the tune.  Doesn't matter if its Hubert Sumlin or Bob Mould, shut your eyes and that's the sound.  It is a gift.  Mixed with his own musicianship and songwriting skills, it produces jaw-dropping results.

Benzedrine is a song I really dig off of this record.  Expertly written, Jack gives us a throwback vibe that would sound great on any of the recent Bob Dylan albums.  Listen to the guitar tone with its clarity and tinge of reverb and you are transported back to any 1940's blues joint.  Me…

Mark It Wrong - The Departed

from the album Adventus (2012)

I have fond memories of a late-night, partying with a group of people along the banks of the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana.  One dude had stage monitors in the back of his SUV and cranked out a live album by Cross Canadian Ragweed.  When the song Boys from Oklahoma came on, everyone (except me and my work buddy) knew all the words and sang along.  Fun night.  Fun song.

A few years later, I was saddened to hear that singer/guitarist Cody Canada and bass player Jeremy Plato "departed" from this Red Dirt Country-Rock band to form The Departed.  But not so much now. The Departed continue to evolve their sound into a "rock band from the country" vibe that I find very interesting.

This vibe is best evidenced on the instrumental Mark It Wrong from their new album, Adventus.  Pick out each instrument and listen to the tones: guitar, bass, drums, keys ... all rock.  This ain't Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd, it is something more Pr…

Walt Whitman - Trampled By Turtles

from the album Stars and Satellites (2012)

This has been a great year for the banjo-plucking crowd.  The Lumineers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford and Sons, and The Avett Brothers are all part of a pretty sweet playlist of new tunes on my iDevices.  But this weekend, I realized that I have omitted Trampled By Turtles.  Shame shame.

This band hails from Duluth, Minnesota ... birthplace of the one and only, Bob Dylan.  Walt Whitman is the song I keep coming back to from their 2012 release, Stars and Satellites.  It is a 2 minute 39 second full-gallop.  I dig the fast tempo and how the musicians keep so tight while playing at such a blazing pace.

Of particular note is the fiddle solo.  It reminds me of the first time I saw Charlie Daniels in concert.  Lickity-split finger work playing scales up and down the neck.  I really look forward towards seeing this dude play live.

Lastly, I enjoy the theme of leading a whirlwind life, while remaining uncertain if you can make it on your own.  Not…

Letter To My Countrymen - Brother Ali

from the album Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color (2012)

I have a love / hate relationship with rap.  As an art form, it provides an incredibly poetic platform for self-expression.  However, I get frustrated that more rappers do not harness its power.  It's like dressing Heide Klum in a burka.

My two favorite rap songs of all time are The Message by Grandmaster Flash + The Furious Five and Ms. Jackson by Outcast.  Both songs have powerful lyrics.  One song has a guy asking "What the hell is going on around here?  You people have me at the breaking point."  The other has a guy telling his girlfriend's mother "Treat me with respect, because I'm a guy who treats your daughter with respect."  In both cases, the songs deliver a truthful, real-world message that is stronger because it is rap.

So, I dig Brother Ali for extending this letter to his countrymen.  He takes his message and elegantly lays it out.  I hope people are listening.  It starts like …

The Rumors Are True - David Wax Museum

from the album Knock Knock Get Up (2012)

I have been thinking about intersections lately.  Not from a civil engineering perspective, but more along the lines of the great results you can achieve when you cross two disparate items.  This is true in virtually every form of art.

Music is no exception.  When the spirituals and field hollers of slaves intersected with ragtime syncopation and the blues, the result was jazz.  No need to go any further.

So I really dig David Wax Museum for leveraging an unexplored musical intersection to create a unique vibe that they can call their own.  It is the place where Mexican Sol and Americana Roots music meet. From there, David Wax and Suz Slezak find a platform to spin their craft.

Wikipedia quotes New York Times writer James C. McKinley Jr. as describing the sound as "a lively and rustic cross-border mix: lonesome Appalachian harmonies over mariachi horn lines and rhythms you might hear at a rural dance in Veracruz or San Luis Potosi."  …

The Season's Upon Us - Dropkick Murphys

from the album Signed And Sealed In Blood (2012)

Once upon a time, I travelled to Boston during the holiday season.  I wound up drinking with some college friends south of the city at The Dot Tavern in Dorchester.  It was a no frills, drinking man's joint.  I remember a guy called "The Hinge" who had a tattoo of a hinge on his elbow that got a lot of exercise lifting pints.  This is the blue collar life you find in movies like The Departed and The Town.

Just south of Dorchester is the town of Quincy.  Same basic deal, with a little more history.  John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both born there.  This is also the birthplace of Dropkick Murphys, a celtic rock band with a spirited vibe that I really dig.

The Season's Upon Us is a brash holiday number.  The verses end with the line "They call this Christmas where I'm from."  Along the way it paints a cheeky picture of the odd assortment of family and friends who make Christmas that special time of the …

El Jefe - Mexican Institute of Sound

from the album Politico (2012)

Mexican Institute of Sound is the brainchild of Camilo Lara.  This Mexico City DJ / producer has created a project that takes an electronica foundation and integrates diverse musical elements from Latin America and around the world to create a cool, alternative vibe that I dig.

The song begins with an uptempo, groovin' bass line and drums.  It reminds me of early recordings by The Police, and some early ska, while keeping its finger on the pulse of current hipness.  I particularly enjoy the vibe when I am speeding on the interstate or hanging out - late night - with my funky friends.

Spy-themed keyboards join in the mix next.  This adds an element of intrigue that also helps the song build intensity.  This is followed by the trumpets, the signature tracks on this recording.  The trumpets bring a real Mexican texture and provide a fantastic hook that perfectly counterbalances the percolating bass and drums. Bravo to the trumpeters.

I also dig the chor…

Be Mine - The Heavy

from the album The Glorious Dead (2012)

The Heavy is one of those special groups that craft infectious, memorable grooves and combine them with stellar production and hip vocal arrangements.  My lady friend introduced me to them when How Do You Like Me Now? became a staple on her work-out tape a few years ago.  Soon after, I heard Short Change Hero and my interest began to peak.

The new album is full of the big beat vibes that initially hooked me. However, it is Be Mine with its slow bass groove over a steady beat that I have really come to dig.  The opening bars create this Gorillaz meet Fine Young Cannibals vibe that captivates me.  It is amazing how easily I get lost the bass line.

Then enter Kelvin Swaby with a fantastic vocal.  The slower tempo of this song allows you to fully appreciate his talent. This matchup of song and singer is outstanding.  And, of course, the song contains all the great instrumental performances and production that one would expect of this band.

Lastly, I…

Get Up And Go - Sea Of Bees

from the dual single Won't Be Long / Get Up and Go (with Jason Lytle) (2012)

Yesterday was a really rough end to a really rough week.  I did not sleep much with too many things on my mind.  Woke up around 5AM and have been in zombieland ever since.  Now its time to pull myself together and get back on track ... (end of self pity)

Step one was to find a new song to cheer me up.  Leave it to Sea Of Bees to do the trick.  I have been digging the band since catching a set this May at the Mercury Lounge in NYC.  It was one of my favorite shows of the year.

Get Up And Go is a cover of a Jason Lytle song from his Dept. of Disappearance album that was released back in August.  It is a great song from a great album, not sure how I missed it.

This rendition begins with acoustic guitar and chimes.  Julie Baenziger enters with a dreamy, endearing vocal.  Add a simple beat and groove, then turn up the rough lead guitar track.  Top it off with some joyful whistling and kazoo playing ... and, pre…

Whiplash - The Branford Marsalis Quartet

from the album Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2012)

Most of the drummers I know are pretty strange dudes or dudettes. Why should I expect anything different?  After all, they make a living by beating a skin with a stick.  Pretty primitive stuff.

That said, there are few things that I find more exciting than watching or listening to a great drummer.  They have an ability to lift a band to a higher level, making every other player that much better. It is an incredible gift and whenever a great, new drummer emerges, it is time to celebrate.

Today, we celebrate Justin Faulkner.  As an eighteen year old high school senior,  he was selected as the new drummer for the Branford Marsalis Quartet, one of the finest jazz quartets in the world today.  Three years later, he makes his recording debut on Four MFs Playin' Tunes, my favorite jazz record of 2012.

On a record packed with outstanding performances by the long standing quartet members, it is Justin Faulkner's drumming that draws me in…

Earlie Grace Jnr - Ian Siegal and the Mississippi Mudbloods

from the album Candy Store Kid (2012)

The 1993 film Kalifornia did not do well at the box office.  In fact, it was considered a bomb.  However, I thought it was a pretty good flick.  In the film, a couple decides to drive from Pennsylvania to California with plans to visit serial murder sites along the way for a book they are researching.  Low on cash, they post a note for riders to help share expenses.  The couple that signs on for the trip includes Early Grayce - played by Brad Pitt - who just happens to be a practicing serial killer.

Ian Siegal is a British blues musician.  He is a real good songwriter with a gruff voice that I dig.  I enjoy listening to the way he crafts his tunes around his vocals and lyrical imagery.  It is well suited to dark subject matter, so a song inspired by the Brad Pitt character from Kalifornia is right in his wheelhouse.  This rendition changes the spelling of the title and adds the "junior" to prevent it from being confused with a different …

Laisse Le Vent Souffler - Zachary Richard

from the album Le Fou (2012)

Once upon a time, I was a college student spending spring break on South Padre Island, Texas.  As the week wound down, the weather turned nasty, and three of us decided to pack up the car and start the journey back north.  With plenty of time on our hands, my brother suggested "Why don't we drive to New Orleans?"  My strange love affair with the Crescent City began about 10 hours later.

We arrived on a Saturday night and parked the car somewhere just outside the French Quarter.  The details of the night are forever fuzzy, but somehow each made it back to the car before the sun rose (we did not have enough money for a motel).  I passed out - seat reclined - behind the wheel, with my brother on the passenger side and our friend across the back seat.

We did not realize that we were parked directly in front of an African-American church.  As parishioners arrived for Sunday morning service, a crowd surrounded the car, looking thru the windows at w…

Isn't It A Pity - Jonathan Wilson

from the EP Pity Trials and Tomorrow

I believe in a simple formula:  Great Songwriting + Great Performances = Great Music.

Based on this formula, The Beatles could not miss.  It started with the greatest songwriting team of the 20th century, Lennon & McCartney.  This was coupled by four very accomplished musicians, working with a world-class producer, all dedicated to capturing the best performances.  Mix in a whole lot of charisma and a savvy marketing juggernaut, and you get Beatlemania.

There is another simple formula:  Success + Not Screwing It Up = Even More Success.

The realities of this formula must has been suffocating to the other great songwriter in The Beatles, George Harrison.  Although he was only allowed to contribute one song to most Beatle albums (he was later allowed two) his songs are some of the finest ever recorded. Think of Something, Here Comes The Sun, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Somehow, it doesn't seem fair.

When The Beatles parted ways, George …

Frisson Two Step - Louisiana Rhythm Devils

from the album Devil On a String (2012)

There are still places on this earth where music comes-a-bubblin' from the soil.  This is sacred ground.  Its music has an authenticity that cannot be matched, even by satellite radio.

This week, I'm driving down to the Gulf Of Mexico for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I dig the drive and tend to choose the by-ways over the interstates.  Passing tin roofs and cotton fields reminds me of my personal hero, John Lomax, rambling across the American South with his recording gear.  I think of him, as I drive thru towns like Georgiana, Alabama ... home of Hank Williams.

Somewhere near Mobile, I feel a magnetic pull.  It's the cajun call. Banshees of the Bayou scream my name.  Come here Mr. Gigolo. Come here.  Oh, the temptation.

I believe that in the swamps, west of New Orleans, music rises, spreads across the delta, and travels around the world.  But people from these parts don't look far beyond their neighbor's porch for a good tune. …

Drop Down - Sean Hayes

from the album Before We Turn To Dust (2012)

Sean Hayes is a San Francisco Singer / Songwriter who I have been digging for the past five years, or so, ever since hearing his song Turnaroundandturnmeon on the fantastic Big Change: Songs For FINCA compilation.

You may best recognize him for the song Powerful Stuff, that appears on a Subaru commercial currently running across the United States.  But do your self a favor and check out the songs Calling All Cars and F****d Me Right Up from his previous albums. Great songwriting and vocal performances over cool grooves.

His new album, Before We Turn To Dust, is largely the lament of a man balancing his lives as a troubadour and a family man.  All the songs are heartfelt and well written.  His use of subtle syncopation and the percussive elements of the piano tracks really let his vocals soar.

There are four or five songs on the record that I've been grooving on lately.  Drop Down is one that particularly stands out.  It is a downtempo s…

Drifting Dreams - Bruce Foxton

from the album Back In The Room (2012)

Once upon a time, I used to sit in a room with my good friend Fred, spinning vinyl of new music performed by bands that our friends never knew existed.  Fred's older cousin, who played bass guitar in the NYC punk rock scene, turned us on to these groups.  It seemed like we were in on a secret, and that secret fueled our dreams.

Of all these groups, we really connected with The Jam.  Fred used to grab his guitar and play Standards, trying his best to recreate Paul Weller's vocals and guitar tone.  I can see him now, singing "We make the standards and we make the rules / And if you don't abide by them you must be fools."  Those were very special times.

Fast forward to today.  I'm sitting in a room listening to the new album by Bruce Foxton.  Bruce was the bass player for The Jam. The record puts me back in that room.  Part of it is the songwriting. Then there is singer Russel Hastings, with a voice and guitar style similar…

Kitchen Floor - Madness

from the album Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da (2012)

For the new music lover, every Tuesday is like Christmas morning, with dozens of new releases sitting under the tree, ready to play. Some are from new artists, longing to be discovered.  Others are from artists in their prime, cranking out their body of work.  And then there are the blasts from the past.  These songs fill me with the most angst, hoping that the artists remain relevant and are not cheap retreads of dated glory.

This week was full of angst, with new music from bands like The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, and one of my personal favorites, Madness.  Will Suggs and company stand tall like Mr. Potato Head? Or, will the new release sink their Battleship?  One can only hope.

Fortunately, all is well with Oui Oui, Si Si, Ja Ja, Da Da, an album filled with enjoyable ska ditties that put a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

Kitchen Floor is a song that I particularly dig.  It has that familiar ska groove you can slide right…

Emanuel Ciccolini - The Cactus Channel

from the album Haptics (2012)

The Cactus Channel is an 10-piece instrumental R&B/Soul band from Melbourne, Australia.   Their debut album, Haptics, is an end-to-end jam that I really dig.  I plan to invite some of my funky friends over for a cocktail party, so they can groove to their musical stylings.  Then I will share that the band members just graduated high school.  The reactions should be stupendous.

How do a group of teenagers learn to lay down such a hot, funky, soul vibe?  Where did they get the chops?  Who turned them on to James Brown, Issac Hayes, or Rufus Thomas?  Did Melvin Van Peebles move to Australia and start hanging out in school yards? Probably not.  My guess is that this album is the result of fine parenting.

Emanuel Ciccolini is the first track on the album.  The song starts with a 60's bass groove ... drums and rhythm guitar enter ... the full rhythm section gels ...  welcome the keyboard with its "mystery" tone ...  now, let's drop back and…

My Revolutionary Mind - Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, & Yim Yames

from the album New Multitudes (2012)

Imagine discovering a treasure chest.  What might you find inside? Gold?  Coins?  The King's Cutlery?  For Nora Guthrie, it was lyrics. Notebooks and pages filled with lyrics written by her father, the great folk singer, Woody Guthrie.

Knowing that great lyrics deserve great music, Nora Guthrie has sought out the best modern songwriters, with folk sensibilities, to bring her father's words to life.  The first projects were the Mermaid Avenue recordings by Wilco and Billy Bragg.  Named for the street on Coney Island, Brooklyn where Woody Guthrie wrote many of these songs, the recordings are modern masterpieces.  If you have not heard California Stars from Mermaid Avenue Volume 1, please stop reading this immediately and have a listen.

To commemorate Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, Nora enlisted Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar to record a collection of songs with some fellow singer-songwriters, all using her father's lyrics.  The result …

Bonnie & Clyde - Lulu Gainsbourg

from the album From Gainsbourg to Lulu (2012)

Lulu Gainsbourg comes from a fine lineage of French musicians. His sister Charlotte's 2009 album IRM - produced by Beck - is a personal favorite.  I have a friend who alway plays it when I am over for cocktails.  His father, Serge, was a famous singer / songwriter / actor / poet / author, known for his "scandalous" works.  Current artists, including Beck and Dan The Automater, consider him an influence.  Lulu's mother was the French model Bambou.

Bonnie & Clyde is a cover version of his father's late-60's duet with Brigitte Bardot.  For a duet partner on this song, Lulu chose actress Scarlett Johansson.  I really dig how good their two voices sound together.  Lulu provides a hushed vocal sung in French, Scarlett's vocal is semi-spoken in English.  Combined, it creates a cool, sexy vibe.

The music adds additional texture to this vibe.  The bass guitar provides a slow groove that is up front in the mix.  I al…

12:01 - Patterson Hood

from the album Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance (2012)

Although it is November, I am pretty confident that Heat Lightning Rumbles Across The Distance will be my pick for Best Album of 2012.  Patterson Hood has made a record that connects with me on too many levels to describe.  I've spent the past few nights trying to dissect it, and the songwriting and storytelling are what separates this album from the rest.

The other thing that these songs have is space.  This space allows listeners to appreciate the lyrical imagery and the fantastic tone of the instrumental performances.  It also allows the textures of Patterson Hood's imperfect vocals to express a sincerity that is uncommon in most recordings.  One of my music pals called this "a poor man's Wilco."  But this album touches me more than any Wilco album. I dig it that much.

12:01 kicks off the record.  It is a tale about hitting the liquor store just after midnight, when the Sunday blue laws expire. The ly…

Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance - Patterson Hood

from the album Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance (2012)

A few weeks ago, I took my mom back to the place where she and my dad raised our family.  Family. Memories. Cemeteries.  On the way out of town, we drove down the road where we used to live. Stopped for a minute across the street from the old house.  A new family lives there now.  It looked like a happy home ... all decked out for Halloween.

This song reminds me of that.

Click Here to view a live version recorded at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

Love On Ocean Boulevard - Christian Luther

from the album Time To Travel On (2012)

My inner anarchist revels in the perpetual change and disruption to the music industry created by technology.  Today, I have access to more music, from more artists, wherever I go, thanks to all the whiz bang stuff in my backpack.  Meanwhile, the record companies, who charged exorbitant pricing for years, claiming the funds helped "discover" new artists, are crumbling as artists and audiences discover each other directly.  There is nothing like democracy.

At the same time, new companies rise, offering value propositions that embrace this new normal.  One such company is YouTunez.com from Berlin.  YouTunez is a music distribution service that allows quality independent artists to affordably subscribe to a service to digitally distribute their music globally via iTunes, Amazon, and dozens of other outlets.  Pretty cool stuff.

Thanks to YouTunez, I came across a Christian Luther, a German blues artist who created Time To Travel On, a new …

Walking In The Green Corn - Grant Lee Phillips

from the album Walking In The Green Corn (2012)

For better or worse, my life runs at a blistering pace.  This year, I will spend another 150+ days on the road.  Multi-tasking has given way to mega-tasking.  I dream that someone develops an app for me to smell the roses.  This morning I am blogging from Los Angeles ... I think.

When you are moving this fast, it is almost impossible to slow down.  This affects the music I listen to.  I run on songs with a fast tempo.  It is audio caffeine.  Tempo has become a driving force in my life.

But on occasion, I manage to close my eyes, exhale, put on the noise-canceling coconut shells, and get lost in a peaceful, melodic tune.  It rejuvenates me.  Then its back to the rave.

Walking In The Green Corn is a song I really dig when these moments of zen strike.  The song is pure and simple.  Acoustic guitar, violin, and a beautiful vocal.  The lyrical imagery is liberating. It is as refreshing as a swim in a cool, northern lake.  Thanks to Grant Lee P…

I'm Writing A Novel - Father John Misty

from the album Fear Fun (2012)

Master songwriters have the ability to use visual imagery in their opening lines to set the scene and hook the listener.

Bob Dylan is always stellar, with openings like "Early one morning the sun was shining, I was laying in bed / Wondering if she changed at all, if her hair was still red."  Willie Dixon offered "Gypsy woman told my mother, before I was born / You got a boy child coming, he's gonna be a son of a gun."

Bob Marley spoke for an entire race with "Old pirates yes they rob I, sold I to the merchant ship / Minutes after they took I, from the bottomless pit."  And then there is a personal favorite from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five "Broken glass everywhere, people pissin' in the streets, you know they just don't care."

Of all the new music I've listened to lately, none firmly plants and image in my head like this opening to I'm Writing A Novel by Father John Misty:

I ran down t…

The Same Old Ground - He's My Brother She's My Sister

from the album Nobody Dances In This Town (2012)

He's My Brother She's My Sister fire up a brand of swingin' twang, well-suited for smokey lounges full of thrift-store shopping hipsters, with The Same Old Ground.  This song - written by frontman Rob Kolar and Lemon Sun - won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for Best Rock Song of 2010.

Aside from the songwriting, the things that really caught my attention were Rob Kolar's lead vocal, the upright bass groove, and the lap steel guitar work.  However, when I later began to watch You Tube videos of the band, I became fascinated with the band's eclectic fashion sense and drummer Lauren Brown, who actually tap dances on the skin of her bass drum.  How cool is that?

I also dig the song's theme of longing to reunite with old friends at the places where they used to hang out.

Will we all come back again
To the same old ground
The one where we began

It makes me think of the places where I might reunite with my friends of …

Wishing You The Best - Campfire OK

from the album When You Have Arrived (2012)

This song was introduced to me by an Indian woman who runs a drum therapy clinic in Colorado.  Her sessions, which can run several days at a time, invariably produce positive results.  So, when she told me that I needed to listen to the drumming on the new Campfire OK tune, I cleared my schedule and advised the Apple folks that I really do want to download this song.

Glad I did.  There is something psychotic about a hard plucked banjo played over a steady, pounding beat that I really enjoy.  Add to it the hook line of " I am sorry if I was overbearing, but I didn't mean it" and I'm bopping my head like a woodpecker with Huntington's Disease.

Despite the banjo, this is not a country song.  It feels more like a murder ballad.  I wonder if this was the songwriter's intent.  If so, I dig the hook line even more.

Campfire OK is a Seattle band.  I do not know how this city keeps pumping out one great act after another, bu…

Afro Blue - Robert Glasper

from the album Black Radio (2012)

I have an odd fantasy of being a great conga drum player, like Mongo Santamaria.  For me, he is the only "conguero" that matters. Listen to his classic albums, like Watermelon Man, and you will understand.

Mongo was immortalized in the movie Blazing Saddles.  In the scene where the bad guys - including Alex Karras as "Mongo" - ransack Rock Ridge, a fleeing Hispanic exclaims "Mongo, Santa Maria." ...  I am usually the only person in the room who laughs.

Mongo was also a gifted songwriter.  His song Afro Blue has become a jazz standard.  Aside from his own version, the rendition by John Coltrane on the album Live at Birdland (1963) is amongst my favorite jazz recordings of all time.

Afro Blue is one of many songs I dig on Robert Glasper's new album, Black Radio.  This album takes the experimental jazz stylings that Robert Glasper is best known for, and adds a sophisticated, urban vibe.  The songs, musicianship, and produ…

Chromatic Crumbs - Big Pete

from the album Choice Cuts (2011)

Once upon a time, I had a basement apartment in Milwaukee.  My neighbors were two hippies named Mike & John.  They were pretty cool dudes who operated an ice cream truck and played blues harmonica.  It was during late nights, sitting in their living room, that I first heard Little Walter, Elmore James, and Willie Dixon.  I am so much richer for that experience.

On Sunday afternoons (unless there was a Green Bay Packers game), they went to The Up & Under Pub on Brady Street for an open mic show hosted by Milwaukee bluesman Leroy Airmaster.  It was a great atmosphere to learn from seasoned musicians.  There was as much talk about tone and technique as there was about women. There was also a fair amount of drinking.  I miss those days.

Chromatic Crumbs is a cover song by Dutch bluesman Pieter van der Pluijm, aka Big Pete, of the William Clarke original.  At first, I was surprised that someone would attempt a remake.  The original version is that g…

There's A Whole Lot Of Heaven - Iris DeMent

from the album Sing The Delta (2012)

Iris DeMent is best known for her musical collaborations and for the use of her songs in television and film.  Perhaps her most notable performance is the duet "In Spite Of Ourselves" with John Prine. She has also sung duets with Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Her song "Our Town" played in the last scene of the TV series Northern Exposure and - more recently - her song "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" was used in the closing credits of the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit.

There's A Whole Lot Of Heaven is a song I really dig off Sing The Delta, her first album of original material in 16 years.

The song begins with a 16 bar introduction that includes piano and organ.  It has been a long time since I've heard such good rockin' country piano.  The piano track alone makes this song an instant favorite of mine. It gets me boppin' and makes me happy.  The same goes for the organ track.

And, of course, there…

What You Wanted - Seapony

from the album Falling (2012)

Seapony is a Dream Pop band based in the Seattle area.  I instantly connected with the song What You Wanted, largely due to the no nonsense way the band gets straight to business.  It has that "I can name that tune in three notes" sensibility.  The beat, groove, and lead guitar riff are instantly established.  This is not typical of Dream Pop.

The second thing that hit me was the lead vocal.  Jen Weidl has a voice that blends sweetness, indifference, and vulnerability into something alluring.  I dig it.

The third thing to hit me were the lyrics.  You've been waiting for something you've forgotten / You've been waiting for something that you wanted / So long / You're too old now.  It caused me to reflect on my unrealized dreams and ask myself "Am I'm too old now?" Thankfully, the answer is no.

The forth thing is how effectively the guitars use tone to frame different parts of the song.  The little "ring" at…

Cigarettes & Truckstops - Lindi Ortega

from the album Cigarettes & Truckstops (2012)

Close your eyes and escape into a great country song. Synchronize yourself with its slow tempo and let the space in the music free your mind.  Listen to the lyrics and place yourself on a Greyhound crossing the wide open American plains.  Think about the person you are riding the bus to see.  Imagine the words you would say to them, as you lay in the cold, blue light of dawn.

Cigarettes & Truckstops is a song I really dig.  To me, it comes from a different era, where Glen Campbell sings Gentle On My Mind and Kris Kristofferson is putting on his "cleanest dirty shirt."  A time when songs told stories that helped reveal inner truths to the listener.

Lindi Ortega is a singer / songwriter from Toronto, Canada.  After establishing herself in Canada, she has moved to Tennessee where makes great music on Last Gang Records.  But rather than go the "pop country" route, she has embraced a classic country-folk style.  Bravo…

Lime-Lime - The Subsonics

from the album In The Black Spot (2012)

A few years ago, I was at a mindless conference in Park City, Utah. The only thing keeping me from Hara-Kiri was a rockabilly bass player from Texas named Chad.  We spent most of the "networking time" at the bar drinking Jim Beam and talking about bands we dig. This is how The Subsonics first came to my attention.

Soon after, I caught a show at The Star Bar in Atlanta.  They knocked me out.  The frontman, Clay Reed, played guitar with a ferocity that was only matched by the expertness he applied to every chord.  The drummer, Buffi Aguero, played a stand-up kit. Nothing like a sexy girl pounding out a beat.  And, oh yeah, they had a bass player.

Their music has an original garage vibe.  Inside it, I hear shades of The Velvet Underground, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and Bo Diddley ... but the sound is all their own.

Lime-Lime is a song from their upcoming release.  Although the song is only 1 minute 33 seconds long, it is loaded with…

Birmingham - Shovels & Rope

from the album O' Be Joyful (2012)

Over the years, I have had many friends who play for indie labels or travel around promoting self-released recordings.  I have the utmost respect for anybody who chooses this hard road.  They haul their gear from town to town, set it up, tear it down.  And, all too often, there is not enough money to go around.  You can help their cause by getting out of your lazy chair and checking out their gigs.  You will be better for it.

Birmingham is a travelogue about two wandering minstrels who find clarity and direction under difficult circumstances.  The song also gives some insight on this band's curious name with the final verse:

When the road got tough and the wheels all broke
Couldn't take more than we could tow
Making something out of nothing with a scratcher and our hope
With two old guitars like a shovel and a rope

This song hits me like a rebel yell.  Every time I listen, something different grabs me.  The songwriting, the lead vocal, the dru…

Rest - Michael Kiwanuka

from the album Home Again (2012)

Like many people, I have a playlist of my all-time favorite songs.  It consists of a wildly diverse collection of music from the past 85 years.  Many are classic songs that represent the soundtrack of the times.  But what I find most interesting, is that many of these songs were not particularly popular at the time of their release, if ever.

As I listen to new music and artists, I have developed a growing obsession with finding the songs that will find their way onto someone else's playlist decades from now.  Chances of finding these songs are greatly improved thanks to all our whiz-bang technology.  Yet the commoditization of quality recording equipment complicates the task by enabling millions of musicians to create and publish new material every year, almost everywhere.

I have found that focusing on two items - great songwriting and great vocalists - really helps you sort thru all the noise.  British singer / songwriter Michael Kiwanuka is a new…

Darkness - Leonard Cohen

from the album Old Ideas (2012)

Leonard Cohen is a master songwriter and performer.  He is included on a short list of mature artists that have earned my deepest respect - including Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Jimmy Cliff - as they continue to create great, new, original music.  I really dig the song Darkness from his album Old Ideas.  The long list of things I admire in this song include:

-->  The acoustic guitar introduction that lays down the blues progression and simple hook that carry the song
--> The first verse that establishes the song's dark imagery and story line:

 I caught the darkness, it was drinking from your cup
     I caught the darkness, it was drinking from your cup
     I said "Is this contagious?", You said "Just drink it up"

-->  The perfectly subdued beat and groove
-->  The "tickling" piano accents
-->  The organ solos, beautifully counterbalanced by the seductive backing vocals
-->  The hushed, gravelly vocals that…

Hold On - Alabama Shakes

from the album Boys & Girls (2012)

Great tone is one of the qualities that I value most in a song. Achieving it requires technique, a trained ear, and quality equipment.  Whenever I see live music, I always check out the gear the band is using.  This usually gives me a good feel for the sound they are looking to achieve and an idea for how serious they are about tone.

Last Saturday night, I saw Alabama Shakes at the Masquerade Music Park in Atlanta.  When I saw their equipment sitting on stage ahead of the set, I immediately knew that this band either 1) had a great appreciation for tone, or 2) had a really rich sugar daddy buying their gear.  Thankfully, it was the former.

The first thing to catch my eye was the Gretsch drum kit.  Gretsch was the preferred brand for drumming legends like Chick Webb, Elvin Jones, and Charlie Watts.  Next was the leslie speaker spinning behind the keyboards reminding me of Booker T. Jones or Steve Winwood on A Whiter Shade Of Pale.  The bass guitar…

Ready To Go - Kaiser Cartel

from the album Secret Transit (2010)

Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel are a singer / songwriter duo based in Brooklyn, New York.  Their music connects with me on several levels that include the quality of the songwriting, the honesty in their vocals, and a quirkiness that makes me feel like we could be friends.  Their day jobs are as art and music teachers in NYC schools.

An interesting phenomenon for me is that the titles of their songs very often reflect exactly how I feel about the song.  Favorite Song is indeed my favorite song.  Okay is - at a minimum - okay.  For this reason, I refuse to listen to Dead On The Lawn.

Ready To Go has a beat and groove that puts a bounce in my step and leaves me ... ready to go.  The vocal harmonies are stellar and Courtney's vocal performance, at times,  reminds me of The Bangles (in a good way). But my favorite thing about this song is its almost magical ability to make me sing along, sometimes days after my last listen.  I dig that.

Click He…

The Descent - Bob Mould

from the album Silver Age (2012)

Once upon a time, I had some friends who were crazy about Husker Du.  To them, the album Zen Arcade was the equivalent to Sgt. Pepper.  I must confess that I did not understand why.

Years later, I caught a Sugar concert at The Roxy in Atlanta with my neighbor Tony.  That is when I finally got it.  The energy and unpretentiousness that Bob Mould brought to the stage made an inveterate connection, unlocking inner frustration, and transforming it into a euphoric release. I probably dropped eight pounds dancing that night.

I have never had such a strong reaction to a performance before or since.

The Descent from Bob Mould's latest album, Silver Age, evokes the spirit of that night.  I cannot listen to this song loud enough, or drive fast enough when I hear it on the highway.  It is hard rock and roll at its finest.  The ringing power chords, the full-tilt drumming, the pulsing bass guitar, and Bob Mould's "shouting in key" vocals make a ra…

Soon After Midnight - Bob Dylan

from the album Tempest (2012)

Have you ever found it difficult to express your love for someone in writing?  Why is it so hard?  It doesn't matter if its a love letter, a poem, or a note in a greeting card, but when you sit down to compose the right words to describe your most heartfelt feelings, the results make you realize just how inarticulate you are.

Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest living lyricist in western music. Even he finds it difficult, as he infers in the first verse of Soon After Midnight from his new album:

I'm searching of phrases
To sing your praises
I need to tell someone
It's soon after midnight
And my day has just begun

So rather than charge straight up the hill, Bob decides to show the many textures of love by singing about various partners like Holly who took his money, Charlotte the Harlot who dresses in scarlet, and Mary who dresses in mink.  In the end, he circles back to the song's recipient with:

It's now or never
More than ever
When I met you,…

Live And Die - The Avett Brothers

from the album The Carpenter (2012)

Music Midtown is an Atlanta music festival that is a perennial favorite of mine.  Last night, I got to see a bunch of great bands - Foo Fighters, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, T.I., and Van Hunt - but the performance that really knocked me out was The Avett Brothers.  When we were waiting for the set to start, this dude asked my lady friend if she ever saw them live, when she said "no" he replied "well get ready, this is your new favorite band."  I suspect he was right.

The Avett Brothers lay down a rockin' bluegrass vibe from North Carolina.  They hit the stage with energy and joy, looked good, and connected with the large crowd.  Their songs celebrated love and family.  When the audience sang along with the catchy, intelligible lyrics, I found myself reflecting on the meaning of the words, thinking of the people I love - past and present - and wished they were all there to share the moment.

They played lots of great stuf…

Black Venom - The Budos Band

from the album The Budos Band III (2010)

The best time to listen to Ethiopian Soul Music is when your chillin' with your Ethiopian Soul Friends.  The obvious way to make these friends is to catch a flight to Addis Ababa and start mingling. However, that is not really necessary.  Ethiopian Soul Music can be readily found in many cities, like Boston, New York, and DC.  It is joyous music that attracts a pretty cool mosaic of followers.

The first wave fully blossomed in 1969, by taking a foundation of African polyrhythms, adding a scoop of Fela, a little James Brown, a pinch of 60's American Soul, and generous heap of unbridled Ethiopian happiness together to create a wonderful sound that has stood the test of time.  Check out Ethiopian Groove on iTunes Essentials for a great sampling.

The current wave has added elements commonly found at jam festivals: hippies with congas, wayward horn players, and a few guys who don't wear shoes.  The music is all about establishing and mai…

Sad Vacation - The Dandy Warhols

from the album This Machine (2012)

I enjoy listening to Internet radio.  The selection of music is broader and better than I find on the airwaves, and invariably I stumble across something I really dig.

My favorite show is The Fuzz Factory with Brett Callero on the Savannah College of Art & Design - Atlanta web station.  I really appreciate the approach Brett takes in crafting each installment.  A musical guide, he leads you along a rugged trail of great songs that sound great together, woven in thoughtful themes, and sprinkled with dry wit and smirky innuendo.  It is the modern equivalent to what you may have heard forty years ago, driving a U-Haul across Upstate New York in the wee hours of the morning.

Sad Vacation is a song by The Dandy Warhols that I first heard on The Fuzz Factory.  The song opens with a driving bass groove, supported by a steady beat and raunchy feedback.  Soon the song builds into Dark Wave heaven as guitars and keyboards create a sonic double-helix with se…

You Me Love Bullets - The Bombay Royale

from the album You Me Love Bullets (2012)

In the first thirty seconds, this song hits you with a wild circus of surf cacophony: a thundering tom-tom beat, guitars with maximum reverb, pumping spy-theme keyboards, and mexican-styled horns in blazing glory.  I strap myself in for something special, and then enter a man and woman singing in Hindi.  Where am I?  Did somebody put something in my drink?  I hope I don't start seeing midgets.

No.  I'm listening to The Bombay Royale.  This band from Melbourne, Australia describe themselves perfectly:

"The magic and mayhem of vintage Bollywood collides in spectacular fashion with a dizzying blend of Tarantino-esque surf, wild disco, flamboyant theatrics, swirls of kaleidoscopic colour, outrageous costumes and utterly irresistible dance moves that sweep entire crowds off their feet."

What a great live show these guys must put on.  I checked out their tour schedule and they were playing in Tasmania.  Perfect.  I envision this ban…

What Did the Hippie Have In His Bag? - Cornershop

from the album Urban Turban (2012)

I just arrived in Amsterdam for a week.  I love this city.  It surrounds you with art and beauty that is wrapped in a relaxed vibe of diverse people living their lives and getting along.  I dig it.

Walking along a canal, music can be heard coming from the bars, the coffee shops, the falafel stands, and the street musicians.  It lures you in.  It is enchanting.

So I'm bopping around with this catchy world-pop tune from Cornershop bouncing around my brain.  I don't mind it at all.  It seems like the song was written for this place.  The cheery beat, the happy synthesizer, the lyrical imagery, the school kids singing along, and the east-meets-west sensibility all make me feel good.

What did the hippie have in his bag? ... it's unknown.

Click Here to view the video.