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Showing posts from July, 2013

Nothing To Show For It - Femi Kuti

from the album No Place For My Dream (2013)

Femi Kuti is a rare breed of musician who has found a global audience writing and performing protest songs against corruption, deception, and inequality.  Following in the footsteps of his father - Fela Kuti - this Nigerian's songs shine an important light on the current circumstance plaguing much of Africa, earning him my most profound respect.

Unlike most protest singers, Femi Kuti is also an incredibly gifted performer and bandleader.  The first time I caught him in concert was in support of his 1998 release Shoki Shoki.  It is one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended.  His band filled the hall with a complex collection of sounds, beginning with a large contingent of percussionists layering African polyrhythms complimented by a deep bass groove and funky rhythm guitar with sharp keyboard accents.  On top of this was a powerful horn section, led by Femi Kuti on saxophone and vocals, backed by a colorful assortment of bac…

Rooftop Session - Josh Heinrichs

from the EP Rooftop Session (2013)

In the early 1960's, The Drifters released two summer singles about lovers looking for a romantic hideaway in the crowded city.  Those two songs - Up On The Roof and Under The Boadwalk - have become classics, containing visual imagery and themes that everyone can easily relate to.

This summer, reggae artist Josh Heinrichs has leveraged similar imagery and theme with his song Rooftop Session.  The result is a delightful, slow reggae jam that is perfect for a warm summer night.

I really dig Josh Heinrichs' singing style, particularly his sweet falsetto.  I equally dig the songwriting and craftsmanship that creates a timeless quality to his music.  With this song, he has tempered down the harder edge of his former band - Jah Roots - to create something more universally appealing.

I recommend this song for your summer party mix.  Everybody's mix could use a grooving new reggae song like this.

Click Here to listen to the recorded version.

Click …

Living, Loving, Partygoing - Future Bible Heroes

from the album Partygoing (2013)

I recently sat at a traffic light beside some college girls in a BMW convertible.  They had the top down, stereo up, and were singing Ode To Boy at the top of their lungs.  I could not help but smile.

I am tickled pink that 1980's synthesized "new music" has found a new generation.  It is a marvelously inventive style that makes people feel good.  If you ask long-standing fans of the genre why they remain devoted to bands like Erasure or Depeche Mode, they'll likely reply "I just can't get enough."

As a new music junkie, I stumble across bands writing and recording 80's inspired synth-pop almost every day.  Some of it is good, some of it is great, and you never hear it on the radio.  I'm not sure why. Maybe Molly Ringwald needs to make a new flick.

Just this morning I came across the song Living, Loving, Partygoing by Future Bible Heroes.  This song recalls bands like Yaz and OMD.  I dig it for the vibe and how i…

Machineries Of Joy - British Sea Power

from the album Machineries Of Joy (2013)

Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power is a song that I really dig.

I enjoy that this is a six minute song that takes its time developing.  With its opening sounds and feedback giving way to relaxing synthesizer, the listener's aural palate is cleansed as you are eased into the song.  Enter the drums, followed by the guitar and bass, letting you know this is an alternative song.  Next we are treated to some lead guitar stylings, that place us somewhere in the eighties.  Meanwhile, the full vibe continues to envelope.

As the vocals enter, I am reminded of Echo & The Bunnymen.  I am transported back in time to days spent in the passenger seat of my friend's Camaro (actually his mother's).  A group of friends drinking and laughing to Bring On The Dancing Horses.  Fun Times.

Listening to their catalog of music, I am struck by the band's mastery of countless alternative vibes.  With each track, I am drawn to a tone, or a beat, th…

Loving You Down - Bells Atlas

from the album Bells Atlas (2013)

Original vibes.  How many artists truly have them?

Bells Atlas does.  In a music world densely packed with all kinds of genres, this Oakland, California-based band has a natural ability to find their spaces and lay down their groove.

Loosely categorized in the R&B/Soul genre, this band defies pigeonholing, largely thanks to their drummer - Geneva Harrison.  As you listen to this album, you hear a different elements of her incredible chops within each song.  Whether she is laying down a fierce tribal beat, punching out a rhythm on the rim of her snare, or creating a wall of falling water with her cymbal play, you can't help but tune into every choice she makes.  She will remind you how exciting it is to listen to a great drummer.

Loving You Down is the opening number on their sensational self-titled full length debut.  The opening beat grabs you, with mystery keys lurking in the shadows.  Then come the neo-soul vocals of Sandra Lawson-Ndu.  Her …

The Hilo Bay Halfway - The Gene Dudley Group

from the album Saturday Shifting (2013)

Hilo is a small city on the east coast of Hawaii's Big Island where nature rules supreme. With active volcanos and about 200 inches of annual rainfall, this plush tropical garden never leaves you far from rainbows, waterfalls, and flowing lava.  It is something of a paradise.

The yin to this yang is that the funnel-shaped Hilo Bay is a tsunami magnet and you never know when a big wave will come and level the place.  It has happened a few times over the past century with horrific results.

As you ride out of town on Highway 19, about halfway around the bay, you can make a right at the cemetery and drive down the bluff to a small beach crowded with surfers.  It is a great spot to chill out and watch the dudes and dudettes in action.

But as you sit there, looking across the water, you can't help but think about The Next Big Wave, and the destruction it will bring.

The Hilo Bay Halfway is a funky, retro-styled soul instrumental from Wah Wah 45…

Cocoa Butter - India.Arie

from the album SongVersation (2013)

Last night, I got bumped up to first-class on my flight out of NYC.  Seated beside me was a beautiful woman in an off-white suit and matching head wrap.  I instantly recognized her as India.Arie.

When she finished up her cell phone conversation, she advised her travel companion across the aisle of a glorious review on RollingStone.Com.  I smiled and gave her a thumbs-up.  Then I shared how Mrs. Gigolo and I fell in love listening to her album Acoustic Soul, some years ago.  She shook her head, said "That is really cool", gave me a high five, and asked for me to "say hello" to Mrs. Gigolo.

She seemed down to earth with a true inner peace.  I dig that.

So this morning I am listening to her new album and the track I'm grooving to most is Cocoa Butter.  It is a sultry soul jam that highlights her gifts as a songwriter and a vocalist.  On top of that, the musicianship and production are perfection.  I particularly dig the steady a…

The Way We Fall - Alela Diane

from the album About Farewell (2013)

Alela Diane is a folkie from Portland, Oregon.  I really dig her song The Way We Fall.

The song's theme is about how when something happens "for the last time," we don't recognize it as such.  That leaves me thinking about some of the "last times" that I've unknowingly experienced.  How sad.  Then again, the optimistic in me will always think about "the next time."

This song is truly beautiful.  The opening lines:  "It was there / In my hometown / Drinking whiskey from the bottle" catch me, as does the later mantra "I didn't know / It was the last time."

Alela Diane is a songwriter of incredible skill.  This song strikes such a deep chord.  The theme haunts me.  I love it.

About three-and-a-half minutes in, you expect the song to end.  Instead it breaks down for the next minute and a half. Throughout this extended time, you are expecting a reprise that never happens.  No other song d…

Thousand Year Old Child - Pure X

from the album Crawling Up the Stairs (2013)

The past ten days have been one bizarre time warp, as I have been on Long Island tending to business matters.  Musically speaking, this is a "land that time forgot" and completely debilitating for a new music junkie like myself.  Hence, no recent blog entries.

On three occasions, I ventured out to hear some live bands and never heard a song from this millennium.  The most memorable numbers were Takin' It To The Streets (The Doobie Brothers), Amie (Pure Prairie League), and Black Or White (Michael Jackson).  How's that for living in the now?

My time in purgatory complete, I just checked into a NYC hotel and am jamming to the newest music I can find.   In a few hours, I'll be headed to the Mercury Lounge with some friends to catch a set from Diamond Doves.  Aah, the joys of urban living.

There is one song I am particularly tuned into right now: Thousand Year Old Child by Pure X.

My soul is awakened by the acoustic guitar…

I Heard - Young Fathers

from the album Tape Two (2013)

Young Fathers are a hip-hop trio from Edinburgh, Scotland.  Their new album - Tape Two - contains several songs that I dig, especially the opening track, I Heard.

Rather than the high-gloss, hi-fidelity production of most American hip-hop records, this song lays down a lo-fi, downtempo vibe that I find inviting.  It sounds like some talented folks got together in somebody's bedroom with a computer and some basic gear and struck gold.

I found myself liking this song from the opening beat and synthesizer chords.  But what really hooks me is the chorus:

Inside I'm feeling dirty
Inside I'm feeling dirty
Inside I'm feeling dirty
Only cause I'm hurting

I love signing along with this chorus.  Credit that to the songwriting and performances.  They are stellar.

However, I keep wondering if there is something more?  Could it be that I'm feeling dirty?  If so, what about?  Aside from the lewd and crude, maybe it is because in this life you get c…

Poor Paddy On The Railway - Shane MacGowan

from the "soundtrack" The Lone Ranger: Wanted (Music Inspired By The Film) (2013)

As time wears on, my respect for The Pogues continues to grow.  The ability of this band to meld traditional Celtic folk music with punk rock was truly magical.  I occasionally go onto You Tube and watch early videos of the band and get chills every time.  Perhaps music is becoming like art, where the greatest rarely get the recognition they deserve in their formidable years.

At the center of The Pogues was Shane MacGowan.  He personified the band's music like few other frontmen in music history.  His brash style and rotting teeth gave him an authenticity that could not be matched.  Someone should carve his face into a mountain, along with Johnny Rotten and Joey Ramone.

So to promote this week's release of The Lone Ranger film, the folks at Disney decided to released a "soundtrack" of songs "inspired" by the motion picture (but not actually appearing in it).  I would…

Zydeco Hare Krishna - The Hanumen

from the album The Hanumen (2013)

Imagine yourself at a bar on the bayou.  You pull up in your fishing boat, walk up the deck, and are sucking the heads off of crawfish, washing them down with ice cold beer.  It is cajun heaven, except for the woman across the bar flashing her summer teeth at you.

All of a sudden a group of hare krishnas enter the joint.  They look out of place dressed in saris, dhotis, and kurtas.  Even more troubling is that one dude has a washboard and another has an accordion.  This causes one of the bar's regulars the exclaim "What the bleeding Jesus is going on here?"

They work their way onto the stage.  The dude with the washboard says "Testing One-Two."  The drummer is never quite comfortable with the return speakers.  The woman across the bar stops smiling.

The vocalists all start chanting "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna," and the crowd is confused.  Then, after a minute, the full band kicks in.  The shuffle beat, tuba bass line,…

Sun Up Sun Down - Brooke White

from the soundtrack to Banner 4th of July (2013)

Happy 4th of July, y'all.

On this uniquely American holiday, what better time to listen to a bright, new country tune.  The one I'll be digging today is Sun Up Sun Down by Brooke White.  American Idol fans will remember Brooke from Season 7, where she finished in 5th place.  I personally admire her more for her post-Idol accomplishments.

This includes staring in a made-for-television movie titled Banner 4th of July that debuted on the Hallmark Channel last Saturday night.  In addition to acting in the film, she wrote and performed two original songs, including Sun Up Sun Down.

I dig this song on several fronts, beginning with the songwriting.  The song is perfectly crafted to compliment her vocal abilities.  The chord structure is intuitive and well integrated.  The vocal lines are superb, with a catchy melody and glorious harmonies.  In addition, the dynamics allow the song to effortlessly build and recede, hooking the listener…

Devil Or Angel - Lou Doillon

from the album Places (2013)

I was once good friends with a drummer from Michigan.  She is the most talented drummer that I have ever known and has gone on to tour with national acts that are household names.  She may very well be coming to a large venue in your city this summer.

Over the years, we had many conversations about music.  I was always struck by the joy on her face when she discussed her childhood, jamming with the family.  Her dad played guitar, her mother sang, her cousin played piano and bass, and her uncle played the drums.  As a young girl, she sat on her uncle's lap while he played.  She would ultimately have her own drum kit.

Family life centered on music.  When they were not playing it, they were listening to it.  Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, and especially Johnny Cash were standard fare.  Both her genetics and the environment she grew up in made her the performer she is today.  I am envious of both.

Lou Doillon is another musician who grew up in a musical fami…

Kawaii Dance - The City and Horses

from the album Strange Range (2013)

Over the weekend, I spent some time listening to the album Strange Range by The City and Horses.  It was quite a listen.  What struck me most was the quality of the songwriting.  Their music has an incredible melodic sensibility coupled with an innocence and honesty that I could not help but dig.

The first two songs - Whip and 17 - completely captivated me.  I particularly got a kick out of the catch line to the second song: "The sweetest little thing that I've ever seen / Was you smokin' weed at 17."  This line really put a smile on my face, and it is so damn catchy.

Then I did a bit of research and learned that this Philadelphia outfit is led by a gentleman named Marc.  Marc's day job is as an accomplished musician for children's television, winning awards and getting his songs placed everywhere.  How fascinating is that?  The lines that connect successful children's music and successful indie pop have never been so c…

Gimme The Boots - Mo' Blow

from the album Gimme The Boots (2013)

It seems that every few years a jazz band breaks out with an infectious, funky vibe that reaches beyond the "strictly jazz" crowd.  This is the thread that runs thru songs like Ramsey Lewis' 1965 hit The "In" Crowd and Pick Up The Pieces by the Average White Band in 1975.

Today, it runs thru Gimme The Boots by Mo' Blow.  This Berlin jazz quartet blows me away with the expertness applied to every element of their music.

The song starts with the sound of a didgeridoo, the long, aboriginal wood instrument that creates great long, low tones.  Enter some bright, funky keys and some upper register bass stylings followed by the band proclaiming "Gimme The Boots" and WHAM a crack of the drums and off they go.

This song is simply fun to listen to.  When I am alone, I can dissect the incredible instrumental performances, over and over.  When my funky friends are around,it provides a groovin' backdrop to the funky fe…