Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two-fer Tuesday: Andy Timmons

Someone obviously broke into my brain and accessed the file marked "Beautiful Guitar". I know who that person is and thank him for directing to Andy Timmons. Part of me says I've heard of him and part of me says I haven't. I stopped caring about 3 seconds into "Electric Gypsy". Music, as always, wins every argument I ever have with myself.

As much as I'd prefer this first tune to be Andy playing live, I opted for the clearest, prettiest recording available instead. Once you hear it, I think you'll agree this was a good choice.

(Bwhaaa - Andy Timmons, "Electric Gypsy")

(spritzer - Andy Timmons, "Cry For You")

Prevailing wisdom says I should write up something about Timmons, but I honestly don't feel cobbling together a bunch of facts from a few websites will enhance the music any. So, just have a listen and Google him if you're interested. That's what I do.

Monday, August 30, 2010

CD Review: Kettleblack - Kettleblack Live

If you're gonna be a rock band or a blues rock band, you pretty much have only a few seconds to establish yourself as such from the moment the listener pops a CD into the stereo. Kettleblack answers any questions one might have about their intent very quickly. They tell you within a few notes that they're here to rock you and they do.

Before I get into the meat of the Kettleblack Live CD -- their original songs -- I'm going to address the cover tunes they've included because covers can be rather tricky.

"Hard to Handle" is a bit hard to handle when the most popular version has embedded itself in our collective psyche. That said, Kettleblack does a passable job with the tune, but they're not the Black Crowes (who basically OWN the song at this point), nor are they originator Otis Redding, Tom Jones (who does a surprisingly good job with this tune), or even Mae West (1970, Myra Breckinridge, anyone?). It's not bad. It's just a tough tune to make one's own when you're up against a force such as the Crowes. It was a bold choice for their debut album and I think it may play better in person than it does on CD.

"Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" fares a bit better, with a muscular presentation, but nothing that deviates too far from the established path. However, the inevitable comparison to every other version will leave one wondering if it's at all necessary to include this song on CD as opposed to just letting the momentum and power take it where needs to go when performed before an audience, which is where "Voodoo Chile" tends to be best received.

The best cover choice of all is Randy Newman's "Leave Your Hat On". This is a gutsy take on the tune and once you get past the initial shock at the faster tempo, it takes hold of you and rocks like you wouldn't expect such a staple to rock. This song is proof that covers can have a life of their own and don't have to remain 100% faithful to the original to be powerful and enjoyable.

As for the originals on Kettleblack Live, I have to say the opener really sets the tone for the entire CD experience. It's a rocker, for sure, and it doesn't disappoint. However, one of my favorites is "Bad Bad Bad", a fuzz-laden rocker that is thoroughly enjoyable. It soars and whispers in all the right places. "Dogshit and Puppy Love" is deeper and darker than you'd expect, but hey, sometimes titles just happen. The best of the bunch, though, is "Woodshed". Ready for play on rockin' blues radio, it digs deep and grinds and growls and takes you somewhere else entirely.

This Orange County, California band is ready to set off earthquake detection systems everywhere and they have everything necessary to make it happen. Lyrically, the songs are intriguing. Musically, there's no question that this is what these guys were meant to do. Lead singer and guitarist Sam Sasso has come a long way since I first heard him six or seven years ago. His vocals are fuller and steadier than they were, and his guitar skills are just as bad ass as they've ever been. Jon Siembieda on rhythm guitar is right there, never pushing or pulling the music where it shouldn't go. Tom the Bomb, drummer, has his groove and locks in perfectly with bassist Matt Menaged, who brings a distinct style all his own to the group.

Kettleblack has all the key pieces in play. Live is more than a decent debut CD. There's plenty to like and really nothing you'd skip over. Some songs are simply stronger than others and strikingly so. Already I'm looking forward to what the band has to offer up next.

Kettleblack can be found on Myspace and Facebook.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

CD Review: Chris James & Patrick Rynn - Gonna Boogie Anyway

Chris James & Patrick Rynn‘s second CD, Gonna Boogie Anyway, is here and it has swept me off my feet. It’s solid, bold, and sexy. Its swagger is confident, not cocky, and that self-assuredness is what clinches the deal. The sexiness is surprising, too, because you don’t necessarily expect their steady and solid approach to carry that much sex appeal. Yet it does. James and Rynn? They’re powerful and mesmerizing.

“Money Don’t Like Me” starts the party and it’s a strong, yet playful tune. James’ assertive vocals and clever lyrics tell a story to which we can all relate — as hard as we work for it, money just ain’t stickin’ around. Times are tight and so is this arrangement. They follow the opening track with a bouncy and shakin’ “Dearest Darling” that’s sure to get you dancing. Bo Diddley would be proud. Both songs cement the band’s swinging and rhythmic presence that serves as the continuance of their first CD’s vibe, but it’s on the third track, “Can’t Trust Nobody”, that the pair shake things up. Even without the full band, Rynn and James bring it with an undeniable authority. The cutting lyrics are more powerful because of the spare presentation. With a few well-chosen words and a look, you know you’re in trouble. One listen and you know you don’t want to be the one to anger these two. The tune carries the same confident strut as other songs on the album, but it’s delivered more as a subtle warning than an overt threat.

And that’s the thing about this entire CD: nowhere are you knocked upside the head with “aren’t we great?” aggression. Instead, you’re lured in with solid songwriting and musical prowess that makes you a believer in James and Rynn’s ability to deliver the goods. It’s what makes the album sexy. It’s why you end up grinning from ear to ear as you head out the door satisfied; there’s no shame, no guilt here. You love the music and you’re happy to let everyone know it. It’s less Christopher Walken as The Continental and more Cary Grant as, well, just about any one of his romantic comedy characters. A shy, elegant confidence permeates every note played and sung.

Included amongst their originals, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Reed tunes find their place and are given their proper due. While not exact copies, “Black Spider Blues”, “Dearest Darling”, “Little Girl”, and “Can’t Stand To See You Go” represent some of the duo’s favorite influences and continue a story of joy, heartbreak, and determination evident in their originals. It’s evident that each song was chosen to cast a certain mood, to draw the listener into the overall experience. It’s a seamless transition between original material and that from other artists, though if you weren’t in the know about which is which, you’d have a difficult time trying to pick them out. That’s how authentic these blues are. The greatest tunes, however, are those written by James, Rynn, and writing/performing partner Rob Stone (appearing on harmonica on tracks 2, 7, and 9). Most powerful are “Money Don’t Like Me”, “You Can’t Trust Nobody”, “Headed Out West” (the structure of which is very literary), and the title track “Gonna Boogie Anyway”. “Gonna Boogie” should be everyone’s theme song. No matter what happens in life, no matter the obstacles or pressures, you gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and boogie like there’s no tomorrow! At the very least, you have a little fun before you stumble again; and who amongst us couldn’t stand more happiness in life?

Life isn’t fair, but with a CD like this in your collection, you almost don’t care. Chris and Patrick give voice to all the moments in our lives — the good and bad — and suddenly you’re not alone any longer. You have two great dance partners willing to whirl you across the floor, away from your troubles for a while.

Where Stop And Think About It left off, Gonna Boogie Anyway picks up and romances you all over again. The difference, of course, is the inclusion of tunes that don’t feature a backing band. Chris and Patrick are just as comfortable and accomplished with country/Delta blues as they are with the fuller Chicago sound. Forget gimmicky outfits and banter, the duo imbue their music with a classic sense of storytelling and musicianship. They’ve learned from the masters and they put those lessons to work. They’re smooth, effortless, and genuine. And in the end, isn’t that what you expect from the blues?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two-fer Tuesday: Zac Harmon

I have many favorite performers these days. While they span the full spectrum of music, blues often gets top billing. This is for good reason: blues draws on the human experience in a way that reaches deep within you and can’t help but elicit a response.

This week’s Two-fer features Zac Harmon (auto start music warning), winner of the 2004 International Blues Challenge with his band the Mid South Blues Revue. Since then, he’s been touring the world, impressing audiences with his tough, but sensitve, approach to the blues. Harmon’s sets can include everything from deep blues to gospel to solid R&B. There’s a little something for everyone. I saw Harmon here in Vegas recently and his show was nothing short of astounding. I would have gladly stood in front of the stage the entire time, but the man made me want to move my feet!

(StJohnBluesFestival – Zac Harmon, “Rock Me Baby”)

(jeffstoneblues – Zac Harmon, “Comfort of a Man”)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gibson’s Free Downloads

Gibson (yes, the guitar people) has a website with, amongst other content of interest, free downloads! They have everything from alt. rock to jazz available.

Not only can you get a good listen, you can download whatever strikes the right chord with you.

There’s something for everyone on the site: J.W. Warren (blues), Five Star Iris (alternative), Danko Jones (metal), Blackalicious (hip hop), Tommy Guerrero (latin), Sia (jazz), and so much more.

It’s a great rainy day (or perhaps a “too hot day”) project on which to embark. Try ‘em all on for size. The songs are free and it would be difficult to walk away not finding at least one tune you like.

Two-fer Tuesday: B.B. King

What could one possibly say about B.B. King that hasn’t already been said before?

I have always loved him and, yet, I’ve never seen him live. I had the chance a couple times, but something always happened to prevent me from actually getting to the show. Well, not last night.

Yes, after years and years and years of waiting, I finally saw B.B. King live and in person. Not only that, but I got to meet him. I’ve been home for a few hours and I’m still trying to come down from the high of that experience. While B.B. doesn’t play guitar nearly as much as he used to, he still sings beautifully and his stories…those have to be heard to understand just how special they are. When he did play, it was as if the years fell away and he was a young man again. A young man with a passion for the blues.

I was quite surprised after the show that he invited people up to “come say hello”. Everyone was patient as they waited to have their chance to shake his hand, thank him, and/or have him sign something. Sadly, my B.B. King Treasures book is sitting in storage in San Diego or I’d have had that autographed. (Yep, I’m a fan girl through and through!) However, I did manage to get him to sign my ticket voucher. It was either that or offer up a body part and that hardly seemed appropriate for the King of the Blues.

One of the most magical moments of the entire night, though, came when Stoney Curtis (Stoney Curtis Band) told B.B. that seeing him perform at the Chicago Blues Festival back in 1980 or 81 changed his life and his musical aspirations. Right before my eyes, I saw them go from fan and idol to kindred spirits having this amazing moment together. Sadly, the one photo I got of that moment didn’t turn out so well, but the experience of watching it happen will stick with me forever.

I will not soon forget last night.

What time is it? Time for “3 O’Clock Blues”.

(jemf999 – B.B. King, “3 O’Clock Blues”)

(jemf999 – B.B. King, “Key to the Highway”)

I joke with my son that this next tune is his. My own little Blues Boy knows the blues and he likes this one.

(MuddyBoy61 – B.B. King, “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother”)

And here is a video I’ve loved for years. “Thrill is Gone” was my daughter’s favorite song for several years when she was a little girl. I called her last night as I was on my way to the concert and we talked about the tune. It brought back many memories of a time that seems all too far away these days.

(BBKingVevo – B.B. King ft. Tracy Chapman, “Thrill is Gone”)

The few photos we took after the show are posted on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two-fer Tuesday: Suzi Quatro

Honestly, I had something else in mind when I started planning this week’s Two-fer Tuesday. However, XM Radio messed me up with a string of 70s awesomeness, which included Suzi Quatro. Who didn’t love Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days? C’mon, she was the coolest character next to Fonzie. Hell, she outcooled the cool-meister!

There are a couple generations who only know of Leather via reruns and they have no clue that Suzi Quatro had been singing her heart out for several years before she ever set foot on the set of a TV sitcom in the late 70s. She was cast without an audition as Leather Tuscadero after Happy Days producer Garry Marshall saw her poster on his daughter’s bedroom wall.

Quatro’s “Devil Gate Drive” was used on Happy Days, as incongruous as it was, during the episode when Joanie thinks she’s ready to leave home and hit the road as one of Leather’s backup singers. (I know, it’s wrong that I know all this. I have a head for mindless trivia, I tell ya.)

(The1970sChannel – Suzi Quatro, “Devil Gate Drive”)

Suzi’s biggest hit, however, was a duo with Chris Norman called “Stumblin’ In”, a song that, to this day, I can’t help but sing along with.

(luvslugg – Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman, “Stumblin’ In”)

Super extra bonus vids this week: bad choreography and costumes, and something rockin’.

(carpalton – Suzy Quatro, “Johnny B. Goode”)

(fuckinchikenshit – Suzy Quatro, “Rock Hard”)

Suzi Quatro, who just celebrated her 60th birthday (the woman does NOT look 60), has been living in the UK for decades and can still be found performing throughout Europe. Now that, my friends, is how you rock!

Also recommended listening for today: The BS Blog’s Turn It Up Tuesday selections.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Elvis 75th Birthday CD Collection Due Out October 19

RCA Records is celebrating Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday with a comprehensive collection of music and much more. Over 800 tracks, of which 103 are rare recordings. More than 35 hours of music on 30 CDs. A 240-page hardcover book. 1,000 first run limited editions. It’s the King and it comes with a royal price of $750, plus tax and shipping.

Also included are essays from Peter Guralnick, author of Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, as well as two of my favorites: Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues, Country, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke.

Pre-order now at http://www.completeelvis.com/. Order us a copy, too, while you’re at it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two-fer Tuesday: Jay Ferguson (Man of Satin)

Had to dig deep in the ol’ databank for these. If anyone else remembers them, I’ll be very surprised. We won’t even discuss the miles of satin on the man. Okay, maybe just a little. That’s a lot of satin! (I’m done now.)

Personally, I really enjoy revisiting music from “way back when”, music I listened to while growing up. I have fond memories of lying in bed with the radio next to my ear. Listening to a scratchy AM station, falling asleep to the music. Summers were spent walking down to the 7-Eleven to buy the little book of lyrics to all the 70s pop songs and a few 45s. Seriously, all my chore money went toward music even when I was a kid. Guess some things never change.

Anyway, here’s a look into the past.

The 70s were rather interesting, no?