album

Ray Charles' 'Genius + Soul = Jazz'

Ray Charles was best known for his work in the idioms of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and even successful forays into country. But he also recorded influential jazz albums, including the groundbreaking Genius + Soul = Jazz originally released in 1961, and continuing into the ’70s with My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. On April 6, 2010, Concord Records will release a deluxe edition two-CD set featuring digitally remastered versions of all four albums including encyclopedic liner notes by Will Friedwald, jazz writer for The Wall Street Journal and author of several books on music and popular culture, along with original liner notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

Genius + Soul = Jazz was recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in late 1960. The producer was Creed Taylor; arrangers, Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Ray Charles played the organ with three vocals (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”) and band members included members of the Count Basie Orchestra: Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, and Sonny Payne among others. Issued originally on ABC Records’ legendary Impulse jazz label, the record ascended to the #4 spot on Billboard’s pop album chart, and spawned the very first singles on Impulse, heretofore an album label. “I’ve Got News for You,” rose to #8 R&B and #66 on the Hot 100. In addition, Charles’ version of “One Mint Julep” charted #1 R&B and #8 pop, and his rendition of the blues standard “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” reached #25 R&B and #84 pop.

As annotator Friedwald states, “Genius + Soul = Jazz . . . was a bold and innovative album, but, at the same time, a direct step forward from his earlier work.” Although Basie himself does not appear on the album, the Count was a major model as Charles assembled a full-scale, working orchestra. Basie also influenced his use of organ in a jazz context, and Charles was happy to record at the Van Gelder studio, where Jimmy Smith had recorded his classic Blue Note albums. Truly, as Dick Katz wrote in his original January 1961 liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

Some nine years later, Charles recorded another jazz album, My Kind of Jazz. With sessions in Los Angeles this time, Charles surrounded himself with such players as Bobby Bryant and Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Glen Childress, trombone; Andy Ennis, Albert McQueen and Clifford Scott, saxophone; and Ben Martin, guitar. The album contained Charles’ own “Booty-Butt” (which was issued as a single on his own Tangerine label), Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” and Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues.”

In his original liner notes to My Kind of Jazz, Quincy Jones wrote, “This album is the essence of what Ray used to tell us when we were kids: Be true to the soul of the material you’re dealing with.”

Jazz Number II was recorded roughly two years later at Charles’ Tangerine/RPM Studios and issued on Tangerine Records. Charles enlisted an impressive cast of arrangers: Alf Clausen, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath and Roger Neumann.  The tracks included Ray Charles and Roger Neumann’s “Our Suite,” Teddy Edwards’ “Brazilian Skies” and “Going Home,” Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” and Jimmy Heath’s “Togetherness.”

Finally, My Kind of Jazz Part 3, which concludes the Genius + Soul = Jazz deluxe package, was recorded in Los Angeles circa 1975, featured the Ray Charles Orchestra including Clifford Solomon, alto sax; Glen Childress, trombone; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Leroy Cooper, baritone sax; and James Clay, tenor sax. Included are compositions by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Issued on Charles’ own Crossover Records, the album reached #55 on the R&B chart in 1976.

The reissue of Genius + Soul = Jazz continues Concord Music Group’s long-term reissuing of the Ray Charles catalog in cooperation with the Ray Charles Foundation. Among the other albums repackaged in the past year are Genius Hits the Road, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Message From the People, plus the career compilation titled Genius.

Collectors' Choice introduces CCM Live label: J. WInter, Hot Tuna, Poco. J. Denver

Collectors’ Choice Music, the label that’s come to be known for compelling and often unexpected CD reissues, has announced the launch of Collectors’ Choice Music Live, a new label devoted to releasing great live performances, most of which have never previously been commercially available.

The series will launch April 20 with the release of four CDs: Johnny Winter And’s Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70; Poco’s Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71; Hot Tuna’s Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969; and John Denver’s Live at Cedar Rapids, 12/10/87.

According to Collectors’ Choice Music GM Gordon Anderson, “After some 15 years of reissuing albums and compiling artists, we’re convinced that some of the biggest remaining veins of gold in the vaults are the live shows that a lot of labels recorded of their artists in their prime, particularly those who made their reputation with improvisational prowess and/or ever-changing set lists. These first four releases on our new Collectors’ Choice Music Live label certainly fit that description.”

Johnny Winter And — Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70: To commemorate the release of his Johnny Winter And album, Texas blues guitarist/singer Johnny Winter played some shows at New York’s Fillmore East, some of which were compiled on 1971’s Live Johnny Winter And, a classic live album of the era to which this release makes a nice bookend. He had just formed a new band consisting of former member of the McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) including Rick Derringer on guitar, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Zehringer. Although the McCoys were none too familiar with Winter’s work, they proved quick studies and entered the studio to make the album Johnny Winter And within three weeks. The New York Times reviewed the Fillmore show, citing “a considerable improvement over Winter’s previous band. Winter and [Derringer] played solos back at each other, simultaneously and in alternation.” The live album contains the Winter hit “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo” and his take on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” alongside  blues classics “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “It’s My Own Fault” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

•Poco —Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, 9/30/71: In the fall of ’71, Poco was arguably the most popular of the first generation country-rock bands. By then, their album Deliverin’ had cracked the Top 30 and Poco thanked its label, Epic Records, with a private showcase at the CBS Records’ Hollywood studio.  “We just set up as we would have for a small club,” recalls frontman Richie Furay, whose bandmates included guitarist/singer Paul Cotton (from the Illinois Speed Press), bassist Tim Schmidt (later of the Eagles), pedal steel player Rusty Young and drummer/vocalist George Grantham. By this time, Poco was evolving from country-rock towards an edgier rock sound. Says Furay, “Though we were innovators of the L.A. ‘country-rock’ sound, we weren’t going top be pigeonholed into being a one-sound band.” The 14 songs they performed for label employees that day were a solid cross-section of tunes that had appeared on its first four albums including the medley “Hard Luck Child/Child’s Claim to Fame/Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” plus “I Guess You Made It,” “A Man Like Me,” “Ol’ Forgiver,” “Heart That Music,” “Hurry Up,” “You Are the One” and more — an hour of music in all.

Hot Tuna: Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969: Hot Tuna was, of course, the blues band-within-a-band side project of Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady that outlasted the parent band and continues to this day. Interestingly, the duo’s first commercial album, which made it to #30 on the Billboard pop album chart, was recorded live at Berkeley’s New Orleans House, but a lot more material was taped than was released. Much of it is issued for the first time on this 68-minute CD, which consists entirely of previously unreleased recordings. Explaining why they recorded their debut album was recorded live, Kaukoken says, “We tend to go places . . . and you lose a bit of that when you work in the studio. And it was cheaper too!” Of the 13 songs on this CD, six — “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “I Know You Rider,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here” and “How Long Blues” — were included on the first Hot Tuna album, though the versions here are selected from different performances than the ones used on that LP.  Other songs include Blind Boy Fuller’s “Keep On Truckin’,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Keep Our Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and “Candy Man,” and Blind Blake’s “That’ll Never Happen No More.”

John Denver: Live at Cedar Rapids, December 10, 1987: What is the sound of an audience eating out of the palm of a performer’s hand? Utter silence. And that’s what was heard during the two-hour-plus Iowa concert that comprises this two-CD set.  By 1987, Denver’s days as a Top 40 hitmaker were a decade in the past, but he remained a solid concert draw as a beloved, thoroughly American artist with a permanent place in the history of pop. It says much about Denver’s songwriting that, with the exception of half a dozen songs on which he’s accompanied by string quartet, he delivers two hours of solo music just his voice and 12-string guitar. The hits are here but so are new songs, some early-repertoire nuggets and a well-chosen cover or two.  Included are “Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning,” ”Take Me Home Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” “Love Is the Master,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Blow Up Your TV (Spanish Pipe Dream),” “Shanghai Breezes,” “Ohio” and more.

The Infamous Stringdusters Reach New Heights w/ Things That Fly

About the most important question a young bluegrass band faces right out of the gate is whether they can play. The Infamous Stringdusters wasted no time in providing their answer—an emphatic “yes”—winning IBMA Album, Song and Emerging Artist of the Year the very same year they released their debut, Fork In the Road. On Things That Fly, their third album, due out April 20, 2010 on Sugar Hill, they venture into virtually uncharted territory for an acoustic group: a sonically and thematically expansive album that lends itself to absorbed listening from start to finish, much like the great rock albums do.

Holed up in the Charlottesville, Virginia studio Haunted Hollow, with significant preproduction under their belts and Gary Paczosa (Nickel Creek, Dixie Chicks, Tim O’Brien) on board as engineer and co-producer, the ‘Dusters did things they’d never done before: guitarist Andy Falco put his hidden keyboard talents to use on smoldering organ parts; voices and instruments alike were splashed with reverb; and, though the band has no shortage of quality lead singers in fiddler Jeremy Garrett, dobro player Andy Hall and upright bassist Travis Book, a few fine-singing friends—country standout Dierks Bentley, Americana songwriter-chanteuse Sarah Siskind and Crooked Still frontwoman Aoife O’Donovan added novel tones.  All this—and more, much more—makes for a lush, new ‘Dusters experience.

Says Book, “I think string bands have a tendency to feel like when they go to record, doing anything that they can’t necessarily replicate 100 percent live is off-limits. Instead of saying ‘This is how it sounds when the six of us play it standing around in a circle, so we’re just going to put mics up and capture it and that’s going to be it,’ we really got deeper in the production aspect.”

Factor in that every member of the band—rounded out by de facto tour videographer Chris Pandolfi (banjo) and Jesse Cobb (mandolin)—is a stylish, consummate picker with a hardly strictly bluegrass background, as well as a skilled songwriter, and you see that this band is genuinely built for breadth. “We wanted to make sure everyone had writing input on the record,” Hall relates. “We’d never done that before, and it’s a lot of why we started the band.”

Speaking of formidable rock albums, the 'Dusters drew the second track on Things That Fly from U2's Joshua Tree. Not only did they transform "In God's Country" into their own propulsive, virtuosic vehicle, they wrote transcendent anthems in a similar spirit: "Taking a Chance on the Truth" and "Love One Another." Surprising covers, unusual arrangements and other departures from the expected make Things That Fly something different - namely a sign that they've elevated their sound and set their sights higher than ever before.

Upcoming Tour Dates:


2/4 - Lexington, KY 
2/5 - Granville, OH
2/6 - Cleveland, OH 
2/8 - Ames, IA 
2/10 - Billings, MT
2/12+13 - Big Sky, MT
2/16+17 - Steamboat Springs, CO 
2/19 - Logan, UT
2/20 - Salt Lake City, UT
2/21 - Park City, UT
2/25 - Eugene, OR
2/26+27 - Tacoma, WA
3/17 - Tuolumne, CA
3/18 - Crystal Bay, NV
3/19 - Grass Valley, CA
3/20 - Felton, CA
3/21 - Berkeley, CA
3/22 - West Hollywood, CA
3/24 - Albuquerque, NM
3/25 - Durango, CO
3/26 - Telluride, CO
3/27 - Glenwood Springs, CO
3/28 - Denver, CO

MUSHROOM | Naked, Stoned & Stabbed

MUSHROOM, a musicians' collective based in the San Francisco Bay area, return with their first album in three years, NAKED, STONED, & STABBED, to be released April 27 through 4 Zero Records/Royal Potato Family. A new phase for Mushroom, the project was conceived as a cross-continental Cinema Verite travelogue of time and space. Acoustic, ambient and blending eastern and western hemispheres, its music floats on an ethereal blanket of sitar, violin, pump organ, celesta, vibraharp, dulcimer and flutophone, while African, Latin and Indian percussion replace a conventional drum set. Enigmatic song titles include "Celebration At Big Sur (The Sound Of The Gulls Outside Of Room 124)," "Though You're Where You Want To Be, You're Not Where You Belong," "Tariq Ali" and the only outside composition, a remake of the Syd Barrett/Kevin Ayers' collaboration, "Singing A Song In The Morning."

Recorded over a weekend at The Wally Sound in Oakland, CA, the sessions were both planned and spontaneous with producer and percussionist Pat Thomas often adding and subtracting instrumentalists on the fly. Configurations range from a duo to a trio to an octet, and thus give each song a varied approach. At the time of the recording, the band had just come off a multi-night run of performances interpreting Pete Townshend's 1971 rock opera Lifehouse. The vulnerable and dynamic music of that experience provided a catalyst that resulted in the album's final 13 tracks. Mushroom also cite influences like Sandy Bull, Alice Coltrane, Davy Graham, Brian Eno and Fela Kuti as having played a roll in the sounds found on Naked, Stoned, & Stabbed.

Mushroom first formed in the mid-'90s and have since amassed a 12-album discography. A loose and rotating cast of Bay area musicians, its members include guitarist/knob twiddler Josh Pollock (a member of Citay, and collaborator with Gong, Acid Mothers Temple, Ruins, John Cale, and Damo Suzuki), vintage keyboard guru Matt Cunitz (Brightblack Morning Light, Hiss Golden Messenger), multi-instrumentalist Erik Pearson (Daevid Allen, Irene Sazer, Crooked Jades, Billy Talbot/Crazy Horse), bassist Ned Doherty, drummer/bandleader Pat Thomas(renowned reissue producer of recordings by Judee Sill, Ruthann Friedman, Pearls Before Swine, Terry Reid, Cluster & Eno), and Mushroom's newest member, percussionist David Brandt (his adventures include a European tour with the Kologbo Afrobeat Academy [Oghene Kologbo was the guitarist in Fela Kuti's Africa 70 band], and performances with Conduction maestro Butch Morris' New York Skyscraper).

My Morning Jacket Hit The Road With The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

It’s been almost a full year, but the wait is finally over.  My Morning Jacket are ready to bring their electrifying live show back on the road.  The guys will make their way around the Southeastern United States this Spring, including a performance at this year’s Jazzfest in New Orleans.  MMJ are also excited to both try something new with their choice for an opening act, and bring some of the spirit of NOLA along with them.  The band is honored that the historic Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be supporting them on the run.

The connection with the PHJB originated in the Spring of 2009 when MMJ frontman Jim James was invited to sing with them at their home turf, New Orleans’ legendary Preservation HallJames recorded two songs with the band: “St. James Infirmary” and “Louisiana Fairytale.”  The tracks will appear on the bands forthcoming album,  PRESERVATION: An Album To Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program, out February 16th.

“When I got the invitation to go to the legendary Preservation Hall – where SO much of the music we now know and love on this earth found its early roots – I did not waste a minute,”  James reminisces.  “Getting to sing while the guys played with such glorious bursts of sound – all live in that holy room with the ghosts and garbage trucks crankin’ along – was an experience I’ll never forget.”

The PHJB’s leader Ben Jaffe shares his memory of playing with James: “I couldn’t have imagined Jim fitting in any better with the guys at Preservation Hall.  Creating music is not a science.  There is no tried and true formula.  There is an unspoken bond amongst musicians.  One that exists in the notes we choose.  Jim’s like our long lost cousin coming home for the first time.”

MMJ Tour Dates With The Preservation Hall Jazz Band:

04/20:  Birmingham, AL @ Alabama Theater

04/21:  Nashville, TN @ Municipal Auditorium

04/23:  Atlanta, GA @ Chastain Park

04/24:  New Orleans, LA @ Jazzfest

04/27:  St. Augustine, FL @ St. Augustine Amphitheater

04/28:  Charleston, SC @ Family Circle

04/30:  Raleigh, NC @ Koka Booth

05/01:  Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion

05/02:  Columbus, OH @ LC Outdoor Pavilion

The Disco Biscuits Announce New Release Date for Planet Anthem

After plowing through four sold-out dates in Boulder, CO’s Fox Theatre, The Disco Biscuits are getting ready to release their long-awaited new album, Planet Anthem, which will be available March 16th.  The album marks the beginning of a new chapter for the band.  Since they formed in 1995, the guys created their own movement by fusing the jam band and electronic music scenes.  However, their forthcoming release prominently features elements of pop, indie dance, hip hop, and straight up rock music. The Biscuits also collaborated for the first time with multiple producers, songwriters, and outside musicians, including Don Cheegro and Dirty Harry(LudacrisChris BrownBeanie Sigel).  The result is an album filled with sing along melodies and infectious beats.

Don’t miss your chance to see the band perform their new material when they hit the road again starting in February, including a headlining performance at Ultra Music Festival.  The band has also just announced details for the annual music festival they put together, Camp Bisco, which is now in in 9th year.  Past performers have included Snoop Dogg, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, The Roots, MSTRKRFT, Nas and Damien Marley, Girl Talk, and Kid Cudi.  This year, the event will take place July 15 – 17 in Mariaville, New York.  Tickets go on sale January 29th at 10am.

Lastly, the Biscuits will be hosting their even Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks on May 29th. This year's lineup will feature Aeroplane, Pnuma Trio, The Crystal Method (DJ Set), Booka Shade, The Glitch Mob and of course 2 sets of the Biscuits.  Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the onsale and other shows in Colorado prior Red Rocks.

 

2/18 @ Ram’s Head Live, Baltimore, MD

2/19 @  Lupos, Providence, RI

2/20 @ Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA

2/21 @ Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH

3/17 @ Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY

3/18 @ The Egg Center For Performing Arts, Albany, NY

3/19 @ House of Blues, Boston, MA

3/20 @ Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ

3/26 @ Ultra Music Festival, Miami, FL

(w/ Deadmau5, Tiesto, Will.I.Am and others)

4/14 @ Charleston Music Hall, Charleston, SC

4/15 @ Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC

4/16 @ The National, Richmond, VA

4/17 @ The National, Richmond, VA

4/18 @ The NorVa, Norfolk, VA

4/20 @ 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

4/21 @ The Jefferson Theatre, Charlottesville, VA

4/22 @ The Klein Memorial Auditorium, Bridgeport, CT

4/23 @ Kirby Center For Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, PA

4/24 @ House of Blues, Atlantic City, NJ

4/25 @ Webster Theatre, Hartford, CT

05/29 @ Red Rocks Amphitheater, Denver, CO (Bisco Inferno)

07/15 – 0/17 @ Camp Bisco, Mariaville, New York

Earl Greyhound To Release Sophomore LP "Suspicious Package"

EARL GREYHOUND is pleased to announce the release of Suspicious Package, a blistering rock inferno spun out of the Brooklyn trio’s inspired and innovative rock-n-roll imagination machine.  Suspicious Package was recorded at Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica, under the nimble and keen producerly auspices of Dave Schiffman (Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down).

Earl Greyhound formed in 2002 with the collaboration of songwriters Matt Whyte and Kamara Thomas, who began performing regularly as a duo in NYC. All the while, they were crafting the unique sound and songs that would form the foundation for a colossal rock band. Their influences swept from the strident English three-and four-pieces of the 70’s, to the dark pop and heavy grunge grooves of the 90’s, to the transcendental, noisy acid sounds of modern rock.

In 2005, EG recorded their first album, Soft Targets, but they also hit their first snag when drummer Chris Bear left to pursue his fortunes with the band Grizzly Bear. Reluctant to release the album without a permanent drummer, Matt and Kamara vowed to play relentlessly until their dream drummer found them. Guitar player Kirk Douglass (The Roots) witnessed a show and brought his friend and Gold Crowns band mate Ricc Sheridan to the next few gigs. Ricc says, “I awoke from a dream one night, and I knew this was my band.” A few weeks later, a rockneck-inducing jam confirmed that the band had found its soul mate, and they hit the ground running.  Soft Targets and EG’s wrecking ball of a live show earned them oodles of fans and critical acclaim from The New Yorker, SPIN, Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Vegan and Pitchfork, among others. The next three years were spent touring the US, Canada and Japan as well as opening for Gov’t Mule, Chris Cornell and Saul Williams.


Suspicious Package is Earl Greyhound’s sophomore release. The album marks a turning point in the band’s maturation since the benefit of Mr. Sheridan’s full creative collaboration. Listeners will notice a marked expansion into the higher reaches of the sonic territories. Heavy, dark, groovy and grand—Suspicious Package is a reminder that though ROCK is still only a four-letter word, it can still pack a load of splendor.

US TOUR

Jan 30 - Brooklyn Bowl - Brooklyn, NY
Mar 23 - Harro East Theatre & Ballroom w/ Coheed and Cambrial - Rochester, NY
Mar 24 - The Westcott Theater w/ Coheed and Cambria - Syracuse, NY
Mar 25 - Northern Lights w/ Cohee d and Cambria - Clifton Park, NY
Mar 26 - Higher Ground w/ Coheed and Cambria - South Burlington, VT
Mar 28 - Port City Music Hall w/ Coheed and Cambria - Portland, ME
Mar 29 Webster Theater w/ Cohee d and Cambria - Hartford, CT
Mar 30 Hardware Bar w/ Coheed a nd Cambria - Scranton, PA
Mar 31 - Music Hall of Williamsbu rg w/ Coheed and Cambria - Brooklyn, New York
Jun 4 - Wakarusa Festival - Ozark, ArkansasJun 5 - Wakarusa Festival - Ozark, Arkansas

Marton Sexton readies new album 'Sugarcoating'

Sugarcoating, Martin Sexton’s new album due out April 6, 2010, finds the one-of-a-kind artist doing what he does best: locating larger truths within specific details of the life he’s living. “I write from personal experience — my own hang-ups and quirks, good times and bad times. That keeps it real.”

The Syracuse-born artist tracked Sugarcoating live off the floor in seven days with a remarkably cohesive studio band composed of what Sexton describes as “amazing players, the best you could find.”

“Each song is so stylistically different from the next,” adds Sexton, “I’ve always preferred records that range, sort of like the White Album, from ‘Black Bird’ to ‘Helter Skelter.’ At one time, industry types tried to convince me to stick with one genre, but it was like wearing a suit that didn’t fit.”

“I recorded this album with no rehearsals, no pre-production, using all vintage gear from what went into the mics to what came out on the analog tape . . . I like making records like the old jazz guys did — they just showed up and worked it out.”

The title track, disturbing in its theme and audacious in its presentation, takes “keeping it real” to another level. An unsettling look at post-9/11 reality, the song encapsulates in the lines “I wonder why nobody wonders why/with all the sweet sweet sweet sugarcoating/the nightly news gone entertainment biz/and politicians out showboatin’/One day somebody tell it like it is.” Which is exactly what Sexton accomplishes here. The fact that this urgent message is embedded in a danceable, happy-go-lucky arrangement complete with backing vocals by what Sexton calls his “cowboy trio” only serves to deepen the song’s impact.

Other songs on Sugarcoating include “Long Haul,” a Bakersfield-rooted, bluesy, earth-toned shuffle that celebrates the unparalleled richness of a long-term relationship; “Shane,” in which Sexton imagines the experiences awaiting his infant son; “Found,” which asserts that our wired existence drowns out our ability to see others clearly; and “Always Get Away,” a lament about missed opportunities and unforeseen circumstances. Sexton says, “It’s about forgiveness — forgiving oneself the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It’s about knowing who I am and who I’m not, and about having a conscious contact with my inner voice and my higher power.”

Not every song is heavy. The first single, “Livin’ the Life,” is a buoyant joy-of-existence piece with a churning clavinet burrowing a deep soul groove right through it.  “Stick Around” is a piano-driven Beatlesque bouncer complete with an Abbey Road reference in the lyric; and “Easy on the Eyes” is a finger-snapping, ragtime mating call with a voice trumpet solo from Sexton.

It’s Sexton’s uncanny ability to connect the personal to the universal via songs like these that has earned him such a devoted following among fans and critics alike. The New York Times’ Jon Pareles wrote that the artist “jumps beyond standard fare on the strength of his voice, a blue-eyed soul man’s supple instrument . . . his unpretentious heartiness helps him focus on every soul singer’s goal: to amplify the sound of an ordinary heart.” He’s also renowned among his peers. John Mayer calls him “one of the greatest singers of our generation.”

With Sugarcoating, Sexton may well have made his defining record. It’s an unquestionable high point for the modern troubadour who headlines venues from the Fillmore Auditorium to Nokia Theater Times Square, oversees his KTR label and derives great satisfaction from the life he’s made for himself. These are the fruits of a combination of rarefied talent, fierce determination, “and work — showin’ up,” he adds, sounding like Jeff Bridges’ Bad Blake character in Crazy Heart: “I sing for free man. I get paid to travel.”

Sexton will tour North America with a new band April through June in support of the release.

Track listing
1. Found
2. Boom Sh-Boom
3. Always Got Away
4. Livin the Life
5. Sugarcoating
6. Stick Around
7.  Long Haul
8.  Shane
9.  Wants Out
10. Friends Again
11. Easy on the Eyes
12. Alone 13. Just To Be Alive

James McMurtry gets iPhone app, embarks on Western tour

James McMurtry fans can now stay up to date with concert information, photos, videos, music and blog posts while they are on the go with the  his new official iPhone application.  The app also allows users to post photos from their iPhone directly to the fan community and engage other fans across Facebook and iLike. The app is available for $.99 at the link here.

McMurtry and his band will be touring the western United States in support of his latest release, Live in Europe (Lightning Rod Records). The album is a document of McMurtry’s first European tour, on which he was joined by keyboardist Ian McLagan and fellow Texas songwriting legend Jon Dee Graham. The set is available as a CD with a bonus DVD, or as a deluxe vinyl LP package with a CD and DVD insert.

Live in Europe, available as a CD/DVD set or as a vinyl LP/DVD set, has earned praise from the critics. Mike Seely, writing in the Seattle Weekly, wrote: “The great Texan James McMurtry released a new album of old material in 2009—in other words, a live album. No matter: Mere mention of its drop date gave me an excuse to delve deeper into McMurtry's supremely underrated oeuvre. . . This re-exposure made me surer than ever that McMurtry is the Springsteen of the South.”

Blurt’s Steve Pick added, “With a new administration in office, he's taken six of the less directly political songs from that record, added two other older cuts, and brought out Live in Europe. It's another chance to notice how in and around the anger about macroscopic events, McMurtry is capable of extraordinary nuance in describing the lives of ordinary people on a microscopic level.”

In addition, McMurtry’s 2005 song “We Can’t Make it Here” was listed as the “Song of the Decade” both by the Lefsetz Letter’s Bob Lefsetz, and by NoDepression.com’s Grant Alden, the latter of whom called it, “Angry and musically adventurous and pissed off, which is different from angry. And a summary of how this decade felt, from my side of the typing.” The Nation declared McMurtry “Most Important Rocker.”

TOUR DATES
Sat., Jan. 16  NEW BRAUNFELS, TX Gruene Hall
Sat., Jan. 30  SPICEWOOD, TX Poodie’s Hilltop Bar & Grill
Sat., Feb. 6 ALPINE, TX Railroad Blues
Tues., Feb. 9 TUCSON, AZ Club Congress
Wed., Feb. 10 PHOENIX, AZ Rhythm Room
Thurs., Feb. 11 LOS ANGELES, CA The Mint
Fri., Feb. 12  SANTA MONICA, CA McCabe's Guitar Shop
Sat.-Sun., Feb. 13-14  SANTA CRUZ, CA Don Quixote's Int’l Music Hall
Tues., Feb. 16  SAN FRANCISCO, CA Great American Music Hall
Wed., Feb. 17  WINTERS, CA The Palms
Fri., Feb. 19  PORTLAND, OR Aladdin Theater
Sat., Feb. 20  EUGENE, OR WOW Hall
Sun., Feb. 21  SEATTLE , WA Tractor Tavern
Tues., Feb. 23  BOISE, ID Neurolux
Wed., Feb. 24  SALT LAKE CITY, UT The State Room
Thurs., Feb. 25  PAONIA, CO Paradise Theater
Fri., Feb. 26  FT COLLINS, CO Aggie Theater
Sat., Feb. 27  BOULDER, CO Fox Theater
Sun., Feb. 28  OMAHA, NE The Waiting Room
Tues., March 2 KANSAS CITY, MO Knuckleheads
Wed., March 3 COLUMBIA, MO Mojo's
Fri., March 5  OKLAHOMA CITY, OK Wormy Dog Saloon
Sat., March 6  FORT WORTH, TX The Aardvark

SNL's Christine Ohlman's new CD with Marshall Crenshaw

Christine Ohlman, a.k.a. “The Beehive Queen,” whose “day job” is that of the flashy, gritty long-time featured vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band, has completed her first new album in five years, The Deep End, to be released by the Horizon Music Group through Selct-O-Hits on April 6, 2010.

Having won the respect of many fellow artists over the years, Ohlman recruited a stellar group of them to contribute to the new CD, including Marshall Crenshaw, Dion DiMucci and Ian Hunter as duet partners, as well as an all-star list of accompanists: G.E. Smith, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel from the Del-Lords, NRBQ veteran Big Al Anderson, Catherine Russell, the Asbury Juke Horns (Chris Anderson and Neal Pawley) and more.

Working in a swampy, guitar-driven style of contemporary rock/R&B, Ohlman and The Deep End co-producer Andy York (John Mellencamp) crafted 15 songs of life and love tempered by loss. It is Ohlman’s first album of new work since 2004; her recording hiatus followed the deaths of both long-time producer and mate Doc Cavalier and guitarist and founding member of Ohlman’s Rebel Montez band, Eric Fletcher. (The band presently includes Michael Colbath, bass; Cliff Goodwin, guitar; and Larry Donahue, drums.)

Christine is a musicologist of note of whom SNL bandleader Lenny Pickett, quoted in the New York Times, once said, “She knows the really good, obscure stuff.” The covers on The Deep End were lovingly chosen from her fabled record collection. She duets with Dion on the obscure Southern soul gem “Cry Baby Cry” and with Crenshaw on a Motown classic, Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells’ “What’s the Matter With You Baby.” A third duet with Ian Hunter on Ohlman’s own “There Ain’t No Cure” celebrates her love of the music and language of the Delta behind a punked-out, soul-searing groove. It’s one of a group of eleven new originals that includes “The Gone of You” (a song of loss and longing so central to The Deep End’s theme that it appears twice: in a full-band version and in York’s evocative, loop-driven demo, dubbed “After Hours” both for Ohlman’s late-night vocal and its darkest-before-the-dawn sensibility); the Muscle Shoals-tinged ballad “Like Honey”; flat-out barnburners “Bring It With You When You Come” and “Born To Be Together”; and Ohlman’s post-Katrina lament “The Cradle Did Rock,” which will appear later this year alongside tracks by Irma Thomas, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint as a bonus cut to the reissue of Get You A Healin’, a CD benefitting the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.  The late Eric Fletcher is memorialized in the album’s third cover, a pristine reading of Link Wray’s “Walkin’ Down the Street Called Love.”

Ohlman and her previous recordings have impressed critics. The late Brownsville Station leader, bluesman and musicologist Cub Koda, writing in Stereo Review, believed, “Musical treasures like this don’t come along very often. Ohlman is the number one secret weapon in America’s gal-singin’ sweepstakes.” Charles M. Young in Playboy observed, “The first thing you notice is her tough, rousing, sexy voice.” Elmore magazine noted: “Few singers today are truly versed like Ohlman in all things soul. Tough and raw around the edges, she belts with a voice steeped in the heritage of this musical tradition.” All Music’s Hal Horowitz raved: “Ohlman never sings a tune halfway . . .she’s the leader of the pack.” And of the new album, critic/broadcaster Dave Marsh said, “There are so many ‘wow’ moments.”

In addition to her years on Saturday Night Live, Ohlman has an impressive resume. She sings on the theme song for 30 Rock; performed at Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary bash at Madison Square Garden with George Harrison and Chrissie Hynde; performed at President Obama’s Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C.; led Big Brother & the Holding Company in a Central Park tribute to Janis Joplin; worked on a musical with Cy Coleman, who compared her sense of timing to that of Peggy Lee; and frequently duets with blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Eddie Kirkland. She also edited Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham’s autobiography 2Stoned (Oldham described Ohlman’s Wicked Time as “a deep swamp theme to a movie Burt Reynolds wished he’d made’)  and worked with Bonnie Raitt and Ry Cooder at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Awards — all while continuing to torch clubs up and down the Eastern Seaboard with Rebel Montez. She counts among her friends Willie Nile, Syd Straw, Charlie Musselwhite, Hal Willner, David Johansen, Paul Thorn and Marshall Chess.

A Connecticut native and resident, Ohlman played with G.E. Smith in the Scratch Band in the 1970s, leading to her long association with Saturday Night Live. Her stint in fabled Studio 8H of Rockefeller Center includes the Sinead O’Connor and Ashley Simpson meltdowns (she was present for both) and the current season’s hilarious “Swine Fever” commercial parody, featuring a magnificently beehived Ohlman in full Dolly Parton regalia. She fondly recalls waltzing around 8-H with the late Chris Farley to Paul McCartney’s impromptu rehearsal performance of “Hey Jude.” With her long-time mate, the late Doc Cavalier producing, Ohlman released four records with Rebel Montez: The Hard Way (1995), the live Radio Queen (1997), Wicked Time (1999) and Strip (2003). In 2008 with current business partners Alex DeFelice and Vic Steffens at Horizon Music Group, she released a career compilation called Re-Hive. Yet she has remained under the radar — a best-kept secret. Until now.

Reflecting on The Deep End’s central theme of love both lost and found, Ohlman says, “Rosanne Cash and I were talking and she asked me if I’d written sad songs. It wasn’t until then that I realized I hadn’t. Ultimately, this album is about love and the courage to fall into it. Loss just informs you; it opens emotional doors that couldn’t possibly have opened before, no matter how much you thought you knew about it. I wrote about love — the newness of it, the glory of it, the loss of it, the sadness that can come from it, the wonder of it . . . the sweet bitterness of it.”