Tea Leaf Green readies 'Radio Tragedy!'

It ain’t easy being gypsies, especially ones who sing for their supper. San Francisco Bay Area troubadours Tea Leaf Green are newfangled Lost Boys, a traveling gang dedicated to seeking wisdom and experience in places both glorious and seedy. The band’s seventh studio album, Radio Tragedy!, will be released through Thirty Tigers available worldwide on June 7. Fans who pre-order the album by May 1st are eligible to win handwritten lyrics from the songwriter.

In many ways, this quintet is the essence of rock’s adventurous, playfully outlaw spirit, all of which ultimately fuels songs that resonate with classic vibrations, open-ended possibilities and radio-ready charm. TLG are bruised romantics with heavy minds and a lighthearted way with experimentation, as likely to jam out a number as they are to nail a primo verse-verse-chorus pop gem.

All the steadily growing promise of Tea Leaf Green comes to fruition on their new album with the aid of producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine). The band has crafted a powerhouse work in Radio Tragedy!, with the oomph of their stellar live performances melded to a truly impressive array of vocal nuance, rib-sticking song craft and smart studio flourishes.

From the Bee Gees-esque bite of “Easy To Be Your Lover” to the bouncing modern rock of “You’re My Star,” Radio Tragedy! showcases a contemporary American rock monster fully emerging from the shadows, ready to take on any comers with a sound that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled contemporaries like My Morning Jacket and The Strokes.

Together, Trevor Garrod (keys, vocals), Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Scott Rager (drums), Reed Mathis (bass, vocals) and newest member Cochrane McMillan (drums) have made a record that’s both timely and timeless — a strange, beautiful space that Tea Leaf Green inhabits naturally and gracefully.

“Much of this record is a reflection on the ups and downs on the road to radio gold, chasing dreams and ghosts on America’s highways and finding triumph, sorrow and sacrifice in the pursuit,” says Josh Clark. “Tea Leaf Green has been a band for over a decade.  We’ve tried to simply focus on music, just music, honest music, operating in the shadow of braggart auto-tuned rappers and inane teeny bop prop puppets that has come to rule and choke the life out of what was once America’s greatest export — rock ’n’ roll.”

“I don't think any of us have ever felt completely satisfied with our past studio experiences, so we went into this one with the deliberate intent of making a complete album.  Each of us brought our own vision and we did our best to fuse those ideas in the studio, all of us committed to seeing each member’s vision take shape,” says Scott Rager. “TLG has been a band for 13 years and I think we’ve made the record we always thought we were capable of making.”

“I wanted a story — something loud, something bright, something to scare your kids goodnight. There is adventure to be had. There is an undiscovered country,” says Trevor Garrod.  “We have been there for each other through thick (rarely) and thin (mostly). There are five of us now and like a pack of pickpockets, we will steal your heart.”

“At the center, our commitment to this music and our passion for making it and performing it has remained rock steady,” continues Josh Clark. “Like countless bands creating phenomenal music today, we work on the edges of the mainstream where we can be heard, looking in on the tragedy that radio seems to have forgotten where to find the gold.  This album is a true story of our lives in pursuit of a dream from another time and how we survive despite it all.”

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RADIO TRAGEDY! track listing

1.    All Washed Up
2.    Easy To Be Your Lover
3.    You're My Star
4.    My Oklahoma Home
5.    Fallen Angel
6.    Sleep Paralysis
7.    Germinating Seed
8.    Honey Bee
9.    The Cottonwood Tree
10.   Arise
11.   Nothing Changes

Patrolled by Radar signs to Knitting Factory Records, readies 'Be Happy'

Patrolled by Radar’s Be Happy is an album of original songs penned by singer-songwriter Jay Souza. The ten tracks on Be Happy tell stories that could have taken place at any point during the last two centuries, as sung by troubadours such as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Davies or Townes Van Zandt. Be Happy is the band’s debut CD on Knitting Factory Records through RED Distribution, set for worldwide release on June 7, 2011.

Souza has been carrying around these songs inside his heart since he was a kid. His inspiration came from his mom, who sent him three cassettes that he played incessantly as a child — Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and the Carpenters. Years later, his attention to craft can be heard throughout Be Happy, which will be released under the name Patrolled by Radar because Souza got tired of his band 50 Cent Haircut getting confused with rapper 50 Cent.

Knitting Factory CEO Morgan Margolis was so impressed with the band’s yearlong residency at the Hollywood club that he offered to both manage them and release the album on his label. It’s a story that could have come straight from one of Souza’s own songs, based on real life.

“The whole record was meant to be like that,” says Souza. “I wanted it to be rich in melody, dynamism and nuance. I’ll rewrite the words over and over until the allusion is just right. I try to make it less literal and more poetic. There’s always a better way to say something.”

The Boston-born singer-songwriter — whose great-great-grandfather was first cousin to Irish poet William Butler Yeats — has lived in L.A. since 1990. He continues to exhibit the qualities of his mentors in his music, first in his band 50 Cent Haircut, and now alongside the same musicians in Patrolled by Radar (guitarists Bosco Sheff and Bryan “BC” Coulter and bassist Bryan “Reno” Stone), with a timeless, narrative style that takes its cue from classic Americana roots: equal parts folk, rock, country, blues and soul.

The band’s music is featured as the closing song in two of the three MGM/Sony Walking Tall movies. Two of the tracks on Be Happy can be heard on the TNT show Men of a Certain Age, where they were placed by GO Music Services supervisor Gary Calamar who noted of Be Happy, “Wowza for Jay Souza. [Patrolled by Radar] is a great band with terrific songs. Bang and twang!”

Be Happy is a rather ironic title, given some of the grim stories Souza recounts in “Dressed for the Drought,” “Coat of Disappointment,” and “Fast Life Slow Death.” His honesty and sincerity is self-evident on the album’s “Carried Away,” written from the point of view of a soldier serving in the Middle East:

“I know it’s all the same to you/Everybody’s lookin’ for the thing they were meant to do/I’ll sit and sing a lonesome song.”

Elsewhere, Souza and Patrolled by Radar show themselves equally capable of creating the lush pop choruses of the Beatlesque title track, the slinky sexual double entendre rockabilly blues in “Walking” (“The first verse is about Adolf Hitler and the second, Johnny Cash,” he explains), the whimsical psychedelic folk of the Babar the Elephant-inspired “Pachyderm,” or even full-throttle rock ’n’ roll, which comes across loud and clear in the anthemic (and aptly named) “New Fight Song.”

“I see people having a hard time. It’s a strange time we’re in. The haves and have-nots are being drawn together in a way that’s weird,” Souza clarifies, though he’s finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

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Be Happy track listing

1.    Widow Next Door
2.    New Fight Song
3.    Dressed for the Drought
4.    Pachyderm
5.    Coat of Disappointment
6.    Fast Life, Slow Death
7.    Haywire
8.    Carried Away
9.    Be Happy
10.   Walking

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PATROLLED BY RADAR on tour

Wed., Apr. 13   LOS ANGELES, CA The Mint w/ The Band Of Heathens
Sat., Apr. 23   LOS ANGELES, CA Farmers Market Ranch Party
Sat., Apr. 30   CULVER CITY, CA Cinema Bar
Fri., May 6   BROOKLYN, NY Knitting Factory (Brooklyn) w/ Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs
Sun., May 15   LOS ANGELES, CA Satellite (Silver Lake)
Fri., May 20   LOS ANGELES, CA Villains Tavern
Sun., Jun 12   LOS ANGELES, CA The Echo - Grand Ole Echo

Booker T. & the MGs, Staple Singers & Johnnie Taylor launch Stax Remasters Series

From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, the Stax label dominated soul, R&B, gospel, and related genres with a stable of artists who have since become iconic figures in the history of American popular music. Now a part of the Concord Music Group, the Stax catalog is a treasure trove of some of the most visceral and influential recordings of the 20th century. On May 10, 2011, Concord reaches back into that deep catalog to launch Stax Remasters, a series of reissues that cast a new light on classic Stax recordings with the help of 24-bit remastering, rare bonus tracks, and new liner notes to frame the recordings in a historical context.

The first three reissues in the series are:

  • Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue (1970)
  • The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972)
  • Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk (1973)


“Stax is a very important label, not only in the history of soul music, but in the history of music in general,” says Nick Phillips, Concord’s Vice President of Catalog A&R and co-producer of the series with Chris Clough, Concord’s Manager of Catalog Development. “We have a number of amazing recordings by Stax in the catalog. This is an opportunity to revisit some of the best of these classic recordings, upgrade the sound quality, and put them in the proper historical perspective that they deserve.”

Booker T. & the MGs: McLemore Avenue

Released in January 1970, McLemore Avenue is a tribute to Abbey Road, the landmark recording released by the Beatles the prior summer. McLemore Avenue sets up an interesting cause-and-effect loop by putting an R&B spin on songs by a profoundly innovative British pop-rock band that, ironically, emerged years earlier from the most basic elements of American R&B.

McLemore Avenue was inspired by “my pure fascination and admiration of the work that [the Beatles] had done,” says keyboardist Booker T. Jones in the reissue liner notes by music historian Ashley Kahn. “I didn’t know their inner workings. I found out later. I had a picture of those guys as a perfect unit. I didn’t know that they fought, had arguments, or that they needed referees. When you listen to that music, you think it comes from a perfect union, you know?”

The tribute album “represents a fascinating and musically compelling intersection,” says Phillips. “On one hand, you can look at the strength of the Beatles’ songs, and how they’re such strong songs that they can be successfully adapted — in the right hands — to soulful instrumental versions. At the same time, it is of course a testament to Booker T. & the MGs’ creativity and soulfulness and groove. It’s not only a very interesting musical intersection, but it’s also a very deep and at the same time a very fun listen.”

Clearly, Booker T. & the MGs had had plenty of their own opportunities to flex their creative muscles in the studio, having recorded with artists like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. “But on a record like this,” says Clough, “where all the songs were already written and it was just a matter of interpretation, it wasn’t work for them. It was an opportunity to put their spin on the songs and just have some fun.”

The bonus tracks include seven additional Beatles covers, recorded in sessions separate from those for the McLemore Avenue album. “We figured it made good sense to expand this edition by adding other tracks that Booker T. & the MGs had recorded of Beatles songs over the years,” says Phillips. “So the Stax Remasters reissue is not only an expanded edition of McLemore Avenue, it’s also a de facto ‘Booker T. & the MGs Play the Beatles’ collection.”

The Staple Singers: Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

Originally released in 1972, Be Altitude: Respect Yourself captures the celebrated family vocal group in what was essentially the third act of their career, according to music historian Rob Bowman. The Staple Singers had initially established themselves as a gospel group in the 1950s, then merged with the folk music closely tied to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and ultimately veered away from protest songs and toward what Mavis Staples termed “message music” in the early and mid-1970s.

“Obviously, there was a lot going on in America — politically and socially — around that time, and the Staple Singers took up the cause,” says Clough. “Stax provided a huge platform for that cause, and it worked. It wasn’t insincere or disingenuous. It was the real deal. The Staples had taken up the banner at that point.”

Be Altitude found a comfortable middle ground between gospel music and secular music. “Some of the messages in their music have that gospel element running through it, but it’s a broader message than what you’d find in traditional gospel,” says Phillips. “The soul, the gospel, the grooves — all those things blended together — really make for a unique sound that is the Staple Singers.”

The two previously unreleased bonus tracks — “Walking in Water Over Our Head” and an alternate version of “Heavy Makes You Happy” — were both recorded at the Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama in 1970 and 1972, respectively. “We felt that it was appropriate to add these bonus tracks, not only because any undiscovered material by a group as great as the Staple Singers is worthy of a listen,” says Phillips, “but also because they’re such great performances that they fit right in.”

Simply put, says Bowman, “the recording you hold in your hands represents the Staple Singers at the very peak of their career.”

Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk

Released in 1973, Taylored in Silk is an ideal example of Taylor’s newly expanded and embellished sound, crafted with the help of producer Don Davis, who had united with Taylor a few years earlier, according to the liner notes by Bill Dahl. “As far as Davis was concerned, a fundamental change of sound was in order for Johnnie,” says Dahl. “Gone were the savory slow blues in favor of a hard-edged, uptempo attack that energized [Taylor’s] sound like never before.”

The issue could well have been regional marketing as much as musicality. “The story goes that Davis was brought in to forge a sound that would be sort of a combination between Northern and Southern soul, and capture the best of both Stax and Motown,” says Phillips. “He certainly hit a home run in his work with Johnnie Taylor, especially on this album.”

Taylored in Silk underwent “a lot of overdubbing,” Dahl notes, “but the end result was a splendidly conceived soul album boasting three major R&B hits within its eight selections…Blues wailer or soul philosopher, silky or gritty, Johnnie Taylor will always be revered as one of the greatest southern soul singers of ’em all.”

The six bonus tracks were previously released as singles in the early ’70s, “and they’re all outstanding performances,” says Phillips. “They certainly fit the vibe and the performance quality of the rest of the album.”

Sid Griffin & the Coal Porters come to Western USA

Musician/writer/author/broadcaster Sid Griffin rose to fame in Los Angeles as leader of Island recording artists the Long Ryders, one of the first bands of the alt-rock era to incorporate the influences of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds. Yet in recent years, he’s made his home in London, where he leads the Coal Porters. The band has played only a limited number of American shows since their formation in the 90s.

This spring, the Coal Porters will return to the scene of the crime — Los Angeles and the West Coast — where they will play three shows in the L.A. area, one in San Francisco and a coveted spot at the Stagecoach festival on Sunday, May 1.

When the Ryders ended, native Kentuckian Griffin formed the Coal Porters, which initially had a fluid lineup, and relocated from L.A. to London, where he hooked up with Scottish stand-up comedian Neil Robert Herd (sound engineer on Wasp, Best Live Action Short Film winner at the 2004 Academy Awards). The duo started out playing electric, but quickly tired of hauling around amps and drums. As a result of a dare, the Coal Porters decided to play acoustic bluegrass versions of their material at a charity concert in London. The crowd reaction affirmed that the band had found its true calling and said goodbye to electric instrumentation forever.  En route from then to now they picked up Canadian fiddle virtuoso Carly Frey and London’s noted local attorney and doghouse bassist Andrew Stafford. In 2010 they were blessed to secure the services of one of Britain’s best young banjo players, John Breese. With this impressive lineup, the Coal Porters were ready to take on the world.

With a published author, a professional comedian and a barrister in their ranks they are the only band who can sue themselves over copyright and joke about it.

In April 2009, after traveling halfway across the globe, the Coal Porters arrived outside of Durango, Colorado, played two killer shows at the famous MeltDown Festival (Colorado’s answer to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco), and laid down the tracks to their first album in two years. Durango was recorded in two weeks in the Colorado mountains at the Kozy Tone Studio of legendary producer Ed Stasium (Ramones, Mick Jagger, Phil Spector, Smithereens, Belinda Carlisle, Jeff Healey Band, and the Long Ryders).∂ƒƒ The entire album was cut Basement Tapes style, with the same authenticity of Dylan and The Band. Everyone crowded in one room. Overdubs were few and laughter frequent.

Durango was released in January 2010. It faithfully represents the Coal Porters’ hot live act, and creates new moods of its own. This highly anticipated follow-up to 2007’s Turn the Water On, Boy! is a clear country-mile step forward, evoking the sounds of a bluegrass Clash, or a Bill Monroe for the 21st century.

David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone, “The Coal Porters [have] been going for nearly two decades . . . and [have] evolved from a deeper mining of the country in the Ryders’ acid-tinted drive to a pure acoustic bluegrass written and played with natural — in Griffin’s case, native — flair on Durango.”

Fricke appeared with Griffin in a one-on-one interview panel at the Americana Music Festival & Conference, held in Nashville in September 2010.

Awarding Durango four stars in March 2010, MOJO magazine said: “The audio equivalent of a feel-good movie . . . recorded all in one room, with everyone as much intent on capturing the vibes as much as the undoubted quality of the music . . . gorgeous.”

Blurt noted, “Seven albums on, the Coal Porters have a reputation they can bank on. And with Durango this durable bunch has successfully added even more fuel to their fire.”

The Coal Porters are five musicians from four different parts of the planet who came together as an incredibly powerful fusion of talent, the world’s first “alt-bluegrass” act.

“For all the satisfaction of success in Europe and becoming the UK’s leading ‘alt-bluegrass’ ensemble,” says Griffin, “there is nothing to compare to the Coal Porters heading for my musical home in California. My days in Los Angeles with the Long Ryders were so wonderful and I was so blessed with so many friends that it is high time I took the band to the left coast to show ’em all what we can do. I am extremely proud of my time in the Golden State and extremely proud of the music my Coal Porters are making right now so to put the two together is gonna be a true, true week to remember.”

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The Spring 2010 West Coast Tour

Fri., April 29  SAN FRANCISCO, CA Hotel Crescent/Burrit Room Lounge
Sun., May 1  INDIO, CA Stagecoach Festival (3 p.m. stage time)
Mon., May 2  LOS ANGELES/CULVER CITY, CA The Cinema Bar
Tues., May 3  LOS ANGELES/ALTADENA, CA The Coffee Gallery
Wed., May 4  LOS ANGELES/ECHO PARK, CA Taix, 321 Lounge

'Ray Charles Live in Concert' captures The Genius in 1964

In the half-century between his earliest recordings in the 1950s and his death in 2004, Ray Charles ascended to icon status by leaving his mark on virtually every form of American popular music that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. Nowhere was this more evident than in his live performances, where one was likely to hear shades of blues, soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, country, and more in a single evening — indeed, sometimes in a single song. To put it simply, the Right Reverend did it all.

All of these subtle shades and styles are evident in Concord Music Group’s April 5, 2011, reissue of Ray Charles Live in Concert. Originally released as a 12-song LP on ABC-Paramount in early 1965, Live in Concert captured Ray at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in September 1964. More than four decades later, the CD reissue brings additional depth and perspective to the 1964 recording with the help of 24-bit remastering, seven previously unreleased tracks and extensive new liner notes that provide additional historical context to what is already considered a pivotal recording in Ray’s overall body of work.

“There could be no more uplifting live musical experience than digging Ray Charles and his mighty orchestra in their prime,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his new liner notes. Indeed, the 15-piece orchestra backing Ray on this date — assembled just a few years earlier in 1961 — boasted no less than a dozen horns, including formidable saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, and Leroy “Hog” Cooper, all of whom had been with Ray since his days as a leader of smaller combos. “This amazing aggregation,” says Dahl, “was every bit as conversant with the intricacies of modern jazz as with the gospel-blues synthesis that Brother Ray pioneered during the mid-1950s, when he began accruing serious cred as the father of what would soon become known as soul music.”

Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Live in Concert reissue, notes that the Shrine Auditorium performance took place at a transitional moment in Ray’s career, just as he was transcending the confines of R&B and entering the mainstream by demonstrating a firm grasp of various other genres. “He’d made his ascendance in the early ’60s, and he had the world at his feet by this time,” says Clough. “He’d basically invented soul, he’d done R&B, he’d conquered country and he was on his way to becoming an American icon.”

In the span of 19 songs, Live in Concert illuminates the route to that destination. Ray wastes no time taking his audience on a ride from jazzy big band groove of “Swing a Little Taste” to the Latin-flavored “One Mint Julep” to the blues-gospel hybrid of his classic “I Got a Woman.” Although his live rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” on this date didn’t make the cut on the original LP, the song is a standout track on the reissue, thanks to his complex organ runs and the flute lines moving in counterpoint with his rich vocals.

Clough considers the yearning “You Don’t Know Me” and the previously unreleased “That Lucky Old Sun” to be among the high points of the recording. “It sounds like he’s really baring his soul on those two tracks, and they just sound incredible,” says Clough, noting that Ray was unaware that tape was rolling during this performance. “This particular date was at the end of their tour, and the performance seems a little loose as a result — in a good way, and in a less slick way.”

Further in, the rousing “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” is driven by a gospel groove and embellished with a sax solo by Newman that closely mirrors the original 1957 recording. The result is a familiar hit for an audience that’s more than ready to reinforce Ray’s foot-stomping beat with handclaps.

The sly and swaggering “Makin’ Whoopee” is delivered completely off the cuff, with drummer Wilbert Hogan, bassist Edgar Willis, and guitarist Sonny Forriest improvising an accompaniment behind what Dahl calls “Ray’s luxurious piano and breathy, supremely knowing vocals.” By all accounts, Ray spontaneously inserted the song into the set in response to the negative press he’d received overseas about his private life.

In the home stretch, Ray introduces the Raeletts, the female backing vocalists who served as his foil for some of his biggest hits. Together they work their way through “Don’t Set Me Free” (with Lillian Fort stepping forward for a duet with Ray), the comical “Two Ton Tessie” and the torchy “My Baby” before climaxing with the churning “What’d I Say,” a song tailor-made to stoke any room to a fever pitch.

A huge piece of the Ray Charles legacy is his mastery of any style he touched, and his ability to make it his own in a way that no other artist could — powers that can only come from an innate sense of adventure and spontaneity that are fully evident in Ray Charles Live in Concert.

“Few performers were less predictable onstage than Ray Charles,” says Dahl. “And nobody did it better.”

Miles Davis, Albert King & Bill Evans get Definitive discs on Concord

Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections is set for release on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles — as a musician and as a bandleader — is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument — who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high-caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings — from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984 — by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your-face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

“Dear Nola: A Concert for New Orleans”

New Orleans brass-fueled sensations Bonerama team up with Cody ChesnuTT, DJ Spooky/That Subliminal Kid, Grammy Nominated Helen Bruner + Terry Jones, Jenny Toomey & Kristin Thomson of Tsunami, M1 of Dead Prez, Mirah, Sage Francis, Shawn King of Devotchka, Sunpie Barnes and Zach Rogue to celebrate New Orleans, her community and its musical ambassadors for “Dear NOLA: a Concert for New Orleans,” at Blue Nile (532 Frenchmen Street) on Thursday, February 17th.

Doors are at 9:00 pm and admission is $10 in advance and can be purchased online at the Blue Nile website; $15 at the door.

Proceeds from the concert — the seventh since Hurricane Katrina — benefit Sweet Home New Orleans and Gulf Restoration Network, two New Orleans-based nonprofits working to support and sustain the region’s unique musical and cultural traditions and to protect and restore vital environment and community resources for future generations. The show serves as the celebratory finale of the seventh three-day activist retreat hosted by Air Traffic Control and Future of Music Coalition.

Over the years, these shows have become a tradition and bring visiting musicians together with local musicians to present these talented artists both on their own and in unique combinations. Past shows have included performances with J. Tillman and Nicole Atkins backing Will Oldham, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills and Bonerama joining Corin Tucker on a Depeche Mode cover, and Wayne Kramer and Saul Williams partnering to perform “Kick Out The Jams.” The camaraderie established continues well after participants have left the city, as evidenced by the critically-acclaimed compilation, Dear New Orleans. The album was produced by Air Traffic Control to mark the 5-year anniversary of the floods and features 31 New Orleans-inspired tracks from retreat alumni. The compilation can be purchased at http://www.dearno.la.

Air Traffic Control and Future of Music Coalition have been co-hosting a series of artist activism retreats in New Orleans since 2006. Artists are given the rare opportunity to connect directly with the people of New Orleans, the tradition bearers and community leaders who are on the frontlines of rebuilding and sustaining this vital city. After the three-day retreat, artists leave feeling that their lives have been changed by what they have experienced in New Orleans and with a sense of empowerment for what they can accomplish through their music and activism.

“New Orleans is one of the most unique cities on the planet and a place where I have had the good fortune to spend time both as a musician and an activist. The artist-activist retreat provided valuable perspective and insight into a post-Katrina New Orleans. My experiences with local musicians and the people working for the recovery and betterment of the city have been some of the most important experiences of my career." -- Tom Morello.

Past retreat and concert participants include Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Boots Riley (The Coup) Nicole Atkins, Damian Kulash (OK Go), Erin McKeown, Nick Harmer (Death Cab for Cutie), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Martín Perna (Antibalas, Ocote Soul Sounds), Jim James and Patrick Hallahan (My Morning Jacket), Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers), Vijay Iyer, and many, many more.

The efforts of many groups and individuals — including Sweet Home New Orleans, Future of Music Coalition and Air Traffic Control — have had a major impact on Big Easy musicians like Mardis Gras legend Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Funds raised by retreat participants helped Al buy a new Habitat for Humanity home after having lost his property and belongings in Hurricane Katrina. The concerts and the retreats are part of an ongoing commitment to helping musicians like Al get back to their communities where they will help sustain New Orleans music and culture for generations to come.

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About Sweet Home New Orleans

Sweet Home New Orleans is a nonprofit agency that offers social services and financial assistance to the city’s musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, and Social Aid and Pleasure Club members.

About Gulf Restoration Network

Gulf Restoration Network is a 16 year-old environmental group committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Since the storms of 2005, they have worked for a national commitment to the restoration of the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, the region’s natural storm protection, which are disappearing at the rate of an acre an hour. The BP drilling disaster has greatly increased threats to this ecosystem, and GRN has provided independent monitoring and advocacy since the first days of the disaster.

About Future of Music Coalition

Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that seeks a bright future for creators and listeners. FMC works towards this goal through continuous interaction with its primary constituency — musicians — and in collaboration with other creator/public interest groups.

About Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Control (ATC) exists to help musicians play an effective, unique and vital role in the promotion of social justice. Musicians and managers established ATC five years ago to assemble an experienced and trusted team of leaders, resources and tools that would help them to create more effective social change collaborations with each other and with social justice organizations. As a result, ATC became an artists’ air traffic control—one that develops capacity, efficiency, and coordination to produce stronger and more creative social change partnerships.

Nonprofit CASH Music previews upcoming release

What Wordpress did for bloggers, we're doing for musicians. CASH Music is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and our mission is to create open source tools and services that benefit artists and music. The goal is to help artists find sustainability and to encourage innovation in the music industry. We're doing this by building world class open source software designed specifically for the new music industry: tools handling promotion, distribution, commerce — creating the connection between artist and audience.

Too many companies have tried to control the music market and instead have stifled real innovation and freedom for artists. An open source solution will allow tools to be built for the community and improved upon as they are used by that community. We can stop reinventing ways to collect email addresses and focus on real innovation in the music tech space. This benefits artists, managers, labels, and even tech startups.

CASH Music began with the vision of Kristin Hersh, Donita Sparks, Robert Fagan, and Billy O'Connell and has since grown into the organization it is today. Led by Jesse von Doom and Anthony Batt, CASH Music is working on solutions that will range from an instant-setup hosted solution for music sites right down to fully customized, host-your-own code. Every line will be released in the open source and built on open standards.

We want to change everything by creating open source software that freely gives musicians total control over the presentation, sharing, and sale of their music — enabling them to make a living off of their art, building strong direct relationships with their audience.

Learn more about CASH Music by visiting their website.

John Hartford Stringband Nominated for Grammy Best Traditional Folk Album

GRAMMY voting is wrapping up for the dozens of nominees in scores of categories, including for John Hartford Stringband’s tribute album to the late, great singer-songwriter, MEMORIES OF JOHN (Red Clay/Compass Records), in Category 68: Best Traditional Folk Album, as February 13 approaches and the 53rd annual GRAMMY Awards presentation in Los Angeles.

In what would be 10 years after his passing in 2001, the same group of musicians who appeared on John Hartford’s last five Rounder Records projects and were his final touring band — Chris Sharp on guitar, Bob Carlin on banjo, Matt Combs on fiddle, Mike Compton on mandolin and Mark Schatz on bass — are eager to win the GRAMMY as further tribute to the banjo wizard, guitar picker, vocalist, musical innovator and multiple GRAMMY Award-winning recording artist who penned the megahit “Gentle on My Mind.” Stringband members were joined on MEMORIES OF JOHN by special guests Tim O’Brien, Bela Fleck, Alison Brown, Alan O’Bryant, George Buckner and Eileen Carson Schatz. The album also features Hartford himself on several previously unreleased tracks as well as voiced instructions to the band from previous rehearsal tapes.

Andy Friedman prepares 'Laserbeams And Dreams' CD

On April 5, 2011, artist and songwriter Andy Friedman will release his third studio album, Laserbeams and Dreams (City Salvage Records).  Produced by noted guitarist and producer David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey), the album was recorded in Friedman’s Brooklyn neighborhood and cut in 24 hours with one overdub and mixed in the studio.  Complementing Friedman’s “art-damaged, ragged-but-right” (L.A. Weekly) approach and Goodrich’s restrained, atmospheric lead guitar and piano is rising-star upright bassist and composer Stephan Crump (Grammy®-nominated Vijay Iyer Trio, Jim Campilongo), whose latest album of “ingenious originals” (The New Yorker), Reclamation (recorded with his Rosetta Trio), NPR spotlighted among its top five jazz albums of 2010. The interplay of Friedman’s “engagingly singular” (Philadelphia Inquirer) songwriting and “slow, lugubrious, dipped in country heartache” (Hartford Advocate) strum with Crump’s “full, appealingly wooden sound” (The New York Times) calls to mind classic collaborations by Van Morrison with bassist Richard Davis on 1968’s Astral Weeks, or John Hartford and Dave Holland on 1972’s Morning Bugle Call — albums also recorded live in the studio without much pre-conceived musical planning.  “We captured the mood created,” says Friedman.  “It wasn’t our place to second-guess the results.”

Andy Friedman first hit the road as a self-described “Slideshow Poet” in 2002, leaving his day job as an office assistant in the Editorial Department at The New Yorker to accompany projections of his paintings, drawings, and Polaroids with readings of his poetry in dive bars and rock clubs around the nation.  The hybrid performance was applauded by journalists as “the coolest show to come around in a long time” (Good Times [Santa Cruz]), and introduced Friedman as “The King of Art Country” (City Pages [Minneapolis]).  The transition from traveling poet to rambling musician occurred when the “erudite redneck” (Boston Globe) picked up the guitar and sang for the first time in his life in 2005, shortly before recording his debut album, Taken Man (City Salvage Records), the title track of which landed at #30 on a New York Post “Best Songs” list that included over 200 hits by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Andrew Bird, Amy Winehouse, and The National.

Friedman’s reputation as a “dusty, paint-splattered Americana sage” (Rochester News & Democrat) germinated with the release of the CD Weary Things (City Salvage Records) in 2009, garnering enthusiastic praise, a performance on NPR’s coveted Mountain Stage, a feature interview on XM’s Bob Edwards Show, and a growing audience.  The online cultural journal Slant hailed Friedman as “an arrival of one of the genre’s smartest and deepest talents.” His “hard-tack country originals” were described in The New Yorker as “the mark of a true artist,” while NoDepression.com called his songs “unforgettable.” Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor proffered the song “Weary Things” as a “certified, genuine American tune,” and Indie-icon Sufjan Stevens proclaimed, “I think the world of Andy Friedman. I’ve always wanted to be Andy Friedman.” Largely overlooked, Weary Things was highlighted alongside titles by Tom Waits and Chuck Prophet by the Associated Press among “The Best Overlooked Albums of 2009.” “Friedman can write a lyric, and he can deliver it,” declared Stephen Wine. “He is not to be overlooked, that’s for sure.”

Laserbeams and Dreams tackles themes of religion, aging, disillusionment, and family, but images of death prevail in all forms. The gospel dirge “Time for Church” is the album’s opener, and finds Friedman renouncing religion in favor of drink, music, and art.  “It’s time for church/It’s five o’clock,” he sings. “Pour a drink/let the record play.” Friedman’s vocals boom with an echo recalling the classic Nashville Sound recorded by Chet Atkins at RCA in the late ’50s and ’60s. The lilting “Motel on the Lake” presents death as the crumbling façade of a once vibrant Catskill Mountain summer resort community more famously referred to as the Borscht Belt, which the singer now reports “whips the children.” Goodrich brings haunting upright piano to “May I Rest When Death Approaches,” a song based on a series of poems written by Friedman’s father-in-law days before his passing.  “Roll On, John Herald” is at once a tribute to the late John Herald — a founding member of the seminal late-’50s bluegrass trio the Greenbriar Boys, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the summer of 2005 — and a humbling, dark portrayal of life as an obscure legend on the road. “When Vin played him on Idiot’s Delight/I knew John Herald had died,” growls Friedman, who befriended the singer when Herald invited the then “slideshow poet” to open a string of dates in 2003.  In “Quiet Blues,” recorded minutes after the ferocious “Roll On, John Herald,” Friedman laments with newfound vocal sensitivity the death of peace and quiet in the digital age.  “Hey, Command Z/bring the quiet blues back to me,” he warbles. “Recording those two songs without a break was like a biathlon,” says Friedman. Singer-songwriter Jen Chapin, who is married to Crump, lent the guitar played by her father — the late Harry Chapin — to Friedman for the recording of Laserbeams and Dreams.

It’s not all death and despair for Friedman, who approaches these themes with the acerbic wit and dark humor of a New Yorker gag cartoon — a pastime with which the singer has found past success under the pseudonym Larry Hat. With “Going Home (Drifter’s Blessing),” Friedman delivers an anthem for the little-known folksinger trying to make it out on the road, whose faith in himself is tested by long drives, missed family, and dismal turnouts, but can only wish the life on his children and theirs.  In “Down by the Willow,” the album’s closer, Friedman is seduced by the serenity of life in the country but is “shackled and chained” to the gritty confines of the city, revisiting the famous car wash scene from the 1967 Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke.

Friedman will perform the record in its entirety, accompanied by David Goodrich and Stephan Crump, on select dates during the Laserbeams and Dreams tour.