Eric Hutchinson sounds like...

Eric Hutchinson- for the Grateful Web

Eric Hutchinson shines with a unique brand of pop-soul on his debut album, Sounds Like This. Although the charismatic singer/ songwriter has been favorably compared to his early idols (Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Paul Simon), one of the most remarkable things about Sounds Like This is the sheer breadth of musical styles that Hutchinson effortlessly encompasses.
The record was released on Hutchinson's own label, Let's Break Records, at the end of August 2007 and overnight it was breaking records. One of his buddies emailed celebrity blogger Perez Hilton a link to his MySpace page, and Hilton was immediately impressed, recommending the music on his site. Soon after, Sounds Like This was ensconced in iTunes' Top 10 becoming the highest-charting album by an unsigned act in iTunes history.
Since then, the self-described student of pop signed to Warner Bros. Records, toured with One Republic, released the undeniably catchy single "Rock & Roll," snagged a spot on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Soundtrack, and recently became one of VH1's "You Oughta Know" artists. Hutchinson takes pride in the raw, vintage vibe of Sounds Like This: "I tried really hard to keep it organic," he says. "Music is human expression and what's more human than to make a mistake? So to record something and then take out all the mistakes leaves the project with no soul to it." With ska-inflected grooves, jazzy melodies and vocals that veer from a gritty growl to a shimmering falsetto, Sounds Like This might just be the most soulful thing you've heard all year.

Eric Hutchinson looks like the kind of guy you can trust – honest, approachable, somehow familiar. There's just something about him that invites you to give up your innermost thoughts. And complete strangers don't hesitate to do so, as he wryly details in "Oh!"

Riding the subway with the scent of her hair She took out a toothbrush started using it there She explained "I'm always sure today's the day I will die I wanna look good if I get to look God in the eye" And I said "Oh!"

"Oh" is one of 10 keenly observed songs from Hutchinson's self-released debut album, Sounds Like This. The CD, which showcases the young singer-songwriter's unique brand of soul, bowed at #1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart in September 2007. But "Oh!" was penned during a dismal period of his life. His deal with Maverick Records had fallen apart when the parent company shuttered the label. With the plug pulled on his nascent recording sessions, Eric hit the road again. "It was all about getting the exposure and the experience," he says. After a relentless touring schedule, Hutchinson, who began writing songs as a child in the DC suburb of Takoma Park, MD, put everything he had into making his album.

Sounds Like This was released on Hutchinson's own label, Let's Break Records, at the end of August 2007. Overnight it was breaking records – thanks largely to the efforts of a good friend. One of his high school buddies emailed celebrity blogger Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson's MySpace page. Hilton recommended it on his site and soon, Eric's album was ensconced in iTunes' Top 10 alongside the latest releases from Kanye West and Dave Matthews. It peaked at #5 on the iTunes album chart, becoming the highest-charting album by an unsigned act in iTunes history. No small accomplishment for a record that almost didn't get made.

A flurry of press followed, including features in Billboard and the Washington Post, which said ""Hutchinson is undeniably charismatic, splitting his time between keyboard and guitar, crooning about stormy romances and everyday struggles."

Eric recorded most of Sounds Like This with producer Will Golden (Joe Purdy, Ian Ball) in Los Angeles and two songs with Paul Kolderie (Radiohead) in Boston. "They were both really open to letting me do my own thing, but at the same time, were there to guide everything," he says. "They didn't involve their egos at all – they just wanted to make music they believed in."

Although he's been favorably compared to his early idols (Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Paul Simon), one of the most remarkable things about Sounds Like This is the sheer breadth of musical styles Hutchinson effortlessly encompasses. His ease is perhaps inherited from his grandmother, who played viola in a local orchestra, backing everyone from Tony Bennett to Aretha Franklin as they came through town. From the buoyant album opener, "Ok, It's Alright With Me" to the thoughtful "Back to Where I Was," depicting two friends at crossroads in their respective lives, to the soulful "You've Got You," the self-described student of pop music fuses divergent styles into a sound he alone owns. Hutchinson's vocals veer from a gritty growl to a shimmering falsetto on "Outside Villanova," which gives way to the jazzy "Food Chain," wherein the narrator comes to terms with a relationship marred by lies and broken expectations.

Fan favorite "Rock & Roll" follows a pair of players rolling their way through the bar scene and ultimately into bed with one another, while its lilting ska-inflected groove erupts into one of Hutchinson's rapid-fire bouts of wordplay. Eric takes pride in the raw, vintage vibe of Sounds Like This. "I tried really hard to keep it organic," he says. "Music is human expression and what's more human than to make a mistake? So to record something and then take out all the mistakes leaves the project with no soul to it."

Hutchinson moved to New York last spring and, eager to tour behind Sounds Like This, began putting together a band. With Jimmy Coleman on drums and Tom Craskey on bass, the trio hit the road in January 2008 with OneRepublic and will be touring non-stop as Eric closes in on his goal of playing each of the 50 states (he's up to 40) and embarks on his first international gigs. And, of course, he will no doubt find inspiration in the inevitable random conversations with total strangers along the way. He's already writing material for the next record. "I need to be able to road test songs before I feel comfortable putting them on an album," says Hutchinson, preparing to burn rubber.

Arlo Guthrie In Times Like These

photo by Jon C. Hancock- for the Grateful Web

To some purists, hearing Arlo Guthrie's, In Times Like These, released last summer, they might figure the live album was overproduced because of the symphony orchestra that backs up Guthrie's acoustic guitar and piano work. The result, however, is a recording that showcases Guthrie's singular storytelling voice and the nakedness of his instruments, while providing a theatrical swell behind his songs. As a listener, you almost anticipate seeing a movie unfold with the next note.

Folksinger, master storyteller, and all-round genuine human being, Arlo Guthrie has been entertaining for over four decades. In 2006, I had an opportunity to interview this folk legend while he was on the Alice's Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacre Tour, where he recreated the insanely-funny 18-minute monologue that made him famous. My husband and I shared that experience with our twenty-something son at a local university concert that Guthrie did here in North Dakota.  It was our pleasure to pass along the humor and social consciousness renderings that Guthrie was know for.

When I interviewed Guthrie that year, he had just come from Lexington, KY, where he had recorded this album with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of John Nardolillo. "We've done shows with about thirty different orchestras, over the last five years," he said two years ago. "This is, I think, the first time we're working with a young orchestra. It's really great, working with young people."  The orchestra did slip in thirteen guest artists who were friends of the university, of which five were faculty. But still the large orchestra was composed of university music students. Nardolillo has the infamous distinction of breaking into Guthrie's dressing room at the Lincoln Center during a performance. He did manage to make a plea for doing work with orchestras before he was hauled off by security!

This experiment with making music with orchestras is not just using a symphony to back whatever Guthrie does up front on stage. Instead, it is creating something new and fresh that is crossing genres. "The trick," Guthrie said, "is to try to do something that is not just something you could do with a synthesizer, but to create orchestral arrangements in the symphonic tradition rather than make them sit there playing chords." He insisted that he wanted to use the talent that was present in the orchestra. "We've done that, I think," he continued. "We've got some great charts that were written by a friend of mine who is new to the kind of music I play."

What has happened and is very present in this new CD is a synthesis of musical traditions. "There's a great classical tradition that most people are probably not as familiar with as they could be," Guthrie added. "It's a situation where our audience will probably come to see us even if we're playing with a herd of elephants. And there are a lot of symphony people who would go to hear the orchestra, regardless of who is playing with them. So you get a wonderfully mixed audience of people for whom the whole thing is new."

While at UK, Guthrie also taught his first university course. "There is a lot of interest in the part that music plays in different aspects of the culture, certainly for somebody from the sixties when music was really important, when music was the only vehicle for popular dissent,' he said. "And so it can play an important part in creating the soundtrack for social change. That's one aspect they're looking at.

"Others may be looking at more technical takes on this:  how do you make a record or those kinds of things," he says. "Everything from the simplest mechanical information to the business of doing music within and without the entertainment industry."

In 1983, Arlo left a major record company and started his own label, Rising Son Records, and quickly advised young musicians to go the do-it- yourself route. "I've done both. I've worked 15 years with Warners and then the last 20 years, we've done it on our own. We were really one of the first people to strike out from the stable of the major labels and do it ourselves. 'Course a lot of people are doing it now."

Certainly, a lot of independent bands are doing that and even some bands that were signed are becoming independent mainly because of the nature of control. What people forget is that you may get a big advance, but you've got to pay it back. Guthrie added, "Not only that. They have the best creative accounting in the world. Even for purely financial reasons, it really doesn't make sense to sell yourself to a corporation that is basically owned by a different corporation, as they are both own by another corporation. By the time that you get done looking at the big picture, the music part of the company you're working with is a very small part of a large company that has a lot of different interests. So, their interest in you as a single artist becomes minuscule compared to what they are doing.

"If you do it yourself and you're actually interested in yourself, not only do you have no one looking over your shoulder, but you stand to make a living, which I guarantee that you will not do when you are the minuscule focus of some global network."

Unfortunately, musicians still believe in the magic of a record deal.  "The reality has not flowed to the general public," Guthrie said. "You would have to have worked in it for a little while before you realize that not only will you not be somebody, but you will be poor. There are all kinds of drawbacks of getting caught up in the entertainment industry."

Rising Son Records not only produces Guthrie's music but his children's recordings and some by other artists. "We're beginning to branch out," he said. "For me, this was not an easy thing to do. The only thing we had was the ability to make music. I didn't know anything about the business of it so it took many years to get to the point where we actually knew what we were doing.... But the bottom line is that when we make a record and somebody likes it and purchases it, we do the accounting. We know how it works. We know that we can actually make a living doing this."

Guthrie continues to make his own kind of music. In Times Like These proves that he can still make a significant mark on the music scene. Of special note is Guthrie's arrangement of "St. James Infirmary." With careful addition of horns, Klezmer clarinet, and stride piano, the simple folk classic takes on a significant musical reawakening. The orchestra also breathes life into his tender "If You Would Just Drop By," which was one of my all-time favorites. This version is fresh and will be eye-opening to old folkies like me, as well attract new fans. Though some of Guthrie's songs become pop songs. Others retain their folk roots and the orchestra just supports that effort. "In Times Like These," the title cut, is left as a solo voice and guitar piece.

Even Steve Goodman's song, "City of New Orleans," that Guthrie made famous is enhanced by the orchestra. It is always a crowd favorite. But there are unexpected touches, such as horns and drums that peek out from the strings.

Also, included in the mix are three other songs that Guthrie didn't write.  Glen Anthony's ballad, "You Are the Song," may have been a bit of a stretch for Guthrie vocally, but it works, and will appeal to the symphony/pop crowd. Huddie Ledbetter's "Good Night Irene," unfortunately, is treated as a theatrical musical number. There is no way to make it less so with an orchestra. In contrast, Luigi Creatore's "Can't Help Falling in Love" does work both for the orchestra and for Guthrie.

All in all, In Times Like These is a bold melding of the folk experience and symphony structure. I can understand why Guthrie keeps working with orchestras, encouraging new talent, and drawing new fans. Check it out.

Just Like Old Times for Panic in Memphis (09/21/07)

photos by Amanda Bell- for the Grateful Web

Widespread Panic made their return to Memphis, this time with a new twist, a new guitarist and a few old tricks up their sleeve.

This year's Fall Tour-opening run marked the band's first shows in this melting pot of American Music since the end of July, 2006, and a few changes were apparent this time around.  

Not only was this their first time playing the new downtown FedEx Forum, only a stone's throw from world-famous Beale Street, but it was new guitarist Jimmy Herring's first Memphis Panic shows since he joined the band at this time last year.

The band's last shows at their old home, the dark, dingy and loveable old space ship that was MidSouth Coliseum, were also two of the final three shows for former guitarist George McConnell, who had replaced founding member Mikey Houser just before his death from pancreatic cancer on August 10, 2002. McConnell quit last summer's tour after the next day's show in St. Louis, once he confronted the rest of the band regarding rumors of his lame-duck status.

But in a new venue, with a new guitarist, the same old road warriors lit the same old town on fire, showing the versatility that has made them a stalwart of consistency for over twenty years.

This show had a little bit of everything you could ask for from a Panic show.

There was the bouncy, happy sound, exemplified by the show opening trio of A of D, Space Wrangler and Walkin' (For Your Love). It was Herring's first try at the instrumental A of D, a song not played since longtime producer John Keane and Houser's old guitar tech Sam Holt shared the lead spot to help the band finish last summer's tour, before Herring was hired for fall. Wrangler and Walkin' got the band warmed up and the crowd in the mood and ready to keep singing along with front man and resident preacher John Bell.

Another bit of joy marked the opening of the second set, with the instrumental Party at Your Mama's House showcasing Herring's growing sense of comfort with his new band in the form of a very patient jam. Bell also chimed in throughout with nice work on the slide, which is pretty much the only time during a show you can easily hear his instrumental contribution. But, hey, they don't pay the man to play the guitar.   

But that wasn't all this show had in store.

There were the hard rocking foot-stompers. The upbeat Tie Your Shoes followed Walkin', and gave the crowd a usual second set piece of sandwich bread in the first set. The song allowed both the rapid-fire notes of Herring and the rolling bass line of Dave Schools to shine.

More songs in this vein would follow the rest of the night, from the dark rollercoaster of funk that is Pigeons in the first set to their heavy take on the traditional blues of Junior in the second set.

One of the hardest rockers came in the person of Glory, making its first appearance in a set in nearly six full years. And the band nailed this version, appropriately providing a rare surprise for the fans in a town with its own special place in Panic lore.

And while Herring continues to find his comfort zone with this group, there are still noticeable growing pains. It seemed as though he approached shows in the spring as a contest to see how many notes he could play during solos, this Eddie Van Halen-esque style being a stark contrast to the floating, psychedelic sound of Houser. He began picking his spots a little better over the summer, but he overdid it a bit this time on songs like Big Wooly Mammoth and Surprise Valley.

The rest of the band had their moments, too. One can expect some hiccups during tour openers, and this Friday in Memphis was no different. Schools started early for the encore, Imitation Leather shoes, before becoming visibly agitated. Bell appeared to sound unsure of himself as he began the vocals to Climb to Safety, which led to a slightly disjointed beginning. And a second set drop back into Chilly Water from You Got Yours was a bit sloppy.

But, as it is with most Panic shows, the good far outweighed the bad inside the Forum.

The highlight of the first set came with the jam out of Rebirtha, into the fan favorite Ribs and Whiskey. The former ended with lots of funk and great work from Herring, before dissipating into easily one of the longest, most patient Ribs intros that this reviewer has heard, with Herring accented nicely by great slide work from Bell, both flowing over Todd Nance's steady kick drum.

More exemplary jamming followed in the second set, first with the opener, Party, and then with one of the funkiest versions of Climb to Safety you will ever hear. Keyboardist Jojo Hermann carried the jam with his clavinet, riding on top of a funky bass line from Schools that reminded one of their cover of Solid Rock, and song from Bob Dylan's Christian revivalist period. It was a wonderful change of pace for a song too often mailed in with little variation within the jam.

Hermann was not done there, however. His next standout moment would begin a stretch of the show that exemplified why fans still come back to Panic after all these years, because they feature a dark, evil edge to their sound that is truly unmatched by anyone else in the scene.

A drum intro from Nance and percussionist Sunny Ortiz led into an especially sinister version of Dr. John's I Walk on Guilded Splinters, featuring Hermann putting the fear into the crowd with a mix of funky Hammond B-3 and chaotic piano. The jam also featured outstanding work by Herring and a lot of call-and-response between the two of them.

Guilded segued nicely into a Chilly Water sandwich, the meat being more loud, dark, thunderous rock in the form of You Got Yours. The band followed this with the unquestionable highlight of the evening, Colonel Bruce Hampton's Time is Free, which Herring effectively carried on his back with one stretch of psychedelic shredding after another, helped by Bell's growling vocals and rambling raps. 

The set very well could have ended after Chilly Water, and probably should have ended after the marathon version of Time is Free, but Herring jumped right into the roaring stomp of Neil Young's classic, Mr. Soul, finally ending a monster second set and leaving much of the crowd exhausted, undoubtedly nursing sore arms from constant fist-pumping.

The crowd hardly seemed bothered by the short encore, but, after the previous stretch, who could blame them?

After all, once Imitation Leather Shoes gave them time to catch their breath, the debauchery of Beale Street awaited them outside the Forum's doors.

09/21/07 FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

1: A of D, Space Wrangler, Walkin' (For Your Love), Tie Your Shoes > Pigeons, Blue Indian, Rebirtha > Ribs and Whiskey, Big Wooly Mammoth

2: Party at Your Mama's House > Junior, Glory, Smoking Factory, Surprise Valley > Climb to Safety, Guilded Splinters > Chilly Water > You Got Yours > Chilly Water, Time is Free > Mr. Soul

E: Imitation Leather Shoes 

Arthur Alexander's Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter

Arthur Alexander- for the Grateful Web

The only songwriter whose songs were covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley was Arthur Alexander. One of the greatest soul singers of all time, if not the best known, he penned "Anna," "Sally Sue Brown" and "You Better Move On" among many others. The Beatles modeled their early sound after him. Yet by 1980 – a young man, just 40 – Alexander had left the music industry and was driving a bus and working at a center for disadvantaged kids in Cleveland. That's exactly where the story of Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter – a deluxe package chronicling his improbable, triumphant yet tragically short-lived comeback in the early '90s – begins.
In one comprehensive 18-track volume, Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter (Hacktone Records, due out 8/21) combines Arthur Alexander's Ben Vaughn-produced final album for Nonesuch (awarded a rave feature review in Rolling Stone ) with previously unreleased material from NPR's "Fresh Air" in a rare on-air performance, the never-before-heard hotel room demos (including Arthur's take on Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man") and a live version of "Anna" recorded at New York's Bottom Line. It's a document of the second half of Alexander's career. The sound is lovingly restored and remastered as well as re-sequenced to producer Vaughn's original design. Vaughn's liner notes provide a intimate and detailed story of the singer's all-too-brief re-emergence. "If heartbreak had a sound," he writes, "it was this voice."
The core of the set is the Nonesuch album Lonely Just Like Me , which won some of the highest accolades of any album released in 1993. The project was instigated by Elektra A&R executive Danny Kahn, who spotted Alexander in a rare performance in 1992 (the live version of "Anna" included on this set is from that very performance). Kahn signed him to Nonesuch, which had launched the American Explorer series. He called upon artist/producer Ben Vaughn to convince Alexander to record. Vaughn boarded a plane to Cleveland and the two formed a fast bond. The contract was signed and the album recorded in Nashville. Sessions featured a number of Alexander's accompanists from the '60s – Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, Reggie Young, Thomas Cain and Mike Leech – along with Alexander newbies Gary Nicholson, Tommy Spurlock, Ashley Cleveland and Jim Spake. Reaction to the comeback recording was palpable, with positive reaction from the music press and such artists as Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, McCartney, Bob Dylan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Kris Kristofferson. Alexander told Vaughn, "It looks like those seeds I planted a long time ago were good seeds."

The album's warm reception energized Alexander, who obliged his many interview requests, played the South by Southwest music conference and performed on a special live broadcast of NPR's "Fresh Air." The excitement culminated with a concert in Nashville. Sadly the show did him in. Alexander was checked into the ER at the city's Baptist Hospital. Within days he had, as Vaughn notes, passed on to the next life. The album was still a new release with reviews breaking daily. A major comeback and rediscovery was tragically cut short.
Alexander's memory continues to burn brightly even 15 years down the road. HackTone Records' David Gorman and Michael Nieves have set out to create a definitive memorial to Alexander with Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter . They enlisted the assistance of both A&R man Kahn and Vaughn and emerged with this sumptuous package. Just don't call it a reissue – at least without qualification – as it contains many never-before-heard songs that might have easily never seen the light of day.

Arthur Alexander – Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter
Track listing:
1 If It's Really Got To Be This Way 03:59
2 Go Home Girl 03:49
3 Sally Sue Brown 02:41
4 All The Time 03:22
5 Lonely Just Like Me 03:07
6 Every Day I Have To Cry 02:42
7 In The Middle Of It All 03:54
8 Genie In The Jug 02:31
9 Mr. John 03:47
10 Johnny Heartbreak 03:31
11 There Is A Road 04:23
12 I Believe In Miracles 03:38
(1-12 from Lonely Just Like Me, re-ordered by Ban Vaughn)

13 Intro 00:10
14 Go Home Girl 03:44
15 Interview 1 02:51
16 Genie In The Jug 02:13
17 Interview 2 00:36
18 You Better Move On 02:58
19 Interview 3 01:35
20 Every Day I Have To Cry 02:51
(13-20 recorded live on NPR's "Fresh Air," May 7, 1993)

21 Solitary Man (Demo) 02:02
22 Johnny Heartbreak 01:45
23 Genie In The Jug (#2) 01:56
24 Lonely Just Like Me 02:41
(21-24 from original cassette of hotel room demos featuring Arthur Alexander, vocals; Ben Vaughn, guitars)

25 Anna 03:19
(#25 recorded live at the Bottom Line in New York during "In Their Own Words: A Bunch of Songwriters Sitting Around Singing," September 5, 1991)

26 Glory Road (exerpt) 00:48
(#26, hidden track, from hotel room demos)

HackTone was founded by a pair of crate diggers who believe that there's no such thing as "good music whose time has passed," and their new distribution deal with Rhino represents a return to the fold. Before launching design and marketing firm HackMart, co-founder David Gorman was Rhino's "Creative Czar," winning an Art Direction Grammy for the Beg, Scream & Shout: The Big 'Ol Box Of '60s Soul collection in 1998. Co-founder Michael Nieves served as head of Rhino's music licensing and publishing departments before founding licensing company Sugaroo!

MLB Opening Day: There's Nothing Like It

Ryan Howard - photo by P Emma- for the Grateful Web

It was sunny and 78 degrees in Philadelphia for the Phillies home opener against their rival Atlanta Braves. People were out and tailgating for hours. The old rag time bands were playing outside of the stadium and people were wearing their brand new jerseys mostly representing the reining league MVP Ryan Howard and all-star Chase Utley. The U.S. Navy came down in parachutes and fireworks lit the day sky with colors for the annual opening day festivities. Opening day in the major leagues is truly like nothing else in sports. Many people make excuses to take off from work or school and over pay at sold out stadiums all over the country in order to take place in this special American tradition. I went, with my dad, like so many others to Citizen's Bank Park to watch our favorite team kick off their season.  Unfortunately, there was a disappointing result as Edgar Renteria's two home runs on the day ended up winning the game in extra innings. Although it was a decent start from starter Bret Myers, the Phillies bullpen is already showing signs of weakness.

But before this game, there was a rematch of last year's NLCS that took place the night before where the New York Mets took out the World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals thanks in part to the 41 year old opening day veteran Tom Glavine. There were a lot of pre game celebrations at Busch Stadium for the champions. The Budweiser Clydesdales trotted out along with a motorcade of the all of the Cardinals led by hall of famers Stan Musial, Lou Brock, and Bob Gibson. Unfortunately for them, Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado had other plans for the new season. Lo Duca posted 3 RBI's and Delgado put the Mets ahead with an early two run double.

Around the league yesterday another New York team made waves with their 10th straight opening day victory. The Yankees honored the late Cory Lidle, and then they went on the beat Tampa Bay 9-5 thanks mostly to an explosive offensive cast. Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi made their mark early and won over the tough New York crowd. Rodriguez struggled at times last year with the media, but with a leaner and his stirrups pulled up, A-Rod is looking for a new outlook on the season. Rodriguez's home run was credited to the fact that he hits behind Bobby Abreu, a specialist in hitting the ball to the opposite field.

American league rival Boston Red Sox didn't have as much fun yesterday. They were upset badly by the usual whipping post of baseball, the Kansas City Royals. Pitcher Gil Meche showed that he wanted to earn every bit of his club record five-year $55 million contract. On the other side of the spectrum, Curt Schilling displayed slower velocity in his fastball and a heavier appearance on the mound. "Physically, I felt fine. I just didn't execute and didn't adjust," Schilling remarked after being pulled after only 4 innings.

phillyAnother upset happened in Texas as the Pittsburgh Pirates stuck it to the playoff caliber Houston Astros in extra innings when Jason Bay hit the ball deep for a two run shot.

For the new look Cubs and their $300 million off season, the tradition of losing stayed the same. Lou Pinella or Alfonso Soriano couldn't bring good fortune to the only team plagued by a goat in the majors. The Chicago Cubs lost 5-1 to the Cincinnati Reds. Adam Dunn made Carlos Zambrano pay after he walked Ryan Freel on four straight pitches to start the game.

The Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and GM Dan O'Dowd were handed good news about their contract extensions just moments before they lost their first game of the year to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies are trying to have their first winning season since 2000. I'm routing for them because I know that the fans in Colorado need to see a good baseball product badly.

"Win Twins" has always been a motto that I would rout for. And win was what last year's Cy Young winner Johan Santana did. But, most of the credit belongs to Justin Morneau, who went 3-4 with a home run and 2 RBIs to beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-4.

Big Ben Sheets was tougher than ever in his healthy midseason form 2 hitter debut. "Opening day," Sheets said. "I've got a sumo wrestler wrestling in my belly. I was nervous." That didn't seem to affect his performance at all as he rolled past the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1.

Dontrelle Willis' lights out 6 innings accompanied by Miguel Cabrera's 4 RBIs and Hanley Ramirez's 4 hits and 4 runs set the table when the Florida Marlins destroyed the Washington Nationals. Fredi Gonzalez enjoyed his first victory ever as a coach while on the other side newcomer Manny Acta not only lost the game, but lost a quarter of his starting lineup before the fifth inning.

felixOn the other side of the country, the 20 year old phenom pitcher, Felix Hernandez struck out 12 of the AL West champion Oakland A's batters and posted a clean shutout in his first appearance of the year. "That's as good as I've ever seen him - but in my mind, that's what he's supposed to do. He's got that good of stuff," said Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez. This could lead to good things in Seattle.

The AL Champion Detroit Tigers pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman was not that fortunate. After getting roughed up in the first, his teammate Fernando Rodney allowed Troy Glaus and Alex Rios to make him pay for the runners he put on base in the 10th. Roy Halladay allowed just 2 earned runs on 6 hits in 6 innings for his first decent start of the year.

After many scares, John Lackey came through to lead the Los Angeles Angels to a late 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers, which spoiled another managerial debut. New coach Ron Washington will have to try again next game as he faces Kelvim Escobar tonight.

The blow out of the day was in Chicago where the White Sox got embarrassed by Grady Sizemore and his Cleveland Indians. Sizemore homered off of Jose Contreras on the game's second pitch. "You're definitely excited," Sizemore said. "I was a little jacked up there. The crowd was getting into it." The Indians haven't scored that many runs on opening day since 1925.


1. Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2006 (6/19/2006 1:47:07 PM -
One of everyone's wives' and girlfriends' favorite bands came next. Michael Franti's energetic and charismatic stage presence allows people to fall in love with him and hang on his every word.
2. Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2006 Part II (6/23/2006 5:23:27 PM -
I would like to end with a quote from musician J.J. Graves from Mofro. He said, "I'm not too good with genres. We are all individuals, and I don't give a shit about grouping. It's about relating." Wakarusa was about their musicians and their audiences relating.
3. JGB @ the Fox in Boulder (7/18/2006 8:59:44 AM - )
The Jerry Garcia Band has been an inspiration and the "keepers of the flame" for serious dead heads for years now after the passing of the band's namesake. It is lead by the great Melvin Seals who Jerry nicknamed the Master of the Universe because of his many talents.
4. N'awlins Funk Visits the City of Brotherly Love (2/6/2007 4:34:53 AM - )
"Y'all wish Ben (Ellman) a happy birthday," Papa Mali preached to the crowd as he strolled off the stage after a fun set of music. It was the first night of February at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philly on its famous South Street. Galactic was playing only the second show in their long spring tour, and it was on, N'awlins style.
5. Moest Underrated? (2/18/2007 8:32:38 AM - )
I have always felt that moe had never truly gotten the respect that they gratefully deserve. It is slowly dawning on fans of the jamband and other scenes that moe is for real. Coming off the release of an amazing new album The Conch, that even Rolling Stone gave 4 out of 5 stars to, moe came to Philly to rock.
6. Charlie Hunter Resident Magician (2/19/2007 4:12:09 PM - )
Guitar player, bass player, virtuoso, jazz and blues legend, and magician are all titles that describe the sorcery that Charlie Hunter creates so effortlessly on stage. Taught originally by guitarist Joe Satriani with a $7 guitar in Berkeley, and since then collaborated with dozens of incredible musicians, Hunter has certainly made his mark at a young age as a guitar great.
7. Skatalites: Inventors of a Genre (3/3/2007 5:12:16 AM - )
The Skatalites took the stage with a countdown and went right into a familiar Skatilites opener "Freedom Sounds." The crowd of mostly white ska swingers went crazy. It was so interesting to see ska dancers. These guys know how to move. It looked like a combination of swing dancing and moshing.
8. The Bad Plus the Real O'Riley Factor (3/4/2007 5:49:44 PM - )
Searching for a completely new live jazz sound can be difficult these days. That's not to say that it can't be found. The Bad Plus is a trio out of Minnesota that to me created its own genre sound called: classical jazz. I call it that because of the mastery of the movement of sound that the band creates. This band can bring a familiar tune to your ears through a whole different avenue.
9. Forever Evolving: The Slip (3/17/2007 5:46:33 PM -
Most of the night was graced with many of their songs from the highly touted new album called Eisenhower. This album got a lot of press this winter with its release, being that the band's sound evolved again drastically, this time to the extreme pleasure of many of its listeners new and old. The contemporary avant-rock trio has a long history touring, but for some reason this album captured the hearts of independent radio stations, other musicians, and people of all different musical tastes.
10. The Raw Power of Rose Hill Drive (3/22/2007 12:21:13 PM - )
Tinnitus: the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. Someone with tinnitus often describes it as "ringing in the ears," but people report hearing all kinds of sounds: crickets, whooshing, pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing, even music.

11. Page McConnell's 1st Show: Coming Full Circle (3/31/2007 4:37:21 PM - )
The only conversation topic welcomed by Page in this era of moving forward was the acknowledgement of being a Philly boy and his birth at Chestnut Hill Hospital. Page carefully deflected every question about Phish and his college thesis writing days at Goddard. He seemed dignified and determined to move forward, and although I miss those days as much as anyone, this project is a good time. The crowd has progressed as well. Let's face it we're older now too. The "Fluffhead" chants continued and the "woo hoos" brought back memories, but as Bob Dylan once noticed, "the times they are a changin'."
12. Dean & Britta: New, Old, and Wistful (4/3/2007 1:23:01 PM -
These two superstars along with their new band are touring in support of their new album called Back Numbers. They admitted being a little nervous since this was their first live show in two years, but their sound never dulls. They opened with the first song off the album called "Singer Sing." Britta's gorgeous and tantalizing voice crooned the lyrics, "while you were sleeping, I caught you dreaming/ singer sing that song/ driver drive along."