solo

Scott Kempner Finishes First Solo Album in 16 Years

Scott Kempner- for the Grateful Web

This is a rock 'n 'roll album . . . if that means anything to anyone anymore," says Scott Kempner of his forthcoming album Saving Grace (00:02:59 Records, street date June 10, 2008). "It sure as hell means something to me !" Kempner's rock 'n' roll career dates back 30 years to his stint as co-founder of The Dictators (when he was known as "Top 10") and later the Del-Lords, who in turn inspired the comeback of Dion, with whom Kempner recorded as the Little Kings. That's a lot to look back on — and Kempner can reminisce with the best of 'em — but he is squarely focused on the present and the future.
 
"This album is the first record in my career that I feel 100% about," says the South Bronx native, who was born the year Elvis Presley recorded his first Sun Records single. "It's who I am, for better or worse." The album, his first solo work since 1992's Tenement Angels (which featured Springfield, Mo.'s mighty Skeletons), includes no other guitarists — Kempner plays all parts. However, he did surround himself with an array of kindred musicians: Del-Lords drummer Frank Funaro, Smithereens bassist Mike Mesaros, Chris and Mike Russo, Chris Amplo, and last but not least Dion, with whom he sings "Heartbeat of Time." Recorded mainly at Coyote Studios in Brooklyn's Williamsburg district, Saving Grace was co-produced by Kempner and Mike Caiati.
 
For two tracks — "Heartbeat of Time" and "Here Come My Love" — Kempner headed to Nashville's Java Jive to work with producer and friend Ed Pettersen (Song of America ) and Bob Olhsson (former Motown engineer). These sessions featured Motown and Nashville session stalwarts Bob Babbitt, bass, and Ed Greene, drums. Kempner ended up with three albums' worth of material, the best of which he selected for Saving Grace .
 
The road to Saving Grace was a rough one. While making the record, Kempner went through a terrible breakup and a life-changing long-term illness. Now, clarity, health and happiness have been restored. Kempner has a band he's pleased with. And he's headed to the road this summer and fall.
 
A few other reasons to be cheerful found Kempner along the way. He's the subject of a documentary film now in progress; The Del-Lords' EMI/Enigma albums are soon to be reissued on the American Beat label; and the legendary Norton Records label is about to release Every Day Is Saturday — an anthology of The Dictators' unreleased odds and sods.
 
"Rock 'n' roll is a living history and I feel connected to this music," says Kempner, "I feel connected to Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie and Elvis Presley, to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Otis and Aretha, to the Stooges and Bruce Springsteen. I have staked out a claim to the music's past, present and future. This is where I find my voice, my own expression, my little shout-out to the world.
 
"Hopefully the ghosts of all my heroes will come dancing right in your living room when you hear the new record. American guitar music. Rock 'n' roll. Don't tread on me!"

Swing Fiddler/Vocalist Elana James Releases Solo Debut

Elana James- for the Grateful Web

"When one door closes, another opens" might seem little more than a comforting cliché, but don't try telling that to Elana James.  Dealt a nasty surprise little more than two years ago, when the band she'd worked with for close to a decade suddenly dissolved, James was more pleasantly stunned just weeks later by an invitation to join Bob Dylan's band - and what she learned in the course of touring with a legend set her on a new path whose first (but certainly not last) milestone is the February 27th, 2007 release of her solo debut, Elana James (self released on Snarf).

Almost evenly divided between captivating originals and deftly chosen standards, Elana James is a portrait of an artist at the crossroads between where she's been and where she's headed.  Whether she's singing or leading a swinging instrumental with her violin, James is confident and convincing - the legacy of years spent as a member of the acclaimed Hot Club Of Cowtown.  But while the album offers a healthy dose of her own take on the energetic "string jazz" that was the Hot Club's stock in trade, it points in new directions, too, serving up a compelling change of pace with "All The World And I," a haunting folk-flavored song that reveals a hitherto-unknown side of her creativity.  Leavened by favorites like Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," the sprightly western swing anthem "Silver Bells," and a tip of the hat to Dylan ("One More Night"), Elana James marks the arrival of a strong new musical voice.

Even more than her contributions to the Hot Club's repertoire did, the set's original songs display Elana's deep affinity for the musical vocabulary of swing.  Backed by an ensemble that includes both current band members and some of the brightest lights of her adopted home town of Austin's rich musical scene, songs like "Twenty-Four Hours A Day," "Oh, Baby" and "Down The Line" go down smooth, yet swing ferociously from the first note to the last.  There's a nod to the dancers with the classic lines of her "Eva's Waltz," too, while James - with some help from Texas fiddle/mandolin legend Johnny Gimble - brings her own touch to "Goodbye Liza Jane" and "Silver Bells" in instrumental interludes that serve to complement the songs and highlight both James's and the ensemble's virtuosity.  And when it comes to interpreting standards, Elana easily rises to the challenge, whether giving a winsome reading of country music pioneer Carson Robison's "The Little Green Valley" or a sultry take on "I Don't Mind."

elana"One thing I realized when I was playing in Bob Dylan's band was that what we were doing was what everyone is doing, just at a higher level," James says.  "You write some songs, you teach them to people, and then you tour around and play them.  He's had unparalleled success, and he's peerless in what he does, and yet - on the outside, he's still off doing exactly the same thing as everyone else.  That was a revelation to me.  And it made me realize that if I started my own thing, there's a lot of dignity in just doing it; you don't have to worry about who you're playing for, you don't have to worry about how it's received, you just have to do it."

For Elana James, that realization led to a new career - and with the release of Elana James, it's led to a new opportunity for connoisseurs to discover the full extent of a remarkable musician's talent.

Elana James & The Continental Two ~ 2007 Tour Dates

* With Bruce Robison (solo)

3/16 SXSW / Momo's (9 PM) / Austin, TX
3/17 Gruene Hall / New Braunfels, TX

3/21 Maria's Taco Express / Austin, TX

3/23 Club Helsinki / Great Barrington, MA

3/24 United Methodist Church / Middlebury, VT
3/27-29 Rodeo Bar / NYC
3/30 Café Nine / New Haven, CT
3/31 Narrows Center for the Arts / Fall River, MA
4/10 Coffee Gallery / Altadena, CA

4/12 The Mint / Los Angeles, CA
4/13 Acoustic Music San Diego / San Diego, CA

4/14 West Side Theatre / Newman, CA
4/15 Freight & Salvage / Berkeley, CA
4/16 Don Quixote's Intl Music Hall / Felton, CA
4/18 Grass Valley Center for the Arts / Grass Valley, CA
4/19 Palm's Playhouse /  Winters, CA
4/20 Hotel Utah Saloon / San Francisco, CA
5/03 Continental Club / Houston, TX
5/05 Continental Club / Austin, TX
5/06 Gruene Hall / New Braunfels, TX
5/29 Ballard Park / Ridgefield, CT
5/30 Club Passim / Cambridge, MA