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Dead Man Winter @ The Fox Theater | 8/19/11

On August 19th at the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO, Dave Simonett, Erik Kokinen, and some of their friends from Trampled by Turtles gave us an early taste of their new project, Dead Man Winter.  Having been a huge

Singer-Songwriter Justin Hines Triumphs With US Debut

Optimism permeates throughout Days to Recall, Justin Hines U.S. debut album to be released August 2nd on Decca. The Canadian singer/songwriter’s collection of heartfelt songs about life and love showcase his considerable talents, and his will to overcome insurmountable obstacles.  The CD coincides with a PBS special of Hines in concert -- taped at Toronto’s Royal Cinema with special guests Ron Sexsmith, Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy, Sierra Noble and The Canadian Tenors -- slated to air multiple times across the U.S. during Public Television’s August pledge drive.

Justin Hines has thrived all his life against odds that would daunt someone with a less indomitable spirit.  Hines has Larsen Syndrome, a joint dislocation condition that confines him to a wheelchair.   He admits his condition has provided challenges, but primarily sees the good it has brought him and the inspiration he can provide others.  “There have been so many blessings. It’s afforded me so many other opportunities. It’s a bit of an attention grabber,” he says. “But then my job is to keep people interested, and keep their attention with my music.”

Highlights on Days To Recall include the first single, the instantly catchy “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” a duet with fellow Canadian/actress Jill Hennessy on the plaintive, “Why Not Love Me” and the uplifting “Say What You Will.”  The latter track took on a life of its own after a South African video featuring the Most Rev. Dr. Desmond Tutu was used as part of a campaign to build 20 schools in 11 days.  Hines performed in South Africa this spring and saw the schools that will educate more than 22,000 students.

To hear “Tell Me I’m Wrong,” click here.

Music was integral throughout Justin’s young life.  He doesn’t remember it, but his mom tells him he wrote his first song when he was seven. In his late teens, he decided to teach himself how to play piano as a way to better express himself.  “I’d done a lot of writing with other people. The most frustrating thing was I could hear the song in my head, but I was relying on other people to write chords since I didn’t play anything,” he says.

Even though Justin grew up singing in church, the realization of pursuing his musical dreams happened at the most unlikely of places— at a Toronto Raptors’ basketball game in his hometown 15 years ago.  A then 14-year-old Justin won a vocal competition to sing the National Anthem at the game — both the Canadian and American -- and his world opened up before him. “In that moment, it all seemed possible,” he recalls. Thrown in the deep end, Hines has performed professionally ever since and realized he could not only survive, but succeed.

To watch the Justin Hines EPK click here.

Tommy Keene's 'Behind the Parade' coming on August 30

When you’ve been pursuing your craft for the better part of 30 years and approximately a dozen albums without the benefit of universal adulation, you’re either wholly obsessed or doggedly determined. In Tommy Keene’s case, it’s likely a mixture of both. Hailed by some as power pop’s most fervent champion, he has been obsessed with making music for nearly three decades, toiling away with impressive results while winning the respect of a small but loyal group of listeners who hold everything he’s ever offered in the highest esteem. Long before now, Keene should have been welcomed into the pop pantheon, alongside McCartney, Rundgren, Wilson and all the other meticulous musicians long acknowledged for their creativity and consistency. Ask his devotees and they’ll tell you Tommy Keene is the equal of them all.

Behind the Parade, Keene’s latest album and his third release on Second Motion (including last year’s career spanning retrospective You Hear Me), schduled for August 30, 2011 release in three formats (CD, mp3 and limited-edition 180-gram vinyl), provides the latest body of proof. Like its predecessors, the disc affirms his pop proficiency, mastery of his craft and his ability to ensure instant accessibility given the benefit of emphatic hooks, irresistible refrains and the kind of vibrant, jangly melodies that bring to mind a distinctly ’60s sensibility. Keene may once have worshiped at the altar of the Beatles, Byrds and Beach Boys, but his synthesis of sounds transcends these retro references and stirs it into something that’s wholly fresh and exhilarating.

Ranging from the proto-Keene jangle of “Already Made Up Your Mind” and the edgy, power pop (no, he doesn’t mind that description — much) storytelling of “Running For Your Life” and “His Mother’s Son” to the moody, ambient instrumental “La Castana” and the horn-infused opener “Deep Six Saturday,” Behind the Parade finds Tommy ably taking a few risks while managing to play to his considerable strengths. Behind the Parade, along with his recent output, shows Keene is akin to an athlete rediscovering his prime, only in this artist’s case, he never left it.

Back in 1984, a six-song platter of pop perfection titled Places That Are Gone (Dolphin) put Tommy Keene onto the CMJ charts and atop the Village Voice EP of the Year poll. Blatantly romantic, unapologetically melodic, bittersweet but absolutely invigorating, it still stands as a powerful statement, not only establishing Keene as a unique singer-songwriter, but also as a guitarist with a sound as distinctive as Pete Townshend or Johnny Marr.

Keene made enough noise in the early ’80s to get the majors involved, and in 1986 he released Songs From the Film on Geffen. Produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, the album featured two MTV videos, “Listen to Me” and a re-recording of Places That Are Gone’s title track, and spent 12 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200. The 1998 CD reissue of Songs also includes one of the all-time great Keene rockers, “Run Now,” with inspired rhythm section work from drummer Doug Tull and bassist Ted Niceley, plus a terrific extended guitar solo. The singer as well as the song appeared in the Anthony Michael Hall movie Out of Bounds.


After releasing the Run Now EP in 1986, the original Tommy Keene group, which also included guitarist Billy Connelly, disbanded. Keene headed down to Ardent Studios in Memphis to record with producers John Hampton and Joe Hardy. The result was Based on Happy Times (Geffen, 1989). The ironically titled disc is the darkest album in the Keene catalog. Although his best material has always been infused with melancholia, Happy Times’ tracks like “The Biggest Conflict” and “A Way Out” reveal a more fatalistic outlook. The guitars are heavier, there is less jangle, and there aren’t as many hooky vocal harmonies. It is a beautifully crafted, sometimes brooding, arty rock record.

In 1996, Keene released Ten Years After (Matador), his first full-length album of all-new material in seven years. Produced by Keene and recorded by pop music wunderkind Adam Schmitt, the album contains classic pop hooks and the loudest guitars to date. For his next effort, Isolation Party (Matador), Keene recruited an all-star cast, getting some fine instrumental and vocal performances from former Gin Blossom Jesse Valenzuela and Wilco’s Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy. A live disc called Showtunes (Parasol), released in 2000, was followed up in 2001 with The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down for the SpinArt label. Tommy used his next effort, Drowning: A Tommy Keene Miscellany (Not Lame), to clean out his closets of 20 years’ worth of rarities, demos and unreleased sessions. One of the best hodgepodge records you’ll ever hear, more than one critic felt Tommy’s spring-cleaning LP bested many greatest hits packages.

Back on the road in 2004, Keene and band joined Guided By Voices on the East and West Coast legs of their farewell tour. Apart from some great gigs, the shows also led to Keene joining Pollard as a member of his post GBV band, The Ascended Masters, for their 2006 U.S. tour and a limited-edition live LP, Moon (Merge). The year also saw the release of Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty), which was performed and recorded primarily by Tommy himself at home with drums by John Richardson and contributions from regular Keene band members and friends. Sonically, the album is dazzling, with big drums and open, ringing guitars, and lyrically it was arguably a great leap forward.

Tommy quickly followed up Crashing the Ether with Blues and Boogie Shoes, an LP with Robert Pollard under the Keene Brothers moniker. Although side projects can sometimes be less than wholehearted efforts, tracks such as “The Naked Wall” or “Death of the Party” — as good a song as Keene or Pollard have written together or separately — show that neither artist held anything back.

2009’s In the Late Bright (Second Motion) displayed the full range of Keene’s songcraft over 11 tracks. The album kicked into high gear with “Late Bright,” a minor-key rocker that gets its tense and dramatic work done in two minutes flat. From there on out, the album delivered a fan-friendly collection of melodic hooks, vocal harmonies, inventive chord progressions and great guitar playing.

Keene summed up his solo output to-date with Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009 (Second Motion), a two-CD collection holding over 40 of his best tunes (including an unreleased acoustic take of Crashing the Ether’s “Black and White New York”). Even then, fans debated what he included vs. what he left off — further proof of the man’s enduring songwriting prowess.

Band of Heathens new CD is 'Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster's Son'

2010 was a year of making noise and news for the Band of Heathens. With 200-plus show dates, a fifth anniversary celebration, appearances at Lollapalooza and other top national festivals and a taping of Austin City Limits with Elvis Costello, it is remarkable that the Heathens even found time to write and record a new studio album, but they did.

The result is Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son, a surprising, multi-faceted gem of a disc. Their third studio album and the fifth release overall, Top Hat Crown displays the wide range of classic influences fans and critics have come to admire in the band, yet they’ve added, built and grown. Producer George Reiff, celebrated for his work with the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, the Courtyard Hounds (Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks) and Ray Wylie Hubbard, tended to the album’s vibe and spirit, which is reaching, rocking, bluesy, funky and enjoyable as hell, from its rocking opening to its serene acoustic conclusion.

The Band of Heathens is constantly being compared to The Band because of the musical finesse that overlays their timeless, rootsy core. And the three founding members are all skilled multi-instrumentalists who can play almost any position in the field. But TBoH has reached so many fans so fast because of the echoes of and subtle homage to so many different artists at the core of the Americana canon, including Tom Petty, Tony Joe White, the Grateful Dead, Leon Russell, George Harrison, and other rarified stylists. You can hear a little of all that at a Heathens show or on disc, and Top Hat Crown feels like the most coherent and mature encapsulation of those elements so far.

Given the timelessness of their sound, one gets the sense that Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Colin Brooks would have gravitated toward the same essential feel had they met in 1975 or 2045. As it happens, it was in 2006 after each songwriter had established residency gigs on the same night of the week at Momo’s, an eclectic-minded club on Austin’s famous Sixth Street. Friendship, semi-regular sit-ins and harmony jags gelled into something quite rare: a band with three frontmen, each with enough humility and passion to invest in the larger project. The sum transcended the parts. Bassist Seth Whitney was a member from the get-go. Drummer John Chipman joined in 2007 as their road calendar got heavier.

The Heathens took their time getting their first studio album out, but when that eponymous debut was released in 2008, they proved they could write and record a coherent statement that measured up to their show. They followed relatively quickly with One Foot in the Ether toward the end of 2009. Both shot to the top of the Americana chart and remained there for months, evincing a longevity rare in any format of music. Each added songs to the band’s set lists that have become staples and favorites: “Jackson Station,” “Cornbread,” frequent set closer “Don’t Call on Me” and the rocking, cathartic “L.A. County Blues.”

Other kinds of recognition and respect rolled in. TBoH was honored as Best New Band at the Austin Music Awards and nominated as Best Duo or Group by the Americana Music Awards. The Wall Street Journal’s Jim Fusilli called theirs the best set he saw during South by Southwest 2009. And the rest of the press has been equally effusive: The Dallas Morning News calls them “a must-see show.” Maverick magazine says they’re “magnificent.”

One can anticipate similar praise for Top Hat Crown, as it stretches without breaking faith with the feel and integrity that got the Band of Heathens this far. Opener “Medicine Man” sets a hoodoo tone with slappy upright piano and a swaggering lyric sung by Gordy Quist.

Another early Quist lead is “Polaroid,” which the guys say was influenced by the Jayhawks and mid-career Beatles. It coasts along on a robust acoustic strum decorated by jangly chiming electric guitar — a pluperfect fusion of pop and roots. Ed Jurdi gets his first lead vocal licks in with “Should Have Known,” a deeply bluesy slow shake that bolsters the regret of the song. Colin Brooks evokes current events and the craziness of modernity with “Enough,” whose mantra-like lyric and mid-tempo groove will have people nodding along in time. Brooks also shines with his lead on “Gravity,” a tour-de-force of forward motion and organ-generated psychedelic colors. Then some bone-rattle percussion ushers in a glowing, single-chord jam ride and a three-part chorus that swells with love.

Fans of the band will note one familiar song here. “Free Again” was written, recorded and released as a single in a blast of energy in the summer of 2010, inspired by the mind-boggling Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It’s sincere and sarcastic, playful and chastising. And it’s part of a Louisiana theme that closes out the album and ties the whole project together. “Hurricane,” the album’s lone cover, a Nashville-written tune from an old Levon Helm album, is a poignant portrait of an aging Gulf Coast salt reflecting on storms and eerily anticipating Katrina. And “Gris Gris Satchel,” the final cut, is a gorgeous and soothing acoustic tune that evokes old New Orleans and memories of great Crosby, Stills & Nash tracks.

Like that historic group, the Band of Heathens is distinguished by collaboration and load-sharing. And while songwriting and vocal duties are chiefly handled by the three guys across the front of the stage, they are decidedly a five-man band, benefitting from the equal input of all. This can lead to a lot of deliberation and creative tension. But it also means the music that emerges has been through five filters and enjoyed the collaborative creative power of five music-loving minds. “When I write a song with Ed or Colin, I usually hear it a certain way in my head,” says Quist about the power of the process. “When we bring it in to the band, the song almost always comes out turned on its head, leaning in another direction from where it started.” Music fans nationwide will hear that distilled quality upon the release of Top Hat Crown.

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TOUR DATES:

Thurs., March 3  ANN ARBOR, MI
Fri., March 4  CHAMPAIGN, IL
Sat., March 5  ST LOUIS, MO
Fri., March  11  SAN ANTONIO, TX
Sat., March 12  DALLAS, TX
Tues., March 15  AUSTIN, TX (SXSW)
Sat., March 19  HOUSTON, TX
Tues., March 29   DENVER, CO
Wed., March 30   ASPEN, CO
Thurs., March 31   PARK CITY, UT
Fri., April 1  BOISE, ID
Sat., April 9  SANTA CRUZ, CA
Sun., April 10  SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Mon., April 11  FOLSOM, CA
Tues., April 12   BAKERSFIELD, CA
Wed., April 13   LOS ANGELES, CA
Thurs., April 14  PHOENIX, AZ
Sun., April 17  DRIFTWOOD, TX

Smack Thompson @ The Fox Theater

Smack Thompson is a rock, funk, jam quartet fresh out of Boulder, Colorado. In the year that Smack has been playing together, they have won many fans with their deeply funky grooves and infectious melodies. Sky King, from Baltimore, Maryland, plays a nasty guitar and engages in a diverse range of appealing vocal styles. Otis Lande, from Boulder, Colorado, is the master of the low end and plays with a precise funkiness. Joe Havens, from Granville, Ohio, lays down funky beats like a metronome wish it could. And Stephen Thurston, from Boulder, Colorado, ties it all together with his virtuosic keyboard playing. You will hear original vocal and instrumental tunes mixed with the finest selection of covers. Come check out a show and get your Thompson Smacked!

Smack Thompson will play the Fox Theater on January 8th, so be sure to check them out. 

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Nov. 15 - Nov. 21, 2010 Schedule

Upcoming events at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem for this week include:

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jazz for Curious Listeners
Savory Collection Part 2: Count Basie – 1930s
7:00 – 8:30pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300
The Savory Collection may well redefine the critical view of jazz in the late 1930s. Dan Morgenstern, Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, provides proof of this claim in the New York Times by "citing the case of Herschel Evans, a saxophonist who played in the Count Basie Orchestra but who died early in 1939, just before his 30th birthday. Evans played alongside Lester Young, who was one of the giants of the saxophone and constantly overshadowed Evans on the Basie group’s studio recordings.

“There can never be too much Lester Young, and there is some wonderful new Lester Young on these discs,” Mr. Morgenstern said. “But there are also some things where you can really hear Herschel, who is woefully under-represented on record and who, until now, we hardly ever got to hear stretched out. What I’ve heard really gives us a much better picture of what he was all about.”

That's just one of the wonders of Basie you'll hear tonight!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harlem in the Himalayas
Meg Okura / Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble
7:00pm
Location: Rubin Museum of Art
(150 West 17th Street)
$18 in advance | $20 at door |
For tickets: RMA Box Office <http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=-1&amp;msgid=0&amp;act=11111&amp;c=246760&amp;destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rmanyc.org%2Fharleminthehimalayas%2F>  or call 212-620-5000 ext. 344
Meg Okura is “the queen of chamber jazz,” says Dan Bilawsky in All About Jazz. In her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, Okura skillfully balances her roles as violin virtuoso, prolific composer, and master erhu player. Comprised of a group of young virtuosi, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble brilliantly weaves together jazz, classical, and traditional Japanese music to create their own unique blend of world-chamber jazz. They have been hailed by the New York Times as “vibrant” and “sophisticated.” See and hear why this evening in the intimate setting of the acoustically rich theater at the Rubin Museum of Art.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Panels
Savory Saturday
12:00 – 4:00PM
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300
Come have an extended listening session and hear live music, all based around new discoveries unheard for 70 years. By now, if you're a jazz fan attuned to history, you're aware of the Savory Collection. But whether you're a long time fan, or a newbie, you owe it to yourself to experience this gold mine find from the vaults of jazz lore.

30 Days of Dead - Downloads + Daily & Weekly Giveaways

We're on a mission to make a miracle every day. As a token of our appreciation for making 2010 an epic year, we're giving away a high-quality 320Kbps MP3 download every day this month. That's 30 days of unreleased Grateful Dead tracks from the vault, selected by tape archivist David Lemieux! Intrigued? We're also going to put your knowledge to the test and give you the chance to win more classic tunes from the Dead...

You know your Ables from your Bakers from your C's, but can your finely tuned ears differentiate the cosmic "comeback" tour from a spacey 70's show? Each day at 9am PT we'll post a free download from one of the Dead's coveted shows. Will it be from that magical night at Madison Square Garden in '93 or from way back when they were just starting to warm it up at Winterland? Is that Pigpen's harmonica we hear? Brent on keys? Step right up and try your hand...

Each day, the first person to guess the venue & date correctly will get a Road Trips CD of their choice. If you're not first but you've still answered correctly, you will also be automatically entered for a weekly prize of THE WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO ALBUMS VINYL BOX (EXCLUSIVE EDITION) or a FORMERLY THE WARLOCKS boxed set. What are you waiting for? Log in now to grab your first free download and enter to win!

The Sword Reveal Album Art, Plan Video Trilogy, and Open for Ozzy

Austin, TX’s metal luminaries The Sword are kicking it into high gear as the release of their highly anticipated third full-length Warp Riders (August 24th; Kemado Records) rapidly approaches.  The band has finally revealed the album’s artwork and will be releasing additional visual companions in the form of an upcoming picture disc and an epic video trilogy.

With a narrative arc that the band describes as “a psychedelic space opera that explores the temporal themes of death and rebirth,” it’s only fitting that the record’s cover art is equally mind melting.  Paying homage to authors that inspired the album’s lyrics, artist Dan McPharlin created an image in the tradition of classic science fiction book covers.  The Sword will also release a limited edition hexagon-shaped picture disc 12 inch single for “(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire.”

Fans that are eagerly awaiting to hear the new material will have their thirst quenched on July 6th, when first single “Tres Brujas” will be let loose online.  The track is also the first part of a video trilogy helmed by former Sword collaborators Artificial Army, which will launch in August.  The second and third chapters of the saga will be for “Lawless Lands” and “Night City.”

The guys will also have the honor of being the sole opener for Ozzy Osbourne at the iTunes Roundhouse Festival in London on July 3rd.  Their set will be recorded and available on iTunes in early July.

Can I Hear An Amen?: Railroad Earth's New Album

photos by Kent Anderson & C Taylor Crothers- for the Grateful Web

It's a curiosity that Railroad Earth named their latest album, Amen Corner.  A lot of people relate that name to holes 11-13 in a full ro