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Jim Lauderdale to Release Reason & Rhyme

Can there be too much of a good thing?  If the question’s about collaboration between American roots music hero Jim Lauderdale and legendary lyricist Robert Hunter, the answer’s an emphatic “no!”  Marking the former’s debut on the respected Sugar Hill records label, Reason And Rhyme makes a compelling case for the continued vitality of the Lauderdale—Hunter partnership—and for Lauderdale’s unique and deeply satisfying approach to bluegrass.

“This one’s back to total bluegrass,” Lauderdale says of the collaborative follow-up to 2010’s electric Patchwork River, and so it’s no surprise that it features many of the musicians involved in previous bluegrass efforts like Could We Get Any Closer (2009) and 2007’s Grammy-winning The Bluegrass Diaries.  The close-knit crew, headed up by producer and resonator guitarist Randy Kohrs, is perfectly in tune with Lauderdale’s ‘grass-with-a-twist' sensibilities, and whether it’s a return buddy like bassist Jay Weaver or new colleague Mike Compton (mandolin), each player delivers mightily with the genre’s characteristic virtuosity and emotional fire.

“We started on this one last August,” Lauderdale notes, “right after I finished touring with Elvis Costello.  Robert and I have worked just about every way you can think of—writing in the same room, adding lyrics to music and music to lyrics—but whichever way we go, he’s the lyrics guy and I’m the music guy.  This time around, we wanted to keep the momentum from Patchwork River going; I started sending him melodies, and ten days later we had 18 songs to choose from.”
The collaboration began over a decade ago, when Lauderdale was preparing for his first joint project with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley, and quickly bore fruit, with more than 30 songs written before the first all-collaborative album, Headed For The Hills (2004).  “I’m not surprised, but I’m always blown away how creative he is lyrically,” says the singer/songwriter, who’s busy enough that finding time to record has always been among his greatest challenges.
With 11 fresh takes on the bluegrass sound that he’s loved since he was a teenager, this latest effort presents Jim Lauderdale at his most relaxed and rooted—and with the help of one of American music’s greatest lyricists, it’s a set that offers not only deep musicality, but deep meaning and vision.  Reason And Rhyme—it’s just the right name for just the right music.

Hit by a Train -- the Old 97’s in Boulder

I left the Boulder Theater with both ears ringing thoroughly and my head in a satiated state of buzz, and in fact I was bone sober (as far as intoxicants are concerned).

Lindstrøm Plays NY, LA, & SF in Feburary

It’s a rarity for Norway’s Lindstrøm to cross the pond more than once a year, but after a quick trip over last November, he’s once again gracing both New York and San Francisco in February with what will be his second show in 6 months, as well as making a highly anticipated first-ever appearance in Los Angeles at the Vanguard on February 11th.

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LINDSTRØM TOUR DATES

Thur.    Feb. 10           New York, NY @ Santos Party House

Fri.       Feb. 11            Los Angeles, CA @ The Vanguard

Sat.      Feb. 12           San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine

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While Lindstrøm’s label, Feedelity, has predominately been a vehicle for his original space-disco creations, Lindstrøm has brought another cosmic musician into the fold by way of a remix.  Glasser’sMirrorage” has been given the Lindstrøm treatment, though rather than overwhelming the mildly paranoid track with additional elements, he’s extended the aural odyssey by featuring the core components.  Cameron Miesrow’s witchy vocals mingle with the hypnotic, pulsating beats that seem to breathe with a life of their own.  Ominous bells twitch and tingle behind a smoke cloud of electronic rhythm and Meisrow’s tribal narrative is further deconstructed to create an abstract masterpiece.

Jon Hardy & the Public to release 'A Hard Year'

Acclaimed purveyors of resonating Americana, Jon Hardy & the Public prepare for the January 25 release of a new stand-out EPA Hard Year - continuing their tradition of being St. Louis' "best kept secret" and announce a very special hometown show to celebrate!

Jon Hardy’s voice is deep and true, expressing yearning, pain, and triumph all at the same time. The St. Louis singer/songwriter and his band, The Public, make music that has bowled over critics at outlets like NPR, No Depression and hometown weekly Riverfront Times. “I asked fellow music writer Roy Kasten to name a better song than Hardy’s ‘Cassius Clay’ to come out of St. Louis since Uncle Tupelo’s ‘Gun,’” wrote that paper’s Christian Schaefer. “He couldn’t.”

Indeed, the group’s Americana-rooted sound often draws comparisons to Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar’s early work, though it also incorporates horn-driven soul and stomping, anthemic rock a la Bruce Springsteen. Also featuring Glenn Labarre on lead guitar, Johnny Kidd on keyboards, Greg Shadwick on bass and Mike Schurk on drums, The Public are also influenced by Randy Newman, and released a four song cover EP of his tracks called Little Criminals. “There’s something in his voice that gives me the impression that he’s on the outside looking in, that he’s not invited to the party,” says Hardy. “His songs are comforting and troubling all at the same time.”

This uneasy combination was recently featured as NPR’s Song of the Day with the single “Worst I Ever Had”. “Brilliantly capturing that desperate feeling lying somewhere between lust and fear,” wrote NPR’s Ben Westhoff, “the group shows why they probably won’t be simply regional favorites for much longer.”

The two EPs followed the group’s 2005 debut Make Me Like Gold, which No Depression writer Ed Ward said was “about as original as any grass-roots recording by a guitar-based band is going to get at this late date” and their 2007 disc Working In Love. That album featured the show-stopping “Cassius Clay” and songs concerning Hardy’s recent divorce; in many ways the album was a letter to his ex-wife. “That was the best way I knew to tell her what I was thinking and feeling,” he says.
In recent years, Jon Hardy & The Public have performed with acclaimed acts including Okkervil River, The Avett Brothers, White Denim, John Vanderslice, Pernice Brothers and White Rabbits and drawn comparisons to Spoon. Their music has been played on college and community radio stations from coast to coast.
Hardy was raised in Webster Groves, just outside of St. Louis, by a Presbyterian preacher father and a mother whose work included substitute teaching. “It was a strange mix of liberal and conservative,” Hardy says. “My dad would always spend time reading to us about the civil rights movement. At the same time, TV was not smiled upon and music was carefully reviewed.” Having grown up on his parents’ classic rock and pop records, he taught himself guitar largely from listening to blues players like Lightnin’ Hopkins and B.B. King on local radio.
His first band was a power pop outfit called Shelby. “I remember I was very afraid of being in front of people and performing,” he says. “I don’t know that I’ve completely gotten over it.” An odd thing to say, as Jon Hardy & The Public’s shows have the inspirational quality of a revival meeting worthy of his father. Often featuring a full horns section and a faithful cover of Springsteen’s “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” they are largely responsible for the band’s considerable grassroots following in the Midwest.
Shadwick joined the group not long before he and Hardy were laid off from their jobs. He joined Labarre (a former fan of the band who came aboard shortly after Make Me Like Gold), Kidd (who brought a soul and pop aesthetic to the group) and Schurk, who answered a craigslist ad and bested other potential stickmen in a try-out. All five members collaborate on their albums’ stunning production, which highlights each member’s considerable musicianship without sacrificing their raw power.
Hardy makes it clear that he and The Public are dedicated to making quality tracks that stand the test of time. “We all still have to work other jobs to pay the bills, and in the meantime we’re trying to create good music,” he says. He’s also firmly rooted in his community, penning songs largely for himself and his friends. It just so happens that these tunes -- in all their rumbling power -- resonate with folks he’s never met. A sound as big as theirs, it turns out, has a hard time being contained.

Sidi Touré Releases New Song, "Bon Koum," Off Sahel Folk

It looks like 2011 will be a busy year for Malian singer and guitarist Sidi Touré! His debut album for Thrill Jockey, Sahel Folk, is being released on January 25th, he’s just premiered a new song off the record, “Bon Koum” for all to hear, and, perhaps the most exciting news for U.S. residents, he’s signed on with world-class booking agency Mondo Mundo. Past and present clients include Gal Costa, Femi Kuti, Gilberto Gil, Seu Jorge, Maria Bethania, King Sunny Ade, and many more. U.S. festival and club dates are already in the works, so audiences stateside will soon see what all the fuss is about! In the meantime, listen to “Bon Koum” (translation: “He regrets”), premiered on Pitchfork earlier today!

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Listen to/Download here.

Watch Sidi Touré perform “Artiatanat” here.

Watch Sidi Touré perform “Taray Kongo” here.

Otis Taylor's new album, 'Clovis People,' set for May 11 release

Otis Taylor digs the past. Whether it’s the songs he wrote a decade ago, or ancient civilizations that lived more than 10,000 years ago, he’s drawn to stories from another time, and he’s compelled to retell them in a way that’s relevant in the modern day. On Clovis People, set for release May 11, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, Taylor writes his own history.

It’s the ideal project for the architect of a sparse and hypnotic style that has come to be known as “trance blues.” Taylor has spent his career crafting songs that are wide open to interpretation — thematically as well as structurally. “I give people a starting point, and then they can take it where they want to take it,” he explains. “That’s true for the people playing my music as well as the people listening to it. That’s how art should be. A person looking at a painting should be able to interpret it in whatever way he wants. The more words you put into a song, the less freedom the listener has to decide what it means.”

The album title is inspired by a recent scientific discovery very close to Taylor’s home in Boulder, Colorado. Barely 100 yards from the edge of his property, archeologists dug up a cache of tools and other implements belonging to a civilization known as the Clovis people, who walked the earth briefly about 13,000 years ago and then mysteriously disappeared.

“That’s amazing to me,” says Taylor. “There have only been four or five sites like this found all over the country. That means these people probably walked on my property. My music only goes back about ten years, but there’s something about reaching back to an earlier time and revisiting the stories of the past from a new perspective that I find compelling.”

Helping to shape that new perspective is a crew of players who lend a variety of shades and voices to the mix. Among them is guitarist Gary Moore, a guest musician on two of Taylor’s previous recordings (Definition of a Circle in 2007 and Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs in 2009), who moves in and out of the tracks with a hard riff here, a subtle accent there, and just the right atmospherics wherever he appears. Also on hand for nine of the twelve tracks is pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell — a member of the Campbell Brothers, the African-American gospel group that has developed a sound commonly known as “sacred steel.” In addition, Clovis People features cornetist Ron Miles and bassist Cassie Taylor (Otis’ 22-year-old daughter).

The set gets under way with the haunting “Rain So Hard,” a bluesy number that employs an intriguing mix of pedal steel, cornet and theremin as the backdrop to Taylor’s unsettling lyrics about a hard rain turning to snow and falling on a scene of betrayal and deceit.

“Little Willy” and “Lee and Arnez” are two previously unreleased songs. The former is a fictional tale of a school shooting — a song Taylor wrote in 1990s, but then shelved in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting of 1999. “Lee and Arnez” tells the story of a couple that Taylor remembers from the neighborhood where he grew up. “They were my parents’ best friends, and they had a boxer dog that I really loved,” says Taylor. “This would have been the 1950s, which were still a difficult time for black people, but I have great memories of this couple and their beautiful dog.”

“It’s Done Happened Again” is built on an urgent rhythm that plays like a frantic heartbeat. “The song is about that moment when someone who got his heart broken hears about someone else who got his heart broken,” says Taylor. “It’s that moment when pain and empathy converge, and you say, ‘Oh yeah, I know where he’s coming from.’”

“Harry Turn the Music Up” recalls Taylor’s memories of the Denver Folklore Center, a place he frequented when he was a boy in the early ’60s. “The song follows a groove that’s deep in the pocket, and it’s really powerful,” says Taylor. “The Denver Folklore Center was a place where nobody cared if you were black or white, skinny or fat. It was a place where everyone was accepted.”

“Babies Don’t Lie” rides on a single chord and speaks to the profound vulnerability of innocents. But somewhere underneath the simple and recurring lyrical line is the question of how and when dark forces take hold and turn some innocents into monsters.

“Think I Won’t” is a showdown-flavored track that captures the moment when a mother confronts a drug dealer in a schoolyard. “There are some badass moms out there,” says Taylor. “Sometimes people don’t realize how tough black women can be. It’s a matriarchal culture, and there are some moms who’ll kick your ass in a half-second if you threaten their children.”

Indeed, some instincts are eternal, whether the frame of reference is 2010, 1950 or some time before recorded history. Clovis People is in some respects a vehicle for Taylor  — an archeologist of a different kind — to re-examine some of the truths he’s uncovered in his own era and preserve them for listeners in some future time.

“I went back to my musical past with these songs — all the way back to my first album,” says Taylor. “I like finding different ways to retell the old stories. They continue to mean something — to me, to the people who hear them, to the musicians who play with me — many years after I first told them.”

Maceo Parker at Cervante's Ballroom - March 12th

Maceo Parker: his name is synonymous with Funky Music, his pedigree impeccable; his band: the tightest little funk orchestra on earth.

Everyone knows by now that he’s played with each and every leader of funk, his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as "like being at University"; jumping aboard the Mothership with George Clinton; stretching out with Bootsy’s Rubber Band. He’s the living, breathing pulse which connects the history of Funk in one golden thread. The cipher which unravels dance music down to its core.

“Everything’s coming up Maceo,” concluded DownBeat Magazine in a 1991 article at the beginning of Maceo Parker’s solo career. At the time Maceo was a remembered by aficionados of funk music as sideman; appreciated mainly by those in the know. More than a decade and a half later Maceo Parker has been enjoying a blistering solo career. For the past sixteen years Maceo has been building a new funk empire, fresh and stylistically diverse. He navigates deftly between James Brown’s 1960’s soul and George Clinton’s 1970’s freaky funk while exploring mellower jazz and the grooves of hip-hop.

His collaborations over the years performing or recording or both have included Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timeless sound has garnered him a fresh young fan base. It is almost impossible to separate which came first, Maceo or the funk. The amazing P-funk Parker has been at it with his legendary alto horn for some time dating back to the 1960’s. That’s when Maceo and his drummer brother Melvin climbed on board the James Brown funky soul funk train. It wasn’t long before James coined the solo summoning signature, “ Maceo, I want you to Blow!” . To most musicologists it’s the muscially fertile group of men from this period of James Brown’s band who are recognized as the early pioneers of the modern funk and hip-hop we still jump to today.

Tickets are $20.00 Advance / $25.00 Day of show
Doors are at 8pm, show begins at approx. 9PM
Tickets are available at the Cervantes’ box office or online at Cervante's Ticketing

Marton Sexton readies new album 'Sugarcoating'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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