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Blues & Roots: Vieux Farka Toure w/ William Elliott Whitmore

It was a pretty quiet night on the hill in Boulder, CO at the Fox Theater, even though it was the beginning of the 1st annual Boulder Blues and Roots Summit Festival.  This festival featured early shows at the

Sheryl Crow @ Boulder Roots & Blues Summit

For Sheryl Crow, the title of her seventh album isn?t just a location; it's a state of mind. "I grew up in a small town 100 miles from Memphis, and that informed not only my musical taste, but how I look at life," she says. "The drive to Memphis is all farmland, and everyone is community-oriented, God-fearing people, connected to the earth. The music that came out of that part of the world is a part of who I am, and it's the biggest inspiration for what I do and why I do it."

So for the Kennett, Missouri native, calling the disc 100 Miles From Memphis is a statement of purpose, both musical and emotional. It also marks a long-awaited return by the nine-time Grammy winner to the sounds that first drew her to making music.

The results evoke a time when soul and passion filled the radio waves, when the sweat and joy of a recording session could be captured forever on wax. Sometimes the musical references?Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder?are made apparent, but the album?s eleven songs are characterized more by capturing a classic spirit than by imitating any specific style.

Crow explains that the way 100 Miles From Memphis was recorded is crucial to its slinky grooves and rolling rhythms. Produced by Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley ("I knew they could get that old soul feeling with authenticity," she says), and cut mostly live with a regular crew of musicians, the album presented a new set of challenges for her as a singer and a songwriter.

With the musical direction already established, the album's messages crystallized in one night at Crow's farm, outside of Nashville. "Having a three year old, you don't get too much quiet time," she says, "but I sat up one night, and I worked all night long and came up with the better part of five lyrics."

What emerged was a set of songs that are unusually open and direct for someone often celebrated for the care and craft of her writing. "This music called for emotion, a place of sensuality and sexuality, and that's a little challenging for me," she says. "Sometimes it's easier for me to hide behind more intellectual lyrics. So it was a great stretching experience to show more vulnerability in my writing."

The songs on 100 Miles From Memphis display impressive range, in feeling and performance. First single "Summer Day" is a delightfully breezy slice of glory-days AM radio pop. "I wanted to experiment with writing something simple and positive," says Crow. "The feeling of a great, solid love, not just a new love, but something everlasting."

Crow, of course, first reached the spotlight as a back-up singer with Michael Jackson, and adds that "I Want You Back" was the first single she ever bought. "It wasn't a conscious choice to do an homage, but it wound up being a very bittersweet thing," she says. "Michael's death brought a lot of stuff back for me, so it was nice that we could include this."

For Sheryl Crow, 100 Miles From Memphis is the right album at the right moment. "My last record (2008's Detours) was pretty political, extremely personal, and more lyric-driven," she says, "so it seemed like a great time to do something soulful and sexy and more driven by the music." It took a lot of years, but with this set of songs, she finally made it back home.

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Danielle Ate the Sandwich | Gothic Theater

Before attending Danielle Ate the Sandwich at the Gothic Theater on October 8th I was unsure as to what kind of sandwich exactly she may have eaten. However, after speaking to Danielle before her show and watching her exuberant performance I was certain said sandwich must be chock full of wit, talent and brilliance.

Furthur | Red Rocks | 9/24/2010

Two of the world's greatest road warriors, Phil Lesh & Bobby Weir, made their almost annual stop to the venue the epitomizes everything organic, granola, hippie and The Grateful Dead.  As many venues as both Lesh & Weir have played, every show at Red Rocks is just a little extra special.  Phil while doing his donar rap -- mentioned his love for the amphitheater and has said on at least a few occasions it is his favorite venue in the world.

Outside fans were arriving pretty early filling up the lower south lot and upper north lots first.  The weather couldn't have been any better, and those who live here in Colorado know late September at Red Rocks is precarious, at best.  There was some vending in the lots, though by and large it was fairly quiet.  Grateful Web, however, was hawking our "Make Love Not War" t-shirts in light of election season and America's never-ending political quagmire.  Give one as a gift to your political nemesis!  Email us if you'd like one or want more information. 

My friends went inside early to scope out some good seats.  I stayed back to guard the fort, which really means playing hacky sack with my new neighbor friends, drinking some beers, talking about which run at MSG was the best (I say 1990, hands-down -- another said '87, another said '88 - this continued through our hackin), and having a great time in the gorgeous Red Rocks parking lot.

The band came on around 8pm.  The sound where I was sitting was superb, but considering I was sitting literally over the heads of the soundboard folk, this would make sense.  Futhur is finishing their late summer/early fall tour here in Colorado.  You may wonder how in the world does a 70 year old another 62 year old just continue to tour -- but I must tell you I thought both Bobby and Phil both looked pretty well-rested and enthused on stage last night, which has not always seen the case with Weir during the past few years.  But Bobby seemed more engaged than I have seen him in a while, yet still giving John plenty of space to roam.  Furthur shows for me are pretty tame experiences, but I did find a few moments last night when John really opened things up and hit some pretty nice peaks, particularly in 'Fire on the Mountain,' which was more than apropos considering the recent fires in the near-bye foothills.    

I think Chimenti is a fine piano player, but personally I’d prefer more Hammond organ stuff and less piano. Furthur is mellow enough already, which is why I really think they would benefit more from a big Brent-esque organ sound more than all the piano playing.  Just my 2cents – with that said,  I would be a very happy camper if I could play piano as well as Jeff, so nothing at all personal toward him.  Joe Russo, on the other hand, is a groove machine.  This guy is really great and impresses me more each time.

Grateful Web is currently uploading videos, so check back through the next few hours for links to them. The videos really came out nice, especially set 1..

My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel to Release Solo Album

“It takes a lot of time to know your mind.”  Its a simple statement, yet earnest and profound in its offering.  Sometimes it’s the spaces in between, the subtleties and ambiguities that provide us with the most meaning.
 All Birds Say (ATO Records) is an intimate collection of musings on life from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel.

 Broemel reflects on things as they are with Zen-like contentment, making no judgment on how they should be...he gives pause for introspection but stops short of preaching. The songs are firmly planted between past and present.  It’s in these little fractured moments that the listener bears witness to thoughtful contemplation that give rise to epiphanies on larger themes.

Broemel could’ve taken the easy road and penned a lyrical triptych to the remarkable journey he’s experienced over the past several years, but instead All Birds Say is an incredibly honest and sincere insight into the artist’s inner-most thoughts as he attempts to reconcile his role in life.
 “Where do you start?  Or where do you stop?  And how do you reconcile the things you do versus the things you don’t?  It’s something I’m constantly thinking about.  I think there’s a lot of trying to be aware of what you’re doing now versus dwelling on things or worrying about what’s gonna happen later.  A lot of the songs are really just me talking to myself, trying to make sense of things in my head.”

Deft in its presentation, the songs on the album unfold in a dream-like stream of consciousness with lush and elegant arrangements.  The album’s brilliance is displayed in Broemel’s effortless delivery.  It’s the perfect amalgamation of lazy sophistication…whimsical poise and grace.  The instrumentation serves as the ideal complement to Broemel’s well crafted set of modern-folk standards; complete with pedal steel, dobro, strings, autoharp, clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, and baritone sax, among others.  Think Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case, Neal Casal, Andrew Bird, Mose Allison, and early Boz Scaggs singing an orchestrated chorus of breezy ballads and waltzes.

The guitar figure of the instrumental title track that opens the album serves as a natural introduction to “Life Leftover,” an introspective meditation on the importance of being more present in life that’s at the heart of All Birds Say.  The album also afforded him the chance to collaborate with his own father, a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony who provides rich color and depth to the music with clarinet, baritone sax, and bassoon.

“To me, making records is like alchemy.  It’s something that no one can ever perfect, but you have an insatiable desire to keep doing it and get better at it.  I really believe that everything we experience contributes to what we do next, so this album is really a result of all the records and tours I’ve done so far.“

The best records always seem to be the ones that slowly reveal themselves like a pleasant surprise and allow the listener to peel through deeper layers upon repeated listen…the kind of records that you grow with and can go back to months later and hear something then that resonates with you in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise.  It’s an interactive process between the listener and the artist, and one to be thankful for.  This is the kind of album that epitomizes the vinyl experience; an instant classic that is sure to stand the test of time.

Listen to Bromel's 'Heaven Knows'

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