music

All Good Music Festival Recap

At the All Good Music Festival held this past weekend in Masontown WV, the motto by which attendees live by is also the name.  How convenient.  Despite the mantra that anything goes, the festival has been noted as one of the better organized, least problematic, and most entertaining of the summer.

Sam Sparro: Bringing Personality to Dance Music

Sam Sparro- for the Grateful Web

Young Australian-born songwriter/producer, Sam Sparro, is a musical wonder.  Partly he comes by this honestly. He grew up in a musical family that explored a lot of musical styles.  His great-grandfather was a professor of music. His grandfather is a jazz trumpet player, who played with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. His grandmother is an accomplished singer and dancer, and his father, Chris Falson, is a noted gospel singer.  However, when Sparro decided to venture into the musical world himself, he created something totally new and unexpected.

Sparro moved to LA when he was ten because his dad was going to record a gospel album there. Falson introduced his son to some of the best singers in the gospel realm by taking him to a local church that was home to many session singers, like the McCrary Family who had backed up Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Chaka Khan. When Sparro and his father were visiting the McCrarys, Chaka Khan stopped by and Sparro sang a new gospel song for her that the McCrarys had wanted her to record. Her response, I'm told, was, "Damn, that white boy can sing!"

During stays in Australia, then London, and then back in LA, Sparro worked in the music industry and soon began writing songs. On a return to Australia, he formed a band called Sugar James. But it was when he finally moved back to LA that he found the LA music underground that was very reminiscent to him of the London scene.  His father offered to set up a speakeasy style club and Sparro and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello became regulars. Here, Sparro was discovered by Jesse  Rogg of Modus Viendi Music.

Sparro and Rogg produced a six-song EP called Black & Gold that is very difficult to find. I got a copy from his publicist and I guarantee it will become a valuable collector's item. It is the precursor to a self-titled, full-length album that is currently only available as a import from the UK.  The 13 songs on the new album have five of the cuts on the EP, but these are fleshed out more. The EP has Sparro and Rogg manning all of the instruments. The full album sports Sparro's vocals along with him playing keytar, guitar, and synths, and doing programming. Rogg plays synths and keys and does programming.  Laura Fares is the drummer, Charlie Willcocks handles another set of keys, and James Stephenson is on bass.

The Black & Gold EP presents a fun mix of dance beats with Sparro's fluid R&B vocals, which are sometimes electronic-altered. This is in keeping with Sparro's intent, which is to add personality in the form of a frontman to electronic music. It is a successful melding.

The title cut "Black & Gold" is ripe for a music video. It is the kind of dance music that is infectious. Though the lyrics were spawned in one of the lowest points in Sparro's life when he wondered if his life would have any direction musically, it offers such a haunting chorus, "I want to be next to you, black and gold."

"Sick" offers more of the throb of dance music, but the smooth vocals and electronic flourishes set the song above most music of that genre. The recurrent chorus, "It's a sick, sick world/But I'll be your medicine."

"Cottonmouth"is a whimsical R&B song about a condition any speaker or singer has experienced. It's a fun addition to the selections.

Then, Sparro moves into what could be a bitter song about a stalker relationship. Instead, in "Cling Wrap," he offers another humorous twist, couching bitting words into witty phrasing. He croons, "You must have thought I was a snack because you're sticking to me like cling wrap." Then, toward the end, he raps, "I'm going to need me a pair of pliers to get you off my back because you crossed your wires." The listener is prepared for something weird because the first sounds off the track sound like someone on helium.

Finally, "Miss Rexi,"the only song on the EP that isn't on the full-length CD, probably is the one song that should have been on that album. It is a song with strong social commentary, telling the story of "Miss Rexi, first name Ana," who really sounds more like she's bulimic than anorexic. Sparro says that Miss Rexi "was so skinny she thought it was sexy" then he sings, "I want to fatten you up/Get you back to a C cup," and "You don't have to be a bean/To be sexy on the scene/You're going to make yourself sick/There's no point in being a stick."

Sparro could reach a lot of young listeners with that song. It is a remarkable song housed in a fine piece of music. But, I was surprised by one reviewer who missed what was obvious in the lyrics, focusing on one line that says, "Ana listen to me/Put that in your mouth and start chewing," thinking the song is racy. If the reviewer listened more closely, he would have known that Sparro was talking about food.

Sam Sparro is experimenting with retro R&B sounds, saucy electronic beats, and a whole new realm of songwriting from someone who sees the world with very fresh eyes. His material is welcome in a techno/hip-hop/R&B world that has tended to grind out the same-ole, same-ole. Sam Sparro keeps it coming and get some of those tunes out here in the States!

Planet Defenders: Rock the Earth Marshals Action through Music

Bonnie Raitt & Rock the Earth's Marc Ross- for the Grateful Web

Six years ago, Marc A. Ross discovered a seminal way to champion environmental causes. Ross, who has been both an environmental prosecutor and an industry defense attorney, remembers, "One common theme that I saw…. was that small groups of citizens that were directly impacted by environmental issues…were being steam rolled by industry. They were being outmaneuvered, being outgunned, out-litigated simply because they didn't have the PR or the financial resources to hire competent counsel and scientists to take up their very legitimate claims."

That's when Ross decided to level the playing field by tapping the high profile music industry's PR strength and its ability to fundraise for charities. In 2002, Rock the Earth was born, and Ross became its executive director.

Rock the Earth brings environmental awareness to music fans, garnering not only donations for their projects but also volunteers. Today, the organization has only three paid employees and three dozen Volunteer Staffers and Advisory Board Members. They also have a technical team of scientists from a variety of fields, environmental attorneys, and consultants. This broadens Rock the Earth's ability to tackle different issues.

Early on, Rock the Earth consulted with festivals, tours, and the cruise industry to help them green their events. Over time, other organizations, such as Reverb, CLIF Bar GreenNotes, and MusicMatters, have appeared to take on that mission and other environmental concerns.

Rock the Earth's mission evolved to providing environmental education, fostering activism, and offering legal and technical assistance to small groups. "We're a great plug and play organization," says Ross. For example, Rock the Earth is an active presence at many festivals and concerts. They maintain a presence at Bonnaroo on the Solar Stage. "Every day, we conduct a series of interviews, panel discussions, and musical performances all on the theme of social change through music," Ross explains.  His one-on-one interviews showcase performers who don't normally talk about these issues. At Bonnaroo, Rock the Earth has worked with a number of artists, including Bob Weir, Warren Haynes, Michael Franti, Bonnie Raitt, John Butler, Trevor Garrod (Tea Leaf Green), and Liz Berlin (Rusted Root).

ozzfestLast year, the organization was a major presence at Ozzfest and at Warp Tour shows. "We were the first and only non-profit to work with Ozzfest, and obviously the first environmental group to work with Ozzie," Ross says. "A lot of Ozzie's music has been political over the years from 'Crazy Train' to some of his newer songs on his most recent album are political and environmentally-conscious songs…. I just don't think the rest of the environmental movement thought about working with someone like Ozzie."

This year Rock the Earth is also moving forward with its first environmental litigation. Against the National Park Service, it focuses on mismanagement of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. "It will impact how all wilderness areas and, in some ways, public lands are treated in this country and whether concessions and recreation are put over wilderness protection," says Ross. "Pretty soon there won't be anywhere you can go in this country without hearing the roar of motors."

Rock the Earth also has partnered with the Center for Water Advocacy as well as several indigenous plaintiffs, including the Oglala Sioux tribe, to stop the expansion of a uranium mine in Nebraska that affects indigenous water rights and may affect public health. "That issue has legs because it touches on global warming and whether or not this new Western uranium boom and nuclear power boom is the solution to global warming," says Ross.

This past year, Rock the Earth was successful in its first petition campaign against Wal-Mart to get them to stop buying and selling mulch from Louisiana cypress trees. The organization also conducted its first service project, partnering with the John Butler Trio, CLIF Bar GreenNotes, and two other organizations, to clean up Ocean Beach in San Francisco.  And, Rock the Earth's legal and technical team worked or reviewed fifteen separate issues brought to them by the music community.

Nearly half of its 2,000-plus members in all fifty states have volunteered to work tables at festivals and concerts, provide technical or legal assistance, write grants, or help spread the word.  This will ensure that Rock the Earth will continue to champion the earth as its motto says: Defending the Earth One Beat at a Time.

fishThis spring, Rock the Earth was awarded the Mimi Fishman Memorial Community Service Award at the 7th Annual Jammy Awards. Those Ross was honored and humbled by the award, he also called music fans to action saying, "...regardless of who is our next President, come January 2009, our country and our planet will still continue to face very serious environmental issues that will only be solved by keeping the pressure on the government and polluters and holding them accountable for their actions." The work continues.

UPDATE:  On April 29, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled in favor of the Oglala Tribe's right to challenge the proposed Crow Butte Uranium Mine expansion. Though, the NRC Staff has appealed, much work remains by the tribe to block the mine expansion.

The Raconteurs - The Loudest Thing in Pop Music: Day 3 of my Magical Mystery Weekend

It's tragically easy to grow tired of modern pop music.  Ever been to a show and wondered why the band stuck so rigidly to the formula already laid out on their studio albums?  I have.  Ever realized halfway through a performance that sounds you thought the band was making were prerecorded?  I have.  Ever turned off your radio for two months and felt like you weren't missing anything new?  I have.

Colorado Music Association Presents Kai Eckhardt Bass Clinic

Photo courtesy of Tsunami Publicity- for the Grateful Web

Bassist Extraordinare Kai Eckhardt, along with the Colorado Music Association, will be hosting a unique day long clinic in Denver with the legendary virtuoso. Known primarily for his work with jazz funksters Garaj Mahal and fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, Eckhardt has established himself as one of the premier bassists in the music industry. Creating a style melding worldly flair with scorching fretwork and exotic rhythms, Kai Eckhardt blazes a trail of originality.

For the clinic, Eckhardt's teachings will concentrate on the Konokol method. The Indian method of Konokol teaches the fundamentals of rhythm through the use of spoken syllables and hand motions, without the use of drums or other percussive devices. Also featured will by Kai's Symmetrical Approach to melody and harmony. Using this approach, Eckhardt creates an entirely new piece of music from completely random selections. Incorporating elements of the polyrhythmic matrix, he will demonstrate how this method works for rhythm.

Musicians across the musical spectrum, from drummers to vocalists to horn players, can benefit from Kai's teachings. In addition to musical growth, Eckhardt's clinics also contribute to inner development and inspiration. "It is my desire to teach people how to invent and reinvent themselves by paying close attention to the underlying principles that make us learn. During my clinic, I will be open to any sincere question and I will do my best to help the student unblock, trouble shoot, align and get inspired," says Eckhardt.

In order to facilitate the learning process, Kai Eckhardt will feature a series of graphs and illustrations, along with original compositions accompanied with lyrics and groove loops. The clinic will take place Sunday, May 18th at 10:00AM at the intersection of Colfax and Lafayette in Denver. Cost for the day long seminar is $60.00.

Colorado Music Associations presents:
Kai Eckhardt Clinic
"Rhythm, Melody and Harmony"
When: Sunday May 18th, 2008
10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $60.00 at the door
1490 Lafayette (Colfax and Lafayette)
RSVP to stevewerg@aol.com to receive a coupon for $5.00 off the admission.

Kai Eckhardt one hour LIVE performance/interview
KRFC 88.9 FM Live@Lunch
Friday, May 16, 2008
12 noon - 1 pm MST
Kai's fans around the world can listen on-line via www.krfcfm.org or locally via 88.9FM in N. CO.

DJ Goodfoot Announces Music Release Party

photos by Tim Hurley- for the Grateful Web

Colorado-based spinster DJ Goodfoot and Turn It Out Productions announce a music release party dubbed "Welcome To The Candy Shoppe".

The gathering will take place in Denver on Tuesday May 20th at the Sugar House (www.sugarhouselounge.com), located at the corner of Alameda Ave. and Pecos.  Also performing throughout the evening will be Razor FM and Jasun Lovejoy w/special guests.

DJ Goodfoot is a local artist who has been busy spreading his craft across the West over the last five years.  He garnered some local fame through his residency at the famed Snake Pit in Denver for their "Destination Mondays", and more recently brought his style of house, techno, and break beats to exclusive clubs in Seattle such as Club Trinity.

His previous demos entitled "It's All in the Name" and "3rd Times a Charm" were well-received in the local club community.  Next month he plans to release his new single called "Dangs".  Funky beats and dark breaks layer this new piece, and it is sure to be another big piece in his musical puzzle.

The Sugar House will open at 8:00pm for the event, and a cover charge of $6 per person/$10 for two will apply.  Drink specials will also be featured during the performances.  Get your dancing shoes on get ready to boogie!

Music Festivals Featured In Latest MFF Charity Auction

Bonnaroo VIP tixs up for auction- for the Grateful Web

The Mimi Fishman Foundation has launched another in their continuing series of on-line charity auctions, this time an all-festival auction – most of which includes VIP passes.

The auction, which concludes April 24, 2008, will benefit Rock the Earth and the Delta Gamma Center for Children With Visual Impairments.

The auction items include:

• Bonnaroo VIP Package
• DelFest VIP Package
• 10,000 Lakes VIP Package
• Summer Camp VIP Package
• Northwest String Summit VIP Package
• Gathering of the Vibes VIP Package
• Rothbury Package

In addition a very special guitar with tons of signatures (to benefit The Victory School) is still available for bidding through April 9.  David Crosby, Graham Nash, Yonder Mountain, Billy Nershi, and many other signatures are included.

To view and/or bid on the auction, as well as read about the charities the auction supports, please visit the Mimi Fishman Foundation auction page

New Music from Infamous Stringdusters ~ Due Out 6/10

The Infamous Stringdusters- for the Grateful Web

When The Infamous Stringdusters comes out June 10 on Sugar Hill Records, some may assume from the title that it's a debut recording. Those already aware of the Stringdusters phenomenon will know differently: that 2007's Fork in the Road was the album that boldly introduced this daring, disciplined band to the world of bluegrass and a wider world of music enthusiasts who heard it and decided: 'if that's bluegrass, then I love bluegrass.' Fork in the Road was named Album of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Its title track was named Song of the Year, and the band itself earned the honor of best emerging artist in a competitive field. It was a stunning cap to an amazing 2007.

Yet The Infamous Stringdusters feels like an introduction of a sort. Whereas Fork in the Road was made during their first potent months together, the new CD represents all the band has become during two years of intense touring, meticulous woodshedding and brotherly jamming. It's their first record with accomplished guitarist Andy Falco, whose blues-infused licks and stunning virtuosity has added a new facet to the band's musical personality. It's the first with the band's dream producer Tim O'Brien, a Grammy-winning musician who has pioneered and embodied the progressive school of roots and bluegrass that underlies the Stringdusters sound. And of course it's the first with these songs - nine band originals supplemented by a few carefully chosen tunes from colleagues in the acoustic music community.

Dobroist Andy Hall's "Well, Well" captures a character in limbo between desperation and optimism. Bassist Travis Book contributed several songs, including the sentimental "Bound For Tennessee." Fiddler and singer Jeremy Garrett lends layers of lonesome to his song "When Silence is the Only Sound." Meanwhile, "Loving You" by Grammy nominated writer Sarah Siskind is a signature example of what sets the Stringdusters apart, with its off-kilter groove and dark-hued melody. The bluesy and slightly demented "Get It While You Can" was composed by Bad Livers mad genius Danny Barnes. And rippling newgrass instrumentals from the hands of mandolinist Jesse Cobb ("Golden Ticket"), banjo master Chris Pandolfi ("Glass Elevator") and Hall ("Black Rock") complement the album with flawless examples of the band's trademark instrumental virtuosity.

In their breakout year of 2007, the Infamous Stringdusters played over 150 dates, including the biggest festivals in acoustic music, jammed on major stages with heroes like David Grisman and Sam Bush, and landed a development deal for motion picture music with Lions Gate Entertainment. With the release of The Infamous Stringdusters, 2008 promises more roads and more new fans in bluegrass and beyond.

Music Doc "Chasin' Gus' Ghost" to Screen at Memphis Film Fest

- for the Grateful Web

Music documentary "Chasin' Gus' Ghost" will screen on March 29 as a part of the On Location: Memphis International Film Festival.

The film, directed by Todd Kwait, is a labor-of-love documentary focused on one of America's most beloved forms of folk music, the jug band.  Featuring a who's who of '60s folk artists like Rock and Roll Hall of Famers John Sebastian (Lovin' Spoonful) and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), David Grisman, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur and Jim Kweskin, "Chasin' Gus' Ghost" explores the history of jug band music and the influence it had on these legendary musicians.

Jug band music has deep roots in Memphis.  Two of the most famous early jug bands were from the city: Cannon's Jug Stompers, featuring Gus Cannon, and the Memphis Jug Band, featuring Memphis native and blues godfather Will Shade.  Both bands recorded and played in Memphis during the 1920s and 30s.  Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers were a popular Beale Street act into the 1930s. Three decades later, following the folk revival of jug band music in the early 1960s, Will Shade and Gus Cannon recorded an album for Memphis' Stax label.

Here's what the critics are saying:

"Delightful... it is the first word that came to mind when considering Chasin' Gus' Ghost... the end product happens to be the most enjoyable film anyone will see this year."  
DocumentaryFilms.net - Bryan Newbury

"An absorbing movie capable of inspiring a whole new generation of ghost-chasers."
AllAboutJazz.com - Sam Chell

What: "Chasin' Gus' Ghost" screening at Memphis International Film Festival
Where: Malco Theatre - Studio on the Square
When: Saturday, March 29th 12:30PM
Tickets: $8.50 at door, available online

All Good Music Festival Partners With HeadCount

Walther Productions and the All Good Music Festival are proud to become the largest event to pledge support to HeadCount by donating $.50 from every ticket sold to support the organization's "Cents for Sense" campaign.  The partnership serves to introduce this new campaign set to be a significant industry-wide program to fund HeadCount's voter registration efforts at over 1,000 concerts and festivals nationwide before the 2008 election.