Saturday, April 30, 2011

Frank Turner Live From the Knitting Factory

Last night, Frank Turner brought his solo acoustic folk/punk show to the sold out Red Palace in the Atlas District of Washington, DC.  He welcomed hometown singer-songwriter Justin Jones to open the show, who's own brand of  folk music leans more towards Americana than Turner's punk stylings.

I've been following Turner's career for a few years now, first posting about him on this blog in May of 2007.  He's reached a significant level of success around the world, but has yet to gain a large following here in the States, but I expect that to change pretty soon.  He played a cafe tent at 2010's Bonnaroo festival and last came through this area as the opener for Social Distortion in Baltimore.  In his home country in England, he's made it as far as the main stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals, opened for Green Day at Wembley Stadium, and received two nominations at the NME Awards for Best Solo Artist (alongside Paul Weller, Florence And The Machine, Laura Marling and Kanye West) and Best Band Blog or Twitter.  Frank resonates with so many people, and has gained so many incredibly devout fans around the globe, due to his passionate, honest, 'working man', and often times biographical lyrics that are the antithesis of the current pop landscape of manufactured beats and hired songwriters.  Frank's website says that he's due to come back through the States in the fall after his new album is released globally this summer.  He's playing the New Jersey edition of the Bamboozle festival tonight.

Frank played the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Thursday night and fortunately for us, the venue recorded the live stream and has made the entire 100-minute show available for us to present to you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alt-Country Pioneers: Jayhawks / Uncle Tupelo

Not quite country; not quite rock n' roll.  A little bit folk; a little bit outlaw.  Alt-country as a genre is difficult to define, but you probably know it when you hear it.  Even though veteran artists like Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson could now be thrown into this bucket, you wouldn't have given them that label before the early 90's, because it didn't exist.  It was around that time  that "Alternative Country" was born because of the recent crop of music that was rooted in traditional country but had no real similarities to the modern country sound coming out of Nashville.

I'd like to post a couple songs here that nod to two bands that don't get enough press these days for helping to establish the alt country movement.  Before Ryan Adams and before the Drive-By Truckers, there was The Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo.  The Jayhawks released their first album on a major label, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1992.  As a matter of music history crossing paths, it was one of the band's two front men, Gary Louris, who was instrumental in getting Uncle Tupelo signed to their first major label deal, with Sire Records, also in 1992.  Uncle Tupelo, as is now well known, was fronted throughout its short, tumultuous seven-year lifespan (only two of them after signing to a major) by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Son Volt's Jay Farrar.  The Jayhawks continued to record and tour until 2003 when they went on an extended hiatus.  In the last few years, they've reunited for a few one-off shows and there are rumors that they will record their first album in eight years some time before the end of 2011.

The Jayhawks
'Crowded in the Wings'
Hollywood Town Hall

Uncle Tupelo
'Screen Door'
No Depression

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Introducing: Farewell Milwaukee

Farewell Milwaukee are a five-piece band from Minnesota that focuses on roots/americana-inspired music who released their debut album, Autumn Rest Easy, in 2009.  I learned of the group last year through a track from that record called Way Out, which I would consider to be one my favorite songs of 2010.  I first discovered that song and this band on Pandora.  It's gotten plenty of spins on my iPhone during my commutes to and from work on the DC Metro.  The group fits very well into the same category of young bands like Dawes, Avett Brothers, and Trampled By Turtles who embrace acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies with a strong focus on lyrics and songwriting.  At this point, they seem to rarely play outside of their home state, but I'm expecting that to change soon.  Hopefully this new record pushes them into the national spotlight (and some dates on the east coast).

Their new album When It Sinks In will be released in three weeks, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing it.  They have posted a video of one of the new tunes on YouTube and I'm hoping you'll take a listen. Given that the clip was just recorded informally in a living room, the fact that they sound this good proves just how talented they are:

Farewell Milwaukee
Come Back Home To Me

Also, here's a clip that includes portions of my introduction to the band, their song titled Way Out:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Led Zeppelin: Tangerine (Live), 5/24/75

I was going to post a video of Robert Plant and his current touring band, Band of Joy, playing their rootsy, countrified take on the Zep classic 'Tangerine'....but really, why would I do that when I can post Led F-ing Zeppelin playing the same, from May '75.  Enjoy:

Bonus Content:

Plant has been closing his recent shows with the Band Of Joy with a cover of Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall'. The performance features harmonies from his stellar backing band, including Darrell Scott (featured here on the pedal steel), who's album I bought a few months ago. I'm really digging this:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Austin's New Blues

Two artists that I've been listening to quite a bit lately, that I want to share with you, both emerged in recent years from the extremely competitive and very crowded Austin, TX music scene.

The first is Gary Clark Jr, who is an incredibly talented guitarist and singer who's music is rooted in the blues, but also finds its way into straight up rock n' roll. He's only 27 years old, but he's been well known in the local Austin scene for quite a while. In 2001, when when he was just 17, the mayor of Austin declared May 13th of that year to be Gary Clark Jr. Day. That should give you some indication of just how talented he was before his eighteenth birthday. Also, around that time, Clark caught the attention of local promoter Clifford Antone, who was the man that cultivated the careers of Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughn.

I came to know Gary Clark Jr only recently after purchasing the DVD of Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Festival a couple months ago.  After watching Clark's performance, I was really amazed at the talent and youth of this guy who I'd never even heard of before.  He played so well that day that he was signed to Warner Brothers as a result and he's currently working on his major label debut for them. His name caught my eye again just a few days ago when I saw that he was listed as the final name on the lineup of the Chicago tourstop of Dave Matthews Band's 4-city Caravan tour.  That makes him yet another Mr. Irrelevant that I will be championing.  Hopefully he's not relegated to a time slot and stage where he won't be heard by anyone.

Please take a few minutes and check out the phenomenal performance of Gary Clark Jr (with Doyle Bramhall II) playing Jimmy Reed's 'Bright Lights, Big City' at the 2010 Crossroads Festival in Chicago. During the song, he repeatedly sings the lyric "You're gonna know my name by the end of the night" and I'm sure its no coincidence that this was the song and the line he chose to sing to the huge stadium crowd at Toyota Park who certainly did not know who he was before showing up.  He starts to really rip it up around the 3:40 minute mark, but let the slow build take its course.

The second act that I want to bring to your attention also came to mind recently because I saw that they were just added to a summer festival lineup. The band is Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears who only a few days ago were listed in the latest round of artist additions to this June's Bonnaroo in TN. [Note: They're also playing Coachella this coming weekend]. The Honeybears are an 8-piece band that mixes blues, soul, and rock n' roll to form a sound that can at times lean towards the Black Keys, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, or all three at the same time.  On March 15th, just a few weeks ago, they released their second full length album for Lost Highway Records, titled 'Scandalous', which in its first week reached #1 on Billboard's Blues album chart.  They also just played two sold out shows at NYC's Bowery  Ballroom where their set featured a cover of Howlin Wolf's "Evil".  I spent all of last Thursday and Friday listening to their new album. Check out their Sly Stone-sounding song from that new disc called 'You Been Lyin'.

Also, check out the band's official video for their 2009 song Sugarfoot, which sounds incredibly similar to the horn-driven groove that Trey has been cultivating with his Trey Anastasio Band over the last decade.  With Lewis's James Brown-esque delivery in front of the horns, he takes this group where Trey just isn't able to take TAB despite his best intentions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guy Clark: A Dylan Favorite

In April 2009, prior to the release of his latest album, Together Through Life, Bob Dylan sat down with rock critic and MTV producer Bill Flanagan for a rare interview. I'd like to share here two of Dylan's responses that I found the most fascinating. They both deal with his opinions on other musical acts that are his contemporaries. With Dylan so infrequently being quoted, they provide an interesting insight to how aware he is of the greater music scene, which breaks a misconception that he's lived his life out of tune with mainstream culture.

BF: A lot of the acts from your generation seem to be trading on nostalgia. They play the same songs the same way for the last 30 years. Why haven't you ever done that?

BD: I couldn't if I tried. Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level. My stuff is different from those guys. It's more desperate. Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly ... exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I'm no mainstream artist.

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy [Newman]. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.


The one artist on this list that you might be the least familiar with is Guy Clark. Clark is a songwriter's songwriter from Texas, inspiring Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, and as we've now learned Bob Dylan himself. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and at age 69 is still touring and playing live.

I encourage you to spend some time checking out Guy Clark's catalog.  If my word isn't good enough, take it from Dylan:

Guy Clark
Dublin Blues

Guy Clark
Hemingway's Whiskey

The Weight

I don't think I've ever heard a bad rendition of The Band's 'The Weight'.  Honestly. I've heard dozens of them and we've posted quite a few of them on this site.  There is something magical about the rotating vocals on the verses, the sing-along chorus, and the basic chord structure that makes it so much fun to play.

This version isn't just good, its great.  It comes from the Elvis Costello-hosted music/interview show Spectacle.  This episode aired in December 2009 and it features host Elvis Costello and his band The Imposters, Levon Helm, Richard Thompson, Ray LaMontagne, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, and Larry Campbell.  This was recorded for the same episode that also included a take on the Dead's Tennessee Jed, which we posted a few weeks ago.