Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Way I Live: Midway 2007

I've had the good fortune of attending over fifty shows comprising over 175 performances in the first half of 2007. These are my twenty favorites. Roy Hargrove renewed my faith in the viability of traditional acoustic jazz. Charlie Louvin gave it his all for 25 people. I'm still smiling. Blood flowed during Drowning Pool's brief set.

1. Roy Hargrove- Folly Theater
2. Charlie Louvin- Grand Emporium
3. Drowning Pool- Rockfest at Liberty Memorial (Same show fan footage)
4. Arturo Sandoval- Jazz In the Woods
5. Alison Krauss & Union Station- Starlight Theater
6. Albert Hammond, Jr.- Uptown Theater (Same show fan footage)
7. John McEuen- Mountain Music Shoppe
8. Ronnie Milsap- Kemper Arena (Same show fan footage)
9. Social Distortion- Beaumont Club
10. Burden Brothers- Rockfest (Same show fan footage)
11. Christina Aguilera- Kemper Arena (Same show fan footage)
12. Lynda Randle- Kemper Arena
13. Sean Lennon- Grand Emporium (Same show fan footage)
14. Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers- The Hurricane
15. OK Jones- house party
16. Bowling For Soup- Grand Emporium (Same show fan footage)
17. Ziggy Marley- Crossroads (Same show fan footage)
18. Hubert Sumlin with Kenny Wayne Shepherd- Uptown Theater
19. The Elders- Uptown Theater
20. Jack Ingram- Verizon Amphitheater

These twenty songs are insanely wonderful. I limited my selections to songs that have received airplay on commercial radio and television. The exceptions are "Sirens" and "45"; I'm only pretending they're actual hits.

1. Dizzee Rascal- "Sirens"
2. Lil Mama- "Lip Gloss"
3. Rich Boy- "Throw Some D's"
4. Amy Winehouse- "Rehab"
5. Gerald Levert- "In My Songs"
6. Juan Luis Guerra- "La Llave De Mi Corazon
7. White Stripes- "Icky Thump"
8. Spoon- "The Underdog"
9. Jason Aldean- "Johnny Cash"
10. Baby Boy Da Prince- "The Way I Live"
11. James Morrison- "You Give Me Something"
12. Tim Armstrong- "Into Action"
13. Albert Hammond, Jr.- "In Transit"
14. Miranda Lambert- "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"
15. The Saturday Knights- "45"
16. Anthony Hamilton- "Struggle No More"
17. Modest Mouse- "Dashboard"
18. Jake Owen- "Startin' With Me"
18. Beyonce- "Irreemplazable"
20. Lil Flip and Lyfe Jennings- "Ghetto Mindstate"

While I'm in love with each of the songs listed above, not a single one of these albums completely floors me.

1. Robert Glasper- In My Element
2. The Frames- The Cost
3. Autumn Defense- Autumn Defense
4. Angelique Kidjo- Djin Djin
5. Pendergast- Between the Bottle and the Pulpit
6. White Stripes- Icky Thump
7. Lil Flip- I Need Mine
8. Beyonce- B'Day 2.0
9. OK Jones- Elephantoms
10. Modest Mouse- We Were Dead Before Before the Ship Even Sank
11. Wynton Marsalis- From Plantation To the Penitentiary
12. James Morrison- Undiscovered
13. Alison Krauss- A Hundred Miles Or More
14. Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner- Ojos Negros
15. Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life
16. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
17. Society's Parasites- Society's Parasites
18. Kenny Wayne Shepherd- 10 Days Out
19. Paul Motian- Time and Time Again
20. John Hammond- Push Comes To Shove

Friday, June 29, 2007

Lee Perry and Mad Professor- Heads of Government


There's been near-constant rainfall in my city for two days. The deluge may foil my plans to hijack the sound system at tonight's outdoor show by 311 and Matisyahu. I want to turn the kids in the audience on to vintage dub, roots rock reggae and the rantings of Lee "Scratch" Perry. I might lead off with this gleaming, oddly artificial approach to Perry's universe. It's from the out-of-print Black Ark Experryments.

Conner, one of the Midwest's most promising bands, is playing their last show Saturday. It's too bad. I thought their overtly commercial sound gave them a real shot at breakout success.

Kansas City Click: I'll be with 311 and Matisyahu in Westport tonight.

Children's music act The Terrible Twos are at the Reading Reptile in Brookside on Saturday afternoon. They're an offshoot of the New Amsterdams. Get up, kids!

Italian jazz pianist Roberto Magris plays Sunday at the Blue Room.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rodney Crowell- I Wish It Would Rain


Rodney Crowell plays a free concert in Olathe, Kansas, Friday night. I know from attending previous events in the series that hundreds of people walk over from nearby houses. I suspect that many will be in for a surprise when they encounter the increasingly politicized Crowell. If he's feeling particularly contrary, Crowell might sing this devastating song about a male prostitute for the suburban audience. Crowell, one of the greatest living country-based songwriters, has never been more artistically relevant. The Houston Kid, released in 2001, might even be his best album. Here's a video of a live performance of the same song.

A generous soul has uploaded 156 78s to YouTube. There's a lot of European stuff that's brand new to me.

Kansas City Click: Mavis Staples' tour in support of We'll Never Turn Back comes to the Folly Theater tonight.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Will Bernard Trio- Hall of Science


I spend a lot of time trying to divine the future of jazz. Does the music belong to Wynton Marsalis? Is it all up to Roy Hargrove? Or is it in the hands of noisy but groove-oriented guys like Will Bernard and his some-time collaborator Charlie Hunter? The guitarist has a new release on Palmetto Records. Directions To My House is a self-released project from 2005. "Hall of Science" shows that Bernard works in a slightly different stream than Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot. This murky video with Bernard, Stanton Moore and Lonnie Smith might provide additional answers to these questions.

When I excitedly sent an audio link of "Lip Gloss" to a few of my pals several months ago they told me I was foolish to assert that the song- little more than a beat and a playground chant- would be one of the biggest songs of the year. It's currently #10 on Billboard's Top 100. On the other hand, I can't believe that his record company allowed Chris Brown to release the horrendous Wall To Wall. What a self-absorbed mess!

Kansas City Click: Blowfly is at the Record Bar tonight? No disrespect, but I didn't realize he was even alive. Sure enough, here's a live fan video from 2005. The Pornhuskers (NSFW) are the ideal opening act.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ronnie Milsap- Old Habits Are Hard To Break


As I began to prepare a mid-year survey post for this site, I ranked the most memorable live performances of the dozens of acts I've seen so far in 2007. Amazingly, Ronnie Milsap's effort opening for George Strait ranks near the top. I had expected the former star to be washed up. Boy, was I wrong. As I wrote at the time, it was as if Elvis was still alive. This is a John Hiatt song from the out-of-print Back To the Grindstone. Since it's clearly a throw-away number, Milsap feels free to invest it with a loose, swampy vocal.

Uh oh. I didn't sense a rush to pick up the Kelly Clarkson at retail today. It's too bad- I like the girl.

I swooned when I heard "Change of Heart" for the first time in at least five years yesterday. Man, it's hard to believe that Petty once ruled the rock world.

Kansas City Click: Sara Borges, a tough honky tonk angel, is at Knuckleheads tonight.

Monday, June 25, 2007

J Mascis & The Fog- Tell the Truth

The truth was told.

I'm pleased to see that Dinosaur Jr are making a well-deserved victory lap, and I look forward to hearing Beyond, which was released on April 30. During the band's hiatus. J Mascis continued refining the band's sound on solo albums like the out-of-print Free So Free from 2002. "Tell the Truth" contains the key elements- Mascis' exhausted whine hiding behind the monolithic guitar sound that merges the Ramones and Boston.

Arturo Sandoval brought the funk to the most unlikely of places Saturday night. My review is here. I write nice things about Friday's smooth jazz show here.

Kansas City Click: I mocked Shurman in this space a few weeks ago. While I'll stand by my claim that they're entirely derivative, that doesn't mean that the country-rock band isn't very good at what they do. And given the right set of circumstances, Shurman is more than capable of delivering rock'n'roll salvation every time they plug in. The hard-touring band is at Mike's Tavern tonight.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Arturo Sandoval- Alo Chicoy

Thanks, Arturo!

This oddity is the most obscure Arturo Sandoval title I own. It was recorded with a Cuban band in London two years before the jazz trumpeter defected to the United States. The dated funk-fusion might shock trad jazz fans, but it shows that Sandoval's showy bluster was in full effect prior to his relative mainstream stardom. I once saw Sandoval participate in a festival's Q-and-A session. He's quite the salty character. This video shows a side of Sandoval familiar to today's audiences. This routine is equal parts Jackie Gleason, Dizzy Gillespie and Robin Williams.

How old am I? Old enough to relate to every word of Bucky Covington's "A Different World". How young am I? Young enough to know that bitter nostalgia is for losers.

I've neglected to link to my review of Rockfest. The raging live version of Drowning Pool's "Bodies" resonates with me two weeks later.

Kansas City Click: Merle flippin' Haggard is at the VooDoo tonight.

Sandoval and Eldar share the stage Saturday at Jazz In the Woods.

How 'bout the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash at the Record Bar on Sunday? Howard Iceberg & the Titanics open.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Keith Richards and the Band- Deuce and a Quarter


I didn't recognize the name Richard Bell when I first spotted news of his death. So I was amazed when I looked into his discography. He worked with a vast array of artists- from Janis Joplin to the Blue Aeroplanes. Bell and Garth Hudson play keyboards on this star-studded session that served as an overdue appreciation of Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. Man, I love Keith, but pairing him with Levon Helm, one of the greatest voices in popular music, just isn't fair. All the King's Men, released in 1997, is out of print.

Robert Johnson fans need to see this great video interpretation of his most definitive song.

Has anyone else noticed that "Icky Thump" is obviously based on this AC/DC song? The crunch, the bagpipes, the rawk- it's all there.

Kansas City Click: Few landmark artists are responsible for as much horrific music as Little Stevie Winwood. Let's hope he sticks to the (plentiful) good stuff tonight at the Uptown.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bela Fleck- John Hardy

John moved on.

Bela Fleck disappoints me. I've long asserted that he's capable of producing some of the most interesting music of our time. I consider him a genius. Yet most of his projects seem like dead ends. The cheesy EPK for his new collaboration with Chick Corea is a flaming red flag to me. While I have a weakness for jazz fusion that's rarely displayed in this space, I wish Fleck would spend more time in settings like Tabula Rasa. The out-of-print 1994 session with V.M. Bhatt is amazing. "John Hardy" is its most straightforward piece.

I drool all over Alison Krauss here.

Every single male friend I spoke to yesterday asked me if I'd picked up Icky Thump. Either I need to expand my circle of pals or the White Stripes are going to trounce Bon Jovi, Brad Paisley and Huey in their debut week. And yeah- of course I bought it.

Kansas City Click: The Tennessee Three are at Knuckleheads tonight.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lonnie Plaxico- Squib Cakes


Melange is one of many stigmatized titles from the last of the days in which major labels still issued mainstream jazz recordings. Just because a release was ill-conceived as a commercial product shouldn't make the music it contains any less appealing. More jazz artists would be well-advised to subscribe to the same flexible approach as Lonnie Plaxico. He plays both electric and acoustic bass and throws top-tier talent including Lew Soloff and Tim Ries into loose but serious settings. "Squib Cakes" is just one of many MP3s also available at Plaxico's site.

I spotted Wolfmother hanging out at a casino's buffet this afternoon. I was tempted to introduce myself and talk about tips for maintaining big hair, but I left them alone.

Kansas City Click: Alison Krauss and Union Station are at Starlight tonight. I'll be there, too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Denyce Graves- Dido & Aeneas


I return with a cleansed palate. And while I have no intention of curating an opera blog, I can't help but share this devastating slice of beauty. Henry Purcell's dramatic composition with Denyce Graves' rich voice just floors me. I would propose that this piece be played at my funeral, but my passing surely won't merit such divine elegance. Everything on Voce di Donna is similarly lustrous.

While on vacation, I submitted to the music tastes of my companions- Joss Stone, the Rolling Stones, jazz "mood" compilations, generic Colorado jam bands and High School Musical were in heavy rotation. I did spend some time exploring the radio dial. I came across a AAA station that's far less jam-oriented than its site suggests. They aired Little Milton, the Replacements, Elvis Costello and Linda Thompson in the brief time I monitored them.

Kansas City Click: It's been a while since I made note of the weekly Rural Grit jam session at the Brick. I'm still working up the courage to present my interpretation of Nashville Skyline.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ass Ponys- I Love Bob

Bob's a jerk.

If I knew what was bad for me, I'd be sleeping off some pain in a St. Louis Econo Lodge right now. Twangfest is in full swing and I'm missing all the fun. Acts with a country tinge perform for a merry band of like-minded fans at the annual festival. Graham Parker, Elizabeth Cook, Two Car Garage and Wussy are among this year's artists. Wussy is the current project of Chuck Cleaver. Of the Ohioan's many talents, his greatest gift may be his knack for names and titles. As leader of the Ass Ponys he's responsible for two of best album titles in the history of pop- Electric Rock Music and Some Stupid With a Flare Gun. This tale of sadism is from the aptly titled Grim.

Most of you are probably already familiar with most of the concepts detailed in this article about artist-owned record labels. Still, I appreciate the reporter's broad net- he interviews musicians ranging from Tracy Lawrence to Joe Pernice.

Freddie Scott died Monday. Here's an unusual presentation of a Freddie Scott song.

Kansas City Click:

The Gladstone BluesFest is organized and operated by happy people. Bernard Allison headlines today. Jimmy Thackery plays last on Saturday.

Fifteen heavy rock and metal acts perform at this year's Rock Fest at Liberty Memorial on Saturday.

George Jones may show up Sunday at Ameristar Casino.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Elvis Crespo- Mi Sol, Mi Luna


I love most of the music blogs linked in the right column of this page. It's only natural that several are curated by guys who share my general sensibilities. The most valuable sites, however, inform and educate me about areas in which I'm not expert. La Onda Tropical is among this group. The site has recently spotlighted the new release by merengue vocalist Elvis Crespo. In typically measured but enthusiastic fashion, the site notes that while Crespo's new single is even more shamelessly pop-oriented than ever, it's nonetheless excellent. Here's rough video evidence. If only all music writing was so open-minded and receptive to commercial sounds. This is an impeccable dance vehicle from Crespo's Wow Flash.

When Jason at The Pitch asked me to name my favorite summer songs- both current and old- I quickly responded with a childhood favorite and Rich Boy's smash hit. My selections better anyone's save area raconteur Brandon Phillips' picks. They're listed here.

Kansas City Click: It's opening day for this year's massive Wakarusa festival. It's awfully warm outside...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Priestess- The Shakes


I was both surprised and pleased to discover that Priestess have a track on Surf's Up. The soundtrack for the animated movie was released yesterday. It's a unlikely mix of predictable material ("What I Like About You") and inspired genius (Bob Wills). I saw Priestess open for Zakk Wylde a few months ago. While the heavy Canadian band didn't exactly win the rough crowd over, they managed not to come under physical attack- a real possibility with the surly audience. Priestess' Hello Master is a uniformly excellent but wildly varied mix of old-school metal, stoner rock and Nuggets-inspired garage trash.

I can't imagine Merle Haggard watching GAC's new program about the planning of Kenny Chesney's summer tour without smashing his television. Although I applaud the effort country stars are making in catching up with the showmanship of their rock counterparts, Chesney's obviously not allowing for a moment of spontaneity in his shows. The documentary offers fascinating insights into a very odd mindset.

Yesterday's big new releases in my little niche of music retail world are Rihanna, T-Pain and Carl Thomas.

The vocals on "Underdog," the new song by Spoon that's floating around, sound uncannily like Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. It's wonderful.

I'm digging jazz drummer Kendrick Scott's new music.

Kansas City Click: It makes me so happy to see that the brilliant Brother Ali is in MTV's rotation. He's at the Record Bar tonight.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Joe Pass- Corcovado


As I read news reports and editorial hand-wringings about the controversy regarding a CD that would mark a milestone anniversary at Yoshi's jazz club, I was distracted by a small detail. That Joe Pass had two tracks on the planned release momentarily stunned me. "I thought he died years ago," I mumbled. It was with a confusing jumble of emotions that I checked into the status of the jazz guitarist. He did, in fact, pass away in 1994. Here's a sublime take on Jobim's "Corcovado" recorded in 1974 at Donte's, another California jazz venue. It's available on Resonance.

I saw Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Jake Owen and Catherine Britt perform on Sunday night. My review is here.

Kansas City Click: One of my friends recently recommended 90 Minutes. It's totally out of character for my pal to suggest a commercial cover band, so I'm sure they have something special going on. They're at Jerry's Bait Shop in Lenexa tonight.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez- Extra


Two eerily similar shows are in my town tonight. Both song-oriented concerts pair a pretty, lush-voiced woman with a gritty young man. The biggest difference between the two events isn't music; it's the price. The few remaining tickets for Norah Jones and M. Ward at the Music Hall start at $50.00. It costs $13.00 to get into Knuckleheads for Carrie Rodriguez and Tim Easton. Rodriguez first attracted attention nationally through her work with Chip Taylor. This bawdy song is from the duo's Let's Leave This Town. Rodriguez may not ever achieve Jones' level of success; it's much more likely that Jones will be playing similar roadhouses twenty years from now.

Ziggy Stardust has nothing on Edgar Winter. He has to be the most physically striking rock star ever. I took this photo of Winter over the weekend as he cranked out "Frankenstein." You really need to experience this video.

Kansas City Click: Details on tonights Rodriguez/Easton show are here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bush Tetras- Sister Midnight


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Bush Tetras are still active. Countless bands- including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Gossip- have incorporated the Bush Tetra's icy funk into their sound. I saw the "No Wave" band open for X and for the Clash in the early '80s. Their Ritual EP received a lot of dorm room spins during that era. Their convincing contribution to We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute demonstrates their dark appeal. So does this insightful video.

This video of Myra Taylor confirms a few of my observations about both the inimitable star and behavior at area clubs. Taylor loves to talk. That's usually a good thing, because she's hilarious. And it's almost impossible to get local audiences to STFU. That still doesn't excuse "shushers," who are almost as annoying as oblviouis yackers. For the record, withering stares work best.

Kansas City Click: I hope you signed up for free Bob Schneider tickets. He's tonight at the Crossroads. Blackpool Lights and OK Jones at the Hurricane are a great backup plan in case of rain.

Another free ride is on tap Saturday. Edgar Winter and Shooting Star are at a Shawnee festival.

I don't intend to miss Alan Jackson on Sunday night at Verizon. This song is among the best mainstream country hits of the new millennium. Brooks & Dunn also perform.