Thursday, January 27, 2005

R.L. Burnside - Post Heart Attack Condition

For those who may not be aware, blues legend R.L. Burnside suffered a heart attack back in early December. Since then, efforts have been underway to put a fundraiser together to help cover Burnside's expenses. This effort is being spearheaded by Kenny Brown, Burnside's adopted son.

I received word that according to Cedric Burnside, R.L. is "getting up on his own." a short time ago, reports began surfacing that R.L. was not doing well. Now, happily, he continues to recover and his prognosis is turning toward the better.

TGB will keep you posted on the condition of R.L. Burnside as information becomes available.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 11

Allison Thrash - This Austin-based blues artist recently released Talking Thrash, her debut on the Head On Records label. Thrash has been all over the musical spectrum having played classical, country, rock/pop, and, finally, settling on the blues. She possesses an incredibly powerful voice that will shake apples from a tree. AND, if that wasn't enough, she built her musical career while working as a lobbyist and professional development director for a statewide educational association in Texas.

The Addictions - After reading through the band's biography and press material, one thing became evident. Pundits want to pigeonhole this five-piece band from Texas, but are having a difficult time accomplishing their goal. Why? Because this is a high like no other. First, there is the coquettish Beth Richards on lead vocals. Her stunning beauty and made-for-rock vocals could be enough. Fortunately, the band features four highly skilled musicians who, when put together, produce a sound that could find a map of its own. Not to sound cliche, but this is "highly addictive."

Melanie Hersch - “Melanie has one of those voices that defies easy description, sucking you in right away with a throaty edge and a fresh immediate sound. She is one of those performers who catches you by surprise." So says Susanne Millsaps of KRCL 90.9 FM in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her most recent release, Waiting For The Moment, was graced by musicians such as Greg Leitz (Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell), Michael Jerome (The Blind Boys of Alabama, Richard Thompson), and Danny Frankel (Victoria Williams, Fiona Apple). With company like this, top notch songwriting, and a powerful, gritty voice, it's no wonder Melanie Hersch has received critical acclaim for both her debut and her live performances.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blues Compilation - Various Artists

This Is the Blues Harmonica Vol. 2
Delmark DE 780

The tin sandwich, Mississippi saxophone, mouth organ... are just a few names for one of the most ubiquitous blues instruments. In some hands, it's a Stradivarius, in others, a child's toy. On This Is the Blues Harmonica Vol. 2, it becomes a wailing wildcat, a screaming cyclone and a whirling hurdy gurdy of powerful emotion and mind-wrenching expression.

This disk is a compilation of the greatest known and unknown artists from Jr. Wells, Little Walter and Big Walter to relatively obscure local practitioners like the Hudson Valley's Little Sammy Davis or NYC born, Chicago harp ace Tad Robinson. The variety of approaches ranges from the Delta acoustic of Hammie Nixon, who backed Sleepy John Estes, to the powerful Chicago sounds of Shakey Jake and Carey Bell. Another side of the harp is the hot swinging West Coast sound as purveyed by Mark Hummel, or the old timey sound recreations (like our Rocket does) on the harp as blown on "Fox Chase/Lost John" by Walto Pace.

From roots to rockin', the harp has been there as a supporter, or the star, and this is as fine a compilation as you can get, especially if the Windy City's blues classics move you the same now as the first time you shook your booty to 'em!

On TGB scale, this platter lands squarely on Venus.

This review was written by Dr. Blues and is being reproduced with his permission.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 10

The 10th edition of SFTS. I consider that an accomplishment, and you can bet I will write that again for numbers 25, 50 and 100. The 30 bands featured have all made names for themselves in their perspective hometowns and, in many cases, beyond. But each had that something that made them feature material on SFTS.

While a college radio DJ back in the 80's, my main source of musical enjoyment came from heavy metal. In this edition of SFTS, I feature three heavy metal acts who have made comebacks recently (or never went away, but hovered under the radar). Agent Steel, Anvil, and Kreator were acts that leaned toward the heavier side of heavy metal. Today, acts making noise seem to have half the talent, yet bigger bank accounts. These three bands are back attempting to reclaim their rightful place.

Agent Steel - Juan Garcia and Agent Steel are preparing a new release. The band, which reformed in 1999, is preparing for dates in Europe during March and April. They will then return to the U.S. and begin recording a new disc. Tracks scheduled to appear are "Fashioned From Dust," "Though The Heavens Fall," "Wicked Tongue," "Hail To The Chief," "Curse Reborn," "Patriot," "Wash The Planet Clean," "The Machine Will Be Served," "United Mind," and "Liberty Lying Bleeding." According to Garcia, "The new stuff is killer." I can't wait.

Anvil - Back in August of 2004, Canadian metalheads, Anvil, released their 12th album, Back To Basics, on the Screaming Ferret Wreckords imprint. For those familiar with Anvil, every title is three words long with the outside words starting with the same letter. SFW will also be reissuing Anvil's back catalog (Metal On Metal, Pound for Pound, and Strength of Steel to name a few). Anvil also recently announced that they will preparing their 13th album for release sometime in 2005. The tentative title is This Is Thirteen. It will feature 13 tracks and the cover will have a theme centered around superstition. In the meantime, the band will travel to Europe for dates with the aforementioned Agent Steel.

Kreator - Back in the day, I was the publicity director for Noise International Records. Kreator, along with Celtic Frost, Destruction, and Rage, was one of my favorite bands. After leaving the label and becoming a full-time teacher, I feel out of touch with the heavy metal music scene. Recently, I noticed that Kreator (along with If Hope Dies and Vader) was invading the U.S. (including a stop in Albuquerque, NM) in a supporting slot to Death Angel. Also, the band had just released its latest disc Enemy of God to great reviews and extensive radio airplay. Mille Petrozza still fronts this German four-piece unit widely considered one of the "titans" of thrash metal. If you have never had the opportunity to see Kreator, log on to their website, find the show nearest you, and make the trip.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 9

Audible - Take roommates, write a few songs, add a guitarist, and then merge with members of another band and you have the story of Philadelphia's Audible. Mike Kennedy and Mary Garito started playing together around 2000. Later, second guitarist Jim Kehoe was added. Finally, the trio merge with members of matt pond PA and, in 2004, added drummer Steve Cawley, the final piece and Audible was complete. Their debut full-length CD, Sky Signal, will be released on Polyvinyl Records this month. If you are in the Philadelphia area, check out the record release party on January 29th.

Oneida - With an EP (Nice./Splittin Peaches) currently making waves and a full length release, The Wedding, (on Ace Fu Records) coming in May, 2005, Oneida have kept themselves very busy. In between, they are playing several west coast dates. According to the band's website, when The Wedding is released, "that’s when the walls come down, the masks come off, and you all realize that all along Oneida’s been playing you." Hey, how can one not a love a band whose website is

Silver Sunshine - With a sound that takes you back to the 60's, Silver Sunshine are ready to take on the world. How cliche, yet very true in this case. Nominated for Best Pop Group at the San Diego Music Awards 2004, Silver Sunshine are poised for bigger things. Their self-titled debut on Empyrean Records is just a start.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Billy Miles

Billy Miles
Aezra Records

Temptress, wicked, seductive, no-nonsense, exotic and erotic are just a few of the way to describe Billy Miles. Each personality trait comes out on her debut self-titled release on the Aezra imprint. One sit down with this album and you will feel like you have been made love to passionately, then chewed up, escorted to the door, and given a swift kick out. And it hurts so good.

I've always found soul one of a minute handful of genres where distinguishing yourself from the competition is not essential. Still, Miles manages to separate herself with an alluring combination that you leave you hoping she takes you back so you can go through it again. With a blend that is equal parts jazz, hip-hop, pop, rock, R&B and the blues, Miles' comes off as trippy, sophisticated and earthy.

Lyrically, Miles delves into the deeper and darker side of relationships and emotions. Many of the thirteen tracks fall under the "done-me-wrong" category so often associated with the blues. Yet, throughout, one sympathizes and roots for her to come out smelling like a rose. On "Feelin' Me," Miles writes about a relationship that has gone bad, yet teases and chastises her former partner by telling him:

"I know you fiend for another look
I know you're missing this
And now you're shook."

At the same time, she can be coy ("I Know") and reflective ("Disrespected" & "Another Taste...Rebel").

There is no let up in this album. From track one to track thirteen, Billy Miles is a non-stop joy ride that one doesn't want to vacate. And....this is only her debut. Self-assured, confident, and solid talent is going to keep the name of Billy Miles on the lips of music lovers for many to come. I, personally, eagerly await her next releases.

On the TGB ratings scale, Billy Miles comes in on Mercury. She is a hot talent to be reckoned with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 8

With this edition of SFTS, I bring you three bands based in New Mexico. While this is not the center of the music world, there exists a tremendous amount of talent. The three bands featured below are just a drop in the bucket.

Feels Like Sunday - One could describe them as simply veterans, but a more appropriate moniker might be "veterans of perseverance." FLS have gone through various line-up changes, but have recently found stability. With stability has come an enriched sound that has kept FLS at the forefront of the Albuquerque music scene. In September of 2004, they released their third disc, Follow The Signs, which, coupled with continuous touring, has helped spread the world throughout the west and southwest. A split-EP is expected soon, but until look for FLS to hit the road again and continue to build its fan base.

Ki - Translated, Ki means energy or attitude, and this band definitely has both. Their new release, Powdershy, is a self-produced slab of serious music from an up-and-coming band. Ki was formed in early 2000 by bassist John Powell, drummer Matthew Orio, and guitarist Troy Sorrell. Each played in other bands, but decided they wanted to get away from the metal genre and pursue others. Guitarist Carl Bennett was later added, but the group seemed to "find" itself when vocalist Ashley Ek signed on. The band's new album promises to keep them in the spotlight for a long time.

Tabularasa - The Albuquerque Journal once touted this four piece as possibly "the next New Mexican music success story. In just a short time, this hip-hop quartet have risen from also-rans to leaders of the pack. This Taos, New Mexico, foursome consists of Capt. Kirk (telling it like it is), Giles Shelton on bass, NC III on percussion and Marcos "Prim" Nunez on guitar. According to the website, a new disc, San AngeleCisco, is on its way soon. In the meantime, the band will be hitting the road again touring points west of Albuquerque.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Umphrey's McGee, Part 4

I never really though about it, but it has to be. We also listen to progressive rock and bands like Genesis with Peter Gabriel, and everything from Return to Forever, Al DiMeola, and Mahavishnu. Right when we started the band was when we were getting into these bands, so it rubbed off on the songwriting. We try to get things from all angles and reproduce in our way.

I don't really think we have one. For us, it comes from constantly doing it, constantly analyzing it and repairing what is wrong. I don't think we are ever going to be satisfied or have a signature.

Based on the few songs we have ready for it, you could hear a completely different sound. We are also going to have a few more that we are working on. We're not going to try to make the same album. For us, it's our life and we don't want to live the same way day-to-day.

To make a better album than the one before, to have something we're proud of and wouldn't mind listening to. We're a live band trying to become a studio band, but we're a live band first. That's how we pay the rent. In order to become more legitimate though, you have to have something in the record stores and stuff on the radio.

We going into the studio in January, but we're going to try and wait until 2006 to put it out. We're gonna try and do it in different places to make it sound different from track to track. I like to think that if one isn't ambitious, there is no sense in doing it. We are going into this hoping that everything works out.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Umphrey's McGee, Part 3

I can definitely remember some early practices and early sounds where they were straightforward. We would throw in some 7/4's, etc., just to make it more difficult and more challenging. We wanted something more fun to play instead of something so easy we could just get up there and go through the motions.

The drummer is the rock upon which you build you church. Kris was the savior of the band. When the drummer left, we all were kinda freaked out and didn't know what to do. We thought we could find someone good enough or that we liked, but we didn't know if they would be the same guy. To be honest, we were so impressed when he arrived that we were trying to mask our reactions during the audition. We tried to keep our cool. The minute he walked out, we felt this kid was ridiculous and we had to grab him.

It will be two years this January.

We had to start over and run though all these songs that we had been playing for five years and teach them to him. None of it was charted. It made us a tighter band It made us go through songs that we assumed we were playing the right way only to figure out out we weren't together. So, it made the sound tighter. You are only as good as who you surround yourself with, so if you have someone who is a high caliber musician, it forces you to step up.

We made some changes when Kris joined. It's nice to have a fresh perspective. He had never heard of the band. He auditioned based on a recommendation from one of his friends.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Umphrey's McGee, Part 2

I think of it lyrically. Everything that I do, I'll have a melody and I'll stick words in to match the length of the note. You also have to remember that when you're singing, you can't sing consonants as well as vowels. Your word choice has to go with what flows. I was an English major in college, and I read a lot, so there might be some of that coming through. To be honest, I never really think about it and I try not to.

That's my favorite. I love that. I don't like something that is spoon fed to you because you can't get anything out of it after 200 listens. When something is vague the meaning can morph over time. Let's say something happens to you during the day and, normally, that song doesn't strike you, but then it does all of a sudden. If it's a song about the sunrise or sunset, you know what it's about. There are plenty of those.

We try to have fun. Funness is the key to longevity. Sometimes I'll write something lyrically that is very brooding and I'll need to have a break from that.

We were trying to get gigs. We had just formed the band. We did it because we figured if we had a CD, it would be more legitimate than a cassette to send the clubs and try to get gigs. We weren't trying to make an album, but then we figured we might as well. That's always been one of our elements--not taking ourselves too seriously. We've seen it on MTV and VH1. You wonder if when people crossed the line between starting from scratch and becoming super stars, they forget where came from and who they were and all that. Taking yourselves too seriously is dangerous. When we trying to come up with the first album title, we felt we couldn't be serious with this. Greatest Hits Volume III made perfect sense

Yeah. Absolutely. We figured we had nothing to lose.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sounds From The Superhighway 7

Johnny Dowd - Bloodshot Records had a link to this man they referred to as "The Prince of Darkness." Dowd's most release, Cemetery Shoes, features Dowd in a cemetery looking like a capo in Tony Soprano's family. The music is just as dark and, thus, lends itself to the moniker Bloodshot bestowed upon him. Sylvia Simmons of Mojo wrote: "Whatever's lurking down there appears to have been dug up and set to spooky blues, finger-popping jazz or a cheerful cluttery cacophony of beatniky sounds that wouldn't be out of place on a Tom Waits record." A man and his stories. That's Johnny Dowd.

Castle Oldchair - There isn't very much I could figure out about this band, except that they are located somewhere in the mid-west. Then, while reading an online journal, I found this entry: "Things I learned: When the show is over, it's time to go play pool and drink some more alcohol. After the "Last Call", it's time to go get something to eat. Then, while eating, it's a good time to talk freely with others. Eating and talking may take several hours. There really is no predetermined time table for this sort of thing. Finally, when the sun comes up it's time to go to a park and look at trees and water." I don't why, but, in my humble opinion, this is a cool band.

Everything, Now! - Muncie, IN is the home of this six piece unit. Their latest release, Police, Police! is out now on the Standard Recording Company imprint. Wasn't sure whether to write up this band or not, but when I saw that ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" was Jared Cheek's favorite song, it sealed the deal. Anyone who counts ELO as a favorite band is okay with me. Check out the mp3's on the SRC website.