Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shuggie Otis Made My Day

One of the greatest things about being a music freak is there will always be someone new to discover. Just when you think you've heard it all, someone turns you on to something that makes you wonder how you possibly missed it!

Well, today I'm driving home listening to the "Deep Tracks" channel on Sirius, when the kids and I find ourselves bobbing our heads up and down to the smoothest soul sound I've heard in ages. I look down to see the artist and it says "Shuggie Otis". I say to myself, "Self; who the hell is Shuggie Otis"?! Thanks to the wonder that is Google, I find that Shuggie was a reclusive singer/guitarist/arranger who made only three (long out of print) albums from 1969-1974 that hugely influenced the likes of Prince and Ben Harper.

From what I've heard already, his stuff amazingly and effortlessly merges the smoothness of the Chicago Chess Records blues sound, the "free jazz" era of Miles Davis, with the psychedelic soul nature of Sly Stone. And the guy can play the shit out of the guitar! Now the fun part will be seeking these re-issued albums out and adding them to my collection. Just another great day to be a music geek! Thanks Shuggie!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Great Cover Songs #387

Just awesome! Everything a good cover song should be.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sonic Youth's Last Waltz?

Sonic Youth just wrapped up a few dates playing festivals in South America. With the recent depressing announcement of Kim and Thurston's divorce and no more scheduled studio time or concert dates, the future of the band is a mystery. While certainly not their best night; if this rainy Sao Paulo, Brazil show was to be their last, these videos of the complete gig show the band played with an energy and edginess that even by Sonic Youth standards, is staggering.

Sonic Youth's music has meant so much to me in the past 20+ years. I truly hope this is just a new chapter for them but sadly, my gut tells me the end has come....

Somthing in the Way

I miss Nirvana. As an old-foggy 41 year old dude now, I can honestly say Kurt Cobain was the last music artist that made me obsessed. Remember when you were a kid and poured over your favorite band's lyrics? Studied their album covers? Made sure you were home to watch any TV appearances? Well, Nirvana was the last band that did that for me. That could be just me getting older and having different priorities, or it could be that they truly WERE the last important band. A strong case can be for the latter.

This year's re-release of Nirvana's "Nevermind" was a treasure trove for fans. Not only did we get the album sounding the best it ever has, but it included the original "raw" mixes and live versions of the tracks. The highlight for me is the live BBC version of "Something in the Way". The studio version is a plaintive, almost tender meditation which seems to contradict the content of the lyrics. The BCC version is a full-on guttural assault that shines a completely new light on the song for me. Crank it up and let the catharsis ring!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Paul Simon-November 13, 2011 Chicago, IL

Last week, I had the privilege of seeing Paul Simon live for the first time. While I put him in the highest regard as a songwriter, admittedly I was not expecting much out of his live performance. Let's just say I was wrong. His show was not just one of the best concerts of the year, but one of the best shows I have seen by anyone. With a band that would rival any on the road at any time, the show was a musical feast from start to finish.

There is something special about seeing a performance from an artist who has been at this for decades. Paul Simon was totally commanding and unafraid the other night to challenge himself and his audience. To hear the melting pot of musical styles merged with the lyrics that only Paul Simon can create was a indescribable joy. At 70 years old, Simon has nothing to prove to anyone, but you wouldn't know it from watching the sheer craftsmanship and joy that was on display in Milwaukee that night. Seeing him play "The Sound of Silence" alone on acoustic guitar was something I will cherish the rest of my days. Thanks Paul!

Luckily for everyone, the next show on his tour from Chicago was broadcast live on WXRT (the best commercial radio in the land). You can stream my recording and/or download it below.....enjoy!

The Boy in the Bubble
Dazzling Blue
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
The Afterlife
Mother and Child Reunion
That Was Your Mother
Hearts & Bones>
Mystery Train> (Junior Parker cover)
Wheels (Chet Atkins cover)
Slip Slidin' Away
Peace Like a River
The Obvious Child
The Only Living Boy in New York
Love Is Eternal Sacred Light
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Encore 1:
The Sound of Silence
Gone at Last
Here Comes the Sun
Crazy Love, Vol. II
Late in the Evening

Encore 2:
Pretty Thing (Bo Diddley cover)
Still Crazy After All These Years

Click to download show

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wilco with Nick Lowe

Wilco seemed to musically own the latter part of 2011, celebrating the release of their new masterpiece by spending time on the road with their opening act (and musical hero) Nick Lowe. Each night featured the two playing at least one song together, giving fans a killer opportunity to see two amazing artists in great form having a blast together.

Now here's hoping for a Wilco/Nick Lowe studio album in the future!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


So the ever-interesting Ry Cooder is back and getting rave reviews for his new concept album about among other things, corporate greed. Well isn't that timely?! A soundtrack for the Occupy Wall Street movement perhaps? Fight the power Ry!

I'm sure loving the two tracks I've heard and can't wait to check out the rest.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Boss Rocks Pittsburgh, PA

After over a year of no shows, fans wondering how Bruce Springsteen would manage in a post-Clarence Clemons world got their answer last week. On Thursday and Friday Bruce treated fans to two epic 3 1/2 hour shows with his longtime friend Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers serving as house band. The shows featured tons of rarely played tunes and without the safety net of the E-Street band, one can assume these shows featured a Bruce fans rarely get to see.

Looking at the setlists, the performance that made my mouth water is the stunning, first ever acoustic performance of the classic "Incident on 57'th Street" (see it below). For the die hard Bruce freaks, it truly is a performance for the ages.

While I would certainly miss the powerhouse that is Bruce and the E-Street band, one has to wonder if Bruce will continue that without his longtime partner Clarence Clemons. If he chooses not to, at least these performances gave fans the confirmation that while Bruce may have lost his "big man", he has not lost his passion for the power and glory that is rock and roll!

November 4, 2011
Dancing in the Dark

solo acoustic
Your Own Worst Enemy
Incident on 57th Street
I'll Work For Your Love

with Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Never Be Enough Time
Another Thin Line
Because the Night
Radio Nowhere
I'm Not Sleeping
Two Hearts
A Good Life
Code of Silence
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
Johnny 99
Save My Love
Talking to the King
Adam Raised a Cain
Pumping Iron
Light of Day
* * *
Hungry Heart
The Promised Land
Glory Days
Down the Road Apiece
Brown Eyed Girl
Pink Cadillac
Twist and Shout (with La Bamba intro)
No Surrender (solo acoustic)
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street (solo acoustic)
Surprise, Surprise (solo acoustic)
Thunder Road (acoustic with Joe Grushecky)

November 3, 2011
Dancing in the Dark

solo acoustic ("opening for Joe")
For You
Land of Hope and Dreams
I'll Work For Your Love

with Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers
Atlantic City
Never Be Enough Time
Another Thin Line
Because the Night
I'm Not Sleeping
Two Hearts
Save My Love
Code of Silence
Johnny 99
Talking to the King
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
Murder Incorporated
Pumping Iron
Light of Day
* * *
The Promised Land
Glory Days
Down the Road Apiece / Wipeout
Thunder Road (solo acoustic)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cowboy Junkies-The Trinity Sessions Revisited

Like many, I got into the Cowboy Junkies classic "Trinity Sessions" when it was released back in 1988 due to their amazing deconstruction of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane". But it didn't take more then 20 seconds into the opening track before I was completely transfixed with this strange beauty of an album. It did not leave my turntable for the rest of the year.

In 1988, I was listening to nothing at all that sounded like the Cowboy Junkies. No one was. 1988 was the year of Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation....", Jane's Addiction's "Nothing's Shocking", Metallica's "And Justice for All", and Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation". It seemed to be the year for crashing down musical boundaries and making as loud a noise as possible. And in a way, with it's minimalist instrumentation and hauntingly beautiful vocals by Margo Timmins, the Junkies broke as many boundaries as anyone else that year.

Blending the traditional music of Hank Williams, the alternative poetry of Lou Reed, with original songs that could match either of those artists, the 12 songs on "Trinity" simply seemed like they fell down from heaven. I pulled out the album tonight for the first time in almost 15 years and it still has as much of a memorizing quality as it did back then. Not just one of the best albums of the 80's, but truly one of the best albums of all time. If you loved it then, pull it out and loose yourself again in it's spell. If you've never heard it, go now. You'll thank me later.

In 2008 to mark the 20'th anniversary of the album, the band invited guests such as Vic Chestnut, Ryan Adams, and Natalie Merchant to join them at the same church the original was recorded to play it again. If you're a fan of the original, the DVD of the session is well worth seeking out.