What should I be doing instead of this?
 
Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Popular Blogs
Music
 
by Brian Baker 03.02.2012
Posted In: Reviews at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
goflyakite

Review: Ben Kweller - 'Go Fly a Kite'

In a discussion of lives spent making music, Ben Kweller’s name has to warrant a prominent mention. His father, a doctor who counted Nils Lofgren as a friend and former neighbor, taught Kweller how to play drums at age 8, which led to his first band, Radish, at 12, his first major label contract at 16, appearances on Conan O’Brien and David Letterman at 17 and the launch of his solo career at 19.

Since then, Kweller has released a quartet of acclaimed albums, collaborated with Ben Folds and Ben Lee (as The Bens, naturally) and Guster and toured with Evan Dando, Juliana Hatfield, Jeff Tweedy and Faith No More, among many others, a testament to Kweller’s musical adaptability and diverse appeal.

Kweller was talking about his fifth album, Go Fly a Kite, as long ago as fall 2010, describing it as nearly finished and ready to go. But a break from his longtime label, Dave Matthews’ ATO Records, caused Kweller to rethink Kite’s release date, pushing it close to a year beyond his original timing. Kweller must have used the time to set up his own label, Noise Company, because Go Fly a Kite sounds exactly as he outlined it a year and a half ago, namely a stripped down Power Pop/electric Folk hybrid that channels his early direction and perhaps signposts where he’s heading down the line.

Like Matthew Sweet or Fountains of Wayne, Kweller possesses an uncanny knack for setting relatively serious subjects to an infectiously catchy soundtrack. Kite is loaded with that bittersweet Pop ethic, particularly on simple but effective Pop/Rock fist pumpers like “Mean to Me” and the punchy “Justify Me.” Kweller’s early schooling in The Beatles and Hollies is woven into Kite’s 11 tracks, from the powerfully angsty “Jealous Girl” to the piano balladry and lilting orchestration of “The Rainbow,” but at the same time, he’s fully aware of his own creative identity and never gets lost in the forest of his influences.


 
 
by Brian Baker 03.27.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
the-shins-port-of-morrow

Review: The Shins - 'Port of Morrow'

No one could have imagined a more appropriate outcome for James Mercer when the creatively obscure rags of Flake Music led to the everyman populist Indie Rock riches of The Shins. Strangely, but perhaps predictably, Mercer’s recent career moves seem more indicative of diva behavior, signing with Columbia Records, dismissing his longtime bandmates and making The Shins something of a solo venture while exploring a new and admittedly fascinating aesthetic with Danger Mouse in their Broken Bells collaboration.

All of this has transpired in the long gap since The Shins’ last album, 2007’s largely brilliant Wincing the Night Away, and the hiatus, coupled with Mercer’s oddly twisting creative path, have served to intensify the scrutiny on the long-awaited fifth album from The Shins, Port of Morrow.

At first blush, there is a clear difference between the wide-eyed cryptic wonder of 2001’s Oh Inverted World and the more calculated and plainly spoken weariness of Port of Morrow. Perhaps the most marked difference between the old collective Shins and the new solo-centric Shins is Mercer’s place in the mix. On the first three albums, his keening voice and hallucinogenic lyrical constructs were sublimated into the music, while Wincing the Night Away found him rising above the music’s sonic profile (Michael Stipe followed a similar path on REM’s upward spiral). Mercer’s process is complete on Port of Morrow, as his vocals ring with confidence and clarity even as his lyrics still inspire some allusory head scratching.

The album’s first single, “Simple Song” (see the video for it below), lives up to its title by stripping The Shins’ melodic and lyrical complexity to its basic elements, with the chorus serving as a possible manifesto for the newly liberated Mercer (“I know that things can really get rough, when you go it alone/Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, and play like a stone/Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical, as this little home”). There are moments that hearken back to The Shins of old with the obvious new tweaks (“It’s Only Life,” “40 Mark Strasse”) and a few new wrinkles (the Samba-flecked “Bait and Switch,” the straightforward Indie Pop bristle of “No Way Down,” the rootsy reverb of “For a Fool”).

For fans who have fallen helplessly in love with the Shins’ sonic atmospherics and delightfully indecipherable wordplay, Port of Morrow may be confoundingly understandable. Still, like every Shins album to date, Port of Morrow’s greatest rewards are revealed through prolonged exposure.


 
 
by Jeff Roberson 05.01.2012
Posted In: Festivals, Live Music, Music Commentary, Reviews at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mcwhirter pottery 5

MerleFest 2012: That's a Wrap

April 29 - Super 8 Motel, Wytheville, Va.

Wytheville — pronounced "whiteville," I believe — sits at the cross of I-77 and I-81. Looking down I-81, I used to see Bristol, Tenn., and think of that time in 1927 when The Cater Family and Jimmie Rodgers separately met a rep from the Victor Talking Machine Company and recorded a couple of songs. They got paid about $100. Lot's changed since then, though the pay's about the same. These days when I look down towards Bristol I see a redneck deputy hauling a longed haired songwriter off to jail for the crime of relieving himself behind a bush. In 1981, that cost $25. There use to be a great BBQ joint in Wytheville. It's gone. too. They had the best fried chicken and blackberry cobbler.

I guess everyone wore themselves out Saturday as no one stayed up past midnight to talk or jam or whatever. On Sunday morning, with a solid six hours of sleep, I was up and drenched in coffee by 8 a.m. I packed up camp and planned what was left of my MerleFest weekend. I like to get going, so it was an easy morning and I headed out to the Traditional Tent for some Shape Note Singing with Laura Boosinger.

I misidentified this a few days ago as Sacred Heart singing. The idea is the same — using shapes for notes instead of notes on a musical staff. Sacred Heart uses four notes. Shape Note uses seven. The workshop I attended was about those seven notes and how to sing them. It's pretty straight forward — anyone who's ever seen The Sound of Music and sang "Do Re Mi" will get the idea. "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti" — each note has a particular shape attached to it and you sing that note when you see that shape. Laura talks about the history of Congregational singing, why they use shapes (people actually patented musical notation at one time) and how Sacred Heart differs from Shaped Note contextually, historically and regionally. Pretty cool stuff, even if the Traditional Tent smells like a barn and is now filled with flies. Laura is also really funny, cracking denominational jokes that the churchgoers find hilarious. I don't get them.

My interest in Sacred Heart/Shaped Note singing came when I wandered into a church one Sunday morning 30 or so years ago. I was wandering around northern Alabama on a motorcycle making my way to the Natchez Trace and then south to New Orleans when I stopped for a breather and cool air beneath a tree. I heard the singing as soon as my head stopped rattling. I slipped inside the outer part of a church and heard the most glorious harmonies — not sweet or beautiful, but primitive and inspiring.

In Shape Note, everyone is singing to the pitch the lead singer has identified. There is no piano, no organ, no hip dude playing guitar, only imperfect humans looking for the most comfortable place for their voice to sing. Your split into four groups depending on your vocal range  — altos (includes sopranos), tenors, bass (includes baritones) and leads (anyone who can't but follow the melody regardless of range). I go to the bass group. Each group has a different part to sing — the altos, basses and tenors all singing a harmony part and the leads singing the melody. When it all comes together it unifies the same way most old time music does. It's wondrous and miraculous; if there is a place where God exists, it is inside the dissonance that has congealed into a thing so coherent and beautiful that any existence of God outside of it becomes marginal and meaningless.

I leave the Traditional Tent invigorated and inspired and head back to camp to pack the van. Everything packed and lunch consumed, I head back to the Traditional Tent for one last show before heading home — "Women Singing Traditional Music." On stage are women ages 20 -70, including hosts Carol Rifkin and Gaye Johnson, Brooke Buckner, Laura Boosinger, Joan Wernick, Tara Nevins (Donna the Buffalo), Kim McWhirter and Gailanne Amundsen (Jubal's Kin). All give outstanding performances, but Kim McWhirter brings the house down with a moving version of the Dolly Parton song "Crippled Bird" (which in turn is based on an English Broadside) sung in a sweet mountain lilt and strummed sparingly on guitar.

A wonderful to finish to a great MerleFest.

Addendum
MerleFest is so much more then one guy can write about, no matter how much he tries. I like what I like — new bands and rediscovering old favorites. In addition to what I see and hear, there are workshops on everything from clawhammer banjo to dulcimer playing, a kids stage and activities, open mics, sitting and picking, indoor concerts, food, vendors galore. It is amazing how much music and activity the organizers pack into one day (and then clean it all up and do it again).

A lot of people stream in mid-afternoon for the nighttime concert. As mentioned, these always feature name acts. I am most fortunate to be able to tag along with my sister, help her in her booth and receive onsite camping privileges in exchange. By 8 p.m., I'm pretty exhausted and looking forward to reading under the remaining light and then laying back and hearing what's on the main stage.

This year they had some good acts. Thursday night the very humble and talented (and maybe the last real Country act standing in Nashville) Vince Gill had a fine set. Saturday I was fortunate to hear Derek Trucks take Sam Bush and his band to school on how to play melodious improvisation on the Clapton tune "Bell Bottom Blues." Derek Trucks is the living heir on slide guitar to the dead-to-early Duane Allman and he has unquestionably extended that legacy way past a wink and a nod and into something quite imaginative and bold. His wife Susan Tedeschi joined them on The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and hit all the backing vocal parts with soul.

Later that night, Trucks and Tedeschi helped Los Lobos to new heights on a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha." They sounded like they were having a blast, and my noisy camp neighbors confirmed as much the next morning as they were on stage watching the whole thing go down. Unfortunately, I slept through most of Los Lobos set and the Tedeschi/Trucks set Saturday night, though I caught the first few songs, and they sounded quite excellent. Good sleeping music — that's a compliment!

View Jeff Roberson's photos from MerleFest 2012 here.

 
 
by Amy Harris 01.18.2016 133 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
madonna-9

Review: Madonna in Louisville

The Queen of Pop brings her Rebel Heart tour to the KFC Yum Center

Madonna performed in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday for the first time ever. "The Material Girl" took the stage at the KFC Yum! Center around 10:30 p.m., but fans didn’t seem surprised, since the tour has had late starts each night. The tour stop is one of 64 cities on her Rebel Heart Tour.

Madonna has been the “Queen of Pop” for three decades. Most everyone would agree that she paved the way for all of the current reigning Pop stars, including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Rihanna and she proved that she still reigns supreme on Saturday night in Louisville. She appeared on the heart-shaped arrow stage in a grand Samurai-themed setup and immediately let everyone know “I’m Madonna Bitch!” as only Madonna can. 

"The Rebel Heart Tour" is filled with spectacle: a host of top dancers and elaborate stage design and set pieces, with Madonna at the center of it all. Even with the grand stage setup that takes 23 semi trucks to pull off, she remains the focus, with her over-the-top personality highlighting her art and athleticism.

The show features four themed sets clocking in at around 30 minutes each, with seamless transitions. The show opened with "Japanese inspired Samurai performance" theme, followed by "Rockabilly Meets Tokyo," "Latin Matador Gypsy" and "1920s Flapper," and each was defined equally by the music, costuming and choreography.

The music reached all the way back to 1980s “Holiday” era, but seemed to disappoint some fans because she doesn’t play the original arrangements of her classics. Most of the show highlighted her most recent album, Rebel Heart. Older songs, like "Material Girl" and "Dress You Up," were reinvented for the stage performance so that they could be inserted into the different themed sections of the show.

“Like a Virgin” was performed by a solo Madonna on stage, but took an EDM/Hip Hop turn for the worse. "Like A Prayer" and "True Blue" were both stripped down to their basic elements. “True Blue” was played as an almost acoustic song on a ukulele sitting on her  Rockabilly Car Shop stage setup, 

Madonna still rides the line between overtly sexual themes on stage and providing a show to which one could bring the whole family. During a few interludes she spoke directly to the Kentucky audience and at one point saying “In the words of Colonel Sanders, my six-pack is finger licking good” as her dancers all showed off their six-pack abs for the crowd. Sex was also a main theme for one set change, as the amazingly talented dancers performed acrobatics on beds in front of the big screen images that looked straight out of the Truth or Dare movie.

The show was a time capsule that took fans through albums that fill 30 years of Pop Music. Madonna showed everyone that she is still on top and, in her words, “Nobody fucks with the Queen.”


 

 
 
by Nick Grever 03.02.2016 89 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, New Releases, Reviews at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
5x572dpijimsmandarinepartwork

REVIEW: Jims – ‘Mandarin’ EP

Sweet Ray Laurel and Smoke Signals… member releases dynamic debut solo effort

An EP can be a risky endeavor for any musician. The shorter run time leaves little room for a filler track; the artist has to make their impression and showcase their style in the span of time it takes for some full-lengths to start stretching their legs. Of course, crafting a journey for the listener is a bit easier when their leader is a scene veteran with a wide array of releases to his name. And that’s exactly what makes Northern Kentucky resident Jimmy Snowden’s new EP, Mandarin, so enjoyable. (In his solo guise, Snowden is billed as simply “Jims.”)

Snowden is a member of Cincinnati-area acts like Smoke Signals… and Sweet Ray Laurel, and each of his projects places a spotlight on his myriad influences, from unpredictable Post Punk to acoustic-guitar-driven Indie Pop. Mandarin’s five tracks are undeniably Snowden’s design, each showing a fragment of his musical sensibilities. As a whole, they coalesce to provide a complete picture of the artist and his broad skill set. Snowden wrote, performed, and recorded the EP entirely on his own, and Mandarin bleeds Snowden’s individual playstyles as a result.

The first track, “Systems,” has an initially startling introduction. The track features vocal loops layered over downplayed percussion and acoustic guitar, which lead to a track that mixes unease and catchy melody in equal measure. It highlights Snowden’s more experimental qualities before allowing the rest of the EP to showcase his more traditional, Indie roots. It may not initially line up with the rest of the EP’s auditory aesthetic, but it’s an important track due to its insight into Snowden’s more forceful proclivities.

What follows are four tracks that thematically fall in line more evenly than what “Systems” initially hints at. “She’s Down” and “Hey Nola” feature driving guitar riffs and unconventional percussion set just under Snowden’s emotive singing voice. Snowden’s layering techniques are in full effect on each track. At times, it sounds like Snowden was running between instruments during recording to give each their own standout moment in the mix. The guitar is the star of the show, with Snowden crafting licks that enter your eardrum, weave into the folds of your brain and take up residence long after the disc has stopped spinning.

On the final tracks, “LOVE” and “ALONE,” Snowden takes his formula and makes subtle shifts to alter the mood and take the listener to a more introspective and thoughtful place. “LOVE” introduces keys at critical points of the song to create an almost mournful tone to the balance of guitar and upbeat percussion. Snowden carries the same feeling into “ALONE” by stripping away almost every layer that he had so carefully constructed on the previous tracks and focusing mainly on his vocals and guitar. What comes out on the other side is an artist laid bare. It’s a song that easily climbs beyond its self-imposed limitations and works as a suitably antithetical bookend with EP opener, “Systems.”

While Mandarin’s run time is a scant 14 minutes, Snowden is able to expose his listeners to the many elements of his musical style that enables him to be a part of so many disparate bands and be successful with all of them. Mandarin is a release that gives new listeners a fantastic introduction to Snowden’s skills. But for those of us who are already aware, it’s a solid reminder of his eclectic talents.

Snowden hosts a free EP release party for Mandarin this Saturday at 10 p.m. at The Crazy Fox Saloon (901 Washington Ave., Newport). Click here and here for updates, show dates and more. 


 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 02.21.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
mikedoughty_432-large

Review: Mike Doughty at The Redmoor

There are certain musicians that have such unique, stirring voices, sometimes I want to press my fingers to their necks and feel the vibrations. Mike Doughty has one of those voices. He has a natural reverberation that makes every syllable sound like it traveled up through a canyon in his throat. That’s why Soul Coughing was such a success and, undoubtedly, a big reason for the packed-in crowd at Mount Lookout club The Redmoor Sunday night.

Billed as a "concert/reading/Q&A tour," when Doughty wasn’t bringing the room to near silence during his songs, he was happy to keep the crowd laughing. He read portions of his memoir, The Book of Drugs, sharing stories about his bandmates, tour life and run-ins with a clown and some Mexicans in California. He answered “gnarly questions” about Soul Coughing (his former band), shamed a drunk guy and heckled hecklers.

Doughty rose to fame in the late ‘90s with Soul Coughing. By the 2000s, the band had broken up. After battles with his former band members, drugs and alcohol, Doughty set out on his own. The Book of Drugs tells of those battles, while his latest album, Yes and Also Yes, takes Doughty on a path to further distance himself from those former demons. He no longer performs Soul Coughing material, but Doughty's entertaining presentation didn't need those old songs. He performed with only his guitar and one-of-a-kind voice to a room full of perfectly content fans.

Following every one of the dozen or so songs he performed, Doughty expressed his gratitude with a “Thank you very much.” He accepted shouted comments graciously, but shied away from what appeared to be the beginning of a long-winded comment by assuring everyone that the show wasn’t about him. It was about the crowd and entertaining them.

Doughty had no hearts to win over with his humor, sincerity or flawless show -— this adoring crowd already belonged to him. But he put his heart into his answers and his music, anyway. Mike Doughty treated his fans like his friends, which is the kindest way to treat a human.

On behalf of everyone there: Thank you, very much, Mike Doughty.
 
 
by Mike Breen 09.14.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Live Music, Local Music, Music Video at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
580005_10202794982418479_1062105461_n

REVIEW: Tonefarmer's 'Helium 3'

Alt Rock quartet celebrates first LP in five years tonight in Northside

Local Indie Rock quartet Tonefarmer has returned with its first new recording in five years, Helium 3, which gets the “album release party” treatment tonight at the Northside Tavern. The band will be joined by Canoes and The Ready Stance for the free, 10 p.m. event.

Recorded with producer/bassist for The Afghan Whigs John Curley at his Ultrasuede Studios, Helium 3 is not only Tonefarmer’s first album since 2007’s Meanwhile, it’s also the first to showcase the band’s current steady lineup of Rob Hamrick (vocals/guitar, formerly of local pioneers Sleep Theatre), bassist Chris Mundy, guitarist Kevin Welch (The Underwoods) and drummer Todd Drake (Magnolia Mountain, Ruby Vileos). Given how impressive the band’s mature Dream Pop sounds on Helium 3, it’s a lineup they should probably stick with.

The album’s 10 tracks all hover in the same sonic realm — mid-tempo, emotive Pop/Rock songs buoyed by a swaying, hypnotic vibe and spacey atmospherics. But the lack of diversity from track to track is more than made up for in the strength of the songwriting and performances. Like the more grounded highlights of The Verve’s Urban Hymns album (think “Lucky Man” or “The Drugs Don’t Work”) or the softer, romantic moments of the Smashing Pumpkins, Hamrick and Co. have crafted a collection of compelling songs that stand as the best of their impressive discography.

Opening track “The Moon is Calling” sets the tone, beginning as an airy bed of string sounds and Hamrick’s distinct voice (like a smoother Frank Black) before building to Tonefarmer’s trademark style. The rhythm section’s rock-solid foundation allows the highly memorable and spine-tingling melodies and chiming, sparkling guitars to send the song into the stratosphere. Other highlights include the catchy “Weeds” (a single in waiting) and the lovely twilight-mellow and transcendent hopefulness of “Curious Longing,” the perfect closer.

Click here for more on Tonefarmer and here to preview and purchase Helium 3 (and other Tonefarmer releases). And check out this cool live clip of the group performing the album's lead track live at the Tavern late last year:


 
 
by Brian Baker 02.27.2014
Posted In: Local Music, Reviews at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
denimroadband

REVIEW: Denim Road Band’s ‘Blame It On the Stars’

The combined musical experience of the members of the Denim Road Band easily eclipses the century-and-a-half mark and encompasses every conceivable type of band and genre of music; local show/dance/cover outfits to nationally recognized entities playing Classic Rock, Blues, R&B, Jazz, Fusion, Top 40 Country, Funk and everything between and beyond. 

DRB's sense of history and classicism invests their original material with the same soulful expanse and crisp Pop approach of the defining bands (The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, Santana, Steely Dan) that have provided DRB with inspiration and a template for success.


There is certainly a formula to what the Denim Road Band does live and in the studio, but there's a huge difference between having a formula and being formulaic. On their third album, the silky smooth Blame It On the Stars, DRB hits the same markers as its previous discs (DRB's eponymous 2009 debut, 2010's Back to Mexico), utilizing George Harp's crystalline-yet-earthy vocal range, Craig Ballard's sinewy percussion and the almost impossibly adaptable journeymen rhythm section of bassist Robbie Lewis and drummer Kevin Ross to maximum groove effect. 


Woven within that tightly knit fabric is the impeccable guitar work of Jim Zuzow, who channels everyone from Tom Johnston to Walter Becker to Steve Miller to the guitar legacies of the Eagles and Santana, creating a sound that is reminiscent of past Classic Rock glories

but delights in advancing the flag a little farther up the hill. Denim Road Band sets up shop at the corner of passion and professionalism and delivers the sophisticated goods with a showman's flair and a fan's devotion.


For more on Denim Road Band, click here

 
 
by Mike Breen 11.12.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Reviews at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
beirut17362_bykristiannasmith

Review: Beirut at Bogart's

A great concert can transform a venue and transport an audience to its own little world. Last night at Bogart's, Zach Condon and his very successful Indie-meets-World-music ensemble Beirut did both in front of a wildly appreciative, sold-out crowd.

Read More

 
 
by Brian Baker 04.25.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
alabamashakes

Review: Alabama Shakes' 'Boys and Girls'

Remember the first time you saw Erika Wennerstrom sing in front of the Heartless Bastards and watched amazed as she pummeled her guitar and sang with a ferocity that made her neck veins dance like a cobra in a snake charmer’s basket? Brittany Howard approaches her role fronting Alabama Shakes with a similarly wrought intensity and to a familiar result.

Like the Bastards and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Howard and Alabama Shakes channel ’60s Blues Rock with a contemporary edge on their excellent full-length debut, Boys and Girls.

It’s not hard to play spot-the-influences with the Shakes, as the broad experience of the individual members found them looking for the commonalities between James Brown and Otis Redding and Led Zeppelin and AC/DC while working up an early set list. The mega versatile Howard finds them easily with a fluid guitar style that can be Doo Wop sock-hop one minute (“Heartbreaker,” the title track), elephant-gun recoil the next (the Joan Armatrading-steered-by-Jimi Hendrix howl of “Be Mine,” the loping groin kick of “Hold On”). Vocally, she wails with the hellhound authority of her Soul and Blues influences while pushing the needle into Rock God territory; comparisons to Janis Joplin are not the least bit out of line.

Boys and Girls would be an impressive accomplishment from a band in its middle period, but it’s made all the more amazing considering the Shakes have only been together for three years and this represents only their second release. Howard and her cohorts in Alabama Shakes have an impeccable sense of Blues Rock classicism and an exciting sense of how to give it a good rowdy slap into right now.


 
 

 

 

 
Close
Close
Close