Thursday, May 29, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Y&T

Y&T was one of the most underrated hard rock bands of the 80's. They have always been one of my favorites from that era. Personally I never understood why they didn't get swept up in the wave of Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Poison, Def Leppard, etc.

Maybe bad luck. Maybe never at the right place at the right time. Maybe an unfortunate twist of fate. Maybe bad karma. Whatever, it was never meant to be. Oh, sure, they had their one unfortunate hit with "Summertime Girls", but that was never what Y&T was. They were always much more than that.

Staunch Y&T aficionados will disagree with me, but I feel 1983's Mean Streak is their best work. I won't disagree with those who have an affinity for Earthshaker and Black Tiger, both fantastic albums, but I have a visceral connection with Mean Streak as it was my first introduction to Y&T, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Lead vocalist/lead guitarist/lead everything for Y&T, Dave Meniketti is one of the best combo vocalist/guitarists (along with Tom Keifer) in hard rock. Along with longtime partner in crime Phil Kennemore (RIP), Y&T never wavered from their particular brand of hard rock.

If you never heard them, here's a bad 80's video of a great song:

Y&T on Amazon

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Artist Spotlight: Maggie Rose

I must have been hiding under a rock not to find this gem until now, but Maggie Rose's Cut to Impress is a fantastic album. Released in early 2013, it's now almost a year and a half old, but better late to the party than to let it pass you by altogether.

Billed as country, I think it is now a fool's game to try to pigeonhole anything but the most obvious. While there is plenty of country throughout the record, there are also hints of funk, rock, R&B and obviously pop. Cut to Impress keeps you interested for the entirety of the album with a lot of unpredictability. After the first three cuts, I was waiting to see what style would come next.

Maggie Rose does not possess the greatest vocal chops, but her delivery is very believable no matter if singing about murder or love or heartbreak or lust.

One thing that stands out is the storytelling on a number of tracks. The storytelling aspect has almost become a lost art. This is especially prevalent on the first track, "Preacher's Daughter" and the latest single "Looking Back Now".

I've listened to entire record several times, but "Preacher's Daughter" keeps drawing me back. It's swampy and dark in the vein of Warrant's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" or Tanya Tucker's "Blackwater Bayou" or "The Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia". Here is a live recording of that song.

Maggie Rose: Cut To Impress on Amazon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Working Women's Wednesday: Pat Benatar, Rock Icon

Pat Benatar is one of the iconic female voices of our time in rock music. The diminutive vocalist with the huge
voice faced a lot of adversity and broke a lot of barriers en route to becoming a sensation in the '80's. Sure, she was fortuitous to come along at the perfect time, but that doesn't diminish anything she has accomplished.

Getting pushback from traditional rock radio, Benatar benefited heavily from the first global "radio" station, MTV. The fledgling television station that played nothing but music videos (some of you may be too young to remember, but that was actually what MTV was in its inception) needed content and Benatar was perfect for the format. Of course, there were many artists in the beginning days of MTV that didn't stay around for longer than a fleeting moment, but the one's with talent stuck around.

Along with guitarist turned husband Neil Giraldo, Benatar rocked to her way to classic status, epitomized by this 1982 release from the Get Nervous album, "Shadows of the Night".

Monday, May 26, 2014

Artist Spotlight: The Winery Dogs

Released almost a year ago (July 2013), I have been remiss in not mentioning the self-titled debut by The Winery Dogs. Debut is a bit misleading since all the members of the band have multiple albums under their collective belts, but this is the first one under the Winery Dogs moniker.

Comprised of veteran hard rock/metal musicians, a supergroup of sorts, this trio has put out an album worthy of their combined experience and proficiency, which is not always the case in these collaborations.

Guitarist/lead vocalist Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big, Poison), bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Steve Vai) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) have created a record that hearkens back to the days of classic rock while not sounding dated.

Kotzen, mostly noted for his guitar work, proves to be an amazing vocalist as well. I was impressed upon hearing this.

Three musicians of this aptitude getting together could easily turn into a self-indulging pissing contest or grandiose posturing. This, however, does not. Good, melodic songs performed by amazing players. It's worth a listen.

The Winery Dogs on Amazon

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Think Music Sucks? Are You Part of the Problem?

Personally, I find very little on the radio that I care to listen to. When MTV, VH1, CMT and GAC actually do play music, there's very little there that I'm interested in.

I do, however, find a lot cool new stuff on the internet. I frequent sites that deal with country music and hard rock music. I have received some great leads. Found some really cool artists.

I also do my own digging. Found some cool stuff that way as well.

What I have found is that people, especially people around my age and older, bemoan the current state of music, regardless of genre. My question is: What are you doing about it? Other than complaining, that is.

Are you supporting the artists you like? Are you attending live shows? Are you buying CD's? Are you paying for downloads? Are you sharing your finds on social media?

If your answer is "none of the above", then quit complaining. The kids are doing that, probably most of the time on their parents' dime, but they're doing it.

I know when I was growing up, my sister and I did most of the music purchasing in our household. My parents were content to listen to the radio and complain about how there was nothing good being played.

I try to promote good music on this blog, or at least music that I like. I'll throw up a link to a video on facebook, do some stuff on twitter. I see a lot my peers putting up links to music that they grew up with, music that is nostalgic to them. Sometimes with a comment like "they don't make them like this anymore." That statement is false. They do make 'em like that now. It's just not easily accessible. You have to dig for it.

As easy as it to blame Nashville or Hollywood or Rolling Stone or whatever, ultimately the blame falls to consumers. Or better still, the blame falls on the non-consumers, the complainers, the bemoaners. If you're dissatisfied with the current state of music, vote. With your wallet. That's what changes things.

There is never going to be another Guns 'N Roses. There is never going to be another George Strait. Or Beatles. Or Elvis. Or Patsy Cline. Or Rolling Stones. Or another anything. But there is going to be something new and exciting, if you choose to be proactive and find it. Or you can choose to let terrestrial and satellite radio dictate what you listen to.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Genre Bending

If you read this blog at all, you know I don't really deal in negativity. Especially when it comes to my music posts. I like to feature good stuff that I've found. But what happened at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night bears comment.

I'm talking about the Carrie Underwood/Miranda Lambert 70's Aerosmith/bad anthem mashup. It was, quite frankly, poor execution of a less-than-mediocre song. "Something Bad", it was. Don't believe me? Here's some video proof. Judge for yourself.

Don't get me wrong. I like both Carrie and Miranda. I'm just disappointed that this is what they came up with in collaboration. It's beneath both of them.

But that brings me to a bigger subject. This is a rock song. At least what I grew up knowing as rock. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. In fact 70's, 80's and 90's style rock and pop has been co-opted by country music. For me that's a good thing. I like that kind of music.

But on the flip side, there seems to be no room for what is considered traditional country. And that's a shame. I was watching the top 20 on GAC or CMT (can't remember which) this past weekend, and there was not one song that even resembled traditional country. Most of the songs would be in heavy rotation on MTV or VH1 a few years ago.

Right now, there's no room for rock in pop, and no room for traditional country in country. I don't know where it goes from here, but some think that there may be a split in country music, which makes sense to me.

Eric Church is taking hard rock Grammy winners Halestorm out on tour with him for a few dates. That pairing makes more sense to me the than Dwight Yoakam, who will be on the whole tour. Since we're talking about Halestorm and Carrie Underwood, a couple of songs they recorded are practically interchangeable.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Where Do You Find Good Music These Days?

I'm really not sure how those that only listen to traditional radio find anything worth listening to, much less anything good, new and exciting. And before anyone crows about satellite radio, I'm not sure that's much better. Sure you can find what you want to listen to, but are you discovering anything new, or just listening to what you already like?

Let's just take a look at the past 12 months + and what I'm listening to and where I discovered them.

Halestorm: From a website totally unrelated to anything music.

Whiskey Myers: From a radio station. But a local Red Dirt/Texas station.

Blackberry Smoke: From a "Related Artists" search on Spotify.

Orianthi: From twitter. A country artist from Ohio who's a fan of VH1 Classic's "That Metal Show" tweeted about her.

Houndmouth: From a "Related Artists" search on Spotify.

Samantha Fish: From a YouTube search for the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" covers. (Don't ask)

Nikki Lane: From the website

Tyler McCumber Band: From the website

Unless you are actively searching for non-mainstream music, you are not going to find it. And you are missing out on a ton of good stuff. I'm not saying that the above artists are your cup of tea, just saying that if I hadn't gone outside of what the conglomerates had decided what we should listen to, I would not have been able to enjoy their music.

I would hate to be an up-and-coming artist in this day and age. It's got to be tough. Radio is a vapid wasteland. The so called music channels (MTV, VH1, CMT, GAC) have all gone headlong into "reality" based programming.

Most people won't take the time or put forth the effort it takes to find music they truly enjoy. And face it, in today's world, it takes time and effort.

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of music nerd. The kind of music I've always liked has never been easily accessible except for brief periods. That's not to say that hasn't been a lot of more mainstream music that I have enjoyed, but for the most part, I've had to do some research to find my music. I'm okay with that.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Richie Sambora and Orianthi Record in the Works

If you read this blog at all, you probably know what a huge fan of Orianthi I am. I've done an artist spotlight on her. I've written about her on-stage collaboration with Richie Sambora. I'm also a big fan of Sambora, specifically, and Bon Jovi, generally.

Now it seems as though Orianthi and Sambora are working on a record together. No specific timetable has been set for the album's release, but according to Sambora and Orianthi themselves, recording has already begun.

The two are about to embark on a European summer tour, hitting many of the festivals. Let's just hope this venture comes out sooner rather than later and they hit the States for a tour.

Here's a taste of them doing Orianthi's "You Don't Wanna You" acoustically.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Album Spotlight: Nikki Lane: All or Nothin'

I'm really not good with labels. So, I really don't know where to place Nikki Lane's latest release All or Nothin'.

Because of her voice and the steel guitar and traditional country instrumentation, many have wanted to label her as a country throwback in the vein of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Vocally, I get it. But musically, not so much.

There is definitely a country thread running through the entire record. But there's also rockabilly, 70's laid back SoCal rock, pop(ish) and a tinge of the blues to be heard. I liken it more to the early releases of Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music Club and The Globe Sessions.

The only thing that really needs to be said about Nikki Lane is that she puts out some fantastic music and does a fine job of being Nikki Lane. All or Nothin' is worth a listen. Here is "Right Time" from the album. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The NBA: Interesting Series, Unwatchable Basketball

I generally do not care for or watch much NBA, especially during the regular season. Once the playoffs roll around, I usually give a cursory view until the finals when I'll watch more.

The first round this year has been so compelling, I have found myself watching more than usual. While the series have been interesting, the basketball itself has not.

I'll admit it, I just don't get the NBA game. There are periods of fantastic basketball interrupted by guys auditioning for parts in low-rent community theater.

I mean guys fishing for contact and acting as though they've been hit by a runaway train at the brush of a feather, or worse yet, with no contact whatsoever is not becoming of professional athletes.

I've seen flopping before (Vlade Divac anyone?), and I've seen some spectacular dives in soccer. But what is going on in the NBA is neither flopping nor spectacular. It's just really, really bad theater. As a casual fan, it turns me off and makes me think my decision to not really care about anything NBA is warranted.

For the diehards, have fun with rest of the playoffs. I don't see the excitement of the first round continuing. With the basketball unwatchable at times, I'll be concentrating on my blog and watching baseball. Maybe I'll tune in for the finals. Or maybe some series gets interesting. Other than that, I'm out.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chicks That Rock the Blues: Samantha Fish

I'll be honest, I'd never heard of Samantha Fish before yesterday. I was doing some searching on youtube for a version of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" and came across hers. I liked it, so naturally, I had to investigate further.

Hailing from Kansas City, Samantha is more blues than rock, but more rock than just blues. She also dabbles in country-tinged songs as well. At least that is what I gathered from a couple of listens to her 2013 album Black Wind Howlin', released last September.

There is a lot of stuff to like on this album, whether you are a fan of blues, rock, country or Americana. She delivers it all. Known as a blues artist, she is. But not purely. There is enough blues on the record to satisfy all but the purists, including a cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talking." That is the only cover on the album, although there is a song called "Heartbreaker" which I almost expected to be a Led Zeppelin cover, which could have been very interesting.

The songs are minimal in instrumentation, mostly just guitar, bass and drums with not a lot of overdubs. A classic three piece setup. There is some harp and fiddle on a couple of songs.

At times, Samantha's vocals remind me a bit of Bonnie Raitt, which is a good thing, but she also has her own style. Her guitar work is good, but she's no Stevie Ray (but then again, who is?).

For the rockers, there are tracks like "Miles to Go", "Heartbreaker" and "Lay it Down". For a bit of Louisiana country with hints of zydeco, check out "Last September". And then there is plenty of blues throughout.

This is the video for "Lay it Down".

I just can't believe I've never heard of her before. Enjoy.